The House On Churchill Road, Part 4

Progress continued on Churchill Road: more kids were dropped off at the French School, herds of livestock moved up to market, the crowd on the sidewalk thinned, and with my new red Ethiopian Airlines flight bag full of students’ composition books slung over my shoulder, I walked a mile downhill to the Commercial School on Smuts Street just beyond Haile Selassie’s Square, and through the open entrance into the school’s compound nodding to the guard who bowed in my direction and let me pass into the enclosed school compound.

The Commercial School, when I was in Ethiopia, was one of the three or four best secondary schools in the Empire. It had five buildings, a large faculty, and over 450 students. The three main buildings were grouped around a quadrangle, the fourth side opened onto Smuts Street. The quadrangle was large and covered with stone; in the center was a small garden of flowers, the flag pole, and a bust of the Emperor. The buildings were grey stone and three stories high.

The Commercial School, as were all schools in Ethiopia until a few years before we arrived, had been a boarding school, and the two dormitories were converted into classrooms and a library, as well as a large faculty room. Our English faculty, the largest unit, was given a separate room for ourselves, and after signing in on a sheet posted at the door, I went to my desk in the back of the lounge to correct themes until 9:10, second period. I forgot all about the raging Rastafarinan.

When the 9:10 bell rang, I gathered up my books and papers and walked out of the lounge into the quadrangle. The guard was standing by Haile Selassie’s bust and when he saw me, he stood again and bowed with a great show of respect.

Later, of course, I would, as would all of us, wonder where he had been when we really needed him.

[Part 4]

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