|The family together.|
Back to gasping, a habit i never imagined myself picking up. Here in the roof of Africa, gasping is used as a sign of affirmation. While those of us in English speaking cultures instinctively just say "yes," "yeah," or "huh-huh," Ethiopians gasp. Even during pre-service training, I heard gasping so often that I involuntarily adopted and I now gasp for yes on a daily basis.
"Are you American?"
"Did you order the tagamino?"
Conveniently enough, I am more easily understood when I gasp as it is the norm. But other forms of verbal and nonverbal communication here had me in a mental knot before I learned the meaning behind them.
- In Tigray, it is common to click rather than gasp as a way of saying yes. Not the deep, involving your entire tongue clicks that are common in Southern Africa, but a shallow sound that requires only the tip of the tongue and teeth still closed together.
- While smacking the lips in English speaking countries conveys shame, in Ethiopia the person making that sound is demonstrating respect for someone.
- Children, generally being shyer than adults will not gasp of click, but instead just raise their eyebrows to show they agree or are paying attention.
- A palm tickle is a discrete invitation for sex, which to accept you tickle the other person's palm back.
- The palm turned down with all fingers moving back and forward is the signal for "come."
- Wagging the index finger back and forth here does not communicate warning or a "shame on you," but is the simplest way to say "no."
- Two men or two women holding hands and having their arms around each other indicates friendship, not romance.
Lizzie a.k.a. Mama