Ethiopian Culture / Ethiopian Identity / Immigrant Life / Travel: Ethiopia

After Addis 3

Picking up from where I left off at the end of After Addis 2, if the diaspora – either as a whole or just one keyboard-happy representative – were to talk back, it might come out something like this. I’m not saying that these things were said necessarily but that they might be said if necessary in certain circumstances but not necessarily in such sayings…

“At the risk of doing some serious damage to ETDiaspora-ETLocal relations both without and within Ethiopia (as the loudmouth Skybus driver on my trip to Dessie declared: “All these diasporas do is drink Highland, nothing for the country!”) I’m going to come out and say – on my own behalf as well as that of the silent majority – what goes on in our over-hydrated ETD minds when we spend some time with our beloved and bemissed ETL’s on home soil. (Feel free to add to the list in the comments section, dear reader, whichever camp you belong to). 100_0738

1) first things first: yes, we do grow the dollar in our back yard. We’d just rather keep that happy perk to ourselves. Some, like myself, even have a special fertilizer for growing coins.

2) the “free” spending you see us doing – the sowing of our disposable income – when we’ve dropped in on ET is but a fraction of what we save up in months, if not years; sure, we rake it in and then have to shell it out for bills bills bills, not to mention our own entertainment, but what’s left over would make your head spin.

3) not to harp on the money thing, but allowing for one last point, shit is cheap cheap cheap where we live. We don’t even have to go to discount superstores when it’s time to pick up gifts for the back home trip (which I believe it says in all four holy books that we’re not allowed to do empty-handed), at which time we shop for fewer things than we do on an average trip to top up our own closets.

4) no, of course there are no poor people where we live, nor beggars, nor the mentally ill who roam the streets – though on occasion folks of perfectly sound mind like to take off all their clothes and march or bike down the street, but that’s for other reasons. Everyone else is a-ok 24/7. Now and then you might see a slightly disheveled person who likes to hang out on a street corner, cradling an empty paper cup, but he’s wearing headphones and wearing shoes so obviously he’s a-ok, right?

5) full cheeks and love handles, contrary to what you might believe, are not evidence of the good life. Quite the opposite, in fact. Our kind of hard times make us fat, such are the ironies.

6) we never ever ever take trams or taxis or, god forbid, buses. All those are signs of having hit rock bottom. There’s absolutely nowhere that needs to be got to if one ain’t gots no car.

7) neither pedestrians, and certainly not cattle or lane-blind “drivers”, ever clog our streets to the point of gridlock. Traffic runs smoothly all the time. Sure, we slip and slide on black ice and slam each other into nothingness, but that only happens in the winter, five months out of the year. The rest of the time we repopulate.

8) the emotional state known as “hopelessness” never afflicts us. On the rare occasions that it does, it calls ahead of time to make sure we’re home, giving us ample time to go to the LCBO to stock up.

9) being so emaciated due to poverty and intermittent alcoholism, yes we do want a third helping of whatever is on the tray at every home we visit, and really can’t wait for the fourth ladleful of firfir to upend itself on our plate right at the moment we clear it.

10) just like there is only one kind of you ETL’s and only one kind of us ETD’s, there is also only one kind of ferenj. There’s only “them”. We just make up the different countries and different cultures and different lifestyles – each as distinct as the multicolor offspring of one mother (as the wise balager said) each producing just as distinct an ETD – just to mess with you and draw out the answer to what “they” are like and what it’s like “out there”, when the answer could be so simple: they’re strange.

11) yes, we are tired, always tired, and are always in need of a “rest” from such strenuous activity as having taken a walk to the store and back with a bag of lemons. We, especially the females, have not walked all the kilometres, lifted the heavy objects, carried the loads, dealt with miserable excuses for humanity walking around on two legs, fixed our own problems, moved our own furniture, bargained a price, repaired our own plumbing and wiring, nor felt anywhere near the physical or emotional discomfort that you have. So do be gentle or we’ll shed our velvety petals.

(Secretly, though, we are touched by so much coddling. It is as if – for all the other disconnects between us – you have instinctively sensed a kind of exhaustion in us that has little or nothing to do with physical exertion, but for which the only relief you can offer us is exemption from same. So, for that, we thank you.)

11.5) And we do find it romantic when the power goes out and we have to find each other by candlelight.”

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