YiNageraal Cover

December 15, 2008 at 10:29 am 9 comments

I’ve seen Evita Peron of Argentina and Haileselassie I of Ethiopia as the two faces of a dime. Or “YeZinjero Konjo”, as the saying goes. Which doesn’t mean I don’t find the idea of royalty exotic. If you can’t see anything cute in people who expect you to be humbled (and take offense when you didn’t) in their presence for the mere privilege of birth right, you’ll atleast appreciate their looks.

With one infamous exception, royalties are a good looking bunch. They got everything in the book to make them perfect for the ideal “bed fellow, in marriage pleasures playfellow” candidate. They got the looks (a result of a procreation system somebody once referred to as “breeding”, as in.. you know.. horses), they got manners, long titles and old money. So you bear with them, even when they refer to themselves as “His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie” –of LaLa Land?!β€” and have your boss scold you for not realizing you do not refer to “Leul Be’edeGebriel HaileYesus” as “Ato Leul”.

Anywho…

What brought about this musing is a suggestion from Inem about a publisher based in America who might consider taking a look at my [rejected] book and respond in less than 2 years. This suggestion came with an e-mail address. An e-mail address that created an impression and a desire to-write-a-post-on in my bosom. Goggling for a supporting material make me stumble on a “royalty” website entitled The Crown Council of Ethiopia.

The story I was looking for, which is credited to either Literary Giant NeGaaDras Tessema Eshete or “socio political pundit” Aleqa Gebre Hanna, can be considered as the Ethiopian version of a famous western proverb. It goes:

The tale involved a man of considerable wealth and status who was invited to a dinner with the “Heads of State” from several countries. Upon his arrival, the man, dressed in a fine business suit, was scolded for wearing common clothing to such a formal affair. He was asked to leave and to please return properly attired. After some time, the man returned to the party dressed in clothing “fit for a king.” Later that evening, as each course of the dinner was served, the same man, instead of eating, was observed stuffing pieces of food into every one of his pockets. Outraged, the same person who had scolded the man earlier questioned why he would embarrass his host with such odd behavior. The man turned to him and calmly replied, that it was quite obvious that it was not he who was invited to eat, but his suit.

Unfortunately, and as the ‘yawn collection’ herebelow would bear witness, there are so many things a cover could tell us about a book (or a human being) that we can’t rule out ‘judging a book by it’s cover’ beDeffenaw. Things that may or may not be negative (like ‘he ain’t trying to impress anybody’, ‘boy he must love that leather jacket’, ‘I wonder if she’s washed it ever since she bought it’) but can come quite handy in our dealings with the individuals.

I judge a book by the title on the cover. I know it’s not always wise since “Animal Husbandry” has proved to be one of my favorite comedies of all times. [But I do it anyway]. When I’m not judging a book by the title, I’m judging it by the various reviews it received from respected authors or magazines on the back. If such review doesn’t exist or seems to continue showing the book in a favorable light, I go to page 1 and read the first paragraph. If I like what I read, I take the book. If I don’t, I leave it where it was.

When it comes to people, I like to think I judged them by their ability to rationalize and on their confidence to form a thought of their own. For that’s how I prefer to be judged (and I try to do what I’d like other do for me, most of the time anyway). But there are sub-categories to which we all intentionally or unintentionally ‘classify’ those we are not familiar with. We classify them by the cars they drive, the houses they drive into, the type of friends they keep and the brands of cell phones they carry. Hell, we even judged them by the numbers of those cell phones once. (Remember all those jokes made on people with a cell phone number that did not start with either 0911 20 or 21? The chic, the traffic light and the beggar?).

And who is to blame us?

We all judge. Even those who tell us they don’t judge people are silently judging us for being one. The difference comes in the response each of us give to the impressions based on those qualities or categories. Some of us put the Presidential Veto on Volkswagen driver and get jiggy with flashy car owner, or so bitter men and romantic fictions of the 1980’s tell us. Others, firmly believing suitor #2 to be a jerk and/or a womanizer who expects them to “kiss the ground” for having found grace in his eyes, simply ask suitor #1 to park his ‘Qenubish’ as far away from their “Sefer” as possible but allow him walk them home. Mostly, though, we keep our judgment to ourselves and hope there was more to the person than what the car promises. Ending up with either a pleasant surprise or a valuable lesson. ‘LeBeGo newu’ endilu YeKerchele lijoch.

When it comes to firms, most of us can’t afford such luxury. A language school that misspelled the word “Language” for whatever reason, a hip-pastry whose menu has “Qorasa”/”Kurasa” in place of Croissant, a movie that boasts either Jean Claude Van Damme or the Distinguished Senator from California and an organization (especially a firm connected to IT) that claims to be well established but has a yahoo e-mail address don’t seem very appetizing. “Imagine” I have reasoned of the first two and the final one, “these people didn’t bother enough to have their name/product spelled correctly (or buy an ethionet e-mail address for a lousy 185 birr). You think they’d take care of your business with the quality it deserves?”.

