AND THEN ADDIS

In this next part, I am not going to tell you about how, at the wedding dinner,  I danced with a girl that cleans up nice and how we hooked up and have been dating ever since because, that shit did not happen. But you would be glad to know that I danced. I danced copying the moves of people who knew how, to the point that one of the originals (you will hear more of this guy later) dubbed me China owing to my adeptness at copying; I danced better than I ever did in any previous wedding. I would later go and check out my moves in front of the mirror. Time and exposure would take care of the rest. But if there is one thing I would like to improve like right now, it is the look on my face when I dance. I don’t want it to look like a chore, performed as joylessly and apprehensively as the players in the Afghanistan Football League, with a forced smile that stretches the skin over my face perceptibly. I want to dance without self-consciousness, lose my self in the moment. And for this, I need to shake it out, because it is hard to dance with the devil on your back:

The following goes out to the devil:

The fire that you meant for me became

The fortress that kept you out

The harder you pushed, the firmer I stood

Tears out to drown me helped me see

Clearer now I don’t need a rainy day

To cherish the sun, to wear my life

Sans weariness

Treat your assignments with indolence

Submit, never

I hear iPhones ringing now and then in the meeting hall. Guys, let’s don’t ask for raise all the while giving the impression that teachers are overpaid. And why is it that at meetings there always seems to be a participant or ten clamoring for a proper study to be carried out on the agenda, a thorough study upon which a “sound judgment” could be based? And why, pray do tell, is it that one of the major recommendations of almost every study is that “further studies are needed?” Verily I say unto you, nobody knows shit!

The liberal use of the “always” and “almost every” is for effect.

Me and other members of the clueless posse forget to pick up the bread from the bride’s; this is like a huge part of our job description and we would have been shamed if it hadn’t been for the groom’s brother in law who saves our behinds. That’s only the tip of our blunders. Strange as it may sound, once it is time for yedabo sim mawTat, the guys were looking up to me for wisdom, me! I scrap in the bits of knowledge that I had acquired from when my brothers got married; the photographers also pitch in.

The small mesobe work is nowhere to be found when it is time to carve out the piece of bread with the matching circumference:

We make do with a plate. Pieces of bread are distributed lebete zemedu, quizzingeach person what the endorsed yedabo sim was. Now, according to tradition, you are not supposed to give the bread to those people who fail to recite the name. But bread I distributed to all and sundry, even to those people who were unfunny and blatant enough to suggest such outlandish names as Rhianna.

Next day: we are too spent to travel to B and deliver yemisrach to the bride’s fam. The more tired and bored of us reiterate that these days mels has grown redundant and that the question itself was rhetorical to begin with. After careful deliberation, we agree to go over there on Tuesday; the bread meanwhile, is to be kept in the fridge.

Today we are discussing religious extremism. Each group leader has taken great care to have brought along a couple of jokes. Jokes as defense mechanism, jokes to appease, jokes when lacking in substance, another hallmark of meetings.

The way I see it, the problem would be solved once we start to build the churches and mosques in our hearts. That or, when we get civilized like the Westerners, maybe our churches and mosques will be deserted; then there won’t be so much noise.

Now normally, I specialize in losing my direction. Tuesday morning, I wander around Saris as if it were the Sinai Desert and arrive at the bus station two hours late. We were expected around ten but it is some minutes past twelve when we finally arrive at B and are phoning them for directions to the house which we had entered two days ago amid a lot of pomp and circumstance. Not even the horrible traffic jam could could serve as an excuse for our tardiness which by this time has totaled more than twenty six hours.

Everybody has done added their two cents to the issue of Meles that there has been created a serious shortage of coins forcing the taxi redats to balk at requests for one’s mels. Regardless, my opinion of dude at that time was that of exasperation. Road construction has been touted as one of his biggest achievements and even the route I was on at that time is undergoing a massive overhaul. Gin min yadergal, stuck in a Higer for over thirty minutes at the same place, with a crucial mission ahead, I couldn’t be bothered about the growth and transformation plan. Get The Phuck out of here! It just was not there when I needed it to be.

He had raeys like John the Evangelist. And if they saw fit to give him an upgrade, since he used to specialize in roads, you would assume that they would liken him to John The Baptist. But I was pleasantly shocked to see billboards—complete with halos—that attribute Jesus’ utterances to him: selam lenante yihun; erse berasachihu tewadedu. Seriously guys, it’s too much! But should you insist, I can contribute a few: Selamen esetachihualehu, selamen eseTachihualehu; ene yemiseTew selam yihe neo-liberal, kiray sebsabi alem endemiseTew selam aydelem.

And then Meles said, let there be light! And dams stood all over the country.

With the lil bread in our possession, that phrase again, we did not know how to present it. Phone calls to my distant relative (she is laughing her head off!)  and my mom shed some light. We drill the bread with the casing of a Bic and hide a hundred birr note, standing on a side street! We also had to bring a bottle of Tej and a rose wrapped at the stem with a white kerchief; the bride’s aunts were gracious enough to provide us with the missing paraphernalia; I provide the tissue paper for the rose.

