Archive for April, 2008

Fasika (as I saw it :-))

I wrote the following e-mail to a dear friend from Finland [who was more interested in history, and the weather, than I ever would] on February 26, 2004. It could use a good deal of editing and might sound disrespectful to some [the sister may have always seen things her own way but wasn’t always as, shall we say, “politically correct” as she tries to be nowadays?! “Politically correct”! Now that is some concept the Democratic world is shoving down the Ethiopian throat]. But I thought I might as well post it as not many articles seem to exist on the internet regarding Ethiopian holidays [except for few impersonal descriptions by tour operators, travel agents and people who live by the camera] and, ofcouse, because there is no better way to say “Melkam YeTinsae Beal” to my home-sick Ethiopian friends!

“Fasika” (“Festivity”) or “YeTinsae Beal” (Commemoration of The Resurrection), i.e. “Easter” is a very colorful and fascinating holiday in Ethiopia! Most of my relatives are either Protestant Christians or slack Orthodox Christians so I can’t tell you much about the … historical background. However, even the strictest ‘pente’ [as Protestant Christians are called here] can’t resist getting up at 3:00 a.m. in the morning to partake of the ‘doro wot’ [chicken stew, both spicy and delicious] that Ethiopian women cook for holidays after the almost 2 month’s lent. According to the Orthodox Church calendar, the lent has set in about 2 weeks ago. I believe the western [catholic?] church has got a one-month similar lent too. Why the Ethiopian one got extended by 15 more days is because of the extra time, referred to as ‘yengus tsom’ [fasting of the kings], when the Ethiopian people are said to have prayed that God return Ethiopia to Ethiopians and that their king {who was on exile somewhere in England for the whole period} return home, at the time of the 5 years Italian occupation. A tribute to a prayer-answered, so to say.

It might interest you to know that what is referred to as ‘tsom’ [fasting/lent] in the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian context is eating every type of food except that which is a diary or meat product, Fish excluded, within either Wednesday or Friday or for the whole season of ‘lent’, also referred to as ‘Abiy tsom” or ‘yefasika tsom’. Ethiopians believe eating dairy product and meat would encourage the ‘flesh’ to indulge in sinful thoughts but vegetable food stuff like peas, beans, and the like doesn’t. This, ofcourse, doesn’t include those Ethiopians who are either Muslim or Protestant. They fast off food and water for whatever limit of time they want and eat what their heart desires when done. Which the Orthodox Christians do not consider a real ‘tsom’. [Fancy that! :-)]

So… after the 45 day’s ‘tsom’, and on the day when Christ was supposed to have been crucified [always on Friday, April 9 this year] most Orthodox Christians [including those who do not attend church regularly] would dress in neat white robes (what we call a ‘netela’) which is supposed to be an attire that angels wear, and go to the church close to them, without food. They worship, by kneeling down at the place of their choice within the ‘sacred’ grounds of the church {usually at a place of shade as the sun is severe}, crossing themselves all the while. And getting up and doing it all over again until they are worn out and unable to raise themselves. At which interval they’d take some breath and rest, listening to the word of God being preached, some spiritual songs by the priests and deacons, confessing their sins and thinking spiritual thoughts. This goes on from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m, straight!

At exactly 3:00 p.m., the priests [who have thus far taken refugee within the walls of the church] would come out with a leaf that’s supposed to represent, i imagine, the ones the whole town of Jerusalem took to greet Jesus with on His arrival there, in their hands and dipping the leaf in a “tsebel” {holy water} ask those struggling to get near them (and be as out of ear shot of those around as possible) what sort of sin they committed within the last year. Upon learning which, they order them to ‘mesged’ [worship] between 40-120 times [according to the severity of the “sin”] and give them absolution by sprinkling some of the “holy water” from the leaf on their face!

(more…)

April 24, 2008 at 7:30 am 24 comments

Whatever dude!

There are so many things you don’t say out-loud because you love, fear and/or respect those listening weyim out of common decency! You don’t tell your mother, for example, how her attitude towards women & marriage reminds you of a ‘bAriya fengaay” sometimes. You don’t tell your boss his/her jokes are never funny. And you don’t say “these fucking [fill the name of your respective “bisot qesQash” group here] are making you tired already” infront of members of the race or religion group that caused the weary feelings (if you prefer to live in peace with your neighbors, that is). But I really wished I could say something [nasty] against the Muslim fundamentalists in Somalia earlier when I read, on a friend’s facebook profile, the following article: Clerics Killed in Somali Mosque.

