The 1971-72 Global Semester, Day by Day

Wednesday, September 8, 1971

We had breakfast on the plane. It was weird: cream cheese, tomatoes, rolls, preserves, orange juice and tea. We slept about 2 hours. We were really beat when we got to the YMCA in Addis Ababa. Arrived at the YMCA about 11:45 AM. The living conditions here will take some getting used to. We are no longer in Europe.

The place is nice. It has large clean rooms with a bath.


The whole place is pretty new I think. We have a door leading out into the yard outside.

The weather here now is very damp and cool. We have been freezing since we came here. The air smells musty and smoky. We ate a large lunch here for $1.40 for both of us. It was a huge bowl of thick soup with peas in it, then a squash stuffed with rice and tomato, then potatoes, fried fish, and tomatoes and lettuce with a banana for dessert. We slept a couple of hours this afternoon before our orientation meeting.

We learned that "alfundigoom" (phonetic) means I don't want and "yellum" means no. Our classes at Haile Selassie University will be in the Arts Building, Room 118.

Thursday, September 9, 1971

We had our first lectures: church history in Ethiopia.

Friday, September 10, 1971

Two boring lectures from Alula on Ethiopian geography and topography.

Everyone gets so tired out just walking to the university twice a day that we don’t have energy to do anything else. For lunch we eat bread, peanut butter and fruit. A loaf of bread is 10¢. The peanut butter was expensive, about $1.00. Oranges are 10¢ each so we can get by on about 15¢ a day. We could get a huge meal at the restaurant for 90¢.

We were told by the YMCA director that it isn’t safe on the streets and that we shouldn’t trust anyone. He himself carries a gun. There are armed guards with rifles around here at night.

Saturday, September 11, 1971

Alula took us around Haile Selassie University. In the afternoon we did nothing but play a little lawn hockey.

Sunday, September 12, 1971

Last night was New Year’s Eve here according to the Ethiopian calendar. The YMCA is only about 50 yards from the largest church in Ethiopia. At 1:00 AM we were awakened by church bells. First there was ding ding ding and then an answering BONG BONG BONG which really rattled the windows. At 2:00 the mass started. It was all sung, sort of a Gregorian chant, with a definite African rhythm and style. It sounded like several thousand people singing just outside the door. There were some long solos by a man (a priest, I assume), accompanied by a drum and/or answered by a chorus from the congregation. It was eerie and beautiful but became tiresome after five hours. Every so often they would stop for a few minutes and those awful bells would ring again. This might have signaled the beginning of another service. Then, at sunrise, they fired a cannon about a dozen times and I thought our glass door was going to break.

Yesterday we went to the University library and the Ethiopian Institute. The library is very new and impressive looking. It is called the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library.

I heard part of Narums’ tape of Amharic phrases today. It’s a difficult language but I’m going to make a real effort to learn some of it.

From our door, where I’m sitting, can be seen, in front, our narrow yard with its hacked-up grass (from field hockey), an 8 ft rusted fence covered by vines and following it a line of eucalyptus trees, another yard behind that with long grass, a row of bushes and trees, and the dome and steeple of the church. On the left is a hedge, a basketball court, a couple corrugated metal sheds, and forested hills behind. On the right is a cement wall topped with corrugated metal, a narrow and muddy street or alley (out of view) and a dorm for the Lutheran school next door. It is white cement with a corrugated roof.


We walked down that alley this afternoon to the church. It is surrounded by a stone wall and groves of trees, most of which are unfamiliar to me. There are also several small cemeteries with large and fancy tombstones and statues and several monuments by themselves. The church itself is huge and has both a dome and a steeple.

Monday, September 13, 1971

We had two more lectures from Alula: one on the climate, peoples, and agriculture of Ethiopia and one on history concentrating on the Aksumite culture.

Today we walked to the Belvedere Gallery.

Tuesday, September 14, 1971

We had our first lecture by Narum today. Ways of thinking <> ideals of life (values) <> philosophy.

Two more lectures on Ethiopian history: Zagwe kings and Lasta regime to the 16th century.

Wednesday, September 15, 1971

The last history lecture from Merid.

Thursday, September 16, 1971

Our lectures up until today have not been worth much. Today, however, our prof (Negussay) knew what he was talking about, was organized, concise, and spoke perfect English – and also said something worth saying. The others have sort of babbled on and on and haven’t really said anything. Negussay's lecture was on Ethiopian government.

