Sheila Raghavendran


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Just like cats and dogs

I looove meat, my Uber driver told me. We passed through a tunnel and I laughed at his uninhibitedness. I like Ethiopian food, he said.

I was taken back a few years, to a restaurant I visited with my family the last time I was in Washington, DC. The servers brought out big plates of food and we ate with our hands. We loved it, but it’s a foggy memory now.

My driver dropped me at my new apartment, my new home for the next few months, and I started exploring. I found my way to Sidamo, an Ethiopian coffee shop with amazing Yelp reviews (what else can we trust?). It’s run by the same managers of Ethiopic, a restaurant that killed the catchy-name game.

I sat in the coffeeshop, struck by all the shades I saw and voices I heard. I was overwhelmed, emotional. I was displaced from my (approximately) 80% white hometown and university, and though it had been only a couple of hours, I knew this place would quickly become my home. I craved the samplings of cultures and lifestyles that DC showed so casually.

A quick Google search pointed to a WAMU story that answered my question of how DC became a hub for Ethiopians — the attraction to the Ethiopian embassy, universities and DC’s significant black population (currently at 46%). According to WAMU, many Ethiopians who previously planned on returning to their home country stayed put in DC when the Ethiopian revolution broke out in the early 1970s.

I sifted through the Ethiopian photo book at Sidamo’s bar, taking a glimpse into the country’s landscapes. The shop offered tastes, sounds, sights — all in an effort to give DC a bit of Ethiopia.

I think watching cultures mingle is like watching cats and dogs snuggle with each other. It’s learned and it’s appealing. I’m glad to make DC my home, and not just watch the cultural atmosphere, but also contribute to it.