In Ethiopia, you may still clap to call a waiter – just. But in France, these days, the good old ‘Garçon!’ bellowed at the top of your lungs is sadly a thing of the past. Nowadays, you are supposed to make a very subdued call with your hand, or slightly raise your eyebrows.
In the more polite society of Addis Ababa, clapping is these days definitely out.
This is what culture change is all about, these small signs that we carry with us without even noticing.
In this fashion, you now see mothers on the streets of Addis Ababa carrying what are called ‘baby carriers.’ Contraptions of tubes and padded materials that you place the baby in and carry, like a bag, on your stomach.
These baby carriers are imported, expensive – and also hurt your back. But like a slightly raised eyebrow to call a waiter, they are also a subtle cultural cue. Personally, I rather like clapping for waiters: it works and doesn’t make you look stupid like making eyes at them for hours on end does.
The very Ethiopian ማዘያ (mazeya), a piece of cloth in which mothers have swathed their ልጅ (lidj) on their backs for time immemorial, is local, cheap and practical. It is also simple and elegant.
But no Ethiopian women of standing would be caught seen with this on her back these days. Carrying an infant on your back with a ማዘያ is seen, quite literally, as a sign of backwardness.
‘Garçon: bring me a baby carrier, and quick!’
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