To: The Urban Arbegna
From: The Suburban Grazmach
Inkwan addereseh ! Let me start by saying how happy I am that we have managed to avoid the Ethiopian version of the whole No Scrubs/No Pigeons discoor. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your description of the Abesha Car Accident in Washington? Firiss new miyadergew, besaQ limot. You are lucky, you have the best of both worlds, and you deserve the luxury of finding the familiar and yet continually evolving. Ayzoh, QeTilibet, my dear Urban Arbenga, you wear your title well, for not only are you winning life, as we say, but you have got a second life, as the game goes.
Having read that, however, I stumbled upon your angebgabi Tiyaqé on the Exodus. Ereg, ereg, ereg, IKIKIKIKIKI, indi negn inna!! Who is being arrogant really?? Not the sophomoric Gebiz kalegna man alé people who dream of a grand Exodus but you, you who has experienced such a great miracle of life, a renaissance; you who has the best of both worlds cannot imagine a prosperous and peaceful Ethiopia? Minew lijjay? Can you really only see chronically starving and perpetually fighting knuckle heads?
Actually, I don't blame you. All of us who have left and live outside Ethiopia think that the minute we left Her, time stood still. As if the little cousins, and neighborhood CHoochays we left behind would never grow up, as if our awful experiences were somehow being repeatedly rerun like the mediocre sitcoms on ferenji TV. A classic case of "Iné kemotku serdo aybeQlm", which I suffered from until I returned to Ethiopia after a long, long time.
Did I tell you my last job took to me to Wello? Bati Bira Fabrika in Kombolcha is run by a foreign company and a major shareholder of that company is an Ethiopian who grew up in Wello. She organized to have the diff-diff from the beer production distributed (for free) to farmers in distress to feed the remaining animals from the livestock decimated by two years of failed belg rains. In Dessie, I stayed at the Kwali Ber Hotel, locally known as the EDU hotel; the owner, a widow, provides employment to the children of those who most probably wished her dead, but she has no hard feelings. Out in Gubbalafto, an upper-middle class, ex-feudal farmer who happened to be able to hang on to his farm was busy making plans in conjunction with Gibrina people on how to re-stock the lost herds of his less fortunate neighbors.
Meanwhile, orphans of the 1974 drought, raised in the Children's Home in Jarré just outside Dessie, have been trained to craft the abundant leather of the livestock-rich Wello into beautiful belts and bags and shoes and wallets and hats. The outlets for these goods are growing beyond Dessie's Piasa street and the gebeya to include the newly reopened Dessie Museum. The prettiest car is owned by the youngest, much-sought-after bachelor, a clever chap who transports hyQ fish to Addis Abeba. Weizero Sihin's school had just had a spring cleaning and the gates with her name on it have been re-polished; it's hard to tell who is shining more, the gates or the beautiful children streaming through it. My point? My point is that it is neither reckless nor a dream to imagine Ethiopia as being anything more than a place to be fled and fed. It is arrogant to imagine that Ethiopia will not become prosperous and peaceful.
Life, (beyond that Ethio-American round trip holiday to the Sheraton, La Parisienne, the night-clubs on the Wello Sefer's fake Sunset Strip, Langano weekends and for the more adventurous, the package Bahr Dar-Lallibela-Gondar-Axum, has gone on, and yes, gotten better. Never mind us, with the best of both worlds; those IN ETHIOPIA, those who stayed and lived through, and are living through, the tedegagami miserable endings, believe that there is hope. More than hope. I have relatives from Inemor who have no doubt they will be millionaires (there are plenty of Merkato millionaires), and whenever they see that road project near WelQitay bring the road closer and closer to their farms, what they see is THE MARKET. It is ironic that we are sitting in the capitals of the free market economy but we can't see a market. We can't see the forest for the trees, as the Ingiliz say.
It is true, like many, I would not return to work "in my field" in Ethiopia for the miserable pay. But for how long will it be more profitable and smarter to stay away, in the name of helping family? Am I immigrant labour that will go home to retire? Will I die working for the corporation and the betterment of America? It's not that I listen too hard and read too much into Teshome Mitiku's parable song about the woman who left him in Ethiopia with the children and never returned, or Adane Ademe's song "Yehedubet Yet New" about the cows mooing for all those who left in the 70's and refuse to return...the brain drain.
NO NO, I really believe we can have productive lives and make a good living in Ethiopia if we save money and return to start businesses. To me, it's that simple. Yes, I have read Hell-Hole Diaries but I think that one cannot just GO BACK without reconciling oneself to the past and being prepared to learn from the realities of Ethiopia's present. It's useless to go back and think that you can teach Ethiopia and Ethiopians a lesson or two. Yashofubihal; that is what I think happened in the Hell-Hole Diaries. Apart from such psycho-social prerequisites, I also think that one must genuinely LOVE Ethiopia and one's Ethiopian-ness when living and working in Ethiopia because it is Ethiopian to mistrust, reject, not cooperate with and defeat anything and anyone that is not on that frequency. A patriotism and nationalism that is thriving NOW. Amazing.
