See the World Through My Eyes

Posts tagged “Government

Theory of a Black Man

Black man country
On the flight to Ethiopia, I meet a friendly gentleman by the name Hakim Geteye. He introduces himself as the mechanical technician on board with over twenty years experience. It is his last day on the job so it’s understandable why he is in a good mood. We talk about airplanes (duh!), the economy, world politics and various other general interest subjects. One subject that especially catches my interest is inequality. I can’t believe it when Hakim tells me to expect racial discrimination in Ethiopia. On probing further, he tells me that quite a number of Ethiopians do not consider themselves African; the reason why they treat fellow Africans ‘differently’. I refuse to believe him. I just can’t imagine my fellow African mistreating me just because I am… Afican! When I get off the plane I am lucky to find a seat in the waiting area at Addis Ababa‘s Bole International Airport. After three hours trying to get comfortable on the hard bench, I decide to have a drink at the restaurant at the far end of the lounge.

It starts with a sneer from the waitress after I motion her over, which I ignore. I choose to assume that it’s not meant for me. I keep calling out to her until at some point I figure she could be deaf [It happens]. So I decide to walk up to the counter and order my drink. As I walk to the front of the restaurant, another customer who has just walked in calls the waitress over to his table. I am astonished when she shoots past me to serve this particular customer. I feel small and angry. Another customer who I assume is Ethiopian, notices the helpless look on my face and decides to help me out in one sentence.

” White people tip, black people don’t”.

Black man at the door.
I have 5 minutes to get to the Hilton. I managed to clinch a deal with some Israelis who want to set up a meat processing plant in the country. Today, they  want to sign off. If this goes well, I could end up with a very good package. I break into a run and I’m at the entrance in no time. This is one business I wouldn’t dare lose. At the door, I am stopped by the security guard who asks me where I’m going. For a moment I pose trying to catch my breath and just as I am about to inform him he nature of my visit, a tour van comes to a halt at the hotel entrance. A group of tourists seemingly European alight from the bus and pass between me and the guard. As if by instinct, the guard scurries off to say jambo and karibu to the new visitors while lowering his hat and clasping his hands together in humility. They ignore his greetings and head to the reception. Mr. ‘Security’ comes back and continues interrogating me on the nature of my visit. I am angry. I glance at myself in the reflection on the floor-to-ceiling windows. Don’t I look normal? I am smartly dressed in a dark suit, black tie and white shirt. WTF (It’s not what you think). Anyway, I ignore his question and empty my pockets of coins and my cellphone as I walk through the metal detector in the foyer. As I pick my items on the other side, the guard ‘kindly’ remarks that that ‘it’s not a must’ that I pick the coins. Why? Because it doesn’t ‘look right’ for a man in such a ‘nice’ suit to walk around with noisy coins. By this time, I am shaking from rage…

Black man cuisine.
This food is dry. I ordered rice and fried beef but i didn’t expect it to come without some gravy. I signal to the waiter and ask for some soup. She politely tells me that they only serve gravy or soup when one has ordered fish fillet or pepper steak. I ask her to then explain how I am supposed to eat such a choking-dry meal. She politely tells me that it’s a management decision and that there is nothing she can do. I am furious.  I then ask her to bring me ketchup, maybe it’ll help. She hands me the ketchup and I proceed to make my food edible. After a minute, I realize that she is still standing there. I smile at her and politely tell her that I am fine. The ketchup will work just fine. She politely responds that she is waiting for me to finish with the ketchup because the management requires her to repossess the ketchup after the customer has had their first squeeze. She takes the ketchup and deposits it at the counter. Does this sound a bit too familiar? Agony is…

Black man justice.
A huge mob has surrounded the bus that been victim to hijackers a few moments ago. The leader of the faint attempt is forced to come out of the bus that is now parked diagonally in the middle of the road by angry citizens. Like a pack of hungry hyenas, they erupt into a frenzy, baying for his blood. The suspect kneels in front of the bus and pleads for his life. The crowd goes wild, and for a moment all one can hear is “Kill! Kill! Kill!”. They have had enough. They start pelting the suspect with stones. Huge stones. One can clearly hear the impact as the stones land on the suspect’s head. For a split second, I witness the suspect’s temple split open from impact. The crowd wants more. Someone in the crowd pleads for mercy on behalf of the suspect. He goes silent when another person accuses him of being a sympathizer. It is sad how frustrated the citizens have become. There is little anyone can do at this point. Part of the key people in the crowd that can change this whole picture are three police officers. Against the requests of civilized by-standers, the three officers refuse to rescue the suspect. Minutes later, the suspect lies dead on the street, his skull crushed underneath a 60 pound stone. No one knows his name or why he’s lying there on the street. A citizen with the same right to life as you and me…

