Peace Corps Writers
Talking with . . .
. . . Poets
 

The full list of Stephen's books

An interview by John Coyne
STEPHEN FOEHR WAS ONE OF THOSE FAMOUS “bad boys” of Peace Corps/ Ethiopia. I know because Stephen was one of my responsibilities when I was an Associate Director in Ethiopia from 1965 to 1967. He was stationed in a difficult, one-Volunteer townPrinter friendly version called Debark, several hours north of Gondar (and about 425 km north-northwest of the capital, Addis Ababa, as the crow flies). Driving north from Gondar in my LandRover to the last town on my route, I was never sure that I’d find Stephen at home — or in the classroom — for Debark was the base from which people would explore Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains. Often I’d arrive in Debark only to find that Steve wasn’t teaching, but was out hiking high up in the Simien, home of the fabled endemic Gelada baboon and the Walia ibex. He was, however, regardless of how he drove the Peace Corps Staff crazy (myself included), one of the more interesting and infamous PCVs of his training group. Years later, whenever I ran into an Ethiopian Volunteer from his era, they’d always ask, “whatever happened to Steve Foehr?” Finally, with this interview, we get to tell what happened to Steve after he left Debark, Ethiopia.
   
  For the record, Steve, where and when did you serve in Peace Corps?
    I taught from 1964-66 in the small highland village of Debark, Ethiopia.
  Okay, what happened to you after Ethiopia?
  I hitchhiked around the world for four years. I set up households and worked in Israel, Greece, Denmark, Japan, and Hong Kong doing various jobs — teaching English as a second language, movie extra, advertising copywriter, some minor scams. About half that time was in the Far East, including Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia during the war. I spent time in Southeast Asia before going to India and returning to Europe through the Middle East. Then I returned to the U.S. for a year.
  And you started writing then?
   When I returned to the States, I became a police reporter for City News in Chicago. After that baptism by fire, I decided that being an international feature writer would be more glamorous and moved to London for a year. I managed to publish some travel articles and that started a freelance career. Magazine credits include Escape, Islands, Outside, Travel & Leisure, Travel Holiday, Buzzworm, Geo, Shamabala, and 17 others. Newspapers include London Observer, Daily Express Sunday magazine, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, and another 20 or so. I was a co-founder of the Straight Creek Journal, an underground paper in Denver.
  How did the Taj Mahal book come about?
  Taj and I had a common friend. That friend knew that Taj wanted a book written but his management had been dragging their feet to get it launched. Taj was frustrated. The friend suggested that I call him and gave me the phone number. We agreed to meet in Oakland and spent three days hanging out talking. We decided that we liked and trusted each other enough to proceed with the book.
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