How to Navigate Ketema as a Diaspora II

Part deux of tips on maneuvering Maekel Ketema as a diaspora. All views are colored by my experiences and nobody else.

iPhones and Nike sneakers.
You already look like a diaspora. You sound like one. And you clearly dress the part – walkin’ down the block with your distinct iPhone ear buds and spotless Nike sneakers on. This may cause you unwanted attention, especially from child beggars who will spot you before you spot them. Vendors will also charge you more on x, y and z if they know you can afford more than 800 Nafka on a t-shirt. I suggest leaving your diaspora armour and fitted caps home. Dressing up isn’t necessary.

Staring contests.
Don’t engage in it. People stare at you because you’re a foreigner. That’s all. Nobody wants to snatch you, kidnap you, hurt you, or run you over…well I’m not sure about the last one, but Eritreans in the homeland stare at their fellow countrymen too.

American society and probably much of the West considers gawking at another person as a disrespectful and sometimes a dangerous gesture. It took some time to overlook why anyway would stare so hard at me.

I went to Europe the year beforeand had a similar experience as a non-Turk, but Eritreans stare with intense focus. My tour guide at the Ministry of Information HQ confirmed that people stare because they don’t know you.

Keep public transportation at a minimum.
One day I boarded a bus with family because it was cheaper than paying per person in a cab. Plus, home wasn’t far. The bus dropped us 25 minutes later than it should have because civilians continued to pile the bus. Soon the bus was three times over it’s capacity. I’m surprise we didn’t tip over. Okay, that was extreme but you follow my drift. The buses, especially the smaller ones, will pick up anybody without judgment of those already on. Walk if you can. Talk a cab if you have the money. Ride a bus with other natives you know. But under all circumstances, don’t rely on the bus.

People don’t run.
I’m convinced locals find running on a roadside in daylight very unusual. I run every week in the States – parks, sidewalks, around the block, the treadmill in my mother’s room. The whole running-to-stay fit fad in Eritrea is exclusive to athletes who train during the rainy and sunny seasons. I ran circles in front of my aunt’s consolo a few mornings in Asmara, and each time it turned into a public show by locals who drank tea every single day. Surprisingly, I didn’t hear applause – just smirks, chuckles, and car honks.

Tip the waitress.
You’ll probably be there again – many Asmarinos drink coffee and tea, all day everyday. Show your gratitude and leave gratuity in the hands of those serving you.

One thought on “How to Navigate Ketema as a Diaspora II

  1. These things are ALL true! This reminds me of being back in Eritrea. The unfamiliar familiarness, the simplicity, the feeling that you are connecting with a place that is a part of you-yet sticking out because you are in many ways different. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    From another diaspora (wetsa’ei),
    Blessings: )


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