Black man down.
I don’t know when this happened  but I am sad at what we’ve turned into. What makes us not want to be associated with who we are? What makes us treat each other with contempt? We are all to blame. We are quick to smile at foreigners and also quick to judge and condemn our own. Funny, I’ve heard black women wish that they had blue eyes and blond hair. I have seen black people take drugs to lighten their skin. Where did the black pride go? I don’t condemn you. I believe you have your reasons….

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The New Girl In Town: Just Remember Everything Will Be SAWA

Have you seen The Bigger Picture? Well it’s one of the blogs that have inspired me and given me pointers in writing my own. I am honored to know the owner of this blog and she happens to be a good friend. I have taken time to study her work especially in writing and photography. My conclusion? She is gifted. Meet Susan Wong, a Chinese Canadian who has travelled the world extensively. Wong is a traveller, writer, radio personality, photographer and fashion designer. When she told me she was on a flight on her way here, I didn’t waste the chance to request that she write me a blog note while on the plane. Today was her first day on radio (Capital Fm 98.4). She was good!

By Susan ‘Lucky’ Wong

My body ached and my head throbbed from exhaustion.  Coming up on 20 hours of travelling time, jetlag was definitely catching up to me.  As I flipped through my colourful Kenyan guidebook in a desperate last attempt to absorb as much information about my new home, the captain spoke over the intercom and informed us that we were descending into Nairobi, and moments later the flickering city lights welcomed us.

Mesmerized by the enchanting lights and the new adventures that awaited me, I reluctantly closed my guide book and put it away.  I realized that no amount of homework could really prepare me for my relocation to Nairobi.  I suppose the best preparation was to put aside all expectations and just humbly enjoy every moment, adventure and opportunity that crosses my path.  And with that mindset, I penned this journal entry to myself just before the plane touched down…

Dear Self,

 

Young Lady, you are no stranger to Africa, Kenya, Nairobi or the challenging task of relocation.  With that said, ignore those butterflies in your stomach; stop thinking about the ‘what ifs’ if you had made another choice; and tell your Mom’s chanting of “Nairobbery….” In your mind to hush!

 

Undoubtedly there will be a lot of challenges ahead.  You will face challenges that seem impossible to prevail.  You will meet people that will challenge who you are and the core of what you’re made of.  You can do this.  Remember that you’ve been blessed with this opportunity to follow your passion and perhaps answer a call.  There are amazing people that are waiting to support you.  Be bold. Just be you.

 

Don’t forget about the lessons you’ve learned in the past.  And yes, you’ve learned so much in Ethiopia from the past few years.  Take everything with a grain of salt.  Trust people until they give you a reason to not trust them.

 

Enjoy yourself and don’t forget to explore the diverse restaurants in town!

 

Don’t fret.  Chin up Girl because everything will just be Sawa.

Voice over the intercom: “Welcome to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.  The temperature outside is 18 degrees and expect a light drizzle …. Thanks for choosing….and we hope you have enjoyed your flight.”



The New Girl In Town: Just Remember Everything Will Be SAWA

Have you seen The Bigger Picture? Well it’s one of the blogs that have inspired me and given me pointers in writing my own. I am honored to know the owner of this blog and she happens to be a good friend. I have taken time to study her work especially in writing and photography. My conclusion? She is gifted. Meet Susan Wong, a Chinese Canadian who has travelled the world extensively. Wong is a traveller, writer, radio personality, photographer and fashion designer. When she told me she was on a flight on her way here, I didn’t waste the chance to request that she write me a blog note while on the plane. Today was her first day on radio (Capital Fm 98.4). She was good!

By Susan ‘Lucky’ Wong

My body ached and my head throbbed from exhaustion.  Coming up on 20 hours of travelling time, jetlag was definitely catching up to me.  As I flipped through my colourful Kenyan guidebook in a desperate last attempt to absorb as much information about my new home, the captain spoke over the intercom and informed us that we were descending into Nairobi, and moments later the flickering city lights welcomed us.

