What ur idols say abt you

December 30, 2008 at 5:36 am 29 comments

An earnest prayer of the “tOrr Awrid” nature, Addis Neger and Addis Admas reported last Saturday, has been made at the Kenyaian Cabinet a few days ago. “The Turkana river is decreasing,” one member of the parliment is reported to have said, “we all know it’s because of what Ethiopia is doing on Omo river. Why won’t we threaten her with war, like Egypt did, so she’d behave?”.

Both newspapers have, ofcourse, reported Kenya’s Minister of Water Resources response to this “teb yalesh bedabo”. That his government has taken the matter with Ethiopia and three years is all it takes to reach some kind of an agreement.

By the time I was done reading Ato Asfaw Dingamo’s response, I’ve been convinced a crash-course on global warming was what Kenya’s Honorable parliamentarians need. Still, i wanted to see if ETV has more to say on the subject. So… i counted the minutes and hit the “Pause” button on my Miyota VCD player (“Gran Tarino”, one of those awesome movies Clint Eastwood has been making lately). The news was on and Amare Mamo was reading it.

, the dark sinned news caster was saying, “so and so has the report”. A balding man with a chubby face appeared on the screen. His name is Doctor Getachew, so and so’s voice-over told us. He’s been living in Germany for the last 19 years working as something or other in a well known factory. Now he’s come back home to serve his country in his capacity. He, apparently, was the person who made the ‘tiri’.

I have ofcourse noticed ETVs tendency of making a “public voice” out of an individual’s. It’s what made many of us stop watching tv for more than 2 years after Michra-97 (“Ye Addis Ababa newariwoch YeKinjitin yeMenGed lai newt endemaydegifu astawequ”, the anBabi would say. Then a man standing infront of a lone building on Debre Zeit road would appear. “YeKinjitin YemenGed lai newt andegifim”, he’d say. The news caster re-appears to re-read the headlines before wishing us a good evening). But they seem to have out-grown this tendency lately. Only showing it on a “Millennium” special or a reportage about some diaspora committee building a school,a hospital or a dam somewhere.

That, however, isn’t what made the sister stop and think. It was a conversation I had with my kins a few days ago. Babi was telling us how a classmate of his was talking about Akon’s wife being Ethiopian as if it’s another gold medal our boys brought home. “What’s the big deal?!”, he was saying disgustedly, “Dude isn’t even that great a singer”.

I’ve then mentioned how that’s not an uncommon practice. I have read, I continued, about an Ethiopian athlete coming 89th out of 92 or 94 fellow cyclists on the Ethiopian Herald a couple of years back. “I guess they are surprised he even participated. Marathon and stuff, that’s what we are known for, not cycling”.

Babi has pursued his lips discontently and gone back to watching MTV Arabia.

Not I. And certainly not this time. I asked if surprise, instead of “Ager Wedadinet”, was behind our being taken aback by the news of an Ethiopian succeeding abroad. Be it a Scientist in Nasa, a Lecturer at Yale or Harvard, a Russian writer with roots in our soil or an African music award even Africans don’t seem to give a shit about; every time we heard the news, we glow with the new-found pride of a homely girl just paid attention by a hunk. As if we’ve thus far been convinced we weren’t worth that attention, that reward, that accomplishment. And their success has changed all that, by saying more about us than them (instead of the other way round).

Is that why we are more hospitable [laugh at the dumb jokes of, finding their attention more flattering] to the whites than to the Africans next door? Because the whites have gotta go down, way down, to reach to our level (something they did from the charitable nature of their soul and nothing else); and the African… not so much?!


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Crying “Ye eneJohnny Abaat” “For thy love’s better than wine”

29 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mazzi  |  December 31, 2008 at 5:15 am

    “Is that why we are more hospitable [laugh at the dumb jokes of, finding their attention more flattering] to the whites than to the Africans next door? Because the whites have gotta go down, way down, to reach to our level (something they did from the charitable nature of their soul and nothing else); and the African… not so much?!”

    You have no idea how some Abeshoch on this side also suffer from the above phenomenon you described. The owner of the only small Ethiopian restaurant in the small town I live in comes to mind.

    She so shamelessly bends backward and kisses her white customers’ a$$ to accommodate all their requests, but God forbids if she gives the same kind of respect to the few Ethiopians and other East African loyal customers who frequent her restaurant when they want a bit of home in their food for comfort. It is so visibly annoying, and a bit embarrassing to witness her in action when dealing with ‘ferenjoch.’ And yet, our own hard earned dollars are as green as theirs.

    Her Ethiopian restaurant being the only one in a 60 mile radius, we pretend not to notice our second class citizen status and buy some injera and familiar food once in a while when nostalgia kicks in. How I wish I live in a bigger city with numerous other Ethiopian restaurants or shops where I can at least buy injera with no hustle. I love cooking Ethiopian food, but man I can not bake proper injera to save my life! Teff being a rare commodity on this side, everyone has their own recipe of what flower they use to make injera, and I don’t have the patience to experiment.

    Sometimes, we can be soooooo complexam, and it is a damn shame!

    Happy Yeferenjoch New Year Abesheet :-).

  • 2. Shawel  |  December 31, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Another good post abesheet! hahaha Mazi you’re so right. I also feel ashamed when I see the same stuff… but why are some Ethiopians act like uncle Tom? This is something that I always keep on asking myself ??? never mind… HAPPY NEW YEAR !!

  • 3. abesheet  |  January 1, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Well, Mazziye, you don’t have to move to the other end of the globe to miss Injera, I miss it all the time and my mother lives only two ye1.35 minibus ride away. My distrust of “Yehotel Migib” and the fact that I can’t stand “yeteGeza Injera” (which everybody seems to find easier these days, Yetegeza injera, Selam Baltina, etcetera, it ain’t even “yeSetinet melekia” any longer) are the main reasons.

    So.. when i go home to my parents’ over the weekend and my mom brings me “tikus shiro beQaria”, to the background of Babi and Blen ‘maGuremreming’ “Ech! Ezih bet beqa kaleshiro migib yelem”, i shake the head despondently and say “Esunim ayasatan belu”. I ain’t 35 and am speaking in the language my grand-parents used. Way to go abeet 🙂 .

  • 4. Mazzi  |  January 1, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Ayi, Abesheet….. Ye-injeranis neger atanshibign. Le-injera sil sint gizze ye-abesha migib bett setyewanina ezih yalutin yesintun Abesha wend mistoch salwed begid dej eTenalehu meselesh. Muya alemaweq yilushal yihe new. Dirro Enate injera megager kalaweqsh bal atagegnim iyalech taseqayegn yeneberew anso, ahun besew ager, yale-teff injera megager silemalchil be-injera shach bett hulu dej Tegni hognalehu. Isum sigegn eko new.

    It is not like these ladies who have found their own working recipe of often ‘teff-less’ injera are dishing it out for free. I am willing to pay good money for the injera they sell, but they don’t always have it available, and just asking them to bake injera for a certain day and them obliging is considered a huge abesha favor. That means, they can ask any favor back in return, and I may have to oblige.

