Month: October 2012

Joining the Peace Corps


Future Peace Corps Volunteer
Off to Ethiopia – 17 Years Later

Over the past couple of months, writing about my Peace Corps teaching days at Tafari Makonnen School in Addis Ababa in the 1960s and about my Ethiopian friend Tesfagiorgis’ dark days under the brutal military regime that succeeded Haile Selassie has got me thinking about how I’d made it to Addis in the first place in 1964.  It was a true life changer for me, but, as is probably often the case with dramatic course shifts in life, it was hardly the result of a methodical planning process. Indeed, on reflection, it was probably a classic case of serendipity at work.  Here’s the first part of my back story.

Early afternoon, December 1963.  Walking through the Illini Union at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, half-way through my senior year, I pass a table where a couple of  Peace Corps recruiters are chatting with a cluster of students.  Heading out the door, on my way back to my place to do some reading for tomorrow’s Russian history class, I stop and think a minute, then turn around and walk back to the table.  When one of the recruiters is free, I ask if the Peace Corps has any use for a guy like me – a liberal arts major without any technical skills.  “Absolutely,” I recall her replying, “We’re placing teachers all over the world.”  She suggests that I come back to the Illini Union that evening to take an aptitude test.  I return and take the test, even though I’m not at all certain why I’m doing it.  I don’t remember a single question I answered, but I do recall feeling that something really momentous is getting underway.  It feels exciting, but also unsettling and even a bit dangerous.

You see, my course had already been set – firmly – by the time I happened upon those Peace Corps recruiters at the Illini Union.  I’d been admitted to the University of Illinois Law School for the coming fall, and other than getting through the last semester of my senior year, my only serious concern was where I’d live and what I’d do that coming summer.  I truly don’t recall having thought for a single minute – at least not seriously – about becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer before that fateful afternoon at the Illini Union.  Oh, I was very familiar with the Peace Corps; I’d thought it was a great idea when President John F. Kennedy launched it in 1961, putting his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver in charge, but I just never imagined myself setting off for a distant “third world” country as an ambassador of the New Frontier.  Just getting to the University of Illinois had been a giant leap for me – and my family – and becoming an attorney appeared to be a very sensible next step – a tried and true path to a financially secure, upper middle class future.  I might not have been excited at the thought of law school, but, hey, it would be quite an accomplishment, when you considered where I started, which wasn’t very far up the middle class ladder (If she were alive, Mother would be quite irate at my saying that, but it’s true).  Let me take you on a detour so you have a sense of where I came from.


Eadie Home In Vandalia, Illinois

We six kids were raised in Vandalia, Illinois, a town of just over 5,000 in soy bean and corn country, around 60 miles east of St. Louis at the northern tip of Little Egypt, as Southern Illinois was known.  Dad owned Eadie’s Bakery (“William C. Eadie, proprietor”) on the main street, Gallatin, which back then was a bustling commercial strip dividing the north and south sides of town, especially on Saturdays when farmers from all over Fayette County drove to town to “do their trading,” as my Grandmother Crawford used to say.  I remember three hotels, including the Evans, which at five stories was Vandalia’s only skyscraper, a Sears appliance store, Grandfield’s Jewelers, two “five and dime” stores, a small A & P grocery and eventually a Kroger’s Supermarket about the time I left for U of I,  Uncle Don and Aunt Hazel’s camera shop and studio, a busy Walgreen’s with a real soda fountain where we’d sit drinking the cherry cokes we loved, Harry Coats’ barber shop (where you could get a shoe shine and, believe it or not, play a game of checkers), a couple of restaurants, and three or four clothing stores, including Denny’s, which is where you could buy Hart Schaffner Marx suits and Florsheim shoes.  Our family doctor, Miller Greer, and his brother Mark had offices in the second story of one of the downtown buildings.  I vividly recall something most of you reading this blog won’t relate to:  Dr. Miller’s arriving at our house at 313 South First Street at night several times over the years, usually to give one of us six kids the all-purpose penicillin shot.  The Fayette County Courthouse still sits atop a hill overlooking downtown at the west end of Gallatin, and several blocks to the east is the handsomely restored Statehouse (Abraham Lincoln attended meetings of the Illinois General Assembly in Vandalia, which was Illinois’ second capital, from 1819 to 1837).

Gallatin Street, Vandalia, 1940s

It was a pretty big event in my family when my sister Kay Sue graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1958 – a real first, since neither my grandparents nor any of their nine children or several grandchildren had earned a college degree before Kay graduated.  My mother’s mother, Fannie Matilda, didn’t even finish high school since she married my grandfather, Charles Crawford, at 14; I recall seeing a photo of her about that time, standing barefoot in front of their farm house outside of Vandalia.  My mother, Ina Mae Crawford Eadie, was the second college graduate in the family, starting with correspondence courses from Indiana University in Bloomington while I was in junior high school, long before there were community colleges for nontraditional students like her, and earning her degree from Greenville College, around 20 miles’ drive from Vandalia, when I was a high school sophomore.  She explained the ordeal of going to college with five of us kids still at home as necessary to earn enough to send us all to college, but, knowing Mother, pride and ambition had a lot to do with it.  I remember many nights getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night (one bathroom in our three-bedroom house for the eight of us!) and finding Mother studying at the dining room table.  By the way, she became a very fine teacher, and the extra money was a godsend to Dad, who was already working seven days a week at the bakery, where all six of us kids did our stints as window washers, walk sweepers, donut glazers, machine cleaners, and – for my three lucky sisters – sales ladies in the “front end.”  (Years later, during my second year in Ethiopia, Mother convinced Dad, then 50, to sell the bakery.  They moved to Pocatello, Idaho, where Dad enrolled as a freshman at Idaho State University; he graduated from Portland State University after they moved to Portland, Oregon three years later.)  I was the third family trail blazer when I left for the University of Illinois in September 1960.  I don’t remember college being a choice, at least so far as Mother was concerned; it was our sure-fire path to a better life, she told us over and over as we were growing up. At over 30,000 students on the main campus in those days, with freshman lecture classes of 200 and more, you can imagine what a culture shock U of I was to 18 year old Doug Eadie, whose senior class at Vandalia Community High School numbered 120.

