Archive for November, 2008

What’s in a song?

I had a 1-hour class last night, yippee, so I was earlier than most when leaving school. I thought I might walk. The air was cool, the wind was breathy, and my friend Elias Mohammed who, oddly enough, happens to be a Christian wanted me to help him recite the “Min aine anta” (where are you from) portion of the Arabic lesson I was taking online. He was still replying “Waalekum Wasalaam”, so you can see why he felt he needed help.

We walked upto Arat Kilo, me asking, he answering; and bade each other goodbye infront of “Maleda Café”. Arat Kilo was filled with it’s usual bustle. There were those who sold and bought. Those who offered sell and found no body to buy them. There were men in cars, chicks on foot, and the rest of us busy trying to get home. When I approached the “taxi area”, which has inflated or deflated to the front of Mega Book Center, the voice I heard coming from a loud speaker became clear. A man was promoting a spiritual song album he said has now come to VCD. He was saying some of the words in the song along the tape that was playing it in the background. I recognized the song, perhaps the singer’s master piece, from my mini-bus rides to and from school. I called it, “Kalante lene maan lihonegn”, it perhaps went by the name “YemaatQeyer Ante Bicha”. I have loved that song ever since it caught my attention at the café near my office. It wasn’t just the singer’s serene voice that impressed me, but the fact that it seem deeply rooted in the bible and talked nothing but of love and dependency on the creator. I have always liked that about songs, any song. Those are the kinds of songs that surpass religious and race boundaries. Like good books, you share the sentiments even when they are talking about paths you would not be going through.

We all know, were we willing to face the truth (or think outside the box) how most spiritual songs (especially those from the Ethiopian Orthodox church) are a little short on imagination. If they aren’t lacking in imagination, they are mistranslating the bible (and not on purpose! Slice it how you will but “the good Samaritan” isn’t the lamb that didn’t open his mouth infront of his shearers). When they aren’t doing neither, they are giving the spiritual version of most pre-Gigi secular songs. Complaining how evil their neighbors are and how God would deliver them from “them”. “Des Yalew Yizemir”, that’s one heavenly order Ethiopian Zemaris do not always abide by.

Now, if these people for one moment stopped and thought how God wasn’t an abesha, an abesha with all the psychological disorders in the book, and has way too many important things to do than be their bully older brother, our minivan rides would have been more enjoyable. Not to mention how many people would have been spared needless pains from illogical expectations. Like my mother, for example, who one bright afternoon hoped God would help my 1 year-younger bro, Tagel, go to the university. Tagel went to school for one purpose, to beat up his teachers. He stayed in school because nobody dared kick him out. My father has served there for more than 20 years and was the best “YeEwqet Abaat” the school had. “What if” my mother said shyly that p.m., “Geta helps Tagel score a passing mark”. This was back when a guy needs to score 3.4 and above to go to the university. Even the undersigned, with being a pride and joy to her Father and exhibiting exemplary student behaviors such as spending most of her free time at the library (reading fiction!) only got so far as 2.8 (or 3.2, if you discounted Maths” “D”).

I was a full-gospel believer back then, trying to live in peace with my neighbors and attempting to be good, so it must have come as a surprise to my mother when I mused “Oh yeah? Then that would mean God goes against His own word, coz He has promised we only reap what we sow”. She gave me a look that I know so well. A look a mother would give her daughter she wasn’t brave enough to ask “minew anchi gin… Enjerashin aybelabish!?”. Then she said God could make my brother pass and use that opportunity to change him. “The only person who can change Tagel,” I observed “is Tagel himself, and he doesn’t seem ready to do that just yet”.

“There is nothing impossible to God”, she said stubbornly.

I dropped it.

Fwd: 6 months later. Matric result came. Tagel went to Menelik the 2nd to get it. Unlike Netsanet, my cousin, who would never know what her “Matric photo” looked like, for she’s been refused her certificate, for ‘raising a flag on all subjects’ Tagel signed and received his! But only because he scored a “D” on his English exam, he loved watching movies too. The rest were F – for flat.

Stop. Rewind. I was talking about how a line in the song I heard while walking down Arat Kilo killed me dead. Why did it kill me dead? Neger BeMissale, Tej Bebirille.

