July 12, 2011
The beauty of friendship
Gebremedhin met me at the bus station this morning. He looked very tired. I made him a biscuit with cheese because I wanted to make sure he had food. He often goes without it. I asked him how he was. He said he traveled all night to get back to Adigrat. He said the rains also came in Saessie and the river was too high for him to cross. He had to sleep in a cave and wait for the river to come down before he could cross it. By 1am the river was able to cross and he did. He traveled by foot to get to me on time in the morning to help me. What a friend!!! I hugged him hard as he told me this. I couldn’t believe the loyalty he gave me. I was deeply affected by his devotion to help me and his kind friendship. I shared how sorry I was to hear about his cousin and why didn’t he stay with his family. He told me that he wanted to help me. He knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to Mekelle alone.
I was supposed to meet Seyoum in Mekelle but he was busy in an interview and he couldn’t meet me. Gebremedhin stayed with me until Seyoum could come. By this time it was night. I asked Gebremedhin to let me get him a hotel room so he could sleep, take a shower, and let me buy him dinner. That was the least I could do for this sweet man. He agreed to stay and He, Seyoum, and I enjoyed an evening of walking around Mekelle, we ate a delicious dinner, and drank St. George beer until we were stuffed. It was a nice ending to his day. I was really happy to do something nice with him and for him.
July 13, 2011
The next morning Seyoum and I helped Gebremedhin get on his bus to Adigrat. He was called by the University of Tenben to attend his summer classes. I was sad to hear this because there goes another friend. I called him to make sure he made it to Tenben. He had. He took a bus from Adigrat to Tenben and it was an 8 hour ride. He was exhausted and hungry. I asked if I could come to visit and he said, “don’t come to Tenben Celine, it’s full of mosquitoes, malaria, and other diseases. It is a small village and it will not be a good idea for you to come here.” I became disgusted that he was made to go there. I was hoping he could go to Axum or Adwa, where it’s only a 3 hour ride so I could see my good friend and they are safe villages to visit.
Later that morning I went to meet with the Dean. I decided out of respect that I would get dressed up in the traditional Ethiopian clothing. I put on my make-up and Ethiopian closes, earings, and shoes. Seyoum and I headed to the university together. The walk to the bus station was hot. I began to sweat. Damnit I said to myself. If I start sweating then I will sweat for the Dean. We got to the university and I was still sweating. Of course wanting this to stop only made it worse. Now my dress was pitted out and the back of my head was wet. I was annoyed with myself. This is one of those things I do when I get a little nervous and I was a little nervous. Seyoum and I first met with Gizachew and he handed me some curriculum to help him with and a book on black music history that he wanted me to read. I gladly accepted the work and we all headed up the stairs to the Dean’s office.
I sat alone with the Dean and my head dripping with sweat. As I spoke with him about the department and my part in it, my hair dripped with the sweat. I kept answering his questions and wiping the sides of my face. I was so embarrassed about this. I finally apologized because I was so embarrassed but he could have cared less. He was more interested in talking with me than me sweating. I knew this visit was to discuss my salary. The dean was very enthusiastic with my resume and experience but he was also concerned he couldn’t give me enough salary. We talked a while longer. It ended up the salary he offered me was about the same as what I make in the USA now. I told him this was just fine. I then performed for him and he also became impressed with me. He asked if I would consider being the head teacher of the music department. He and Gizachew who was also in the office by this time asked me to go to Yared School of Music at Addis Ababa University and meet with them. They want me to give concerts and lectures at this school too. I was so happy to hear all of this. This is my dream I thought. I’m going to teach music, perform music, and give lectures. As well, from this meeting I learned the curriculum I’m helping with is also going to be used in Nairobi, Kenya, Sudan, and other African countries. They asked if I would be willing to go there and give concerts and lectures as well. I responded with an extremely enthusiastic and happy “Yes, of course I will!!!” Then they told me I need to return home early so I can get my things in order and get back to Ethiopia by mid September at the latest. They will help me with the financials of taking care of my work visa and my travel expenses. As well, they will give me a house to stay in until I can get one of my own.
I returned back from this visit so excited. I accepted the job and now I’m very happy to be here next year. I will do this contract for 2 years. I can’t believe how lucky I am. I need to share all of this with my children. Now I have to see my kids for a short time and then say good-bye. My children are grown but I know this will be very difficult for me to do.
Seyoum and I met up with Soloman Twabe. He was a teacher for St. Lucy School when I first went to the school to teach the flute. He also was one of my flute students and later joined in my solfeggio class I taught too. A very talented young man and it was so nice to see him. We met for coffee and enjoyed visiting for quite some time. I told him I was coming to Mekelle for the next year. He was so happy to hear this. He shared with me that he teaches music at a private school in Mekelle and sings, plays Krar, piano, and bass guitar at a local night club in town. “Oh, how I wish I could stay for the weekend to come and listen to you.” “Celine, our band plays nightly at this club, come tonight at 9pm and see us.” “Okay, I will come.” I said.
Afterwards Seyoum got a call from one of his friends that graduated with him in flute at the Tigray Arts College. He told him I was in town. His friend said I want to meet her. So we met at a café. His name is Mebratu. He is a middle age man with a 12 year-old son, whom it was obvious, he loves very much. He and Seyoum were best friends while they attended the college. He also is a music teacher at a school in Mekelle. When he heard that I was coming to teach at Mekelle University, he asked if he could sign up for flute lessons and I agreed I would love to teach him.
The three of us visited for the remainder of the afternoon. We went to dinner and afterwards headed to the night club where Soloman’s band played. The night club was fantastic. It was in a very traditional style. There were several men that attended the club that were from Southern Ethiopia. They were dressed in their traditional clothing. The clothing was a skirt that was held up by a wide belt. The skirt was white with bright colors embroidered in a trim around the bottom of it. They wore a regular shirt and had a thick white swag also lined in this bright embroidered trim that wrapped from behind the neck to then over the shoulders. It was so cool to look at. They walked with walking sticks. When they danced it was fabulous to watch them. Their movements were amazing to look at. They used their sticks as a form of appreciation of the music. They would sway the stick back and forth over the singer or other person they wanted to show appreciation with. When I got up to dance two of these Ethiopians came to me to dance with me and they swayed their sticks over me. It was so much fun.
Soloman’s band’s name is Katim. This means ring. I’m not sure why they named their band that but whatever they played so well. It was so much fun to hear the traditional Tigray rhythms and dance the Tigray dancing. I just love it. Engaging in their culture makes these trips so fantastic. Seyoum, Mebratu, and I danced all night long. I danced so hard that I was exhausted and hot. We left the night club happy. Walking together arms wrapped into each other and walked the night streets to the hotel.