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An Ethiopian Odyssey

Chapter 24 - A pharaoh replies

10th December 2004

Chapter 24: ‘A pharaoh replies’ explains the progress in finding more classmates. I’d always found it hard asking others for help. Mum and dad had drummed it into me that it was wrong, perhaps because of our itinerant lifestyle. But I’d changed during the odyssey and been grateful for the help and kindness of strangers. One lady was Elisabeth Mekonnen, another Nazareth School former pupil. She’s suggested that I contact an Ethio-American website and publisher: tadias, to see if they would feature the old school photo and story.
Unsure how I’d find Azeb Fesseha through the UN, I asked my friends at WaterAid for a contact there. If nothing else, I could interview someone who did a lot to help promote effective and safe water management. Marcia Brewster was the name they gave me, and I contacted her, asking whether she could also help me find Azeb. Marcia was definitely the right water expert. She’d worked in water resources management and sustainable development for the past 25 years, both in UN Headquarters and at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok. In 2003, she was appointed Task Manager of a UN Task Force on Gender and Water. In the developing world, it’s a woman’s role to collect and carefully use water for the family’s daily life.
Marcia replied within 24 hours, agreeing to see me. Her short, friendly email finished with Azeb’s email address. I felt ecstatic as I sent Azeb the old school photo later the same day, along with a cheery message of hello. Her reply the following morning read, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, I don’t believe it!”

She was amazed to have received the email and told me how she laughed when she saw the photo – she’d misplaced her’s a long while ago. Azeb was Hiruth’s best friend at school and one who could bring her habits to life for me. She told me a bit about her job with the United Nations Development Programme and her family. She also, very generously, agreed to my staying with her while I was in NY. So, all that now remained was to find a friend in Washington.

10th December 2004 turned out to be a wonderful day: I received the news I’d hoped for from tadias. Liben, the editor, had agreed to include my story in the next issue of the magazine and the website, in the diaspora section – just in time for the Orthodox Christmas which is celebrated on 7 January. Great news, and I hoped it would elicit a response and more renewed friendships with former classmates. The timing couldn’t be better either; combining this journey of faith with important dates in the Christian calendar was most appropriate.

Later that same day, I left a meeting in central London early and hurried towards Piccadilly Circus tube station. Reaching the booking hall on my way to the ticket gates, a thatch of light brown hair and a pale, luminous face loomed into view. Something about his glasses was familiar and as I said “Brendan,” he exclaimed “Annette!”

I laughed as we hugged – it had been thirteen years since we’d last seen one another. He was one of Rob’s best friends but we’d lost touch. After James was born, the friendship changed shape and direction as we did, and I’d been saddened at the loss of contact. Acting on the moment is imperative when you live purposely, so we found a café where we could sit and chat and briefly catch up on the past. Wishing each other a happy Christmas, we promised to get together in the New Year for Rob’s birthday.

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