Don’t get me wrong, now! I have always viewed the war in Somalia as another “tiQur netib” on our history (“torinet” and “sibseba” seems to be the only thing we are good at doing nowadays, none of which have proved much help in moving our “kedihnet yetelaqeqech ager yememesret” guzo an inch). And, if it was in my powers, I’d have had it over before it even started!!

I feel sorry for the people of Somalia, for ‘the grass between two elephants’ treatment they are getting from their neighbors. And I’m sorry their problem, whose end is still difficult to foresee even after 17 years, seems to “metreff” to others. But I can understand why our government needed to get its hand dirty over there. It would not only benefit politically & ofcourse economically from the West, always the West (which it needs more desperately than anything after HR2003), but also help it to punch a hated enemy (the leader of a small country on the horn of Africa who has a striking resemblance, have you noticed?, to Sadam Hussien, Gadaffi & even Joe Stalin) on the nose. Not fair! Monstrously wrong! But understandable.

So whenever I hear claims of Ethiopia invading Somalia, I simply give it the deaf ear. Not only because I am well aware these accusations aren’t made to get a rise out of me but also because I recognize it as only natural to want to blame someone you can’t lay your hands on rather than those you can do something about in times of despondency. [My dad asks God what he did to offend Him whenever my hell-raiser brother comes home drunk and starts verbally abusing every living thing within a mile]. That would give sufficient answer, I believe, to any wonderings any one of us might have as to why if these people aren’t happy with their government and the way it operates (or atleast the neighbors it asks for assistance from), they won’t take it with “it” directly instead of keep blaming all their problems on us! Not that we’ve managed to voice our own “teQawmos” on things we aren’t happy with our government doing, even with a country that has not been torn apart by a war that has been going on for the last 17 years anyway. So I forgive and try to forget.

I can even go as far as forgiving and try-to-forgetting the Ethiopians who are making the same accusations [not from any sense of “teQorqwarinet” to the people of Somalia but to serve their own little insignificant ends] against the Ethiopian government from the States and Europe! After all, as my college classmate used to say, what do you expect from a one dollar dish?! (more…)

April 23, 2008 at 7:31 am 8 comments

“Yifelegal”

MOST WANTED
UNLAWFUL FLIGHT TO AVOID PROSECUTION – CAUSING CHAIN REACTIONS, ROBBING OF GOOD NAME

SEIFU FANTAHUN
[NO PHOTO AVAILABLE]

Aliases: Seifish, Sefish

DESCRIPTION OF KNOWN FACTS

Hair: None (bald)
Eyes: Brown
Complexion: Light brown
Weight: 170 to 200 pounds
Sex: Male
Build: Medium
Race: Black
Occupation: Entertainer
Nationality: Ethiopian

Remarks: Seifu Fantahun speaks fluent Amharic. He is believed to be a friendly individual and can be charming.

CAUTION

SEIFU FANTAHUN IS WANTED IN ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, FOR CAUSING A CHAIN-REACTION TO A SERIOUS OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS HAPPENING LATELY TO A MAJOR ETHIOPIAN CELEBRITY, ONE TEDDYAFRO, AFTER WHOSE ARREST HE IS BELIEVED TO HAVE SKIPPED THE COUNTRY ALLTOGETHER.

CONSIDERED UNARMED AND HARMLESS.

IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION CONCERNING THIS PERSON, PLEASE CONTACT THIS GIRL WHO LIVES SOMEWHERE BETWEEN ‘SARIS’ AND ‘MESHWALEKIA’; GOES TO SCHOOL AT ONE OF THE B-COLLEGES AROUND STADIUM AND LOOKS LIKE EVERY OTHER ETHIOPIAN FEMALE HER AGE, EXCEPT FOR HER CONSUMING DESIRE TO PUT AN END TO THE SAID [WANTED] INDIVIDUAL’S LIFE.

REWARD: Nada.

April 2008

On a less playful note:

I was hoping my last post on TeddyAfro would be my last post on TeddyAfro and that we will be able to move on with our lives [and talk about something else .. for a change!] Which is why I refused to comment on his recent arrest, inspite of Yehe’s repeated attempt to make me. But things have proved more serious than they did first. So following is the news on “Addis Fortune” regarding Teddy’s arrest, for which, if convicted, he might get 5-15 years imprisonment. I’m hoping they’d change his “fiird” to money (which I’m sure they’d find him guilty of, whether he did it or not). Not because he is above the law, as everybody seems to think, but because people get away with murder all the time, why not “aynn yaarefebet”  young celeb some consider as the only light at the end of the tunnel?! Now, I am a skeptic! I do not have [as] much faith in mere mortals, laying nothing in store by them. But, inspite of his over-the-top fans, he’s an ok kid! Just in the wrong country, at the wrong time.

