Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"What Have I Done for Ethiopia?"

I never realized how much I missed talking to my parents until they moved back to Ethiopia to, as my father put it, “live out our lives in peace.” He’s always had an irrational fear of dying in America. “The Almighty helped me survive the Clinton years; but I want to die back home,” was his opening salvo at every Thanksgiving dinner. He said it with such earnest conviction that none of us ever had the heart to point out the glaring non sequitur in his proclamation.

I suppose the best thing that has come out of their move is that my father and I now communicate through long emails that are sometimes brutally honest, often painfully obscure but always edifying. No wonder people of yon wrote long letters to each other. It is cathartic. I’ve been able to tell him things in writing that I could never say to him without a 1,000 mile minimum buffer zone between us.

One of the longest correspondences we have had has been about a segment on the “Diversity Visa Lottery” that aired on VOA-Amharic on November 27. A young woman who works in an internet café in Addis was interviewed about applicants coming in to try their luck at immigrating to the land of milk and honey.

She went on to recount the yearnings of young people especially, who trudge in looking for an out from the harsh Addis life. Most are desperate. The reporter asked her who she hopes will get the lottery. (My translation. Sorry if I missed something.)

I don’t want anyone to leave Ethiopia. People who leave are building other people’s countries. Where we need people is in Ethiopia where there is much to build. The more we leave Ethiopia, the less people to build her. It would be better if we started staying here and working towards leaving a lasting legacy for our children. The generation before us, our mothers and fathers, left without leaving us anything. And we’ve been paying the price for that. But now we have to be responsible so that the generation coming up doesn’t judge us for not leaving it anything. So I don’t think we should abandon our country.

What kind of people come to fill out the DV application? The majority are highly educated, she said. Some have two college degrees; people in high positions. The reporter then zoomed in on her. Has she ever filled out an application?

I’ve never filled one out before. And I haven’t now.

(The whole program is actually fascinating. It tells a story of hope and despair with equal gusto.)

It is obvious from his letters that my father has been struggling with the condemnation the young woman at the internet café leveled on his generation. My father was educated through a very generous scholarship provided by the Ethiopian government. He had gone back to Ethiopia after graduate school to serve his country and join the burgeoning middle class. But then everything fell apart.

Nearly three decades later, my father writes, he’s witnessing another round of violence.

This Christmas my father turns 65. My parents were supposed to come to the States for a long-planned birthday celebration and family reunion.

“What have I done for Ethiopia?” he wrote after our long discussion about the VOA program. “What have I left you, my children? And what will you leave yours?”

My parents decided to stay in Ethiopia this Christmas.


To the countless Ethiopian mothers who have buried their children this year.

Here’s hoping we leave our children an Ethiopia that is healed. And also hoping that we have an answer for them when they ask us, “What have you done for Ethiopia?”

Merry Christmas. See you in 2006.


Anonymous mamo begebeya said...

WonQayte. tiyaqesh, anjet yemyaris ena yemyaqatil tiyaqe new.

Even those of us who stay here permanently find it hard to answer.

10:19 AM, December 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

couldn't resist... cutest picture of 2005

7:03 PM, December 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

til 2006?? two weeks no post?!?! your husband will go nuts, so here please read this ... something to keep you busy during x-mas

we'll brace for your return in 06.

7:13 PM, December 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nothing yet...but i pray i will have a better/positive answer soon!
...a serious question the diaspora should ask!

6:05 PM, December 23, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question "what have i done to ethiopia?" is an old question raised in the student years of the 60s. And now an ethiopian elite family, particularly WonQayte(what is this name anyway?)has raised it again as if it's a new clarion call. Baby boomers think they were rrevolutionaries and yet all the social maladies we have now are the rresult of sell-outs of that generation. Alas, all turn out to be sell-outs. And now the guilt sets in.

11:08 AM, December 27, 2005  
Blogger Geja said...

To the last anonymous, please go back and read this blogg again. The person who is saying "what have I done to Ethiopia?" is not ETwonk, but her father who actually is a member of the generation that raised that same question some forty years ago. Besides even if that is true it does not necessarily mean a question of this nature once raised should not be raised again by the next generation. To me a country is a living entity with each generation facing the same question, but where the resolution becomes easier and easier depending on how wisely the generation at hand resolved each issue. I agree with you our country will not have been in this predicament if it was blessed with a wise and farsighted generation, but the blame could go back to every one of us past and present. I may be correct in saying I read your frustration well. During the Adwa war of a century ago the Italians came with horses, bazukas and rifles. We faced them with horses, bazukas and rifles and we kicked their ass. Forty years later they came with horses, tanks, fighter planes and mechanized war machine. We faced them with horses, bazukas and rifles and they kicked our ass to Kingdom Come. To me that generation failed to realize the technological advances the Europeans made and it has been a down ward slide of one generation after another since then. Are we doing any different now? It always amazes me when we spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding regardless of our economic status. The money spent on ten weddings could have started a mid size factory in Ethiopia. We continually fail to realize it is economic power that transforms into political power. Did we fail our country? Yes we did and miserably so. Should we blame each other and forget about it? No, I sincerely disagree with that. As a result of the abyss we are in now, are we realizing our fault and try to make amends? Yes we are. For the first time in the history of our nation there is now a move, albeit cantankerous at times to work together and remove the cancer that is among us. I do not have any doubt we are going to achieve that. What I am afraid is once we do that we will go back to our usual ways - every one of us living like kings and queens, driving expensive cars, spend our hard earned money frivolously as if it is going out of style, and let our country sink again to be led by the next cancer like leaders. We need to change our outlook. No one but us brought our country to where it is now, and no one but us will be able to get her out and into the road of freedom and prosperity. I urge you to replace your frustration with hope for the best, and that is what I like about ETwonk. Through anecdotes and conversations like this one with her dad she is showing us talking about our troubles, our failures and shortcomings is good. For smart and hard working people like us realizing our problem leads to solving it, and that is exactly what she is trying to tell us. Please have the heart to see through your anger and be part of the solution. I know we will get there one day soon jumping with joy for we have banished our oppressor, and you should be there.

2:28 PM, December 28, 2005  
Anonymous the last anonymus said...

To geja.
nothing personal there. Any offnce was unintentional.
better to have a common understanding of our recent past. Both the current govt. and the current oppositions fought the ethiopian military govt. Following the call of thier masters they roamed in rural ethiopia causing havoc and refugees. They propagated anti Ethiopia views and finaly succeded in overthrowing that govt. Are they happy now?

9:46 AM, December 30, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In his book THE SIGN AND THE SEAL, Graham Hancock has published a TPLF political recruting poster that served to trick Tigrean youth into the narrow looking,Amhara-hating,shabia-loving war. Just look at that poster and you will see who is realy guilty of starting genocidal propaganda war.
The poster shows mengistu as a blood thirsty killer of Tigreans.

10:17 AM, December 30, 2005  
Anonymous Dina said...

what have we done for ethiopia? just let the question hang for a bit...

12:25 PM, December 31, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


someone was saying how there are no ethiopian bloggers from addis. here is an attempt from someone on vacation there.

8:50 PM, January 01, 2006  
Anonymous gudu kasa said...

The spies the agents and others western paid ethiopians have done thier best to bring american policy in ethiopia.some of the known are named in a book FREJ ETHIOPIA, an amharic book. i was surprised to read names of known ethiopians as such. what we see in ethiopia is what the us has been planning for us. democracy? what does democracy got to dowith it?

10:58 AM, January 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:57 AM, January 03, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home