Books and more

Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia — Revisited

photos by Hoyt A. Smith (Addis Ababa 1962-65)ethiopia-revisited
& narration by Theodore Vestal (Associate Director, PC/Ethiopia 1964–66)
October 2014
$45.00 (Click for more information and to order)

Reviewed by Alan Smith (Debre Marcos, Gojjam, 1971-73)


A PICTURE IS WORTH a thousand words. One hundred and ninety five pages, many with multiple pictures, are surely worth 195,000 plus words!

Hoyt’s pictures from his 1962/65 “Ethiopia I” PCV time and travels in Ethiopia fueled in me a flood of memories and a desire to review my own memorabilia from 1971 to 1973 in Debre Marcos as an “Ethiopia XVI.” His striking pictures showed not much had changed between our dates of service. When I received this Christmas present to myself, I sat down to view a few pages and ended up finishing the entire book! The beautiful people, artifacts and landscape photos capture the essence of Ethiopia. Hoyt’s photos helped me recall the red mud pulling at my rubber boots, the brilliant blue sky from 8,700 feet, the gathering of children as I walked through town or country side, the smells and sites of Saturday market, and the students gathering before the AM and PM sessions of school.

Hoyt’s revisited pictures “50 years later —2012” helped me, as someone who has not returned to Ethiopia, envision the different/same Ethiopia of today. Theodore Vestal’s introduction and historical text embellished an already stunning pictorial essay. My site of Debre Marcos has increased from 7,000 to over 70,000 in population, one secondary school to multiple institutions of higher learning, and a simple post office to satellite communications! Ethiopia has undergone many changes as shown in Hoyt’s pictures. Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliners, high rise buildings, elevated light rail systems of public transport, satellite dishes on roofs, and multilane roads are a few of the changes recorded. However, his photos depict what has remained unchanged as well — small open markets, cows and donkeys in the streets, eucalyptus scaffolding, blue taxis and horse carts, and traditional tukuls. I see the resilience in the faces of a people who have endured turmoil, social and political change, and pressures from a modern world and have remained solidly Ethiopian.

I can easily recommend Hoyt’s book. His historical and modern photos are a good view into Ethiopia. It would be enjoyed by past, present, and now training RPCV/PCVs. Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia – Revisted as a coffee table book in my home has started many conversations with non-RPCVs about my time in Ethiopia. I shall personally revisit this book as an aid to maintaining my memories of my service!

Mellow Yellow – Dead Red

Bawdy Boutique Mysteries Book 3

mellow-yellowby Sylvia Rochester (Jimma 1964–66)
Whiskey Creek Press
304 pages
$3.99 (Kindle)

Reviewed by Mary Myers-Bruckenstein (Addis Ababa, 1968-70)


I JUST COMPLETED READING this quick mystery. It takes place in Louisiana, an area known to me from vacations, thus I was easily able to relate to both the lifestyle and terrain.

The book’s mystery is resolved with the positive cognition of ESP, feelings, visions and sights. Once these aspects are credited, the mystery is quickly solved.

Today, most people rely on “facts only” and skip the very real events that occur, a change in a person’s soul. We are all only souls living in a body.

The use of this aspect in criminal case mystery may make more aware of its true nature and use in explaining events that occur around us.

The book is direct in its organization. It is enjoyable. Well worth reading. I would read any other books written by this author, which include: The Corpse Wore Cashmere (2014) and Disrobed for Death (2013), both in the Bawdy Boutique Mysteries series.

To order the books mention here  from click on the cover, bold title or the format of the publication, and Ethiopia & Eritrea RPCVs, an Amazon Associate, will receive a small remittance to support its RPCV Legacy Program.

The Essential Guide to Tigrinya

The Language of Eritrea and Northern Ethiopia

essential-guide-tigrinyaby Andrew Tadross (Endodo, Tigray & Mekelle, Tigray 2011-13)
and Abraham Teklu
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
160 pages
$25.00 (paperback)

Reviewed by Janet Lee (Emdeber 1974-76)


THIS GUIDE TO TIGRINYA will surely meet a need for Peace Corps Volunteers in Ethiopia, members of the non-profit community and other travelers to this northern region in Ethiopia called Tigray. “It features over 3,000 essential words and phrases . . .” (back cover), is nicely bound on heavy paper and should hold up well in a backpack.

The authors, Peace Corps Volunteer Andrew Tadross and native speaker Abraham Teklu, provide an introduction to the basic background of the language of Tigrinya, regional differences within the region of Tigray and the commonalities with the Amharic language.

There is a detailed explanation of pronunciation including a pronunciation guide on the use of the Fiedel, the “alphabet,” complete with an explanation of vowel sounds, consonants, explosive consonants, and special sounds. This is followed by an overview of basic grammar including punctuation symbols.  Verbs are conjugated in present and past tenses.

As with all languages one cannot translate phrases directly from one language to another. The authors provide helpful hints on when to use or not use forms of a word or phrase, such as the use of pronouns. For instance, in most cases, pronouns are not needed because the pronoun is implied in the verb.

The charts are clear and illustrative of use:  English * phonetic equivalent * Tigrinya.

Finally, there is a lengthy section of useful words and phrases beginning with greetings and conversation starters and essentials such as numbers, telling times, days of the week, parts of the body and medical terms.  Business, transportation, occupations, and education terminology are each grouped together as are food, drink, and related activities such as the coffee ceremony. Occasional illustrations break up the text throughout.

Perhaps one day there will be an inexpensive Kindle edition that the Peace Corps office could purchase and distribute to all Volunteers serving in or traveling to Tigray.

To order The Essential Guide to Tigrinya  from click on the cover, bold title or the format of the publication, and Ethiopia & Eritrea RPCVs, an Amazon Associate, will receive a small remittance to support its RPCV Legacy Program.

A Heartwarming and Award-Winning,
Full-length Documentary Film


Melissa Donovan, cinematographer

Reviewed by Alice Gosak Gary (Harar 1964–67)


SOMETIMES THINGS HAPPEN BY CHANCE. Some would say they happen through miracles. The meeting of a small girl, a medical doctor and a cinematographer who was trailing him was either — or both.

Zemenework (“Golden Moment”) was 8 or 10 years old at the time Dr. Rick Hodes exited a coffeehouse in Gondar and saw her. She was small for her age, malnourished and suffering from kyphosis and tuberculosis, causing her to have a deformed back. Dr. Rick, a specialist in diseases of the spine, immediately recognized Zemene’s condition. Filmmaker Melissa Donovan, following Dr. Rick on another project, was drawn to the small trusting girl with a luminous smile.

Melissa accompanied Zemene and the girl’s uncle to the village of Belessa, where the grandparents who lovingly raised the girl, lived. Thinking she would pass the footage on to be made into a documentary by someone else, Melissa did not realize that she would spend the next five years with Zemene and make the documentary herself. It went on to win awards at the Boston Film Festival and others in the United States.

It would be a spoiler to tell how the film progresses and ends. Suffice it to say that it presents a cast of real and impressive characters. The interaction of Zemene’s family is not only a glimpse of life in a poor highland village; it is a look into the loving hearts of Ethiopians. The scenery around the village will make anyone who has once been dazzled by the green that follows the rainy season homesick for its beauty.

Learn more about this film and view the trailer at  The film will be shown at film festivals in Sarasota, Florida and St. Paul, Minnesota in April, at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival in May and in Portland in September. (Note:  Zemene is not yet available on DVD)

Contributions can be made:

End of issue 20 — 4/24/2015

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