Have you ever..

October 28, 2008 at 12:48 pm 7 comments

.. come across those people who don’t know who Elvis Presley is, or what made Anwar Sadat a distinguished Egyptian, but can give you a brief description of each and every position on the Kama Sutra?! They are hardly religious so Kipling couldn’t have been talking about them when he observed many religious people know more about iniquity than the unregenerate. But from the way some of them have been giving me a shock-treatment in the past decade, he might have as well been 😉 .

Enter MY AUNT. A saintly woman if I ever saw one, in the right profession for it too – Head Nurse, who (inspite of tending to naked bodies all day) blushes at the mention of any thing intimate.

SCENE: A house of a neighbors’ whose maid servant is suffering from something nobody has heard of.

After holding the girl’s back, making her breath in and out and asking her various questions, my aunt took a couple of us outside to confide her suspicions. “All symptoms point to one direction: HIV” she said “but tests need to be done to make sure. Better take her to the hospital”.

My mother, who immediately assigns herself an Advocate to anybody she likes (or is a protestant Christian) lamented “but she’s a virgin”.

“Well,” my aunt said cooly “blood transfusion, tooth brush, ‘siletama negeroch’, anything can cause it. What’s more, I’ve heard that’s how her uncle died. Who knows what happened? He was a bachelor and she was living in his house. Some men would do anything when they are drunk”.

“Eh?!”, I must have protested before I knew it because my aunt eyed me with compassion. As if she felt sorry for us “ewe lambs” who would hold our silence infront of the shearer’s.

I realize working in a hospital and police station has a tendency to rob you of your innocence. But the easiest conclusion would have been “taking care of uncle” instead of “incest”. It was unsettling.

And then there was that time on that “know your country” trip I was a part of in my old organization. We had a custom of contributing one birr each to help us buy the latest album, which would be played on the trip and given to whoever won the lot.

“Let’s buy English songs”, somebody begged that year, “We are always buying Amarigna muziQa. Let’s buy English for a change. Abesheet, any suggestions?”.

“I know Electra [MuziQa Bet] has Shaggy”, I said “Let’s buy Shaggy. I love him”

“Yes, make it Shaggy” a mechanic called out from the back of bus “Shagging is good”. A laughter, the happy, exploding and unstoppable kind any Ethiopian would recognize as having something to do with sex, followed. Unfortunately, I hadn’t read Bridget Jones’ Dairy yet so I didn’t know what the word “shag” meant. My demanding an explanation, however, only made the laughter worse. When a year later I came across the word “shag” along was “ciggy”, I was impressed. “Who would have thought..!” I mused.

After class Saturday afternoon, I was sitting at the hair saloon that does my hair waiting for my cousin to have hers’ done. The soap on tv being too girly even for a Hair saloon, I started browsing through a magazine I found nearby. That’s when I came across a beautiful model named “Lulit”, “Eyerusalem” or “Gelila” in the bag section. I beckoned the teenage daughter of the owner over. Her decency, inspite of a sharp wit, and her love for movies reminded me of my young kins so I preferred killing time with her when time needed a killing.

“She’s Ethiopian, did you know?”, I said with, no doubt, a twinkle in the eye. “The texture of her skin and bone structure makes you think she’s Afro-American. But she is flesh and blood, that’s her name Lulit (Eyerusalem or Gelila)”.

Then, ofcourse, the discussion turned to beauty. “I don’t care what anybody says these days” I said “I’ve always thought the way West African women are shaped is how a real woman should be shaped like. As long as they have a proportional body and are healthy nothing beats pears”

“But that’s the problem..” the girl interrupted “African women have big butt and the fashion world doesn’t like big butts”

“Well..men do!” I joked, “even when she isn’t that pretty, a girl with big butt seem to attract more attention than a pretty girl who doesn’t have much of it”.

“I know” the little darling chuckled “‘cover the face and attack the base’, right?”

The expression was new to me. But that’s not what I found shocking. Here is a girl, I mean to say, who chose to be so old fashioned that she still does her hair the way me and my college classmates used to a decade ago (“GilBit” or “Qutirtir”), looking extremely bored when the women in the saloon start talking “women talk” and seem to shrink behind her book when her mother starts bossing the employees around, talking about something she shouldn’t be talking in a language she isn’t supposed to know.

