Monthly Archives: December 2010

Fiftieth Anniversary

Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Update

Hotels are filling, expectations growing, more work ahead

by Barry Hillenbrand (Debre Marcos 63-65)

The good folks over at The Crystal City Marriott, E&E RPCV’s headquarters hotel for Peace Corps 50th Anniversary jamboree, tell us that more than 60 people have made reservation for Friday and Saturday night, September 23 and 24, 2011. And 25 E&E RPCVs have made reservations for the shoulder days of Thursday, September 22, and Sunday, September 25. So far the Marriott has extended the special rate we negotiated to those shoulder dates, even though the number of rooms set aside for us was only 15. They also tell us that should the number of reservations for Friday/Saturday, September 23–24, exceed 100, the number we contracted for with Marriot, they will allow people to get the special rate of $109 a night.  At this time, they are being very flexible.

But as they say in the TV commercials: this offer will not last forever. As we move closer to the date, the Marriott people say, they may have to put a lid on the special office price.  So make your reservations now while the special rate is still on offer.

Okay, making those reservations with Marriott may be easier said than done.  Some people calling the Marriott reservations line — 800-228-9290 — have experienced trouble getting the reservation agent to find our booking. The name of our discount reservation offer

Ethiopia and Eritrea 50

sometimes does not seem to register with the folks on the telephone.  Nor does the group code which is


So we would like to repeat our suggestion that if you are having trouble, just hang up and dial again, hoping to get a agent who knows East African geography. Remember to use  the hotel’s full, cumbersome name,

Crystal City Marriott at Reagan National Airport

and mention it is located on Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington, Virgina. The Washington area has lots of Marriotts, so getting the right one is important.

Or you can book on line by following these instructions:

  1. Go to where you will find the home page for the Crystal City Marriott.
  2. On the right side of the page is “Check Rates & Availability” (It should have a – in a small box in front of that text. If there is a – inside the box, click on it to get the +.)
  3. Enter the dates, number of rooms and number of guests you would like to reserve.
  4. Several lines below is “Special Rates & Awards” with a + inside a box in front of this text. Click on the + to get a – in the box.
  5. Find “Group code” in the list below.
  6. Enter PECPECA for our group code.
  7. Click the red button “Check Availability”
  8. On the new page you will see under the “Special Rates” tab “ETHIOPIA ERITREA 50″
  9. Click on the circle in front of “109.00 per night” to select it and more options will appear from which to choose.
  10. Once you’ve made these selections, click on the red button “Continue.”
  11. Fill in your personal and billing information.
  12. Click on the red button “Continue.”
  13. Review your registration information.
  14. Click on the red button “Complete Reservation.”
  15. In about 30 seconds you will receive a “Confirmation Number.” Write it down.
  16. You will also receive an email confirmation of your registration.

We continue to urge you to send an email to E&ERPCV Board member CJ Smith Castagnaro, (Harar; Debre Zeit; Addis Ababa 65–66, 67–69)
 at CJ has heroically offered to organize the group list. Let her know whether you’ll  be attending. She’ll take it from there. And we ask that you continue to send emails to CJ or Marian Beil offering ideas on how we can organize the Big Event and volunteering your services. Or post ideas in the comments section below this story. We will respond to them eventually.

Keeping up with 50th Anniversary News

Meanwhile, news of various 50th anniversary events and celebrations are dribbling in from all over the U.S. Peace Corps and the National Peace Crops Association are both trying to keep track of these events on their web sites. But a better source of information is the new blog set up by our good colleagues John Coyne and Marian Beil at Peace Corps Worldwide.  They have started a 50th Anniversary blog which is worth a look. Check out
Coyne is always entertaining to read. And the site has interesting items, like a report on the recent observances at the University of Michigan of JFK’s Peace Corps speech made during the 1960 Presidential Campaign.

