Friday, September 29, 2006

A Tale of Two Meetings

Purpose of meeting:

Homeowners association

Scheduled starting time:

7:00 p.m.

Actual time meeting started:

7:02 p.m.

Agenda:

  • Speeches and speeches, updates and updates.
  • Councilman presentation on how the neighborhood successfully blocked a developer from McMansioning a yay-size property
  • Fire marshal presentation: don’t let children near fire
  • Update on the upcoming neighborhood social (decision made to have a kosher stand).
  • Congressperson made a pit stop. Shook hands—a bit too firmly-- smiled staidly and… very proud to represent us in congress. (Elegantly frazzled staffer subtly distributed campaign buttons made in China.)

Most interesting person there:

Elderly woman in a Chanel suit and flip-flops knitting a… tablemat? sweater? large bib? who seemed totally disinteresting in everything except the issue of people parking on the street. Police spokesperson gently reminded her that… um, parking is allowed on city streets. She was not happy. Not happy at all. Police spokesperson shriveled when she narrowed her eyes and poked her ball of wool with two army-size needles. I love her. It seems perfectly normal now not to want people parking their stupid automobiles on the street.

Most uncomfortable moment:

Spotted PTA-Nazi housewife who dresses her daughters like Future Republican Security Moms looking at me with her trademark “Oh, you are one of those mothers who work?” glare dripping from her fluttering eyelashes. Time to pretend to check the Blackberry. Don’t let me find her parked on the street.

Best line of the evening:

HOA chairman says how great it was that the neighborhood was diversifying, “y’know, ethnically.” Cool. 1 black person, 2 Asians and several people of middle eastern background. Maybe, chairman said flashing a “I love you people” smile, “maybe it’s time for some kind of ‘international day’ celebration.” I like. TrE siga being carved from a whole bull hung on hooks at the Ethiopian section. Or… chairman didn’t mean an all out “ethnic rally day” a la Senator Macacawitz, did he?

Times I checked my watch:

More than 15

# of decisions made and voted on:

10. Everything on the agenda.

Scheduled end time:

8: 30 p.m.

Actual time meeting ended:

8:33 p.m.

Next meeting:

Quick check of calendar- date set

How we knew the meeting was over:

Several personal electronic devices beeped.

What happened after the meeting:

Now that business was done with… everyone was politely priming to rush to get away from each other. I had to remind myself these were my neighbors and this was a community meeting… so I decided to, whatdoyoucallit, commune. How are you… how are you… how are you? Pretty obvious no one knew no one’s name. Oh, hey… we should go running together. Call me. No one touched the punch and cookies. (What?! Carbs?! Heresy.) Very skillfully, we were all edging towards the door. Don’t know if it was paranoia but had a feeling PTA-Nazi was trying to corner me. I love her shoes. My daughter had barfed on mine that morning.

It was drizzling, cold and dark outside. I didn’t have an umbrella coz that’s how I roll. People muttered tart goodnights and pretended they didn’t see me putting up my collar. They opened their small, tiny, one-person umbrellas and melted into the night. I hunkered beneath my briefcase and ran to my car. I stepped into a puddle. Ah. One way to wash off barf off of footwear.

And then four days later:

Purpose of meeting:

An Ethiopian community/grassroots philanthropic/outreach… something

Scheduled starting time:

6:30 p.m-ish

Actual time meeting started:

7:28 p.m.

Agenda:

Agenda?

Most interesting person there:

Elderly, supremely elegant man who kept referring to the young people present as “tikuss hyloch”… and not in that sarcastic, demeaning way either.

Most uncomfortable moment:

A know-it-all (yeah? we have those?) 50-ish ex-EPRP type kept lamenting how people in Addis were being forced out of their houses to live in “condoms.” Ahhh, really? Because of the AIDS? Ohhh. It… was… not… meant… in… an… allegorical, art-as-truth kinda way.

Best line of the evening:

Fqr yeTemawun hzb fqr magat mechal alebn.” (No way to translate that so it makes sense… loosely, “we have the responsibility of feeding love to a people parched for love.”) I tried picturing scenarios in which I force-feed my love to a reluctant ET. Maybe not so much.

Times I checked my watch:

More than 15.

# of decisions made and voted on:

I think…one. We decided to decide on the name of the organization at the next meeting.

Scheduled end time:

Eskemiyasschilen.” (“Until we can bear it.”)

Actual time meeting ended:

9:47 p.m.

How we knew the meeting was over:

We could not think of anymore broad, over-reaching, magnificent declarations. Once you have declared your mission to be feeding love, people, there ain’t nowhere to go but down.

What happened after the meeting:

I had let my brother drop me off, and like all people in their 20s who have a warped sense of punctuality, he was nowhere to be seen when the meeting finally broke. It was dark. I resigned myself to wait in the lobby but the security guard was shutting the building.

