Winter Writing Contest Winners
March 28, 2019
The Culver City Observer believes that a fundamental part of life is learning how to write. This week we will feature the first-place winner Delina Melaku. We will be featuring the writing of other winners in the upcoming weeks. The ASB sponsored this year's contest. The first-place winner received a $50 Amazon gift card and the 2nd and 3rd place winners received $25 Amazon gift cards.
Students were encouraged to write a piece of fiction or poetry that shows a unique perspective of the world, including what it means to interact with others with different viewpoints. We are grateful to Kathleen Rowley a NBPTS Certified English Teacher at Culver City High School.
By Delina Melaku
I carry the large circle barrel on my head, the heaviness trying to push me down, but I still keep my body up and my head high. The rough barrel feels like the rocky land I live on. I walk forward as gracefully as I can to the river, for that is my role as a woman in Ethiopia. My role in this village is like any woman's role in the village, in most villages in this area of Ethiopia. I take care of the kids, I make food, I wash clothes, I do all chores. I hate it. I feel like I am burning in hell. I never wanted this. I never wanted to live in a village with a few gojos everywhere like pesky flies, or have to walk to a river that was such a long walk from my gojo. My feet feel like they will become sinking sand. My feet hurt walking back. I never wanted to live in an ugly place like this. The ugly round gojos with round tops and a point on top. Each gojo had a growing area for food for the people who deserve to starve. The nasty dirt roads that turn to mud when rain falls, that make me feel like I am being taken by a river. Sadly, I am not fortunate enough to drown into the mud.
The area is small with few people in it, with a group of old men in charge of the village. Very stupid men, as evil as the Devil. One of the men is my father. I hate him with all my heart. Him and the councilmen have evil hearts. Always thinking men are better. Treating women badly like we are animals. Forcing them to marry men who take their virtue by force. Once you lose your virtue that man is your husband. I hate it. I hate this life. I hate to be a woman in this world. Sometimes I wonder why Asyabieair gave me this life. A life of a woman. A life of a woman who was taken. My husband did not ask my father for my hand, but I am sure that if he had, my father would have said yes. I usually scare all the men in the village away from me with my weird ways. I make sure to cover my body and do bad things so people do not like me. I covered my body, even though I was a believer of the Orthodox faith and not the Muslim faith. I covered my body with ugly rags, tying them around my body like a mess, unlike the other woman who wore beautiful clothes and wrapped it nicely 'round their body. Men did not like me. But then to my misfortune, a man took his liking to me. Once, I forgot my cover, and he saw me. Sadly, I had grown to be beautiful. My body grown in all the wrong places for me, but in all the right places for a wife. I wish I was ugly; maybe then he would not have wanted me. As I was getting water one day, he and his friends kidnapped me. He took my virtue as I was not awake. The council made me marry him. My father made me marry him. He was a powerful man in this village. He was known in the villages nearby for being very rich. My father happily gave me to him. But I hated my husband. I hated walking down the aisle. I told the preacher no multiple times when he asked me if I wanted the man I now called husband. My father and husband beat me until my white dress was the color of the blood I wash off of meat. I was forced to say yes before Asyabieair. I did not want this life. I wanted to go to the city and do business. I had once went with my father to Addis Ababa and saw the women. They were free. I talked to one, and she told me if I wanted this life, I would have to run away from mine. Like she had. Women can have power. We have had queens who ruled this land. They try to hide the truth of your power, but it is a lie. Women are strong, they work marketplaces in other countries like Egypt. They have ruled lands. She told a Bible story. It was about two midwives named, Shiphrah and Puah. The girls stood up to the king of Egypt and told him no when he ordered them to kill all the male baby slaves. She told me to be like these women. Be brave, because nothing can stop a woman with a goal. Not even a king, she said. I wanted to be a part of the marketplace. I wanted to be brave, but sadly Asyabieair chose this life for me. I think this during my exhausting visit to the river. I look up to the sky as I ask him that question. I saw a bird. I looked at its wings. I wish I was a bird. I wish I could fly away from all of this.
"Hello, Makila," I am pulled from thoughts when this woosha, Naomi, speaks to me.
"Hello," I say with no enthusiasm.
"Makila, how are you?" she says.
"I am good," I say boredly. I am about to ask the same question when she responds.
"No, you are not. I can tell something is on your mind," she says. She is right, my horrid life is on my mind. I look at her with the face which said: "you know".
"Makila," she says sternly, "this is your life. Stop being a child, thinking your life was gonna be anything else. The sooner you forget about those foolish dreams, the better," she said as she put the pot on top of her head. Sometimes, I want to crash my pot against her annoying face. Her and the rest of the people in this village annoy me to death. I hate them all. I hate my father for forcing me into this marriage. I hate my husband for all the times he's touched me, beat me, and told me I am worthless. Sometimes I want to kill them all. I want to feel the satisfaction of destroying them. I stuff these thoughts down deep into my heart and smile.
"You are right, Naomi, thank you for the advice." She smiles, continuing the excruciating walk to the river.
"Isn't the river beautiful," she said happily.
"Yes," I say with an uninterested voice. I actually agree. The river is amazing. So many things flourish around it. The long green grass and all the flowers.
"You know what I heard?" I don't care, I want to say, but I stay silent. I know how to stay silent. Being silent is the role of a woman. I hate it. I do not want to hear the latest gossip, I want to say, but I must. "This river goes all the way out of Ethiopia and into the country of Sudan and into Egypt." This river goes into other countries. If this river leads into other counties, then maybe, just maybe. I can... I can be free.
