81.Fetena,for all involved

Was part of a team that gave an exam. It was fun to see the faces of the students contort with every question. You could almost say that, if teaching was a marriage, we definitely consummated it yesterday.

All that except, that was not exactly how it went down.

I was in charge of preparing some of the questions. I was walking up and down the room trying to keep up an austere and friendly demeanor  at the same time. Trying to meet the gaze of each student that happened to look up like ” I am watching you!”

And you know students; they ask! And what I discovered was: woe be unto anyone who cannot answer their questions properly.

Well excuse  me if  I don’t know all of biochemistry by heart!

Sometimes you should not give away the answers while trying to clarify things. At other times the question in question was not from your portion of the course. And still at other times, even if it was you who prepared the question, you just can’t be too sure.

So anyway, I tried to explain what I can, told them to answer to their whim for other questions and for the questions that I had prepared, I would say: “Tiyakew tikikil meselegne; esti bedenb eyewina siraw “

It was in the middle of all this that I was called by a student. He was sitting with his legs crossed. Not like the one you do when you are in the middle of an exam, and you really have to go, but have no choice but to keep it inside. No, Ellen DeGeneres style. He shows me a question. I give it a look and try to walk away with the usual ““Tiyakew tikikil meselegne…”. But I did not get far before he calls me back (“not so fast buddy”), same question, and starts to explain things to me, underlining words, scribbling  synonyms  and shit!  He went through the choices one by one for me and he let me go when he thought he had found the answer.

And tell me what’d  I say ?  “Where do you get off lecturing me you Mourinho-act-alike little fool?! Meet me outside and I ma fuck you up! …or vice versa…”

But did it stop there? Oh no! Kid calls me again:

“It’s you again smart pants?! You really are asking for it!!”

This time it was not one of my questions. At the risk of putting down another guy’s question preparing prowess, the question was ambiguous. The previous night I had tried to clear it up for myself but couldn’t.  It went “what is the key ….of…?”

He says “What does it mean by ‘key’?”

In situations like this, when you are not really sure about what is meant by the word “key”,  enlightening/bamboozling demands that you should switch to Amharic:

wesagne malet new

gin eko bizu wesagne …..och alu”

“ betam wesagne yemimesilihin melis” … “ and let me go, please?!”

He fills in the “right” answer, oozing with confidence some might mistake for arrogance, his exam paper upright, for all unknowledgeable teachers to see.

Liked the kid. It is students like him that make teaching a fun challenge, the way it should be. And as a teacher I am a work in progress. But every day I learn more and finally I am starting to think that I really could get to like this ASTEMARI business. Like, this is my domain!

We do it with class baby!

Then again Wul Drant endalew

T, remember eleventh grade, Amharic class, we would study whole reading passages because some part of it would appear verbatim in the tests?  Betty would not remember because she used to be a girl. Don’t get me wrong; she is a girl still. In fact she is a beautiful girl whom I would like to take to a room, close the door, bolt it , turn on  the lights( damn! teregna nen), close the windows, draw  the blinds, check that the door is  closed,

You get the drift

In one of those passages there was a quote-it appeared on a test- from this fellow who went by the name Wul Drant: ” Filagot  yaletesetiwo ewir new ; tesetiwom yalefilagot bedin new”. Sorry for the not-politically –correctness of “ewir”.

Doesn’t anyone think that it is time to find replacements for  those kinds of words in  The Bible? Especially the ones in the gospel where Jesus cures this …..  and that ……… ?  I know they are only words but … they do not sound great.

So I don’t believe that I was born to teach (like hell you are not!). But now that I am starting to want to be a teacher, I think what I lack in tesetiwo, I could make up for with hard work. And that includes putting an end to this post and preparing notes for my classes which will begin in a week’s time.


PP (post post): For what it’s worth Ato Ka, the guy’s name was Will Durant.


75. Ena keza behuala, Bahir Dar

So I am in B Dar, right? And I am doing this blogging shit again…

Check my flow; or rather, the lack thereof .

