No… I did not get married in Ethiopia, but I did somehow manage to get myself invited to an Ethiopian wedding (although, for the record, Ethiopian women are absolutely stunning… so, maybe someday I’d could find a future wife here). The reception was on a sunny Sunday afternoon in a very nice garden in Addis Ababa. It was, to put it mildly, a very good time… perfect weather, amazing food, some very sharped dressed folks, lots of drinking and dancing, and that sense of collective happiness in the air from so many people in one place just having a good time. There were several times during the afternoon that I just sat back, took in the scene and thought a) how lucky I am to be right here right now, and b) how in the world did I actually end up here… which is what I’m sure several of you are also wondering. Well… here’s the breakdown on how this sort of thing happens. One Wednesday afternoon, my new friend Sergio, whom I had met out at a party two weeks prior, texts me that he’s down at a beer garden nearby and that I should join him if I can. Well… done and done… I manage to find my way to the place and find Sergio with a lady friend of his named Selam. We get to drinking, chatting and generally having an all around good time. At some point we get on the topic of future plans (the weekend, next week, my trip plans, etc.) and both Sergio and Selam note that they have to go a wedding on Sunday, and both of them invite me to be their plus ones… to which, of course, I say yes (can everyone reading this sense a trend in my answers when asked questions on whether I want to do something or try something? Also, please note that we’re all drinking and having a good time so I’m not 100% certain if this is a real invite, or just drunk talk). In an hour or two we all head out to meet some other mutual friends of Sergio and Selam at a public park with, what else, a small beer garden inside… and more merriment ensues (for an example of the random assortment of people one meets out here in Addis, sitting around the table at the beer garden were an American tourist – yours truly – a half Italian, half Yemeni Ethiopian guy, an Ethiopian girl, a Spanish guy, an Italian guy, an American girl who was born in Ethiopia and two Australians, a guy and a girl). An hour or two later, we all get hungry, and a couple people in the group know of a going away party for a German girl taking place at a restaurant/cafe/bar nearby, so we head there and meet up. More of the same as before, but just with more people. At some point in the evening I get introduced to the bride and groom of the aforementioned wedding. The guy is Italian (from Venice) and the girl is Ethiopian, and they live in Italy. We talk, we drink, we all end up dancing… and before we know it the remaining group from the going away party (about 8 of us, including myself, Sergio, Selam and the bride and groom) get kicked out because the place is closing. And, despite it being a Wednesday night, there’s always places going off all night in Addis, so we got to a bar down the street where some other friends of my new friends are hanging out. More merriment ensues, and bride the also ends up telling me that I should come to her wedding this weekend… to which I say that, of course, I’d love to, and that I’d coordinate with Sergio and Selam and come as either one of their plus ones. At some point around 1:30 AM, I bow out because I have to go to work early the next morning (yes, work… more on that in another post) and head home. As an aside… lest everyone thinks that all of my traveling is wonderful like this story, I actually had one of my few bad moments in Addis happen that same night at the last bar. One guy, tangentially related to the friends of the friends of the bride, was mean mugging me across the bar all night. When we were eventually introduced he gave that overly hard handshake squeeze deal and an extra hard shoulder chuck, to which I just smiled quizzically wondering what the fuck was wrong with this guy. More mean mugging ensued that I either just ignored or responded with a big ole goofy grin back. At one point I find myself talking with two very cute girls at the bar… they’re sitting/standing along the bar and I’m facing them with my back to the crowd. While chatting them up I get a tap on the shoulder… I start to turn around and BAM… I get sucker punched right in the jaw. I’m sure you all know who it was that did it. So I go down… I was turning and got sucker punched, so I’m not ashamed to say that I did, in fact, get knocked on my ass. Once down I actually start laughing out loud because I realize what just happened… one of those things where it happened so fast you don’t really know what happened until after it happens. No one is jumping on me or anything, so I continue laughing (luckily, he was either a pussy, or held back a bit, because it didn’t hurt all that much) and get up wondering if I’m seriously going to get in fight with this idiot in a a random bar in Ethiopia. Once I’m up, the guy is gone as the bouncers had already “escorted” him downstairs and promptly kicked the crap out of him (I found out later on that this guy’s done this before… so the bouncers had their eye on him, and Sergio followed them outside to see what was happening with the guy). So I’m up, and immediately score huge points (by laughing off a punch to the jaw) with pretty much every single pair of double XX chromosomes within 20 feet of me… which, I guess, is the only upside of being sucker punched in the face. So I ended up staying about another 30 minutes before I realized how late it was and went home… aside over, back to the fun stuff.
Thursday I have a long day at work (why, oh why, would that be I wonder?) and just chill afterwards. Friday, I meet up with Sergio for drinks after dinner and I end up running into the bridge and groom again… we have some more fun, and the bride casually notes that if I’m not at their wedding on Sunday, she will personally hunt me down and kill me. I bow out early on Friday night as I have to get up at 4:30 AM (for work… which involved a hot air balloon ride… yes, really). Saturday I meet up with Sergio and Selam (as well as some other folks) and we party hop until the wee hours of the morning… very little mention of the wedding the next day. So I get up the following Sunday half-assuming that I’m likely not going to be headed to any wedding anytime soon… and I just do my usual Sunday morning routine of cleaning up, making breakfast and heading down to the corner cafe for some coffee. While there I get a call from Sergio who asks if I’m ready to head to the wedding… well, not exactly I reply. That’s alright he says, he just got up, so he tells me to get ready and meet me at (insert forgotten name of restaurant here) in 30 minutes. Alrighty, so I finish my coffee, walk back up to my house, change, then grab a cab and manage to meet Sergio and his friend Hisham (who I had also met on Friday night) at the restaurant about 15 minutes before the two girls show up (Selam and her roommate Rosanna). We pay our check and the whole group walks over to where the wedding is… only one and half hours late (I’m pretty sure an hour and a half just comes under the allotted time to be fashionably late before crossing the line into obnoxious assholes). So we missed the ceremony, but showed up just in time for the food (thank you impeccable timing). And just like that, reception turns into after party at the groom’s uncle’s house, which turns into a night out at a live music venue, which turns into heading to a nightclub, which ends with me going home at 6 AM… (yes, places in Addis are open until 6 AM on a Sunday night/Monday morning). I’m still kind of at a loss as how to describe the whole thing exactly, mostly because I’m still in shock that it happened .. I mean who goes to visit a country and ends up not only at a wedding, but partying with the bride and groom and assorted family and friends until 6 AM the following morning? The only word that really comes to mind for me is wow… it was truly an amazing experience.
Let’s see… I can see my mom asking this question right off the bat… how on earth did you communicate with all these people? So that was another interesting story… I went with four other people to the wedding, two guys and two girls. Everyone spoke fluent English (myself included), the two guys and one girl spoke fluent Italian (as well as Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia, and whatever dialects of Arabic are spoken in Somalia and Yemen), the other girl spoke Spanish as her native language, and at this point I have the ability to have “communicative” conversations in both Italian and Spanish. The main friends of both the bride and groom speak Italian as their first language (they’re mostly half-Italian, half-Ethiopians that spent their formative years in Italy) with some English that ranged from patchy to fluent… so take all that, mix in about a boatload of alcohol, and everyone can communicate just fine in some form of Italian English Spanish gesticulating hybrid gibberish.
So that’s how I managed to get invited to an Ethiopian wedding… although it was more like and Ethiopian wedding reception since I missed the entire ceremony.