    That is why I wish there was a shop, like the ones in many big US cities with a fair size abesha population, where you just walk in, pick daily delivered fresh injera some Ethiopian grandmother bakes and sells to the shop, pay for it, and just walk out without any ‘enka-selantia’ about life in exile with the shop keepers. Not unless you want to of course :-).

    I am a fairly private person, who does not enjoy needless abesha chit-chat I have to do when ever I have to go to someone else’s house to pick up the injera I paid for. But gidettana bahil silehone, I go into their houses, sit for a bit and answer some questions coming from the adults about how life, work, school, family, the cows, the farm, the weather etc… are going on my side before I am rewarded with the much anticipated injera.

    I often make ‘alicha shiro be-qarya’ when I have injera in the house, but often when I am too lazy to cook, I just eat injera with timatim selaTa or zeit be-berbere. Enkwan ahun abesha migib birq honobign yiqirina, dirom agere salehu shiro beTam ewed neber. Yum, yum, yum :-). But I can see how your siblings feel like complaining about shiro being readily available compared to other food options :-).

    Being spoilt with home cooked meals all our lives, I can see how yetegeZa injera can lose its allure. If I had the option of going home on the weekend to eat my mother’s cooking, I too will forgo all week long sub-standard hotel cooked injera, and indulge in my mother’s ‘tikus shiro beqarya’ any day. Sounds wonderful to me, and maybe because I too am beginning to sound like my grand parents’ generation when ever I pray ‘Isunim atasaTagn!!’ Wey sayasibut marjet!

    Melkam yeferenjoch Addis Amet to you and yours :-).

  • 5. sistu  |  January 2, 2009 at 3:22 am

    I sympathize with you guys about injera megzat and yetegeza injera respectively. But I kinda (in a way, in a very small way) grew up on yetegeza injera (i didn’t always live in a house with a miTad) so i never thought it anything out of the ordinary. One of the conditions for my childhood meal was the responsibility of injera megzat before lunch or dinner. Me being the telakee who gets dispatched with varying instructions (almost one from every member of the family) about inspecting the injera to make sure it wasn’t yeshagete or even yadere or too tikus, all things I never bothered to check. Usually too hungry to care.

    Used to love zeit beberbere. Might have actually thought that the recipe was my own fetera. Mazzi, thanks for debunking that myth for me. But zeit iyecheresku aschegerku meselegn, it was a bit of a challenge to convince people to allow me to have it. Besides it kinda left some unpleasant feeling on your heart (or what I thought was the heart) if you had too much of it.

    forgive me anyone, but i absolutely hate shiro even today. Still suffering from the trauma of nega-Teba shiro meals. The sight of shiro might make me feel ‘alkish-alkish’. So, Babi and Blen, I absolutely relate my dears.

    I am a big admirer of some of the complex that comes to us by virtue of our Ethiopian-ness. I like some (just some) of my complexaminet and wouldn’t get rid of it for the world. But one complex I really truly wish gets eradicated for good is overdone agobdajinet, even in business. I know its technically wrong, but I think I’d rather deal with most tigabegna people over the overly servile kind, especially if the servility is devoted to people merely because they are seen as being better in some unholy way. So, Mazzi, the next time the owner does too much Teb-irgif for special people, I hope you treat her to some yayin kuta. Well, probably not but and ken kamaresh, it doesn’t hurt to try it.

  • 6. Mazzi  |  January 2, 2009 at 8:04 am


    So you are with Babi and Blen on the shiro issue huh :-). I laughed when you mentioned how the mere sight of shiro makes you feel ‘alkish-alkish’ :-). My mother being aTbaqi tswami all year round, someone who would invent more tsom qens on the Orthodox Church calendar if she could, she lived mostly on a vegan diet. I was never one for tsom, but boy did I love tsom migib and still do. So shiro, along with other veggies, misir, kik, etc…, was a regular in my mother’s kitchen, and I was one to oblige.

    I love love shiro, and almost panic when my shiro supply is dwindling here as it is right now :-(. So Sistu, feel free to cyber-ship your supply of remaining shiro from your pantry to my direction :-). I see lots of ‘arif alicha shiro beqarya’ in my future.

    I am all behind you for the eradication of overdone agobdajinet by abeshoch, in business or otherwise. It irritates me from here to Timbuktu. It can easily be mistaken for covering up some sense of inferiority or something. I had an older Ethiopian friend, pretty much set in his Pente religious and cultural ways, who was a lecturer in American college class rooms. He was so full of yiluNta and extreme humility bordering on agobdajinet to a point where his students could not take him seriously as an authority figure. I just could not see him commanding respect at all, and what was funny, by Abesha standard he would be considered a really nice and humble man. But that was not working for him at all, and still isn’t.

    This ain’t Ethiopia and if one does not carry oneself as someone who knows their shit, and as someone who deserves to be here, less meaning people will be more than happy to take advantage of you and even have you for breakfast. And the agobdajinet exhibited in business on the assumption that some customers are better or more deserving than others is the worst kind. In relation to our local ETH restaurant, us the ‘second class citizens’ have utilized enough tricks to show our disgust like rolling our eyes, sighing despondently, looking at her with disappointed eyes, and giving ‘oh you are so shaming us Ethiopians’ look from across the room (short of boycotting the business) to the ‘offending’ owner when ever she ‘meneTef’ for ferenjoch more so than her African and Black American customers. But to no avail! So for now, CHirachinin qolifen we march to her restaurant once in a purple moon when we can’t really go on without a bit of injera in our system :-).

    But it is true that we can’t really give up all our complexaminet in the name of fitting in. Some of them actually give us some of our quirkiness, and we can’t all rid ourselves of that now, can we?

  • 7. Inem  |  January 4, 2009 at 8:32 am

    After reading the title of this post, my first thought was my idols do not know of my existence. After reading through the comments, however, hodE aguremereme indiawem denefa bil yishalal. hod lebasew honachihubiN with all your description of my favorite food. Yeshiro taruma is a weird concept to me. Ine wudasE le shiro eyalkuN new yeminorew, after all I owe my survival to shiro. How would I have swallowed the injera made from qeCh qeCh yemil teff, mashila, gebs and idmE le mengE from ruz, if it was not for shiro? I always make sure the pots or tupperwares that contains my miTin, ye ater and ye shimbira shiro are never below the one kilo mark of their precious contents. Luckily I taught myself to bake injera from whatever flour is available to have my shiro whenever I like, sinfina kalyazeN besteqer.
    Mazzi in the old days Chira qulefa was interpreted as tagging along with those who have money when ones pocket is empty. I do understand what your sentence meant and feel you there, I would have done the same.
    Sistu, is there a holy servitude excet for err medhanealem?

  • 8. Mazzi  |  January 4, 2009 at 10:16 am


    Another fellow shiro fan :-). I am with you in not being able to identify with “yeshiro trauma” since I absolutely love all things shiro :-). Miskin Sistu, she is truly missing out.

    Ah! The not so fun memories of “qeCh qeCh yemil Teff” not to mention injera made of mashila, gebs, sinde, or ‘foreign aid’ ruz mixed with a bit of Teff if it was available. Though there is nothing wrong with all the other ‘ehils,’ (in fact, they are quite nutritious!) it was pounded into us that injera not made of exclusively Teff was not up to par.