Lemanignawim amlak yirdaw!

Fortune Newspaper: Teddy Afro Behind Bars

April 21, 2008 at 7:50 am

Dreams and promises

Infront of the Olympia light, stood two girls. Young, pretty, skinny. Waiting for a taxi and… fighting! Not a serious fight. Rather, a playful fight. The kind you fight with your spouse when it suddenly hits you how much you enjoy their company. Or with a female roommate, as Joey and Chandler of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. would have it no other way, in bras and using a pillow.

One had a short and curly hair French-styled perhaps an hour or so ago. The other had a long hair that rose and fall on her shoulder every time she threw a playful punch at her friend’s arm. Which was being fended off by her friend who was laughing as if she was unaware of the world around them. This included a minibus holding yours truly and a handful other travelers; a “Woyala” lighting a cigarette and calling for new comers to join us; a pregnant lady looking bored; a ‘santim azwari’ boy who also sold the Nyala and provided the lighter; a young man using his chest as a shelf for books he also carried in a duffle bag on his back waiting, perhaps, for a bus-home after a long and fruitless day; and two young men who look as if they were on their way to a hot spot somewhere. One wearing a hat that hid half his face and, along with the colorful attire and pointed shoe, completed whatever look he was aiming for (gangsterish? Pimpish?!). The other, clean shaven and neat in an expensive light-colored sweater (the kind of neat and sweater that bespeaks of good-upbringing and well-earning parents) had tiny dreads that lent him that “feminine” look guys with dreads have, making them cute, also waiting for a taxi. They obviously were, what in literature is called, ‘the target audience’ for the pillow-fight-save-for-the-pillow the girls had going on.

Not many of us knew what neither Jemanesh Solomon, nor Alemneh Wasse looked liked when we loved them for years. Yet, that didn’t stop us from considering them as part of our family and, in Jemanesh vs. young men all over Ethiopia of the time case atleast, the ideal person for “..a bed fellow, in marriage pleasures playfellow” (as Shakespeare would say). Which is why, by the way, that other girl who copied her voice on Fana Radio and always reads love stories off disgusting love letters in a sing-along voice got the job to begin with. We did not love them [only] because she made us cry, and he made us laugh. We loved them because they had beautiful voices that made “promises” all on its own. The kind of voice that you’d like to curl in and go to sleep, in his case, and the kind of voice a woman who needs a man to save her in hers. So women loved him, coz they needed a man to make them feel like a woman, and men loved her because she represented the Ethiopian version of a damsel in distress. To men, he sounded like the ‘it’ guy. And to girls she sounded like the “yet to be the ‘it’ girl, the minute her gallant gentleman rescued her”. [The classic!]

So we loved these people. Seeing what we want in them. Or seeing what we want to be seen-as in their voice. Or in it’s promises!. Until such time came for them to come out of their shell — to disappoint us. Fortunately, Alemneh knew what our reaction would be before he came to Alebe’s show. Where he was asked by the tactless and rather slow host, nefsun yimarewna, why he wanted to remain anonymous as long as he did, with an admonishing “ahun ante minih yaastelal?!”. Alemneh’s response: it wasn’t so much about his looks (which, let’s be honest, didn’t show much in the way of improvement even now, after he dumped his pretty wife) but what his voice promised [a promise he and his mediocre look can never hope to live upto]. (more…)

April 19, 2008 at 2:49 pm 5 comments

“Hard Times” – The Ethiopian version

Menelik the 2nd, that’s where I went for my high school studies! It had a big library that you actually had to walk in on tiptoe, and had all the books you can think of. And more often than not, their Amharic version too. It had “Yehulet Ketemoch Wog”, “Don Quixote” and “Pinocchio”. It even had “Eri Bey Agre”.

I’ve had occasions to re-read the first three, lots of times. But the last I only read once. I don’t remember much of the story. All I ever looked in a book back in those days was ‘he says, she says’. Which must be why I never forgot “YeMiyaQatil FiQir”. There were too many “minu.. minaminu”s in that book, and ofcourse it was forbidden, which gives it an almost legendary quality :-). So there was no way I could pay attention to anything anybody said in “Eri Bey Agere”, it not being exactly a romantic saga. But one thing stuck.

