So we, the Journalist and I, travel east to Massawa a city on the coast of Eritrea by the Red Sea. The taxi corkscrews from the capital upwards into the highlands then winds its way down to the lowlands. Wild baboos line the roads, donkeys goats and camels. For much of the three hour journey this up up and down down process is repeated. . I feel like a marble in an elaborate vertical pinball machine.
With gusts of enthusiasm the taxi driver points out national treasures , “mountains!” he exclaims grappling the steering wheel and negotiating a hair raising corner “you’re Eritrea…” I grunt acknowledgement, grip the seat and press an imaginary break peddle. With my face squashed by gravity against the nearside window I realise I don’t actually want to be part of the mountain. “the monastery you see it” he points to his left as he skirts right to the edge “you see it!” of a thousand metre drop “you see the monastery” sweat is pouring off my forehead “you’re Eritrea….” . National pride is a national pastime but knows no boundaries. “look a camel” I say excitedly expecting the refrain “you’re Eritrea”. Silence.
We pass through dusty villages and towns and stop for a mid journey coffee in Ghinda filled with Arabic traders, men dressed in white robes and cloth wrapped around their heads and the Rashiada women in bright coloured cloth as if dressed in waves only their eyes showing through the coloured face bands. Children try to sell pyramids of Guava to hungry travellers. The further we travel the darker skinned the people, a beautiful people. A beautiful people, of whom i am part. My father was Eritrean.
I am born of a union of two countries. My mother is from the Amhara tribe of Ethiopia and my father of Tigray, Eritrea. It is a marvel to see these people, my people. I see my shape of face in the men everywhere and I see the face of my mother, my sisters and brothers, my aunts and uncles and my father. It’s a beautiful thing. The sun is relentless, darkening my skin as I marvel at our likeness. Soon enough I am darkened into one of my own people and become as unnoticeable as I have always wanted to be.