Published July 15, 2012, 08:15 PM Eritreans bring ‘Home Sweet Home’ to
International FestivalWORTHINGTON — Dressed in traditional Eritrean
garments, a group of women gathered around a coffee pot in the late
afternoon heat Saturday, beaming with pride as they welcomed visitors to
their display at the 19th annual International Festival on the grounds of
the Nobles County Government Center in downtown Worthington.
By: *Julie Buntjer* <http://www.dglobe.com/event/author/name/Julie_Buntjer/
Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Dressed in traditional Eritrean garments, a group of women
gathered around a coffee pot in the late afternoon heat Saturday, beaming
with pride as they welcomed visitors to their display at the 19th annual
International Festival on the grounds of the Nobles County Government
Center in downtown Worthington.
The community is home to more than 50 Eritrean natives, many settling in
Worthington because of jobs. Some have been here for more than 20 years,
while others have come just within the last five years. War in their native
land forced them to escape and find a better future in a foreign land.
Today, they call America home, but they still hold true to many of the
traditions of the Eritrean culture, from gathering their families together
for coffee ceremonies to sharing meals of Injera, a pancake-like bread,
wrapped around spicy meat.
At this year’s International Festival, the local Eritrean natives pooled
their resources to make a memorable impact on visitors to the event — they
built a hut much like those that would be found in the highlands of
Eritrea, where many of them grew up.
“They said, ‘What can we share with them that is amazing — something
they’ll always remember,’” shared Aida Simon, a Nobles County Integration
Collaborative staff member with Eritrean roots, as Eritrean men worked to
erect the hut early Saturday morning.
They gathered at 5 a.m. with pick-up loads filled with sections of the hut
that took them more than a month to create.
“They built it out of boxes last year and this year they decided to build
it permanently so that it can be used for shows, events, for the public,”
The one-room hut, about one-fourth the size of a traditional Eritrean hut,
was filled with information about the country, from photos of each of the
nine tribes who call Eritrea home to a handcrafted, wooden model of a cook
Alemitu Berhane demonstrated the flat cooking area on the stove top, where
Eritrean women would make the Injera, while Mulugheta Tesfazghi showed the
woven pedestal table that serves as the centerpiece for Eritrean meals.
With Saturday’s heat, the hut became a bit too hot to stay inside to visit.
Many Eritreans gathered under a nearby shade tree or stood at the entrance,
willing to talk to anyone who approached.
The hut, constructed of plywood, was painted on the outside to give the
appearance of a stone structure.
One man, speaking in Eritrean, had his words translated by Simon as he told
of the process of building an Eritrean highlands home.
“The roof would typically consist of wood, both small and large, and mud
mixed with cow dung, which is smoothed out,” Simon said. When it rains,
grass begins to grow up from the roof, while the underside remains hardened
to prevent leaks.
The typical hut would include a private room for the woman of the house, a
room for dining, a kitchen and a bedroom.
“They started building this a couple of months ago,” Simon said of the
model hut. “The reason it took them that long was because they all work.
The only day they have off is Sunday, and they have a lot of other things
to do, like buy the groceries and spend time with family.”
They devoted a couple of hours each Sunday to make sure the hut was ready
for the festival.
“They are so honored (to share this),” Simon said. “They say America is the
mother of countries because basically, this is where you can come and be
yourself and share about yourself freely, happily. Not only are they here
to show about their culture, but they want to learn about others.
“The purpose of the International Festival is to learn from one another,
and that is their mission,” she added.
In addition to their “Home Sweet Home,” the Eritreans welcomed the public
to a traditional coffee ceremony — something Simon said is an honor in the
“They decided they wanted to honor everyone,” she said. “The coffee
ceremony … is the only time you sit down as a family with this chaotic life
of fast-pace, different shifts, kids in school all day. It’s the only time
families sit together and converse and just be a family and discuss things.
It’s a tradition where it brings the family together.”
All of the Eritrean families pooled money together to pay for the coffee,
as well as food, which they offered throughout Saturday afternoon for
people to sample.
“Every penny came from them,” Simon said. “These people are so honored to
be here and excited to share. That’s what we need — we need people to come
here and share their culture and just have a good time. That’s the point of
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.
Received on Mon Jul 16 2012 - 23:30:09 EDT