Letters to Mom and Dad

During my three years in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps I sent letters home to Mom and Dad on a regular basis.

Phone calls were for emergencies (never had one of those fortunately) and Al Gore hadn’t gotten around to inventing the internet yet.  Letters were the only way to communicate.

And my mother, as mothers do, saved all my letters.  I now have them.  They are all here.

IMG_20180109_0007cAs I started transcribing them I noticed an obvious flaw:  I hadn’t dated many of them!  And I noticed something else about them that I had never realized:  I had addressed them to my mother only, not mom and dad.  Something NOT to tell the psychiatrist, if I ever have to see one, that’s for sure.

Thank goodness nearly all of them were typed.  Using my portable typewriter was for me the most efficient way of filling up an Aerogramme.  (Oxford definition: “a sheet of light paper folded and sealed to form a letter for sending by airmail.”)

And all these many years later I am happy not to have to decipher reams of scribbles as I turn the hard copy letters into electronic bits suitable for posting.

So here they are, in chronological order.  Where an explanation is called for, I have inserted parenthetical contemporary comments boldface.   Also, I shot a few rolls of movie film while I was there and I have inserted below some stills from the movie film.  The quality’s not so good but it’s all I have.  And about the letters; fair warning, this is not riveting reading.  They are letters to parents after all, a little boring and somewhat repetitive.

NOTE:  I revisited Ethiopia in 2018, some 50 years after these letters were written.  If you’d like to read about that trip and look at some photos, go here.

Friday (sometime in September, 1967)

Hello,

We made it to Addis Ababa OK.  The trip took about 17 hours of flying time.  We really ate and drank like kings on the way (It was a KLM charter flight, direct with one refueling stop in Frankfort, Germany.  It was my training group—about 60 of us—and a small group from another training program).  Every time you turned around, there was another drink or a meal in front of you.  Wednesday night though, I was still on the plane, the floor just wouldn’t stand still.

We had quite a shock soon after we arrived—you will probably have read about it in the papers before you get this.  Charlie Traub and his wife Susan were in an auto accident out in front of the hotel we were meeting at for dinner.  Susan was killed and Charlie had a few broken bones and bruises.  He will probably fly back to the states tomorrow.  They are one of the couples I told you about that went to Illinois.  (Peace Corps Ethiopia staffer John Coyne’s account of Susan’s death and his interview with Charlie Traub are here.)

Addis is big, somewhat dirty and really busy.  Auto traffic is really chaotic.  There are few traffic rules that I can see.   There are many sidewalk boys selling everything from shoe shines to Time magazines.  The contrast between rich and poor is quite evident…across from our rather plush hotel is a solid block of tin-roofed shanties.  I’ll send some movies later on, it’s really hard to explain in words.

My teaching assignment isn’t what I expected, but I’m looking forward to it.  I’m in the English department at Haile Selassie I University here in Addis.  There are six of us stationed there.  It isn’t the typical Peace Corps experience as we won’t be living out in

IMG_20190128_0011c

My University ID card.

the provinces, and I’m kind of ambivalent about it.  I would rather, on principle, live in the provinces, but I would rather teach at the university than the grade or high school level.  So I’m not griping.  We will have rented a house in Addis and moved into it by Monday or Tuesday of next week, but continue to use the Box 1096 address until I write to the contrary.  We will probably just rent our own box at the post office and use that.

Meetings and conferences are scheduled for today, tomorrow and Sunday.  They gave us Thursday off to rest and look around.  The food here is pretty good, and not too expensive if you go to an Ethiopian restaurant, and it’s fun practicing the Amharic.  The taxi system is really great…E25cents to go practically anywhere in the city.  They have no meters, you just stand on the street and wave at one and they’ll stop.  You tell the driver where you want to go—in Amharic of course—and if he’s going that way you hop in.  If he isn’t you wait for another.  All of the cabs are little blue Fiats (actually Fiat 500’s and they were called cinquecentos, pronounced ‘suchentos,’ Italian for 500) and they’ll pack as many as five customers in one sometimes, all going in roughly the same direction.  We’re of course using only Ethiopian money.  Since we’re paid in Ethiopian money it’s useless trying to compare prices to American money.  Prices in American don’t mean much when you’re paid in Ethiopian.

That’s it for now…not much time.

Love, Ron

Below is a collage of movie frame grabs related to the house and University.  Click on any image to see captions and larger versions:

 

Sunday (Undated, but roughly ten days after the letter above)

Dear Mom,

I don’t really have that much to write about but thought I would send my new address.  I’ll put it here in case it isn’t legible on the back: Haile Selassie I University, Faculty of Arts, Box 1176, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Quite an impressive address, huh?  Anyway, I’m in the freshman English program, teaching a basic, remedial course which all but a handful of incoming freshman must take because they have such a poor background in English.  We start work tomorrow, though classes don’t start until the following Monday.  There will have to be a change in the sections, so we will be doing some shuffling around this week.  Also, the books aren’t going to be available until next Monday.  I think I mentioned in my last letter the student newspaper that was started on the campus last year.  This is the reason I am in Addis at the University.  They wanted someone to help the volunteer who’s handling it this year and to handle it next year.  Most of the volunteers at the University are involved in some outside activity like this because of the small amount of work involved in teaching.  All of the lessons are prepared and there is very little written work, thus not much homework to grade.  The paper isn’t very big or anything—mimeographed, but it is virtually the only uncensored and objective publication in the Empire.  (And as it turned out the paper was shut down during my tenure as faculty advisor during a period of unrest on the campus my second year there)

We (fellow volunteer Jim Camp and I) are finally settled into a house now.  Jim’s also teaching at the University.  It took us about two days of walking around to find a house.  It’s really weird hunting for a house in Addis.  You just walk down the street and ask the shoe shine boys or anyone else you see if there’s a house for rent—in Amharic of course.  If he doesn’t know he’ll ask around until he finds someone who does.  Usually everyone knows of at least one.  Soon you have a full entourage of people helping, all expecting to be paid something if you rent, or even like, the house that they show you.  You soon get used to people wanting to do things for money and it’s surprising when someone just wants to help, and that’s all.

We had a meeting with the head of the English dept. Friday, and he seems like a good person to work for.  He’s Chinese.  It’s not at all unusual to find foreigners in such positions within the University, especially professors.  By the way, my official title is graduate assistant.  With a BS and a year’s teaching experience I would be classed an assistant lecturer.  More than a year’s experience would make me a full lecturer.

Our house is nice, but not overly ‘ferengi’ (foreign) as are most of the foreigners’ houses in Addis.  Honestly, some of them look like they came out of some American suburb, complete with picture window.  It’s really some contrast to see one of those sitting among some little shacks that don’t have any of the modern conveniences.  Anyway, our house, which is on the same compound—within the same fence—as one housing Ethiopians, has two bedrooms, bath, dining room, kitchen and living room.  We don’t have hot water yet as the water heater is broken.  We have a fireplace, which comes in handy, as the evenings are quite cool.  The house is old, could use some paint on the inside, and is perhaps a little big for the two of us as we can’t afford the furniture to fill it, but it’s quite comfortable.  We will also be assigned an office at the University, so the house will just be for living in instead of a half study room, as I’ve been used to for 5 years.  We also have a cook who will start tomorrow.  She has cooked for foreigners before, but doesn’t speak any English, so we will be kind of playing it by ear for a while until she gets used to what we eat.  She also washes our clothes and cleans up around the house.  She will be buying our food for us too, as we won’t have time to go shopping, and don’t have a refrigerator to store things in anyway.  We also have a zebanya, a sort of guard of the compound, who also chops wood, runs around the corner for Cokes, fixes things around the house, etc.  He lives on the compound.  The cook lives down the street.  The zebanya doesn’t speak any English either, so it’s really a circus around here sometimes trying to get something done or to explain something.

Guess I wrote more than I thought I would.  Love, Ron

 

Wednesday  (Undated, but roughly ten days after the letter above)

Dear Mom,

We finally started class Monday, though the students won’t have their books until tomorrow.  Some of the sections aren’t too well balanced number-wise either, so there will still be some shuffling around.  Our teaching load isn’t too bad, only three classes a day with about 20 students per class, although this is considered a heavy load by university standards.

I don’t know how much I told you about our house.  I think I described it for you.  Anyway, we’re just about settled now, except for hot water.  They’re still working on the water heater.  We’ve hired a cook, who also washes our clothes and cleans up around the house.  She can cook American food to some degree.  We’re trying to teach her as we go along too.  She doesn’t speak any English so it’s fun.

The first issue of the paper came out today, one day late.  It was late because the advertising wasn’t ready to be printed in time.  This is the first time Dale Bartley, the volunteer who started the paper, has tried any advertising, so it went pretty slow.  I think I am going to enjoy the paper.  I only have one class in the afternoons, so I’ll be able to put in some time on it.  We’ve been holding training sessions this week for the new reporters.  It’s almost like a journalism course.  The advisor for the paper is a rolly-polly Englishman in the English department who’s really a lot of fun working with.

A couple of those who came over with us have already left to go back to the states.  They are a married couple who got married right after training was over, on that long weekend we had before leaving the country.  I haven’t seen them since we arrived and I don’t know why they left.  He was from around Chicago, Wheaton I think.

It takes a week for a letter to get between here and the states and the same the other way.  This is on average.  Sometimes it takes less time, depending on when it gets put on a plane.

That 10 cents from New York was from the time I called you from Radio City.  My dime didn’t come back when the operator answered.  (I don’t recall the details here but apparently I was so miffed about being stiffed a dime that I complained and asked for a refund.)

About packages.  The main reason for not sending any is that we are charged duty on them.  Depending on what is in them, the duty can get pretty high—sometimes it just isn’t worth it.   A girl who has been here for a year was telling me about the time her mother sent her some towels and things and the duty was higher than the price she would have paid had she bought them here.  Also, because of the canal being closed, anything sent would have to be sent airmail to even get here before Christmas.  It takes months by sea.  (The Suez Canal closed after the Six-Day War in 1967)  So, I would rather you didn’t send anything.

I still don’t have my trunk yet, so I haven’t been able to take any pictures.  About 30 trunks came over on the plane with us and the latest word on the others is that they’re somewhere in Athens.  Such is life in the Peace Corps.  I’m getting along on the clothes I have, since the cook washes every day, but I sure would like to have that radio.  (Each volunteer was given a pretty large trunk to ship belongings over in)

It isn’t raining around here as much as it was when we first arrived.  It’s pretty warm during the day when the sun’s out, but not that uncomfortable, and it really cools off in the evening, which is typical for this altitude.  We usually have a fire in the fireplace in the evenings.

It looks like I’ll be here in Addis for the full two years, as I am here to take over the paper next year when Dale leaves.  I can’t really say I mind living like this, and I like the University.

Bob  (Bob Hazlett, one of a handful of fellow volunteers I became close to and have remained in contact with since then)  is out in Sheno, a small town about an hour out of Addis by bus and seems to enjoy it.  He went out for a few days and came back to get some of the things he needed and I talked to him then.

I may get a bicycle or something to ride around on.  We aren’t allowed to drive anything motorized.

We live about a 25 minute walk from the University, and, since I come back to the house for lunch, the walk gets a little tiring, especially if I go back to the paper after supper.  I don’t know how expensive bicycles are around here, but I would imagine that are considered a luxury as I haven’t seen many of them around.

That’s it for now.  Love, Ron

 

Tuesday, October 10, 1967

Dear Mom,

Just to give you an idea of the time it takes a letter to get here, I received your letter about Roger’s football injury yesterday.  So, if you write anything you want an answer to, wait a couple weeks, and you may get it.  Kind of hard to get used to, isn’t it?

I haven’t taken any movies yet, because the camera is in my trunk, which I haven’t received yet.  Some were sent over on the plane with us, but the rest have been held up somewhere.  About a week ago I heard they were somewhere in Athens, but yesterday someone said they saw them here at the airport, so I should be getting it pretty soon.  The cook washes clothes at least every other day, so I am not hurting for clothes, but I sure would like to listen to my radio.

Teaching’s going pretty well.  The most time consuming part is grading the homework, but we don’t have to spend any time in preparation so it really isn’t that bad.  I figure when things get settled down I’ll be spending about 2 hours per day, outside of class.  That still adds up to only five hours a day, so I can’t complain.

Things are pretty hectic with the paper too, as all the reporters (students) are new and aren’t sure yet what to do.  Last week and this, I’ve been helping Dale with the editing and also running around lining up faculty subscriptions, so I don’t have much free time.  In fact, today with the first chance I’ve had to just take it easy and look around a bit.  It is really beautiful.  The rainy season is just about over and the days are sunny and clear.  We have a good view of the mountains from our house. The landlord’s son is going to take us camping up there some weekend, as soon as we’re sure the rains have stopped, so we don’t get flooded out.

Our cook is getting better gradually.  Jim taught her how to make a cake and French fries this week.  Also, we showed her how to make fried chicken instead of just boiling it, as she is used to doing.  Jim takes care of most of that, as I don’t know enough about cooking to teach anyone, much less someone who doesn’t know English.  It was funny the first time we had chicken.  She just gave the zebanya some money and he went out on the street and waited for the man with the chickens to come by.  Then he just brought it into the back yard, killed and feathered it and brought it into the house and into the pan it went.  The chickens around here aren’t quite as plump as those in the states.  I think they would almost qualify as athletes.

I can see from this letter that the one thing I need is a new typewriter ribbon.  I didn’t bring any along, so I may have to buy a regular one and restring it onto my reels, as I don’t think a regular reel will fit into this machine.

Things are already popping at the University.  The school is very short of money, and as a result, the students are feeling the squeeze—short quantities of rather poor food, not enough beds in the hostels, etc.  They have already threatened to strike, but so far nothing has happened.  It could be interesting.  The student body has been having meetings every day.

Well, it’s getting late, think I’ll go to bed.   Love, Ron

 

Tuesday October 17

Dear Mom,

As you can see, I finally got a new ribbon for my typewriter.  I was right, none of the stores in town had the kind I needed for this machine.  Let that be a lesson, never bring a Royal portable to Ethiopia.  It was no trouble rewinding it, and a regular one is probably much cheaper than a special one would have cost.

The trunks finally came in.  I got mine last Thursday.  The radio works fine.  For its initial run, we listened to the final game of the World Series on Armed Forces Radio.  Most of the local stations—AM—here broadcast about 4 or 5 hours a day in English, so we don’t really use the shortwave that much, except for the news.  The cook was really thrilled with the butcher knife and the egg beater that I had packed in the trunk.  And both she and the zebanya were amused by the soap bubbles I had put in.  I think the zebanya was a little scared of them, but he wasn’t going to let the cook show him up, so he blew some too.  The trunks had been in Athens, there were all kinds of stickers on them, express, rush, etc.

Sounds like Rog is really getting banged up in football this year.  You should get him a special helmet, one that covers his whole body. That reminds me, Armed Forces also broadcasts professional football, so I won’t be getting too far behind in that.

I’ve seen where William Styron has come out with a new book that’s supposed to be great.  I read an excerpt from it in Harper’s–$3.75 over here, pretty steep.  Anyway, if it isn’t released over here pretty soon I may ask you to send it to me.  I may be able to get it in as ‘educational material’ and not have to pay any customs.  I’ll let you know later.

School’s OK, though somewhat of a drag at times.  These kids make the stupidest mistakes, and I also have some complaints about how the course work is presented.  Other than that I am enjoying myself.  The thing I like best is being at the University.  It’s so much more alive than the provinces.  In addition to the Ethiopians, there are people here from all over.  Quite a few Americans, in addition to the Peace Corps, are here with AID, on Fulbrights, etc.  My immediate supervisor is British and the one above him is Japanese.  The political science department is something else, one Yugoslav and one East German or something, and that’s all.  Jim thought he would like to do some teaching on the side in poly sci, but obviously got the cold shoulder when he talked to them.  They’ve got quite a good thing going, and don’t want any American stirring things up.

I haven’t done much actual work on the paper yet, outside of editing a few stories.  I’ve been taking care of the faculty subscriptions and sort of familiarizing myself with the campus, and also holding some classes for the new reporters.  After I’ve gotten a few more weeks of teaching under my belt, things will come easier there, and I’ll be able to spend more time with the paper.

We walked out in the country for a ways last Sunday, and plan to visit Bob next weekend.  He’s only about an hour away by bus.  Several are going to try to rent a Land Rover during Christmas vacation and do some traveling within the country.  It’s really semester break, but comes close to our Christmas.  We have over three weeks off, so should be able to see quite a bit.

The fireplace is coming in really handy, as it gets pretty cool when the sun goes down.  We’ve used it almost every night.

I suppose you can liquidate my checking account now, though it may be wise to leave some money in it, just to keep it open.  There’s no sense leaving it all in when it can be in the credit union drawing interest.  Also, check on the possibility of renewing my driver’s license while I’m here.  I forgot all about it.  I don’t know if it can be done or not, but if it can it would save me having to get a new one when I get back.  It expires on my birthday in ’68.

Love, Ron

 

Monday

Dear Mother,

Well, I got through another rough weekend here in primitive Africa.  This week, Dale, the other volunteer working with the paper, had a party at his house.  Last weekend, Jim Hodap, a guy I trained with, had one at his house.  And next weekend, the head of the English dept. is having one.  I don’t know how long this goes no, but my Sundays have been pretty well shot.  About the cheapest thing to drink around here is wine—cheaper than beer even—and four or five glasses of that leaves one with quite a hangover. Really, I am not becoming that much of a partyer, but it is amazingly easy to live here, and yet not really live here at all, just remain in a sort of ‘little America.’

The weekend after next, the first in November I believe, we have a three day weekend—Coronation Day—and we are planning to go out and visit Bob Hazlett and Larry.  (In Sheno)  There will probably be a couple of girls going too, so we plan to take the bus, it’s only about an hour.  Bob was in town last Saturday and I talked to him then.

Sounds like you really mopped up on Homecoming, winning all the games.  Too bad it rained so much, though it’s better than the ice and snow storms you’ll be having.  It’s great here, knowing that there won’t be any show or cold weather.

What I’ll probably do about my driver’s license is get an international driver’s permit.  The only hangup is that you can’t get one in Ethiopia, so I’ll probably have to get an Ethiopian one first, and then get the international when I’m first able to get out of the country, which will probably be this summer.  We plan to do some driving over the vacations within the country, so I’ll need one from here anyway.  It’s just much easier to get a license, Ethiopian or international, if you already have a valid one from somewhere else.  So still check on the Illinois license, as that will be handy if I can get it.

Glad you mentioned that about addresses, as I would like to have that of Chris Jensen.  I know he’s overseas with the Army, Germany I think.  Write Mrs. Jensen in Oak Lawn and ask her for it.  His father’s name is Chris too, so Dad can probably get it.  Also, I may have a list of the names of the people in the house in one of the drawers of my filing cabinet.  I would like to get in touch with him, as I’ll be spending some time in Europe on my way back and would hate to miss him if he is still there at that time.  I don’t know what Bill Russell’s current address is either, so I’ll probably just write to his mother asking her to forward it.  I have that address.

We got some curtains and some shelves put up in the house last weekend and it looks a little homier.  We bought the cloth and the cook made the curtains and bought some wood and brackets for the shelves.  We hid the wood and brackets so the zebanya wouldn’t see them when he came in to close the shutters Friday night.  I was damned if I was going to let him put them up.  He isn’t too swift with tools.  We also sanded the coffee table.  It was a real battle to do that ourselves.  Jim took the table and the sandpaper out into the backyard Saturday afternoon and he no sooner got started than the zebanya was right there, taking the sandpaper out of his hands.  Whites just don’t work with their hands in this country.  Anyway, he did a lousy and half completed job of it, so we finished it inside on Sunday.  He was really surprised when he saw those shelves up and the table sanded.

The paper, to answer your question, is written in English.  All the reporters and students and are judged by their performance in English before they are hired, but even so, most of the stories have to be edited pretty heavily.  Amharic script is very hard to master, and would be of use only to the students, to the exclusion of much of the staff.  Also, all the course work at the University is in English.

I don’t know if I told you I saw the Emperor a few weeks ago.  It was at some kind of religious festival and it seemed that everyone in town was there, five or six city blocks of solid people were standing in fields and along the street.  It was amazing to see them all bow down when he passed.  We were within about fifty feet of the throne he was sitting on, so had a good view.  If you’re a foreigner you just get escorted past the crowds right up to the front.  There was, of course, a lot of pomp involved.  He arrived in a big old Rolls Royce, and all the diplomats and ambassadors were chauffeured up in big cars.  By big cars I mean American cars and Mercedes Benzes.  There were Chevies, Fords, and even one old 1954 Buick.  I expected to see a ’55 Chrysler New Yorker DeLuxe (the car I drove in college and sold before leaving Illinois for Ethiopia).  It would have fit in real well.  The American Embassy car is a black ’65 Buick Electra and it looks really plush over here.  Also, there was an old Russian car.  It looked like an imitation of a late 1950’s model Cadillac.  There was also an unbelievably long parade, mostly soldiers and the Imperial Bodyguard, and a lot of singing and chanting.

One other thing you could do for me is write the fraternity and see if they have a current address on Dave Snavely.  I don’t think he is going to school this year, but he may have left a forwarding address.

Love, Ron

 

Friday night the 26th

Dear Mom,

It’s just like spring cleaning around here now, since the rains have stopped.  Everyone is painting their houses and fences. Part of it is that a week from today is Coronation Day, and the Emperor makes some kind of trip through the city.  Even the streets are getting a facelifting, potholes are being filled, etc.

I had dinner at the student dining hall last night with my language instructor and a friend of his.  The dining hall is simply that, a huge room with tables and benches.  It also has battered trays and broken dishes.   The University is really hurting for money this year, and it’s too bad, because there are many places where a lot of it could be used.  He took me to the hostels where he lives too.  They weren’t at all what I expected.  They are simply large metal pre-fab barracks.  No desks, partitions, or anything like that, simply rows and rows of bunk beds.  Anyway, they serve injerra and wat, the traditional food.   I’ve had some before in restaurants, so I knew how to eat it.  You use your fingers.  It was funny seeing the look on some of my students’ faces when they saw me there.

My instructor’s name is Wondimagegne—wandimagny for pronounciations’ sake.  He’s a first year student and quite good in English, since he had lived with PCV’s out in the provinces.  I meet with him an hour every weekday and so far we’ve been using materials prepared by the Peace Corps.  Later we’ll just practice conversation.  We’re getting to be pretty good friends, though he still addresses me as Mr. Haines, and probably always will.  He was in one of my classes the first week of school, so I pretty well have the teacher image with him.  By the way, if you know of anyone who is a good stamp collector, let me know, as he has quite a good collection and I’m sure would enjoy corresponding with someone with the same interest.  Also, if you do find someone who collects stamps find out if there is some kind of a national or international stamp collecting organization that sends out periodic bulletins or publications, and get me a subscription if possible.  He may be able to get some people to trade with through something like this.  He doesn’t have very much money at all, few of the students do, so he usually trades instead of buying.

NOTE:  I lost touch with Wondi over the years, but reconnected and saw him when I was in Ethiopia in 2018.

The zebanya just came in with a package of cigarettes I had sent him out to get for me.  It’s really funny watching him walk around the room.  He just won’t step on the area rug.  He had to lean way over to hand me the cigarettes without stepping on the rug so I stood up to reach over and get them.  He immediately said sit down, using the formal form of course.

Hello, it’s Saturday now.  We had company last night and I never did get around to finishing this.  Doesn’t matter much though, as I won’t be able to mail it until Monday.  Alas, we don’t have a mailbox on our corner.

Just got back from dinner at the Stoddard’s (Dan and Ann)—a married couple I trained with.  I went over there after the cocktail party given by the head of the English dept.  It was pretty nice, real mixed drinks, cute little ham sandwiches and crackers and dip.  He’s veddy British and a lot of fun.  He’s the one who is the faculty advisor for the paper.

We have a record player for a while now.  The PC couple that lives next door were called back to the states for an emergency last week and they brought the player over for us to use til they get back.  They also let us use their records and we’ve checked some out of the USIS library, so it’s just like being home with my music, except there isn’t quite the volume.

Yes, I’ve gotten letters from the Grandmas, two from Grandma Norton.  Tell them I’ll write one of these days.  I also got one from Aunt Margaret the other day.

That’s it for now.   Love, Ron

 

Monday

Dear Mom,

I’ll start this now and probably finish it later in the week.  I just wanted to answer a couple of your questions before I forgot them.

One US dollar equals two and a half Ethiopian dollars.  It’s hard to start comparing things though, and I usually don’t worry about what such and such would cost in US dollars, because we are paid in Ethiopian dollars.  Compared to US standards we would probably be living a lower class life—enough to get along on but not enough to guy many luxury items like cars, record players, TV, etc.  Compared with Ethiopians though we’re living pretty well, not so much by the salary we make, but by what we have brought with us, clothes, radios, etc.  By University standards we could be considered underpaid, as the English teachers who are over here on contract, doing the same kind of job we are, can afford cars, etc.  And to the run of the mill Ethiopian, we are millionaires.

The Peace Corp picks up the tab on our rent—Eth$200/month—as it does for all volunteers, no matter where they live.  All else, except for a one-time furniture allowance of Eth$275, which everyone also gets, we must pay for out of the Eth$265/month living allowance.  Volunteers in the provinces get Eth$250/month—they figure the extra 15 is for two 25-cent taxi rides per day.  Living prices are generally higher here than in the provinces, expecially for domestic labor—the zebanya gets 22 and the cook 40 per month.  Food prices vary according to where you are and what you want to eat.  Also, we have things like electricity, telephone, and water bills to pay for, not that I mind too much of course.

As for news, on the radio we get local news broadcasts, the BBC, Voice of America—in special, simple English, Armed Forces Radio, and a couple others.  Time and Newsweek are readily available in the overseas edition—about the same except for advertising.  Also, just about every other American mag can be bought, though sometimes very expensive, even Playboy.  There are also some British newspapers available.  The Peace Corps gives us Newsweek, though you can buy it from the street boys a week earlier than the office can get it through the mails.

Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya is coming to the University Weds to receive an honorary degree.  We are all to dress up in academic robes and attend the ceremony.  Haile Selassie will do the conferring.  It should be quite a thing, as the hall they are going to have it in isn’t very big—holds 3 to 4 hundred—will be able to see quite a bit.

Last Sunday I hiked up the mountain to see an old church that we can see from here.  It just sits there on top.  There are a couple of them but to get from one to the other one has to do down into a valley and then up again, and I was pretty tired after getting to the first one.  It’s just a winding dirt road all the way up, but the Ethiopian I was with knew some paths that cut down the horizontal distance, but not the vertical of course.  Took less time, but pretty well wore me out.  I’m not fully used to hard exertion at this altitude as it is.

Next weekend is the weekend we plan to go out and visit Bob and Larry in Sheno.  As we get Friday off we’ll probably leave that morning.  It will be good to get out for a while.  I’ll also take my camera along and try to get some pictures taken.  Jim Gregory (another fellow volunteer I have remained in contact with through the years) asked me to try to get out to see him in Dilla, about 9 hours by bus from Addis, but the Peace Corps forwarded his letter to the wrong place so by the time I got it we’d already made the plans for Sheno.  The Peace Corps had just been forwarding our mail to the University and not putting Faculty of Arts on it, so it just kind of floated around, until someone who knew me saw it.

Sounds like grandma had a nice visit.  Love, Ron

 

Tuesday

Dear Mom,

It’s lunchtime now and I got back a little early, so I’ll start this now.

The weekend was a lot of fun.  It was good to get away from the city for a while. Bob and Larry have it OK out there, though not as plush as here of course.  They’re renting the second story of a rather old mud-walled house.  There is electricity from 6 pm to midnight, but no inside plumbing of course. We took a walk Saturday to the edge of the Rift Valley.  I took some pictures of it.  I’ll try to send those later in the week.  I also want to shoot a roll around here too.  Maybe I’ll get at that next weekend.

(My recollections of this weekend contain more detail than my letter at the time did.  The bathroom arrangement at Bob’s was actually a two story outhouse,  The put-in point was on the second floor, where he lived,  and a large shaft of some sort went down to the ground and, apparently, a hole—no, no one asked any questions.  Needless to say it was the subject of many jokes amongst the four of us who trekked out from Addis on a noisy, crowded bus on a dirt road to visit out brethren in the boonies, particularly because of the audible, two-story drop.  It was also on this trip that we decided to have fried chicken, starting with the live version.  We ended up asking Bob’s cook to give us a hand with the butchering and soon realized that Ethiopian chickens needed hours in a simmering stew to approach the tenderness needed for eatability, not just a few minutes in a hot frying pan.  Below are a few photos from the weekend)

Yes, I brought my checkbook with me, but I’m sure there is another pad of checks there, probably in the top drawer of the filing cabinet.

I think I will have you send that book, ‘Confessions of Nat Turner’ by William Styron.  Wrap it well, and send it to the Peace Corps address.  Mark it ‘Educational Material—books’ and be sure to send it airmail or it will take eons to get here.  While you’re at it, please send along any copies of The Humanist that may have arrived since I left for training.

The paper’s keeping me busier every day, but it’s fun.  I am beginning to wish I didn’t have to teach at all, as it seems to get in the way at times.  I am here to teach though, so there isn’t much I can do about it.

I went to city hall the other night to see a movie, The Slender Thread with Sidney Poitier.  It was a 1965 release, but I hadn’t seen it before.  The city hall is really plush.  It was just like sitting in a new theater in the states.

Well, now it’s Wednesday.  Guess I better finish this up or you won’t get it at all.  Not much has happened since yesterday, except that we finally got the advertising laid out so the paper can come out on Thursday.  We also included some photos of Kenyatta’s visit to the University.  He received an honorary degree from Haile Selassie.  That was a week ago today.  There certainly was a lot of pomp and ceremony involved, as you can imagine.

I got your letter with Jensen’s address yesterday, thanks.  Love, Ron

 

Monday

Dear Mom,

Your letter of last week must have set some sort of record in getting here.  You wrote it on Monday, and it was in my mailbox at the University on Thursday afternoon.  That’s getting pretty fast.

Sorry I haven’t taken any more movies.  I still have part of a second roll in the camera and want to finish it, and then I’ll send both rolls home.  I was planning to shoot some this weekend, but it’s been raining and cloudy for a week now.  The rain is really unusual, according to the zebanya, and it’s really a pain in the neck.  Just when I was getting used to nice weather.

We finally got our book lockers, about 100 paperbacks.  (for an explanation of the Peace Corps Booklocker, go here So many I don’t know where to begin, and just wish I had the time to read them all.  Makes me wish I lived out in the boonies where one has nothing to do but read.

Friday night I went to hear the Police Orchestra with my language instructor.  All the popular music here is performed by three military orchestras, and they each have four or five singers.  They really aren’t orchestras, more like small bands…trombones, bass fiddle, saxophones, trumpets…and they really swing. The Police Orchestra is ranked about second by the University students.  The program was given in the student dining hall and they played for three hours with only two short breaks—really quite a show.  Most of the songs were in Amharic, but I was able to understand parts of them.  It was the music I liked best.  They really have a lot of fun playing.  It was like sitting with the teeny boppers in the states, everyone singing along, clapping and cheering.  The encores were great, because instead of coming back and singing a different song, they sing the same one over again.

Saturday afternoon we had dinner with a Peace Corps couple that we trained with.  They live and teach on the other side of town, so it was the first time we had seen them since we were all at the hotel.  Later Saturday Bob Hazlett came over, as he had brought his cook into town to go to the doctors.  He had dinner with us and stayed overnight.  Sunday I took him on a tour of the University and he left Sunday afternoon.  Sunday night we ate at another volunteer’s house.  This week, it’s our turn to entertain.  We’re having guests for lunch Wednesday and our area representative—immediate supervisor within the Peace Corps bureaucracy—and his wife over for dinner.  The cook is really planning for that.  We told her he was really a ‘tillik sew’—big man.  I can just imagine the banquet we’re going to have.

I think I told you about the three European girls I met during training.  They were touring the US in a sports car.  I got a letter today from the one who lives in France.  She enclosed a clipping from a Madison, Wisc. paper that tells of their car breaking down, them running out of money, etc. She said the people in the town donated enough money to get the car fixed and several people put them up in their homes for a while.  Eventually they completed their trip up through Canada, back down to NY and DC, where they had started at the beginning of the summer.  They’re all back in school now.  Must seem kind of dull for them, after a summer like that.

Teaching is coming along OK, though it is very easy to stay above and away from the students.  I’ve found that going to things like I did Friday night with the students helps my teaching attitude a lot.  When you see them for an hour a day and don’t have any idea how they live or what they do when not in class it’s pretty easy to become somewhat pessimistic.

We now have some flowers in the house.  We asked the zebanya to pick some from the yard and he not only picked them, but also arranged them in a vase.  He did a good job too.

I got another letter from each of the grandmothers.  Tell them one of these days I’ll surprise them and write.

Love, Ron

 

Monday

Dear Mom,

I don’t have much to write about, but I wanted to tell you that I’ve sent one roll of film home and that I want you to save the stamps and send them back to me so I can give them to Wondimagegne.  I forgot to put a note in your package about this.

Got your letter today in which you said you had bought the book.  Good idea to put in some film, as that stuff sells for 12 beans a roll here.  Even converting to American dollars, it’s about twice as much as in the states.

