[I wrote this short piece--after attending the 25th Anniversary of the Peace Corps in September 1986-- at the request of the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (now the NPCA.) They published it, with a few other recollections of the weekend, in a silver booklet full of photographs from that great event on the Mall in Washington.

When it was published, the NCRPCV entitled it, "Places Remembered." What has changed since that time, beside our age,! is the good news that Volunteers once again are serving in Ethiopia. Anyway, here's what I had to say, and believe, then and now.]

THE PEACE CORPS DOESN’T FLY into Addis Ababa today. There are no longer overnight September flights down from Europe, arriving at dawn at the end of the ‘big rains’ when the Ethiopian highlands are blanketed with bright yellow Maskel flowers. PCVs no longer step from the plane and smell for the first time the burning of a hundred thousand eucalyptus fires, smell Africa distilled at eight thousand feet.

From the fall of 1962 until the mid-1970s and the end of Haile Selassie’s long imperial reign, over two thousand five hundred volunteers went to Ethiopia, first as secondary school teachers and later as highway engineers, social workers and nurses.

The volunteers who went to Ethiopia found a country of political intrigue and ethnic diversity more complex than what we’ve ever known at home, and a land where geographic contours are as dramatic as America’s.

We did not all have the same experience of the people and the land. As volunteers we spanned a decade and lived in more than two hundred towns and villages. Nevertheless, the three hundred and fifty returned PCVs who attended this reunion shared more than we might have imagined.

It was a weekend of deep nostalgia. We went to Washington to see each other, then we were surprised at how much we wanted to see each other.

We wanted to find out what happened to Ethiopia and her people, and we wondered why this country and experience had lingered so strongly in our memory. What was it about the Peace Corps, about Ethiopia, that has meant so much in our lives?

The answer is, I believe, that once a long time ago, when we were young and believed we could make a difference, we flew into the horn of Africa and touched this world firsthand, touched it where it burns, and we have never healed.