Wife-shopping on LinkedIn: The Habesha Version

One of my now contacts on LinkedIn viewed my LinkedIn profile daily for over a month, before he finally sent me a request to connect. LinkedIn, as dutiful as it is, kept sending me notification of the ‘stalker’ viewing my profile. Every day.

At first I was intrigued with his fondness to openly prowl my profile info but later it was a little disturbing. I didn’t understand what he expected me to accomplish within 24 hours that would be worth updating my LinkedIn profile.

Was he waiting for me to come of age? Will he offer me a full-ride scholarship? Am I one of the candidates for his wife-shopping spree? I highly doubt he was headhunting for a job position given the areas of his studies and mine, but even if he was considering me for a position, then he needs to find that thin line between stalking and headhunting for HR assignments.

I digress unnecessarily, my attention span is frivolous these days – a hallmark of a millennial, you might say– but I have a sobering news for my Habesha peeps. LinkedIn isn’t a dating site. Nor is it a hookup app.  It is a business and employment-oriented social networking service as its official and operational definition indicates.

Networking doesn’t mean dating.

Out of my 700 and some contacts on LinkedIn, only the Habesha men (most but not all) have admired my profile picture but not my professional bio. It is as if my accomplishments and professional goals mean nothing or are invisible to their eyes.

Seriously?

I don’t think it has yet downed on Habesha men that a woman can peruse a career and plan on excelling in her field.

Have you ever stalked a man’s profile before you sent him a request to connect followed by a sleazy ‘hey Konjo….’ after he accepted the request?  Then why on earth would you do that to a woman?

Once I received a strange message on LinkedIn that almost made me contact the geniuses behind the network service, I was going to politely ask for the T&C of the app and reread it in the presence of my lawyer. Was it a business and networking service for professionals or a dating app for high-achievers?

That ridiculous  message read as follows:

“Before we even exchange pleasantries, I want to know if you have a man or not.” OMG! I stared at the text for a full five minutes, willing my mind to change the contents of the message.  If I don’t have a man, will he then hire me? What would my job title be? I was asking myself questions.

  • Did I miss something?
  • Who the hell does he think he is?
  • Who does he think I am?
  • What made him think he is entitled to know what he is demanding to know?
  • Do I educate or ignore his ignorant soul in the dark?

Finally, I decided to log out of my LinkedIn account for a week or so in my futile attempt to unseen what I have seen.

Alas I have zero expectation that I am not even asking you to design or create apps like LinkedIn but to at least use properly what has already been created and functioning well. I am not asking too much, am I? Please don’t mistake my frustration for misandry.

Also, I don’t remember putting a tourist guide on my profile but somehow most Habesha men(whom I only know via LinkedIn) seem to think that I would just abandon everything to show them around town when they happen to be in the Big Apple on vacation or business trips.

‘Konjo, I am going to be in New York next week, we should meet….’ After receiving such and more ridiculous messages, I go back to my profile and make sure my bio doesn’t include a tour guide as one of my flourishing businesses or career path.

If our acquaintance has been established and limited on LinkedIn, why would I ever meet you unless you are hiring, recruiting or partnering with me for a business? If professionalism is what brought us together in the first place, let’s remain professional and stick to the decorum of professionalism.

This might come as a surprise for most of you but women, just like your beer buddies, are independent beings full of dreams, zeal for life and endeavoring to excel in their respective profession professionally. Contrary to what you and your buddies discuss in the locker rooms, not all of us are so engrossed with getting hitched and chasing the ring. Some of us are on a journey to find ourselves and define who we are with indigenous and original meanings, something that is not borrowed from your definition of us or mansplained by you.

And if we are accomplished, established and blessed, it has nothing to do with wanting to ensnare a good husband or to be a trophy wife. Our accomplishments are not the add-ons that come with the package to catch your eyes when you happen to be wife-shopping in the weird stores.  Our growth is the fruit of our struggles, persistent and perseverance in the fight for our emancipation and independence. Not everything we do is for or about you.

Dear Habesha men, the universe doesn’t revolve around you nor does our LinkedIn bios.

 

 

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Habesha Women and the Hookah Lounge

Let me vent.  I think I have earned it, if you calculate the time I spent trying to curb my frustration with my people and how they function in different settings in the American system. I am human and this is how far my thin-veiled patience can go. I think most of you must have known that I have travelled to D.C and Virginia a week ago. Again you know of my travel arrangements because of the voluntary broadcast of my whereabouts on my social media handles. If you haven’t seen or known about it, you have missed out a lot.  I mean I have advertised it enough as a millennial.

