post MONI: Humor in Hardship

March 1st, 2011

Filed under: Life Stroies — Admassu @ 00:01

Ethiopian songs, theaters. books, and paintings usually send messages full of melancholy, tragedy and sadness. Love songs express the ultimate suffering of the involved pair. Singing about bleeding hearts, broken bones, tormented bodies and lost minds are traditionally the best way to show how genuine that particular love is. By listening, reading and seeing our work of art, one would mistakenly categorize us as the most traumatized, humorless and sad population.

Fortunately, the reality is completely the other way around. Though I have no clue why our music, literature and art products did not succeed to transmit our jovial side, the reality shows that we all have naturally ironical and humorous way of expressing our misfortunes when it is over. If our misfortunes did not completely destroy us, they most probably end up being hilarious jokes that we never tired of reciting for the rest of our lives. I am sure, laughing at our past and present hardships is the best medicine that helped us to endure many hardships that occurred in our society for the past endless years. Yes, the story of our hardship is endless. That also means that we have endless gushing streams of humor-loaded stories.

This video was recorded some years ago in Addis. We were sitting in the good old café of Cinema Ambassador. Ambassador café has not lost its old flair even though it visibly became old and shabby. Actually, the right place to rewind and travel through past memories.  I laughed on that day the way I hadn’t for a long long time.

Most of the stories were told by Moni. He is always so funny that his way of telling stories makes one think that Moni could be a great stand-up comedian if he were somewhere else where talents like his be appreciated and paid for.

In this video, Moni is telling us a story on how he and his friend spontaneously attended a funeral ceremony on their way home. For they were too hungry to walk on and for they had no money in their pockets, they thought that joining the funeral ceremony would be the easiest way to have a quick meal. As they assumed, they had a nice meal for sure. But they haven’t predicted what the consequence would be, when the others in that tent get aware of two complete strangers who were only there to fill their bellies but not to pay respect for the departed….

post Boomerang Effect 2

December 18th, 2010

Filed under: Life Stroies, Immigration Stories — Admassu @ 19:19

Continued from Part 1
(link to Boomerang Effect 1)

Part 2:
A Lesson is Learned

The old man continued his story:
“… It is the more I grew older that I began to understand the matter…” He said. “…between the childhood and teenage years, you know,  it was so natural if the name of our parents had a constant presence in our conversations. That we were entitled to frequently mention their name at that time was quite natural because they were our direct  link to love and survival….”

“….In my childhood years, I still remember, my mother was telling me endless stories about her own mother. She lost her mother as she was still a child, so she used talking about her mother as a way of alleviating her grief. I recall that I was amazed to witness that my mother was still reciting that same story about her mother till I was a teenager. Though she grew older, her stories about her mother has never lost their importance for her. I often asked myself: “Why is she doing that? Why is she repeating the same story over and over again?…”

“…I hope it does not make you feel strange if I tell you that it is not my wife or my children that occupy my mind in these lonely days of my life…” He continued with a visible melancholy written upon his face. “…My thoughts are filled with memories and stories of my mother just like the way her’s were filled with the memories of her own mother. A lesson is learned. And now, in my old days, I am beginning to understand her. A bit too late but, at least, a lesson is learned.”

The old man’s story is obviously taking us on a completely different route than I assumed. But I am not interrupting him. Maybe it is because I am also beginning to think about my own mother and about the stories she used to tell me. Maybe it is because that was my first time to reconsider: No matter how old we are, we all will be haunted by this deeply planted wish to run back to the protecting warmth of our mothers in order to escape from misfortunes of our everyday life.

So, seeing how deeply he was involved with this thoughts of his mother’s memory, I decided not to interrupt him and change the subject towards our main issue which was about his conflict with his wife. Instead, just to let his mood flow, I asked him to tell me more about his mother and his childhood years.

As I have predicted, he was glad about my interest. As a result, the attitude of his narration was free of mistrust towards my reaction. I could tell that because he was now openly referring his mother as “Emaye…“(Equivalent to mommy in English). That was quite strange to hear a seventy years old man addressing his mother using that terminology.

Emaye was only sixteen as she got married for the first time….” He continued. “…Her first husband was much older than her. As I have already mentioned, her mother was dead and her father was married again. She mentioned that her step mother was behind this arrangement of her early marriage to a much older guy. I don’t know why her father did nothing to prevent this marriage because I have never heard her mentioning his name. It was as if he has never existed. The only thing she was sure of was that if her mother were still alive, she wouldn’t have gone through that miserable situation….”

“…..Any ways, the marriage to this old man did not last long. Her husband sent her back home to her relatives as she gave birth to a daughter. The reason for this rejection was that the man wanted a son.  Though she was still very young, it was six years later after the divorce that she met my father. Despite the fact that she was already married and divorced and despite the fact that she has a daughter from another man, my father was really interested in her. I still don’t know why he has decided to marry her while he could have chosen among other unmarried young girls. My father adopted my by then six years old sister and treated her as his own child. Overwhelmed by his kindness towards my older sister, Emaye wanted to make him happy by giving him a child. Though my father has never put her under pressure, she determined to get pregnant….”