Old State Capitol in Vandalia, Illinois 1943


So you see, attending college wasn’t something to take lightly in my family, as my five brothers and sisters and I – in the great American tradition – climbed the middle class ladder.  It was a very big deal, and not going on to law school was a dramatic course deviation for me.   But, as I said earlier, I did go back to take the aptitude test that evening of the day I stopped at the Peace Corps recruiting table at the Illini Union, and when I received a letter from Peace Corps headquarters three or four weeks later, saying I had been “pre-selected” but not yet assigned a country, I was hooked; law school was history – a path not taken.  My pre-selection notification asked if I had a country preference.  I answered, “anywhere in Africa.”  Not that I knew a great deal about what was still to many Americans in those days the “dark continent;” in fact, I don’t think there was even an African history course at U of I while I was there.  But it seemed so exotic and romantic (Don’t forget, in my impressionable early teens, I was tutored by films like “King Solomon’s Mines,” “Mogambo,” and the more artistically respectable “The African Queen,” and – Saturday after Saturday as a second and third grader – by former Olympic gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller in his post-Tarzan incarnation, Jungle Jim).  More seriously, as an avid reader of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and later, at Illinois, the Chicago Daily News, if not from classwork, I was well aware that Africa was a tremendously exciting place – a continent in ferment as colony after colony overthrew their European rulers on the way to nationhood, and also a Cold War battleground, where the United States and the Soviet Union jousted for influence with Africa’s new indigenous governors.

Anyway, off went my acceptance letter to Peace Corps headquarters, and a month or so later came another letter, telling me that in June I’d be joining over 300 other trainees in Los Angeles at UCLA, as part of the Ethiopia III teacher training program.  Ethiopia?  I wasn’t sure exactly where it was, but as I wrote in an earlier blog in this series, what came immediately to my mind was the diminutive but oh so regal Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia walking with other world leaders in President Kennedy’s funeral procession on November 25, 1963, as I stood on the street that terribly sad day in Washington with friends from the University of Illinois Young Democrats Club.  We’d driven all night from Urbana to pay homage to a man who’d so inspired us and whose assassination had left us devastated.

I’d never been in an airplane; the only other person in the family who had was Kay Sue, who’d done a stint as a TWA “hostess,” as they were called in those days.  So I was both excited and a wee bit anxious (not fear of death, but worse, of being embarrassed by not knowing what to do once I boarded the plane) when I said goodbye to my parents at St. Louis’ Lambert Field and boarded my TWA flight to Los Angeles that June day in 1964, when a new phase of my life journey got underway.  In future blogs, I’ll tell about Peace Corps training at UCLA and about my three years in Ethiopia, but I’d like to conclude by telling you why I think I’d set such a dramatic new course instead of going on to law school as planned.


I wish I could tell you that my decision to join the Peace Corps was just a case of altruism at work, but I’d be stretching the truth.  What I recall thinking when I stopped on my way out of the Illini Union that day after passing the recruiters went something like this:  “Doug, my man, you’ve never done anything really passionate, daring or exciting, you’ve never even traveled farther than Chicago; you’ve been busting your butt studying for four years in the middle of nowhere, and now you’re staying in the middle of the corn fields for three more years to study something you don’t even feel excited about.  Enough already!  Go for it!” Now, that obviously isn’t literally what I said to myself, but I assure you it’s what I felt – powerfully.  Thinking back, I’m sure the desire for adventure and romance was an important reason I veered off the law school track and headed for Los Angeles in June 1964.  It’s a yearning I’d often felt lying in bed at night in Vandalia, hearing the whistle of the Illinois Central and Pennsylvania trains passing through.  I’d wonder where in the wide, wonderful world the passengers were headed and whether some day I’d be traveling to interesting destinations myself.


But the desire for adventure alone probably wouldn’t have carried the day.  A pretty large dollop of altruism and even patriotism played an important part in my decision to jettison law school and become a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Without the sense of higher purpose these feelings provided, I doubt I would have veered off the law school course I’d set.  If you’re a few years younger than me, you need to keep in mind that those were very different times in the early 1960s.  I and the Peace Corps trainees I joined at UCLA in 1964 had come of age in the shadow of World War Two – the “good” war that few questioned, a war waged against what had seemed to be unalloyed evil, a war from which America emerged as the richest, economically most productive, and militarily most powerful country on earth.  We also emerged as the undisputed leader of the democracies making up the “Free World,” and you didn’t have to be a super-patriot of the John Birch Society ilk in those Cold War years, seeing Communist conspirators under every rock, to feel a powerful sense of national mission.  You should also keep in mind that, by comparison with today, those were much more trusting times, when, even if you didn’t agree with the policies of the administration in power in Washington, you didn’t fundamentally distrust your nation’s leaders or impugn their motives.  Dwight Eisenhower was no hero as president to the Stevenson Democrats living at 313 South First Street in Vandalia, Illinois, but nobody in my family would ever have questioned his patriotism or character.


And then came John Fitzgerald Kennedy!  Now there was a hero for many in my generation, certainly for me.  What a contrast to the seemingly complacent, avuncular Dwight Eisenhower, who exuded authority and calm but ignited little passion.  Anyway, Ike always seemed to be whiling away an inordinate amount of time on the links, signaling, I guess, that all was well with the world so it was alright to relax – at length.  A legitimate war hero, handsome, sophisticated, glamorous, a master of the English language, driven by a palpable sense of vision and exuding tremendous urgency, Kennedy made me and millions of other young Americans not only proud, but excited, to be American.  JFK called us to a higher purpose beyond the mundane day-to-day concerns of building a career and earning money.  There is more, so much more, he seemed to say.  Don’t just sit back and miss the opportunity to make a real difference!  Today, many of you who are much younger than me reading President Kennedy’s inaugural address, would probably smile cynically and perhaps even wince occasionally at the high-flown rhetoric.  Not I, nor millions like me.  We felt JFK was speaking directly to us when he said that the “torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed . . .”  We welcomed his challenge:  “And so, my fellow Americans:  ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  Sad to say, those idealistic words would seem quaint, even hollow, to many today, but you’d better believe that they stirred the hearts of millions on January 20, 1961.

You know, it’s strange how much emotion the thought of JFK can still conjure up, years after his assassination when he’s become ancient history to younger generations.  A few years ago I was invited to a meeting at the county government administration building in downtown Dallas, where I’d never been.  As my taxi wended its way through downtown, I began to feel an ominous sense of dread that I couldn’t figure out.  Apprehensive and anxious, I was actually tingling by the time I saw that familiar grassy knoll on my right, and I realized we’d reached infamous Dealey Plaza.  It turns out that the Texas Schoolbook Depository, unbeknownst to me, had been turned into the county administration building, and on my way there I was traveling the route of President Kennedy’s cavalcade on November 22, 1963.

