1-800-Abol: Chapter Eight

My mother raised us on cow’s milk, ok? So I don’t even like coffee, ok? But liking coffee is not job requirement for becoming Tariku’s wife? I know what that Hiwot calls me. You think I don’t know? You think I am the only one in all Ethiopia that is called like that? They call us all Miss To Go. Well, ok, call me that, and then watch me Go with all your money, stupid woman. Ok, maybe I don’t finish first year university like Hiwot, but that does not mean I am not smart. Maybe it was not only by selling the milk from two cows that my mother raised me and my two sisters and four brothers after that Derg took my father for long-term stay in prison. Of course not. How can one woman do all that on cow’s milk? Maybe she did something else too, after we all go to sleep at night. A woman will do what a woman must do. Because of that, here I am. I am also a woman that is having to do what I have to do. Drink coffee.

That Hiwot thinks it is from when Tariku go to Ethiopia to buy wholesale coffee equipment that he meets me and takes me to go as wife. Shows you that she does not know all she thinks she knows. By the time Tariku arrive in Addis Ababa with pockets full of money, most of my work on his is finished already. You see, we in what you call the ‘service industry’ in Addis Ababa. We know of this 1-800-Abol business. So famous it has become by then, famous enough that we have heard of it. The newspapers write about it. The Ethio tv make broadcast about it. And yes of course people try to copy the business. That is our skill. Copy copy copy. To try to copy 1-800-Abol that is going to be failure, of course, because in Ethiopia nobody is going to call stranger and come ask them to make buna in their own home, as if they don’t have their two hands and own knowledge to do this. Some traveling buna makers have some success, by going from shop to shop, but if you know nothing about Addis life you must at least know that transport is a big problem. Taxi in outside-country and taxi in our country not the same idea.

So, I also hear of the 1-800-Abol and I do what I have always do since I was in secondary school, I write letter. I am Miss To Go, yes, but before that I was Miss Pen Pal. You see, to become MTG first you have to be MPP. Oh yes, I have been making plan of how to get out of this place since secondary school. I am smart, so sure yes I think I can go to university and finish, or maybe diploma in a college, but I know that also means nothing. The road stops there. So, from before any of it, I practice having pen pals. One of these pen pals will be my ticket, you see. I have no family in outside-country to send me invitation. My only hope is to make friend to send me invitation. If that friend is a man who thinks he will get the sugar also, this is even better.

Tariku not the only businessman in outside-country that I write letters to. But Tariku the first habesha business man, yes. I never try them before. Why, when every one has sixteen cousin and sixteen sister that wants to be married to him so she can go outside country. He marry, he bring outside-country, he divorce, she have status. He marry, he bring outside-country, he divorce, she have status. He marry, he bring outside-country, he divorce, she have status. That is cycle. No no. I need foreign husband, I decide, like the Eastern European do. Why not? They have catalogue, even. The Chinese, the Korean, the Philippinos, all they make serious catalogue advertising wives for foreign ferenj husband. I tell you, us habesha we have to catch up with this, we have too much pride. Pride guarding what, I don’t know. Not our virginity that is sure.

But this Tariku, something tells me to try. It is such unusual business so I think it must be unusual man behind it. Try. What could be the harm?

In the letter I say I am friendly stranger writing to warn them that people steal their business name here. You know, like Kaldi from Starbucks? I am sure somebody tell the Starbucks man about Kaldi or how would he know? So in letter, I say there is business here doing very well call 1-800-Tona-Iske-Bereka. Total nonsense, but it work! There is not even such 1-800 anything for anything in Ethiopia. What is bigger surprise is that after few more letters, Tariku himself call me. At that time, I am working reception in Italian NGO near CMC area, but that is ok because one day I know I will make something of my life. The office is so far from my home that contract taxi must pick me every morning from home and drop me every night to home. It was time for me to get pick up at end of day, and I was leaving office, when phone ring. I hate this because if taxi waits extra ten minutes that is 50% more on the cost.

I am surprised when the man on the phone ask for me, not my boss.

“Who calling?”

“I want to talk to Kidest.”

“Who calling?”

“This is Kidest or not?”


“The one who send me letters?”

I sit down. Even if 200% the taxi cost becomes, this is phone conversation that is made for destiny. Already I know I will do what ever I have to do to keep this man on the line. The phone line, the love line, the money line, all kinds of line. My milk days were finished. It was time for strong buna.

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