SELEDA Ethiopia
Art work by Assegid Gessesse
December 13 2019
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Hamsa Lomi

 

Why, we often ask ourselves, can't we be more like SELEDA readers? You know, the types who induce robust "indya new lij malet!"s from a group of parents at family gatherings. The overachieving types who have the same permanent wez of erudition plastered to their faces. "Asnaqe… come here and say something smart for your aunts and uncles."… The types we used to beat up on in high school who now run companies that run companies. And if they look underneath their feet… hmm, and that gummy thing 'neath their Bally loafers… why, that would be our self-esteems.

Yarba Qen idil!

The July/August issue gathered some of the best members of the "Yetemaru, miraQachewin yewaTu" Legislative Body.

To wit, A. M. from Atlanta on the wildly popular A Kiss Without a Hug: "…[It is] obvious that there is a new generation in the ideological halls of power in the Ethiopian Diaspora. "It is the economy, stupid" has never rung truer. Marginalizing the volatile nature of Ethiopian politics will be this generation's (we in our 20's and 30's) footprints. Go, ET BuBu's! A kiss is still a kiss. Hugs are optional not necessary…Thank you SELEDA and the author for a great piece."

Finally, something SELEDA is good at: marginalizing stuff and not hugging anyone we venture out to kiss! We knew skipping out on school and frequenting Nefas Slk zgubgNs would not necessary pre-dispose us to being the kiss awlaqi and/or maj'rat mechis Teacher Kassa said we would be. So… ha!

Andualem Beshah, who we will swear belongs to the same Alpha Awaqi Phi fraternity as A.M., had this assessment: "Vive Le Revanche! eh? My "kiss" comes via your "Kiss Without a Hug" article. My compliments to the author on a topic well thought out. May I candidly observe, albeit in terms less kindly couched than the author, that those precedent to "us", who indulged the orgiastic populism borne of the unmitigated exposure to the late, unlamented Marxism proved naiveté fatal beyond any reason to relive it, or worse to foist it on a people who could ill afford such luxuries yet a second time. Aspiration to such doubtful distinction promises to be the ultimate Judas kiss to a people we profess to "love". I have a suggestion for both "them" and "us" (Westerners and near-Westerners) who come up with these ridiculous little confidence games (remember Lenin was German payback for centuries of humiliating defeat at the hands of Russian Czars courtesy of German Intelligence): they run on venerable institutions and a better deserving people. Enough! From now on we, meaning "educated" Ethiopians, should only entertain ideas from the West if the West is first willing to use itself as a laboratory. Had we done that in the old days, I guarantee you "land reform" would have disappeared from the laundry list of things the Americans and Brits were fiddling with while the Ethiopian Empire was burning in 1974…"

Yikes and yewozer! Ok, while we're certainly down with the same "Die commie scum!" rah- rah- siss- boom- bah, maybe it is the maj'rat mechi in us that makes us kinda light up when we hear "land reform". As in, for revenge against the Brits we storm our troops into Sandford School and bark, "Ok, you queen-loving windbags, we're razing down this eye sore. Move it or lose it, and take those damn hockey sticks with you, ferchrissake! Hmm, which hole is the men's bathroom?" Think about it, Andy. Condos in Qebenna. Let's you and us talk.

But then again there are some people hell bent on spoiling the fun. "Isn't [this article] advocating the creation of a whole new autocracy even as it claims to be based on meritocracy," asks our friend Meseret. "Aren't we relegating the 'unwashed masses' to second class, Reagan-type trickle down economics?"

Errr, we dunno, Mesi, and not because we don't want to know either. Rather, and how terribly embarrassing is this, we don't have a single unwashed masses person in our Rolodexes. Our bad.

(Note to selves: get unwashed masses' cell phone number ASAP and invite them to the SELEDA "Fall in Vermont" cocktail party.)

Moving on to other less contentious subjects…

Ambessaw (pronounced 'An-ve-siyaw' for the newly SELEDifyed) had this to say about Money Honey : "I know you have heard this a million times but here goes one more time: your magazine is the best thing since sliced and rolled injera. I'd also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those Ethiopian-Americans who are faithfully serving in all four branches of the United States Armed Forces." (Uh? ET Marines? Rrrrrrrrr!) "Those of us who are in the profession of arms and are currently serving in different corners of this nation and the world can't tell you how much your magazine means to us. Now, having said that, I'd like to comment on Ye SELEDA Shenkorit's article which I read with great interest. Does she honestly believe that once she saves enough money to support four people is the right time to get married? She further tries to bring our attention to the dismal record of marriage in the US. Well, how about looking at the other side of the coin and look at how our parents' generation…[who] found love first and, inspired by it, went on to diligently build a better life for themselves and their children? (Values, my dear, family values...a term that the Republicans might have overused and made unattractive, but that is what it all comes down to.) I agree with most of what Shenkorit had to say, but it would be sad to see such a smart and I'm sure beautiful (she being Ethiopian) girl place all her hopes for a happy and lasting relationship in the stock market."

