Earlier this month, I spent a weekend in Minneapolis at a conference with hundreds of other Oromos from Ethiopia. I'm making the tribal distinction because they did. Oromos, like other Ethiopian tribal groups, are provincial. The food, dress, language, and music was all Oromo. I don't recall seeing any Ethiopian national flags displayed and If someone was speaking the national language, Amharic, I didn't hear it. Three weeks later, I'm still trying to make sense of the experience. What was normal for the other participants, spending all day with hundreds of other Ethiopians, was quaint for me. I looked the part and carried a last name that suggested credibility (my father apparently taught every Oromo that lives in the Western hemisphere), but my inability to communicate easily in our native language was discomforting. The music, preaching, and casual hellos were all in Oromo. I understood enough to not get lost on the way to the bathroom, but the 50% I missed made me as self-conscious as a stranger. When you don't know why everyone's laughing but you feel like you should, 1 hour of church feels more like 3.
So now I know what's it like to go to church and feel like everyone's speaking a foreign language.