To:              Rafael
From:          Tirseet
Subject:      The Big Divide

Dear Rafael,

I enjoyed your very entertaining letter. I can tell by your writing style that you are a very organized, methodical guy. Those headings/subtitles reveal a guy who has conducted one too many corporate meetings! :-) Do I detect a dichotomy of nature between the corporate Rafael and the Rafael whose bachelor pad is always unlocked, fridge empty and aptartment desperate for some clean up? I've visited such places, and it's amazing how that seems to be a fiercely protected tsebay of Ethiopian bachelors - or is it more of a religious ritual for St. Joe alumni?

Regarding the Boney-M album, I have to confess, I never saw an original album at my school - only bad duplicates which were probably 100 tapes or more removed from the original judging by how muffled and scratched the sound was. Mind you, they were just as coveted as if they were the diamonds of the Shah of Iran or some such thing! I still can't figure out why that band and less than a handful of others were so incredibly popular in Addis (and for an extended period of time too)! Later generations seem to be just as captivated, even though it's music from way before their time. Yegermal! Maybe we were just starved for pop music and those were the only ones available then.

I see that you cleverly but not so subtly weaseled your way out of commenting on "The Chasm". At least you acknowledge it exists - thank God it's not just in my head. Well, have it your way - I'm not staying on the sidewalk! I'll be daring and will throw in my two cents. Yerasu guday!

Hmmm…one could probably list many factors which to one extent or another contribute to this polarization of Ethiopian men and women in the U.S. such as "megenaga yelem", "menegager akaten", setoch hylegna natchew" (i.e. they are independent) etc.. My particular theory is that an insidious thing called Pride is the root of the problem. Too often, we are looking for someone/something better (or so we think) than what we already have. Wey kurat, Wey qibtet! The next best thing may be someone younger, more beautiful, more educated, more successful or even someone from an elite group. Ambition is good when it comes to career and our professional life but it's disastrous (in my opinion) when it comes to relationships.

I'm not saying one should be with someone whom one doesn't love, but I've seen many relationships that ended (and been in a few) that had good potential, if only there was the commitment to make it work. It's like we are never content; always looking for that elusive person that will make our life complete (ay mognenet!). We don't get married young and grow together because we have this irrational fear that he/she may be an obstacle to our success/happiness. Sadly, as we grow older, we also grow farther apart. Often we fail to see that the one who is right there has the potential to be the right person if the right ingredients were added, i.e. love, acceptance, affirmation, and oh -the big one: forgiveness. I've adopted this theory that the thing I desire in a guy is the very thing I need to be myself. Here is an excerpt from a poem I wrote not too long ago. It's not one of my best, but it's one of my favorites:

He was a Giver of love, time and attention
He gave respect and honor to everyone, young or old
He would stop to talk to a homeless person while I impatiently drummed my fingers on the dashboard.
Compassionate, gracious, and forgiving
And reserved especially for me: deep affection; indescribable tenderness,
Never holding back, always giving
Giving generously, giving joyfully
When I was sarcastic, he was genuine and warm
When I was self-critical, he complimented and affirmed me
Where I failed, he saw something positive
Was he just utterly blind to my faults? (As God always chooses to be)
And yet his being so
Did not fill me with pride
But rather humbled me;
Amazed that he would think so highly of me
Much more so than I thought of myself
He inspired me to be more than I was
He truly brought out the best in me!
Is it any wonder that I think the world of him?

Did I have a point here? (Probably just my capricious nature). Ah, yes! It was simply to suggest that we can inspire one another to be better, more successful individuals and in the process become each other's soul mates simply by treating each other with love and appreciation. Well, I guess that's my take on that issue. I hope you will come out of your PC reticence and share some of your thoughts on this rather angebgabi tiyake. Gedelem alebalam, even if you say egir yemetaTib new yemefelegaw! My advice would be, maybe you should try a different planet - Naa, different solar system! :-)

By the way, I was in your neck of the woods this past week. Sera meftat le-zuret yameCHal. I'm also contemplating trips to Mexico City and our fair city, Addis Ababa before I get tied down to a job (Ugh!). But my pragmatic side (I do have one - yeah right!), tells me I should be focusing on the search for a fulfilling career. Of course, not knowing what one wants complicates things a tad. It seems like what I want changes faster than I can keep track. Do I sound like an unstable, irrational woman? Yezorebat setiyo (Lesson #2: never, ever call a woman THAT)!

I suppose eventually I'll stumble over something interesting. Some of my closest friends who for some inexplicable reason are more concerned about me finding a "real" job than I am, tell me that "anything interesting" will not cut it as an objective on my resume. My response is an innocent "why not?" Wish I were that naïve. Of course, the most appealing career objective for a year or two is also the most elusive. If only it took a resume with
Objective -- "Full time wife and mother". Wouldn't that be nice if things were that simple. Maybe they really are - zim belen TaTa enabezalen meselegn!

