Diaspora Index @ Sellassie Cyber U.
GeoAlaska: Theatre & Film
This 1998 page grew into DIASPORA directory @ Sellassie Cyber U. (click on the banner above) and more -- Sellassie BUSINESS WWW website: "Business of Diaspora for Diaspora!"
If we're taking seriously the global village concept, maybe it's time for us to change our attitude about diaspora. One doesn't have to lose an indentity when he or she leaves the country. Business is a perfect (neutral) ground where the old and new cultures could meet. I saw a lot of Ethiopian Americans who are not less "Ethiopian" living in Seattle insead of Addis Ababa. In fact, they can do much not only for themselves but for the people in Ethiopia. Diaspora is a fact of history. People move, there will be more Ethiopians arriving to US and Europe, the question is how to make it better for them and for Ethiopia.
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Addis Ababa - It is a very warm, sunny morning. Judging from the hustle bustle in the early morning, one would wonder at how energetic people can be at that early hour of day.
Hundreds of youngsters encircle the compound of the immigration office like a belt. Two queues lead to the entrance, one short the other rather long. The short queue moves faster owing to the fact that men are lining up there. On the long queue, women take a longer time to have their bags searched, a persnickety affair. The policewoman at the gate opens up the lids of all lotions, cremes, perfume, chapsticks and all the knick-knack that women carry in their bags and invites the owner to put them on. A perfume is sprayed on your lapel, a lotion splashed on your hand. You get to try all the variety of lipstick you happen to carry in your bag. If a calculator, an organizer or any other electronic device happens to be in the bag, it is automatically turned down. No entry with such items. A camera? Forget it, that is even worse.
After these painstakingly meticulous searches, one is subjected to a body frisking, sometimes bordering on getting really physical, depending on the mood of the uniformed person on the other side of the gate.
But the waiting at the line to be searched and allowed entry has its own peculiarities.
There is a whole lot of economic activity, buying and selling outside the compound. There are countless hustlers who pester would-be travellers the minute they appear. "Application?" "Stamp?", "I can get you your application done in a second, while you line up", " No?, perhaps you need a photograph?" "There is an instant photo in one minute" "What about a photocopy service?"
Even if one just ignores the tirade of unsolicited offers, one is again confronted with yet another kind. "OK, let me get you at the front of the line." It is advisable you refrain from jumping the queue as the guards, (policemen) who control the area would not think twice about giving you a dressing down if they spot you. They wag a long stick at your face as they speak to you driving the possibility of a corporal punishment home." Who do you think you are!?", they would scream at you even if you dare approach the gate without caring to line up.
They not only try to control the queue, but also prompt everybody in the line to have their travel documents ready at hand. They free the area of the hustlers perhaps avoiding potential robbery and pick pocketing.
The stench from a nearby filthy river contaminated by the city's sewer becomes strong as it gets hotter. An occasional breeze would bring the offensive smell rendering you breathless if you are sensitive to such unpleasantness.
The hustlers seem undisturbed by the stench. There is a mobile car by the road side which gives a prompt photography service. Very creative, very enterprising. Hustlers carry stamps for applications in a matchbox. Folders for filing the application paper are also sold.
Around the entrance of the gate there is a non-attractive looking notice. It says, "Stamps, classers, photocopy service are all given inside the compound"- as if to persuade travellers to refrain from buying from the hustlers. But the hustlers have more aggressive skills, and a captive audience. Besides, their poster is much more attractive and appealing to the eye. The Immigration poster which begins as "Notice" is dull and looks like one of those political slogans about revolutionry workers of the world that we have long grown so tired of.
Beggars fight for an opportunity to attract one's attention amidst the hustle. Here the strategy for begging is different. They don't beg in the name of one of the angels as they do at the church gates or traffic lights. They know your Achilles' sheen. "May the Lord fulfill your wish," "May your dreams come true", they pour their good wishes in regards to your success in obtaining your passport and visa.
The women seeking to travel are trice as many as the men. It seems that the women's aspirations lie elsewhere but in Ethiopia. Inside the compound, humanity is lined up again in lines in front of the various office doors. To get passports renewed, to get exit visas, to get new passports, etc etc...
There are the religious pilgrims, old people going for vacation, businessmen on business trips, and few professionals who go for training.
Some don't even know where they are going, they just want somewhere to start from. As a young man of nearly 20 said to me, "It is better than rotting here. I will try my luck at it wherever it may be. Life is difficult here. Life has started to outsmart us. We have nothing to look forward to here as beginners." He said his passport will say "merchant" though he admitted he did not know yet where to begin from. But one thing is certain, he wants out.
One cannot help but long for that time when Ethiopian youth would be satisfied and happy to live here—when hard work is rewarded, education made available for all and the land lives up to the myth of milk and honey we grew up believing in.
NEW: SELEDA: Ethiopian Professional in US Webzine!
I'll try to link this page to the papers of "Italy & Africa" Conference I and Esther attended in Oxford, Ohio (Miami University, Nov. 5-9, 1998) and "Ethiopian Diaspora" at the University of Michigan in Sept., which we missed.
1. With FDR in Yalta. 2. Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, signs a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt, which he presented to a visiting American delegation. (The National Archives/Corbis NA003529) 3. With JFK. 4. Kennedys. 5. Visit to US. 6. President Richard Nixon and Emperor Haile Selassie during welcoming ceremonies in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia Betrayed: new book. SeeBooks
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History II: War & Exile
History III: Revolution
25 Years Later
Birth of Tafari
1960: Lost Sons
NEW GENERATION Photos
WOMEN OF THE FAMILY
Life in Alaska
Rasta & Reggae
Rasta Reading Room
Addis Ababa 95
Cooking with Esther