post My Abyssinian Journey II

August 24th, 2008

Filed under: History Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 23:23





During the sea passage I discovered that my Somali, Assan, a rather tall, thin man, with a hooked nose,  was an inveterate gambler. His chief attainment was talking and, being gifted with an elastic imagination, he never tired of boasting of the great feats he had done and of the elephants and lions he had shot. Nor did he forget to tell me what a good man I was. These Somalis are expert flatterers, and Assan might easily have deceived a less experienced person than myself, who had already gained a fair insight into Native character. Assan, like all Somali, was a Muhammadan. Among his companions on the boat was a man who had been a soldier in the French army and was returning home from Madagascar. He was a kind of half-bred Somali and Abyssinian. Assan introduced him to me as likely to be a valuable addition to the expedition and, as he had been under European discipline, I engaged him.

When we dropped anchor at Jibouti, a number of Native shows, said to have been captured for gun-running, were lying in the harbor. Djibouti, a French port, consists of a small town, comprising a few European hotels, stores and other buildings. The Natives are mostly Muhammadan Somalis. The place gave me the impression that European influence had not yet made itself much felt; for dirt and crime prevailed, and only a few days before two Frenchmen while out
shooting had been assassinated by the Natives a few miles north of the town. So far as I could make out, the Government had not moved in the matter, either to investigate the case or punish the murderers.

The physical aspect of the town might be summed up in three words dry, sandy, and hot. The houses, except in one quarter, where there was a large Native population, were of the usual kind to be found in any Eastern country two-storey buildings of white-washed stone. The hotels were built in the Continental style, with large verandahs on which little tables were set out. Numbers of carriages driven by Somali were standing or plying for hire. I did not ride in one, chiefly out of sympathy for the horses, which were so poor that they scarcely seemed to have strength to drag their load along. They were the poorest animals I have ever seen, consequent, I suppose upon there being no grazing and fodder being very expensive.

The railway is run by a French company, and was at that time conducted on very unbusinesslike lines, while the track was, to say the least of it, badly constructed. We were told that some part of it was scoured away after every shower of rain, and we were fortunate enough just to escape one of these washouts. The day after we reached Dire Daoua railhead, the line was washed away and all traffic stopped for over a fortnight. The railway was then about three hundred kilometres in length, and what it lacked in comfort it made up in charges. I forget the exact fare, but I know that it was one of the most expensive railway journeys I have ever taken.

The familiarity of the Natives with the whites was very marked, to anyone who had been in South or East Africa. I was travelling second-class, and in the same compartment there were two French ladies and a gentleman going up to Dire Daoua. A Somali got in and began to make a cigarette. A white man would never have thought of doing such a thing with ladies present, but no one seemed to take any notice. Shortly afterwards the white guard came in, and I thought
to myself, ” Now there’s going to be a row, and I shall see Mr. Somali kicked out. But nothing of the kind happened. The guard simply sat down by the Somali and asked him for a cigarette; they both lighted up and had a smoke together !


post My Abyssinian Journey

August 21st, 2008

Filed under: History Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 13:55




ABYSSINIA, Kenya’s mysterious, self-contained, and little ‘known neighbor, had always possessed a fascination for me, and
I had long hoped that some day the opportunity would come to explore the country far to the north of my earlier experiences in Africa.

When at length I made up my mind to journey into the unknown, the outlook was by no means good. I knew that with the limited funds at my disposal it was a gamble with fate, in which the penalty, if I failed, was certain bankruptcy. No one had a good word for my project. General opinion in Nairobi was dead against me. I was told that there was little chance of my getting to the border, six hundred miles away, across uninhabited and waterless wastes, or through tribes of hostile Natives, and that, should I succeed in my forlorn hope, it was most unlikely that the Abyssinians would permit me to cross
their frontier.

Some useful help came from one or two sources. Prince de ‘Chimay, a Belgian nobleman who was touring East Africa at the time, hearing of my proposed venture, asked if he might accompany me and offered his influence with the authorities. As it turned out, he was unable to come, but his co-operation at a critical time encouraged me, and is worthy of acknowledgment here.

A still more important factor was the advice and experience of Mr. W. N. (later Sir Northrup) McMillan, a well-known settler in Kenya Colony, who had travelled via Egypt and the Sudan into Abyssinia, and was a personal friend of the Emperor Menelik. A special permit from this august and dusky potentate was necessary to enter Abyssinia, and when a telegram arrived from Addis Ababa, its capital, saying, ” Emperor has given leave for Boyes and companion trading
expedition,” I knew this gentleman’s goodwill had translated itself into action. The companion referred to was the Prince de Chimay, who was staying with Mr. McMillan at the time.

