A Tale of Friends
A Tale of Friends
Life at the Addis Ababa University wasn't always a bed of rose. Lessons at times got boring and money was often in short supply. But, mostly, you would encounter notions that didn't fit with the assumptions and beliefs that you grew up with. Of course, there were courses that are sources of pleasure and beneficial but most are the kind you cram to earn good grade in order to accumulate for final graduation. It was a system that encouraged students to become grade collectors. Some of the courses are designed in such a way as to occupy you, not to liberate you but if you are lucky ,train you.Few got their choice of study and in the department where you are assigned, you'll see a handful of students who excel you in courses that sound exotic and in the curriculums that hold little interest to you and all this is happening while you are trying to shape your own maninet, your body is changing and you emotions are running wild.
For me, one of the few things I have cherished most was friendship. A set of friends provided a sense of security, as belonging to any group does. In a place like these where friendship network was dense and interlocked, if you are not connected to your peers, you could have one hell of askeyami life.
At the beginning life could be reckless and unsettling. I didn't have steady friends then and, I was just trying to be friendly to every body. This was changed during the second year, as I made acquaintances whose friendships and loyalty stands to this day. We were best buds and felt comfortable around each other.
We were four, except for those coming on and off. I am not sure on what grounds we admitted others as friends but ours was based on common interest, desire and respect for each other. We used to tell each other every thing, even when we disagreed, we respected each other. We flocked together like sheep in groups and tended to follow the whims of the group, which I feel today, were not always right.
Most of us were popular, but I don't know exactly how. Perhaps we defined ourselves in relation to the upper class and to all the other below us, the Gedjas, the nerds, the findatas, the disenfranchised, the misfits, and the stupid ones. There was a set of careful and cruel distinctions.
Whatever the sociology of our group, it was large enough to absorb new comers and to permit trading best friends. As A used to say, we had to make the time pass, of its own accord. At dusk after having an early supper at the café, we would head to sit in the platform, in the shade of an old oak tree at Dibab, in the red-darkening time just above sunset, watching the passerby, mostly the girls. It was a nice place to watch and being watched by others. In such self-contained micro universe, every thing you do revolves around girls and everywhere you walk around the campus, you have the radar to notice the entire hot specimen. It must be annoying for the girls to be under constant scrutiny though I can't say there was always cruelty and malice towards them. R who is good-looking and enjoys throwing some fitting remarks at passing girls liked this place. He had such away of making Lekefa a not- unpleasant experience, though he never managed to turn such encounters to lasting friendship.
There underneath , we sat, idled, smoked and talked and we were so bored that we made a virtue of being so bored. We talked about achievements, about the best paying job we would have when we go out, about our dream girls, electronic gadget, the books we have read, and the movies we have seen, blah blah. Sure, we influenced each other in our tastes of cinema, books and music. S, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of films, had a big impact on my movie tastes. He often passionately talked about Casablanca, The God Father, La Vita Dolche, Don Juan, that later became my all time favorites.
There was also drink, with hindsight; I believe was a rite of passage. On Friday night we would go to Country, a small hugely popular bar around 5 kilo where we drink and dance all night long .It was a place to be seen with cool tunes and a good meeting place. We drank draft and gin, and we liked it because it made us feel like someone else, perhaps some one more confident and cheerful. And, no one was consumed by it, it was just for fun. The next morning, we would be at the gate of Kennedy waiting for its opening hour.
I was an erratic student. I was undisciplined. And I hadn't caught onto the rules of the game: why work hard in a class that didn't grab my fancy?
I just wander around through the shelves and read every title. I flipped through paperbacks, scanned jackets, and memorized names: The Making of the Four Masterpieces, Hemingway, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Albert Camus, Death of A Salesman, Dostovesky, Beloved, History of Jazz.It was a time, during which I absorbed an awful lot of information, long lists of titles, snippets of philosophy, and name that seemed misspellings- Goethe, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard .Now this is hardly the stuff of deep understanding. But it was an introduction, a phrase book, and it felt good at the time to know all these words and to share yemakabed evening, talk that talk.
Now I feel that I have one thing to be grateful for AAU, for these friends I that have made. What we had was positive influence on each other. Without them I wouldn't have all that fun.