Asmara June 3rd 2001
Yesterday I told Solomon of the invitation I
received to drink Eritrean coffee in Haz Haz with Selam and Miriam. Since
Solomon is the brother of Mebrat, he should know best how to respond to the
invitation. "Hans", he said to me, "Accept the invitation. Go to
the pastry and buy some cake, as a gift to Selam's family. And when you leave,
you give her 50 Nakfa, to show your appreciation."
So I go to the pastry at 11 o'clock and buy some
cake. I take the bus to Haz Haz. With a little luck I walk straight to the house
(I remembered the number, the approximate direction and the shape of the gate of
the house. Many streets in Asmara do not have a name, some are numbered). Selam and Miriam
look surprised to see me. I think they did not expect I would have the courage to come.
Selam and Miriam speak very good English. They
tell me about their deportation from Ethiopia two years ago. I ask her if she's
more Ethiopian or Eritrean. Friendly but very explicit she asks me "what am
I indebted to Ethiopia?". The look on her face tells the rest. The parents
of the girls are to Canada. They have a lot of family over there. "That's
our luck. Otherwise we would be very poor. We had to leave everything when we
came to Eritrea."
Selam would like to go to Canada, "or Holland".
Her last words gives me the shudders. Is this the purpose of the invitation? She has
to finish her military service first. We talk about her chances in Canada or
Europe. When I leave I give her the 50 Nakfa's as Solomon suggested and tell her
in Holland I would have bought her flowers. "Thank you honey", she
said. "You are my brother now. Will you visit us again next Friday? I will
make you pasta." I tell her I will think about it. But actually I already
knew the answer. Wrong thinking of mine or wrong woman?
The rest of the day I spend doing some shopping
on the markets. Fruits and vegetables are very expensive after the recent war
with Ethiopia. I have understand the Ethiopians scheduled their war in such a
way to make it impossible for the farmers to sow. Mining of the land further
diminished the available arable land.
I remember I noticed a bus numbered 20. Last year I just
took all the different buses, asking the passengers about the areas and the buildings
we passed. For only one Nakfa I buy a ticked to enjoy the landscapes just outside Asmara,
with its lakes and its hills. I ask the Eritrean passengers the names of the villages we
pass. The ask my pencil and my notebook. "Art Faensh" they write.
Town Hall of Asmara
- Harnet Avenue Asmara Eritrea
Decorated on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of liberation.
Fish market - Asmara
Selam and Miriam making Eritrean coffee in their small house in Haz Haz.
Friendly waitress - Cathedral Snackbar Asmara
Cathedral Snackbar - Asmara Eritrea.