What is it about Sunday? Is it that easy, laidback feeling when the sunlight hits your face as you wake up in the morning? Or the feel of the cool breeze on your skin as you walk around? That care free morning, sipping a cup of your choice of morning drink while reading the day’s paper? Is it the meals and fun times shared by family and friends? Or just some time alone for introspection before the start of a long week.
Whatever it is, there is something about Sunday to be celebrated and what better way than by chilling out, shooting breezes and enjoying home-cooked dishes with the family.
The good book states that God created the universe in six days and took rest on the seventh, and as such, Sunday is believed to be a day of worship and rest for Christians and other believers.
While mornings are reserved for going to church, afternoons are a time to do leisurely activities with your family and friends. It was a Sunday afternoon that, after having lunch with the whole family, we all gathered for the traditional coffee ceremony. In our house Sundays and coffee as a family together were a must and no matter what plans each member of the family had, we were obligated to put them aside for a couple of hours so as to have a valuable family time and nobody dared to oppose such rule against mother.
Sunday is no democracy for the Yebio house hold.
As the youngest in our family was helping mom prepare the items needed for the coffee ceremony, there was a knock on the door.
“For God’s sakes it is Sunday! Who in the right state of mind dares to go out on a hot Sunday afternoon?” I had muttered loudly. And that was how a long conversation about Sundays and going out started with my Granddad (May God rest his soul).
My granddad would start his conversation saying, In the 1950s most Asmarinos and to a lesser extent city dwellers outside Asmara spent their Sunday afternoons inside packed movie houses, watching John Wayne hunting down bad guys or maybe Errol Flynn assaulting pirate ships.
What about those who couldn’t collect enough money during the weekdays to be able to buy themselves a seat in the movie houses? They had been running errands with their big brothers and obtain paltry donation in vain. Now, they have nothing to do except hang around movie houses or stroll along the Liberation Avenue feasting their eyes on items displayed on shop windows or as a last resort set off to the wood in search of adventure.
What kind of adventure? I would ask my Grandpa. Watching amore a L’Italiana, i.e. playing the peeping tom while Italian inamorati kissed and hugged under the bushes.
We were too young to have sweethearts in those days and even if we had, it was more or less a platonic love plus our then semi-traditional upbringing did not permit us to unleash our passions in public.
2017………enter Kebron, the lone wolf who prefers to stay indoors, brooding and making his mother feel miserable on Sundays.
It is 1 P.M. in the afternoon.
“Why don’t you go out and play like the rest of the neighborhood kids?” says his mother.
“All my friends have gone to the game arcade and you want me to go out and play football on a hot Sunday afternoon?” retorts Kebron.
Well, to some extent he is right. As Noel Coward has said already [only] mad dogs and English men go out in the mid day sun. The Japanese don’t care to, the Chinese wouldn’t dare. Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one …
The gloomy mood dissipates as aunt Tikea arrives for a visit. It is 2 p.m. in the afternoon and you wonder how this lady in her late seventies managed to walk all the way from the other side of Asmara carrying five loaves of himbasha (Leavened and decorated local bread) and some dates.
“Yeeesssss!” shouts Kebron unable to contain himself.
“How are you dear Tikea? You never come empty handed, do you? You shouldn’t have done that. It was not necessary….. Kebron would you please put the loaves in the cupboard…..”
“Yessiree!” shouts Kebron
Kebron darts out of his blues. His spirit is refreshed and the smell of himbasha and dates imparts in him a new lease on life. But he has other plans too. His mother is now ready to exploit the situation by sending him on errands after errands.
“Kebron dear, would you be kind enough and go buy me some coffee beans and sugar….and would you please……” she hands him 100 Nakfa to go shopping. He goes to the Arab shop on the corner and buys the required items and keeps the change. As the chat between his mother and Addey Tikea passes from first degree gossip to third degree backbiting, Kebron sneaks out of the house and disappears.
“Kebron, would you please…..”
But Kebron is long gone. He is in the Game arcade playing FIFA 17 with his friends who had given him up for dead.
“I did it!” he whispers to Nael, his best friend, inside the arcade.
“I am sure you stole the money from your mother,” says Nael.
“She will only know about it in the evening…..”
“Evening or Morning, you will sure be belted.”
“I would go through hell just to play this new game.”
And sure enough, Kebron was severely punished by his father and mother that night, who lashed his skin by turns as if he was Kenta-Kuntie. He expected it and bore the pain like a Spartan warrior.
What do people think about on Sunday afternoons? Frankly speaking, women have no problems putting Sundays to proper use. They know where to go and whom to visit, what to carry and what to say. There are always relatives and acquaintances here and there who have just lost a member of the family, who are having their son or daughter baptized, who have an ailing mother in the house, a pregnant woman who has just given birth to a child, another one who is celebrating a child’s birthday…. and sometimes they just invent excuses to be able to see each other and more often than not, they visit each other just for the hell of it.
Sometimes I look out my window on Sunday afternoons and watch people go by, women in their Sunday best, full of life, chatting, giggling, shouting….
“I think the sun has fallen down…or is it shining along with other suns…tee hee….”
The Asmara city buses are packed with womenfolk. Their loud talks and giggles bother a man who looks like he has given up on life all together.
“We never had peace of mind since the declaration of gender equality…”
“Give them some more time and they will dominate us.” He sighs.
Most men don’t know how to create excuses. If we exclude those who go to bars to play billiards and those who start booze before the socially accepted time, we have those that curse the day, put on their hats and head toward the few parks that we have in Asmara, sit there and contemplate. They remember the time they made people tremble with a single shout of command. They look at their surrounding and utter:
“Things are no longer the same since we retired.”
“Why don’t you go to the movies?” asks an acquaintance.
“You call these movies? They don’t make films anymore like they used to do back in the 1940.”
The Younger generations usually flock to the cinemas not to watch movies, but rather the English Premier League or Laliga. Eritrea grand Italian cinemas on the weekends shudder to the sound of English and Spanish football. Supporters in replica shirts can be seen heading to Cinema Roma at three in the afternoon to catch Manchester United take on Arsenal.
On the other hand, young girls are very creative. As long as they feel attractive, they go out even in the mid-day sun for adventure. For Danait it is a blind date with an unknown lover. She is simply drifting.
“Hello Almuza!” ventures a Romeo.
“I beg your pardon.”
“Sorry, I mean Saron.”
“I am sorry but you are talking to the wrong person.”
“What difference does it make….”
That’s how Danait came to know Simon one Sunday afternoon.