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“May you have a blessed union” her Aunt

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In recent years, Ethiopian women and men have been marrying people of other nations in greater numbers. I spoke to a number of young people who said they were open to the idea of marrying a foreigner if they had comparable values and aspirations in life. Those who cared about racial and cultural diversity did it more for their parents’ sake than for their own. When such marriages were less accepted twenty or thirty years ago, things were a little different. W/zo Zewede has been happily married to a French diplomat for the past 25 years. It was a difficult choice for her, she says, but she made it. Not having many foreigners around made being seen with one almost enough to have you branded as a prostitute in Addis Ababa’s streets. Those first few times he approached her, she remembers running away quickly. In the end, he returned to her uncle’s firm, where she worked, and persevered in his desire for her. In spite of her decision to stop fleeing, there was a language barrier. On the first date, she didn’t speak a word of French, and he had only minimal knowledge of Amharic, so he had to bring a coworker along “However, this did not pose a problem for me. I wanted my friend to be a part of the celebration. I doubt I would have gone public with a ‘ferenji’ man if I hadn’t had the courage to do so. No matter how far away we were from each other, I could never bring myself to stare directly into those intensely blue eyes. However, he never informed me of this fact, and so I kept telling him that we should no longer meet. He felt sad for me since he knew his ‘ferenji’ friend had emotions for me, and he knew I was a country girl, too. A buddy translated a letter he had written to me in Amharic, in which he asked me to marry him. My cousin had to read his letter to me in Amharic because he didn’t know that I was illiterate. It was her suggestion that I accept him, and I obliged. Because he was so nice and patient with me, it was nearly impossible for me to turn down his offer of friendship at the moment. Ethiopian or ‘fernji, he is the most loving and considerate husband I’ve ever encountered.”

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