“…. But, unfortunately, the wish to get pregnant was not a success. As time went by, my mother started to fill nervous. My father was not disappointed and he even tried to calm her down saying that they will have a child when God permits. Well, that obviously didn’t help because, as years went by, she was sure that people have started to backbite and to talk about her condition. She didn’t like the way they were staring at her belly whenever she went to market or whenever they visited her at home. Soon, she decided to do something about it. There was no use to remain in the village waiting God to bless her with a miracle. Instead, she wanted to make pilgrimages to sacred churches and meet God right there at his domicile….”

“…. She went through all the procedures that women in her condition usually do in our country when they want God to give them a child. She made presents for all major orthodox churches, she fed beggars by cooking huge amount of meals and by having it brought to those churches. Once she crawled to Kulubi Gabriel till her knees were severely damaged…”

“…. Maybe God must have been too busy with other things, what ever hardship she went through, she didn’t get pregnant…”

“…. She was in the mid of this unbearable state but she didn’t want to accept her fate. Once, coming from a market place, she reached a small hill where hundreds of monkeys used to live. Though she has often used that route to the market, Emaye has never paid attention to those monkeys before. On that day she did something that she has never thought of doing before. To the noticeable astonishment of the passing by people, she started to walk to where the monkeys were gathered. Mistrusting her sudden approach, the monkeys started to jump around nervously and to make scary sounds. My mother kept on walking towards them without paying attention to their agitated reaction….”

“….As she reached the position where she thought was near enough, she started to speak to the bewildered monkeys loudly and clearly. By now, many people were gathered on the road inspecting her. They were sure that she was crazy. The monkeys must have thought the same about her for they stopped jumping around….”

“…. Emaye started to speak to them loudly saying: ‘Dear monkeys. I know you don’t speak my language. But I am sure you understand me. I am here to beg for a miracle from you. To beg you to lend me your secrets that blessed you with so many offspring. If you are kind enough to help me to get pregnant and have a child in a year, I will promise from the bottom of my heart to make you a gift of 25 kilogram of wheat from the finest quality…”

“…. After saying that, she went back to the road and headed home ignoring all those inspecting eyes….”

“….Well, guess what happened after that. Astonishingly, my mother got pregnant at last and I was born within less than a year after she made the unexpected visit to those monkeys. Whatever was the reason for my birth, my mother was 100% sure that it was the monkeys that helped her. Carrying me on her back and loading a donkey with 25 kilogram of the finest wheat she could find, Emaye went back to that hill of the monkeys: as promised, precisely in a year after her last visit….”

“…Some, who knew her story accompanied her. The monkeys were more irritated than the last time. As she reached the same spot, she opened the sack spreading the wheat allover the place. The monkeys started cautiously to gather around her eating their promised present. And Emaye? She was standing in the middle surrounded by wheat eating monkeys speaking to them. By stretching her hands towards the sky in humble and grateful manner, she was chanting continuously ‘Thank you!!!’ and replying with ‘Amen!!’ when ever a certain monkey made a sound….”

“…. To the very end of her life, Emaye was always sure that those monkeys were the one who helped her to have me…..”

The old man was quite for a while. Taken away by his story, I sat still and said nothing. In this uneasy silence, I felt a cloud of sadness lingering above us. I could see, he was fighting back his emotion. I kept silent knowing that whatever I would say, would make him more sad.

“…. A lesson is learned,..” He repeated his first statement. “… Though too late, a lesson is learned….. The reason why my mother is continuously on mind is the trouble she went through to have me. There was a time in my life, where I was sure that she would be proud of me for that what I have accomplished. But soon after that, I became a fool and forgot her suffering. If I had her story always focused on my mind, I haven’t gone that far to betray the mother of my own kids…. Now my dear friend, see how I am living… alone in a cage like this, depending on a welfare of Germany’s state for my daily bread….”

“….Seeing me like this from where ever she is now, what would Emaye think of me?….”

I had no answer for his question for it was more a statement than a question.


Sorry for the delayed continuation. We hope you enjoyed the story.

post Boomerang Effect

August 1st, 2010

Filed under: Life Stroies, Immigration Stories — Admassu @ 23:11

Part 1

We were sitting near the entrance of the small apartment of the old man. There, just right behind the door, his old computer was placed on an unstable small table. Under the table was a broken printer amid a lot of indefinable cables and adapters of all kinds.

He asked me once to help him to get him a free Amharic software so that he could be able to digitalize his handwritten memos and diaries. As I went to his place to do him this favor, I found out that his computer was quite out of date with hardware that would not cop up with the current software and internet podiums. YouTube or chat rooms like Paltalk platforms that he obviously addicted to, wouldn’t run smoothly or wouldn’t run at all. Evaluating his wish with the computer he has, I told him that spending some money on a better hardware would be unavoidable. I also told him that I would try to look for a secondhand computer for an affordable price.