Now, I’m not sure if it’s our culture and it’s ‘bilulign tetulign’ policy that makes us doubt (and suspect) anything that came cheap or for free, but I find it hard to take a firm with yahoo/hotmail/gmail address, bad web page design and cell phone number in place of land line seriously. Take one look at the following travel agency websites, of more than 15 years and less than 4 years’ experience respectively, and tell me which you’d rather handle your tours Website #1. Website #2.

Incase you are wondering what my attitude on “the thought counting” is, I don’t think you need to buy expensive presents to help you give those you love a piece of your heart. But you can give them something they’d like, or badly need. As the saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way. Hope that comes helpful in your Christmas shopping.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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Objects of my affection Aradaw

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Inem  |  December 16, 2008 at 8:45 am

    “royalties are a good looking bunch”. Abesheet, what would you say about our YalemTam Menelik (though he is a hero of some sort in my book)? I bet there are more exceptions than the one you mentioned. Incidentally what do you think of “igzEr yeqebaw royal”? what a horrible concept, the gods indeed must be crazy.
    I would choose website #2 inspite of the yahoo email address the contact detail is more expansive than #1.

  • 2. sistum  |  December 16, 2008 at 10:26 am

    http://safewayethiopia.com/contactus.php yishalal?

    u r right, Abesheet. lemin aynagerim, yinageral enji, title (photo) afe awtito. Telling titles are, well, telling. but when it comes to sites, i like the less impressive ones a tad bit better. but why dany’s book at this early hour, Mazengia? not a sight for sore eyes. Something i have never understood — our weakness for bilich-dirgim. even on a website.. i know it might be to catch attention but its not like there is much else to distract you on a page that short.

    and I think Emiye Menelik was just caught on a bad day. I don’t think people have a stomach for bad-looking people and I think that extends to leaders, just my thought. So I don’t think the lemt on our Yalemtam Menelik would have been that atseyafee to the eyes. Even Menge had a certain je ne sais quoi about him. min 2:40, s’il vous plait. Or even that smile. Seekotas beehon.
    Or maybe it was the TV colors that made him seem so. and I would have to argue that there is something cute about the fiyel in Meles. yam hone yih, though, the beauty in royalty or pseudo-royalty may well have its roots in michotina delta and the migib that both entail. I know of a gentleman whose assessment of good looking ppl was presented as “ayachut yanin migib endet indetesera?”

    and the word Nagadraas sounds like some sort of clothing to me. Or maybe Yelibs negade.

  • 3. abesheet  |  December 16, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Lol, Inem. “YalemTam Meneliik!” Been a while since I heard that πŸ™‚ . Well.. inspite of all the atrocities done “BeEmye Menelik” or “BeEmye Menelik Sim”, which used to bother me a lot until of late (until i realized I was judging the past in today’s mind and all i can do was learn from history), I believe Menelik is the true ‘Modernizer King’ of Ethiopia. Tewodros, a favorite of my husband’s, was only a dreamer whose own dream “telfo yetalew”. Yohannes, a maniac.

    Menelik, on the other hand, was a wise ole man who went about it subtly. The “diplomat king”, a colleague used to call him. Regarding his looks, he appears manly enough. His wife, however, could use a bit of exercise.

    Sistu:
    I’m one of the two people I know who found Meles quite attractive. I still do, inspite of what I think about his government and his face taking to “melks” these days. He waxes his bald, i think, making it look shiny. The rest of his skin is brown. The contradiction is so apparent when he is speaking at the Parliament that I sometimes find concentrating hard.

    On the other hand, I’ve always hated MenGe’s guts, even when i see him laughing (and if you can’t feel a certain camaraderie towards a person when they are laughing, well..). My mother, however, has always been his fan. “Ayy MenGe..”, she says beQuchit everytime he infested the screen, “MenGe wondu! Wond eko new”. Yeah right, I want to reply, Leza new yager Wond ascheriso cherawn endwesha Qolfe Zimbabwe yegebaw!. But the past almost 2 decades have taught me it’s no use arguing over people’s taste.

    “Negadras” (“Nega Dires”), is a title, i heard, that traders used to go by at the time of Menelik. I’m planning to do a translated-post on the various “Abiyotu Yanesachew” or “Yetalachew” titles. I hope that would not only give us a hint where titles came from but leave them a “Qirrs” on the internet. (Can you believe I couldn’t find one article, NOT ONE, for my facebook cause on a Gurage [shoe-shiner] boy’s life in Addis?! I checked and checked. Nada! So i settled for a BBC photo journal of a shoe-shiner girls’. Shame on us ayasegnim?)