The same courteous aunts talk us through the Chifera. Tradition dictates that we are to go around, singing buhe- style, soliciting money from the bride’s relatives. Apparently, all proceeds go to the lovebirds. My understanding at the outset was “ Alright! We about to get paid!” That’s why I change the lines that go esti shelimat abatua/wendimua/agotua; esti shelimiyat enatua/ehitua/akistua to esti shelimun abatua/wendimua/agotua; esti shelimin enatua/ehitua/akistu. We have fun and it is nice to see the tuba bahil. It is my favorite part from the whole protracted process. On top of that we make money. Not as much as what the newlyweds made on our labor of course 😦 The bride’s mom gives each best man an envelope, a sort of yelab metekia.

At this point in the story, allow me to explain where exactly I figure in the scheme of things. I have been promoted to best man status. One best man called in sick, the other was out of town on business. So what you have in front of you is a makeshift squad of one new and another relatively seasoned mizes. This duo will ask the bride’s brother to help it with its repetitive two bars of bir ambar seberelwo, jegnaw lijiwo; sorry to put you in an awkward spot, brother!

By this time, the poor bread will have seen the insides of Lord knows how many mini buses and hitched a ride on a gari.

How can I put it aptly? We were out of sorts. Too much tradition to deal with. The sheep to be slaughtered (sorry Getere! I will make it up to you with a nice song at the end) should not be attacked from the back of the neck; it is common courtesy; one should be careful about the number and the representation of meraqiwoch (five, three of them which are from the away team); you can’t give to a meraqi to taste a bottle of whiskey that has been tasted by another meraqi; wezeterfe.

For all the “educated”people in attendance at this meeting, it sometimes seems that the fluorescent lamps are the only things to pass for bright.

I lose the bounty in the envelope when I use it to write the names of meraqiwoch and forget to retrieve it from whomsoever it was that I gave it to. I had high hopes and plans for that money, man! In this time of transition from Bahir Dar to Addis Abeba, toxic spending has left me teetering on the brink of a major bailout by the Federal Government a.k.a. Mom and Dad. Austerity measures have since been put in place and the Feds are managing a chunk of my earnings to tarik lemadreg my financial woes.

I also manage to give the groom the unintentional and unusual gursha of qocho wrapped with injera. Okay, maybe it does not beat the incident that I saw on the video of the wedding of a relative: the groom cuts a piece of meat and unloads it on the bride’s gown, mistaking it for her plate. Where is a good editor when you need one?

To be finished…

One

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AND THEN ADDIS ABEBA. THE RESET.

On strange tidings, people! The Ethiopian National Team qualifying for the African Cup of Nations. This portends…

I am sitting at this meeting. About twenty fives minutes have elapsed since it began. But people are still coming in. Teachers, aren’t we being hypocritical in demanding that our students arrive to class on time? Yes, I hate the mere suggestion of a meeting just like the next guy. Still, I think the right thing to do would be to not come at all in the first place. But if masochism so wills it, and one decides to grace the meeting with one’s appearance, one should not arrive late; even if  the consensus reached at before hand almost every time is that the meeting is going to be frivolous. If only I could read this…

Hopes for the new year and resolutions, I don’t have many. There is of course the perennial desire to see things in greater resolution, in high-definition. Then again, HD could also stand, among other things, for half-done. I should stop stressing over the things (and the people) that I have left undone, and that went on to be done by somebody else. HD could also mean Hailem…

I know that I am pretentious. I hate it when people try to point that out like they just made a big discovery or something. I was the first to scale that mountain, baby! They say that identifying the problem is halfway to solving it. But sometimes, try as he might to rectify it, identification of the problem is the most one could do. And for that 50% alone, one believes that one is entitled to a whole lot of leave alone.

My depressions are getting deeper that I am finding it to bounce back to surface. In the olden days, I would put up with my shitty days with glad resignation, safe in the knowledge that the bright days were just around the corner. My depression used to resemble bouts of recession. My depression  these days has become an unpleasant plateau. The causes remain the same: huge blessings being masked by minuscule troubles.

I hope 2005 would be the year that my life is turned topsy-turvy, in a good way. Revelations are made to the wretched; I am ripe for one. I will not be reading self-help books for they will suck the romance right out of life. And they call them self-help! If you depend on some book by some author who is as human as you are to tell you how to go about living your life, that is hardly self-help, now is it?

I will get to spout additional verses from the Bible, verses other than Proverbs 18:22 and 1 Corinthians 7:8-9.

