Posts filed under ‘Latest Posts’

The death of a dog

The death of a pet isn’t an elephant in the room you refuse to address. It is the absence of an elephant in the room. An elephant that wiggled its tail when it sees you, make its hips dance when you pet it and falls asleep outside your door everytime you ordered it to leave your bedroom because your new girlfriend can’t stand the smell of dogs on your blanket.

An elephant that holds no grudge if you forgot to feed it. An elephant that would hold its pee until you are back from hiking with family and friends and still follow your every movement with its eyes, like it is concerned about your well-being.

An elephant that would cry when you get hurt, whimper when you look angry and bark your assailant away when it senses you threatened.

An elephant that would never look down on you, nor demand to be seen as equal. But would take your kindness with all the gratefulness and humility of a creature to its creator.

An elephant that would lie in your arms quietly when you cry your goodbyes into its hair. Would still limp behind you when you take it to the clinic. And would not recognize the special doggy-treats as its last meal.

It’s an elephant-sized absence you pretend not to notice, a wall taken off by a tornado. Like walking around your room as if there isn’t a sniper shooting at you every time you passed by the door.

It’s an absence full of grief. Full of fear – the fear of not being able to make it go away by not acknowledging it [it's only a dog, after all. People lose their kids!!]. And — guilt: born of a sense betrayal of a friend incapable of doing the same to you.

To Riley, who has been a good dog for the 18 years he lived on this earth. He was put to sleep on 15th September 2014.

September 25, 2014 at 4:26 pm 2 comments

“ዳያን” (Yewubet Wetmed)

Finally managed to locate the original work for “የዉበት ወጥመድ”, which went by both “Married for her Beauty” and “A Bitter Atonement” online. This is a book that shares similar themes (young and naive beautiful maidens, older husbands they signed-up with out of poverty or the need to escape their present situation, tough elder sister-in-laws, marital un-bliss, betrayal and the abandonment of children) with another – albeit superior – British work of fiction – also written by a woman. Both had had us, children and adults alike, glued to our radios (in anticipation of the weekly “KeMetsahift Alem”) for months. And still makes us pause when we come across the names “Diane”, “Bruno” and “Hester” (Sabela, Archibald or Carlyle and Cornelia). Bertha M. Clay was the writer. It was published by Millner and Company, Limited on 1892.

Sorry about the quality of the copy.



MISS BALFOUR! Miss Diane! your cousin is here! Miss Diane! There came no answer to the quick call, and a tall, elderly woman, with a kindly face, parted the tall lilac trees and looked into the garden. The sun shone on the June roses; but the young face for which she was searching did not turn smiling to her from among the flowers.

‘Miss Diane !’ cried Mrs. Hopeton’s voice.

There was no answer.

‘Now Heaven bless that dear child!’ said the woman. ‘It would try the temper of an angel, if angels have any temper. Where shall find I her? She may have gone wandering all through the woods. There is nothing for it but patience.’

The sun was warm; its rays beat fiercely on her head. Taking off her apron she started for the woods. Through the garden and orchard, through the clover meadows; then came a green lane, with an old-fashioned stile, over which she climbed; then she stood in the fragrant shade of Rositer Wood.

‘Miss Diane!’ she called again.

This time another voice replied–a sweet voice, like the chime of a silver bell:

‘I am here, Mrs. Hopeton.’

‘Where is here?’ asked the woman.

‘Down in a nest of bluebells,’ laughed the voice. ‘Two steps farther and you will be on a level with the top of my head.’

Mrs. Hopeton went the required two steps.

There was a pretty dell where the bluebells and hyacinths grew in rich profusion.


