I don’t eat out often [it's cheaper & healthier to cook, work at a restaurant that offers free fancy-food three times a day and been driven around and done that the first few months I came to Seattle; resulting in an epic weight-gain that took 3 years to shade]. In the few ocassions-a-month I do eat out, I try to tag along somebody who does it more often than I. This is especially true with Asian food establishments, Chinese food for example. My fear isn’t just being judged for coming as a minus plus-one. But that they would spit in my food unless they see somebody with a slanted eye next to me, and felt kinder towards my shade of black. Plus politely asking for forks can only be cute while sitting next to, and conversing pleasantly with, somebody who knows how to work them chopsticks [is good in Maths and has atleast a black belt in one or more of the Martial arts]. Otherwise it would appear as rude as refusing to use your hand to eat Injera – it just isn’t done! All that, ofcourse, pales by comparison when, seeing the “quality” of their products and their inability to spell ingredients even on the most authentic-looking imitations, one stops to consider what one is putting into one’s “hod Eqa” by reaching for an Oriental cuisine.
Apparently, I am not the only one who view these folks, and their cheap, spicy, yummy treats with suspicion. David Sedaris, my favorite gay American [a never ceasing reminder that not all gay men have to be like my least favorite gay American, Dan Savage, who - according to South Park's definition - is more of a faggot], has written a book entitled “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls”. It’s a collection of Essays in which he included one on the sanitation problem and eating culture of the people in the People’s Republic of China. He entitled it “#2 to go”. The number, I am afraid, doesn’t refer to the numeral on the menu. Which brings me to the “warning” part.
This story isn’t for the faint at heart; or the weak-stomach-ed. If you have a tendency to dwell on and are given to nausea at the thought of gross stuff that may find it’s way into your food; you’d wanna make sure you read it atleast two hours before you eat; and 4 after you did. That way your body has digested whatever you have consumed and isn’t likely to pound your chest and squeeze your throat muscles until you have ejected acid-covered bits of whatever you stuffed down earlier. And if you are planning to get a take-out from your favorite Chinese take-out place, or even plan to eat at one within the next 6 months; you would wanna skip reading this essay altogether. It isn’t pleasant, save for this blogger; who prides herself for being from a country where people don’t take a dump in the bushes unless they have to; and have the modesty to cover their mouth or nose before hocking a loogie. To think their kind finds my kind inferior continues to be a mystery to me.
If, by the end of this reading, you find yourself wanting to protest “but a China-man in America won’t surely behave like a China-man in China”, I say unto you “look at how the Ethiopian cabbies in your area drive”. Old habits die hard, especially when they involve the most private things you do in the most private of places. It has also not been lost upon me how publishing one of his Essays in full could be an infringement on Mr. Sedaris’ copy-rights. However, seeing how dozens of his short-story readings being posted on youtube didn’t seem to diminish his fame and fortune, hopefully this won’t either. I dedicate this story to that special friend who first brought to my attention the existence of Chinese dog-farms, the various discussions we had on “exotic” food, adventurous eating and the list of things we were willing to try. May you realize the moneky-brains weren’t the worst thing that could happen in/to a Chinese Cuisine next time you found yourself craving for a freshly-steamed shrimp dumplings!
#2 TO GO
By David Sedaris
From “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. Essays Etc.” (more…)
20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is…
in that playful dance
Between [locking & unlocking] fingers
- with you.
Spring is here. As is Prom season [two seasons that mean nothing to one from the part of the world you and I are]. The days would be longer. The weather more unpredictable – as opposed to it’s cold and windy predictable-self. And you’d be seeing more of two kinds of customers at your local thrift store. The first are environmentally responsible female-heads of houses parking their eco-friendly vehicles by the drop-off section of either Goodwill or Salvation Army to dump the fruits of their spring-clearing for which they may or may not seek tax-credits. The second are a gang of teenage-girls, to whom neither the outside world nor the other customers exist, screaming the roof down in their quest for cheap formal dresses that could both transform them into beautiful swans and don’t cost an arm and a leg.