He agreed on that point of having another computer telling me about his daily routine on how he and his old gadget get along through the day. “When I wake up in the morning,..” He started, smiling more to himself. “…the very first thing I do is turning this crappy old thing on. Then I go dealing with other things leaving it alone because I know that it will be ready when I am finished with my shower, shaving and having a coffee.”

The way he was joking about his unfortunate situation made me laugh with him. Then, since it made no sense to install anything on his rattling old pc, we decided to talk about other things.

I did not ask him how old he was. But the old man, I guessed, would be in his late 70s. It struck me again and again the fact that he was living all by himself in this sticky and untidy small apartment. Seeing around his two rooms, it was obvious to observe that he needed help to keep it nit and clean. But one could easily see that he had no help at all. Though I did my best not to show him my feeling about his condition, I couldn’t stop myself from asking him why he was all by himself at this age.

I was very conscious of his reaction upon my question but, for my relief, he was kind of glad that I asked.

I have seen some elderly Ethiopian men and women in Frankfurt and Hamburg but none of them seemed to be alone like this. Though I saw them once in a while walking in the city alone, I could tell by looking at them that someone out there was taking a good care of them. So, how come a well-educated gentleman like my host, who should actually be enjoying the remaining years of his life surrounded by family, be so alone while living so far away from the country of his origin?

As the old man started to narrate his story, I was glad that I raised the question. It was as if he has been waiting for this opportunity of talking about his situation as to take some psychological burden off his shoulder.

He made himself as comfortable as possible before starting with his story. He stood up slowly straightening his old body carefully and went in to his small kitchen. He brought two cold bottles of beer from the fridge, opened both bottles and gave me one without asking me first if I wanted to have one or not. Instead, he said determinedly: “If you want to share my story, you better start sharing a beer with me as well.”

“I am honored.” I said raising my bottle to his health before taking the first sip. The old man did the same smiling and clearing his throat with the liquid before starting with his story.

“As you could see…” He began. “…I am an old man and definitely too old to be alone at this age. But life hasn’t always been like that around me. Actually, I wasn’t alone till last year. It might sound strange but I still have a wife and three grown up children living right here in Frankfurt. After 35 years of marriage, my wife had me kicked out of our five-room apartment by the police telling them that she was afraid of living with me because, allegedly, I have threatened to kill her. But I have never threatened her at all.”

“What about your children? Didn’t they try to straighten things up?” I asked.

“Well, they were all against me and took on their mother’s side.”

“I still don’t get it….” I said, apologizing for interrupting him. “…how can all three grown up children take on their mother’s side and see their old father thrown out of his own home? And how come a wife does that to her husband after such a long years of marriage? Is there a story behind that made your wife act like that?”

The old man sipped his beer and remained silent for few seconds. Then he smiled and nicked his head confirming my assumption. “Yes, there was indeed a story that could have led my wife to react like that. But this story happened over 30 years back. She knows it. We have discussed about it and she has forgiven me for the foolish mistake I did in those days. But I have no clue about what made her change her mind after such a long time.”

“What was the story behind? ….” I said, fearing that he might change his mind and stop telling me the story. “…. I mean, in case you want to tell me about it.”

The old man’s face was suddenly lit by a mysterious smile as his thoughts took him 30 years back: back to the time where the story that was responsible for his current situation took place. Seeing him smiling like that, I had this funny feeling that he was more enjoying the memory of those years instead of regretting about whatever was the reason for his condition now.

“We, I mean me and my wife, were leading a very luxurious life in Addis Ababa. We were professionally successful. I was an administrator of a state-owned company and my wife was working for a site construction firm as site manager: quite an unusual position for a woman in those days. Because of her position, my wife was frequently on the road inspecting different sites all over the country. Our three children were still small kids; the youngest was only three at that time, I guess. Since we were heavily occupied with our jobs, our children should have been looked after by a nanny. The woman we have found as a nanny was very good at her duty and competent that the kids were more close to her soon than to us. They were so accustomed to her that they would neither allow us to feed them nor bring them to bed if this nanny wasn’t nearby. I and my wife were very grateful about having this woman in the house because the kids loved her and we had nothing to worry about their wellbeing.

“Especially for me, the situation was very convenient. Whenever my wife was in one of her field trips, I went out with my friends to have a good time. Having good time in those days means like going to bars, restaurants and clubs where you have also access to other beautiful women who were working in such establishments. As you might well know, there were no other recreation points and places to go to in Addis Ababa….”

“My wife knew about my going-outs with my friends. Because she knew all of them well, she wasn’t worried about what might happen. Once in a while, she reminded me of my responsibilities and warned me not exceed my limits. But it was hard not to exceed your limits when you are filled with alcohol and surrounded by beautiful girls. Often, you are then unintentionally forced to forget about those warnings of your wife.”