Fiftieth Anniversary

UCLA Peace Corps 50th anniversary commemorations

Ethiopia 2s at UCLA - click for larger view

UCLA is seeking items for an exhibition to accompany a series of events planned for March 2011

The HERALD received an email from Kate Kuykendall, a RPCV (China 99-01) who is working as a public affairs officer for Peace Corps in Los Angeles, asking help from Ethiopian and Eritrean RPCVs in putting together programs marking Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary. Here’s Kate’s message:

Dear Ethiopia/Eritrea RPCV,
The Los Angeles Peace Corps office and UCLA would like to specially invite those RPCVs who trained on the UCLA campus during the 1960s to take part in the commemoration of Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary at UCLA from March 2-5, 2011.  We would also like to solicit your help in developing an exhibit that will chronicle some of the events that took place on campus during your training.

We have a great series of events planned, including a panel and dessert reception for the exhibit that will feature Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams and MSNBC host Chris Matthews (RPCV Swaziland), the Peace Corps International Festival, a film screening, and a service project. Learn more and sign up for our email updates at  We also have a Facebook page at

This newly launched website also contains a place for you to share your experience as a trainee and a photo.  We’d love to hear from you and feature your story and photo on the site.

For an exhibit at the Powell Library we are in need of photos, written materials, or memorabilia that can help us tell the story of the Peace Corps experience training on the UCLA campus in the 1960s (telegram from Sarge Shriver, photos at Mira Hershey Hall, etc.).  We are interested in any formal or informal essays or journal entries you have written, training materials, recollections, graphic images, or anything else that can help us put together this exhibit.

We will be offering discounted hotel rates and VIP tours of the campus for trainees that make the trip to Los Angeles for these events.

Please let us know if you will be able to participate in our celebration and if you have any materials that we may borrow for the exhibit. You can contact me at  or by phone at 310 356 1106 . We are also grateful if you are able to get us in touch with other RPCVs who trained on UCLA’s campus and invite them to contribute and come to the March events.

We look forward to hearing back from you as soon as possible — and please help us spread the word!

Sincerely, Kate


Remember Glen and his legacy of green

A returning PCV discovers living memories of Glen Gish (Mekelle 63–65)

By Janet Lee (Endeber 1974–76)

EACH MORNING I walk into the city from my compound, about 35 minutes away, to begin work at the Segenat Children and Youth Library in Mekelle. I know that I am being watched; the call out of “ferengi” is a bit hard to miss.  Occasionally, small children will greet me. Some will walk with me and attempt conversations or wait until I speak to them first. On occasion I am greeted by an adult, but usually only if we have met previously. As I near the library, school children recognize me as part of the library and shake my hand in welcome.

One day in mid-October, a kind and gentle man entered the library.  Ato Teame Gidey had observed me for some time walking down the street, sometimes alone, sometimes with Ato Yohannes Gebregeorgis of the  Tigray Libraries and Literature Development Project. Ato Teame wondered what I was doing for such a long time in Mekelle and where I was going each day. He soon discovered that my journey led to the Segenat Library. He was overjoyed to see such a beautiful library established just for children. He found out that I am a librarian and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who worked in Ethiopia years ago. I am on a six-month sabbatical leave from Regis University in Denver to return to Ethiopia and work with Ato Yohannes in setting up the Segenat Children and Youth Library.

Ato Teame is a retired educator who taught throughout Ethiopia for over 30 years. When I told him that I, too, had been a teacher in Ethiopia, with the Peace Corps during the time of Haile Sellasie, his eyes misted over. He named off all of his former Peace Corps teachers. Like Ato Yohannes, and other men of his generation, he had been taught by Peace Corps Volunteers in the ’60s and early ’70s.

There was one Volunteer of whom he spoke most fondly. Mind you, these Volunteers were here over forty years ago. The Volunteer was Glen Gish and he ran the forestry club at a local high school. Ato Teame regaled me with stories of Glen and how the forestry club planted tree after tree in a reforestation effort between what is now the Hilltop Hotel and Mekelle University. He spoke of the sorrow that the students shared with the Volunteers when U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and recited a Tigrigna poem that they had written that expressed their sorrow as well. He promised to get a copy of the poem as well as to show me the certificate that Glen had presented him after his service in the forestry club.

