When you live abroad you represent your home community. But sometimes, some things just can’t be explained. Either there is no point of reference or my version of that label is just not the same. A conversation can dispel many of these misconceptions, but here are a few points of identity lost in translation:
In America- Protestant– In Ethiopia- Christian, catholic, pagan, jewish?
In America – American, Canadian — In Ethiopia – Israeli, British, American?
In America – Female — In Ethiopia- Foreigner
In America – Liberal — In Ethiopia – let’s agree to disagree…
In America – Student poor — In Ethiopia – Rich
In America – Single — In Ethiopia- maybe I’m married? Yes, I’m married. As far as you’re concerned, I’m married.
In America – no kids — In Ethiopia – I think I want 6, starting next year
In America – Hi — In Ethiopia – Hello hello hello hello hello hello, Is it peace?
In America – Peace Corps Volunteer — In Ethiopia – Doctor? Teacher? Bank? Souk?
In America – adventurous foodie — In Ethiopia – Do you know what injera is? No, I’ve only lived here almost a year.
In America – Wino — In Ethiopia – No, I don’t drink… that.
In America – medium, pleasantly plump — In Ethiopia – FAT, but it’s a compliment
In America – I have freckles — In Ethiopia – I have disease
In America – tall — In Ethiopia – Amazonian
This isn’t to say all Ethiopians have these perceptions of me, but these are real questions I get at least a few times a month from people of all walks of life.