This is Andom Gebreyessus, (Geez: ዓንዶም ገብረየሱስ ገብረስላሴ). I was born on the northwest part of Tigrai, close to a small but old town called Adi-hageray on the 4th of September 1984. In fact I was born in some remote rural, known as Lesse, just kilometres away from this town to a peasant family living on a subsistent agricultural farming. Despite the absence of all elements od modern life, our family used to live as happy as a sandboy. No one used to worry about electricity, telephone, internet or even pure water. We had no cellphone to worry about running out of charge, nor a poor connection.
As every young boy in our village, life was happy for me too, until one day things changed for worse and forever. When I was only 6, my mom passed away dueto, that I later learnt, a curable disease, a month after she gave birth to a 4th baby-girl in our family. This marked the worst start of our dark future as a family, and long separation from my family as an individual.
Until I was about 10, I was solely keeping herds in the countryside travelling around the lowlands of northwestern and western Tigrai, Southwestern Eritrea and northwestern Gondar. There I, and of course many other cowboys like me, used to live merely on milk for several weeks and months with the vision of owning a large herd of cattle. I used to travel for days & nights just to find a comfortable grazing land, keeping them from beastly wild animals. Sometimes with friends, and sometimes alone. There wasn’t a single jungle left untouched from north Gondar to South Eritrea and from Western Tigrai to Eastern Sudan. That was the most golden part of my life I vividly remember in smile.
In the hottest seasons of 1990, our forests and grazinglands started deforesting and collapsing due to a sudden drought and the continuous fightings among ‘Dergue’, TPLF, ‘Sha’abia’ and other forces. The Derg had a grim method that ‘to catch the fish, you’ve to drain the sea’ (for TPLF to surrender, the Derg should cleanse the people of Tigrai). To realize this it used scorched-earth policy to deliberately starve the whole population.
As a result of this, a heartrending manmade famine was born. I lost all of my cattle and left with only one ox from among more than a hundred cattle. This marked another gloomy start of a dark futire after my mother’s death and more despondently the end of my self-employment, and by far most importantly, my life as a cowboy.
I returned back home for the first time since my mother’s death. This was few months after the down fall of the ‘Dergue’. Life was already following a different path at home – there was no more mom, no more motherly words to be called by, no more warm parental care. Fortunately (if I can say is a fortune after I had lost everything including my mom & livestock), this was the year where all social services came into effect around the HARA MERET of TIGRAI [ሓራ መሬት ትግራይ] (Free Land of Tigrai) after long years of cloudy and uncertain political atmosphere. Sometime in December 1990, I was enrolled to school – Grade 1. The first year of my life in school.
Academically, everything was easy for me. Thanks to my father, I already knew the letters both ሀ ሁ… in Tigrigna and A, B, C… in English as well as the numbers 1, 2, 3, etc. I stood first both from class and from unit in my first year, first semester. I was promoted to grade two.
The year gone so soon and I achieved the same result for the next semester. It’s now a summer time, a time that I have to go to where there is a job for the next three months. This is the right time I collect money for the next academic year. I packed my luggage up and left for Barentu, a small south-west Eritrean town. Somewhere there are Italian agricultural sites. This is their right time to start farming and we know that. Every time after the school closes I had to go there or somewhere else or I won’t be able to continue school the next year. In fact, after working for some three consecutive summers, my brother and I bought a bicycle and accessories, with which we opened a bicycle rental and repair shop. Then when we were off school, we started to generate income by renting the bicycle and providing maintenance service.
As the years came, I was able to double grades, two grades in one year. When I was grade four; my younger brother was enrolled to grade 1. He had clues at the church, and school was easy for him as well. He was able to skip many grades at a time as well as scoring outstanding grades. What was most surprising is that we manage to stood first in all grades, even though we were promoted at half a semester and missed more lessons. In grade 6 and 8, we took the National Exam and my score was as usual outstanding.
When school ends then comes closing ceremony, it was like almost my ceremony. I receive a number of awards for standing first in class, unit and for participating in different extra-curricular activities. Since my early elementary study I had a hobby of writing poems, essays, and plays as well as painting and handcraft. Especially the poems, I was common in public and governmental events. Every ceremony, be it academic, governmental, a public or any social holiday, I never use to know the difference, I was there with my relevant poem. This wasn’t limited only to that locality, I participated more than four times at a regional and Tigrai level and collected some awards and certificates. I was participating in such contests both in literature and sketching arts late until I was a university graduate.
