Date:          Friday, June 18, 1999 (6:14 a.m. EST)
    "Hmm.. My Dynasty, please. And here, have some saltine crackers..."

Kibur Gelawdios,

Impressed by my spelling, you say? Why so... parsimonious with your puny praise? (You see? My alliteration ain't bad, neither!) A man with such lofty achievements and even loftier goals (Nigerian oil wells? Ha!) should be more legas with his compliments…or are compliments these days, like warfare, not what they used to be?

Again, I'm in awe of your historical knowledge. Rather than risk ridicule by sliding into tarik nek inka-selantia with a learn'd historian without my reference book or the internet, (or risk the inevitable digression into geopolitics), why not drag this conversation kicking and screaming into the 20th century -- or, better yet, the 21st, which will soon be upon us.

It is true that we, and our ancestors, have much to look back on (and answer for), but the time has come to look to the future and take responsibility for our own actions. It's well past time we took our lives into our own hands and made them what we will. I know, I know -- there is so much we cannot change. But what little we can change, dammit, should look like what we want. (Did you hear the zeraf in there, somewhere?)

I'm looking forward to the time when I'll finally be voted into my deserved Goddess status (hey, Queen has been done, and rather than wretched and fickle subjects, I'd like to have eternally loyal devotees). Yes, it is ambitious, but as they say, "kalemeTeyeQ, etc. etc.………" I think I could do much in the new Millennium, and, frankly, I couldn't really do much worse than what has already been done. Perhaps, if you're good, I'll let you be my Salvager (ok, I'll upgrade the title to Recoverer) of treasures, of beauty, of selvaj. But first……

I am still looking for the Artist Formerly Not Known as Gelawdios -- where are you, the elusive arteeeste who so skillfully cloaks himself in the smoke and mirrors of alter egos and historical villains? Surely, you would not continue to cavalierly provoke the wrath of SELEDA editors, not to mention my own, which can reach epic proportions even before the Goddess Upgrade is downloaded (any moment now). What special trick do you have hidden in your bernos? (What, you know people on the Board?) Come on, it is ungallant to make a woman ask twice. Mysterious is good, and evasive is enticing up to a certain point, but eventually even a veiled woman reveals a shapely ankle, or a slender wrist. Can't you find an acceptable (and G-rated) equivalent?

So, back to the present... If I could conjure up the special medicine that would banish all CHiraQs, I would have done so already -- believe me. Maybe Negus Selemon was not as forthcoming about his magic as he should have been. So, I guess I better stop here and stay CHiraQ-friendly until that Upgrade…

I've been working like a madwoman, but yesterday, unlike every other day this week, I actually took a walk on the beach. The sun was shining, the water clean and warm, and the people welcoming and friendly. It gave me a bit of time to think -- to reflect on what I see and what it all means.

I've been lucky enough to have traveled to numerous countries, both for work and play. And though each place has its own charm, I am struck more by how much all of them have in common. It is incredible to think that a little boy clear across the globe can have the same mischievous smile, the same entrepreneurial spirit, and the same look of fatalistic terror when faced with an aggressor as does his Arat Kilo liistiro counterpart. It makes me wonder at what point we all become immune to the similarities between us and become so ignorantly focused on our differences (oops….almost slipped into that geopolitical quicksand -- phew, that was close).

In any case, a smile and a respectful hello will almost always get you the same -- for example, do you know that if you smile while you talk on the phone the other person can hear it? (I got that off of one of those infernal email chain letters). It works, though.

As soon as I take up my new Position, I am going to make everyone leave their home and live somewhere else (a village, a country or a continent away) for a short period of time, so that, first, they would appreciate what they left behind and cherish it when they return, and second, so that they see how we are all the same in many ways. Not a bad move for my first 100 days as Goddess, don't you think?

Boy, do I miss home. I miss the weather (the air, the sun, the total lack of humidity, even the smells), I miss the memories that are triggered every time I see something that everyone else there takes for granted (a bale-suQ selling two cigarettes from a pack makes me smile, convincing everyone that I'm yeleyelat ibd).

