TO: The Urban Arbenga
Nefsay, Hoday, Anjete, Kulalitay, Ye AGERAY Sew, Ye wonzay lijj
Here we are at the tail end of this Tsom, and here come these tencolegna SELEDA editors tempting our souls with self-absorbent exhibitionist inter-gender interfacing... in short, KOONENAY. Yiqir yibelachew, really. Now that SELEDA has successfully suckered us into this, I think it best to start by warning you that I'm one of those LUVVIES who believes that we have to heal each other NOW, laugh a little and love a lot TODAY, if we are ever to do more than survive FOR THE MOMENT. If we are to recover and regenerate our country TOMORROW. (Please don't tease me, as some of my friends do, by breaking out in a verse of Kumbayah, We shall overcome, or worse "Tew simangn hageray". OK??)
I am completely convinced that Ethiopian men and women in their 30's have come through a lot and have to start healing each other, and I suspect that the key to the process, the one who must start the ball rolling, is the woman. So, Nasti, aref bel wedajay, Boonas?? Yifela?? Min yimTa? Min yiQreb??? (I wonder if this is the way you want to be treated? Or do you reject it all, with a great big IMBI! A self-sufficient Urban Arbenga too busy fighting fat, cholesterol and other windmills of American living. Indemin neh yihon?)
Where was I? Ah, yes, HISTORY... sima, inkanji, I'm here in England where most of Ethiopia's looted historical artifacts are housed in museums. The most tragic thing that was hauled away was Emperor Tedros's son, Alemayehu, who died here at a very early age, probably of sadness, and is buried at the Windsor Castle. His quiet death is in contrast to Zerai Deres', who died fighting in the streets of Rome against the Fascist occupation of Ethiopia. Alemayehu CHilim alebet, Zerai biliCH alebet. Every time I meet a "young Ethiopian professional" man, I ask myself, is he an "Alemayehu" or a Zerai???? Do you have an equivalent historical reference point, measuring tape or scales you use on Ethio-Anglo-American women? (Yes, I am going to stick to the SELEDA subject/theme if it kills me).
OK, So I'm haunted by the ghost of Ethiopia's past and need to get a life, I know, it's sad...and utterly unfashionable...to fantasize about things like "Ye Abesha Wenay" , that QofTana, QoraT, miTmiTa-dusted, Qariya-crunching WENDATA-ness. But sadly, I do. I imagine I hear the lions roaring at the full moon that shines on the thick, thick CHaca against which can be seen the striking silhouette of a sinQ-slinging goferayed jegna. And when I strain against the sound of buzzing crickets and the roaring lions I can hear him mumbling to his mauzir shotgun. A man who does not trust his own heart let alone his friends.... Wei Fano.. Wei Fano...inayn, inayn FINFIN yadirgen inna....Wui!
...Isn't it unfortunate that there are no such songs about the bravery or even the general character of Ethiopian women? There is a song by Thedros, "Girma Mogese Nesh", which I thought for a long time was sung by an Ethiopian man to an Ethiopian woman, but I've since been told that it is, in fact, a song for Ethiopia. Let me know if you think of a replacement song other than Tutuye's "Kiw Kiw iyalu/setoch gud afelu ". OOPS, sorry about that, I keep going off the deep end.
Isti, egrhin lTebew, to hell with that equal rights amendment bill of your'n. Besides, what if I have a foot fetish?? I guess it's OK THEN, huh? Supposedly liberated ferenji women licking, all up in between them pink toes. ECH!!!WEDEZA.
Ijjihin lasTatbih, innatay, why should you walk so far... to the bathroom sink??? Then, here is a little suff fitfit, a little azifa, some miTad shiro, kik weT and .... isti b'lit adergilgn, better yet, isti lagursih. Then, talk.... Qided. Isti teCHawet..
See you soon.
TO: The Suburban Grazmach-ess
Selam eleshalhew anchye yagere lij
Wenésh Ethiopiawi Writing-ish yeferenj
Tikikil bleshal "The URBAN Arbegna "
Gin aydelehugnim be-field-é misera
Beleché adralhew Geta yikber
Balhonem professional or white collar worker
Esti lasredash laCHawtish s'lné
Yachin duka sibesh kof bei kegoné
Little did I know that exercising my constitutional right to free association, and fancying myself to be on par with those who write on SELEDA, would put me in this awkward position of responding to someone with such agility of language and self-assuredness...especially in contrast to the soft-spoken, submissive women I am used to. Fortunately for me, before I could finish saying "Guday fella!" !, you took me back to a reassuringly familiar world. Your letter spoke the words that are music to my ears: 'Igrigin liTeb'... 'Ijihin LiTeb'...'Buna yifela'... 'Min yiqreb'? To all of which I say, "Afé QuriT yibelilish !
This is not to say that I no longer feel intimidated by your intellectual poise, Ethiopiawi confidence and stylistic grandeur. So I approach our tete-a-tete with much self-doubt and an unsettling tremor in my heart that I might not live up to SELEDA's expectations.
As to your notion of the Ethiopian archetype of jegna, QofTana, and QoraT whose blood is permeated with Ye Abesha Wené, I am again afraid I might disappoint you. I must sadly report that I am none of those things. As far as I am concerned, Zerai Deres is such a distant, mythical figure, you might as well talk about Zeus or Osiris. To me, Ethiopian history, about which my knowledge is miniscule (although I would be grateful for any free lesson from you), is such a burdensome subject that it only amplifies my pitiful inadequacies. My Urban Arbegna persona consists mainly of a struggle to pay my bills, send money to my family and pay my Heineken taxes. My battlefield exploits are blissfully limited to the perimeters of 18th and Columbia Streets in Washington D.C. My Adwa and MaiCHew are found in the dimly lit basement of Meskerem Restaurant and the flag-draped patio of Fasika Restaurant. My battle cries of fukera, kererto, and shilela, are held during a weekly session of "Asresh Micheu" in the suffocating confines of a zigubgn.
To some extent I am the Abesha poster child permanently captured in SELEDA's first issue: black leather-wearing, Toyota Camry-driving, leather couch-owning, political asylum-seeking, carryout-eating, serially-dating Ye DC Abesha. But please don't think of me as tacky and vain (although I have no good argument to convince you that I am neither). Vanity to me is the obsession with fighting cholesterol and fat, and building muscles. I happily gorge myself with kitfo, qinCHé, and ye beg fitfit several times a week, idmé le Abesha restaurants. I approvingly look at my expanding waistline and hear my mother say to me, "Amrob'hal! Qelteh! Wefereh!".
So you may wonder, is there any redeeming quality here? There is only one I could think of: I strongly root for Ethiopian professionals. Though I really, really want to belong to the ivy-class and contribute to my country, I also know that I am marooned permanently here in America in order to help my family and to earn my ilet ingera. But you, my dear, yene imbebet , you occupy that rarefied air, up there where I can only look but not touch. I marvel at all of the professional Ethiopians who seem to have it all. When I hear some of my friends discuss Rousseau, Hadis Alemayehu, Dostoyevski, and Birhanu Zerihun, all in one breath, it blows my mind; when I see their happiness and sadness quotient zigzagging in tandem with the graphs of the stock market, I am filled with pride that they and I occupy the same geographic location; when they whine about their quarterly bonus that is larger than my annual income, I say "Wend ayer weled, you deserve more"; and when I hear them complain that a neighbor has just bought a late model lawn mower and theirs is only too noisy, I say, "Show them you mean business, go for the turbo-powered one, yene jegna."
So, my Grazmach-ess:
Ichin kawegan yebeQal lahune
FeTen bei melsu lie atasTebeq'n