July 14, 2014 at 12:07 am 6 comments

Life Lessons from “The Princess Bride”

If you have been a fan of the movie “The Princess Bride” the way I have [the book is even funnier, if you can believe it]: you are likely to use a line from it [although none of us can be the walking talking movie-quote library that Troy is] from time to time. The first of its quotes that is near and dear to the abesheet heart, ofcourse, is: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something”. I have had a chance to use “It’s not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.” on Troy [or he used it on me, don't remember which] on a Tennis court. Have made friends smile, those friends who tut-tutted my inability to be a silly romantic that [they probably feel] all women are [should be], with “There is nothing better than true love in the whole world. Except a nice MLT. Mutton, lettuce, and tomato when the mutton is nice and lean and the lettuce is nice and crisp” and yelled “Why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it!” when that love turns sour – as loves most often do.

The line: “People in masks cannot be trusted” hasn’t made it to my vocabulary that often. Since I haven’t been or hoped to be a guest at a fancy dress ball [or Halloween] party, I didn’t think there would be an instance in which it would come handy. Then I was asked to wear an Easter Bunny outfit for an office function on April 20. There would be, I was warned, a lot of children, a lot of mothers wanting me to hold their children, and adults behaving like kids. I cannot talk. I cannot laugh. And I can’t bring my hands anywhere near their privates, or even give them hugs unless specifically asked by the person or parent for the purpose of taking pictures.

I was told to look out for ass-grabbers [and alarm security if felt threatened], to make sure the costume stays in place from head to toe and to being inconvenienced by the inability to pee without disrobing. But mostly I was told how hot it was going to be. “My” head, though with a pronounced smile painted on it, was made of fur. A fur head stuffed with all kind of gadgets that would render the human face behind the mask completely invisible. It was also heavy on the shoulder. And since I can’t lift it to drink water without scarring growing children to life; I was meant to suffocate and sweat like the dickens until the allotted brake-time arriveth.

Which I did.

To the casual observer, there I was.. waving, hopping back at every child that pretended to hop at the sight of me and putting both my hands infront of my smiling mouth to show shock or happy surprise. I pretended to blush or gave thumbs up every time somebody hugged me or said they loved me. When kids screamed at the sight of me, or a grown up man walked by me with stiff shoulders (“He doesn’t like Easter bunnies”, wife or girlfriend would explain. The old “I hate rats” syndrome -also a synonym for “I can’t be around rats/clowns because they scare me shitless but I am not man enough to admit it”) I roll hands under my “eyes” to show being hurt. I gave candies. I blew kisses. I protested being lifted by some jocks from the Netherlands with the wild gesture of a bunny short of a bush to dash into. On the inside, however, I was cursing the sweat the was washing my face and burning my eyes.. gnashing the teeth from both the head-ache and the stupidity of some folks and suggesting men and women get bent whenever they act too good to stand beside a fake bunny for the camera. All this.. while wearing a big smile and a happy countenance.

“I will never trust people wearing masks”, I commented, someberly studying my form in the mirror while a security guard/feet guide was busy pinning my shirt under the costume in such a way that nobody would know it was there. That’s when that quote from “The Princess Bride” came to me. I realized I may have erred in assuming the quote was only relevant to people wearing masks and/or those around them. That it may be referring to the masks we wear every day. To one in particular: the smile mask.

You see, deep down, I have always known not to trust people who laugh easily and long. I have viewed it as a defect, either the absence of a functional brain or cover for the dishonest heart. That is why I have always been attracted to people with sour faces and unhappy dispositions. Because they were wearing their hearts on their sleeves, as the saying goes, honest like. Telling passers-by to take it or chuck it.

I haven’t looked favorably at people who laugh easily and long- I said. But I haven’t gone so far as to suppose there was anything particularly sinister about them. That hot afternoon, however, in my smiling head, and furry outfit, I did. True, Americans didn’t choose to wear smiling masks as part of the daily life by choice. What with capitalism, integration and civil rights movement; wearing agreeable masks have become a necessary evil to return home in one piece around here. And …. if we came down to it, isn’t life.. isn’t society … a sort of fancy dress ball; where we go out wearing clothes, looks and attitudes we believe would give a certain impression to onlookers – with “manufactured identities” – as somebody more educated than me called it? Indeed, haven’t we been told by Morgnstern how masks were “terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.”?!