“Was that the reason of your disagreement? I mean, if she knew that you were going out with your friends, how could that be a reason?” I asked.

“Of course not….” Continued the old man. “….like most of the women in those days, my wife was quite aware of the situation. In Ethiopia, it was normal; I also think that it is still normal to go to bars with friends where other women who simultaneously work as prostitutes serve the drinks. Our wives also knew that these women could also be tempting. But, as long as we came back home early enough, everything was alright. No, going out was not the reason of our disagreement…..”

He took a mouthful sip of his beer as if he was recharging himself for the decisive portion of his story.

“… The reason for our conflict was not where I was with my friends. The reason was what happened after I came home when she was away. In the beginning, when she was not there, I did spent few nights in hotels…”

“In hotels? Were other women involved?” I asked.

He didn’t say yes or no to my question. Instead he laughed an “of-course-other-women-were-involved” laughter.

“….But because of the kids, I never felt free whenever I spent a night somewhere else. I knew the nanny wouldn’t tell my wife about my adventures in her absence. But it just didn’t fit my attitude. Besides, we had a very nice home and it was much comfortable for me to come home and see my kids before they went to sleep, have a nice dinner and sleep in my own bedroom. But….”

Then there was a long pause. The old man wasn’t smiling anymore. Lost in his thoughts, he seemed to stare at an imaginary screen which was filled with pictures that only he could see.
I did not disturb him and waited till he brought himself back to the reality and continue the storytelling.

“….The reason for our conflict was…” He stopped again for few seconds and continued. “… I began an affair with the nanny of my kids.”

After saying that, he inspected me sharply with his eyes in order to see my reaction. The only response from my side was “Ouch!”

He smiled understandingly to my reaction and then continued the story with a controlled emotion on his face.

“This affair that started coincidentally continued for few years. My wife was never suspicious because she loved and trusted this woman like her own sister. As long as she wasn’t suspicious, things went quite well for me; or at least I thought it would continue that way for ever. But you can’t remain undiscovered if you don’t stop stealing when it was safe…”

“…After enjoying this affair for years, things have changed dramatically. The nanny told me one day that she was pregnant. Although she said that she will never dare to destroy my marriage, I was too shocked to believe her. She rejected my proposal to have an abortion saying that she would keep the child by all means. She said that she would leave us before her belly gets bigger and before my wife was aware of the matter. She also added that she would raise the child all by her own and I wouldn’t need to bother…”

“…My wife was very sad as the nanny told her that she must visit her family and wouldn’t know when she was coming back. She even proposed to raise her salary thinking that it might be the case for this sudden decision…”

“…As I knew that the nanny was really keeping her words about not bringing my marriage in jeopardy and leaving us just the way she promised, I felt so ashamed of myself. Ashamed of myself for disturbing the life of this woman and for being so selfish all the time after she told me that she was pregnant.”

“How did your wife know about it if the nanny was gone and kept her words?” I asked the old man as he stopped his storytelling for a minute.

To be continued soon on part 2….

post Street Teens Struggle

November 8th, 2009

Filed under: Life Stroies — Lissan Magazine @ 22:32

Kenya’s street teens struggle to survive
By David McKenzie, CNN

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) — On a wet dawn in Nairobi, Kenya, Joan stands on a grubby patch of concrete she calls home.
As shopkeepers tear open their iron shutters to start their day, she gingerly touches her bruised face with her fingertips. Even for a hardened street teenager like Joan it’s been a rough night.
“Living in the streets, especially if you are a girl, is very risky,” says Joan, age 19. “You can be raped any day, any time, by anyone who wants to do it.”

Joan became the target of one of those predators just one night earlier when she says an older street kid tried to rape her. In a monotone voice she describes how he mercilessly beat her with his fists and heavy boots when she resisted. Joan spent the rainy night in pain lying on her flattened cardboard box.
This is Joan’s reality. It is a reality she shares with thousands of others. More than 60,000 children and youth live on Nairobi’s streets, according to various charity groups. Tens of thousands are at risk of ending up there. Unlike some other cities in Africa, Nairobi’s street people aren’t always visible. They are banished to the gray industrial parts of the city, often harassed by police, business owners and ordinary citizens.

Read more….

Source: CNN

post About Degu

May 13th, 2009

Filed under: Life Stroies — Admassu @ 21:16

In one of my earlier posts I have written a story about Degu (link to the previous article). I met him again in my recent journey to Ethiopia. Here is more about Degu.

Degu did not show up the way he used to. Usually he used to come over on the second or third day of my arrival. As days went by and as he still didn’t show up I was forced to ask the others how he was doing.  Degu seldom comes out of his mother’s hut for several months, they said. He is too afraid to face the world outside. Though I was glad that he was living with his mother again but it made me sad that things did not seem to go well for him. If he was hiding from everyone like that, there might not be any chance to stabilize his life to normal again.

