We truly are living a surreal life here. We are in a place so far from home and a culture so foreign to our own, but every once and a while we are treated to a refreshing glimpse of good ole’ American culture. These glimpses often come in the most unlikely places.
Nega introduced us to a new restaurant this week. It’s nice because it is right around the corner from the Drop-in Center, where we spend most of our days. This is not a restaurant like we’re used to back home. This is a straight up Abesha joint. It’s a small crowded place. They buy their meat each day and when they run out that’s when they close. There is no menu. The wait staff just tells you what they happen to have at the time. There are no foringe foods here, only traditional dishes. The waiter calls out kay wat, tibes, kilkil and ferfer. Of course no matter how small and run down a place may look they always have a nice coffee machine. From it they are able to produce many wonderful drinks. They serve buna (coffee), Shay (tea), machioto (buna with a little milk), watet b’ buno (milk with a little coffee), and espris (coffee with tea). All of these are familiar to most Americans, but there is one drink here that is absolutely delicious and we never heard of it until coming here. It is called lawz shay (peanut tea) and it is a little taste of heaven. This particular restaurant has the best lawz shay in all of Addis. That is what brought us back there last Wednesday evening.
As soon as we mentioned the lawz shay there was no turning back. Mike just had to try it. We had wrapped up our Amharic lesson and it was about time to hop on a taxi to go home, but we were hungry. So we decided to join the gang for some dinner and lawz shay for dessert. When we arrived they were already out of food and were closing up for the day, but since there were foringe in the group they let us come in and have drinks. Jon and Bisrat ordered fitera, a Muslim dish with bread, honey and eggs and Jess and Mike started in on the lawz shay.
As we ate and drank there was music playing from a small boombox on the counter. Jess thought she recognized the voice of Vincent Price, but dismissed it, and the boombox stopped for a few minutes. Then when the music began again, all the foringe recognized the opening music of Thriller. The workers were playing a “greatest hits” or a mixed tape so as we sat in the most Abesha restaurant eating Muslim food and drinking lawz shay we enjoyed Michael Jackson favorites like Bad and Man in the Mirror. Mike and Jess sang along. Jess asked for “Smooth Criminal,” and for a moment we thought that the cultural gap may have been bridged, but it was getting late, Jess’s request wasn’t answered and so we left, our stomachs full of fitera and peanut tea!