To:               Rafael
From:           Tirseet
Subject:        I'm a nice girl. Period.

Dear Rafael,

So here we are embarking on this journey into the unknown. Brave souls that we are to bare all in cyber space! Well, perhaps not all. I don't know you and yet I feel that we are kindred spirits because of our impending trip.

Unlike our predecessors, I have to admit, I wasn't threatened into these pages by the SELEDA folks (think they are getting soft?). I volunteered to be a diarist - it's my adventurous spirit, I tell you! And as brave as that may sound, I did beg for cover under a pseudonym, which is not really fictitious, because after all it is my kristina sim! My mom would be chagrined if she were to read my ramblings: "Newir aydelem ende" so this may spare her some grief. She would totally miss the point that we (collectively I suppose) are on a journey to self-discovery. My brother, of course, would guard my secret to the grave. Right bro?

I have to tell you about the rebellious streak in me (neftegna setiyo) which refuses, at the most inopportune times, to go with the tide, so to speak. Or perhaps I'm just too darn lazy, but I'm not going to use the thesaurus for our discourse. Maybe I'm trying to prove to myself that the A in my English "O" Levels was not an aberration. Besides, content is so much more interesting, don't you think? But I do have to succumb to using spellcheck, darn it! After all, who survives without it in America, right? My high school teachers will cower in shame, but at least I'm striving to maintain the sense of meticulous grammar and spelling that was drilled into me.

I suppose I should tell you something about myself…(What! You've heard enough already? Woyew gud!) I'm counting on you, dear Rafael, not to bail out on me just yet. Let me hasten to assure you that the content of my entries will not have a hint of sinfina (I hope). And don't be fooled by my sometimes - ahem! capricious style. My life is far from capricious - it's just a big cover-up!

To get back to more mundane details, I'm in my 30's (eeek - more on that later) and I've been in the US thirteen years. I live on the west side of this humungous country, northern California to be exact.

I've been working as a stockbroker of late, although as of next month, I will officially (and happily, I might add) be joining the ranks of the unemployed. Call it a mid-life crisis or whatever, but I'm bent on the idea of finding something I'm passionate about. My theory is that I'm taking the time off to discover myself or some such lofty idea - uh, huh, qibTet.

Right now though, I'm completely sold on the idea of being a full-time sera fet for a while. Not quite - I am taking some Web design/Java classes to see if that holds my interest enough for me to consider a career change in that direction. I also dabble in writing, ahem! poetry of sorts. It's a newly discovered passion of mine and still quite amateurish. (If you behave yourself, I may share one or two with you - but you will not be allowed to make any smart, witty comments about my poetry. My ego is particularly fragile when it comes to that. Hmm…Is that an Ethiopian trait?) Anyway, I love to write. In fact, as a child my dream was to be a writer/author (in English - unfortunately, my Amarigna is mediocre at best). That reminds me, I'm supposed to be using a lot more Amarigna in our discourse to prove to those SELEDA editors I'm not a ferenje masquerading as an Ethiopian woman. (Ok! Ok! I'm trying).

Getting back to the career change thing, I do relate quite well to some of our predecessors who talked about reaching a point of disillusionment with corporate America (Ah! yes - I don't suppose you relate - I hear you are the embodiment of corporate America). For me, it's not just a career change; it's more about reassessing my values, priorities and goals (I wonder if it's also an age thing?). One would think that having a strong Christian faith would make things easier, and in some sense it does. But in another sense, it causes you to face issues at a deeper level than may otherwise be the case.

This has been an extremely busy week for me so I trust you will forgive my rambling aimlessly from one subject to the next. Of course, my theory is that I work best under pressure ("Yeah, right!" says the SELEDA editor after I yelled and screamed I couldn't take the pressure to deliver this project by, like, yesterday . Begeza ij mekera megbat!).

Perhaps my theory is wrong after all. No matter, that's the beauty of theories - they can be changed at whim and no one is the worse off for it. Actually, it's not such a faulty theory because it does depend on the type of stress/pressure. Some things are just about expediency without much challenge.

