Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Yeney Addis Ababa


Well, I successfully survived my first week. More or less anyhow. Actually, in all honesty, last week wasn’t so bad. But then I realized just HOW much work I’m suddenly being completely inundated with. Let’s see, I had this ridiculous IB Math Project due on Monday, but she let us turn it in today, Tuesday. Tomorrow, Wednesday, I have a math quiz… lucky me, on a section in our book that I haven’t done yet! Friday I have an in-class essay on the book that we read. Next Monday I have a math test (maybe you can see the common trend of how RIDICULOUSLY RIDICULOUS my math class is… but I actually really do enjoy it, although my grade dropped from a nearly A+ to an A- over the course of the semester). Next Tuesday I have a biology test… on things that I haven’t learned, because my teacher just doesn’t teach… but he’s actually getting a lot better, it’s nice to see, and definitely heartening for me. Next Wednesday I have a history oral presentation, and for some reason I chose the most boring topic. The following Tuesday I have an anthropology oral presentation, and THIS I’m excited for! We get to be “creative,” and the topic is race and ethnicity, so I’m going to interview (hopefully I’ll get to videotape it) a few of my friends at school on what’s it’s like to be multiracial. Then that same day I also have an English oral presentation on a book that I’ve only just started… Yeah, life’s a bitch… so, as the saying goes, just fuck it… sorry to any of my PG readers. But actually, that’s just so not true, I can’t just say fuck it, I can’t blow this off, which kind of sucks, but you know, no, it really doesn’t. Sorry, my thoughts are rather scattered, I’m fairly tired. Oh yeah, that’s one funny thing: I adjusted to the time pretty much right away, and I don’t think it’s because the No-Jet-Lag pills worked wonders. I guess at this point my body is just so used to going back and forth (even though it was only my 3rd transition) that I didn’t have any problems. Also I just jumped right into life; I arrived in Addis at 3 a.m. Saturday morning and was up at 6 a.m. on Monday to go to school. Sooo, the whole point of this has been to say that I’m not going to school tomorrow. It feels rather nice to think about it, actually J. The jet-lag is kind of catching up with me… kind of… no, honestly, I am rather tired, everything’s been really busy recently. Moreover, I can have time to catch up a bit on my projects, which I desperately need. You can think “oh, she has the weekend for thaaat,” but come on now, since when has the weekend ever been sufficient time to take care of everything that you need to do? Never. Once you fall behind you just can’t catch up without taking time off. Which then makes you fall behind a bit more. But the idea is that when you take time off you’re able to make a bigger gain than what you’ll lose. Exactly. Yes, exactly.

So, besides all of that boring stuff, anything interesting going on in my life? Ahh, I’m getting MUCH better at Amharic! It’s actually fairly awesome, I can talk! Haha, it’s a great feeling. It does get really frustrating sometimes because people see me and expect me to be able to understand what they’re saying and respond, but more often than not, I just have absolutely no idea what they’re saying to me. But now, I’m getting sooo much better, and it’s just very fulfilling. What else? My brain just isn’t functioning properly right now. Betty and her mom are in Dubai for a week, so it’s been fairly quiet around here. Ahhh, next year is going to be SO much fun! So, there are these potters at school giving lessons, but they also make stuff while they’re there, and they have some absolutely GORGEOUS things! There are really nice plates, pots, etc., all for only around 30 birr… which is about 3 dollars… it’s ridiculous, they could be sold in the states for $30! It’s sooo sad, their work is beautiful, but in Ethiopia art isn’t really appreciated as something worthwhile. Honestly, there’s a huge niche in Ethiopian art. So many different things can be made fashionable: beautiful church paintings could be incredible wrapping paper, the things that the potters make could be used to decorate homes, and they could make Christmas tree decorations, the silver and gold jewelry could be HUGE, and they could turn it into picture frames with the crosses and specific decorations etched into them…. Ahhh, all of these are just very simple things, but it could be a very, very big market. Ethiopian clothing also: at least the fabrics can be used in modernized designs, not for traditional clothing, but for regular clothing that you’d just wear, or at least special occasion dresses, etc. SOMEONE can monopolize this, make a fortune for themselves, and then give it back to Ethiopia somehow. I swear, all I want is just to see a stronger, happier Ethiopia. There are so many problems ravaging it, and at least issues like poverty, starvation, and AIDS can be eased by a project like this, especially if it proved to be really lucrative. Ethiopia itself needs to just grow economically, suddenly find something it has that’s outrageously profitable in the world market, and just blossom. Addis Ababa means “New Flower,” but I don’t think it’s getting enough sun or water or something, because it just seems wilted to me. It’s pulsing with so much cultural diversity, it has so much to offer, but no one truly sees it and it’s just not getting anywhere. I want to help Ethiopia, I just feel like there’s so much room for it to grow and evolve and be strong. It’s frustrating, this feeling of helplessness. Well, I guess we’ll just wait to see what’s waiting in the future.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Winter Holiday