However, I abandoned my plan of starting north overland from Nairobi a change in my original programme which I never regretted and decided to enter MeneHk’s country by sea via Mombasa and Jibouti. As it turned out, however, my change of plan resulted in a practical scheme which was within my compass, and enabled me to be the first trader to make the overland route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi and pioneer thereby a new trade route.

My main idea to make the expedition pay its way was to buy mules and horses, which, report informed me, could be obtained for from £2 to £5 each respectively in Abyssinia, but had a market value of £20 or £30 each in Nairobi. There was also the prospect of adding to my gains by hunting.

My first move was to transfer, through the agency of the National Bank of India, about £200 to the Bank of Abyssinia at Addis Ababa for my use on arrival; with a smaller sum in hand I proceeded to get together a minimum outfit. An assistant was essential, so I cast around for a man of the type to be relied upon to bear his share of the inevitable toil and hardships, and who would not mind roughing it or periods of scanty food.

There was no lack of vohmteers once the news had circulated around Nairobi that I was in earnest, and from the many applicants I selected a young Scandinavian, named Selland, who had worked before the mast and had had some years’ experience of African life. He had taken part in several Native wars, besides going through the South African campaign. A good shot and a hard-working, conscientious type of man, he impressed me as being just the sort of companion I needed, and I booked him third class as a practical test of endurance before committing myself with him into the interior. Any time I prefer to be alone rather than put up with the grousings and incapacity of an unsuitable subordinate.

Necessity compelled me to cut my coat according to my cloth and a man not willing to accept uncomplainingly the consequent frugality and risks that I was prepared to undergo myself in this adventure was of no use to me. I gave Selland clearly to understand that it was purely a speculation. I was starting on a route entirely new to me, not knowing what luck I was going to have, or whether I should make anything out of the venture. It might be that I should return to Nairobi absolutely broke, with no money to pay wages. Selland appreciated the risk, and was quite prepared to take the chances, leaving it to me to do the right thing by him. I never regretted taking him, for he came fully up to my estimation of him in every respect.

It soon proved that I had not underestimated the difficulties of the undertaking. As no one understands Swahili in Abyssinia, there was the language difficulty, but I considered myself fortunate to pick up a Somali who said he had been through Abyssinia before and knew the language. I engaged him as guide and interpreter.

I left Nairobi for Jibouti towards the end of March, 1906. by the French steamer ” Oxus,” which carried a good many French passengers from Madagascar. Amongst them was an Italian priest, whom did not recognize and who did not know me, but when we began to talk I found he was the missionary to whom I had given my house and farm in the Kikuyu country when I left it. It was a pleasure to meet him, for I was naturally very much interested to know how things were going in the Kikuyu country. The mission, founded in this manner, was the first in the northern Kikuyu country and remains to this day an active center of religious propaganda amongst the Wakikuyu.

…to be continued


post Women and HIV/AIDS

August 19th, 2008

Filed under: The Unspoken — Lissan Magazine @ 22:18

Nearly 60% of HIV+ individuals in Ethiopia are women. Gender bias and the biology of transmission make women more vulnerable to infection. Poverty, lack of access to education, and violence against women increase their risk. This film profiles the connection between gender and HIV/AIDS, as well as the work of leaders in education and policy change to improve the status of women.

Director: Dorothy Fadiman
Producer: Dorothy Fadiman, Amy Hill
Production Company: Concentric Media

post Breaking the Silence

August 19th, 2008

Filed under: The Unspoken — Lissan Magazine @ 21:53

Despite the risk of social stigma, an increasing number of HIV+ people are speaking out. Some are becoming active in their communities, working to reduce discrimination and secure better services. This film details their stories and profiles groups that provide counseling, income support, and prevention education.

Director: Dorothy Fadiman
Producer: Dorothy Fadiman, Amy Hill
Production Company: Concentric Media


post Poetic Work by Eth. Immigrant

August 16th, 2008

Filed under: Literature Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 00:44

New Poetic Work By Ethiopian Immigrant Promotes Respect, Courage And Cultural Sensitivity
by: Kifle Bantayehu

McLean, VA - “The Healing Conscious” tells the story of an Ethiopian immigrant boy on his fascinating journey to America and adulthood. Author Kifle Bantayehu, a 23 year-old second-generation Ethiopian immigrant, recounts this poignant tale in poetic format. His inspirational collection of poems reflects the final words and thoughts of a dying man who traveled across the world, raised a family and became successful-finally fulfilling the American dream.


