by Janet Lee (Emdeber 1974-76)
Typically, we close an issue of The Herald with news of Ethiopia and Eritrea and a series of book reviews. Most of the news pieces are serious; a few are done in fun. A little over a week ago, we received news that merits special mention and deserves to stand on its own, upfront, “above the fold”: the passing of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The reporting of an event as significant as this must be handled with skill, balance, and honesty. Who better to do this than Barry Hillenbrand (Debre Marcos 1963-1965)? He is a master in his craft. Agree or disagree, this is a thought provoking essay and leads this issue of The Herald.
In just a few weeks, 100 E&E RPCVs “Return to Ethiopia.” The State Department has sent assurances that there is no cause for alarm because of the recent events, but as always, care needs to be taken and travelers need to be registered for alerts. Some RPCVs have had opportunities to go back to Ethiopia one or more times for business or pleasure. For some this is the first time since they left their sites after their close of service. There is a tab on The Herald website (Return to Ethiopia) that links travelers to important information about the journey. E&E RPCV also has a very active Facebook page, where travelers are checking in with each other about last minute details. Didn’t know about the Facebook page? This link will take you there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/120114451456889/ or just key in Ethiopia & Eritrea Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in the Facebook search box. Although most of the traffic on the page is currently about the Return, feel free to ask questions or post comments that might be of interest to the entire group. There are currently only 91 members belonging to this group. Please spread the word. Once again, thanks to Marian Haley Beil for setting up and administering the site.
A current Volunteer sent me this link to a video produced by some very talented PCVs: I am Ethiopian. Although the technology may have changed since we were there, it is apparent that Ethiopia has touched many of these Volunteers as much as it touched many of us RPCVs. Take a look and be moved: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LIhl6gEx1U&feature=youtu.be
It should not come as a surprise that the recent book about Sargent Shriver, A Good Man: Rediscovering my Father, Sargent Shriver, by his son Mark Shriver, would mention the Peace Corps, after all Sargent Shriver founded and served as the first director of the Peace Corps. It comes as no more of a surprise to E&E RPCVs the importance of Peace Corps Ethiopia as is related in the book by this exchange at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy:
According to Dad’s former colleague Dr. Joe English,
“It was the largest gathering of heads of state ever, and Angie Duke, the chief of protocol at the State Department, asked Sarge to greet them.
Sarge said yes, and then he asked me to grab a box of Mass cards. I got one just before they were taken to St. Matthew’s Cathedral for the funeral Mass. I gave them to Sarge.
The first person he greeted was Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia, who was just over five feet tall. Selassie was crying when your dad handed him the card and said, ‘Your Majesty, I want this card to be a memorial of President Kennedy, who loved your country very much.’
Selassie said to him, ‘President Kennedy needs no memorial in our country because he has three hundred of his children working there today,’ a reference to the Peace Corps volunteers.” (pg.22)
I am sure that most E & E RPCVs have their own stories about His Imperial Majesty, after all nearly every building, school, or hospital was named after him or a member of his family. My personal memory was being in Addis Ababa on the day of his overthrow.
Doug Eadie (Addis Ababa 1964-67) “finds” Haile Selassie once again on a return trip to Ethiopia after connecting with two of his former students. He has written extensively about this trip in a blog and offers us a short reflection in our Journeys section on “Finding Haile Selassie.”
One of my most memorable experiences in Ethiopia was rafting on the Awash River, organized by James McCann (Burie, Gojam, 1973–75). Jim has returned to Ethiopia many times and currently is working on a project related to malaria. For a quick update on the state of malaria in Ethiopia today, check out the Projects section. Perhaps you have your own personal malaria story that you can share with him.
Can you imagine young, confident Ethiopian girls striding across a college campus chanting, “Girls leading our world”? Current PCVs in Ethiopia who were Camp counselors for their summer project surely didn’t expect to see this either when the girls arrived for the Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) experience. Paul Voigt (Shambu 2011-) provides us with a bit of history of the camp and a delightful overview this past summer’s camp experience.
Is there life after Peace Corps? Do we look for employment or seek out additional education? How do we capitalize on the knowledge and experience that we have just received through our years of service? Danielle Hoekwater (Mekelle 2009–11) shares her experience as a Peace Corps Fellow and guides new RPCVs on the ins and outs of both the Fellows program and other educational options in our section on Opportunities.
One of the great benefits of being a librarian is that I have so many opportunities to meet authors and be exposed to their stories both in print and in person.
This past summer I had the opportunity to meet two authors of Ethiopian heritage:
Tewodros Fekadu, No One’s Son, and Marcus Samuelsson, Yes, Chef. Nothing endears you more to someone from
another culture than to speak to him in his own language.
We also review Peace Corps Experience: Write and Publish Your Memoir by Lawrence F. Lihosit and Hope is Cut by RPCV Daniel Mains. Thanks to Shelley Tekeste (Mekelle 2009-11) and Robert E. Hamilton (Bahar Dar 1965-67) for writing reviews of these books. I am always looking for reviewers and recommendations of books to review. I will make every attempt to locate a copy of the book for you to keep. Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Godspeed to all of our travelers. How I wish I could join you on this adventure!