June 01, 2005

June 1

"Leqebari arudat" - I think the meaning has finally become clear to me. This phrase, which I lifted from a newspaper article about a week ago because I found the translation so amusing, is in fact a complex, culturally specific statement. Ethiopian readers, please forgive my ignorance if I still haven't grasped the concept after numerous consultations with my wife, close friends, and the comment posted by "Selam" to help us all understand. Here it is.

"Leqebari arudat" means "someone tells you about a funeral ceremony even though you were at the funeral." Oh heck, I still don't get it. I'd say I understand about 75% of it, and I'm going to have to leave it at that. Mysteries like this have plagued me for years, but those have finally been resolved by some melting processes in my brain. (My classic example is understanding score-keeping in bowling - took me a good 10 years to fully comprehend adding points from a previous frame). Anyway, let "leqebari arudat" lie is what I always say. Thanks to the author of the article for giving us such a good fodder.

In election news, I can’t say much is happening, at least that I know about. I can confirm that there have been all sorts of announcements of provisional results. The National Electoral Board has also made official announcements about the results in a few districts. I think, though, for the most part, everyone is just in a holding pattern. At this point, other than the concern the election has caused some of my friends and associates, it has had very little impact on me. That’s not the impression you get from people on the street or “buzz in the air” – I think for Ethiopians, this election has created huge changes, but as an outside election unobserver, not much has happened.

Given things being the way they are, and so on and so forth, I will now turn to a different topic. This is a new topic for me, but one that must be thoroughly vetted. It passes all the smell tests of being inoffensive, anal-retentive/compulsive, and not likely to generate threat to my person. I have an Indian neighbor across the street who, for all intents and purposes, seems to be a very respectable, successful businessman. We exchange pleasantries in the street in front of our houses whenever we cross paths. When he first arrived, I even introduced myself and we had a fifteen minute conversation where I told him I’d taken seven months of Hindi classes and then proceeded to ask him how to say formal “you” in Hindi (I had a brain block, but I’m sure that didn’t help his appreciation for the American university system).

This background is to give the idea that we are on pleasant, if not very intimate terms which brings me to my problem. As I said, he’s a successful businessman. His house is the center of a lot of activity, with people and cars coming and going throughout the day. And therein lies the problem – the cars parked outside his house. My wife and I live in a nice apartment, in a series of connected houses (all the houses in the neighborhood are exactly the same as ours, including our subject’s, so I’m well aware that there is no possibility of parking more than one car within the driveway. What’s more, I’ve peaked through the gate when the door was open and it looks like the driveway is being used to store machinery and other stuff. It would seem he has no room for parking, which means that all the cars line-up outside his apartment.

The roads in our neighborhood aren’t what you’d consider wide. Even then, with nothing blocking them, entering and leaving the driveway is fairly easy. But as soon as you add a parked car to the mix, coming and going becomes a torturous affair. It is doubly so because our driveway, having been constructed in part by my handiwork (a collection of large rocks dug into the ground and holding back dirt and construction debris), doesn’t make for a smooth exit. Rather, it’s jerky and I’m always afraid the moment I back over the rock-edge the car will jump backwards in hit one of my neighbor’s cars.

My brother-in-law recommends remaining silent on the whole issue while I’m pretty sure my wife wants me to explain my position, and if I’m unwilling to explain, she’ll consider taking up the cause herself. I’m a bit torn. I can appreciate both arguments. My brother-in-law asks why I should make a big deal out of it and become an obnoxious, complaining neighbor. My wife thinks that it’s ridiculous that every time we want to leave the house we have to psyche ourselves up like we are walking a high-wire.

Some of the drivers are very supportive and move their cars the moment they see our door open. Those are generally the seasoned drivers who’ve been through a few rounds with us. But the new, hotshot young guys, with their fur covered dashboards and stuffed dice dangling from their rearview mirrors have no sense of respect or honor. They calmly sit, pretending to be asleep, all the while eyeing me out of the corners of their eyes, just waiting to see if this will be the time that I come off the edge a little too aggressively and pop one of their cars.

This case has not been resolved, so we’ll have to wait and see what Ken does (or gets done in his place). If you think Ken talks to his neighbor, turn to page 56. If you think Ken remains silent and defiant, turn to page 140.


Blogger baseless said...

Hhahah the good ol' neighbourly issues... here's what _could_ work. Talk to the neighbor, and tell him that you wish to place big rocks in the area where others are parking and blocking your access [you could also do it without telling him i guess, since it is city property]. The main thing is approach it lightly, you do not want to be the guy known in the neighborhood as the "irate ferenj".

12:13 PM  
Blogger Yeluno Luno said...

In the scheme of things this is not that important as the country is in a spasm of political uncertainty these days, but just to 'enlighten' you on the true meaning of "Leqebari Aredut'...

Any way, as you may already know, the 'art' of breaking the news of the loss of a loved one is done only by the 'experts' in Ethiopia, and it is done with carefull planning, not just blurted out by anybody that is not close to you.

Ethiopians reserve the timing of the announcement of the loss of one's loved one to the earliest hours of the day. Trusted elders arrive at your house early in the morning to 'Mardat', or break the news to you of the loss of your loved ones.
That is where the delicious expression of 'Leqebari Aredut' comes in. It is the equivalent of the juvenile 'duh' in America. You are breaking the news of a loved one, with all the carefull planning that entails, to a person that has already attended the graveyard services of his loved one.

Hope that helps...

4:04 PM  
Blogger Couch Potato said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

6:00 PM  

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