Monday, August 22, 2005


Ahh, well, hello. It’s now Sunday morning, 8:30 actually… If this house had Internet access I could plug in my computer and start chatting on aim. It’s only what, 10:30 p.m. at home?! Haha, oh well.

Well, I suppose the first day of school was really hard for a couple of reasons. One is that, because it was a half-day, the students weren’t really interacting with each other that much unless it was old friends squealing and giggling, etc. I just felt very much like an outsider, like I didn’t belong. But also, it was very strange to be back at school, but not have the school be Head Royce, and not be surrounded by all of my friends. I guess it was a bit of a shock. However, after that first day it got much better: I started meeting more people, and my basically-cousin who also goes to ICS took care of me. Also, it’s very cool that in my Social Anthropology class I was in a group discussing homework with a girl from Holland named Yakamÿn and a boy from Belgium named Pierre. Ahh, to truly be a “woman of the world.”

The person that truly made my week wonderful is Danny. Danny is my brother or cousin or whatever you’d like to call him; he is part of the family that I’ll be staying with. By the way, their names are Haile-Liul, Salam, Betty, Danny, and Menna. Anyway, Danny was listening to the music I have on my iPod and kept saying, “Ohh, you need to give me this!” However, a lot of the good music on my iPod I have gotten from other friends’ computers, and iTunes doesn’t let you automatically put songs from your iPod onto your own computer. I guess it’s to stick to their “buy music, and don’t steal it” philosophy. This has always been frustrating because other friends may want songs (like
Danny in this instance), but I’ll be unable to give them to them. Or I’ll be trying to make a playlist on my computer but certain songs won’t be in my computer library (only on my iPod), so I can’t put them on my playlist. It has just always been a great inconvenience. Little did I know, for a 6th grader, Danny’s a technological genius, especially in comparison to me. Little did I know, Danny’s my savior, and showed me how to put songs from my iPod onto my computer. Ahh, Ethiopia is definitely having its perks.

First day of school

First a reminder: Because I can’t get Internet access whenever I want, I will be posting numerous posts each time I log on; I’ll write things up in Word and then get them online when I can. Thus, while it may say that I posted two or so times in one day, they may not necessarily have been written that day.

Well, it’s Wednesday, which means I had my first day of school. It was a half-day like Head Royce, and also like HRS we have a mini-day and go to all of our classes. Even though it was a short day it was really hard. I hate having to be one of the new kids (there are apparently 5 new girls and 1 boy, although not everyone was at school today – out of the country still, or the first day’s a joke, I guess). Seeing other kids makes me realize how much I miss my friends. I guess it’s actually true that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone; I really have it good at home. I love you all. It’s just, now I feel like such an outsider, it’s weird to be in a place where you really don’t have any friends. You feel very alone. But my family’s here, and amidst the regal churches and mosques, and the priests’ melodic incantations each morning at dawn, they are my religion.

However, now I just can’t help but think “Oh @!^#, what the *$#% did I get myself into?!” Sure I had the balls to say that I want to be here, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a great opportunity, but it’s really scary now. Also, it’s not like a year here is going to make me “more Ethiopian.” I will never truly be Ethiopian. I am only _, or gemash, Ethiopian. I am American, through and through. This is the first time that I’ve actually had any patriotic instincts, but I have a home in Oakland, the Bay Area, California, the United States of America; that is where I have grown up and that is where I want to raise my children.

But bakka, enough of this. One really important person I haven’t mentioned is Zeritu. Ethiopia’s classism is jarring to me: While some drive down the streets in their imported BMWs and whatnot, there are groups of people at every corner dressed in rags. Thus everyone of a certain socioeconomic level has a housekeeper that cooks and cleans and a guard to open the big gates that surround their house. Zeritu is our housekeeper, and she is wonderful! Her food is batam teru, very good, and she’s really nice as well. I also won’t deny that a maid is a luxury I most certainly enjoy.

Well, all for now. I hope all is well at home. Ewedachualoh, again, I love you all.

First thoughts

There is a 10-hour time difference between Ethiopia and home (the East Bay). As my faithful laptop tells me, it is 1:59 p.m. on Sunday at home. This is odd because as I sit here about to go to bed, but typing and listening to a playlist I made for a friend, that same friend may be taking a run with her dad, or hanging out with friends, or shopping on Telegraph. The list goes on. Now, at a certain point in my life I realized that the world extended beyond me and my family and my dogs, past my friends’ houses and my school. Since then at random times I’ve thought to myself Wow, there are probably a ton of people biking and playing hockey and giving birth and eating hot dogs and… Again the list goes on. But then it was superficial, just a little game I played with myself. Now, while I feel very superficial saying this, the idea that life is going on is much more real to me. Because there is a life (or way of life) I am temporarily (or eternally) leaving behind, thinking about what’s happening on that other side of the world means a lot more to me. It’s thinking about people and places I know and love. I’ve been out of the country numerous times, Ethiopia alone two other times. But a school year feels much more permanent than a vacation, and now thinking about what’s going on throughout other parts of the world is much more personal. First steps towards real global thinking perhaps?