He invited me to take a “little” walk with him up the hill, past Glen’s house where the club met and watched films, and walk among the vast forest of trees that Glen and the forestry club had planted and that remains alive today.

The “little” walk turned out to be a bit more of a march, as Ato Teame, his son Adam, and I hiked up the mountain, stopping frequently along the steep switchbacks to view the city of Mekelle, what was once a small town of 50,000 people and now a proper city of nearly a quarter million people.

Ato Teame Gidey amid Glen's trees

Ato Teame shared his memories:

Mt. Chomaa (meaning “sweet” as in tasty or savory) was ideally suited for vegetation and the reforestation project, and, under Mr. Glen’s direction, fifty to sixty boys scampered up the mountain to plant trees one by one right at the beginning of the rainy season. People at that time would only cut, slash and use the native trees for wood for fires and never thought about planting trees for the future. The Governor of Tigray would meet the boys at the summit of Mt. Chomaa with bread and marmalade, and tins of sardines. The boys would gather in excitement and “boogie” and dance the “twist” and sing songs by Elvis Presley. Mr. Glen’s fingers “touched the soil” and the people readily accepted this new notion of thinking about the next generation.

As Ato Teame and I surveyed the area, I noticed a fire pit with the remains of a bonfire or “demera” for celebrating the recent Meskal holiday. I can imagine now how thousands of youth would have sung and danced and lit straw torches from the bonfire and then when twilight came, process down Mt. Chomaa in zigzag fashion lighting up the mountain. Were it not for the efforts of this one Volunteer and a group of stalwart boys, forty-five or more years ago, this mountain may have remained barren. And thanks to the memories of Ato Teame, a gifted story teller, the legacy of Glen Gish, who died of cancer in July of 1982, can be retold today.


Teaching in Harar

Haramaya University  has openings for health professionals and teachers

by Thomas R. Syre (Addis 72–74)

During my time in Peace Corps in Ethiopia I worked half of my tour with the WHO Smallpox Eradication Program searching out smallpox cases in the countryside and vaccinating populations-at-risk in the Shoa province. I spent the other half of my time in Ethiopia developing health education materials and programs for the five Teacher Training Institutes of the Ministry of Education. My time in the Peace Corps was a wonderful experience.

Haramaya Gate

After retiring from a career in university teaching in the States, I returned to Ethiopia to teach public health education in the MPH Program in the Colleges of Health and Medical Sciences at Haramaya University in Harar. I am enjoying working with Ethiopians and expats who are well-educated, highly skilled educators and health professionals. The graduate students are mostly middle-aged health professionals from the fields of nursing, medicine, environmental health and sanitation, and laboratory technology. They are motivated and hard-working students. All classes are taught in English. Also, the opportunities to do meaningful and significant research are many.

There is a need for health professionals and educators to come to our Colleges of Health and Medical Sciences to teach. We need physicians and pharmacists for our MD program. We also need clinical nurses, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives for our BS and MSN nursing programs. There is a need for health educators, health administrators, epidemiologists, bio-statiticians, medical ethicists, and other health professionals for our MPH program and health officer program.

Haramaya University, which has about 4,000 students, has a beautiful campus complete with modern classrooms, administration buildings, a comfortable faculty/staff lounge, a conference center, supermarkets, restaurants, a gymnasium, out-door swimming pool, a university clinic and other amenities. The university provides free modern and comfortable housing on the main campus for faculty and staff on short- or long-term contracts. The salaries are good by Ethiopian standards. You can join the university any time of the year. The weather is wonderful: temperate and very comfortable year round.