That, atleast, is my impression from the various movies I watched on proms. Proms are times in which boy buys a suit, girl buys a dress and says “I will” [go to the prom with him, hold hands all night and dance]. I said, “I will”, mind you. Not “I do”. They don’t say I do even when slight variations to the program occur: girl gets handed down a crown iYaya wore on her prom, or wedding, before the Germans [or the Turks, or whoever had it for that part of the world; somebody always seems to] invaded the part of Eastern Europe young beautiful iYaya lived with her soon-to-be-extinct family; when the brother, or ex-teacher, of one of the groupies goes around dropping bodies like flies or when Bart ends up getting a room! However, the world [seems to] have come a long way from those more innocent days in which proms are about a boy holding his arm out for a girl whose hair he used to pull in 3rd grade; and her taking it – flushed in her night-gown and looking breath-taking in the pink-youthfulness of inexperience.
Proms are a much bigger deal, not so innocent – or affordable for that matter, nowadays. Here is an International Business Times piece on Promposing, as well as a CNN article on The damaging messages of proms. Remember [!!] [and never forget!!] all this expense is incurred to make the next kid feel bad. And that it’s coming out of mom and dad’s pockets [the same Mom and Dad who, at worst, finance music videos for the kinds of Rebecca Black; and, at best, post pictures of their kids on facebook asking for 1,000 likes so those children can have a life-threatening bit surgically removed from their bodies]. And that, mon ami-es, is really what I hold against American parents: That here I am/was/will be, working my tail off – rising early in the morning and staying late at night; in my attempt to make ends meet, walking home carrying grocery bags full to the brim; while their [unemployed] kids drive by in flashy cars, wearing labels I get to only scan through [before being chased out of the store by the price tag] on Black Friday. And tapping at gadgets that make my 5 year old Toshiba Satellite laptop look like it belonged to someone in the Flinstones’ family. [Speaking of families, I wonder if a person is allowed to put herself up for an adoption; and what the age limit is].
My Indian name was “Heavy with food”. Heavy but with food. Got it?
I’m not Indian, mind you. I’m not even Mexican. I am Ethiopian. [But you probably know that already]. An Ethiopian with an Indian name! It’s one of the “odd combos” that makes this person you have come to know, and read, as abesheet [who also goes by atleast two other known names: A given name, a "bett"/"pet"? name and the aforementioned Indian name that I donned upon myself one bright afternoon while walking by an Uptown Seattle Mexican restaurant with a name so simple it makes you wonder if the owners were real Mexicans or spray-tanned gringos wearing fake handlebar mustaches and over-sized sombreros. "Dos Amigos", they call it.]. Not to mention the countless other names I opened emails with and are now lost to the world due to my inability to remember all their passwords! [Any news on when we are gonne run out of IP Addresses, guys?!. Seriously this time?!]
The first “odd” combo has gotta do with the above mentioned heaviness; and it’s direct correlation to/with eating. I was a fat Ethiopian. To those of you who consider that expression an “oxymoron”, morons!, I would have you know that we exist. There aren’t many of us. And we try to blend as much as we can with the obese black of America. But we do exist; and our lives are an endless trial and error of attempting to find acceptance in the same society that paid compliments to its neighbours, until very recently, in the form of “weferk! .. amarebih!”.
My “wufret” wasn’t a matter of choice or the result of a variety of bad decisions, however. If given a chance, I would have checked the “tall, dark and handsome” section [without, perhaps, the "dark" part] and attempted to fight my way up the food-chain with a garden full of vegetables leaping in my belly. I would have been more like Netsanet instead of Netsanet being given grief over her inability to be more like me. Netsa [otherwise known as "Qecho", or "Qotu" or "YeSileshi Ehit"] whose weak cries were the legednary background music of our childhood home, is a 7-month-older cousin who lost her mother immediately after birth and was brought up by my grandmother. The hands that twisted the “tuto” out of her hand – causing the weak cries, and the helpless tears were, I regret to report, mine.
