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.