I couldn’t do it … I couldn’t kill the goat.
My muscles were locked in place as I pleaded my body to cooperate.
Come on Audrey, you can do this. It’s only a goat. Just kill it already (I motivate myself a lot).
But I couldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’m tough. I’ve grown up with three brothers. They’ve been the cause of a root canal, cracked tooth, and my strong competitive nature. But for once, I backed out of a challenge. I inhaled sharply and handed the machete back to the smiling Ethiopian boy. Turning towards the eager faces of the other children and wiping my sweaty palms against my thighs, I spoke one of the few phrases I knew in their language, “šəntə bet yätə näw”.
Good job Audrey. You apologized. You’re fine.
Wrong. I was not fine. Fifty pairs of eyes stared at me. I awkwardly smiled and tried to look like I knew what was happening. Eyob, an older boy, tapped me on the shoulder. To my surprise, his English was far better than I had assumed. He quickly explained the confusion. Apparently, instead of apologizing, I had asked to go to the restroom. Go figure, things don’t always go as planned. I tried to suppress the rising heat illuminating my face to the same shade of red as the already slaughtered chickens.
Wow. Great job Audrey. You embarrassed yourself and insulted their culture.
I stood immobilized and mortified. Eyob interpreted the situation to the group and normalcy resumed. Meat is such a delicacy for these children. I felt like I offended them by not killing the goat, which was meant for a celebration after a week’s worth of work.
I vividly remember the aftermath of the killing and the happiness on the children’s faces. Even though I felt uncomfortable, I smiled. The true meaning of why the goat was killed began to wash over me and erase my negative emotions.
Standing in an unfamiliar country, with an unfamiliar language and a culture drastically different from my own, I experienced one of my most challenging situations.
Today, I look back and laugh at myself. I laugh at my naive, confident self, thinking I knew everything. I now face new situations with humility and an open mind.
I don’t regret my behavior or feel my cheeks flush at the memory of the goat. Instead, I am forever grateful for that experience. Whoever would think that a goat could lead to a more open mind? It uncovered my passion for language, culture, and people. And, thanks to social media, I have maintained my friendship with Eyob, continuing to learn and grow from our cultural differences and similarities.
Growing up with all brothers, I’ve had to deal with whatever comes my way. They push me, strengthen me, and encourage me, but after a while, I realized that their pushing and strengthening couldn't always provide my inspiration. I needed this experience. I needed it to help me grow in my view and understanding that the world is a bigger, more colorful place than my small, suburban neighborhood.