Sunday, December 19, 2010

Being Habesha

I am not this or that. I am Habesha. You ask me where I'm from or what I am, I will tell you, I am Habesha, from Ethiopia. I laugh while I type this because years ago, as a young girl, I would have never been able to proudly state this. My parents with their thick accents would always shove Ethiopian facts into my ears, while insisting that I speak only Amharic. Sure, before starting school, I only spoke Amharic. I was then enrolled into ESL (english as a second language) while in elementary school. My friends made up the diverse group of kids I grew to love and the one thing we had in common was the accents of our tongues. We spoke in English with each other because obviously, Farsi could not be understood by an Italian and Arabic could not be understood by a Korean. As I got older, I became more and more interested in other cultures, but never my own. I was trying to learn different languages, try the foods of other cultures, you know- the whole shibang. It wasn't until my parents frequented our visits to Ethiopia over the past summers that i began to appreciate my culture. I read every single book in my elementary school's library that was about Ethiopia. I knew more about this one country than I knew about basic arithmetic at this point.

I wasn't innocent for long.

Once I entered middle school, I was a confused kid. I mean, I knew I was Ethiopian but that was basically it. What were my great grand parents like? Why don't I look like either of my parents? Was I white? Was I black? What's the difference between an Amhara Ethiopian and a Gurage, Tigraye, or Oromo Ethiopian? What did it mean to be an Ethiopian? And most importantly, what does it mean to be Habesha?
These questions hovered in my head constantly until i took matters (or research) into my own hands. Middle school really sparked this interest for me. The question of my race came up. The question of my family's history came up. You see, most people in the world aren't well acquainted with the history of Ethiopia- I wasn't even acquainted with the history of Ethiopia. Through my research, I gradually instilled within myself, this sense of pride. Why? Well, did you know Ethiopia was the only African country to not have been colonized? Did you know that the Ethiopian kingdoms of the past were the most powerful of the whole world? Did you know that many cultures of the world, mot notably the middle east, were heavily influenced by that of Ethiopia's? Di you know that Ethiopia was the first official Christian kingdom at the time of the Bible and after? Did you know that Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of humanity, giving different ethnicities their characteristics due to Ethiopian DNA? Did you know that at the time of religious persecutions during the founding of Islam, the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) sent his followers and family to Ethiopia for safety, knowing that Ethiopia was one of the most tolerant and safest kingdoms of the time? The facts could go on and on but the problem was that with these facts, came more and more questions about my own family and heritage. I kept on reading about how there was this connection between olden Israel and Ethiopia and the stories of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba... I was never not baffled. Through my research, not only did I become proud of my country, I also became suspicious of globally known facts. Let me break it down.

#1: Language
Why was my language always related to Arabic and Hebrew? Historians kept on commenting on how Amharic is a cyrillic language and was possibly used by Jesus Christ but that doesn't mean much when comparing the languages. It's just a matter of geography, in my opinion, what with the close proximity of Arabia and Jerusalem to Ethiopia. Look at the latin languages of English, Spanish, and Italian for example. Some vocabulary just spread, that's all. Same with the languages of Ethiopia (although some Ethiopians do make their accents a bit stronger on the Arabic side...).

#2: Races
It really isn't a big deal, but as I did my research, I came across studies that have proven that Ethiopians are neither black nor white. They're just... brown? You see, scientists have confirmed that the Ethiopian- Habesha DNA is identical to that of Europeans (ie. Norwegians, Armenians, and Ashkenazi Jews). The only ethiopians who MIGHT actually be black are those of the south, such as those of the Gambella regions. Living in America, It was hard to explain my own race, especially if people didn't believe a thing that would come out of my mouth about my own heritage. Even if scientists and historians have been calling Habeshas the 'whites of Africa', there obviously would be no way we could call ourselves white. But we couldn't be black either. Race is more than just the tan of your skin, it's your DNA build up as well. Here's an easy explanation: Look at those who are dark skinned who aren't African. Their facial and bodily structures are different yet their skin color is dark. Dark skin is not equivalent to the race [of Africa]. Africa is a diverse continent, and for the last time, Africa is NOT a country.

#3: Culture
The culture of the Habesha people of Ethiopia is an ancient one. When I say ancient, I mean ANCIENT. As in, the beginning of time ancient. Anyone who says Ethiopia is influenced by other countries is wrong. Ethiopia is the country of cultures that influenced and still influences OTHERS. Our coffee/tea ceremonies? Yeah, it wasn't a middle eastern ritual to have those small cups and unique kettles of a unique shape, with which we pour the hot beverages out from a high distance- that was all Habesha. Men wearing tight white pants with tunics worn over them and a dagger held under a sash and genie-like curved shoes is also an Habesha thing- not Aladdin's. This list can also go on and on but for the sake of my time and yours, I'll cut that off now. The Habesha culture is something I love to flaunt. A lot. Our culture is like none other and it's about time for people to know. While in South Africa, at a crafts market in Cape Town, a Zulu man selling paintings asked where me nad my cousins were from. I said Ethiopia. He smiled a wide smile and literally did the "Aaaaah" thing. "You are from Addis Ababa, then! I can tell, Ethiopians are beautiful. You know, all of Africa admires Ethiopia and it's people- it's is the heart of Africa!" I did not exaggerate a thing of that and I did not mean for it to sound conceited that I am restating what this well informed man had said, but this is proof. A detail that is universally known (minus America) about the misinterpreted Ethiopia.

