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  • Lorraine Johnson

[81] Flushed With Spirit

The boy walked the streets—cobblestone, dirt, paved. With long back, strong feet, determined eyes and quick wit, he walked the streets of Addis looking for opportunity around each bend. And then there was me—five days of presence in front of me—seeking a special place to fill my soul on an ordinary day in an extraordinary land.

And so the boy walked with me—from house to house, room to room—until around the last bend and into a small door we went. Greeted by a strong woman—beaming culture from the curve of her smile and transforming spirits from tradition poured out of a handmade pot made from black clay. From high heights a single stream filled handleless cups and she and her guests bunna tetu—'drink coffee.' Mesmerized by its beauty, she gently reached out and reassured me that there was tea too. Not just any tea, a spicy tea made with whole cloves, cardamon, and cinnamon sticks, poured ceremoniously into a clear glass showing off its earthen hues. A quick peek down the hall and into a room, I knew I had found space for my soul to renew.

I gathered my belongings from the nondescript, somewhat sketchy local hotel, made my way back to the small door and bid farewell to my new friend—the boy who led me with determined eyes. The woman so pleased, she quickly adopted me as her own, and into the night of their New Year—Enkutatash—we went. She warned of flirty, assertive men and kept me close, as we ate injera from a communal platter, and listened to traditional sounds as we moved through the rhythm of the dark night—warmed by the red of the day's relentless sun.

And on the day after, and a long morning tea, I grabbed a bumpy bus ride to wander the hill of Debre Zeit. I walked up and around lured by the entrancing sound of a distant flute. And as I turned the final bend of a downward slope, there, embraced in the curve of a large branching arm of a very tall and strong tree, a flutist played his story through the wooden holes of his washint. The leaves danced in the wind, and my eyes awoke as I lingered. Then back to the wobbling wheels of the bus I went, as it edged its way back to Addis—the city of New Flower. Wrapped in the culture of a thousand faces, dancing shoulders, sounds and places, I said goodbye to the somewhereness of this urban sprawl and its green hills flushed with spirit—and the winds of tradition and widening eyes, and the smile of the woman who called me her own.


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