Things I Learned at the Ethiopian Festival

On Saturday, I helped out T & S by volunteering at the First Annual Ethiopian Festival in Downtown Silver Spring. Things were kind of nutso on the organization front–there were some difficulties in getting all the performers on in a timely fashion thanks to the Caribbean Festival in DC, some traffic accidents and the fact that we filled up all the parking garages pretty quickly. But overall I’d say the day was successful considering that a few people showed up. I’m sorry, did I say a few people? I meant a few thousand. Like 10,000 is the latest number I heard. In one city block. It was INSANITY.¬†And once we did get the performers on stage, things were awesome. We had several musical groups and fashion shows, as well as the ever popular traditional dancers. But the most popular of the night was definitely this guy:

I guess he is super famous, because when he appeared in the middle of the biggest fashion show, the crowd collectively lost their shit. I thought maybe he was the Ethiopian Christian Siriano (seemed improbable that there would be one–one Christian Siriano is probably one too many Christian Sirianos), but it turns out he’s the most famous Ethiopian comedian. Apparently he was HIGH-larious, but I had no idea what was going on since I don’t speak Amharic. Which brings me to my next point: I’ve been looking for a new job lately, but I’ve been unsure about what kinds of jobs I’d actually want to do. Well, after my experience this weekend, I can definitely cross some off the list.

Some Jobs I Am Definitely Not Cut Out For:

Amharic Interpreter: No matter how much I might will myself to understand Amharic, I just cannot magically start speaking the language. I didn’t understand 90% of what was happening around me on Saturday. The only word I can consistently pick out is “ishi,” which means “yes” or “exactly,” kind of like the Ethiopian equivalent of the German “genau.” It’s a very useful phrase, unless you have no idea what you’re agreeing with.

Model Wrangler: You would think that getting a handful of models to show up and walk up and down would be no big deal. I mean, how hard could it be? Very friggin hard, as it turns out. Models suck. All the musicians and dancers just did their own thing, running up on stage, doing costume changes in a timely fashion, etc. But every time a fashion show was slated to start, it had to be a freaking production. Remind me never to work in the fashion industry, because it’s nightmarish. Similarly…

Fashion Photographer: Despite the models being gorgeous, most of my pictures came out looking liking this:

I possess the special ability to only capture runway models in their most awkward moments. This is partly due to the fact that it was getting dark and I needed a flash but mostly due to my lack of talent.

Bouncer/Security Guard: People cannot follow instructions to stay behind ropes, out of the model runway, off the stairs, etc. By process of diffusion, every time you clear a space, an equivalent number of bodies instantly fills it again. Since the actual security guards were pretty busy all day, this meant that myself and other volunteers had to spend a lot of time shooing people away from the stage. Except the whole thing was pretty futile. Children apparently don’t have to subscribe to any kind of spacial norms, and every time I was lecturing one person on why they couldn’t walk somewhere, three people went that way while my back was turned. I make a terrible security guard.

I’m sure I could think of more jobs from Saturday that I’m incapable of doing, but my unemployability is starting to depress me. So I’ll leave you with just one more: Traditional Ethiopian Dancer:

(Note–this video was from an event I worked on last year, but it’s the same group. MoCo residents will be entertained¬†to see Councilmember Nancy Floreen dancing off the stage in the beginning of this video. Never gets old.)
Everyone loves some Eskista. Although, I have serious concerns for the safety of some of the dancers. Human heads are not designed to to move like that. Surely that is not sustainable.

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