I am a Comedy Junky

The past few days, I have become addicted to watching short comedy skits online. Seriously, why haven’t I discovered the joys of stand -up comedy sooner? I especially like the ones whose families come from other parts of the world, like Russell Peters, whose family came from India, and Jo koy, whose family came from China. Who doesn’t love stereotypes, right? Since I am an immigrant as well, I usually relate to the issues they raise in their skits. I also noticed that these famous comedians can say anything they want, and get away with it.  They also use their humor to touch on more serious social issues, and while you are laughing you are hit by the underlying truth of what they are really saying. Below is a few of my favorite ones, either for their humor or their subject.

Trevor Noah is a comedian from South Africa.  In this skit, he talks about arriving in the U.S. not too long ago during the Ebola crisis. His statement “Muslims are the black people of the skies” resonated with me.  While you are laughing, it makes you think about stereotypes about Muslims and most people’s ignorance about the continent Africa, two very big and unrelated topics. Noah goes on to talk about his arrival into the U.K, and the questions he faces with border control make you think of colonization. In just under 8 minutes, Noah manages to make you laugh, and muse.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v76B8GUYflk

I think Key & Peele are just brilliant. I love how they can impersonate anybody and just look and sound perfect doing it. Even though racism is a subject that is always talked about, Key& Peele seem to especially have that in their heart. This video touches upon racism on African-Americans. It is also hilarious, of course.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWO1pkHgrBM

This is another favorite by Key & Peele. This one made me merely smile, but I love it for the raw truth behind it. A lot of people are followers with no clear conviction of their own. I admire these two for the creativity and diversity of subjects with which they come up for their skits.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKpQgEyjNdM

“Now that’s orange chicken. How you do that, Jose?” had me laughing for a good 10 minutes. The beautiful thing about living in Los Angeles is learning about all the different communities, and I don’t think I would have appreciated this skit as much had I been still living in Ethiopia and not had the exposure I do now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw_3O4f5smo

When it comes to standup comedy in Ethiopia, I am still eagerly anticipating a talented and funny Ethiopian to rise to their level and put us in the spotlight. I know the talent is there, I just hope some of our funny people decide to go into comedy soon in the international arena. From those who are already famous in Ethiopia, I do not think anyone is as brilliant and funny as Alebachew Teka and Limenih Tadesse. I used to watch them on Ethiopian Television when I was a kid.  I did not like them back then, which is why I have come to the conclusion that age matters even for comedy. These days, I can’t get enough of their humor.

The Adventuress’ guide to Addis: Tips for Your Visit

 

Avocadoes are cheap in Addis. Twenty birr for two kilos is a no-brainer for me, and I decided to get some today and get my love for the green fruit out of my system before going back to a city that sells them for $.99 each. But the price of avocadoes is not the main point of this article, but my purchase certainly got me thinking. As I was walking down the street day-dreaming about my future avocado exporting business, the plastic bag holding the avocadoes burst open and they rolled away in every direction. I just stood there looking incredulous for a few seconds, amongst calls of “Ayzosh!” and a few sniggers.  Some guy who was passing by was kind enough to help me pick them up and I purchased another bag from a souk nearby. The incident made me think of a conversation I was having with my cousin’s wife right before I left.  She told me to take plastic bags to Addis, because apparently everyone likes them here. I found out for myself how true that was, you can honestly put a big smile on someone’s face if you give them a bright and sturdy plastic bag. Hopefully you have something nice inside the bag, please don’t just roll the bag and stuff it in someone’s hands. I also learned today that it is probably a good idea to keep one for yourself in your bag for emergency purposes.  So after your next visit to the grocery store or the mall, think twice before throwing away your bags in the trash can, especially if you have a trip planned soon.

While in Addis, a visit to Kategna should definitely be in your plans. The restaurant has two branches but I went to the one at Bole, in front of Millennium hall.  There is an ample amount of choice for excellent food in Addis, but what made Kategna stand out for me is the menu. Unlike many places I have been to, Kategna offers food combinations in a variety of ways, for example you can order half tibs and half dirkosh firfir, and that is considered one meal. There are more than thirty such combinations on the menu- as soon as you start thinking of something you already find it in the menu. I also like the name of the restaurant itself, Kategna is fresh injera off of the oven that has kibe (Ethiopian butter) and berbere (Ethiopian pepper) spread on it. It made me think of my childhood when whoever was baking injera would make Kategna, and I would enjoy it while still hot. Although I haven’t tried it yet, Kategna also offers Kategna in their breakfast menu.

Memnon Printing and Advertising Works plc. is another stop you should make during your visit. My discovery of Memnon happened quite by accident. I was buying t-shirts and other souvenir items for friends and family around the area commonly known as Posta Bet; and my last stop happened to be Memnon. The shop is located all the way at the end of the main street, away from the cluster of souvenir shops and near the road that takes to Filwuha.

Memnon, like Kategna, attracted me starting from the name. Memnon was an Ethiopian king in Greek mythology, and a great warrior whose bravery rivaled that of Achilles. That is why I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to souvenir shops, Memnon is the king of them all. The shop sells T-shirts for men, women and children in different sizes, with whimsical and funny messages printed on them. Although I would never wear it myself; “Tej: connecting people” made me burst out laughing as soon as I saw it. Another favorite of mine is a cartoon of a Blue Minibus, complete with a Weyala (driver’s helper) poking his head out of the window and a traffic police by the road, (I am assuming he is considering writing an undeserved ticket to the driver) and the weyala has a speech balloon that says “Abo Tewena”. For the ladies, “Hot like Mitmita” would also be a good choice.

That’s all for now folks! If you have any suggestions for the next adventurer in Addis, feel free to share in the comment box below.

Yegna: The all-girl band taking Ethiopia by storm

About a year ago, I saw a music video called “Taitu”. The song is about Empress Taitu, King Menelik II’s wife. While I enjoyed the music, I had no idea about the people behind it at the time. I played it a few times, and once Teddy Afro came out with his hit song, of course I moved on to that and forgot all about it. I came across the song again and the dynamic band behind it, Yegna, recently.

Yegna translates as “ours” in Amharic. Yegna is a radio show revolving around five adolescent girls. The girls are also a band; and have been steadily gaining popularity in the past two years. Yegna were behind the hit song “Taitu” with the famous star Aster Aweke, and have come up with numerous other hit songs since then. Their radio show addresses social issues like child marriage and abduction. While shows that talk about different issues women face are quite common, what I did not expect at all is how creative I found Yegna to be. I found it absolutely entertaining and effective. It is not filled with the usual hum and drum about how harmful traditional practices are; instead the girls use music, humor and touching stories to get their message across. You have no choice but to love them and empathize with them as you listen to their lives. Yegna attempts to empower women and girls, and teaches that women can realize their dreams if they stay strong.

Yegna has also made it to the big screen- a film was made based on the radio show and it aired on Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation about a month ago. As I was seeing it, I honestly felt inspired to do better with my life, and I can only imagine what the effect must be like for someone facing a lot of challenges. If you are not in Addis Ababa and can’t be glued to the radio on Sunday afternoons like me, you can always try to search for their show online; but in the meantime, you can enjoy one of my favorite songs from the movie. Adios!

 

 

5 Addis Ababan quirks I never noticed, and some I never knew

 

Three and a half years abroad is not a long time, especially when compared to people who have called the western world home for 30 something years. That being said, I never expected any surprises when I landed under a scorching African sun a few weeks ago. But I guess even three years held a few surprises for me in Addis.  I have made a list, and I am hoping it won’t grow.

  1. Hugging is not an Ethiopian thing

After the third person who resisted my hug, I have come to the conclusion that hugging is a little awkward here. People usually expect the polite handshake or the two pecks on each cheek, they don’t expect you to climb on them the second you meet them.

  1. When taxi attendants hand you your change, you are not expected to say thank you.

People hold a door open for you; you mutter a quick thank you. The Starbucks cashier hands you back your card, you say thank you. But in Addis, you are not really expected to say thank you when the taxi attendant (more commonly known as weyala) hands you your change. I did that a few times; I guess out of pure habit. Only after a few of them paused and gave me a look I can’t really explain, I figured out why.  I now just pocket my change and leave.

  1. The size of the Injera here is huge,

The second day I was back, I was in the Kushina (kitchen) helping my mom prepare lunch, and then I happened to open the messob. I gasped and exclaimed on the size of the Injera. My mother pretended not to hear, but my sister did not take too kindly to my comment.  Incidentally, I am happy to announce that I am now used to the size already and in fact appreciate its hearty round shape.

  1. Suk bederetes have a new name.

The young men and women who walk around with a makeshift container slung on their chests are not called Suk Bederetes anymore. The literal name is directly translated as shop on a chest. They are now called Jubulani. If you need chewing gum or napkins, just yell ‘Jubulew!’, and one will come running to you faster than Haile.  As some of the young people around Edna Mall would tell you: ‘oh my gosh Suk Bederete is sooo 2004.’

  1. If you want food to go, please don’t confuse your server by saying, well, to go.

The correct term in Addis Ababa is take- away.

What are some of the things that surprised you after coming back to Addis? Share your thoughts!

I am Not My Hair

I am known amongst my family to have very bad hair. It is usually pulled back in a bun, with the front half looking busted and sticking out everywhere. Tired of looking at my crazy look is how I ended up on my way to a house on Crenshaw Boulevard a few weeks ago. A friend of mine had offered to do cornrows for me; a kind of hairdo that looks similar to the one Atse Tewodros is famous for. For me, the visit was supposed to be a quick stop in my busy day to get a temporary break from my usual look. But it turned out to be more than that for me. First of all, I realized how much hair is a big business in America, and how it affects everyday life. Second, I am now interested in learning the history behind different styles.

As soon as I got to my friend’s house, I felt like I had left reality and stepped into a movie screen. Complete with the friendly grandmother at the stove, the quiet and a little overweight grandfather in the living room, and a score of children, the Madea movies came to my mind. I later learned that the kids were there because the house also served as a day care. After greeting and smiling at everyone,  I was led to the kitchen. I stood uncertainly in the middle waiting for someone to direct me to the place where I would get my hair done. But my friend Sheri pulled out a chair for me right there, just a few feet from the stove. “Sit down girl, whachu looking all wide-eyed for?” It took me just a few seconds to snap back, shrug, and just slide into the chair.

The kitchen, just like any home with a large number of people living in it, has a lot of stuff. There are several pictures of mugs with hot coffee steaming out of them on the walls; I imagine to induce a feeling of warmth and welcome to whoever is in there.

At this point, Sheri starts doing my hair, and I just sit there and look around me. Her grandmother is boiling sausages for the kids, and her mother is sitting right in front of me. We all launch into a conversation about hair, and the different styles and textures out there.

MMS_20150315_094744-1(1)

Sheri’s mother is a doctor by profession. That day, she had her hair in an afro. She told me she likes doing afros and other hairstyles whose names escape me now. “But even if I like those styles, I don’t do them much because I don’t want to scare my white colleagues”, she told me. She then told me her experience once when she had started a new job:

Upon arriving on my first day at a new job a few years ago, I made my way to the receptionist to announce myself. As soon as I said good morning, she said ‘Hi. All the patients are waiting upstairs for the doctor, second door to your left.’ I smiled politely and told her that I was not a patient, that I was actually the doctor and was starting work that day.

She gave my afro a quick look upon hearing that, and was looking so incredulous and shocked that I could feel myself getting angry. I had to exercise a lot of self control and take deep breaths to calm myself down and just let it go. I did not want to say something bad that I would regret later.

After hearing her experience, I realized hair is not something most people take lightly here. The style you choose can and will affect how other people regard you. The hair business is a multi-billion dollar industry. Most women could have a busted car or apartment, but their hair is always on point. I am going to do a lot more research and will come up with a more comprehensive background on the history of African American and Ethiopian styles. For now, you can watch the documentary movie Chris Rock made on hair, below is a short clip from it.

 

Adwa Victory, Black History Month and the Role of Ethiopians

February concludes the celebration of Black History Month. We are especially reminded of all the struggles African- Americans went through in February, and stories and facts emerge on media about African-Americans who contributed positive things in different areas. Some people argue that the celebration of Black History Month should end because history should not be limited to one specific month; others say it is not necessary because we now supposedly live in a post-racial society. For Ethiopians, the end of February also brings another historical moment, the Victory of Adwa. On March 1, 1896, Ethiopians defeated the army of Italy, under the leadership of King Menelik II. The victory was particularly important because it ensured that Ethiopia remained free from colonization from European powers, a source of pride not only to Ethiopians, but other Africans and African Americans.

African Americans have regarded Ethiopia as a source of inspiration for a long time, and the relationship between Africa Americans and Ethiopia goes back to the early 1900s. Professor Abiy Ford, a prominent scholar and teacher at Addis Ababa University, stated that “Ethiopia was synonymous with Africa for many African Americans. When you hear Ethiopia, you thought of Africa.” Professor Ford himself is the result of the Back-to-Africa movement. Just as the name suggests, the movement encouraged African Americans to go to their ancestral home  and settle there. It was created in the 1920s by Marcus Garvey. At a time when African Americans were struggling with questions of identity, Garvey’s ideas provided African Americans with a source of purpose and motivation. Later on, Garvey also served to inspire the Civil Rights Movement, Nation of Islam, and  Rastafarianism movements. It was during the height of this movement in the 1930s that a group of African Americans found themselves in Ethiopia, including Rabbi Arnold Ford and his future wife Mignon Innes Ford. Professor Abiy Ford was born in Ethiopia in 1935, where he remains to his day. When Italy invaded Ethiopia again in 1935, the family chose to stay in Ethiopia with the new-born baby and face the Italians, instead of fleeing with those who had a chance to leave. After a struggle that lasted six years, Ethiopia successfully ousted Italy once again in 1941. Mignon Ford also built the first boarding school in Ethiopia, Princess Zenebework School.

During my interactions with African Americans in the past few years, I have found that a lot of the older generation is aware of the history of Adwa, Marcus Garvey, and many other historical facts. Unfortunately, I can not say the same for the younger generation. I believe that is because they did not have the chance to grow up being as influenced with black movements as their parents were. A friend once told me, “If you are aware, you are responsible to share that knowledge. We are your long-lost cousins, and we need guidance.”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U5KcLQNBws

 

What do you miss most about Ethiopia?

Nostalgia is a daily part of my life. I could be walking down the street minding my own business, then see or smell something that suddenly triggers a forgotten memory, and I am immediately transported across the Atlantic to that beloved city of mine, Addis Ababa.

 I miss going to a suk (store) to buy small items, and my polite conversations with Shemsu or Kedir, whichever vendor I had decided to visit on a particular day. Sometimes the conversations were not so polite, remembering the times Shemsu furiously ranted about the bottles of leslasa (soda) I forgot to return.

I miss the lekefa (insults) of the duriyes (troublemakers), directed at myself or others. This used to annoy me so much back then, but like that saying goes you never know how much you love something until it’s gone. I now appreciate the creativity and sarcastic truths behind these lekefas.

I was interested to know what other people missed most about their country, so I talked to a few of my friends and family. Here is what they said:

Mike

I miss my friends. I miss having someone taking care of everything for me. There is always someone to cook and clean.

Al

I miss the freedom. I miss the lack of crime. I am of course aware there is some, but it is not as organized and obvious as it is out here. There are no gangs and drugs. I miss driving and not be scared I may get pulled over, or get a DUI.

Nebil

I miss fights. You can fight, beat up, or get beaten up in your neighborhood with other boys your age. And you are not scared someone is going to come to your house with a gun the next day. There are no grudges or hard feelings; you are once again friends with those same boys after the issue has been solved with the fist fight.

Mohammed

I miss driving out of Addis Ababa to nearby towns, like Nazareth and Dukem. I miss my mom’s kiss every morning; she always waited by the door before I leave the house to kiss me good day. I miss how my dad always inquired about my plans for the day, asking for details about things I did.

Zi

I miss how friendly and nice everyone is. I miss how my friends seem to be genuinely carefree, there doesn’t seem to be anything bothering them. You know that restless feeling people seem to have here? Well, it is not there.

Aemero

Hmmm… Now I miss everything from the food to the people but what I think I miss the most is its unpredictability. For the most part nothing is ever planned and you just leave the house knowing you’re going to end up doing something interesting.

Danny

I miss the hustle and bustle of Addis: the rich driving around with their latest most expensive cars, ladies looking fancy and beautiful, the youngsters walking around with a confused identity and self definition. The humble fathers and mothers, the heart touching beggars, the pushing and shoving at taxi drop sites…the thieves …oh the  thieves…the street justice where everyone throws a punch on the guy who is caught red-handed trying to steal a cell phone, the hard to get pretty girls…

If you ever been away from the city you would definitely appreciate the pureness and full control of nature over the land…but what I miss the most is this odor that rises from the earth the moment it starts to rain…you may not like it if you have an allergy…but its indescribably so natural. Speaking of rain, it’s mostly the people in the cities that run away from it…but those who know… wait for it, pray about it and when it starts coming down they embrace it with joy….

What do YOU miss most about Ethiopia? Share your thoughts.

How to get out of Minimum Wage jobs

Life should be all about following your passion. You should always strive to do something you enjoy, and at the same time make money out of it. If you don’t have a specific passion you want to go after, educate yourself in something that is sure to earn you good money. It may take time, but don’t let that daunt you. It pays off at the end. In the mean time, the reality is you also have bills to pay. Therefore, you find yourself struggling to get by on a minimum wage job, continuously dissatisfied and unhappy. If you have been stuck in the same minimum wage job for a while and you feel like there is no escape, this article is for you. Mohammed N. Mohammed is a Solution Architect and Co-founder at Soft Interactive Systems. Below is his list of advises on how to break free at a fairly short period of time.

 
1. Trainings: There are lots of institutes that provide short term trainings in various fields. Information makes all the difference. You should get all the information you need from these institutes, which give result oriented training, mostly lasting one to three months. The question is, what kind of training is right for you? You can start from the type of professional job you would like to get into. Everyone has different backgrounds and interests, so you can start your search depending on your own inclination. There are also a lot of internet resources like bureau of labor statistics www.bls.gov that let you know which specific field is really in demand and pays more money. Below is a list of fields that you can look into.

IT Related
o SharePoint Development Training
o SharePoint Administrator Training
o Database Administrator
o Net programmer
o Business Analyst or Technical Writer
o Tester

Clerical and Technical (only require short term training but pay decent money)
o Legal Support workers
o Paralegals
o Postal service mail carriers
o Electricians
o Repairmen ( AC technicians, elevator technicians, Refrigerator technicians)
o Law Enforcement sub-branches
911 Dispatchers
Probation Officers
Detention Officers

2. Online resources:

o Online Trainings: Online trainings with subscriptions should be amazingly helpful. Since I am an IT professional, the resources I list could be mostly IT related; only because that is a subject I know well. Nevertheless, there are a lot of resources for each and every profession as well. Below is a list of my favorite websites that provide online training videos in IT that you can take at your own pace and finish in a short period of time. The first three are free; the other four require a monthly subscription fee.

http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/product-training/sharepoint
http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/product-training/sql-server
http://www.dnrtv.com/archives.aspx

http://www.pluralsight.com/
http://www.lynda.com/
https://learnable.com/home
http://www.learnnowonline.com/

o Online job boards: These are online job boards that let you upload your resume so that employers can find you easily. Make sure you modify and refine your resume every day so that the search engine knows that you are actively looking for a job. In addition to job boards, check out county websites. Departments of Human Resources in the counties you live in provide a lot of government jobs, and they do not use these job sites; they use their own site.

https://www.usajobs.gov/
http://www.careerbuilder.com/
https://www.linkedin.com/
http://www.indeed.com/
https://careers.yahoo.com/us/buildyourcareer
https://www.collegerecruiter.com/
http://www.simplyhired.com/
http://www.linkup.com/
http://www.us.jobs/
http://www.net-temps.com/
http://www.jobing.com/
http://www.dice.com/
http://www.monster.com/

Additionally, use http://www.grovo.com/ and http://noexcuselist.com/ to learn about a range of different subjects. Another useful site is the social media twitter; you can follow industry experts to see what they are up to and update yourself on new happenings at your favorite company.

 
3. Online Presence: I could combine this with online resources, but I just wanted to emphasize that you need to build your profile very neatly and avoid unnecessary/unprofessional representation of yourself.

 
4. Certification Exam: Although not required, it is beneficial to have certification on any of the professions you would like to apply to. Once you have finished getting the required knowledge on your chosen profession, explore the web to get practice exams. The link I personally like is http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10-things/the-10-best-it-certification-web-sites/ ; it provides information about practice exams on most IT subjects. A lot of practice exams cost you about $$ – $$$ but if you are lucky you can get them from E-Bay or Amazon for about $5 – $10.

 

5. Communication Skill: You should be proactive. You do not have to be a fluent speaker to have a good communication skill; just be initiative, responsible, and set expectations. Always remember that satisfaction entirely depends on expectation.

 
6. Network: This is very crucial to have. Build you profile on www.linkedin.com and start adding recruiters, then continue adding your friends with the same profession to expand your network.

 
7. Target Date: You need to have a target date. The best time to start is today! Start at the beginning of this year and give six months of intensive effort. Start looking for a job during summer. If you tirelessly show effort everyday and explore your options, I can guarantee you can be successful.

Ye Arada Quanqua

Like everything else, language changes with time. I realized this while watching some Amharic videos online; I found myself scratching my head to understand the meaning of some of the new urban words. Here are four  I learned thanks to Youtube:

Aynefam- Something is not satisfactory

Enimeresh-Let’s go

Ligebalign Neber/Asgebalet – He was about to kick me/ Kick him

Mekeset -Show up

It is interesting to see how these words are created and make it into the mainstream population, and used as a form of communication daily. As for me, I have decided to eliminate “Speak Amharic Fluently” from my resume for now, until I update myself on contemporary Amharic some more. Therefore, I hope you will help me out by sharing some of the new words you know below in the comment box.

How to Drive in Ethiopia with an American License

Hi Ami, How are you? I was wondering if you knew how to drive with international license in Ethiopia? A lot of people ask me, but I have no idea. Do you know where you have to go and the process? Thanks for your help!

The response to my message came a day later.

Honestly my answer is no, I have no clue how to do it. But I assume you would have to get a lot of 100 birr bills if a traffic police stops you and sees you don’t have an Ethiopian license or just start speaking English with a New York accent and he’ll let you go.

So my dear friends, that is the way to go about it if you decide to drive in Ethiopia on your next visit. Ok don’t get too excited, my friend Ami is only kidding. But I used to get that question a lot when I was working for the Ethiopian Consulate in Los Angeles, and I gave the happy tourists with their eager faces a shrug, in my head thinking along the same lines as Ami, just too abashed to voice it.

If you want to drive in Ethiopia, the first thing you have to do is go to the Embassy of the United States in Addis Ababa, and get your American license authenticated. Once you finish there, take the paperwork they give you to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, located right in front of Hilton Hotel, which will perform translation services for you. The final stage is going to be The Ministry of Road and Transportation (commonly known as Menged Transport), located behind Addis Ababa Stadium, which will give you your gateway to adventure, aka your Ethiopian license! These services charge you some fee. When you read that the locations are lacking street numbers and zip codes, don’t panic. Things don’t work like that in Ethiopia. Almost everyone knows where everything is, or knows someone who does. So don’t be afraid to ask your local taxi drivers or hotel staff. Google is not going to tell you the best restaurants in town. Your resources for information are going to be the people. Enjoy yourself and happy adventures!