Last night we had a festive outdoor celebration at Amadu Hotel where the Elders were staying. A sheep was slaughtered, butchered, and cooked on an outdoor fire served with traditional Ethiopian food and beer. The One Love Band played late into the night. The two Marines from the Embassy detachment who were training at the seminar were there and still dancing when I left. One of the Elders came out and danced with Tes while everyone cheered wildly. Now at the morning completion training there’s loads of good will, smiles, and hugs with new friends accompanied by red-rimmed eyes and a bit slower than three days ago.
Tes bows everyone in to begin the final session, Linda Sensei follows, and I teach last and bow us out. The East African Aikido Seminar is complete. Tes delivers a passionate, moving speech about the importance of this event at this time in Ethiopia, how aikido has taken root so quickly in the youth culture, and the promise it holds for a different kind of education for its society. He acknowledges everyone who made this seminar happen, with a special bow to the Elders and their participation.
We then hand out the shoshus (diplomas) to those who had passed their tests. He then brings out two large framed goatskins with O Sensei’s likeness painted on them with Amharic written in the national colors, and hands them to Linda and myself. They are unique and original and beautifully painted and draw a gasp from the group. O Sensei’s eyes are alive and seem to look out from some ancient place of knowing. I wonder if he even knew where Ethiopia was, and did he imagine that aikido would grow deep roots in the Horn of Africa. Tes then presents the Elders with a beautiful framed photo of the group. As they step to the mat to receive their gift three of them come to their knees and bow formally to Tes as we do in aikido. It’s a sincere gesture and a deeply touching moment. It exemplifies all that we have envisioned that could occur here: a coming together to create, at least momentarily, a unity of heart, mind, and action that could be a model for a society committed to equity and reciprocity. I am tired and I know everyone else who helped make this happen is tired, yet we also know that this completion signals a new beginning.
Then the saying of many good byes and hugs and everyone pitching in to disassemble the dojo and return the Ras Hailu Gym to its former state which we know in our hearts will never be the same again.
The kit of pigeons sits in the rafters above peering down as we depart the dojo for the last time. Instead of taking the shuttle back to the hotel I walk back with David Weinstock and Tom Lutes as a way of integrating the intensity of the last ten days. I feel refreshed stretching out in the hectic streets and equatorial sun, letting in the success of our efforts and letting go of the trials.
When we arrive at the hotel I receive word that Tes is in the upstairs meeting room convening with the representatives of Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Somalia having conversations around the formation of the East African Aikido Association. As I enter the room there are wide smiles on their faces as they as lean over a Memo of Understanding document. They look up and present the signed memo stating that we are collectively moving forward in inaugurating the East African Aikido Association. Another momentous occasion that is met with hugs, high fives, fist bumps, and all of us doing the Happy Dance (see video at top of post). We are happy and satisfied and as the seminar completes the Association begins. Completions and Beginnings. I’m sure we will dream the Happy Dream tonight. Together we can make a better world.
Take It Easy But Take It