Al-Nahda Reports From Eritrea: A Satire

My iPod is glued to my ears, my mind multi-tasking and gestating for block buster articles for the next season. I am running on my treadmill, training for my next Marathon , sipping my green tea and thumping through YG’s book titled: “Qualitative and Quantitative Dissection of the Ghedli Romantic Brain: Historical Grand Narrative and Parallels from Recent and ancient History.”

A friend calls me to remind me of the bet we had made circa 2008 about the number of cords on Wedi-Tukabo’s “krrar”. While we watched a concert I noticed that Wedi-Tukabo’s “krrar” had only three cords, the friend, a huge PFDJ supporter said there were five cords but the two were so thin and invisible to the visionless eyes of a member of the opposition. So we made a bet and one day we would settle the bet. The friend called to make me aware that president IA today woke up and announced that the name of our country has been tarnished and he is giving guarantees publicly that every Eritrean is welcome to visit Eritrea and witness for himself instead of depending on second hand foreign information. I rolled my eyes and then suddenly the thought that IA maybe reform able crossed my mind, maybe I am witnessing the jelling of PFDJ2.0. I hesitated for about maybe for 30 seconds. I rolled my eyes again at my friend’s excitement, as if I did not tell him that IA relishes unpredictability.

I hopped on to the next flight and I found myself in my home town. After a few hours rest, I attended a concert that hosted Wedi-Tukabo. He was singing one of my favorites, “ab mntaiyu ‘yu Hailu” I have memorized the lyrics of this classic to the point that I use it instead of prayers sometimes during traditional coffee ceremonies and when no elders are around to break the bread. The new generation do not know any better and they chew on the bread blessed by this classic. So I sang along and danced on the stage to have a closer peek to his “krrar”. In deeded, I won the bet, but it felt that my dreams of inviting Wedi-Tukbo as a first guest in my radio show called the Talent Discovery has been dashed. So with mixed feeling of disappointment and triumph. I descended the stage. I stopped an older woman who was trying to make her way to the stage and asked her if she knew why Wedi- Tukabo’s “krrar” has only three cords instead of five. She looked at me and said, “semay zhagerkas”, have you ever seen an Eritrean “krrar” with five cords and before I had a chance shoot back, “mama, Eritrea zhagerka eba bela”, she has already disappeared in to the dancing crowd. Here comments unsettled me and I decided to research further.

I learned how to play the “Krrar” with five cords and every “Kirar” had five cords during my time, so I wanted to find out why everyone I asked is telling me that there is no “kriar” with five cords. At a recommendation of a tegadalai friend I interviewed a centennial man, who is known for his sharp memory, a respected oral historian and an avid “krrar” player during his youth. When I posed the question to him, he firmly told me that that he played “kirar” every “tiri ebdi” in weddings and he cannot remember a “krrar” with five cords, it always had three cord son, he told me.

I was embarrassed as it seemed it was only me who has seen and touched a “kirar” with five cords, but undaunted I decided to interview a renowned “macro-anthropologist” in the office of the president. He introduced himself as “wedi merie” as if everyone else is “wedi semai”. His shirt tightly tucked and his stomach protruding. His breast pockets bulging. A cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. He shook my hand and said “entay khigizeka?”

“Hagez ayedliyenin eyu, gin klte hitotat alwewani.”
“Klte hito do? Hito eko ayqtserrn eyu”
As I reeled from the confusion, he interrupted and said, “Kabey metsi’ka?”
“Kab gezai”, I mentioned my neighborhood.
He repeated, “kabey dea metsie’ka?”
“Ahha, kab America”, I mentioned my project
“Ane Wedi Meriet do.”

Then it hit me that we were speaking two different languages, which only sound the same.

