We met Birhane when we stopped at a little souvenir stand across from the castle complex in Gondor. His 3 year old daughter Luzan was 'helping' me pick out a souvenir and we started chatting. Of course, he invited us in to his home for coffee. We spent close to an hour drinking coffee, hanging out with the kids and hearing his story. His oldest daughter Lilna was an excellent reader and proudly read one of her english books for us.
Birhane fled Ethiopia in the early 80s through Sudan and traveled by foot to Egypt, where he took English classes and worked for 10 years. He was one of the few people we ran across that didn't immediately reference Obama when he heard we were Americans - Birhane loved George Bush because of the English language education program run by Americans. Eventually he was deported from Egypt. He couldn't claim asylum there because he had first passed through Sudan. When he returned to Ethiopia, he returned to a small shack/stall by the castle (left to him by his parents, who passed away while he was gone) where he set up a little shop. He met his wife Yezna and they now have four children. He said "Life is very hard but look at my daughters, I am so lucky". He has completed training courses through the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism and hope to start a workshop so he can preserve and pass on the cultural craft traditions.
Friday, March 15, 2013
Birhane Haile Weldu