A Letter from a friend: “My First Love.”

         I thought i’d share a wonderful letter a friend sent me a few years back on her “first love” i.e Addis Ababa, and her more recent love – Washington, DC. Enjoy.

        “I don’t need to tell you that it’s not what you’re thinking; obviously. The first love I’m talking about is Addis, my beloved city. I was coming back from work today and in the train, I finished reading Dinaw’s “The beautiful things that heaven bears”. I can’t even begin to describe the emotions that book evoked in me. But more about that later. I was in the train and looking out of the metro windows, lost in my own world of nostalgia, sadness and just pure wonder at the ability of someone to express himself so well. Then suddenly it hit me that the moment perfectly coincided with my melancholic mood because it was twilight; and twilight used to be my favorite part of the day in Addis. You know that time of the day, the sun is just setting, smell of ‘tikus yekeseat dabo’ in the air, distant voices of weyalas screaming their head off and that oh so beautiful breeze that is unique to Addis. At a moments like this, I just bow my head and thank God for being alive.

 And today, today it was one of those days … the whole outside world resembled Addis and I said to myself, maybe DC will be my second love. For its easy to fall in love with it … the bustle, diversity, convenience, … life of it all. Like Addis there are things that break your heart. Take, for example, this African American guy who, when a friend was passing him by says hello to her and she, like we’re used to doing in Addis, ignores him and walks on, and he replies … “yeah you’re right, this is nobody.” Or when you see the general discrepancy amongst people of the city, immigrants vs natives, blacks vs whites, etc. And just like Addis, it has its slums and its version of ‘bole’. I could think of a thousand reasons to love it, from its coffee shops, to the malls to the clubs, little things that creep up on you until you wake up one day, and realize you have yet again fallen in love with another one. But Addis? Too many memories etched inside my head for me to ever let go. If you asked me what of the city I missed most now, it would definitely be … how do i describe it … ok let me try. You know that time of the morning around 5ish (kelelitu 11 seat) and everyone is sleeping, dawn is breaking, and for some reason or another tibanignalesh? You know you don’t need to get up but you can’t fall asleep right away either. So you snuggle in bed, happy that you have a few more hours of sleep. And then … you hear them. The weyalas … you remember how close our house was to the ‘taksi tera’? It was just the most beautiful sound. It is faint with none of the chaos of the day, almost like they were making music of their own. On rare occasions when I would accompany my mom to church, this sound I used as my incentive to pull myself out of bed. And yesterday in the train, I realized that was the only thing missing from DC, lol. You see, iza honen indeza indtaltesadebin … i’m telling you, we might as well drop the search for satisfaction … human beings are way too fickle for that.
Love you, “

Dignity: What ought to be and what is.

          Dignity is a term that’s used to signify that all human beings have a right to respect and ethical treatment irrespective of their economic, political or cultural background. It is related to both self-respect and the respect we give to others. It’s something every human being deserves whether they are our friend, neighbor, parent or president. It’s also something that we deprive each other of so often, mostly giving respect only to those we deem better, be it cultural, economical or political.

          A recent article on the huffingtonpost (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patrick-galey/flight-et409-exposes-leba_b_438196.html) discussing the racist behavior of some Lebanese individuals towards some Ethiopians was what made me ponder about this idea of dignity and why millions of individuals are depreived of it. When i first read this article, i couldn’t help but be angry – the outrageousness of the situation! Death is one of the few things all human being have in common, it is a reminder of how fragile we are, it’s one of the few times when we should feel true humility, at least that’s what i thought. But, even at such a tragic time, some grievances were seen to be more worthy than others, some heartaches comanded higher priority.

This realization was heartbreaking for me, putting it lightly. It was heartbreaking because i realized the harshness of the reality we currently live in – the huge gap between what ought to be and what is.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 states in Article 1 : “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in spirit of brotherhood.”

You can’t help be baffled both by the  sweetness and bullshitness of it all.  

Yes, we should respect other people, regardless of how different they are. Yes, we should respect that poor women who helps clean the house. Yes, we should respect the lunatic who thinks he’s better than everyone… yes even him, he does, sadly, fall into the group of category of human beings. But how many of us really do?

The racism shown by some Lebanese towards the grieving Ethiopian families who lost their loved ones on flight ET409, while infuriating, should make us aware of, not only the racism we face as individuals or as a people, but also the countless biases that is within each and every one of us. If you’re Ethiopian and have lived in Ethiopia, i’m willing to bet you’ve seen a woman working as a house-maid being abused within an Ethiopian home. This is a reality that many of us may not feel comfortable admitting, but it is a reality that exist on a daily bases. Most of us might actually even be immune to it, view it as a norm. Haven’t you had that aunt who yells from the top of her lungs at the help because wetu chew becha selehone or betun abuara selemolaw? Yes, it happens, and you know it quite well. It may not be physical abuse, but the mental abuse – the lack of respect – exists. 

The problem of dignity or the lack of, of course  is no way a Lebanese or an Ethiopian problem, it’s a problem we as human beings face. Mere humanness does not seem to suffice for us to render one another as worthy of respect, we attach so many other factors in the equation – money, status, even appearances, that the pure concept of dignity itself is lost. This is something we all have to take into account on a daily bases and do our best to over come. We’re not being asked to love a people, or even to like them, but to simply respect them for what they are – human beings. Of course, if you can show the love, even better – It is, after all, what ought to be.