Wednesday, August 19, 2015

hager lij : child of the country

The market, the minibus, the diesel fumes and museums, too, the dusty roads and gums green with ch’at, the women’s braids and the peasant boys’ gallop, the coffee cups being cleaned… The construction sites and the edge of each town, the shapes in the land and the shades of brown and green, the city slickers, the country leisure… The men wrapped in gabis with their walking staffs, the crack of the whip and the smell of sheep, the winding roads and breathtaking cliffs, the motor accidents abandoned to the shoulder… Monks on the street in Arat Kilo and colorful country mosques behind false banana on the road to Jimma… the butchered limbs of beggars, nightclubs in Addis, “mastika? soft?”… the honk-honking and blaring of wedding processions, the roads being built, the little girl in the souk – scarf resting on her head, chin on her hand.

This is the place I will miss.

Or the way, when you ask the bajaj drivers in Dire Dawa the cost of the fare, they always say: chigger yellum. no problem.

Or the way, driving into Jimma at night, in the darkness of the countryside – passing houses with open doors, the shapes of bodies framed in the doorway against the red glow of hearths – through the darkness of the countryside – the occasional souk lit by a single electric bulb – the darkness of the countryside, people walking by the side of the road, the stars starting to glow in the sky, above, the night looking blue-black as it spreads on all sides – and then driving into Jimma at night, the sudden burst of light and buildings and bodies, the way Jimma is a city, the excitement and the thrill…

Or even being detained at immigration when returning to Addis on a domestic flight with no passport. The way I cried – the heart of things – the feat of belonging and bureaucracy --- “Baby, it’s OK… Let me talk to… I know…” B tells me --- and resisting. The way the immigration officials just sat and talked with me, occasional crowds arriving, pouring in, passing through, leaving, me still sitting there, waiting, the way they said it is OK, offered me shay? buna?, walked me to the bathroom to wet my face, the way they said goodbye a few hours later when my uncle arrived with my passport…

This is the place I will miss.

Monday, August 17, 2015

operation aborted - or, a eulogy

-for B.

I do not often find myself for lack of words. But perhaps because this experience has cut so deep, I bled them all out. Now bare, I place myself upon the page – as rain in Addis, or the eastern heat. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

"No Title"

Learning a language is often fraught with humor. Either humor or shame. And it seems to me it leans not to the latter but the former when learning in the company of friends. And for this knowledge, I am blessed.

yanchi fiqregña konjo newo? T asks me at work one day, is your sweetheart handsome?

Friday, July 24, 2015

“Work in Progress…”: parts i & ii

part i

In the light of this summer (the massacre of nine black people in a church in Charleston, the burning of more black churches, Sandra Bland now wrongly arrested and found hanged in her cell, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book), and at my father’s urging, I want to reflect on my months of respite from American race politics: I came to this place to recover myself.

black folk always be leavin the segregated states of amerikkka – to free themselves, find themselves.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Gestures of Piety

“kefitfitu fitu.”

Which translates roughly into: “Rather than the fitfit, the face.”

In transmitting this proverbial gem, my Amharic teacher sets an everyday scene, so familiar to the fabric of life in Ethiopia: a plate of firfir, or any food, and an invitation to eat.

yekremt git’im : poem of the rains

Rain in Addis arrives like poems.

Without warning words arrive,
channeled from the deep.
Intuition swells, bursts:



On Signs and Dogma

There is a small sign on the side of the road that leads to the compound where my aunt’s house is located. It is nondescript, and easy to miss. But since it has caught my eye, I have been unable to get it out of my mind. I suppose it has caught my mind, too, as a consonant on a vowel, or thread on a hook.

Friday, July 03, 2015

asunder, a city

Today, as with any other day, having paused in the afternoon bustle of Piassa to browse the book titles laid out for purchase, two young men passing by –

faranj nech.

ay, habesha nech.

they argue with one another, peering back over their shoulders at me as they walk on. If not used to it, at least no longer surprised, I just shake my head and laugh to myself in reply.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ihud be’iger, Sunday by foot

qas be’qas inqulal be’igru yeheydal… little by little, an egg goes by foot…


After unpacking and showering, I slept most of Day 1.

Above activity was repeated on Day 3.

Accordingly, my Uncle was able to remark gently, complimenting my display of fortitude on Day 2 as our car first inched through the traffic jam of Piassa, and then snaked through the dusty throngs of stuff-hawkers, stuff-shoppers and the occasional donkey or sheep crowding the streets of Merkato --- “You have to be crazy to go to Merkato on your second day in Addis.”


Day 4, Sunday, I took to the streets – be’iger, by foot

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Good Apples, Big Apples, Rotten Apples… and New Flowers

The blogosphere is as different nine years later as Addis Ababa is.

The both have seen tremendous “development” – or growth – or, simply, change.

The Day of the Downfall of the Derg

I arrived in Addis around six o’clock on the morning of Thursday, May 28, 2015 -- or, twelve o’clock by Ethiopian time, which (rather sanely) is oriented to sunrise and sunset (even if somewhat metaphorically).

And while I don’t know the date by the Ethiopian calendar rather than Gregorian, I do know that the day that I arrived was --- The Day of the Downfall of the Derg.

All the banks were closed for the national holiday. I couldn’t exchange any of that cash that I carried close on my person to the other side of the world.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015


To You, Friends of the Diaspora,

Below are two stories providing a brief background as to why I grew motivated to return to Addis Abeba… and am writing from there now – “as we speak”.

(For background on the background, see after the stories.)

May these stories find and leave you well! Cheers,

sämra r.g.

The Voyage, The Journey, The Quest

How do I start? Where do we begin?

ze’teyn amet bohala, ze’teyn amet befeet,
ena, iziga neyn…

nine years later, nine years before,
and, here i am…

And, it’s a good place to be. So, why don’t we take it from…

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Dear Diaspora,

I'm heading home.

Back to the fatherland. For nearly three months. After nine years.

Time for these shadows to be resurrected.

So, dear blogosphere, I hope that you'll join me for the ride... or at least one or two adventures along the way?

For the Source,
Sämra G.