Thursday, December 22, 2011



by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Farewell to a Jealous Lover

By John M. Willis
VA Medical Center-North Little Rock, AR
Veterans’ Voice, Fall 1997
I know you don’t believe me when I say it’s over. Even now, after two years, you expect me to turn to you when I am lonely, or feeling depressed, but I swear I will never again embrace you. I will not turn my life over to you; no matter what the future brings I will face it without you.
At first it seemed strange living without you. I remember been together so long—thirty-some years. I remember when we first met. I was in the Navy, young, proud, impressionable and resplendent in my dress uniform. You were mysterious and alluring. I did not think that a little harmless flirtation would hurt anyone, and in the beginning, it didn’t.
For a short while we had an off and on affair. Then I tried to leave you for someone else, but you would not let any woman take your place in my life. It was only then that I realized your power, and the control you had over me. For year you influenced everything I did. The jobs I held or lost, the relationships I formed were all subject to your whims. You alienated me from my family, and everyone who threatened your hold on me. Finally, you began to alienate me from life itself.
                I could no longer live with you, and I could not imaging living without you- I was not strong enough. I began thinking that death was the only answer, then when my life seemed at its worst and my future its darkest, I met a woman who told me there was another way, but I could not do it alone.
              She told me there were people who wanted to help me, and they could show me how to break away from your deadly embrace. All I had to do was be humble enough to admit that you were in control of my life and ask for help.
            It wasn’t easy. You were always there waiting for me. Thoughts for you constantly ran through my mind. After being free from you a few days, you once again seemed attractive. I didn’t remember the bad times, I only remembered how you made me feel when our relationship was young, but my new friends helped me through those difficult times until I could see you realistically.
              I know you will never be far from me. You’ll always be there to take me back and claim my soul once again if I do not keep you at bay, day by day, but I do not have to do it alone. I have a Higher Power and friend to help me.
            Now, my jealous lover, with this all said, I bid you farewell, Drug Addiction.
P.S I hope I did not break any laws. I read this essay and I typed it again on word and share it with you. I hope you back me up in court.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mourn the Dead

How we mourn the dead has ritual and when we remember the dead still with a lot of respect. One of the things I encountered at my class here in America tells a different story.        
            Our teacher, as she told us once, enjoyed a “dark humor”. My classmates has fully understood this and also engaged with her. Our teacher was recalling the death of her grandpa in relation to topic of the day, and she was saying, “he was a drunk and also patient of cancer” She goes on telling us how he never stopped drinking even after diagnosed with cancer. All of us were listening with attention. Ironically, “he died of car accident on his way to a library to return his books, and of all days on that particular day he never had drink.”
            Our teacher looking to the ceiling, “I really miss him guys”. Partly when she told us the story, she told it with tone of exaggeration and excitement but not like any one grieving from the past. I think one of the student notices this and said, “at least he managed to finish his books.” I was shrinking with embarrassment. The teacher was smiling and some of the students too.
            We start remembering our deceased relatives saying, “GOD blesses his soul-nefsun yemarewena”. The listener would be listening with intent and using that moment to show that he is sharing the loss, as if it happened recently than years ago. I recall the third day after funeral that is seleste, the day which relatives mourn the loss afresh with tears and loud cries. That is cultural difference. I value that community groups-edir that we form in cases of such loss so that person would find comfort with presence of them. I am not saying the whole idea is crystal pure but I like the sense of unity and togetherness in the community it brings though we mourn a lot. What do you think?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Prophet of Change

           At times like this my tears are like a river to wash up all the sorrows I had. Sometimes my tears would not subsidize my sorrows. Instead my sorrow will run through my veins and began to bleed my internal organ giving me a terrible pain. I do have no strength to fight but I know that “a voiceless man is as good as dead.”
I don’t know when things began to change, but at first it all looks firm as a marriage bound with the will of GOD.
          I remember how I could forget those pictures, vividly. Besides, every year at our “libration day”, that is how they tell us to remember it, the liberators. The liberation from tyranny of an evil regime but as far as I know we never been colonized. Shall I hold a rifle and join some “liberators” at war front? To kill my own brothers and sisters so I could save my country. What makes my country a place to live? We, who inhabits it, who have a different opinion, culture, religion, and so on.
         We have gone fighting among ourselves from what I remember and what I read in history class. Back then and now like curse blood shading is a reality.
I was telling you about the “pictures” from the “liberation day”. Yes, each year this similar scene will be aired on television, which was captured almost seventeen years ago.
        A parade of military men and vehicles; a first footstep in to the capital-a tank covered with green leaves, a camouflage. Ironically the children running along both sides of the tank with a raptures joy, some holding small part of a leaf branch, symbolizing peace and elder men and women at a distant were welcoming them.

