At times an impression might come to me, or I may experience some sensation, that I cannot describe in even a thousand words. And if one picture is truly worth one thousand words, then even a thousand pictures are not adequate.
Last evening, in the still moments when the sun was setting, I walked along the edge of the gentle ridge in the village where Levi’s house is located in north central Ethiopia. The evening was perfectly still. A light rain had fallen just an hour before, and now the sun was sending some rays through the breaks between clouds that billowed high into the air. The air, fresh with the recent rain, was just cool enough for a light jacket.
I paused from time to time, so that I could watch the way that the night slowly descend upon the African landscape. Levi’s village is named Abejale. It is a small village when measured in population, perhaps two thousand inhabitants. However, the land it occupies is quite large. That is because the village is not a single large gathering of homes, but is a scattering of small groups of homes gathered in various places in the shallow valleys and on the ridges immediately surrounding the ridge where Levi’s own home is located. His home is in yet another of these groups.
As I walked along the ridge, the vantage points that it offered me provided a broad view of much of the area. The terrain is mostly all divided into small fields, with some eucalyptus and acacia trees growing on the edges of the plots and around and in the house groupings. Some of these groups of buildings are the several homes of one extended family, and others are of various families. In a certain way, each group of homes is their own little community, united by their proximity to one another, and also by other matters that they hold in common.
In the quiet evening air, the voices of the people calling their evening greetings to one another extended also up to me. The way that they have of calling to one another is perhaps not unique in Africa, but since this is my first experience on this great continent, it is new to me.
“Hooooo,” they called. First it was the name of the person they were calling, with the “Hooooo” added to the end of the name as a suffix. It ended in a high pitch. Almost a yodel.
To call the boy name Gitacho - “Gitachoooo!”
The sound is difficult to describe, but believe me when I say that it was a very pleasant ending to the call.
Perhaps they were friends seeing each other coming in from the fields. Perhaps the moms calling their children. It was a variety of voices that called out: men and women, old and young, as well as the small children. It was these that I could hear the clearest. What followed the call were words that I could not understand. Of course they were speaking in Amharic, but even if I could understand that tongue, I doubt if I would have been able to make out the words. They were all very far away.
But it did not matter that I could not understand their words. I felt that they also called out greeting to me, and that their voices also called their greetings to this expansive continent.
I know that my impressions of this experience are accentuated because this is my first and perhaps only visit to Africa. These are a people I have not before known, and in all likelihood will not know again. Nevertheless, it is great privilege of mine to share with them, if for only a few moments, the special aspects of their culture.