    Here in exile, we are grateful to find ANY injera regardless of what ‘ehil’ was used to make it … ye-Teff injera of course being the ultimate treat. I sure do not miss those lean years during mengE era (especially during severe drought ridden years) where Teff was really in short supply, and injera made of Teff alone was a luxury many families could not easily afford. My mom fed us enough ‘foreign aid rice’ (sold to city folks on account of rural people not being used to it) when Teff for injera was not available, and all the bland rice I ate made me HATE anything made of rice for many many years! Before I got over myself eventually and learned to love rice again after discovering how versatile it can be, I definitely had a severe ‘rice trauma’ for quite a while! So maybe I can identify with Sistu about her ‘shiro trauma’ after all :-).

    I envy how you taught yourself how to bake injera from what ever flour is available. That way, you can have your precious shiro anytime you want to granted your miTin shiro supply never goes below the one kilo mark :-).

    I did not know that ‘Chira qulefa’ can also be interpreted as tagging along with those who have money when ones pocket is empty. I always thought of it as walking with one’s tail between one’s legs to imply extreme humility. I learn something new every day :-).

  • 9. sistu  |  January 4, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    ayee, maybe its because yegnan bet shiro silalkemesachut that you are thinking shiro is the coolest food around. Ours is/was tasteless, qibEless (of course) and unbearably abundant. Abesheet, I even have a feeling that the one you are presented with on weekends might be different from the one Blen and Babi get treated to on weekdays so pls bekelalu atfrejibachew. We exercise double standards in my household, so forgive my feeling. Mazzi, my lucky pantry has never been graced with Shiro’s presence enji i would have cyber-shipped it all sateyikignim. But i don’t get any ethio foods or their ingredients around here, man feet setogn bilesh? Not even berbere, which is definitely on my wish list. I make do with bePaprika kishin bila yeteserach sils/sigo with pasta. and if i can throw in a few pieces of meat in there, thats me becoming the happiest person alive. i never get tired of pasta though, temesgen. And I definitely agree with you on the ruz thing although i am trying to warm up to it these days. But, as the saying goes, ruz bilo migib.

    Inem, I am afraid there might be holy servitude that doesn’t involve cheru medhanealem. It involves those who can squeeze it out of you like family (cher), teachers, bosses (not cher) etc and who like your servitude of them to get as close to holy as your mortal self can manage to get it. btw, how about you share with us your techniques for baking injera from different flours? I know i could really use that sort of baltina.

  • 10. Mazzi  |  January 5, 2009 at 2:25 am

    Actually Sistu, it is sooooooooo true that not all ‘shiro’s’ are created equal. How many of us actually have enough ‘baltina’ to even know for sure what actually goes into making arif ye-shiro duqet? Shiro is a general term, but besides shimbira (and some other spices) which is a constant ehil in shiro, what other ehil duqet (like ater, kik, baqela, etc..) get incorporated depends mostly on the person preparing the shiro duqet. Even if it is made exclusively with shimbira ehil, the quality of it also matters. So I second your suggestion that not all shiro is prepared the same way. And that is even before we talk about what other ingredients (varying amounts of shinkurt, garlic & ginger paste, tomatoes, salt, qarya, zeit, or qibe etc…) we use to cook the shiro as well. Shiro wot made hastily with fewer and less quality ingredients can taste so bland the same way shiro wot made with all the frills could taste absolutely delicious :-). It looks like you have managed to do without having not only shiro but berbere as well. I guess I can do that if I am forced, but may the universe never bring such a day!

    And don’t even mention the double standard that existed/exists in many households regarding how well the food is prepared depending on who it is intended to. So Abesheet, it might be true as Sistu suggested that your siblings might not get the same shiro you get when you visit your family once in a while. They are residents in the house while you are probably yebirq occasional engida :-). Even in our house, it was the same. The food the ‘Abba Worra’ of the house and ‘kibir engidas’ got definitely was not the same as what the rest of us ate on a daily basis. So Sistu point very well taken!!

    I guess now that I am oceans away from my mother’s kitchen, when ever she prepares shiro with an intention of sending it to me, she uses the best ingredients, so all the more reason why I enjoy the shiro I make on this side :-). But she has not had a chance to send me shiro in quite a long time, so my supply is dwindling :-). So until I know where my next supply of shiro is coming from, I am using my remaining shiro ‘beQuTib ende-medhanit’ only when the craving becomes unbearable :-).

    As for rice, I made amends with it after having a string of close Indian and Asian friends over the years, and learning about the endless and versatile ways they cook rice. Rice is what Teff is to me. They simply can not live without it! Sidet min yalastemaregn neger ale? And with me not having enough ‘baltina’ to even know how to make my own injera, I better make peace with rice though I too like pasta as well. I second your suggestion that Inem should share his secret moya of turning any flour he finds into injera to quench his craving. I want to learn how to do that, so I can stop being a paying slave to our local Eth restaurant owner :-). So Inem, I have no shame to learn much needed baltina from an Ethiopian guy over the Internet at that (though my mother would be mortified to think I have no such shame), so feel free to share your trade secrets.


  • 11. abesheet  |  January 5, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Abesheet, I even have a feeling that the one you are presented with on weekends might be different from the one Blen and Babi get treated to on weekdays so pls bekelalu atfrejibachew.

    Lol, sistu. Maybe you’ve got a point there. Coz, Babi and Blen (haters though they maybe of Shiro) don’t mind “meGuresing” from my dirsha when i’m having it. Not to mention, mine wasn’t so hot while i was growing up either. I’ve decided long ago that Shiro was the one thing you miss when there ain’t no prospect of getting it (which is true enough for me). Seeing Mazzi and Inem giving it the vote of confidence, however, makes me wonder if i should re-think all my Shiro-related convictions held steadfastly thus far. For example, I have believed anybody who prefers shiro to siga (when they are both available) are kids from well to do family who didn’t have much of it while growing up. Or they are ‘mama boys’ and ‘mama girls’ who think of their mother, and her “ejj”, as above all women’s. And those classmates and colleagues of mine who came from our side of town claiming to love shiro over “siga”, along with those who declare “yeBeG siGa yishetegnal” everytime your “yeQebena Lij” self cheerfully recommends it for lunch, I have always seen as “aGul… yeHabtam lij negn bai”. Where, after all, cometh the saying “Sew birtu dimet tenkara” if not from “Qebena bemiyalfibachew seferoch”?!

  • 12. Mazzi  |  January 5, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Abesheet, based on what you wrote above, you could easily develop a personal philosophy to infer into people’s backgrounds based on their preferences for shiro or not and under what circumstances. It is true that it makes a difference whether people prefer shiro or not when siga is also readily available. I am a self declared hopeless ‘mama’s girl’ and of course as a true ‘mama’s girl’ I don’t think any other woman’s ‘ejj’ is above that of my Mother’s :-), or that of my grandmother’s (who was my mother’s influence after all). But I am afraid I am not doing a good job of carrying the passed down torch when it comes to baltina. Besides, I totally associate siga with a lot of stress my mother suffered in her marriage when she was not able to provide siga-wot as frequently as the ‘abba-worra’ wanted it. So unless we were sometimes eating with him and sharing what was cooked for him, often times she had to deprive the rest of the family of any siga related cooking in order to marazem her limited siga megZa funds. Barring my siga related anxiety stemming from my growing days, however, I love a well cooked kostara siga-wot (qey, or alicha) as much as the next red blooded Ethiopian. But my own meat based cooking never comes out like that of my Mother’s. So I often cook vegetarian at home (shiro included), and indulge in kitfo and Tibs when I venture out to Eth restaurants :-).

  • 13. abesheet  |  January 5, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Wow! This always comes as a surprise to me, Mazzi, every time i heard how some families prepared a different “dist” for the Abawara. In my family, the kids ate (and still eat) better than both the father and the mother. My father was an only child out of nine (8 died, he survived) so he had the best of everything when growing up. Which you’d expect would affect him differently than it did. (But again, yetignaw formula serto yaQal, when it comes to human beings, aydel?!). Maybe nothing surprised him when it came to food, for he has seen better, or he felt he has no right to ask for more coz my mom earned better than him most of their lives (inspite of her not having finished 12 grade when they met and he had two diplomas under his belt). But if you put a bit of “mitmita” on a dereQ enjera, he’d eat it as gratefully as he would a tire siga from choosen “yeHarar singa “.

    I remember how our maid servant of 21 years used to tell me she doubts he even notices what he’s eating. The only thing he asked for, when it came to food, is “buna beQibe”. He yearns for it and complains how he used to have it any time he wanted when young. So my mother gives it to him, using his father’s ‘golden sini’ (just painted gold) for holiday mornings — Dabo keteQorese behwala. If ever something special is prepared for my dad, he finishes it by “maGuresing” it to his kids. Who finish their portion first and wait around like hawks for my dad to start his. They won’t refuse his “Gursha” even when they are full. And usually choke on it as it is usually too big.

    Not being picky, however, isn’t the only trait my dad exhibited when it comes to food. He neither wanted to eat out of home or kept a penny off his salary to himself. Which, i guess, made everything else bearable to my mom. She certainly found that side of his impressive. “Shai enkuwa eko keGuadegnochu gar aytetam”, i hear her saying every time a wife complained of a “qintu” husband. That and the fact that he was too crazy about her to even look at other women, although he’s way – wayyyy – more good looking than her. Made her feel pretty important to him, i guess. Which makes sense when you see how stingy, unfaithful and independent some of her friend’s husbands are.

  • 14. Inem  |  January 5, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Mazzi and Sistu, I would gladly writie a recipe for you ladies though I will be sad to think the amelmalo injera you bake would be used on a well cooked kostara siga-wot (qey, or alicha) not a shiro.
    Indeed ke shirom shiro alew, and my mom’s is the best (conforming to Abesheets inference but not quite) which incidentally makes mine also great (at least all my friends and their kids, who were born in ferenj ager, want to eat shiro at my place). The secret is in the way the shiro is prepared, not always necessarily how it is cooked. the one I bring from home, specially the miTin can be basically boiled in water and oil and it comes out fine.
    Coming to Abesheets inference, I am certainly not ye qilTiTE lij, perhaps remotely a mama’s boy. There was no distinction in our house it is shiro for everybody, from aba werra to kutara. Saydegis ayTalam indilu my mother was blessed with the best shiro recipe. As I said before if it was not for shiro’s ability to sustain my qeChaCha body with “adequate” nutritional requirements I would not be here menChaChating on this cyber-bet, instead I would have meChar wede semay-bet long ago. So denouncing shiro is tantamount to inEnetEn mekad.
    It is possible the samma (yetegerefkubet sayhon ye gomen mitikE) may have contributed some vitamins together with the fruits I alfo alfo meqaremd from hospital keteNa zemed and gorebet.

    Here comes the recipe:
    Flours: Teff, wheat, barley, millet…
    yeast (the paste type or dry)
    salt and yegzEr wuha

    preparing a starter yeast culture:
    take ~5gm of the yeast paste (2cmX2cmX2cm cube size) and mix it in 100ml warm water.
    mix equal amount of the teff flour with wheat, barley or millet flours (50-100gm of each) in the yeast suspension and let it ferment a day.

    The starter dough you prepared the first day will settle and a liquid/supernatant will appear on top (maqrering after fermentation). Discard the liquid and mix the dough with fresh warm water (100-200ml)
    Add equal amount (500gm) of Teff flour, and either the wheat or barley or millet, in the starter dough and mix well (mabukat bedenb). the dough should not be too thick or thin either, lidlid yale (a bit thinner than a bread or pizza dough), use more warm water if necessary, and let it ferment for two to three days.
    After fermentation, when the dough is again maqrering, you can either make the dough thinner, using the liquid on top or discard that and use boiled water (or absit if you like) to the preferred density you could actually make injera. wait for an hour and bake the thinned dough on a teflon plated frying pan. I myself use a 26” hackmann teflon plated frying pan. I usually boil water on the frying pan and then gently scrub the surface with grains of fine salt before I pour the dough on it.

    leave some dough at the end and that will be your starter culture for next time. The starter culture can be kept in the fridge for long as long as you cahnge the liquid, which could be contaminated with all sorts of fungi, once in a while.

    Good luck

  • 15. Mazzi  |  January 5, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Selam Inem,

    I am humbled that you honored our request for you to share your trade secret to injera making. I am impressed by how detailed and well thought out your recipe and prep description was, and I wondered if you ever worked in a laboratory :-). ‘Supernatant, cube sizes, mg, ml’ anyone? Just kidding :-). Was a ‘lab-rat’ for a good part of my journey in this place measuring all the way down to a ‘microliter( µl), nanogram (ng), and nanometer (nm)’ level, but it has yet to lead to anything worth my while :-(. Hated it :-).

    It is difficult to give/get a detailed recipe to any ‘abesha cooking’ as every person does it just so… “bemeTenu irsho, tinish Teff, tinish sinde duqet, absit saybeza,” etc.. is how usually Abeshas give recipes…no specific measurements the way they usually are written in recipe books. So my hats off to you for being specific. It will make my possible ‘addis injera gagarinet’ much easier. A friend told me about some mail order company that sells Teff and ships it to customers, so she and I are thinking of ordering and doing this injera thing ourselves. She is just as fed up as I am about our current injera situation. So I sense a revolution coming!

    I love the tribute you pay to lasadegeh shiro, the occasional sama for vitamins, and fruits from hospital keteNa zemed. The way fruits were reserved for only sick people back home, you would think they were medicine for all kinds of ailments. As for sama, one of my childhood traumas was FULLY falling against sama covered aTir, and being burnt severely (still hurts thinking about it!) all over my arms and legs! So sama and I are not friends vitamin or not :-).

    Thanks again for the injera tips. Much appreciated!