“we had gone on marches of victory and I do not think there was anyone mean enough in spirit to ask whether we knew the thing we were celebrating. Whose victory? Ours? It didn’t matter. We marched, and only a dishonest fool will look back on his boyhood and say he knew even then that there was no meaning in any of it is so funny now, to remember that we all thought we were welcoming victory. Or perhaps there is nothing funny here at all, and it is only that victory itself happens to be the identical twin of defeat” (Armah, The beautiful ones are not yetborn).
         It is no surprise that our so called “librators” turned out to be worse. This trend has gone for a more than half a century. African writer Okey Ndibe in his book “Arrow of rain: “ I shudder at the behavior of our so called leaders. It’s hard to believe these were the same leaders who asked us to drop the dirt and fight the whiteman. Peasants and workers alike answered the call. Then, when the white man left, what did these leaders do? They took the owner’s corner in the pleasure cars abandoned by Whiteman. They ran in to the mansions the British left behind and barricade themselves there. Then they began to remind us that we were not one people, afterall; that we are Husa or Yoruba or Igbo or Kanuri or Nupe or Edo or Efik or Fulfulde or Tiv, lik the British they discovered they could rule if they divided the ruled…….”
         Is this how we think? Is this how to lead a country? When each year people are dying from famine, disease, malnutrition…you keep feeding us with words that are distractive to say the least.
         I go outside going to school, along my way on a mini bus or going on foot in a short distance, I found our big family and my big house roof blown away.
The sullen heat of the day seems not only talking the morning fog also most of its inhabitant. For the unlucky ones who took the roofless, big house, as their home. You will find them on the streets begging. With drugs and alcohol I see their youth fading away.
          Okey Ndibe on the same book, he said “you hear all these stories about ministers using public funds to buy cars for their mistresses or acquiring European Castles for themselves. How can you think it? You go to any village and you are shocked by the squalid life there. The dust roads. Hospitals that have neither drugs nor doctors. The polluted stream water the people drinks the lack of electricity. Then, as you were trying to come to grips with a reality that seems to belong in the Middle Ages, up comes a Rolls Royce carrying some minister to remind you that you are not in the sixteenth century after all but in the twentieth. Then you are faced with pathetic irony of the villagers lining up to hail the nabob in the Royce-the very man who has plundered their country…”
         Aren't these the reality in almost all African countries, today? When are we going to see our prophet of change?
N.B the whole idea comes from the two books mentioned
2. Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

How do I love Thee?

How do I Love Thee?

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

[Sonnet XLIII from
Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)]

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cultural Shock

It has been three months when I first joined a class at college in Washington, away from home, in the “free world”-America. One of the classes I took was on Broadway, down town and the other at Des Moins. It was exciting having the experience to study with fellow “ferenges”--that is how we call western people in my country-- and also making friends. What I encountered at one of my classes was funny and same time reminder how we live in cultures wide apart.
          At this particular class I was taking a class on the third floor and across the street we see the apartment parallel. Our instructor was very funny and as she puts it “dark humor”. At one point she started closing the curtains that face the apartment meanwhile she pop up a question unexpected, “has anyone seen any naked guys?”.  My eyes popped up and my mouth open with on disbelief. To my surprise one of my classmates said, “Oh! You just missed it” ,and the teacher replied, “oh really” while her eyes fishing for anyone to see on the balcony of the apartment.
           While I was reeling through the dialogues, another student-a woman said, “Ya! I did see that, he has a lot of tattoos”. Has the world gone crazy? It was funny and shocking in the same time. In between these scenes one of the colleagues of the first witness confront him, “Why didn’t you tell me?” twisting herself to face him. Such type of scene is normal in Broadway, as our instructor later recounted her similar experience.
          It was surprising and shocking. For anyone from Ethiopia or similar cultures would be shocked to dialogue such conspicuous appearance and the instructor bold remarks were unheard and unthinkable where I grow up. This would not be my last experience; I am sure! Do you have any to share?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Take Me Back!

Have you gone to public chat rooms? A person would ask you “asl”? Anyways, I would reply to him/her. The problem is most of them would ignore you the minute you told them you are from Africa. This is true for most part in chat rooms. They see Africa as a continent riddled with famine and hunger and never changing and backward people. I think this people are stuck on time. There are facts but perverted.
The irony is that, unbalanced trade, lack of good governance and growing civil wars has made African people to seek refuge to the same people who has took their ancestors life and plundered their wealth. I am not taking the failures of our government on the west, but they were and are still part of the reason.
          As a result, family of three has started their journey along with other villagers out from the famine struck villages of north western Ethiopia. This was the late 80’s, with already dead livestock and dried stream of water; and promised but undelivered food aid. It was time to make a long journey to neighboring country Sudan. During the wet season, with the harvest, it would have been short journey to reach the border.
           A father means the head of the family working in the field. Now during this famine season he would curse the day he started building family. Since his wife is very tired to walk on her own and his child still trying to suck milk out the mother’s breast. And each second the child would try to make sound, muffled. There is nothing in his power, to change what is happening from happening. At last gesture of defiance of his weakness, he take the child, half way from their destination, from the mother already loose grasp. My child for give me….he whispered to himself than to his child..forgive meplease…his words keep fading and coming up… for I have brought you to this harsh world, but no one seems to hear or care.
           Two, three, four seconds gone and the child seemed to sooth under the sobbing sound of his father; but he was gone, and not returning back.  His wife stopped and squatted as if the death of her child struck her; Seconds later, she lay on her side, on the dry barrel land. She seems to shrink bending every part of her finally resting her head on her knees. Now, she has gone too; forever, and it seems she has opted to be in fetal position; going back to her maternal bosom.
         No tears and only humming sound began to come out from the father. Seconds ago, father and husband, and year ago an elder of the village with cattle and goats.
There is no ceremony to follow the loss of family member; the wife of the village elder and child has died. But, two priests began to assist facing towards East making the final words to now dead mother and child. lord receive the soul of your humble servants ……………….
           How many times have we heard people from Africa dying on their journey to Europe or even to go within their own continent? How many lives has travelled with one of the refuge-child, wife, brother and sisters or parents waiting to be feed…hope has faded in some far land or deep in the sea where the gods of the village has no reach.
*** In the memory of those perished and including the unknown mother and child in the picture