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October 29, 2017

Chao, Chao - Cross Cultural Communication - Ethiopian Journey - Blog Post no -18

Stunning Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church Mural Painting 
Italy occupied Ethiopia only for five years. Even in that short time, they left their impression. There are many words used which have Italian origin like Makeena (automobile) and Macatho (tea with milk). Readers should not get confuse Macatho with Mercato. Mercato is the Latin word for markets.  The world’s largest open air market operates in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. No prizes for guessing the name of the market! What else but ‘Mercato’. A visit to Mercato, Addis Ababa is a practical lesson in selling, marketing and the art of charming negotiations, executed with a disarming smile.  

Chao, chao, (bye, bye)
Ethiopian greeting for bye-bye is ‘Chao Chao’. It is easy for the Indians to pretend that they have quickly assimilated themselves and that they are one among the locals. I remember one Telugu teacher calling his wife and having a lengthy conversation. At the end of the conversation my friends said “okay take care, chao, Chao’.

Next day, my friend received an urgent communication from Dr. Naidu. My friend was received by Dr. Naidu, who told him that my friend’s wife had called. She was very upset and concerned. She had asked Naidu sir “What is the issue with my husband? Why is he so angry? Is he not happy in Ethiopia? Why is he so upset with me? Why did he want to wish me death?” The poor lady was in tears.

Dr. Naidu was concerned. He asked for an explanation from my friend and then his face lit up in a grin “oh, oh, oh” he said “you wanted to impress your wife by saying Chao chao. You wanted to sound and act like an NRI who has settled in a foreign country for 20 years. You have forgotten that your wife does not know the meaning of the phrase ‘Chao Chao’ which sounds very much like Chavu chavu (the telugu word for death). And, at the speed at which you talk during an international call, it must have sounded like chavu chavu”.

Dr. Naidu made my friend call his wife and made him tender a proper apology. Pray, tell me which wife would like her husband to call her from thousands of kilometres away and wish her death?  

Buna, Black Coffee  

Early morning starts with a cuppa. It can be Buna or black coffee served hot and very strong. It can be added with milk in which case it becomes Macatho. 

Shai, Black Tea
Shai is tea served without milk (black tea). Tea with milk is unheard of and if requested, is met with blank stares and amusement!

Ethiopians are fond of sugar. Their morning Shai or Bunna is full of it. It was quite common to see a small glass having at least two large spoon full of sugar in it. It makes sense. For a hard working farmer who would not have a breakfast, that morning Shai or Bunna with the sugar intake would give him that critical carbohydrate shot that will sustain him till he has his meagre afternoon lunch. 

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