Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Conversation with Sara Tracy Meretab

                                                         The “default” for Eritreans is to help one another.

Issayas: Would you tell us about yourself?

Sara: My name is Sara Tracy Meretab.  I’m currently a Senior at Stanford, graduating in March. I’m majoring in Economics, so I’m interested in business and finance. I grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. My father was born in Asmara and my mother is American.

Issayas: Your video is wonderful.  What can you tell us about it?

Sara: I had so much fun making that video. I took that trip after my freshman year because I told my dad that I wanted to visit Eritrea again. It had been a couple years since my earlier visit, and I felt like there was a lot more value I would get out of the trip now that I was older. I recorded everything. That video is taken from hours and hours of footage! There were two reasons I made the video. The first was to immortalize my trip in my mind—re-watching it always triggers so many warm memories. The second reason was to show the country as I experienced. Both the highlands and the lowlands are beautiful in different ways, and the people have a unique warmth and sense of community. My goal was to convey that spirit in the video. Watch the video below.

Issayas: You and your fellow Eritrean students at Stanford University came to talk to the Adal Tigrinya School in San Jose. You came with the first group. How was your visit ?

Sara: I loved visiting the Adal Tigrinya School. I was so impressed and inspired by the young Eritrean students that I had the opportunity to teach. They’re not your average kids. A 5th grader asked how she could get ahead now so that she could take college courses in high school. A 7th grader took diligent notes on preparation strategies for the SATs. As I stood in front of them, I was in awe of how their parents have worked tirelessly to give them the best opportunities, and engrained a tremendous emphasis on education and a strong work ethic. Those hard working Eritrean kids make me so proud of my heritage. I hope the Adal Tigrinya School continues to grow and strengthen the Eritrean community—I would have loved to have been a part of that growing up!

                                          Eritrean Stanford students Adel (left) and Sara (right) at Adal Tigrinya School.

Issayas: After your first visit to Adal Tigrinya School, you and your fellow Eritrean students at Stanford University decided to start the Stanford-Adal Mentorship Program with the Eritrean high
school students at Adal.  This is a great idea. Do you think this could be a model to other Eritrean communities?

Sara: The Mentorship Program has so much potential in other Eritrean communities around the country. It plays to so many of the strengths that I see in nearly all Eritreans that I meet—hard work, determination, growth and communal support. The “default” for Eritreans is to help one another,
and that is truly special. The network of support for Eritreans could be extremely expansive—middle schoolers mentor elementary school students, high school students mentor middle school students, college students mentor high school students, and young working professional Eritreans mentor college students. We all want to see one another succeed, and as a united community, we have so many resources to help our youth do just that.

                                 Eritrean Stanford students Lewam (left), Eden (center), and Adel (right) at Adal Tigrinya School.

Issayas: You are graduating next quarter, what is your plan?

Sara: When I graduate in March, I plan on taking a couple months to travel. There are many parts of Europe and Africa that I would like to see. I will also be spending some time with my family in Pennsylvania, before returning to San Francisco where I will start working at Visa in August.

                                                           Watch Sara's video below.

                                                                  Sara's Gopro video
Issayas: When is your next trip to Eritrea?

Sara: I don’t have a tripped planned to Eritrea..yet! I was considering taking another trip with my father again after I graduate, or perhaps a trip alone. I also promised myself after the last visit that I would be much more comfortable with Tigrinya when I returned—so I’m still working on that!

Issayas: Thank you for your time and congratulations. Of course, we will keep in touch after you've graduated.

Friday, August 7, 2015

From Eritrea's Photo Archives

All photos are courtesy of the Research and Documentation Center, Eritrea

Pictures from the Italian Period (1890-1941)

click on the pictures for larger images

Sycamore tree at Mai Wukirti


    The construction of Victor Immanuel Park, Asmara.

Assab, Eritrea

Massawa, Eritrea

Keren, Eritrea

Rock painting at Adi Alawti, Qohaito.

Agave harvesting. The fiber of agave is used for housing and the nectar is also used for drinks  such as Tequila.

Growing sisal agave. The commercial values of the fiber of sisal agave include rope, paper, twine, cloth and carpet.

                                                                              Ila Bered



Palm dum harvesting in Aqordat and Keren. Dum is used to make buttons. In my interview with Emilio De Luigi, he mentioned that he had lived in Agordat for many years and dum is mentioned in his poem about Aqordat. Check out my interview with Emilio on this blog.

For the Ancient Egyptians, like myrrh and incense (check out my interview with Dr. Nate Dominy on this blog on the "Land of Punt"), the seed of the palm dum was considered a sacred and was used for  rituals. Seeds of the palm dum were found in the tombs of many pharaohs including the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen (popularly known as King Tut).