We had our first discussion group on Narum's course. (Chapter 1 of Smart.)

The weather is still cool and rainy.

The water just never gets hot here.

Friday, September 17, 1971

Two lectures from Getachew: one on traditional Ethiopian education and one on Ge'ez literature.

Saturday, September 18, 1971

After much confusion and hesitation, we and ten others decided to go on a camera safari at Camp Awash in the national park in the Awash Valley.

We got up at 4:30 AM Saturday morning and got a taxi at 5:00 to the bus depot. It was dark and rainy and not like any bus depot I’ve seen. It consisted of a couple of sheds and a row of buses and a crowd of people with odd assortments of packages. We had been told that we could buy tickets on the bus so we asked which bus went to Awash and climbed on. After we had sat there awhile someone got on and told us we had to buy tickets at the ticket counter so Dirk and Jeff got off, bought our tickets and came back with them. We were all sitting in the front and the tickets assigned to us were in the back. Apparently we had been sitting in other people’s places because there was some confusion among the other passengers which, of course, we didn’t understand. After all the confusion had died down, a man from the depot got on and informed us we were on the wrong bus. So then we moved and discovered the same confusion in the other bus. In this bus the seats were numbered in a strange way with numbers missing that had been assigned to one of our group. We finally got settled in a triple seat with an Arab man. We finally got rolling at 6:45 AM, only 15 minutes late. We had gotten conflicting reports about how long the bus to Awash would take. The travel agency insisted 5-1/2 hours, the local people said 10 hours, and the bus depot said 7 hours. It took us 3-1/4 hours, much to our relief. It’s 200 km (125 miles).

We arrived in Metehara at 10:00 and, after fighting our way off the bus, we were met by Ted Shappo, the man who would take us on our safari. He was a stocky, middle-aged American (California) with a crew cut, bow legs, and a dark tan. He looked like John Steinbeck. He led us to a Land Rover with 12 seats in the back and off we went.


The vegetation here is “tropical forest and thornbush” not “jungle.”


The camp is right on the river, which flows fast and muddy now during the rainy season. Ted owns the camp with his German wife Barbara (very young) and has black helpers and a black manager named Ato Mohammed. Ted and Barbara have adopted the most beautiful little black girl, about 4 years old. Ato’s son is about 2 or 3 and he’s darling.


The tents we sleep in are very nice, similar to our American tents: mosquito proof, plastic floor. They had cots in them, a chair, a table, and jimma stools outside carved from a single piece of wood. The tent is on a slab of cement. All the tents were right on the river bank. A shower (3 bamboo sides and an oil drum with a shower head) faces the river. The latrine is a mud hut with a thatched roof, wood floor, with a square hole in the middle. There are a few crocodiles (14 feet long) and a hippo nearby which we heard but never saw.


The camp is very small. The 12 of us just about filled it up. It was nice to be warm again. It’s hot in the sun but nice in the shade. We’re a lot lower in altitude here too: only 1000 feet above sea level. The air is clean here too, not musty and damp and smoky like Addis.

Sunday, September 19, 1971

After a huge breakfast at 7:00 we were off on our camera safari in the Russian land rover. Marylou got heatstroke the day before so couldn’t come on the safari.


We left the camp in time to get to Metehara a half hour before the train was supposed to leave at 2:11. The 2nd class was filled so we had to decide whether to take 1st or 3rd class. Most took 3rd but there was a huge crowd waiting for the train and obviously not for 1st class. Also, the 3rd class has just hardwood benches and it was a 4 hour ride with no guarantee of any seat at all. So four of us took 1st class. It was only $7.20 a piece but, of course, 3rd class was only $2. Marylou took 1st because she was sick. Carl, a student staying at the Y in Addis also took 1st and we did too. We were glad we did. The train had 3 cars on it, one for each class. First class was nice – comfortable seats and more leg room than I’ve ever seen. There were only 14 seats in the whole car. We had a pleasant ride while the others really had an experience. We all arrived safely though and got a taxi back to the Y in time for supper.


Monday, September 20, 1971

Getachew lectured on Amharic literature.

Tuesday, September 21, 1971

We had our second Narum lecture.

The Ethiopian lecture today was on family relationships: inheritance, marriage, socialization of children, family services associations, etc.

