January 17th, 2008
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.