Degu’s opinion on “unity” 

So I intended to visit him. Like fifty meters from their compound I sent a kid to look if Degu was at home. The kid said that he would definitely be at home. So I told to tell him that I am waiting outside. It must have taken quite a long time to convince Degu to come out their hut and meet me because I have waited for at least 15 minutes.As Degu came to where I was standing, I could see that he was struggling to adjust his eyes to the bright sunlight of that afternoon. He was visibly glad to see me and his smile filled his face with life. After we greeted each other I asked him how he was doing. Degu didn’t answer my question because he was too self conscious of the eager spectators who were gathering around us. Seeing that he was too nervous that we were talking on an open street grasping everybody’s attention, I proposed to go to a secluded place where we could have more privacy. Degu was happy with the idea.

The moment we sat to discuss Degu started to speak about his situation: “My condition is worsened these days. I am steadily thinking that everybody is pointing at me and laughing. All think that I am crazy and they might also be right… I don’t know, maybe I am really crazy. I know that I have some brain issues which must be cured. But I am not capable of curing it all by my self. I am not a genius and need solutions from those who are more matured and educated than me. This area is not as it used to be Admassu. People have become too egoist and they only care about themselves. They go to church every Sunday and pray everyday but they are the worst sinners because they laugh at me. I was born here and grew up here. How can it be possible that those who I knew my whole life point their finger at me saying I am crazy. So I decided not to come out of my hut to avoid seeing them…”


Degu has never been a person of many words. His extra ordinary long sentence which he just used to describe his current life situation was his way of letting me know not to ask him any more question. Though I had a lot in mind to say, I just respected his wish and changed the subject.

For the very first time Degu did not mention about his video message: a message that we have recorded some years ago to find him a woman in the west who would be interested to marry him.

post Roba and his Buddies

April 9th, 2009

Filed under: Life Stroies — Admassu @ 20:57

“How is it there where you are living?…” Roba asked me. “…I don’t think it is as beautiful as here, is it?”

“What do you mean it is not as beautiful as here? I don’t think it is that beautiful here!?” I said deliberately provoking him.

“Well…” said Roba with his typical shrewed sarcastic manner “…. if it ain’t beautiful, you wouldn’t keep on coming back, would you?…” he laughed loudly grabbing the attention of those sitting around us “… I mean, you must have paid a lot of money to come to us. It means, here is better than where you are living.” Those sitting around us were nodding confirming that Roba was right.

Roba: “Go and show your people how handsome I am.
(photo: admassu)

“Don’t be so damned sure about that. I am just coming here to see my family, neighbors, and arrogant friends like you.” I said trying to disarm his argument. But I didn’t succeed to convince him for Roba and his buddies just sat there waiting for more plausible explanation. As none of that came from my side, they started laughing at me again.

These guys are always a great challenge for me. When ever I fly home they come over to chat with me and our chat usually ends up with their mocking arguments and destroying laughter.  Roba is the worst of them. He has this impenetrable self confidence and deep-dark humor. Above all, he is armed with a sharp calculating brain. I have never seen Roba hesitating to come up with a right answer at the right moment while facing challenging verbal confrontations. His sharp calculating brain is alway ready to provide him with a right reply and the sarcastic grin on his face does the rest.


Some mornings are so pure and sunny that it invites to have the first coffee ceremony of the day outside. That is of course a suitable battlefield for Roba and his buddies to launch their attacks against me. Usually our meetings start in a normal way. But I knew that Roba was only waiting for a suitable moment to make his first move.


I love drinking the coffee here. Seeing that I couldn’t have enough of it, they started serving me in a huge cup that looked quite big comparing to the traditional Sini. I was enjoying my coffee in this huge cup without predicting any danger as I catch the glimpse of Roba’s eyes staring at my hand. I knew that I just gave him a reason to start his attack.


“So you love our coffee? Of course you love our coffee. That is why you are drinking it in a such huge cup…..” said Roba with a defeating ironic smile  “…. Poor guy! I don’t think you have ever tasted such a great coffee there where you are living.”

Roba is ready to attack. (photo: admassu)

He was definitely right about the coffee but I didn’t want to do him a favor by saying yes. The others watched me smiling waiting to hear my reply. I was sure they would go right over to an exploding laughter after my answer to Roba’s question.

Gosh! I miss those guys already.

post Fish or Fishing Rod?

March 29th, 2009

Filed under: Life Stroies — Admassu @ 23:00

I was in Ethiopia a month ago. Visiting my old mother and to be in the middle of the green nature of my hometown Yirga Cheffe was the purpose of my journey. Just as I intended, I spent there the most part of my vacation.

It is almost three years since my last visit to Yirga Cheffe. After witnessing the surprisingly endless building constructions in Addis Abeba and Awassa, I thought there might be some progressive changes in my hometown as well. Unfortunately, Yirga Cheffe is still not awake from it’s sleep.