Alas.. after that day.. people who smile easily I no longer saw as men and women trying to live in peace with their neighbors or even folks trying to sell something. I started seeing them as men and women who aren’t showing their real emotions. [Neighbors who may be hiding a "finger", a sneer, a dagger]. Exaggeration much, as Blen would say? Maybe. But let us say you were walking down a dark alley and you see a man wearing a mask walking towards you. Then another chap… wearing a smile. Who are you likely to want to forge alliances with in the hope of saving your hide?! Dark stranger #2, right?. Alas the first guy may have easily been burnt by acid. The second… who knows what he was burnt with?

Me? I will take my chances with the first guy. Unless.. ofcourse.. he started with “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

In which case, “there’s usually only one thing you can do. .. Go through his clothes and look for loose change.”

May 16, 2014 at 8:13 pm 4 comments


I don’t know if you had the pleasure, the pure [if short-lived] ecstasy, of knowing you have saved a life. I have. A kid of about 11. Burn victim. From down South. His folks were too poor to accompany him to Addis. And my colleagues, most of them single women in their early 30s, were worried they may not have enough to spare for birthing a child. So i offered mine. “As long as I have somebody to drive me back”, I said. Got a soda out of it. Not to mention a free weight measurement, which wasn’t easy back then [there was a pharmacy near Ghion hotel with a scale; but who needs the looks].

Having your blood donation rejected can’t be called the exact opposite of that feeling. But it does come close. It makes you feel … dirty. Like you are carrying something tainted. A good Samaritan being snickered at by those he/she tried to save. That has happened to me too, 3 months after I came to america. I have still not found a job. So decided to do this. “Risk of
Malaria infection”, they said. Gotta wait for 3 years before my blood cells could be considered safe for consumption.

So when I heard how gallons of blood donated by blacks, blacks like me, was secretly dumped in Israel; I have understood the source of their pain. These were quickly followed by riots. News of violence and drug addiction being rampant among Felashas in the “Promise Land”. Of identity-loss. And Netanyahu!

I knew, then, [that] this was no run-of-the-mill fear of a malaria infection. But a race-infection. Or, to quote John Kerry, an “Apartheid”-like disease.

So.. this is for Liya [with her long hair, "ar yegemete tirs" - as Tagel would call it - and D-cup size breast - even at Junior High], to Dawit, and Tigist: My childhood friends and fellow suffers of Gash Alemayehu’s “kichina” kiray bet. “Abro Adeg”s who left Ethiopia for Israel when I was in grade 8. I remember your pride at standing out; at being separate [but unequal] from us. Was Donald Sterling telling the truth when he said you guys are being treated like mere “dogs” nowadays? If so, I guess being plain “Gondere” doesn’t sound that bad now. Huh?

[Yes. I am a mean-spirited little person].

On a serious note though…
I guess .. maybe.. that is what home is: the place you won’t have your blood donation rejected for reasons of inferiority.

May 4, 2014 at 3:28 pm 2 comments

Loveship, Hateship

Not sure how many Ethiopians use the term “Where I come from” as a “crutch”. I do, or so says Troy, every time I come across: somebody complaining they don’t have a washer/drier in their unit/when I gotta throw away a box of expired eggs/a carton of sour milk or when I, once again, mistake 5 am for 11 am [11 am for 5 am]. I laugh and explain how “where i come from” the day begins at 6:00 am, not midnight, and how I still am in an “Addis State of Mind”.

The speaker, who has thus far probably assumed I was another angry black woman from the deep south, would usually end up asking “So where is home?”

I say Ethiopia. East Africa. Next to Kenya, yes. Then we discuss what great athletes they have before the question of how long I have lived here, why I hardly seem to have any accent and how I found America ensues.

What I haven’t done, atleast conciously, is ask myself that very same question. Where home, my home, really was. Then came my N-400 Naturalization application, with it’s demand to “Renounce or give up citizenship in or allegiance to all other countries” if given a chance to become an American. That day I asked the question [So where is home, really].