Well, I don’t know if this account of what motivated my decision to become a Peace Corps Volunteer way back then is very inspiring or not.  I’m sure I was motivated to some degree by the moral imperative to help those less fortunate, but, in all honesty, that was a pretty abstract, philosophical kind of motivation that probably wouldn’t have led me to UCLA in 1964.  The opportunity to make a real difference in the world, spreading our country’s message of hope and freedom abroad, and having lots of romance and adventure, too – that’s what I think, on reflection, compelled me to choose a different road in winter 1963…

©Douglas C. Eadie  All Rights Reserved

Tesfagiorgis’s Story: The Dark Days


Tesfagiorgis At Home With Doug – 1966

“I am living now at peace – of course, doing everything I can to forget my dark days.”

These are Tesfagiorgis Wondimagegnehu’s closing words in the video we’d just filmed in my room at the Jupiter International Hotel in Addis Ababa the last morning of my ten-day return visit to Ethiopia this past May.   Sitting across from Tesfagiorgis, keeping my eye on the camera as he tells the story of his experience in the late 1970s under the military group – the Derg – that had overthrown Emperor Haile Selassie, I now understand fully how terribly dark those days were for my Ethiopian friend.  And I realize what a miracle it is that Tesfagiorgis is alive and well – happily married to Almaz with two beautiful children, Bersabel and Natnael – and that we are together again 45 years after saying goodbye when I returned to the States from Ethiopia.


I’d grown very close to Tesfagiorgis during the 2 ½ years he’d lived with me and my Peace Corps housemates while he studied and we taught at Tafari Makonnen School in Addis Ababa.  By the time I headed back to the States for graduate school in June 1967, Tesfagiorgis had become, I realize looking back, very much my kid brother.  A very serious, hard working student, Tesfagiorigis also had an easy going manner, a beautiful smile that we saw often, and an infectious sense of humor.  He was the perfect companion for our long Sunday walks around Addis and into the Entoto hills overlooking the capital city.  He was also blessed with that pride and sensitivity that characterize Ethiopians and make them such attractive friends.

My last few weeks in Ethiopia the summer of 1967 were so busy I didn’t really think much about the impact my leaving might have on Tesfagiorgis and the other Tafari Makonnen student living with us then, Tariku Belay. There were final examination papers to mark, graduate school arrangements to make, travel plans to finalize, packing to do – so much in so little time. Anyway, Tesfagiorgis and Tariku, soon to graduate from one of Ethiopia’s finest secondary schools, were seemingly on their way to a promising future.  I needn’t worry, I thought; they were well launched.  Finally, June 8 arrived, and I left for Bole Airport around 7 a.m. after hugging Tesfagiorgis and Tariku goodbye, carrying the letter the boys had handed me as I walked out the door of the house we’d shared for over two years.  Not long after my Ethiopian Airlines flight took off, I opened the boys’ letter.  I was moved to tears reading their parting words.  I had to laugh, though, as I’m sure they knew I would – in light of my having taught English at Tafari Makonnen – when I read these words: “Whenever we are in a trouble, in the future, we will have a dream about something impossible.  We will make conditional sentences such as:  If Mr. Eadie were here, we would tell him this and he would do that . . . If Mr. Eadie were here we would go to the mountains . . .”  By the way, it gave me great pleasure to email a copy of this letter, which I’d saved for 45 years, to Tesfagiorgis and Tariku shortly before returning to Ethiopia.  They never imagined they’d see it again.


So the years passed quickly; life went on as it’s wont to do.  Tesfagiorgis and I corresponded now and then as he completed his undergraduate work at what was then Haile Selassie I University and began his career in public administration at the Ethiopian government’s Central Personnel Agency.  In the meantime, I completed my graduate work, launched a career in nonprofit management, and eventually married and started a family.  Sometime in 1974, after Emperor Haile Selassie’s overthrow by the Derg, Tesfagiorgis and I fell out of touch.  As I followed events in Ethiopia in the New York Times in the mid to late 1970s, I realized that attempting to contact Tesfagiorgis might actually put his life in danger.  I stopped writing, and no more letters from Tesfagiorgis arrived. Thus did our physical separation become a complete break.  By the time the new century arrived, I assumed Tesfagiorgis and Tariku had very likely died under the brutal dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. It was clear that thousands of young educated Ethiopians had been imprisoned, tortured and executed by 1991, when Mengistu was driven out of Ethiopia, and not one of the many Ethiopians I had met in the States over the years could tell me anything about Tesfagiorgis or Tariku.

Now it’s November 2008, not long before Thanksgiving, and I’m settling into my hotel room in Seattle, where I’ll be speaking at a conference the next day.   Calling in for my voice mail, I’m bowled over by the first message, from a man whose voice I immediately know:  “If you are the Douglas Eadie who taught at Tafari Makonnen School in the 1960s, I am your former student, Tariku Belay.”  He left his number, which I called right away and left a message.  We finally talked when I got back home to Tampa Bay, and it turned out he was teaching in a high school in Minneapolis.  He’s been in prison under the Derg, had escaped and lived as a refugee in the Sudan before coming to the States.  He couldn’t tell me anything about Tesfagiorgis.  Staying in touch by phone and email, Tariku and I finally arrange to meet in Minneapolis in March 2011, the day before I am to speak at a conference.  The afternoon before leaving for Minneapolis, Tariku calls with exciting news.  He’s discovered that Tesfagiorgis is alive and well, retired and living with his wife in Addis Ababa.  His daughter is studying in the States, in Boston.  He gives me Tesfagiorgis’s telephone number, which I call right after we hang up.  Tesfagiorgis is home and answers the phone.  We are both soon in tears.  “This is a miracle,” he says.  I wholeheartedly agree.


Tesfagiorgis and Doug on Entoto Mountain Overlooking Addis

I began to think seriously about returning to Ethiopia after my 45-year absence that fall at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps in Washington, where I reunited with a former Tafari Makonnen student, Abebe (now known as “Abe”) Abraham and with former Addis Ababa housemates Garber Davidson, David Karro, and Mike Altman.  Meanwhile, Tesfagiorgis and I had been carrying on a robust email correspondence, and the more I learned about his life after my departure back in 1967, the more miraculous our discovering each other seemed.  My wife, Barbara, and my kids, Jenny and Will, strongly encouraged me to make the return trip, pointing out that I wasn’t getting any younger and might some day terribly regret missing this wonderful opportunity.  What sealed the deal was getting an email early in 2012 from an Ethiopian named Berhane Mogese, who was practicing law in Addis Ababa.  “I do not think you remember me,” he wrote, but his face came immediately to mind.  I’d met Berhane, then a high school student, my first week in Addis Ababa in September 1964, and although he hadn’t studied at Tafari Makonnen, we’d seen each other several times during my three-year stay in Addis.  In fact, right after seeing his name on the email, I walked down the hall to our storage room and dug a folder of old photos out of my files; there was the photo that Berhane had sent me on July 7, 1967.  His inscription on the back said, “We may see each other some time in life.  I shall miss you.”  OK, that was it.  Could anyone be more strongly called to do something, I thought, and I started to map out my return trip.

