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.


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.


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.


“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.


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.

A Little piece of Home: DC’s Ethiopian Muslim Center


If you decide to pass by on Georgia Avenue and Webster Street in Washington, D.C on any given day, you are sure to run into a lot of Ethiopians purposely striding to a building on the corner of Georgia Avenue. And no, it is not like the famous 9th street in Washington, where a lot of Ethiopian businesses reside, so the person you are seeing with the purposeful walk is not in a hurry to grab kitfo or Tibs.

fhflogoThe area actually houses one of the biggest Ethiopian Muslim centers in America, The First Hijrah Foundation. The name First Hijrah itself is picked from history. The First Hijrah, or migration to Abyssinia, refers to a time in history when the companions of the prophet Mohammed (Pbuh) and his families fled to Ethiopia to flee persecution in Mecca. It was around  the seventh Islamic month (Rajab) of 7 BH (614–615 CE), that exiled Muslims from Arabia found refuge and protection from the Ethiopian King Nejashi, and  Islam was introduced to Ethiopia as a result. Hijra , or the exile of the prophet himself (Pbuh) and his companions to Medina,  started later on in 622 C.E., on the first day of the month Muharram, more commonly know as Al-Hijra, or the Islamic new year.

In the 1980s, the population of Ethiopian Muslims started to grow significantly in the Washington, D.C area. Yearning for a place where they could gather together, and practice their religion and culture the way they used to in Ethiopia, a group of about 65 people established First Hijrah as a community center in 1986. This group of 65 managed to build First Hijrah Foundation purely on donations, and it continues to run to this day by gathering donations and membership fees.

IMG_0614 (1)The population of the Muslim community as well as the center has grown significantly since it was first established. The members of First Hijrah are happy to have a place where they could send their children to learn Islamic ways, and where they could gather as a community and practice their religion.

Volunteers run programs and community services in the center. Every Friday, Quran Tafsir (translation) program is held, and Saturday and Sunday is reserved for educational programs for children. Not only Ethiopians come to the center, it serves other members of the Muslim community as well.

Impressed by First Hijrah’s success in the community, a local TV station recently featured the First Hijrah Foundation in one of their programs. It is indeed great to see the Ethiopian Muslim community in Washington, D.C displaying solidarity and being shown in such a positive light, I hope it continues to grow and contribute to the community.


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.


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.


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:


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


I came across this great picture by Street View Photography Ethiopia as I was browsing through their Facebook page, and I was hit with nostalgia. Listros are shoeshine boys, usually very young. They use the trade to support their families and pay for schooling and different things. In a developing country like Ethiopia, the job is a source of revenue for the whole family.

Every morning, people can be seen getting dust and mud off of their shoes in the streets of Addis before starting their work. I used to have a regular Listro named Tamagn too, right in front of my office building. I would go to him as soon as I got off my taxi, and we would both smile upon seeing each other, me with relief about my soon to be clean shoes, he with what I assume was  pleasure at a few extra Birr in his pockets.

Listros on a street in Addis.©Mulugeta Ayene.
Listros on a street in Addis.©Mulugeta Ayene.