Friday, March 28, 2008

Amharic Phrases

Here is one of the longest list of Amharic phrases. It helps to hear the words but this should get someone started.

Check it out.

Links in a Cultural Chain

In my "culture-from-the-inside-out" theory, I believe that we have to understand the psychological factors that make up a people more than we imitate what they do. Here are 10 things that I find repeated in stories about the Ethiopian community that mirror the values that were the core of my own African American upbringing.

  1. Faith
  2. Love of family
  3. Respect for elders
  4. Perseverance
  5. Determination
  6. Commitment to community
  7. The spirit of giving back
  8. Resilience
  9. Humor
  10. Pride

A Return to Ethiopia

In my random things I told you that it is difficult for me to read one book at a time. So, while reading Of Beetles and Angels I also finished reading Held at a Distance: My Rediscovery of Ethiopia by Rebecca Haile. This book is the self-analysis of an adult born in Ethiopia having grown up in America. She tells a story of growing up privileged in Addis and attending the American school that taught none of the history, traditions, or culture of the country that surrounded it.

She talks about the only thing Ethiopian being a tukul in the middle of campus. It is where the few Ethiopian students sat with the one Ethiopian instructor presumably to learn Amharic but they spent more time trying to learn how to interpret their differentness in the school setting.

She tells a story of being in the girl scout troop on campus. The Ethiopian girls were puzzled by the earning of badges and the usefulness of what they were learning. I remember that the troop I belonged to (outside of my neighborhood) saw the whole sash and badge thing as a big honor. The girls in my neighborhood troop had white shirts with red press on letters that said "Brownies" or "Girl Scout". They thought my sash was silly and the badges unnecessary.

When I read both of these stories and see the longing to hold on to tradition but to move forward to opportunity it is familiar. It is the same for many of us in America who the more successful we become the more we are pulled from our roots and many of the unremarkable or unpolished family members that made us strong in who we are. It is the balancing act and bi-lingual way in which we communicate with our family and friends contrasted against who we must be in our professional lives. It reminds me that for all that we gain by shedding parts of ourselves we often feel caught between this America and that one. I didn't mean to turn the book review into more than that but the similarities are unmistakable.

Like Rebecca we return to our old neighborhoods or some family gatherings feeling connected by blood, tradition, and family ties but sometimes are disconnected because of the opportunities that we have had and the ways in which our lives have grown beyond that tight circle. It is the experience of excelling at universities and in work life but not feeling truly part of the community. It is feeling the need to attend churches that reaffirms our identity and validates our experiences. Without saying maybe some understand that I'm talking about the African American experience in America that sometimes is not understood as a separate and distinct experience. For those of us that live that curious balance daily, I know that you understand what I mean. I'm not alone on this right?

It may be hard to imagine that Mawi Asgedom's path to Harvard is probably quite the same of those African Americans born here that took that same path. No more surprising I guess than the fact that Mawi's Ethiopian mother told him the exact same thing that my Virginain mother told me, "Never forget who you are and where you come from." As he understood the words from his mother he understood that he had a responsibility to all those who struggle beside him and come behind him. His father taught him that angels are found in the most unlikely people. His father cautioned him to treat everyone with dignity as he may be in the presence of one of God's angels unaware. Like him, my mother told me to always be grateful for the smallest kindness that anyone showed me as it was all a blessing from God. She taught me by example to give unselfishly even when it seemed that you had very little for yourself. My mother like his father was known for her generous and giving heart.

A continent away but the words and feelings are the same. This is one of the reasons that I felt that I might be able to adequately parent a child from Ethiopia. I truly believed that culturally, Ethiopia was very similar to the culture that I grew up in. I believed that the my children's experience of growing up in America (finding their identity and their place) would in many ways parallel the same experiences that I had here in America. After reading these two books I see that connection more strongly and clearly!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Of Beetles and Angels

Of Beetles and Angels tells the story of a young boy and his sojourn from Ethiopia through Sudan and eventually to America. It's important to me in that it tells of what life is like for the children and how they interpret what they see. In the story, Mawi Asgedom remembers what he thought America would be like (money lining the streets) in contrast to what he finds when he arrives. He grew up in Wheaton, IL only about four miles from where my children will live when they arrive.