Wednesday, September 22, 1971

Today's lecture was on cottage industries in Ethiopia.

We went to the Radio Voice of the Gospel headquarters. Afterwards we went to a seminary mission run by some missionaries where we slaved for a few hours weeding, cultivating, and painting. After that we went to Rev. Everson’s house where we were overwhelmed: a real house, warm, American, cozy, with comfortable furniture and, best of all, lemonade, potato salad, beans, cookies, and cake!

Thursday, September 23, 1971

Narum discussion group today. Ontology.

We went to the main post office and discovered it too follows the siesta schedule we’ve found in all of the other countries up to now: closed from 1 to 3. Today's lecture was on economic development, particularly on how Ethiopian cultural values devalue work and hinder economic development.

Friday, September 24, 1971

Mesfin gave an impassioned lecture today on development, education, and land reform.

Saturday, September 25, 1971

We tried to take some pictures of the street boys. Since, ordinarily, Ethiopians don’t like their pictures taken, we thought we’d try to buy some pictures by paying 10¢ to 25¢ Ethiopian. No go. When we asked one little boy, by the time he could figure out what we were saying some older boys had gathered and were trying to prevent it, probably because they weren’t getting a share. We left and found an old man dressed in khaki rags and a white blanket (common dress in Addis). He apparently wanted a cigarette and when I showed him I had none he consented to have his picture taken, primping himself up while I got him in focus.


Meanwhile, a crowd had gathered again. The old man apparently thought I had a Polaroid and could give him a picture. I told him I couldn’t but offered him a quarter. He shook his head and moved away. Some people asked me why I took his picture. When I replied that he was interesting they seemed surprised.

Sunday, September 26, 1971

Monday, September 27, 1971

Today was Meskal – celebrating the finding of the true cross by St. Helena. The combination of wailing, brightly clothed and umbrella’d priests, the American ambassador’s wife in furs and movie camera, planes in cross formation, and helicopters with neon crosses was nearly too much. The floats in the parade were horrendous: boxlike, painted in Ethiopian style, with flashing neon crosses. Before the ceremony started there was a cloudburst. I was glad we were under a roof! The guards put on their raincoats and then stood and laughed at everyone. Ethiopian people tried to crawl under the stand we were on for cover and they were dragged out by the guards who beat on them with sticks and laughed.


Following the end of the parade was the 1-1/2 to 2 mile trek home. Virtually all of Addis was out there and they were all walking home too, filling the streets and making auto traffic honk and screech. It was shoulder-to-shoulder nearly all the way and we sure were glad to get back to the Y.

Tuesday, September 28, 1971

We had our third Narum lecture today.

Wednesday, September 29, 1971

Thursday, September 30, 1971

Friday, October 1, 1971

Today we had an audience with the emperor. (Jeff Jerde was able to recite Haile Selassie’s full title: "His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia and Elect of God.”) We all got dressed up in our best clothes (we were amazed at how good we all looked). Then we marched en masse down to the palace at 10:00. It isn’t very far: it only took us 15 minutes. The guards at the gate panicked when they saw us coming. We waited at the gate and they finally let us in and told us to go to the waiting room. We walked up a road lined with gardens and guards and up a hill to the palace complex where the government offices are now. (The emperor lives at a new palace called the Jubilee Palace.) There were lion cages there and four lions, one lying on a cement slab right out in the open with no cage! The others were tame, too, I’m sure, but they could reach through the bars so we didn’t get too close. Our appointment was postponed until 11:00 so we had a lot of time to look around. The emperor has 3 tiny Mexican chihuahuas. They were scampering around and barking ferociously at people.

At 11:00 we were motioned into the offices, first through one outer office then through one with gild and beautiful carpeting and paintings and then into His Majesty’s office. There he stood, in front of his huge carved wooden desk in a beautiful room with gorgeous oriental carpeting and paintings and a fireplace. He looked very small and timid. He’s about 5’ 2” at the most and he wears a military uniform with many medals and baggy pants. The Narums introduced us one by one and we shook his hand and smiled (what do you say to an emperor?). Then we lined up along the sides and Dr. Narum gave a speech about our purpose and our visit, etc., and presented the emperor with some pictures. Then Haile gave a speech in Amharic and his aide translated it. It was the usual stuff about foreign studies furthering the cause of peace and understanding, etc. Selassie said that he appreciated that American students could come here to visit and study in his country just as Ethiopian students could study in America. He also reminded us of his, and Nixon’s, impending trips to China. I wonder if he understood all that Narum said – he looked sort of blank some of the time. But then his speech was very similar to Narum’s. (Dr. Narum said that we sought “not cultural uniformity with political differences but political peace and harmony amidst cultural variation,” – a paraphrase but close.) All this time his little dogs were running all over the room. It occurred to me that maybe the reason he has such tiny dogs is that they make him look bigger.

