I will bear your suffering. I have never used a greeting with greater meaning in any of my personal correspondence. This the phrase that the Sidamo people use to greet one another. It is a privilege to expropriate something as simple as a greeting from a culture as diverse as Ethiopias. The Sidamo are neighbours of the Wolaita and live about 100 km from the Wolaita school in Soddo.

We travelled with friends to Awassa where we were able to retrieve our lost luggage. In a country with such strong cultural traditions, everyday brings with it either the celebration of the birth of a child or a wedding. Funerals may last up to a week.
We were invited to a family reunion that took place after a wedding. We visited the uncle of the bride where about 25 people had gathered. After the wedding, close relatives of the bride take turns inviting the newlyweds to dinner where the groom is welcomed to the family. The newlyweds are assured that whatever challenges they may face in the future, there is always a place for them to come to. I have been to many such traditional family events before. Singing and prayer as well as a meal are all signs of a caring and loving atmosphere that confirms belonging to a family. The common prayer at this gathering was so moving that it was hard not to reflect upon it in the days that followed.

I have not heard of a greeting in the Wolaita culture that translates to “I will bear your suffering”. I try to think of my friends and loved ones who I may greet similarly. Are there any? The greeting is always reciprocated. Even if these are just words they still convey a sense of peace and one must not underestimate the depth of their meaning. It is amazing how much beauty there is to be learned from other cultures that we in turn may use at home.

Our weekend in Awassa ended with these thoughts. We made our way back to Soddo with our reclaimed luggage. Business as usual, half an hour of haggling over the price of our luggage, an hour of waiting for the bus to fill up with passengers, then having to switch buses altogether because no one had thought of doing a safety check before the buses departure until the bus was half full. Then to top it all off we had to make sure that we were not charged a second time for the transport of our luggage because the first driver was nowhere to be found and had disappeared with the money and the first bus. We were back in Soddo by eight o’clock that evening.

The inconvenience and frustrations often associated with travel can be forgotten when one hears of good news.
The following morning we attended a meeting to go over construction plans for the dormitory. To our surprise the problems were resolved so quickly that upon returning to the hotel I could not hold back my tears of joy. It is very uncommon to find such quick resolutions. However, even in this culture there is a need for continued belief that good things are not complicated according to Gods plan.

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