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Negarit Reports from Memory Lane: A Fiction

Of Keren and Love Affairs, Negarit Reports from Memory Lane: A Fiction.

Over the years I have captivated my readers with my reports after my travels. This report is also from my travels, but of a different kind: my travels to Memory Lane.

As the twilight rays of the Kerenite sun shimmered from the horizon and landed on the rocks surrounding river Shefshefi I materialized from under the water after I skillfully took a deep dive. With my curly hair plastered onto my forehead, I reflexively squinted my eyes as I made my way on-shore. I briefly thought about Archimedes’ principle and wondered parenthetically at his serendipitous discovery. I glanced to my left when I heard my name from a distance, I could see a willowy figure approaching and covering my eyes with my palm, I recognized my sweet heart, Shaket by her long “shelil” that adorned her lower back.

The Kerenite sun was setting but unlike its sibling- the Badme sun, I was sure the Kerenite sun would rise. Standing on the dirt that was turning to sludge from the water gushing from my “Jelabiya”, I stood motionless as if the little chillier than normal water has frozen me. But I was frozen for a different reason: the bad news that I was going to reveal to Shaket. I knew her heart will be broken, but I also knew that if I did not act now more hearts will be broken as I dithered vacillating between my two loves and I decided that today was the day I summoned the courage after I felt both invigorated and rejuvenated by my plunge. I made a habit of taking a plunge in the river whenever I am debating with myself, but this one was unique as it was to savor my last night and a sort of valediction to my hometown of Keren.

She was walking slowly, but confidently towards me, her frowning face reminded me about our first argument when I asked her to cut her “shelil” before we visited Asmara.

Succumbing to peer pressure I wanted her to act like an Asmarino temporarily, but she rebutted by tersely saying “shamiye, wo egliiye lefete shelilye y’abbe”. After exchanging pleasantries in Tigrinya, Tigrayit, Blen and Arabic. I grudgingly revealed that I was in love with someone else and profusely apologized for cheating on my true love. I told her that tonight will be my last in Keren before I commenced my odyssey to my true love. She was devastated, but managed to ask me if she knew my true love. I replied that she indeed knows her and one day she will fall in love with her too. I also coyly added that my true love is also the true love of her older brother, Tekie. I did not want to linger longer. And before she recovered from the twin bomb-shells, I picked up my belongings and walked away. She called my name with all its endearment versions, but I never looked back as if I was warned that I will turn into a pillar of salt if I did.

She run past me and blocked my way, sprawling her hands to stop me and coquettishly lifted her skirt to expose her gorgeous lower thigh, unflinching I made an L-Turn instead of the much easier U-Turn and proceeded. Back in the golden days of turns people made L-Turns to transcend an obstacle and made a U-Turn only when they were lost and discovered that they were heading the wrong direction, then they would narrate with excruciating detail about their “shukushuka” experience and the lessons they gleaned to use for their next expeditions.

Nowadays in our gratification seeking culture people make all kinds of turns for pleasure and blame the “abberabreni e’mo kQawem” crowd for their “shukushuka”. It will not surprise me if soon U-Turns become part of the Toronto Marathon. This was the night I made the long journey to Ghedli like many young sons and daughter of Eritrea, my first and true love.

During the long walk to prepare for the strenuous journey to endure the love of my true love, I remembered how in our first week of our romance, what looked like an army of crazy men chased us, Shaket run like a sprinter, I witnessed those long legs galloping and her “shelil” oscillating rhythmically from right to left as I puffed and huffed from behind. It was apparent that I would be caught by these crazy men and in a last ditch effort I called my dog, “Ambess”, who at the snap of fingers chased my chasers. When I looked back and heard the crazy men yelling “saahibey derrebbo neti kelbi” I knew that they were not from Keren, they were visitors who came for the “Mariam DeArtit mai Chelot and Akat”

Thanks to my dog, Keren was liberated from crazy men long time ago until it was occupied again by more crazy men and women in 1991. “Ambess” true to his Kerenite pedigree spoke several languages and if someone knocked on our door we knew from his barking if the visitor was an Asmarino, Kerenite or even “Torserawit.”

Since that shattering defeat in the forced Marathon of Keren I never took running even after science has proved that it is good for my health, but I unfailingly find that my huffing and puffing are only manifested when I run after my friends and loved ones, ascertaining that my heart is very healthy. But when running after my enemies I am unrelenting and unstoppable, sometimes this whirlwind speed works against me as I ran too fast and overtake my enemies and I get stubbed from the back. Because I dawdled behind Shaket, I developed a third measurement system.