I still haven’t found a satisfactory answer for it.

Is home the place where you grow up being told by all those that pass by that [since] you do not look like us. [That] You weren’t one of us. [Thus] You may not belong with us?!

Is home the place you were born in?
That country you fled from?
That land where you were mentally and/or physically abused and emotionally drained?

Is home that particular place [you look back at nostalgically]?
That particular person [who gave you this vision of who you could become]?
That song [which still sends a ripple among your insides]?

Or is home some place else?

The following won’t help you answer that question, it didn’t [help] me! But it has brought back all the rage and pain I used to feel; rage and pain that still induces the desire to throw up every time I came across most abesha men [and avoid the company of a certain type of abesha woman - beteskiyan sami.. tswami.. tselai]. Visit 800 Days in Ethiopia to read more, or apologize to the writer on all our behalf.

On Being Hated

As our end of service approaches, and we get nearer and nearer to home and questions and Ethiopian storytime, I think it’s an appropriate time for some gritty honesty, for my own sake. Lately I’ve limited myself to hints, but the problem has become all-encompassing, comparable to the sorts of sun-blocking storm clouds that hang over Mt. Soloda in our rainy season, and I know I should share before coming home—I guess so that, well, you believe me, and do so while it’s happening. So that you know it has never been hyperbole.

“I’ve never felt so disrespected in my life” is a line I know I’ve heard before, fielded and responded to before, in conversations with family and friends. Something happens at work, at the store, in a board meeting, and you can’t forget it. This isolated moment hangs there in your mind and your heart, for weeks, maybe months, and you try to set it loose to be forgotten and overcome.

I want you to know what it looks like to be a foreigner and a woman, to be a target for unceasing ostracism and contempt. To be a foreigner and a woman living in Ethiopia.

At least twice a week I go through a bout of misery. A deep hopelessness resulting in bitter anger. That statement—I’ve never felt so disrespected in my life—is not an isolated, once-in-a-blue-moon moment for us female volunteers. It has become our state of being. Every other day, at the very least, for the past 21 months, I have been sexually harassed. Men have licked their lips, kissed the air, stared at my breasts, invited me alone to their homes (we’ve been told that in Ethiopian culture, if a single man invites a woman alone to his home, it means the likes of Come sleep with me), asked about my sex life, professed their love for me, gawked at me for half hours like I’m a poster, described my features in inappropriate detail, called me sexy, etc. And I come home feeling like a used object on a broken shelf.

The male volunteers will never quite understand this. They support us dearly, and listen well—and they sometimes see it happen—but they’ll never fully feel it as their own. It will rarely ever be directed towards them. They’ll always be the supporters, not the ones needing the support and not wanting to ask for it.

What this means is: when, weekly, I vent and cry to Daniel about the particular sexual harassment I’ve been given that week, I end up feeling relieved in the moment—for having told him, and for how he soothes and encourages me, lifts me up—but gradually, gradually I end up feeling like an awful individual. I struggle with the questions: Am I an awful volunteer? Am I becoming a horrible person? Am I so full of hate—and how is he not? Am I so weak, so thin-skinned? Could I be exaggerating this somehow? Is it even a problem, or is it only in my head? Shouldn’t I be over it by now? Will I be like this when we go home, too? (more…)

April 27, 2014 at 4:38 am 6 comments

If I Coulda, I Woulda

The following is in answer to all those who ask me:

When I’m going home to visit my family.
[Without the humiliation of telling my two dozens cousins, and/or their kids, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” when they show up, smiling and expectant, to say "Enkuwan LeAgerish abeQash"]

Why I’m not going to school.
[While also paying for my rent. Keeping my sanity, my hours and the man I am in a relationship with].

Which I’m going to do first: Petition my sister or bring my parents to visit.
[Without committing a crime - bank robbery .. lying on my taxes; or doing something illegal - prostitution.. being paid to marry somebody LeVisa or marrying somebody LeMoney].

March 14, 2014 at 4:00 pm 3 comments

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