Posts tagged ‘Ethiopia’

Sign Petition, and save lives.

I have a little sister with a compromised immunity, and an aunt going through Chemo. Please Sign Petition and save their lives.

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February 12, 2020 at 3:49 pm Leave a comment

“Why Ethiopia stayed behind”

While discussing the temperament of Seattleites (kind of cold, kind of distant, kind of keeping to themselves in a way that borders Xenophobia) with a friend last night, I said something that I never knew I’ve formally thought of before. I said “I think the exposure to different cultures has made Seattleites unable to recognize and appreciate cultural diversity in a heart-felt way. If they knew somebody like you, they assume [I guess] they know all they need to know about you, which makes them less curious to [intimidated, chatty, inquisitive] folks in, say, little old Escondido which [true to its name] is hidden to the outside world except for the Mexican immigrants that cross into its borders by hundreds a day and the little black prostitute girls that come from the other end of the country to cater to their “needs”. When I say I’m from Ethiopia, the first response I get is ‘Oh yeah, I love Ethiopian food!’. And I’m like I’m more than my food, asshole”.

Or something to that effect.

That last phrase lingered on my mind long after the subject changed to the pleasant atmosphere in the coffee shop we were sitting. [Where books lined the walls, coffee machines work tirelessly to produce the unique aroma of that bean life in Seattle would have been harder without, where men and women from different walks of life talk and work on their laptops, holding their hip-ness with an easy grace you can’t master if you were reincarnated as a manican.] The fact that I’m more than my food and how to get that message across to people I meet and deal with on a regular basis [people who can’t recognize the source of my pain or pleasure if it sits on their laps and says “selam” to them] bugged me for a second or two. I wondered how I can make this friend of mine see my country/my culture as an outsider should/would see it. I asked how we, abeshas and abesheets [Ethiopians] appear to the occasional bystander. And in trying to think of an outsider who has seen us, lived among us, and written about us in a way other outsiders can understand, the name Timothy Kalyegria popped into my head.

He is the columnist who wrote the article “Why Ethiopia Stayed Behind”, in a series of dossiers he labeled “The Abyssinian Chronicles”. When the amharic version of his essay on why we stayed behind the rest of Africa first showed up on Addis Admas, back when that newspaper mattered, it showed up under the title “Menaded kalelegachu yihinin tsihuf atanibu”. It’s been a while since this article held the mirror to our faces and made us lash out at the guy holding the mirror. Gone are the days in which the writer was called names starting from “lemma”.. to boundless others on every media an Ethiopian was allowed to write his ill-spelled English on. Which may also be the reason why finding it gave me quite the run around. When I finally located it, I decided I gotta re-post it on my e-shoe box. Because it’s still relevant and useful. And there are those of you who still don’t know it exists.

The Warning Before The Warning (more…)

January 25, 2012 at 2:07 am 46 comments

The truth about AAU

After much deliberation and soul-searching, I’ve decided to publish this post for an ex-Instructor of mine. May not be much use in changing the behaviors of the Instructor under question. But it may tell all those who do not know how bad things are allowed to go at that sacred place.

Dear Sir,

When the news of you earning your PhD and adding the title “Doctor” to your name reached me, the first thing that came to my mind was a poem:

melakneh
 
Before you gave me African Literature, your fame has preceded you. “He’s the only one they got who knows what he’s talking about”, one of your ex-students from Kotebe College has reassured me, “He even has written books on it!”. The only thing I should be forewarned with when it comes to you, he said, is not to ask questions. For you are notoriously arrogant, and are known to verbally abuse and throw things at those students who failed to impress you favorably. Which I felt was a fair deal. After all, all great lecturers were insulting and abusive: Dr. BeFikadu Degffie, Dr. Mesay Kebede, Dr. Getachew Bolodia (nefsachewin yemarewna). What is important is getting what one should out of the course. Being a skilled “WenBer Gotach”, after all, won’t get any one of us anywhere after we graduated [some of us taking longer than others to change our F’s to C’s and reach the grade floor of 2.0].

Then summer came. “African Literature”, one of the course-offerings read, with your name next to it. I’ve always been guilt-ridden by the fact that I knew more about European literature than I did my continent’s. And that I could talk more about Dickens’ works than I could Soyinka’s. So I was excited. Excited and apprehensive. I went directly to the book store and bought your “Map of African Literature”. You have to be prepared, I told myself, this isn’t one of those 2.50 & above Cumulative Average instructors who got the job because he spoke better English than the rest of the competitors. Or the Master-student turned fellow classmate who everybody knows made it through by reading from the “a’teriras” on his hand. [The Assistant-professor who gives the best grades to those who showed improvement in their Creative Writing Class instead of those who knew how to write (the later need no encouragement, he believes). Or the Doctor who spends half the time by taking attendance and the other half with talking about how things used to be while he was in Germany.] This was you. The you who wrote books. Translated novels. Argued fierce arguments on those “literary discourses” Baahil Ma’ekel prepares.

So.. even though you weren’t one of the half a dozen or so instructors who neither wrote books nor did anything extraordinary; except for charging the “believer” in us and making us realize we can be better than what we’ve been told or thus far believed; those handful “YeEwQet Abaat/Enaat”s who did not bury their talents even when they were passed by (time and again) for not having the proper connections or refusing to sell their honor, I was ready to receive what you, dear Sir, were willing to give me.

You came to class, you didn’t tardy, you came to class for three consecutive days. You talked about the “slave writing” era of the African literature with your back to us, about France’s Assimilation policy and the Negritude movement. You didn’t acknowledge our existence, but you seem to know what you are talking about. [You definitely gave better lecture than the two other lecturers I later saw: the restless young man who doesn’t seem to have come across the word “symbol” or “imagery” in his years as a Student and Lecturer and the fatherly PhD who once mocked the proverb “..affetAtene ende Gundan, achekakene ende enate” with the question “how can a mother be cruel?”].

You finished your lecture on time and told us a term paper is expected of us. “Not more than 12 pages,” you said sternly “on either setting, point of view, theme, character analysis or plot. I’ll give you three weeks. 12 pages of term paper on an African novel of your choice”. Then, you went missing. Six weeks passed before you showed up your face. “Where are your papers?” you demanded. Those handful of us who came bowed our head in silence. That made you mad. Really mad! You called us names and slammed the door on your way out. We have to tip-toe in and out of your office to give the paper to your secretary while you typed away your Doctorate Defense on the computer.

Then.. it was exam time. We poured over your book. A book many of your proud ex-students told us has been published time and again. A book they swore hasn’t got one student’s plagiarized research paper in it (unlike “Yesinetsihuff Meseretawiyan”, a ‘fana weGi’ text book that has become the source of many a bitter joke between post graduates). The fact that your book seems to have gotten 95% of it’s material from other published works didn’t bother me. The repetitions and the spelling errors didn’t make me think twice. When I came across the paragraph that discusses “No Longer at Ease” and wonders “I don’t know if Achebe is trying to tell us Oki Okonkwo is the grandson of Things Fall Apart’s protagonist”, however, I was convinced you didn’t even bother to take a look at your own writing! For only a few pages earlier you have claimed Oki was Okonkwo’s grandson. A truth anybody who read both books and can put 2 and 2 together can clearly see.

Then.. we were told you have become a doctor. A Doctor of Philosophy, none the less. And we bowed our heads. And wondered.

“What is knowledge”, we asked ourselves, “if it can’t create a more responsible person out of you? If it failed to make you behave better, share better, sharpen your ears so you could heed to the plights of the millions in need of your help?!”

Or would you be content enough [now that you have won the race for Doctor-dom] to become a teacher – for a change?

January 9, 2009 at 8:42 am 15 comments

Your name, your heritage!

