Few more hours and I head the way the raven flies (or was it the crow?), West, anyway. Time for the least explored destination of all: home! Time for the obstacle course known as Ethiopia. For some reason, nowhere else petrifies me as much as there. At the same time, there are few places I look forward to as much. The anxiety attacks begin shortly before I board that final connecting flight that I know is going to be packed with my peoples. It’s sort of like going back to the family home for holiday break from school. You look forward to it but you know it’s going to take some adjusting and a lot of thought-swallowing and position-assuming. But you do it anyway, because it’s family. And the hundreds of people climbing the skies with you, and the thousands soon to share the city with you, yep, family. One Big Happy.
From the outside it’s exciting, seeing that jumbo jet with the words ETHIOPIAN on it and the green, yellow, red tail. I saw one on landing in Bangkok a few days ago. Instantly, a surge of pride, as if I had anything to do with acquiring, outfitting or flying the thing. Still, I think those colors and those specific combination of letters are the most flattering for any monstrous metal bird. All planes should look like that. And back when it used to have that fiesty cat with the big claws, forgeddaboutdit! I wonder if other peoples from other places get as excited to see their national airline’s planes. I doubt it, ours just looks sexiest cruising, almost swaggering, down the runway, daymn!
The inside, well, that’s another story isn’t it? That’s where the personality test starts. And from then on, until it comes time to say goodbye and head in the other direction, it’s a constant internal monologue between me and me. A constant balancing act to try to do and say the right thing, the thing that is the least of a dead giveaway about the extent of my diaspora status. To visit all the right people in the appropriate order, and when visiting said people to greet them in the appropriate way and order, to give the best (not to be confused with the truest) answers to all the usual questions, to make the most snappy conversation (with minimal peppering of expressions in English), to consume as much injera as I’m expected to (even though I’ve had brushes with heartburn, I think my poor GI tract is starting to lose its pH tolerance), and then when all that is said and done, to be down enough not to come across as too fara when it’s time to hang with people my own age. And last but definitelynot least, as a female, to grin and bear it – “It” being the oversupply of … Oh, what to call it …. unsolicited, condescending, often subpar chivalry?
Even though I’m told I might as well give it up. They just look at you and know, she ain’t from around here. Question is, from exactly how far off is she? Exactly how true? Salvageable? Trying to give off some kind of impression of the answer when even I am not sure of the answer is a little bit tiring, to say the least. And I’m done with tired. So, drumroll please, my objective for this round of “back home” is to let my freak flag fly. What the hell. No use trying to fool anybody. And who knows, maybe “they” are just as tired of playing along with having stayed just the way you left them too!
So, Addis dear, brace yourself. And GI tract, that goes for you too.