  • 16. Mazzi  |  January 6, 2009 at 5:00 am

    Ah Abesheet, I can write THE book on families who prepared a different ‘dist’ for the Abawera :-). My family took the phenomenon to a new height, I might add all out of necessity! My mother had no choice if she was also to feed the rest of her immediate and extended family (Abesha mechem tereji zemed ayaTawim) with her meager income. How she managed to do it year after year, only God knows.

    The Abawera was the center of his own universe, and as far as he was concerned, the Sun revolved around him along with his family members. The Abawera’s decent salary (double that of my mother’s) was mostly his ‘pocket money’ to do as he pleased and sporadically used to buy the occasional amet-b’al begg or mukit fiyel leTire siga (his favorite) and some luxury big ticket items that he enjoyed with his other Bolle Abaweras. He considered helping his wife out with mortgage, school fees and supplies, monthly grocery or other general bills a favor she did not always deserve. And when he did help out sometimes, he would not let her (or us for that matter) hear the end of it! After all, according to him it was her business to feed him and the family in addition to single handedly running the household. And there was often hell to pay if he did not like what was presented to him to eat.

    And when siga was not available, he would not even touch shiro if it did not have at least qibE in it. And qibE being expensive and all (even at that time), my mother used to put a little bit of it AFTER the shiro is finished cooking so the taste of the qibE was still prominent for the Abawera’s taste buds into believing that was beqibE yetesera shiro. He was too smart for her, however, and upon being served, the Abawera was often heard shouting from migib-bett all the way to the kucina…”Yihen qibE banat banatu shiro lay meCHemer tewugn biye alneberem?!” Classic!

    We the children ate the food from the good ‘dist’ when ever he invited us to eat with him especially on amet-b’als. He was big on showing off to all who came to visit us on amet-b’als, and my mother was expected to prepare a feast. And his relatives (never my mother’s!) often came in droves fully expecting a feast on holidays. We sure did not like his ‘keeping up with Bolle-esque appearances’ tendencies on such days (even on other days for that matter!), but we enjoyed the food from his ‘dist’ nonetheless as we knew the very next day we are back to my mother keeping his portion of ‘siga/doro-wot’ aside, and severely ‘diluting’ the rest with water to make it last longer for the rest of us. All the remaining enqulals and doro siga not eaten on amet-b’al qen were reserved for the Abawera lest he asks for them the next day, and he expected to eat yebeg siga long after the holiday was over, or else! The poor beggs and fiyels slaughtered at our house did not know how long their remains had to be miraculously stretched to up ease the Abawera’s siga loving taste buds. Naturally, he gladly assumed we all lived as he did. Denial is not a river in Africa bilew yele bilTochu? Severely ‘diluted’ doro-wot, by the way, is not even worth calling it that. Enkwan siga, shinkurtum ayitayim, and tasted as bland as it looked :-). I would rather eat arif shiro or gomen beqarya instead :-).

    On regular days we went back to our usual staple when he was not watching. That usually consisted of my mother’s constant yetsom migib (shiro included), but it was not really bad since she was resourceful enough to always make the food taste at least decent even when she did not have money to add frills to it. Even at her most difficult, she always made sure we had something to eat, and I shall forever be grateful for that. Fruits, what fruits? Who had money for that anyways except for muzina birtukan given to us when we got sick 🙂 As Inem said, I would not be here today “menCHaChating” (to use his word) at your Tej bett had it not been for her survival instinct under very difficult circumstances.

    Our Abawera so enjoyed his self granted freedom to come and go as he wished (we often played a guessing game as to his where abouts) not to mention his ‘pocket money’ (salary) to do as he pleased. So he held on to his ‘salaried’ wife whom he hated to his core so he could use her money to run his house and raise his children. When she tried to leave him, he made sure she could not take us with her, so she always came back. He knew she would always come back for the kids.

    Come to think of it, it was not just a different (read better) ‘dist’ that was reserved for the Abawera. There were better plates, glasses, coffee cups, bed sheets, blankets, garments, and even better furniture and gadgets in the house that were exclusively for his use! God forbid if we used any of them and broke or ruined them. It was not worth the risk I tell ya. So we let him have his things, and tip-toed around him all our lives for the sake of not angering the needlessly fierce Abawera (though we did not always succeed). He was a deeply unhappy man who probably walked around with massive amount pain stemming from the many life disappointments he faced, and he made sure those around him also felt his pain by inflicting it himself. We tolerated his ways when we did not have a choice till we all could live out our dreams of ‘egrE awCHign!’ from ‘his’ house when the right time came. Eventually we all did, and never looked back :-).

    But it took for me to be an adult to fully appreciate my mother’s plight in raising us. Growing up, not quite having all our adult brain cells yet, my brothers and I just thought she was simply being unfair by putting the Abawera’s needs before ours. It did not even occur to our young minds that no one, including us, was thinking about her needs and wants beyond those of ours and the Abawera’s. Eventually (madegin yemesele neger yelem) we came to understand her life, physical safety, and sanity depended on having to please the Abawera at all cost, and preparing a different ‘dist’ was definitely one of them. It did not always work however, and she often was put in tremendous amount of mental and physical pain in that man’s hands. But she had a strong spirit, and she survived the Abawera’s reign towards her own freedom though it literally took decades! But man! That woman had a doozie masquerading as a husband.

    That, in a nutshell, is why I am totally a “mama’s girl” and terribly fond of her yasadegeN shiro that I still enjoy to this day :-).

  • 17. Inem  |  January 6, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Mazzi, kudos to you the mama girl. sometimes Yenat wuletawa indeed huala new yemitasebew. One can almost live what you wrote while reading it, though I never imagined a bole abawera tormenting his household in the way described. I thought this only happens in a tidar goeverned by low-middle-incomed-katikala-Tej-qomquami-yemeshetabet-qileT abawera.
    As for the units described in the recipe, I too have my share of mawdeldel in a lab and don’t hate it. I hope your micro nano endeavours bring something worthwhile to you.

  • 18. abesheet  |  January 6, 2009 at 12:51 pm


    Ahun yeEthiopia enatochim BeFird qen keLelaw gar ekul yiQomalu? Seriously! Their lives was and is “hell on earth” that Saint Peter should “maanQotQot” heaven’s door for them come the sounds of trumpet. “Here,” he should say “enter my Lord’s rest, for nobody else deserves it better than you”.

    Thank you so much for sharing sweetheart. It was heartbreaking and an awesome read.

  • 19. Mazzi  |  January 6, 2009 at 1:39 pm


    “I thought this only happens in a tidar goeverned by low-middle-incomed-katikala-Tej-qomquami-yemeshetabet-qileT abawera.”

    Lol Inem :-). Substitute Tejina katikala with Birrana Whisky, and yemeshetabet with hotel and restaurant bars, then good for nothing Abaweras who often derive some sick pleasure from tormenting their wives and families with their drunken ambwa-gwaros become one and the same whether they hail from Bolle or not. Trust me, I know!

    I knew you had a bit of some laboratory yesira limd in you from your metric measurments, and even better that you liked it. Wish I can say the same :-(.


