Monday, February 13, 2006

Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street

Ahhhh, I can’t believe it’s been a month since I posted! Why do I suck at this??? Anyway, this one I thought I had posted on February 13, but apparently I only saved it as a draft… enjoy, and check back Monday or Tuesday for a new one…

We were on our way to school. Slow Ethiopian instrumental ballads serenaded us from the radio, but it was a more silent drive than usual. Sally and I were both staring out of our windows, lost in our thoughts, our minds racing along with the cars around us. Ironically, I was thinking about driving in Ethiopia, wondering if my mom would get a license when she returned, feeling confident that, after having been driven around for months and observing the way things work, I could even hold my own behind the wheel on the streets of Addis.

We came upon a narrow road that was heavily backed up with traffic. My eyes remained fixed outside of my window, but I wasn’t absorbing anything that I was seeing as we slowly glided forward and stopped, glided forward and stopped, glided forward and stopped our way up the hill.

I don’t know what it was that made me turn my head, Abiy nervously stammering, “shit, shit,” under his breath, or the drawn-out, high-pitched screech that resounded through the air. I turned my head and saw the silver bumper of the old VW bug gleaming menacingly in the early-morning sun, the young woman awkwardly sprawled on the ground beneath it, the wood that she must have been carrying scattered around her, lying like broken bones and broken dreams. And I didn’t know if the screech that I had heard was the squealing of the car tires as the man driving slammed on his brakes, or the scream of the girl as she tried to force her feet to move faster, terror, regret, and anxiety surely burning in both their eyes.

A woman ran up and tried to lift the young lady, but she lay limp and motionless in her arms; her head tilted back on her neck, and slowly rolled back and forth like a door being swung open and shut by a draft of wind; her arms fell slack at her side, and her face was empty, her eyelids gently closed. A trickle of by-standers began to dam up around the girl until the crowd was so thick that she was no longer visible. As we drove on, Abiy told a police officer that was conducting traffic what had happened.

It was a more silent drive than usual. But the dead silence in the little blue taxi was now heavy and inundated with our screaming thoughts. We simply stared out of our windows.

It's Never Too Late

February 6, 2006

These past few weeks have been really important to me. A lot has happened. For one thing, despite how daunting my overwhelming workload appeared after my return from the States, I didn’t let it weigh me down, I didn’t give up. I diligently worked through it all, sacrificing my weekends and the always-occurring parties. Granted, I do still have both an anthropology presentation and an English presentation (both of which are causing me great grief), but my hard work paid off for everything else: I’ve aced all of my tests and projects so far. It actually feels really nice. And, as scary as it is, I’m really beginning to feel like an adult: accountable, hard-working, striving towards a goal. I still did my fair share of procrastination, but… I did it responsibly I guess J.

As for a fun side of life, this week is spirit week! Today was crazy day, and it’s been really fun so far. My class in incredible, they’re just so spirited, and it’s nice to know that they resemble HRS in that respect. We totally blew the other grades out of the water. Each class does skits every day at lunch, and ours was HILAAARIOUS. And I had a great little part, and thus tied for best girl of the day! It made me so happy, especially because you get money!!! Tomorrow’s student-teacher swap day, Wednesday’s gender swap day, Thursday’s class theme day, and Friday’s class color day. I’m going to dress up as Ms. Aida, the beautiful Ethiopian French teacher, who is also my soccer coach. Basically I just have to look sophisticated and elegant. Gender swap day I’m going alllll out! I’m wearing the white air forces, an XXL white tee, baggy jeans, a NICE RocaWear jacket, and Betty’s going to cornrow my hair. Oh, and I’m gonna have my bling bling: I’m borrowing a chain and some earrings… It basically rocks. Our class theme is “bring the dead back to life” and I’m Angela Davis. Basically all that I’m doing is brushing out my hair into a HUUUGE afro, wearing a lot of my mom’s old jewelry from the 60’s and 70’s, jeans, and my hot hippie halter… The thing about spirit week is that I actually need to have the clothing for my outfit within my wardrobe. It’s times like these that I miss my mom and dad’s closet. And finally, our class color is blue. I think it’s going to be a fun week.

I’ve also learned a lot about being mature and acting sensibly. Nearly since my return to Addis I have not been on speaking terms with a friend of mine. I won’t go into detail as to why that is, but he had not honored his word to me, he conveniently forgot to tell me things that I would consider important regarding our relationship (they weren’t good things), and he ultimately just hurt me a lot. So, I decided if he wasn’t willing to really talk to me, then I wouldn’t bother talking to him. Or acknowledge him. At all. When he was ready to grow up and fess up to his wrongs I would be entirely open to discussion, but until then I would ignore him. All this while I was harboring anger, resentment, and hurt towards him and it just sat in me like stagnant water. It grew murkier, flies began to gather, and an odd stench emanated from it. It was the reek of pain, my own pain. By letting those bad feelings fester inside of me, my happiness and wholeness just rot away. Sure I was hurting him, but I was hurting myself more. And ignoring him and cutting him out of my life while maintaining a solid fa├žade didn’t show my strength. I fooled myself into believing that I would “be strong” and simply forget about him. But I hadn’t forgotten about him, I was still hurting inside. I was really being weak. The strong thing to do was to forgive him, to talk to him, to rebuild some semblance of a relationship. I knew that all along, but the dominant part of my brain just seems to be stubborn and self-absorbed; this tends to displace most of my sanity and sensibility. After the voice of wisdom really got this point into my head, I forgave him. Not to his face, not out loud, but within myself I forgave him by releasing myself of all of my anger towards him. Even though we didn’t talk at school today, my energy towards him was markedly different: it was softer, calmer, lighter. It felt really nice. And then after school he approached me and apologized. The ability to forgive is great. It’s something we all need to truly embrace in our lives.

As my boy Michael Franti says: “It’s never too late to start the day over / it’s never too late to pick up the phone / it’s never too late to lay your head down on my shoulders / it’s never too late to come on home. Come on home.”

Friday, February 03, 2006

Stuck in Limbo

First of all, please excuse my last blog… I mainly used it to vent out all of my frustration and anxiety about schoolwork. And moving on…

I have gotten three letters from friends in the States in response to my “Winter Holiday” blog. Each of them was unique, but the beautiful thing was that they all were so completely honest and open. I felt that these three people really bared themselves to me, commiserated and sympathized with me in regards to my feelings, told me how that blog made them think and question things as well. It was incredibly touching and meant a lot to me, not only to see the power of my words, but also that these people felt comfortable enough to share those thoughts with me. You know who you are. Thank you.

Nonetheless, I do feel that I have some explaining to do. Granted, I received three very positive letters, but there are some people who I just have not heard from. People who mean a lot me. And I’m not sure if it’s because of what I wrote, or simply because between school and life, finding spare time to relax or write an email is a very rare luxury. I was very hesitant to post my “Winter Holiday” blog; I was worried about its repercussions, that it might hurt or offend people. So, to anyone that I may have upset, I’m very sorry. It was not targeted at anyone in particular. I just felt that I needed to somehow give an explanation to some people in regards to my “odd” behavior at times, but I don’t know, maybe it only made things worse. As my dad reminded me, this is a “public journal, not a private diary.”

But the thing is, it was something that I wanted to share. It was the truth. I want people to be able to understand and see how I’m changing, how Ethiopia is beginning to alter me. The East Bay/Oakland is still my favorite place in the world, I wouldn’t consider raising my children anywhere else. I still feel completely “at home” in the hallways of Head-Royce, I even think I can be more myself around my friends at home. Only more myself, not completely myself, because Ethiopia has changed me. I haven’t figured everything out yet, but I know that the time I’ve spent in Addis has given me a confidence that I didn’t have before. Sorry to get controversial again, but last year was a crucial time for me grow: between my American history class and my English class, from watching movies like “Bamboozled” and “Hotel Rwanda,” and reading books like Beloved and Reservation Blues, I finally realized race. I began to more fully understand the horrible things that have happened because of the color of one’s skin, and how that still thrives today. I have still yet to be directly confronted with racism, but there are certainly times where the world seems impossible. This only becomes more confusing because I’m half white, because why should things be any different based on the way we look, because race is actually socially constructed and has no biological basis. In Ethiopia I know that I can walk down the street with my head held high: I am just the same as everyone else, slightly qay, light-skinned, (in fact, people call me “white,” which is the weirdest thing for me) but abesha, Ethiopian. I can truly be beautiful and feel beautiful. Now, I think that the East Bay and Head-Royce should be applauded in their diversity and appreciation for it, but racism is too deeply ingrained in American society for it to be completely nonexistent within my community, however unconscious it may be. I believe that my friends and my parents’ friends are wonderful people, and they are our friends because race is not an issue. But simply being in the States changes everything. As much as I love Montclair, I can’t help but feel a little out of place as I’m crossing the street, a little on edge. The problem is that I don’t feel any more comfortable on E 14th.

I don't know... maybe this comes off as more extreme than I mean for it to be... but the fact of the matter is that in Ethiopia I completely fit on, I'm a part of everyone and everyone is a part of me. We are Ethiopian Many people take for granted the feeling of truly belonging. It's very powerful.

…I’m tired now, perhaps more on this subject in the near future.