In the words of my [younger] alter-ego:
But there were things I have neglected saying these past year and a half. Things that went to sleep with me and got out of bed in the morning with me. Things that I read in the air every time I stood naked in front of my mirror. Fears I gotta face every time I pulled my lips down to examine my teeth whose gums seem to be receding a tiny bit further from too much twig brushing with a mix of salt and charcoal when young. Bags that show up under my eyes every morning I slept badly, making me – in the word of Garett – ‘look tired’; which Donna said was another way of saying ‘you look like shit’. That I was fast approaching that fateful number 35; where I will transition from one age group [young, 18-34] to another [Middle-age, 35-death]. An age-group I would become the target audience of age-defying skin-care creams, under-eye firming serums and AARP junk-mails. Where my doctor would use words like “women in your age group” before she suggests that I start thinking of mammograms, yearly examinations and my 401K plans. That these were the few precious years before I hit menopause where my skin is still tight, my breasts still perky and my sexuality supposedly reaches its highest peak. An age where I can at least freeze my eggs, even if no one would take them if I donated them [29 is the cutting point] and where a guy should “shit or get off the pot” while I still have a chance.
In the words of someone much more talented:
You be the judge!
The following “improvement” upon, “retelling” of or “adjustment” to the ending of “FiQir Eske MeQabir” [“bAleGe min yilugnin ayawQim” endil metsihaffu] is taken from Page 29-37 of his latest book, “MereQ” – published by Rohobot Asatamiwoch and costing a whopping 120 Birr. Sorry for the poor quality of the pages. I started “meGelBeting” it, using an old Geez Keyboard Amharic software that I still have on a Toshiba laptop that is almost a decade old; then felt so sick by how bad the writing is that I settled for an Android phone copy of it.
Misgana goes to the wonderful Leul – who gave me his very own signed-copy to read on the plane before expressions like “Sit’TaFit… abet sit’TaFit” gave me feelings akin to being water boarded with bad Ama-Englizegna that I went back to re-watching “Nightcrawler” and deriving pleasure from its authentic .. absolutely breath-taking .. creepiness [Love you Jake, me love you long time]. I did make it to Page 56, however; which is more than I can say for his previous work – one “Giracha Qachiloch” which didn’t even have a decent “meDiba” [someone who is neither a “medina” nor a “balager” lij] narrator excuse for it’s vomitous inductus qualitus [Pig-Latin for “vomit-inducing quality”].
As usual, click on each image for a better view of it. And enjoy.
Here is a story I heard from neighbours who came to visit my dad, after he got rear-ended by a car, fall from his bike and broke a bone in his head, when I was in Addis.
This wasn’t the first time these neighbours were at my family’s home to visit a victim of a car accident. My younger brother Tagel, as in Hell-rasier – “Jail-bird Tagel”, has spent three months in the hospital after being run over by a car – had every bone in his leg and one of his arms crushed, and blood leaked into his brain; denying him the ability to speak for more than 6 months. A year later, he still finds it hard to form a coherent sentence when he is upset, still walks with a limp, is unable to flex the fingers on his right hand and has to stuff a wad of cotton in one of his ears so he could go to sleep without a splitting headache [blood used to come of this same ear, my sister has told me, many weeks after the accident].
Alas.. Tagel, they say, is one of the lucky ones. For.. the driver who run him down [“a saint”, they call him, “a real Ethiopian”, “a true man of God”] not only stopped, got out of his car, and flagged other cars from finishing the job at a great personal risk on himself [it was around 11 night]; but carried my brother in his arms all the way to the hospital wailing inconsolably. My mother still remembers fondly how he is said to have been covered in blood when he got to the ER, where he apparently called his young wife and bade her goodbye, “yesewu lij gediyalehu… bey bichashin nesh.. lijachinin asadgi”.
This – in a country where even the most humane person admits the best route to take after hitting a person with your car is either to step on the gas or finishing them off so you don’t have to deal with hospital bills; corrupt cops and Attorneys who won’t leave you alone even if the person you hit has been made whole and refused to press charges against you and/or “yedem kassa” of maybe 10 thousands – not to mention a personal liability that may last you a lifetime – merits a badge of decency.