Now, I am not one of those people who forget things easily. I don’t forget faces, I do not forget kindness and I do not forget words, especially those said with bad intention. But there are a couple of times in my life that I remember vividly.

I remember seeing a soldier, for example, before I hit my 6th birthday. We don’t celebrate birthdays back then, by the way. We, like the Jews, “observed” them. Which means we were forced to wear our best clothes and get dragged, mostly unwilling, to “Aseffa Photo Bet” where we have our (my younger-by-1-year brother and I) photos taken infront of a tiny table filled with biscuits, orange and banana; all guarded by two candles – each representing a birthday boy and his older sister wearing the longest face a child that age could wear.

I do not remember the soldier’s face. He is but like a vision fleeting by, a distant yet familiar sound. My aunts must have said something about him or I wouldn’t have noticed him. He passed by us, handsome in his uniform, and walked down the street to what in my grandparent’s village is still called “Captain Demissie gibi”. I assume there used to live a Captain Demissie there, although I never knew him and never remembered to ask. The houses in the “gibi” looked glorious enough, like the morning sun, amidst the ruin they were standing. It had a small “meda’ that was surrounded by trees, where we used to go to watch football matches among the boys.

The demarcation was clear in those days. Girls brought “kirosh” to Home Economics class (or ‘baltina’, as it was called) and boys “megaz”. Both wept whenever a teacher ordered them to sit on a table with the opposite sex as a punishment and a brother and sister pretended not to know one another when they met in the school ground. They certainly walked home separately, each followed by or following their respective loud mouthed “hero”, and upon arriving where they would be met by the door and get burdened with the frustrations and hopes of their parents. Yes, we had teachers who called our mothers names; wore jackets with arm patches on them and took naps while we were busy finishing our class works. But they believed they could change the world and we admired them for it and hoped to one day be like them. Afterwards, everyone went his/her own way. The teachers, to their lounge. The girls, to their “pepsi” or “abarosh”. And the boys, to either the football fields or to the backyards of the school where they play “qumar” [beSantim] or jump over the fence to go watch an Indian movie. [Postcards of Indian movie stars’ photos were ‘the gift of the day’ too :-)]

So I saw the soldier. I saw him walk tall and dignified by us. We must have been near a music shop and Hirut Bekele must have been singing “eyiw mekenetun endet new dimqetu”. Because it was in my late teens that I heard the song again and cried for almost half an hour. Never knowing why. That song affects me the same way these days as it did then. I’m still fogged about it. But I can see my soldier were I to close my eyes. Looking tall and dignified… smiling perhaps. Smiling for the little girl that was being dragged by her young, careless and talkative aunts. Maybe dead!

The other memory I have is the time in which my mom got a ride from her [male] classmate. She used to go to an evening school to finish 12th grade although she earned almost as much as him, finish only 9th grade she might have. But my father, the teacher and ‘disciple of change’, wouldn’t have it any other way. THAT was where she knew the chauffeur from. He bought us “ocholoni” from a “suq bederet”, made my mom (who was much older than him) laugh by teasing me as his wife-to-be, making my little heart wild with happiness.

It was the most fun I had next to a visit to my grandma’s. As home was not the place for fun, in those days. Home was a place you go to because you must. It was a place you get a sick feeling in the stomach when contemplating returning to it after birthdays or a visit to your grandma’s warm house, which was full of uncles and aunts who were young and loud. We were running late, that evening, so a free ride from any taxi was a blessing to my mom. However, she knew how my dad would take the news so, on our way out, she warned me “Not a word about this to your father!”. Full and exhilarated, I said ‘sure thing’.

A few days later, I asked her to do something for me and she refused. Must have felt blackmail was in order because I said, “if you don’t do this, amma telling on you”. I’ve never seen my mom look so angry! She wasn’t blackmailed, no sir!!. She took me by the arm and beat me to dust. She’s never done so much as lay her hands on me before that. Beating-the-kids was on my dad’s job description, not hers. She cried “le eNante bayhon nuro”! She nursed! She baked the “enjera”` and cooked the “wot”! Beating she left for he who wears the trouser in the house. Although she did wear trousers. And looked good in them. Had one of those bodies that never go out of fashion while there is breath in the African man’s body!

But that day she beat me, savagely and indignantly! I couldn’t understand why the trick didn’t work. It was disappointing and bewildering. But, learn I did, who [still] was in charge. Never opened my mouth about the taxi!!

A year or two later, I broke a bottle. (more…)

April 17, 2008 at 7:42 am 2 comments

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