While waiting at the airport:
A fellow-traveler (who lived in America for 6 years and seem to have spend those years accumulating hatred towards Mexican Americans, whom he referred to as “Kebtoch” – “Kebtoch nachewu sewu endaimeslush”) warned me about single moms. How I shouldn’t associate with their welfare-Sebssabi-behind unless I wanted them to destroy my life (by sweeping in and taking my husband), etcetera. I’ve had an “aRaaQi, aQgni, astemari” experience with a single mom, a good woman associating with whom wasn’t such a good thing for me. Since what came out of that toxic friendship was what became of BewQetu’s character in his poem “YeHulet Zemen Sewoch”. Not so much in the aging department, although i aged faster than I’d ever age in those two years, but in throwing away all the good things I had to embrace my friend’s silent anger and bitterness; and not noticing the 10 years difference when she started giving me advices using words like “BeNena banchi edme yalu setoch..”).
It’s gotta be admitted though, there are things worse than associating with a single mom. One of these my waiting-room buddy topped his advices with. “You know who you should hang out with?” he asked, sprinkling me with a bit of ‘miRaQ’ while he talks, “married women! That’s who you should limit your extra-curricular activities with.. women like you!”
On the plane:
I sat next to a talkative man who looks like a big-bonned version of Actor Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson, Fracture, The Notebook) who told me he and his crew were on their way to Illinnoise. The crew is comprised of three male adults and 6 or 7 teenage boys. They were active members of a youth group of his church, he added, going home from an educational trip to Rwanda (where they were allowed to see how the ‘other half’ lives, and get a reality shock in the process). By cooking for kids in a camp and going down to the river to hand-wash clothes with them. “How nice” I said, looking at the 5/6 blonde boys i felt should be living high and doing drugs that were busy walking around bare-footed, playing mobile games or farting in their sleep, “so there is hope to the world”.
Looking down at the dark world from 3?30?,000 feet was like watching a garden-party between the branches of a tree. The fish was delicious. The waitresses, mostly bored.
23 hours of flight (made 27 by the various authorities in whose door I had to park my luggage and present my self), a night at freezing DC, and a 1 hour drive on the free-way later, I’ve arrived at destination’s end.
A week and two days later:
I’ve gotten used to taking a bath, sometimes, twice a day; using a machine to wash my ‘yanGet libs’ and having my drinking water come out of a can. I’ve had as much KFC (minus skin) as I can chew, made friends with one of the waitresses at Ihope and tipped a generous 2 dollars for the delivery boy from Pizza Hut; things I promised Babi and Blen I would do (and report the results of).
Alas, the food section of ‘America’s Finest City’ isn’t the only place I showed my mug in. I’ve sat at a corner in Barnes & Noble, with a Frapuccino infront of me, and chuckled at The Teacher’s Version of Jon Stewart’s “America: The book”. I’ve gone out jogging in the middle of the day, and been both surprised and amazed when realizing that nobody seems to find my jogging odd. I no longer look deaf and dumb when everybody seems to offer to help me; when drivers give me precedence however far I am to their car. And made a habit of reaching for the seat belt the minute I got into my husband’s car.
I have done all these things yet none of those things I thought, & were told, I’d be doing by now: have a hard time sleeping due to time difference, miss my mother’s cooking, home! Nay! I sleep like a baby, have no intention of opening my “yeMiGib Shanta” any time soon and, when it comes to “home”, all I remember is the viciousness — the fact that I’ve been treated as a stranger, a “negro”, in my own country.
So, tell me, when did it happen for you? The realization that you aren’t at home, surrounded by people who can look at your face and read your thoughts? When did you stop marveling at how everything (the quite neighborhoods and the rooms in them, the roads/streets/lanes/avenues/Blvds/Pkwys with their intricate traffic lights, the supermarkets and the stocks they boast of) seem to be well thought of and designed to make your life easy? When was it you stopped uttering the word “if this was Ethiopia..”/“if that was in birr” after observing how nobody seems to notice (laugh, “meteQuaQom”, make faces at) the stupid mistakes you make or have found yourself in the “clearance” section of an Old Navy, WalMart, or Payless respectively. When did you, be honest with me now, stop secretly thinking if there is a God in Ethiopia, America must be where He comes to vacation?!
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