Did you say they say "Yalegna man ale"?? Ishi, Tira, inde Itiyopiyawee man ale?? You're lucky we have SELEDA to put out this history issue cause you sho'nuff need it. This emerging brilliant bourgeoisie class you are talking of, inesuss min yilalu? Talk to me now.
TO: The Suburban Grazmach-ess
From: The Urban Arbegna
I once read a rather funky one-liner on a T-shirt, "The cost of living is dying; EVERONE PAYS." The cost of living in this land-of-plenty, the land of the free, is you gets caught up in an endless cycle of production and consumption--shamelessly resembling yehager bet ahya. In return, we the PEOPLE dreamily enjoy the standard dividends of being a faithful ahya. THE PRICE: the last several years of my life have been devoid of reflection and self-scrutiny. And you, Grazmach-ess--my newly found yenefse enat--you have snapped open my conscious and shoved me into a psychological whirlpool of self-scrutiny and reflection. Lesu talak mesgana akerblhu.
Ye wello tarikesh betam leb yemyares ena yehager fiker yemkesekes new. Honom, Grazmache-ss, you have left out some minor details, or may I say you have overlooked something rather fundamental. Quick. Quick--- Enqokelesh-Menawkelsh-- what do a Dessie Birra lady, a newly minted Grazmach-ess, and the owner of the snappiest Koreda-mobile in Dessie have in common? Yemayawelwel yehager fiker? Ummm...maybe--maybe not...endegena moker...eshi... how about a wefram bank account? MOST definitely. You see, since the beginning of time, the people who can make a difference in Ethiopia are those who control the resources. Thus Ethiopia can be better served by those with the appropriate resources and NOT by middle-aged immigrant underachievers like me.
Talking about the Rich, Bold and Beautiful, my hope for Ethiopia lies with the swelling ranks of cutthroat self-serving Ethio-American capitalists busily carving out their share of the pie here in America. Not because they have yehager feker but for the immense opportunity. This new class of brilliant bourgeoisie (BuBu), armed with their Ivy League degrees, stock options and American-style cutthroat attitude, is starting to discover Wello Sefer, Langano and The Gazebo. Yes, they are spending their $$ today on what might seem buwalt ena fez (an important and real contribution to the economy) but their trained eyes are bound to notice the upside for Mega-Profit.
I am high on BuBus--they are a special bunch--brilliant, ambitious and free of demons. A privileged beginning had given them the early momentum. Discipline and ambition allowed them to maximize every opportunity. The early BuBus are the outcome of American School, GSS, English School, St. Joseph, etc. The later ones are outcomes of some of the finer American public schools. They were processed by the American higher education machinery and delivered to the biggest names in BIG business. BIG conglomerates have turned them into blood-sucking profit junkies. They seek each other out and live, play, and work with each other. They marry each other. ACS marries Sanford (Editors add "As if!"), St. Joseph marries Nazareth, Georgetown marries Berkeley, GAP marries Microsoft. They are true global citizens: multi-lingual, well traveled and devilishly charming.
To BuBus, Ethiopia is a novelty they relate to it through narrow channels like music, food and SELEDA. But BuBus are Ethiopia's asset. Where I see torment and personal pain, they envision lots of open land to harness. Where some romanticize about returning hageren lemerdat, they discern quick and fast profit. That is why I champion BuBus!!! BuBus are PREDICTABLE!! What-You-See-Is-What-you-GET!!! BuBus will not, cannot and do not confuse profit with yehager feker. So I say, while supplies last, give Yerga Chefe, Methara and Bole Bulbula to BuBus, their ferenji friends, and their BIG $$$. And shut out my type, the type marred with painful history and shackled with eternal mediocrity.
Abstraction is a dangerous game, which for the most part needs to be confined to specially constructed "Ivory Towers." More importantly, a cocktail of academic abstraction and romanticism is even more potent, as it might land one in a predicament that can blow holes and leave a lasting scar on one's outlook on Ethiopia-- Hell Hole is a case in point. That is why I am suspicious of pure bego adragot, hageren lerda. I am even more suspicious of tenesh save adrege Ethiopia egebalhu. Let the BuBus IN!!! They all come bundled with a plethora of "isms" and "schisms".
GRAZMACH-ess... Thinking that this is my last entry already fills me with nostalgic cramps. As all good things must come to an end, so will our discoor. I am happy and feel very, very edelgna to have had the opportunity to learn from you. EGZIABHER YEBARKESH NUROSH YEMWALA EYALKU ESENABETESHALHU.