Chapter 4. My Old School in Fiche - Michael McCaskey Photography

Pretty soon we were eager to see Fiche again. A handful of former students wanted to make the trip with us and see their old school. For Asefa’s son, this would be the first time he would see Fiche. Interestingly, he had never seen the town where his father had grown up.

Here are four of the Fiche gang who made the trip.

We passed through handsome countryside dotted with Eucalyptus trees, cattle and sheep.

Fiche lies three kilometers off the main road. The road that used to be packed earth and gravel is now an all-weather surface durable enough for wheeled vehicles. In fact, tuk-tuks, the auto rickshaws common in the big cities were indeed present in numbers here. To me this was a big change for Fiche. I was used to seeing people walk barefoot for miles to come to school or to the market.

Furthermore, when I arrived in Fiche forty years ago, the town had no electricity or running water. Women had to walk miles with heavy earthen pots on their heads to fetch water. Now the appearance of faucets reminded me of how I used to bathe. Standing in a big metal tub in my kitchen, I would ladle a cup of water heated on the propane gas stove, splash, soap and splash again. Brrr!

Now to see telecommunications towers and a commercial bank in Fiche was a delight and a bit of a shock. In forty years, clearly a lot had changed.

My house the first year was distinguished by having a wooden floor because most of the houses in town had dirt floors. As was typical, we shared the front yard with the landlord’s cow, goat and sheep. I was excited to find the old homestead and the current family welcomed us graciously. We saw the house was in fine shape and there was still a cow and sheep in the compound.

Our arrival at the school was a joyous affair. All the students were lined up and clapping to welcome us. I felt like royalty. The school looked much the same although the metal roof was weathered. Trees growing in front of the school added an unexpected grace note. I was presented with flowers and escorted to one of the classrooms in which I had taught.

The school principal read a formal speech of thanks for Peace Corps teachers. Then one of the teachers with whom I had taught, who was now retired, offered his remarks and memories. When my turn to speak came, I told of how moved I was to be back, especially to be coming back with men who had been students in this very classroom. I also praised the current teachers for pursuing work so important to the future of their students.

Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and so, of course, we had a coffee ceremony. The school presented me with a gabi, a kind of white cloak. I earned a laugh of appreciation when I flicked the edge of the gabi onto my left shoulder in the traditional manner.

My second year in Fiche I moved to a new house right next to the school campus. When we visited I was astonished and delighted to see a large color TV in a room that had had no electricity way back when.

The visit to Fiche was a joyful success, enriched by making the return with former students. For all of us it was sad to say goodbye for now as the next day Mark and I would be driving north to see more of the country. We made plans to reconvene in a week when we would return to Addis.

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