Monday, January 13, 2014

Throwing a Party in Ethiopia

A couple of years ago, a Canadian writer came to Addis to give a short training for amateur writers including myself. This trainer gave us an assignment of short writing on the first day of the training and we came up with different very short stories from which he chose a few to show some basics.

Among the stories chosen by him, there was one which has a girl character who is managing to attend in a party thrown for her friend's birthday. The writer of this story, in her narration, explained the ambition of the girl to go to the party and how her mother said "No" angrily as soon as her daughter popped the question.
The trainer wasn't comfortable of this statement because he thought mothers just don't say 'No' whenever their daughters (and sons) ask them to go to parties. He said the girl's mother had to ask what kind of party it is before she had to rush to deny permission.

One thing this Canadian didn't know is the contextual meaning of 'party' in Ethiopia. It definitely means that it is an event where alcoholic drinks, smokes are presented accompanied by music and where girls and boys go wrong. It occurs in no Ethiopian's mind that a party could be like an event or a place where freinds gather and have fun without getting wasted. Even night clubs are referred as 'party bet' (party house) colloquially.
So, any healthy mother, who knows the meaning of party in Ethiopia doesn't let her daughter go to the parties.

What caught my attention since then and throughout is that how wronged our concept of having fun is. The most famous recreation means in Ethiopian cities, next to watching football especially for men, is drinking. Alcohol. (Of course I am talking about the urban life, which I know.)

It starts traditionally. Most type of 'digis' (can we call them parties?) have alcoholic drinks like 'tella' and 'tej'. In the relatively bigger cities, beer and other alcohols are joining them. Children who see this want to experience the feeling of getting drunk but aren't usually allowed to by their parents. They don't get enough explanation why. Thus, they would do it anyway without the knowledge of their parents.

Party Ethiopian-Style: Don't ever do it
Many youngsters tell their parents they want to crush at their cousin's place (or friends house, let's say, to do school assignment) and at the same time the same cousin/friend asks their parents permission to crush on the former's place and both go to the clubs. If this doesn't work, there are many people who are making a living out of the youngsters wish to party.

Many self-appointed DJs are always busy throwing day parties for students who never had chance to party in clubs at night. The day parties are usually thrown on weekdays so as to make sure the students parents have no way to know where their children are. The youngsters manage to convince their teachers that wether they are sick or one of their siblings are dead to be absent from school. They party and get wasted; in the real sense of getting wasted.

However the audience of day-parties are mostly highschool students, there are no restrictions on the kind of drinks offered as long as they can afford it. Places are usually reserved for private purpose where one is able to smoke weed, kiss partners met right there and at times have sex. There are also parties where everyone has the right to kiss anyone - and they do that to raise money for another event.

Money isn't a factor for many of the youngsters. Many parents who send their children to private schools, also give their children much pocket money in competition with other children's parents without having any idea how it will be spent.

This becomes a habit and many youths have already lost their ways forever. Yet, their parents don't know what is going on; their school leaders are reluctant about it; and, most of all, the government covered its ears not to hear the defeaning voices of the dying generation.

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