“Wow, you chopped the onions very fine, I use the chopper when I want the pieces really small”, commented a family friend. Truth be told, The onions weren’t that fine if you ask me. Mom would probably ask me to chop them finer. I replied with a forced smile I had become good at over time. It made up for my weak communication skills and not being able to deal with compliments.
I threw the “finely” chopped onions into a big saucepan and asked for a spatula. I knew my way around the kitchen, but me being Ethiopian played its part in not opening the drawers to get one from the kitchen I’ve been in a little over a couple of times. The onions were now being tossed over from side to side on low heat. “Here’s the video I was telling you about” she said handing me her phone with one hand, holding a can of opened tomato paste in the other. The video was about a German tourist’s journey to the Philippines.
“It’s like paradise, ya?” she asked with her strong Filipino accent. I could clearly taste homesickness in her words.
“Yes!” I said, ” It looks straight out of a magazine.”
It really did look magical with green islands bordered with white sand and transparent indigo waters. It did look like the wallpapers of old PC monitors.
“Pff.. what is Maldives? Filipino islands are better but people like to go to Europe and Turkey only”.
” Why?” I asked, thinking it was a case of less publicity or the country’s government not focusing on tourism as much as it did on “transformation” like my motherland. But I was surprised when she said “Because it’s so far, it’s an eight hour flight, but to Italy or Turkey it’s just three”. The video ended, and honestly it was enough for me to know how beautiful the Philippines was, but she kept looking for more videos. I figured it was due to homesickness, so I held myself back from saying anything. As she was scrolling down through videos I was still stuck on her last words.
Because it‘s so far, it‘s an eight hour flight, but to Italy or Turkey it‘s just three.
I have taken a flight before and I don’t recall doing anything else in the plane than just sitting down or sleeping, eating and occasionally going through channels to watch something. I don’t remember intensive manual labour being involved. It’s just that people want everything short and easy these days. Short flights and easy lifestyles.
Work Gebre, work
Okay maybe it’s that people hate sitting down for a long time. Maybe it’s that they like to work so much that they can’t bear sitting down for another five hours. Yeah maybe that’s it. But does that explain driver-less cars, auto parking systems, automatic vacuum cleaners? Does it in anyway explain not wanting to be bothered with finely chopping two, just two, onions to make a simple pasta sauce and using an automatic chopper instead? Perhaps they can’t sit on one chair for eight hours. They need to change seats and locations.
Work Gebre, work. Don’t get tired Gebre, work
I had added the tomato paste and started stirring. She plugged her phone to the speakers, alternating her eyes between the same tourist videos and the rice she had started cooking. She doesn’t like pasta.
Who would believe it took the Israelites 40 years to get to the promise land when it takes 4 hours today? Who would have the guts today to walk from Israel to India like Thomas the apostle? Forget his skin being ripped off and all of the struggles he faced because of the ministry. What about Abraham? And even Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and Our Mother the Virgin Mary, that travelled from Bethlehem to Egypt, then to Ethiopia, back to Egypt then at last back to Israel by foot. I don’t think anyone would take flights of this journey let alone travel by foot. I guess it’s too much to expect from this world that wants it’s coffee done in less than a minute. I don’t believe work of faith has been preserved as much as the faith was for thousands of years.
Work Gebre, work. Don’t get tired Gebre, work. You fight with many devils if you don’t work. Work Gebre.
“Here’s the garlic paste, we don’t have garlic.” She said handing me the jar. I put the storm of thoughts on pause and flashed a smile symbolizing a thank you. I then quickly rinsed a spoon and added one spoonful. I kept stirring, lost in my thoughts again.
Till now I’ve added “tomato paste” that might not even contain actual tomatoes because I didn’t want to be bothered to chop some, and a “garlic paste” similarly full of preservatives. Yes it saved me 5- 10 minutes of peeling and washing and chopping, but it cost me my health and it’s natural content. I admit I should be thankful that it’s more “natural” compared to soylent, a liquid substitute for meals, specifically put together by computer programmers with absolutely no prior nutritional knowledge, for people who are bothered to chew.
Work Gebre, work. Don’t get tired Gebre, work. You fight with many devils if you don’t work, but you only fight with one when you work. Work Gebre.
People now are bothered. They are bothered to chew, clean, drive, sit and fly, to read, to talk. They are bothered to work. And this is reflected from wanting to shorten the Holy Liturgy in churches, to using “pastes” to make a mere pasta sauce.
The more people are bothered to work, the more devils they fight with, the less they turn to God, the more diabolic wars they lose, the harder it becomes to get up from their failures. The deeper they sin, the less they realize they’ve sinned.
” Work Gebre, work. Don’t get tired Gebre, work. You fight with many devils if you don’t work, but you only fight with one when you work. Work Gebre” says St. Abune Gebre Kristos to himself briefly sitting down, tired from brooming the sandy doorsteps of the Baramus Monastery. He quickly then stood up and started cleaning the same doorsteps.
St. Abune Gebre Kristos worked relentlessly all his life as a monk forsaking his riches as well as his position as a crown Prince. He wasn’t bothered to forsake the breezy Ethiopian weather in return for the arid Egyptian desert. He wasn’t bothered to walk to and from his cave to the monastery every Saturday for service when he later became a hermit. He wasn’t bothered to labour more and eat less. He wasn’t bothered to live with God and work for it.
I am afraid this generation won’t give birth to saints like St. Abune Gebre Kristos, as no saint has ever preferred using vacuum cleaners instead of brooms.
“It smells good. You’re done?” She asked as my stormy thoughts calmed. ” Yes, I just need to add coriander and I’m done” I said. And even as the tiny grains of the coriander powder dove in to the sauce, St. Abune Gebre Kristos’ words kept ringing in my ears.
Work, Gebre, work.