Despite the fact that I have to participate in different external activities, prepare food, pay rent and cover all my expenses on my own, school was easy for me. But the scene behind it, the home economics, and the sick family life after mom died were sometimes at the verge of blowing up my mind. Life wasn’t easy for me with regard to this. It isn’t simple to generate your living while attending regular school. It isn’t easy to find yourself sauntering aimlessly at the middle of a crowd while everybody rushes home to a beautiful family. It isn’t as simple as someone may think to have no body by your side as early as your childhood at all conditions of illness, bad temper or happiness.
Anyway time flies with no preconditions. It doesn’t care whether you are having beautiful moments or the worst ones, it goes on. If you are having cloudy days, painful moments, long dark night, or whatever, the sun is sure to rise. That’s why registration time for grade 9 came soon before it’s not too late to put aside my memories in the elementary school. This came with a big problem. The school I’ve been attending so far doesn’t provide high school courses. I had to go in search of a higher one, certainly somewhere at a remote town. This costs too much for me if otherwise impossible. The transport, the cost of living in a relatively bigger town, and after all the cost of house rent, my life time headache. Fortunate enough my mathematics teacher took off some of my worries. He is the man that I owe moles of thanks and I would be happy to forward my gratitude at all opportunities. He was from Shire Indaselassie. He took me to his home, gave me one room with a promise to use until I finish school and told his late mother to take care of me. I really don’t have words on his kindness. His support to me started back in the elementary in many ways.
Ohhhh God, I started high school in Shire Secondary School in September 1997. School was somehow getting serious. We had to take more than 15 courses, more than half of which were simply waste of time for me. After two months of quite intensive schooling, a different news came into the headline. The first of its kind school in the history of Tigrai (and probably Ethiopia) came into existence – Kellamino Special High School (KSHS). It’s a special high school which offers free scholarship for top 60 excellent students with outstanding scores in grade 8 national examinations and stood among the top 60 at an entrance exam. I was one of those who got the chance to take the entrance exam.
After taking the entrance exam in the new high school, at Mekelle, hopelessly I came back to Shire to continue my school. The entrance exam was difficult and confusing. I felt hopeless when I couldn’t remember any of the questions the students discuss outside of the exam room. I told to myself that I failed in all the fields. I went back to my previous high school until results were announced through a local radio program aired by Tigrai Development Association.
Two weeks later Saturday morning list of students who passed the commutative assessments and were eligible for the scholarship was announced through that radio station (ድምፂ ወያነ ትግራይ = The Voice of the Revolution of Tigrai). I was listening to a neighbor’s radio from across the wall in between. Surprisingly my name was the first to be called, as they started from the western zone. 60 different students, from different schools, luckily from all administrative zones, with different backgrounds with diverse dialects found ourselves at Kellamino – HIDAR 27, 1990 local calendar(Dec. 06, 1997). A very special day.
You know life has many faces and I have seen all extremes. I had days darker than nights. Lonely days with no one to speak to. Days of empty-pocketed, nowhere to hang around, and after all invalid visions. Nights gloomier than the hell and all this was supposed to mean life. I have punished my feelings once and several times. I had times that I really thought God shouldn’t consider them for me as I ever lived but may be as an apprenticeship to life. There were years that I forgot what it feels like to laugh. All I tried to be on my worst behavior and then again on my best, neither one worked.
The good thing is nothing stands still! Everything passes as though it has never been. …my life merely changed. I haven’t seen my family in ages. And life without your family is not life. At least, it is not complete. You need someone’s company, even if they can do nothing in practice. I guess I finally realized that what you do with your life is really just one half of the equation. The other half, more important half really is, who you are with when you are doing it. And family is the one, who have to take you in, no matter what.
Professionally, I’m an electrical engineer. I’m self taught computer maintenance expert, website & mobile app developer, photographer, graphic editor, and an author, a freelance writer and tourism expert. I’ve authored some books, published several tourism articles, wrote guides, designed tourist maps of Tigrai and Ethiopia; developed professional websites; mobile apps, consulted hotels, and so on. With close to two decades of experiences, I’ve now a good reputation among many employers, customers, business partners and friends. Anyone in need of any service related to my skills can undoubtedly rely on my services.
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