Subject: I'm a nice girl.
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
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,
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!
Subject: I am a chivalrous Man. Period.
. Diary Entry 1
From a nice girl "journeying into the
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
(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
PART I: EXHAUSTIVE RESEARCH AND PLANNING
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
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
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
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
Friend 3: Kebt??? Inkwan astawes-keyn!! Ye film genzeb
sitikebel, beziyaw ye hamburger tekebel
Friend 2: Harvard DC newu in-dey?
Friend 3: Eye-delem!!!.. Isu Howard
.andu page 100 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
henden buna in-teta
PART II: THE ARRIVAL:
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
I experienced it for the next 9 months
I stayed out as late as I wanted
There was no
No walls to jump over
(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.
PART III: MORE PARTYING:
Six years later, I finally left school - kicking and screaming - for the
I had gotten me a couple of those things they call "technical"
To this day, my friends and I have no clue why we got these things
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
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
"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
As in: "WEEYY!!! Parking lot newoo
yemiseraw? Bei-tesebochu yelakut mehandis hono "be-fieldu" indisera
.lanchi minim ayawaTashim
see-ya-rej, mekina ma-rwa-rwat
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
PART IV: THE REST OF MY AMERICAN LIFE
.AND EVERBODY'S FAVORITE
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
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
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
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
And frankly , I would like to let Ms. Tirseet got first
(Or do you prefer
Or am I being too old-fashioned by yielding the podium?
am I supposed to be old-fashioned and modern at the same time???)
.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