I wish I could take back my original take on the Habesha Community in the ‘DMV’ area. Nope. As I have said so many times, the only difference between the Habesha back home and the ones in the DMV area is that the Habesha in DMV area have electricity, running water and foreign neighbors (few of them); don’t get me started on the neighborhoods that are totally conquered by our people to the point where speaking in English is considered showing off.

My people are in desperate need of a shepherd like Moses who parts the sea of ignorance and ridiculousness and lead them to the land of enlightenment. It’s a blind leading the blind out there and they are blissful about the darkness that has engulfed them. But if their current status quo makes them happy, why should me or Moses try to play the role of an emancipator? Just saying.

So my people’s favorite spot is a hookah lounge . They have them in numbers under so many original names or full sentences as a name for a bar.  Hookah bar is like a special place where you clock in and out before and after work to sustain your identity as a Habesha and prevent your Habesha card from being revoked. I kid you not. I am not judging here and no pun intended at all.

I mean let them smoke or vaporize anything they want, but it gets me feverishly amused when this particular recreation becomes gender sensitive. Well, men can do it as they please but if a woman is smoking a hookah, she is well…. you know…. not a wife material.  So the Habesha men have this concept of marrying a home girl – who is innocent to the ways of clubbing, drinking and dating while at the same time they expect the girl they are dating to drink, smoke and frequent the clubs.  They want to hunt and soil a bird for fun only to marry a new dove to cage in a marriage. Talk about hypocrisy.

Habesha men are the epitome of paradox.  And I think its contagious, most of them are showing the same symptoms.

“It’s not our culture for a woman to smoke a hookah,” said a friend of mine who frequents a certain hookah bar when I asked him why he was looking with askance at a girl smoking hookah. I think it’s about time I see the tablets of commandments of our culture. I am hundred percent sure that our forefathers and founders of our so-called culture didn’t mention hookah or who should consume it and who should not.

I am not encouraging girls or boys for that matter to smoke hookah but at the same time I don’t want you to misquote our culture in however frame you want it to mean to fit your agenda. I swear, I will not be as tolerant next time and will call you out on my posts using your given name if you try to feed me such BS.

This same friend who frowned upon a woman smoking hookah is a person who insists to sleep with a girl on a third date. “This is America,” he kept saying to his date – who by the way was wearing her little sister’s skirt which she keeps pulling it down every now and then. I mean, ‘girl if you aren’t comfortable and if you are that self-conscious of your short skirt, then why wear it to a bar and to meet your confused date who is suffering from an identity crisis, who is spacing in and out of living as his given name Gebrekristos and his brand new American identity Chris. Why confuse the confused?

However, my question is in which part does the tablet of commandments quote intimacy before marriage? Is it even allowed in our culture? If you are going to stay traditionalist, then stay traditionalist the whole way. Don’t tell me that we are in America when you want and at the same time expect me to follow our culture when you want it to fit your little underdeveloped frame of mind.

Dude you are confused. And your lifestyle is a textbook case of contradiction.

And ladies please be yourselves and drop all the act, it is tiresome to just look at you making fool of yourselves. Don’t bend yourself to the whims of a man who dictates how you should be behaving and when.  Know your worth and place. You are not his freaking toy or a center piece at his mansion. Be true to yourselves and drop all the pretense.  If you are trying to trap a man into your web with a pretense, you should know that no relationship founded on a pretense stands the winds of time and reality.  Throwing my two cents in – I know you didn’t ask for them.

Let me conclude by dropping a paradox for you, never have a vacation exhaust me this much before. It was tiresome to watch and be at the center of the drama my people have going. And the Oscar for the Leading role in Paradox goes to that girl who was “working” from her laptop in the hookah bar buzzing with the loudest music and hookah smoke. I salute your display of commitment to your work and choice of place to do so.

I will keep venting until my annoyance ceases. So long ….. till the next post.

Why a refugee and an immigrant won’t sing Michael Bublé’s ‘Home’

Bethelhem T.

It was Sunday morning, but the NYC Subway was as busy and noisy as ever. I was rushing like the Flash to change trains when I missed my connecting train by a split of a second.  And then, I realized I wasn’t the Flash after all; but more like the Barry Allen before the lightning.

Then I heard this song:

“I gotta go home….

Let me go home.

