Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ear Piercing in Ethiopia

Every time I go to Ethiopia, there is always a new and interesting cultural norm to discover.  Last year when our volunteer team was in Ethiopia working with the children at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory CarePoints, I noticed a child or two that had something strange (or at least something strange and unrecognizable to me) protruding from their recently pierced ears.

This year, I noticed the same thing with several little girls, so I motioned for one of our translators and asked about it.  Here is what I found out ....

In the USA, when ears are first pierced, hypoallergenic "studs" are inserted and they remain in place for 6-9 weeks until the piercing is fully healed.  Infections are very painful, and you are instructed to clean the piercing twice a day with a q-tip swab dipped in hydrogen peroxide until they are fully healed.

In Ethiopia, without access to hypoallergenic studs or hydrogen peroxide and q-tip swabs, a girl's ear is pierced with a needle and then a thin stalk from a particular plant is inserted into the piercing.  Over time, the piercing scabs repeatedly and once the scabbing stops, the stalk can be removed and earrings can be made and inserted.

Upon hearing this, both of my daughter's removed their own earrings from their ears, and handed them to two little girls to use in their ears once the stalk was removed.


graceling said...

This is so interesting! When I was younger, several of my friends (first-generation Americans with parents from India and Nigeria) had a similar method of handling new piercings. When I asked about it (I was maybe 7 or 8?) one friend also said that young girls were only allowed to wear the "sticks" until a certain age and another friend said any time she wasn't wearing "real" earrings, her grandmother made her put the sticks in to prevent the holes from closing or getting any other infection. I didn't notice it while I was in Ethiopia, but that's so cool!

D'Elle said...

When I was a child my experience was similiar. We used straw.