FROM AN ONLINE BOOK REVIEW: The book also shows Mawi's experiences viewing racism, biased brutality, and what it is like to be noticeably different from most others around you. " Most of our classmates treated us nicely, others ignored us, and the rest -- well, we could only wish that they would ignore us. We may not have understood their words, but we always understood the meaning behind their laughter. African boodie-scratcher! Scratch that boodie!' Black donkey! You're so ugly!' Why don't you go back to Africa where you came from?' We were just two, and they were often many. But they had grown up in a wealthy American suburb, and we had grown up in a Sudanese refugee camp. We were accustomed to fighting almost daily, using sticks, stones, wood chips, and whatever else we could get our hands on. So it was usually no contest, especially when the two of us double-teamed them, as we had done so many times in Sudan." The cruelty of brutal beatings and the name calling left Mawi and his older brother scared and unsure about their new found home America.

It's not a sad story. It's actually a pretty funny and honest look through the eyes of Ethiopian child that grows up and eventually graduates from Harvard. I can't wait to finish reading it. Here is a preview.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Multi Ethnic Art for Kids Rooms

I like to add unique finds to the blog. I saw this today and thought it was a really interesting concept. It's called Yoon Kids. You pick the artwork of children and then you can choose their hair color, skin color, and background. The pictures are a little expensive but check it out.

Yoon Kids

Friday, March 21, 2008

10 Random Things Exposed

I have been tagged by my good friend Katy to tell 10 random things about myself. She tagged me a couple of days ago and I sort of struggled with what to write. 95% of my posts are ramblings off the top of my head. Even though I've written so much and so personally I realized that I was over thinking this. So, here we go right from the top of my head without much censoring or any deep thought.

1. I always knew that I would go to graduate school but somehow an MBA didn't seem to fit. When I'd look at job postings the jobs that interested me required something called a MS in Instructional Technology. Well, I surmised that's why all the positions where open, nobody had ever heard of that. One day I talked to one of my mentors, a VP from my undergrad college and he was rattling through some information and said something about his PhD in Instructional Technology. What....!?! I asked him exactly what it was, I went to the library that night and within five days applied to graduate school for Instructional Technology. I was working full time as a telecommunication project manager, but I went to graduate school full-time and finished in two years. The drive was 45 miles one-way and I had to pay three tolls each way. It was the most insane way to get through school. I don't recommend it.

2. I'm proud of the friendships that I've maintained over the years. I'm still great friends with the girl who lived across the street from me. We've known each other our entire 42 years of life (She would want me to tell you that she won't be 42 for a couple of months). I talk weekly to a friend from high school I've now known 28 years. I'm still close to my sorority pledge mother that I met living in the dorm 24 years ago. I moved to Illinois 18 years ago and many people that I met that year are still important figures in my life.

3. I have an absolute and pure love for children and have worked in and developed many youth programs over 25 years. But, it all started very strangely as I would be in public and stranger's children would cling to my leg. At church children I didn't know would leave their parents to sit next to me. And then there was a little girl that I met when she was 18 months old. As I was leaving she got her coat and threw a fit until she was allowed to leave with me (a perfect stranger). I spent some quality time with this little girl but then I didn't see her again for 2 years. This time when I saw her she said, "I know you you came to get me." She ran and got her coat and sat by the front door until it was time for me to leave. I took her with me and I was amazed that she recounted stories from 2 years before. She told me what she remembered about me and the things that I had done with her. I was blown away by that. After a couple of days with me, I drove her home, this little girl told me in no uncertain terms that she did not want to go into "that" house. She looked at me with three year old eyes and said, "I have an idea, you be the momma and I be the little girl!" It's a long story but I was never the same after that experience and I've always looked at children, their capacity to remember, and their ability to understand in a much deeper way.