Before you judge my toddler-self harshly, however, I pray you stop and ask why I became the little “tuto”-snatching bully [or a "jambo", or a "sancho", or a "Gembo" or any of the other names I grew up hearing myself referred to as] I was in those formative years. The answer, in a word, “Morinaga”. In two words: “Morinaga wetet” - a powder-milk that kept me from screaming the roof down after my mom dropped breast-feeding and me at her mother’s, so she can go back to Hossana and continue working as a telephone operator. The milk would have sufficed to make me quit hollering, I assure you. But my aunts were young and there wasn’t much in the form of entertainment for the youth in those days. Plus potatoe was much cheaper than a fancy milk-powder with a foreign name. So, in their zeal to keep their older sister’s first kid full-bellied and sunny-dispositioned [an older sister who was supporting the family from the little she got], they went above and beyond the call of duty. Ending up over-doing the carbs and out-feeding me [or vice-a-versa].
Do I have Morinaga-beDinich to thank for my healthy lung, the wholesome appetite I enjoyed throughout my life, and a strong bone structure on an arm that is to later become known as “The Hand That Snatchs Netsanet’s Tuto”?! I do!! But what is strangeth and might when all a child, already torn from her mother’s warm bossom, craved for was a sense of belonging?! Netsanet, with her weak voice and twisted arms, didn’t have half the hard-time I did when stepping outside to play. Granted it was a trade off for my rosy cheeks, it wasn’t fun when you seem to inspire a chorus of “Duba.Meret.Qedo.Geba”, even in those with no intention of hurting you, everywhere you go.
Thus… even though I weigh less than I have ever weighed in my life, except maybe my early 20′s, and can see my collar bones if I squinted sideways; I still am a fat girl in my head. I still feel surprised when anything less than a size 14 fits me. Still feel apologetic around tall Ethiopian women with long finger-nails suffering from “chegwara”. And find myself wondering, albeit for a second, if I were the cause of it whenever people behind me laugh uproariously.
My second “odd” combo (more…)
I’ve always had a warm-feeling for geeks; despite my on-going attempt to boycott Facebook [8 months and counting], despite hating Ira Glass’s “gum-chewing” voice and not being able to tell the difference between a “geek”, a “nerd” and a “dork” – however much I goggled and read on the terms. In movies, geeks are made fun of, picked on and finally dumped for good-looking dumb men who happen to be the Captains of their high school football teams [Originality, again, thou shalt be missed]. Geeks are adorable in their goofiness. Geeks make devoted friends. And they scare easily. So, in the camaraderie-spirit of all those pushed, you root for them to get the girl. And how can you not? Not rooting for a geek is the equivalent to not stopping after hitting a deer, or not ooh-ing and ahh-ing at a video of an infant when his/her mother proudly shoves the smart-phone under your nose.
So I indiscriminately liked geeks, or thought I did.
He was a tall white guy, mid to late 20s, with large “Capote” style silver-rimmed glasses and a sandy hair. He was wearing the type of jacket young interviewees trying to look old, or teachers from the 70′s wear, with the strap of his computer bag held tightly by a finger across his chest. A sharply dressed dull gray ghost that is a common phenomenon to downtown Seattle. [As are gay men to Capitol Hill; and East-Indian men, carrying backpacks, to 6th Avenue].
