Is “Nu” enough?!
A friend of a friend once wrote an essay for his ‘Workshop on Creative Writing’ class at the Addis Ababa University. Dr. Yonas Admassu, older brother to Poet Yohannes Admasu, was the man chairing the workshop in those days (unlike the monster-with-no-soul that is chairing it now). In his reign, legend has it, the creative freedom abound :). So this friend of my friend wrote an essay on the then “hot-potato” subject of the return of the Axum stele. A fact, apparently, he was violently against and made him beg the poor “sidetegna hawilt” not to come, not to let them trick you into coming because there was nothing good to come here to. He listed, my friend told me, the possible bureaucratic and societal problems the stele would face if it decided to live in our midst. Giving it as his final opinion that the “hawilt” better stay where it is and have us love it from afar, as we always seem to do with things we don’t have to directly deal with, than coming here and it end up hating us. (That’s the gist of the essay, if not the exact words the writer used)
But ofcourse the damn stele, who may have had more in common with my good uncle than what it’s modeled after, refused to hid to this advice & came. It’s been observed to me it ain’t having much fun lately!
My uncle was a celebrity. Back when celebrities were rare and not even called that. You can’t walk the streets with him without having taxis honk their horn at you and every one of their passengers “menTeRarating” on top of one another to get a glimpse of him; making you feel pretty special by association! 😉
After “hizb leHizb” proved successful in convincing the West that there was more to us than mere starving kids (or atleast that’s the story that went about), my uncle was allowed to go to America to entertain the Ethiopian Diaspora there. He stayed in Washington for 9 months, savoring the sophistication and the “ene liQdem, ene liQdem” adoration from the Ethiopian community most of whose members fled the country during the Ihapa time (through either Moyale or some other neighboring country’s border) and weren’t likely to come visiting soon.
When the nine months were over, he declared his intention to return home. When the whole family protested “but why????“, he said he was too Ethiopian and has too proud a spirit to wash the white man’s dishes after performing on the white man’s stage. His exact words were “ageren mAseDeB new”. What happened afterwards is, ofcourse, a tragedy. He didn’t die, but boy did he live to regret it?!
The husband of a cousin of mine is a medical doctor by profession. He’s been wanting to take his study further, specialize in something, and after writing letters to the officials concerned, landed himself a 125,000 worth of higher education right here in Addis. This study was sponsored by the regional state he was working for before moving to Addis with his family. Who asked him to sign an agreement, and call 3 trusted friends who would either cover the money or go to prison if he either disappeared after finishing his study or failed to give his 6 year worth of government hospital service, as a payment. He finished his studies after two years (earning his salary every month & even working after class at one of the well known private hospitals in addis). And where do you suppose he was sent to put his new found skill to use?! In a hospital where there wasn’t ONE EQUIPMENT, not one!, that he could use to put theory into practice. There wasn’t so much as an ultra sound in this hospital, let alone the many fancy named equipments he needed to study new ailments and devine ways to cure them. His protestation and request of “send me to a better equipped hospital so I can use my specialization to save lives” not only fall on deaf ears but got him dirty looks and nasty words from the officials concerned. Who simply told him to shut it and do what he is told, making him feel guilty for wanting to help (what they would no doubt call “Saayimar Yastemarewin Hizb” under other circumstances) and only too clear that lack of good will was an even worse ailment than money shortages, and even the absence of good governance – atleast in our case! (No doubt the chicken or egg question comes into play here).
So, he joked the other day, he’s drawing blood and subscribing medicines for the type of illnesses a mere nurse could handle these days. He ofcourse writes referrals to bigger hospitals in either Adama, Bishoftu or Finfine when faced with serious cases. Cases, he said bitterly, he’d have been able to solve (or atleast study and find a solution to) has his hospital been better equipped. The saddest part of the scenario is that most of these patients can’t afford to go all the way to these hospitals so they go back home and die quitely. Wasted education, wasted money, wasted life! And more importantly wasted dream! The fact that our country is the poorest of the poor doesn’t sound much of a mystery now, does it?!
Let it be known, infact stressed, that I’m not blaming the government for neither the doctor’s problem nor that of my uncle’s!! I know the government is made up of the same people I see around me who won’t hesitate to misuse, abuse and even steal from/out of their responsibility yet can be heard using big and long words to blame the “ruling party” for messing the country up. What I want to know is this: When we are singing “nu” along with Gosaye and Ephrem, and beckon them Diasporas to come and live the Ethiopian dream, do we really know what we are talking about? Have we made sure we have created the type of environment where they can come to, do what their heart desires out of which our country can reap the benefit?! Or are we asking them to sacrifice more than they should and be the type of Saints we know ourselves not to be?! Shouldn’t they rather stay where they are and send the bucks, atleast, than come home, lose everything they slaved for, spill desperate tears upto heavens (as we say), go back and never want to see us again (as we are told is mostly the case with Diaspora-come-homes)?!
On Abraham Wolde’s “BalaGeru III”, Gossaye sang:
minew minew, yagere lij minew;
minew minew, yewenze lij menew;
minew minew..bayibelas minew;
feQir kale, tinfashim keleb new!
You’d like to tell that to my uncle, Gosish! He would know what you are talking about only too well!!