{from Marylou}

He talked to Paul Narum and took his hand and walked out into the other room. We followed and they took a group picture of us with the emperor.


Then we shook his hand again and thanked him and left. It was all sort of like a dream. We were all sort of nervous and it was a relief to get it over with.

The weather has really improved since Meskal. It hasn’t rained and it’s much drier and warmer. The air isn’t as smoky either.

Saturday, October 2, 1971

We were up and at breakfast at 5:15. They gave us porridge but neglected to tell us that there was no milk. So we gave it back and ordered eggs.

The 12 hour trip to Bahir Dar was awful.


The roads are very winding and narrow and there are animals all over the roads. The bus driver is constantly honking his horn long and loud. The paved road ran out at about half way and the rest of the way was dusty and the road was even narrower.

The hotel in Bahir Dar was beautiful: very clean with wonderful mattresses and hot water. The Blue Nile Springs Hotel was like a motel – several long low buildings with porches and chairs outside, covered with flowering vines and surrounded by gardens of Bird-of-Paradise trees and poinsettias.


Sunday, October 3, 1971

We went to the Blue Nile Falls just a ways outside of town. We hiked to the falls, a half-hour walk, surrounded by guards and little boys. A kid named Amelek gave me a stick and told me about the area. He was very nice and didn’t ask for money. On the way back, however, he hinted that he was very poor and he needed an English book. Of course, I didn’t have an English book. I gave him some cookies and a quarter (that was all I had). He gave me a rock with some green ore in it and carried my purse. When we got back to the bus a cop chased all the kids away and kicked one of them – the one who had carried Don’s jacket. He was deaf too I think. He cried and cried and we felt so sorry for him we gave him some money too.

The falls were magnificent. We didn’t dare walk around much because of the snakes in the area. The bridge we had to cross over part of the river was very rickety – just planks. Later we found out it was 40 meters deep there because of the rapids.



When we got back to the bus the bus driver was gone and the doors locked so Doug, with a boost from Don, crawled in the window and opened the door.


We were all dying of thirst when we got back to the hotel. Ethiopian beer is milder than American beer and not as bitter. It sure did away with my thirst.

In the afternoon we went to see one of the emperor’s palaces – a new one – but we couldn’t get in. We drove to a hill overlooking Lake Tana and unwittingly crashed an engagement party there. Young, well-dressed men were clapping and singing and jumping around. They gave us food and asked us about our trip. They recognized us from the picture of our group with Emperor Selassie that had been published in the newspaper.


From there we went to Lake Tana where a man offered to show us a village “5 minutes away” where they made baskets. Of course it took 15 minutes and when we got there it turned out to be a few fly-infested hovels with dirty children running all over. When the women saw us coming they ran and got their baskets. All of them wanted money. We felt like we were mobbed and suffocated and contaminated by the flies. Then the bus came and we left, gladly.

Monday, October 4, 1971

We went to Gondar. The main buildings in this town are very Italian in style, stucco with shutters.


The streets are paved but it is an awfully quiet town for having 30,000 people. The taxis are horse-drawn things that look like boat trailers. The flies are horrendous! They swarm all over and especially like to fly into your mouth.

We saw King Fasil’s swimming pool in the afternoon. It had beautiful flowers growing around it and Meskal flowers and marigolds growing inside.


Our room was pretty crummy: crowded and not real clean. The bathroom really smelled bad and there wasn’t a waste basket in the whole hotel. We had spaghetti for supper which was OK. Some had injara and wot. I tasted some and thought my mouth, throat, and lips were going to burn right off. It got worse as the minutes passed.

After dinner we had a good time singing. Mrs. Narum directed rounds, “The Three Blind Mice are Dead,” “Abraham Brown is Dead and Gone,” etc.

Tuesday, October 5, 1971

We saw some old Portuguese castles which didn’t impress me too much.


Then we hiked up a rocky road to Debra Birham Selassie Church. We had a letter from the governor saying we could get in free but the wild-eyed priest at the gate wouldn’t believe it. We were willing to pay the $1 each to get in since we didn’t want to walk all that way for nothing but the guide and the cop with us got mad and insisted on going back to the governor to get his seal put on it. So we all sat on the steps for an hour with flies sitting all over us. The church did have some beautiful paintings in it although many were beginning to rot away. For being “the” church in the area it sure was poor. It had 17th century Portuguese brick, now roofed with corrugated metal, and was very tiny with mat floors and no lights or windows.


We were very glad to leave Gondar.

Back at Bahir Dar, they were short of rooms so they gave us the manager’s room which was OK but was not as clean as the other one we had. And it had no wastebasket!

Wednesday, October 6, 1971

The ride back to Addis wasn’t as bad as the ride to Bahir Dar. The Blue Nile gorge was beautiful. Our first glimpse of it was at 2500 meters above sea level (the bus had an altimeter).


The bottom of the gorge is 1000 meters so it’s really a drop – deeper than the Grand Canyon. The river is actually very narrow at the bottom but the canyon is very wide.


The rest of the countryside was pretty monotonous: hills covered with grass, some trees, tukals, animals, and flowers. With ugly, dirty villages here and there.

Thursday, October 7, 1971

Today we had tea at the American embassy. We took buses and taxis up there at 5:00. The embassy compound is very large and beautiful with gardens, nice lawns, huge trees, and many buildings. We walked up the red-carpeted stairs to the mansion and were greeted at the door by the ambassador, E. Ross Adair, and his wife. They showed us around the mansion’s main floor sitting rooms, which were beautiful with white walls, paintings, and colonial furniture. They had pictures of themselves with the Johnsons and the Nixons and autographed pictures of Nixon and Agnew. Then we had tea and cookies (which were delicious, chocolate chip even!) on official china and the ambassador told us about American involvement in Ethiopia. There are about 6,000 Americans in the country right now, not including missionaries. The U.S. has put quite a bit of money into this country. I wasn’t really surprised to hear that that nice library at the university was built with American funds and that 50 of the professors are Americans whose salaries are paid by the United States. (Most of the Ambassador’s claims were discounted by Professor Mesfin.)

We all made real pigs of ourselves and ate all of the cookies. The Adairs were very nice and encouraged us to eat them. He sort of reminds me of John McGiver, the comedian. He was a congressman from Indiana for 20 years before becoming the ambassador 3 months ago. He’s a real politician and a Republican, of course.

They showed us their new glass-walled tukal that is built with a huge tree in the middle of it. It was really pretty as was their yard and gardens, which Mrs. Adair had been working on.

On the window sill in one of the back windows, I saw three wig stands, two of them with platinum blond wigs on them just like Mrs. Adair’s hair. I wonder what she needs three identical wigs for.

Mr. Adair said that there were 100 U.S. embassies around the world. I asked him if he thought there would be an embassy in mainland China soon and he said probably but that he liked and felt sympathy for Taiwan, knew Chiang Kai-shek, etc., so he hoped Taiwan wouldn’t get pushed out of the U.N. He said that the President had instructed all of the ambassadors to talk to other ambassadors and heads of state to get support for Taiwan and he had been doing this.

Mrs. Adair told us that when “kids” came to the embassy they had hamburgers, potato chips, and cokes. Unfortunately, I guess, they didn’t think we were kids!

We left invigorated from our second important social event of the week. We also left a little prouder of our country.

Friday, October 8, 1971

Mary and I and Marylou had cheeseburgers and Cokes at the Poste Rendezvous, an American-European type of restaurant in front of the main post office.

We had a seminar today from Mesfin on foreign aid, its dubious results and its adverse effects.

Saturday, October 9, 1971

We had a farewell party tonight. The Y’s restaurant really went all out in serving us a big buffet supper in the library. We sang and enjoyed ourselves. An Ethiopian who graduated from St. Olaf in 1960 was there (“I am a brown Norwegian”) as was Zeruhin, an up-and-coming Ethiopian artist.

Professor Mesfin said that whenever we hear about Ethiopia from now on we won’t just think of it as a place on the map but as a real place where there are familiar faces and friends. He also said that he hoped we would take some of their pain and troubles with us, their problems and hopes becoming partly ours also.

Sunday, October 10, 1971