Posts tagged ‘Ethiopian Diaspora’

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

Is “Nu” enough?!

A friend of a friend once wrote an essay for his ‘Workshop on Creative Writing’ class at the Addis Ababa University. Dr. Yonas Admassu, older brother to Poet Yohannes Admasu, was the man chairing the workshop in those days (unlike the monster-with-no-soul that is chairing it now). In his reign, legend has it, the creative freedom abound :). So this friend of my friend wrote an essay on the then “hot-potato” subject of the return of the Axum stele. A fact, apparently, he was violently against and made him beg the poor “sidetegna hawilt” not to come, not to let them trick you into coming because there was nothing good to come here to. He listed, my friend told me, the possible bureaucratic and societal problems the stele would face if it decided to live in our midst. Giving it as his final opinion that the “hawilt” better stay where it is and have us love it from afar, as we always seem to do with things we don’t have to directly deal with, than coming here and it end up hating us. (That’s the gist of the essay, if not the exact words the writer used)

But ofcourse the damn stele, who may have had more in common with my good uncle than what it’s modeled after, refused to heed to this advice & came. It’s been observed to me it ain’t having much fun lately!

My uncle was a celebrity. Back when celebrities were rare and not even called that. You can’t walk the streets with him without having taxis honk their horn at you and every one of their passengers “menTeRarating” on top of one another to get a glimpse of him; making you feel pretty special by association! 😉

After “hizb leHizb” proved successful in convincing the West that there was more to us than mere starving kids (or atleast that’s the story that went about), my uncle was allowed to go to America to entertain the Ethiopian Diaspora there. He stayed in Washington for 9 months, savoring the sophistication and the “ene liQdem, ene liQdem” adoration from the Ethiopian community most of whose members fled the country during the Ihapa time (through either Moyale or some other neighboring country’s border) and weren’t likely to come visiting soon.

When the nine months were over, he declared his intention to return home. When the whole family protested “but why????“, he said he was too Ethiopian and has too proud a spirit to wash the white man’s dishes after performing on the white man’s stage. His exact words were “ageren mAseDeB new”. What happened afterwards is, ofcourse, a tragedy. He didn’t die, but boy did he live to regret it?! (more…)

June 5, 2008 at 8:25 am 1 comment


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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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