Yirga Cheffe on a market day (photo: admassu)

I was astonished to see that every corner of the town has remained the same. In Yirga Cheffe it felt as if the time has stopped moving freezing everything around it at the same time. “Yirga Cheffe”  called the well known organic coffee which for example is part of the assortments of Starbucks and co. But the town looks like as if it hasn’t seen a cent from the merchandising process of its name and its natural treasure.

Yirga Cheffe, no visible progress (photo: admassu)

There is again a new mayor assigned on the highest position of the town hall. This must be the fifth or the sixth mayor in the last 7 or 8 years. Friends have told me the reason of this too frequently changing position is corruption. I am of course in no position of confirming or proofing this allegation because usually people in that area tend to attach every higher position or wealth with corruption. Any ways, it turned out to be a tiresome procedure for me to go to that office on each of my arrival and recite again and again my wish to establish a beneficiary project.

Instead, I concentrated my self on more promising social issues of the town that could be worthwhile to write about.

Three years ago, on my last journey to Yirga Cheffe,  I met this 9 years old kid Mulugeta. I was sitting on the veranda of Mahlet Restaurant chatting with some old friends and having coffee and Ambo Water. Mulugeta was selling small articles like cigarettes and chewing gums carrying in a big carton that obviously looked quite heavy for his age. What grabbed my attention about his appearance was a small paper board with a striking message hanging upon his chest with a thread around his neck.

Mulugeta three years ago (photo: admassu)

The message on the board reads like “Give me a fishing rod instead of a fish”. And below on the Carton was another message that went “I don’t want to beg”. I was so impressed from his message and confident appearance. I asked him quickly if I could take a photo of him. He said ok and I gave him some Birr after taking a single picture. I wasn’t aware of the impact of that picture at that time. But after returning to Germany, I was surprised by the symbolic power of the picture. Since then it has been in the front page of Lissan Magazine.

I had this great wish to meet Mulugeta again on my next trip to see how he has been doing and to repay him for the challenging power of his message.

Addis bus terminal scene (photo: admassu)

The bus journey from Addis to Yirga Cheffe was interesting as usual. One of the things that never changes in Addis is the early morning atmosphere of its bus terminal.  I was with my younger brother Yohannes who came a day before to Addis to pick me up. In the semi-darkness of the dawn, me and Yohannes had quite a difficult time finding our way to our bus through hundreds of passengers who were carrying and pulling their luggages. The air was thick through the suffocating smoke from buses that had their motors running all the time. We were glad to be in the bus after waiting for almost 2 uncomfortable hours.

After arriving in Yirga Cheffe after 8 hours journey I saw a kid selling stuff around the terminal with a small message attached to his t-shirt. The message written was “Development starts right from here.” I was sure that he was Mulugeta. I was happy about the coincidence and went directly to where the kid was standing.

“No…” replied the kid “… I am not Mulugeta. I am his older brother.”

“Where can I find Mulugeta? I really want to speak to him. It is very important.”

“He is somewhere in the town but I can call him for you.” Said the brother eagerly.

So we agreed to meet at my mothers house after an hour.  That gave me enough time to go through with the greeting ceremony with my relatives who were waiting for me at home.

Mulugeta(right) and his older brother (photo: admassu)

Mulugeta and his brother arrived together. I was glad to see them because they were quite identical and both had interesting messages sticked to their t-shirts. I asked Mulugeta if he has recognised me. He said he hasn’t. I told him about that picutre I took of him three years ago and I showed him the Lissan flyer with his image on it.

Mulugeta “I chose the fishing rod.” (photo: admassu)

Mulugeta was glad to see his picture on the flyer. He and his brother have taken the news in a rather grown-up and businessmen manner. They told me about their family background and how they support their parents through their work. Mulugeta asked me to come and see his small kiosk in middle of the town. He said proudly that he spent 500 Birr to build his kiosk and he has now 2000 Birr capital.

Mulugeta proudly presents his kiosk (photo: admassu)

Mulugeta and his brother asked me; in case I want to write about them I should also mention the guy  who helped them to start with their survival project. His name is Taye and the kids call him Misr, a student who loves to write nostalgic poems and to organize art and music events in Yirga Cheffe. Taye tries to help street kids to support themselves. I met him after two days in Yirga Cheffe. He told me that he was suspicious about me after seeing the flyer with Mulugeta’s image. He said that I might have gained some advantage using that picture. I was glad to see his suspicion vanishing after we discussed the matter for a while.

