The Eritreans


Kuwait City 2

Originally uploaded by The Toze

I have difficulty communicating with Senait so I never know when I’m going to be invited to hang. They told me that there Ambassador to Kuwait was coming to visit them next week and ask me if I would give a seminar. I felt panicked like — ahhhhhhhhhh—what am I going to talk about, but felt like I couldn’t say no.

At the beginning of the week I felt like it wasn’t going to happen so I felt relieved and then just to be on the safe side I came up with a short presentation. It was Friday night and I kept waiting and waiting to hear from Senait, finally it was 8:30 p.m. and I hadn’t heard from her so I put my pajamas on, as soon as I got my pajamas on the phone rang. They were running late, so I dressed nicely, after all I was going to meet the Ambassador and limped downstairs. Senait pulled up in a different car and the driver was Mohammad an 18 year-old who looks very Arabic, as opposed to Senait who looks very African.

She said that we were late and the ambassador was already there. I felt my stomach tighten, I thought I’m going to have to go in there and perform. But when I arrived they took me into an air conditioned office and a man with medium height, with a receding hairline and serious expression was sitting on the couch. He wore a grey outfit and the top was a light zip-up long sleeve shirt, it looked a little militaristic. Next to him sat a young boy, with Arab features, the ambassador had more African features, it was his eldest son who is 18.

Salah introduced me to The Ambassador of the State of Eritrea to the State of Kuwait mahoud Omar Chirum.

“Mr. Ambassador, I’m very pleased to meet you,” thank goodness I knew how to address an ambassador. His English was very good and he has been the ambassador to Kuwait for two months. His son also speaks English and is a basketball player. I asked questions about his family, four children and his country, how things are going to which he replied well. He talked about the UN forces in the disputed zone and I talked to his son about basketball. I had brought photos from home, so I shared those. Finally, they said they were ready for us.

I shared information about myself, where I come from, what I’m doing in Kuwait, talked about things they may think about America that simply aren’t true and fielded questions. Then the Ambassador encourage the young group to tell me about the Eritrean women.

They told me that during the conflicts the Eritrean woman not only fought side-by-side with the men, but still had the burden of the household. They were fiercely proud of their women and how they had coped during the war.

After some back and forth discussion refreshments were served. It wasn’t as fun as last time because they made the coffee outside and then brought it in and there was an air of formality to it. They served bread that was filled and shortbread cookies. As we sat and talked in small groups, different people came up to speak directly to the Ambassador. He listened intently to each of them. Salam was talking to him rather intently and someone translated, he was talking about a camping trip out in the desert.

Seham, a 22 year-old Eritrean woman, sat next to me. She speaks broken English, she had worked at our office filling in for Senait when she went back to Eritrea. She was looking at the pictures I brought and stopped on one when I was 27, she pointed to it and she said,
“Here very beautiful, now,” she said moving her hand around her face, “old.”

I burst out laughing. I don’t think I look that old, but on the other hand white skin is not known for its aging abilities and maybe it’s the stress of the last month. The Ambassador finally took his leave and we moved outside. The evenings have become fairly pleasant in Kuwait, we sat in a circle and talked. There was a lot of joking going on and they kept calling each other Habibi which means “my love,” Jordanos, named for the Jordan river and the woman who made the coffee last week is married with a daughter. She and her husband live here and their daughter is in Eritrea with her grandmother. She kept teasing Salam, who is 32, tall extremely thin and dark. He looks very African. She kept saying “come sit next to me.”

And he wouldn’t. I made a chicken noise and everyone burst out laughing. Then I went over and sat on Jordanos’ lap and gave her a hug. I love how they tease each other.

Sofia, finally got there, I don’t know why she was so late, but she was wearing brown pants and beautiful flowing shirt with large flowers on it that went down over the top of her pants, ending at the top of her thigh. Her scarf was also brown and cascaded down to the middle of her back.

As we sat in the courtyard, music drifted out from the back billard room, I can’t describe it, it had a consistent beat with rhythems that moved up and down. One of the groups was Eritrean, the other was Sudanese and they were practicing for one of the Eritrean’s weddings that will take place soon. They introduced me to the groom to be and of course he invited me to the wedding. I hope I’m here!

All the young people were dancing and singing along, Sofia was a very good dancer, finally she got me to dance with her. It really is true that white people don’t have rhyhem, I did o.k. After the musicians left we went back out to the courtyard and we were hanging around joking when low and behold at 2:00 a.m. they decided to call it a night. I was excited to go home before 4:00 p.m. But we didn’t go straight home, since it is Ramadan and the Muslims are fasting, we went to a chicken restaurant and ate.

First they wouldn’t let me pay for my food and then they kept on feeding me their food. By the time it was over I was stuffed. They are truly generous people and I love their community. I’m so glad I met Senait.

The one bummer of the night was that I didn’t take my camera. ARRRGGHHH. Next time.

Below is the view from the walking path along the gulf road.

View from the walking path on the gulf road.

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