He looked at my son, raised an eyebrow, and said,
Our son looked at the man, smiled, and quietly said “Yes.” They both smiled at each other as our family placed our order. We had just gotten off the plane at Dulles International Airport and passed through customs. Only minutes before, Weldu had taken his first steps onto a foreign land – one filled with people speaking a strange language with weird customs and white faces that all look the same – and officially became a US citizen.
In the midst of the the uncertainty of stepping into the unknown with his new family, Weldu found a brief reprieve. He was asked this question a few more times while we were in Dulles. Every time, there was a warm, but silent conversation between the two.
When we visited Ethiopia for the first time back in 2009, I don’t think I ever heard the term “Habesha.” We heard it all the time during our last trip a little more than two months ago. So what is Habesha? Habesha is a people-group that spans Eritrea and Ethiopia. Although approximately 15% of the population is not actually Habesha, it has become a term that is generally used for all Ethiopians and Eritreans. It’s basically a term of cultural pride, celebrating what unites their culture instead of dividing them by language and tribal group.
I think Weldu is still in shock about how many Habesha he met in the airport. It makes sense. Washington, DC, has a pretty significant Ethiopian population. But I think the mere mention of that word by someone else in the know made his arrival here in the States a little bit easier. In the midst of the craziness he had a small island of comfort, knowing there are other people here like him. And they recognized him as Habesha, too.
While I don’t think I’d never heard the word Habesha until a few months ago, I’m glad I did. Because that word has made a world of difference to my son.
And for that, I’m grateful.