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


Mete’s arm and leg lay across Tedu’s back like they had fell asleep in the middle of a game of piggy back. A slight groan from the other side of the room woke Tedu from her sleep and she looked across through sleep crusted eyes towards he mother who sat by the fire. Mother’s face was just easing out of a grimace as she looked up at Tedu. She slowly freed herself from her sister’s embrace and walked over to her mother and took her hand. It was damp with sweat and was trembling slightly but Tedu’s mother squeezed her hand and gave her a weak little smile. The sun was up outside and she knew her father was already hard at work in the sugar cane fields, having left well before the sun breached the horizon.

“What’s wrong mother?” Asked Tedu as she wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck and gave her a kiss on her cheek.

“The baby will be coming today,” her mother said. She stood up and grabbed a jug from the table and poured some water into one of the cups. She took a long slow drink and handed the cup to Tedu. “Take some injera and go to Meron’s house. Tell her the baby is coming and I need her help.”

“Yes mother,” Tedu whispered. Tedu grabbed a roll of injera from the table, it was still slightly warm and the sour aroma pleasantly pinched her nose. She jammed a fist sized piece into her mouth and ran out the door and down the road.

It was a long run to Meron’s house down the rough road. Tedu stayed in the center of the road running in the well-worn tracks. She could not run very quickly on the shoulder of the road, the sharp rocks bit at her feet, but the car tracks were smooth and mostly free of rocks. She only slowed to shove more injera into her mouth. A little more than half way there she stopped on the side of the road, the running and injera combining to make the morning call of her biology urgent. She preferred going out here. There was no one around to watch. There was no foul smelling hole smeared with others feces just inches away from her. Lately, she had started to hold it in until she could get away from the community toilets and relieve herself in some bushes or tall grasses. Her mother got angry when she did this because she had no water to wash afterwards but Tedu was willing to take the punishment. When she finished, she ran with renewed vigor relishing the feeling of the air filling her lungs, the pounding of her heart and the rhythmic slap, slap, slap of her feet against the hardened clay.

Meron was an older woman who had many children, most of whom were now having children of their own. Although she was always friendly to Tedu and Mete, Tedu was wary of the woman who was the closest thing to a nurse they had. Meron’s house was one of the largest in their village with a proper stone fence and large iron gates. Her husband has served in the army and had become a soldier of some status, being rewarded with a sizable pension and giving his wife a sizable ego. Inside the yard was an old green truck whose trail of blue smoke could be seen lingering above the roads as Meron tended to the women of the village. She was a woman who believed that she knew more than those around her and carried herself with a slight condescending arrogance, dealing with everyone as if they were children.

“Hello! Hello?” Tedu called as she ran into the yard and up to the open front door.

A teenage girl came to the door, dressed in a white dress and wearing soft leather sandals. “What do you want?” She asked Tedu with scorn.

“My Mother said to come here. She says that the baby is coming,” said Tedu.

“Wait here,” she said and disappeared back into the house.

Tedu could hear the murmur of conversation somewhere near the back of the house then the scraping of a chair on the floor and the shuffling of feet. Meron came to the door; she was tall and heavy-set with wide hips and broad shoulders. She wore a green button-up shirt with a lace trimmed collar, its colour having faded slightly, tucked into a long flowing skirt which had stylized zebra, lions and giraffe chasing zigzag ribbons of orange and red. “You are Tedu. I remember bringing you into the world. So, the baby is ready to come out?” Meron said.

“Yes. My mother told me to come and find you. She said she needs your help,” replied Tedu.

“Very well. Go. Run home and tell your mother I will be there shortly,” she said. “Your Father is still working in the sugar cane fields?”

“Yes,” replied Tedu.

“Behtee! Behtee!”

The teenage girl who came to the door when Tedu first arrived came back to the door. “Yes mother?”

“Go to the Sugar Cane mill and have them find Addago. Tell them that his baby is coming and he needs to come home,” Meron said. The girl said nothing and walked out the front door and down the road towards the sugar mill. “You,” she said looking at Tedu. “Why are you still here? Go! Quickly!”

Tedu turned and ran for home. Part of her was hoping that Meron would let her ride in the truck back to their home. The run home seemed faster than the trip to Meron’s. She ran inside, and stopped in the doorway. Her mother was sitting in the chair next to the table, Mete was sitting on the bed mat playing with a pretend doll. “Mother, I am back”

“Was Meron there?” Her mother asked.

“Yes, she said she will be here shortly. She sent her daughter to get father.”

Mother’s face seemed to relax a little bit. “You are a good daughter. Please take Mete and go to the well. We will need fresh water when the baby comes.

Tedu and Mete grabbed the large water pail which had a thick leather handle on it and started out for the communal well. It was a long walk there, longer back carrying the heavy pail of water, needing to stop often to rest. When they finally got home, Meron had already arrived, her green truck parked in the center of the yard. They both walked inside, half carrying, half dragging the bucket of water.

Mother was lying flat on her back with her knees in the air. There were clean white sheets were underneath her and covering the sleeping mat. Tedu put the bucket by the water and stood very quietly behind Meron, looking at their mother. Mother’s face was sweaty but she looked calm and relaxed.

“It is coming fast,” said Meron. “Are you in much pain?”

“I am fine,” said mother.

“There is no holding this one back. I can already see the top of its head. Push hard!”

Mother grunted hard, her face wrinkled with effort. Tedu and Mete looked closely as the baby’s head came out. Mete was silent but Tedu started to cry at the sight of the blood. It quickly turned to a wail as she ran backwards and crouched in the corner, behind the kitchen table and chairs. Mete’s looked at Tedu and started to cry in harmonic sympathy with her sister.

“Quiet you two! Get outside!” Meron shouted at the two sisters. “The first ting the baby hears should not be your insufferable wailing.”

“Tedu, Mete. Please don’t cry. There is no need. I am fine. The baby is fine. Go outside and wait for your father,” said mother.

Tedu stifled her tears until they were hollow sobs, and she took metes hand. Mete quieted quickly with her touch and they walked outside. The sat on the ground beside the door listening to the sounds from inside still sobbing, their faces now stained with tears. They looked up and saw father running up the road. He was unmistakable, very tall and lean, his arms taught with strong muscles made from heavy work. Tedu and Mete jumped up and ran towards their father, Tedu shouting. “Father! The baby is here!”

He bent down and they wrapped their arms round his neck. He scooped them both up in his arms and stood up, looking at their dirty, tear streaked faces. He laughed his deep hearty laugh. He was always laughing and the sound calmed the girls down immediately and said in his deep calm voice, “Well, well, well. You two look the worse for wear. You can stop crying now there is no reason for tears. This is a happy time – we have a new baby. Come, let’s go inside and see if you have a new sister or brother.”

“But there is red everywhere,” Tedu sobbed.

“Red,” echoed Mete.

“Coming into the world is messy work. They will both be fine,” Said father.

They walked inside. Mother was sitting up on the sleeping mat, with her back against the wall. Suckling at her breast was a naked little baby. Meron was washing her hands and tending a kettle over the fire. “Come in,” said mother looking at the tree of them. “Tedu, Mete, come meet your new sister.” Father set them down on the floor and walked towards mother. She held up the baby girl for them to see. The baby let out two little squeaks as she was removed from her mother’s breast. She cooed as she was held up for the family to see.

“She is beautiful,” said father.

“Husband, she did not cry – Just a little cough and a couple of squeaks like she was a mouse. What shall we name her?” Asked mother.

“This year has been the hardest we have seen for a very long time my wife. This little one has already seen many trials and tribulations. She is Sintayehu.”