At a rustic summer camp in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains, wedged between a monster water park and a Golden Corral restaurant, a raucous, Ethiopian feast unspooled and 9-year-old Mati found her groove at last.
There was a pony, an African marketplace and piles of injera bread. There was a drumbeat that grew faster, twangs from a stringed instrument called a krar and an impossibly fast esketa — an Ethiopian dance that had Mati and her friends shrugging their shoulders at warp speed.
Whoa. This wasn’t baseball. Or Wii bowling. Or skateboarding. This was what kids do in Ethiopia, the country Mati had tried to forget ever since her adoption at the age of 5.
Ethiopia was the place where she’d lost her parents and been separated from her brother. It was the place where ear infections went untreated and caused pain, said Mati’s mother, Elizabeth Glynn.
So why in the world, when her eager, American adoptive parents came to her with Ethiopian music and phrases and pictures, would she want anything to do with that place?
“I didn’t really want to talk about it,” Mati explained. “And everyone kept asking me questions.”
But there she was on Saturday at the Ethiopian Heritage and Culture Camp in Massanetta Springs, her American clothes shed in favor of a traditional, gauzy white habesha libs, dancing to the krar. She was surrounded by kids as big-eyed and coffee brown as she, watched over by parents as white and doting as her own.