Taye (Misr), the student behind the project (photo: admassu)

“I haven’t done something extraordinary….” Taye said. “… It was quite a coincidence that things have just worked out. I gave Mulugeta 17 Birr and told him to spend it on something useful. Mulugeta took my words seriously and bought tissue papers for that money and started to sell it by going to bars, restaurants and other public places. Soon he had enough profit to add chew gums and local cigarettes to his articles. Seeing that our intension was changing something, I decided to do the same for other street kids. Now there are seven kids in the town whom we helped to support them selves by selling things or shoe shining. On one side, I am happy that these kids are securing their existence. On the other hand I am sad that these kids never have time and opportunity to be kids by playing games or by going to school like the other kids of their age do. Despite their being still kids, they are too serious in their approach to life and the community. One rarely see them smile or make jokes. They are too busy to feel like a child does”


There are more stories to come from Taye. He has promised to keep me informed about his project by sending articles for Lissan.

post Across Ethiopia on a Bicycle

January 2nd, 2009

Filed under: Life Stroies — Admassu @ 01:39

3 times across Ethiopia on a standard Bicycle

Frankfurt, Germany

The Winter has finally taken control of the environment. The days are filled with a creepy cold weather. If we had at least snow, it would have improved this gloomy view with its light. But to have snow in Frankfurt in Winter is like winning in a lottery.

Here in Frankfurt, there is a place called Arat Kilo. Not a square like we know back in Addis. Arat Kilo is a very small kiosk in the center of the city and I can assume myself as a regular visitor of the kiosk for the last six months.

Arat Kilo Kiosk from inside

Looking at Arat Kilo kiosk from outside, one would most probably not imagine to go inside and sit there for hours. It is actually a small shop with two tiny rooms that are stuffed with two computers for surfing, a telephone booth for international calls,  three refrigerators for beverages, various shelves for cigarettes and other articles.  One can almost be astonished how much stuff can be filled in to such a small place.

Usually on weekends, among all these furnishings, about 8 to 10 regular Ethiopian customers like me (mostly men) find a place to sit, to have beer and to chat. One meets here interesting individuals from different social, intellect, and economical background  The atmosphere is like in a liquor grocery in Addis.

Sharing a dish in Arat Kilo

I could say that I learned here to see at the vast and interesting diversities and similarities of my fellow Ethiopians living in this city.

I met Tesfa in Arat Kilo two months ago. I was once speaking about my town Dilla in south Ethiopia where some of my relatives live. Tesfa told me that he has visited the town and spent there once two weeks. I was a bit amazed about that because I heard him speaking with other customers about many other towns in that same manner. So I asked him how did it come that he knew so many small towns and villages in Ethiopia. That is when he told me his story.


Tesfa has traveled  allover Ethiopia three times on a standard bicycle.

Each time, Tesfa started his bicycle journey  from Bahir Dar. That is where he originally came from. Ha rod then towards Addis Abeba where he had to go through various organizing processes of official and financial manners. His motto for his bicycle journey was “Peace for Children”.  For he was only armed with this motto, he was financially fully dependent on the generosity of his fellow citizens, who were obviously enthusiastic of his motivation and courage to undertake such a difficult mission alone.

Coverage of his journey on a newspaper

Tesfa told me how he used to attract attention in every destination of his journey. Usually, it was enough to visit a popular restaurant or a bar of a town. Then people start to gather around his unnaturally and heavily-loaded bicycle. The farther he came away from his starting point, the more the astonishment and the appreciation of the people. Very often the occasion ended up in an almost same manner: some of the spectators would offer him to pay his bills encouraging him to eat what ever and how much he wants to eat, and some would start on the spot to collect money for him. In case he has stayed in a certain town for few days, his popularity would spread around quickly and so also the the invitations and the donations.

Once Tesfa recalls witnessing from afar and along his route a large group of men and women marching on the street raising the national flag in front. He mistook this march for some kind of demonstration at first because those people were chanting and cheering loudly. Though he didn’t feel comfortable about the incident, he couldn’t change his direction because there was no alternative route. Heading towards the gathering was unavoidable. The assumed demonstration turned out to be a funeral march. It was just a tradition for that area that funerals are attended in a rather cheerful manner. Tesfa has joined the funeral march because the whole atmosphere touched him in a positively dignifying way. There where he grew up, funerals have quite the opposite atitude. In the mean time, what he has not noticed on this moment was that he has been equally attracting the attention of those marching people. Ever since he has joined the funeral procession, they have been wondering about this stranger and his oerloaded bicycle. After the funeral they have satisfied their eagerness after asking him as many questions as they could. To show him how they were honored that he joined them and their admiration about his exceptional journey, they have collected and gave him some money before cheerfully bidding him farewell.

Tesfa today. He still dreams of going on further bicycle journies.

Tesfa has learned to understand his country men and women and grew to respect and love their regions and traditions . Of course, he also has came across many difficult moments especially when he slept in wilderness all alone and when he has to stay awake afraid of being eaten by wild animals or being robbed by hostile thieves(that has occurred few times). But in spite of the danger, the positive side of his journey was overwhelming. He continuesly was inspired by his motto and motivated by the reaction of the population which led him to make his tour three times. Tesfa told me that he was the second person to travel Ethiopia on a bicycle but no one has done that three times before him.

