Archive for July, 2008

Nervous for my Nirvana

Wind, fire, earth/land and water! Those, according to Ethiopia orthodox church’s dogma on creation, are the stuff “heaven and earth” are made of. They are referred to as “Aratu Bahriyat” (the four elements). They came to life by the divine command that first Sunday of creation.

Man, who is also believed to have been made of these same 4 elements, as he exhibits them throughout his life, may have been called to life on the 6th day. But the stages of his life, according to German scientist Carl Gustav Jung, are divided into 4: Childhood (the structuring of the Ego), Adolescence & Early Adulthood (seeking experience to confirm belief system), Adulthood & Mid-life (reclaiming Yourself Understanding who you wish to be) and Maturity & Wisdom (alignment with Self & preparation for death).

Following the fours stages of man’s life comes the question, “what makes life worth living”. To a Hindu, a man who lives within the four classes of society (teachers and priests; warriors, kings and administrators; farmers, merchants, herdsmen and businessmen as well as servants and laborers) and to whom the pursuit of kama, artha, dharma and moksha (pleasure, material wealth, righteousness & salvation) are the objectives of life, fulfillment is acheived through realizing the Four stages on the Path of Nirvana, otherwise known as the four stages to the state of being free from both suffering & the cycle of rebirth. Whereupon Stage 1 is “Brahmacharya” = learning, Stage 2 is “Grihastha”=adolescence, Stage 3 is “Vanaprastha”=of cotemplation & meditation and Stage 4 is “Sannyasa”, where the person renounces the world!

To Hollywood, or atleast to Kristie Alley’s 2007 movie Write & Wrong, “love”, “money”, “career” & “health” make up the 4 must-haves for a life fulfilled. Two out of four (granted health makes the two ‘have’s) is supposed to be good enough, making life “sweet”. Anything less, said the movie, a happy life maketh not. So, naturally, I begun totting them up on my finger. I have a good health, says I, so good that it sometimes worries me. So that’s point # one! I am married to a wonderful man, so wonderful that I sometimes wonder if I was worth it. Thus another point and the love portion covered. My career sucks, ofcourse. Still it pays good (in Ethiopia’s standard, atleast). And when it comes to having money in my account, well, unless we are talking about the accounts yahoo (and hotmail, gmail) offers, I ain’t exactly loaded with the stuff. I still earn enough to get by. Career + lack of the dough = 1/2 a point. So, I have health, love, a rut of a career that pays well and no money! 2&½ out of 4!! Not too shabby, one might say, abesheet isn’t exactly living high but still is in good company!!

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have graced the remaining 1& ½ points with a second thought. For I, like Saint Paul, have learned to say “what I have is enough, his grace is sufficient for me” (or whatever it is Saint Paul says when he is short of bucks). But ever since my husband informed me that his Case Type I130-Immigrant Petition for Relative, Fiance(e), or Orphan has been approved by the Department of Homeland Security, I’ve been having a cold feet about this trip to america.

This cold feet isn’t caused by my in-law’s plan to throw a big welcoming party in my honor where every one of his pretty cousins would come to – a scary thought in it’s own right!! For my idea of attending a party has always been packing all the delicacies on a use-and-throw plastic “sehan” and locking myself with it so I can gobble everything up to my heart’s desire far from disapproving eyes. Nay!!. I’m having the cold feet for I fear I’d someday regret, bitterly, leaving all the goods that make living worth while behind. A job that pays good (compared to the job-horror myths in america) for nothing, a health insurance of 6,000 birr a year and a mother who is only a “missed call” away to come to my rescue jammed between whatever rock and a hard place I may be.

Now, if this was the 60’s and I a mere teenager with dreamy dispositions, you’d have told me being with my husband would make it all worth my while and I’d have believed you. I’m well aware, too, that separate beds at other ends of the globe a good marriage don’t make. Still, (more…)

July 30, 2008 at 9:19 am 10 comments

Some fell among thorns…

ETV’s Children’s program is a pain one would like to avoid going through unless one is a kid in whose house the idea of a “sattelite dish” hasn’t been introduced, or a blogger looking for ideas for posts. I, being of the later category, watch it from time to time: feeling for the unfortunate buggers who don’t have any other interest to divert their attentions to, and going through the same feeling the Holy Ghost is said to go when praying to the Saints: “groaning in spirit”.

