Tuesday(?), December 17th 2013 – ADDIS ABABA — It is night in Addis Ababa. I have NO idea what time it is, but I must logically assume we are moving toward sunrise on Tuesday. When I arrived here Monday, which I must assume was yesterday, I was coming to the end of a rather arduous journey with delights I embraced and frustrations I was happy to let go of and be open to what was next.
Last Saturday morning, I was due to leave from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport at 6 a.m. That meant that my daughter Eden and I needed to be at the airport by 4 a.m. for this international travel beginning with an Air Canada flight from Minneapolis to Toronto and from there directly to Addis Ababa. That is NOT what happened!! LOL
A snowstorm in Canada cancelled my flight, but neither my Ethiopian sister, Elsa, nor myself was notified of that change. I found out upon check-in that I would not be able to get out until 10:30 a.m. and that I was not on a confirmed list as being a passenger. This was a perfect time for my ongoing anxiety and paranoia to kick in as I had doubts about “being allowed” to leave the U.S./North America/Turtle Island. But I let the wave of negativity arise and fall and allowed myself to trust too many circumstances had brought me to this day NOT to keep moving forward. Telephone calls to both Air Canada and Ethiopian Airlines eventually got things moving again.
As some of you know already from Facebook, I had another crisis with my luggage as one bag was 20 pounds over limit. I put out call for someone to come take some of my things to eliminate the weight. My Lakota/Anishanaabe sister Juanita Espinosa came out and took some of the sacred objects I was carrying. I figured that my medicine bag would have to do for all of my personal ju-ju, but that my pipe and feather would be safer here, especially with Juanita. I also wanted to take copies of Guthema Roba’s book, Please Come Home, to deliver to his friends here in Addis. Those, too, I was very sorry to leave behind. Right now I don’t know how to contact Guthema’s friends to let them know what happened. They are expecting me AND their books.
By this time, I already felt like I was in a foreign country. You see for several months I have been rather disoriented. I often felt it was a day later or a day earlier than it actually was. It has been very challenging to stay on task, meet appointments, or keep from daydreaming. In fact, this journey is all about the dreaming process. I have often felt a vibration on the soles of my feet that seemed to be telling me that I was already on the Africa soil. I am now beginning to trust the disruptions and challenges because, when finally boarding the plane to Toronto, an African American brother started speaking to me in Amharic when he found out my destination. He referred to me as his “brother” and said “God bless you” in Amharic!
Eventually I was confirmed on the next flight to Addis Ababa. My original Ethiopian Airlines flight was scheduled to leave the same time I was to depart from the Twin Cities. That meant that I had to instead catch an evening flight to Paris that would arrive there in the afternoon.
I was to be greeted by an Ethiopian cousin named Gidaye, a very beautiful and kind-hearted woman of sharp intellect whom I had heard about from my first wife, Aster Hidaru. They grew up in the same house as children. Mama Waheeba, my mother-in-law was a real loving lifeline for Gidaye. I totally understand why Gidaye felt that way about Mama Waheeba. My connection to Waheeba is mother-to-son unshakable. I have a photo of my Mom and Mama standing shoulder to shoulder when Waheeba came to stay with my parents in Chicago. This photo is on my altar at home. I miss those two very much and they are both in my beating heart and with the rising and falling of my chest, breath by breath…sacred, healing, protective, guiding & reassuring. Love never dies.
Am I losing my place in the travel narrative? No. You must understand how Ancestor Energy is woven all through this. I say this and also realize that my understanding is an unfolding experience too…it’s about becoming, moving, evolving.
So let me get back to Gidaye in Paris! Paris!! Gidaye!! I deplane and go through customs. I need to pick up my two heavy bags because I couldn’t check them through, given the length of time between arriving in Paris and leaving Paris and needing to connect finally with Ethiopia Airlines when they were open for business again. There is some devil in these details, believe me!
People were very helpful at the airport. I never really had a language problem. All of the workers seem to know English and all of the signage included English. Although I have a multilingual vocabulary, English is the only language in which I have fluency. One of the airport staff when giving me assistance said all of a sudden, “You are a musician, correct? You are famous, no?” I said something to the effect, only to my Mother, family and friends back home. I wonder what famous musician I look like? Maurice White? At any rate, this felt like moment of welcome on the road that said, “Trust your journey. Your way is unfolding. We know you are here. We got this.”
When I left customs and got my bags, I proceeded to the airport lobby and a host of people waiting for arriving friends or relatives. In the middle of the crowd I spot this face that I recognize as Ethiopian and she seems to recognize me! It’s Gidaye and we embrace as long lost relations. We catch a metro to Paris, our chatter establishing things we have in common, points of interest about Paris, which she loves madly, and what we should do until I depart for Addis.
She takes me to Notre Dame Cathedral, which I recognize, but am surprised. It’s about half the size I thought it would be. The Seine River encircles this part of Paris. Not far are street venders selling art prints, postcards and books. We are hungry and settle in at a small, classic French bistro call “Le Petite Pont.” I have never had French food, not counting French fries. LOL! I order some sliced duck in some kind of sauce with herbed mashed potatoes. We also order white wine and wait for the others to join us.
This dinner near the Seine proved to be quite magical for me, largely from meeting a Ethiopian scholar and activist named Beseat Kiflé Sélassié. He has taught at the Sorbonne for many years and knew many African descent artist, activist, and political figures: James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Leopold Senghor…The names flew out of his mouth with the love and urgency of someone who needed to pass on our story, our history and I was thirsty.
We also connected as relatives. At times I find myself with my head upon his chest laughing. Sometimes he held my hand as he explained things to me. Other times I was asking him to stop so I could catch my breath or just take something in, trying to digest it all. This man had so much lived history that was directly connected to Pan Africanism, the Negritude Movement, Ancient African History & Philosophy, the Dogon, Cosmology…I don’t have the language for it all. I need more time to sit with him. If only I could return to Paris on my way back and sit with him again!
In terms of language, I found people were moving from English to French to Amharic. It all seemed so natural to me and I was so at home in this environment for some reason. The people and the place were all new to me. Guthema’s book title keeps resonating too, PLEASE COME HOME.
I was surprised that Kiflé did not know Taye Reta, an important Ethiopian mentor for me in the Twin Cities. They are both of the same generation and both expatriates living in the West. They could be brothers or cousins. I am not sure if it was because they looked alike or just had the same spiritual energy of generosity, historical and cultural wisdom. So much of my life has been about the experience of invisibility. Kiflé seemed to “see me” as Ato Taye sees me. I might see Ato Kiflé here in Addis as he may return for some of the holidays.
It’s still dark out and I don’t know what time it is… I feel very awake and I hear a rooster crowing across the way. It must be morning because now I hear the Muslim call to prayer maybe as Bilal did it centuries ago. I am starting feel “normal again” although a steam bath or a hot tub would really do the trick now for sure.
Next: Babalou Arrives in Addis