But most of all, Gelawdios, I miss the mountains. If you stand at the bottom of the slope near Mazegajia-bet, behind the Piassa stores at the top of the climb up Churchill Godana, you can see the mountains that have always been my talisman. Yerer, whose three peaks I looked for everyday on the playground of my school growing up; ZiQwala, the most beautiful volcano in the world (unbiased opinion, of course), and the funny little scoop of earth to the far right that I think is Menagesha (please correct me if I'm wrong). If I lived back there again, these are the three of the things I would never take for granted. When I left for the jeans-lined streets of America, I knew I'd miss the significant things -- house and home, family, friends, etc. But nothing could have prepared me for the nafQot I still feel for the little things.

I've been home a few times now: the first time, I went back with big expectations and returned convinced I could never live there. The second time, I went back with fewer expectations and even they were not really met. The third time, I went with no expectations but with plans to travel around, and that was the astaraQi visit -- I traveled outside of Addis, and I had a wonderful time. That third time, too, I knew what to expect in the Big City, so I was actually pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had. But over time, for social and intellectual reasons (see?…no talk of politics), I am less and less convinced that I can go back home to live. Yet it will always be my point of reference -- my compass North will always point to Addis Abeba.

OK, so far I've put in a bit of neger, a dash of introspection, a pinch of inquiry, a slice of my day, and a platitude worthy of an email chain letter, ending with a drop of poignant nostalgia.-- what more can there be in the recipe for a Diary Entry? And where is the twist, you ask? Well, as usual, that'll come at the end.

Although I've been warned by ….you know who…, there's no way I can do more than two pages. But let's see, if I change the font……hey, it worked! I've now just squeaked over to page 3! Over to you now…

Most respectfully,


p.s. I did not miss the inflammatory contraction of my chosen (rather than given) name in the opening of your entry, and I WILL have the last word, of course: Fellow cyber-mengedegna, beware, lest the Dios you seek to be, becomes Adios.

Date:          Monday, June 21, 1999 (3:40 a.m. EST)
    "Water... I need water!"

Immebet Makeda,

It was when I read the first few sentences of your last letter that, for the first time, I understood Cain’s pain when the Good Lord, filet-friendly that He was, favored Abel’s sheep over Cain’s vegetarian offerings. Mind you, if Cain’s corn hadn’t fattened Abel’s scrawny sheep, Abel wouldn’t have dreamed of offering his sheep as ij mensha.

In the same way, Madam, your exceptional, and at times unconventional spelling were, in my humble opinion, part of the building blocks of your witty, passionate, wry, coy, and gutsy prose. And here I thought I was being ye legasosh legas. Twentieth century (Heavens! Did I slip into the present?) awakis urge us to crave more for vegetables and less for meat. Do not make the same mistake the Good Lord made when He turned His nose down at vegetables. Madam, on the contrary, unconventional spelling does make a huge difference!

If you are still suspicious about my sincere admiration of your... spelling…


I just felt your vibe...
Makeda: "Ere bekah, chiko menchaka!"

All right. I will move along (got six lines out of that one, eh? Didn’t even have to do the ol’ 14 point font trick.) It was neither your fury nor SELEDA’s sil seif that chased me out of 16th century Ethiopia. Madam…I was lured. When that veiled woman in your last letter flashed her exquisite ankle (didn’t even have to see her wrist), I could not help but blow my cover. Please remember, during Gelawdios’ zemene mengist, such revelations were reserved for the elfign. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I heard what you just said. "Men!" (I’m not gonna even go there!)

G-rated, indeed! If my clergymen, nefsachewun yimarewuna, saw late 20th century G-rated films, they wouldn’t have bothered to rate the flicks. After the first five minutes, the outraged prelates would have immediately burned the films along with the SeiTan Bet and hurled the filmmakers into the flames! How I pine for the good old days.

Your reflection on humanity’s immunities to similarities was quite moving. I agree with your assessment. I believe that we as human beings, consciously or unconsciously have an innate urge and need to see ourselves as unique beings. However, whether it is Ato Andargachew, an elderly farmer who has never stepped beyond his remote village in Begemeder, or Dr. Beliyu, a seasoned United Nations technocrat who has long become weary of circling the globe, when confronted with matters close to his/her identity, both may have an identical reaction.