These poems, written in a uniquely modern style, reflect a journey of sacrifice, courage and strength. “The ideals of cultural preservation, respect and love intertwine with each person encountered along the narrator’s journey and serve as inspiration to all people, regardless of race religion or sex,” states the introduction of the book.

Bantayehu says there have been very few work works of poetry written and published by Ethiopian authors. And he feels as though he’s breaking new ground for this genre of literature by combining the English language with Ethiopian culture.

“The Healing Conscious” is available for pre-order at Borders and Barnes & Noble. It’s also available online at and at discounted pricing.

Part of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to Ethiopian Children’s and Orphans’ Association, Inc. (ECOA), 46664, Africare, the African AIDS Initiative and other organizations working to promote HIV awareness and helping those affected in Sub-Saharan and East Africa.

Bantayehu says he wrote the book-which is based on the lives of his parents- to tell the compelling story of an immigrant, who through much pain and sacrifice, was able to leave his homeland of Ethiopia with an equally-strong and motivated woman, and raise four children in the best possible environment for education, opportunity and happiness.

“Although, there are many wonderfully unique stories and novels depicting the lives of immigrants in America of backgrounds ranging from Italian, Irish, Chinese, and English, there has been little said of the sacrifices and contributions of the Ethiopian immigrant community residing in the United States,” Bantayehu said, explaining his motivation. “Not only do we, as Ethiopians, possess over 2,000 years of a rich, cultural heritage, but we are a loving, caring and hard working people from whom the values of family, sacrifice, respect and camaraderie can be learned.”

“The Healing Conscious” is meant to inspire immigrants and others to have faith in their dreams because anything is possible. It also seeks to stir cultural consciousness and sensitivity. Many people and the world community at large, don’t take the time to understand a culture or society other than their own, Bantayheu says. And stereotypes, misconceptions, and hatred arise from our lack of knowledge.

“Whether Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or any other ethnic or religious background, we all breathe the same air, feel fear, feel joy, shed tears, laugh, and love,” he says. “Those innate qualities make us human.”

Given the fears and prejudices that have arisen from the September 11 tragedy, “The Healing Conscious” promotes important principles for the entire global community to embrace and practice.

For more information about the book, please contact Kifle Bantayehu via phone / fax at (703) 628-3229 / (703) 448-0515 or email at Additional information may be located at the following website:

About The Author
Kifle Bantayehu is a second-generation Ethiopian born in the United States in 1980. He grew up in Mexico, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and the United States. In 2002, he received his B.A. Degree from the University of Virginia and currently resides in Virginia, USA. He is a Distinguished Member of the International Society of Poets.

post Israel Ends Immigration

August 16th, 2008

Filed under: Immigration Stories — Lissan Magazine @ 00:36

Israel accused of discrimination after ending Ethiopian immigration
By Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem

Israel has ended a three-decade-old policy of immigration from Ethiopia, saying it wants to devote resources instead to integrating Ethiopian Jews already in the country.

The move evoked a furious reaction from leaders of the 120,000-strong Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel, who said the “discrimination” and “prejudice” of the Israeli government would strand thousands of people in Africa and thwart family reunifications.


Government spokesman Mark Regev said the step “will enable us to focus more effectively and invest resources on the successful integration of Ethiopian immigrants”.

He added that the government was abiding by a cabinet decision in 2003 to bring to Israel a total of 17,000 Ethiopians, known as falash mura, who are descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity but who consider themselves Jewish.

In accordance with the quota, the falash mura have been flown to Israel at a rate of about three hundred a month since 2003, with the last group of 61 of them arriving yesterday.

Israel mounted major operations – codenamed Moses and Solomon – to bring thousands of Ethiopian Jews to the country in 1984 and 1991, depicting the immigration as fulfilment of the biblical prophecy of a gathering of Jewish exiles to Zion.

But the Ethiopian community of about 120,000 immigrants and their descendants is the poorest sector of the Israeli Jewish population and is beset by unemployment and school drop-out rates, although there have also been success stories.

In an affirmative action to make up for their impoverished background the government has underwritten their mortgages.

Ethiopian Jewish groups in Israel say there are still about 8,000 falash mura in Gondar, Ethiopia, seeking to move to Israel.

“It is inconceivable that the descendants of Jews and Jews, who need to emigrate, should have the door shut on them,” said Danny Kasahon, director of a coalition of Ethiopian lobbying groups.. “There are many families here who have parents or children in Ethiopia waiting to come to Israel.”

“This is discrimination. It cannot be defined by any other word. It could be based on prejudice,” Mr. Kasahon added.