It’ll all be all right

I’ll be home tonight

I’m coming back home…”

A guy with the bluest eyes ever and five o’clock shadow was singing his guts out at the train platform.  His blond man-bun was coiled with a red bandana. His hands were performing magic with the guitar he decorated in different stickers of Celtic crosses. His guitar case open on the floor with a sign that tell his story in a nutshell; that he is a struggling artist who is trying to make a living until he is discovered.

I see why he is a ‘struggling artist’. Because he is freaking insensitive.  He lacks a sixth sense and if he continues on this path he soon would be just a ‘struggling human being’. An art can’t exist without sensitivity.

Many commuters, mainly tourists, gathered around him taking pictures, Snap-Chatting and giving him money. I rolled my eyes in annoyance.

I mean who sings rendition of ‘Home’ by Michael Bublé on a Sunday morning?  That’s beyond rudeness. It’s insensitive.  I headed to the other end of the platform away from him, his voice and that terrible song.

There are so many things wrong with that song from a refugee’s and an immigrant’s point of view.  It’s utopic with streaks of hypocrisy. The lyrics don’t make any sense at all, especially for someone who was forced to immigrate and can’t go home even if he or she wishes, unlike the singer.

I don’t think any  refugee or immigrant would ever sing Michael Bublé’s song or even like it; (unless of course you don’t understand the lyrics and like to jam to its tunes) I don’t think the song was meant to include any member of this section of the community.  For me it just highlights the scope of the trial we face in life’s lot; between those who can relate to the song and those who can’t relate to it.

It reminds me of my grandmother’s famous saying, “Abo zelewos, n’abo zeyblu kebki ybeki.” Roughly translated as the one who has a father cries to make the fatherless cry even more. Listen, for the other half, it is between the rock and the hard place– we are sandwiched between two evils – we can’t go back ‘tonight’ as the singer points it out at the last part of his song.

Clearly the singer and those who can relate to his song don’t know what missing home means. It’s when a son can’t bury his father because home has turned into a death trap. It’s when you let go of a hand  for otherwise a chainsaw would have done that for you.  It’s when you cross the desert, ford the ocean and set off into the jungle to escape from home. It’s when a father is longing for his toddler’s voice and kiss but can’t hold his child because home has become a hell on earth. It is staring at the pictures of your beloved ones for hours as you say your prayers pleading with God to keep them safe and to reunite you once again, to sleep holding their picture only to wake up drenched in sweat because of a nightmare, a fiancé postponing yet his wedding day because he can’t go back home, a sister’s sorrow because she can’t attend her young brother’s wedding day for she knows going home isn’t really an option….

How could a person who isn’t chasing a dream but is chased by oppression, persecution, hunger, death and torture sing this song? In my unsolicited opinion, only a chaser can sing this song, not the chased.

I do burst into tears when I hear this song, not because I am moved but at the irony of the disparity of the reasons that drives us out from our home;  for the chaser and the chased. The overwhelming sense of hiraeth we are engulfed with but has no immediate remedy…..

I put on my earphones and turned the volume to the max, blocking the song and the world around me. Yes, I want to go home. Let me go home, not because I have had my run nor that I am done, but because the evil back home is done and the waves have subdued their rage. Let me go back home to talk about the hypocrisy I saw and heard at the NYC train station, to lampoon Michael Bublé and his green lyrics that needs to mature.

And one more thing if I may, we wouldn’t send the letters home not because they aren’t just enough as the song goes but because we really can’t. Home might not be in the same address we left it before; and our beloved ones might not be there at all to receive or read the letter. So do you see why we can’t sing along?

“And I know just why you could not come along with me, but this was not your dream,” continues the singer to my dismay.

In our case, dream has nothing to do with it. If only the world would know- you can’t possibly imagine or think why our loved ones can’t come along with us. If only you knew, it would have changed your life forever and your dead lyrics would spring to life.

The other half often has a misguided notion of refugees and immigrants that totally disregard the reason why we leave home in the first place…. We are being chased; we aren’t chasing anyone or anything in particular. We heard and obeyed the voice of survival that screamed ‘Run!’ ‘Escape!’ ‘Live!’

So we can’t go back home. At least, not tonight.

Habesha and the gas station epidemic.

Bethelhem T.

Fresh out of the boat, as a Habesha moving to another country, the Google and its various services mean nothing to you. For some reason you prefer to avoid the search engines and networking with others like the plague. You spot your kind and you stay glued to them for better or worse.