    If there is no special designated place in Heaven for yeEthiopia enatoch (and all other oppressed women everywhere at the hands of their men folk), then God ‘himself’ must be a Man who madalats for his gender by giving men excess power and very little compassion for their women folk. So though I often think of God as a ‘He’ from years of Catholic school conditioning and Orthodox Church upbringing, in the end ‘He’ better be genderless/gender-neutral OR at the very least maybe a ‘She’! We women can not be losing out both in this world, and the hear-after. That would be a double whammy I tell ya.

    Melkam Genna Amet-B’al to you and yours, and to Inem, Sistu, and all your other readers. Wish I could sneak into Addis just for a day on Genna to spend the day with my family back home. I sure miss my mother’s cooking :-).

  • 20. abesheet  |  January 6, 2009 at 2:35 pm


    I typed “But again.. He, too, is a guy, isn’t he? No wonder the world is fucked up” before asking myself what i was trying to prove and delete it. Yeah.. God, if there is one, must be a man (A man with all kinds of issues too). All you need to do is take a look @ the Book of Leviticus. That book is horrifying, to say the least.

    This year’s Christmas is definitely better than last years’. The year before, Chris was here and we spent it at my parent’s house. Never enjoyed a holiday more. So last year was a downer. Still, I ain’t feeling as good about this one approaching as I did, say, Friday morning (when i got the package 😉 ). The roads are jammed with traffic so me and friends have decided to get home early. A decision I am not exactly looking forward to. Does the thought of my mother’s “DoRo wot” brighten the horizon?

    Definitely 😉 .

  • 21. Mazzi  |  January 6, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    You know Abesheet … for some reason, I have always believed some higher power (God: as we are taught to narrowly define him/her/it) is definitely out there.

    And if ‘God’ is out there, more likely than not, I have a sneaking suspicion that it is definitely a HE!! It sure would explain a lot of patterns in this cruel world that favor the male gender over females, and all the testosterone laced wars of all kind since Adam himself started populating the world with his ill gotten and born out of paradise kids :-). That is my biased opinion anyways.

    Secretly though I hope God has no gender. But if God has to have a gender, I hope it is a ‘She’. Wishful thinking on my part. My very aTbaqi Christian Enat would be mortified to hear me speculate God’s gender or lack of. She is extremely traditional in her religious views, and leaves very little room in her psyche for questioning God’s ways. She prays extra hard for me because she thinks my faith is the wavering kind, and on top of that I have the audacity to question God. She shudders and crosses herself when she often hears me say, “This God of your has a lot of explaining to do!” But it is her faith that got her through her trials, so for that I give respect :-).

    If you are reminiscing with beautiful memories of Gennas past when ‘the silent blog reader’ was there celebrating the holiday with you and your family, then the prospect of not having him around this time around must really be painful for both of you. Think instead of the many many wonderful future holidays you will celebrate with each other, God willing starting soon.

    In the mean time, I also wish a very happy Ethiopian Genna (Christmas) to the ‘silent blog reader’ who resides on my side of the ocean. Happy holidays Chris! Hope you have some injera & doro-wot on the Ethiopian Christmas holiday from some local Ethiopian restaurant. Why should you be left out?

    And Abesheet, make sure you enjoy your mother’s doro-wot a little extra on behalf of those of us just salivating at the thought of home cooked holiday meals :-).

    Melkam Genna to you and your again.

  • 22. sistu  |  January 6, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Mazzi, Melkam Gena! wishing you a joyful day. Imagine me handing you yeGenna card across IP borders (kewileta yikoterilign). btw, your post had more meaning to it than I can ever begin to share. A heartfelt appreciation for writing it!!

    Inem, Quite a kumnegeregna! Alawshihim, I am looking forward to having my sister try out your recipe (u may have scared me away from any moya aspirations i may have been harboring for myself). But much, much thanks for sharing it, and do forgive me beforehand but i hope i get to disappoint you by eating it with a well-cooked kostara siga wet (beegegnima..) Melkam Gena for now but lefasika, i will definitely injera megager.

    Abitee, wish you the melkamest gena of all melkam genas. Sorry you are spending it without Chris (may i?). Regardless, I wish you both a happy time.

  • 23. Mazzi  |  January 6, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Melkam Genna to you too Sistu!

    YeGenna cardishin across the IP borders teqebiyalehu :-). Thank you.

    Isn’t Inem QumnegereNa indeed about posting his injera recipe per our request? LeGenna bayhonim, maybe leFasika injera rasachin gagren we shall make him proud of his baltina lessons.

    You will toast your new injera megager moya with kostara siga-wot, and maybe I will taost mine Qinn yalech shiro so as not to dissapoint Inem ;-).

    Have a joyous Genna again.

  • 24. abesheet  |  January 8, 2009 at 6:49 am

    If you are reminiscing with beautiful memories of Gennas past when ‘the silent blog reader’ was there celebrating the holiday with you and your family, then the prospect of not having him around this time around must really be painful for both of you.

    I wish it was only Chris missing that made yesterday’s Genna the worst Genna ever. But it’s not. Things have changed, and not for the better.

    Now, there were days in which my family celebrated holidays in a typical Ethiopian fashion. The tella or birz would be prepared. The smell of “tikus difo dabo” would fill the air. The ‘itan’ would “metbolbol” from where it sat between the “tej sar” smelling grass, while the tape plays “Awdametu simeta sikeber lidetu”. Not now. My mother has become a protestant christian so she neither prepares Tella, nor would allow itan to come near the house. Even when i “meGozgoz” the saar, she looks unhappy because somebody or other talked against it in the church. [When did Religion and “bAAhil” become “aynina nacha” in Ethiopia, anyway?!]. The only thing that remained (“YebeAl morning” coffee) had to be put off until 2:00 in the afternoon since my mother has gone to work in the morning and our maid servant of 21 years wasn’t there. I spent most of the day trying to bring some order to the house (Babi and Blen were too buzy watching Fox Series to prepare “yeGenna Zaaf”) and “abwArA mabunening” (my dad is building an extra room, and all the ‘siminto’ seems to have found it’s way into the living room). The fact that I couldn’t find “saar”, which no holiday felt like a holiday to me without, was the last straw.

    Still.. I am grateful that i have a family to enjoy it with, and unlike previous years, in peace! (hell-raiser brother have gone to prison for a few months now). The doro, ofcourse, was a compensation. But not as big a compensation as it would have been if situations were different.

  • 25. Mazzi  |  January 8, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Oh Abesheet… I am so sorry to hear your Genna was not as festive as it could have been. That must have been very hard actually since the holidays are all about ‘going home’ either physically, mentally, figuratively, metaphorically, or all of the above. ‘Home’ where we should feel a sense of belongingness to, when ever we go there. But sadly, it seems like for one reason or another, the goal post to what really ‘home’ is keeps getting shifted sometimes. How heart breaking even if it is an inevitable fact. And women (mothers) being keepers of our traditions and bahil, if they (the ebett-emebetts) are not invested in it, then children or Abaweras alone can’t really get into the spirit of things all on their own.

    Why does religion have to suck the fun out of living by putting heavy emphasis on the here-after and denying one’s self from the joys and pleasures of the here and now? That is why I can never be down with organized conservative religion. It discourages people from thinking for themselves :-(. How did Babi and Blen take the new changes? Or were they least affected as long as they get to do what they wish on the day? How about your Dad? Has he adapted to the new changes as well? Just curious.