My fellow country men (and women too, at that :-)) tell this joke about how the Chinese give their children names (because they are over populated, you understand, and you can have too many Chens and Lins). They climb on top of the biggest roof in the village (or maybe their own roof) and throw, you guessed it correctly!, a china bawl into the street down below. If the crushing sound came up as “Kwa”, the kid becomes a “Kwa”. If, by some mischance, it was a “Kish”, well… you get the idea! It’s also been said that you can’t throw a pebble in a Chinese street (which is bound to be packed) without hitting atleast a “Lee”, and if you called out for one, atleast 5 oriental men would turn and scream “Main aapki kya seva ker sancta hoon?” at you. Wait! That’s in Hindi.

Stop. Rewind. We were talking about names, Chinese ones! By the way, have you noticed how the Chinese government seems to be plagued from all sides in a very old testament way these days?. From the Ethiopian government – which silently accused it, along with India, as being one of the reasons behind our “yewaga gishbet”; from Amnesty international – in relation to a couple of Tibetan monks who don’t seem to want to stay put (my version) and finally, but not in the least torn-in-the-flesh way, by our very own Haile Gebre Selassie – for it’s “assm” “qesqash” environmentally unfriendly cities.

When it comes to Ethiopian names, it’s a different story. There is no denying that our names, like our world and dress codes, are changing. And perhaps they should. It certainly isn’t a change we have any control over. However, when did “ferenji” names became cool (and not weird) on an Ethiopian and “ager beqel” names started sucking?! Take a stroll down to your nearest elementary school whose students wear sweater tops, instead of plain khaki, for a uniform. You won’t be able to throw a pebble without hitting either a “Nati” or an “Abigail” (and offending their respective “Mogzit”s).

This problem is getting worse, and sometimes awfully amusing, in the many up-and-coming protestant Christian churches that my many protestant cousins have a fellowship at. Most of their renowned pastors go by self-appointed names such as “Paul” or “Joshua” and, as if that wasn’t enough, are married to women who have somehow managed to “ferenjize” their Ethiopian names into: “Judy”, “Abbi”, “Maki”/“Maggi” and, according to one reliable source, “Hermela” (for a sister that used to go by the noble Ethiopian name “Asmamiw”). And the twain shalt bear a child & name it “Prince”, if it’s a boy and “Monica”, if it’s a girl!

I don’t know how this goes down with their God, but it sounds pretty dishonest to me.

Take my distant cousin “Ayush” for example (name changed from original for “abro menor” purposes ;-)). She is a 35+ Ethiopian female who lives in the states working two jobs and going to an evening nursing school to make ends meet. She gave me a call last night. And after exchanging the usual long abesha selmata mililiswoch (the lijoch, the kebt, the massa), she asked why I kept referring to her in her old name and not in her brand new one: a name taken from a female character in the bible. I asked what was wrong with her previous name! She said she grew up being teased that it sounds like “yebuna bet set sim”, thus absolutely hates it. I didn’t tell her how I thought it’s her attitude that needs a changing, and not her name. But asked, instead, if she can feel like a Yohanan, a Rahel or a Ruth after all these years. Her reply was a hysterical laugh (people find me funny, for some reason, when baring my soul), while I huffed and puffed over the fact that my fellow more-nationalistic-than-me (if appearances could tell you anything) Ethiopians preferred to call their children by Semitic names instead of their own proud Amhara/Oromo/Tigre/ Welaita/Shinasha/Dorze/Harari… ones!

These are people, according to http://www.jewfaq.org/name.htm, who consider a name as “not merely an arbitrary designation, a random combination of sounds. The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It represents the history and reputation of the being named.”. So I’ll bet my life on the fact that you won’t find a practicing Jew father naming his child “MeQdela” however cute he thought it sounds. Because, to them, there is more to a name than mere “sounding cool” or “modern”. Your name defines you. It defines your “yet meta”, “yet ale”, “yet yihed”. (more…)

April 10, 2008 at 10:34 am 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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