Tesema describes his family tree, his village, and the local and family history. His mother’s first husband and all the male members of the family were murdered by Italian soldiers. She was introduced to Tesema’s father after he was also widowed, and they married. Each of Tesema’s parents had their own family, and they lived in villages far away from each other. As a result, Tesema spent most of his childhood with his mother. He would herd the sheep and cattle, milk the cows, and work the fields. Every so often, Tesema visited his father and stayed with him for short periods of time.
When he was 13, he went to live with his father in the village of Debarq. There, too, he herded sheep and cattle. He explains how shepherds were trained. He also describes how to make the whips used by shepherds, a sheepskin shawl, and a ball for games. He describes walking between the villages and the customs of hospitality and etiquette among travelers. He also explains the family and community hierarchies that determined what honors were given to the various functionaries.
Tesema’s father was a traditional doctor, who treated both physical and mental illnesses, including infertility. Tesema describes the doctor-patient meetings, the treatments, the medicines his father concocted against infections, hemorrhoids, blood diseases, and more. Within the grounds of his father’s house was a structure where the patients could be hospitalized, if necessary, for up to a week. Tesema describes at length the process of becoming a traditional doctor. He then talks about the traditions passed from generation to generation, verbally and in writing, such as the book “Odelis” that discusses the fates.
During epidemics, members of the community would build temporary houses in distant places and move the sick people to them in order to stop the epidemic from spreading. The patients remained in isolation until they recovered or died. Tesema talks about malaria and describes how the government delivered pesticides to the area by donkeys.
In addition to farming and beekeeping, Tesema made a living from weaving and sewing clothes for men, women and children. He describes the processes of growing cotton, spinning the cotton into thread, weaving the cloth, sewing it into properly sized clothes, and selling them.