There is no doubt that education and exposure modifies one’s outlook. For example, Ato Andargachew and Dr. Beliyu do not see eye-to-eye about the shape of the earth. As far as Ato Andargachew is concerned, apart from the bump at Ras Dashen and the depression at the Tekeze, the earth is flat. Dr. Beliyu on the other hand, knows that she would have fallen off the edge of the earth—in spite of her first class ticket and her to-die-for position at WHO—the first time she flew from Geneva to Brussels via Honolulu had the world not been round.

Dr. Beliyu, a resident of Geneva, may entertain—yes, Madam, the exposure to ticks and lice are indeed very real—the idea of sending Shiberu, her somewhat confused teenage son to "summer camp" at a Qes school near Debre Tabor. Ato Andargachew, may cautiously agree—Satan has steered too many unsupervised incipient souls away from the True Faith—to send Woderyelesh, his bright and hard-working daughter to the University in Addis Abeba.

And yet, Madam, when you and I commanded them to have dinner at a local tavern in Debre Tabor, both Dr. Beliyu and Ato Andargachew discovered, while eating ye-mashila injera with azifa, ye-sama wet and ye-shimbera assa, the similarities and overlaps on each of their hate lists.
Telat* Telat*
tax assessors bi-annual performance reviewers
droughts layoffs
guards at check points immigration officers
juntas juntas
pests computer viruses
cadres cadres
locusts downsizing
conscription conscription

* They got dizzy trying to keep up: last year’s enemy, yesterday’s friend; yesterday’s friend, today’s enemy; today’s enemy, tomorrow’s acquaintance; tomorrow’s acquaintance, next year’s partner; next year’s partner…

As they were both respectable members of their respective communities, Ato Andargachew and Dr. Beliyu did not talk about the items that were registered under the lebet sew bicha heading on both of their hate lists. However, Shiberu and Woderyelesh, bored over their parents’ safe and polite conversation, blurted out the items that their parents had vehemently guarded against yewich sew.

urban know-it-alls backward country folks
chika shums Kebele officials
viragos male chauvinist pigs
eating on separate plates chewing with a mouthful of injera and making
a helluva noise
short skirts male head wraps
Adharis Teramajes

Dr. Beliyu and Ato Andargachew soon began to snarl at one another. However, the pious tavern owner reminded them to take heed, as it was the middle of Lent. Dr. Beliyu and Ato Andargachew immediately regained their composure, but threw killer glances at both of their children. At that moment, Shiberu and Woderyelesh, oblivious to the repressed hostility that surrounded them, fell in love.

I, of course, unbeknownst to both of our guests, had completely planned the menu and the Megabit meeting. It’s an old palace trick that I learned when I was a little boy [this will be the last time I will go back to the 16th century, I promise] from Empress Illeni’s last surviving councilor, Leqeliqawint Aragawi. A few days before his death, he had beckoned me to his cot to tell me furtively about the wisdom of arranging meetings between rivals or potential enemies during Lent. His cryptic words were: "To compromise during Lent, to ascend on the Sabbath."

Madam, Dr. Beliyu, with all of her training and exposure was not able to control herself when her lebet sew bicha list was exposed. In my opinion, if we want to cross the river that has been polluted with hatred, bitterness, debasement, grudges, ignorance, humiliation, betrayals, and violations we need to build a bridge that is constructed with three elusive but indispensable materials: Love, Respect and Forgiveness. Let’s order the court jester to amuse the MBA’s and the politicians while we build the bridge under the moonlight glow. Otherwise, the MBA’s will try to find a bargain and eliminate one of the three components of the bridge, while the politicians will try to sabotage the plan, 'coz, hey, once we cross that bridge we will be immune to differences (i.e. we grab the remote control from the politicians', point, and press the buttons in their direction! he! he, he!)

Over to you,


p.s. I think I will wait until Entry #5 before I sign off with "Adios".

Entry 4