3. I'm short. At barely five feet tall it seems to be a problem for other people, but it's never been an issue for me. I always hated the song "short people" but other than that you never see me without heels. If you see me walking around Addis with heels it's not because of a complex, I have flat feet and heels just feel much more comfortable.

4. I have long hair. Early in my career I had managers that suggested I cut it because the length was not professional. I didn't do it and usually wear it in a bun the first time I meet people professionally. I don't cut it because I have some fascination with long hair but because I cut my hair off to the nub many years ago and found short hair is too much work. I was having to get parts shaved every week and oooooh I didn't know you had to curl all those little pieces. It just wasn't for me. I'm too lazy for that.

5. I love books and always have. When I read, I usually have to read 3-4 books at the same time. Not sure why, but I've been that way since I was a little girl. Before wheely luggage and backpacks I would go to the library with a brown grocery bag and load it with as many books as they allowed you to check out.

6. I believe that the internet was created specifically for me! While I still like the feel of books, I love the ability to research any and every subject without getting dressed.

7. I was always more comfortable with male managers. I've never been a girly girl in approach or emotion. Don't kill me, but I prefer the dispassionate, matter-of-fact, brass tacks approach of my men managers. I don't want to talk about my feelings about an assignment or why I was chosen, I just want to know the goal and how long I have to do it.

8. The most important thing that I've learned through this adoption process is that the God that heard about in church all of my life is bigger and more divine than I could have imagined. I've learned that he is BIG and it is the world that is small. That has been my revelation.

9. My best friend and I call each other sometimes 10 times a day. Some of the conversations are long but most of the time it is to LAUGH at something utterly silly. We laugh a lot!

10. I think Dish satellite is one of the best inventions. I can rewind a show to hear a great line over and over. I can stop a show and answer the phone. I can tape one show and watch another. But, when I first got it and got use to the rewind function, I'd be sitting in a meeting and have the same urge to rewind a comment or put a person on pause and walk away. It would be great to have this function with friends and family.

Okay, that's about as random as things come. Thanks for the tag Katy! I just saw that Tami tagged me too. How'd I do? I looked at yours and mine seems too long.

I forgot that I'm suppose to tag someone. Chevela, tag you are it!

Laugh If You Want To But I'm Not Ashy - UPDATE

Here is the update. The high school friend that I told you about, the one that laughed at me, called me yesterday. We normally talk on Tuesday nights so when the phone rang in the middle of the day it was unusual.

N: Hey, I'm standing in the beauty supply house looking at Moisture Max, which one should I get?

I laughed!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Learn to Speak Amharic

My newest YouTube find is these online tutorials for learning Amharic. There are some 80 languages spoken in Ethiopia and Amharic is the national language. It's nice hearing the pronunciations.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ethiopia Diaspora Celebrated at Harvard

I learned about this from my good friend Katy at StraightMagic. If you are in the Boston area you might want to check this out.

April 13-14, 2008
Harvard University
Free admission to all events

Conference details
Conference participants
Concert: Mulatu Astartke and Either/Orchestra

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Laugh If You Want To But I'm Not Ashy

Once a week I talk to one of my friends from high school. Last night she laughed at me and said that I sound like an old grandmother with homemade remedies. Well, she can laugh if she wants to, they work and I'm not ashy.

The conversation:

N: (To her daughter) I think that is excema, we will have to find something to put on it.
Me: I have just the thing for you. Moisture Max it is good for excema, burns, dry skin, rashes, and chapped lips.
N: Really...? Oh, we might have to try that. Wait a minute, isn't that for your hair.
Me: I barely use it for my hair anymore. But, I do have a big pump that is good for excema, burns, dry skin, rashes, and chapped lips. 32 oz...$10. That's all you need. It will last your family half the year.
N: You sound like somebodies old grandmother with a made up remedy.
Me: Okay, keep laughing. I've been carrying Moisture Max all over the US leaving at the homes of friends with dry, flaky, itching children who are happy to have it!
N: And, this really works?
Me: Just try it and you will be calling like everybody else, whispering about the power of Lustrasilk.
N: Mmmm...I will have to see about that.
Me: Moisture Max by Lustrasilk! I should make a commercial.

I then started to tell her about my other sure fire remedies like using Carmex on your cuticles to soften them and instantly dissolve hang nails. Later, I'll tell you all the things I can do with Windex and don't get me started talking about vinegar.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Soft & Precious

Here is a line of hair and skin care products specially formulated for black haircare.

Check out Soft & Precious

Colorful Dreams

I stumbled across a site that makes bedding for African American children. The collections include wall art, comforters, bedding, window treatments and accessories.

I thought it was cute to see little:
            • Tuskegee Airmen
            • Mae Jimison
            • Negro League baseball characters
Check out ABC Kidz Designs.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ethiopia In Their Own Words

A month or so ago I wrote about how we learn culture. I believe that we learn it from the inside out. I think culture is how we feel and what we internalize about our traditional experiences and not the traditions themselves. In my search, I've wanted to hear Ethiopians talking about Ethiopia, the immigrant experience and growing up Ethiopian American. Today I found two articles in the SEED Newsletter that you might find intresting. SEED is an organization that discusses issues related to the Ethiopia and the diaspora.

What Motivates You to Take Pride in Being Ethiopian American and Giving Back to Your Community? --By Natnaelle Erymas

As an Ethiopian American, I pride myself on being a member of a community centered on family togetherness and cooperation. However, in American society, it is out of character for people to care for those that are not apart of their immediate family. This concept of “the immediate family” has polluted American culture for years. Today, we find Americans placing grandparents in nursing homes, we hear about the astounding divorce rate among married couples, and we see cousins who become so estranged that they can barely recognize each other on the street. Due to images the media perpetuates about what a family should be, I grew up thinking a family should only consist of a mother, a father, and a few siblings. Unfortunately as a result of these negative images, as a child I grew up ashamed to have such a large family. Knowing that my Ethiopian heritage was the reason for why I had a large family made me think that being Ethiopian was strange, and that having a family that was overly involved in my life would hurt me in my path toward success. However, I can proudly say that my assumptions were wrong. Read More

Experience That Shaped My Life -- By Michael Getachew Tesfaye

I never knew there could be so many things to do with mud. When I was a little boy my parents had this great idea of sending me to far away Ethiopia to study our language and my ancestral heritage. They thought that if I traveled by myself and spent a whole summer with other seven year olds playing with mud, I would pick up their native tongue in no time. All my relatives denounced the idea of sending a seven year old to a foreign country on his own. I loathed the idea of going to Ethiopia myself. I had heard there was no cable television, no Power Ranger toys, and if I wanted a cup of milk, I would have to get it straight from the cow. I protested vehemently, but my parents prevailed. In the summer of 1996, off I went to Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, I stayed with my aunt and uncle. For the first few days, I kept to myself. I stayed in my room, waiting for my parents to call so that I could talk to people who spoke English. By the fifth day, though, I spoke enough Amaharic (the Ethiopian language) to venture outside to play the game of marbles called “biy” with the neighborhood kids. The marbles were made of dried mud hand rolled in ashes. The game is played by knocking one marble with another to direct the target marble into one of six holes. The players would move from hole to hole, and the player who got the marble in and out of every hole first, won. I quickly learned to play “biy,” and in the process, I became one of the gang. Read More

On the Continent of Africa

Ethiopia is only one of 53 countries on the Continent of Africa. UC Berkley wants you to see how many other African countries you can name.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]