Date:      Thursday, May 20, 1999 (11:08 a.m. EST)
To:          Awraris
From:     Sofanit
Subject: My Tub is being fixed! Details to follow.

Good morning Awraris.

Down boy. I'm sure your imagination can spin more stories about the Seven Sisters than I could possibly do it justice.

Harrison, the friendly handyman, is downstairs fixing my tub. He failed to notice the glaze that shuttered my eyes when he started explaining to me why/how my fixtures can/are affecting the water pressure. He wasn't amused when I asked him about putting jet steams in the "turn-of-the-century, cast iron, and double glazed claw foot tub" to transform it into a Jacuzzi. Not amused at all. But I like your train of thought.

I was fascinated by your take on connecting to the community via the Ethiopian Church. I remember going to church back home, and it is certainly the nerve center of our culture. (Well, at least the Christian culture.) I find the political role the church plays in Ethiopian culture, and the role it continues to play in our history absolutely, incredibly fascinating. You made a good point in that the Ethiopian church is steeped in a lot of culture outside of the religion. Where can I get the tapes of the Qidasay?

I have spent the last couple of days reading up on a couple of women writers from India and the Middle East. The Internet has given women a new voice. The relative anonymity it offers has allowed women who would otherwise have very little chance of getting published (let alone escape punishment for agitating a patriarchal society) to chronicle their thoughts and observations.

It has also served up stiff competition to the publishing world. Although I am nowhere near being persuaded that print is on it's merry way out, (books will always be prevalent in civil society) I have also noticed a trend where editors are actively seeking out material they used to thoughtlessly reject. Women in the third world have traditionally been chroniclers of family history and preservers of customs through oral folklore. The Internet, amazingly enough, has created pockets of societies where women can tell their stories to a wider audience. Traditional publishers and historians might have ignored these women, but they have found a way to be heard.

I, too, have started to read up on Ethiopian history, and have enjoyed discovering its diversity. (Go into http://www.webstories.co.nz/focus/etiopia/women.html when you get a breather from ruthlessly exploiting your workers.)

I regret never having thought of going to Axum and Gondar and Bahr Dar and Jimma and all the places I'm reading about. God willing, I will act out my tourist fantasies when I go back home next.

I've been thinking a lot about our individual struggles to find our identity, and it struck me that my own coming to terms with this issue is set in the middle of one of the whitest, most culturally hegemonic environments possible. Does that fact somehow adulterate my journey? Sometimes I think I should go back to "the real world", but I more or less have resigned to the fact that really like life in New England, and will try to reconcile my two worlds. Is that being a coward? Or is it being disingenuous about truly connecting to the past while hanging on so tightly and defiantly to the present?

I will be driving to MA this weekend to see some old, old college friends. The last one of us will be turning 32. (Does life start or end at 30? Two years into it myself, and I still can't figure it out. J)

I've managed to sustain a tight friendship with my college friends. It's something I am proud of. (There ain't that much to do in Northampton, so you get pretty tight, pretty fast.) I've always envied my mother's generation: all of her closest friends still are from the notorious Menen days.

Anyway, our little niche (five of us) has pretty much kept up with each other… through grad school, our first jobs, and the myriad of tumults and joys of life. We RARELY see eye to eye on most matters… but we all cherish our friendship, and I am grateful it's there.

Jeez, Awraris, I just realized my next entry is going to be my last. Time really does fly when you are having fun… (Please, I am allowed one cliché.) And I wanted to get you to confess all your sordid past so I could righteously tut-tut you and then make it a reflection on all you abesha men. J (I really enjoyed reading "Battle of the Sexes." Were you busy ticking off all the things you've been doing wrong?)

The labyrinthine that is social interaction between us Ethiopian women and you Ethiopian men is so… dauntingly complicated yet so endearing and sweet. Do you remember reading "Fikir eske mekabir" back home? Did we totally miss the whole point of that book or what???

I'm going to check on Harrison. An eerie calm has been restored to the bathroom... I'm not hearing his tools making a racket… It could mean that I can take a long bath tonight and live to tell you all about it, or, Harry has fallen through the floor to the crawl space and is sitting in the middle of a rubble dialing his lawyer. Either way, I should go downstairs to face reality.

I wanted to ask you if you ever get to enjoy a game without dissecting what product got how many milliseconds of exposure on national TV?

What is the Ethiopian community like in Atlanta, anyway? Or is DC still the nerve center of coquettish "be gorit meteyayet" social scene?

As I get the bath salts ready, I will bid you a good day, marketing guru/stud.


Date:        Thursday, May 20, 1999 (2:37 p.m. EST)
To:           Sofanit
From:      Awraris
Subject: Ere bakish anchi setyo

One marketing guru/stud (was that a come on?) reporting for duty.

(So this won't come as a surprise to you, Sofanit, I will be billing you for all bodily harm that might be inflicted upon me and/or my vehicle by SELEDA editors who feel they have lost control over this month's Life Diaries. I am sure your cute feminist sisters at Smith will scrounge up the funds by having a bake sale or something equally domestic…Put me down for two boxes of triple fudge brownies.)

