My name is Henock Minassie Beyene and, since I can ever remember, my parents have always taught me to stand for what I believe in.
My parents Rebecca (my mom) and Minassie (my dad) are both born and raised in Ethiopia, and came to America when they were done with high school, but they have never, not for one day, forgotten where they are from and never changed who they are. They also haven't forgotten to teach that to their children. My parents have raised two proud Ethiopian children, Nahom aged 27 and me (Henock) aged 19. Ever since I can remember, my parents have brought us up to go to church every Sunday morning with the other Ethiopians who live in the community, which has made us better and stronger people today.
Growing up there wasn't many Ethiopians in my area, but the few of us that were there would always be together. Out of all the kids growing up in the area my brother was the older. Nahom has been a perfect role model for all the Ethiopian kids living there. Now he is working for NASA, has got his Master's degree from Stanford University and going for his Ph.D. I am very proud and honored to say that he is an Ethiopian and my brother.
I have been blessed to have a family that has brought me up in the right manner and always taught me to be proud to be an Ethiopian. I have visited Ethiopia three times before, but each time it was for less than a month because of school. I have now finished high school, and have come to Ethiopia, thinking I'll only be staying for a month because of college, but decided to sacrifice a year of school to see my country and my people. I have now been in Ethiopia for almost seven months. I wanted to share my enjoyment of being in Ethiopia with my mom, and convinced her to come to her home land. We are both staying at my uncle's house (my mother's brother) with his wife who took me in just as if I was his and her own son. My mother has never had the chance to see Ethiopia's historical places or the area where she was brought up. So my uncle decided for us to take a trip to see all of those places. I was so excited to see all these places with my mother, my uncle, and his wife.
The first place we went to was my mother's hometown (Mekele). When we went there I saw a lot of the people who had dark gums in their mouths, and ask my mother what it is. She told me that we tattoo our gums as a sign of beauty in our culture. During this stay in Ethiopia I can say that I have never been more proud to be an Ethiopian in my life, so I begged my mother if I could do the same thing to my gums. I ended up getting it done, and haven't stopped showing everyone my new Ethiopian smile. I was telling my mother I can't wait to show everyone in America so that the people appreciate our culture. So after getting this done we continued with the rest of our trip, we went to Axum, Lalibela, Gondar, and Bahr Dar. I was amazed and proud to appreciate my country's history.
My problems (out problem) is that while I've been in Ethiopia I've noticed that it's not the same Ethiopia that my parents were telling me about while I was growing up. Our people have stopped the most important thing we should be proud of, which is the respect for ourselves and one another. I have witnessed many incidents where I saw our people losing the main thing that makes Ethiopia stand out of all the other countries in the world. Our respect, dignity, and our human rights that I've been told about sounds like made up stories because it's something that we don't see anymore.
Now the recent incident that has happened to me has deeply hurt me and will always remain with me. So back to my wonderful trip with my family. At the final end of the trip we were at the Bahir Dar airport, on our way back to Addis Ababa. We already had our boarding pass, passed through the security and were just waiting for our plane to arrive. Then one of the airline workers told us that the flight has been over-ticketed and there are not enough seats for everyone, and that since we were the only Ethiopians, we have to give up our seats for the tourists. Since when did our human rights become based on our color? We are also tourists; we have also have foreign passports like everyone else; how can our own people do this to us? How could we call it Ethiopian Airlines, if it doesn't serve our own Ethiopians? We were one of the first people to reserve our fight. So I told them I'm sorry but this is not right. You don't lower your own people to make a visitor happy. You should always help out a guest show them a good time and treat them with respect but there are always limits to everything. If Ethiopian Airlines saw the last person who reserved their ticket or did a lottery pick to decide who leaves then I could understand, but just because I'm Ethiopian, that I can not. My uncle had to go to work that day, which he was already a day late too, so when is enough, enough. When did it become okay to hurt our own people to help out a guest? You know I paid almost 5,000 birr here just to have an Ethiopian ID, and stay longer in our country. It's the Ethiopian people who think how we can save up money to come back for the Ethiopian millennium, not them. Their money is for them and their country.
So I had to do what I believed in and refused to give up my seat as with my family. As the plane arrived they told us that we can't get on this flight, we have to wait for the next one. I refused until our own people physically pushed me back from getting on that flight. I asked most of the workers if they believe what they're doing is right. They all replied, "No, but it's my job". I don't believe there was one person who believed that what was being done was right. I had caused a delay for all the passengers for the flight, but not one of the foreigners got mad when I explained to them why I'm doing what I'm doing. In fact they supported what I was doing and told me "good job". I could tell the Ethiopian workers knew what they were doing was wrong, but they need their job to support their family. I believe we should bend our back for our guest, but never break it. How could a foreigner have the power to make two people from the same team fight against each other? Imagine if you were in America, and you saw one American telling another American to give up their airplane seat so that an African or a Middle Eastern could take it. Can you imagine? What happened to our human rights?
I'm not saying don't fly with Ethiopian Airlines. It was only one person's decision (their boss) that is to blame. Fly with Ethiopia, don't let the people who work for Ethiopian Airlines pay the consequence of one persons choice. This is not the only place where this is happening, it's everywhere, and it's spreading all over our country. When I told people about my incident, it seemed like everyone I told had their own incident to tell about. Let's let our country remain the only country that's never been colonized. Let's not let the beautiful stories that my mother tells me about Ethiopia become fairy tales to my generation and the following.
In conclusion, if our own people start to lose the respect, honor, and dignity that our country had, then what do we have? If our human rights are being taken away from our own people, then I would like for every Ethiopian to finish this sentence, "I am proud to be an Ethiopian because. . ." When people think of Ethiopia I want the first thing that they think of to be, never been colonized, and they never lost their human rights and dignity. Please let's not let the 71 million people of Ethiopia forget something that we were once known for.
Ethiopian Airlines is an axcellent Airline in general, but I think there is a lots of room for improvment. I chose Ethiopian Airline when I went to Ethiopia in 2003. Going to Ethiopia From America every thing was fine but coming back to America was like hell. In short, I spent In the air port 26 hours because some one from Ethiopian Airlines would not come and sign some papers. After all that waiting the man that came told me that I missed my connection so I have to buy a new ticket $480.00 to fly to Toronto the same day. He did not know what he was doing. While I was buying a new ticket, I asked the lady at the counter why I had to buy a new ticket?. She said "because you wanted to fly?" I said " yes, yes but I bought this ticket three months ago and I thought it had round trip connections" showing her my original ticket and she lookd at it and told me I do not have to pay a penny. If it was not for me asking and the lady doing her job properly I would have paid twice for the same flight and remember I spent 26 hours at the air port because some lazy Ethiopian Airline worker could not come sign my papers.
Read what other Ethiopians say about the subject at Ethiopian Students Association International website esai.org
Read international passengers comments at airquality.com