“I know, right?”, I think I said. And turned to the magazine. This time to hide in it.

Perhaps I am an “ewe lamb” after all. Or we have to come up with a new definition to “innocent” that would include & legitimize the innocence of this generation at whose finger-tip every thing society has been keeping from us seem to be. But I know one thing, that little girl definitely isn’t!

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Entry filed under: Latest Posts.

Out of my mind Thus spake the bride

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mazzi  |  October 28, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    How funny! :-).

    We sure need an updated definition of “innocence” for the new generation.

    They have access to information much more than we ever did when we were growing up. At least for kids with ample exposure to all things, the bar for what it takes to remain innocent keeps being blurred.

    But I wonder whether, in the process of maturing, young people’s normal brain development is up to the challenge of catching up with all the tons of information at the fast pace it is thrown at them! With all that this country can afford its young citizens, can you imagine how much more ‘exposed’ kids are on this end?

  • 2. abesheet  |  October 29, 2008 at 6:37 am

    I know, Mazzi. But knowledge shouldn’t necessarily mean loss of innocence, should it? I’m asking because it worries me so much: the fact that even Walt Disney is making movies like “Shrek II” that have cross dressers and drag queens in it. The idea, ofcourse, is “training the children’s mind so they’d be more accepting when they grow up”. ‘Free to be you and me’, so to say. I am sure it’s been of great help when “race” was a problem. It would still be, if somebody with his/her heart “in the right place” (where mine and yours is 😉 ) is taking a good long look at the scripts. If not then that Christian website which accused Walt Disney for belonging to the Anti-Christ and destroying the youth maybe proved right.

    So nice to see your comments here, by the way Mazzi.

  • 3. Mazzi  |  October 29, 2008 at 9:31 am

    I know what you mean Abesheet. Now a days, it is even difficult to define what innocence is. Children in this country (and in many other places as well) are exposed to too much too soon. In fact, it is actually a race and a struggle among parents, schools, entertainment, and media outlets about who gets to them first and who gets to protect them from what is out there!

    Parents may try to shelter their kids, but they can’t control as much what their kids are exposed to through TV (a major baby sitter by the way!), the Internet, movies, music, and videos not to mention through school. So parents may feel compelled to expose their kids to certain things themselves. Break it to them gently kind of thing. At least that way they get to control what they get to say to them and when. Otherwise the world itself comes knocking on kids’ doors sooner than later.

    There is a professor here on campus who used to be male, married to a woman for many years, and raising children. But at a later stage in his life, he decided to become a woman, I imagine with his family’s blessing. He then underwent through all the necessary surgeries and medical hormonal treatments to ‘biologically’ change himself into a woman, and even acquired a female’s name. He now conducts his life as a woman in all ways. He even legally changed his gender status from male to female, so for all intensive purposes he is legally and socially considered a woman. What is more, even after his major transformation, he still lives as a woman in the same household and family setting with his wife and children! I am not sure how the family dynamics works now that he is a woman.

    Though his kids were older at the time of his change, imagine if they were young how he would explain his decision to change into a woman to them. What is worse, how would his young kids have explained to their friends in school how their Dad became a woman! Imagine being a parent of these kids’ friends from school. Your son/daughter comes to you and asks, “how come ‘Timmy’s’ Dad is now his second Mom?” Try explaining that!! What is more common than this, however, is kids who are raised in same sex parents households with two Dads or two Moms. Homosexuality has been part of humanity since day one, so it does not bother me a bit. But I wonder how kinds raised in ‘non-traditional’ gay households process their unique situation compared to other kinds with traditional families with Moms and Dads. I also wonder how their school friends who come from traditional households comprehend why they have two Moms or Two Dads.

    There is a famous/infamous (depending which side of the fence one sits) young children’s book entitled “And Tango Makes Three” about two male penguins caring for an orphaned egg. It’s indirect reference to same sex parenting made an uproar through some conservative and religious circles few years back at its debut. To this day, it remains a disputed book. Some find it progressive in exposing children to what is happening around them in story form, while others fight for it to be removed from libraries as they think it corrupts young minds. You be the judge :-).

