Archive for February, 2012

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

With half an hour to go before my “punching” time, I was standing outside the building, telling a colleague [who was smoking too] about my love/hate relationship with cigarettes. “I don’t even like the smell”, I whined, “I am not addicted to it. And it’s sucking my wallet dry. God only knows why I don’t want to give it up. Do you know that I sometimes wonder if I smoke just to…” somewhere in between, I have noticed my companion was only with me in body. His attention has gone somewhere totally else. I followed his mesmerized gaze and saw the subject of his intense focus was a pretty girl in a blue and white north-face jacket, walking a dog that could pass for her on two legs [it was blonde, and skinny and with a snazzy hair cut that would shame her 200 dollar jacket]. He was not only breaking the 3 second-stare code, but was breaking it in the most unsubtle way imaginable.

My black-Friday car-accident has brought this colleague and I closer, and every time we meet in the “smoking area”, it has become customary for him to ask “any more accidents lately?!”. So I thought teasing him would be in order. “Take a photo”, I said, “take a bunch. It lasts longer”. That brought him cackling back. He said he was actually looking at the dog. “I mean I like girls,” he added, didn’t deny, “but dogs are my passion”.

I’ve had occasions to meet this colleague of mine outside work, by virtue of his living [not unlike myself] a few blocks from where we were standing. And every time I saw him, he had two mean-looking mongrels that were almost half his size and seem to do the dragging, instead of the being dragged, by the leash tied to their necks. I’ve noticed how he lights up, too, in a way he doesn’t usually light up, when conversation turns to mutts. His usually “drunk” voice becomes full of authority, his demeanor animated and the impression he gives one is of someone who has less of a life than moi.

In such a manner he started talking about the dog that walked past now: the cute blond one with the fashionable hair trim. He told me not to let the “girly” look fool me. That that dog was of a higher caliber than your average “bobby”. Its ancestors, he said, were hunters, making it the best guard dog this side of the world. The only down side, he added, is it has a small head, thus a small brain, which makes it pretty useless for dog-quiz shows. Pretty. Blonde. Dumb.

[Why am I not surprised?!]

Then he moved onto one of his mutts, who he said does a bit of “guarding” on the side. “He walks the kids to the bus stop!”, declared he, proudly, “When the kids come out to go to school, I open the gate for him, and he walks them to the bus stops. Never lets anyone go near there. When they get on the bus, he comes walking back and no questions asked.”

Fast forward 4 hrs.

Break time was almost over, and I was walking back into the building, trying to shake the smell of my second cigarette off my person. Shannon, an artist colleague [and a dear friend] came out looking all droopy and sad. I asked what was up. She said her cat has been sick for a few days now and she was worried. She’s told me about this cat of hers. How she got hooked on it after this animal showed a side of it you don’t usually attribute to felines. “The first time I cried,” she has said, “I .. don’t.. cry .. that often. That first time, my cat came around and gave me a real concerned look. Like she wanted to ask me what happened. And she slept next to me longer than she’s ever done. That’s how we bonded. I have always thought I was a dog person. I adopted her just because my sister’s cat gave birth to a liter-full and couldn’t afford to keep them. But that night..” [shake of the head, wistful look, sighs].

I tut-tutted, asked if she’s taken her to the vets [she hasn’t; but it’s only been two weeks since her annual checkup] and hoped, upon departure, that whatwashername feels better soon. It was afterwards, wondering what it would be like to own a dog or a cat, that I wondered if the universe was trying to communicate something. Haven’t I received my belated November 2011 Reader’s Digest issue only a few days ago?! And doesn’t it have a big portion on cats and dogs, with a slide show that named me not just a cat person, but an introvert as well [*sticks tongue out at blogger friend*]. Amn’t I in bad need for a distraction? And doesn’t my building happen, just happen, to be one of those few buildings that welcomes pets and their owners [for a nifty 400 bucks a year?!].

If the universe was trying to communicate something, far it be from me to bury the head in the sand and pretend I didn’t hear. But is a cat/dog what it wants me to adopt?! Or is it a roundabout way of asking me to subscribe to one of those co-parenting websites and evaluate my options while I look for the ideal sperm-donor and make up my mind about wanting to be a mother.