Pat Buchannan? Is that you again? Ehem. Seriously, Anb (may we be so familiar?), we keep tellin' these women, we mean girls, "Don't wait until Cisco splits again to dive into the tidar pool" Do they listen to us? Naa. By the way, most staff members here have had longer and more meaningful relationships with the stock market than with a human being, but, you know, it's a freak show around here. But to the real qum neger…are you really an Army/Navy fella? Atten-hun! (Rrrrrrrrrrrr!)

Eshi. Esti sine s'rat.

"Congrats on your last issue," says Samson Mulugeta. "I can't believe you guys keep topping yourself. Just to take one example, your profile of Marcus Samuelsson, was really well done, funny and you asked some really thought provoking questions. You guys put us "real" journalists to shame. Are you sure you're not going to journalism school at night or something?"

Thank you, Sammy, but since we failed our last night class, "Do real journalists have shame?" we've gone back to taking knitting classes. … Wait, that's no way to take a compliment! Misgana-bissoch! Thank you, lijay.

We tell you, you can take the people out of the zgubgN , but you can't take the...

On Thirty Questions, our one-on-one with whiz kid Yosef Kibur, Iskender Tezera from Boston drops this dub'ida on us: "I hate to break this to you, but Simon Fraser University is not in Toronto. Maybe, it is time to add a fact checker/research dude on your staff. Of course, you can always print/post corrections."

Now why do we get a feeling that Iskyew didn't really hate pointing that out to us? We stand corrected. Simon Fraser is in… where the hell is Simon Fraser University? Inday…AmTulgN eko! You see? One degree north of Maytiko Adebabi and we are all like, duh. … But, Ere qoi! A fact checking person?? T'!Ante demo! What about the shiftless, "I-can't-work-80-hours-a-week-for-five-cents-an-hour-which-BTW-is-NOT-the-minimum-wage" SELEDA interns? Mn sertew yideru? You want us to take rolled and sliced injera from their mouths? Abet g'f!

Dr. Segenet Kelemu, on the other hand, had other tichits in mind. After kindly pointing out that she enjoys reading some of our articles, she followed up with this nugget: "…However, I have a suggestion. It sounds to me that many of the contributors are from privileged backgrounds by Ethiopian standards. While they have interesting stories to tell, it gives the impression that they have had a huge jump-start in life to reach where they are now. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I would like to hear real success stories from scratch, where people came from dirt poor backgrounds in Ethiopia and made it big through simple hard-work, tenacity and determination."

Since we have acutely verbose tendencies, we might have not made this point clear. So, here goes… Who your daddy is and where he got his last Ph.D has never been a prerequisite for submitting stories and ideas to SELEDA. Never. In fact, we have always pleaded with our diverse audience to participate. We still do. But it just might be that the people who have attained "real" success are not as sira aT lq affs as we had hoped. So, all y'all, one last time, speak! If you don't, you forfeit the right to criticize and we will keep regaling you with "How I handled going to Soderé in a Volkswagen while mummy's Volvo was in the shop" stories.

(Eeeeewww, a Vols! Now tell us that is not a hardship story.)

Speaking of us being verbose, here comes Girum T. carrying with him this admonition snQ. "…your articles are insanely stretched out, wordy -- a little too long. I'm certainly not complaining or contesting the quality of your work. Instead, I seek to strengthen "SELEDA" and open up this site to a larger and more ordinary group. Yes, I said "ordinary," average people whom you seem to be overshadowing. I understand this is for the "educated" and "professional," but let's not forget a large percentage of our people are average people who physically toil to give their children better opportunities. In "short," I am saying that the articles are, on the average, too lengthy to keep one's full attention. By decreasing the length of your articles, I strongly believe you will attract more [readers]."

OK. We're officially confused. "Ordinary" people have less of an attention span than the rest of us, er, extraordinary people? Because, you know, blink twice and phim! that was our attention span flying out the window. Which we think makes us… hello and good night Nelly! …one of the ordinaries. Damn that Teacher Kassa!