So this all is just a fourth of my knowledge regarding Ethiopia and my Habeshaness and there still are many other facts unknown, but till then, i will try to see if my parents, the thickly accented Ethiopians, can match up to my level of Ethio-Pride... seriously, when my dad comes home with an attempt to use different american accents, it truly makes me question his pride.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Buddhism & Meditation

I am not Buddhist, I'm actually a pretty devout Christian. I must admit though, ever since I saw the movie, 'Eat Pray Love', I didn't really see things about me and my life very clearly soon after. The first thing I told my mom after seeing this movie was "You know, I think I want that life, traveling, living, loving, no pressures or stress, just live and be." My mom ultimately thought I was crazy and she did give me a weird look, but that was my cue, the cue telling me that maybe that was my future. I've been meditating as much as i can lately, and i'm getting better at it. After all, being a student doesn't make it very easy to clear your mind. For sometime, all that was in my head while meditating were the faces of students at my school and my grades. Then i began to concentrate on the Zen Garden Buddhist meditation music playing and I found myself in a trance. I've decided that i'll be signing up for some yoga classes and possibly Ti Chi. The ancient arts of Asia truly are mesmerizing. Everything about all of Asia truly fascinates me. From the deserts of the west to the rice paddies of the east, Asia is a continent I want to explore and attempt to understand inside and out. From India to Mongolia, from Lebanon to Japan, there is so much to know that even the wisest haven't discovered yet. Buddhism itself is a religion, but to me, it's a lifestyle. To be honest, if I weren't such a devout Christian, my next prime decision as to which religion i'd want to practice would be Buddhism. Wether it's in the India, or the regions of the Himalayas, Tibet, Nepal, China, I want to live the life of solidarity, in which my mind and body are at peace. It sounds crazy, especially coming from an American living in a fast-paced world, but who wouldn't want a life as simple as that? I'd LOVE to wake up in Bali and know that my day only consists of meditation, yoga, adventures, and culture- and not to forget to mention eating my favorite thing in the whole world- mangoes, by the dozens.
To me, Eating, Praying, and Loving are all forms of art, believe it or not. My Great-Aunt, who goes to India just oh so casually whenever she'd like meditate, has inspired me. Grab life before it flies away, as corny as that may sound. I am wasting away in a brick building called school, as i've said many times before- but you, you have so many opportunities and choices when you're not in school, once you've graduated. You are lucky. Take advantage of you time and life and spend it wisely, because we all know it isn't long enough. My goal is to learn many languages fluently, and I'm almost half way there. You see? And I'm only a student! What i want in life, I'm not sure. For most people, it involves a heavy pay check, for me, it involves traveling and exciting journeys. I will literally want to spend my life Eating Praying and Loving, but as most know, that is almost impossible. I guess I could just work for a little bit, make enough money to live off of for a couple years, and start the money process all over again (humor intended). All I know is, I'm quietly deliberating over wether I should become a Buddhist monk to escape my school report card, which might not be the 4.0 I'm stressing for or just living the boring life I'm living no, as i practice the activities of my future; meditation and writing. I have many years to go, but it doesn't make life feel any longer.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Baklava Rap

There isn't a thing in my household that has a shorter life span than baklava
The crispy sweet and nutty treat will make you go bananas
It's eaten all over the world
Come on let's take if for a whirl
It can make your head spin
It can have your body pinned
Let's just say baklava
has some power coming from within

Baklava, baklava
yo, where you at?
Baklava. baklava
Come out with your phyllo hat
It doesn't have to say NY
Or have some weird athletic sign
Your phyllo hat will be in my mouth as I break you apart one section at a time

Honey honey honey
gets your fingers slimy slimy slimy
Now im gonna stop messin' messin' messin'

YO it's not you I hate!
it's the emotions I go through!
you think it's funny when people stare at you and all they do is drool?!
Baklava has us dying inside
When we don't get that Greek surprise
I'm no fool!
This baklava is a tool!

Let me chill, let me relax
Baklava baklava got me goin' mad.
It's not funny, it's actually kinda cruel
I know how you felt now when your baklava had left you.
Wow those layers are so golden,
it feels weird between my teeth
But once it makes it past my taste
It's only the sight left to see.

No more baklava
No more baklava for me
What kind of evil have you unleashed upon thee?


