Date: Friday, March 12, 1999 (3:42 p.m. EST)
To: Ted
From: Rahel
Subject: Catching my Breath

Hi Ted,

Has the fun come to an end already???

I guess I was so caught up with the day-to-day things that I've been absent from our little social group for a few days. I am going to catch my breath for a while, and sit here and chat. My week has been great, hope yours was too. It's always a pleasure when Friday comes along and I'm winding down. Looking forward to the weekend...and what a convenient time to talk about the social part of life. I've been thinking about the question of how I stay connected to the Ethiopian community here, trying to come up with more than the few people I mentioned in my earlier post that make my circle of friends (siblings also count!). I must confess, I'm not too good with the social part (unlike some people I know on the other end of the spectrum).

I often plan my activities around things I can do on my own. If there are others to do it with, that's fine; but if not (and most often not) it's perfectly OK. I am into arts and craft (I'm forever taking one class or another, my last one was glass-staining), photography, cycling, swimming, teaching (I tutor high school kids), reading.

The funny thing though is that in thinking about this "being connected" issue, I decided last week that I would try to sort of update myself with the war situation in Ethiopia (as I said, this is sort of a touchy subject with me). Before this, I had an absolute deaf ear. Then, voila!! I got on the internet, and there has been no stopping me. The person who goes to bed by 9pm is now staying up until the wee hours of the morning. I don't know if I'm doing this for the better, but I feel I'm a little more informed (I'm sort of pausing here because I have to warn you that I haven't reached the stage where I can comfortably have a full-fledged discussion here about the whole situation).

My interest in Ethiopia is more with grass root, non-profit organizations. Maybe that's because I can actually see the tangible results of grass-root efforts. In trying to make a change specifically in someone else's life, I have been involved with a few non-profit organizations for several years now. I just finished supporting a college student (and his dependents) for 4 years and I think it was the most rewarding thing I've ever done in my life. (I'm trying to arrange to do the same for another family.) Hopefully, eventually, this will not be just a single person's effort, but a community effort to help each other.

Coming back to this weekend, a whole bunch of us from UCLA (several labs) are going to go eat Injera tonight (15-20 people). I am in desperate need of my overdue dose of the glorious food anyway. Once every 6 months or so, I arrange for us to go eat Injera (often by the constant reminder of everyone else who thinks it's about time). It's quite fun actually. People I don't know who get wind of our outing show up too, so I get to meet a lot of people.

Well, our last entry! I must say, this interlude on SELEDA has been a pleasant experience, to say the least. (I hope it was for you too, Ted.) It was very educational--helped me understand a bit about the US government, and at the same time gave me an insider's view of what it is like to work there. I guess this insight (and my brother's constant talk of what's happening at home) has rekindled my curiosity in politics. I know we had asked each other a few questions that have not been answered, so maybe SELEDA might give us the opportunity to do so?

It was great to meet you and two thumbs up for what you're doing. If you can, keep in touch once in a while and I will try to do the same.

Anyway, I should go out and get something to eat (the weather seems to have cleared up, so this is a good opportunity).

Take care and best wishes,


Date: Monday, March 15, 1999 (9:49 a.m. EST)
To: Rahel
From: Ted
Subject: Waving Goodbye!

I hope you will forgive me for getting back to you late--I have been extremely busy last week and even had to work on Sunday.

Like you, I have also learned a lot from our brief, yet educational, exchanges over the past few weeks. I am deeply impressed and proud to see a fellow Ethiopian engaged in such important work. You are the kind of role model we need and promote, especially in our male-dominated society. I always try to encourage my two girls to be independent thinkers and to pursue their dreams aggressively.

I had hoped my week would be light. Unfortunately it turned out to be extremely busy and intense. I did not go home until very late on Friday after a series of back-to-back meetings and briefings. Despite the long, frustrating hours, I had a very interesting meeting with a bunch of Ethiopian academics from Addis Ababa University. They are in town to brief the Ethiopian community, American officials and Congress about the ongoing conflict.

I do not have many interactions with the Ethiopian community, except with political elements--government and opposition types. I do not participate in community meetings or gatherings as a policy so that my attendance is not seen as an endorsement of one group or another. I also avoid the growing Ethiopian restaurants, except on occasion--once a year or so--with family members. My relations with the Ethiopian community are complex, to say the least. My desire to keep my interaction strictly professional sometimes is not well received by some. I strongly believe that if I cross the line and establish personal friendships, I would compromise my objectivity and neutrality. I hope this makes sense to you.

I am so impressed and delighted to hear about your assistance to the college student and his dependents. What a generosity and foresight--I always thought somebody else did that kind of stuff. I volunteer and donate to charities, but have never assisted someone outside of my family in such a direct way.

Well, that ends it. It has been a joyful ride. Please keep in touch. I will do the same.

Take care.