    Reactions from some parents in this country regarding how much their kids get exposed to sometimes swings like a pendulum from one extreme to another. Some parents think their kids will find out sooner or later anyways, and put no restrictions to what their kids get exposed to. No supervision and even discipline what so ever! Such kids will know and learn too much too soon, but with no maturity (that comes from actual life experience…the good, the bad, the ugly) to back it up. Other parents take protecting their kids too far and even decide to remove them from public schools, home school them at times, socialize them only in places of worship with only their kind (race, ethnicity, social class etc..), and prevent them from watching TV, movies, or using the Internet. I think this too can be harmful because when the kids eventually grow up and join the real world, they find out in a harsh way how ill prepared and ill equipped they are to live and work in a diverse society. I guess like everything else in life, it is all about striking the right balance if you are lucky.

    When it comes to sexuality, by the way, even many Ethiopians who seem ‘innocent’ may not really be. My Mom works in a women’s clinic as a nurse in Addis, and she has seen it all in her career’s span. She once told me as a matter of factly (no shock in her voice what so ever!) how she deals with cases of incest at her work place frequently. Mothers bring their young daughters to the clinic ‘to be fixed’ after making up some elaborate stories how their daughters got ‘injured’ when it is so clear to the nurses how what is before them is a case of rape by a male family member including the fathers. They quietly ‘treat’ the daughters and send them back to the same environment they came from. My Mom also told me, again in a very nonchalant ‘I see this every day’ kind of voice, how sexual repression coupled with multiple extended family members living in very close quarters (due to housing shortage and exuberant rent prices) contribute to rape and incest cases. I was not so much shocked by what she told me more than I was by her ‘it happens, what can we do about it’ attitude. So my dear, don’t be shocked if your poor neighbor’s maid contracted AIDS from her uncle whom she used to live with through sex as your aunt suggested. I am not! Not in the least bit!

    If I had children, I imagine I would do anything I can to protect their child like innocence for as long as possible. But in this day and age, even for the most well intended parents, it is proving to be an uphill battle with all that kids are exposed to at such early ages. As you said, even Disney movies keep lowering their standards of what is acceptable subject matter for children to be exposed to. Not sure if it is a case of art imitating life or life imitating art!

    Thanks for tolerating my sometimes long comments :-). I love ‘surfing’ the Internet in my ‘spare’ time (if there is such a thing in this rat race place) as I do most of my work on my computer now a days. Ende Interent gin sirra yemiyasfeta neger yelem!! But I enjoy reading your blog a lot, and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • 4. abesheet  |  October 30, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Wow, Mazzi. I feel so sorry for parents in the “civilized” world. The only thing my lil bro Babi chases after these days is computer games. When he can’t get those, he concentrates on haunting your mobile. My other Brother, Tagel, was telling us how he once saw two girls following Babi and he chased them away (he asked them why they were following his young bro and they laughed and run). Even then, Tagel said, babi seems too busy laboring under the weight of his bag, instead of noticing them. How long that is going to last i don’t know. I just wish the world leaves these kids alone to get to it when they come of age. That is much more fun. Atleast in our case.

    Always wonderful to have you here, Mazzi. Wonderful and humbling. By the way, have you thought about blogging? Why won’t you? I’d be your #1 reader!

  • 5. Carlos  |  October 30, 2008 at 10:57 am

    I think I`m learning a lot about ethiopian people. I enjoy with this post. Tks Abesheet

  • 6. Mazzi  |  October 31, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Selam Abesheet…

    I too wish the world leaves kids alone, and let them grow and mature at a more forgiving pace accompanied with much needed support and guidance from the well meaning adults in their lives.

    Reality, at least on this side of the universe, says other wise. Many children, teenagers, and young adults start out their lives by “climbing the tree from the top” so to speak, and mature much later in their lives if they ever do! Child like innocence in this age of too much exposure too soon is quite in short supply. Parents have much tougher jobs raising kids for this reason.

    I have thought about blogging, by the way, and probably will when the time is right. Right now, my life is ‘extra’ difficult at this juncture in my journey, and I don’t know if I can be consistent enough for blogging.

    If ever I start blogging, however, I’d be honored to have you as a reader :-).

  • 7. abesheet  |  October 31, 2008 at 8:59 am

    *Reserved a VIP spot on her blogroll*

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