After I reluctantly switched to his language, which I am fluent in by the way, I posed the question to him and he looked at me as if I came from a different planet and said, “kab Eritrea ente tmetsie nierka”, you would never ask me this question. He lectured me that he is an authority in the “macro-cultural anthropology” and there never existed a “krrar” with five cords in the history if Eritrea. Even the three cord “krrar” that is prevalent today is too pluralistic for our people, it has been introduced after the successive colonizers who corrupted our culture and there are plans underway to reverse this and make the “krrar” as one cord based instrument, reflecting the unity and oneness of the hearts our people. The “wata”, he said is an authentic Eritrean musical instrument that depicts our unity and Oneness.

“B’Hade, n’Hade nwaTi, ways, hade beb-hade kwaTiyena”, I murmured inaudibly.

Then, while scribbling for me the name of the book, a primer on the “kirar” written by him, he dropped his pen and when he bent to pick it up, a condom dropped from his breast pocket. He sheepishly picked it up and he said, “ezi ‘wn meqalesina ‘eyu”

I asked him what he meant, to which he replied, “ab mengo mesmer anbib nebsi”

Before I decided how to reply to this comment, “wedi meriet”, started singing his own version of My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean:

My villa comes from the dwellers of Sawa
My salary comes from Wedi Afom tsaeda
My alcohol comes from home grown Dagusha
My safety comes from Abu Salama
Abu Salama, remeze Salama
Give me my Abu Salama
Give me, Give me, Give me

I decided that this is a waste of time, instead I wanted to go pay homage to “To Asmara”, a symbol that gave me so much happiness as a kid. But this trip also jogged my memory of an incident that actually made me adore both directions of my trip. I remember my watery eyes on the first sight of that sign “To Asmara”. Before this incident in the crowded and smoldering hot bus the sign was a harbinger of getting farther away from the hell-hole that was called Keren to be embraced by the loving bosom of my beloved home town of Asmara.

I always thought I was an Asmarino born with a Kerenite accent. I was never born with the Kerenite accent, it turns out that I acquired it in my early teens during one of my trips to Keren. I was with my friends one fine day shooting the breeze, when a young beautiful girl joined us and she extended her hand to shake mine, I offered my left hand. When I witnessed her unspoken shock to my audacity. I quipped because my left hand is closer to my heart. She flashed a smile at me. My Kerenite friends were tripping all over themselves for that “deadly” smile, you can call it the triumph of the most romantic. When dusk fell she asked me to escort her to the “dukkan” and in the way I lost my kissing virginity and ever since then I acquired the Kerenite accent through that passionate Kerenite kiss. A good friend once told me that you belong to where you lost your kissing virginity. When I got back to Asmara my family thought I was making fun of my cousins back in Keren when I spoke with a distinct Keren accent, but that accent never left me and I practiced and nurtured it. I vividly remember that passionate kiss from Afiet and to this day when I taste something so delicious I describe it as the nectar from the lips of Afiet. If you meet a former Comboni student, even those who came years after me use this line of mine as a figure of speech, but they never credit me.

Some people have just discovered the follies or delights of U-turns, but I have seen both the anguish and the joy of U-turns. In the beginning every U-turn terrified me as in one of my trips from Keren to Asmara the driver of the bus remembered that he has forgotten something and made a U-turn towards Keren, just as we approached my favorite sign, “To Asmara” and since then every U-turn terrified me, until I imbibed the nectar. After that experience U-turns delighted me and I always take my sweet time when or before doing U-turns, lingering in as long as I can.

Keren has changed a lot. The streets where kids my generation played soccer barefoot by biting their jelabiyas are now littered with rusty nails (msmar), an indication that the natives, the “msmar midrs” have been uprooted. The nails that anchored them to the ground have rusted from disuse and the government concerned about the safety of the tires of their land cruisers has enacted a campaign called “lomi wn kem tmali antsar wushtawi bddhon shir’Hn nteateq”. Every morning all residents are required collect one “zenbile” of the protruding rusted nails in their “zona” before they can start their daily routines. But nails keep protruding stubbornly.

