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|A Day In Getting to Know Akberet Araya|
|Written by Awet Gebregziabher|
A humming sound. So frightening. It was just the kind of sound you often hear in horror movies, I thought. Surely, it was coming from the huge mountain I was about to climb up. But what could it be? I looked up at the mountain, it stared back at me. My heart started pounding in my chest that I almost tasted blood in my mouth.
RIGHT BEFORE THAT
Presumably, many of you have heard about the old historical town Adwa. I love Adwa. Not just for its historical attachment it has to Ethiopians, but simply because Adwa is my home town. But I wasn’t there to visit old folks nor did I have the time to refresh my childhood memories. I went to Adwa only for one reason: to meet Me’emuney’s upcoming diarist, Akberet Araya.
When I first met her, I instantly liked her. We were sitting at a small coffee house. She had tea; I enjoyed both the black coffee and her conversation with me. Akberet is a slender young woman, 28, and very down-to-earth. She has a smiley and comforting face. Together with her kind personality one would assume that Akberet had an easy life. But a closer look would tell you otherwise. She had suffered from all the ups and downs in her life. I was, later, to understand that this was what made her the way she is now; positive, frank, and always trying to make people happy.
Our conversation on the first day was very brief but enjoyable. I listened to her while she briefly outlined her story.
Her parents, are they still alive? I started firing my questions.
Her mother is, but she didn’t know what exactly happened to her father. The last time she saw him, she met him as a prisoner of war. He was crying and kissing his six-year old daughter. Something back then, a hunch, told her that she would never see him again. Unfortunately, that was what really happened. ‘I guess I was not lucky enough to enjoy the love of a father,’ she said melancholically. The tone of her voice was enough to tell how deep her pain was.
And her mother? Life, at different times, had forced her to give away her only daughter to close and distant relatives. So, Akberet had to spend most of her childhood serving relative strangers. She said, ‘But, now, I do cherish a mother’s love’ with her face almost lit with happiness.
This young woman, whose smile could make anyone feel comfortable, had to move between relatives. How did she take it back then? What were her feelings? How was she getting along with her relatives? Did she have any other options? What happened after that? How did she spend her young age as a girl? I couldn’t help but wonder about many of her personal life.
Above all, I wanted her to be on Me’emuney.
‘Sure,’ said Akberet reassuringly. If I went to her house the next morning she promised to serve me traditionally home-made coffee.
There was one problem, however, Akberet’s house was half way up on Mount Soloda. This meant that I had to climb up the mountain for almost half an hour.
The next morning proved to be what I expected. Climbing up Mount Soloda, dried every fluid out of me; I almost died of thirst.
Once we arrived at her house, I had a very traditional black coffee made by Akberet herself. I also enjoyed shiro wet served with atiklt and yoghurt.
When I finally asked Akberet if she was willing to go on air to share her deepest moments, ‘Sure, why not? Who would reject such an opportunity?’ In fact, it would give me a great pleasure if anyone can get something out of my life’ was what she said.
Through all this time, Akberet was telling me about her life, which was intriguing and made my two-hour stay go by swiftly. Unfortunately, Akberet said she had to leave and told me to return at 3 pm in the afternoon. I promised to return and bade them farewell.
Frankly, I was not comfortable to climb down Mount Soloda. I couldn’t control my speed.
Until 3 pm, I thought I could use the time to visit some folks. As I told you Adwa is my hometown. So I went to see my Uncle. They were pleased to see me.
At 2 pm, I was ready to return to Akberet’s house. So I first took a bajaj and reached the town’s palace. Then, I walked for about 10 minutes before I set my foot on the mountain. The sun was a little overhead, but after a while I almost forgot to notice it.
As soon as I reached at the bottom of the mountain, there came a sound hard to identify. It was frightening. I looked around, up the mountain, on both its sides, even back to the small gorge I passed by and far beyond that. There was nothing that could possibly make that kind of a sound, I thought. But the horrible sound was getting louder and more frightening.
After a moment of complete confusion, I was able to track down the direction which the sound was coming from. It was coming from the right side of the mountain, possibly from behind. A hard rain was coming from afar, I sighed.
I started to feel droplets of rain. No doubt I would be caught up in the rain. I still had to go a 20-minute distance to reach Akberet’s house, my only chance for a shelter. If I sped up, I might be able to make it in 10-15 minutes. I was wearing just a shirt. Now, it was getting soaked. Yet, a heavy rain was coming. Running was the best idea. I tried. With all the bushes here and there, the rocks, and the slope, running was literally impossible.
The heavens were opened and the rain started to pour all over me. Even my shoes were filled with rain making it difficult to walk faster. Worse, everywhere was a dump and small streams of running water. I tried to look how far I had to go. Sadly, a kind of white fog blocked my view. Good lord, here comes the fog!
I ran and ran. Then, I stumbled and fell down on my knees. No time to waste. I stood up and ran. A minute later, I was unable to run any more not because my heart was under my teeth but I was completely unable to see anything around me. When unable to see anything, people often say, ‘It went totally black.’ Well, I couldn’t see because it went totally white.
All that surrounded me was a complete white, wind plus heavy rain. And the wind was blowing in my direction. I was unable to make a step forward. In spite of my effort to move forward the storm was pushing me back. The heavy rain was slapping my face. I tried to protect my face with my arms. But the storm got stronger. I was losing control when I suddenly grabbed a bush branch with my left hand, then with the other. That gave me a brief moment to breathe.
This time, real slow, I turned to face my destination. I couldn’t see it, but I had to move on. Fighting against the wind and trying to shield my face from the rain, I started to move towards Akberet’s house. There were bushes and small trees everywhere, but none to save from the cruel rain. Soon, fortunately, I stumbled up on a fairly big tree, which could be my only refuge, at least for the moment. So I stacked under it for some time.
After the stormy wind was gone, everything became so vivid. The bad news was that I had already lost my direction. Akberet’s house was nowhere to be seen. The good news, there was a nearby house with its door opened. So I ran and threw myself in. I was welcomed with a complete darkness. I didn’t care as long as it sheltered me from the brutal rain. I was hoping to quickly take my wet clothes off so my pneumonia would not revive. After I got used to the darkness in the room, I sat myself on a seat, the first thing that my eyes picked up on, and took off my upper clothes, shoe, and socks.
‘Your trousers, too,’ said a male voice from the darkness that scared me to death. It turned out that there was a young man napping in the house.
After half an hour, I was knocking at the gate to my uncle’s house. I was wearing the clothes of the man, who scared me in his own house. I had his polyester pants that were cut a little down the knees, a t-shirt typical of rural men, and his sleepers. I was also carrying an umbrella, which was leaning over my head because my so cold hands couldn’t hold it tightly.
Somehow, my uncle’s friend opened the gate. I could tell that he didn’t recognize me from the time he took to give way to the living room. On top of that, the umbrella must have prevented him from looking at my face. Hesitating, he returned to the house so I could follow him. And I did.
‘Who is that?’ I could hear my uncle asking. His friend, a little ahead of me took some time to reply.
‘Emm…a beggar,’ he said and turned to look at me. I was almost on the door to the living room. He was surprised to see me next to him. ‘And here he followed me so far.’ His confusion made me want to laugh. My uncle and his wife’s reaction made him even more confused. So I just stood there, silent.