It rained again this weekend.  Saturday night I was going to go to a party.  I walked over to Stoddards (about a half hour walk), as we were going to walk over to the party together, but just as I got there it started pouring, so we just made some popcorn and played Monopoly—the British version.  The rain let up a little about 11 so I came home.  It started up again a little after I got home and it continued all night.  Sunday I had planned to hike up into the mountains with Wondi, but, after an all-night rain, things were just too muddy.  It rained all night again last night.  Everyone says this is really unusual, but it just keeps raining anyway.

Before I forget, I have another thing to ask you to do.  Next time you buy airmail stamps, try to get some different kinds, and denominations.  Again for the stamp collection.  It won’t cost any more, it’ll just make the man in the post office earn his pay.

We had Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong over for dinner tonight.  In Peace Corps terminology Mr. Armstrong is our area rep, immediate supervisor with the PC.  He’s some kind of minister or something and this is the second year of his two-year contract with the PC, so they’ll be leaving in June.  They had us over for lunch a while ago.  The cook really turned out a banquet for us, chicken, potatoes, some kind of roast, some kind of spicy egg patties, little fried cauliflower things, pudding, and cake.  We had told her he was a really tillik sew—big person.

Oh, let me know how the film comes out, as when the sun is out and it isn’t raining, light conditions are pretty constant, so if I can get the right setting I should be able to get some pretty good quality movies.  (A word about all this film talk.  I had an 8-mm movie camera.  I sent the unprocessed film in a pre-paid mailer to Kodak in Germany and from there it was then sent to my parents, so I did not see what I was shooting until years later.)

I finally got some decent tasting coffee.  A girl who I trained with, Mimi Hanson (another fellow volunteer I remained in contact with through the years since then), sent some from Hosanna, the town she is stationed in.  They grow it out in that area.  It’s the closest thing to American coffee I’ve had since we got here.  The regular coffee here is something like heavy roasted Turkish coffee and I just can’t take it.  I do like the cappuccino, or whatever they call it.  It’s a kind of a half milk, half coffee combination, though they do something else to it, as it doesn’t taste like just coffee with milk added.  (What I was struggling to define here was simply classic Italian cappuccino, from a classic Italian machine, ubiquitous in Addis and elsewhere in the country thanks to the years-long Italian occupation of Ethiopia.  This was decades before the Starbucksization of the U.S. so it was all new and foreign to me.  And I eventually grew to like the darker, stronger Ethiopian coffee.)

That’s it for now.  We didn’t eat until eight tonight so it’s getting pretty late.  I sort of like this late dinner hour, but it does throw me off schedule.

Love, Ron

 

Tuesday

Dear Mom,

Got your letter today with the questions about the University, so I may as well devote most of this to telling you something about it.

If you look at issue #6 of the paper I included in the package with the film, you’ll find an article on enrollment, so I’ll just take off from that.

Where I’m teaching, at the Siddist Kilo campus, are located the faculties of Art, Medicine, Education, Social Work and Law. A mile or so away, at the Arak Kilo campus are located the faculties of Science, Engineering and Theology.  The Building College is located on the other side of them and the Agriculture College is in Alemaya, a town out in the provinces somewhere.  The Public Health College is in Gondor, another town.

Most of these are self-explanatory as to what they contain, except perhaps the Faculty of Arts.  In this are the departments of English, economics, history, poly sci, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, public administration, languages, etc.  I’m not sure how many faculty members there are, but English has the most with about 40, so that may give you some idea.  One weird thing is that, among the foreign staff, there are many husband and wife teams working at the University.  Not particularly in the same office or anything, but if you meet one you’re pretty sure to meet the other, teaching, or working as a secretary somewhere.

The main Campus at Siddist Kilo was formerly the palace grounds, until the coup attempt in ’61—the University has only been in existence since then.  The old palace is now the administration building, and most of the buildings—except the new classroom building where I teach—were at one time guest mansions, etc.  The royal horse stables are still there—destined to be the new econ dept soon—as are the royal garages, now the University motor pool.  It’s pretty interesting to just walk around and imagine things as they were when the Emperor was there.  We were sitting in the academic vice president’s office the other day trying to figure out which window it was the American ambassador jumped out of when the palace was stormed during the coup.

My housemate Jim has an interesting development on his hands.  It seems his mother has been having his letters reprinted in the local paper. (A small town in the state of Washington)  He didn’t know about this until she sent him some copies this week.  He immediately went to Dave Berlew, the Peace Corps director here, and Berlew was pretty shook up about it, as one of the letters that had been printed contained some things which the Ethiopian government would frown on.  He wired Washington and had Jim’s folks called and told to stop.  Now all we can do is just wait and hope that none of the articles comes to the attention of the government.  If that happens, Jim will have to be gotten out of the country fast—Berlew’s already made the plans—if indeed they will let him out at all. Luckily, the paper is a small weekly with only about 10,000 circulation, so the chances of some Ethiopian student or govt official in the states reading it are slight.  There is still the chance though, that some friend of an Ethiopian could be wrapping his garbage some day, and there would go the whole ball of wax.  (Oh those pre-internet days)

Went hiking up in the mountains Sunday with my language instructor and a couple other students.  We left about nine in the morning and got back around 2.  I took some wine, a loaf of bread and a jar of jam along, a real kind of Hemingway outing.  The word is shirishir in Amharic, sort of an outing/picnic concept.  I took my camera along and got some pretty good shots, if they come out.  I took some from the mountain you can see from the house, there’s a map in the second package of film.  We could even see my house, really just the blue gate.  We could see almost all the city.  I haven’t sent that roll yet.  I’ll try to get it in the mail this weekend.

Sounds like Rusty is having a pretty rough time of it.  Too bad dogs like him have to get old.  I’ve been thinking of getting a dog here, quite a few of the Peace Corps people have one, but it’s just too much of a bother when you’re away all day.  Besides, the landlord has a couple of dogs.  He had one when we moved in and got another just last week.  The new one is younger, but bigger, than the other one.  The zebanya takes care of them, keeps them tied up during the day and lets them run loose in the compound at night.  They’re supposed to be watchdogs, but are too friendly to do anything but bark and scare people.

I think I’m coming down with another cold, as my throat was sore when I got up this morning, so I am going to bed early tonight.

Next week I’m going to be in charge of the paper.  Dale’s going to teach my classes for me and I’ll just work with the paper.

Love,  Ron

 

Thursday

Dear Mom,

Guess it’s about time I wrote a letter.  I’ve been pretty busy this week.  I’ve been running the paper, guess I told you about that last time.  There isn’t really all that much work, but I haven’t been at it long enough for things to settle down into a routine, so it all seems pretty hectic now.

Monday I just took care of getting the advertising laid out and taken to the printers, and finished that Tuesday morning.  The rest of Tuesday, Wednesday and today, I’ve been editing and writing stories.  About another hour’s worth tomorrow morning and it will be finished.  Most of it has been printed and the rest will be done in the morning, so it can be distributed in the afternoon.  I can see where doing this will really help my journalism, as with just the little bit I’ve done, I can see some improvement in my editing and writing.

I just got your letter about your seeing the first roll of film.  I sent the second one registered because it only cost 50 cents more, and will save a lot of inconvenience if one gets hung up in the mail sometime.  Glad it turned out OK.  I still haven’t sent the third roll, will try to do that this weekend.

Seems like I spend money over here just as fast as in the States.  For last month I just broke even, spent what I made.  That really wasn’t a typical month, as we were still buying odds and ends for the house.  I hope to have some extra this month so I can buy a tennis racket.  That will probably be about 60 dollars for a good one.   That still isn’t too bad though, only about $25 US.  The courts up at the US embassy are in pretty good shape now, since the rains have finally stopped.

It’s about time to go to bed, so I’ll stop and try to get this finished tomorrow.

Now it’s Friday, the paper’s out and the week is about over.  Everything turned out OK.  I made only one mistake. One of the student associations has a news bulletin, and I called it by the wrong name.  Nothing that bad I guess, but still kind of stupid.

Saturday morning some of us are going horseback riding.  We’re going to a place out in the country that lets you just ride where you want to.  The horses aren’t as good as those at the police stations, but there is an advantage in being able to go where you want instead of having to stay within a fence.

Boy, I’ve just got to study some French while I’m here.  The local station has some broadcasts in French, and I was just sitting here listening to the news and found I can pick up quite a bit of it.

I got a letter from Aunt Del today telling about her vacation in Florida.  It’s when I get things like that that I miss the States.  I can imagine what it must be like to be out in the provinces, because even here in Addis I find myself thinking sometimes how nice it would be to be able to just hop in a car and go out and have a hamburger, or go to a bar and listen to some loud American music.  Funny the things you miss first.

On that note I shall quit.

Ron

 

 

Thursday Dec. 14

Dear Mom,

Hello again.  Not much new this week.  I’m just about over the cold I told you about.  The sore throat only lasted a couple of days.  We have some cold tablets in our medical kits, and they seem to help quite a bit.  The rain has stopped, but I guess we are now in what they call the cold season here in Addis.  During the day, it’s pretty warm, at least it seems that way to me, but at night it’s often cold enough to see one’s breath.  How cold that is I have no idea.  During the day it has been getting up to the middle seventies.

Last Saturday, I went horsebackriding for three solid hours.  I’ve been somewhat stiff all week.  About five of us went out to the place at the edge of the city where you can rent horses and just take off wherever you want to.  They horses aren’t that good, but it’s a lot of fun to go anywhere you want.  The horses they have at the police station near our house are about the best to be found in Ethiopia, but they won’t let you take them out of the compound.  It’s about like riding a merry-go-round.

We’re going out this Saturday too.  Probably go in the morning and take a lunch along.  Next weekend is also the Red Cross carnival, or whatever they call it.  It’ll be held in the big field down the road from our house and is something of an international trade fair, with many countries having pavilions and stuff to sell.  Will probably go to that on Sunday.  I think the Emperor is going to make his appearance then.

This is probably the last letter you get from me before Christmas so I might as well tell you what I’ll be doing.  We get the 25th off, none of the other schools in the Empire do.  I guess we do because there are so many foreigners at the University.  Anyway, I’m going to take Friday off too and do down to Dilla, in the south, to visit Jim Gregory, a good friend from training.    He’s been wanting me to come down, and as it is a nine hour bus ride and there are no planes, this is about the only chance I’ll have.  Just getting down there and back entails about two days, so I have to have at least four to make it worthwhile.  The bus ride shouldn’t be too bad, they use one of the big buses that don’t stop every five minutes to pick someone up, just at the towns.  Dilla is the last town on the all-weather (paved) road.  That reminds me, I’ll have to pick up a road map of Ethiopia and send it to you sometime.

Have you sent the book and the mags?  I assumed you have, and have been watching for it, so let me know if you haven’t.

About time to hit the sack…Oh, I almost forgot, I got a card and letter from Armand and Judy, and wrote back and told them to drop over to the house sometime and look at the movies I’ve sent back. If you don’t hear from them, why don’t you call them up and have them over when you have time.  Have a nice Christmas.

Love, Ron

 

Wednesday Dec. 27
Dear Mom,
I finally bought a tennis racket, so now I’m all set. I got one for$66. It’s a Dunlop, made in England. That’s about the only good brand you can buy around here. I’m glad I took my language instructor along with me, as the original price was $72. It helps to have an Ethiopian along to do your bartering for you.
I plan to take some movies of the University grounds this weekend if the weather’s nice. We’re having a couple over for dinner Saturday noon, and they haven’t seen the University, so we’re going to show them around, and I’ll shoot more pictures. I bought another roll of movie film, but so far the only way I’ve been able to buy it is with the processing included in the price. I’ll send the envelope home with the film. You should be able to use that when you get it developed, as it’s the regular Kodak film, and
it says to send it to any Kodak processor.
The trip to Dilla was great. I left about 6:30 am Friday, and got there about 2:30 in the afternoon. The trip was pretty long, but there are several stops where you can get out and walk around. You of course get all kinds of traveling companions on the trip, from nicely dressed businessmen to bare-breasted women right out of the hills. Jim’s doing fine, though is a little lonely, because the only other foreigners in the town are two peace corps girls with whom it would be hard for anyone to get along.
We had dinner Sunday night at the Swedish mission a little ways outside the town. The town is surprisingly well equipped for as far away as it is from Addis. You can buy boxed cereal and all kinds of canned goods, to mention a few of the essential items. We played ping pong and a type of Ethiopian billiards at one of the local bars too. You can also buy Hienekins (sp) beer there too. The town has electricity from six in the morning to midnight, but it wasn’t working while I was there.

On the trip back Monday, the bus driver got into a fight with someone who insulted him as we passed through a small town. Good thing he was a good fighter or we may have lost a bus driver. All of the passengers were of course rooting for the driver, and the people of the town were rooting for the other guy.
I guess we get New Year’s day off too, and then the Ethiopian Christmas is January 7, so that makes lot of nice four day weekends.
Our cook has asked Jim and I to her house for the Ethiopian Christmas, so that should be quite a day. She’s really excited about it.
I finally got off a letter to the grandmas, and I managed to do it without writing the same thing in each one or duplicating the one I sent to you. I got plenty of Christmas cards too. I got one from Esther Wainwright. Sounds like she’s working just as hard as ever. She said she heard from her son, whom I guess she hadn’t heard from in years, and she was pretty happy about that.
I’m still living somewhat above my salary.  I spent about $300 in Dec. I’m living off the money I saved from the furnishing allowance, as I didn’t spend all that, so  my bank account is still in the black. At least I won’t be buying a tennis racket every month.
I still have some homework to correct, so I better quit.
Love,
Ron

 

Wednesday

Dear Mom,
Guess I’ll write this one and send it in an envelope, as I also want to buy and include a map of Ethiopia. This will prove helpful whenever I write about going somewhere.
Changed typewriters, I didn’t have time to finish this at the office. My language instructor came for the daily lesson. We decided to just take a walk and try some free conversation, so I killed two birds and went to the bookstore and got a map. Don’t let the layout of the map fool you, this place is still not a driver’s paradise. The ones they call all weather are similar to the backwoods hard roads (patched blacktop) we used to drive on in the Ozarks. The ones they call dry weather are gravel and dirt. (All this talk of having a language instructor and doing ‘free conversation’ sounds impressive, but the reality is that I never got beyond a very rudimentary use of the language, Amharic.  I am just not good at languages)
I partied it up pretty well last weekend, being New Year and all, I felt I had a good excuse. I used to think Kankakee was dead after dark, this place virtually goes to sleep. I came home about 3 am Sunday, and I didn’t see a soul, except for a police car (he gave me a ride home).
This weekend should be big too, as all the people from the provinces are coming in for vacation to spend all that money they’ve been saving. Also, Veep Humphry and Thurgood Marshall will be stopping by on their tour of Africa. The Veep will speak at the U Sat, aft., and have a private reception for PCV’s at the embasy right after that.
I hope the Emperor comes up with him to the U, so I can get some pictures of him. If he isn’t going to, I probably won’t take any pictures, as it won’t be all that impressive.
Thanks for sending the card from the Martinez’, I sent them a card and a short note, but haven’t written them a letter yet. I‘m starting to get behind on the letter writing again.
No, I haven’t gotten either of the packages you sent. I went down to the post office to check the other day. Very quaint, they write in a ledger all the packages received from another country.  They have a ledger for the US, for Britain, etc. Not too efficient, but it makes it easy to check and see if you’ve gotten anything.
By air, they should have gotten here by now, but I’m not too worried about it, they’ll turn up eventually. Living here, you sort of expect things not to happen too rapidly. You’d be a nervous wreck if you did.  Along those lines, the word that we were told in language classes during training meant ‘now’ can actually mean anything from ‘right now’ to ‘in a week or so’ depending on the context.
About the film. Remember I told you the price included processing?. There’s also a mailer included, so I think I’ll just mail it to the processing place in the states and have them forward it to you. That can easily be done. I haven’t sent any yet, and I’ll let you know when I do so you can expect it. I’ll send them one at a time to see how it works. I’ve enclosed an explanation of what is on the next two rolls, as I won’t be able to send it with the film.

Well, I’ve played tennis twice since I got the racket, and I am beginning to get back into shape. My arm was really sore after the first time, and this altitude takes some getting used to. The ball boys are nice, as you don’t have to waste your energy running after the balls all the time.
Only about three weeks left until the end of the semester. Time really flies. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing over the vacation.  We had planned to rent a land rover, but we’re trying to get the PC to help pay for it and arrange things for us to see along the way.  They give the other olunteers a free trip to Asmara for the conference, but as we at the U are still teaching when the others have their vacation, we get nothing like that. I wouldn’t be at all unhappy if they just gave us the money they spend on the other volunteers for the thing in Asmara. They put out about $150 for each one.
Rick, I got your picture and the letter, thanks. Rog, did you break your arm or something, or just forget how to write?
Well, we had  quiz today, so I have a lot of grading to do, guess I should get started.
Sorry about all the folds in the map, but it was hell getting it into the envelope.
Love,  Ron

Mon Jan 8
Dear Mom,
This has been another party weekend I’m afraid, as the people were in from the boonies. It was good to see them. You get pretty close to people when you’re thrown together for three grueling months like we were in Utah for training.  Quite a few of them have lost quite a bit of weight. Guess it’s a good thing I didn’t go out to the provinces.
Saturday morning I played tennis, and then went up to the Embassy again in the afternoon to hear Humphry. It was like getting a lecture on how to be good Americans. Too bad too, for there are many people doing a good job of building respect for the states, and they really deserve a pat on the back, not a lecture.
Saturday night I went to a party, and after that to some of the Ethiopian
Christmas celebrations at one of the churches. They start about one in the morning, and were still going strong when we left at 2:30. Sunday was their Christmas. The people who teach in the secondary schools have two weeks off starting last Friday. Our vacation is at the end of the semester exams, about Jan 30. We get three weeks off then.
The Peace Corps is going to give us at the University a one week trip.  (the people from the boonies get a free trip up to Asmara and back for the conference) So, I and Dan and Ann Stoddard will be leaving in a Land Rover for Harrar on Jan 30, stopping along the way to see things.  Harrar is east of Addis.  That will take a week, after which I will probably hitchike or take the bus up to Asmara and on to Massawa on the Red Sea to lay on the beach for a while. Should be fun. I hope the film you sent gets here before I leave, so I don’t have to buy any.
Yes, that will be OK to send the driver’s license application to me. I’ve gotten a temporary Ethiopian license, should get the permanent one in a couple months.
Only one week after this one and final exams start. It’s good to know I won’t have to study for them, although I’ll be quite busy grading them. Exams are usually three hours long here, but I think the English Dept. is going to make its a two hour exam.
Too bad I’m not a baby, I could have gotten a kiss from Humphry. One little kid asked him for his autograph, and he said, “0h, I just happen to have some cute little cards with me, with my autograph and the seal of the VP on them. Pass then out will you Sam.”
Yes, you really mangled that last aerogram, but I managed to read it OK. Too bad they don’t make them like this, as they’re pretty easy to write on.
We went to the cook’s house for Christmas dinner Sunday. Really quite a spread. Of course, she and her family didn’t eat with us. When they have guests of our stature, they just sit around and talk to you, and keep pouring on the food and making sure your glass stays full. I was really stuffed. She lives in the normal kind of tin-roofed Ethiopian shack, though much better than some I’ve seen. She had one of her nephews, who speaks English, over also, which was pretty good social planning in anyone’s book.
Also, please send me Blanch and Wes’ address. I didn’t have it when I sent out Christmas cards, and I forgot to ask you for it. By the way, did you get my Christmas card? I just wondered if it takes any longer when you send things second class.
That’s it for now. Love, Ron

Thursday morning  Jan 9

Dear Mom,
Thought I’d start this now and if I don’t finish this morning, then take it home tonight and finish it. Glad you got the map.  I figured it would help somewhat.
That letter you sent in Sept. sure took its time getting back to you.  It did have the wrong box no. on it, but it looks like someone wrote the right one it when it got to the post office here. Then it looks like it was sent to the pc office OK, but then got sent out to the provinces somewhere.  That was probably before the Addis mailing lists were put up in the PC mailroom. Then whoever got it in the provinces sent it back to the office and they just gave up and sent it back to the states.  Interesting trip.
Don’t believe all you read about the V-P’s visit to Addis. The demonstration at the University was not as big as the wire services and Time Mag made it out to be. There were about 150 students and 20 signs, plus the effigy, and the whole thing was pretty peaceful. I’m not sure why the VP didn’t come to the University. The reason we got here was that he didn’t have time because he spent so long with the Emperor. It was true that he was only scheduled for 45 minutes with him and he spent 2 hours at the palace. Time of course said it was because of the demo at the U that he didn’t go. Humphrey’s official statement was that he thought it would be a better use of his time to stay with the Emperor than go to the U. A guy down at USIS said the the VP didn’t even know what was next on the schedule. He said he just came out of the palace and said where to next, and one of his aides said the American embassy, it’s too late to go to the U. There were many people up at the U, watching the proceedings, so the people who were with the VP knew what was going on.
I think I told you about the one week trip to Harrar that the pc has planned for us. After that, I plan to go up to Asmara with my language instructor.  We’ll be taking the bus up.  There are two roads up there. The one on the left as you look at the map is called the Gondar road, and the one on the right is the Dessie road, because of the two major towns on the roads.  We will probably go up the Dessie and come back on the Gondar road.  We’ll also go up to Massawa on the Red Sea northeast of Asmara.
This Sunday af’t. some of us are planning to go the final games of the Africa Cup soccer tournament here in Addis. That should be something.  If Ethiopia wins Friday, they will be playing for first place Sunday, Excitment galore.
Next Monday is the final exam.  It sure feels good not to have to study for it. Next week we will be busy correcting the exam and recording grades, and then leave for Harrar the 29th or 30th.
Guess I’ll quit for now. It’s time for my morning tea break.
Wednesday Afternoon
Kind of a long tea break. Sorry, but I just haven’t gotten around to finishing this. All the people from the provinces were in again this weekend, and between seeing people and having them over for dinner and fighting a cold, I just haven’t done anything.  We also had the final exam Monday, so I’ve been helping grade that for the past couple of days. I’m on the committee grading the essay part of the exam, and it’s really a pain in the neck. Should be done though, by tomorrow afternoon.
The soccer games were pretty good Sunday. Ethiopa lost Friday night so played for third place Sunday and lost that too. I must say, they deserved to. Congo Kinshasha beat Ghana for the first place Sunday. That was really a good game.
As things stand now, we will leave for Harrar next Tues morning. We won’t travel straight to Harrar, but will be stopping along the way at several places.  We will reach Harrar on the 5th or 6th day of the trip, and then drive straight back from there on the 7th day. (I don’t know what date that is)
After that I will be going to Asmara…guess I told you about that in the first part of this letter.
I really got a dilly of a cold again last week. Not too much of a sore throat this time, but a lot a nose blowing and coughing. It’s starting to clear up now, so should be OK for the traveling.  It looks like we may be driving the land rover ourselves, as they are short of drivers at the PC office. I don’t mind at all.

I still haven’t received the packages, though I did get the one from church that you mentioned. Either they got lost on the way, or they are in some dark corner of the Ethiopian Post office. At any rate, I still think they will turn up someday. It’s just the waiting that’s exasperating, that’s all.
Love,
Ron

,
January 10, 1968
Dear Mom,
Got your letter with all the questions, so I thought I’d answer them before I forget.
First about Sigma Delta Chi. Yes, please pay the $10 dues for 1968. No, I am not affiliated with any Professional chapter.
Now for the income tax. I’m not sure if I gave Mr. Collins at the gas station my home address or not, so you better call him. Probably be best if you just call the gas station any time during the day on a weekday, he’s always there. I don’t know the number, but it’s a Clark station in the 109 block of University Ave. in Urbana.  He knew I was graduating and going into the Peace Corps, so I really doubt if he would have sent it to my last campus address but if he did call Henry Voigtlander Insurance agency (real estate too) in Urbana. He’s the one I was counseling for.  No, Mr. Voigtlander didn’t report the counseling job.
From June 19, 1967 to September 8, 1967, the incidental expense allowance given to us by the Peace Corps was $123.00. This is subject to income tax, and no tax has been withheld from it. We will get a statement of all other earnings directly from the Peace Corps office here. Also, we can get income tax forms here, so I’ll just get one, sign it, and send it to you when I get the statement.
No, the meal job wasn’t reported, and I didn’t have any other jobs. That should do it for the income tax. hope you don’t get arrested, Dad, for claiming me as a dependent.
I haven’t received the packages yet. I plan to go down to the post office later this week to check again. Don’t send any more until I see what kind of duty they charge on it. I know they’ll charge something, so I’ll just wait and see if it’s worth it financially.
Rolls number 4 and 5 were shot with daylight film, so when I send them, you can see if it makes a difference.
I got a bank statement today, and surprisingly enough, it was only a month behind. It’s really rough trying to keep track when they don’t even have a record of the last five or six checks. Also the Peace Corps doesn’t tell us when they deposit money, so we just have to wait for the out-of-date bank statement.
Nothing’s happened since the last time I wrote (which was two days ago I think), so I’ll quit.
Love,  Ron

Jan 29, 1968
Dear Mom,
I don’t guarantee this will be a long or very informative letter, but I thought I’d dash off a quickie before we leave.
As it ends up, we weren’t assigned a driver, so Dan Stoddard and I will be doing the driving. I’m not complaining. We checked the vehicle out today to get in some practice before going out on the road, and it’s just like being on a safari….it’s one of those big green land rovers….not in as good a shape as the ones you see in the movies, but it’ll do. So, we’ve just been buzzing around Addis today. Yes sir, it would be nice to have a car here. I don’t think the zebanya would appreciate it though. We were keeping him pretty busy opening and closing the gate today.
To answer the question in your letter. This semester I was teaching three one hour classes a day, of 20 students each. Next semester I will only be teaching one class three days a week, and working on the paper. Not a bad deal at all.
I might as well give you a rough itinerary of our trip. Tomorrow we will go to Awash Game Preserve (Awash Station) We might also stop at a sugar plantation that’s in that area. Then we will go to Alemaya to see the market. (supposed to be very colorful.) Then on to Harrar, observe some classes and see some of the things there. Then to Dira Dawa for the swimming pool at the Ras Hotel, among other things.
As you can see, we haven’t planned much timewise. We’ll just make up the schedule as we go along. Also, I’ve left out a number of small places that are not on the map. I’ll tell you about those when we get back.

Had a small crisis just a few minutes ago. I forgot to give the cook her month’s salary. She wouldn’t say anything, just left after supper like always, but the zebanya said something about it after she left. So I went over to her house and gave it to her. She was very happy, and I told her I had forgotten.  Everything is hunky—dory.
Oh, one thing I forgot to tell you about the land rover. The steering wheel is on the wrong side. All driving is done on right here, as at home, but the  wheel is also on the right. Takes a little getting used to, but after a while it’s OK. You just have to stop and think everytime you get in.
Guess I better stop now and get some things packed.
Love, Ron

Wednesday Feb 21
Dear Mom,
Guess I owe you a letter. Have been trying to get at it, but things have been pretty busy. Got back in town last Sunday and with working on the paper and attending orientation sessions at the English dept, I haven’t had much time. Also, we have had a couple guys staying with us for the last few days—- Bob and Larry. Bob’s the one I went to D.C. with. They are out in Sheno, a short bus ride from here. Bob is in for some supplies, he left today, as classes start at his school tomorrow. Larry is in the process of going home. He feels he can do more in the states than he can over here. It’s pretty easy to get frustrated in the grade schools. Anyway, he has a lot of red tape to go through, so has been living here while he gets it taken care of
Well, now a little about the trip, first the one to Harrar and Dira Dawa. We stopped at Awash game reserve on the way, but didn’t see much game. Things were pretty dry. Harrar was nice. It’s a very old city, with many old walls and buildings. Reminded me of what I think a Middle East city would look like. We saw the hyena man in Harrar. He goes out to the edge of town with a sack of meat at night and whistles and the hyennas come out of the woods and he feeds them. There were about half a dozen around him the night we saw him.
Dira Dawa is a very flat city, with paved streets, but very hot. It’s about the most African city I’ve seen yet. Had the most delicious ice cream there, the best I’ve had since I left the states.
Traveling by land rover was fun, and you just about need one for these roads. Even though the whole road is marked in red on the map, it turns to gravel about 50 miles outside of Addis (as do all the roads, as I’ve found out). It’s a pretty good gravel road, though pretty rough in spots. There is a nice paved road between DD and Harrar (because the Emperor goes that way getting from Harrar to the airport at DD) Who’s cynical?
I only took movies on the Harrar trip, 2 rolls (6&7) Pretty well self
explanatory, most of them shot from the car. There’s one scene where we are passing another land rover. The animal that ran across the road just before we got to it is a hyena. Not sure how much of it you can see, hut that’s what they look like. That’s Dan driving the land rover through the water. Between him and I taking pictures of it, we must have gone hack and forth through that place about 4 times. The opening shots were taken on a part of the road between DD and Harrar.
Got back from that trip on Monday, and left with Wondie on the bus for Asmara on Wednesday. We were supposed to get to Dessie the first day and stay overnight, but we had an accident, so stayed in Robi (halfway between Addis and Dessie) for the night and went on to Dessie the next day. Neither of us was hurt in the accident. Something went wrong with the bus as we were on a straight part of the road and it pulled sharply to the left and went over the edge. Luckily there wasn’t much of a drop off, so it just hit and rolled over on its top. There are many places along that road where we could have dropped several hundred feet. I took some pics of it with a friends still camera. I will probably get the film developed here and send the negatives home to you to have some prints made, as that is verrrry expensive here $2 a print for color. Anyway, everyone got out of the bus OK and no one was too seriously hurt.  We got into Robi by truck, and they sent down another bus from Addis for us the next day.  The roads here are literally carved out of the rough terrain, with a lot of going up and down mountains, using a series of zig zags.  Some of the corners are 180 degrees and the only way the buses can make it around is to slow way down and turn the wheels all the way, and sometimes they even have to back up a couple times to make it around.  (That reminds me of hearing the voice at the back of the bus shouting “Enough! Enough!” during the jockeying back and forth.)
I’ll continue this about the trip in the next letter and finish up this one answering some questions.
No, it wouldn’t make any difference whether the packages were sent to the PC office or my University address because I’ve checked and there isn’t any record of them having arrived at the Addis post office, where they would have to go first regardless of which address they were sent to.
Don’t bother to send any of the Sigma Delta Chi stuff, but you can send the drivers license when you have the opportunity.
As long as you got Roll no. 4 0K, I’ll send the others along to the processing plant as soon as I can.
Guess my lunch hour and a half is over, back to work.
Love,
Ron

Sunday Feb 25, 1968
Dear Mom,
The first week of officially putting the paper out was certainly a hectic one. After many other things which went wrong, the last and final straw was when the electricity went out in the print shop and they couldn’t print the paper. So…last week’s paper will be out Monday, and then we’ll have another on Thursday, the regular publishing day.
Haven’t gotten down to the post office yet to get that next roll of film in the mail. Should have some time tomorrow while the paper is being printed to do that, so you should get it soon.
The head of the freshman English program had us out to lunch yesterday and last night we had a party for the paper’s first anniversary.  Haven’t been able to play tennis in a while because we’re having a small but extremely wet rainy season and the courts are in pretty bad shape.
Guess I should tell you some more about the trip. After leaving Robi the day after the accident, we went to Dessie where we spent the night. Dessie is just an overgrown village, acres of tinned roofed shacks, and very dirty. I would say it’s typical of what most Ethiopian towns along the main roads look like, though most of them are much smaller. Stayed in one of the third rate hotels available near the bus station, also typical of most of the places we stopped. (Little did I know then that I would be spending my third year in Ethiopia based in Dessie, which is a provincial capitol.)
Next day we went to Mekele, another overnight stop. Pretty nice town, sits on a large plateau and is pretty clean, though very windy and cold.
Then, Asmara. Not at all lke Ethopia. It is mainly an Italian city, built during the occupation. Has paved streets laid out in blocks, a real nice main shopping area, and a lot of night life. Also, it’s very flat, so it’s easy to set around by bicycle. The US army has a communications base there, just a little piece of America. Ethiopia is classed as a “hardship post” by the Army.  I don’t see why anything but a war zone could be termed a hardship for the Army, they bring everything over  with them.
Stayed in Asmara a couple days and then took the small narrow guage train to Massawa. Sort of cold for swimming there, but we enjoyed ourselves. There were five naval vessels in port when we were there, so you can imagine the night life. It’s a really relaxing place, being by the water and all.
After a couple days there, we hitchhiked back to Asmara. It’s pretty easy to do that along that road because it’s a good road and well traveled by foreigners going back and forth between Asmara and Massawa.
There are other roads you could try hitchhiking along, but you could wait for hours and not see a car.
The next day we started back for Addis by bus on the Gondar read.  Spent the night in Adj Arkaf. Nothing special, just another small town. Next day we got to Gondar about noon and stayed overnight there, so we got to see some of that. Went through the castle and grounds (ruins) of King Fasil (1600’s) and wandered around the town. Sort of a nice town, cleaner than most, and had nice hotels. Much of it was just the usual slums though.
Left there the next day and spent the next night in Finote Salam, a really small town, but it had sort of a motel deal that was built for the buses that stop overnight. Didn’t have running water or anything, but was very clean.
Next day we went through the Blue Nile Gorge. You just come to the edge of the plateau and there it is, just like coming to the edge of a table. From the top down to the river is a drop of some 3,000 feet, and the road goes all the way down and up again. Some beautiful scenery. That picture taken of Wondie (you’ll see it when I send you the negatives) was on the bridge at the bottom of the gorge.
Arrived back in Addis and it was raining like hell. Real nice welcome.

