This is an open letter to my Grandfather, his name is Tadesse but we all called him Ababa, which is Amharic for grandpa. He passed away a week before Christmas, two years ago.He was my best friend and my favorite person in the world. I am returning to Ethiopia after thirteen years of being away, I have worked very hard to see my country again. This is a very special moment in my life, one that I feel is vital for me to complete my childhood and transition into a woman. When I think of Ethiopia my grandfather is the first one that comes to my mind, I loved him so much, so why not write a letter to him and share it with you all. From my heart to yours, I give you Dear, Ababa I’m Coming Home.
Please refer to the list of words I marked with * to see their English translation.
I’m coming home. Who knew i could speak to you again after you passed, I guess the tragedy of death is relative to those who believe life stops after it occurs. I miss you, did I mention that. I know you come and visit me in dreams and I appreciate it, my grandfather, the lion, the Ambessa*, the intellect, the only one who I believe always made sense in the family. And you still do, this is why I am writing you this letter Ababa*, I’m coming home and I want you to be the first to know how I feel, how nervous I am, I am coming home. I’m coming home? I’m coming home, I’m finally coming home to Ethiopia.
First, let me tell you I remember many things. From the last words our neighbor spoke to me, “make sure you eat a lot of sweet patotoes in Kenya” to the roses Emaye* watered in her garden. I remember the bridge in Gola Micheal* , the one that was always “under construction” and my sister and I always had to cross under it, skipping from rock to rock, to get to our school. I remember the Paste* with Shai* that Emaye used to give us, I remember Lemlem who took care of us, I even remember our beloved Eritrean neighbors who were forced out their homes but before, who I played endless hours of foot ball with. I remember the way our home looked, separated rooms with the mad bate* being the place to be since all of our food was prepared there. I remember eating exactly three times a day, being thankful for every bite I took, competing with everyone for gurshas* and then going to my bestfriends house to see if I can compete with her family too. I remember the crisp air of Addis Abeba, the merkato market place, how if I had 25 cents I could buy bananas and if I was really lucky, I had double the amount to buy one for Mimi by bestfriend. I especially remember Beta Christian, our church. I remember going every morning with an empty jug so I can bring you sebel, holy water, so your eye sight could be better. But even with an impaired vision, you always saw me as clear as the sun shine filled days in Addis. Ababa, don’t think I forgot the peanuts you used to bring me from your days out at the park, or the piggy back rides i used to give you, you thanked me so much I thought I was super girl, to this day you make me feel super.
Yes, I remember many things, small and big, I have pictures, films in my head of what I left behind, of what I have carried with me all of these years in America. But Ababa, I am nervous to return. I am so scared that I’ll be a stranger in my own home. I am nervous that the language and culture has evolved with out me and I am scared that I am going to judge the conditions that I was born in. You see, I am an American just as much as I am an Ethiopian now. I have went to school in America, befriended American people, live an American lifestyle and pledged to the American Flag. Can I be both? I feel like I am both. I am nervous but anxious to see how these two identities will affect my experience in my country.
Besides having adapted an additional nationality, I am also educated now, you would be so proud if you were alive. You always told mommy to do whatever she had to do to send us to school, and you should be proud of her, she did. She worked multiple jobs and raised us all by her self and took care of us, just as you took care of her, she is a woman version of you, I am so lucky to have her. I have three more semesters before I finish college, and every step of the way, I am thinking of you.
But how will my education-about the world- politics- government- society influence my views of my country? Will I understand what I see because I have read about it or will the intellectual material mean nothing when put into practice? Will I be upset at the things I did not know when I was younger? Will I express my emotions? Will I be allowed to?
Will one month be enough time for me to re-learn Ethiopia?
But I do know one thing for sure, I love my country. I have worked hard to keep every part of my Ethiopian culture a large part of who I am. I speak Amharic even when others laugh at my pronunciation and I wear Habesha kemis* every chance I get. So Ababa, if there is one thing i am not nervous about is me hating Ethiopia or my Ethiopian people. This I know and this I believe.
I promise to visit your burial site, I have missed you so much, you are the one man in this world that has given me the love and support that I take with me everyday. Mommy misses you too, please continue to be in our hearts, minds and spirit. Please be with me in my journey to Ethiopia Ababa, I will go home and wait for you to come with peanuts and ask for a piggy back ride. I will sleep in your room and ask as many questions as I can about the man you were, I hope to one day be half the human being you are. I will kiss Emaye for you and cherish your home that I grew up in. I love you more than life Ababa.
I’m coming home.
*Gola Michael- The neighborhood I grew up in Addis Abeba,Ethiopia.
*Paste-Fried dough served in Ethiopian Cafes
*Mad Bate- Kitchen
*Gursha- a tradition in which Ethiopian people feed each other during meals
*Habesha Kemis- Traditional Ethiopian dress
*Lula- my grandfathers nick name for me