People, people, people. So concerned was my father that I might be in the middle of translating Dr. Berhanu’s book, When Freedom Dawns, I got a rare phone call from him. He hemmed and hawed (my father is appallingly unqualified to conduct small talk but the gravity of the matter required him to cushion his concern with awkward questions about my daughter’s eating habits) until he could take it no more.
“Semash… ye Dr. Berhanu’n meSehaf… ke miyaq sew gar new miteregumiew?” (“Are you translating Dr. Berhanu’s book with the help of an expert?”)
Ah. Could there be a better way of saying, “Listen, kid. We all enjoy your cute blog thing, but… stick to shtick”?
I had to, of course, allay his trepidation. No, I told him, I am not working with an expert. And by the way, dad, what does “teleTafi” mean in English?
My mother, on the other hand, comes from a long line of proud men and women who don’t let things like facts obfuscate their custom-made reality. She grabbed the phone away from my father.
“Simi… eyesemash new? Eniya zemedachn Ato Debela, (nefsachewn yimarew enna) ye enne intna agot, eza Gefferssa minorut… esachew be Taliyan gizE turjuman neberu yibalal. Besachew wetesh yihonal. Ye lij lijachew ezi Addis A’ba ale meseleN. Dewiyilet.”
(“You remember our relative, Ato Debela (God rest his soul), uncle of what’s-his-name, they used to live in Gefferssa… well, they say he used to be a translator during the Italian invasion. Maybe you took after him. I think his grandson is in Addis. Call him.”)
And that’s how it works in my family: you are tag teamed by diplomatic temperance and irrational exuberance. For a moment though I did entertain what it would be like to talk to what’s-his-name, Ato Debela’s grandson who probably neither cares I exit nor can verify the village rumor that his grandfather once served as a translator during the Italian invasion. I imagined the awkward silence that’d proceed our strained series of “dehna nehs”… followed by… what? Me trying to weave in Ato Debela’s name into the conversation with the grace of a bull in a china shop. “So, tell me. This Ato Debela. Did he like the kitfo?”
So, no. I am not translating any book. I did propose an on-line book discussion… which was so long ago that I can now understand why people think I must be translating it… what the hell could be taking this long?
But, as an update… yes, I promise… Come the New Year the said discussion will be resurrected. Our good friend Gooch, along with the fellows (and fellettes?) at Redeem Ethiopia and Carpe Diem Ethiopia have signed up to take on chapters because that’s how they roll. The saga continues. In the meantime, no need to give Ababa Wonqette an additional ulcer.
And incidentally, the story is that the geniuses in Ato Meles’ government have started monitoring all email communication, which explains my father’s increasingly cryptic email messages. Ah. We are back in Mengistu’s era. Ato Meles is one blue khaki suit away from total unhingement. God speed.