PS: The only reason I wrote this is because i just had some baklava (as always since I was young) and I've been writing a lot of rap-like poetry lately...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Selaam-Hakuna Matata

I'm finally back from one of the best trips i've taken so far! It's been 2 days since i've gotten home and I'm already bored, which isn't good, but i've got plenty of memories to last me a while. Selaam, Ethiopia, Hakuna Matata, South Africa.
"Selaam", i've done everything left to do since i've basically turned the country inside out since i was 5; now there isn't much to see that I haven't seen already! I had the chance to meet a lawyer who told me what I should do for the charity and then he started talking about things that went out my other ear. I left with a few accessories and came back with so much, that my suitcase was not close-able (so i resorted to sitting on it as I zipped it). I took an excessive amount of photos- for art of course. I went through 4 hail storms. My shoes had mud cakes one day as I slipped around while just trying to walk to the car from a construction site. I went to Hawassa and Longano... and Nazret AND Debre Libanos AND Shahshamene (which is rasta-ville) and I went up a mountain/rainforest to Aragash where I had a view of the canopies... it was beautiful until I was restricted from going any further into the jungle. I got a cold RIGHT before departure so as we took off, as we landed in Rome, as we took of from Rome, landed at home, I was suffering from a pain that I can easily compare to that of a wallaby being wrung to death before being fire roasted and skinned and stuffed in the Australian outbacks. I swear, my head was actually going to explode and my nose was being stabbed every now and then with a massive machete- no exaggeration. A day after landing, I was ok... I think.

South Africa:
"Hakuna Matata". Here's my story; I flew to Johannesburg from Ethiopia. We were detained in Joburg just because we breathed in Ethiopian air- and I am being very serious. We were told that we'd be deported but thanks to me, we fought for our right to go to Cape Town! I felt like the gladiator/warrior guy in '300'- victorious as I smirked and pushed aside that stupid security guard who was only good for eating food. South Africa's system is so corrupt... you know why? Money is your passport... the federals in SA are obsessed with money so for a hundred (give or take) dollars, we were free to catch the NEXT DAY'S FLIGHT to Cape Town. There wasn't a soul who wasn't involved with trying to free us from our holding area- aka, jail in Joberg. My great uncle was waiting for us in the Cape Town airport as he readied himself to hear our jail story which was due to the corrupt african mentality. We were greeted by the Table Mountains, which I never got a chance to climb because of the stupid clouds and wind... which really wouldn't have bothered me until they said they weren't allowing climbers/hikers because the wind could knock off anyone who tried. Soooo i spared my own life and enjoyed the view of the border between the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Point, after visiting the Cape of Good Hope. I shouldn't fail to mention that a lot of the males I saw in Cape Town looked like Drake, the rapper! Anyways, we saw the Shanty Towns, Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was jailed- and i visited his cell, which was actually that bad). The apartment me and my parents stayed at was right in front of the beach, which most people would call a luxury and i would call a nuance. Why? The people and the cars and the waves combined made it sound as if I were being ambushed every night before I fell asleep. While visiting Seal Island, i managed to bargain with this stubborn lady who let me purchase two wooden statues of Zulu Tribespeople with beaded decor for 45 Rand. I guess that's a good deal? But then this other guy who I bargained with for a beaded zulu bracelet gave me a hard time. I think I repeated myself at least 20 times until he finally let me buy it for... I forgot how low I bargained it down to but I was content in the end. THEN I tried to bargain this super nice lady's African jewelry down but my parents said I shouldn't... because she's originally from Ethiopia, of course! But I ended up paying for 80 R less because like I said, this lady who already gave me a lower price without me asking and let me pay with the money i had which was only 80 R less, was super nice. After all my bargaining troubles, I was definitely gonna wear everything I bought, every single freaking day. All in all, although I'm missing a lot of things about my visit to South Africa, like the tranquil safari, I know i'll be going back one day, because Cape Town is one of those places where you immediately feel like you're at home, even if the lady who gave us a baguette in the grocery store had a horrible attitude, Cape Town really is one of the best cities I've ever visited. (Oh and all that post- World Cup stuff really drove me crazy. I ended up getting a limited edition vuvuzela,waiting for me at my apartment from my great uncle, along with other things he decided to gift us with, most notably the Harvard scarf he was wearing that he randomly gave me because he THINKS I'm going there). Oh, mama Africa... what am I to do?

PS- I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS AFRIKAANS SOAP OPERA CALLED '7 DE LAAN'. Thank God for english subtitles because Afrikaans is a language I'll never want to learn.

Friday, June 25, 2010

'Spirit of Concord' has been established!

I'm so excited- SO excited. I had explained that my dream was to begin a charity in Ethiopia and soon spread it to other countries in need; now it's finally happening! My AP history teacher had me run through my ideas and has told me that next year, I'll be presenting my charity to the National/History Honors Society and to her new AP World History students! All that's left is the legal work which seems endless and impossible, but at least now i know that this is going somewhere. I'll be in Ethiopia this summer (highlight of the past 2 years, since i had last been there) and i'll basically be documenting everything while i'm there for my own art/photography and also for the charity work. I guess that should make it 'legit'... anyways, I also promised my former teacher that I'd check up on her foundation while i'm in South Africa (she built a school in her family's name). My summer is pretty much going to be spent in Africa for about 2 months or so, with Italy in between! Oh, and a note, I'll be setting up a website and possibly a blog for 'Spirit of Concord' very soon. Be psyched ya'll.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What I See When I Close My Eyes


None of this is supposed to be a political statement or anything, it's just what I'd call beauty. I know most people would consider this to be the more uncommon depiction of it, but this is what it is to me, I guess.