Now let me tell you some of what I learned about Tesfagiogis’s experience under the Derg as we sat across from each other in my hotel room in Addis Ababa last May, filming the video clip, and I think you’ll agree that our reuniting is, indeed, a miracle.


Tesfagiorgis and Doug At The Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum

I don’t recall that Tesfagiorgis and I spent much time chatting about Ethiopian politics while he was living with me and my Peace Corps housemates, but his political awakening wasn’t long in coming after his graduation from Tafari Makonnen and enrollment in Haile Selassie I University.  These were heady and hopeful times, as students throughout Ethiopia, sensing that the old feudal order that Emperor Haile Selassie represented was near death, saw a wonderful opportunity to play a leading role in creating a new, presumably more democratic, Ethiopia.  Tesfagiorgis certainly jumped in with both feet, for example, participating  in demonstrations against the Ian Smith regime in Southern Rhodesia and the government’s banning of the Ethiopian University Students Union and passing out leaflets protesting the murder of a student movement leader.  Indeed, Tesfagiorgis was one of a small number of fourth year students at the University suspended for a full year because of their refusal to stop boycotting classes until imprisoned student leaders were released.

The “dark days” that Tesfagiorgis so fervently hopes to forget began not long after the group of military officers known as the Derg overthrew the tottering regime of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974.  As the revolt against the Emperor was gaining momentum, Tesfagiorgis received his bachelor’s degree from the University and began his public administration career at the government’s Central Personnel Agency.  He continued to be politically active, joining one of the new political parties that emerged in these tumultuous times:  the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party (EPRP), which eventually became passionately and violently opposed to the Derg.  He also assumed leadership roles in the new political structure established by the Derg, being elected chairman of one of the 283 local urban dwellers associations known as “kebeles,” and also of the political discussion forum that had been created in the Central Personnel Agency.  When the Derg declared all-out war on EPRP, empowering kebeles to arrest, torture, and execute Ethiopians suspected of being EPRP supporters, Tesfagiorgis found himself leading an extremely stressful and highly dangerous double life that eventually resulted in his imprisonment and near-execution.


One of the dramatic stories Tesfagiorgis told me about his double life concerned a female kebele colleague, Gonderit Girmaye.  One day an official of the security arm of the Ministry of the Interior walked into Tesfagiorgis’s office at the kebele and asked that Gonderit be summoned.  When she appeared, she was informed she was needed for urgent work at the Ministry.  Agreeing to accompany the officer to the Ministry, Gonderit excused herself to straighten up her desk and lock her drawers while Tesfagiorgis and the official had tea.  When she didn’t return and couldn’t be found anywhere in the kebele office, the irate officer and Tesfagiorgis began to search the kebele compound.  Here’s the rest of the story in Tesfagiorgis’s own words:

At the back of the building, there was a big metal structure supporting a water tank. At the foot of the metal structure I saw a pair of female shoes and I knew he saw them too. But the security officer immediately turned his face in the opposite direction and continued shouting “Where is she?” It was logical to suspect that she could have climbed the metal structure, which was very close to the stone fence of the compound, jumped over and escaped. I wondered if the security officer might himself be a member or a sympathizer of EPRP.  I was shocked and confused.

Then all of us kebele workers got together in a room and talked about what had happened until around 6 that afternoon, but we didn’t get anywhere. The security officer warned us to conduct our own investigation into Gonderit’s disappearance and submit our findings to the Ministry of Interior security unit the next morning, along with our passport size pictures. My kebele colleagues and I continued to talk until about 3 a.m., wearing ourselves out and getting nowhere. Finally, we compiled our report and attached our pictures and submitted them to the security unit. We were told we’d be called later and that we’d suffer the consequences for Gonderit’s escape. Fortunately, this never happened.  I later learned that Gonderit had broken her leg  jumping over the fence and was forced to take refuge in a relative’s house not very far from the kebele.  Arrangements were made for her escape, but, I’m sorry to say, Gonderit was caught, tortured and executed. She was a very nice and strong lady that I and all my kebele colleagues cannot forget. 


Another story that Tesfagiorgis told as we shot the video clip in my hotel room had to do with an invitation to his kebele from a neighboring kebele to participate in the interrogation of some suspected EPRP supporters.  Because Tesfagiorgis’s kebele was suspected of disloyalty, the invitation to participate couldn’t safely be refused, so he and his close friend and reliable kebele colleague, Gebrehiwot Asfaw, along with some other kebele colleagues went to the neighboring kebele late one evening.  What Tesfagiorgis witnessed that evening left him shaken and fearful, knowing that he could all too easily become a victim himself.  Watching two or three of the suspects being suspended between two tables and having the soles of their bare feet viciously beaten with sticks and cables was horrifying enough.  But he couldn’t have imagined what would happen next.  One young prisoner from Tesfagiorgis’s kebele was told to take off his jacket and shirt and lie down on a table, to which his hands and feet were tied.   One of the guards then put gasoline-soaked papers on the young man’s bare chest and set them afire.  Crying and begging for mercy, the young man soon lost consciousness, was untied and thrown on the floor.   As Tesfagiorgis observed, “I started to seriously think about myself and knew something worse was hovering over my head.”


Things grew ever more dangerous and nerve wracking for Tesfagiorgis, who as chairman of his kebele was forced to participate in door to door searches for EPRP supporters.  “Arrests and killings were widespread,” according to Tesfagiorgis, “and survival was a daily worry of the young and their parents and relatives.  Seeing bodies of people killed and thrown in the streets became more and more common.  In those days, smoking a lot, drinking a lot and sleeplessness were daily routines.  If you asked the people why they were doing that they would jokingly tell you that they were not willing to give away their healthy lungs and livers to the Derg.”  Tesfagiorgis’s exhausting and frightening double life came to an end when he was arrested early in 1978.  After being interrogated and forced to make a videoed public confession on a stage at the Central Personnel Agency, Tesfagiorgis served two years in prison.  One of his most horrifying memories from his two years in prison was when at 4 a.m. one day, 12 of his fellow inmates, including two newly made friends, were taken – hands tied – out of the cell and executed, their bodies thrown in the street and left there for a half day for the public to see.  By the way, Tesfagiorgis later found out from a former official now imprisoned with him that “whenever he saw me I reminded him of a miracle, and the miracle was my survival.  He told me that I survived that bloody night by one single vote in my favor.  I could have been the 13th person to be executed.  That made things fresh in my mind and made me sleepless again for some days.  I never knew who voted for and against my life.”