Reminds me of my stint waitressing at Denny's years ago. I tell you, having a flock of senior citizens giving you dirty looks because their breakfast was too cold; or you forgot the hash browns; or complaining that the eggs were supposed to be over-easy not over-medium, etc., etc., (chik-i-chick new yemeleh) is enough to drive one NUTS. Well - at least me! It's a miracle I lasted three months. It must have been my rebellious side (there it is again) that I didn't give up the first month after setting the "worst tips received" record in the history of Denny's.

Oddly enough, working as a broker turned out to have an uncanny resemblance to the Denny's job. It's often very fast-paced but devoid of anything analytical. The little white cells, as Hercule Poirot calls them, were starting to atrophy so it was definitely time to leave. Actually, even before I started, I knew it was going to be a short-lived profession but I did want to learn the In's and Out's of the market on a deeper and more practical level than is possible simply armed with an Economics degree.

But once the learning curve plateaued, I got bored very quickly. Now if you give me a project/case that requires analysis, strategy, dissecting legal issues etc., (some of what I used to do before I plunged into the securities industry) that's the kind of adrenaline rush I thrive on - well, within reason! There is a limit to everything.

I've talked a lot about myself (really, truly everything!). You have to tell me EVERYTHING about yourself. Be specific now! No generic statements like "I'm a nice guy. Period." Who isn't? (Double standard? What double standard?) Lesson#1, women like detail. But kindly spare me the color of your socks or the type of engine in your car. And while you are at it, please do share your thoughts about this chasm between Ethio men and women. Or is there none? Perhaps it's all in my head! Gotta run to my shrink! Did I mention that I never recovered from the Denny's job? :-)

Can't wait to hear back from you. Have a good one!

Yours truly,

To:             Tirseet
From:         Rafael
Subject:      I am a chivalrous Man. Period.

Hmmm…. Diary Entry 1…From a nice girl "journeying into the unknown"…Very interesting…Hey, wait a minute!…Heck! I though that was my job!…

…Or at least that is what I imagine a confused stud-Captain Kirk would have said as he put pen-to-paper in his famous "Star-Log"….

And it reminded me of the confusion I felt when I was getting ready to write my first debdabe in these United States some 20 years ago…(Should I talk about Prez Carter? That noise they call Punk music? The lady who offered me a joint in Golden Gate Park? Ye tebealshe aron-guaday cigara min yadergilignal? Gumare enkuwan nech new…)

…And - truth be told - it is kinda how I feel as am getting ready to write my second (?) letter since then…(Thank God for cheap long distance!!)

But I digress….

Let me begin by explaining how this little fish ended up in this big ocean they call America…


This whole fish thing started back in 1980, with my friends and I thumbin' through Barron's Guide to Colleges…

Now I must point out that this is no easy feat in Addis Ababa since there were only 2 Barron's in the entire city...The only thing more coveted in 12th grade was an original Boney-M album…. (Nah…I was briefly tempted to say that your school probably had neither, but then I would be accused of "SanJo" arrogance…Talk about starting a correspondence on the wrong foot…)

Any way, the typical conversation while scanning the guide went something like this: (Bear with me…This is my attempt at fulfilling the Amhari-English requirement of SELEDA):

Friend 1: Yet college newu yemit-hedew?

Friend 2: Enen-jah, sile nege Ambassador film genzeb sasib neber.

Friend 3: Gin, Chicago in-na Iowa ye gangster in-na ye irsha ager nachew silu semichalew…

Friend 1: Keman new yesemahew? Yante zenedoch inkwan airport, ye-bolen dildiy allaqwaretum!!

Friend 2: Irsha??? Gibrina-na kebt irbata-ma, izih limar ichilalew!!!

Friend 3: Kebt??? Inkwan astawes-keyn!! Ye film genzeb sitikebel, beziyaw ye hamburger tekebel….buh-whala wegaw enda-t-leyn!!

Friend 2: Harvard DC newu in-dey?

Friend 3: Eye-delem!!!.. Isu Howard newu….temelket….andu page 100 lai newoo…andu 85 lai-newoo…

Friend 1: Bes-m-am!!! Be "H" yemigemiru collegoch bicha 30 geltz nachew…..

Friend 1: Le who-lum genzeb yeleh! Sponsor-wa tiwosin inji!