"Maki, you need to stop thinking so much. That is what gives you these ridiculous thoughts anyway," she said like she cared, but I didn't care for her stupid comment. I don't even think about grabbing her head and pushing it underwater and killing her. No, I am too consumed with the thought of freedom.
We walk back to the village. It is a painful walk, but the thought of freedom makes me feel like I am flying. I went in my gojo. The gojo I live in was made of the Earth and was exceptionally large due to my husband's high social status. We have five rooms, a kitchen, and a farm. After putting the water down, a slap welcomed me as I walked inside.
"You sait woosha! I expected you here a long time ago, and now, dinner will be late" my husband said. He held a momasya in hand. He began to beat me. The momasya hitting my legs, arms, chest, head. I wish I could fight back. I wish I could hurt him like how he hurt me. I wish Asyabieair would have given me a better husband. Maybe then life wouldn't have been so empty. He kicks me down to the floor.
"I'm sorry," I say with a child's voice. A weak voice. A fake voice.
"In the next week, I will go to fight those scuoscashas and I have to spend my last days waiting for my food!"
"I had already made the food and will warm it right now," I say, hoping he will leave it be. He kicks once more before telling me to get the food prepared. I pray he dies in that war. A bloody and painful death is what he deserves I go to the fireplace and put the pot over the fire and watch the food warm. The food lets out an amazing smell, that makes you feel like you are in heaven. The lamb boiling in the sauces filled with spices I got from the garden. I took off some injera, and I put the food onto the floor. I made enough food for eleven. I had birthed nine children. Eight boys and one girl.
"Food ready," I shout so everyone hears and sits down. I hear my husband make a snarling sound. Woosha. My daughter, Sheba, sat next to me. I named her after the powerful Queen Sheba of Ethiopia who ruled without a husband. I only love her. She is seven years of age. Born the day after Hosana. She is a small and beautiful girl, unlike her elder brothers who are all disgusting like their father. Sheba has a good heart. Her brothers were all grown. Almost adults. Very ugly people. I am ashamed I birthed them.
"Airmas, do a prayer," my husband says to one of the boys. He does a prayer, and we eat. We all put our hand on different parts of the huge plate breaking the injera and scooping up the meat. As we eat, I think about tonight's freedom. First, I will wait for them all to go out with the men of the village for thedge. I know they will be there all night because they usually pass out from drinking and my husband enjoys his time with his mistress. I am going to walk across the river until I find a boat. Then I will pay someone to take us. Yes, us. I will take Sheba with me. She will get a better life than me. She will not be forced to marry. No, she will be free.
"Sheba, What hand are you eating with," my ugly husband calls for my daughter. I looked down and saw her eating with her left hand.
"Ababa, I am sorry I will eat with the other one," she says, her voice has fear within it.
"Anchi balagay lich!" he says with anger. He sits up and beats her. His beating had the sound of a crowd's clapping. I want to stop him, but I cannot. Once he is done, he goes back to his seat. He sends her to her room. As she tries to pick her small body up, I stand and pick her up. The gojo we live in is made of the Earth and is exceptionally large due to my husband's high social status. We have five rooms, a kitchen, and a farm. Sheba began to curl into me and cry.
"Inatia, I want another ababa, I want to go away. I do not want to be hurt. I do not want you to be hurt, too" she says, tears falling down her face like rain.
"Child, tonight we will go. We will be free" I say. She smiles as I lay her onto the floor.
"Sleep for now, child" I tell her. She will need rest for the journey.
"Ok" she says, and she sleeps. I go back to the main area and see all the food eaten. Those men are animals. I can't wait to leave them. Maybe they will starve since they have no understanding of cooking.
"Woman clean this. Me and the boys shall be leaving for the night." They leave as they laugh their annoying, stupid laughs. Soon, I will be free of all this hatred I hold for them, for Naomi, for my life. I will be free.
I start putting clothing in a bag for me and Sheba. I take as much food as possible as well. I take a small water jug that is empty. The river will supply us with water. I pray to God for safe journey for me and Sheba. I leave the dishes unclean and start to make a mess of the gojo. Throwing pots and dishes. That's when I thought of a beautiful goodbye present. I got a torch and put fire onto it. I walked to the farm outside and I lit it on fire. They shall suffer the way I suffered. Their stomachs starve like my soul starved. Such cruel men do not deserve a farm. I got Sheba and thought up a better idea. I walk outside, and I burn the gojo, for such cruel men do not deserve a gojo. I watch the fire take the house. I am satisfied. The pain I had felt in this gojo will slowly burn away with the fire. I watch the fire. It is so beautiful and amazing. I feel a rush through my body. This will make a good distraction and they will think we died in the fire. With Sheba's body strapped to my waist like skin, all other things were on my back. I begin to run. I run with the rush I had gotten from the fire as energy. I run while I hear the screams from my village. I run even when I reach the river. I keep running along the river. I run even as the sun is rising. As I run, my starving soul is fed so much it is satisfied. My feet are my wings taking us away from the village. I run toward freedom.
Addis Ababa: Capital of Ethiopia
Anchi balagay lich: You bad child
Gojo: Type of Ethiopian house
Hosana: An Ethiopian Orthodox Holiday
Injera: A type of thin bread
Momasya: Wooden Spoon
Sait woosha: Bitch
Scuoscashas: An insulting name for the Italian invaders, meaning dirty
Thedge: Ethiopian alcoholic drink