Eshi, Ato Rafael, I better wrap up this letter before I throw out another Politically Incorrect opinion. Then I'd really have the SELEDA folks cutting away everything I painstakingly wrote down to two paragraphs and subsequently demand I miraculously make it two pages again! I'm curious, what was it that you hated by your junior year, school or your major? You also haven't really told me about your job (whatever it is - I know it's a BIG secret, right?) I know that being specific is not the forte of your gender --but do try!

Almost yezorebat setiyo - not quite yet!


To:          Tirseet
From:      Rafael
Subject:  Who's Zoomin' Who?

Hmmm…As I sit here, I am tempted…Very tempted…To write another chronological, "organized" letter….Heck…What's a man supposed to do with our Editor crackin' the whip??? (I'm surprised "they" haven't used us as a "Top-Ten" excuse yet)…

If I had succumbed to my temptations, (as all men are apt to do), I would have had 3 sub-titles:

1) In the beginning…
2) Those nasty good-for-nothin'-men
3) Revenge of the ladies

But, I won't take the easy road, opting to be - no hoping to be - semi creative while under the gun.

…And so, let me begin by saying that "what we have here" is a classic case of mar sibeza yimeral…

Way back in the day, when immigrant ETs numbered a "few", there was a certain sense of camaraderie …A sort of us-against-the-rest mentality. You were very happy just to see another ET in town. You, therefore, rarely dreamed of back-stabbin' the few yager lijoch that were around because you would have very quickly become a very lonely agul ferenje.

…But then times changed. The numbers and "choices" of friends exploded…And so did the means to screw things up….

Let me be right up-front and tell you that one of the main reasons that "cracks" developed into "chasms" was because ET-men are such weregnoch!!…

….Well, actually, being non-discrete is a generic man thing, and not just an Ethiopian problem.

(And, yes, I will generalize because any man who didn't grow up in a cave knows what I'm talking about…Heck, one thousand years ago, the man who ran the first marathon - and died - did so just to spread the news about a great war victory; so you better believe that couple of yager lijoch hanging out in an air-conditioned bar will be tempted to talk about anything under the sun…)

….But I not defending them!! I'm just saying that yager wendoch just had to speak about their "conquests"…Particularly if the boys were the type who couldn't handle a drink or two…(This was especially true in DC where happy hour drinks are bigger that your San Fran lattes)

It never quite dawned on these poor amateur drinkers that they could have just as easily been the "conquered"….As Aretha would say: "Who's zoomin' who??" (Yes, Tirseet, ET women have been known to keep score too). In any case, the boys kept talking, and the ladies kept getting madder…

Now in all fairness to the men, some of us weren't initially sure what the fuss was all about. It turned out that the answer - in a lot of cases - had to do with a certain set of "double standards"/rules that yager setoch decided to play by…It's all tied in with your theory of pride and someone better….If you add pride + "better" + "double standard" you get a whole lot of women thinking - or being told: bezuh (kewond gara) ketayew ye-miyagebagn yiTefal.

Given that most men don't "two steps ahead" in relationships - or life for that matter, (yep, I'm generalizing again), the problem only got worse….Which is really a round-about-way of saying: the larger the population size got, the longer the list of real - or imagined - victims became.

This crazy cycle created a very curious phenomena known as "ferenje (be mistir) mawTat"…It was somehow assumed that an ET man or woman could do the craziest, kinkiest things - just as long as they were being done on "the other-side-of-town" with a ferenje…And just as long as no one on this side of town knew about it, they and could therefore be labeled as Ms. "chewa-yetemarech-konjo"….

….How bizarre is that?!?!? I only wish I could be so calculating!!!!

Some folks tried a variant of this by saying: enay agere hajaye agebalew…This usually produced disastrous results because of the huge expectations placed on both individuals…

So how do we begin to bridge the chasm?? Heck if I know the answer, but here are a few suggestions that might help…

1) Yager wendoch, go easy on the weré!!! Think about it, does talking about who you slept with last night really make you a better person??

2) Setoch, being discrete is good, but don't get carried away by this whole double standard thing….If a guy doesn't love you for who you are, (and vice-versa), then your with the wrong person.

Beyond that, here is my number one reason why relationships don't last:
Setoch expect way, way, way too much from the guys…Most men can not be gentle yet strong, proud yet humble, caring yet particular…all at the same time…

This expectation reminded me of a true story of how one azawint once remarked after listening to her daughter and friends talk…"Lije, inante yemitifeligut sebat bal inji A'nd bal ayedelem… "

Darn, time is almost up…But before I go, I got to answer your question about junior year…The only thing that I hated in junior year was my major….Who needs to be bored with "Statics" when I could have been studying about the roots of democracy in Athens and Troy…(It's that marathon thing I was telling you about)…

I lied…there is another thing I got to "air" to neti-zens….And that is how boring Ethiopian music has become!! It's getting down-right awful in its cookie cutter approach!! Maybe that's another reason yager lijoch can't get along!!! They can't dance together anymore!!!!

Got to go before I get carried away…See you "in a few"….