Tesfagiorgis, Almaz and Doug at Home

Tesfagiorgis’s dark days came to an end, as you know.  He suffered terribly, but he is keenly aware how fortunate he was to have survived, when hundreds of thousands did not.  He is grateful to have been able to return to the Central Personnel Agency (which became the Civil Service Commission), where he spent his whole career, and he feels blessed to be happily married and the father of two wonderful young people.  In future blogs, I’ll tell more about Tesfagiorgis’ years in prison under the Derg and his post-prison life.

©Douglas C. Eadie  All Rights Reserved

Remembering Tafari Makonnen School

Former TMS Main Entrance


I’d loved teaching at Tafari Makonnen School, so it was a must stop during my visit to Addis Ababa last May.  My Ethiopian friend Tesfagiorgis Wondimagegnehu had graduated from Tafari Makonnen, known these days as the Entoto Technical and Vocational Training College, in 1967, so he was able to arrange for a guided tour of the campus on the second day of my visit.  As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I’d taught English and ancient history from 1964 to 1967 at Tafari Makonnen, which in those days was widely regarded as Ethiopia’s premier secondary school.  Named after Ras Tafari Makonnen – Haile Selassie before his coronation as Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930 – Tafari  Madonnen School was, if I recall correctly, the first secondary institution re-opened after the Italian occupation during World War II.  The Emperor, deeply concerned about his namesake, personally invited a group of French Canadian Jesuits to administer the re-opened institution, whose subsequent stellar academic performance proved the wisdom of his decision.   When I arrived at Tafari Makonnen in September 1964 – a 22 year-old with a newly minted BA degree from the University of Illinois, a couple of months of teacher training and absolutely no teaching experience – I was, indeed, fortunate to be taken under the wings of the headmaster, Maurice Richer, and a number of superb mentors among the Jesuit fathers, most notably Marcel Gareau, a masterful history teacher who taught me how to bring the subject to life in the classroom.


Former TMS Administration and Classroom Building

Teaching at Tafari Makonnen School was an immensely satisfying experience for a number of reasons.  Not only was teaching a close fit with my skills and temperament, it was also a heady experience to be part of a tremendously important, high-stakes enterprise:  educating the future leaders of Ethiopia.  Tafari Makonnen was an elite public school with an extraordinary record of sending its graduates on to higher education in a country that so desperately needed university-trained citizens, and we TMS teachers were keenly aware that our students would lead their country into a new era after the long reign of Emperor Haile Selassie.  Furthermore, the fact that the overwhelming majority of the students I taught at Tafari Makonnen School took education very, very seriously, as their preeminent path to a rewarding professional career and a life of economic security – neither within the reach of the great majority of Ethiopians – inspired us to even greater effort in the classroom.  I don’t think any of us TMS faculty members in those days questioned the importance of our work to our students’ future lives and to Ethiopia’s future development.

TMS Current Affairs Club


Based on a mere hour-long guided tour of the Entoto campus over the lunch break, which didn’t include observing any classrooms in session, I’m not qualified to comment on what’s happening educationally at this latter-day incarnation of the Tafari Makonnen that I knew almost fifty years ago.  The campus looked pretty familiar in terms of physical configuration – with most of the buildings from my days there still in use – but the pervasive aura of physical neglect saddened us as we walked around campus.  Not surprising, we saw little evidence that money was being invested in physical maintenance.  Probably the most dramatic surface change I noticed from my days at Tafari Makonnen in the 1960s, beyond the physical deterioration, was social:  boys and girls holding hands and strolling arm in arm, something I never saw at on the Tafari Makonnen campus I knew.  So cultural change marches on, at least in the capital city.

As Berhane Mogese, Tesfagiorgis, and I strolled around the campus of what had been Tafari Makonnen School, my mind was flooded with vivid memories of my teaching days there.  I’ll share three of my trips back to the past with you.


TMS 11th Grade English Class

Berhane, Tesfagiorgis, and I enter the handsome stone-faced building that you see straight ahead as you drive down the road leading to the campus, just past the flag pole where students in my day assembled for the ceremonial raising of the Ethiopian flag every morning before filing into their classrooms.  When I was teaching at TMS, this building housed the headmaster’s office and, I think, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade classrooms of what was then known as the school’s Academic Section. We’re standing by the newly re-installed bust of Ras Tafari Makonnen at the foot of the stairs leading to what was in my day the teachers’ second floor common room, where we faculty members prepared lessons and marked papers between classes.  Standing there with my friends at the bottom of the stairs, I’m suddenly transported back almost fifty years.  In my mind’s eye, it’s late morning in October or November 1966, and I’m sitting at my desk near the door to the common room, correcting student copybooks, when I hear “Psst:  Mr. Eadie.”  Wondering what’s going on, I get up, go to the door, and find my whole 11th grade girls’ Commercial Section English class lined up single file on the stairs.  Standing at the head, the class prefect, Konjit, I think her name was, says:  “We’ve had a meeting, Mr. Eadie, and we decided to come and ask you to return to class.  We promise to work very hard from this point on.”  Thus ended on a positive note an audacious educational experiment that might have caused me real problems with the TMS administration, had they been aware of it, and, in the States, would probably have cost me my teaching position.  Looking back, I’m amazed at the temerity (ignorance?) of my 24 year-old self.

So what’d led my 11th graders to march almost a quarter-mile across campus from what was then the Commercial Building to find me in the teachers’ room?  Well, earlier that morning in that 11th grade girls’ English class my growing frustration with the girls’ lackadaisical work came to a head when, once again, the majority weren’t prepared for class.  I was convinced they were a bright group of students who could perform academically as well as the boys in the Academic Section if they only believed in themselves and really tried, but they clearly didn’t think so.  With absolutely no forethought, much less planning, I announced to the girls, who sat there mouths agape, stunned:  “That’s it.  I work too hard to put up with this laziness, ladies.  I know you can do good work, if you only cared, but you don’t, and so I don’t anymore.  I’m leaving class now, and I’m not sure when I’ll return, if I ever do.  Konjit, please make sure the class is quiet for the rest of the period.  Goodbye!”  Then I walked out and headed across campus to the teachers’ room.  Now, after the girls have made the effort to come find me and invite me back to class, what can I do but agree to return? So I walk down the stairs and back to class with my 11th graders that morning, and I’m pleased to report that they became an exemplary English class, eager to learn and always prepared for class for the rest of the year.  How’s that for meticulously planned educational reform?  Who knows?  Maybe my lack of good common sense at 24 was in some ways an asset.