I am sure my friends and adoring fans are wondering if this trip has de-aromatized me. But I think this is the wrong question because to begin with I am a benign romantic and I score very low in the YG scale. In his book the high priest of de-romantic and Andinet incarnate stipulates that scores below 5yg are borderline but, he warns scores higher than this threshold may indicate sever form of Ghedli Romanticizing. The best question to ask is: if during this trip I will lose my other virginity: my voting virginity that is. On my way back to Asmara after paying homage to the Asmara Keren road there were sub-zonal election going on and it was so tempting and I almost wanted to cast my vote,  finally giving my voting virginity to my country of origin after denying it to my adapted country, but then I remembered that the voting virginity cannot be restored and I summoned the will power to and kept it.

The economy in Eritrea is in tatters, if you are company looking for a talent you cannot find any. If you are a talent looking for an opportunity, you cannot find one. It is typical “haz-22”. But there is one profession that does not require any education and is booming. It is called “achiwanet”. It pays well and the only skill required is to be decadent. You just port everything you hear, you see including your gut feeling meticulously. If you do not hear or see anything suspicious, think about what people around you may be thinking. Make educated guess and report what you think they are thinking. But before you moonlight to make easy money, it is becoming dangerous profession due to the advent of the electric “megogo” in the cities and wide spread of the lack of grains to make “injera.” Eritreans are throwing stones at the “anchiwa.” as the “megogo” is becoming obsolete, making this booming profession treacherous.

My treadmill slowed down suddenly as I successfully completed the Marathon prep training and I woke up from my reverie.

When I woke up from this slumber which I always take every afternoon to boost my immune system against flattery and moral hectoring, the first thing I checked was if my tongue is still attached to my body. It was. Then the reality of my life as a leading opposition member set in. Although I am at the pinnacle of that elusive corporate America, by easily climbing atop that greasy pole, but when with the corner of my eye I glanced at a long to do list on my iPad, the top of the list included the following:

1. To unleash the stubborn talent that lurks in my man Nitricc, this will be the foundation of an Eritreans future right wing talent discovery think-tank.

2. Moderate Semere Tesfay and Ali Salim.

3. Develop introductory lessons on humor and constitutional amendments for “arketey” Emma.

4. Convert the last standing de-romantics, Semere, Serray and Hayat as no Eritrean should be left behind to languish as a de-romantic. Can you see parallels between PFDJ and the de-romantics? Everyone is jumbling ship. There is no future.

This is a trance with my eyes wide open and my body fully in exercise mode, but what did Lawrence of Arabia say?, “those who dream in their sleep, in the deepest recess of their mind, will wake up and find that it was all vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men who can change the world as they may act on their dreams with their eyes open. So my dream, yes this dream is much closer to the truth and reality and more prophetic than the “Hlmi derho” that my friends “iSemere Andom”, “iSirray” and” iHayat” press at every opportunity. And to my compatriots, you know who you are: like your truly, although you are in your late forties you have kept your voting virginity. You have withered Clinton’s charm and Obamas oratory and stayed home during elections. You believe a citizen’s voting chastity must be given to the country of origin. Nothing to worry about even if our struggle takes long and you advance to old age still virgin. Snappiness and peppiness are not requirements for voting, and besides you will make up your lack of these attributes in wisdom.

Disclaimer: On June 03, 2009, brother Ahmed Raja wrote a satire that “Swedish Journalists have sought for asylum in Eritrea”. Some people actually thought that it was true!

So. No, our brother, friend and host Saleh Younis did not go to Eritrea. No, he did not and will a make a U-turn, this is a work fiction to make fun of him, pay tribute to him and make him salivate to write his own fiction.

When I was very young and when I learned that fiction is a lie, I asked why we should read a lie and a loved one quoted someone and told me that fiction is a lie by which we tell truth. So all the fiction (lies) here are mine and all the truth (facts) are Sal’s.


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