    Don’t even tell me about the pain of conservative religious ways taking over the lives of people close to our hearts, and not always for the better. I can totally relate in that department! My mother is the same in that aspect, though in her case it all started after she took ‘Qurban’ and rededicated herself to the Orthodox Church few years after I left home. She was a very liberal, and yet deeply religious and dedicated Church goer when we were growing up. But though her religion guided her ways and gave her strength in developing her faith, it never took over her life the way it has now.

    In her case, her rededication to a more conservative religious ways apparently meant no more taking alcohol of any kind (no Tej, no Tella), no bunna maflat (apparently caffeine is the new evil according to the often ignorant Quesoch!), no ITan maCHesse (ITan all of a sudden is only for Church Qiddases and traditional pagan religious ceremonies .. big no no!), and most of all, no listening to alemawi muziqa except these newly popular Orthodox Church mezmur and stuff. How awesomely dull and boring!!

    Holidays we celebrated at home when the Abawera was travelling abroad or out of town for business were simply the best at our house. When ever the Abawera travelled, he temporarily took the stress he induced in the house with him. So in his absence, the house was more relaxed and filled with joy, music and laughter. For a change, we got to invite our mother’s side of relatives (who were usually not welcome when the Abawera was around) to our house, and we relished the company of our maternal aunts, uncles, and cousins. With less stress on her shoulders, my Mother used to go all out making the holidays extra special without the burden of the Abawera’s constant criticism. She would still prepare a feast, diffo dabo, Tella, Qollo, fendisha etc.. and her legendary coffee brewing ceremony.

    She would megozgoz QeTema all over the floors, along with mashila fendisha and rose petals from her garden. Itan would be ‘menbolbolign’ from the maCHesha while she personally roasted coffee with cardamom. The aroma of all these wonderful scents filling the rooms would simply be intoxicating. She would open all the salon-bett windows and doors, and in her tape player she would put her MuluQen’s cassette and up the volume of the player for good measure. MuluQen would then be heard crooning his legendary love songs from all corners of the giBi, welcoming her ingidas. She was her happiest then, and we were happy seeing her like that for a change. That was then, and now is another story….

    Post ‘Qurban’ era and even after she finally left the Abawera, she celebrated holidays sans the Tella, Tejj, bunna, ITan, and definitely no MuluQen or Aster (her other favorite singer) crooning from her living room tape player. She, my aunt (her sister), and my aunt’s family now celebrate very somber holidays heavily laced with religious prayers and mezmur, and very little fun. My cousins who grew up in this dull era never know anything different, and I feel sorry for them. I often chastise my Mother that she and her sister are pushing their extreme religious ways on my poor teenage cousins by dragging them to sinfully long (hours and hours!) prayer sessions at the local church. She sometimes listens to me and spares them from this ordeal by leaving them at home when she and her sister go to lengthy Qidasse or prayer sessions. After heavy negotiations, they at least let my cousins listen to any ‘alemawi’ music I send them from this side in addition to their own choices from back home with some exceptions. And she has promised not to push anything down their throats at least.

    My mother who instilled in me my love for coffee ceremonies with all the works, Ethiopian music and the theater (she used to take us to plays as a rare treat) now finds herself even regretting those days because some stupid yenefs abat Quess had made her repent for ‘her sinning years.’ But I chose my battle and opted to respect her ways as long as she left my cousins alone, and that is enough for me.

    I bet you missed the ‘silent blog reader’ even more under the new circumstances you found your family in for the holidays. I guess such events are sharp reminders that maybe we should really start our own holiday rituals with our own families! So see where your “Bogus” movie inspired new revelations about yourself take you towards forming your own family with the ‘silent blog reader’ :-). Then you can come up with your own brand of Ethiopian/American holiday rituals. What do you think?

  • 26. abesheet  |  January 8, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    I guess such events are sharp reminders that maybe we should really start our own holiday rituals with our own families! So see where your “Bogus” movie inspired new revelations about yourself take you towards forming your own family with the ‘silent blog reader’ .

    Lol. If my “bogus” experience has taken me all that far, Mazzi, I’d have probably not written that article. For the idea of having people who can’t help themselves coming under my wings terrorizes the day light out of me. Inspite of being told that i’m more caring a daughter/sister/friend/etcetera than anybody deserves, the thought of being a mother and a wife daunts me instead of pumping me up. Putting me, no doubt, in my mother (and all the mother/wives i know) shoes. Netela yelebesech sett wearing a face itched with worries, carrying a bag full of timatim and Shinkurt “festal begezegezew ejjwa”, and following a “wezader” with “amedam” shoes is what comes to my head when i think of an Ethiopian wife and mother. Even the modern wives around me, who have got degress and earn in thousands, seem to be laboring under the same load and the same worries their mothers did. Not a very pretty picture, is it?!

    What’s more, isn’t going back [to your home, your childhood, the way things used to be] (as you said) the whole point of enjoying an Ethiopian holiday? Creating your own family tradition sounds like a poor imitation of what you have lost and are likely never to have. A “tirffu dikam” attempt that is likely to frustrate more than please.

    Still, I enjoyed every line of your comment dearest. So picturisque. So beautiful. So.. Ethiopian! [Ever thought of blogging 😉 ?]

    How did Babi and Blen take the new changes? Or were they least affected as long as they get to do what they wish on the day? How about your Dad? Has he adapted to the new changes as well? Just curious.

    Hmm.. Babi and Blen are “this” generation’s children. They neither knew nor value the things we do. As long as they have their ipods, video games and satellite receivers; and all it takes to have your three times a day meal is washing your hand and sitting pretty, they don’t really care. My dad, on the other hand, has been keeping my mother company a lot these past few months (she’s once proudly told me how he goes out to wash the “sehan” he ate with) to complain about anything. But he was walking around more aimlessly than he does on weekends. So I guess he missed the holidays we had in the past.

  • 27. Mazzi  |  January 9, 2009 at 6:19 am

    Abesheet: I have been MAJORLY ‘mawdeldeling’ around your Tej-Bett way too much lately, and taking space in your humble abode more than what is my fair share! (*Blush*: a bit embarrassed about that :-)). Atitazebign dear, and that goes the same for other faithful ‘silent’ readers who might have noticed my excessive ‘mawdeldeling’ and ‘chattiness’ as well :-).

    It is just that your Tej-Bett lately finds me at a crucial cross road in my life while stewing in a very reflective mood and you keep raising issues that are very close to my heart. And it does not help that I am too opinionated about a lot of things! So all these are bad combinations ending up in my excessive ‘menCHaCHating’ at your Tej-Bett. So bear with me for a bit more till I shut up for a while, and your Qenna audience to my comments is much appreciated :-). I have known for long that there is a blog in me just waiting to born, but now does not feel like the right time (long story why that is the case). And timing is everything! So stay tuned for the delivery date :-), and you are pre-invited to come and eat some ‘genfo’ on that date.