After returning to the states, I’d think every now and then about my radical educational experiment at Tafari Makonnen School, and I’d wonder about its long-term impact.  Then one day in the early 1990s, my answering service called to say that they had a message from the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, asking me to call.  Curious, I immediately punched in the number that’d been left, which connected me to the office of the Minister of Education.  When I announced who I was, I was immediately put through to the Minister, who turned out to be one of my former students from that 11th grade girls’ English class, Genet Zewde.  I’m obviously not reporting the results of a scientific survey, but I was gratified to hear from Genet, who is now Ethiopia’s ambassador to India, that she’d recently spoken at a women’s conference, where she told the story of a young Peace Corps teacher who by walking out of class one day taught her a powerful lesson about the importance of setting high expectations and meeting them.


A few minutes later, Berhane, Tesfagiorgis, and I have moved through the foyer of the same building to the classrooms circling a courtyard.  We’re standing at the door of a classroom that belonged during my TMS teaching days to my 10-C boys’ English class in the Academic Section; again I’m transported back almost a half-century.  As a 22-year-old,

TMS 10th Grade English Class

one of my many flaws was, and I must confess continues to be, a tendency to exercise my caustic sense of humor without thinking about the consequences.  I can see my 10-C students sitting there almost a half-century ago, as I return corrected copybooks. I see myself make a sarcastic comment about the class’ performance; I don’t remember exactly what I said.  Anyway, I can tell that I’d offended many in the class, but I don’t give the matter another thought before returning to class the next day.  I’d dumbly discounted one of the traits I most admired about my Ethiopian students:  their tremendous pride and sense of dignity.  I see myself walking into 10-C the next morning, and no one stands.  They just sit there, glowering at me.  Now, you should know that students at Tafari Makonnen, and probably at all schools around the Empire, in those days stood when the teacher entered class and also when reciting or answering questions.  So there I am facing my 10-C boys.  Their not standing is an unambiguous insult, and as I stand there, my heart’s thumping and I can feel the blood rushing to my cheeks.  A minute or so passes as we face each other.  Then the class prefect stands and announces:  “Mr. Eadie, you insulted us in class yesterday, and we want an apology.”  Thank heaven, I’m able to swallow my pride and apologize. The class then stands, I invite them to sit, and we get back to work on that notoriously hard-to-explain

TMS 10th Grade English Class

subjunctive tense.  I’d learned an invaluable lesson from the class, one that I took to heart:  No matter how diligently you prepare or how well you acquit yourself in the classroom, you never earn the right to treat your students with less than full respect.    Believe me, for the rest of my days at Tafari Makonnen, my tongue was under better control, and I have the dignity and pride of my 10-C English class to thank for that important lesson.  By the way, the boys in 10-C were unfailingly polite for the rest of our year together.


And as we stroll by the row of what had been 9th grade classrooms behind the administration building, I suddenly find myself smiling as I recall an incident in one of my 9th grade ancient history classes.  I walk through the door, business-like and solemn as usual, that morning, and, inviting the class to be seated, I turn to open the two hinged blackboard sections that had been folded over the center section, so I can outline today’s lecture – if I recall correctly, about the Code of Hammurabi. I notice several students smiling as I turn, but don’t think much about it since they’re usually in a good mood after my Peace Corps housemate Randy Sword’s biology class.  In addition to being an excellent teacher, Randy, now a very successful physician in the Los Angeles metro area, was also a fun-loving guy who managed to entertain while getting his points across.  So, opening the blackboard, I’m struck speechless as I confront Randy’s large, vividly colored drawings from the sex ed class he’d taught immediately before mine.  I stand there dumbfounded  while the 9th grade boys are convulsed with laughter.  But I soon join in the laughter before getting to the considerably drier world of ancient Babylonia.    I did and do subscribe to the notion that all work and no play…….


On a more somber note, over the decades that have passed since my Peace Corps teaching days at Tafari Makonnen School almost a half-century ago, I’ve pondered a very complex question that has no easy answer: What difference did my and my Peace Corps teaching colleagues’ efforts in the classroom ultimately make in terms of the long-run economic and political development of Ethiopia?  Over the years, it’s been gratifying to hear from former students who believe that in some modest way my teaching has helped them build successful careers in medicine, law, education, social services, etc., but to be honest, the great majority of success stories I’ve heard about have to do with Ethiopians living in the United States.  That’s not at all surprising when you consider that the dark period under the Derg and Mengistu Haile Mariam – when even being a high school or university graduate made you a prime target for imprisonment, torture, and execution – lasted for 17 years, until 1991.  However, there are former students like Tesfagiorgis Wondimagegnehu, Berhane Mogese, Tesfamichael Tekle, and  Genet Zewde  who have managed to build productive careers and satisfying personal lives while remaining in Ethiopia, despite the challenging, often dangerous times they’ve lived through.

But these are individual success stories that tell little about the long-term impact of  our work in the classroom so long ago.  I’ll address this question in a future blog as part of my Addis Ababa Homecoming series.

©Douglas C. Eadie  All Rights Reserved

Finding Haile Selassie


His Majesty Haile Selassie I, “Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” Emperor of Ethiopia – the absolute monarch of a feudal kingdom for nearly 44 years – had been dead for almost 40 years when I returned to Ethiopia for my first visit since returning to the United States in 1967 after three years as a Peace Corps teacher at Tafari Makonnen School in Addis Ababa.  The Emperor had been deposed by a group of military officers known as the “Derg” in 1974 and was most likely murdered in 1975 by the Derg, which under the brutal dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam began a reign of terror that resulted in the deaths of over 500,000 Ethiopians – many of them educated youths – by the time Mengistu fled Ethiopia in 1991.  When I arrived in Addis on May 15, most of the obvious signs of Haile Selassie’s long reign had disappeared.  For example, the former Haile Selassie University was now Addis Ababa University; Tafari Makonnen School (named after Ras Tafari Makonnen, Haile Selassie’s name before his coronation in 1930) had become the Entoto Technical and Vocational Education Training College; Jubilee Palace, which the Emperor had built to commemorate the silver anniversary of his reign, now housed government offices; and, of course, the once ubiquitous photographs of  the Conquering Lion no longer graced the walls of countless offices and homes.  In 1967, Haile Selassie had seemed the very embodiment of the proud spirit of this exotic, never-colonized kingdom, but on my return I found His Imperial Majesty a dusty relic of ancient history to the great majority of Ethiopians.