We get about ten days off in April for Easter, and I think I’ll fly out to see Mimi Hanson in Hosanna, about an hour by plane, southwest of Addis. That’s about the only way to get there, especially when it’s raining like this. If the rains stop, they’re supposed to, by then, we may try to go out by land rover, though the road is said to be pretty bad.  Wondie will probably go with me, his family lives there.
Tell Aunt Del not to give up, I’ll write her again one of these days.  I think she’s written about five times since I last wrote her.
Just sat around most of the day today. Went to the office for a while this afternoon to help clean up the mess from the party and then went out to eat with Stoddards. Been a pretty nice day, didn’t rain,
And it is really nice out tonight. Seems like it’s starting to get warmer in the evenings.
Love,
Ron

 

March 1, l968
Dear Mom,
Thought I would wait until today and write so I can include the negatives I want you to make prints of. I think I mentioned that before. If you could send me three prints of each negative, that would be fine. Just send them back in an envelope. You may want to just send a few at a time, I don’ t know if they will all fit or not. Have the prints made large, not those little bitty ones. Also, please send back the one negative of Wondie standing on the bridge. You can keep the others.
Sorry I didn’t take any shots of the country on the trip up north, but I just wasn’t in a picture taking mood.
Got the second issue of the paper out yesterday, so am just taking it easy today.  This morning I finally got around to getting a haircut. It was about three months since the last one, so was getting quite long. I had planned on getting one as soon as I got back from Amsara, but this is the first free day I have had since then.
Still raining off and on here. Hadn’t rained since Monday, but it’s really coming down today. I finally bought an umbrella.

I got the package you sent containing the film the other day, so my hopes are up for the other one. I didn’t have to pay any duty on it, which I’ve heard is unusual for unexposed film. The package didn’t have any unusual marks on it, so I couldn’t tell where it had been all this time. Probably just sitting in a corner somewhere. You should have gotten the next roil of film by now, the continuation of the one about the campus.
I also got a Christmas card from Aunt Margaret this week. It had been mailed in November, but came by boat as she hadn’t marked it airmail. In that light I guess it was sort of useless for you to send the packages by air.
Tell dad to wait, I’ll wish him happy birthday sometime in May. It’s really bad. I not only have to remember, but have to remember at least a week ahead of time to be on time. So I’ve just given up trying to remember all those things.
Been having minor servant problems lately. Our zebanya went out into the provinces because his father was sick, so the landlord hired someone else, a real dud, both mentally and personality-wise. The landlord doesn’t think the other one will be coming back. Also, the cook was all upset the other day because we weren’t going to pay her for the time we were on vacation. Seems that all servants get paid when you’re away, whether they work or not, kind of a built in social security or something. Anyway, we paid her and now she’s happy. Oh, the woes of having servants.
Paper’s running ok. I’m having a meeting with the reporters tonight to get
organized. Things were kind of hectic these first two weeks, and I’d like to get things organized so I don’t have to work so hard.
Nothing on for this weekend except an English Dept staff meeting Saturday morning at 9 am. We were having them on Tuesday afternoons last semester, but because people had classes and had to leave, Dr. Tan decided we weren’t getting anything done. I was going to suggest that if he keep his mouth shut and get on with the meetings, we would have enough time, but decided not to. Also, the things he said in those meetings could have been better said in a short memo to everyone. Any way, it’s only once a month, so I should be able to hold up.

That’s about all for this time.
Love,
Ron

 

Sunday

Dear Mom,

If you haven’t already sent in my tax return, I have an additional piece of info.  In deciding whether or not I can use the short form, I can exclude all Peace Corps payments from which no tax was withheld.  So it looks like I can use 1040A.

Went out on the town Friday.  Dinner, show (‘Sound of Music’) and nightclub.  Mimi Hanson, a friend from training, had come in and we just decided to do it up big.  Last night we were going to take it easy as she had to go back to her town at 7 this morning, but Dale Bartley and Susan Major came over and we drank beer and played hearts until about 2.  Dale’s the one who started the paper, and Sue’s an American going to school here.

So today I’m just laying around.  I also had a meeting, out to lunch, and 2 hours of tennis yesterday, so it was busy.

They’re going to play some Bill Cosby on the noon radio show today, so I’m sticking close to the radio.

Time to eat.

Ron

 

Dear Mom,

Not a hell of a lot has happened between yesterday and today, but I thought I’d answer your question about the $117.40 before I forget.  Yes, do pay it from there—just the money to repay the loan is being taken out of my readjustment allowance.

About the meaning of the names of towns, the only one I know is Addis Ababa.  I’ll ask Wondie about the others and let you know later.  Addis means new and Ababa means flower, hence new flower.  Actually, addis when used in normal speech is pronounced Ahdees.  The letter ‘i’ in phonetics is always pronounced as a long ‘e’ and ‘a’ comes out ‘ah’ instead of the ‘a’ as in cat.  But most people don’t know phonetics so pronounce it the way they would the same letter in their mother tongue.  Ababa should be Ahbuhba. Just a little confusing.

Got birthday cards from the Grandmas and Myrl and Ted last week.

Love, Ron

 

Sunday March 10

Dear Mom,

Thought I’d start this today, but hold off on sending it.  They’re going to get the income tax stuff to us sometime this week and I’ll wait and include that.  There are three categories of payment I’ve received from the Peace Corps that are taxable.  1. Incidental expense allowance earned during the summer US $123.  I don’t know if it’s necessary to include the statement I’ve enclosed when you mail in the tax form, but at any rate just hang onto it.  2.  A percentage of each month’s living allowance earned here is taxable. (The Eth govt pays a part of that, so it isn’t all taxable, also, only money spent on certain things is taxable.  In my case, this is 24%, which comes out to be US $26 taxable per month (24% of Eth$265 divided by 2.5 exchange rate = US$26.  US$26 times 3.5 (#of months in 1967 I received this) = US$91, living allowance taxable income.  3.  The PC also credits to us a certain amount of money every month.  This is in US dollars and is called the readjustment allowance.  This is also taxable, even though we don’t actually get it until we get out and back to the states.  I’ll be getting the W2 form on that this week and will include it.

In categories 1 and 2, no income tax has been withheld.  I don’t know if any has been withheld from the readjustment allowance.  I’ll have to wait til I see the  W2 form.  Being outside the country I automatically have until June 15 to file, but in order to use the short form I have to file before the normal date of April 15.  If I get this stuff in the mail this week that’s shouldn’t be any problem.

So, so far I have US$123 + US$91 = US$214 taxable income, plus the readjustment allowance W2 (the sum is $405, hard to read on the form, nothing withheld) and that from the gas station.  I’ve also signed and included the 1040A.  I’ve tried to explain it pretty thoroughly so if anybody comes knocking on the door you’ll know what you’re talking about.

Not much new has happened, the paper has settled down into a sort of routine, so things aren’t quite as hectic.  Went to a party last night and to the Italian industrial exhibition this afternoon.  It’s still raining about every other day so not getting in too much tennis.  We even had a hail storm again Thursday night.  I still don’t understand why is doesn’t snow here.  You’d think if it could hail it certainly could snow.

Got a Christmas card from Grandma Norton Friday, came by boat, mailed Nov 10.  Tell her if she wants to send things by boat she really has to think ahead.  Probably if you mailed it about the time they start putting up decorations in the stores it’ll get here on time.

Our area representative has sent around a living allowance survey to reassess the amount we’re getting.  I guess some people put pressure on him last year about getting more money, and I think it’s worth it.  I saw down the other night and tried to figure out as accurately as I could what and for what I spend every month and it came out to $263 and I’ve thought of some things since then I forgot.  Also, that doesn’t include unexpected things, like needing a new typewriter ribbon.  The PC policy is to make sure that you’re not getting so much money that it becomes a barrier between you and the people you’re supposed to help.  Well, I could have five servants and go to two shows a weekend and it wouldn’t be a barrier between me and the University students.  This guideline may be OK for the provinces, where you’re constantly on display, but they need to rethink their policy concerning city volunteers.  Anyway, I suggested a $30 to $50 increase, stressing that I think it should be closer to $50.  Now we’ll just sit back and see what happens.

It just dawned on us that we can make egg salad pretty easily, so we’re having egg salad sandwiches tonight.  For the first time I guess we’ll just have to guess at how many eggs we need to make enough for two of us.  Got the eggs hard boiled but have to wait for them to cool down a little.

Just had a big talk with the zebanya.  I asked him to wash the windows tomorrow so he asked for a razor blade to scrape the paint from around the edges and then proceeded to show and tell me how much soap he was going to use, which sponge he would use, how he would use the razor blade and how beautiful they would look when he finished.  I finally cut him off and asked him to build a fire in the fireplace.  I wanted to tell him we’ll decide how beautiful the windows are tomorrow when he finishes, but I don’t have the Amharic for that.

Sandwiches were good, though they would have been better with lettuce but we didn’t have any that’s been washed, and that’s a long process.  For health reasons, anything we eat that’s been exposed, like lettuce, apples, tomatoes etc has  to be washed in some kind of soap solution.  You don’t have to do this with things that you peel and eat the insides of.  Just going through the rigamarole of washing these things sort of ruins your appetite for them, but normally the cook does that, so it isn’t that bad.  I don’t know what the percentage of dangers there are, it’s just like everything else, you do it if you have time or have someone to do it for you.  We’re supposed to boil our water too, although there is less danger in drinking unboiled water here than in the provinces.  So we drink boiled water mainly, because the cook always has some available.  If it were up to us, it probably wouldn’t be done.

So I’m just sitting here with a full stomach, warming my feet by the fire.  When I think of how many Sunday evenings I wasted at school studying and worrying about studying it makes me sick.  (A note here:  About halfway through my unillustrious five-year college career I decided I needed a day off every week and I chose Sundays to be a non-homework day.  I either got it done by bedtime Saturday or it waited until Monday.  College because pleasant after that decision)

Almost forgot to tell you I got the driver’s license OK.  Nice color this time but I wonder why it’s for only three instead of four years.  They give me a pat on the back for good driving and then only give me a three-year license.  I also got my Ethiopian driver’s license a while ago.  It’s a little cardboard book with eight pages.  Really handy for carrying around in your wallet.

Guess I’ll quit for now and leave some room.  I may want to add something when I get that tax stuff.

Love, Ron

PS Friday…I’m a little late getting this off because my tax stuff got lost in the Addis Ababa mail system.  The dumb Peace Corps, instead of just letting us pick it up at the office, mailed it registered mail, and that’s a big operation for this mail system.  Anyway, they gave me duplicates of the W2 forms.

 

Sunday, March 24, 1968
Dear Mom,
Kind of a rainy, lazy Sunday today. Got in a litte tennis, but got rained out after about an hour, so have just been sitting around. Luckily, one of the four of ues who were playing wasn’t a PCV (that means he has a car) so at least we didn’t have to walk home in the rain.  Too bed we had to stop, as all four of us were pretty evenly matched, so were having a good time.
We had a party at our house last night, sort of a combination usual goof off party and a birthday party for me and another guy, whose birthday was on Saturday.  Parties are getting a little boring now, as you see the same people over and over again.  Find myself sitting and realizing how stupid it all is sometimes.  A lot depends on the mood I’m in too I guess.
Yes, to answer one of our questions, the University does have a three—month summer vacation, as  do all the other schools in the country, but the pc doesn’t want us to be bored by having nothing to do all that time, so we have what are called summer projects, which are to last about a month I guess. Usually, it just involves teaching a summer school program somewhere, or, if  one is a real super volunteer, you can dream up a project of your own. I’ll probably teach at the U.  I don’t know if that’ll be the first or last part of the summer but the rest of the time I’ll probably spend in Kenya. That seems to be the resort area for the PCVs from here. I’d like to travel around, but to get around in Africa you need to fly and that’s expensive.  It’ll probably take a month’s salary to get to Kenya and back.  PC does give us a leave allowance of $9 a day when we are on official leave. We get 45 days of official leave during the two years and to be out of the country, we have to be on official leave.
Before I forget, there is something I want you to do for me.  The center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, California has started publishing a bimonthly magazine called The Center Magazine. A subscription is $10 a year and I want you to subscribe for me.  Get it delivered to you and I will decide later if I want you to send it on or just collect them there for me.
Haven’t gotten that other package yet.  Thought I had it Friday when I got a notice from the post office, but it was just for a letter someone sent me that didn’t have enough postage. It was the second notice that it was there. I didn’t receive the first notice. I have yet to meet anyone who has received a first notice from the post office.  It’s always the second or third.
Love, Ron

 

March 29, 1968
Dear Mom,
I got all the B-day cards 0K. Tell Rog I’m glad his arm is OK. I almost
forgot, I want to wish Dad a happy birthday in this letter, so, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD. Isn’t it nice having two birthdays?
You asked about the time difference here, It’s all very interesting, not so much the international time change, but the way they keep time here. Generally, and by going by the international time zones, we’re 8 hours ahead of you. So where it is now 7 p.m. Friday here, it’s Il a.m. Friday there.  Not so hard to keep track of.

So I’ll move on to how they keep time. They figure that the day starts when the sun comes up, so that should be called one o’clock, not in the middle of the day or the middle of the night where our one o’clocks are. So there is six hours difference. They call our seven o’clock in the morning one o’ clock, and on through the day until theirs ends at twelve o’clock, our six in the evening.  Then they start again at one, our seven in the evening, all the way to twelve again, our six in the morning.  This of course has nothing to do with the time difference between here and there.  I am still eight hours ahead of you.  It’s just a different overlay for that nebulous thing we call time.
Got it?  Actually, it’s not that much of problem for us, since the University uses the European way of counting.  The cook and the zebanya of course, use the Ethioplan way, so you have to stop and think before you tell them what time you’re going to be home. It’s funny sometimes is when you want to order something from a store and the guy knows some English, but still tells time the Ethiopian way.  You get used to using the Ethiopian system when speaking Amharic and it gets confusing when someone starts using it when speaking English.  Like when the Emperor invited us to the Palace the other day, we didn’t know whether it was for lunch or supper.
Work’s ok, but keeping me busy. I have to go back to the University tomorrow morning to attend a Faculty Council meeting that didn’t get finished this afternoon. That’s in connection with the newspaper. Luckily, teaching doesn’t take up too much of my time.
Got some interesting friction this week from the dean of the law school. There’s been some running thing going with him and the student affairs committee about the readmission of an expelled law student. Anyway, we printed an account of the student affairs committee meeting when they discussed this, and the dean called me the day after we came out wanting to know why I didn’t call him to get his side of the story. Admittedly, I should have done that, but it was funnv because about a month ago he wouldn’t give us the time of day. Now when he’s afraid he’s not being heard loudly enough, he’s really screaming his head off. Anyway, his side was presented at the meeting and reported upon but I don’t think he got past the headline
That’s about it.
Love,
Ron

 

Wednesday April 10

Dear Mom,

Much has happened since I wrote last, that’s mainly why I haven’t written, too busy.  I’ll write a long one now and try to fill you in.

A week ago Saturday, March 30 I think, there was a fashion show sponsored by the University Women’s Club and the girl students. The rest of the students, or rather a small number of them, were against the show (Western influence, neo-colonialism, subversion of the culture, etc.) and about 150 students threw some eggs at people arriving for the fashion show. The administration called in the police and about 30 students were arrested. The administration closed the campus, mainly because there would have been class boycotts on Monday and perhaps further violence. Ethiopian students usually react strongly when some of their number is put in jail.
The University also banned a couple of student organizations. They were held responsible for what happened. The two student organizations are mainly political and had been egging things on the previous week with posters, etc.
The University was reopened last Friday, but no students have come back, they want the jailed students released and the organizations reinstated. The situation was the same yesterday, and so far today.
The banning of the organizations smacks strongly of some kind of purge backed strongly by the government. It’s hard to separate the government from the University in all this, though the administration has been trying to act independently. Let’s put it this way, the administration wouldn’t be doing what it’s doing if the government weren’t in favor of it. Anyway, these organizations were essentially political parties, agitating against the present government. The original gripe about the fashion show has long since been pushed into the background.

The situation has spread throughout the dity too, the high schools have been having trouble, student boycotts, etc. and were closed for four days last week and closed again yesterday. Also, some of the townspeople in general have been causing some trouble. Violence has been sporadic throughout the town since a week ago Tuesday.
There was also some anti-American feeling going pretty strong late last week, which seems to have become anti—Ethiopian government mainly this week.  Most of the students, of course, didn’t have anything to do with the March 30 violence, and aren’t all that in favor of the organizations, either, but aren’t coming back for a couple of reasons: The feeling that the jailed students should be released is strong, and there is some fear of reprisal from peers if they go back. In short, they don’t act for themselves, although there is some indication that many are getting pretty impatient with the minority that has been causing the trouble.
Our little independent University Reporter didn’t fare too well in all this, I’m afraid. We put out a paper on Monday and Wednesday, but were stopped by the government on Thursday, because of an article about what the students demand. We tried all day Friday to get Thursday’s edition released, but they wouldn’t let it out. Monday we were going to put one out with a full explanation of what happened to Thursday’s edition, but we finally decided against putting out anything. The power balance between the government and the University is delicately balanced, and though the government approves of what is being done, it keeps a close watch on everything and could be provoked by the University newspaper knocking it too hard, and come in and start making all the decisions (so far the administration has been making the decisions). Press censorship is practiced greatly by the government, and we felt that if we forced the gov to intervene again, it would worsen the situation, instead of just printing what the gov wants, we decided not to print anything. Our paper works fine in normal situations, but with the gov so directly involved, we’re out of our environment. We’ll try to start again when the situation cools down, but the students probably won’t have much confidence in the paper anymore, whether we’ll continue for long is another story. As I said long ago, an independent press is something new here.
So after putting in 5 twelve hour days last week and for two days this week, I can relax a bit. Looks like if things aren’t cleared up in the next few days, i.e. students don’t come back to class, the University may close down again and not reopen until next September. That remains to be seen.

Have been getting the pictures ok.  You can just stop when you send me two sets.  Wondie would appreciate more stamps, so if you have any saved, you can send them along.

Been raining here pretty hard the last week. Yesterday it hailed so hard it was piled up on the ground some.  Looked like snow.  Living in a house with a tin roof is no fun when it hails, you can hardly hear yourself think.  All houses here have corrugated tin roofs.
Love,
Ron

 

Wednesday, April 17
Dear mom,
I am typing this by candlelight, as the electricity is off in our area of town, so just ignore the mistakes as I can’t see what I’m doing.
Things are starting to return to normal at the University, the students have been let out of jail on bail and the rest of the students are starting to return to classes. Things probably won’t be in full swing until after Easter vacation (April 19-29).
Last weekend I went down to see Jim Gregory in Dilla, just felt like getting away for a while. We went to Awasa, a ferengi resort near there and stayed at a big hotel, ate delicious meals and went swimming. Luckily, it wasn’t raining there too much. It’s been raining here in the city everyday.
We haven’t started the paper up again as the government and the University administration want to see everything before we print it. We are not going to start until we can print what we want.
Vacation starts Friday, and I’m flying to Hosanna (southwest of here)to see Mimi Hanson, a girl I trained with. I’ll probably stay there until Wed or Thurs and then come back. Wondie is going with, as his relatives and folks live there and he hasn’t seen them for about 5 years. I expect I’ll get all the Ethiopian hospitality I can take for a while from his famiy.  I expect food and drink will be coming out my ears after the first few days.
Our area representative has been appointed director of the new peace corps program opening up in Swaziland, so he’s in the states getting briefed. I guess his family will stay here until the end of the school year.
Here’s the address of the Kodak plant in New York:
Kodak Processing Laboratory, Kodak Park, Rochester, New York 14650. Lucky it was the one of the University they lost, I can easily take that over. If they can’t find it, let me know about where the first roll left off and I’ll shoot another. I’ve a couple more that I have to get in the mail again, think they’re the ones I took on the trip to Harrar. I think I already told you what’s on them. I forgot to tell you that Rev. Thalacker sent me a Reader’s Digest condensed book a while ago. You better thank him for me now and I’ll try to get off a letter later on, probably after Easter vacation. I’m really getting behind on the letter writing.
Bingo, the lights came back on. Wonder how long they’ll last. Guess I better quit and grade some homework. Been so long that I’m out of the teaching groove. You get used to having a lot of free time and it’s hard to get used to being busy.
Love Ron

April 28, 1968
Dear Mom,
Had a real trip to the boonies last week. I think I told I was going to Hosanna to see a girl named Mimi Hanson. I went by plane last Sunday, C-47, with canvas seats along the side and rivets showing, a real dilly. As it was, I almost missed it. I met a friend out at the airport and we sat around talking and by the time I went out to the plane the door was closed and the propellers going, but I managed to get them to let me on.
The airstrip at Hosanna is grass, and luckily not too wet. Sometimes the plane just keeps going to the next stop if it’s too wet. Hosanna was nice, though kind of small. There’s electricity, but very few houses have it, and there are of ourse no street lights, so it gets pretty dark. Mimi doesn’t have electricity in her house, she uses a lantern, which gives off more light than the electricity would anyway.
She has a pretty nice house, with a wooden floor and everything, very progressive. I shot rolls 7 and 8 while I was out there. Not much to explain on them, just random shots of people. We decided to come back by land, and it took us two days, Thursday and Friday. We had to take mules for a day to a town where we could stay overnight and then get a bus to Addis.  Could have taken a land rover, but decided it would be fun to take mules.  It was fun for the first hour, but the last seven were pure agony. Eight hours on a mule are just too much. It was pretty muddy too, and we had to cross three rivers. When the natives cross a river, they just take off their clothes and pile them on top of their heads (I was out of if film by the time we got to the rivers, or I would have gotten some shots of that), but we couldn’t do that, so we just rode the mules across, with the water about up to the mules’ noses.  The mud was pretty bad in some places too, as it had rained the
night before. At some points, the mud was almost up to our feet as we were
sitting on the mules. I have a lot of faith in mules after this though, they really are a dependable animal.
There was a lot of traffic on the path we took, as I guess that’s about the only way people have of getting around cheaply, as there are no buses. The land rover would have gone a different way, but that’s just a mud road, not suitable for buses.
We were lucky and didn’t have any rain along the way. I can’t imagine how bad that trip would have been if it rained. I’m sure we would have had to turn back. My language instructor left Hosanna on Wednesday by mule and it rained, and he said he just stripped to his underwear and wrapped his clothes in his raincoat. He also had to walk a lot, as it was too slippery for the mules. He also said they couldn’t get across the last river because it was too deep and had to take a three hour detour to the land rover road, where there’s a bridge.
Friday, we hitchiked and took buses back to Addis, and got back about 5 in the afternoon.
All in all, very interesting, but the mule trip would have been better if we could have done it in two days instead of one. That’s just too much riding for one day.
So now I have four rolls of film I haven’t sent yet, two (from the trip to Harrar) that I have to send to the processing plant (#‘s 5 & 6), and the two I took last week (7&8) that I’ll Just send straight to you. I’ll try to get some in the mail this week.

Here are some photos around Hosanna and of our trek:

Think I’ll stop now and wait till I get my mail tomorrow to see if you asked anything in your letter. There should be one there from you as I haven’t checked the mail in about a week and a half.

Monday… I think I sent the address of the Kodak lab in a letter before vacation.  Let me know if I didn’t.  Sounds like Dad’s working pretty hard. I got a letter from Aunt Del too.  She’s putting in some long hours and is getting worried about her vacation to Hot Springs.
Love,
Ron

 

Sunday, May 5, 1968
Dear Mom,
Guess the biggest news this week is that I’ve moved. I had been looking around for an apartment to move into next year, and found one that a PCV was planning to move out of. Since apartments for one person (financially) are hard to find, I felt I should take it, or I might not find another. It’s on the ground floor (small three-story building, two apartments above) and has a bedroom, living room, bath and kitchen, just the right size. I plan to cook some myself and eat out the rest of the time.
Gives me a little more mobility. I don’t have to go home and eat just because a cook’s

IMG_8689c

This is a 2018 photo of my apartment building.  My ground-floor living space has become a beer store.

waiting with dinner.  Also, I  wanted to get a little closer to the main part of town where things are a little more alive. I’m near the Piazza, the main shopping area in the old part of town, and the stores and cafes stay open until at least 8 in the evening. As you can see on the rough map on the back of this, I’m about as far from the University as I was before.
There’s still a ban at the University on printing anything that’s not officially screened and approved by the administration, so we can’t print the paper. I don’t know how long this will last, probably until the end of the semester, so ‘ll have a lot of time and plan to get in some more tennis.
We didn’t know about this until we tried to get the paper printed on Friday, so I worked hard all last week for nothing. That’s twice this has happened, and it gets a little frustrating, but there’s nothing one can do about it. Having the paper printed somewhere other than the University print shop would really lead to trouble, so I’ll just sit back and relax.
I plan to go out to Sheno this weekend to see Bab Hazlett. I’ll probably leave Friday afternoon, as it only takes about an hour to get there. He has a small, two burner stove I want to buy. He’s not using it because he has another bigger one, and it would be just right for me here.
I spent most of the day today cleaning up the apartment a little. Sort of reminds me of school, looking at a room with pile of my stiff wondering where to begin first. I want to get some more furniture too. I took what was mine from the house, but the apt still doesn’t look furnished. I would have liked to rent a furnished apartment, but those are rare and very expensive.
Hope you didn’t ask me any important questions in your last couple letters. I tried to find them, but they got lost in the shuffle somewhere. I’m still not at all organized.
Love,

May 15, l968
Dear Mom,
Thought I’d write a short note and include it with the film. This is the first roll I shot whi1e out in Hosanna.

I am starting to get new apartment straightened out now. Have almost ail the furniture I need and my own cooking isn’t too bad. I’ve been eating out about once a day, usually at noon and then cooking something for supper, usually about nine O’ clock. The usual dinner hour is here, as it is almost everywhere except the states, and I enjoy goofing around, watching a little TV, grading the homework, and then eating. Cuts down on the midnight snacks too. It makes it seem a little less hurried when you get everything taken care of before dinner.
The trip out to Sheno last weekend was fine.I left here Friday and came back Sunday. We did a little horseback riding Saturday and just took it easy the rest of the time. Saturday night we killed, cleaned and barbecued two chickens and stuffed ourselves. We had Bob’s students kill the first one and then we tried the second one, I’d never seen a chicken running around with its head cut off, but they can do it.

I am also sending at this time a roll to the processing plant in New York. The processing plant may have no record of the one I sent before. If that is the case, then it probably did not get out of Ethiopia. The postal system here leaves something to be desired.

Got your letter with the last of the pictures. Don’t forget to send the negative.
Also, I’ve another favor to ask. Buy a package of Gillette Super Stainless Steel blades (double edged), and slip a few of them in one of your letters every couple of weeks.  The best they have here are three for a dollar and they last me only two days. Just fold the letter and put it in an envelope and they’ll get through OK, Thanks.

I’ve almost definitely decided to stay in the country during my vacation instead of going to Nairobi, which seems to be the thing to do. I’ll probably just travel around to the resort spots. I can relax and swim here just as easily without going to the expense and bother of going to Kenya.  I don’t plan to stay in Addis, as it gets pretty miserable here in the rainy season. I’ll probably go up north, to Asmara and Massawa.

Love,

Ron
Sunday, May 26, 1968
Dear Mom
Still haven’t started the paper yet, and it looks like won’t be able to for sure the rest of this semester. We asked the administration for a written statement as to whether or not we could continue now without prior censorship, and though they haven’ t formally replied yet, the answer has filtered down, and it’s no. There’s not much time left anyway, as exams start three weeks from tomorrow.

You didn’t know I was thinking about moving, because I wasn’t. I was trying to get this place lined up for next year, as I definitely wanted to live by myself next year, and found out it was being vacated right away, so I took it. Apartments in the $150 per month range are really scarce, so I figured I better take it while it was available. Jim’s is still in the old place and will be moving to another house at the beginning of June. The lowest price for apartments in this area is $200/mo. and those are really small. Bedroom partitioned off from the living room, etc. This one is cheap because it’s in an older building and on the ground floor, but it’s pretty big. The living room is 18 feet by 18 feet, the bedroom 18 by 16, and the kitchen 10 by 20. I also have a cement patio in the back that’s about 10 by 32. I’ll draw a floor plan on the back if I have enough room.

My new place was in the Piazza area, a much more lively part of town than up by the University.  Here are some photos in my neighborhood:

I’ve got it pretty well furnished now, and the Peace Corps is going to reimburse me for most of what I ‘ve bought, so that’ s working out 0K.   About all I need is some shelves for the kitchen and I’ll be all set.  I’m thinking of buying a movie camera. Some PCV who’s leaving is selling an 8 mm Ansco with a zoom lense for Eth $125, which is US$50, so I’ll get in touch with him and see what kind of shape it’s in. I could get a lot better shots of people and animals with a zoom, depending on how powerful it is. We’ll see.

Afraid I can’t help you much with the information you wanted about the lost film. I don’t know what date I mailed it on, and can’t find any number on the remaining mailer I have, so don’t know what they’re talking about there. Also, running a postal trace from here is simply a ludicrous idea. If I had registered it, there might be a chance of doing that, but now it would be impossible. As I said before, it will be an easy roll to shoot over, so if it doesn’t look like we’re going to find it, just let me know where I left off on the one preceeding it.

I don’t have a cookbook yet, so haven’t been doing much complicated cooking. Sandwiches for lunch, meat, potatoes and salad for supper, and that’s about it. You could send me your receipe for spagetti sauce, also, banana bread and chocolate chip cookies, as I’ll be getting a stove with an oven next month. As for ingredients, I can get almost anything here if I want to pay for it. The bigger groceries have anything you want, and I even saw watermelons and  sweet potatoes at the fruit stand near my apartment. You can also send me a receipe for pie crust. I might get up the nerve to try it someday.
Guess I’ll quit now and leave some room on the back for a diagram of my apartment.
Love, Ron

 

Wednesday, May 29, 1968
Dear Mom,
Got your letter with the razor blades in it yesterday, it came through fine. You don’t have to send too many, a couple every other week or so will do, as I still have some and they last about 4 days.

