Have a Coke

[Music] -[Female] Have some coffee.
-[Men] Oh, Thank you. -What country are you all from? -[Man] Ethiopia.
-[Woman] Ethiopia. -[Men] Ethiopia. -Oh, how wonderful. So glad you could come. -[Men] Thank you. [Music] -[Man] As I was saying… [Music] To begin with my arrival, [inaudible], scholarship student in economics at the University of California was anything, but propitious. [Name announced on public address system] On arriving, I found that all my baggage, had been accidentally routed to someplace called Watsonville. [Name announced on public address system] I somehow missed the representative the University had arranged to meet me. And having spent in New York, most of the money I had changed, I found that the draft on the Bank of Ethiopia was useless tonight. The first person I met was a policeman who arrested me at once. My command of the language departed, and I was unable to speak on my own behalf, or understand my offense. [sounds of airplanes] I cannot describe to you my feeling as I finally entered the city of Los Angeles as a criminal. I had no idea where the police were taking me. [Greetings and conversation in Ethiopian] It was however, not prison. I had apparently arrived, somewhat irregularly, at the University of California at Los Angeles. [Music] On this huge campus, my scholarship which seemed so bountiful, an honor from the government, proved something less than adequate. To save money, I entered the cooperative student dormitory. [Sounds of cafeteria conversations] Breakfast is served early and is very unusual. My roommate is an American from Arizona, studying civil engineering. He is failing calculus and is very uncommunicative. And he probably finds me the same way. For five months now, I have had time for little besides study, worry about money, and wonder why I ever came here. -[Teacher] … We’re going to have an examination The English examination I passed in [inaudible] with such fluency is simply not the same language spoken here. The constant series of quizzes I find irritating. Most are transparently designed to inform the professor you read his assignment. Of course I haven’t read his assignment. There is no time to read assignments. [School bell rings] Aside from the library, my class buildings and the dormitory, I know little of the campus and less of the city. I feel like the village idiot, treated with polite deference by my colleagues. It is maddening. Occasional walks in the evening with advice and friendship from my own people were generally pleasurable moments. But when the year’s examinations were finished, I felt it pointless to continue here in frustration, loneliness, and poverty. [Music] I was about to wire for passage home, when I received notification that my grades were very high, and I had been accepted by my department as teaching assistant. Fantastic! I shall stay another year! But, ah, if it is anything like the last one, I am leaving.
[Foreign Language] -Take a reservation. -You mean, it gets worse? -Old customs and silly rites are practiced by the natives. -Well, welcome to the Student Union. What’s your name? [Gives Name] -Oh, you speak English very well. -Thank you. -You will see that when you get out of that dormitory. My second year began with a teaching assistant’s salary too. If you share, you can afford an apartment, but they are difficult to find. [Sounds of street traffic] [Conversation in foreign language] [Music] Of course there are [inaudible] in this country, so the men often cook for themselves. We attempted this with some success. [Conversation in foreign language] [Knock on door] -I just made some soup, some very good chicken soup, and I thought you and Mr. [Inaudible] would like some. -Please come in. Thank you. We were helped somewhat by our landlady, who turned out to be a kindly soul at heart, who developed a motherly interest in our welfare. -Would you like a cup of coffee?
-Yes, please. -That smells wonderful, thank you!
-Watch out, it’s hot. -Oh yes, thank you. I see you’ve moved in! -Yes, sort of. [Conversations] -My landlady. [Conversation and introductions. Ethiopian music plays in the background] If we were drinking wine here today, how would you say “wine?”
-“Wine.” -It almost sounds like English, doesn’t it?
-Yeah, it sure does! -What kind of wine do you actually drink there? Is there some special type, in Ethiopia? -Yeah. There is one special kind we call Saris. -And what’s it made with?
-It’s made with grapes. -…I’m always mispronouncing it.
-E-thi-op-i-a. [Conversation about pronunciation] But for all the causal and relaxed socializing, the second year brings a difficult decision. My specialized research is complete. Should I go home now? Or what seems increasingly possible, like my American colleagues, stay on and work towards the highest degree offered in my field. But it has taken you five years, and you’ve not finished yet. As a matter of fact, my government has just inquired , are you still a student, or a refugee? What takes so long? Have some coffee. Thank you. What country are you all from? Ethiopia. Ethiopia. Ethiopia. Oh, how wonderful. So glad you could come. Thank you. As I was saying, why does it take 5 years to finish? This sort of thing for one. And then I have to spend a lot of time giving you all advice. However, I’m beginning to feel more pressing obligations along that line. [Music] You’d better hurry up honey, you’re late. OK. So. There is less time than ever, not counting my two jobs. But, with all the demands, I’m still satisfied. In no other system could I enroll first for unlimited study, continue on becoming a member of the staff, complete a program for a doctorate, and still support a family. This whole university is filled with married students somehow working. Raising families, and studying at the same times. Now, this life cannot be described as conducive to serene contemplation. Yet, somewhere during the press of one’s job— [Groans and conversations from students] professional studies– —the inevitable destruction of a material society– Hi honey. What took you so long? Well, my car broke down. -and the more pleasurable demands of marriage—you find a few moments to reflect on the point of all this. What happened to your car? I don’t know-as usual it didn’t start again. [Speaking in Ethiopian] One day, in the middle of a class I give for the Peace Corps, I really felt for the first time the irony, that I, an Ethiopian, was giving instruction to Americans, who were going to my country, to assist Ethiopians. I knew it was time for me to return, for whatever contribution I am capable of making to my own land and culture. It seems that I have confirmed a position in Addis Ababa. I shall return, on acceptance of my thesis here, probably next month. Congratulations. It’s excellent. Thank you. So, you’ll all have to find yourselves another guy in this exotic part of the world. And there, I would say, is someone, who is in need of much guidance and counseling. Hello. Welcome to the Student Center. Thank you. What is your name? Desta. That’s interesting. How long have you been in America? Two hours. Well, have a Coke! Thank you. You’re welcome. [Conversation in Ethiopian] [Music with Ethiopian vocalist singing]

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