It’s not just the baby-talk and “Ayachu lijochiye?!” that turns the stomach. The men and women who prepare and present it don’t seem to have ever been kids themselves. There is no softness about them. Neither spontaneity. Nor imagination. Which is why “deBDaBewochachu” (in which the same poems on country or family are read), the song ‘a.b.c.’ by the Jackson 5 and an interview are always part and parcel of the program.

The later is usually conducted with kids who came 1st in their respective classes, which they would say was achieved by listening to what their teachers say, by asking what they didn’t understand and studying “BeProgram”. At the conclusion of the interview, these kids are always given a chance to say what they would like to their peers. And they tell their peers, with the same monotony as the men and women doing the interview, to:

1. study hard
2. help their parents
3. stop playing in the streets

An advice I found myself being amused with the other day, wondering on what type of ears it would fall if it were given in America, instead of Ethiopia.

When advices are given, they are generally taken in good will in Ethiopia. Not because they are always right or because the person giving them knows what he’s talking about. He may be a blabbering fool shooting way off the marks for all we know. But advices are considered as “good for you”, because they are given “for your own benefit”, by those who want to see your good. So you shake your head in agreement, plead imperfection and look humbled when you are being advised. Especially when those advices are true!

Barack Obama (more…)

July 28, 2008 at 2:16 pm 3 comments

A homeage to my dad

Once upon a time there was a mighty man. The only survivor out of 9 siblings, a FiTawRaRi’s son non-the-less, he lived his life the way he saw fit: saying what he wanted, doing what he wanted or beating up anybody standing in the way. That doesn’t mean he had an easy childhood, on the contrary! But he never took life seriously, until lost or too late.

• He was a genius, but never stayed in school long enough to finish it. He either had a fall out with a director for making the kids laugh while earnestly singing the King’s “Mezmur” with his hoarse voice, gets punished a year for starting a group fight in high school/college, or tells the American lady doing the interview that “you Americans” were segregators and losses his scholarship.

• He loved his mother to death, still spent most of his time in Addis, partying his youth away at “Wube BeReha” (while she sent one messenger after another begging him come see her before she died) until the fatal day she fainted in his prescence, and he run to the nearest doctor weeping “Enate Motechibign. Enate Motechibign”, and discovered she’d had the worst case of diabetes which she kept from him and refused to look after properly (saying, like everybody else did in those days, she wasn’t going to live forever) the same year he was taking his ESLCE exam. Resulting with her dying, him falling his exam and being left all alone in the world.

• He loved his wife, and children, but they never knew about it till she got tired of the beatings and left him or one of them got sick and he starts crying like a baby.

He didn’t have much of a role model, neither. His mother traveled across countries (with him next to her, on a mare that later broke his nose) on the trail of one judge after another until she won over her land from her [male] adversaries at H.I.M. Haileselassie I’s court. An experience that taught her son a valuable lesson he’d stick to even in his old age: that if you are alone in this world, you are vulnerable to all kinds of attacks you should be able to defend yourself from, by seeing them from afar if you can.

So he knew about and brooded over “conspiracies”, saw them coming even when they weren’t, sometimes in his own family and children who can barely pronounce their grandpa’s name, better than anybody. The only men in his life (his dad died young) were either the various tenants working in various capacities in his father’s estate who made fun of his mother’s impressive figure when her back was turned, grieving his young heart (they used to call her “GArA MuLeta” he told me once) or the men she married and divorced – for being mean to her son – when she wasn’t traveling. He remembers once waking up from sleep in the middle of the night, covered in ants; and screaming for help; and being beaten for it by a stepfather whose wife has run away that very evening.

Unfortunately, before they learned that parents weren’t really smarter, only older, and that they got weaknesses too kids should learn to understand and forgive; his children couldn’t tell the difference between the darkness that covered their door in the evening and the dark man that walked through it drank, angry and “sniffing blood”. A difficult man who found it hard to live with himself, he wasn’t exactly the type of father whose return in the evening his children looked forward to.

Nobody loved this man for who he is! His friends were his friends because he spent his mother’s money freely on them. The peasants on his father’s estate loved and hailed him as something of a Saint because he refused to take advantage of their labor and the fruit of their toil. His college buddies & fellow teachers made him their hero because he didn’t hesitate from beating up anybody giving them trouble and taking all the blame. His pretty cousins wanted him around only when they needed a male protection to and from school.