Turn me up some

I suggest, lest anyone be fooled by the name Bahir Dar, the substitute Bereha Dar or better yet, Esat Dar. Maybe it has not always been like this, based on what we learned from the grandfather of the bridegroom from the wedding in Weramit and the old but feisty lady whom we met in the bus on our way back from Tis Abay. And maybe these past days the heat has been subsiding and the rain has been waging a battle with the wind and it has not been losing always. But I swear sometimes it feels like the Wandering Jew is passing through town. And when someone is complaining the heat in Addis Abeba is getting unsupportable you ask: “Do you sweat in unseemly places like around the antecubital artery?” “No”.  “Do you sleep with the window above the headboard open?” “Well, no”.”Then shut the hell up! “

I am sitting in the lounge, waiting to board the airplane , and I am thinking “Am I for real?” Ever since then, I am still trying to avoid drawing parallels between myself and the prodigal son. For more than two months  I raised points, and at times, though I really hate/ed doing that, raised hell, in order to convince my family and myself  that Bahir Dar was the right thing to do. But all I could think at that moment was “What the hell am I doing?” and the same question is still raised on the shittiest of my days. All the hope and plans for the future, all the disenchantment I thought I was leaving behind, all of it, sometimes seems part of an ill-conceived bravado.

Nostalgia has a way of idealizing discontent that used to be palpable as Dr Juvenal Urbino would agree. And I for one have been known to suffer from acute nostalgia. Sophomore year in Arat Kilo I had moved with the same if not greater degree of headstrongness into a dorm rented from jezbas. I had heard that renting dorms, if discovered, could be punishable .My very first day I felt awful that I wrote a letter supposedly from an inhabitant of a neighboring dorm to the effect that there were illegal aliens clandestinos in the block that were disturbing tha peace and if they were no dealt with, I would be forced to report to the students’ dean. I was planning to slip it under the door of the proctor’s office that evening. But I somehow refrained myself and I held on; that was until sometime later a relapse forced me to pack my bags and return home only to return in the opposite direction in a speedy manner.

Yeah, I am fucked up like that!

My twelfth day in BD; no letter this time though the loneliness is kicking in, and it stings like a mother. For part of the duration I have had Sami and his friend to keep me company (it would translate to mangualel in the lingo of hereabouts), I have Tewabe from day one and let us not forget that I have dined and chattered with Brook and his significant other who had been on this unhurried enviable *green* excursion that did not spare the Semien Mountains.

But like people say, some days are better than others.

Twelve days and I have witnessed with my six senses that:

  • the water tastes like that of Addis Abeba but is expectedly tepid
  • life is expensive and haggling a disappointment more often than not
  • the roads are nice and clean. What I could not understand was the street lights in the middle of the cordon while the sidewalks be dark. .
  • people on the street and those giving service are not that friendly. In their defense, I am not the friendliest guy you will ever meet; plus the bajaj drivers are courteous. In the highly unlikely event that you don’t know what a bajaj is, it is a three-wheeled vehicle, which, when seen from behind parked in the woods, looks like a guy who’s taking a piss.

People in their homes are cool. Cases in point, my landlord/lady and the family who had accommodated me for the first night.

By the way I have set a new record of vagrancy: starting on the sleepless night of the eve of my departure, I have spent the night in five different houses including when I finally moved into my new house.

  • The view of Tana from Mango is not impressive. Went there in the daytime and saw scores sitting outside and inside staring at the lake like some spectacle was about to unfold. Like a game you would be tempted to ask what time it would start. But it was all bland except for some ziyi (pelicans) feeding on fish. I returned in the evening to see if shit had changed. Nothing had changed: people were still staring at the darkness that was the lake. I don’t know what I had expected of the lake but at least at Tana hotel you can see the sunset and the view of the lake is much better.
  • I was reminded of everything I hated about watching football with too many people and all the gir gir. And I am failing to see the romance in supporting one of the big boys. If I don’t give up on this fan business completely, one of these days you may find me supporting a lowly team.
  • Of course there is plenty of eye candy. But the notion that a change of environment might boost my chances of landing one of them, wrong! Shit is starting to get  painful.
  • In many aspects BD is a smaller AA. Everything tends to be the same in Abysmal Abyssinia.