Or so most seem to think.
[It should be noted that my brother’s “gechi” did not only pay all bills related to my brother’s hospital stay – but has himself and his family spend nights taking personal care of him – allowing my mother to keep her job and my dad to sleep in his own bed – not to mention the countless gifts they got him and “teBots” they brought my family every time they visited afterwards. “Beteseb”, my parents consider him now. And my dad, before his own accident, has actually gone to the Yeka Kifle Ketema Police station and provided a sworn statement allowing all cases to be dropped against the young man, and the small publishing press his family runs]
Like I said, Tagel was one of the very lucky ones.
The rest, i.e. the 1 out of every 5 car accident victims in Ethiopia, are left to die in the street – and they do – so the driver can avoid the inconvenience of dealing with being held responsible for it.
I remember hearing back in the days, before:
1. every major street in Addis has been dug to lay China-constructed roads;
2. every sidewalk is being taken by either a “suQ bederete”, a “lemagn” or a guy with a Health-o-Meter charging 50 cents a weighting;
3. and driving became a rat-race taking place in a maze,
4. in cars whose safety belt is ripped out the minute they passed Customs; and suggesting wearing a belt makes passengers giggle
5. before Facebook posts and mobile phones distracted both driver and pedestrian in such a way that no body is looking where they are going half the time
6. in a city where cars parked in the middle of the street because of said over-flowing activity in the pavement
7. on roads with NEITHER traffic lights nor zebra crossings to speak of
Anbessa Bus’ policy on car accidents used to be “if you got into an accident, you better kill the accident”.
This was ten.. twenty.. years ago; prior to EPRDF perceiving infrastructure to be it’s only remaining – good – legacy and contracted out the whole nation to its Chinese Over-lords without any consideration as to what or who would be lost in the process! To build on steroids, as some would say.
So .. in those less-accident prone days, where an Anbessa Autobus can chase you down and not hesitate to damage your car for passing him on a lane he was hoping to get in, drivers, apparently, got fired or forced to pay insurance when they wound somebody. If they killed the person, however, the company – not wanting to fork the thousands of birr in “kassa” – hires a lawyer to defend the offender. And that lawyer, rumor has it, would shame OJ Simpson’s defense-team in his ability to win a case and allow criminals to go free.
So the story [my neighbours tell] is about this guy who – on his way home one night, came across a person lying in the street. He stops his car, gets out, and investigates. Upon investigation, he learns man lying on street has been hit by a car but was still breathing. This Good Samaritan grabs man by the leg – or arm – puts him in his car and rushes him to the hospital. Man’s life is saved, but not before the local police showed up, slaps the cuff on Good-Samaritan’s hand, and drag him to “kerchele”, for refusing to take responsibility for “meGcheting” the man. Fortunately for the G.S. guy, patient woke up and confirmed it was a different car at an earlier point that run him down. Man goes home. Patient stays in hospital. [Real perp breathes a sign of relief]. Everybody is happy.
If the victim hasn’t waken up, needless to say, it would have been a different story.
Even if you had witnesses, they say, who can corroborate as to who hit whom and when, you would not avoid getting involved in the unpleasant business of the criminal justice system in Ethiopia by the mere act of removing the body from where it lay. You are, in effect, “tampering with evidence” – making it hard for cops to do their jobs.
Need I underline what the lesson of the story is? Or what a root it seems to have taken? And how I have come to learn three people I know [a neighbour’s kid, my mother’s friend’s college educated son and a buddy of my truck-driver cousin who fall asleep behind the wheel were a few of the many fatal traffic accidents whose killer is still at large?!]. And how in a country which has, according to Newsweek “in excess of 190 fatalities per 10,000 vehicles — compared with Kenya and United Kingdom, where the figure is about 19 and 2 per 10,000 vehicles, respectively” and a continent that has less than has 4% of the world’s cars, that this is a scary lesson?!
[Does this make you want to petition all your family and friends, giving “the danger of dying through a car accident any day now” as a reason?! God help them, but it does me].
