Chapter 3. Mark's School & Women's Conference - Michael McCaskey Photography

As soon as possible after our arrival in Addis Abeba, Mark wanted to visit his old school. He had taught English Literature at a high school run by French Jesuits under a special arrangement with the emperor. The school had been renamed and turned into a technical institute.
My students insisted on driving us around the city. When we arrived, the gate was closed because it was Sunday. They talked to the guard and we were soon allowed to drive in. Mark quickly found his classroom. It had become a computer study room and we enjoyed visiting with the current students.

While we were visiting, Mark’s daughter, Tory, joined a circle of young boys kicking a soccer ball. They were waiting for their opportunity to play on the main field after the school team completed their practice. They were pleased to have their picture taken.

The visit highlighted for Mark the difference between his relationship with his students and my relationship with my students. Because I was in a small town, I knew my students outside the classroom as well as in. The teachers and the students in Fitche played volleyball together every day after school. We went on trips, like a trip on a feast day to a nearby monastery, and I visited the parents of students on vacation days. It would have been unusual for Mark, in the big city, to relate to his students in that way. Still, he was visibly moved to be re-visiting his school and we all shared in the emotion.

While in Addis, we received an invitation we couldn’t turn down. The wife of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Azeb Mesfin, was hosting a conference for empowering Ethiopian women. The First Lady, along with several women at the conference, was among the women fighting against the Derg, a military dictatorship which ruled from 1974 to 1987. She is known as a champion for women’s rights. The conference was an assembly of accomplished women from many walks of life.

Hagos Desta, a leading Ethiopian artist and the first woman to have a solo exhibition in Ethiopia, presented one of her paintings as a gift.

Anita Booth, the wife of the U.S. Ambassador attended. Ms. Booth graciously met with Mark and me later to hear about our Peace Corps experience and showed us art by Ethiopian artists on display throughout the embassy.

Workenesh Wolde Yesus is the director of Ethiopian Women Against HIV/AIDS.

Annette Sheckler is Special Advisor to the First Lady and an enthusiastic Chicago Bears fan. So, of course, we sang the Bears fight song together.

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