Ethiopian, American, Ethiopian American, or my identity.
This is going to be an ongoing series of posts. I have wanted to explain my life as a woman searching for her identity. After coming back from visiting Ethiopia I have come to understand that I have a unique look at life. I wasn’t a refugee when we came to the State of Washington. I was a child living with her family growing up in America.
As a child, I was told stories about where I came from. Many around the dinner table with various family members and friends of the family describing our native land of Ethiopia. I was 1.5 when my parents and I left our home in Addis Ababa, the capital, for Seattle. My father had a chance to continue his education at the local University. We left during the Derg regime when the military was taking over the country and Emperor Haile Selassie was gone. I was so young. I was so small and most didn’t think I would make it past my first birthday. So, my first birthday was a big party with the neighbors coming to celebrate my life. That was thirty some years ago.
I grew up in Burien just like most of the other kids my age. Of course, as school started most people began to realize I was not like the kids my age. For one I had a difficult name to pronounce. “Mallet….” would have been the usual way most tried to pronounce my full name. I should go back a little further to explain how we tweaked to make my name easier to pronounce. When we arrived in November of 1980. My family was sponsored by a local church in Burien. Yes, that same Burien I grew up in. My father held me as the three of us waited our turn to get off the plane. I would guess we were last because my mother wore a brace and used crutches due to her Polio. This was when people could meet you at the gates. From what I can understand grandma came and asked to hold me. My father was hesitant, not sure if I would go to a woman I didn’t know. See in elementary school I identified grandma as my “Pink Grandma”. I think it took some coaxing, but dad handed me to her. So, began the culture clash that became my life.
With grandma came Christmas and all that America came to offer.