Were I to get a pet, do not I need to plan ahead? Make my life and room ready and pet-friendly? Save enough for food, medical bills, grooming supplies?! What do I know about cats? And dogs?! What does any Ethiopian know about them?!

What the Ethiopian knows about cats and dogs… (more…)

February 22, 2012 at 10:02 pm 14 comments

Jungle fever.Yellow fever.White fever?!

Place: Office.
Time: Saturday afternoon.

Stephen has just finished his shift. He was going into his locker, grab his back pack; go into the rest room, change out of his uniform, change into the stuff he brought from home, walk back by and go out into the world; to enjoy the rare sun that’s decided to grace us that afternoon. Stephen is the nice kid who always remembered to say your name with his “hi” and “bye”s. He has facial hair, an ear ring he wears after work and likes to take his shirt off on his way to the locker-room; exposing a hairy chest, and the promise of a six-pack ab. I was standing outside the uniform room, asking the uniform attendant if she was coming to whatwashername’s birthday on Thursday; so I could tag along. When Stephen passed by, ripping his shirt off and groaning from over-exhaustion, I kissed the tip of my fingers. Then I shook my head and added “em.em.em.em” to show just how appetizing I found him.

My actions, which were for my colleague’s benefit [who was Samoan, but looks more black than I, and much older, and has exhibited dating-related-bitterness on more than one occasion] weren’t lost on the woman. She knows me for a free spirit; a free spirit who is honest and says the darndest things when least expected, making her laugh, slap my back and call me ‘crazy’. So she neither rolled her eyes, as would a stern new-comer, nor make a dash for the “office manual” which clearly states attractions between colleagues should be kept for afterwork hours. She chuckled. Then she said, “You like white boys!”, pleasant like.

There was an accusative undertone to her words, which made me start, then protest “Not all of them!!”, and do a quick mental search for all the other cute guys from other nationalities I liked. I mentioned our Eritrean colleague, who was tall and handsome, and [between you and me] may be the male/african version of a blonde bimbo [crosses himself elaborately before eating, and pretends not to have noticed the attention he was drawing]. There was the red-pepper hot Tamale Hispanic guy who, I’ve observed more than once, looks like he’s dropped out of a Madonna music video. A Spanish lullaby from “La Isla Bonita”. And, ofcourse, Eyn; who was not only 10 years younger but Korean; whom I fall head-over hills for about 3 days after another colleague teased me of being “infatuated” with him when I observed what a fire-cracker he was [swearing in a way that made his 5’4″ inches feel like a 6 foot 7].

But ofcourse the damage has been done. You don’t light a match underneath abesheet and expect her not to get burned. I was embarrassed. I was mortified. I wanted to kick myself in the bum. Did I, like she said, liked “white boys”?! Or did I prefer them to what’s out there?!

True: The four out of five men I have had a crush on for the last few months have all been white guys. There are atleast 80 Caucasian men for every 1 African American male I would rather date. And it’s easier for me to find some redeeming [facial] feature in a white guy than I can with either an African American or Hispanic man.

Were I a white-chaser? Or just a woman from an under-privileged background to whom the word “white” may represent “opportunity”. Weren’t I always tripping over Ethiopian men who remind me of my super-ex-boyfriend Samson “bariyaw”? Doesn’t my mind go almost-blank, in a way no Ryan-Gosling-look-alike could wipe it off reason, when I come across them rare brainy abesha men?! Don’t I still nurture a hope that “tedii” and I would someday end up together? [Yes I do, tedii. Bite me]

True. Being a Samson “bariyaw”-look-alike and brainy is only the beginning when it comes to my countrymen. They also gotta be not stunted. Too tall nor too skinny. Or from the country. They gotta also speak reasonably good English. Which should make sense: If they don’t speak English well, they can’t read the books. If they can’t read the books, all they can talk about is soccer and politics; the two subjects the sister abhors.

I didn’t like it! Didn’t like it one bit! It felt mercinary-ic. Self-hating. It felt the kind of mentality an abesha/abehseet, what with our 3,000 years of history and being the only country that’s never been colonized, should not have.

So I decided to try and dig deeper as to where this “preference” came from. Could it be due to the fact that when white men and women were introduced to us, Ethiopians, they weren’t introduced through colonization, the bible or even humanitarian deed. But through the “wondrous medium” of TV?! And because these were the chosen specimen of the race: actors and actresses whose beauty and ‘angelic’ quality surpassed understand?! Or is there another, underlying, reason? [The need to produce mixed-race kids, for example, so my child won’t go through what I did … by the dis-virtue of being the only kinky-haired/short-nosed/shaped-like-a-black-girl girl west of Qebena wonz]

Essu yiweQew!