Haramaya University was originally named Alemaya University. The university’s several campuses have a student population of 17,000 students and is one of the oldest and finest universities in the country. It was established fifty years ago as an agricultural college but has since expanded into a comprehensive university with Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D. programs in a variety of disciplines. The university has a good site on the Web. I encourage you to visit it.

If you have any questions or would like additional information about teaching at Haramaya University, please contact me. I can be reached most easily by e-mail ( although I would welcome your telephone calls at 251-0920032663.  Come join me in a wonderful chance at a second act in Ethiopia.

News of Ethiopia

Ethiopian News Summary

complied by Barry Hillenbrand

War over the waters of the Nile?

The battle over the waters of the Nile continues. In an interview with Reuters, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that he does not fear the Egyptians who have taken exception to a pact by five African nations — Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya — to work out a new formula for sharing the water from the Nile. “I am not worried that the Egyptians will suddenly invade Ethiopia,” Meles told Reuters in an interview. “Nobody who has tried that has lived to tell the story. I don’t think the Egyptians will be any different and I think they know that.” For more details of the interview and some very good background on the squabble over the waters of the Nile see:

Religion in Ethiopia

Each year the U.S. Congress requires the State Department to issue a report on religious freedom in countries around the globe. In the case of some countries–China  and Eritrea come to mind–the reports generate friction between the U.S.  and the country with a poor record on religious freedom.  (See the News of Eritrea section of the HERALD for the a summary and links to State’s report on the sorry state of religious freedom in Eritrea.) Ethiopia, on the other hand, does pretty well on religious freedom issues. But still the report makes good reading for its extensive information about the various religions of Ethiopia. Using government census numbers, which have been critized for their slant, the report says that 44% of the population follow the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Thirty-four percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, mostly Sufis. For more see:

Good Harvest, Fewer in need of aid

Good news does not big headlines make. So you may have missed the report by the United Nations that Ethiopia has experienced good rains this year and thus a bumper harvest. As a result, says the UN, the number of people needing emergency food aid will drop by nearly 3 million to 2.3 million.  Another 7.4 million people get some sort of assistance under a Safety Net program. Still this year, at least, Ethiopia has been spared a famine, but this will be little noted, we are sure.

New Ethiopian ambassador to the U.S.

Ambassador Girma Birru (photo:

The post of Ethiopia’s ambassador to Washington has been vacant for several months, but now that the elections are over, Prime Minister Meles has filled this job – as well as a host of other diplomatic positions around the world.  Picked for Washington is former Trade and Industry Minister Girma Birru. Girma won a seat to Parliament in the recent election which gives him a certain political credibility. He is also experienced in international dealings — and surely that will come in handy. Of course, one of the items on his agenda when he arrives in the U.S. is approving the use of the Ethiopian Embassy for E&ERPCVs’ dinner in September 2011.

Ethiopia’s Export Boom

Tending the growth in flower exports

One of the points Prime Minister Meles constantly makes as he jets around to international conferences (G20, World Economic Forum, climate change confabs, etc.) as the West’s designated hitter for Africa is that Ethiopia has done pretty well in the last decade. Sure, Ethiopia still languishes among the poorest countries on earth, but, says Meles, his country’s growth in G.D.P. and in exports has been impressive. Meles has a point. In 2009 Ethiopia had a GDP growth of 9.9%, the highest in Africa. It is likely to grow more than 10% in 2010 and 2011. The growth in exports has been equally impressive, up 38% from last year and now totaling a new high of $2 billion. Adding to the luster is a new range of export items. While coffee remains the country’s largest export, Ethiopia has developed export earners like gold, oilseed, cut flowers and khat.  For example, cut flowers exports, which did not exist 10 years ago, now earn $17o million a year. Each week Ethiopia exports an equivalent of 37 fully loaded cargo planes of flowers.

