Posts filed under ‘Weraj Ale’

Weraj Ale: The Good, The Bad, The Addis

It occurred to me, after 24 hrs of flight, a duty-free shopping rendezvous through Frankfurt airport; a lot of bad airlines food [that I had out of boredom], and plenty of getting up to let a seat-mate [a seat-mate whose capacity for sleep is astounding] make his way to the rest room; it occurred to me that going to a country and living among the “indigenous people” [as we used to call them in my tour-agency employment days] is like being baptised into a new life. It’s not like a walk in the woods. Or a train ride through the country-side. Or even staying long enough to buy keepsakes and take photos, for family and friends, of things you were too busy to notice.

Once you figured out how to negotiate the roads so you can cross just in time to make it alive [the same roads that made you want to change your return date and fly home early the first two weeks, as all Diasporas do, and are a grave reminder how desperate it is to live in a country where no one can afford to say “Abet” on behalf of the average Yohannes], once you watched “Teketai Filega” and betted on who would make it and which judge would send the other one away with what Ama-Englizegna expression, once you got “home-bred” enough to tell a woyala “asgebat ene ezih ga ekemetalehu” and became ok with mixing one part of Rotana liquid-soap to three parts water to make it last longer, it’s hard to go back.

Go back you would try, ofcourse, physically atleast. The packing and the actual flight [to the civilized world] which should prepare you to be entered into the old life – a ritual meant to help you shed the new so you could be sawn into the old seamlessly; you spend it worrying about losing your luggage. You arrive at SEATAC airport; where you are ushered into, kicked about and run around in pursuit of those same luggage full of dirQosh that has been crushed to dust before you [even] left Bole Airport. Then you walk out into the American sky; bizarre and oddly familiar at the same time. You go home, through highways where strangers [man or donkey] don’t jump into to cross over, through industrial complexes whose appearance isn’t as much of an eye sore as every building in Addis seems to be. You recognize the old streets, how “White” America really is [gone are the days in which only brown eyes from black faces would be staring back at you instead of minding the road – as they should – every time you turn to look at something], how none of them would know where you have been and who you have been fighting with only 30 hrs earlier.

Then you stop looping around and give yourself unto the merciful embrace of a confused … drunk-like sleep.

Some 6 hrs later, you wake up. You murmur something meaningless into your partner’s ears, go back to sleep and find out that you were to be re-born into the old life – kicking and screaming – as if your days were rivers of wild waters that has to crush violently to be fitted together.

You go out into the streets, streets with signs – zip codes – and well-kept lawns no one has peed into, like a day hasn’t passed between January 1st and February 2nd, 2015. A shy and bewildered you .. trying to re-pretend to belong here, to be just another working girl standing in line, ordering a Latte – smiling her thankyou at the nice motorist who stopped for her even though he didn’t have to, another Seattlite who knows her way about – keeping the fact [to herself–yourself] that what you wish was to walk back into the old picture where your little sister is always around to go with on your errands, that home was a place where your mom is never too tired to heat you up a wot [with lots of Qibe – to show her love] while retelling the tales you have heard over a rekebot full of buna; that your heart would always belong to the country, a [3rd world] country nonetheless where your father tries to fix all your problems by asking if you need money and where your little brother is only a door away to check on.

Addis… then…
Qelemwa, as Abraham “Balageru” Wolde, would say, is Abwara, Tsehai and yeShint bett shita.

It is also a place where (more…)

February 3, 2015 at 1:42 pm 8 comments

Weraj Ale: Snow Lake, WA

I have never been an outdoorsy girl. Even when I worked with one of the most prestigious travel agencies in Ethiopia, and dated a Tour Operator for four years, I stayed true to my “home girl” nature – the sort always heard whining in the background why we can’t go back home [and what’s wrong with home anyway]. It’s not because I don’t like the birds and the bees, the trees with various shades of green and the fat fish in the small quite creek. Infact, I find them so touching that I wept like a baby the day a friend took me to Lake Washington and had me over-look the area around the [Lacey V. Murrow Memorial] floating bridge.

Adventure has never held an appeal to me because it involves the dreaded “r” word, taking risk. Risks I dodge. I dodge them like a bullet even when they appear harmless and everybody else seems to be willing to take them. Like sitting in the front sit of a car. Or enjoying a swing-ride at one of those fares that come but only once a year. Or learning how to swim. “Paralyzed from the neck down” is how I imagine myself ending up when asked to be involved in any kind of adventurous activity – including hiking!

Click on image to enlarge



Ofcourse, after I moved to the Emerald City, I have gotten used to walking around; first out of necessity, then for pleasure. Downtown Seattle maybe an expensive, densely populated place with the sort of air-pollution that makes a girl get a headache every time she breathes clean-air. But it has a lot to offer in the way of “sight for sore eyes”. The Waterfront. The Olympia Sculpture Park. The Pike Place Market and the whole 9 yard of the Piers neighbourhood. Places I could, and usually do, walk down to when feeling lonesome. Or need to check out exotic imported stuff at World Market. Or drop the pounds.