All I can do, for now, is admit I have a problem and hope admittance is the first step to finding the cure. So here goes *gets up awkwardly*: My name is abesheet. I prefer meat to shiro. I hate all kinds of sports. And I like white boys.

February 15, 2012 at 11:52 pm 21 comments

Sound scenes

If you’ve told me three months ago that I was an extrovert, I would have literally [I mean physically] attacked you. I would have felt insulted. Just as I would if you’ve suggested how after I went home, locked the door, closed the shutters and turned off the light; I watched “Jersey Shore” or read some cheap romantic novel where the heroine always rides horses and the hero is a powerful man whose uptight friends jokingly refer to as “tin man”.

So naturally, when I made a conscious decision in 2012 to “take myself less seriously”, “live a day at a time” and to “pursue happiness” [worry less about my responsibilities to my parents, how people view me as and how dangerously low my saving is becoming while accumulating credit debts], I have also made a decision to willingly and consciously kill the shy girl in me. I didn’t know how to flirt, so I started dishing my phone number to strangers I meet online, so anonymity would strengthen the “out-going” muscle. I lifted the bar of my tolerance threshold. And made a habit, that wouldn’t stick, of paying compliments to the girl I see in the mirror.

And when, about two weeks ago, a blogger friend I only knew so far through emails took me to watch “Hugo” and said I was not only sexier, but much more extroverted than I led him to believe; I crossed off two boxes in my to-do list. Ofcourse it bothered me afterwards. I worried that by becoming an extrovert I was not only conquering new grounds but losing old.. valuable ones. I was finding it easier to laugh at stupid jokes nowadays. I can’t go half way through, let alone finish, the books that I enjoyed reading tremendously [“Life, The Movie: How entertainment conquered life” being one of them]. More importantly, I no longer see social gatherings as something to be avoided, prepare for and fret over two days in advance, or put up with while agonizing over every minute. I have started looking forward to them. I welcome them. And I try to enjoy them. True, the smile still feels phony. My conversation skill is lacking – a lot. And I hate myself afterwards for all the wrong things I said, and/or all the “pauses” I took in between making a joke/answering a question/quick comeback that made the whole experience feel forced and not-genuine.

[Alas, I was there, wasn’t I? I was doing stuff for me [“me, me, me”; Papa Leech would have been so proud!]. Taking charge of my life. Living the “American” “dream”. Wasn’t I?! Well?!]

I worried this “trend” can only end at one and only place: shallowland. Everybody knows extroverts, optimists and people who are “life” to parties are generally dumber than their introvert counterparts. [Those loners who would volunteer to dig tunnels instead of watch “Jackass 3D”. Those pessimistic to whom the word “life” has one and only logical conclusion, “sucks”. Those gloomy wall flowers to whom the glass isn’t just half empty, but is dangerously low on sands. The group I belonged to prior to November 2011].

I wanted to enjoy life. I hated being weighed down by guilt. Was effing tired of not looking at the sun without thinking of the darkness that would envelop her before the end of the day. But I had no intention of being dumb. The foundation on which my whole “maninent” has been built upon was one that knew, without a doubt, that whatever expression people may use to describe me; “stupid”, “idiot” and/or “a moron” won’t be one of them.

And so (more…)

February 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm 9 comments

Here is to you, Charlie!

Who brought books to you? Or, rather, who brought you to books?

Mine was Befirdu, a younger colleague of my father’s from whence they were both teachers in Hossana. Who became a good friend of the family, even making it to the status of “god-father” to my younger brother Tagel. He was a handsome man, in that ‘yeteQola bunna’-wezam way Southern-Ethiopian men have, all white teeth and no facial hair. He was funny, and flirtious and the ladies loved him. Which made him the light of our gloomy little house, and somebody whose next visit is to be looked forward to, every time he paid us a visit.