I think I told you about that movie camera I was thinking about buying. Well, I did, I don‘t have it yet, as he had some film in it he wanted to shoot up first, so I’ll get it next week sometime. It has a zoom lense, automatic or manual light meter, all sorts of numbers on it, and is a hell of a lot more complicated than the one I have, so I’ll have to learn how to operate it. I‘ll try to shoot some film with it right away and send them home you can let me know how they’re coming out. I really like the zoom lense, as it will make the movies more interesting. Next time I see the Emperor, I can just be right in his lap with that thing.
I also got the negative of Wondie some time ago, forgot to mention it. I think that the second to the last batch of pictures you sent mislead me, as I thought that was all of them. But then I got the last batch, and also the negative.
For this summer, it looks like I’ll be here in Addis until the end of August before I can take a vacation and will be teaching at the University most of that time, so you can just continue writing to the University address. If you send it to the PC address, they’ll just send it to the U anyway. They’ve just started to forward mail correctly, so I’d hate to confuse them by telling them to hold it.
A friend of mine is giving me his turntable and amplifier setup, so all I need to do is get some speakers, and I’ll have a record player. I don’t know how much amplifiers cost here, but if I can get one cheap, I could make a stereo out of it. I think I’ll just barely be able to afford the speakers for now though.
There’s no problem with the apartment while I’m on vacation, as the PC continues giving us rent money.
So it doesn’t come as a shock, I’ll mention now that I’m thinking of spending a third year here. Nothing definite, and I may change my mind. I don’t have to make a decision on it until next spring. I probably wouldn’t stay in Addis if I did stay another year. I’m not sure where I’d go, but I could pretty well go anywhere I wanted. If I did decide to stay. I would get a home leave of about 6 weeks, so one way or the other, I’ll bé home next summer. A couple of the practical reasons for staying are that it would put me in better shape financially when I do return, and also it would put me past my 26 birthday, thus lessening my chances of being drafted. Whether I could stay or not also depends on the old draft board too. Then too, I like it here, and am not at all ready to settle down and stop screwing around. That’s a ways off yet though, I may be ready to leave here for good at this time next year, we’ll see.
I have taken to watching television here once in a while. Most of the bars and coffee houses have one.  Only on for about three hours a night, usually news, an Amharic variety show and a good old American program, the Fugitive, Mission Impossible, I Spy, etc. Not bad really.
Guess that’s about it for this time. Almost forgot, I mailed some film (one roll) to the Kodak lab the same day I mailed that roll to you, so you can be expecting it. I registered it here.
Love,

Ron

 

Sunday, June 9, 1968
Dear Mom,
I’m finally getting around to writing again, I’ve had company all week and thus haven’t had much time to sit down and get caught up with the letter writing. Jim Gregory from Dilla and one of his students have been staying with me. Jim’s trying to get the student into a school here in Addis for next year. They came a week ago Thursday and left early this morning.
We seem to be a little confused on the film, and I probably should have kept track of what was on what roll, but I haven’t, so I can’t help much to straighten things out. I still have two rolls here, one that has to go to the lab, which I have marked as #6, and one that I will send direct to you, #8. So, I don’ t know the number of the one I sent to the lab at the same time I sent #7 direct to you. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. I may have fouled up thé numbering system somewhere along the line. I shot some more last weekend, out at the airport, with my new camera. I shot almost two rolls, and will send them to you when I finish the second one, as I want you to tell me how they are coming out. It may take me a while to get used to the camera. Part of one of that may be slow, that was because the batteries were getting weak and the motor was running slow.
Sorry I keep forgetting to mention it, Yes I did meet Wondie’s family in Hosanna. His father is dead, but I met his mother, uncle, and some other relatives. His mother lives a ways outside of Hosanna, so we had dinner at his uncle’s, who lives in town.
Sure was shocking about Kennedy. We got the news here right after it happened, as it was late morning here when it was midnight in Calif. So I probably heard about it before you did. The idealism that surrounds the Kennedy name here is really something, and I imagine it’s the same all over the world. A little bit overdone, I think. The main question here is “Why are the Americans killing all the important people?’ One of those absolutely absurd questions, but hard to explain why it’s absurd. In these small countries, assignations take place in the context of a revolution or something, so American assignations are put in that context also. The common assumption of course, is that high government people are doing this to get rid of their opposition, a common happening in this type of system.
Might get the paper started this week. We had to back down from principle a little, but it’s about the only way to get it going. Our position has been that the complete story of what happened during the period school was closed must be told, but the government and the administration is not about to let us do that. The concept of a press that makes public people accountable to the people for their acts is nonexistent here,and we thought we could start introducing it: somewhat, but we ‘re not going to be able to. So we’ve agreed to not mention anything about what happened if the administration agrees to let us continue as before, without prior censorship. It’s a compromise, but it would be a shame to let the paper die while trying to do the impossible when it could continue and perhaps succeed next time a similar situation arises.  You just kind of have to do what you can, realizing the system you’re in, and if censored, forget it and try again. It’s a stalemate now, and I think it’s better to back down a bit if that’s what it takes to keep the thing  going. I’ll find out tomorrow it they have accepted the deal, and if they have, I’ll try to get one out next week. Looks like my vacation may be over.
Exams start a week from Monday, so things are slowing down this week. I’m only having class on Mon, Wed and Fri because some of the other departments are giving exams this week.
I got a Phillips record turntable last week, so think I will sell the radio I have now and get a Phillips so I can plug the turntable into it. Otherwise I would have to buy an amplifier and speaker, which runs into money. If I get a Phillips radio, I can use the amp and speaker in that for the turntable.. I was thinking of trying to hook it up to my radio, but am not sure it would work, and it might ruin the radio.
I’ll try to get rolls #6&8 in the mail this week, and will send the two I shot with the new camera as soon as I finish them up.
Love,
Ron

 

June 21, 1968
Dear Mom,
Got your letter today with the stamps, razorblades, and recipes in it. Thanks. It may be a while before I work up enough courage to try the pie, but the others look fairly easy. I’ll have a stove with an oven in another three weeks, so I’ll try some of them, I’ll let you know what happens.
I’ve been grading exams all week. The test was Monday, and I graded about 50 papers Mon night, 50 again Tues and then 50 again on Wed. It was an essay exam, so each paper was graded by three people to try to make grading as uniform and objective as possible. We didn’t make any marks on the paper at all, but made out slips of paper for each exam. So last night I spent sorting all my exams and making sure I had three grade slips for each one. Then, if the grades were fairly close, we just averaged the three scores
and if they were way off, we had to go over the essay again ourselves. All in all a long frustrating process.
I got in some tennis this week too. It’s started to rain, but usually only in the afternoon, and since the courts are down to the hard under surface (the clay surface has long since washed away), they dry out pretty well. So I’ve spent six hours every night grading exams, then played tennis in the mornings.
Sorry you weren’t able to make it down to Missouri. Who is it that’s still on strike, and what’s happening with the bargaining?
I have one more exam to proctor, next Wednesday, and then I’m all finished. Guess I’ll just lay around and play tennis, as long is it keeps raining just in the afternoons. I’m going out to Sheno to see Bob next weekend. Dan and Anne Stoddard are going out, so I thought I might as well go along and get out of the city for a while. If I hear from you about how that film shot with the new camera came out, I’ll take the camera along. Otherwise I’ll wait. I want to see how those came out before I shoot any more.
I sold the old camera for E$50., so if I can sell the radio, I’ll be able to buy a Phillips radio and make use of the record turntable, If I can’t sell the radio, I may try to sell the turntable and buy a record player.
I’ve been driving around the city today, as I have a Peace Corps vehicle and am helping Karen McDonald move. Actually, I get to drive pretty often here, as my secretary lets me use her car once in a while. It’s not like I have a vehicle everytime I want one, but at least I drive often enough to not get too frustrated about not having a car.
I’ve run out of news, so I’ll quit for now and fill up the rest of this in a couple of days.
Monday
Didn’t do much over the weekend, just helped Karen move and, played a little tennis.  I’m going to see a couple people tomorrow who are interested in my radio so I may get that sold. Records are pretty expensive, Eth$14 for an LP. I’ll just check what I want out of the USIS and British Council record libraries.
The German library also has some records. It’ll be a lot cheaper that way. Also, some of the PCV’s who are leaving are selling records, Not as expensive as buying them in the stores.
I’ll quit now and get this mailed this afternoon.
Love, Ron

 

Tuesday,July 2, 1968
Dear Mom,
Back from a weekend in the boonies. We got back yesterday. Had a good time, did some horseback riding, and worked out my Amharic on the natives. That’s one reason I like to go out to the country once in a while, gives my Amharic good practise. Bob’s doing OK, and will be in town later this week, as school is oficially out for those in the provinces on Friday.
I got your letter about the film yesterday. Glad those shot with the new camera came out OK. I shot almost all of the two rolls with the automatic light meter on, so I guess it works pretty well. Agree with your comments about the plowing, etc, but it’s a long process taking pictures of people doing something, ..and I didn’t have much time. You have to just stand around a while before they get used to you. You may noticed that the two girls and boy herding cattle didn’t stop looking at me and standing still for quite a while. I should have waited longer, as I was out of film before they really became somewhat used to my presence. I plan to do more of that kind of stuff n the future, and having a zoom lens should make it a little easier as I won’t have to be in their laps to be close enough to make it interesting.
I wish I’d taken the camera out to Bob’s, as we took another walk out to the Rift valley (I sent a roll home about that shortly after arriving), and this time saw some monkeys pretty close up. They live all around that area. He’ll be out there next year though, so I’ll probably get another chance.
No, I haven’t received that book yet, though a friend of mine had a copy, so I’ve read it. Yes, you can send some more film, make sure it’s outdoor film this time. Make sure it’s clearly marked air mail, I think it came by sea last time. Send it to my University address, the guy at the Peace Corps who picks up packages has left, and they don’t have any one doing it now. This is a pretty hectic time at the office anyway, what with new people coming in and others leaving. If you mail it right away, there won’t be any chance of it coming while I’m gone, as I’ll be here until the first of Sept. Peace Corps service is up for me two years from the time I entered training, so I’ll be free to leave when school is out next year (about this time).
People are starting to come in from the provinces now, so I imagine my apartment will begin to look like a hotel. A group of trainees arrived too, as all the training is going to take place in the country this year. Another, larger group, will arrive in a few weeks.
I can’t remember if I told you or not, but I hooked up that turntable to my radio, so I now have a record player. It didn’t look like I was going to be be to sell the radio for what I wanted, so I decided to try to hook it up. It was more a matter of luck than anything else. Dan 8toddard and I just fiddled around, sticking in the wire any old place until we got some kind of connection. It works pretty good.
That’s it for now.
Love,

Ron

 

Sunday the Fourteenth of July
Dear Mom,
Been a while since you’ve heard from me hasn’t it. I can’t say I’ve been working, just playing. Many people were in from the provinces, so I’ve been pretty busy doing things with them. Things are getting back to normal though, classes start tomorrow.
Had a small party last night, about 11 people. Cooked hamburgers out on the patio, and a girl brought over her tape recorder and some really great tapes, so we sat around until six in the morning listening to them, talking, and drinking beer. Was quite pleasant, but I slept til 5 this afternoon, so it will be rough trying to get to sleep tonight so I can get up tomorrow.

Ron Haines apartment in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1968

The patio at the back of my ground floor apartment.

This girl had a tape someone sent her of about 5 hours of a teeny bopper station in Seattle. Funny how you miss the little things like inane chitter chatter on the radio. At home, I would have just listened to the music and kind of tuned the announcer and all the commercials out, but last night, we just sat here, talking through the music, and listening to the announcer and the commercials. I guess it’s the simpler pleasures of life that one misses the most. She also had a lot of tapes her sister sent her of albums, etc.
My typing’s gotten pretty bad, plus it’s cold out so my hands are stiff. So just excuse the mistakes.
It’s been raining quite a bit now, so I haven’t gotten in any tennis. Guess I’ll just have to forget about it for the duration of the rainy season. It either rains all day, or rains part of the day and stays cloudy for the rest of the day, so the courts don’t have a chance to dry out.
It’s Tuesday now, and I’ll try to get this finished so I can get it in the mail tomorrow. We didn’t have any classes Monday, and nothing today. Supposed to have a meeting tomorrow, so maybe classes will start Thursday.  So, the vacation goes on.
Got an invitation to Peg’s wedding yesterday. Let me know his full name, so if I get around to sending a card or something, I’ll be able to address the envelope right.
I went to a show Sunday night, was invited out for dinner Monday night, and there’s a party tonight. Sort of shoots the old budget, but it’s fun.
Wondie’s living here with me for the summer. He has a job doing some paper work in one of the numerous bureaucracies. He makes $150 a month, more than half what I’m making.

I got the letter with the stamps taped around the razor blades the other day. Don’t tape the stamps like that anymore, as you ruin them trying to get the tape off. The central air conditioning sounds nice. It’ll be nice to get back to the states, where thermostats are common. You just can’t turn up the heat here like you can there.
That’s it for now.
Love,
Ron

 

Friday the 26th

Dear Mom,

Kind of a nice day so I am sitting out on my patio.  It’s cool, but at least the sun’s out and it’s not raining. Summer school’s finally settling down.  I have a dilly of a schedule, a class at 8:30 am, 10:20 am and 5:15 pm.  Makes for a long day.

I received the film OK, about three days before I got your letter telling me you sent it.  I don’t plan on shooting much on vacation, if any, so won’t be needing any for a while.  I shot a couple rolls at the Emperor’s birthday celebration.  He had his big pith helmet on—all his hats are too big for him anyway—so you can’t see his face very well. I got some of the crowd too, and of the priests that were there. It was held on the grounds of Menelik Palace, the home of one of the former Emperors.

Met a couple guys from Harvard last night.  They’re traveling around Africa between their junior and senior years.  It’s pretty cheap to do once you get over here but just getting here is pretty expensive.  By using local land transportation instead of flying, and eating local food, you can get around for practically nothing.  Sometimes though you have to fly because there are either no roads or border problems.

Has Roger decided where he’s going to live at school yet?  I’ll let you know when I send the two rolls I shot at the birthday celebration.  I numbered them 11 and 12, I think that’s where I left off.

Love, Ron

 

August 6, 1968
Dear Mom,
What a clever idea you had. Look on the invitation to get Roger’s full name. I never thought of it. I got a card and a short note in the mail today, so it should get there in time. I guess I made a faux pas by addressing it to “Mr. and Mrs.”, at least that’s what Mimi said when she saw me addressing it. I’m sure Peg knows by now that she doesn’t have a male Emily Post as a cousin. I sent it to Aunt Margaret’s, as you suggested.
Haven’t been doing much lately, mainly trying to get rid of a cold. I didn’t have the sore throat stage this time, so it wasn’t too bad. About every other day is sunny and nice, but the tennis courts are in terrible condition, think I may have told you already, so I haven’t been able to play. There’s some kind of green algé growing on them from all the rain. They don’t even attempt to take care of them in the rainy season.
Teachng’s 0K, though pretty unstimulating because you get the feeling that you just can’t teach anyone anything in five weeks, which is really true when you’re teaching English. We only teach them for an hour four days a week, so that’s only 20 fifty minute periods in all. Not much time. I fell I am helping them more by staying around after class and talking to the ones who want to stay than I am during the regular class time. They know all the grammar rules, etc, what they need is more practice talking so they can learn to say things right, but you can’t do that in a class of thirty students in this short a time. The material we’re given to teach them is pretty bad too. Some of the vocabulary exercises have words in them that I don’t even use.
Went to the travel agent and paid for my ticket to Kenya today. It’s a good thing the PC covers all our checks, because I’m really overdrawn now, because they haven’t put in our vacation allowance yet. We finally got a raise in living allowance, effective Sept, a whole $15. a month. I could give that much away to beggars every month and still feel stingy.
Don’t know if I mentioned this or not, but let me know Roger’s address at school when you find out. Also, in the next few weeks, make sure there is at least $10 in my checking account. I obviously have something up my sleeve.
Haven’t really cooked much of anything yet, though I did make some mashed potatoes and gravy the other night. Maybe I’ll get around to doing something when school starts again.
Yes, everyone’s teaching this summer, except for a few who will be working on the in-country training program. (All the trainees will be brought over here for training, instead of staying in the states.) Most of them are teaching in places other than where they were last year. There are about ten sites throughout the country where these teacher—training programs are being held.
That air—conditioning sounds pretty nice. It’ll be weird getting back and being able to actually control the temperature in the house. There’s no heating or air conditioning at all here, except on the Red Sea coast, where there is air-conditioning. I’m getting the news of the convention pretty well on Voice of America, and once in a while Armed Forces Radio. Going to be interesting.
Love, Ron

 

August 15, 1968
Dear Mom,
Not much news this time, so this will be rather short. Got your letter with the Alumni Association stuff in it yesterday. You can just forget about it. One just doesn’t build up a hell of a lot of school spirit going to a school that big.
I finally got in some tennis last weekend. A fellow who teaches at the University knew of some courts that are in pretty good condition, so Dan and I played he and a friend some doubles. He has a net too, which is necessary to play on most of these courts. It’s really funny when you have to take your own net along. I’ll probably play some more Sunday morning with the doctor at the peace corps office and a couple other guys.
Another batch of PCV’s arrived this week, 240 of them. They came on a jumbo sized DC—8, the biggest plane this airport has ever seen, and it took every inch of the runway for it to land. Even taking off empty, it took all but about 100 ft. of the runway. They still have about 6 weeks of training to go through. They ‘ll be practice teaching and studying Amharic mostly.. .
The Nigerian talks are being held here now, really something. Maybe it’s just the controlled press or something, but it appears that they’re even doing less than is being done in Vietnam. About all the news you get is that talks were held at such and such a time and adjourned until next week.
Bob’s staying here with me for a couple weeks until I leave. He’s already had a vacation, and will be working on the training program for the new people who arrived this week.
I’ve got something you can do for me. I want you to look around town and see if you can find some albums by Country Joe and The Fish and send them to me. You can get a couple of those, if possible, and one other by the Jefferson Airplane, or some other group that’s pretty good. You can consult Roger on that. I think if you send three, it’ll make a sturdy enough package that they won’t be damaged. You can probably pack them between two pieces of cardboard and wrap it up good, I don’t know if I’ll have to pay any duty or not, we’ll see. Send them the same way you sent the film, that worked put pretty well. Don’t send them until at least the last week in Sept, so I’ll be here. Thanks much.
That’s about all, got to get up early tomorrow. Only 15 more days to vacation time.  Guess it’s too late to tell you to say hi to Peg for me, but I ‘m sure she got that card in time.
Love,
Ron

By the way….HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM AND ROGER

 

Monday, August 26, 1968
Dear Mom,
Here I am again, delinquent as usual. Sorry, but I’m starting to get in the groove for vacation, and that means I’m doing nothing. Taught the last day today, and the final is Wednesday, and I leave for Kenya on Friday. Have to run around getting visas, money changed, etc, though, before Friday. Sure is a pain in the neck. It would be much easier if everyone used the same money and they did away with passports, etc. Haven’t really done much planning as far as itinerary goes yet. Jim’s in town now, staying at my place, so we’ll have to sit down and figure things out one of these days. Bob’s also staying at my place. He’s been on vacation already, and will be helping with the in-country training. There are five sites for in-country training, Addis included. The ones in Addis are living in hotels and teaching at three of the secondary schools.
Thanks, Rick, for the Peanuts, and the letter. I got your letter, too, Roger. I’ll get around to answering them later, probably after vacation. I still want to know Roger’s address at school, room number in particular. I don’t know if you sent it Mom, but if you dìd I lost the letter, so please send it again.
I also have some film. Two rolls of the Emperor I told you about that I’ll try to get in the mail before I leave for Fast Africa. I’m also trying to get some stuff in the mail to Dan Feicht (big fellow, I think you met him when you came down to get my stuff at the end of the school year.) I have all the stuff, I just have to get it packed and in the mail, about a two hour process at the post office. I’ll try to get that done tomorrow, since I’m not teaching.  Thanks for the stuff from Peg’s wedding, looks like it was a big one. Glad they got the card OK.
Got out for some tennis again last Thursday, think I told you I was going to. We played for about three hours, it was a beautiful day, even got a sun burn on the back of my neck. .
My cold is doing just fine, been going great for about a month now, it’s hard to shake a cold during a wet, cold rainy season. Jim’s hangnails are excruciatingly chronic, and he will be flying to San Francisco to have them removed. Mimi has a cold and a sore throat. Otherwise she’s fine. Kathleen had to get a shot in the fanny (smallpox), while everyonen the waiting room was looking at her. She also got a Yellow fevèr shot, all because she lost her shot card, and you need proof that you have taken these shots before you can get to East Africa. She and Mimi are leaving tomorrow. And to finish this round—up of the latest news, Bob just finished a letter to his mother and is feeling good despite a small cold.
Pardon the last paragraph, I’m running out of things to say in this letter, in case you haven’t noticed.
I taught my last class sort of looped this afternoon. I went to an Ethiopian’s house this afternoon after lunch, and custom demands that you take what’s offered, so I had a goodly quantity of Tej, the homemade honey wine.  I’ve had a small bit before, but not that much, and it hit me pretty hard. A fitting end to a somewhat boring, pointless summer of teaching, I guess.
That’s it for now, I’ll try to send at least some postcards from East Africa.
Love, Ron

NOTE:  We headed off to vacation in East Africa after the last letter.  It was Jim and I and Kathleen and Mimi and Bob and Mike that I remember, and perhaps more.  There was no group plan because all of us wanted to do something different.  If there was any coordination it was to all meet at one of the resort hotels on the beach in Malindi, a Kenyan town on the Indian Ocean, for the last week.

I think most of us ended up on the flight from Addis to Nairobi together.  We ended up at a nearly deserted bar near the Kapok Tree Hotel that first evening listening in thrall to an actual jukebox for the first time since Utah and hearing Hey Jude for the first time and watching mesmerized as a Miriam Makeba-esque barmaid accompanied the Beatles beautifully.  I think we all fell in love with Nairobi that night.

Jim and I had decided to travel together and hitchhiked from Nairobi to Kampala, the capital of Uganda.  Hitchiking those countries back in those days was pretty slow, because there were few private vehicles  compared to the developed world.  We felt lucky, then, to be picked up by a British fellow in a jeep.  He took us quite a ways up to the border town of Soy.  It was in the middle of nowhere and the only place for us to stay, said he, was at his ‘club.’

The letter below picks up at our stay at the rather posh Soy Residential Club. I even wrote the letter on official Soy Club letterhead:IMG_20180109_0023c

September 2

Dear Mom,

We made it about halfway to Kampala today, and will be staying the night here in Soy.  We got kind of a late start this morning.  The whole trip is a little over 500 miles, so you have to get up pretty early to make it all in one day.

We haven’t seen any real small Kenyan towns yet, so I can’t generalize from the two towns we did see, but they were real nice.  Going through them was just like going through a small town in Illinois.  They were nothing like the mud-hut, tin-roof towns I am used to seeing along dirt highways in Ethiopia.

I’ll have to tell you a bit about the place we’re in now.  It’s not even a town, just a bump in the road, but this club is something else.  It’s British of course, as is most of Kenya.  It’s a sort of a motel and lodge thing with well-kept gardens, lawns and walkways.  It has verandas outside the rooms with tables and chairs.  We got here about 4, and were sitting on the veranda joking about how it’s time for tea and BINGO, a black guy in a white uniform comes around the corner with tea and cakes on a huge tray.  After setting it all up on the table he went into the room, folded up the bedspreads, turned the covers back and lowered the mosquito netting.  The room contains two beds, a nightstand for each bed,  a desk with writing pad, two easy chairs, a dresser, picture of a ballerina on the wall, thick throw rugs on the maroon tile floors, a closet in both the bedroom and bathroom, a bathmat and glass shower door and white lace curtains on the windows.  Very British to say the least.  I can’t imagine what dinner is going to be like.  If there was a lake nearby I’d be tempted to just stay here for the rest of my vacation.

We had a good time in Nairobi—wonderful food there, mostly French and British-American type restaurants.  We had a lot of banana splits and things like that too.

Rumor has it that the movie Bonnie and Clyde is playing in Kampala, so maybe we’ll get to see that tomorrow night.

For our last night in Nairobi we really splurged—had a five-course meal at a French restaurant complete with wine, for US$7.  You couldn’t touch a meal like that in the states for less than $25.

So, tomorrow Kampala.  Oh, before I forget, yesterday we rented a car and drove around Nairobi.  That driving on the left is really something.

Love,  Ron

 

NOTE:  I didn’t find any description of our dinner that evening in my letters, so I must insert it here.  The menu had only a handful of items, as I recall, and no prices.  I chose the roast duck under glass.  We ate in a small dining room with four or five tables.  Overhearing conversations was nearly unavoidable.  I think every person in the room could have competently played a role in a movie or play about British colonialism, they were that stereotypical.  And speaking of prices, I cannot remember what that stay there cost me, but it was a big chunk out of the lodging and food budget.

 

Sept. 5, 1968

Mom,

Haven’t had a chance to mail this yet (don’t have any envelopes or stamps, so I’ll add to it),

We left Soy yesterday morning nad it took us five hours to get a ride.  We were finally picked up by a guy who took us to Jinja, Uganda, about 50 miles away from Kampala.  We stayed at the YMCA in Jinja last night and came to Kampala this morning.  We’re staying at the Y here too.  It’s pretty cheap, only 5 shillings a night (7 shillings to the US dollar)

While here  we plan to go to Murchison Falls Game Park and maybe go to Entebbe, a town on Lake Victoria.  I’m not sure what we’ll do after that.  We want to get down to Dar Es Salam and Zanzibar, but may have to go back to Nairobi first.  The transportation direct from here to Dar is scarce I understand—gravel roads, etc.  From the map it looks like about 1,000 miles or so.

So I will look around for some envelopes and stamps this afternoon and get this in the mail.  We are going to see Bonnie and Clyde tonight.

Love, Ron

Later…

I got an envelope but the post office was closed so I will have to mail this tomorrow morning.  We’re going to Murchison Falls tomorrow, will stay the night and return late Saturday.

Hello again…

Didn’t get this mailed as we left for Murchison earlier than I thought we would.  It’s Saturday night now.  I’m using one of the typewriters at the YMCA, where we are staying.  As you can see, it’s not too good.  Probably won’t leave here until Tuesday.  I want to get down to Entebbe, on Lake Victoria, and do some swimming and then back to Nairobi and out to Dar and Zanzibar for some real ocean swimming.  I’ll try to get this in the mail Monday.  I shot rolls 13-17.  A hodgepodge of animal shots.  Will send them to you when I get back to Ethiopia.  They’re having a dance here at the Y tonight—live band, just great!

Ron

 

9/13/68

Dear Mom,

This will probably be another of those start it now, finish it later letters, so here goes.  We’re in Nairobi again.  It took us 3 ½ days to get here.

Made it to a town about ¾ of the way to the border the first day and waited on the road all afternoon but couldn’t get a ride across, so stayed there the night, thinking we could catch a bus across the border the next day.  As luck would have it, the bus never came and we tried to make it by taxi. We made it across the border to a small town, but we could get no further.  A Kenyan offered to put us up for the night so we stayed there.  The next day we took a bus for a ways and then started thumbing again.  Made it to within 100 miles of Nairobi and then it started getting dark and raining so we called it a night.  We arrived here about noon today.

Most of the problem, both ways, seems to have been with getting across the border.  There just aren’t that many cars which cross it.  Also, for about 40 miles either side of the border, the road is very bad.

I had said that we would go on down to Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar in Tanzania, but it looks like now we won’t.  The train isn’t running because the bridges are washed out and the trip takes 24-36 hours by bus. Taking a long bus trip is the last thing we want  to do on our vacation, so we’ll probably just go to Mombassa, on the Kenya coast.  We’ll likely stay here in Nairobi until the middle of next week and then go down and spend the rest of the vacation there.

 

 

9/14/68

We’re staying at the YMCA here in Nairobi. A really good deal. Full board and room, plus morning and afternoon tea, for 23 shillings (a little over $3).  They have a pool here too.  Tomorrow we plan to go to the snake farm and aviary here in town.

More later.

9/16/68

We’re leaving for Mombassa Wed. night.  It takes about 12 hours by train.  We’ll probably stay there only a day and then go up the coast a little ways to a town called Malindi.  It’s a holiday resort area and said to be the only place you can surf along the Indian Ocean.

The weather in Nairobi’s been nice.  It cools off and sometimes rains in the evening, but the sun is out and it’s always hot during the day.

Love, Ron

 

Tuesday Sept 24, 1968

Hello Again,

Relaxing at the beach in Malindi now.  Got here today.  We’ve been in Mombassa since last Friday.  Some people we know were staying at a hotel on the ocean there so we joined them for a while.  They left last night, so we came on down here today.  It’s really great, right next to the water (about 25 yards away from it at high tide.  The cottage has a thatched roof on it, as has the dining room and the bar.  We’re going to take a trip out to some coral reefs tomorrow and do some skin diving.  I also plan to do some water skiing too.

We’ll be going back Monday early morning, so we’ll have to leave here Saturday afternoon and catch the Sat night train from Mombassa to Nairobi.

It’s really great being next to the ocean.  I almost wish we had come down here sooner, as the time is just flying by.  But then I guess we would’ve missed a lot if we’d done that.  The money’s holding out pretty well.  I left Ethiopia with US$400 and it looks like I’ll go back with $80-$90.

Love, Ron

 

October 1, 1968
Dear Mom,
Back at work again, we arrived here yesterday morning, a half day late for classes. I said when I left I was going to stay one month or until the money ran out, whichever came first. We only had about a month and two days from the end of summer school to the first day of classes, but I was determined to get my month. As it was, I missed freshman orientation and a couple staff meetings. It’s hurry up and wait though, as we aren’t supposed to do anything with our classes until Monday.
Thanks for the comments about the film, Dad. Most of that was my fault, sort of an off day with the camera. The lens jumping open is me remembering to turn on the light meter after I’ve begun shooting. I don’t know why it’s too dark though, most of it was shot in the shade, but the light meter should adjust for that. I may have had the wrong ASA setting, I don’t know. I’ll experiment a little next time I do some shooting in the shade and let you know what I’ve done. I shot six rolls in East Africa. I’ll get those in the mail pretty soon.
I have four hours of class a day. The paper hasn’t started yet, and I don’t know if it will. If it does, I’ll have the teaching load reduced to two a day, which will still mean that I’ll be working my tail off. And even if it does start again, I have serious doubts about it continuing through the end of the year, as it looks like there will be more of the same kind of trouble again this year, perhaps before the end of the first semester.
For that reason, they may not let us begin again at all, I don’t know.  The vacation was just great. We spent the last week of it at Mombassa and Malindi, and it was just what I needed. Went skin diving around some coral reefs, really something. The coral wasn’t too spectacular, but the fish were really fantastic. So many colors, it was unbelievable. We were going to go water skiing too, but the only time the tides were right during the time we were there was 7 in the morning. Forget it!
Thanks for the pictures, razor blades, etc. There were certainly a lot of letters from you when I got back, 7 of them. We were really tired by the time we got back here. We left Malindi Saturday morning on the bus, arrived in Mombassa about 1 p.m., then took the third class night train from Mombassa to Nairobi Sat night, and had to get up at 5:30 Monday morning to get out to the airport and catch the plane. Partying until four this morning and having to get up for class hasn’t helped any either.
Let me know when you send the records, so I can be expecting them.
Love

 

Monday October 7

Dear Mom,

Dan Stoddard borrowed my typewriter, so you’re going to get a handwritten one this time.

In the midst of getting the paper started now.  Had to find a new office, as they moved us out of the other one.  I spend all week getting mentally organized, so things are busy but so far running smoothly. Hope to get an issue out Friday.  I’m teaching two classes a day.  I’m going to have a student do most of the editing this year, so that should take some of the pressure off.  I eventually want to turn this whole thing over to students, so this is a good start.  There may be a chance I would like to stay a third year, as I don’t think the transistion to an all student-run paper can be made this year.  I’ll have to wait and see how my enthusiasm is holding up by then.

Weather’s been great, nice and sunny every day.  With the paper going though, it looks like my tennis will be limited to the weekends.  Got a letter off to Roger last week and I’ll try to send something to Grandma and Grandpa as you suggested.  I should also write one to Aunt Del and Aunt Margaret too, as it’s been a while.  That will have to wait until the weekend though.

Glad to hear the strike’s settled.  Guess things will get back to normal pretty soon.  Sounds like you’re really enjoying that stereo.  I’ll try to get some film in the mail this weekend.

Love,

Ron

 

Friday, October 18
Dear Mom,
Sorry I haven’t written sooner. Last week I was pretty busy, but this week there is no excuse.
Last week, I almost got a paper published, but at the last minute, the president of the university decided that he couldn’t authorize us to go ahead, saying that because it was the Board of Governors that banned us, they had to give us the ok. The chairman of the board is in Washington, and they don’t meet without the chairman, so it looks like it’ll be a couple weeks before we know. Earlier in the week, I had gotten the word from one
of the vice presidents that it was OK to go ahead. A typical example of no one in the administration knowing what’s going on and no one willing to stick his neck out and take the responsibility for anything. It’s just the system though so there isn’t much sense griping about it.
We’re not teaching either, as most of the students don’t have books because they’re not scheduled to get them until next week, the fourth week of class. So, we’ll probably start Tues. Not bad though, getting paid for doing absolutely nothing. In the meantime, I’ve volunteered to bring the maps of volunteer housing in Addis up to date so Peace Corps knows where everyone’s living, so that has taken up some time.
Thanks for the records, they got here fine, the same day I got the letter saying you’d sent them. If you could do another favor for me, I would like you to send three more. Wait!!! Don’t throw this letter away yet, I just want you to send three that I already have. The ones that I would like are: Simon and Garfunkel’s “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme,” the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five”, and any one of the Thellonious Monk jazz records. If you would do that, I’d really appreciate it. I really like the records you sent, the people living above me must like them too, as they haven’t complained yet.
I sent some film a while ago. You will have probably gotten it by the time you get this letter. I also sent rolls # 17 and 18 to the processing place. #18 is the one that ends with the beach scenes. If you don’t get them, let me know, as I sent the registered mail. I didn’t have to pay anything for the records. That all seems to be a matter of how friendly you are and how often you shake their hands. Even if I had had to pay something, it would have been worth it. Also, could you send some more film when you get around to it?. No hurry. I’ll try to get something in the mail to Grandma and Grandpa tomorrow.
That’s cutting it pretty close, but I think it’ll make it on time. That’s about it for now, I’ll keep you posted on what‘s happening with the newspaper. I am going to try having a student editor this year, I may have told you about it. Anyway, he’ll do all the assigning and editing of stories, and I’ll be around to help. Sure hope we can get it started again.
Love, Ron

 

Sunday, Nov. 3, 1968
Dear Mom,
I’m wondering if you got the letter I sent telling what happened to the newspaper, as in your letters, you seem to think it’s going OK. Maybe there just hasn’t been enough time, I forget when I sent it.
Anyway, as I said in that letter, we had to wait for the Board of Governors to meet and give us authorization to go ahead. Think I mentioned something about how the buck had been passed up to them. Well, the impossible has happened, they succeeded in passing the buck back down. In a letter I received late Friday concerning their meeting, it said they had passed a resolution saying that all publications could continue as in the past, once they got the authorization of the University to do so. I’m going to talk to some people about it tomorrow, as I don’t know where in the hell that puts us now. I also put in a request for more money this year, as I’ve hired more people so I could have a student editor and assistant editor, but I don’t know what’s become of that. I want that passed before I begin again, as it’s hell trying to run the paper and get money too, so I want the money first. It seems that if you do start something without getting the budget, they just ignore you, thinking you’ll make out somehow. So that’s where things are now.

In the meantime, I’m teaching two classes every afternoon and pretty well taking it easy. For the past two weeks, I’ve been updating the maps of Addis volunteers, but I’m about done with that now, so I can really start sleeping.
The weekends have been pretty good, lots of parties, and if there isn’t one planned by someone, we usually just have an impromptu one at somebody’s house. Not having to get up on Monday mornings has made the weekends really pleasant too.

