Kebahd! Thanks to some brief tutoring in Amharic I was now able to communicate more fluently on my recent trip to Ethiopia. Most of my new words, and the language itself, are lyrical – “silematachu des bolognal” and “bet’am tiru enimesagenalen” – syllables tumbling out with the sound of a bubbling brook. I had been using these phrases to say “I am happy to be with you” and “thank you for being here” to the delight of my Ethiopian colleagues who seemed tickled that I finally could say more than “excuse me” and “thank you.”
I thought about how much I loved Ethiopia with all its pleasure and beauty. And I was heartened to see and get a better grasp of how honest the work is to keep the country moving ahead to improve not only health care, but all social services for its citizens. While I still see young mothers struggling and small children put to work instead of being in school, I know with the dedication being shown by the government this will be less and less. But still "Kebahd" – difficult.
As I experienced both aspects of this country on this visit – the tremendous strides and evolution they have made since my first visit eight years ago – and the inequity that still exists here as well as around the world – I realize that even knowing the language doesn't make it any easier to understand sometimes.