As was the custom in those days, and perhaps because I was the only single gal in the house; aged 8 and younger, he used to call me “Miste”. So, naturally, I run into the kitchen [with its gaping hole, that kids and dogs could make their way through and into the “dinnich wot” -filled pot] when I see him coming. I shrugged my shoulder in refusal when summoned to the living room, with it’s “wenfit” roof and “boi” in the middle to let drainage run. But I wasn’t willing to put up with his neglect.

When he seems to have forgotten all about me, and the little “understanding” between us, I skulked out of the kitchen, with my back against the wall, and edged to where he’s sitting. He’d casually pick me up, between answering one of the many questions from the older couple trying to be transported into the perpetual sunshine that is his life. He’d sit me on his knee, rocking me as if I was a child, while relating stories that has usually to do with the women in his life and his younger quarrelsome brothers [among whom he died, few years later, after contracting “Aba Senga” from a chaat he chewed while on winter vacation]. I would try listening. I would quickly get bored. And then reach up and grab the one book we had in the house that my father borrowed from the school library and forgot to return.

This was a collection of illustrated versions of Charles Dickens’ novels. There were selected episodes from the great books. After the selected stories, or character study paragraphs, came short questions with blanks to fill between them. It was black and white, very dull looking. But the pictures in it were far from dull. There was one that caught my attention and arrested it. “Miss Havisham”, Befirdu would say when I ask him again and again what the lady’s name was. He’d then remember he’s read it for me hundredth of times before. “Let’s read another one”, he’d suggest, and I would refuse. So he’d re-read it again, the story of bride whom rejection made crazy.

It’s been said by many, that Dickens’ books are full of caricatures. Caricatures, according to wikipedia, are portraits that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person, animal or object to create an easily identifiable visual likeness. In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others.” And so, like all cartoons and comical figures, they appeal to the child and the feather-brained more than the discerning reader.

Miss Havisham was one of those over the top characters. [Only to be out-caricatured, perhaps, by The Tale of Two Cities’ Mr. Jarvis Lorry or the maid who threw him out of pretty little Miss Manet’s room after his first visit.] I didn’t know the whole story until later, ofcourse, but her drawing in the book excited my imagination in a way the grown up version would fail to do so. There she sits, skeletal, in a wedding dress; sited infront of an oval mirror, resting her chin on her left hand while the right is still holding a shoe she never got to put on. There is the wedding cake, with it’s little figurines on top, cracking and uncut. And, we are told, she’s never moved to neither let the sun light in nor remove dust particles off her tiara, for more than two decades.

[That is for you, Befirdu].

Then came “Black Jesus”. (more…)

February 8, 2012 at 11:30 pm 6 comments

Addicted to you, an FB rant

I used to pity them, these white boys and girls who walk into a bus (carrying their laptop in their bag, wearing heavy boots topped with snow jackets); take out their phones and start “leafing” through it the minute they hit their chairs. The “glowing”-faced, dazed-eyed products of the “brave new world” of social medias and the internet, who won’t be able to rub two stones together and start a fire to save their lives. These wimps who can’t say a sentence without adding half a dozen “like”s, are always “so…” something about something “right now”, and can’t finish a statements without the equivocal question mark. These “social animals” with strangers in their buddy list. These occupy-wall-street-ers who “like” things computer aggregators chose for them, follow “tweets” of people whose life style they faithfully try to duplicate, and would sacrifice God and man to escape the curse of appearing “uncool”.

I used to despise them, mock their need to show off, to “roll” with the flow, to appear full of life when infact all the life they have seems to be contained in a small device that understands only [two] binary digits. 0 & 1. Zero life, and 1 for alone (all-one?!).

I despised them, me with my big books that I hardly start and never finish. Me with my afro and typically Ethiopian unseasonal dress code. Me who rarely listened to music, and only as a transition from one radio program to program on npr [Npr! How much do I love thee. Lemme count the ways].

I despised them, until being away from family and friends; divorce, resettlement and single life made me one of them. Until I had so many things to say and no one to say them to. So much to share, and nobody to share it with. Things to prove, photos to show, opinions to release into the world (like a bird with a note tied to her feet), to go tell all how smart, witty and observant i was, became too much to be kept for self [or two short for blog posts].

Unortunately or fortunately, I hailed from the wrong country for fueling facebook addiction. Most of my [Ethiopian] facebook friends are there to compare notes: to know who stayed single or married, who has procreated and who hasn’t, and who gained weight and who lost it. (more…)

February 3, 2012 at 11:54 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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