I was walking down a side street, after having pushed through 20 more pages of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” [a book that is not only explaining why I burst into tears when hearing how a bunch of hooligans not just gave back the wallet but fist-bumped and thanked him for his services after learning the guy they were about to mug was a Veteran; but helping me embrace - nay declare - my highly-reactive nature]; with the help of a Venti Latte and an oatmeal raisin cookie at the Barnes & Noble of my choosing [forking $6:30 with tax for 4 days now; book only costs about 20 bucks]. He, preceded by two girls who were in deep conversation, was walking up my way. This was around 5:30 pm near west-lake union station. Peak hour, that is! Cars were honking. Traffic lights were blinking at the speed of their “disco club” brethren. And buses were laboring under their weight as well as the tight schedule they gotta meet.
There were men on bicycles, with their tight jerseyed-bottom impatiently in midair; and women on bicycles, fidgeting with the strap on their helmet, or the hair inside it. Valets infront of building doors, clad in their warm jackets, were chatting up smokers who are taking a leisurely break by a trash can. And manikins, lifeless and ammicably-dressed, were striking impressive poses from shop windows. Seattleites were comfortably spread out outside cafe-umbrellas, either tapping at their phones or talking about their boyfriends ["my boyfriend" is at the top on the list of most commonly-used phrases in Downtown Seattle. It almost always comes from two young women, 24-38, on or from their way to lunch. It's said in a shrill-voice that would scald the back of your ears if it was able to occupy space and would chase you mercilessly down the street unless you dodged into the next street or slowed down and let it pass]. Bums were trying to do what bums always do, bum cigarettes off of strangers who are more likely to give it for free. The occasional street singer was drumming/plucking/blowing at some instrument with a sharp eye at his collection bag. And cackling Asian tourists were busy snapping a photo at everything standing – and moving.
The world was at peace in its rhythmic chaos (more…)
It was the most un-Ethiopian thing to do. Most — Gone with the Wind. Unfortunately for me, there wasn’t a fussing niece-by-marriage with smelling-salt next to me. Infact, when I come to I was lying on the floor, wedged between my kitchen cabinet and my metal-mesh trash can [which got banged out of shape from my weight]. I looked up and saw, just the way you see in the movies, things separate from one another. First drawer doors, then bulb, then roof, then walls, then back to the kitchen cabinet doors I was laying against like a lump. Then a vague recollection of where I have seen those things came to me, where I have seen them last! A distant feeling of where I might be. Then I heard “the birds”. They were raising from the back of my head, my “majirat”, as we say. Raising slowly and noisily. And, with every flattering of wing, the fog that has covered my brain was lifting, leaving me with a cold sweat that was helping wake me up.
I closed my eyes for a few minutes, drained from the effort it took to concentrate. [Leave me alone, my mind waved away the mental arm that was trying to shake me out of my slumber, Leave me alone! I am going back to sleep!]. Then opened my eyes again, terrified at the thought of being in a place I didn’t entirely know. Doors. Bulb. Roof. Walls. Then kitchen cabinet doors. I realized that this was my kitchen. My kitchen! I’ve lived there only for about a week, remember?!, that must be why it didn’t come to me immediately when I first saw it – from the bottom-up. Everything was brand new, almost uncomfortablly surface-shiny, but this was my kitchen. Its a place I can trust myself in. That spinning, that was me, not this strangely familiar place with its shiny appliances and stagnant air.
I was too exhausted to think. So supported my head on the doors and slipped into a dazed sleep.
It was the flu. A winter flu I got from an ex I made out with a day after new year. He wanted to come over. I wanted him to come over more. So when he said “By the way, I am recovering from the flu. I hope that won’t be a problem”, I told him it wasn’t. I didn’t have the flu-shot, true, but this was me we were talking about! The sole survivor, the only woman-standing, of many a flu-attack that has taken down my colleagues through the years. When people are taken to hospitals or surrounding themselves with relatives to make their final will; I walked to work and performed my duties – with running nose, teary-eyes and super sensitive skin that makes me sneeze at the breath of wind. I was so healthy, I bragged, it bothers me. Just bring yourself around and be quick about it.
So he came over. And, reader, I kissed him, teeth, tongue and all; taking a break only when he came out to cough.
About a week later, (more…)