I was lying on my bed and my mobile phone, which I had to fish out from underneath my pillow, read a blurry 3:30 A.M. Wondering why I woke up an hour earlier than the time my alarm was set, I got up and tiptoed to the bathroom.
I washed, put on my clothes and checked my bags all over again. I spent almost 45 minutes thinking about the place that I was about to explore for the first time.
Since I was lucky to catch a ride with my friend in her father’s car, I was saved all the trouble of having to make my first trip to Adi-Keih by bus, which often entailed getting sick on the sinuous road and being irritated by crying babies and creepy chicken. They came to pick me up at 5:00 A.M. letting my anticipation take a hold of me. After putting my bags in the trunk we started our trip to Adi-Keih. We drove through the streets of Asmara and reached the road leading to Godaif, a gateway to the Southern region. We went past a gas station at Godaif and were already at Asmara’s city limit. I tried to watch the landscapes through the windows but realizing there was no sunrise to hold my attention, I put in my earphones, closed my eyes and went to sleep.
The day dawned foggy and the air was filled with bird songs. I glanced around and asked if we had reached our destination. The response was not encouraging as we had travelled only for 55 kms. At that point we were driving through Segeneiti. I couldn’t see anything beyond a little distance around the car. My friend asked me if I had been to this place and that opened up a conversation about our plans for the year. It was only when we saw the “Welcome to Adi-Keih” sign that we realized we had been chitchatting for long and we gasped.
The fog cleared; in fact it had been clearing the whole time we were laying down our expectations and hopes. The college is located at the entrance of the town. We went past the guards at the gates and put our bags down in our assigned dormitories. It was only 8:00 o’clock. So, we went out for a drive around the outskirts of the town and finally went to a restaurant known as Park Milan. We feasted on the very famous kicha fitfit, (anyone who has been to the College of Arts and Social Sciences remembers it well) and a huge jar-like cup full of guava juice. My mouth still waters! We, then, decided to take a walk after committing gluttony, but wanted to go back to the car as the cold wind slapped our faces and ears.
Adi-Keih is one of the biggest towns in the Southern region and is approximately 115 kms away from Asmara. It is located on a high plateau, which makes its weather difficult to bear.
Like other people who live in a small town, the people of Adi-keih literally know one another, and for this reason they are able to recognize new faces easily. The way they treat guests is admirable; they would go out of their way to comfort visitors. I remember dressing up and going to weddings every once in a while for whenever the townspeople came across college students, they would invite them and their dorm-mates to celebrate the happiness with their families.
Adi-Keih is surrounded by a chain of mountains, which college students enjoy walking to just to bathe in the soothing freshness of the air and landscape. The beautiful sight of a sunrise in the morning appears as if the mountains were giving birth to the sun.
As you continue to mingle with the community, you begin to notice some dialectal difference in the use of Tigrinya. The word qidmi timali, which means the day before yesterday, is pronounced by the townspeople qir timali and Adi-Keih, the name of the town, Adi’eh. Some words were somewhat new to my ears. Shishig is the word they use to refer to broom; the word we use in Asmara is mekhoster. Bi’erir is chewing gum, which in Asmara is known as mastika.and the word for plastic band is metet which is called lastic in Asmara. Conversing with the townspeople, who are humorous and tend to speak fast, was always wonderful. As I learned more from the townspeople, I came to love them and I always feel a powerful tie to them.
My second trip to Adi-keih was by bus. Before I boarded the bus I thought the ride was going to be intimidating because of my motion sickness. But to my delightful surprise I soon learned it was quite suitable for there were a lot of people in the bus to chat with and that helped me forget about my sickness.
As a 17-year-old girl, who just came straight from Sawa, parting from my family and friends made me cringe. But after realizing how much life turned around and how my experiences, connections and personality grew, I have been grateful to this day for the opportunity to study and live in Adi-Keih. The four years elapsed as if they were only four minutes. The people and the instructors I got acquainted with made me realize who I am as an Eritrean woman.
They taught me ethics, values and principles. As a result I came out of college feeling strongly confident and proud.