Yesterday was a big day here, the Emperor’s Coronation day and the arrival of the olympic players from Mexico. Parades and everything, but I managed to sleep through it all. As I live on the main parade route,the cheering and the bands woke me up a couple times. They even had a 21 gun salute for HIM about 4 Sat morning.
Friday night I had a Swedish friend and his Yugoslav wife over for dinner and we went bowling afterwards. Mimi did most of the cooking, I made the salad and dessert (two s’s in dessert, I almost forgot Mrs. Dankers’ teaching). Maybe you can tell me what went wrong with the chocolate chip cookies, they went flat as soon as we took them out of the oven. We used a recipe Mimi has which is supposed to be adjusted for the altitude here, but they still went flat. The batter seemed as thick as it should be.
Glad you got all that film 0k, and liked it. I felt like a real big game hunter at times.
Got a letter from Grandma Norton Friday. She said she thinks there’s some kind of conspiracy on to get her out to Arizona. She said the open house was real nice. Has Roger mentioned getting a letter from me? I wrote to him about a week after I got back from E.A., and was wondering if he got it 0K.
That waterfall in the movies is Murchison Falls, in the game park of the same name in Uganda. It’s really fantastic to see. The water falls quite a ways, and at the bottom is some kind of curved formation, and the water hits that and shoots back up into the air. Your remark about feeling that you’re getting wet watching the movie was funny, as I was getting wet taking the shots. There’s just a continual spray in the air in the area where I took those shots.
I’ve been playing more tennis lately, the weather is just great for it, no rain, just sunny day after sunny day.
Back again, just changed location. I’m at Cathleen Yordi’s now, listening to some tapes her sister sent her, so I’m using her typewriter, and making a mess of it. Later we plan to take a bus out into the countryside and talk a walk.  It’s a beautiful day today and everybody’s still in a holiday mood from yesterday. All the Ethiopians are out in their best clothes taking a walk. Everything, all the fences and houses, etc. are freshly painted, a yearly ritual before Coronation day, getting ready for HIM’s tour through the city. I guess the nearest equivalent would be spring cleaning in the states, only here it’s more like spring painting after the rainy season. Even the curbs by the bus stops get a fresh coat, It’s a good day to go to the beach, if there was one to go to. On a day like this at school, I would be out at Lake of the Woods.
I’m starting to get excited about going to Europe, even bought a copy of “Europe on $5 a Day”, really fascinating. That book is aimed at the middle aged tourist who doesn’t have much money, so I think I ought to be able to do it cheaper than that. I plan to stay there as long as the money holds out, so my economy while I’m there will affect how much I see. We’re given a plane ticket home, but I’ll cash most of it in and just  fly from here to Athens probably, and then go by land to England, and fly home from there. I think I’ll try to pick up a cheap motor bike in Athens and travel on that. Hitchiking is ok, but you’re still hurting for transportation once you get into a city. With a bike, I’ll be pretty mobile.  I still haven’t decided on a third year here.  If I do stay I’ll just wait for the big tour until after the end of the third year. I’ll have more money that way too.
I’m not using an areogram because the Empire of Ethiopia has run out of them.
The thought of a whole country running out of something may appear absurd,but it happens.
Carol Dickerman, a volunteer who was in the provinces last year, but is now stationed in Addis, received some records from her father the other day, and since she doesn’t have a record player, she has left them at my house. So, now I have a pretty good collection of Beatles, folk music, and even some Christmas music.
I like my classes this year. Of course, having only two and having nothing else to do helps the attitude somewhat. If we get the paper going again, the classes will be a drag on the time, and I’ll probably start to hate having to teach them, but until then, it’s fun.
That’s about it, I’ve run out of news. Sorry to be so late in writing, but never give up hope, you’ll get a letter from me sooner or later, though it’ll probably be later.
Love, Ron
Nov. 11
Dear Mom,
I’m just sitting around the English office this afternoon, as the students are boycotting class , so I don’t have anything to do. I don’t have class in the morning, so I didn’t find out about it until I had dragged myself out of bed to eat lunch and come to class. If I had known, I would still be sleeping.
I’m not sure what they are striking about.  Because the paper isn’t returning I don’t follow things too closely anymore.  It’s a carryover from last year, as things just weren’t settled then, (sorry about this typewriter, it keeps skipping)
Mimi had this morning off, so we painted the town red last night.  The newest hotel in town has a great band, and they play until 3 am 7 nights a week, It’s a pretty plush place, so we can’t go there too often, but it is nice to hear a good live band again.
Got a nice letter from Grandma Haines the other day telling me all about the open house. From what you, she, and Aunt Del have said about it, it sounds like it was a big success. I’m glad Woody and Pauline could make it there.
Before I forget, let me thank you for the records. They got here the same day the letter you sent the day before you sent them did, if you can figure that out.
Hopes are almost nonexistent for the paper, especially now that the situation has gotten rough again. I guess I’ll be assigned a couple more classes. Either that or I’ll be doing some administrative stuff for the Faculty of Arts in the mornings.
Mimi and I are going out to Ambo this weekend to visit an Indian couple she taught with in Hosanna. The following weekend, she, Cathleen and I are gong to Endebur to spend a weekend with Mike Roddy, Then the weekend after that, several of us are going out to have a Thanksgiving meal at Sheno (Bob’s still out there.)  He has a turkey he’s been raising for this occasion. So that’s the next three weekends in a nutshell.
That’s about it from here, I’ll get this in the mail this afternoon.
Love, Ron

 

Wednesday, Nov. 27
Dear Mom,
I’ll start this new, but probably won’t have time to finish it. I’m at the English Office now, and I have a class shortly. The students are back in class now, came back a week ago. The government pretty much gave in to what they want, and some people in the University admin are pretty mad that the gov’t intervened, but there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Had a good weekend in Endebur last weekend. Get back Mondy night. Had planned to get back Monday morning, but the buses were running particu1arly slowly Monday, so didn’t make it back in time for class.
About this summer, I just can’t give you a definite date of when I’ll be  home, so you’ll just have to bear with me. There are a couple possibilities. I’m pretty certain that I want to stay here a third year, and if I can get a contract with the University, I will. In that case, I may not be home at all, as they may not take me if they have to pay transportation.
If that doesn’t work out, I’ll stay with the PC, and in that case, I will be home, but don’t know when or for hew long. We get some time off, but I’m not going to spend all that time in the US. If nothing comes through and I do terminate this year, I plan to spend as much time as money allows in Europe, so I’m not sure in that case when I’ll be home either.
At this point, I’m just not ready to go back to the States, and will try to continue working here for at least another year. Sorry to disappoint you, but I enjoy living and travelling outside the US, and am in no hurry to get back. I haven’t firmly decided what to do if the draft board starts hollering for me, but I do feel now that I won’t cooperate with them, so I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I come to it.
Friday now, never did get back to this. Got a letter from Rog a couple weeks ago, forgot if I told you or not. Also got one from Aunt Del from the V.I. Sounds like she really enjoyed it. I’ve got a couple rolls of film that I shot while in Endebur last weekend, I’ll try to get them in the mail soon.
We won’t be going out to Bob’s for turkey this weekend. His new house isn’t finished, and the one he’s in now just isn’t big enough for such a gathering, so we’re going to try to make it for Christmas.
I went bar hopping with Wondie and a couple of his friends last night, and tonight some of us are going out to dinner and then to the Wabe Shebelle to dance.
Mimi’ s in Addis this year, working half time at the museum at the University and half time at the Commercial School library. There‘s nothing really serious between us so don’t get your hopes up, it’ll be a while before I think about getting married, if I do think about it at all.
I think I’m going to start looking around for jobs in Europe, so please see that there’s about $20 in my checking account, as I may have to send some money for catalogs. That’s all tentative, depends on what kind of jobs are available.
Guess I better quit and get some papers graded for this afternoon. Happy Yugoslavia Republic Day.
Ron

 

Saturday, December 7, 1968
Dear Mom,
Not much to write about, but I did want to tell you that I sent for a book about jobs in Europe, and am having it mailed to you in Dad’s name, and would like you to forward it to me. I didn’t know what the postage would be for them to send it here, so thought this would be easiest.
I’m teaching one more class now, at 9:30 a.m. Sort of puts a damper on my nighttime activities, having to get up before noon, but I’m managing. The hardest thing is to squeeze in some tennis before class. A British contract teacher and I have been playing a couple times a week from about 7 to 8 in the morning, and it was nice to get back, take a leisurely shower, and then just lay around for the rest of the morning, but now I have to rush off to class.
Went to a party for the English Dept given by the secretary in celebration of her new baby boy last night. I had thought it would be pretty much of a bore, but things livened up and we didn’t leave until 2:30. Tonight, the Sandpiper is playing at the çity  hall theatre, so I think I’ll go see that. Mimi’s having me over for dinner. Since she’s come to Addis, I’ve been eating better meals…
Thanks for the razor blades, they’re all getting through OK.  Today, I think, will be clean up the apartment day, as things are getting pretty messy. I tidied things up somewhat last night, as I had some people over for drinks before the party, but I can only go so long stacking things in piles, then I just have to start sorting through the piles and throwing things out.
I bought a seven inch speaker and built a cabinet for it last week, so I’m getting much better sound from my turntable hookup now. I’d like to buy a stereo amplifier and build another speaker, as the turntable is stereo, but that would run into about $200, which I don’t have now. If I end up staying a third year, though, I think I’ll do it. I get pretty good sound now, but the hookup through the radio amplifier doesn’t produce the quality
that a regular amplifier would.
Christmas is coming to Addis Ababa. The big department store down the street even has a live Santa Claus, but I think he’s Ethiopian, as he has on a white mask and white gloves and is short and skinny. It’s really funny, as I’m sure he doesn’t have any idea what a Santa Claus is supposed to do. They didn’t even put a pillow under his belt, so it all looks pretty absurd.
That’s about all the news, just wanted to tell you about that book so you’d know it’s coming.
Love,
Ron

 

Tuesday

Dear Mom,

Got your letter today and a notice from the post office that the film is here, thanks.

Sorry about the misunderstanding, as I was jesting also when I made the remark about ‘don’t get your hopes up’.  It’s hard to get things like that across in letters.

Again about his summer.  If I stay a third year with the Peace Corps I will be home for a while this summer, but if I get a contract with the University, I won’t, because since I only have a bachelors, they’ll be more apt to hire me if I’m already here and they don’t have to pay transportation from the states.  They want advanced degrees because they look good on paper, but they’ll take just a bachelors if it’s cheaper.  They would still, of course pay trans home at the end of the contract period.

If I do decide not to stay here at all a third year I don’t know when I’ll be home.  Depends on how long the money lasts in Europe.  None of this will start falling into place until next semester, so I can’t really tell you anything definite.  If I stay with the Peace Corps I’ll probably be home somewhere during the last half of August, so if Dad wants to take the last week or so in August, or the first in Sept, my schedule will probably be flexible enough to make it work.  I think that with the PC I would get about 45 days leave, so I could juggle that around.  If I’m with the PC I will probably go through Europe first and I would save the last week or so for the states.

I’ve given up hope for the paper.  They’re just ignoring all letters asking what’s going on and they won’t tell you face to face.

I’m going to be sending you two more of those Ethiopian calendars, one I want you to give to the Beckmans and the other to forward to Roger and Peggy.  I don’t know the addresses and it’s too late to have you send them to me.  I thought I had included them, but realized I hadn’t when I mailed the ones I had.  Hope those I sent them to got them OK.  Also, I’m not sure how long they’ll take to get there.

You’re getting a handwritten letter because I was just too lazy to drag the typewriter out to the patio.  Got to quit now and get to class.

Love, Ron

 

Dec 26, 1968
The street is narrow for a main thoroughfare, only two lanes, which often become three when a taxi comes squeezing by on the inside. No line down the middle, and no marking for the parallel parking, the cop simply paces off from the curb to your car to see
if you’re within the required distance. There are meters, but people often park where, and at whatever angle they wish, not particularly trying to line up with a meter. Traffic is heavy along this curving road in the mornings, at lunchtime, and especially during the evening shopping hours, when it seems that every car in Addis makes a tour of the Piazza, During this time, the sidewalk traffic is also heavy, and there being no sense of smooth pedestrian traffic flow, people stroll about in all directions.
The main attraction this Christmas season is the several stores, among the many housed in the one and two story buildings along the street which are giving super big discounts, and, of course, Mosvold’s Dept. store with its real live Santa Claus and an operating train set. Street boys and other assorted Ethiopians ranging from the modern in European dress to the less modern in the traditional white  “gobbi” and barefoot, cluster around the door for a glimpse of the rather skinny Santa and the window for a view of the train. Europeans and Ethiopians with enough money to dress as if they may be able to buy something are constantly going into and out of the store, and the ever present beggars wait outside in the usually futile hope of getting a small dropping of affluence.
Further down the street, at the Allinesta shop, the many windows are filled with Christmas bargains, and the number of people standing at the counters inside rivals the number just standing outside looking at the things they will never be able to buy.

Dear Mom,
I wrote the above to try to give you an idea what Christmas in Ethiopia is like just outside my apartment door here in the Piazza.  It’s hard to put it all in words.

Christmas was fine. Had drinks, dinner and dancing at a British friend’s house Tues night, and yesterday (today is Thursday) we gathered at a friend’s house for cookies and sitting around. Tomorrow night, one of the Peace Corps staff is having a full blown blast, so that’ll be a good time. I’ve been to his parties before, and he has all the good music and booze that anyone could want.
Last weekend was a dilly, Mimi, Kathleen, and Carol Dickerman had a party Friday night. After the party, five of us made a grand tour of the local nightspots and got to bed about 8 in the morning. Saturday night we had dinner at my house for Mimi’s birthday, and Sunday, Kathleen and I went out in the country and she shot a roil of movie film of just me. Little late for a Christmas present, but I’ll try to get it in the mail soon.

1’ve been fighting a cold for about a week now. The sore throat only lasted a day, but since then I’ve been sniffling and coughing. It gets really cold here now when the sun goes down, so running around all night last Friday didn’t help any. I’m taking a lot of liquid for it though. . . .
I’ve heard through the grapevine that the Peace Corps will let anyone who wants to stay on another year in the English Dept do so, so I’m going to find out if that’s true. If it is, I may do it. It wouldn’t be as good a deal financially as getting a contract, but it will be better for keeping the draft board off my neck until I’m 26, if they give me a deferment for another year. Originally, the PC wasn’t going to put anyone in the English dept next year, so that would’ve meant going out to the boonies if I stayed with the PC. Now, though, I may be able to have my cake and eat it too. Nothing definite yet though.
A couple questions: Did you get the film I that I shot that week I was in Endebur? I can’t remember your saying anything about it. Also, have you received that book about jobs in Europe I had sent to you?  I’ll probably get a letter from you when I go to work this afternoon, as I haven’t gotten one for a while, so if you’ve already answered these questions, just disregard them.
Love, Ron

 

January 15
Dear Mom,
Guess it’s about time I wrote again. The people from the provinces have been in on vacation lately, so I haven’t had much free time. Bob’s staying here. He and a couple other kids went out to Harrar for a few days, almost a week really, and they’re back now. I went out to Bob’s a couple weekends ago, just to get out of the city for a while. We haven’t been out there for turkey yet, as his new house still isn’t ready. I wanted to go to Ambo and do some swimming and lying in the sun last weekend, but we gave a test Friday, so I had to correct that. I’ve also been helping a high school kid I know with his geometry, so that’s been taking a lot of time. He was really hopelessly lost in it, and his teacher isn’t too good, so I just started at the beginning and we’ve been working through it all slowly. It’s hard for these kids to think in the abstract, and also hard for them to get used to our concept of logically, step by step proving something. I’m afraid straight line thinking doesn’t exist in the culture. They seem to argue something by going around and around it, and then finally getting to it.
There’s two more weeks left in the semester, and then exams, and then finally a vacation, Don’t know what I’ll do yet, just stay in the country and take some short trips, I guess.
I got the book about jobs, thanks. Glad to hear you got the films of Endebur OK. Do have Armand and Judy over to see the movies, if you haven’t already. I had forgotten that they hadn’t seen any until you mentioned that you planned to have them over.
Mimi brought me a carton of Benson and Hedges cigs from Dire Dawa. You can buy them there pretty cheap on the back market from Djibuti. All kinds of American cigs, watches, etc. come through from there.
I guess it’s a real spectacle when the train comes from Djibuti, everyone running around with their pockets and pants legs stuffed with things, trying to get past the customs people and out of the station. Mike Roddy said it’s the closest thing to animal behavior he’s seen since he got here, which is really saying something.
I want to mention that if the draft board ever sends you anything for me, don’t forward it, send it back to them and tell them to send it to me. I mention this because some draft boards have been sending things to volunteer’s parents because if they send it to a stateside address, you only have 30 days to appeal if you want to, but if they send it overseas, you have 60. They have on record that this is my legal address, so they have to send it here.

It rained here for a few days a couple weeks ago, but since then it’s been beautiful. A week ago Tues was Ethiopian Christmas, so we didn’t have class, and I managed to get in about four hours of tennis. I’ve been playing regularly every third day or so, but that four hours really did me in. I even raised a couple small blisters on my hand. Luckily, we were playing doubles about half the time, which isn’t as exerting as singles.
Well as you can see, I didn’t have much to say when I started this letter, and I have even less now, so I’ll quit. Hope you’re all having fun with your Christmas toys. Love, Ron

 

Feb 2, 1969
Guess I’m late again, as I can’t remember when I Last wrote. Not a whole lot has happened. The last day of classes was Friday and we gave English exam Sat morning, so I’ve been grading papers all weekend and trying to stay away from people, as that’s the only way I can get it done. I have a few other exams to proctor, one mon, thurs, and fri, and then I’m finished until the 24th, when classes start again.
I’ll probably leave next Sat for a short trip to Jimma, stopping in Ghion to see some friends and do some swimming, and again in Endebur to visit Mike Roddy. I plan to just take my time, and I’ll probably be gone close to a week.
The 15th, I’m leaving for Assab, on the Red Sea, with Alvar Soderholm, a Swedish friend, and his wife, Vlasta. It should be a good time. A Yugoslav fellow is going with us,. He’s been to Assab before, and is big on skin diving and spear fishing, and cooking out on the beach in the evenings and drinking the contraband portugese wine you can get there cheap. We’ll be there about a week, and I’m really looking foreward to it. Fred Diment,
the guy I play tennis with, and his wife and son may go along too.
Queen Juliana of the Netherlands has been here for a while, and I shot four rolls of her

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 4.05.57 PMc

Queen Juliana.  Haile Selassie is walking behind her in the hat.

visit. I might as well explain them now, I’ll send the film later. #22 The entourage arriving at the Palace. The Queen and Haile Selassie were in the first carriage. It was getting pretty dark, so I don’t know if these came out. #23 The Queen was due at Arat Kilo to lay some flowers on the monument, and I was shooting these from an outdoor bar. The building to the far left behind the fence is the Arat Kilo Campus of the University, science and engineering. I shot the whole roll about a half hour before she arrived and it shows the last minute cleaning up around the monument, the crowd
starting to form.  #24 Arrival of the band and the Imperial bodyguard. They arrived in Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 4.02.43 PMcthose green trucks you can see pulling away.  Arrival and departure of the Queen.  #25 First half. Arat Kilo just after the Queen left. Second half. The queen and HIM arriving at the University. I missed HIM on the way in, and the last five feet or so is him and the Queen standing on the steps after the tour through the building, but I don’t think it came out, too dark. If I had waited, I might have gotten them OK, because there was a pressman taking movies and he had some lights, but I didn’t think of that and by the time he turned them on I was out of film.
Since you have a projector that shows Super 8, I might use Mimi’s camera sometime and shoot some Super 8 so you can see what it looks like.
This was a pretty quiet weekend, as I had to get up early on Sat for the English exam, and then I had to correct it. I did manage to have a good time last weekend though. Mimi, Cathleen, Jim and I had dinner together and then decided to unwind. We had to go back to my house to get ties for Jim and I, and we listened to music and finished off a bottle of Ethiopian rum (you need ties, to get into the Wabe Shebele, and it’s best to have your alcohol before you get there because the drink prices are so high.)
We made it to the Wabe Shebele about midnight, and danced until the band quit at 3:30, and none of us was ready to call it a night, so we went to a smaller place where they just play records and danced until 5:30. By then we were all exhausted, so came home. It was really unusual for all four of us to be ready to party all night.  Usually, someone wants to quit early,
A couple of requests. Please send some more film when you get around to it. No special hurry, but at $12 a roll, I can’t afford to buy too much here. Also, Cathleen wants you or Dad to comment on the esthetic quality of that roll she took of me. What’s it like as a movie, in other words?
Heard some good news the other night. The band at the Wabe Shebele, which was due to. leave this week after a six month contract, have signed to stay here for another year. As I said before, it’s the simpler pleasures one misses. .
Sorry about the typos in this letter, but I’m a little punchy after grading 70 essays.
Love, Ron

Saturday, Feb. 15, 1968
Dear Mom,
I’m in between vacation trips now, so i thought I’d take time to write.

I finished up recording grades and everything a week ago Thurs, and took off for Sheno Friday morning. I stayed there visiting Bob until Mon morning and got back to Addis about 10 a.m. I left again that afternoon and arrived in Ghion (also called Wolliso, I don’t know how it’s marked. on the map you have), about 1/3 of the way from here to Jimma. I stayed in Ghion until Wed morning, when I went to Endebur to visit Mike. I arrived back from there on Friday (yesterday), because I thought we were going to leave for Assab today or tomorrow, but Alvar has a meeting on Monday, so it looks like we won’t be leaving until Tues. I don’t really mind, as I have been on the go since school finished, and need some time to clean up the apt. I had the zebanya wax the floors while I was gone, but only I can sort out the piles of papers and books, etc, which have been accumulating all semester and are starting to get in the way. I have to do that once every few months, or I begin to get the feeling that I’m unorganized. Endebur, by the way, is off the main road to the left from a town called Welkite, which is about 30 kms past Ghion. I think it’ll be marked on your map. Anyway, I started the sorting out job today, and plan to finish tomorrow. School starts a week from Monday, so we won’t have as much time as I would prefer in Assab, but that’s unavoidable. We plan to leave Tues, spend the night in Bati, and make it to Assab Wed, stay there Thurs, Fri, and Sat, and then come back on Sun. It’s about 800 kms altogether. From here to Bati is through mountains so high you’re in the clouds most of the time, and from Bati to Assab is through intense desert, most of it under sea level.
Got a little homesick for Western civilization today when I was in the grocery store, so splurged and bought some imported British beer in cans. It’s kind of nice to hear the clank of the cans as you toss them in the garbage. To be redundant, it’s the simple things you miss.
You asked about the food here, so I’ll try to answer. Here in Addis, the situation is pretty nice. I shop at a grocery store run by Italians, and can get most of the common cuts of beef (quality pretty good), plus pork, bacon, sausage, cheese, ham, etc. There are a lot of canned and packaged things here, but they’re expensive on a pcv salary. Post Toasties for instance, are $1.70 a box. All kinds of vegetables and fruits (fresh), are also available. The indigenous ones are really cheap. A kilo of potatoes is .25 cents. That 2.2 lbs. For the little cooking and no baking that I do, I can exist on nonimported foods, except for some of the staples like margarine, powdered milk (for hot chocolate, I still don’t have a taste for it plain), mayonnaise, tuna fish, and peanut butter. Sometimes the kitchen looks like a UN meeting, with catsup from India, margarine from England, peanut butter and milk from Holland, packaged soup from West Germany, etc. Just don’t let the State Dept know that my dishes come from Red China. I also eat a lot of meals out, so I’ll give you a rundown of the restaurants here. There are several which dish out the standard European meal, soup course, spaghetti course, meat and potatoes, and dessert. There is one good Indian restaurant, several Italian places, two of which have good pizza, a couple of passable sandwich shops, a really good chinese place, a couple steakhouses, a middle eastern restaurant. And many Ethiopian places of course. The big hotels also have good restaurants, but I’m really splurging if I go there. It’s hard to say how good the food is here because my perceptive has changed a lot, but I found it to be appreciably better in Nairobi than it is here.

I can fix meals myself ranging from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to steak, potatoes and  salad.  I don’t eat out as much as I used to, because it gets expensive. Out in the provinces, of course, the situation is much different. In a lot of places, the only vegetable you can get is potatoes, and the meat is of poor quality, and cut up much differently than we are used to. I’m fortunate in that I can exist on injerra and wat, the native dish, without any repercussions from my digestive tract, as is the case with a lot of people, so that is usually what I eat when traveling and when I want to eat out here but not spend too much for a meal.
Injerra has a bitter taste and most of it is sort of gritty, though the more well to do Ethiopians serve injerra which is not gritty at all. It has the consistency and look of grey, sort of damp, foam rubber, or sponge. It’s actually fermented bread made from the local grain. It isn’t baked, is fried somewhat like a pancake, but you don’t flip it over. It’s about a half inch thick and two feet in diameter, and is folded over a couple times when served. You use this to eat the wat, a highly spiced stew, of which there are many variations: It’s very similar to the way Indians eat (with the hands), but their diet is much more varied.
One thing I‘ve never been able to take is injerra and wat for breakfast, but the average Ethiopian eats it three meals a day. Running out of room, so I‘Il quit: Sorry about the typing mistakes, but I’m really getting out of practice.
Love, Ron

 

Friday
Dear Mom,
Not much to write about, just wanted to get a letter off, as in the last one I forgot to mention that Orchestra Ethiopia will appear on the Ed Sullivan Show March 2. They’re calling themselves The Blue Nile Group, because the term “orchestra” is a bit misleading, as you will see. They’ve pepped up their music somewhat since we first heard them a couple days after we got here, but I’ll have to admit it’s still not my favorite kind of music.
Anyway, tune in.
Didn’t get to Assab, as the guy who was driving the other car had to stay in town on some business, so Alvar, his wife and I went to Lake Langano, a resort area about 200 kms, from Addis. It’s a popular place for the foreign population in Addis to get away to and also gets some tourists. We left Tues and got back this afternoon. It’s raining almost every day here in Addis, but it’s always sunny and nice at Langano.
Classes start Monday, but there are rumors that the students are going to have some kind of protest against the gov’t. There’s been quite a bit of trouble in the elementary and secondary schools, both in Addis and outside the city, and the gov’t has been clamping down pretty hard. Plus, there are some pretty substantial rumors floating about that the gov’t is bankrupt, so that’ll give the students something else to gripe about. I can’t say I would mind if we didn’t have to start for another week or so.
Glad to hear the Blochs finally got over to see the movies. Did you serve popcorn? Thanks, Dad, for the technical comments about the film. We do plan to do another, in the Piazza area this time, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I haven’t sent the film of Queen Julianna yet, will try to get at it soon.
Bob’s in town now, school starts for him Monday also. Some of the schools went right back after exams, but he got a four day weekend. “Far From the Madding Crowd” is playing here, so after a 2 pizza dinner we’re going to see it.
That’s all, Hope this gets there in time for you to catch the Ed Sullivan show. I’ve heard it’s a reeellly beeg shew.
Love, Ron

 

March 1
Dear Mom,
I’m writing this mainly to include this letter to Chris. I realized after I had written it that he is out of the army by now, and therefore back in the states. I don’t have his mother’s address, or I would have sent it there. Could you please find out that address, you may have it, or dad can look it up, or you can write the BSP house, I’m sure they still have it on the files. Anyway, you’ll have to put the aerogram in an envelope and send it, as Ethiopian postage won’t work in the states.
So that’s your chore for the week. I got the film ok, thanks. Still haven’t sent the film I have, Don’t rush me, it’s only been a couple months. Have been teaching for a week, but it looks like there won’t be much teaching next week. The students met yesterday and drew up a set of demands they want to gov’t to fulfill or they’ll boycott. All the demands are political, and the students aren’t going to be allowed to do any demonstrating outside the campus without some resistance. So as usual the University is caught in the middle of a political squabble between to gov’t and the students. The University is of course part of the gov’t, but is trying not to act like it.
Here’s something I wrote the other day:
He sits there on his upturned shoe shine box, his feet bare, his shirt a little ragged and the sort of dirty grey color that cloth gets after being worn too long with too few washes. The patches on his old khaki shorts keep his ass from hanging out and he wants to shine my shoes.  He shoves the box under my lifted shoe, and my right foot relaxes itself on the built-on foot rest of his box. His tools are inside. Out of the box come three or four different colors of polish, numerous old rags, each of which has a specific purpose, a couple of brushes, and an old polish can containing a little water and a small piece of sponge.
The shoe lace from my right shoe is draped over his shoulder as he begins with sponge and water, wiping off the whole shoe, paying particular attention to that great dirt catcher, the place where shoe leather meets sole. The water and dry rag ritual completed, the polish is applied and rubbed in with a small brush. The foot is turned a little to get the back, and the toes are bent down so the gullies of the wrinkles in the top of the shoe can be reached by the polish.
At the sharp crack of the brush handle hitting the side of the box, my left foot replaces my right on the foot rest, shoelace goes over the shoulder and water and dry rag do their job, and polish is liberally applied and thoroughly rubbed in. Then with my right shoe again lying on the foot rest, the large polish brush begins its work to bring out the shine, helped by the boy’s skinny, coffee-colored arm. The right shoe a deep, shiny black, shoelace put back in and a polishing cloth used to finish the job, the left shoe again steps up to the foot rest for the polishing shine and shoelace replacement.
If it’s been a rainy day, the specks of dried mud on my pants cuffs will be
brushed off, and then the tools of a small shoe shine boy’s trade start going back into the box. Ten or fifteen cents into his outstretched, cupped hands, and I continue on my way.

One of the problems of writing things like this, and indeed, talking to you about my experience here when I return, is that I know you can never have the picture of it that I have. I guess this is true with most things, school for instance, but I never really realized it until now. At times, I dread going back and trying to tell about it, and at times I know I’m just not going to want to talk about it. So I hope you understand a little, and understand why I’ll act kind of odd at time when I get back.
I’ve pretty well decided now (most of it depends on the draft board) to stay another year with the Peace Corps. That means I’ll be home this summer, not sure when yet, but I’ll try to make it for dad’s vacation, Let me know again when the dates of his vacation are, so I can try to time it right. As far as know, I’ll have a lot of leeway. Mimi may extend, and if she does we’ll travel together, so I’ll have to consider that too.  Run out of room.
Love, Ron

 

March 10, 1969
Dear Mom,
Spent the weekend in Sheno. Five of us went out and had a sort of party, as
Bob’s finally moved into his new house. I got some good shots of a farmer plowing his field too, two rolls worth. This is the common way to do it here, tractors are almost non-existent. I sent those two rolls, together with the four rolls I shot when Queen Juliana was here, direct to you this morning, so you should get them about the time you get this letter.
Yes, Wondie’s still around. He’s teaching this year, sorry if I forgot to tell you. I see him every other day or so.
All the schools in the city were closed all last week by government order. The University students have been agitating for a couple months or so, placing some demands before the gov’t. I guess the gov’t wanted to get on top of the situation possibly to prevent the kind of chaotic situation which might eventually lead to a coup attempt. This move put the students out in the streets, where they couldn’t congregate to plan anything (see below). Over the weekend, the Emperor made a speech saying that the schools would be reopened today and the students were to go back to school. To gain support with the people, the students have to make the gov’t look bad, but so far they haven’t been successful. I don’t think the army is very much in favor of the students at this point either. Well, at the University and some of the secondary schools, the students are staying out of class, and that’s where it stands at the moment. The situation here is a little different than I think it is the states and Europe. Here, even though all may not be in favor of a boycott, once the decision is made, everyone goes along with it, usually for fear of being ostracized. “Student unity” is a greatly touted thing here. The impression one gets from the states is that there too, all the students of Wisconsin, etc. are rioting and boycotting classes, but that’s because of the way the news is written; Time and Newsweek, not because that’s the way things are.
I would like some more records, if you’d be kind enough to send them. I think I have another Simon and Garfunkel record there, so please send that. I think I also have a Kingston Trio, and would like that. In addition, I would like you to buy a record by Cream (any one) and send that. Just send them the same way you sent the others. Thanks. Just a thought: It’s possible that I don’t have another Simon and Garfunkel record there. If not, send me the one I have by the Animals.  Hope this isn’t too confusing.
Also, the premium for my life insurance will be due this spring, but I’ve forgotten the amount. I think it’s around $120, but I’m not sure, I think it will be easiest to work it this way: Let me know the exact amount, and I’ll have the Peace Corp take it out of my readjustment money in the form of a check to Dad (they’ll take care of sending it to him). So let me know how much it is.

The following I wrote on March 6, last Thursday:
Just outside my apartment building, Haile Selassie I Avenue makes its biggest curve as it passes over Ras Makaonnen Bridge halfway on its trip from Arat Kilo to General DeGaulle Square in the Piazza. All one can see that indicates a bridge are the cement and iron railings bordering the sidewalks. A very small river runs beneath.
Traffic was pretty heavy last Monday afternoon as I was walking across the bridge toward the Piazza. Coming toward me along the sidewalk was a detail of the Imperial Ethiopian Army, many with rifles, others with grey shields and clubs, brought into the city from the provinces in the wake of the government closure of the schools and fears of student violence. In times like this, the government law forbidding gatherings of five or more people without a permit is forgotten, and any group of two, or even one, especially if the people appear to look like students, is subject to suspicion, if not arrest.
As the soldiers came loping along, the pedestrians, coolies carrying wood, street boys selling candy, chamma clothed women coming back from an afternoon of shopping, barefoot peasants, a few students, workmen and various other people, either moved out of their way and kept walking or stepped to the side to watch them pass. I kept walking, alert for the thrown rock that would put the soldiers into head-beating, tear—gas-throwing action.

