An Ethiopian Odyssey
Chapter 8 - The Return
In chapter 8, ‘The Return’, you find out about my first week back in Addis Ababa, the capital – after 40 years. I made my way to Nazareth School with Tirlaye Gebre-Medhin, a trusty guide. We were on a mission to find the classmates’ surnames – the old school photo of Grade 6A taken in October 1963 only had the girls’ Christian names on the reverse.
…”The receptionist shrugged and informed us that the head teacher was in a meeting. I gave her my most polite smile, gulping back sudden nerves that I might stumble at the first hurdle. “Please tell her that a former pupil has come all the way from England to meet her,” I pleaded.
Tirlaye and I returned outside to wait in the rubber tree’s shade. Although it was normally autumn in March, a fierce sun beat down and its thick glossy leaves gave us respite from the heat. As we talked, an Abyssinian eagle swooped from above and landed a few feet away. With its large wings folded in, it looked far less dangerous, almost friendly.
“It’s alright, I can see you now,” announced a short, bespectacled woman who hurried out to greet us. Sister Weynemariam Tesfaye didn’t look much older than some of her pupils. “I had a meeting with some parents but they’d forgotten their papers, so we had to cancel it,” she explained. “Now, exactly why are you here?”
She ushered us into her office. Behind the desk a stinkwood cabinet was crammed full of trophies won over the years. Ethiopian art was displayed on either side. As she motioned us to sit down, I gave her Abba Bogale’s letter (the representative of the Ethiopian Catholic Church in England), which she read carefully before turning to me.
“I see you know Abba Bogale,” her smile was definitely warmer now. “How can I help you?”
“Sister Weynemariam, I need your help in finding the surnames of seven former classmates, whom I last saw in 1964. I’m hoping to write about their lives for a book to bring water to Ethiopia.” I paused to hand over a copy of the old school photo.
Sister Weynemariam stared intently at it. A
flicker of recognition ran across her face.