Part II: Ghosts of Famine and Drought, where art thou?

By Dawit

Tuesday and Wednesday (September 13-14) were spent visiting relatives and neighborhood friends who had lost loved ones since my last visit. I am sure everyone understands how embarrassing it would have been if I were to be seen for the first time at the wedding by those who had lost their loved ones. They will never forgive me, but worse I would never forgive myself for having a cultural lapse. You see in Eritrea people could forgive you if you choose not to share their happy moments, but never if you don’t visit to express your condolences. This should be a lesson to those who might not know the nuances of the culture and those whose memory of the old culture has been fogged by years of absence.

As for the books and the hard drive, my dad and I had agreed that I would drop them at the Eritrea Institute of Technology (EIT) on our way to the Edaga Kebti at Hmbrti (the animal market at Himbirti) on Friday; the day before my sister’s wedding. However, on Thursday, I realized that I had actually finished visiting most of the people I needed to visit prior to the wedding day. This meant I could start doing something else. So, the next priority obviously was to drive to Mai nefHi and deliver the “carry on” books to the good folks at EIT.

On Thursday September 15, I ate lunch with Gebre, one of my childhood friends, at home and started driving towards Godayif. I am sure some of you know this more than me; the best way to learn about the Eritrean villages is to give a ride to people who are traveling to the villages/towns on your way. In our case, we gave a ride to a couple of travelers heading to the villages of Kutumo-wliE and Barda’e. Before asking them about life in general and the current harvest season, I looked to my left side and I was amazed by the density and height of the barley I saw. When we made a right turn at the first curve leaving Godayif behind us on the Asmara-Mendefera road, every square inch of land, all the way to the center of Adi GwaEdad, was covered by green plants (I was not able to tell how much of it was barley or wheat, but it looked like a mix). All I said at the time was “nab qofo wan’u z’atu ygbero” (may the Lord let the crop reach the owner’s grain storage). At the time, I had never heard of the profound and i nsightful expression “Hasernasya nHawi yigbero” (let our hay get perished). How could I? I am just a simple minded Asmarino with simple answer to most complex concepts: kief-maAndu.

Let me digress a little. The dreadful sounding yet profound expression “let our hay get perished” has not been heard for a while for the obvious reason that the expression requires a suitable time for its application. For the farmer to utter words of that magnitude, he needs to feel confident on his current harvest, and his future outlook needs to be as good if not better. That time must have arrived in Eritrea for my generation to start hearing such expressions. You see, in order for the hay to perish, it must have been stored for at least two years. And in order for a farmer to store hey for two years, he must have had very successful consecutive harvest seasons. During the said successful harvest, the farmer feeds his cattle and livestock with freshly collected grass and mineral rich hey. As such, the farmer would not have any use for the dried-up hey that had been stored in his backyard for two or more years except to use it for lighting a fire, i.e. having it perished. Thus, for my generation to start h earing such insightful and profound expressions as “Hasernasya nHawi yigbero”, the future of Eritrean farmer must be as bright as the proverbial jasper stone.

Back to Asmera-Hmbrti road. After the formal greetings had waned, and once we had passed Adi-guaEdad, I started asking our fellow travelers how far this evergreen farmland stretched. One of the travelers hurriedly responded by saying “what we were looking at was nothing compared to what we were going to see on our way”. We did not have to go far to understand what he meant. All we had to do was take the right turn at the Asmera-Hmbrti road and look to the right towards Adi-ra’esi and see the green harvest as far as our naked eye could allow. The same was true on the left side, meriet Ademzemat and Adi-gombolo; that too was covered with lush green crop of barley and wheat. The scenery was basically consistent on the right to the front yards of Ademneger, and all along flat area of Asha golgol to the heart land of Kutmo’wliE, and Barda’. Enjoying the farmland of the neighboring villages along the water catchment of the Mai nefHi dam, we finally arrived at the Eritrea Institute of Technology at Mai nefHi. We su re delivered the books that we hope will nourish the minds of young people, but along the way our eyes were nourished with a beautiful sight of what is promising to be a bumper harvest for Eritrea.

When Gebre and I went back to Asmara, at home, I could not stop talking about what I had seen on my trip to Mai nefHi. I asked one of my uncles how the weather was faring them farther south, at the south western bottom of the Menguda plateau, the shketi, Adi-Hayo, SunAy-sherefeto and the north part of golagul Silma. His answer was something like “Ami abzi kthlu nieruka:: kab qerneshH gratey Tray Aserte-shudushte Kuntal sgem iye ye’itiye:: lebzemen’wn Ôa gratey tegda’Ani aytmesln’ya zela::” Roughly translated and the facial and non-verbal expression of excitement omitted, his statement would read “you should have been here last year. I had collected 16 quintal (1600 kilograms) of grain from my lot at qerne-shiH. It doesn’t look like I will get less this year either.” I could not think of anything but utter the humble prayer of “nab qofoKa z’atu ygbero”.

To be continued…

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