    It is pretty clear from some of your previous posts what your takes are on the concepts of (Ethiopian) motherhood. So I was teasing you about your possible “Bogus” inspired thoughts about the subject. Oh I sooooooooo agree with you about the image that comes to mind when we think of Ethiopian mothers. Their burdens stemming from motherhood in an oppressive culture that we all grew up witnessing is definitely not appetizing to feel inspired about the prospect of motherhood for us women. I am with you on that one, much to my mother’s dismay. According to my mother, women’s worthy reward for surviving a difficult life just because they were born as females is the successful raising of their children into adulthood. Never mind how they were raised or if they became well adjusted adults! It is just lucky they survived, and maybe these children will heal their mother’s miserable pasts by taking care of them in their old age.

    While I remain terribly conflicted about the prospect of motherhood, time waits for no one, and I hate how a lot of my major decisions in life were/are motivated partly by fear. I am fighting every day for fear not to have the last say in my life, but I don’t always win. After witnessing the less than desirable marriages of my mother and just about every other female relatives of mine (with few very lucky exceptions here and there), why would any body sign up for more of that willingly??? And add the burden of having to raise children in such stifling environment, then you have the perfect recipe for producing psychologically broken souls even when they have achieved successes in other aspects of their adult lives. Life in Ethiopia is so challenging for most families, especially those with meager incomes/resources, that emotional well being of all family members is a luxury most can not even afford or even fully comprehend. And yet, our emotional wellbeing or lack there off influences the many decisions we make as adults.

    Most families here in America raise their children by preparing them for the time they will eventually leave home and create a life of their own. It is customary to expect children to leave their family homes after they reach eighteen and learn to live on their own whether they go to college, pick up a trade, or start working right away. This preparation is not just physical but emotional as well where young adults learn to differentiate away from the protection of their parents. Adult children still maintain some relationships with their parents where they might come back home sometimes on holidays and such, but for the most part, they lead very independent lives. Of course it is their well functioning social infrastructures that make moving and making a life for themselves easier for these young adults in addition to parents’ capacity to mostly take care of themselves in old age through their retirements, social security, and government social assistance when necessary.
    Lets face it…at home in Ethiopia, after raising children in difficult circumstances, most parents’ retirement plan is the help they expect to get from their children in their golden years. Adult children venture into their lives with the full knowledge of that, and what a heavy burden that is!! God forbid if such children disappoint their parents by not succeeding in one way or another. With or without past difficult relationships with parents, the expectation that adult children are supposed to take care of their parents is very much there, and the reality of our social and economic structure often just requires it.

    Most Ethiopian adult children manage to carry this heavy responsibility just fine while the rest of us crumble under its tremendous weight. Many Ethiopian children are encouraged to eventually ‘leave home’ physically (be it to another goJo in the same compound upon marriage or even across oceans in sidet). They are expected to make something of themselves but they are hardly prepared to ‘leave’ their families emotionally. In some cases, our unhealthy emotional entanglements with our families (whether we live with them, near them, or oceans away from them) limit us from fully and freely exploring our own psyche towards truly independent lives.

    When my friends ask why I don’t seem to rush towards having a family of my own, I tell them I already have a family that heavily worries me and makes me feel responsible for their lives and existence, and adding helpless children and possibly a demanding husband makes it feel redundant. I don’t feel like I am ‘free’ from my family (and I desperately want to be so!), and I don’t even see them often!!! I left home, but the troubles of home I was trying to escape did not leave me unfortunately, and they heavily influence my choices in my current life. I am such a cliché I tell you.

    Though I said earlier that holidays are about going ‘home’, it is more a fantasy than a reality. I don’t know what or where ‘home’ is for me actually. Even the ‘good old days’ intercepted with horrible times do not make it easier to physically go ‘home’. And after living in this country for more years than I care to admit, it STILL does not feel like ‘home’ and I don’t know if it ever will :-(. Ideally, however, the idea of going ‘home’ for the holidays, at least for me, is not so much to reclaim the past and how it used to be growing up as much as it is to be part of the new entity the family has evolved in to. But we don’t do a good job of evolving together into a new entity agreeable to everyone. Often, we evolve independently in every direction imaginable while some family members refuse to evolve at all and just cling to what it used to be or at least should be. This idea of not meeting one another at a common ground creates untold stress among family members, and as a result going ‘home’ can generate much unpleasantness instead of the sense of belongingness we all crave for.

    So creating new traditions should not really be about re-creating or replicating what was lost, but about allowing oneself to differentiate from what used to be the original family unit into a new entity of our own in accordance to our new lives. I do not support this idea of slaving all day or even all week (mostly by the mothers of the house) in preparation for a holiday to up-ease members of the family.

    As much as I love love love Doro-wot, for example, as much as the next Ethiopian, I hate hate (did I say hate) how long it takes to prepare it! I simply do not have that kind of patience, and nobody is worth slaving over for those many hours. I am just as happy with Tibs that takes half an hour to prepare, and I refuse to be tied to my kitchen all the time. I have got better things to do, and places to see :-). So an example of holiday tradition on this side for me, for example, could be baking a simple birthday cake for baby Jesus on Christmas, as he is the reason for the season, and sharing it with friends instead of wasting time in malls shopping for gifts I can’t afford to people who may or may not appreciate them. This country has a huge problem of indulgence, and we all get sucked into it even when we know better.

    If I were to create them, traditions would be more about spending quality time filled with joy and laughter with loved ones more than what fancy holiday meals I will be feeding them. A nicely prepared shiro with Teff injera should be just fine for me on holidays as long as I am sharing it with the right person(s) :-). I guess that is what I meant about new traditions.

    OK, I have babbled enough for one day, aymeslishim? Thank you for your patience in reading this, and my one of New Year’s resolutions is to learn to be concise and less wordy in my writing :-). Wish me luck on that one, as it is quite a tall order for me!

    Thank you again for your welcoming Tej-Bett, and for having a generous spirit when it comes to sharing your abode with ‘leflafi’ readers who can’t seem to just shut up sometimes :-). I promise to do better.


  • 28. abesheet  |  January 9, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Reading your [sistu’s and everybody else’s, for that matter] comment is simply a treat to any blogger. More to me because you guys have a way of putting my [clouded by emotions, inexperience and lame english] thoughts/beliefs/convictions in a flawless language. Infact, it is not seeing a new comment every time i logged in [like 10 times an afternoon 😉 ] that makes me blue. So please.. please.. “mawdeldel” more and chat as much as you feel is necessary to get your point across. I wouldn’t change a word of your comments if i could. Neither should you.

    The gist of it has been noted. And given due consideration, i assure you, when the time comes. Thank you for caring.

  • 29. Rahim  |  July 14, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Personally I want to go back to Ethiopia and live there. My husband feels it would be a bad move for our kids since he is christian and I am muslim. He brings up the case of Tamrat Layne and Shadia going through so much trouble because the society donot accept kids with christian father and muslim mother. From what I know Tamrat and shadia took the money from Sheikh Alamoudi to get abortion of their baby which would make Tamrat be considered as a disgrace as emperror Eyassu. My husband is a common person with no fame like Tamrat unless he appears on TV to testify his aim .

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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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