While most people are crippled with the British or Metric systems, I have at my disposal the “shelil” system. When I am working around the house I think and measure in the “shelil” system. This system offers me precision as the exact length is indelibly seared into my memory as is everything about Keren. I also discovered that the time it took for the “shelil” to oscillate 10 times is exactly the number of minutes it takes me to finish one cigarette “bshahi akkafikha”.

Many people including close friends believe that I sketched the logo on the back of a napkin or on the back of my cigarette packaging, but the fact is I blew life into it on nine consecutive cups of black tea. Tee-totaling that I am, I meticulously arranged nine tea cups and drizzled steaming tea on each one of them, then I shouted the Tigirinya and Arabic logos into each one, finally I combined the contents of all the cups into a bigger container and stirred it for harmony. The beautiful tapestry of both languages staring back at you with none of them imposing or grubbing is the result of that unique creativity. This logo is deep and I envisioned it while taking a symbolic annual plunge into my outdoor swimming pool in memory of Keren, a city that gave my generation the love of Eritrea.

If you ever wondered why almost every article I write and almost every conversation I have veers to Keren, your riddle has been solved. Everything veers to Kerene. Even if I talk and write about keren it veers to Keren. That is the power of Keren, “a Midland” town that glues everything together. “Right” and “Left” can co-exist without killing each other is one of the messages, but there are other salient messages embedded.

About Semere Andom

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  • AMAN

    Due to its central location how about making KEREN the national city and
    seat of the Eritrean government whereas to elevate ASMARA into international
    Metropolitan city by the standard of major African cities.
    Seats of government should always be smaller towns or municipalities like in USA
    and Europe for better and efficient Administration and development.
    Forget Ethiopia……………..Ethiopian system is always at odds with true system of
    administration of a country. ( As so far has been where they pile up everything on
    one central city and cities grow only as a result of assigning them as administrative
    centers or seats) which restricts growth of other areas limits the center of functionality
    of them.

  • yean

    Definitely ,you are talking about your own imaginary Keren. River Shefshifit in Keren? never heard about it.
    All i know is there is a filthy dirty pool on your way to Juffa from Keren.
    typical PFDJ mentality, grooming on things does not exist,or does not took place at all.

  • Andom, you nicely roamed in and out through Keren and touched many nostalgic memories in search of expressions vivid enough when days and nights seem nearer than was expected long time ago.
    The memories you invoked in this mosaic town, keren, with its cultural values symbolising the co-existence of diversity of ethnicity in harmony paves hopes and good expectations for Eritrea’s future. Once a friend of mine commented how keren and its present Towserawit (according to their action) turned the people and them to be like “water and an oil” floating on top and never mixing themselves. A harsh reality which we daily observe in its worst manifest at present.
    As you brilliantly depicted, its sons carry weapons according to my information to protect the intoxicated learders who roam from bars to bars because they failed to trust their own security personnel. Thus, fathers and brothers act as security guarrantees for the drunkard leaders.
    Thank you Andom, you touched our nerves, maybe the time is so neaby that the “hingugu” or “nam-nam” will soon be uprooted and the spirit of keren will once again prevail. See you in Gahwet Ajak!!!

  • ALI-S

    As always, this was fun to read and loaded with emotion. You little valentine game your Love-Turn a very human face. Thank you

  • SM

    Promise that the old Keren will be back with old new spirit soon

  • dawit

    No R- Turn, No L-Turn and No U-Turn, ‘Nkid trai nkidmit’ misl Mariam Dearit’

  • dawit

    Speaking of Tembenait culture, Long time ago when I visited Keren I watched the city full of Torserawit carrying their guns walking in groups almost as many as the town native population. I run home before the Kerenite sunset disappear to beat the 6:00 pm curfew (Coprifoko). Last year when I visited it I saw ordinary Kerenites walking in town holding their guns on their shoulders. I loved it, incase the days of tor try to make another visit my beloved armed to defend itself, the trophy that every colonizers dreamt to have.. .

    • SM

      Anta rigum dawit…ghidef eba aitezaribenna
      I have to make an honest confession.
      My apology for my second guessing….you.
      I am feeling guilty as you made me to remember my late teenage and early adulthood life….
      Hope to see you at gira-fiori and Costina or Saris or Keren or Sheghe hotel soon….Oops at next Mariam Dearit Pilgrim……

      • dawit

        SM, for sure one of these days we will meet and drink the world class tea the famous ‘Shahi Keren’. In fact, God Willing I am planning to visit Eritrea with my family this Summer, . Speaking of hotels I liked Keren Red Sea Hotel and Senhit Hotel, both owned and operated by Diabled Veterans.