Well, it’s been such a long time that not only do I not know where to begin, I’m not sure that I even remember how to… so I guess I’ll just delve in… My first day back in Addis has been really nice. It was easy, relaxing, comfortable. It felt right. Unfortunately tomorrow will be completely spent doing math homework, blahhh. And so it goes. It’s funny, after being so excited to come back to Ethiopia and see everyone again and (surprisingly!) go to school, and just generally be occupied and busy and stimulated, now I don’t want to go to school. I’m sure that once I get there on Monday I’ll be happy…

Anyhow, I suppose I have a bit of backtracking to do. December 16, the day that school let out for the winter holiday, mom and I headed off to Bole Airport to return to California. All day I was blissfully counting down the hours, in the morning I even felt slightly defeated because the 18-hour wait until our 1 a.m. flight seemed impossibly long. Many can attest to my ecstatic and beaming face, way more intense and creepy than any Stepford wife, while incessantly chirping at random times throughout the day: “I’M GOING HOME TONIGHT!” At one point I said this to a couple of my guy friends who happen to be Ethiopian. One of them looked at me hard, yet I couldn’t tell whether or not he was actually trying to be serious because of his sleazy grin. However, he’s a fairly happy-go-lucky guy and enjoys hitting on girls, so that smile does seem to be permanently plastered on his face. Carrying on, he looked at me hard and said, “Home? This is your home,” he fervently jabbed a finger at the ground, “Ethiopia is your home.” He said this with passion. And people are only ever half-joking. I responded by telling him that I’m only half Ethiopian, I’ve attended the same school for the past five years, I’ve lived my entire life in Oakland, California. I’ve only been in Addis for the past five months. He didn’t say anything.

But something funny happened. I got back to California and I was excited and happy to be home, more than happy for a break. Driving down the freeway felt so right: I knew everything I saw, I knew exactly where we would turn, I was home. As soon as we got back to the house I took a shower in my parents’ bathroom, only to be greeted to the warm laughter of 15 of my friends at the front door as I was walking back to my room with only a towel wrapped around me. Needless to say, I tore across the hallway into my bedroom. I returned clothed to my “welcoming committee,” and felt nothing short of an extremely loved princess, receiving phone calls and cupcakes. Definitely an ego-boosting moment. Not to mention an incredibly nice memory. So the next week commenced beautifully, with some of my really good friends returning from vacationing, going shopping, eating food that I dearly missed, and just enjoying the comfort of my native soil. Then the paradise of the honeymoon wore off: I got bored and sad. I’m still sifting through this. I wasn’t exercising, which makes me feel sluggish; I missed schoolwork and mental stimulation; I kept thinking of Ethiopia; I felt out of place among my friends. I was already expecting to feel… not necessarily left out, but rather apart, yet that didn’t mean that I actually knew how that would feel. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it wasn’t nice. Someone asked me one day if I felt that people had changed. I hastily said “yes,” but after thinking about it for a moment, I said that most people hadn’t really changed, but I had, and that made all the difference. I no longer see things the same way, and thus there are some people that I can’t see the same way. I still dearly love them, but I don’t think that I can necessarily relate to them the way I used to. Oftentimes I found myself closing in, not talking much, desperately wanting to not be there. Everything, everything, was too much the same. What’s odd though, is that I don’t even really think that I’ve changed all that much… at first people said that I had bit of an accent, and many commented on my increased maturity and sophistication. I don’t feel much more mature or sophisticated, and despite feeling that I somehow have changed, I absolutely cannot declare that this is how I’ve changed and this is why. I’m still me, Samra G! Which is why I’m still sifting through all of this. All I know is that I just wanted to come back to Ethiopia, because after awhile I wasn’t really happy in Oakland anymore. Home is…

It’s funny, when I returned to California I couldn’t really think of anything to say. Everyone kept asking for stories, and I sadly failed on fulfilling that common request. The problem was, being here in Ethiopia is just life. I wake up, I go to school, I do something after school, I come home and do homework, I go to bed. What’s different is that there are other random things thrown in: a new environment, new people, various parties, tournaments in South Africa, political turmoil. But still, it’s my life, and only over a lifetime do you truly gather myriad attention-grabbing stories. If even. And besides, Ethiopia seemed so far away. Ethiopia and California are two completely different worlds, separated not only by mountains and oceans and other peoples lives, but by a distance that lives in your heart and your mind, a knowledge that consumes that your body… I don’t know, but when I was in Oakland, Ethiopia just didn’t seem real, simply another one of my silly dreams. It’s funny how this happens, how the past rusts and fades in my memories. Or rather, it becomes faint whispers of something that has happened, maybe only something that could have happened… when I reach out to grab them… well, whispers are fairly hard to catch. So ultimately, I almost want someone to tell me what the point is.

I’m sifting and I’m drifting, surrounded by the sea, and the answers don’t lie here. Luckily I have no bricks to drown me. Hopefully I’m heading somewhere, but I don’t think that I’ll ever get all of the answers that I want. For now I need to get adjusted to the time… and it’s almost 2 a.m.