Archive for November 13, 2008

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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