I had noticed a couple young men coming toward me. They looked too old to be secondary school students, but weren’t wearing the suit  or sport coat typical of university students. Their light trousers and rather worn jackets placed them for me in that vast category of non-English speaking nondescripts, the store clerks, barbers, bus and taxi drivers, tailers, waiters, etc. Walking in the same direction as the soldiers and slightly faster, they were talking to each other as they passed me.

Hearing a commotion behind me, I turned around to see those same two guys  being roughed up a little by a couple soldiers. Curious, I stood there watching, and it soon became apparent that they weren’t going to be able to talk the soldiers into letting them go. Soon, each led by a soldier, they were herded through the heavy traffic on Halle Selassie I Avenue to an Army truck parked on the opposite side of the street. As the soldiers made their way back across the street amid the honking horns of Fiats, Opels, and Volkswagens to rejoin their comrades, the truck pulled away, taking the men to the prison at Sendafa, where they will be held without charge until they are found guilty of something or released. (not that I know that for sure, but that’s the pattern here)

Love, Ron

PS  I’m sending some pictures I’ve had laying around here for a while. One’s of my patio and the other was shot while we were at Endebur a couple months ago.

 

Dear Mom,
The situation isn’t much better here, the gov’t opened the schools last monday, but no one came back. The latest statement is that if the Univ. students don’t return by next Monday, the University will be closed for the rest of the semester, and no one knows what’s going to happen.
I can take care of my income tax from here. I have to pay $18, above what they they took out, so I’ll write a check for that. Sorry if I forgot about your question. Yes, you can send four rolls of Super 8. I’ll use Mimi’s camera.
Got your note on Dad’s vacation times. I assume that by Sept 7 you mean he’s off the week of Sept 7—13. I should be home for at least part of that week and the next, but can’t promise anything, as I don’t know now when the University will start, or even if it will.
Played tennis yesterday for the first time in a couple weeks, so I’m pretty stiff today. Fred Diment, the fellow I usually play with, is taking lessons a couple times a week from an Ethiopian pro. He’s not too good as pros go, but he hits a good ball. I hit it around with him for about ten minutes and felt like a two year old kid. After that, Fred and I hit it around for a couple hours, and I started getting some form back. Even the backhand was working pretty well. But today, my arm, legs and back are pretty sore. I’m glad I bought a racket here, as this one is lighter and has a smaller grip that the one I left at home, and I like it better.
Also rearranged my living room some a while ago. Was getting tired of the way it was before. The main thing I did was build a desk for typing on. I just used a wide,long board, put the speaker cabinet under one end and a small end table under the other. I had been using the coffee table to type on, but that was pretty uncomfortable.
Some Russians and Czecks have been ordered out of Ethiopia by the gov’t for allegedly involving themselves in the student agitation. Most of them were connected with their respective embassies.
Not much to write this time, I just wanted to answer your questions.
Love, Ron

 

March 25, 1969
Dear Mom,
Quite a bit has happened, so I guess I ought to start telling you about it all. The University has reopened, and somewhere less than a third of the students have returned, none of the regular ones, just those from the Army, Air Force, those paid by the Ministry of Education, foreign students, etc.
The rest of them are still quite adamant about not returning until the demands they’ve presented to the gov’t have been met. A Peace Corps friend of mine who teaches at the Business College has left the country. Am not sure whether he was told to leave by the Ethiopian Gov’t or the American Embassy. He was involved in a movement among some of the University staff to offer classes outside the campus to those students who didn’t want to return to the University, and somehow was left holding the bag when the pressure was put on. That, of course, was a decidedly political move, going almost directly against what the Ethiopian Gov’t is trying to do, namely get the students back to the University.
This all affects me, as it is now impossible for me  or anyone to extend at the University. The students, as you may know, have demanded the removal of Peace Corps from the country, and the American and Ethiopian govt’s have been trying to reduce the visibility of Peace Corps in the country, thus the decision not to let anyone stay at the University. They will probably go further and not have anyone in Addis next year, but they haven’t made a formal decision on that yet.
I still want to extend a third year, and have been looking into the Malaria
Eradication program being conducted here. If I go into that, I’d be stationed
outside Addis somewhere, with my job about half travel and half office
work, mostly concerning the administrative end of the program. Right now I’m pretty positive toward it. What my summer schedule is going to be like is anyone’s guess. There’s also talk about the Peace Corps terminating us now, too, but I’m pretty sure that anyone wanting to extend will be allowed to stay. Many don’t have anyone in their classes. I have four, out of about 70, and attendance at the high schools in town isn’t much better.
So that brings you up to date, rather sketchily perhaps. I think I’ll wait for a few days to mail this, as I expect to find out definitely one way or the other about the Malaria thing this week.
Got your letter today, so I’ll mention a few things before I forget. I’ll get the insurance money out of my readjustment allowance, and would you put it in the checking account please. Also, as quickly as possible, would you have dad put about $20 into the checking acct, as I have to pay about $15 in income tax over what’s already been taken out, and want to write a check for that.
About the draft board. I have to write requesting an extension of my 2-A classification for the additional year. The Peace Corps notifies the draft board when I’ve been accepted for another year. One thing that may hang things up is that the Peace Corps won’t let me take home leave until the draft board gives me a deferment for the full third year. I’m starting to take care of all that now, so I hope there is no delay on the vacation.
Yes, I remember Ken Cuttle, say hello to him for me.
Wednesday now. Looks like I won’t find out anything about the future for another week or so at least, so I’ll end this and get it in the mail.

Many students who didn’t register at the University before the deadline a week ago Monday now want to get back in, and are petitioning the Emperor for readmittance. Guess they didn’t think the gov’t was going to take the hard line this year, and are beginning to worry about their education. I’m pretty sure they will be allowed to return. In the meantime, I still have four students.
Love,
Ron

 

April 1, 1969
Dear Mom,
Got your letter about getting the film and putting some money in my checking account. School’s getting back to normal, although there are still a lot of soldiers around the campus. I have a feeling it’s not all over by a long shot.
Today and yesterday were the first days attendance has been anywhere close to fifty per cent, and when they do come they’re not too keen on doing any work. They’re coming mainly to get their names on the list. They’re afraid they might not get any credit at all for this semester, and they’re afraid of getting kicked out altogether, thereby losing a place to live and eat.
It’s just beautiful here now. I haven’t seen a cloud for three days. The mornings and evenings are just like spring (I put flowers in every room of the apartment today), and the days are like summer without the humidity, hot in the sun but pleasantly cool in the shade.
Had an interesting day last Sunday (in fact, the whole weekend was great, I’ll explain what happened Fri and Sat later). Anyway, Sunday, Jim Gregory and I had planned to go to Sodere, a resort spot down south, with a Lebanese architect Jim met in a German class he’s taking at the German School. We got started too late to make it worthwhile going to Sodere, so we just went out to lunch and then to the Ghion Hotel swimming pooi. Before we went to the pool, he took us around town and showed us a few of the houses he’s designed, and I showed him a couple that I had seen and was interested in. We went to one that I had noticed a couple weeks ago, and the owner was there and showed us through it. Most of the architecture here is pretty gaudy, lots of different kinds of materials, colors and types of construction can often be found on the same structure, which can be pretty jolting to the eye. I like simple things, and this one house I had seen before, and which we got to go through, was really nice, Just stone and dark wood, inside and out, really unusual for here.
This Lebanese fellow tends toward what I call Ethiopian modern, but not quite as extreme, so we got into some pretty interesting discussions. He’s got a Civil Engineering degree from Berkely and an Architecture degree from the American University in Beriut, and speaks eight languages fluently (Amharic, English, German, Italian, French, Armenian, Greek, and Arabic), which makes me feel like a real dumdum. Languages are fantastic here, my landlady, who is Armenian, speaks four. When you live all your life in an environment like this, you just get used to picking up and using languages.
Now, Friday and Sat. Friday afternoon the Peace Corps director had a beer and bull session at his house, and after that, Jim, Cathleen, and I came to my house to listen to the records you sent (I got them Friday, pretty good time, thanks). Mimi came over later, and then Bob Hazlet showed up, he came in from Sheno for the weekend. We ended up talking, listening to records, and dancing until late, and everyone spent the night here. I got up and played tennis at 9 Sat morning, and never did get around to taking a nap during the day. Saturday night, Mimi and I had been invited to a party, so we went. I was ready to fall asleep until I got there and heard this stereo the guy throwing the party had. Really huge speakers and terrific sound. Just those sounds kept me going dancing until late and if it wasn’t for meeting that architect on Sunday and running around town looking at houses, I’d have slept all day. We had arranged that trip to Sodere days before, so I had to get up for it, and even though we ended up not going, it was a very interesting day. I didn’t move too fast though, and was really stiff.
I’ve filled out a form for them to take $117 out of my readjustment and send a check to Dad, so you should be getting that one of these days. Let me know when you do.
I still don’t know much more about next year. The Peace Corps has to first accept my request to stay, and then if they do, I have to apply for the Malaria program, and get accepted for that. I should know one way or the other about the Peace Corps decision this week, but I imagine it will be another three weeks or so before the Malaria people get around to processing the applications. I’m pretty confident about making it all through all this, but a lot depends on the amount of applications they get and the qualifications of those who apply.
That’s it from here.
Love, Ron

 

April 19, 1969
Dear Mom,
Go back from Dire Dawa Thursday. I had written a letter before I left but forgot to mail it, so I’ll just write another. We had our termination conference at Dire Dawa, Sunday through Thur, stayed at the plush Ra Hotel there, swimming pool and everything. It was a nice vacation, though a tiringone. The weather is great there, it’s at a pretty low altitude compared to here, so the nights are just warm and balmy. For four days my schedule was party it up all night, go to conferences during the day, sleep during the three hour lunch break, and play tennis in the early evening before dinner.
We got back thurs morning, and I slept from 1 Thurs afternoon to 8 Friday morning. It was fun though.
Don’t know much more about extending than I did the last time I wrote. If I do get into Malaria, I’ll have to be back here the first of August for a short training period, and the job won’t be over until September of 1970.
Yes, do send some Super 8 film. I thought I’d answered that before, sorry if I forgot. Don’t renew the subscription for CSDI. I’ll look over the material they’ve sent when I’m home this summer and see if I want to  continue it. Got your letter saying that you received the $117 check. That was faster than I had thought it would be.

No school yet. There were classes for a couple days a few weeks ago, but that didn’t last long. Supposedly things are supposed to start again Monday, but I really doubt it.
The sun is really great this close to the equator. Even my toes are tanned.
It’s Wednesday now. Not many students have returned to class, about like it was before, about 10% attendance. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I imagine there will be some kind of decision made soon. None of the secondary schools in the city are operating. If the University continues, the year will be extended until July 11, so that won’t leave me much of a vacation.
Those of us who want to extend in the Malaria program are having a conference with someone from the Malaria Service later this week. It looks like I’ll be definitely doing that next year, but still don’t know what my summer schedule will be. Hope the draft board cooperates.
I completely missed Del’s birthday. I can’t even remember ever knowing when it was. I’ll make something soon and send it. I’m also going to get her something for her charm bracelet.
That’s about it. I’ll try to remember to mail this one.
Love, Ron

 

May 12th, 1969
Dear Mom,
I’ve been to the dentist already this morning, as I hadn’t been since I got here and the Peace Corps wants us to go before we leave. It’s at their expense. The dentist is really slick, got really up to date equipment, and a nurse who runs around doing everything for him. Turns out I have a cavity in a wisdom tooth, and he says it’d be better to take it out. . .
I finally got Del’s birthday greeting letter finished, after much procrastination.  I got her a charm for her bracelet too, as she’d asked for one a long time ago.
The University is running again. Attendance is low, but it looks like we’ll be able to finish the semester. I have three classes, one at noon, and the other two late afternoon. There are about ten in each class, so it’s pretty nice teaching.  The difference between ten and twenty in a class is amazing. I’m sort of glad I didn’t end up teaching out in the provinces. A class of 50 or so fifth graders would be pretty hard to take.
We finally had our turkey dinner at Bob’s, the weekend of May 4th. It was great.  The girls made pumpkin pie, dressing, gravy, apple crisp etc. We even had a can of cranberry sauce. We roasted the turkey over over a charcoal fire, and it worked out very well. Took us three hours to build the fire and spit and three hours to cook the thing. It might have fit in the oven, but it was more fun the way we did it. We got that Monday off because it was a holiday, so had a long weekend.
I haven’t gotten anything definite from the Malaria office, but it looks like a sure thing now. If that goes through and the draft board cooperates, I’ll be able to leave here about the first or second week of July, and have to be back sometime during the first half of August, so I’ll have about a month vacation. I’m not sure what I’ll do in Europe, but don’t plan to try to see too much. I’d like to spend about a week bicycling around Britain or Ireland, or I might just forget that and head for a beach along the Mediterranean. I’ll be home for about a week, probably around the first of August. Sure hope the draft board goes along with this.
I can’t find your last letter, hope you didn’t ask any important questions. I
usually manage to hang on to them for a while, but this one just got lost in the shuffle, i guess.
I went swimming Saturday it was nice. Sunday and today are great too. It’d been raining so much lately, I thought we weren’t going to have any more real nice weather this year. It was getting so you could count on about three hours of rain every day.
Tuesday night now. Got a new typewriter ribbon, as you noticed, I’m sure.
Everyone in town seems to be out of Royal ribbons, and the other kind they sell don’t last as long, so it seems like I’m really doing a lot of typing, but I know I’m not doing any more than usual.
Got your letter describing Mom’s Day weekend at the U. of I. and the Krannert Art Center. Thanks for describing it for me. I’ll bet that sure changes the area. It seems unreal that it’s finished already, as things seem to take so much longer to get built here. They’re working on the Hilton Hotel here, and that was started about five or six years ago.

I also got notice from the post office that the film has arrived, so I’ll go down tomorrow morning and pick that up. Think I’ll do it before I have my wisdom tooth pulled, as I’m not sure if that’ll adversely affect me or not. I plan to use these four rolls of Super 8 to take some movies of the city.  That’s something I’ve been telling myself to do for a long time.
Maybe I can get on TV like Jack Paar and show my movies of East Africa. Reminds me of a story in the newspaper we read while we were down there. William Holden was there while we were there, doing a movie. The story described how he really “went in the bush and roughed it.” It went on to say how many cases of Heinekens beer he took along, because he drank “twelve a day.” That’s really roughing it. We read that while we were sitting in a small town drinking the cheap local beer and waiting for a bus. It made us feel just wonderful. Heinekens, in case you’re not familiar with it, is imported from Holland, and is pretty damn expensive.
Finally got out for some tennis this morning with Fred Diment. I sure do need
the exercise, as I’ve almost stopped smoking, and therefore eat more, and am  starting to get a little paunchy. The Peace Corps doctor told me to stop, and I am down to three or four a day, as opposed the pack and a half I was smoking before.

I expect to have stopped completely by the end of the school year. I don’t even buy them by the pack now. All the little stores sell them individually, so that’s the way I buy them.
I have a project for you if you’re interested. Dan and Ann Stoddard are helping a twelfth grade student, Mulugeta, go to school in the states. He’s going to study medicine at a small school in North Carolina. He will leave here this summer. He’s a top student, and very serious about school. He’s been first in his class in high school here in Addis. The Stoddards are helping him with the cost of transportation
He has to have money for the round trip ticket and a deposit that he must pay the Ethiopian Ministry of Education before he can leave. He has a scholarship to take care of most of the school expenses. So far, Dan and Ann’s mothers have raised about half the money, about US$600., and Dan asked me to see if you’d be interested. The church would probably be the easiest thing to work through in raising money. Anyway, if you want to do it, the donations should be made by check made out to The First Presbyterian Church Fund For Mulugeta, and sent to Mrs. D.H. Stoddard, 902 Quaker Lane, High Point, North Carolina, 27262. Contributions are tax deductible. Anything collected above the cost of the ticket and deposit will be used for miscellaneous school expenses. So, if
you’re interested, let me know that you’re working on it. Also, try to work it in such a way that you can keep track of how much has been given. It would probably work out 0K if you have the checks given to you and you send them on to Mrs. Stoddard.
I also have another project for you. I’m establishing a Ron Haines Travel
Around The World Fund. To everyone who sends US$50, I’ll send a month by month travelogue of places seen and people met…….
Did you get that letter to Rog that I sent to you? I mislaid his address
somewhere, and thought the best way would be to send it to you. Send me his address sometime, please.
I’m getting the hots to buy a car in Europe on the way home, but even after the third year, I probably won’t have enough money to swing it, so will probably end up getting a motorcycle or something. I want something to travel around Europe in, and a nice little sports car would be very nice, but they’re a bit more expensive than a plain Volkswagon. One nice thing about being out in the provinces next year is that I should be able to save a little money, as there’s not near as much to spend it on out there as there is here in the city.
Guess I’ve rambled on enough. Thanks for the film, and happy Mothers’ Day.
Love, Ron

 

May 24, 1969
Dear Mom and the man who’s living with you,

Mimi asked me why I always address things Dear Mom, so I told her you’re not really married, but just have someone living with you. I guess it is odd for me to only address things Dear Mom, but I’d never really thought about it before.

Got word from the Malaria Service that I‘ve been accepted for next year. There are going to be three of us, me, Bob, and another fellow from the provinces, whom I haven’t met. Also heard from the draft board that the next meeting is June 5th, and they’ll decide then whether or not to give me the deferrment. So, if they say yes everything’s set, and I’ll begin my vacation sometime around the first part of July. I’m not sure when I’ll have to be back yet.
The movie Blow-up finally made it here. I saw it tonight with Bob, who’s in for the weekend, and Mimi. I’ll probably see it again before it leaves, as I thought it was pretty good.
I’ve finally gotten around to borrowing Mimi’s movie camera, so will try to get some shooting done soon. It’s been real nice here for the last two weeks, but it rained today, so the good weather may be ending. I think we’re supposed to have another good spell of it though before the big rains come.
School’s still the same. They finally stabilized the situation some weeks ago by sticking to a deadline for registration. Now, from a fourth to a third of the students are attending, and will receive credit. They were allowed to drop courses if they wished, as a lot of teachers are having extra sessions and giving a lot of homework to make up for lost time. The school year’s been extended by a couple weeks. Normally we would have gotten out during the last half of June.
A lot of people have left and are leaving (PCV’s I mean) With all the high schools in the city officially closed, and trouble in some of the provincial towns making education impossible, many don’t have jobs.
Word is that they’ll only be sending over about 60 new people, quite a cutback from previous years. This is a result of both the trouble and uncertain situation here and some rethinking as to what the Peace Corps is doing in education here, its visibility and image, etc.
I just took another look at Dad’s vacation schedule. It looks like I’ll miss it completely, as I won’t be leaving here, as I said, until well into July, and am pretty sure I’ll have to be back somewhere around the middle of August.
Rick, thanks for your letter. Which films were shown in the history class? My only doubt about that was that people would get a biased idea if only those showing the more traditional aspects of the country were shown. I know I haven’t sent many of Addis, but I hope the ones I have sent were shown, as you can’t get a good idea about this kind of country without seeing both aspects, and especially the contrast between them.
Mom, I know it’s a little early for this, but I wanted to mention it while I’m thinking of it. When you get the chance, please tell the families that if they write anything around the end of June to send it to the Peace Corps address instead of the University. I’ll of course have things forewarded, but it would be easier and I’m more likely to get everything if things are sent to the PC. The box number there is 1096, so just Peace Corps, Box 1096, Addis Ababa is enough. Thanks.
You must be getting some good stuff on TV about Apollo 10. They had a few feet of it here on the tube last night. A short, blurry shot of the earth, and another of a couple of the men inside the capsule, with a flashlight or something floating around.
That’s it for now. Think I’ll go to the pool tomorrow if it’s a nice day. The sky is pretty clear tonight, so it should be nice.
Love,  Ron

 

June 2, 1969
Dear Mom and Dad,
I’ll start this now, but probably won’t get finished with it tonight. Mimi’s here tonight and we were looking at the world map to see where we were going to go this summer. It’s pretty exciting, so many places to go but so little time to really see things well. I’ve found out I don’t have to be back until the first of Sept, so that gives me a good six weeks.
I plan tentatively to spend a couple weeks in the states, a couple days in New York seeing Darrell Kindred, maybe some time in D.C. seeing Dale Bartley, if he’s there as he plans to be, and maybe a couple days traveling by car from the East with Mimi to Ohio, as she might go out here to see some friends. I’d probably then fly from Ohio over to Illinois. It’s all up in the air yet though. It’s almost a pain planning this, as you have to think of so many things, shots, plane schedules, visas, etc. Next year I hope to have the money to buy a car or motorcycle so I can just take off where I want to go.  At least time will be no hindrance next year. I am going to hit a beach along the Mediterranean for about a week this year though.
So, all I need is the word from the draft board and I’m all set. They’ll decide the fourth, I think I told you that, and I’ll hear about it about a week later. So by the end of next week I should know one way or the other.
Had a dandy dinner tonight. Jim Gregory stopped by and we got some hamburger meat and a watermelon, then Mimi came by with some crab, so we had boiled crab, hamburgers and watermelon for dinner.
Teaching’s still going OK. We’re going to have the exam the 28th, so I should be ready to leave by the second week of July. The way I’m thinking of doing it is spend the first three weeks in Europe, two weeks in the states, and then the last week in England. I think we’ll also spend a few days each in Cairo and Israel on the way to Europe, if they’re still there. As I said though, nothing’s definite, just having fun playing with the map.
Guess I’ll stop for now. No sense trying to get this finished and in the mail, as you’ll be in Missouri by the time it gets to KKK. Got your letter with the Wall-Eye address, so I’ll send it to you there
The pecan pie in the freezer idea sounds good. I’d almost forgotten how much I liked it. You’d better not let me drive from the airport to KKK, as it’ll probably take a couple days, by the time we stop in all the drive-ins on the way. We’ll at least have to stop at that A&W root beer place, though, if it’s still there. They just don’t have root beer here at all.
I envy you being in Missouri. We seem to be in the rainy season here, but at least it’s predictable. It’s been sunny and nice every morning for the past week and a half. Then about 1:30 it gets cloudy, and then it rains on and off until about 5. It’s nice for a change, but it gets cold and damp when it rains. I’ll get tired of it pretty soon, and it’s nice to know I won’t be here working through it like last year.
Got a letter from Del from New Orleans. She’s having a good time Said they even ran into a couple fellows willing to take them around and pick up the tab. I’m going to have a hell of a time getting back into the American style of dating where the guy pays for everything. Here, we all make the same amount of peanuts, so it’s usually dutch. Del said she got the charm I sent her. I’ll probably bring home a suitcase full of gifts this summer, as we’ll be sticking close to major airports, so I can check it in and not have to lug it about. That’s one thing one learns in the Peace Corp–to travel light. For East Africa last summer I took only a small airlines traveling bag. You get to smelling pretty gross sometimes, but it’s worth it not to have a suitcase to carry, especially as we do a lot of hitching and traveling on local transportation. I’ll never forget the girl we ran into (actually she kind of latched onto us) in Uganda. She had six separate items she was lugging around. Then, of course after she began traveling with us, Jim and I got to lug some around. I’ll never forget the wonderful free feeling we had when we finally got to Nairobi, deposited her at a hotel, picked up our traveling bags, and walked away. About all I had in the bag was my camera and toilet stuff, so it was pretty light. There’s nothing like walking along a dusty road in Africa in the middle of the day with a heavy suitcase to dampen your traveling enthusiasm. Of course, if you’re not in the Peace Corps, and therefore have enough money to take a cab to your hotel, there’s no sweat about the luggage, but the US$6 that the Peace Corps give us to travel on doesn’t stretch too far.
Guess I’ll finish this and get it mailed so you’ll get it. I don’t know how those conservatives in Missouri are going to react to all this funny writing on the envelope.
Love, Ron

 

Monday, June 23
Dear Mom and Dad,
Got your letter today telling about how nice the vacation was and your trip to Harvey, and it reminded me that I haven’ t written in a while.  Haven’t beard from the draft board yet, so on Sat the Peace Corps office sent them a cable asking what the story is, Should near from them soon, one way or the other. As I think I’ve said before, the Peace Corps won’t give me vacation money or the round trip ticket until they have it from the draft board that I’m deferred for the entire next year. So, time’s getting short, as we’re going to try to get out of here by the 10th of July.
Got a letter from the Beta Sigma Psi national office today telling me that there’s another Beta Sig in Ethiopia, at the Army Base in Amara. The letter was mailed in December. They sent it surface mail. I don’t know how anyone could mail a letter to Africa by surface mail. Deep down, they must not want it to get here. I also got a Christmas card from Alan Schram today, too. Back to the fellow who is in Asmara. He graduated the same year I did, but from a different chapter. I remember hearing the name but don’t think I’ve ever met him. According to the note, he’s a translator of Arabic.
Cathleen and Jim left a week ago Saturday. They had to be out at the Airport at 5 a.m., so we just had an all night going away party. The airlines bus came up to the Piazza about 4:45 to pick them up, and the bus driver was pretty surprised when there were six of us waiting to get on, as according to his list there were only supposed to be two. He said he had to pick up some other people, and there wasn’t enough room for us all on the bus. Well, we asked him if he’d give us a ride to the Ghion Hotel, where he was going to
pick up some more people, and he said 0K. (From the Ghion to the airport it’s still about 4 miles). When we got to the Ghion, he just smiled at us and started packing everyone on. One lady, French I think, was indignant because her daughter had to sit on her lap, but the driver managed to get everyone on and keep them happy, so we got a free ride to the airport. I don’t know how we’d have gotten out there otherwise.
I’ve been pretty busy lately. We gave them an essay exam a week and a half ago, and I’ve been giving my classes an essay every other day since then to get them in practice for the final. That’s a hell of a lot of essays to correct. Plus that, I’ve had a cold for the past couple weeks, so am pretty dead on my feet most of the time. It’ll be over soon, though. The final is this coming Saturday, and we should be all through correcting it by Wed. I have one other exam I have to proctor (or invigilate, as the British say) on Friday, and then that’s all.
Haven’t worked on details of the trip yet. Mimi and I have made plans to see a travel agent tomorrow, so we’ll have to come up with something pretty definite tonight. One thing we’ll definitely do is stop a while in Nice, France, as Mimi has a friend from school living there.
The president of the University had a cocktail party for the going away staff a week ago Thursday, and the English Dept had a party for those of us from the English Dept who will be leaving last Thurs, so my Fridays have been pretty bleak for the past couple weeks. Tomorrow afternoon the Arts Faculty is having a tea for those who are leaving. It sounds pretty boring compared to the other two going away parties. As a gift, the English Dept gave me an art appreciation book, The Visual Dialogue. It covers painting, sketches,
sculpture, and architecture.

Bob got his OK from the draft board last week, so is pretty well set up. I think he’s going to meet Cathleen in Germany and do some traveling with her. Cathleen’s sister is living in Germany.
There must have been something disparaging about Ethiopia in Time mag last week, as it never did come go on sale here. Censorship sure is interesting to observe. Another EAL (Ethiopian Airlines) plane was sabotaged last week, this time in India. Somebody must have goofed and let the story get on the radio, because it was on there on two newscasts on Thursday, but never did appear in the newspaper. Usually everything that comes out on one media comes out in them all, exactly the same, word for word. A new magazine started here several months ago (printed in English). At first, it was quite a departure, told pretty clearly what was wrong with Ethiopia, and didn’t have any stories about what His Majesty did today (I think the world could blow up and the guy on the TV would still say, “Here’s the news of the last 24 hours. His Imperial Majesty….”). But lately things have changed. The last four issues have had a picture of you know who on the cover. Somebody must have clamped down.
That’s it for now. I’ll let you know about what the draft board says when I hear from them.
Love, Ron

 

July 3, 1969
Dear Mom and Dad,
Finally heard from the draft board today, and I’m deferred until May, 1970, so can now start planning my trip in earnest. We plan to leave on the 12th of July, and spend some time in Cairo and Israel, then go to Athens, and then probably to Nice, France. I’ll arrive in DC on the 3rd of Aug and stay there visiting Dale until the fifth. On the fifth I’ll fly to New York and visit Darrell.  On the 7th I’ll take a bus to Mimi’s, and we’ll leave there by car on the 8th. We’ll get to Ohio on the 10th about noon, and I’ll start hitchhiking to KKK then. I may get there on the 10th, but most likely it will take me until the 11th. The place that we’re going in Ohio is almost on the Indiana border, so it shouldn’t take too long to get to KKK. We plan to leave the states again about the 20th. So that’s it, it’s nice to know for sure. I can hardly wait to get going. I’m looking forward to traveling in the states about as much as I’m looking forward to the traveling in Europe.
Got done with all the grading and recording today, so that’s all I have to do there, except for proofreading some stencils, which I volunteered to do. I’m going to hold the apartment until I come back, as I’ll be in Addis for a couple weeks in Sept, and don’t feel like living in a hotel or sleeping on someone’s floor for that length of time. I do want to get everything
packed up before I leave though, so I don’t have to do it when I get back.
Bob’s in town now, as he’s all finished. He’ll be leaving this Saturday and will meet Cathleen in Germany and do some camping and traveling with her and her sister. Think I told you all about that already.
I want to save all of the New York to Chicago part of my ticket because I think I can save it and use it to vacation in Nairobi or Dar Es Salaam for Christmas. When we book our return trip tickets, we can route them all the way to Johannesburg, South Africa, as it’s the same price from NY to there as it is from NY to Addis Ababa. So, if I can save the NY to Chicago part of the ticket home, I can have a free trip to at least Dar Es Salaam and back.
That’s about it for now. You can take the above dates as definite, and I’ll let you know if there’s any change.
Love, Ron

 

Sunday, 31 August, Midafternoon
Dear Mom, Dad, Rick and Rog,
Right now I’m sitting in the living room of the house where ‘home” is for the time being, Mimi and Cathleen’s house, where I’ve got most of my belongings stashed, waiting for the tub to fill up so I can, take a much needed bath.
We flew straight to Copenhagen as planned Thursday and left from there Wednésday morning for Amsterdam. We stayed in Amersterdam until Saturday afternoon and then took a flight direct to here, with a three hour stopover in Rome around midnight.

Had a real good time on the way back, but we had to watch our spending, as we  had gotten used to spending freely while in the states. I did buy a couple records in Amsterdam. I’ve got enough records now to keep me going for a while.
Copenhagen and Amsterdam are seaport towns, of course, and are really picturesque, though expensive to live in. The people are really friendly, and there’s almost no language problem, as almost everyone knows some English.
We arrived here about 9 this morning, and haven’t gotten any sleep yet, so after the bath it’s time for the sack. We got screwed up sleepwise coming over from New York too, so spent all  that day in bed, and I could have easily slept two days, but it’s a shame to waste time sleeping on a trip.
Had a rare coincidence in New York. I had just arrived and was waiting in the United terminal for a bus to take me over to the Pan Am terminal and Bob Hazlett came walking by. He and Cathleen had just arrived in the states and he was going to catch a United flight to San Francisco. So I talked with him a while until his flight left at 3:30, and then went over to the Braniff terminal to catch Cathleen, who Bob said was waiting there for a five o’clock flight to Tulsa, so I found here there. So, getting to New York way ahead of time was worth it. They should get here tomorrow.
Had mixed feelings coming back. Traveling’s fun, but tiring, so it’s nice to be back to where I can lounge around and fix an egg or something when I’m hungry, but after seeing some of the most exciting and alive cities in the world, it’s a little depressing to think of spending another year here, especially when I know I can’t relive the last two years, which were so great. I’m still happy about coming back, of course, and am looking
forward to next year, but getting a little impatient to be done with this and move on to something else. That’s a kind of looking-ahead-hindsight reasoning, I’m sure I’ll enjoy this coming year once I get into it.
Bath’s ready, I’ll mail this tomorrow. Mimi and Cathleen have a refrigerator, so I’m really living plush now.
Love, Ron
PS I bought four rolls of film at the duty-free shop in Amsterdam, so I have enough to keep me going for a while.

