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Desta Means Happiness

December 30, 2010

I usually ignore coupons. In part, I am channelling my inner hipster kitty. In part, I don’t like to keep track of stuff. In part, I can’t keep track of stuff.

Nevertheless, a coupon popped up on my facebook page this morning, “$10 will buy you a $25 coupon to Desta Ethiopian Restaurant.” Or, more succinctly, “$10 will buy you happiness” because facebook knows I love Ethiopian food so very very much.

It’s my favorite.

Chris knows this, so he takes me out for Ethiopian food whenever we get the chance. We’ve had it in Washington, DC, New York, New Hampshire, Boston (technically Cambridge), St. Louis, MO, Tokyo, Houston, and now Dallas. As I have said, it is my favorite. I like the lentils, I like the raw spiced beef, I like the spongey sourdough pancake things, and I love eating with my hands. Tonight’s dinner was as good as any Ethiopian food I have ever eaten. We’re definitely going to go back, and if you live in Dallas, I recommend that you go there at least once.

I thought about Ethiopian food a lot when I had cancer, not least because I couldn’t eat it, but also because I had the excellent luck to be living in Houston a block from the Houston Museum of Natural Science during the time when the Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia exhibit was there. It became part of my routine: get up, eat breakfast, take the train in to the hospital, get radiation, take the train to the museum, go stare at Lucy for a while, go home, eat, sleep, play some Warcraft, sleep some more.

I wonder what the guards thought. They saw me nearly every day for weeks. I was an obvious cancer patient, at least to me, but my hair had begun to grow out, except where half my head was in a radiation field.  The guards never mentioned it, or gave more acknowledgement of my presence than a simple nod, or wave. Once, when I was walking into the museum, one of a group of hipsters, presumably from nearby Rice University, asked me about my “rad” haircut; whether I liked it, and whether he should get one. I didn’t even think, I just gave him my raised eyebrow and said “I have cancer” and then apologized profusely for my bluntness as he apologized over and over and over again for what must have been one of the worst moments of his life, but I thought then, as I do now, that it was funny, and kind, the comment continued to make my day until my hair grew out of the Annie Lennox look into the Your Grandmother look and I began to hate it.

I never thought about my hair when I was looking at  Lucy.

I thought about the immensity of time. I thought about the chance of her skeleton remaining intact, of it being discovered, and I thought of her humanity, of whether she had any, and of respect for the life she and her family lived, so many millions of years ago.  I wondered how she had lived, and how she had died, and I wondered if her soul was in heaven looking down at me looking at her.

Lucy was the highlight of the Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia exhibit, but there was plenty of other good stuff to look at: ancient Christian texts, armor, weapons, and a small piece of wall text next to a photograph of a church in Axum, informing me that it was said that the Ark of the Covenant was housed in the depths of the church.

Do I believe it?

I know it is an important part of Ethiopian Christianity. Certainly the story is plausible, and even if it’s not, it’s a compelling story. I’m neither an archaeologist, nor a historian; I don’t have the tools to determine whether or not I believe that the Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia. I choose to believe it, and I think it says something about the depth of faith in that nation that the Ethiopian government would send out the bones of Lucy as a gesture of international good will, but not let our scientists and skeptics examine the Ark to determine whether it passes muster according to our rigid scientific methods and standards.

The same set of scientific methods and standards that were daily saving my life as I underwent the world’s most advanced methods of radiation therapy for a cancer that, were it not for the research of the doctor who was overseeing my treatment, would have killed me.

Did science save me, or did God?

Does it matter?

I choose to believe that it was God who saved my life, even though I think that the more compelling story is that of my radiation oncologist, Dr George Perkins, who also saved my life, and every year when the Nobel Prize in medicine passes him by, I think he was robbed. I also think that if I had been allowed to go into the Holy of Holies down in the depths of the Church at Axum and allowed the light of the Ark of the Covenant to shine on me and heal me, it would have been no less God’s handiwork than the the work of the good people at MD Anderson.

Miracles are everywhere. We just need to know where to look.

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One Comment
  1. Susan permalink

    Do read Cutting for Stone. The love of the author for his Ethiopia shines from every page.

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