The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Lecture - Wednesday 22nd March 2006

An Ethiopian Odyssey

Given by - Annette Allen

Reviewed by - Julian Kay

Annette Allen lived in Ethiopia with her parents between the years 1962 and 1964, her father serving in the Norwegian Diplomatic Mission. She attended the Nazareth School for Girls in Addis. The illustrated talk about her return trip and what it engendered given to the Society - and the story is not over yet as her book is due to be published before the end of the year - was the result of a dream. In this dream, in April 2000, there appeared this parched piece of earth. This was Ethiopia’s cry for help. It had to be answered by Annette — she was back in the foothills of Ethiopia where she was to help provide water for the poor of that country. Four years later with only an old school photo and the Christian names of her old classmates she attempted to trace them and hear what had happened to them over the previous forty years.

One quest took her to the office of the President, Girma Wolde Giorgis. Here sadly she learnt that Herut, the President’s beautiful grand-daughter had taken her own life when she was barely out of her teens. In the event she managed to trace seven of her Nazareth School classmates whose stories are told in her forthcoming book An Ethiopian Odyssey. A percentage of the profits will benefit appropriate charities, particularly WaterAid. The speaker emphasised that Ethiopia’s problems would not be solved by man alone or by Ethiopia itself. However some of us hard-bitten cynics in her audience may have felt about her suggested prescriptions for the country’s many illnesses one could not fail to be impressed by the faith and sincerity of this good Christian lady.

Ethiopia is a beautiful but complex country. The difficulty is how to accept it as perhaps it is meant to be (without undermining all those charities and organisations doing magnificent work there) and cease asking those awkward questions and comparing it with other states. Over two hundred years ago James Bruce found it odd that Egypt, which got its water from Abyssinia, made better use of it than Abyssinia itself: “but the inhabitants are miserably poor, notwithstanding their threefold harvest, whereas in Egypt, beholden to this country alone for its fertility (the Nile) one moderate harvest gives plenty everywhere”.

I am aware that rainy southern England has a hosepipe ban!

First Published in News File Summer 2006

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