Ok, who are we kidding? SELEDA is not for everyone. There, we said it! It is not for the "Why do you have to (whine… whine… whine) use all of those hard Amharic words? I've been here ten years and (whiny… whiny… whiny) I can't understand them…(waa..waa..waa.. whinnnnnnnneeeeeee..." agul ferenjie weenies. It is also not for the verbally constipated "Can't you write for people at the eighth grade level because I only read at that level because I went to St. Joseph and ziz and zat…I am beQa allergic to the dictionary… ziz and zat and ze other…" crowd. Neither is it for the "Is it more than one paragraph? Oooohhh…. Ooohhh. No… get it away from me! It will hurt me!" clique. So, who does that leave? Hmmm. A whole damn lot, that's who! Irrespective of our backgrounds and ordinariness and average-ness, there are a whole lot of us who have stories to tell, pains to heal and laughter to share. Mediocrity, even the mere tolerance of it, and uninspired conjectures are the only sins we will hold against you. Otherwise, everyone is welcome.

(They pause to gasp for air.)

And… and… and… SELEDA cannot be the one magazine that serves the whole Diaspora. And we certainly understand (and are grateful) that it does not appeal to everyone. (It barely appeals to us.) It is a small l'il 'zine that a few yeleyelachews churn out (for free) between parole officer appointments and attending several 12-step programs. The greater issue is that we need other 'zines to fill the different niches since this crew is in no way apologetic for not being everything to everybody.

(Hmmm. Was that an insanely long reply? Fine, Girum. You've made your point.)

Oki, dockey, Smokey, we think we're just about done starting a class war here. What's next…?

"I love the articles in your newsletter," writes Beth A. "But I think the style is too Americanized. So is the humor…But I hope you take this as positive comment…"

Now, we know we've enjoyed the occasional backhanded compliment in the past, but even the worst alem yaweqew masochist among us is having a problem taking that as a positive comment. Ouch, ouch, ouchy-doody.

Mad props and ifoyee temesgenn to Hyiwot Teshome, however, for whispering sweet nothings into our ears. "I have fallen in love with your humor (most Ethiopians would call it "Yeferenj Qeld", with demurral), but I do love it. I also like the smattering of Amharic words and phrases in your writings. They do enliven the stories. I have always said Amharic is the best language to succinctly convey your message. Shakespeare kefelege yiksesegN…"

Ere min abatu QorTot, ya menaTi! A few "hath"s and "ye"s and "yonder"s does not a literati make. But Hiywot breathing hiwet into us… now that is poetry. Er, you wouldn't happen to be a Navy/Army fella there, wouldya? Call us.

It pains us to see that some of our readers don't really ye-iwnet read SELEDA, because we keep getting letters like Melaku Zewdie's. " I was wondering if you could give me some information such as to where SELEDA originates from, who the editors are, and how you get your articles."

Another M.Z.,(ahhh, they are a different breed from you and us, people) this time a Marta Zewdeneh asks, "How do I get in touch with the editors?"

This after all the work we put into outing ourselves. Eh! Ehhh! Minew Mele! Inde ahiya siga Tal Tal? But since you asked so nicely, we'll make an exception and invite you to our next editorial meeting. At high noon on the first Monday of the full moon, come to the third pasti bet behind Mazegaja. You will see a red door. Go in. Go past our new friends, the unwashed masses. (Say hi to them, they like that.) Hang a left, and there we'll be. And, Mele.. er, bring cash.

As to how to get in touch with us, well, we are not always the sharpest bowling ball in the alley, but we're going to go ahead and throw this out there… try writing to us at the same address, Marta… unless you meant "how do I touch the editors?" in which case, … heh… heh… heh… heh…

"What is this page??*!! Why is this page having to very pretendness![sic] Why? It is very diappoinment.[sic] Yours truly, Yirgalem. Dallas."

Yirgu, beQa, beQa yiQr. Na esti agsa…(pat, pat) beQa… yihew.. Qere! You know, with a little verb conjugation and the correct spelling of "pretendness", that would have really hurt. As it is, we are grateful for small miracles. (Demo "yours truly"!!!)

And finally, to bring us back to our senses, a kind word from someone who is someone.

Amen… amen… Igrot lie zeff! b'len, amen!

With that barkot we say until next month. As always, we are grateful for your feedback even when it appears that we are not. You make us stronger (you and the left over steroids from years past), and we appreciate the time you take to write to us. You can reach us at editors@seleda.com or go to the comment box.

Melkam addis amet lehulachin!

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