As we all headed outside the group noticed I did not have a ride. Immediately, five people offered to drop me off even though it was out of their way. I thanked everyone, but, I insisted, slacker brother will be here any moment. It was decided (without a word being uttered) everyone would wait with me. (Time honored Ethiopian concept of “maTabeq”) No. really. It was getting late. I’ll be fine... really…

Nothing doing. My weak mutters of protest were shushed. An impromptu circle formed. The conversation veered to who knew whom from where. How’s your mother? How’s your father? How’s Abba so-and-so. “Ye kebere selamta… innEm.”

So there we were, 10 strangers who were not strangers at all. I lost track of how late my brother was. It was a cold night, but in so many ways it was warm. And I needed warmth.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

awesome!

9:33 AM, September 29, 2006  
Anonymous dube said...

Thanks for another compelling reason to look forward to Fridays.

My friend's observation was that Hastert's office had larger fish to fry (what with that torture thing out there) but have definately heard our call (to an almost annoying extent - and yes, some have rubbed them the wrong way) - As an aside, even though he didn't say it, I felt that they don't think that we can follow up our 'harassement' with real force at the ballot box. They might do 'the right thing' if it is convenient and they can benefit from it but not because we sway them with our political clout.

Still up in the air.

10:12 AM, September 29, 2006  
Anonymous Gooch said...

Agenda?

Perfect.

10:32 AM, September 29, 2006  
Anonymous ye mankussaw welafen said...

Wonq,

Story of our lives as hyphenated-ETs.

It should have been Agenda:

'Huh? Agendaaaaaaa? Ye min agenda? YhihE yamiyazew aynet? Ay-hayyyy. Le fiqr magat agenda yelem."

11:39 AM, September 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

which world do you love most....miaweee - EPRP's Or the White - craps. I am sorry that I hate meetings and don't like to attend them.

12:17 PM, September 29, 2006  
Blogger yekolotemari said...

It has been a while since I read any blog sites... under the disguise of "working from home", here I am reading your blog:) Too bad I can't read your blog as often... You know how we Ethiopians say "gize yelem ferenj ager"...really this time it is the truth ... it does happen!

Hilarious as usual. Keep up... Thank God some ppl have more energy than I do:-) oh yea...greetings from Wegesha as well.. Hopefully we will come back... like retire early!

3:43 PM, September 29, 2006  
Blogger zegabi said...

:) Funny as usual wonk.

On Hastert - Chicago Public Radio did a great service to the cause of Ethio-Americans by putting Al Mariam for an interview. Now your approach with the carrot is good, but I think Hastert needed a bit of stick wagging and to be able to do it in Illinois was priceless.

5:02 PM, September 29, 2006  
Anonymous not anonymous said...

“IT was decided . .” gedelshiN! tayeN eko:

ere hidu g’delem!
mn nekat echi set jal? Tenam yelat inde?
ay meshtual biyE new.
t’dya bimeshisssss? Indet tedergo hidu yibalal? Newr aydelem?!

That, wonq, was one scenario in which You were being force-fed a heavy dose of fqr . . .

Aya Mankusaw, Doktor Raselas-n yawqwachew nurwal? Ay sew! Ay t’lq sew! Essachew neberu indi indih yale Chewata miawqu! Affer yiblaN!

8:36 PM, September 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

agenda ????
decision ?????
time ????
You must have noticed that everyone wants to talk and basically repeated what the other person said.
come to our next political meeting, you will have learn a lot more about meeting Ethiopian style!

1:10 PM, September 30, 2006  
Anonymous ye mankusaw welafen said...

bitweded lij ato non anonymous,

doftor raselas? doftor raselas?

ke abatachew ke bejrowend moltot debalqE menkir,

ke innatachew ke weizero zuriyashwerq akaleweld zebyideru,

be gonder gzat, be wegera awraja, mlchitcht bitbal ketema teweldew,

qess haile-melekot gebre tnassae igr s'r fidel qoTrew,

wede addis'aba telikew,

teferi mekonnen tmhrt bet be kefiteNa me'areg temeriqew,

zadiyam wede unibersity of madagascar hidEw,

doftor, dagim doftor tebilew simachewun, hagerachewn yasTerutn...

doftor raselassin new?

ere inne itE alawqachewum.

9:43 PM, September 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not Anonymous and Ye mankusaw wolafen, you guys are sooooo hilarious!!! Thanks.

10:22 PM, October 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agenda? That was hilarious.

I know what you mean about meetings with Abeshas LOL. Every meeting I attend starts late, and when over, someone suggests "buna enteta?" and off we go....

8:41 AM, October 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aha!
Now it's getting clearer that this is one of the most politically censored blog.
ag

11:36 AM, October 02, 2006  
Anonymous nolawi said...

H aha ha ah hahahah

Laughing my ass off, betam yasqal..I almost fell out of my chair...

4:13 PM, October 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only we could mix the two - the promptness of Ferenjis and "getting things done" with and the warmth of the abesha culture. You are amazing..as always!

5:06 PM, October 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what's going on

5:40 AM, October 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whats up with that

5:40 AM, October 03, 2006  
Anonymous Liben G. E. said...

just caught this. what i've been waiting for . . . too long. too good for words. but you gotta use'em--and boy do you

11:08 AM, October 22, 2006  

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