Most of us who read "Battle of the Sexes" were convinced that there are no women like that, and perhaps the esteemed SELEDA editors (yes, they still remain esteemed) might have missed one too many AA meetings. (Hey, if my tires are going to be slashed, I might as well go for it!)

Btw, you were right about the receptionist being the only woman in the office and we took the necessary steps to remedy that awful gaffe. Boy, were our faces red. We should have fired her a long time ago. Now it's all-ho ho- men's domain.

I read the article by Rita Pankhurst. Thanks for turning me on to it. A friend of mine did a master's thesis on women refugees in the Sudan, and after reading about the absolute madness of what displaced women go through in refugee camps, my apathetic comfort with a patriarchal society has forever been shattered. My friend was also on a UN initiative to make the tactic/campaign of using rape as a tool of ethnic cleansing a war crime. She was in Serbia and Croatia doing research a few years ago, but hasn't had the stomach to go back during the Kosovo crisis.

I read with envy (again) that you've been able to maintain a close friendship with your college buddies. My business partners and I went to school together, but we basically maintain a cordial "aynehin lafer" policy outside of work. No, that's not true. They are my boyzzz. But I do wish I had been more diligent about keeping in touch with my classmates and friends from back home, and even some of my college friends here. I am sure reminiscing about the good old days and sustaining that continuity adds one more stone on the mosaic that is life. (Trying to score points with VERY displeased SELEDA editors by using profound alliteration.) …. [The editors respond: "Not working!"]

My social circle is very small… mostly cousins and a few friends. I understand that there is a thriving Ethiopian social scene around Atlanta, although I yet to discover it. I would be happy to do research on the dynamics of Ethio men and women in Atlanta for you. (I can imagine it being at least a little livelier than that in places which sport pretty sign streets.) Whenever I get a taste for abesha food, I frequent the only restaurant I know, and according to the posters I see there, the live music scene is also quite impressive. I have to catch a show sometime soon.

It has been a long day. Proposals for the Y2K Superbowl (which will be in Atlanta) are due in to the ACVB (Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau) next month, so I'll be back to pulling 14/16 hour days. The trend I'm noticing in our business is that big clients are starting to look to smaller ('boutique') advertising and marketing agencies to serve their needs. ("Andandaym be Waldeba yezefenal.") Which is great for small time, dime-and-nickel 'duriyay' operation like ours. But the big boys still dominate the huge sporting events. Luckily, we can still compete with them because the market is still large enough and growing. The National Hockey League is considering more expansion teams, so is Major League Baseball and the National Football League.

You raised an excellent question about enjoying a game without thinking of missed opportunities to hawk beer and soda at unsuspecting viewers. To be honest, it is very difficult. Getting "face time" with the camera is very coveted. The tricks of the trade are endless. Even when I am not representing a client, I find myself asking who the firm is behind whatever I am seeing. It's awful.

Sports Marketing is a huge business. Think of the combined advertising dollars just giants like Nike and Reebok shell out. Most people think that 30-second spots are the only way companies promote their products. I am not in that aspect of marketing/advertising. We take the products to the actual event itself. The possibilities for promotion are endless… sponsoring half-time activities, freebies (giving away t-shirts/handkerchiefs etc), having a major athlete wear out client's gear during post game interviews, having banners, overwriting sports camps where the youngsters get free sportswear… you get the picture. It keeps us on our toes, and we rarely get to really enjoy a game… unless we have someone take us to a lacrosse game… where it would be so, SO fascinating we can disarm. (What in God's name made you take Lacrosse, anchi? Abeshanetish tiritir wist gebtwal!)

If the SELEDA editors will oblige me this one thought: (I have been accused of "Ye monten feress medebdeb") I want to address your point about going through a spiritual catharsis in surroundings that seem less than, well, culturally…--how shall we put this?—too white and un-Ethiopian. Even though I live and work in downtown Atlanta, you might be surprised to hear that I feel the same isolation. I often think I should be more involved in community affairs… as in PHYSICALLY be there. I might in the future, but for now I think this a private soul searching session and I have accepted that I don't have to camp out on 18th street in DC to feel complete. (I know that is a gross over-simplification, but I hope you get my gist.) Eventually, I have to be more interactive, of course, but for now it's all good. Finding serenity must take precedence, me thinks. And, I can't kid you, may be there is a little cowardice in that.

Drive safely heading to Massachusetts, and hope you enjoy your little get together with your college sistahs. So, kemir, do you guys do each other's hair and stay up all night exchanging recipes and facials? That's sweet. Do feminists still get to do fun stuff… other than stomping on men's egos, that is???

One more of these, and I will thankfully get back to the cultural and emotional barren land that is marketing. And, I will be free to burn the thesaurus I bought to impress you. The things we men do.

And tell Harry to hurry about fixing the "cast iron…footed…whatever.." tub. It's only one more entry.

Smelling the bath salts already,
Your good friend,

Entry 4