Mesmerized by the enchanting lights and the new adventures that awaited me, I reluctantly closed my guide book and put it away.  I realized that no amount of homework could really prepare me for my relocation to Nairobi.  I suppose the best preparation was to put aside all expectations and just humbly enjoy every moment, adventure and opportunity that crosses my path.  And with that mindset, I penned this journal entry to myself just before the plane touched down…

Dear Self,

 

Young Lady, you are no stranger to Africa, Kenya, Nairobi or the challenging task of relocation.  With that said, ignore those butterflies in your stomach; stop thinking about the ‘what ifs’ if you had made another choice; and tell your Mom’s chanting of “Nairobbery….” In your mind to hush!

 

Undoubtedly there will be a lot of challenges ahead.  You will face challenges that seem impossible to prevail.  You will meet people that will challenge who you are and the core of what you’re made of.  You can do this.  Remember that you’ve been blessed with this opportunity to follow your passion and perhaps answer a call.  There are amazing people that are waiting to support you.  Be bold. Just be you.

 

Don’t forget about the lessons you’ve learned in the past.  And yes, you’ve learned so much in Ethiopia from the past few years.  Take everything with a grain of salt.  Trust people until they give you a reason to not trust them.

 

Enjoy yourself and don’t forget to explore the diverse restaurants in town!

 

Don’t fret.  Chin up Girl because everything will just be Sawa.

Voice over the intercom: “Welcome to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.  The temperature outside is 18 degrees and expect a light drizzle …. Thanks for choosing….and we hope you have enjoyed your flight.”



Dominoes

By Michael Ngigi

Today is January 8, the year 2031. It has been two decades since the great war started. Twenty million people have died and the last of the world’s three governments are on the brink of collapse. Anarchy is the new world order. We read about this day in our holy books when we were young. We were told that smoke and artillery would block out the face of the sun and that every man would turn against his brother for food. It has all come true. One thing is clear though, this is just the beginning. The end is not yet near. In this day, we fear not the threat of disease or natural calamity. We fear war. The war that has caused fathers to rise against their own flesh; blood against blood. In this day, happy are those who die  by suicide. Death is indeed a rare commodity. Surely John had seen this day when he wrote “In those days people will seek death but will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them!”

It is winter and the temperatures average at 7 degrees in central Tunisia during this period of the year. An old man in shabby clothing makes his way through Boulevard Mohammed Bouazizi, in the  capital of Sidi Bouzid. He keeps to the shadows as he is trying his best to conceal his identity. The last thing he wants is someone to know who he is. A wanted man. It’s been two decades since he was last seen here but people never forget. His name is Habib Ali, an ex-municipal officer with the former Tunisian regime that was ousted twenty years ago, in the revolution of January 14, 2011. He crosses the street and breaks in to a slight run. He is old and his feeble feet can hardly hold pace. After ten minutes, he arrives at the Garaat Bennour cemetery and heads straight to a grave in the far end. Tears begin to well up in his eyes as he kneels beside the tombstone.  He is heartbroken and knows heaven will never forgive him for what he did. The grave belongs to Tarek el-Tayyib Mohamed Ben Bouazizi the young street vendor who started the revolution.

These are the events that took place on December 17th of 2010.

Habib reported to work early and as usual, he found his boss waiting for him obviously to brief him of the duties of the day. She was upset. He knew why. He had not completed his tasks for the previous day. It was unusual for Habib not to carry out his duties well and so Fedya (his boss) wanted an explanation. You see, Habib had been ordered to arrest and confiscate the wares of illegitimate vendors along the streets in the municipal. Since he had once been a vendor himself, he understood the plight of these vendors so he ignored the directive and hoped Fedya would forget the issue. Habib also felt bad that he knew how such operations ended. Usually after being arrested, a vendor usually had to bribe the municipal officials to be released. Habib didn’t want to be the one to oppress the poor. After all, these were  young people who had been forced to their situation by the system. But he couldn’t explain his dilemma to Fedya. He had four children and desperately needed this job to take care of his family.

After enduring a twenty minute verbal hurricane, Habib went out to meet his juniors who were waiting outside in the municipal van. He knew he didn’t have any option but to reel the vendors in. The raid lasted for a long half hour and in the end they had arrested fifteen illegal vendors. They collected bribes from  all vendors except one who claimed he couldn’t raise the 400 Dinars demanded for release. The junior officers took this as an act of defiance and immediately set on the vendor with kicks and blows. This escalated when the vendor obviously enraged by now demanded to see the governor and report the matter. Habib ordered his juniors to stand down but it was too late, Fedya was already on the scene.

She had come to complete the work he couldn’t finish. She ordered the juniors to hold up the vendor so she could teach him a lesson. She slapped him hard across the face and spat on him for what seemed like an eternity. She then went on to throw his electronic scales and vegetables on the street as her juniors toppled his cart over. They left him bleeding and whimpering on the street. Habib stood there in disbelief as the crowd also went silent obviously shocked at what had happened. It was later to be stated by a senior official in the municipality that one did not need any permit to sell wares from a cart on the street.

In the afternoon when Habib was back at the office, he got a phonecall from a man claiming the vendor whos name was Mohamed Bouazizi was camping outside the governer’s office in protest. The man also added the Bouazizi was threatening to set himself on fire if  the governor did not show up. Habib immediately sensed trouble and called his boss Fedya to brief her. In response Fedya accused him of siding with ‘scum’ and cautioned him against correcting her in future. As Habib put down the phone, he knew deep down that there was nothing more he could do. He had a bad feeling about the whole case.

Bouazizi immolated himself in protest that afternoon while the citizens of Tunisia and the whole world watched. It was the kind of protest that comes after many years of torment and oppression. He had passed his message loud and  very clear. He was rushed to the Burn and Trauma Centre in the town of Ben Arous where he died eighteen days later on the 4th of January 2011. In the days that followed, citizens took to the street in protest and on the 14th of January they ousted President Ben Ali who they claimed had led their country to ruins. In a matter of days, the Arab world was rocked by similar protests and immolations. One after the other, the tyrants fell like dominoes. Oil prices shot up and the third great war began. It is funny how money and religion always find their way back into the same bed.

Fedya was captured by the citizens and reportedly executed in an undisclosed location in the outskirts of the capital city. Her family is still looking for her twenty years on. They believe there is a chance she could be alive. As for Habib, he fled to Algeria and started a new family there. He never contacted his first family again for fear he would put them in danger. He still feels he was responsible for the war. He believes that he could have handled it differently and snuffed out the spark that started the fire. At the same time he holds in deep respect, the man Tarek el-Tayyib Mohamed Ben Bouazizi. The vegetable vendor who delivered the world from the worst of its tyrants.

It is dark and the sound of gunfire and wailing can be heard in Tunisia. Habib kneels and bows down to pray. He knows he might die tomorrow because he is planning to give himself up to the people he oppressed twenty years earlier. He believes he will find redemption for the things he did in the hope that through his story, the domino effect will stop.

“Inshallah. Thy will be done” he mutters as he stands to leave the grave side.

I hope our governments will learn from the revolution in Tunisia. I dedicate this post to the leader of  arguably the biggest revolution in the world, Mohamed Bouazizi (March 29, 1984 – January 4, 2011; Arabic: محمد البوعزيزي‎)

The government drove him to do what he did; they never gave him a chance. We are poor and they thought we had no power. My son is lost, but look what is happening, how many people are now getting involved.’ Menobia Bouazizi, mother to Mohamed Bouazizi



Paradox of the Perfect Stranger

There is a small village called Aberer on the shores of Lake Langano in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. It is about 200 kilometers by road in the south of the capital Addis Ababa. In this village there lived a young couple who loved each other very much, atleast that’s what everyone knew.

The young man’s name was Kefela, a local fisherman. Orphaned at an early age, he had learned to work and depend on the sweat of his brow to survive. He had learned the ways of the world by trial and error. He grew into a man of character and virtue. He was honest, reliable and always kept his word. All the children in the village were his friends and almost all young women, his secret admirers [for it is in wrong in traditional Ethiopian culture, for a woman to publicly show interest in a man].

He had met Nazret (his lover) in the fish market five years earlier. She was this calm, composed and gracefull in her stride. She had a long neck, shapely and tall physique that amplified her confidence. Flawless skin and neatly arranged teeth behind her sunrise smile. She was very beautiful.

Kefela had known many beautiful women but Nazret beat them all.  A ‘bird’ had told him that she (Nazret) had been from a violent relationship. The culprit, a man from the neighbouring village of Geret.  Kefela worked hard to win her heart and they became lovers. Their love was like no other. They basked in each other’s company. Kefela made her laugh and she cared for him like a child. Everyone in the village acknowledged that this love had been made in heaven. They used to go everywhere and do everything together. When they had be spend time apart, each would suffer a serious heartache and often become physically weak. They felt like they would die without each other. Atleast this was the situation according to Kefela.

You see the Langano happens to be the only fresh water lake in Ethiopia that is free of Bilharzia or Schistosomiasis. This makes it a very popular destination for tourists. People come from all over the world to see it’s magnificence and wallow in its splendour.

One day as Nazret was going to the market she was greeted by this white man who introduced himself as Rob. From her limited command of english she understood that he was asking her out on a date at the expensive italian restaurant by the lake. Rob told her he found her beautiful and that he wanted to marry and take her with him to his country in Europe. A simple request, yet it troubled Nazret for many days. Not because she was interested in what Rob had to offer but the fact that he came off as different and curiously interesting.

In the days that followed Nazret met him several times. She was intrigued by the tales of  his visits to distant lands [She had wanted to travel and see the world at some point in her life]. The way he treated her was also different. It was delicate and caring. He opened doors for her. He would serve her and ask her every now and then how she was doing. It was something she had never experienced before.

Back at home, Kefela had noticed a change in her behavior. He missed spending time with her and couldn’t understand why everything had changed suddenly. He wanted to raise the issue but was afraid that he would look insecure. They used to talk and laugh late into the night but of late Nazret was always ‘tired’. He started blaming this twist of events on himself. Could it be that he was working too hard that Nazret had started feeling neglected? Or had she grown tired of his promises that one day he would take them out of poverty? He had been saving up for a year to take her to Addis for a picnic. Had she grown tired of waiting? Then it hit him hard. Maybe Nazret was seeing another man! His stomach twisted into painful knots.

He was almost sure his fears were about to be confirmed. The way she was behaving lately was abnormal. They used to make love every night but now it had gone down to once a week. She was ever ‘tired’. He decided to wait it out a while for Nazret to reel back from her trance. After a week he decided to confront her.

Meanwhile, Rob and his newfound ‘friend’ were enjoying each other’s company. They had too much to talk about on almost every subject. Every now and then, Nazret couldn’t resist feeling guilty for not being there for Kefela, but she couldn’t help it. One day in the middle of a joke, Rob leaned and kissed her. She tried resisting but gave in a few seconds later. It was the most sensual thing she had ever experienced. Not that she didn’t like how Kefela kissed but this was a kiss from a person who was experienced. One would welcome a change of diet every once in a while.

That night when she got home, she found Kefela waiting in the dark. On asked where she had been all day, she replied rather rudely that she wasn’t a child and that she was safe where ever she was. Kefela was deeply hurt and decided not to pursue the matter further. A week later, he got home and found her gone.

Kefela still wakes up early to fish.He has his own boat now and business is looking great. He bought a piece of land along the lake shore and is planning to put up a lodge when he saves up enough money. Life is great.  He also has a new bride whom he married from the hill country of Selah Dingay. The love they share is magical. Last month he took her for a picnic in Addis, this December he is planning to take her to the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

How about Nazret? Well, Rob didn’t take her to europe as he had promised. He left her stranded in Addis Ababa after he excused himself to make a ‘phone call’. She was pregnant with his child at the time. She has not seen him (Rob) since. Yesterday she got her first pay of 10 birr. The man she serviced made her do things which made her sick to her stomach. Times are hard. With a young child at home, who can blame her?

The grass will forever be green on the other side of the fence. A bird in hand will always be worth much more than the beckoning commotion in the bush. Are we content with what we have? Did you at some point wish you were born in your rich neighbor’s family? Do you wish you were lighter in complexion than you really are? What brats of a generation we are! But again, life is meant to be lived right?

So today as you call your man, ask yourself if you’re with him in the meantime  as you wait for the perfect stranger. Ask yourself why you keep stringing this innocent girl along with the plan to hit on her best friend.

Have you met the perfect stranger yet?


I thank Mr. Yonas whom I met in the airport as we waited to board the flight to Ethiopia last December. A complete stranger, he told me that the most romantic place in the world that I could take my woman happens to be Lake Langano. I appreciate how you were patient enough to explain to me in detail the culture of the beautiful people of Ethiopia.

In the same breath I would like to dedicate this article to my dear fellow writer Carol. You wanted to hear my thoughts on this issue so there you have it.

stranger |ˈstrānjər| |ˈstreɪndʒər| |ˈstreɪn(d)ʒə|noun a person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar.