By Janet Lee (Emdeber 1974-76)
The Herald is a newsletter for RETURNED Peace Corps Volunteers from Ethiopia and Eritrea. “Returned” is very intentional. Not Former. Not Ex. Returned. Serving as a Volunteer is a life transforming experience and many of us long to return to Ethiopia. I had the opportunity to do so this past November in order to work with a colleague on cloth book publishing. Among the highlights were connecting with current PCVs in their communities: Addis Ababa, Mekelle, Axum, and Gondar.
While in Addis Ababa, I visited the “Red Terror” Martyrs Memorial Museum with Jennifer Miller and Paul Voigt. The museum was important to me because I was in Addis Ababa the day Haile Selassie was overthrown. Impulsively, I purchased two copies of “The Day of the Martyrs’” at the end of the free tour. Imagine my surprise when Paul emailed me a few days later and asked if I knew that I was in the book. Sure enough, the author had reprinted my book review of Maaza Mengiste’s “Beneath the Lion’s Gaze” as published in “The Herald.”
Addis is more crowded than I remembered and made more difficult to navigate because of the construction of a light rail system. Hopefully, this will ease the congestion in the near future.
\I also had an opportunity to visit the library at the African Union building, a magnificent structure built through Chinese funding.
The workshops in Mekelle went well thanks to the efforts and participation of Scott McAllister, Jessi Axe, Avak Kahramanian, Sarunas Krukonis, Joel Miller, Pamela Cayemitte, and Marcelle Brown.
Avak and Scott accompanied me to a school for the blind where I was able to personally deliver a letter in braille from RPCV Brittany Franck.
Then I was off to Axum, a sister city of Denver, where I live. Because there was no flight to Axum from Mekelle (and who wants to fly to Addis and spend the night), I traveled overland in a private vehicle. The road was recently paved, and although I had been cautioned that it was “treacherous” it was smooth sailing. I don’t remember twists and turns, but then I am from Colorado. Through the Peace Corps telephone tree, I connected with two local Volunteers: Christine Homan and Todd Paynich. While I was in Axum, I was able to visit the Axumite Library and the libraries at the University of Axum, which was a recent recipient of a container of books from a Denver-area university. The PCVs and I made plans for dinner for that night. Much to my surprise, we were guests of newly arrived U.S. Ambassador Patricia Haslach. I found her extremely knowledgeable and receptive to input from all around the table.
Readers will notice that “return” is a theme in this issue. We begin the new issue of “The Herald” with Charles Kreiman’s “Returning Home to Ethiopia” as he returns to his site of Assella. This return was part of a trip that he led for Denver Sister Cities International.
Returning to Ethiopia was also a theme in many of the stories by Maria Thomas (Roberta Worrick Addis Ababa 1971-73), whose books I review collectively in the next article, “Maria Thomas: A Life Cut Short.” Her stories brought back such memories for me: the lack of a variety of food, going to the next larger town to use a telephone, the smallpox eradication team. It is time to bring back a revival of her work.
I recently had dinner with a G10 couple, Ernie and Sue Bjorkman, soon to be departing for Ethiopia to begin their group training. They will be interested in Chad Miller’s article, “Pre-service Training: G9 was “Born on the Fourth of July.” If I read Chad’s summary of training correctly, learning Amharic will be a piece of cake after learning what all of the initials and acronyms mean.
This issue features two projects, one by a current Volunteer and one by a recently Returned Volunteer conducted in Ethiopia. In “Kids for Kids: Using Technology to Inform and Improve Behavior,” Benjamin Morse (Hawzien 2011-2013) writes about a video production project that he collaborated on that focused on encouraging good behavior practices for children. “Should You Eat Green Eggs and Ham?: A Small Town Book Project” by A.J. Gary (Chagni, Awi Zone 2012-2014) demonstrates how he was able to obtain books for a project and use them effectively in working with young children.
As always, we conclude this issue with book reviews. The first book is written by one of our own, The Glory of the Kings by Dan Close (Bekoji 1965–67) reviewed by Michael O’Brien (Gerawa, Garamuleta, Harrar Province 1967–69) and The Power of Citizenship: Why John F. Kennedy Matters to a New Generation by Scott D. Reich and reviewed by Danielle Hoekwater (Mekelle 2008–11).