Dear Mom and Dad,
Wednesday, September 3, 1969
I’m writing this mainly to give you Karen McDonald’s address so you can send that package. I also wanted to tell you to send me anything (letters) that the Peace Corps may have forwarded to you. The guy in the mail room did think that I had gone for good, and was pretty surprised to see me. .
Started training with the Malaria Service (MES) at the office here in town today. We will stay here this week for briefing and then go to Jimma Monday for further training, probably coming back Wed or Thurs.  I’ll be leaving for my assigned place by Sept 22. l’m not sure where I’ll be going yet.
Bob and Cathleen got back yesterday morning, and Bob’s suitcase is still somewhere between the states and here, so he has to get that straightened out.
Mimi isn’t here now, and I don’t know where she keeps that address so I’ll have to wait until tonight to add that.
Here’s the address: (Her last name is no longer McDonald)
Mrs. Michael Rosenthal, 500 California St., El Segundo, California 90245
Write ‘Please forward’ on the package, as this isn’t her address, but her mother’s. Thanks.
Love,
Ron

 

Sept 22
Dear Mom and Dad,
We’re still here in Addis. They decided to hold us here for another week, so we won’t be leaving until the 29th. I’m definitely going to Dessie.
All last week we sat in on the annual Zone Chiefs meeting, so I was able to meet the guy I’ll be working with. He’s a nice guy, so we should get along OK. I can’t begin to explain all the stuff we’ve been learning, so I think I’ll let that go until I get out there and start working, then I’ll do it a little at a time.
Been getting a lot of free meals lately, as the Americans working with the MES (USAID technical advisors) have been inviting us out for lunches. Also got two cocktail parties last week. They were held for the zone chiefs, all of whom are Ethiopian, but we volunteers of course got invited. It’s been a bit of a rat race having to be at the MES office full time and trying to take care of the details of getting moved to our towns at the same time. Last week we didn’t even have time to get to the bank and get some money. The new salary policy is working ou t pretty well so far, as we haven’t been paying any rent. When we left for vacation, they didn’t have our leave checks ready, so I had to overdraw Eth$500. to pay for that. When we got back there was a check in US dollars (vacation check) and a check in Eth for $1,000 (for Aug and Sept salary) waiting for us, so I used Eth$500 of the $1,000 check to pay off the overdraw, and will save the US$ check for the next time I leave the country. I haven’t spent much this month, so have about Eth$300 in the bank. And it’s almost the end of the month and time for another check. I should be able to save a little money this year.
I got your letter about your having sent that package. thanks. Yes, I did get the draft notice. The mailroom had thought I wouldn’t be back.
The Addis Ababa area representative is having people in his area to lunch at the newly finished Hilton hotel tomorrow, and since the office doesn’t know yet that I’ll be in Dessie, I got an invitation. Another windfall is that the Embassy is having a buffet reception for all PCV’s tomorrow night. So, tomorrow is going to be a good day.
Can’t think of much else to say, and am ready for bed. This working all day every day is for the birds.
Love, Ron

 

Wednesday, October 1
Dear Mom and Dad,
Greetings from Dessie. We started from Addis on Monday morning (Mr. Matheny and I—he’s an American AID guy working in the Malaria program) and made stops
at the Robi and Kombolcha sector offices of the Dessie Zone. (Sectors are subunits of zones, Bati, Alamata, Woldia, Asiata, Mekane Salan, and Ajibar. I think that’s all of them) Anyway, we stayed in Kombolcha Monday night and came on up here about noon yesterday. I’m staying at a hotel. Mr. Matheny stayed overnight here and left this morning for the northern Sector offices of the Dessie Zone, and for Makelle, which is a different zone.
I told the zone chief, Ato Berhanu, that I wouldn’t be in today and went looking for a house. I found one that I think I’ll take. It’s small and  on the main road, which is just what I want.  I have to go and talk to the landlord this afternoon; as he wasn’t in this morning.  It has two pretty good sized rooms, one small one, and a bathroom. I wasn’t going to get one with an inside bathroom, but about the only ones worth looking at have them.  Ones that don’t, from what I saw this morning, are pretty crummy, dirt floors, no glass, and holes everywhere. Dessie’s a pretty cold place, so I wanted to get one that was small and tight. It would be nice of course to have a fireplace, but the ones that have them are pretty big and thus more expensive.
It’s later this afternoon now. I saw the landlady and she came down to $38 a month on the rent so I took it. All I need now is furniture. There was a dresser and a desk floating around that belong to Peace Corps, but that’s all. The Peace Corps area Rep is supposed to come today or tomorrow, so I’ll ask him if I can buy some furniture here and get reimbursed for it. He’ll probably say they have plenty of furniture in Addis and that he’ll have some shipped out, but that’ll take a couple weeks at least, so I’ll try to get him to let me buy some so I can get moved in.
I’ve been fighting off students looking for jobs since I came here. In these provincial towns, it’s customary for PCV’s to hire students. (Largely to help support them and help them with their English also)  And there are a hell of a lot of them looking for work. I didn’t run into this so much in Addis, because for one thing I was working at the University and also because Addis is big and you aren’t so conspicuous. Here, you go anywhere and there they are, all with the story that they’ll have to drop out of school if you don’t hire them. I’ll need someone to wash clothes and clean up the place, so I’ll probably hire one. The problem is to choose one.  It’s really a pain in the neck. I’d rather just hire some laborer from the countryside who doesn’t know any English, but as long as I’m going to pay someone to do the work, I night as well help a student.
I’ll start work tomorrow. I can’t really say what I’ll be doing, as I’m going to spend the first month or so looking at all aspects of the operation here to see where I can be most useful.  The zone chief is a quiet guy, but nice, and it looks like he’s going to give me a prettý free hand.
Most of the job at first will involve feeling my way along with him, because as I said, he’s pretty quiet, and it’s therefore hard to figure out what he’s thinking about.
Oh, I almost forgot. That girl from Kankakee is here in Dessie working at the hospital. Mr. Matheny and I ran into her yesterday and had supper with her and her roommate last night. They are the only two girl PCV’s in Dessie. Quite a change from Addis.
Another thing before I finish: My address here is Box 65, Dessie, Ethiopia, in case you can’t read it on the back of this.
Love, Ron

Saturday, October 24
Dear Mom and Dad,
Thought I’d write again, as I’m leaving town tomorrow, and plan to be gone for a couple weeks. I’m going to visit the Sector 0ffices at Robi, Bati and perhaps Combolcha. Robi is south of here almost halfway to Addis on the main toad. Bati is a little ways out on the road which runs from Combolcha, which is a little ways south of here, to Assab, on the Red Sea. I haven’t done much this week, as there really isn’t much for me to do here at the Dessie office, as I think I told you. Right now the best thing for me to do is go out and visit these Sector offices. Later, maybe I’ll find something I can get involved in at the office, but for now time spent in Dessie is wasted, I can do more out in the field supervising.  I’m going to go out alone this time. It’ll probably take me a little longer to find my way about that way, but if I go out with a supervisor, it’s just a duplication of effort, as he’s doing the same thing I’m doing.
I’ve been in Dessie all week, and as I said, it’s been a bit boring. The people here at the office are pretty capable, and if I were to start doing something, it would be something that someone else should be doing, and I don’t want to do that. Probably after I learn more about the business, I will be able to find something to do on my own while in Dessie.
I got a letter fom Bill Russell the other day. He went to OCS, and is now a 2nd Lt. working for the Corps of Engineers in Pennyslvania. The work is right up his alley (he was an architecture major), so he’s having a pretty good time.
I got the brochure you sent about Kellart Lake. Looks great. Let me know what kind of building plans you have, when and what. During dull moments in Ethiopia, I draw sketches of houses i’d like to live in someday. I tend toward one story houses, low ceiling, consisting of one huge room, many levels, and furniture hung from the ceiling by huge chains, if you’re interested, let me know, and I’ll fly home and design something. The only hang up is that I don’t know a thing about materials, stresses, and most important, costs. I figure one can get a shell built pretty cheaply, and just take off from there on your own. Anyway, build something exotic if you can, not just a house, but something that’s an exciting pleasure to live in. Have fun.
Guess I’ll wrap this up, as I have to get up pretty early tomorrow to catch the bus. There are no vehicles available at the office, they’re all out in the field. I’ll probably be able to use one when I get out there, but there’s not one to get me from here to there.
Love,  Ron

 

Nov. 1O, 1969
Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, I’m back in freezing Dessie. Got back Saturday, and it sure is a change from the field, where it’s always nice and warm. I left two weeks ago for Robi, spent until Wed night there, and then came up to Combolcha, stayed there until about noon on Saturday, then came up to Dessie for what was left of the weekend. Monday morning I left with Ato Abeba, one of the two Surveillance Supervisors working in the zone, for Bati. We stayed there until Thursday, then went up to Haik (a little north of Dessie on the main road), which is a part of the Bati Sector. We got back from there on Saturday. All in all, it was a good trip. I met a lot of the sector personnel, and saw a lot of the activities which are going on.
I saw the Monday market in Bati, which is really something. It’s about the biggest in the area, and draws a lot of the nomadic trips from the desert. They are really different people, barebreasted, spears, regular Afro haircuts, the whole bit. And the best thing of all is that they have camels, which have to be the funniest looking animal there is. I can easily spend hours just watching them walk around.
Another good sight on the trip was the Lake up near Haik, Lake Haik as a matter of fact, and to be more precise, Lake Lake, because haik means lake in Amharic. Anyway, the water is very blue, and it’s nestled in the middle of mountains a ways off the main road. Really a beautiful, peaceful place. There’s a small island about fifty yards from shore with an old church and some tukuls on it, and there’s a small bamboo raft that people use to get back and forth. Ato Abeba and I poled across, and it took us quite a while, as it was the first time he’d been on anything like that, and didn’t even know the principle behind poling a boat. We finally made it, with an old priest standing on the island yelling instructions. We couldn’t get into the church, as it’s very old and all boarded up. There’s a newer one on the mainland that is used for services. An old monk invited us to his house for some local drink, and it was really pleasant sitting there drinking, looking out at the lake, and. listening to the monk tell his old stories (though I couldn’t understand much of it).
I’m still not all that sure what I’m going to be doing for the rest of the year. Right now I’m involved with the two Health Education Supervisors in an advertising program trying to educate people as to what the MES is doing and why it’s doing it. We get a lot of resistance from people simply because they don’t understand what it’s all about. That should take up this week and maybe part of next, and then I’ll be ready to go out to the field again. Either Ambaye or Abeba will be going out to Lalibela (West of Woldiya, which is north of here on the main road) to map some new localities that have been found, and I think I’ll go there. Lalibela is a tourist spot of sorts anyway because of the churches there, so it should be interesting (though we’ll go by land, the tourists fly there because there is really not a good road in that buses can take.)  Actually we’ll have to go a ways past the town itself to the river which on the maps runs a little below the town. You can get to the town by vehicle now, but you have to walk after that. Also, there will be some trips after this spray round to map nomads, and I’d like to get in on one of those. Also, Woldiya and Assiata sectors are scheduled to begin Surveillance in a couple months, so they will have to be divided up into circuits and units and new personnel will have to be hired and trained. I’ll find something to do to keep me busy.
Right now I’m getting caught up on some letter writing. When you go two or three weeks without writing any, you can get pretty far behind.
That’s about it for now. Love, Ron

 

Dear Mom and Dad,                             Nov 19, 1969
Got your letter of Nov 7 a couple days ago. Yes, it does appear that one or two of my letters didn’t get to you. I think I’ve gotten all of yours, though probably out of sequence, as the ones you sent to the Peace Corps address will have taken longer to get here, since they only send things up once a week or so from the office.
Did you get the long letter I wrote explaining the Malaria Eradication Program? I hope you did, but if you didn’t, let me know and I’ll write another, as it will help you understand what I do when I go out to the field.
I’ve been traveling quite a bit. Was gone from the 27th of Oct to the 10th of Nov on the last trip. I’ve been in Dessie since then, except for one two day trip. I’ll probably leave again Monday. (Sorry about the typing, but I just came inside and my hands are still a bit stiff from the cold. I don’t know the exact temp, but it must get down into the forties at least here at night. Colder than Addis. The altitude here is 8,200 ft. Pretty damn high Bwana.)

I’ve stayed in Dessie longer this time because I wanted to wait until the monthly reports came in to the field to see how the new system of forms is working. We run things according to the Ethiopian calendar. Today is Hidar 10, 1962. About the only reason I have to use the European system is for writing letters. Everything at work is on the Ethy system.
Another thing about letters this year is that it takes longer for them to get to me here than when I was in Addis. Your Nov 7 letter, for instance, got to me in Dessie on Nov 17. That’s ten days. Two or three days from the time it reaches Addis to the time it reaches Dessie isn’t bad, considering the Ethiopian mail system. About the same as the telephones. I could call you from Addis and. undoubtedly get a better connection than I get calling from Dessie to Addis., But I’m getting cynical, so I better stop.
You will notice that as I write more letters I will have progressively less to say about Dessie. That’s because once I’ve told you what it’s like, there isn’t much else to say. Nothing ever happens here. I have a joke going with one of the students that works for me. When I come back from the field, I say, “Well, what happened in Dessie while I was gone,” and he says, “Nothing.” And that about sums it up.
I don’t even have any gossip about the other PCV’s to report, as I haven’t seen them since I got back here. I’m going over to the nurses’ house tonight though, as I’ve been invited over for dinner. One reason why I haven’t seen people much is that by the time I get home from work, it’s already getting cold and dark, then after I eating supper, I’d rather stay in where it’s warm and do some reading or writing than go out. Also, topics of conversation among PCV’s in the provinces is really pretty limited, (I thought it was bad in Addis). You find that after you hear everyone’s little stories and a review of the latest Time magazine, things really get banal. I’m generalizing though, it’s really not all that bad. It’s probably just that I’ve been a volunteer too long and get tired of what volunteers talk about.

I was kidding about making a plan for your lakeside house, but do send me the details when you have them and I’ll do something. As I said (or maybe that was one of the letters you didn’t get) , I don’t know a thing about materials, costs, or physical possibilities of actually building some of my ideas, but I’m game if you are.
Don’t know if I told you or not, but the three Frenchmen teaching here in Dessie (I can’t imagine anything worse than teaching French in Ethiopia, by the way) have gotten the town’s only tennis court into fairly playable condition, so I asked Mimi to send my tennis racket up (I left it in Addis never dreaming there would be a court here), so I should be able to get in some tennis on the weekends when I’m in town.
That’s about all I’ve got for now.
Love,  Ron

 

December 12, 1969
Dear Mom and Dad,
I’ve been back in town since Sunday, so I guess it’s time to write again. I was waiting to see if you had received that one letter or not, and I got your letter yesterday saying that you hadn’t, so that will be the content of this letter.
Yes, I did get furniture, etc. a long time ago, right after the first field trip, so am all settled.
Let me start explaining a bit about Malaria Eradication. This program is based on that recommended. by the World Health Organization, and is usually the program followed when a country sets out to eradicate malaria.  The program has four phases: Preparatory, Attack, Consolidation, and Maintenance.
The Preparatory Phase is what it sounds like, getting prepared. Mapping the area, counting the people, taking malaria parasite counts among the population,doing entomological studies (studying the mosquitoes present as to type, density, behavior, parasite carrying characteristics, etc.), studying the behavior of the people (nomadic, sleep outside/inside, etc), and on and. on. Very detailed maps are made, and the area is split up into localities (100—200 houses), and locality maps are made showing each house (use the term loosely, included thatched huts and the like and even semi permanent tents made of animal skins in the desert, nomadic areas). In addition a locality folder is started on each locality giving all the information and studies that have been done of that locality (names of the leaders, where do the people get water, can animals be hired., etc. etc.)  There’s no specific time period for the prep phase, but it’ll usually last more than a year. There has to be certainty that all areas have been mapped, and that there are no gaps.
After the Prep phase comes the Attack Phase, spraying with DDT. The inside surfaces of all dwellings (walls, ceilings, under tables and chairs) are sprayed twice a year with a solution of DDT and water that is supposed to be effective for six months. The theory is that the mosquito will rest on one of these surfaces sometime before or after taking a blood meal, and then be killed, thus you are killing those mosquitoes which spread the parasite around, and eventually there will be no more parasites. During the attack phase also, there are still entomological studies (study of the mosquito to make sure it’s still biting and resting inside, not building up a resistance to DDT, still the principal carrier of the parasite, etc.) and epidemiological studies (study of the parsitic count in the population to see if the spraying is doing any good) going on, plus constant remapping of any locality which shows more than 30% change (new houses, destroyed houses, etc). The attack phase usually lasts about 4 years, but will have to go on longer here because of gaps left during the prep phase (which means that some areas were sprayed for the first time a year or two after the attack phase started), and nomads and other moving population groups which have yet to be brought under the control of MES. You can’t stop spraying until these people have been taken care of, as they will just bring malaria in again, as they still carry the parasite.
About halfway through the Attack phase, an operation called. Surveillance is
started (there’s a criteria for its beginning, a certain percent of parasite count or something like that). Surveillance is a monthly check of every house in the area asking if anyone has had a fever since the last visit, and taking a blood slide from those who say yes. The blood slide is sent to Dessie and examined, and if it is positive, the person is given treatment and the case investigated to find out where the infection came from and a survey blood slide collection taken from people in the surrounding area to find out how far the transmission of the disease has gone. To organize this, 10-15 localities are grouped together into a circuit, which is the area that one Surveilance Agent can get around every month, visiting each house. 4-6 circuits are put together and called a unit, and a Unit Inspector is put in charge of seeing that the work goes on smoothly. There are from 4-6 units in each Sector (I think I’ve already explained what a sector is), and one Surveillance Technician assigned at the sector for every 2 units in the sector. At the Zone level, there are two Surveillance Supervisors in charge of the four sectors which are under Surveillance. In addition, there are couriers to take slides from the field to the unit offices, from the unit offices to the Sector offices, and from there to Dessie.

As you can imagine, the organization, supervision and paperwork required in
Surveillance can be pretty staggering. In addition, it is fairly new in this zone, starting about five months ago, so I’m spending most of my time involved in Surveillance. Since there are no roads except the main one, most of Surveillance activity is done on foot. Only the Couriers, and then only those who bring slides from the Sector offices to Dessie can take buses. The Surveillance Agent and Unit Inspectors are pretty far from roads where they’re working.
At the end of the Attack Phase comes the Consolidation Phase, which means that the parasite count has reached such a low stage that spraying can be stopped and the situation kept under control by the Surveillance mechanism only. This means that the Surveillance organization must be good enough to find positive cases and treat them and investigate them within about 14 days, before there is time for the disease to spread.
That’s pretty damn fast, and we’re nowhere near that now. The program has to be reviewed by an independent team from The World Health Organization and the National Communicable Diseases Center in Atlanta before it is allowed to go into Consolidation.

After consolidation comes Maintenance, where the MES as an organization ceases to exist and the normal public health facilities of the country are expected to take over. The public health facilities have a hell of a long way to go before the Malaria Eradication program can go into maintenance, and so, for that matter, does the malaria program itself.
So that’s about all there is to it. Right now there are two sectors of the Dessie Zone, Mekane Selam and Ajibar, which are still in the preparatory phase, two, Woldia and Assaita, which are in the Early Attack Phase (just spraying), and four, Bati, Alamata, Robi, and Comboloha, which are in the Late Attack Phase (spraying and Surveillance).
I got a load of Christmas cards yesterday. I think everyone mailed them on the same day. I got back from two weeks in the field last Saturday, and will probably be here for a week and a half or so, though I’m already running out of things to do here.
To tell you the truth, I can’t remember when Thanksgiving came, so don’t know what I was doing. I know I wasn’t in Addis though, I’d remember that. I haven’t been there since getting to Dessie, and it doesn’t look like I will for a while. I’m not sure when I’ll take a vacation, guess I’ll wait until I really need one, as I am not sure how enthusiastic about this whole thing I’ll be when I get back, so I’d better not interrupt the enthusiasm I have now. I plan to go down to South Africa for vacation, and should be able to get about a month off, so should have a good time. Think I told you about ending up with  free ticket down there and back as a result of the trip to the states last summer.
Guess that’ll be about it for now.
Love, Ron

 

Tuesday Dec 23
Dear Mom and Dad,
Kind of a slow day at the office this afternoon so thought I’d get a letter off to you. Got your Christmas card about a week ago. I’ve been in Dessie for two weeks today, and will be leaving again tomorrow for Alamata sector for a week or so.  There’s no money at the Zone for per diem advance or travel expenses, so we (I’m going out with one of the Health Education Supervisors) probably won’t be able to stay out too long. If I were going alone, I’d stay for two weeks (until the end of the Ethiopian month), as I don’t mind spending my own money, but the supervisors don’t have that much money so when there’s no per diem advance they run short. For me, being out in the field is about the same as being in town as I eat out a lot here anyway, but for most of them especially the ones who are married and have families, it’s quite an expense. Anyway, we’re going to get a vehicle to use as far as Woldia and try to borrow one from Woldia Sector for the rest of the way. We’re really short of vehicles. If we have to take buses, then that means that much less money to use for food. If we can get a vehicle, then we’re going to go to Lalibela (that’s in Alamata Sector), in addition to Alamata itself and couple towns along the road. If we can’t get a vehicle to take us then  have to rent mules, which is really expensive, so we probably won’t do it. The money situation is really a pain. The supervisors haven’t been fully reimbursed for travel expenses for about five months, but there is usually a little here so that all can get 30—40 dollars in advance to help meet expenses, but now there is nothing, and the Zone Chief called Addis and there won’t be any more money for a couple weeks. I don’t know where the log jam on money is, but it would not take much of an argument to convince me the problem lies with the Ethiopian Government, which has been almost bankrupt for the last year and a half. There are some Zones where they’re getting behind on salaries too, I’m just glad my salary is being paid by the Peace Corps and I don’t have to depend on MES.
I’m not taking any vacation for Christmas, as all I’d probably get is just the day off, and that’s hardly worth it. An Ethiopian holiday is coming up the 19th and 20th of Jan (which makes a four day weekend), so I think I’ll go into Addis then. It comes early enough in the Ethiopian month so that I won’t be in the field, The pattern is getting to be that I stay in Dessie from the first to about the 11th of the Ethiopian month and then go out to the field until the 30th. I think I told you that I’m going to wait until the spring to take a long vacation and then fly down to South Africa. A short hop into Addis will tide me over until then.
Played some tennis last Saturday. That nurse from  Kankakee and I borrowed a couple rackets from the French Volunteers in town and played for a couple hours, The court’s rather lumpy, but it was nice to play some. I asked Mimi a long time ago to send my racket up to me, but haven’t, seen it yet.
Yesterday several of us climbed the mountain that runs along the west side of Dessie and I took some movies and will send them soon. Rolls Number 9 and 10. The great expanse of tin roofed houses to the right is the Piazza. My finger appears twice in Roll #10, the first time pointing out where the MES office is and the second time pointing out where my house is. I didn’t bother to point out the Piazza, as you’ll recognize it. Off in the distance, looking between the mountains, you can see Kombolcha, and perhaps part of the road that leads down there. 0h. I almost forgot to tell you about Roll  8. I shot that in Kombolcha about a month ago. The Volunteers there had a party and we went down there. Not all of the Dessie Volunteers are in the shots, and a couple of the kids are the French Volunteers. Cindy Lee’s in them (she’s the redhead). I sent that to the Kodak Lab a while ago, so you might have it by now,

I’ll wait until I get home to finish this, as I forgot if there was anything in your last letters I was supposed to answer.

You asked if I’d seen Bob. No, he’s in Gondar, which is quite a ways from here. About two weeks by foot straight across. We had talked about meeting in Lalibela some weekend, but I don’t think that’ll ever work out, as neither of us can be sure when we’re going there. Lalibela is in my Zone, but the boundary of Dessie and Gondar Zones is near there. As it is, I think we may see each other in Addis as I wrote and told him I would be going in on that Ethy holiday I mentioned before, and he may go in then too, I don’t know. He has a ticket to South Africa also, so we may get together and go there, though I wouldn’t mind going alone. All of the travel I’ve done has been with someone, and I’d like to do some on my own. Traveling with someone is nice because it’s convenient and you have someone to talk to, but it can  be restricting at times too.
My letter writing is really getting slow. I have two letters from Grandma Haines and one from Grandma Norton laying in the drawer. I finally got one off to Aunt Margaret the other day. Maybe I’ll catch up one of these days. It’s just that there’s really not much to write about.
Love, Ron

 

January 5, 1970
Dear Mom and Dad,
Guess it’s about time I wrote again, as I can’t remember when I wrote last so it must have been a while ago. I was out in the field from the 21st to the 27th of December, up in Alamata Sector. Never did make it to Lalibela as I think I told you I would, as there wasn’t any vehicle available. Maybe some other time.
I was planning to go to another sector this month also, but by the time I got back from Alamata I was pretty sick, so just stayed at home all last week. It was like a severe case of the flu, and as I was pretty tired and run down, it hung on longer than usual. I didn’t have any stomach upset, just a high fever every day and head and chest congestion. I’m feeling better now, but will just stay here the rest of the month as I am still pretty weak. My appetite is starting to come back though.
The Ethiopian Christmas is coming up day after tomorrow, and we get the day off for that. Timket, another holiday that I think corresponds to our Epiphany and is bigger than Christmas, is coming up in a couple weeks, and it’ll make a four-day weekend, so I think I’ll so into Addis. I have to go in anyway, as I’m due for come shots and I also want to see if I can get another passport, as I still want to go to South Africa but they won’t let you in on a Peace Corps passport, so I’ll have to get a regular one. I’ll also have to find out where one goes to get a visa to South Africa. Be just my luck that you have to go to Europe to get one.
The University in Addis is closed. Most of the trouble is just a continuation of last year and the year before, with different details. The government does seem to be a little more harsh, or perhaps “not so soft” is a better way to put it, in dealing with the students. As happened last year, things are not quiet in the provinces either, in fact, there will be even less education taking place in the secondary and some of the primary schools all over the country than there was last year. The anti peace corps propaganda has also stepped up, though you don’t get it all over, a lot in Addis, and some in some other towns, but you can’t generally say that’s the feeling of all. We haven’t gotten any of it in Dessie, for instance. As a result of this yearly falling apart of the educational system, and the increased anti pc and general anti foreigner feeling among a lot of the more vocal students, it looks like there won’t be many pcv’s here next year. I doubt if there will be any teachers, mostly agriculture, rural development, and things like that. This really hasn’t been all that sudden, as this year, as the result of the disruptions of last year, far fewer teachers were sent over than in previous years.
That’s all about Ethiopia, I get tired of talking about it, and you can probably read about it in the newspapers months before I get around to telling you about it.
Work goes on as usual still have the good moments and the bad. The main difference between this year and last is the presence of boredom and the feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world, but I’m getting along OK.

Cathleen came through here on a field trip about the middle of last week.    She’s doing fine, and has finished the movie she was making for the Livestock and Meat Board. She’s made some good contacts with some people that are here for Nat’l Geographic, and has a good start toward becoming a freelance photographer. She’ll be leaving Ethiopia about the middle of Feb. .
Nothing specific has turned up in the way of a job for next year, but it’s still early. I’ve sent off several applications for teaching jobs in South East Asia, but probably won’t hear about them for several months. I’m also writing letters trying to get a journalism job overseas but I really doubt if anything comes through, as my experience in practical journalism is nil.
Happy New Year.
Love,  Ron

 

NOTE: The letter above and the one below were contained in the same envelope, hence the convoluted explanation below.

 

Jan 7
Dear Mom and Dad,
Wrote the enclosed letter a couple days ago, and never did get around to mailing it. I used a 10 instead of a 55 cent aerogramme, so I’d have to go to the post office to get some more stamps if I wanted to mail it. But I do have an 80 cent stamp so I can write a regular letter and mail it from the office.

You understand all that? The fallacy of it all is that I do not have any more envelopes, so I’ll have to go uptown tomorrow anyway to get some. Now is it clear?
Got your joint letter yesterday. Was a little confused reading Dad’s part until I realized he had written it. Some of those Christmas gifts sounded pretty odd for a woman to get.
Had Christmas dinner on the 25th at the mission station in Alamata. There is a missionary, his wife and children and a middle aged nurse there, all German. They’ve been there for eight years. I’d met them before, so it was no problem finagling an invitation. Got proselytized after dinner though, which is one of the hazards of going to dinner at a missionary’s. When I visit missionaries, I usually expect some sort of service after dinner, but this was a bit much. Like a zealous encyclopedia salesman.
I’m going out into the field next week for a few days, but it should be pretty easy, as I’m just going to Woldia Sector to do some paperwork at the sector office. I’m still planning to go into Addis a week from Saturday.
I’m fully recovered from the flu. Yesterday was the first day I really felt myself again. Today was the Ethiopian Christmas, and myself and one of the guys from the office spent the day going around visiting people, as is the custom. The only bad thing about it is that at the end of the day you’re pretty well stuffed, as wherever you go you have to eat and drink.
That’s about it. I’ll try to remember to mail this tomorrow.
Love,  Ron

 

January 27, 1970
Dear Mom and Dad:
Got back from Addis Saturday night. Had planned to come back sooner, but things took longer to get done than I figured they would. The schools in Addis still haven’t opened, and I doubt if they get things running at all this year. I was talking to some students and some teachers while I was there, and from what I gathered from them, the scene at the University when the soldiers came on campus was a real horror show.  Bullets were flying everywhere. The head of the Political Science dept was hit by a stray bullet as he was standing in the faculty lounge.
I got a lot of visiting in while I was there, as everything was closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Saw the Diments (used to play tennis with him), Alvar and Vlasta Soderholm (that Swedish friend and his Ygoslav wife), Pat Hutton (head of the English Dept), and several others. It was nice to just spend a few days visiting. Most of them feel sorry for me, as they have a horrible picture of what living in the boonies is like. I guess it would
be pretty horrible for some of them.
Have lost some weight, am down to 150. Nothing to worry about, as I think it’s just the change of diet. I eat injerra and wat all of the time, except for when I fix sandwiches, and it doesn’t put the weight on you that potatoes and bread do.
Glad you got the film and the calendar 0K. I had Mimi buy and send the calendar, as you can’t buy them here. I also had her send one to June. Did she get it?
Guess I’ll go out to the field tomorrow for a week or so. It’s only the 19th in the Ethy calendar, so I really can’t justify sitting in Dessie to the end of the month. If it was the 25th or so, I’d just stay here.
In case you haven’t gotten on to my schedule yet, I stay in Dessie for the first ten or so days of the Ethiopian month, and then go out in the field until the 30th. Today is the 19th of Ter, or Tir, I don’t know how they spelled it in that calendar, 1962. It gets a bit confusing sometimes working with two time schemes. Makes you realize what artificial things calendars and watches are.
Got the paperwork done for my visa to South Africa. Had to get a new passport, as they won’t let you in on a peace Corps passport, and even with the new one it’s a little doubtful if I’ll get the visa. I’ll find out in 4-6 weeks, so I plan to take a vacation around the last part of March. So now I’m a two passport family.
Dale Bartley wants to take a motorcycle tour of Africa starting around july or august, so if nothing comes through in the way of a job, it looks like that’s what I’ll do when I get out of here. If I do land a teaching job for next year though, I’ll take it  I want to get my foot in the English teaching market, as the pay is good and it’s a great way to get around the world, changing jobs and scenery every year or two. I almost hope no job comes through, as the motorcycle trip sounds great. We could maybe write a book about it when we get back.
As you have probably gathered, I have no idea when I’ll be home yet. If I get a job that pays transportation from the states, I’ll probably be home for a couple weeks, but that’s just speculation.
Say hello to Gary for me, and I hope Rog got through his finals OK. How’s Tim doing?
Love,  Ron

 

Feb. 10
Dear Mom and Dad,
I think I wrote a letter when I got back from Addis, so this will take up from then. I left the 27th or 28th of jan for the field, and got back last Saturday. I went to Kombolcha, Kemissie, Karakurie, Senbete, Robi, and Debre Berhan, all of which are on the main road to Addis, and Ankober, which is off on a side road from Debre Berhan. There’s a valley beyond Ankober where there is some work going on, but to get to it you have to go to Ankober. Ankober itself is pretty high, over 10,000 ft. above sea level, so is pretty cold. There’s a terrific view from there of the Rift Valley, very similar to those shots I took of the valley near Sheno, except that at this point the valley is much wider than it was near Sheno. I traveled by myself mainly, and stayed with MES people in the different towns. .
The shortage of money in the Ethiopian Gov’t is beginning to hit the Malaria
Eradication Service, salaries were real late in coming last month, and so far that of this month hasn’t arrived. There was also talk while I was in Addis at the main office of cutting back on some of the activities. Stupid really, as the gov’t knew what this program was going to cost when it started it, and also knew that you couldn’t quit half way through, or all that had been spent before would be wasted. I think they’ll probably turn it into a control program, which is much cheaper, instead of trying to continue with an all-out eradication program.
The drive from Debre Berhan to Ankober was really something, as you’re so high up that sometimes you’re above the clouds, and sometimes you’re below them. We were lucky that it wasn’t real cloudy, as then it would have been like being in thick fog, but the clouds were light and scattered.
I don’t have a definite termination date this year. I can leave about any time I want after May or so. I can leave right from here. When I terminate depends on what comes up for next year.
The journalism jobs I’m thinking about are quite a step for no one with any experience. I could get a job on a small paper in the states easily, but I’d like to get something overseas, which is a different story. I’ve gotten replies to enquiries of Time and Newsweek, and they both only place people overseas after they’ve worked in the states for some time, so there’s not much hope of getting into journalism without starting at the bottom.
Guess I’ll have to stick with teaching if I want to work overseas next year.
Don’t know if I told you or not, maybe I did, but Dale Bartley is interested in touring Africa and anywhere else we could afford to go by motorcycle next year, so if nothing comes up in the way of a job, I’ll probably end up doing that.
No, haven’t gotten anything from the church. If they did send anything, they probably have sent it sea mail, as they’ve done in the past, so it’ll be a while before it gets here.
The schools are still out here in Dessie, as I think they must be in Addis too. Through the rumor mill, it seems that most of the secondary schools in the country are out. Dessie’s been quiet, and the anti-peace corps propaganda in general coming out of the University students seems to have lessened. We’re more a scapegoat than anything else for the extreme frustration that any well-educated person living in a place like this would feel. It’s fashionable to be anti-American these days anyway. I’m just beginning myself to get a feeling of what it must be like to be a citizen of such an underdeveloped country in the 20th Century, so don’t feel dumb if you can’t understand why they do what they do.

