(Scroll down for parts 1-4)
I was able to give my youngest son a hug! That was the reason for this entire trip to Ethiopia, so whatever else happens, it almost does not matter to me. Levi met me at the airport and he is looking well and fit.
Ethiopia is definitely a unique country. There are many ways in which this probably is true, but it is in even small things such as I noticed when I was filling out the registration for the hotel. As normal, there was a place on the form where I was supposed to write the date, which I thought was April 24, 2017. The clerk stopped me when he saw what I was writing and told me that he would fill out that part.
“Just sign your name here,” he told me, running his finger along the line at the bottom of the form.
The reason that he stopped me was because that was not the date in Ethiopia. Here, it is not April at all, but yesterday was 16 Miaziah. And it is not 2017, but only 2009.
Ethiopia has a unique calendar, which I think is used only here. Instead of following what we know as the Gregorian calendar, theirs is based on the ancient Coptic calendar, except that the months have names in a local historical language. Besides this distinction, it is 2009 instead of 2017 because they place a different specific time when Jesus was born. Truthfully, within the span of a decade, the exact year when Christ was born on earth is a bit of an open question.
So the clerk wanted to fill that part out. 16 Miaziah, 2009. I am not sure how long they will be able to maintain this distinction, however. I just looked at the cash receipt for my coffee that I bought while sitting here now and see that the printed out copy, in conformity with the rest of the world, says 25/04/2017.
But if you notice, even that is not in conformity with the United States. It seems we also have that streak about us that wants to keep some distinctions. Our receipt would say 04/25/2017.
Besides this, we in the U.S. still prefer our gallons, quarts and pints, our pounds and our miles per hour. I suppose that it could almost be called a victory in this globally connected and digital age when a culture can still manage to maintain some of these distinctions.
Getting back to the hotel check in, after we worked our way through the registration form, the clerk then informed me that there was a breakfast to be included with the price.
“Great,” I said. “What time does in begin?”
I thought I misunderstood. One o’clock is either too early or way too late to eat breakfast.
But here is another unique aspect of Ethiopia. They do not begin the twelve o’clock hour in the middle of the night. In their way of thinking, that cannot be the first hour of the day. Twelve o’clock here, the one that we would start our clocks for the day at midnight, is what our watches or cell phones would call six o’clock AM. In this way of thinking, this is when the day truly begins. In other words, our Zero hour is twelve o’clock midnight. Ethiopia’s Zero hour is the equivalent to our six o’clock AM.
When the clerk told me one o’clock, he meant their one o’clock. That is our seven o’clock in the morning.
Of course, this is similar to the way it is in the Bible. When Jesus told the story about the workers going to work in the vineyard in the third and sixth hours, these times where not 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM, but what we would call 9:00 and 12:00 noon.
This morning, true to the Coptic perspective on time here, when my watch pointed at 6:00, I heard the bell ring in the Coptic Christian church down the street. The new day had begun on this 17th day of the month of Miaziah, in the two thousand and ninth year of our Lord.
I waited an hour and then went down to begin my breakfast at one o’clock AM.