[And dare I add how I have only witnessed one fatality in the 6 years I lived in America – and that in a town called San Marcos in Los Angeles. And the one place in Seattle considered an unsafe corridor – pron to car-accidents, Rainier Avenue, which “claims 1/30th of the city’s traffic collisions, and an even larger share of traffic fatalities — two in the last three years, 11 in the last 10” is a mostly Ethiopian and Somali community? And if you looked into a car whose driver refused to yield for you, or drove after yielding in a way that endangered your feet; it’s more likely than not to be an East African driver or a fucking Asian bitch?]
We should be able to do something about this!!!
Incase you haven’t been home for years and didn’t know how bad it has gotten; here is a little of what I noticed when I was there two months ago. First video courtesy of MamaZ:
Read more: An Ethiopian Holocaust.
It occurred to me, after 24 hrs of flight, a duty-free shopping rendezvous through Frankfurt airport; a lot of bad airlines food [that I had out of boredom], and plenty of getting up to let a seat-mate [a seat-mate whose capacity for sleep is astounding] make his way to the rest room; it occurred to me that going to a country and living among the “indigenous people” [as we used to call them in my tour-agency employment days] is like being baptised into a new life. It’s not like a walk in the woods. Or a train ride through the country-side. Or even staying long enough to buy keepsakes and take photos, for family and friends, of things you were too busy to notice.
Once you figured out how to negotiate the roads so you can cross just in time to make it alive [the same roads that made you want to change your return date and fly home early the first two weeks, as all Diasporas do, and are a grave reminder how desperate it is to live in a country where no one can afford to say “Abet” on behalf of the average Yohannes], once you watched “Teketai Filega” and betted on who would make it and which judge would send the other one away with what Ama-Englizegna expression, once you got “home-bred” enough to tell a woyala “asgebat ene ezih ga ekemetalehu” and became ok with mixing one part of Rotana liquid-soap to three parts water to make it last longer, it’s hard to go back.
Go back you would try, ofcourse, physically atleast. The packing and the actual flight [to the civilized world] which should prepare you to be entered into the old life – a ritual meant to help you shed the new so you could be sawn into the old seamlessly; you spend it worrying about losing your luggage. You arrive at SEATAC airport; where you are ushered into, kicked about and run around in pursuit of those same luggage full of dirQosh that has been crushed to dust before you [even] left Bole Airport. Then you walk out into the American sky; bizarre and oddly familiar at the same time. You go home, through highways where strangers [man or donkey] don’t jump into to cross over, through industrial complexes whose appearance isn’t as much of an eye sore as every building in Addis seems to be. You recognize the old streets, how “White” America really is [gone are the days in which only brown eyes from black faces would be staring back at you instead of minding the road – as they should – every time you turn to look at something], how none of them would know where you have been and who you have been fighting with only 30 hrs earlier.
Then you stop looping around and give yourself unto the merciful embrace of a confused … drunk-like sleep.
Some 6 hrs later, you wake up. You murmur something meaningless into your partner’s ears, go back to sleep and find out that you were to be re-born into the old life – kicking and screaming – as if your days were rivers of wild waters that has to crush violently to be fitted together.
You go out into the streets, streets with signs – zip codes – and well-kept lawns no one has peed into, like a day hasn’t passed between January 1st and February 2nd, 2015. A shy and bewildered you .. trying to re-pretend to belong here, to be just another working girl standing in line, ordering a Latte – smiling her thankyou at the nice motorist who stopped for her even though he didn’t have to, another Seattlite who knows her way about – keeping the fact [to herself–yourself] that what you wish was to walk back into the old picture where your little sister is always around to go with on your errands, that home was a place where your mom is never too tired to heat you up a wot [with lots of Qibe – to show her love] while retelling the tales you have heard over a rekebot full of buna; that your heart would always belong to the country, a [3rd world] country nonetheless where your father tries to fix all your problems by asking if you need money and where your little brother is only a door away to check on.
Qelemwa, as Abraham “Balageru” Wolde, would say, is Abwara, Tsehai and yeShint bett shita.
It is also a place where (more…)