"Nov. 24, 2008:
So far, it's been an emotional trip for me for many reasons. Seeing my old home was particularly difficult but in a good way, if that makes any sense at all. My old home has been torn down. But what were the old hospital, church, school, boys dorm, kitchens, laundry, an the doctor's home, remain, although quite run down. It is a government hospital now and part of the property was partitioned off for a nursing school (separate administrations).
I was very pleased that so many of the things I remembered were real and still there. I was able to confirm many of these things for myself. And (fortune smiles on me again) Dr. Arvid H. (whose family stayed on in Ethiopia for many years after my family left) ... was also able to confirm some of the things I remembered that are no longer there, like the fig tree from which the school bell hung. Of course, there was a lot of religion (that's a relative thing, of course, re my lack of it, I realize), but I don't mind when people really have good hearts.
The race was tough, with one very long steep hill and a couple more challenging ones. But the worst part of it was not the running, elbow to elbow with lots of enthusiastic Ethiopians (32,000 officially registered runners) in mostly a celebratory mood. The worst part was afterwards, when my friend's nephew, who ran with me for most of the way, disappeared. I looked for him in Meskel Square in vain. I finally gave up and went back to my hotel, which is very near the site of the start/finish line. I waited some more, then phoned his aunt, thinking he might have gone home...I didn't even get a chance to ask anything before she was telling me that she was at the police station, that he had been picked up by the police for wearing a Teddy Afro T-shirt and like hundreds of others in the crowd, shouting and chanting, " free Teddy" and "Teddy/Obama".
Needless to say, I was shocked, but not surprised. I had another friend who was picking me up to take me to have dinner with his family drop by the police station to see if there was anything I could do. However, I wasn't permitted to say anything at all. But, once the paperwork was processed (a long process, I see), he came before a judge this morning, and as he is only 14, he is being released today. I am certainly very relieved, because in a way, I felt guilty. He might not even have been at the race but for me asking him to take my camera and try to get a photo of me at the finish line. But I am told, that is what life is like in Ethiopia. Political protests of any kind are suppressed. (Later, when I talked to other Ethiopians, many just shrugged or even laughed, as if just to live in Ethiopia, getting arrested is an everyday hazard.)
(Note: he could have been beaten, transported to another jail far away or even disappeared. As it was, when I saw "Baby" briefly on the evening I had to leave Ethiopia, either the police or his aunt had shaved his head -- perhaps in a bid to get rid of lice or bedbugs, I'm guessing, because I didn't want to ask! His aunt had to sign a promise that he would stay out of trouble or she would be arrested in his place if he participates in such "organized illegal protests" again.)
Anyhow, I'm planning to go to the gardens at the Sheraton for a while this afternoon to escape into the beauty of the landscaping and flowers there! More later, Love, Kati"
As you can probably tell, even though I long ago lost my naiveté, I hope I'm still pretty idealistic and all this shocked me and disturbed me a great deal.
However, there is a comic twist to this tale. My camera was returned to me (which I hardly dared hope for), the memory card was still in it and to top it all off, none of the photos or video had been erased, including the "illegal" video of the demonstrations and protests that "Baby" had filmed during the race. There is nothing to stop me from posting these or talking about it on the worldwide web! The comments from some of my Ethiopian friends when I made this discovery? The police are "bush men" who can barely read or write, never mind understand how to operate a digital camera... Hmmmnnn...either gross tribal prejudices there, or a description of the nature of the people being given power by Meles' government.