You are in love. You are loved back. He then goes abroad. He calls, he e-mails, he sends stuff. Still.. you come home to an empty house. Which one would you do? Would you try to forget this person as much as you can or do you try to keep him alive & beside you by buying as many love songs you heard together as you can and go to bed weeping over them. I do the later. I buy Abinet Agonafir’s “Athijibign”, a song that was playing at the restaurant I took Chris out for dinner on the eve of his departure, and cry my heart out. “Negem Yante new Addisu Qen” I’d tell my beloved, the way Zemari Mirtnesh Tilahun told her God, “Ezemralehu Sitnafikegn”.

Here is the result of my youtube search for ‘Yalante Lene’. Enjoy 🙂

November 28, 2008 at 11:03 am 8 comments

Alright :)

Finished “Queueing Theory” (an e-novel of 3 chapters; 55,534 words and 106 pages according to my word count) and was told I were one of the God-Knows-How-Many-Thousands-Of-Them-Are-Out-There National Novel Writing Month 2008 Winners.

Winner Goodies included:

Herebelow is something no winning would be complete without:

My Acceptance Speech:

abeet_speech

.. Now that I won, I hope to go back to blogging and giving the rest of my life the attention it deserves. I will also try to use my talent to abolish Famine, Global Warming and Shama Publishers; sparing no effort to achieve … World Peace.

November 25, 2008 at 11:40 am 7 comments

Courage, child, courage!

Finally did it! I sat down at my laptop and typed away. The first evening I wrote 7 pages. The second 20. Just like that! Still, writing on a laptop and on wordpress refreshing the page and hitting the “save” button every other minute didn’t feel the same. While writing in wordpress, I knew there was a distant, kind of, sort of, not really possibility of being read. On my laptop, there was none. Atleast for another two days and a night!

That put a dumper to my feelings of finally breaking the ice. Waiting for feelings to come back, experiences remembered, new truths realized felt ridiculous. But only for a moment! “No regrets, no surrender”. I kept typing on.

At around 4:01 a.m., almost three hours later, I heard hesitant footsteps underneath my window. (I live on the first floor, footsteps has a tendency of echoing in the dark). I run to it, eager to see another human being up and about at such an hour (been more than 4 hours since I heard a man, a dog or a car pass by). The guy was trying to stand steadily on his feet and looking up. The strange light must have made him stop and wonder. “Anchi?!“, he said in a tone that both wondered and accused, “Ategnim ende?!”. (aren’t you going to sleep?)

I laughed. He laughed. I closed the window, drew the curtains, and went back to my laptop. Wondering what I was trying to get out of all this. Then I remembered, perhaps nothing. Perhaps everything! It was too late, or too early, to remember.

Now, sitted infront of my PC, waiting for the page to publish, I know.

“Sister Act II” was a lowly imitation of “Sister Act I”, as is the reality with all sequels (except “The Dark Knight”, which defied all expectations, I’d like to think). But it has one line I keep remembering every time my heart is faint and feel like giving up (such a rotten feeling, knowing you are the only one who gives a shit!). It’s a scene between Whoopie Goldberg’s character and of that gorgeous golden-voiced singer, Laureyn Hill’s. “I read somewhere,” I think Whoopie’s character says “if, when you wake up first thing in the morning ‘writing’ is what comes to your mind, then you are meant to be a writer”.

Does it mean that’s what I’m called for? Writing?! Seeing I’d be staring at the screen trying to put thoughts into words, and then into a language that is foreign to my senses, when the sun dawns?! Is that why I’m still typing away, without even pausing to edit; laboring (albeit a labor of love) over something that will perhaps never be felt by anybody else and is unlikely to see the light of day?

My friends, you bow to no one!

November 18, 2008 at 7:28 am 13 comments

There is Date, there is Expiry Date

After publishing the Legesse Wegi post herebelow, I went to Abesha Bunna Bet to see what my friend Dr. Ethiopia has been upto. There, I came across an article entitled Marrying-Off a (four) year old Ethiopian Girl. I found this article interesting. Because only the other day (*cough* last Sunday), I was watching ETV’s “Yelijoch Gize” and have came across a drama that somewhat confused me.

It’s not just the pretentiousness of the drama that bothered me (it’s based on, atleast, two Grimm fairy tales). But the lesson it was trying to teach. This girl, Adera, is brought to the city by her aunt. Who, as we know, is a mean spirited wretch who makes her do all the house work and look after her own kids.

Somewhere else, the king is looking for a “playmate” to his son. After turning the kingdom upside down, he decides to send for an old man known for his wisdom. “Abba Musa..” says his Highness in a volcanic voice, (the scene takes place in a park where Waiters & Waitresses can be seen running with dishes behind the trees) “Go get my son a playmate! A girl who would grow up with him and become his fiancée!”.

