The end of June is approaching. On the kitchen table we have a calendar with pictures from Aira and a bible verse for each month. The calendar is a gift from a German group which supports different projects in the area even so Aira Hospital.
The picture of this month is an old gentleman dressed in ragged cloths with a stick over his shoulder. He is known to everybody around Aira as the most perseverant, notorious and chronic beggar.
Unintentionally the calendar has caused some good laughs around Aira because the picture is accompanied by Psalm 90,17 which in the short version of the English Bible says:
“Lord our God may your blessings be with us. Give us success in all we do!”
Many are the ferenjs who in all their best intentions cause fortunately most often harmlessly wrong due to lack of knowledge and understanding of the culture and what’s going on around.
I remember very well an incident which happened during my very first assignment in Ethiopia more than 30 years ago. I was working in a rural hospital in the northern part of Ethiopia with my beloved wife Sennait acting as translator. A patient with dirty and badly stinking cloths came into the examination room. Sennait demonstratively opened the window and waved out the bad smell with her hands not hiding her disapproval. I promptly reproached her in Swedish that she ought to show more respect to this poor patient. While laughing loudly she replayed “Poor? Ha-ha. This man is rich and showing of his wealth by drenching the cloths in butter. That’s why they are smelling bad and covered with dust and dirt”.
Had I not been married to a habesha (Ethiopian) I would probably never had learned that, and I can assure you that this was not my last lesson during the following many years.