Mr Regev denied the charge and said there could still be family reunifications “on a case by case basis”, but added that “collective mass immigration is behind us.”


post Adobtion Stories

August 16th, 2008

Filed under: Behind Adoption — Lissan Magazine @ 00:29

Despite our mixed feeling on the adoption case in Ethiopia, there are hundreds of blogs today where so many adopting parents are exchanging their experience. Reading these blogs will still leave us with a vague feeling because we still wouldn’t know the future life situation of these kids and babies from Ethiopia and other third world countries.

Though, some of these stories also show that many of these adopting parents are doing their best to give their new children genuine love and secured life.


Making Injera
by : Mary Owlhaven

My new 11 year old daughter is teaching me to make injera. But today as I watched her, I realized she is bringing much more to her new family than just a formula for producing proper injera.

Each time as my daughter has finished cooking the injera, when she has only a little batter left to cook she calls her 9 year old sister. Her sister comes running to make one last smaller piece of injera for herself. The younger girl them claims that piece of injera for herself, to eat with dinner.


The girls said their Habesha (Ethiopian) mother always let the younger girl do this on injera-making day. Each time I’ve watched this little habit, I have been touched at the way my daughter is so obviously cherishing the memories of her Ethiopian mother, and keeping those memories alive for her little sister. Watching them made me think of the way my own mom used to make piecrust and give each of us kids our own bit.

Today after my daughter helped her sister make her own piece of injera, she did something new. She gathered the last dab of batter in a cup and called my two year old over. She then carefully helped her pour one tiny, final injera. My two year old grin proudly as she drizzled the batter on the skillet.

As I watched, I realized that a new tradition was being born right before my eyes. Even more touching, my 11 year old was choosing to expand her treasured tradition to also include her new family.

After the injera was done and the two year old ran off to play, I went to my daughter misty-eyed, and kissed her on the cheek.

“Thank you,” I said. She leaned in to receive my kiss and her lips curved into a smile.

I am pretty sure that if her Habesha mom could have seen her just then, she would have been smiling as well.


Our First Amharic Words
When I was straightening my daughter’s bookshelf this evening, I realized that I have one more fun book to tell you about before I end my stint here at Stacy at was kind enough to send me a review copy of one of their new books a few weeks ago. It is called Our First Amharic Words and in 20 pages it teaches 75 Amharic words in a kid-friendly brightly colored format.


I gave this book to my 5-1/2 year old for Christmas, and she was just thrilled. She has been listening to her older sisters speak Amharic around the house and is very interested in learning more Amharic herself. This book is just her speed. It teaches kids a variety of simple vocabulary words including numbers, colors, and body parts, and features lots of gorgeous Ethiopian kids.

The words are illustrated in pictures, and written in both English and Amharic. Plus the pronunciation of the word is spelled out in English as well. It was interesting to read the pronunciation, try to say the word myself, and then ask our older girls to speak the words. The book’s approximations of the sounds are pretty good!



post Abebe Asfaw’s Message

August 3rd, 2008

Filed under: The Unspoken — Admassu @ 21:32

Imama Ethiopia
A poem by Abebe Asfaw

They say that he was once the richest man of the town. I still remember, as I was a small kid,  I used to accompany my father once in a while to the biggest hotel of Yirga Cheffe. It was owned by Ato Abebe Asfaw. My father and Ato Abebe were very good friends. Whenever we went there on Kiremt vacations from Addis, Abebe Asfaw’s hotel was the only establishment where my father used to spend his free time. I also have enjoyed going there with my father because I was usually allowed to drink as many Mirindas as I could free of charge.

Music & video: Admassu M. K.

Today, the reality around Ato Abebe is completely different. He is now an old man. Most of his friends, including my father, are no more alive. His hotel is still one of the best addresses in the town but it is no more owned by him. They say that Abebe Asfaw is now poor because his dreams and ideas were always beyond the reality of his surrounding: a very risky  behavior for a businessman in those days.

Well, I don’t really know the true reason of his dramatic lose. I do know for sure that he is still a dreamer with a great respect for the nature. When ever I went home for a visit, Ato Abebe takes time to visit me. Usually he rewinds his memories to the wonderful time and friendship he had with my father. Sometimes, we are forced to postpone the storytelling session to the next day. I usually had this particular feeling that he was trying to escape from his current life situation by telling me as many stories as he could from his long-gone golden era.

But, above all, the central point of Ato Abebe’s concern was (still is) the deforestation around his hometown Yirga Cheffe and in the whole country. He has of course no financial possibility to help conserving the nature. His only weapon against this serious matter is the poetry.

Lissan Magazine is proudly presenting one of his poems as a video message.

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