For a while, your map, guide, bank, insurance, 911, Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz and the Google will be none other than yours truly the Habeshas you first encounter in your new country. And if you win a favor in their eyes, they will give you the book that holds all the life hacks and tips they learned before you. But this is if you didn’t challenge them with difficult questions and didn’t associate with others who aren’t from us. If you venture out, they banish you from their community. Your banishment from the Habesha community could be a blessing in disguise for that book has led so many astray, its cons weighting more than its pros.

I admit that the gossip mill that is run by the wind of the Habeshas in diaspora is cutthroat and fiercely fast, so staying connected with them would get you news of so many unnecessary things in your inbox- fresh and fast. This is what happens when technology is misused and abused at the wrong hands of a community who consider gossip as the second ingredient in making coffee and drinking it.

But on the other hand, news of job openings, sales and clearances notifications, shortcut to destinations and transportation, and other knowhow are sorted and distributed by the Habeshas especially in the first week of your arrival or maybe longer if you are too little too slow like someone I know.

The 11th commandment of the Habesha society is: Thou shall not venture out and taste the waters by yourself. This has been incorporated into our belief system; so we stay caged even though the doors are open and the opportunities are vast.

Have you ever wondered why most Habeshas first start working at a gas station? I used to wonder if Habeshas receive their second visas at a gas station or if it was part of some secret honor code to uphold in our community in diaspora. In some areas, it seems it is mandatory or else your Habesha card will be revoked.

Last year, I saw a friend of mine working at a gas station during my visit to Washington D.C. He has two degrees one in Accounting and the other in Economics. He was one of the cool kids who two-timed women all the time but still was charming.

It’s all about the bills here,” he stops for a while and continues to say “I can’t afford to have a dream right now.” He smiles and I forget my next question. Damn! he still got it.

This is the only thing you can do here,” he said as he fumbled with his fingers. “Our degrees mean nothing here.”

Says who?

The Habesha community who have been here before us?

I don’t look down on jobs nor do I degrade any kind of work.  By all means do what you are doing wholeheartedly or halfheartedly- whichever keeps your heart at peace.  No ill feelings intended in writing this article but I seriously want to ask questions that have been bothering me ever since I saw my friend working at the gas station. Your opinions and experiences are welcomed here. What is the cause of this epidemic?

The person who first welcomes us to their homes influence our mentality towards our lives in diaspora; to conquer or to be conquered starts in the brain with the information we are fed by the people who we first meet and interact with. We internalize their experience and follow the paths they embarked. Uniformity is our hallmark, for heaven’s sake!

Lady Luck smiled down on me to have me surrounded with ambitious people and persons who love to challenge life and all its formulas. They reinforced in me what I have grew up hearing, ‘the sky is the limit……go and become.’  My degree didn’t seem to be a factor in determining what I wanted to do and be- I know this form of thinking is so unHabesha of me- but many of my peeps considered my application to an Ivy League school a suicide. A Mission Impossible. But those who were around me told me to go for it and I did.

Someone thought I was too naïve to want to pursue my masters in the same field of study as my B.A., he then offered his unsolicited advice to tone down my ambitions in life and perhaps change my career path to medicine or nursing since that is the most lucrative career here. Someone else offered to speak to his boss to hire me at a gas station and I was told to forget entertaining the idea of a job in my profession. But my favorite moment came when someone offered to show me how to log into a computer, and he also wild guessed that the one thing that must have impressed me most in U.S. is the opportunity to drink soda any time I want. Dude please!  I still thank God for the calmness that covered me that particular moment when all I wanted to do was turn green and go the Hulk on him, I wanted to tore him into pieces and glue him back with some common sense and humility. Somebody tell that boy I didn’t pop out of the cave as he did.

Just because my uncle came here with a ten-grade education level and couldn’t find any other job  but at a gas station doesn’t mean that I have to go through the same process. Although they have your interest at heart, the Habesha community don’t won’t you to venture out and explore. So we keep passing the torch of the gas station job and fear of challenging the status quo to the new-comers as we recite the eleventh commandment in our hearts; Thou shall not venture out and taste the waters by yourself.

Please protect yourself from this epidemic and venture out, that’s the antidote.

Please share your experience and ideas on this topic on the comment section. Thank you.

The day I birthed Anger

Bethelhem T.

I have met anger. On a cold February day, three years ago. It was the first day of the three-months’ military training I was conscripted to.

The announcement for my second-round military training carelessly spewed a semen of anger that soon gave a life to something inside me. And, on that cold day in February, it manifested itself. Anger fathered anger.