If you meet Tesfa and tell him from which part of Ethiopia you came from, he will most probably tell you about every important detail about your home town.

Tesfa’s greatest wish is to travel around the world on a bicycle under the same motto. I am convinced, he will do that if he finds a proper sponsor. I wish him good luck in fulfilling this dream and encourage all interested groups and individuals out there to help him in any possible way.

Admassu M. K.
Lissan Magazine

post Degu’s Message

January 17th, 2008

Filed under: Life Stroies — Admassu @ 10:14

A Message from Degu Shalo

It took me almost 4 years to transmit Degu’s message. I am a bit ashamed that it took me so long to keep my promise and I am glad that I am doing it here and now. I flew back home three times in these four years. Degu has never given up asking me about the turn outs of his message and, unfortunately, I ended up lying because I didn’t want to disappoint him.

///Degu as I met him the last time. (phto: admassu m. k.)///

Seven years ago, the first time I got acquainted with Degu things were still normal around his daily life. Actually things were even better than the usual daily routine; it was his wedding. I didn’t meet him on that particular day. He was the center of the occasion: groomed and well attended by his friends and best men. It just happened to be my first visit home and his wedding day intersected my arrival coincidentally. I still remember that someone invited me to the wedding and asked me politely to film the occasion with my camera.

On that wedding occasion I have also encountered how the traditional wedding ceremony of my tribe has been completely altered. Degu’s wedding was more western type with all important guests wearing new or borrowed suits and fancy dresses. Though the costumes were cheap enough for the farmers to afford, seeing my people wearing them left me with an odd uncomfortable feeling. This unfortunate fact has reminded me that, apart from the landscape, nothing has remained to arouse my childhood memories. But that is completely a different story that deserves it’s own topic.

///Degu in one of his dreaming moments, (phto: admassu m. k.)///

Back to Degu:
As I have already mentioned Degu’s life was sound and secure seven years ago.

They told me that Degu has started to behave strange right after his father’s death. His father was like a central figure in Degu’s life and also in that community. Right after his Father’s death Degu has dropped the school because he couldn’t concentrate on any subject any more. His young wife fled back to her family after seeing him cutting her new shoes to pieces with a knife after they quarreled. She has been afraid of him so much since then that she couldn’t sleep. Degu’s situation has even got worth after his wife has left him. Soon his mother and his two sisters left the compound for the same reason. Degu was the only one living in their big yard with three empty huts.

When night falls they say Degu walks around in the darkness all the way till early morning. It was so creepy to hear that because I knew how dark it can be in that area when there is no moon light. With all those sounds of small creatures and wild animals accompanying him in the darkness and Degu walking around through villages and forests the whole night gave me uneasy feeling because we were in the next neighborhood.

Degu came once to see me. After exchanging some words with him I stopped worrying about his walking habit in the night. I saw that he was harmless. Degu was psychologically troubled because so many misfortunes have happened around him within a matter of two years. His reactions to each of these misfortunes were disastrous that it ended up creating other misfortunes. After a while everybody started to believe that he was crazy. I saw how my family members were making mocking gestures towards him whenever he came to visit me.

///Degu in his yard. (photo: admassu m. k.).///

May be it was because I listened to him when he was talking that made him come to our house almost daily. Soon he was telling me about his dreams and his wishes. He told me that he would like to continue school to finish and get a diploma. After that he would find a job and bring his wife, his mother and sisters back.

Once he asked me about the European women, especially white women in Germany. I asked him why he was asking. He said that his wife won’t come back and other women won’t marry him because he had no clean cloths and shoes like before. He said he couldn’t marry again because he had nothing to give.

“Do you think a white woman could love me?…” Degu said. “… I mean, white women have already enough and they won’t care if I had money or not, do they?”

I told him that it would be hard for me to say yes or no. I also told him that people could have different behavior towards love everywhere in the world. Degu wasn’t convinced with my answer. Anyways the conversation ended up after he persuaded me to take a video message of him to Germany and show it to all white women I would meet. Though I did take back that video message with me I have not done what I’ve promised to do.

Degu’s situation has deteriorated with every year passing. The last time I saw him he didn’t dare to come in. He called me outside instead. His physical appearance was discouraging. But his eyes didn’t loose their kindness. After making some small talks Degu asked me about his video message. I tried to give him a blurred answer. There was still the usual friendly smile on his face but he knew somehow that I was talking nonsense.

///A frame from Degu’s video message.///

I still have Degu’s correspondence on a video tape. And I am waiting for an opportunity to show it for any white woman who might be interested in watching his message. Next time I hope to face him without the need of giving him a fake answer.

This article is not only about finding a woman for Degu. As he himself already assumed it, there might not be a woman who will want to be his woman. This article is about people like him who never loose their optimism towards life despite the devastating life situation around them. I learned a lot from Degu and I hope you will get the message too.

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