GURSHA. I learned that word only recently, but I have known for quite some time what it stands for. It describes a practice amongst Ethiopians where guests of honor—or simply dear friends—are hand-fed by those with whom they dine. Someone will tear off a piece of injera (the traditional Ethiopian flatbread), pick up a few chunks of food with it and then put the whole assemblage directly into the mouth of the lucky recipient. The moment I first read about it, it seemed like a rather wonderful custom to me and I mentioned to a friend of mine how blessed I would feel if someone honored me one day in that fashion. That thought was only met with ridicule, however, and before long I forgot about the whole thing....until just a few days ago.
Remember the hug I wrote about so enthusiastically in my blog of February 14? Well, the same amazing young woman who had blessed me back then with her warm embrace, now also gave me this beautiful experience. She took a piece of injera, folded it to pick up some food from her own plate, and then put it with her fingers right into my mouth. It was such a simple gesture, done without any showiness, done, indeed, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. And it was exactly this informality that made it so special. If you are aware of my great affection for the Ethiopian people, you can perhaps imagine how elated I was! May God bless that precious lady! What a remarkable woman! I feel so incredibly privileged to know her.
Oh, and just before you get any crazy ideas, her boyfriend was present at the time, just as he was when I got that memorable hug. Just wanted to point that out.
Experiences like this energize me in the writing of my novel. After all, the story is centered around the sister of Ethiopia's most illustrious Queen, and partaking in some of that country's beautiful customs inspires me. One thing is for certain: I can now model the more endearing traits of my heroine's character after a rather remarkable, real-life Ethiopian princess whom providence has brought to New York City at just the right time.