Friday, September 19, 2008

Ethiopian Journey: part six

Irene has informed the other team's chief coordinator that his project has been cancelled, with immediate effect.

"There is not much more to say. There was some trouble with the students, when they learned that they were being sent away before their course's conclusion, with no certificate to compensate them for what they had gone through. But we were able to face them down. After that, we watched as the volunteers packed their things and made ready to leave. They were all shaken, some of them crying, but K---- himself seemed unperturbed. He sat in his office, saying nothing, while D----- prepared a travel bag for him.

"The next day, we caught an early bus to Addis Ababa. We had the bus to ourselves. The locals would not travel with us. A sullen mood had now taken over K-----'s volunteers, and they eyed us with resentment. At the same time, they were beginning to sense the depths to which they had fallen. K----- himself sat at the back of the bus, alone, staring into space and refusing any attempts at conversation.

"Eventually we arrived in the country's capital and checked into our hotel. The team from S----- were to fly back to Ireland the next day, while we would be returning to our own project. The following morning, though, I was woken early by D----'s pounding on my bedroom door.

"'Mr K-----! He's gone!'

"He recounted that he had gone to K-----'s room to see what he wanted for breakfast, but found that in the night he had slipped away. The sudden desertion seemed to have completely broken D-----'s spirit, and he stood around wailing until we bundled him onto his flight home.

"I never saw K----- again. We heard rumours later that he had flown to another country, possibly changing his name, and had been taken on in a new position by one of the less scrupulous NGOs. But it is all conjecture. I know, though, that I will never forget his eyes, the way they drilled into the darkest recesses of my mind."

I realised then that nothing I had experienced in Ethiopia could compare with the terrible things Irene had seen.

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