Okay, now the less than bright news: while the growth in exports has been encouraging, Ethiopia still lags behind countries like Uganda which with much a smaller population and exports of more than $3 billion. The strides Ethiopia has made in recent decades have been modest compared to those of other developing nations. In the 1980s Ethiopia exported more than Vietnam, a country with a similar sized population. Now Vietnam exports $65 billion compared to Ethiopia’s mere $2 billion. For really good analysis of Ethiopia’s export performance see the Ethiopia Reporter at

Aid debate continues

The controversy over how aid money and supplies are used in Ethiopia continues to simmer. In March of this year the BBC ran a report implying that some of the money raised by Bob Geldof through the Band Aid and Live Aid music benefits was funneled to rebels to buy arms. Geldof protested the reports bitterly and in November the BBC backed off slightly from the story saying that the reporting did not make the allegation that funds were diverted, but that the BBC acknowledges that “this impression could have been taken from the programme. We also acknowledge that some of our related reporting of the story reinforced this perception.” See for details.

And the October 2010 Human Rights Watch issued a blistering reporting claiming that the Ethiopia government uses donor aid to promote its repressive political agenda and to support Prime Minister Meles’ political party. HRW said that donors turn a blind eye to this misuse of food and aid. The government, of course, bitterly dismissed the report out of hand accusing Human Rights Watch of “unbridled arrogance” and “warped neo-colonialism.” See a Voice of America report on this at

Even aid organizations have criticized the Human Rights Watch report. The Development Assistance Group, which comprises 26 bilateral and multilateral development agencies providing assistance to Ethiopia, issued a statement saying that “we do not concur with the conclusion of the recent [HRW] report regarding the widespread systematic abuse of development in Ethiopia.” DAR conducted its own investigation into abuse charges and made the following statement: “Nonetheless, we recognize that the programmes we support are not immune to the potential for aid misuse and have included safeguard measures to address these risks.” See:


Shock after Shock

Haile Gebrselassie drops out of New York Marathon with an injury, announces his retirement, and then has second thoughts.

by Barry Hillenbrand

Haile in a pensive - and confused - state after the race

THIS MONTH’S NEW YORK MARATHON was an important event for Haile Gebrselassie. It was his opportunity, as George Hirsch, the chairman of the New York Road Runners, told the New York Times, to drop the “arguably” from his title as “arguably the world’s greatest distance runner.” Indeed just before the race Haile, a broad smile on his face, told a news conference: “I planned this for many years. If you run the marathon, how can you stop running without running New York?” He was the most decorated and accomplished runner to enter the New York Marathon. In 2007, he set the world record for the marathon in Berlin and then the following year he shaved the record by 27 seconds to 2:03:59. The record still stands. He has Olympic gold medals for the 10,000m. He has never won the Olympic marathon medal, having skipped Beijing in 2008 because he feared — incorrectly — that the city’s famed pollution would aggravate his asthma. He now regrets his decision and was planning to run in the 2012 London Olympics.

At 37, however, Haile Gebrselassie is getting old even for a distance runner. He dropped out of several races and did poorly in the Beijing Olympics in shorter distances. But this year he won the Dubai Open and a half marathon in Britian, the sort of unofficial championship, at an impressive 59:53. He was not washed up yet.

Haile, in the middle, pounding the streets of New York

And so, with great expectations riding on his thin his shoulders, (for pre-race stories see: , Haile Gebrselassie took off with 43,000 other marathoners to conquer the hills and bridges of New York and add an important title to his long list of victories.

He did not finish. Near the 16 mile marker of the race, Haile Gebrselassie slowed and pulled up. His right knee was causing him trouble and he could not continue. Even more shocking is that when he came to the press podium later, Haile Gebrselassie had tears in his eyes and said that his career in competitive running was over. Said he: ““I never think about retiring,” he said. “For the first time, this is the day. Let me stop and do other work after this. Let me do other jobs. Let me give a chance for the youngsters.” After two decades it was over. “I don’t want to complain anymore after this,” he said. “Which means it’s better to stop here.” For more see:

Ethiopia and much of the running community was in shock and denial. Ian Chadband in the Daily Telegraph of London urged Haile to reconsider his decision. Please think about it, said the Telegraph. (See: Some news organizations reported that Haile was pressured by the government to return to competition, a story Haile angrily denied. (See: But unquestionably Ethiopia was saddened and disturbed at the thought of their hero no longer running. Unlike the famed famed Abebe Bikile, who after winning the 1960 Olympic marathon sadly declined into a life of drink, Haile worked hard at keeping his reputation doing good works — and not a little profitable business — back in Ethiopia. After a few days off and a return to Ethiopia, Haile did give his retirement some thought. He changed his mind and announced that he would continue to run. Reuters reported that his manager and coach said that Haile had returned to training and would most likely prepare for London in 2012. (See: The saga never ends. (For a full report from Ethiopia’s excellent Fortune magazine see:

News of Eritrea

Eritrean News Summary

complied by Barry Hillenbrand

Gloomy report on religious freedom

The U.S. State Department’s annual report on religious freedom in Eritrea is once again extremely pessimistic. It notes that while the Eritrea’s 1997 Constitution guarantees religious freedom, the constitution’s provisions have yet to be implemented. Four religions — Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church of Eritrea, Islam, and the Roman Catholic Church — have registerd with the government and have rights to operate.  Other religions have been denied licenses. Members of non-recognized religions suffer greatly. Says the report, “The government’s record on religious freedom remained poor. The government continued to harass and detain thousands of members of unregistered religious groups and retained substantial control over the four registered religious groups.” The report, available at: contains interesting–albeit discouraging–information about Eritrea and religious life within the country.

Just in time for Christmas

Smelting and production facilities at Bisha

There's lots of gold in these them hills

Nevsun Resources, a Canadian mining company, announced that its massive gold mine operation in Eritrea is nearly complete and will pour its first ore by the end of the year. After years of struggle and delays, the power plant and other systems are at last complete, says the company. The Bisha operation is expected to produce nearly 450,000 ounces of gold in the first year of operation, with a target of more than 1 million ounces after that. The last time we looked, gold was selling at $1387 per ounce. Bisha’s production cost for the gold, according to Nevsun, is $250 per ounce. The mine will also produce copper and Zinc. For more pictures and news see:

China and Eritrea

Anyone who has traveled in Africa in the last few years can not have missed seeing the tremendous inroads China has made. They are building roads and rail lines. They are investing in factories. They are buying all the natural resources they can manage. They are sending teachers and doctors. They are acting like the Americans did in the 1960s, except, perhaps, on a larger more rapacious scale. China has even managed to gain a foothold for business in Eritrea. A recent article in the People’s Daily (See ) outlines the breadth of their operations there. The story quotes President Isaias Afewerki: “Eritrea can be a gateway for investment in Africa if we can take advantage of our excellent strategic location. Our partnership with China, even though it is in its early stages, will dramatically change the reality in this country and give us a greater global interaction.” China is particularly interested in the Free Trade Zones that Eritrea is starting up in Massawa and Assab. “Our priority has shifted to China,” says Negash Afworki, general manager of the Red Sea Trading Corporation, a government owned company managing the free trade zone. China is also working to secure Eritrean cotton and a foothold in telecommunications.

Author with the Eritrean Tattoo

Larsson: professor of Grenade 101

Stieg Larsson, the Swedish author who has recently gained fame for his Lisbeth Salander trilogy which includes “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” turns out to have curious relation with Eritrea. Larsson, who died at the age of 50 before his books gained success, was a life-long leftist with strong Trotskyite tendencies. After his two years of required military service in Sweden, Larsson spent a year in Eritrea training women fighters in Marxist guerrilla operations. According to a British publication, he specialized in the use of grenade launchers, probably the famed B-40 rockets. For a summary of Larsson’s leftist background, including too few sentences about his work in Eritrea, see: