A Web Site For The Young Ethiopian Professional.

    Volume II   Issue III

Thursday January 17 2019

Dinner at the Senga Tera Siga Bet

by Desta

Everyone wanted to eat tire siga. After all it was after tsom and that was the main staple as far as we were concerned, alternating between kitfo one night and tibs the next. We all voted to go to what I heard was the best siga place. Even though everyone had warned me not to eat raw meat, I felt a sense of adventure and made a mental note to buy that vital potion that would deliver me from evils in case (just in case) I was presented with visions of any unwanted parasites. I had to take my two kids with me since they refused to stay with any relatives whom they didn't know very well. We were packed into one of the back rooms at the Senga Tera Siga Bet eagerly awaiting our tire siga and lega tibs meals, casually shooing flies away from ourselves into the air above where they lazily buzzed around the single light bulb or fluttered around the floral patterned cloth draped across the little window of the room.

A huge mural was painted on one wall of an idyllic forest scene in which a man held a plow over his shoulders as he stared into the distance at his little gojo bet. A plastic tablecloth draped low chaffed at my thighs. My kids sat on either side of me shuffling around in their seats. My knee was jammed against the table -- actually it was an old desk -- where the drawer part was. That was probably the only thing that really bothered me as I leaned over, pulling an open bottle of Pineapple Schweppes away from the hands of my eager two year-old who was precariously balancing it in his stodgy fingers. I pretended not to notice the darkened shirt front and small pool of liquid that formed on the table in front of me. He looked at me with plaintive eyes, beseeching me for a swig. I let him take a sip while the owner of the place came around and exchanged the usual yet tefachihu's. He was a really nice sort of guy. The kind of person that makes you feel at home. The folks I came with for dinner were mahabertegnas of the owner of the siga bet. This obviously had some perks because we were invited to come and supervise which cuts we wanted.

As we sat waiting for our meal, we heard a slight commotion outside. Two men were leading a donkey through the outdoor seating area of the siga bet. Where else but in good old Addis would you run into such an incongruous sight? The donkey was overloaded and one of the men kept beating down on him with a stick, pushing him through the throng of customers who casually sat chewing mouthfuls of red meat. No one seemed disturbed by the sight. Even I sort of ignored it - that's what happens when you go back home. You begin to act like everyone else. It's like you've never left and things like donkeys plodding through a restaurant that seem commonplace to residents suddenly seem commonplace to you as well. At least that's what happened with me. My mind registered, "Hmmm, interesting, donkeys delivering provisions at prime meal time, through a cluster of customers chewing non stop". And then I sort of pushed it out of my mind and returned to the table conversation.

This was not the same experience my three-year old daughter had when she ogled with huge eyes the blundering beast being led across the doorway. After watching the entire delivery experience for about 15 minutes she finally tugged at my sleeve and said in a very distressed stage whisper, "Mommy, the man in the blue shirt is hitting the donkey!" I looked down at her desperate eyes and tried placating her, "He is?" I said dramatically as if the entire incident had escaped me. She nodded quickly. The look in her eyes pleaded for me to do something to stop this horrible thing. I felt put on the spot. I certainly wasn't going to go out there and confront the donkey owner about his treatment of animals. Why, that would have the whole city rocking when they hear about the woman who came from the States and fought for a donkey's rights. Nevertheless, I knew I could not let this pass without a remark. I didn't want my daughter to think that I didn't care, or that I couldn't at least work at righting some worldly wrongs. So I held her little hands tightly in mine and said in my most comforting tone, "I will have to speak to the man very sternly!" (As far as my daughter is concerned, my speaking to someone very sternly is like the kiss of death.)

Her eyes opened wide and she shook her head emphatically, "No, mommy, don't do that!" she cried, "he will hit you, too!"

I paused, uncertain. How do I handle this situation with some degree of savvy without creating a stir among my dinner companions? I looked into her eyes and solemnly agreed, "You're right, he probably will. Let's wait until later and I'll make sure that someone else speaks to him sternly." She didn't look convinced, but I imagined her little brain struggling with the conflicting thoughts of whether it was better to wait or to have her mommy risk a swipe from the big scary stick. I quickly pushed an open bottle of soda in front of her and while she eagerly slurped it down, I sat there thinking, how indeed do I reconcile that gaping difference between me being raised in Addis as a child and my daughter's experiences in America? Knowing how I turned out as an adult, I wonder how she will. I knew I had a long way to go. Our dinner arrived, three huge platters of injera with awaze and mitmita accompanied by steaming plates of tibs. The tire siga materialized on a tray with all of the necessary accouterments - out of the corner of my eyes I could see my little boy stare eagerly at the sharpened knives. I hastily pushed them away from him. Within minutes we were feverishly attacking the food, the donkey incident a distant memory.

 

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