Friend 2: Woo-ne-t-hin newoo…keminicheneq, Rendezvous henden buna in-teta


And indeed through the generosity of my sponsor…I found my self right smack in Cali wine country…And trust me, there IS such a thing as too much freedom…I experienced it for the next 9 months…

I stayed out as late as I wanted…There was no zebeyna…No walls to jump over…No curfew…And…And…And…(I can't tell you everything I experienced for the first time!!!)..

In any case, all the experiments came to a crashing halt when my friends - who finally picked a school out of Barron's - convinced me to join them in the colder-than-your-freezer/hotter-than-you-oven place known as the Midwest.


Six years later, I finally left school - kicking and screaming - for the real world…I had gotten me a couple of those things they call "technical" degrees…

To this day, my friends and I have no clue why we got these things…I guess it's a product of what you would call a potent combination of parental advice and herd mentality…I can still hear the advice 20 years later.."Lijey, poletica memar manin tekemew? Mehandis wey-im hakim mehon new yem-ya-wataw"…Never mind the fact that by junior year we hated the stuff…But like some sort of boat anchors or hand-cuffs we are stuck with these things for life….

But I digress again 'cause…Hm…There is nothing like taking off right out of school and landing flat-in-the-middle of Chocolate City, baby!!! We had a cool bachelor-house where the door was never locked, the fridge was always empty, and clean up was highly dependent on the age/sex of the visitor…"Minalk?? Akistih ke Addis Ababa yi-metalu?? Ehi-tih bet yikemetu! Man bet siterg yee-woo-lal?"

The trickiest part to this real world thing was doing two radically different jobs to support my nocturnal activities….By day, I would went to the office - cheap suit and-all…By night, I worked in a parking lot… Which, BTW, is why, I don't care about what certain "folks" say regarding parking jobs…As in: "WEEYY!!! Parking lot newoo yemiseraw? Bei-tesebochu yelakut mehandis hono "be-fieldu" indisera neber….lanchi minim ayawaTashim…see-ya-rej, mekina ma-rwa-rwat eye-chilim...kezyas min-lit-hon-yee…?

I personally had a lot of fun with friends who didn't need to adopt a fake office persona every morning at 8 AM…(I know, I know, some people do that when they go to clubs every weekend, but I'm digressing again…)

The "tricky" part was avoiding my office people - like the boss - who came to the parking lot…Fortunately, I ducked enough times to avoid an awkward immigrant-doesn't understand-our-social-norms situation…


I can't really tell you what I've been doing the last 7 years 'cause it's all been one big blur. One thing is for sure, I've been paying back a lot of the Chocolate City days by living in a couple of boring company towns…

And that "embodiment of corporate America" thing…Man I hope not! In fact, I vow never to wear another suit to work again, (and haven't for six years)…Heck, my Ethiopian bros and sis's shake their heads on that one all the time…(I can picture what they're saying: "Be-fieldu yemiresa indet jeans yaregal? See-fog-ren newu!!! a-who-nim parking newu ye-misraw mese-leyn!!")…

But as I get ready to come full circle, there are a few things I would have done differently, and a few things I have definitely not figured out yet… (Yep…full circle…I am almost ready to go back to San Fran where - unlike 20 years ago - 1) things cost 10X of what they should cost, 2) all that people talk about is money, and, 3) there are no good jammin clubs!!)

Things I Would Do Differently? Too many to list…But the list definitely includes taking a year off, and living where I really wanted to live…Not where the pay check was good…So go gir!…Take some time off.

Things I Haven't Figure-Out Yet? Of course, I had to save the best for last. Every over-30 Ethiopian's favorite conversation piece…"The chasm between Ethiopian men and women"…
But like any other cliff-hanger, I'll save my comments for Part II of my journal entry.

And frankly , I would like to let Ms. Tirseet got first…(Or do you prefer Miss?…Or am I being too old-fashioned by yielding the podium?…Or am I supposed to be old-fashioned and modern at the same time???)….

Hmmm….kind'a reminds me of an old saying: "If you walk down the middle of the road, you'll be hit by cars from both sides"…So, until you convince me other wise, I will stay on the sidewalk….

I await your sage advice….

Yours truly,