I’ve figured out why they charged you for the film. When you buy film with the processing already paid, there is a mailer enclosed, which you don’t get if the processing isn’t prepaid. I have some of both kinds. What happened was that I used a mailer for some film on which the processing wasn’t prepaid. I thought it would be OK, but they must have the film itself marked also. Seems silly, as you have to pay for the film processing to get the mailer. I did it that way because I didn’t have anything to wrap it in to send it to you directly. So, I’ll send the film I got out of the repaid package to them in a regular envelope when I shoot it. They should do the processing, as the film must be marked. They sent me a copy of the letter they sent to you.
Guess I’ll be in Dessie for the next week or so, then out to the field again. Don’t know yet where I’ll be going. I’ll write again before I go.
Love, Ron

 

February 23, 1970
Dear Mom and Dad,
Greetings from Dessie. Everything’s the same here as it was when I last wrote.  No, Dale isn’t in Ethiopia, but he can get a job as a tour leader of a group of high school kids going to Kenya, and he can get his way paid that far by doing that, so he’ll only have to pay from Kenya to here.

There’s nothing new as far as jobs, etc. for next year. . .I really don’t have much to say in this letter, but thought I’d better write as I’m going out to the field in a couple days, and if I waited until I got back to write, that would be a pretty long time without writing. I expect I’ll stay out in the field until the 8th or 9th of March (end of the Ethy month).
The school here in Dessie still hasn’t started, though I hear that things are getting back to normal in Addis. I don’t know what it’s all about, or rather, I don’t know why they haven’t made some decision one way or the other about the school here, either close it for good, or open it and let those who want to go to class go. If I tried to find out more about what’s going on here, I’m sure the whole thing would just appear more absurd to me than it is now.
Got a couple favors to ask of you. First, a recent copy of Nat’l Geographic (it might be last month’s, or this month’s) has an article about the Donakil region of Ethiopia in it, and I would like you to send me a copy if possible.
This is the article that was done by this friend of Cathleen’s who was back in the country a while ago. She went with the expedition for a couple weeks while they were taking pictures for the article. That was during our first year here, when she was stationed in Makelle, halfway between here and Asmara.  Secondly, a recent issue of Africa Report, a magazine, also had an article about Ethiopia in it. I don’t know how widely Africa Report is circulated, so you may not be able to get it in KKK. If that’s the case, forget it. You may try the library in town, as the article would be worth your time to read. I think it was the most recent issue. It comes out quarterly, if I remember correctly. Another thought, maybe Roger could get it at the U of I Library (I’m sure he can), Xerox the article, send it to you, you can read it, and send it to me. There was a copy in Dessie, at the USIS Library, but the article was cut out, probably by a student, as part of the article dwelled on how ineffective any kind of student revolt in Ethiopia would be. So, I think asking Rog to do that would be the easiest way to get it, and it would be cheaper than buying the magazine and sending it.
Just got your Feb. 15 letter. Glad to hear June got the calendar.  Mimi had written me a letter just before she left, and said she’d try to call you while she was home. She was due back yesterday, I think. Cathleen left last week. I saw her and the Canadian fellow she’s traveling with as they came through here on the bus on their way to Asmara. They’re going to take a plane from Asmara to the first stop past the Sudanese border and go by  land from there to the Nile, which they will take to Cairo.  From Cairo, they will, go East. They plan to spend 6-7 months traveling. Makes me hot to get out of here.
I’ve taken care of my income tax from here, so you can junk the stuff they sent to you. . Had another round of the flu last week, but it only lasted a couple days this time, so wasn’t so bad.
Believe it or not, it’s 8:30 in the evening here in Dessie, and I’m sitting here with the front window open. Not that it’s so hot here, but it’s a lot less cold than it has been. The past couple weeks have been really nice.

There are some Philippinos here teaching now, recently hired by some Ethiopian recruiters who went to the Philippines. They are really Americanized. For instance, we PCV’s had lunch with a couple of them on Feb. 14, and it was they who remembered it was Valentine’s Day! There is one family, the husband is a teacher, the wife stays home, and they have a 12 year old daughter and a small baby. There is also a single girl who also teaches. She’s about 23. From the way she describes her childhood, it sounds like Victorian England, chaperones and all. The 12 year old daughter in the family has an adolescent crush on one of the PC teachers here, who of course does everything he can to stay out of her way. I guess there were about 140 Philippinos all together who signed contracts to teach in Ethiopia, and they are spread all over the country, and judging from the ones here in Dessie, they’re not too happy about what they found when they got here. The one up the road in Woldia walks around all the time with a Vick’s inhaler up his
nose complaining about the smell. Ethiopia is a far cry from a modern island paradise.
The candle making sounds like fun. Too bad one can’t make a living doing the things one finds it fun to do.
Love, Ron

 

March 11, 1970
Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m having a little game with these aerogrammes, trying to see how many stamps I can stick on one before they declare it overweight and send it back for more postage. . .
Got back Monday from another couple weeks in the field. Spent the whole time in Alamata Sector, and finally got out to Lalibela. Spent about five days out there, four days working and one as a tourist. The churches are pretty impressive. The drive out there is pretty rough, about six hours from the main road. You can imagine what a secondary road is like, after seeing some of my movies of the main roads. I took my camera along, but the batteries were dead and I couldn’t get any in Lalibela. I should have checked them before I left Dessie, but I didn’t find out until the last minute that we might get out to Lalibela, so I just threw it in the truck without thinking about how long the batteries’d been in there. I found out that driving on these back roads isn’t really driving, it’s work. I drove about three hours on the way back, and I was exhausted. We took one of the small Jeeps. Those things are practically indestructible.

(It was in Lalibela that I saw the real ‘ugly tourist’ example in action.  The plane–a DC-3–came in from Addis only twice a week, and it was something of a spectator sport among  the townspeople to go watch it land.  So we did too.  The plane landed, a few tourists got off, greeted by a few beggars standing around with their hands out.  This one woman tourist just went bananas, jabbering about how they didn’t have any shoes on and practically throwing money at them.)

Things are typically slow here at the office. We’re having a refresher course here for sector personnel in preparation for the next spray round, which will start near the end of April. Lots of the stuff is the same as before, except they’ve changed some of the forms. The guy they sent from Addis to conduct the course is a real dumb dumb, so everyone’s getting more confused than necessary.

Looks like the four sectors that we have in Surveillance will be taken out of Surveillance, and just normal spraying conducted there.  The MES is running short of money, and since Surveillance is very expensive, mainly because of the amount of personnel needed, they’ve decided to backtrack to save money. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they gave up on eradication altogether and just made the whole thing a control program.  Eradication is pretty expensive, and it’s becoming evident that it’s close to impossible to achieve at this time, especially with little to no public health facilities and any sense of national organization non-existent when you get out of the larger towns.
I’ll be leaving for Addis next Sunday for a month vacation. I’ll find out when I get there if I got the visa to South Africa… If I didn’t, I’ll just go to East Africa again I guess. Bob Hazlett might go with me, I don’t know.
I wrote him a while ago telling him when I’m going, but I don’t know what his plans for vacation are. I don’t think I could put it off much longer, I’m really ready for a vacation.
Your talk about a wardrobe sounded funny, as I have a two-costume wardrobe
here, the pants and shirt I wear when I go to the field and the pants and shirt I wear when I’m in town. I’ve gotten very used to wearing the same thing day after day. When you look around and see what people wear here, you become very clothes unconscious. It makes a lot more sense than having a closet full of things you never wear.
That’s about all the news from here. I’ll send you a postcard from where ever I end up. It’ll be on a nice sandy beach, I’m just not sure which country.
Love, Ron

 

April 21, 1970
Dear Mom and Dad,
Back in Dessie, got back last Saturday. The vacation was nice, too bad it had to end. I left for Nairobi on Friday the 20th, and met Bob there the following Wednesday. We almost missed each other, as he arrived in Addis the day before I left. If he had arrived later we wouldn’t have been able to make plans for where and when to meet in Nairobi. After Bob came to Nairobi, we went down to Mombassa for some swimming. We stayed there about 9 days altogether, and it was great of course. We had a problem getting into a hotel on the beach, as it was Easter weekend and everyone from Nairobi goes down to the coast for the long weekends. There were also a lot of people who work for different airlines, as they can fly free, so why not spend Easter weekend in Kenya.
Anyway, we finally found a hotel that had a cancellation, so stayed there. The prices down there are fantastic by American standards. Nine U.S. dollars a day in a hotel that’s right on the beach, almost luxury rooms, morning tea, three full meals, and afternoon tea. And the meals are great, soup course, fish course, main course, vegetables, etc., dessert–and, cheese and crackers.  You have to do a hell of a lot of swimming to wear off meals like that.
After Mombassa, I want back up to Nairobi to catch a flight for Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam. Bob stayed in Mombassa for a couple days, as he wanted to buy some stuff, and wasn’t going to Tanzania. I met up with him about a week later, as the plane I took from Dar to Addis stopped in Nairobi, and he got on.
Zanzibar was nice, very Arab (used to be ruled by the same Shah who ruled Amman), and reminded ne very much of Jerusalem, because of the narrow, winding streets. (I sent you a postcard from there that has a pic on it of one of the streets, hope you got it).  I bought an Arab gown and cap to wear at our fantastic costume parties here in Dessie, but managed to resist the more expensive items for sale in Zanzibar. They have some chests made out of teak with brass fittings that are really nice. Zanzibar is also pretty famous for gold and silver work. I took a trip around the island and saw the clove and coconut plantations, the main export commodity. From there I flew to Dar, which is really a nice city, though not as big and modern as Nairobi. The harbor is situated right in the town, and it’s really a sight at night to go down to the park next to the water and look at all the ships all lit up. I went swimming a couple times at one of the beaches near town. The big tourist attraction in Dar is the Makonde wood sculpture, and I bought a couple pieces for Alvar and Vlasta (that Swedish fellow and his wife who I know in Addis) and Mimi. I also bought one for myself and sent a couple home to you. You will probably get them in a month or so, as they went by sea. Let me know when they arrive., The Makonde sculpture is much different from the normal East African wood sculpture in that it’s more of an art, and has just recently become a tourist attraction. The normal East African woodwork is shiny black, and, has only a few basic patterns which they churn out like cupcakes for the tourists. Makonde art is very individualistic, and it’s almost impossible to find two alike. It’s rougher and doesn’t have the shiny finish. I’m afraid that in the near future Makonde sculpture will become more and more of a tourist item and less and less of an art. It will still be an art in that it take a lot of skill to do it, but it will be less of a thing between an artist and his creation and more of a business. From Dar I came back to Addis, and spent a few days at the MES HQ there. They’ve pulled all our sectors out of Surveillance (think I told you that might happen), so it looks like I’ll have to busy myself with the spraying activity, which will start again in a couple weeks. We’re going to have to do a lot of juggling of personnel, as we now have many more than we need, since there‘s no surveillance. We can use most of them during this spray round, but after that we’ll have to fire a lot of them. I hope we have enough money by that time to give them their one month’s severance pay, otherwise we won’t be able to fire them. It’s really a vicious circle. Not enough money to fire them, and some times not enough to even keep paying their salary, but there‘ll be no work for them.
I think I got all your letters. Got one from Rick too. You said Rog sent one, but I haven’t gotten it yet. Nothing new on next year yet. Got an Easter Card from  “The Daniel Nortons”. Can you fill me in on who they are? I assume they’re somebody on your side of the family.
Have a nice cold, think I got it from Mimi, so am fighting that. I seem to pick up colds at the drop of a hat this year. Mimi’s going home in another couple weeks. Her Dad’s about the same as he was when she went home last time. She wants to travel in Europe, but feels she should go straight home because of her father. Plus her brother’s getting married in May, and she would like to be there for that.
I found out one thing this vacation, it’s a lot nicer traveling in the off season, a lot less people. There were a lot of people in Mombassa, but only because it was Easter weekend. After the weekend, it was really nice. Flying is nice in the off season too. From Dar to Addis, there were only about 30 people on the EAL Boeing 707. On a plan that big, that’s like flying all by yourself.
Running out of room, and it’s time to eat supper.
Love, Ron

 

May 6
Dear Mom and Dad,
Got your letter with the pictures of the Lake in it (the color ones, think I told you I’d received the others before). You should have gotten a letter from me by the time you wrote that one, as I wrote one after returning to Dessie, so it, may have gotten lost, or at least held up for a while.
Haven’t been doing too much. Two weekends ago we had a four day weekend for Ethiopian Easter, but I just stayed in town. Felt good to just sit around and do nothing. Mimi stopped here for one day during that weekend (actually not a whole day, as she got here Thursday afternoon and left Friday morning. She drove up with some friends who were going to Asmara. She was going to go all the way up with them by car, but because the small civil war that’s always going on up there is getting pretty hot, the PC office advised volunteers not to travel up there by road. One volunteer (from another country, he was vacationing here) was kidnapped by soldiers of the breakaway faction while he was taking the train from Asmara to Massawa, and returned a couple days later. The PC office said no ransom was paid, but there are rumors to the contrary. The constant border skirmish between Ethiopia and the Sudan has also flared again, so things are really popping up north. About seventy truckloads of soldiers went through Dessie on their way north shortly before I left for vacation. People said they were going to fight on the border, but I think some of them are probably fighting the Liberation Front. US arms and advisors are involved, by the way, and there aren’t even any “communists” in sight.  US foreign policy makes me sick.
Well, I was talking about Mimi. Since she couldn’t continue up to Asmara with those people, she stayed here overnight and flew to Lalibela the next day. Her plans were to fly from there to Axum (on the Gondar Road), and meet those people as they were coming down the Gondar road on the way back to Addis. She’s probably left, or about to leave, the country by now, and will go almost straight home. Last I heard her father had improved some, but it’s still pretty serious.
I haven’t been out to the field yet. May go next week or the week after. It’s kind of hard to get moving again after a vacation. It took a couple days, but my stomach readjusted to good food while in East Africa, but now it will have to get used to what’s available in the field again. I have absolutely no taste for food in the field, just eat because I get hungry.
The office had a party Saturday afternoon for five guys who are being transferred to other zones. It was nice, dinner, beer. After small presents were presented, anyone who wanted to stood up and talked, mainly about past arguments or fights with the people who were leaving, and apologies were asked and given. They also talked about the good times they’d had together. I could feel how emotional it was, and couldn’t even understand half of what was said. It’s a nice way to say goodby to someone.
Another interesting thing along that line is what happens when someone dies.
This usually happens among kids though, not adults. Let me explain with an
example.  A grandfather of one of my students’ friends died last week, and for three nights all the kid’s friends got together with him and told stories and played pranks “to make him laugh so he would forget his sorrow.” Kind of interesting. Adults don’t do that from what I’ve seen. The bereaved just sits in his house for a couple days, and friends come over and commiserate with him. Tea and bread is usually served.  All is very somber, none of the laughing like the kids do.

I had yesterday off (Liberation Day, celebrating chasing the Italians out) so I tried to catch up on letters. It’d been so long since I have been in the mood to write anyone that there was a lot to do. I answered one from Bill Russell that I received last December.
Nixon’s sending troops to Cambodia. I don’t really care much anymore. I’ve lost hope in a country that says it’s fighting for “democracy” (ask a peasant in S. Vietnam what it has done to improve his life. It’s only the ones riding American cars around Saigon and going to movies on the American army bases who think it’s great) in South East Asia and sells arms to the generals in Greece and the bigots in South Africa (which is true) at the
same time. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t possibly find a logical, humanitarian argument to defend US foreign policy. It’s simply an untenable, hypocritical position. More than fifty per cent of the American aid that comes to Ethiopia is in the form of arms and ammunition. We spend more money propping up governments around the world than we do feeding people. But no, never interfere in the internal affairs of another country.  What does a country like Ethiopia need a defense budget for? Mainly to protect the
government against internal dissenters. No wonder people are anti-American. Enough of that. It’s all pretty discouraging when you view it from outside the states. I guess when you are in the states, you just don’t think about it much, and also you don’t find out a lot of what’s going on.
Got to quit. I’m at work now, and it’s time to go home.
Love, Ron

 

June 20, 1970
Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m back in town for a few days again. I left the 9th of June for Assaita Sector, and spent time in Dufte, Waytu (both off the main road between the road and Assaita), Assaita, and Assab. It’s really hot all over out there, but Assaita was particularly hot because its built on a hill of volcanic rock, and all the buildings are made of this rock. Nothing like sitting on top of a pile of very hot rocks in the middle of the desert. Also, there is very little wind there. The only thing growing out there is scrub about a foot high. Dufte was much better, mainly because it is on the desert floor and not on a pile of rock, and also because it’s next to the Awash River (that blue line running from Lake Abbe on the map. The map is pretty incorrect, as the track from the road to Assaita runs from Loggia, which is east of Tendaho and not even on the map, not Tendaho. Also, the river runs further to the north, closer to Assaita, than is indicated on the map.) There’s usually a breeze in Dufte, though it sometimes kicks up so much dust on the plain that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. At least the air is moving. It’s uncomfortable sitting in front of an open window though, as the air is so hot. Like sitting in front of an open blast furnace. Dufte is where the large cotton plantation is, and things are pretty green, as there is much irrigation from the river. The spray camp was right along the river in a grove of trees, so that was pretty nice, being able to take a swim after a long hot day. The nights are very hot out there, about like the days, only no sun. The breeze stops at night, so you just lay there and sweat. I slept outside in my underwear shorts with no covers and sweated all night. Driving across the desert is great fun, as long as you don’t get stuck in soft sand. There are a lot of ostrich out there, fun to chase.
The main road to Assab is paved all the way once you get past Loggia (near Tendaho). Most of is flat and straight, as would be expected, though there are some gorges you have to climb into and out of. The scenery’s pretty bleak, nothing but dirty sand and grey rock, nothing like the Western US. At Assab we camped a couple minutes walk from the ocean on the edge of town, so that was nice. Supervising the spraying took me about 60 kilometers south and 30 to the north of the town. The town disappointed me somewhat. The docks are quite small, and the town itself is mostly bars from one end to the other. The old section is like any old Arab town, stone buildings, narrow winding streets. You wouldn’t be able to tell that Assab is a seaside town if you couldn’t see the ocean, as no one seems to live off the sea, as they do in the other seaside towns I’ve been in. There are no fishing boats, or fish nets strung up around like I saw in Mombassa, Malindi, and Dar.
The people who live there either work in the oil refinery, on the docks, or in the bars and shops. I realize I haven’t commented on that letter to the editor of Rick’s that you sent. Rick’s point is well taken, but since I obviously haven’t done the reading on world food production that he has, I can’t say more than that about it. I would have taken Mr. Chamberlain to task on his naivety about political systems in the third world. Even the title of his article presupposes something that doesn’t exist. “When capitalism is working” sounds fine, but he doesn’t admit that it takes more than what the third world has for capitalism to work. Do some reading on Tanzania under Dr. Nyere. I think that’s about the best answer yet to what the third world countries have to do. Sorry I can’t put my thoughts down more coherently. My mind has stopped working the last couple months.
No news about what happens after I leave here. Right now all I can say is that after the end of July I have no forwarding address. I plan to leave for the field again Monday or Tuesday for a couple weeks, and after that I’ll stay in Dessie, selling the furniture, etc.
Love,  Ron
PS  Let me tell you something before I forget. Some friends of mine from
here are going to be going to school in Sept near Chicago (Northwestern I think), and I gave them your address and phone number so they may contact
you. His name is Worku, and his wife’s name is Etsegenet (just say it the way it looks). He has graduated from the Law School at the University here, and she used to be my secretary at the University Reporter. She’s been in the states before, one year of high school somewhere in Calif.  They’re really nice people, and I hope they at least give you a call when they arrive.

 

July 1
Mom and Dad,
Got back last night from Robi, Combolcha and Bati sectors. I went to Robi mainly to supervise the spraying, and to Bati and Comboicha to implement some new instructions in the storeroom. Between now and July 7, I will go to Alamata and Woldia sectors.  July 7 is the end of the Ethiopian month, and I don’t intend to do any more traveling after that, as I will need some time to settle things (selling furniture, etc) in Dessie before I leave.
I got word from the Peace Corps office today that there isn’t much to worry about as far as the draft. They probably reclassified me 1A because they thought I was out of the Peace Corps. (In the original letter to the board saying I was going to extend, the Peace Corps didn’t give them my termination date). I assumed they had, that’s why I hadn’t written the board. Anyway, the PC said that since I’m 26, I’m placed in a second priority grouping of the 1A classification, and my chances of being drafted are about nil. So it looks like I’ll be able to do some traveling after all. Not sure where I’ll be going. Got a letter from Bartley, and that job to East Africa he applied for fell through, and he’ll only have enough money to fly to Europe and meet me there, so it looks like the traveling will be in Europe instead of Africa and the East as I had thought before.
Everything’s still up in the air though. About communications if I’m traveling: I will send you an itinerary when I know what it is, and you will have to send things to the American Embassy in the towns on the list, taking into account the mailing time. In case of emergency, how fast I can be reached will depend on where I am. If I’m between major cities, I will be incommunicado, but when I’m in a major city, I’ll leave information at the Embassy. All in all, I won’t be much more out of contact than I have been this year at times. The only difference will be that my address will be constantly changing.
I’m ready to leave Ethiopia. This year has been pretty exhausting psychologically. I’d judge it equivalent to about 2 or maybe more years of teaching in Ethiopia. When you’re teaching and living in one place, you can always escape from the dirt, dust, inefficient ways of doing things corruption, etc. etc. by sitting in your house or running to the teachers’ room, but out in the field there is nowhere to go. And these last two months have been especially wearing because of all the traveling I’ve been doing. I usually escape when I get back to Dessie by sitting in my house reading old time mags and listening to records and eating Cornflakes for a day after I get back from the field.
So my plans are still the same, or rather I should say, as ambiguous as before. There’s only a month left, and as letters take about 10 days at the least, I don’t know if Bartley and I will be able to get anything arranged. This contradicts what I said in the earlier part of this letter, but a letter arrived from him since I started this letter, and he’s not at all sure at this point about being able to get away. It’s pretty hard trying to arrange things on short notice from this distance.

Plans are still to leave Dessie at the end of July and spend about a week in Addis before leaving the country, so plan your letter writing accordingly.  If you send anything to Addis (PO Box 1096) write “hold for arrival from Dessie” on it so they don’t return it.
That’s about it.
Love, Ron

 

July 7, 1970
Dear Mom and Dad,
Got back from Alamata and Woldia yesterday, and I’ll be staying in Dessie until it’s time to leave for Addis. There isn’t much work for me to do here at the office, and I could probably leave now, but that would mean giving up salary for the month of July, which is about US$200, so I’ll stay put. I’ve managed to save quite a wad from my salary this year, about US$800, but mainly because I’ve spent so much of my time out in the field, where there’s no place to spend it. Things are pretty quiet in Dessie. All the Peace Corps folks except one have left, the nurses for a vacation in East Africa, and the others to Addis for a short vacation before summer school starts (July 17).
I’m in the midst of selling things now, and it’s a hassle. I’m going to sell about everything, in fact have already sold this typewriter, but the guy (an Indian teacher here) agreed to let me keep it until I’m ready to leave. I’ve got to get my trunk packed and send it to Addis one of these days too, so that means deciding what to put in it and making sure it doesn’t weigh more than the 100 pound limit authorized by the Peace Corps. The key enclosed in this letter is one of the two keys I have to the trunk. I’ll have the trunk sent to KXK, and I want you to open it when it comes and check that everything’s in good shape. Probably the only thing that might get banged up are the records, and think the only other things that will be in it are some clothes. Anyway, check when it arrives, and you might want to throw some mothballs in it or something, and hang the sport coats up, etc. The Peace Corps said we should receive the trunk about a month after termination, which means it should get there in the first part of Sept. Let me know if it doesn’t arrive by the end of Sept.  In the case of damage, notify the agent that delivered it to the house and have them inspect it. They probably won’t do much, but don’t worry about it as the things inside will be insured. When I get it packed up, I’ll send you a list of what’s inside.
Looks like I’ll definitely meet Bartley in London after I leave here.  Our last letters to each other crossed in the mail. I wrote that I would prefer meeting him in London the second week in August, and he wrote that he could get a cheap charter to London at the end of July. The British make good motorbikes, so we can just start from there. I have no idea as to the time I’ll be traveling, that depends on how fast the money goes.
As I said, I’ll send you an itinerary when we get it worked out. Not much more to write. I mainly wanted to send you the key and let you know about the trunk before I forgot.
Love, Ron

 

 

July 17, 1970

Dear Mom and Dad,

Got your letter about receiving the Makondes. Glad you got them 0K.
I have sent a letter to the draft board telling them when I will leave Ethiopia, and telling them to send things to you from that date onward, and to allow time for forwarding. Since I seem to be out of the woods as far as that’s concerned, they probably won’t be sending anything of importance.
I can’t be any more definite about travel itinerary, as Dale wrote and said he can’t get on that charter, and doesn’t have the money to fly regular fare, so won’t be able to meet me in London as planned. So, I don’t know where I’m going to start. I’ll probably fly to Rome first, and then to Munich, checking prices of new and used bikes. If I find a good deal in either of those places, I’ll start from there. If not, I’ll continue to London and buy one there. Since I’ll not be doing any traveling in Africa, I won’t need as big a one as planned, so won’t buy a new BMW. The smallest BMW they sell is 500 cc’s, and costs nine hundred, which is quite a lot, so it would be smarter to sett’e for a smaller British bike at less cost. Also, the revaluation upwards of the German Mark would work against me, and the devaluation of the British Pound will work for me, since I’ll be buying it with US dollars.
As plans go, I’ll be leaving Dessie two weeks from today, and will have to spend about a week in Addis getting things taken care of there. Bob Hazlett still has another year to go before he’s 26, and is thinking about staying here for another year. He may also be able to get out of it medically, as he’s really been having problems with his stomach here, but he would have to take the chance of going back to the states and hoping he could get out of it. I’ll see him when I get to Addis, as he’ll be getting in about the same time I do.
There shouldn’t be too much stuff for you to forward to me while I’m traveling but the easiest way to do it would be to open what you get and just send what’s inside along with a letter whenever you write one. Be sure to write the return address somewhere of whoever it’s from, in case I don’t have it. Just send personal mail. For instance, Beta Sigma Psi has been sending alum stuff to me here, but don’t bother forwarding it. As I said, there shouldn’t be much stuff. I’m not corresponding with very many people.

Enclosed are a couple of pictures Mohammed and I had taken when we were inRon Haines in Ethiopia 1969
Woldia about a month and a half ago. His name is Mohammed Ali. In spite of all the propaganda this country puts out, it’s more Muslim than Christian.
There’s not much happening in Dessie. Gerry Jones has been in town the last
couple of weeks, and there are others that arrived yesterday, as summer school starts today. The nurses are still on vacation in East Africa and not due back until August 8, so I may see them in Addis before I take off. I finally got my trunk sent to Addis, and have sold almost all my furniture. I would go now, but I can’t leave the country before August 5 without forfeiting salary, and I don’t want to just sit in Addis, because I don’t know anyone there anymore, and would just end up spending too much money. So here I sit.
Love, Ron

 

July 24, 1970
Dear Mom and Dad,
Not all that much to write about, but did want to enclose this clipping that I keep forgetting to send. I’ve got everything taken care of here, and have sent the trunk to Addis. I’ll still leave Dessie July 31 as planned, but can’t be any more specific about where I’m going after that. I think I told you that Bartley won’t be able to meet me in London as we had planned.

A couple of my friends from Dessie are going to take a month’s vacation in India starting the end of August, and I may stay here until then and go with them. They will be coming back to Ethiopia, as they still have a year to go, and I would start overland from India to Europe. I want to talk to the Indian Embassy to see if it’s possible to get out of India by land through Pakistan. If it’s not possible, then I’ll have to consider how much it’ll cost me to fly out. I’ll know after I get to Addis and have a chance to get my questions answered. It’s possible that I’ll buy a motorcycle there, but I have to find out how much import duty they charge. This may work out pretty well, as I wanted to go to India anyway. It would be better to start there instead of going to Europe and coming back, and then having to get back to Europe again. And it’ll be nice to have someone to travel with for a while, especially in a place like India. It costs about the same to get from here to India as it does to get from here to Europe.
It’s like a game trying to figure out the best route to take so I’ll see what countries I want to see without backtracking. I’d like to see Thailand also, but Burma’s between it and India and the border between India and Burma is closed, so I’d have to fly. Too bad all these countries are squabbling with each other. If all were peaceful, I could just leave by land from here and go up, through the Middle East.
So as things stand now, I’ll be in Addis at least until the 7th of August, and perhaps longer. I’ll let you know later.
The trunk won’t be sent from Addis until I get there. Did you get the key and the instructions on what to do with the trunk when it arrives? I’ll send you the packing list later.  The number of things like sox and underwear etc is an approximation as I forgot to count them when I packed.  I had to give a number and dollar value for everything for the insurance.  I might as well just do the packing list now.

Here it is:
Item, Qty, Value
records 33 1/3 rpm, 20, $80
suitcase,  1,   30.
radio, 1,   100.
tennis racket, 1, 35.
camera case, 1,  10.
misc, office supplies, 10.
sport coats, 2,  60.
sweater, 1, 10.
trousers, 1, 5.
shirts, 2, 10.
underwear, 10 sets, 25.
socks, 15, 20.
towels, 7, 15.
misc clothing, 30.
This is mainly in case the trunk is lost and I have to notify the insurance company. I will have a copy of this also. That’s about it for now. I’ll let. you know where I’m going when I find out.
Love, Ron

August 5, 1970
Dear mom and dad,
Am still in Addis getting things taken care of. Got the letters that you have written and addressed to here. Got out of Dessie Friday as planned and was lucky enough to get a ride from there to Addis with one of the people from Headquarters who was coming through.
I will definitely be starting my travels from India, and plan to leave here about August 22. Am waiting for those friends of mine from Dessie. So let’s say that from then to Sept. 20, my address will be c/o American Embassy, Delhi, India. After that I plan to go by train to Pakistan, but probably won’t be going to Karachi, so won’t be able to give you an address in Pakistan.  I’ll be able to tell you more after I get to India.
Let me answer some of the questions in your last letter:  Of the readjustment allowance, I get one-third of it when I leave here and the rest will be sent to you shortly after I leave. Just put it in the account.  I shouldn’t need any of it while traveling, but if I do eventually, I’ll write instructing you how much and where and how to send it.
That lock on the filing cabinet doesn’t work because the key broke off in it a long time ago. You may be able to get it open by pressing your thumb or finger flat against the lock and trying to turn it clockwise, or using some tool to do the same. Anyway, you have to fiddle with it. If that doesn’t work, you may have to take the lock apart, which is OK, as it doesn’t work anyway.
Bob’s not in town, but I talked to him on the phone Sat, and he said he’d be coming in Thursday or Friday of this week. I’m just about done with things here in Addis, and may go back up to Dessie until those guys get through teaching and are ready to leave. I’m just spending too much money here in Addis, what with the hotel, restaurants and shows. That’s about it for now. Let me run over again my itinerary for the next month or so.
Now through August 22 Addis
Aug 22 thru Sept. 20 Delhi, India
Love, Ron

 

August 14, 1970

Dear Mom and Dad,

Not much new since the last letter.  Plans are still the same.  I will be leaving here the 23rd for India with those friends from Dessie.  Am traveling light as usual, an airlines flight bag and a rolled up air mattress.  It’s not hard to travel light.  I just take half of what I think I’ll need and it turns out to be just enough.

Bob’s in town now, and because of the draft is going to stay in Gondar another year with MES.  I’m certainly glad I spent five years in school or I’d be in the same position he’s in.

The trunk has been sent off.  When it gets there there’s no sense you going through the whole packing list unless there’s some indication that it’s been damaged or soaked in water.  More than likely it will still have the metal bands around it, which will mean it hasn’t been opened on the way.   As I said before, the packing list is mainly for the insurance in the event the whole thing is lost.

One other thing.  If you have any outgrown clothes around the house would you pack them up and send them to Wondie?  He’s in need of some as his are getting pretty ragged.  Send as much as you feel like sending, or as little for that matter.  Anything’ll help.  Thanks.  Here’s his address and mark the package Old Clothes No Value.  Ato Wondimagegne Gizaw, PO Box ////, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Readjustment Allowance check they will send you will be for $1,135.19.  Will write from India.

Love, Ron

 

Friday August 21, 1970

Dear Mom and Dad,

By the time you get this I’ll be in India.  I’m leaving this Sunday.  I spent the last week in Gondar and Bahia Dar.  Went up with Bob, he’s going to stay another year, and got back to Addis last night.

I changed all the money I saved this year at the bank this morning (US$850) and picked up my ticket to Bombay, so am ready to go.  The guys I’m traveling with got into town last night and so we’re all set.

I’ve enclosed two copies of a group photo the guys at the MES office in Dessie had taken as my going away present.  I don’t want to carry them around with me while I’m traveling.Ron Haines in Ethiopia 1969

If you look on the map, you can see roughly the route I’ll be taking from India—through Pakisatan, Afganistan, etc—but I can’t give you any times yet.  I will when I get to India.  If an emergency should arise before I’ve told you, you can wire the embassies in the countries along my route.  I’ll try to let you know ahead of time.

Needless to say, I’m ready to leave and am looking forward to the trip.  Between what I’ve saved here, a third of the readjustment allowance, and the money for the ticket from Addis to Chicago, I have almost $2,000 for traveling, minus what it’ll take me to get from Europe to New York.  It should get me around for a while.

That’s about it—mainly wanted to send the pictures.

Love, Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

1 Response to Letters to Mom and Dad

  1. Jenn says:

    Get on this 🙂

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s