Haile Selassie might be largely forgotten now, but during my ten-day visit, my Ethiopian friends Berhane and Tesfagiorgis and I encountered him often as we traveled around the sprawling capital city of over 4 million, even though we hadn’t consciously set out in search of the late Emperor.  We met His Imperial Majesty:

  • At the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University, where Ato Mammo Haile, who’d been a member of the Emperor’s household staff and was now in his 80’s, proudly showed us uniforms that Haile Selassie had worn and where Tesfagiorgis and I posed for the camera before a photograph of the Emperor at his most majestic.
Looking at Haile Selassie Uniform at the Institute for Ethiopian Studies
  • At the former Tafari Makonnen School, where we were pleased to find that a handsome bust of Ras Tafari Makonnen had been re-installed in the foyer of what had been the main administration building during my teaching days there.
Ras Tafari Makonnen Bust at Former TMS
  • At the beautiful Kiddist Selassie (Holy Trinity) Cathedral, which Haile Selassie completed after the Italian occupation and where an elderly Ethiopian Orthodox priest who had seen the Emperor worship at the cathedral many times showed us the tombs of Haile Selassie and his wife, Empress Menen, and the ornate thrones where the Emperor and his Empress sat during Mass at the cathedral.
Plaque at Kiddist Selassie Cathedral
Tesfagiorgis, Doug and Priest on Tour of Kiddist Selassie
  • And at the main gate of the former Jubilee Palace, where as we walked and drove by Berhane, Tesfagiorgis, and I could see in our mind’s eye the Emperor emerging in his Rolls Royce for a drive around his capital city.


Every encounter with His Imperial Majesty during my visit brought the Emperor vividly

back to life in our minds, so he was very much with us in spirit during those ten days, which isn’t surprising when you realize how large he’d loomed in my and my Ethiopian students’ lives back in the1960s.  I’ll never forget first encountering Haile Selassie in my modern history course at the University of Illinois-Urbana, when I read his stirring address to the League of Nations in 1936 after the Italian invasion of Ethiopia.  It wasn’t much later that I saw the Emperor in person for the first time – in November 1963, walking beside French president de Gaulle, who towered over the diminutive ruler, and other world leaders in President John Kennedy’s funeral procession to Arlington Cemetery.  Standing on the street that sad day in Washington, watching the procession pass, I thought to myself, “Haile Selassie is a lot shorter than I imagined, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a man who cut such a dignified and regal figure; this is a king if there ever was one.”  So when, having joined the Peace Corps my senior year at Illinois, I learned that I’d been assigned to teach in Ethiopia, whose face came immediately to mind?  The Conquering Lion of Judah, of course

Berhane and Doug Looking at Haile Selassie Throne at Kiddist Selassie 


Since Haile Selassie I was such a constant and vivid presence as Berhane, Tesfagiorgis, and I toured Addis and sat at the table enjoying traditional Ethiopian meals of  injera (a very nutritious and delicious kind of flatbread with a tangy, mildly tart taste and rubbery texture ) and wat (a variety of vegetable and meat stews), we naturally spent a lot of time talking about the still-mysterious, endlessly fascinating ruler who’d sat on the throne of Ethiopia for almost a half century – pondering his place in Ethiopian history and his contribution to Ethiopia’s economic and social development.  As I think about our discussions over those ten days, some highlights stand out in my mind.  First and foremost, the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah was not only a masterful politician, he was also a true statesman, in the sense that he was genuinely and passionately committed to Ethiopia’s modernization – certainly technologically and economically speaking, although his commitment to social and political development is far less certain.  However, we agreed that it would be a mistake to idealize or romanticize the Emperor, who was, in fact, an absolute feudal monarch who didn’t brook dissent and never hesitated to have opponents of his regime imprisoned and hanged in public squares.

Haile Selassie and Empress Menen Tombs at Kiddist Selassie

But in stark contrast to Mengistu Haile Mariam, who was a brutal and systematic destroyer of human capital responsible for the imprisonment, torture, and execution of thousands of educated Ethiopian youth, Haile Selassie made a tremendous investment in education, which of all development tools was probably closest to his heart.  Tesfagiorgis and Berhane along with many of their compatriots will never forget receiving their university diplomas from the hands of the Emperor himself.  As it turned out, Haile Selassie’s deep faith in education and the high priority he placed on expanding educational opportunities in Ethiopia are somewhat ironic, since many, if not most, newly educated Ethiopians had by the mid 1970s become vocal critics of the feudal monarchy and  certainly played a major role in bringing the Solomonic line to an end.  And what most saddened us as we reflected on the Emperor’s legacy during our many long discussions during my Addis odyssey was Haile Selassie’s failure to lay the foundation for an orderly transition to some kind of representative government after his death.  In the end, apparently, he was so enmeshed in the absolute feudal monarchy that he was incapable of reaching out to, and building an alliance with, the new educated class that he had created and that might have led a peaceful, post-monarchical transition.  Instead, the Emperor became an isolated, out-of-touch leader, leaving a vacuum that the astute Mengistu Haile Marian so adroitly exploited, at a horrific cost to Ethiopia..

Note:  The Associated Press Wire Photo of Emperor Haile Selassie I walking with other world leaders in President Kennedy’s funeral procession appeared in the November 25, 1963 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

©Douglas C. Eadie  All Rights Reserved

Addis Ababa Homecoming


Goodbye At Bole Airport

Three Ethiopian friends accompanied me to Addis Ababa’s Bole         International Airport the evening of May 24 to catch my 10 p.m. flight back to   the  States after my ten-day visit – my first since leaving Ethiopia in 1967 after three years there as a Peace Corps teacher:  Berhane Mogese, an attorney in private practice whom I’d met my first week in Addis in 1964; Tesfagiorgis Wondimagegnehu, who had lived with me and my housemates for two years while studying at Tafari Makonnen School; and Tesfagiorgis’ wife, Almaz Aklog.  It’d been such a busy last day in the Ethiopian capital – including my filming a half-hour video clip of Tesfagiorgis talking about his two years in prison almost 35 years ago after the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie – that I hadn’t really had time to feel sad.  We were certainly a lively group on the drive to Bole, laughing about Tesfagiorgis’ getting lost two or three times as we walked around Addis, his native city, about Tesfagioris and I getting left in the dust by our friend Tesfamichael on our long trudge up to the top of Entoto Mountain, and Berhane’s heartfelt devotion to his always ringing cell phone.  But it really hit me as I was hugging my three friends goodbye in the parking lot at Bole that we might never see each other again; after all, this was our first reunion in almost 50 years, and we were now in our sixties. When I turned to wave to my friends standing in the parking lot before walking into the terminal, tears were running down my cheeks.


