A letter from Ethiopia

August 8, 1968

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m pretty well settled in my new home Debre Berhan for the next five weeks to teach summer school. It took us about three hours by bus driving northeast and up from Addis Ababa. We are about at the 9000’ level here! Our first assignment was to explore and begin using all that Amharic language training.
     I went with five other gals out into the countryside. It was the most unusual bus ride I’ve ever taken. Most bus rides you may talk to the person next to you — but here everyone talks to everyone! People get on the bus with everything imaginable from goats to eggs (the goats are strapped on top). People also get on the bus without money and beg their fellow passengers for the fare. They also refuse to pay the rate and try to bargain the rate down — in doing this, loud arguments result between the ticket man and the passengers — and everyone joins into the discussion. It’s really a circus on wheels.
     The town we went to was the end of the line on this particular route (that’s about three hours or 65 kilometers from Debre Berhan). We were quite a novelty to the town — few foreigners ever visit there. You might say we freaked it out! We were on an assignment to learn what there was to learn about this town — a cross-cultural experience.
     The town is a farming community of 1,200 people — no electricity or running water. A student gave us a two-bit tour and everyone in town followed us as we looked at their school, market area, church, police station, etc. We stayed overnight in the small hotel ($1 Ethiopian per night.) This town is like many Peace Corps towns. I’m sure I could survive, but I’m requesting a larger town with running water and electricity.


NOTE: Nancy Polich’s (Ethiopia 1968–70) request for a large town with many other Volunteers, electricity and running water, did not happen. Her assignment was to Adi Teclesan, one of the smallest Peace Corps towns in northern Ethiopia, now Eritrea.