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

Ethiopia Memories

“Tedu. Tedu. Tedu.” Mete quietly calls out. “I am hungry.”
“Oosh Mete. Mother and baby are sleeping. The potatoes are almost done and then we can eat.” Tedu turns the potatoes over in the hearth. They are small, too small for there to be enough for everyone to eat. Just like the day before Mother will not eat and Tedu will eat what the baby won’t finish. Mete will get the small potato to herself.

Mete squirms in anticipation of eating the potato and says, “Tedu can I have some bread too?”

“Bread. Bread. Bread. All you ever ask about is bread! I give you bread and you eat like a hungry hyena then ask for more! We have no bread and if we did, the baby would eat before you,” said Tedu.

She can barely keep her eyes open and catches herself nodding off several times as she stares into the hypnotic dance of the flames. Her exertions during heat of the day and her constant companion, hunger, have wrung the energy from her wire frame. When the morning sun rose she had tied the baby around her back and carried the laundry down to the river. Washing the laundry was hard work and the water was cool and inviting. She could not resist the child borne urge for splashing in the cool refreshment and soon they were all laughing and squealing with delight as their existence condensed into a child’s simple enjoyment of life. Had the know that the water was contaminated with all manner of refuse and filth it would not have stayed their play – even the snake swimming next to Tedu’s leg only caused a momentary pause in their childhood revelry. For the moment, this brief moment they were just children, without care or context, wrapped in the divine veil of play.

The sun was now high in the clear sky, almost strong enough to burn shadows into the ground. Tedu left Mete and the baby to play in the hut while she went out to gather firewood for the night hearth, hopefully it would be a cooking fire. While Mete and the baby played nearby she dug in the dusty and dry garden looking for potatoes to cook for dinner. The ground had been turned before and the easiest and choicest had already been eaten some night in the past. Undaunted by handfuls of empty dirt she was finally rewarded by a small misshapen potato It would be enough for one of them. She kept digging and at the point where she was resigned to not eating that night her hands felt the smooth roundness of a large, round potato. She started bouncing on her knees as she carefully dug out the potato. It would be enough for her and the baby and maybe even some for mother.

This has been how it has been for more nights than Tedu can remember. Their mother spent the day laying on her sleeping mat the sickness preventing her from attending to the needs of her children and the home. The Baby has eaten her fill of potato, less than she should and Tedu finishes off the remaining pieces chewing slowly and occasionally falling asleep mid chew. Mete is curled up next to their mother and the baby sleeps between them.

Her mother stirs and looks at her and Tedu looks back both sharing a sad smile; Mother’s eyes are full of an intensity that makes Tedu shift slightly. Her mother knows she is sick and knows what ails her. Tomorrow the doctor will come with medicine but it won’t be enough to make everything right. She is now an outcast in her village and even if the medicine helps her physically, her opportunity to provide a decent life for her children has died. She knows it is time to think of her children – women in the village have told her stories of childless white-skinned Ferenge who would raise her children as their own. The more she dreamed of it the more she realized that her children best hope was to leave all that they knew and to seek a new life far away from her. The thought makes her eyes tear up as she looks at her beautiful daughter. In response, Tedu places some potato in her mother’s mouth and as the heat quickly flees in the night they both fall asleep