So this thirst of mine for beauty and desire to keep my neck on my shoulder, has helped me seek out a middle ground. Which I found in parks!

Now if anybody can boast of parks, the state of Washington can boast more! Parks, public libraries and NPR, infact, are what I repeatedly said I’d take home from America if I can. A walk in the parks is full of the wilderness bounty minus its perils. Sure — there would be the occasional coyote, the slithering garter snake [that is “afraid of you more than you are afraid of it”, I have been told. I have decided it’s a guy] and wooden bridges one can slip on and take a toss in the nearest body of water. Parks are full of flora and fauna, quite breezes and shushing creeks. There are wooden bridges winding for miles that the occasional teenager has scribbled undying messages of devotion on, gazebos one can take a breather at or ponder the beauty around one, and everything that reminds you being civilized means putting effort into stuff that can function well without one. It’s beautiful and the one place where a man and a woman can hold hands, and not appear sappy or pretentious.

But you haven’t seen the beauty the out-doors has to offer until you have huffed and puffed your way up a hiking trail on one of Seattle’s cascade mountains; with an 83 degree sun beating on you and giving you a tan you don’t need, while rocks stabth your toe as a disagreeable younger brother would and mosquitos eagerly take bites out of your neck like it was in. The dust from hiking shoes of fellow hikers ahead of you hitting you right between the eyes can probably be avoided by leading the troupe. But the muscles [!] – nothing can be done about the muscles feeling like they are splitting with every step-up you take.

You’d experience all these even if you, like me, were tagging along a seasoned hiker who:

1. Had you buy fabrics that are breathable and draw sweat away from the skin to help cool you down
2. Provided you with
2.a. Hiking boots [that provide comfort for walking over rough terrains, mud, rocks and other wilderness obstacles]
2.b. Hiking poles [that help you transfer some of your weight to your shoulders, arms and back; reducing leg fatigue]
2.c. 100% mosquito-repellent bug spray
2.d. a back-pack full of snacks and cold drinks.

Not to mention a shoulder for your frustrated tears and a handkerchief for your sweat.

Oh but what a reward awaits the persistent traveller who considers not the exhaustion and pains of the now, but walks heartily, knowing that from the view on the top he shall receive his eternal reward [in the form of a deeply satisfying spiritual connection to all things created and beautiful, as well as plenty of photos he can post on facebook and send to family and friends] – of snow-covered mountains, waterfalls, lush-meadows!! And, when, upon hitting “camp”, you get a glimpse of the car that brought you up that your guide has remembered to fill with a cooler full of cold drinks; a change of clean clothes and a sandal to set your toes free – your relief would know no bounds.

Only one more thing can top this delight, this utter jubilation, this moment of thanks and praises!: watching a group of people preparing to do the hike you just got done with — preferably without:

1. A bug spray.
2. Hiking poles
3. In tennis shoes.

Civility stops you from sticking your tongue out and saying “na-na na-na-na”. But you’d be thinking it!

July 20, 2013 at 3:16 pm 3 comments

Weraj ale: Snow in Seattle

I am a “snow virgin”. And “like a virgin”, I got “touched for the first time” yesterday morning. Was on my way to work when I realized I had teeny tiny pieces of white particules on my heavy jacket. I looked up, wondering what it was they were dropping now, this building that serves as a 24 hrs. parking lot and has surprised me in it’s uncanny ability to sweat at the precise moment when I’m walking under it.

That’s when I realized the oil-on-a-frying-pan sound I haven’t paid attention to till now was accompanying the white particules that keeps falling on me out of nowhere. I have assumed snow comes with rain, despite having seen it fall freely in movies, and had dreamed to be in it [how, were I to go to America, I’d like to go there on Christmas time; with the roads covered in snow, trees decorated with lights, shopping-mall doors opening and closing to let in and out shoppers in warm clothes carrying shiny bags full of gifts]. But I have atleast expected some sort of wetness to go with it. I did not know it could come down out of the blue, or “the white” to be exact, and cover you lovingly in it’s shimmering wonderfulness.

And so I did what a virgin, who has been touched for the first time, and loved it, would do. I run out. I run in. I laughed. Almost cried. I took photos. I took videos. Deleted videos, they eat your phone’s memory, and went forth to the world and shared the Herald of it’s coming. Here goes:

Sunday at 7:56 a.m.
[Facebook post]
Got only three hrs of sleep. Am looking at a 13 hrs shift. Am covered in snow. And loving it. How much do i love thee [Seattle], lemme count the ways! 1 one thousand.. 2 one thousand.. 3 one thousand..

Saturday 15 January 2012
[Twitter tweet]
Covered in snow. And loving it. Life does indeed go on.

Sunday at 12:37 p.m.
[Facebook post]









[Caption reads]: Momma, I had it made.