My wedding would be a low key affair that only two people would get to attend. It would lie on a Wednesday. I know, I know. Talking about weddings from where I am at is like putting the cart in front of the horse and the person is walking ahead, urging them to follow suit –asinine! It is just that people around me keep on getting married. It was well and good if they got hitched like that and kept their happiness to themselves. But no! Their happiness won’t be complete unless they drag the entire neighborhood to wallow in their happiness (Perhaps their desire stems from the fact that they are creating negative entropy when they coalesce; thus the need for their disturbing the rest of humanity, in order to satisfy the second law of thermodynamics.)  My friend is one such asshole.

I have known him for over six years. When I first met this seemingly aloof individual in front of the lecture hall, little did I know that we would hit it off, to the point of him calling me Kyph; and that a little further down the road, he would do me the great disservice of asking me to be one of his best men. I turned him down flat; I was not one for the spotlight; social events give me the heebie-jeebies; I will ruin the photos; etcetera and I bid him reconsider his decision to put his life under the same yoke as some one else’s. Two chassis become one:

How about all the freedom of movement? I know it saves a lot of fuel, that is not reason enough to get married. No reason is.

He hails from where the waters come in heights ranging from 330 to 2000 ml. She, on the other hand, is from where the waters could be as deep as 100 meters. Let them gush all they want, call their coming together  an act of fate, destiny. I prefer to call it a logistical nightmare:

We settle upon my role as a stand-in best man. I attend training sessions.

Fast forward to the wedding date, the usual: photos in ludicrous acts and poses, breakfast at the groom’s , the whole shebang.

I am not feeling my writing. But it is the only thing keeping me awake up in this. Plus fellow “meeting animals” are, I can feel it, watching me scribbling like crazy, wondering how I managed to extract gold from a heap of manure, because it is how things are: once a minute (more like twenty seconds) of silence has been observed in memory of  you know who; I have thanked the Lord for making me count among the crème de la crème (in an institution where, the very first day I joined as a student, exclaimed “when is this going to end 😦 ); the cap seal on the bottled water has been broken (two, clean movements, please!); and everybody has settled down with their Sinarline and Bic in hand, there is hardly anything to do with said pieces of stationery, nothing that prevents one’s mind from wandering out of the meeting hall. And I, like the consummate teacher that I am, am giving a lot of community service, the third pillar of our noble profession, by keeping several teachers in the hall with my wanderings. So I go on writing.

Our collective lack of experience on how weddings should be run has made us overlook an integral part of our duty –we needed to bring a protocol along. I am tagging along with the groom and his best men. You could almost say that I looked like a better man. So it was only natural that I would be mistaken for the protocol once we have reached the gates of the bride’s house. In my new capacity as the accidental protocol guy 😯 , important demands are made of me like: how many people have you brought along  so that we can arrange designated seats in the dinkuan? Answer –um, one, two, three, …, thirty to fifty. Won’t you make up your mind for fuck sakes!

Hold the plate for the groom and do some ladling My response – mirror, maybe too much, the female protocol. Pop Champagne Reluctance to do so, even after this nice lady offers to do most of the work for me. I am literally swept off  my feet at the melee  of the anasigebam sergegna; I lose a button.

A lot of hassle to the business, that a protocol can’t get his fill of the Tej, and get his daily requirements of vitamin C. Damn! On a positive note, I am told to announce the cake cutting ceremony and my teaching experience comes in handy –sermons.

We have to hurry back. There are people waiting for the newlyweds (or should I say, the newlywelds?) at the groom’s house. But haste gave rise to commotion. Our atshegnunim wey was deemed unceremonious. I, in my buzz of not knowing what to do, even manage to remove a seat that was prepared for the bride’s relatives for when the time came for gulbet mesam. In my defense, I was just paving the way for our party. One of our own people starts to sing, out of turn, eyebelu eyeTeTu zim; two of our own people almost get into a fight with each other.

We are berated for not honoring the tradition and for making a mess of our exit, most of all by the priest who was standing on a chair, the better to command the scene. He looked like a turbaned, much younger and way more pissed off version of Ababa Tesfaye, the way he went enante nachihu ahun yehager terekabioch? (ere egna mushira lemerekeb new yemeTanew!) … bezefen ager ayqenam! … beTam tasazinalachihu!…

Once calmed down, he breaks the word mist down in ways it had never been broken down before. We all know the definition in circulation: mitmita sitilis tinoraleh. But aba says mi in Gee’z stands for migib; si = short for sisit yelelebat, t= for tihitina yetemolach. My irreverent self takes this to mean, respectively, that she cooks, gives it up on the regular and does not complain whether you come early, toes curled or late, legs wobbling.

Incorrigible!

Songs from the wedding dinner:

To be continued…

One

Recorded Sheger FM programs

Because I like Sheger FM I wrote a page for them  here.

Gérard Quenum – Dolls Never Die

“I always work with old things because in things which have been used for a long time there is a kind of life which inspires me, and with the head of the doll, when I put them together, it’s as if another life begins. The doll’s head animates all the other materials.”

More on BBC (from which images are taken from) and October Gallery.

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