More to the point of why I am here, I have met with my colleagues from the department. I know the parts of the course which I am going to cover. The guys seem happy with my presence given that, if I am not mistaken, I happen to be the only “biochemist” residing on both sides of Abay. I hope I can live up to their expectations because they think of me, or at least I get the impression that they do, as “yeneka yebeka” which I am not. Don’t tell my students-to-be this but …, don’t tell them shit anyway.

I have been cooking with the help of pointers from my sisters and a couple of cook books. I have tried the usual suspects, i.e., shiro, pasta and enkulal. “Ambrosia” is the goal for the near future but in the meantime it will have to do with “fit for human consumption”.

The Papyrus Hotel’s swimming pool saw a turf war like it had never seen before. On one side there was the lifeguard who, when there is no one drowning, spends his time giving swimming lessons to a chick majority. He spends so much time in the water that when I saw him walking outside the water, I was flabbergasted; I had expected a mermaid. And on the other side there was Sami, who in the presence of chicks, would be inclined to give flying lessons let alone swimming ones. Ok I may have been a little harsh on Sami, who, being the good friend that he is, was trying to cajole me into entering the water. He did not succeed on this water’s front but I would get to dare a different kind of water.

It was with the same Sami (his name is being repeated too much in this post that I think I should replace it with a symbol or something) that I found myself in a wedding in Weramit kebele. Age of the groom = 18 though he did not look it, looked younger, bride ~ 10 years. They had to bring her from her parents’ house in the dark so that the affair would not be exposed. Go ahead and judge me for eating and drinking in an event that is more of a celebration of ignorance than a wedding. I too blame myself , taking what little comfort I can in what I heard from one villager: the girl will spend part of her time with her parents and the other part with her “husband” (like a sandwich masters program) and he is going to wait for her until eskitiders. But that I am snitching on my excellent hosts, I could get no good excuse for, except maybe for ” this would be good for the blog ” . And hey, they tried to get me drunk!

No they didn’t.

We ate and they gave me tela (or was it kirari?) which I drank. It did not taste unfamiliar; I suspect I had tasted some when I was much younger. Then came the areke and I savored it with the groom’s father and grandfather. And one wancha or melekia is never enough. They say “and gim new”. But un/luckily, my refills were not complete ones. And all the while, Sami is sitting next to me, drinking water, and enjoying the sight like crazy.

Did I get drunk? Well, that is a matter of perception. But if being drunk is doing things that you normally don’t do, guilty as charged-I had my shoe cleaned by a listro. If you know me well, that is pretty abnormal.

Man, everybody’s trying to get me drunk this year! My oooolder brother had me finish a bottle of giorgis saying his aim was not to make me techi but in some situations it was necessary to have one or two, for chewata’s sake.

Next stop, fornication! The drunkards must be saying “Don’t worry about that my good man! You get liquored up as should be and the choms will follow naturally”. What really made me laugh was what Mengie said when I told him about the drinking: “memihirnet jemersh malet newa!”

If we don’t respect ourselves then can we command it from someone else? True, teaching is a something we do against Biblical recommendations (kenante bizuwochachihu memhiran athunu). And the best teacher that ever was, we crucified Him. Still, sitting here writing this, my biggest wish is to be a darn good teacher who can do right by biochemistry and inspire his students. The day I know that I have accomplished this, I would not mind dropping whatever teaching aid I have in hand , like a standup comedian would his mic at the end of the show.

What can I say about Tis Abay Fuafuate? It is measly as compared to the picture I grew up watching. Ya ya ya, a large chunk of the flow is being diverted to an HEP station. May be I will check it out on the winter because the flow will get stronger, murkier and wider. And I advise you to carry a lot of pens with you when you go there because the children are bound to ask you for escribto. This girl asked me the same question and got what she did not want-esciribto. It pays to be an Ethiopian though-soon as a ferenj appears, all pestering would be directed towards her/him.

And an anecdote:

In college, my friend shared a dorm with a student who came from the countryside. While they were exchanging info regarding their whereabouts, the said student asks after learning my friend was from Addis Ababa, ”Bekelen tawkewaleh wey?”

Apparently,he had come  from a two Bekele town.

Happy Cinco de Mayo a.k.a. Yearbegnoch Metasebia Ken

Feels good to be back on the grind



wordpress statistics
%d bloggers like this: