Sintayehu - (One who has experienced many things)

Life in Ethiopia can make the young wise beyond their years. Here are collected stories, told by my daughter, about her time before I became her father.


The three sisters have been reunited! Thanks to everyone who helped to bring these kids back together and to everyone else who sent their best wishes.

More stories will be coming shortly.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Taxi ride

The small white and blue car seemed cramped even to Tedu and her tiny frame. With her two sisters, Mother , the driver and a large woman and her male companion whom Tedu had never met before inside the car the air became quickly laden with hot moisture. Sintayehu slept on Tedu’s chest and Mete quickly started dozing but Tedu couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.

“Where are we going mother” Tedu asked as they were getting into the car? They were wearing their church clothing but today was not the day to go to church.

It was the strange woman who knelt down and answered, “We are going to my friend’s home. There are lots of children there for you to play with.” She stood back up and pulled at the sides of her brown skirt and then straightened her blue shirt. Tedu thought the shirt was a very pretty but it was a young colour that looked out of place on the middle aged woman.

Tedu hid herself slightly behind her mother and looked at the woman with a mix of suspicion and fear. Mete piped up, “Mommy, Mete stay. Play Tedu outside.” Mete was still not speaking in full sentences yet, resisting growing out of babyhood.

“Are you hungry?” The woman asked turning towards Mete.

“Yes” responded Mete.

“When we get to my friend’s house you can have some ambasha. Would you like that?”

“Mete likes ambasha” mete said, her eyes grew wide with excitement. As she contemplated getting the slightly sweet spiced bread she began to dance in a circle and started singing in her squeaky voice “Dabbo! Ambasha! Dabbo! Ambasha!”

Mother slightly shifted to the side and quietly put her hand on Tedu’s shoulder and looked down at her. Mother gave her the sad little smile that had become her quiet reassurance lately and she guided Tedu toward the car door. Tedu climbed into the rear seat and sat in the center and Mete hopped in next to her still quietly singing “Dabbo. Ambasha.” Mother handed Tedu Sintayhu and climbed in next to them. The door next to Tedu opened and one of the men climbed in and the woman sat in the passenger seat in the front and the driver started the car. They pulled out of the alley way with a shudder and a puff of thick blue smoke.

Now, Tedu strained to try to find any breeze coming from the open windows but very little air is making it past the adults who are leaning up against the windows trying to cool themselves. It doesn’t help that the car can only go slightly faster than a walking pace, slowing down often for one of the thousands of ruts and pits that are in the road. The driver is swerving left and right trying to avoid the largest of the craters in the road making Tedu feel sick to her stomach with every lurch. They hit one particularly large hole that sent a jolt through everyone in the car snapping Mete out of her stupor and causing Sintayehu to squirm slightly. Tedu gently rocked her as best as she could in the confined space and cooed her baby sister back to sleep.

“Dabbo?” Mete asked looking around wildly too see if they had reached their destination.

“Wait” responded Tedu with a mix of anxiety and impatience in her voice. She could feel the tension in the car increase as they came closer to their destination. Tedu tried to straighten her dress which was getting wrinkled in the cramped car and gave up with a frustrated sigh. She loved her pretty white dress and the thought of how winkled it was getting because of the humid crush of the cramped car was making her angry. If Sintayehu wasn’t sleeping on her shoulder, she would have tried to push Mete over or try to stand up to fix her dress but being stuck in the seat simply added to her frustration.

Tedu could not see where they were going. She was glad her mother was there because she knew she would not be able to find her way home if the car broke and they had to walk back. It seemed like she had been sitting in the car for the whole day when it finally stopped and the driver honked the horn on the car twice. A few seconds later, in answer to the horn, she heard the rusty squeak of a steel gate being opened and the car pulled ahead and stopped. The driver shut the engine and the passenger got out of the car. Tedu stirred in anticipation of getting out of the cramped space but no one in the back seat moved for several minutes. Tedu shifted in her seat and used her body to shove Mete so she could have more room. Mete awoke and sat up, looking at Tedu with sleepy eyes.

The woman in the blue shirt came to her mother’s door and leaned down. “It’s time,” she said and opened Mother’s door. Mother slowly climbed out exerting herself far more than someone who is only twenty five years old should need to for such a simple movement.

“Come Tedu,” her mother said. “Mete, come.” Her mother reached out and took the baby from Tedu and passed her to the woman in the blue shirt then helped the two sisters out of the car. The man who had been sitting next to Mete remained seated, saying nothing but took a slightly dry leaf from a bag in his pocket and put it in his mouth and started to chew. As Tedu climbed out she saw two more women dressed in white skirts and shirts waiting behind the woman in blue.

“Ambasha?” Asked Mete as she climbed out.

“Yes dear, you can have some ambasha. You must first give your mother a hug, she must go and then you can have some ambasha,” said the blue woman.

Mete jumped up on her mother and wrapped her arms around her and Mother picked her up giving her a big hug and a kiss on the forehead before setting her back down.

Tedu stood stiff as a board and looked at her mother and the back at the woman in blue as the meaning of what the woman in the blue shirt had said. She didn’t know what was going on but knew that something was not right. Her mother should not be leaving them here. The anxiety and frustration began to boil to the surface fueled by the incomprehension of what was happening and tears began to stream from her eyes. “Mommy don’t go!” “Mommy,” she wailed! She began to sob and cry uncontrollably and ran towards her mother. One of the young women who were standing behind the blue woman stood in front of her and grabbed her in a big hug. “Mommy! No! Don’t go Mommy!”

Mete’s face, which had, just seconds before, been filled with anticipation of having her favorite food drained into a sullen pout at the sight of her sister. She started to cry and wail for no reason than in response to the distress of her sister.

Tedu kept sobbing, “Mommy don’t go.” As her mother climbed back into the white and blue car and it drove out of the compound, the steel gates clanging closed behind them. As Tedu was carried inside the house her cries ceased to be pleading and begging and devolved to a hollow wail.