        • Semere Andom

          Hi dawit:
          “ane enkelay”, PFDJ willing I will be visiting my beloved Keren with my brats to enjoy a well-deserved vacation in my villa. I do not have to worry about electricity as my villa is equipped with solar panels. Also I will have enough time for my self as I do not have to attentively baby sit, my kids will be safe in the state of Eritrea that is free of pedophiles and organ traffickers. The gun carrying kerenites will ensure their safety. The 2% is worth it, for all these services, it is a steal. I will enjoy my Eritrea made gin in the profitable hotels, making sure I spread my spending in every disabled tegadali owned hotel.


          • dawit

            Waw !! Sem a villa in Keren, balaso in Addis! and a mansion in Amrica ! You must be filthy rich.I envy your lifestyle. What kind of job do you do Sem? Human trafficking or Organ trading? Are you in the wholesale or retail business to accumulate so much wealth in such short period of time?
            The last time I asked for Eritrean made gin, I was told that was a rare commodity these days in the country, because DIA drinks all of it. The Agelglot slaves built a pipe line connecting from the distillery to the presidential palace.. The only alcohol drink I could find in those ‘profitable hotels’ was ‘katicala’ smuggled from Ethiopia through Sudan…

          • SM

            Please be nice to Sem.Nita’rek ekko eyu zebil zelo..
            Hope three of us will meet at the Disabled Vets owned Hotels,for good and enjoy the unique and original Kerenite spicy Berad Shahi and Shehanful.

          • dawit

            I am sorry if my imitation of satire sounded mean towards SEM. Well imitation never beat the original. I was trying the art, by picking the words SEM used from his comment. Yes Eritrean War Disabled Fighters Association is one of the bright show case of PFDJ’s, turning those who sacrificed their youth for our independence into successful business men and women to be self-reliance to lead an independence life. Despite the many obstacles in the country PFDJ never forget those who paid the sacrifices to the nation. I like SEM also to see the positive side of PFDJ’s effort with its meager resources. Looking forward for three of us to enjoy the new Kerenite sunset with berad shahi and shehan ful!. .

  • Kokhob Selam

    …….የባሕር-ዳር ልጅ ነኝ ………….

    ሁሉም ያደገብትን ያሞግሳል :-
    የልጅነት ዘመ ኑን ርቆ ያስታውሳል :-
    ጋሸ ሳልህ እማ ከሁሉም ይልቃል :-
    “ከረን ከረን “ ብሎ ኣድናቆቱን ገልጧል ::

    እኔስ ከማን ኣንስና በለው በለኝ ጎበዙ :-
    የባሕር-ዳር ልጅ ነኝ የሓይቁ የውንዙ ::
    ሓይቅ ቢሉትስ!!! እንዲያውም ጣና :-
    ውንዝ ቢሉትስ !!!! ዓባይ ዘመናት የጸና ::

    ያቺ ቆንጆ ከተማ :-
    ኣየርዋ ሚ ስማማ ::
    በውነት የለም ወደር :-
    ሸጋዋ ባህርዳር::

    ትዝ ኣሉኝ ሲወያዩ:-
    ታች ላይ ሲተያዩ :-
    ድልድይ እና ዓባዩ :-
    ሲገናኙ ሲለያዩ ::

    ጀግናው ዓባይ ቆርጦ :-
    ከወገኑ ኣምልጦ :-
    ሌላን ሲያገልግል :
    ስናደድ ነበር – ስግል::
    ዛሬ ማ !!! ተነሳ ነቅቶ :-
    ………….ልያለማ ኣፍርቶ
    ናፈቀችኝ ዛሬ :-
    ኣለቀስኩ ኣምርሬ :-
    ያ ውዱ መንደሬ :-
    ፍጹም ኣያልቅ ፍቅሬ ::
    ያደጉባት መሬት :-
    ኣትረሳም በው ነት :-
    ያ የው ጣ ጥ ነት :-
    ኣይበግረው ድህነት ::
    ፍቅር ኣለ ቢሉ ህዝብና መሬቱ :
    ተጋበዝ ኣትርሳ ባህርዳርን ማየቱ:-

  • House of Stark

    Dear Semere A.

    very nice, for example.

    1) “The Kerenite sun was setting but unlike its sibling- the Badme sun, I was sure the Kerenite sun would rise”.

    2) ” back in the golden days of turns people made L-Turns to transcend an obstacle and made a U-Turn only when they were lost and discovered that they were heading the wrong direction.”

  • Sumaa

    Dear Semere, Nice read. It seems golden days of taking turns are back and once again it is time to make the choice between the L-Turn and the U-Turn. There is no Midland option.

  • Hameed

    ( “Right” and “Left” can co-exist without killing each other is one of the messages, but there are other salient messages embedded.) This is true, but Shabia worked hard to strip Keren and all Eritrea of their civilized culture, and install the Tembenait culture.