"One Night in Arada"

By: Sza Sza Zelleke.

I'm sitting in this bar in Arat Kilo which is perched on the edge of a deep gully, haphazardly bridged by a single plank that customers must cross to quench their thirst, at their own peril. It is obvious the owner of the place doesn't care one way or another. The name of the place is Gedel Gibu.

Sitting next to me is this expert "Boru Tay" (fogaree, a player) this well experienced QuCH Belu (a great pretender), gently persuading the prettiest "Dabushki" (a pretty young girl, also known as a "tenderoni") sitting with him to forgive him for his past indiscretions. Only she isn't having it. He has been seen with another woman yesterday, and a Road Star (prostitute) at that. Tired of all the back and forth she asked him to shut up. "Shéé", she barked, "Beg sitineda taytehal, taytehal, beka". ("You have been spotted walking/deriving with a woman.")

I waited for the pout to end and the inevitable demand for compensation. "Ahun dem sab", she ordered with a frown, "Byon inifta". ("Get the money out, lets eat"). He obliged eagerly, wondering which aQaTari, which "skiipini" told her about his little derso mels (quickie) of yesterday. Which sileyu (spy, undercover agent) saw him seeking the ayer huneta (weather report, price) from the Road Star? His efforts to confuse his Dabushki, his "joka", had been unsuccessful and he regretted his dalliance with someone not half as beautiful and infinitely more expensive.

The Road Star was an Aqua-Fresh, (buckteeth, geTaTaTa) and she had called him a "Luk-Ras Bencho!" when the money was not enough. (Luk Ras= smooth as paper bald head; Bencho= old man.) His Dabushki never referred to his bald patch, or his old age, she treated him like a Qibat , (rich man), and a Dita (another way of saying rich man) even if he wasn't terribly rich.

He called the waiter, ("kech bel!") and the order was placed. A little Lamiti (meat for weT) and some Inkay, (dry injera), and after that they would slap a few birrilay. His Dabushki loved to maCHol (drink) and he ordered her a couple of Bicha (Tej) and some Killme (Areqe) for himself.

I looked around Gedel Gibu. It was getting crowded with kestays (pickpockets), CHbos (majirat mechis) and tekebews. (as in "Tekebew Ye-kebalu", thief of thieves or pawn shopkeepers. Tekebews buy credit card numbers from the kestays, and jewelry off the CHbos.) They were all getting drunk and singing about the war. "Ke deha bet shiro, yishalal Shiraro".

Someone asked me for money, "Abo, Tiyit likekibin inji"... I didn't need to check my pockets. I knew I had only one Bicha (5 Birr) and a couple of kirk (25 cents). "Merish", I told the guy gruffly. ("Get out of my face".) My designer ferro (gold wristband) and Jazzima (leather shoes) were beginning to attract uninvited attention. I began to imagine I could feel the forces of evil in the air, the Gedgid, the Azim, the MooTemtim. (Addis Abeba’s criminal elements and other visitors of the ‘AwaQi bet’ believe in the evil spirits and the power of the devil to sustain their evil work and to make it successful. Gedgid, Azim and MooTemtim are various names for these forces-- Not unlike a "chi" in Asian circles, "My Chi is strong"; or "Mojo" in African American circles, "Got my Mojo working.")

Time to leave, I told myself, before I became a confirmed yetegeza frootona (window of opportunity) for Gedel Gibu's shady clientele. Rigoray (goal) salasgeba lashu (to escape) libel (let me escape before I am a victim).