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
Treat your assignments with indolence
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…