Ethiopia and Eritrea RPCVs “Retun to Ethiopia” group arrived as scheduled in Addis Ababa on Monday at 7:45 am. In a special touch they deplaned by a portable ramp on to the tarmac just as the first group did in 1962. On hand to greet the group were the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director for the Americas, the American Ambassador to Ethiopia, the Director of Peace Corps Ethiopia, the Peace Corps Regional Director for Africa, yours truly and several others. In an airport coffee ceremony the President of E&E PRCVs Marian Haley Beil spoke as well as the Ambassador to the almost 100 RPCVs and their companions. There were 65 RPCVs who served in Ethiopia, of which 23 were from the original group that arrived in 1962. Ethiopian TV as well as our own film crew recorded the proceedings and continued for the rest of the visit.
The very tired but still eager and energetic Ethiopia I group had lunch together. In the evening the whole group was invited at the owner’s expense to the most amazing Ethiopian restaurant for a great dinner with fabulous show of dancers and singers. The dance troop was the equal or better of any other dance troop of any stripe. Truly a memorable event. One RPCV proclaimed he would sign up for another two year stint if he could see this dance group perform again. I told him they are on six nights a week.
Next morning we went to the President’s Palace, which was the former Emperor’s Palace where our first group met Emperor Haile Selassie I. This time we met President Girma, who while a bit frail, spent over an hour answering our questions about the country. He was clearly pleased to meet the group and I believe really enjoyed the visit. We, of course, were excited, especially those who remembered meeting the Emperor in that very same room 50 years ago.
From the palace we went to a nearby teachers’ college for the premier showing of a film made on the “Peace Corps In Ethiopia” and a conference on education held jointly for our PRCVs and 27 current PCVs teaching in Ethiopia. The meetings between the RPCVs and the PCVs was perhaps the most emotional part of the visit. Imagine talking to a person who taught where you are now teaching 50 years ago.
The day was ended with a reception hosted by the American Ambassador, Donald Booth, with a throng of Ethiopian dignitaries, friends, and former students, RPCVs from other countries now working in Ethiopia in various pursuits, e.g. at the American embassy, US AID, and NGOs, currently serving PCVs and our group of almost 100. A spirited party that demonstrated the powerful bonds between the Peace Corps and Ethiopia.
This morning one of our group, ET Williams, presented the Ethiopian National Museum with a portfolio of prints by the well known American artist, Hale Woodruff, as a commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps in Ethiopia.
Later today we will be participating as special guests in the annual Meskel Celebration with its many festivities capped by a huge bonfire in Addis Ababa’s main square. From tomorrow our group will be going out into the country to visit our communities of service, historic sites and places we did not see when we were here before.
One final event will be a dinner for the “Return To Ethiopia” group hosted by the Foreign Ministry on Oct 6, the day before most of us back to the USA.
Lots of media coverage on several TV networks. We have also had our own film crew to recored the visit and turn into a documentary.
A wonderful commemoration of the arrival of the Peace Corps in Ethopia 50 years ago and the continuing bonds of friendship between RPCVs and the Ethiopian people.