One of the lessons for Eritrea  is to investigate the various scientific researches and data collected by the various Italian  universities during their administration (especially in the field of botany, zoology, and etc.) and explore their commercial applicability today.

Merenge Glass Factory Co. and its products. Glass is made from liquid sand and Eritrea has lots of sand. Of course, first, it needs very high temperature!

If my memory serves me right, I was told that, during the British Administration,  three Eritrean glass makers (experts) were taken to Kenya to teach there. I heard the story in a different context, however, anyone with any information on this subject would be very much appreciated!

Below is one of my favorite pictures.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Professor David D. Laitin Donates His Collection

Professor David D. Laitin Donates His Collection to the Hoover Institution Archives.

The collection deals with Somalia in particular and the Horn of Africa in general. For the general information and contents of the collection : click on  the links below.
 (*contents in the pdf section)

A 1978 issue of Halgan: A periodical published by WSLF

                                       Author signed copy of "The Principles of Somali" by
                                       Solomon Warsama and Major R.C. Abraham, 1951

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eritrea: the Oldest Young Nation.

Recently, someone told  me that I should post the brief speech that I gave at the Eritrean flag raising ceremony in San Jose, California in 2014. As a result, I am posting the speech below.

Council-member Sam Liccardo, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening,

In the west, people start a speech with a joke, in Asia, with an apology and in Africa with a libation or remembrance.

As Eritrean-Americans we do both. Since we had the remembrance earlier, I will save the joke for later.

The Eritrean Community of San Jose is thrilled that their city is raising the Eritrean Flag in honor of Eritrean Independence Day which takes place on May 24, 2014.

Firstly, a few points about the flag:

The green represents development.
The red represents the huge sacrifice made to achieve independence.
The blue represents the marine wealth.
The yellow  represents the mineral wealth. The wreath and olive branch were adopted (the color was changed from green to yellow) from the Eritrean flag of the Federal Period (1952-1962).

Secondly, by way of an introduction, Eritrea is the oldest young nation*. The land, culture, languages, script, rock painting, etc. are very old.Its archeological discoveries rank second in Africa.

You might ask, how could one be old and young at the same time?

Let’s start with the old part, first:

It is old because all paleontological and archeological evidences suggest that Eritrean history is as old as humanity**.  A one-million year old fossil was found in Buia, Eritrea and they are still finding more as we speak. Beside human fossils, a twenty-seven million year old elephant missing link and a one-million year old bull fossils were also found. The archeologist from Spain who constructed the bull from two hundred pieces joked that bull fighting must have started in Eritrea and the first matador must have been from Eritrea.

It is old because researchers from the University of Santa Cruz have found out that what the ancient Egyptians called “the Land of Punt” or “the Land of Gods” was actually located in Eritrea.

It is old because Christianity and Islam were adopted without force during the 4th and 7th centuries, respectively.

As you can see, I am coming from Before the Common Era (BCE) to the Common Era (CE).

From 15th to 18th century, Eritrea was colonized by various forces including the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. Italy officially created Eritrea on January 1st 1890 and ruled it until 1941 when it was replaced by Great Britain. After ten years of British rule, Eritrea was forced to federate with Ethiopia under the auspices of the United Nations, however, in 1962 Ethiopia unilaterally annexed Eritrea. A year earlier, the Eritreans had started an armed struggle which lasted thirty years.

Eritrea is new because on May 24, 1991 Eritrean forces entered the capital city Asmara and declared Eritrea finally independent. Therefore, tomorrow will be Eritrea’s 23rd anniversary. Since independence, Eritrea has achieved a great deal and is one of the only four African countries that have achieved United Nation’s Millennium Goals.

I dare suggest to you that Eritrea is getting younger as it gets older. Or as my speech suggests Eritrea started old and is getting younger every day.

One of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century, F. Scott Fitzgerald, must have been thinking of Eritrea when he wrote his short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Speaking of young people, San Jose has a growing number of second generation Eritrean-Americans.

Let me introduce you to one of them, Ginbar Ketema.

Thank you

Note:  Since that speech Council-member Sam Liccardo has become the mayor of San Jose.

* In 2007, I created a 10 minutes promotional video for the Eritrea Development Foundation (EDF) entitled  "Eritrea: the Oldest New Nation".  After South Sudan's independence in 2011, I changed the words to "Eritrea: the Oldest Young Nation".

** Tsegai Medhin , an Eritrean PhD archeology student in Spain, came up with the sentence.
See his interview on my blog.