New Year, New Perspective
By Liat Desta
My journey of self-realization started a few days before the Ethiopian New Year, Pagume 3rd or September 8th. My coworker was explaining to me the significance of this date, the Orthodox holiday of Rufael. This holiday is eagerly awaited by believers of the Orthodox faith because it is said that this day’s rainfall is holy water. It is a blessing where you should not cover yourself, but instead, get wet and receive the blessing. Then a few days later, it (finally) became 2008 in Ethiopia. Every New Year is seen as a chance for one to start over, to break old habits, start a healthier lifestyle, and set goals to become a better version of oneself. Yet, there have been three times in this past month that have given me more clarity on me and my identity than I have ever had in my entire life—this fellowship, Rufael, and Enkutatash (New Year’s).
“Every New Year is seen as a chance for one to start over, to break old habits, start a healthier lifestyle, and set goals to become a better version of oneself.”
My mom had left Ethiopia at 19 years old, hoping that after becoming a nurse in America, she would be able to move back and work in her native country. Unfortunately, due to the Derg , she couldn’t go back and fulfill her dreams. Applying for this fellowship and coming to Ethiopia, I only knew that I wanted live out my mother’s dream; I wanted to give back to the country and people my mom was never able to give back to. I didn’t understand that being here, with all of the nation’s history and its people, that it would have such a profound effect on my life; it has given me a fresher and better outlook on who I am.
“…coming to Ethiopia, I only knew that I wanted live out my mother’s dream; I wanted to give back to the country and people my mom was never able to give back to.”
There is something about being in this country – I always hear it, but I never really understood it until now. Even if someone has very little there are so many people who are genuinely happy. It is such a culture shock for someone who is coming from America, where you can have it all – materialistically – and still be the a miserable person. I see children running around, smiling and joking with another even if they don’t have much. It was during my walk on Pagume 3rd that I actually noticed these kids around me. It is amazing to think that three children, no more than 4 years old, gave me a better perspective on who I am and who I want to become. See, I was that miserable person who had it all. I was getting my college education, had an amazing group of friends and family, and yet I felt as though I was alone and didn’t have anything going for me. Those kids made me see that deep down I had their strength and endurance within me as well. Needless to say, I enjoyed walking to work in the rain and feeling cleansed of any negativity that I had and have in my life.
“I enjoyed walking to work in the rain and feeling cleansed of any negativity that I had and have in my life.”
There has always been something about my identity that has been inherently more Ethiopian than American. Yes, I grew up in America, but my blood, culture, and identity have always been Ethiopian. I think that for Americans and for Ethiopians born and raised here, it is hard for them to grasp the idea that even though I am Diaspora, I do not see myself as one. I am beyond the color and origin of my passport, I am where my heart is, Ethiopia.
“I am beyond the color and origin of my passport, I am where my heart is, Ethiopia.”
So far, the time I have spent here has been bittersweet, joyous, challenging, adventurous, crazy, and exactly what I need in my life right now.