I have not yet forgotten how anger looks like. I don’t think I will ever forget; after all I have conceived and birthed it.

Realign!”

“Stay in line.”

“Left! Right! Left!

The sergeant was barking orders.

But I was in labor.

I tried to follow the orders but it seemed as if my ears were listening but somehow forgot to send the message to my mind. My whole body was engulfed with pain, emotional pain that was manifested in physical constrains – making me unable to follow orders. I know I am not supposed to cry, in a military rule, but tears rolled down my cheek as if racing to get to the finish line of the ground.

Upon reaching the age of eighteen, everyone in my country is conscripted to the army that entails a more-than-six-months military training in the military camps. The camps were harsh.  It was an experience that makes you contemplate death on a regular basis, with the same tone and indifference you would choose over a menu of dessert after lunch. Doing it once was a walk through hell. Going through it twice, it becomes personal.  Then, it’s the hell that walks through you. Burning you, reducing you into an ash.

I looked at the sky and pronounced God dead.

Surely if he is alive he won’t make me go through this. Twice. Especially when I have pleaded and prayed not to experience this hell again. My faith boat was violently rocked that day. I hated my creation and doubted the creator.

My limbs were hurting from all the jogging and trainings. My mind was blank. I was barely aware of the things happening around me. But I was consciously aware of one thing- the burning fire inside me.

I don’t recall how I changed into my clothes from the training pants. I don’t remember how I managed to walk the short distance from the training field to the highway. All I remember is flagging down a cab and carefully slipping my numbing body inside.

Lion Hotel.” I whispered my destination to the cabbie. I turned my face and welcomed the torrent of tears that have been barely held back.

This is what I don’t understand about that day, how I managed to change my clothes. How I was able to walk or flag a cab? To this day, I wrestle with myself in trying to figure out what has actually happened that day. Did I possibly use my anger as endorphin to numb my mind from remembering or staying conscious? Or was I too proud to break down in the face of strangers that I managed to stay composed? If my reason is the latter one, then I am a hypocrite and this narrative is biased.

The staircase to the hotel bar was another set of challenges to question my psychological stamina but I climbed it slowly and made it to the top.

There I saw my friends joking around each other, the way we always do.  As I approached their table, I saw the concern on their faces and some of them were able to crack some jokes as some commented on my looks- hitting me hard when I was already down.

Anger came to the earth unannounced and waited no longer for the midwives.

I opened my mouth to say something, anything…but I couldn’t utter a word. I opened my mouth but all that came out was incoherent sound. I tried again, again and again… but no word came out. And all I wanted to say was “I want to die.”

The shock that I might have lost my vocal abilities sent me straight to paralysis of fear and I collapsed.

Did I lose my voice forever? Am I going to be able to speak again?” were questions that raced in my mind. My faith was restored as quickly as it was discarded upon beholding the vast blue-sky right before I closed my eyes and pleaded mercy from the lord above.

The Mirror and I

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The mirror and I
Looking one another in the eye
Have been asking each other why,
We tear up and cry?
After we kissed our lover goodbye?

I ask the mirror why
Mirror answers back with another why

Why does his taste lingers in my mouth?
His scent fresh in my house?
My toothbrush isn’t cleansing enough
His stain stubborn and tough
Why doesn’t the shower rinse me of him?
I backspace but can never delete him?
Why is it mirror?
That he defies the rules of nature?
Mirror echoes back
Never to reply, but to ask
To pin me down with the same question
As if I don’t already have full plate of confusion

The Habesha Vampire 

  
He lost me

Before he even had me
He was standing in the dark corridor 

Strapped with doubt as an armor 

But the path that leads to my heart

Can only be journeyed with a blind trust

He wasn’t able to cross the threshold 

Like a vampire on hold,

When the doors weren’t even closed

He wished to be summoned,

Waiting for my invitation 

He was trapped in hesitation 

I couldn’t utter the magic word

Thus, I drew my sword

If he chose to stay on the hallway 

I must then keep him at bay

He lost me 
Just before he knew me
I can outline his shadow 

His silhouette visible on the window 

The blood rushing through my neckline 

Filled both of us with dangerous adrenaline 

When I’ve left the door ajar

He wanted invitation; proper and formal

Like a vampire on hold,

He couldn’t cross the threshold 

I paraded my soul for sell

Before reason woke me up of the spell

To a man who doesn’t know my worth

I was going to give my blood oath

But that fool lost me

Before he owned me 

As I gained back me,

I learned to close the door behind me