Well, we arrived in Addis Ababa Friday night after a very long, but surprisingly easy, flight. Ah, I should state here that my family came to Ethiopia with me and will stay for a month as I settle in. After a 5 hour flight to Washington D.C., the hardest leg for me, and a direct flight from there to Addis with a layover in Rome to refuel we finally arrived. The flight to Ethiopia was relatively easy because I mostly slept, ate, and watched movies. In total we were in transit for about 30 hours from the point we left Oakland to the moment we arrived at my Aunt’s house (she lives in Boston and is currently there, but owns a house here).

We came into the New Bole Airport. Last time I was here it was in the final stages of construction, and now that it’s been completed it somewhat symbolizes the shift that I see in Ethiopia: the growth and building and modernization. By 2008 Ethiopian Airline also plans to bring in a new fleet of Boeing airplanes. But all across Addis new buildings are being built and rocky dirt roads are being paved. Many new cars have been imported, so now Mercedes-Benzes, Lexuses, and Toyota and Suzuki jeeps hurtle down these freshly paved roads with the old rickety blue and white taxi cars and vans. There are basic driving laws and you can’t get a license without being able to properly manage a car. But driving here is still crazy: at times you share the road with other cars, people on foot, and goats and cows; taxi drivers will get impatient if the road is jammed in and will jump into the lane going in the opposite direction, plunge forward into the oncoming traffic and create an even bigger jam. However, as my uncle said to me, out of the chaos some sort of order manages to form. Ah, and all of the cars run on diesel, so thick, black-gray clouds sputter out from big vans and trucks, lingering above the ground for awhile. Needless to say, the fumes are awful. Then, out of the din of honking cars and the general chatter of people on the street, I will suddenly hear songs I know (50 Cent’s “Just a Little Bit” and Snoop’s “Drop it Like It’s Hot”). This music spills out of tiny shops arbitrarily placed along a street. These shops sell bootleg movies and are plastered with posters of musicians like Eminem and Eamon and movies like “Cold Mountain” and “Are We There Yet?” As much as Ethiopia is beginning to renovate itself to keep up with modern times, it is still very much a third-world country. From this I see great contrast in the country. New luxury cars mingle with 20-year-old ones and grand new houses are being built that only a minute percentage of the population can afford.

School starts on Wednesday. Oh my.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Entonces au revoir y ciao?

So I'm on a roll... I haven't even left yet and this is my third post! Haha, well, c'est la vie: I have a lot on my mind.

Entonces, why is it so hard to say goodbye? I mean, besides hard in the sense that I don't want to have to say goodbye, all of my goodbyes (change the "y" to an "i" and add "e-s"?) thus far have been unsatisfying, even slightly awkward. Today was the last time I'll see several good friends until at least December, and saying "bye" seemed hollow and anticlimactic. It's not that I expected us to start sobbing as we embrace (cue the sappy music in the background), but it felt empty, a little unreal and irrelevant even. We say "Oh God, I won't see you till FOREEEEVER." It's always then "Well, have a great time in Ethiopia, I know that it'll be an incredible experience." Have I ever responded by saying anything other than "Thanks, and have a GREAT year!"? We hug, and sometimes it's hard to tell how tight we are allowed to squeeze. We let go to devour one last momentary glance at each other, ingesting only traces of each other to last as final memories. Then we hug again even tighter than the first time. "Well... this is it I guess," we sigh. We smile. It's all happened so quickly. Are we looking each other in the eye? I can't remember. "I love you." "I love you more."

But it is bittersweet, incomplete, not at all fulfilling.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Blessed is this life and I'm gonna celebrate being alive

So... I leave in a week. Actually. One week. At this time, seven days from now, I'll be on a plane from D.C. to Ethiopia. Suddenly it's real. Suddenly I'm truly sad and scared and nervous, which I know I shouldn't be since this will be a wonderful experience, but it's still hard.

And when one is whittling away their time, actually expecting and waiting for something huge to happen, life doesn't seem to stand still; instead it rushes by in one trivial, more or less inconsequential blur. Let's see if I can verbalize.

This next week should be really important to me because it's my last time at home for almost a year, excepting the 2+ weeks I'm home over winter break. I want it to be special, brimming with crazy nights with friends and overall, just unforgettable experiences. In a sense, it's as if this is my last week alive and I want to inundate myself with my world. But in the end it's never like that, and it doesn't really matter. Suddenly I find myself doing little things that have needed to be done since forever (as if they really matter now), but I'm not spending every last drop of my energy out with friends. Example: my mosquito netting canopy fell from my ceiling last Thanksgiving. We just put it back up. But does it really make that much of a difference what I'm doing now, right before I leave? Sure I want to spend time with all of my loved ones before I go. But if I haven't been living how I truly want to, and if I haven't been making as many memories as possible, then it's not like I can make up for that in the week before I leave.

So I don't know, maybe this is cheesy, but you know the saying "live every day like it's your last"? Sure it makes sense, but why ever consider that your last day should be your best? Personally I would want to spend my last day peacefully and surrounded by family. But I have every other day of my life to value simply because it is another day. And obviously there's a WORLD of opportunities out there.