Sunday at 7:59 p.m
[Facebook question and answer]
How do u find ur first snow experience?
Run out. Started snapping photos taking videos. Trying to catch flakes. Then I just stood there, bathing in it and sucking-in the surrounding when this colleague of mine gathered some snow and made me a snow ball. Was so much fun. Its even …more exciting when you walk on it after it has hardened, although perhaps not as fun to drive in. Ppl have been giving me all sorts advices. (Kowing I was a “snow virgin” brought about the parent in all.) I was told how and where to walk, not to help if asked to help push a car and to pee before I left the office.

This morning
[Part of a poem]
The clouds..
are coming down
coming down in tiny pieces..
The cars are clothed
in snow
and the buses
got ankle braces..

There is more to the poem, but it is about this guy who was farting infront of me while we were rallying in support of Hilton Seattle’s “workers’ right to job security” [holding banners and chanting with hoarse voice lines like “The workers. United. Can never be defeated”. “No Justice! No Peace!” and, ofcourse, about us being the ninety nine percent. (Were helping out at a millionaire’s party a few weeks ago, and I heard one of them “joke” how the other was “the one percent”. And i thought “Aw. How adorable!! This is how the rich make jokes!”)].

And, finally, the friend’s response to the above mentioned facebook question and answer:

Sunday at 7:59pm
I feel like ‘God’ sends snow for all those he love.

Sunday at 9:23am
‎’loves’ teblo yestekakel. lol

Couldn’t agree more, bud.

January 17, 2012 at 11:30 pm 6 comments

“Weraj ale”: Columbia city

There aren’t many smart things about the smart phone. And most apps are meant to make you an asshole. However, for the curious observer, there are boundless opportunities which these hi-fi tech gadgets [which i love the sound of :-)] provides. Easy to carry, cordless Cameras that you don’t need to carry to the printers every time you need to dossier your memories is one of them. Speaking of dossiers, I’ve been thinking I should “dossier” my Seattle experiences to my readers. So it can serve as a travel-guide, history mixed with smart ass [usually a first impression, stretched out of shape]. A “honey stop the car”, as npr would have it. I’d call mine “weraj ale”, for “driver, stop the bus” is a tad too long for a title.

Columbia city, then. It is a city within a city. Surrounded by trees and housing the columbia public library and the columbia city funeral home side by side [the dead can’t read, i cleaverly thought when seeing it first, so the books gotta go]; it’s the center of contradictions. Like every neighbourhood west of Jackson street, Columbia city is known for being “black”. Its inhabitants live off beer and new port cigarettes; which they pay for using their EBT cards, $1.65 plus tax. But unlike most ghettos, it’s main attraction isn’t the golden arc of Macdonald’s burger joint. Neither does the smell of kentucky’s fried chicken draw you the map to where the poor and the obese commune. It’s black, yet places that serve beer out of bottles, and not cans, the overweight dog-walker and the white couple who always seem to enjoy each other’s company are as abundant as at, say, Queen Anne.

Once upon a time, people would tell you, Columbia city used to be the place where shit happened. Where the hassler, the prositute and the homeless lived by the rules that governed Rainier avenue. Expressions like “snitches get stiches”, were, therefore, not totally unfamiliar to most. Not anymore. It’s been cleaned, the inhabitants would tell you somehow wistfully, gone damn straight. The homeless are being evacuated, the prostitutes have become too old for the trade, and the hassler whose occassional girlfriend no longer pays for his Olde-English collects cigarette butts and offers his one good jacket [moping the floor, traking the trash out, anything] to pay for his pint. Thanks to rentless under cover cops and high-paying investors, and arty-shmarty-types [theatre groups, run-down cinema owners, anti-war and women’s right activists], the neighbourhood is becoming more white than it is black. Soon, it’s old timers worry, there won’t be a trace of the colorful characters that used to roam it’s streets, like lost souls of yore. It maybe an oxymoron, therefore, that outisde one of the raws of cafeterias bearing names of foreign food: pizza, thai, wabi sabi [and Solom Ethiopian Restaurant, where we stopped by for the Sambussa, an avid reminder of our Timket days at “Jan Meda”, where we chewed it to the last lentil before walking to the circle made around a harmonica playing young man and bashful girls that would not dance unless dragged to the middle]; you will step on this sign. “Cast of Cultures – 1999”, it reads. It then explains how the casts are meant to celebrate the diverse cultures dwelling in this city within a city.

There is the lotus buddha, two straw-hat wearing vietnamese farmers, a big woman with manly shoulders and a hair do that I can only imagine makes her a Simoane [and a bunch of wild animals representing cultures who call this part of Seattle “home”; the colorful attired Chinese dragon, a crow in flight and a proud rooster ready to do his Cocka-doodle-doo]. And then an ethiopian priest!; who doesn’t look like he would want to celebrate anything anytime soon. Infact, and if he is like every other Ethiopian that lives in neighbourhoods that aren’t swarming with abeshas, he will probably walk around with his nose in the air – the picture of [self] disgust and disapproval, calling the handicapped “ankasa”, and shaking his head solemnly when offered a free food sample.

I bet.

October 19, 2011 at 12:45 am Leave a comment


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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