Berhane, Doug and Tesfagiorgis at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies

I hadn’t returned to Ethiopia to see the sights as a tourist, although I’d love to go back some day with my wife Barbara to introduce her to this beautiful and exotic country.  The primary reason I’d returned after my near half-century absence was to spend concentrated time with Berhane and Tesfagiorgis, whom I’d said goodbye to in 1967, so I hadn’t made plans to venture outside of Addis Ababa, now a sprawling city of over 4 million.  You see, I’d been out of touch with Tesfagiorgis and Berhane since the mid-seventies, when Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown by a military group called the Derg, and the brutal dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam soon killed his way to power.  It’s estimated that over 500,000 Ethiopians were killed during Mengistu’s reign of terror, the great majority of them educated youth, and as the years passed, I assumed that Tesfagiorgis and Berhane were among the victims.  However, over the past year, learning that Tesfagiorgis and Berhane were alive and well, and reuniting with other former students now living in the States, including Abe Abraham in Washington and Tariku Belay in Minneapolis, I felt powerfully called to make my first trip back after almost fifty years.

To be very honest, on my 13-hour Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis on May 14, there were moments when I wondered if  I’d taken leave of my senses.  Doing the tourist thing would have been a no-brainer; re-visiting Axum, Lalibella, Gondor, Harar, and Lake Tana would, with a couple of days in Addis, have very nicely filled the time. But here I was about to spend the full ten days with two fellows who’d been only 17 or 18 when we’d last seen each other.  What did we have in common after living our adult lives totally apart?  I recalled my time with Berhane and Tesfagiorgis fondly, but I couldn’t possibly know who they’d become over the past 45 years.  In Tesfagiorgis’ case, we’d carried on an extensive email correspondence over the prior nine months, and had talked by phone twice, so I knew a lot about major milestones in his life, but the person I would soon reunite with was yet a mystery.


My heart said I was doing the right thing, but, believe me, in my head, I was less certain, and I was feeling pretty apprehensive as I walked out of the terminal at Bole International Airport the morning of May 15 to our reunion in the parking lot.  As it turns out, I needn’t have worried; I knew in our first hour together that my heart had been a trustworthy guide.  I plan to write several blogs about my Ethiopian trip over the next few weeks.  I’ll also be sharing photos and video clips.  For now, I’d just like to share three vivid impressions from my 10 days with Berhane, Tesfagiorgis, Almaz, and their friends:

  • Walking through the new Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum near Meskel Square with Tesfagiorgis and Berhane, looking at the hundreds of photos of young victims, including many from the school I taught at, Tafari Makonnen, really brought home the tremendous cost of Mengistu’s reign of terror, in terms not only of shattered lives and immense human suffering, but also of the arrested development of an already desperately poor country.  The cost to Ethiopia of losing over half a million educated young people is incalculable.  A deep sadness came over me and my companions as we scanned those photos covering the walls, but anger as well.  Such a pointless and tragic waste of Ethiopia’s most precious resource!
  • Both Tesfagiorgis and Berhane suffered under the Derg, but their spirits weren’t crushed, and their lack of bitterness and their gratitude for the lives they have lived since those dark days under Mengistu are testimony to the resilience of the human spirit – and to their strength of character.  As we passed those ten days together, I realized that what had drawn me to my two Ethiopian friends originally, back in the mid-1960s, and what had kept them in my mind so vividly during our separation, was their fundamentally life-affirming natures.
  • And, finally, on a somewhat poignant note, as we made our way through the Addis Ababa Museum looking at the fascinating photos from the city’s early days and strolled by what had been Emperor Haile Selassie’s Jubilee Palace, reminiscing about how exciting it was to see his Rolls come through the palace gates, we realized that our still-vivid recollections were only ancient history to the great majority of Ethiopians.  Time does inexorably march on!
Goodbye Feast Of Injera And Wat

Enough for now.  Stay tuned for more on my Addis Ababa odyssey.

©Douglas C. Eadie  All Rights Reserved

Welcome to my Entwined Lives Blog

Berhane Mogese, Doug Eadie and Tesfagiorgis Wondimagegnehu in Addis Ababa, May 2012

“Entwined Lives” is my first really personal blog.  It’s the direct result of my return visit to Ethiopia in May 2012, for the first time since returning to the States in 1967.  A couple of years earlier, I’d discovered that one of the Ethiopian students who’d lived with me and my Peace Corps housemates in Addis, Tariku Belay, was alive and well and living in Minneapolis.  Then, a year or so later, the day before I flew to Minneapolis to reunite with Tariku, I learned that another former student who’d lived with me in Addis, Tesfagiorgis Wondimagegnehu, was alive and living with his wife Almaz in Addis.  I had been out of touch with both of them since the mid-1970s, when the regime of Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown and a reign of terror began under the dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, and I assumed they’d been killed, along with hundreds of thousands of other young Ethiopians. Finding the long-lost Tesfagiorgis in March 2011 got me to thinking seriously about returning to Ethiopia after almost half a century.  And seeing old friends from my Peace Corps training program at UCLA and reuniting with a former Ethiopian student now in the States, Abe Abraham, at the Peace Corps fiftieth anniversary festivities in Washington in September 2011 sealed the deal.  I was definitely going back.

Tariku Belay today

Having spent a wonderful two weeks in Addis on my homecoming trip, getting reacquainted with Tesfagiorgis and another former student, Berhane Mogese, and meeting many of their friends and family members, I came back to the US determined to write about  my Peace Corps and Ethiopian experiences and about the lives of former Ethiopian students and my fellow Peace Corps colleagues.  Thus was “Entwined Lives” born.

The first five blog posts you will read here originally appeared at a less accessible site, so they are being re-posted here at Entwined Lives in the order they were originally posted.

Tesfagiorgis Wondimagegnehu today

©Douglas C. Eadie  All Rights Reserved