Archive for April, 2009

A home away from home

It was like stepping back into a restaurant in Addis. There was the waiter in cheap “shemiz”, smiling at all the wrong places and trying to show off his English. His friend, and the guy who run the Free WiFi service at the back, was singing loudly along one of Ephrem Tamiru’s 80’s hits and acting as if he owned the place to the uninterested patrons on the two tables: a family of four (where a father was attempting to discipline a daughter by threatening to bring out his belt, while the mother babbled about something she saw or didn’t see in “SanTeeYaaGo”); me & mine. By the time he gave it up and decided to walk home “qess eyale”, our dinner of Tibs and Kitfo has still not come. When it did, it surprised me by tasting better than I expected it to taste. Which, unfortunately, didn’t change the fact that the price was too expensive, that the AmboWuha tasted like it’s already been used and refilled with cold water and there was only one toilet for both the sexes – with a door that doesn’t lock! Not to mention how deserted the restaurant looked for a Friday evening.

However, I still enjoyed every moment of it. Not because Awash [Ethiopian] Restaurant, 4979 El Cajon Blvd – San Diego, proved to be one of the two places in America I can go to whenever I needed going home and seeing my people. Or because I’ve started missing Injera, after repeated attempts to eat healthy made me realize how difficult preparing a meal without “maBaya” was. But because it was the one place I knew I wouldn’t give the impression of being mentaly challenged, intellectually delayed and developmentally disabled — or vice versa.

The last month has been a season of discovery and excitement, with the discovery outweighing the excitement as my Week 2 post would reveal. And the thing that’s been casting shadows on the adventurous spirit has been my apparent inability to understand — English. From the Vietnamese woman to the pregnant Mexican lady trying to push a shopping cart alongside a stroller all the while screaming for her “leMiGib yalanese, leSira yalDerese” son to keep up; be it a shop assistant or a waitress; I have found myself saying “Sorry?”, “I beg your pardon?”, “What was that?!” every time I’m offered help or asked if there was anything else I wanted. With the jokes, I laugh. Laughter is the easiest language in the world; and Americans laugh easily, more so when sex [size or position], drugs [the lack of] and wives [selfishness, stupidity] are discussed. If more than two words (“thank you”, or “excuse me”) are demanded of me, however, I call Chris over and let him do all the talking. I have developed so much doubt and misgivings on my thus-far “alright” English, that I am finally understanding why my country men and women never dared venture out of the herd. Can’t be easy surviving, when you have an inherent objection to learning something new.

Friday evening, however, I was da boss! At home! Among people who know my language, and whose language I recognize without wracking my brain for something resembling the sound. I was so self-possessed and dismissive that it was Chris, the same Chris who has been there once before and was relieved at finding out this was unlike any “MiGib Bett” he knew back in Addis (where he was mistaken for a rich guy by virtue of being half-caucasian), who was stammering and laughing nervously.

It’s good to be home! 🙂

April 26, 2009 at 6:46 pm 5 comments

@ cross roads

I haven’t received my social security number yet but I’m swamped with career choices: with what to do, where to go and what to study. Chris, who knows what it means to do a job you hate, wants me to join the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) to study literature. I do not want to, since pursuing my passion instead of what would bring food to the table feels too spoiled, especially at a time like this. An editing course here, a graphic designing or a photography class there, that’s as far as I’m willing to go when it comes to getting involved in the fine arts.

I googled my options, ofcourse. Nothing satisfactory. Then I sought advice from a couple of abesheets who have been here before me. My cousin Rute (that’s how she writers her name) said I should go to school first, for I wouldn’t have the heart to go to school once I started working. My ex-colleague Biruktayit said I should give it time, weigh my choices, and decide what I want to do. While Enat, the youngest of my cousins, begged me to pro-create first, before it’s too late and I regretted it, then to go to school and study nursing. “Kezia behwalama..”, she added confidently, “kuch bilo birr meZaQ newu, beAmmet eske semania shih yemikefelachew alu…alwu”.

Now I want to know what you think:

[Taking the job market, convenience and affordability into consideration] which do you suggest I consider:

  • Working or going to school?
  • College or university?
  • Online or offline?
  • Criminal Justice, Law or Psychology?

And why?

April 14, 2009 at 12:00 am 21 comments

To: Mazzi, sistu, Inem, others..

Dear SELEDA Friend;

Uh, oh.

Okay, that’s no way to start an email.

IndEt alulinnnn–n? Lijochu, kebtochu, mistochu, balochu…. T’ru… T’ru… shega.

So you probably thought we had finally located our dignity and scuttled to Land O’ CHewinet and respectability. Yes? You misunderestimate us. We’ve been busy living off our Ponzi Scheme—selling SELEDA stock and figuring out the best time to tell our investors that, um, there is no such thing as SELEDA stock, hahaha. But it turns out it was all illegal or some such. Goddamn Commies!

So, as we watch our 401Ks resemble ET politics- one ginormous pile of sketchy, dubious worthless absurdity—we thought, why are we suffering in silence? Why not spread the misery? Now, THAT we are good at.

So, we’ve decided to come back for one last issue—a “goodbye-thank you-the money is on the night stand” issue. It dawned on us that we never said a proper goodbye. The asadagi yebedelew in us is telling us, “Damn straight. It’s how we roll.” But then—this ikek that is ye ItyoPiyawi CHewinet is murmuring sweet nothings about closure. Goddamn Commies!

What do we have to lose? We wanted to put out a plea to our best writers for one last roll in the hay. We hope we can depend on you to dust off your shul b’er and pen one last missive for out “Intin Issue.” Yep. You read that right. The Intin Issue. You basically decide what’s Intin… and then write about it.

Deadline… yes, there is one because our webmaster has to re-enter anger management class on May 1. So, April 30. Plenty of time.

Hoping we hear from you even if it is to say, “InnantE hafrete bisoch….”

SELEDA Editors

April 11, 2009 at 12:02 am 34 comments

Week 3 (A night at Manderley)

My husband’s ex-colleague is married to a woman who is originally from Côte d’Ivoire. He, the husband, not Chris, has been hoping she and I will strike up a friendship (go out shopping, braid eachother’s hair and have naked pillow fights while our husbands whistled and cheered over a glass of beer..i suppose). The logic is, ofcourse, obvious. We are both from Africa. We are both married to men from a different tribe. We both have kinky hair & are likely to be addicted to shopping. A [logical] reasoning that appaled me. So I’ve been avoiding answering the phone every time the ex-colleague, pressed by his wife, gave my husband a call. And kept sending messages like “so when are you guys coming to visit us?”, “why are you guys avoiding me?”, “does she think she’s too good for us”, etcetera, when the calls got no response.

Still, it’s gotta be done and we decided to do it last night. Carrying a 15$ pie, the most expensive in town, we drove to their house with the intent of surprising them. We were the one who were in for a surprise, however. Their neat little house, furnished extravagantly and complete with a fish tank, was filled with the smell of food and strangers’ voices. The voices belonged to guests who decided to drop on the newly-wed that very night, too. A pastor and his wife: both from Côte d’Ivoire, both speaking bad English, both with more abesha & abesheet in them than meets the eye.

We decided to stick around a bit, dropping pies and departing felt rude even for America. Soon we found ourselves in a dinning room where a steamy pot of rice and various salads were awaiting our descent. We sat around the table and said grace, at the end of which the Protestant Pastor crossed himself in a way that made me wonder who the guy was trying to impress more: us or his God.

You can’t sit across your distant cousins, digging with spoon and fork, and not talk. So after politely dancing around, studying each other’s moves, the pastor came out of his polite shells. And there, sited across me, I saw my uncle-in-law Faris: the know-it-all, dismissive-of-anything-he-hasn’t-came-up-with, “better” half of my aunt’s. Starting with the European cities he’s been to and their exotic cuisine, he went on to shamelessly lecture us what we should and shouldn’t eat (making a disgusted face every time he talked about the ills of “this country” we were in).

His wife, who look over-burdened by the traditional dress she was wearing, seem to have sat at the dinning table for the sole purpose of making us feel guilty for eating. She kept refusing what’s suggested to her, and chewed the little she had on her plate in a way that would impress a Southern Lady. (Proving to me how coming to the feast table and taking pride in not eating isn’t a strictly Ethiopian affair).

The lady of the house, a shy woman whose wig has covered half her face, was the perfect hostess: avoiding our eyes while trying to force feed us. She was switching between English, Côte d’Ivoirish and French: gossiping with her country-woman even after the rest of us have fallen into an awkward silence.

After bidding every one goodbye, and promising to consider his ex-colleague’s proposal to do this every other Wednesday, Chris breathed a sigh of relief and turned to ask how I was. Not too difficult to read what was at the back of his mind. He’s wondering if I wasn’t exhausted from pretending to enjoy my surrounding and if my cheeks weren’t hurting from all the polite smiles already. It must have come as a surprise to him, therefore, when I confessed I was glad we came out. “Really? You liked it?” he asked eagerly, looking both cautious and guilty. “What is there not to like?” I laughed “The food was great. The conversation instructive. He reminded me of my uncle-in-law, she my aunt. I have no intention of doing it again, mind you, but it sure was an adventure that actually made me realize how much I’ve missed home”.

He smiled, happily confused. Even after 9 months of living in Ethiopia, he still doesn’t seem to have gotten used to our [African] ways.

April 9, 2009 at 5:51 pm 7 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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April 2009

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