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.


11 thoughts on “Habesha and the gas station epidemic.”

  1. Very narrative Betty. I escaped from this hallmark after tough and challenging passthrough. I came with the aim of doing my MSc and open as usual my IT Consultant Company. I am very optimistic about my future, Never disconnected from my dream. It requires toughness and flexibility. As you well emphasized I was into the hands of trappers with out my will. They try to drag me down but I was looking forward with better Vision. They show me their crappy behavior I fought to maintain my dreams… Finally I win. If any one believe in his/her talent, edifying and open opportunities the future is his/her. So much more… Many I know still sunk in permuda of Gas station and in the circle of crappies. I called these Veteran Eritrean diaspora are smaglers and huskers. But we have all better future.

    Thanks Bety well emphasized.

    1. Dear Ghebre,
      I am glad that you have escaped from the clutches of uniformity, it has paralyzed our community’s potential. And as you mentioned it, it is not a walk in the park to have to challenge the eleventh commandment, so I applaud you for doing so and coming out a winner. All the best in you future endeavors. Thank you.

      1. Thank you Betty. Wishing all the best to your endeavor too. And wishing to all our people to gain a lesson from such an awesome article you wrote and take steps for growth together and change.

  2. #respek 👌👌…..worrying fact though is that many habesha still think that America is the land of oppurtiunities and I think people are brainwashed by the motto. Don’t get me wrong I still wanna go to the United states ….but no to wash dishes and wait tables at KFC. It can be hard to learn and earn at the same time but the end results can get you the true happiness. Once again kudos betty and #makehabesha great again

    1. Thank you ‘jimieyob’, many people think just getting to the U.S. is a panacea to every problem they have- which is misguided to say the least. Thanks to Hollywood, many people only know the glamorous life of the U.S. and the darker side is neglected. But how do we overcome the other side is a million dollar question.
      Thanks for the kind words.

  3. I liked your article so much. Because, this article is a crank that may impose to listen to ones internal driving forces rather than the dragging forces that you named it the 11th commandment. Then, with that impetus to confront to the new realm even though, one knows little till he/she learnt with the transient flows. Anyway, I believe brainstorming on changing the linear thinking fashion and life style of Habesha by entertaining the best bending momenta that fires a new energy to the new generation ahead instead of the crippling types what if scenarios rampantly invaded through the 11th our. Thank you Betie. Cheers!

  4. Robel Afewerki

    I read your article ” Habesha epidemic” , it is fascinating as well as enlightening experience. The rational behind the adamant mentality is fear of new things and unwillingness to embrace change, which stems mainly from confusion of mind set in between survival mode and progression mode. Naturally, we all experience cultural shock and overwhelming sensory overload as we encounter new environment. Taking into account, our brain evolves steadily most people resists the transformation due to profound of fear failure and uncertainties. In the elite level to alleviate the existing problem, we need to revitalize our way of thinking , the first thing to do is to trap in cage the monkey chatter at the back which magnifies our flow and the second step will be to emancipate oneself from social hypocrisy. Isn’t that said, knowing others is wisdom , knowing yourself is enlightenment.. But in reality most people are good enough to know about other people but short sighted to know themselves. Anyways, thank you for sharing us your insight.

  5. I’ve just stumbled upon your blog here, and frankly you do hit the target several times in your narratives. I am one of the older generation, say baby boomer, and when I first got to the “DMV” area in 1980, there weren’t that many Habesha’s there. Instead of gas stations it was parking lots at that time. I too fell into that trap but had to so that I could survive and feed myself. The more adventurous of us got cab licenses and drove cabs. I stuck to my parking lot job for 2 years until I saved enough money to go to the University of the District of Columbia which is a state school and the only university most of us could afford at that time. When I started college, studying IT (while all the other Habesha’s were studying Electronics or Electrical Engineering) I too decided to get a cab license as it afforded me the flexibility of working around my classes. I worked and studied for the next 5 years until I graduated. After graduation it took me almost a year to find a job in my field. Once I got hired, the 1st thing I did was to take my cab license and cut it up into many tiny pieces and threw the pieces into the garbage because I was done with it as it had achieved its goals. My Habesha friends on the other hand thought I was crazy as they were making tons of money driving cabs although they had all graduated with various degrees. Believe me, to this day, almost 30 years later, my old buddies are still driving cabs in DC. I’ve reached the pinnacle of my profession and traveled the world because i refused to drive a cab anymore.

    I see our people have moved on and are now stuck in gas stations doing the same thing while smoking sheesha (hookah as you call it) every night. Some things never change.

    Keep writing your blog, I certainly enjoy reading it……

    1. Thank you Joe for sharing your experience with us. I know sharing such experiences will teaches us life lessons. I’m happy that you have challenged the odds and reached as far as you can. I wish you all the best throughout your future endeavors too.

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