  • 4. sistum  |  December 16, 2008 at 11:23 am

    hehe, I know that Quchit. My mom reserves it for H/Silassie… ‘mts, yene geta, degu nigus’ she says. What she deemed so ‘deg’, I can’t say. you might feel prompted to mention to her that she got nothing out of his deginet, save a couple of years of schooling (1, 2?) while the elite were living it up at Teferi Mekonen. but she would then trust you to remember that the (1,2?) years she was in school, she was treated to kursina wetet (mutually exclusive) every morning all thanks to the degu nigus. Me, i don’t believe.

  • 5. Inem  |  December 16, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Abesheet beware of the wrath of qedamawit emebet (one title I found hard to swallow, weizero is more gracious and Ethiopian). I also have wondered about the shiny biliCho of Meles, and thought perhaps a bernos qumTa wearing yebetemengst madego brat is playing shertetE on it.
    Indeed Menelik was a true visionary leader Ethiopia ever had, that is of those whose chronicles are more or less well documented. Tsehayu Nigus jemeberachew sat’Telq biqeyeru noro sistu’s mom would have been right.
    Have you tried the archives of the Institute of Ethiopian studies? They say you find many wonderful pieces there, I doubt if the listros don’t have a file there. Alternatively you may use your prose fenTaqi bi’ir and deliver us from shame.

  • 6. abesheet  |  December 16, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Lol, Inem. “Kesachew Quta yisewren newu”. I mean, I doubt Meles meant us to take it on face value, he rarely does, when he responded ‘YeMifeneda neGer yemetekos aqim alat’ to a question about his wife’s strength. Crying for help is what it sounds like. These powerful men and their wives!

    Which reminds me. There is this scenario on my favorite black movie of all times (sorry if it’s not polically correct):

    “Undercover brother”, name of the protagonist and title of the movie, is trying to explain how a black man can’t get anywhere without giving ‘respect’ to the sistah. To make this aparent, he tries to quote a great proverb. “Behind every great black man there is ..” he starts. (Surrounding him were members of the group who are both white and black, but with various baggages of their own. They are trying to finish the sentence for him):

    “Behind every great black man there is..”

    “The police!”
    Conspiracy brother

    “Cute butt?”
    A white girl who “went black”

    “A bunch of slow white athletes?”
    a wanna-be-broza white man

    etecetera..

    It’s been a while since I visited The Institute of Ethiopian Studies’ website. Will check it out.

  • 7. Inem  |  December 16, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I doubt if you will find anything to read on their website. I am afraid you may need to go to amst/sidist kilo and browse through the shelves.

  • 8. sistum  |  December 16, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Abesheet, i found a few articles on Google scholar. Don’t know if it would be what you were looking for but check them out; they have reports from unicef and stuff like that. here is a quote from one:

    ‘In Ethiopia, Heinonen (2000) found that poverty is a necessary but not sufficient condition that spurs many children to street life, since many poor children in Addis Ababa do not become street children. As a case in point, among the Gurague, ethnicity plays an important part in the lives of street children who have regular contact with their families. They are a singular example of a people whose family ties are not disrupted by migration; they maintain continuity between their rural area of origin and their current urban residence. Urban migrants avoid making a complete break with their rural socio-economic roots and keep the urban-rural link alive (Seifu 1976). Thus the Christian Gurague return to their villages for Meskal (Feast of the Finding the True Cross) every year, just as the Moslem Gurague return home during Arefa after the Ramadan ceremony.

    Against this background, many Gurague shoeshine boys and street workers live communally with their peers, older siblings, or relatives. They draw lots to decide who will go home in any given year if they cannot all afford to go back. Those unable to visit their families due to financial constraints make all sorts of sacrifices to send presents to their relatives. Because in a majority of cases Gurague street children are perceived as well-behaved and hard-working, they have a better public image than other street children.’

    and Abesheet, apparently there was a play ‘Ye Listro Opera’ by Abate Mekuria.. dunno if its about Listros tho. Found it in ‘The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre’ under Ethiopia. Do you know the play? also look at the second paragraph of page 120 of the same book… you might like what you see.

  • 9. abesheet  |  December 16, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you so much, sistumye :). Apparently, I gotta work on my googling-skill before blaming others for not giving a damn. Empua.. emuah.

    Have heard about the Opera. But I doubt it would give a realistic view of the pressures faced by a Gurage boy slaving to save enough so he could go “aGer Bet” on MesQel and “masAter” his father’s “gibi”

    Going to Encyclopedia right now.

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