This man is an honest man! A hard working man! A man with principles! As a man of principles, he saw the world in only two colors, in black and white! A hard working, honest and principled person is loved by him like no other. He’d be there for him no matter what, to the gallows sometimes. A person who falls short of it made enemies with him. So he had as many people who hated his guts as he had who bear witness that he’ll never take bribe. And his kids, going to the same school he teaches in and sitting with the same kids he punches in the face with little notice, had to bear all the looks and nasty words from those not courageous enough to say it to their father’s face. They were more or less strangers too, strangers who needed defending themselves for somebody else’s fault (or right).

This man is a good father and a faithful husband! But as a man, he has a long way to go. So angry words are said and bad looks are exchanged. And every time that happens, their mother is told to leave the house taking her kids with her.

Problem is, the kids are all grown up now. They know the laws. They know how far a father can go. And that he isn’t the Alpha and Omega he once was, the loving lord & father with a whip of fire looking at them only to find faults. And they say as much. They tell him, too, that they aren’t kids anymore. That they aren’t scared of him anymore. That they won’t let him scare their younger siblings anymore. No way!!

They don’t mean to hurt him, perhaps only to teach him. But ofcourse nothing sounds the way it is meant to sound in the heat of arguments; when angry words are uttered, when hateful looks are exchanged and when resentments and grudges come out to light.

So now this man is a broken man! A broken old man! A broken and lonely old man whose children are “against him”. Or atleast don’t love and appreciate him the way he thought all fathers who labored for their family should be loved and appreciated. Sometimes I catch him looking at the floor llike a man who has suddenly woke up to find his world gone. A king reduced to a commoner. A mighty man with as much dignity & stubborness, save for the power, who can neither admit he was wrong, nor less than perfect, but whose eyes beg for love and understanding. Like a man … scared!

And I wonder, I sometimes wonder, if being right and having enough reasons are worth it. They never were for my father!!

July 24, 2008 at 2:08 pm 5 comments

From LoserVille with love!

Got a call from Shama Publishers this morning.
My manuscript has been rejected!
Yes, rejected! R.e.j.e … rejected!

“Is it because of the religious aspect?” was the first question I asked Siti, Salma or Samira subtly. I had intended to make it about religion even before I entered their office and noticed too many of their staff were pretty girls in hijabs. Who knows?! Maybe that is why I submitted a novel with an embarassing attempt at making fun of most of the values our society held dear to a publisher I know can’t afford to be “visionary” and adventurious. Hoping to play victim to political incorrectness when rejection comes calling, perhaps. Can’t very well tell people your half-fiction half-biography “dikam” of 4-years was just not good enough, can you? Especially after they’ve published “YeBeQel Bier” last year, all the blah-blahs you’ve been saying against abesha writers of late and the claims that Ato Zerihun Asfaw was the last straw that broke Ethiopia’s literature back you freely made. No can do!! So, and as a defense mechanism, I asked if religion has got anything to do with my never-to-be-first-novel’s rejection. And, yes, in case anybody asks, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it 😉 .

Siti, Salma or Samira ignored the question before informing me i can come collect the letter at my convenience. She was so nice about it, so sweet & kind with her sing-along radio-voice that a by-stander wouldn’t have guessed I wasn’t being summoned to work in some capacity at the Bagersh estate (which I would have taken without hesitation! Abdella Bagersh is the best boss a person could wish for, I heard. Umer is a tough egg but anybody can tell his heart is in the right place. As for the remaining two male siblings, they seem to have more than a western education and a car they are free to smash against a tree any time at their diposal, they got vision! Not to mention their love for one another, so rare in so grown up boys).

So.. yeah.. the whole affair would have been neatly tucked away as one of those “mature and professional” experiences worth giving the abesheet shoulder a pat for handling rejection with as good a grace as it allowed, if abesheet didn’t make the fatal mistake of suggesting that Siti (Salma or Samira) feel free to use the manuscript as a firewood come a rainy day. What with three BeQolos costing 5 birr in the streets, the lack of firewood & the weather being what it is, the suggestion would have proved useful. Granted Siti, Salma or Samira owned a working fireplace or showed any tendency to hid to the sister’s suggestion. No, she treated the advice with the just “niQet” it deserved. Now the ensuing meeting sounds scarier than it would have otherwise! Like I need another headache. No need to “maleBaBes” it, folks, 2008 hasn’t been the year for me (and P.M. Meles Zenawi and the Chinese government). Perhaps we would all sit down and have a good cry about it one of these days. I know I’d feel better!

July 23, 2008 at 9:00 am 5 comments

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The blogger tries to think outside the box, or wonder why she sometimes can't.

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"I will speak for you, Father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint." - Antonio Salieri, from the movie "Amadeus"

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July 2008

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