“Abba Mussa” bows in obedience and goes out with his “masinQo”. He is then observed walking around villages looking for kids. That he gathered around him and start playing the following song:

Amta Qolo yilegnal
Zilzil siga yilegnal
Kelijoch gaar chewata
Yamregnal .. yamregnal..

The kids, on their turn, sing back:

Amta Qolo yalewal
Zilzil siga yilewal
KeAbba Mussa chewata,
Yamrenal.. yamrenal

“Once upon a time in Neverland” says I “there was a King-of-Pop called Michael Jackson who liked playing with kids too – at night, in the bedroom, on the bed. Just lose it (HA-HA-HA-HA-HA)(more…)

November 13, 2008 at 11:14 am 6 comments

Of heroes & traitors – The ballad of Legesse Wegi

Ethiopians’ respect for the dead is only equaled by their respect for “God’s Guest”. “God’s Guest” (YeGziabher Engida) is, in the old days, a person on whom the sun sets before he got to destination’s end. Whether the traveler was a man sought by the victim’s family for murder (an eye-for-an-eye social justice system that became the central point to an amazing Amharic Book entitled “Tikur/TiQur Demm”, dark blood), planning to visit his relatives who live at a different part of the country, or has a pending court-case he should present himself to in the morrow, he’d be traveling on his feet (literally!!) so gets dead tired by the end of the day. He can’t go into the woods and prepare a grassy bed to lie his tired bones on because, unlike today, the woods were filled with wild animals and/or robbers. So he knocks on the door of a house near by and begs for a place to spend the night.

“I’m YeGziabher Engida”, he declares, “looking for shelter. Will you let me sleep here? I promise I’ll be on my way first thing in the morning”. Ethiopians being very religious (remember that thing Jesus said about receiving guests and/or him coming as a thief at night, etcetra?) and almost as hospitable as legend says, the traveler is never disappointed. Infact, he gets more than he asked for. He’s entreated to enter. Asked to sit on a chair, perhaps, the “Lord of the house” sits. He’s then given water for his feet and food for his belly (the milk, or yogurt, serving as an appetizer).

In the meantime, a chosen “Qurbet” (a rag made from the skin of either an ox or a sheep that everybody used for bed in those days) is laid to him in the living room. Given either a “twaff” or a “masho” (traditional candle and lamp respectively) to illuminate the darkness while he prepares for sleep he’s told to have a good night, and wake the lady of the house before he leaves in the morning so they could give him something for the road.

Times have changed! But a bit of the hospitality still remains. You don’t say hi and go on eating what you were when a guest comes to your abode, for example. Even if he refuses, you forced him to sit and partake of “the fruits of the house” with you. If a long lost cousin drops by your house after hours, you generally don’t show him the door. You take him in, ask what happened, share the food, make the bed. Say your neighbor started beating his wife again, and she run out and didn’t know where to go. Consequences may follow. Gossips may abound. But it still isn’t considered good manners to shut the door on her face. After calming her down, you go to where the “Abawera” is walking around as if “looking for whom to devour” or beating his kids (coz that’s how it goes, first mommy then the kids) and try to bring peace. You beg him to think of their kids. The value of patience. To allow you bring “her” back and make things ok. “Why would your enemies delight on you?!”, you’d demand “why would you wanna wash your dirty laundry out in the open? Let her come in and spend the night in her bed. In the morning, I’d get a couple more elders and we’ll see what happens”.

If none of it seems to work, or this particular wife isn’t the type who likes begging for forgiveness over sins she didn’t commit, or has families who can afford to take care of both her and kids, you throw a blanket on the sofa and tell the dear woman to crush here for the night.

Sharing may not always be happiness. But Ethiopians, the last people who can afford it (one might say) do it anyway. That way, you get to keep good will between your neighbors, and have the angels enter a credit on your heavenly dossier.

Yes! “YeGziabher Engida” is still cherished. You don’t have to particularly like this person to treat him as such. He maybe a friend or a foe. But you treat him as one. You say “he’s come here in God’s name, whatever he did, let Him ask it of him”. You certainly don’t go around killing him in his sleep.

Alas, one “YeGziabher Engida” met his maker through the hands of those he trusted, according to ERTA. (more…)

November 13, 2008 at 9:43 am 3 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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