Dr. Catherine Hamlin

In 1946 Catherine Hamlin graduated in medicine at the University of Sydney. She met and married Dr Reginald Hamlin when they were both senior medical officers at Crown Street Women’s Hospital in Sydney. In 1959, Reg and Catherine, with their six-year-old son Richard, accepted a three-year contract with the Ethiopian Government to work as obstetrician-gynaecologists to set up a midwifery school in Addis Ababa.

In 1946 Catherine Hamlin graduated in medicine at the University of Sydney. She met and married Dr Reginald Hamlin when they were both senior medical officers at Crown Street Women’s Hospital in Sydney. In 1959, Reg and Catherine, with their six-year-old son Richard, accepted a three-year contract with the Ethiopian Government to work as obstetrician-gynaecologists to set up a midwifery school in Addis Ababa.

In 1962, the Hamlin’s built a hostel in the grounds of the Princess Tsehai, using money donated from overseas. The Hamlin’s then worked for more than a decade to establish a fistula hospital, and in 1974, founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, the only medical centre in the world at that time dedicated exclusively to obstetric fistula repair.

Dr Reg Hamlin worked at the hospital until he died in 1993. Since then, Catherine’s work for obstetric fistula sufferers in Ethiopia has continued uninterrupted for more than half a century, with more than 43,000 patients treated. Catherine has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and has received numerous international awards and acknowledgements for her dedication and pioneering work. In 2009 she was awarded the ‘alternative Nobel Peace Prize’, the Right Livelihood Award, for her work and in 2012 was given Ethiopian Honorary citizenship.

The Prince of Africa

A beautifully fashioned memoir. This rich, engrossing book has the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s touch…Fascinating!” Professor Richard Pankhurst, international lecturer, educator and historian.  

 

 

 

 

“A passionate, wildly ambitious autobiography that aims to document the social life and customs of his wonderful country, Ethiopia. Magnificently written!” Dorothy Hanson, Ethiopianist. (Ms. Hanson grew up in Ethiopia with her missionary American parents and currently works for aid organization in Ethiopia.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Bursting with wonderful details and images … Another masterpiece by Daniel!”

Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia, Professor, City of New York University has

Written several books both in English and Amharic. His latest book

can be viewed at his website Africanidea.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 “A unique, powerfully written narrative! Fascinating, interesting characters populate a little known series of events – the author masterfully recreates a culture and a land that really need further representation among the books published today. The story of Gadaffou and Shommo seems epic and functions on many levels. A grand piece of storytelling!”

Writer’s Digest.

The Heroes

Americans are loud; pretty loud!

And their loudness came to me through their grief when the Shuttle Discovery went aflame and the whole country was devastated. I was in San Francisco when that happened. And it was like a dream in hell. I was driving. The man in the radio was screaming. He was loud. He was saying, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

I had to pull to the side and digest what I had heard. Then, I screamed loudly than I had ever screamed. The humanity in me came out blasting. In that flight America represented to me the dream of all humanity and that dream was mine!

I was part of that dream.

Yes, Americans deserve my gratitude! It was a day when I accepted the notion of being an American. I am an American!

 

The Freeway Cat

As a Griot I see things from a different perspective.

The year was 1997, almost twenty years after my miraculous encounter with that cop in San Jose. I had moved out of San Jose, lived in San Francisco for nearly sixteen years and moved once again to Orange County, settling in a rather quite and unassuming town called Tustin, bordered by Anaheim, Irvine and Costa Mesa. I had passion for writing my story and nothing seemed to work to get me going in all the previous places. I thought a small town like Tustin would provide the right ambience I sought for motivation.

And it did.

For a living, I declined all jobs that paid well. They all demanded undivided loyalties and meticulous attentions. I didn’t have that to offer. Instead, I took menial jobs, being the drudge man, taking tedious and unpleasant duties just to pay the bills. In the early 1980s, I owned a

café on Market Street in downtown San Francisco, but the job was too demanding. I didn’t want to be tied to a job (I put my Griot job on the line) and finally sold the café.

At last, I took a job as security guard, just to pay the bills. The only problem is, it paid little. A poor mother and a mélange of destitute relatives back in Africa who depended on me for their living were bugging me to death, clamoring for me to do more. Unfortunately, the good jobs that paid well were inundated with office politics that are toxic and harmful for a writer. To write, I desperately needed my serenity and to stay away from office squabbles and politics. I wasn’t willing to pay that price, but the poor relatives in Africa suffered. They said, forget about your idiotic Griot tales.

“SEND MONEY! WE HAVE TO EAT!”

Then, in 1997 I took a job as a Security Field Manager (that paid a little more), mostly checking up on security guards who weren’t doing their jobs properly or those who were sleeping on duty. I also monitored their punctuality while reporting to work, reprimanded those who didn’t put on their proper uniforms and advised some of those who came to work with a lackadaisical attitude. I was now sending more money to Africa.

My mother was happy.

T          My  relatives also wrote to me to keep this present job. “Do you know that the guys who left the country after you had now bought huge houses, businesses for their relatives, everything!” they added in their letters.

They were laying a guilt trip on me, and it worked.

I was all into my work now, came home at the end of the day, exhausted, and watched the rerun of Gilligan Islands and life was great! I was being a couch potato. I was hooked to Cheers. I was getting into the American way of life.

Then, something stupendous happened that changed my life once again as a Griot.

It was another spectacular day in Southern California, with 80 degree Fahrenheit, and the blue sky above was as clear as the ocean. I was driving south on Freeway 55, going to where my company had an account in Dana Point, a small beach community near Laguna Beach. There was a report that the security guard at the sight wore no uniform. In fact, he put on a baseball cap with a caption that read “Kiss My Ass”, and belittled everyone.

My employers had told me that if he were found without a proper uniform, I should send him home (a euphemism to firing him) immediately on the spot and assume the job until a replacement was found for me. They said I should be there before the start of his shift at 3.00 pm.

I knew the guy, a Mike Tyson look-alike, who acted pugnacious every time he opened his mouth. The truth of the matter is that the guy actually wasn’t only an Iron Mike look-alike, he was literally built and was endowed just like Mike in every sense of the word. He even had that Mike Tyson squeaky voice.

Except this guy was white!

I had never seen a black Mike Tyson look-alike, let alone a white one. Mike Tyson is inimitable even by God. Mike Tyson has a matchless bone structure and a unique body mass that cannot be copied. He was invented by God as an early prototype for a future species in a different planet. This white guy was scary and he was explosive just like Tyson, ready to burst into indefinable rage even without provocation. He was scary.

I can tell you one thing: He didn’t like blacks, period!

I panicked each time I met him. I could see my demise when I tell him to go home that day. Imagine a guy with an attitude problem, who called every female client “Hey Mama!” and every male client “Hey Dude!”, including the CEO of the company. He also had no respect for

me at all. He hated authority figures, and the fact that I was a black supervisor didn’t help. On three of my prior visits to this site, I was accosted by this same guy with cursory nod and contemptuous look, making me nervous about being there. Of these three visits, I had verbally reprimanded him once and wrote him up for his poor judgment and lack of professionalism twice. I was trembling when I did that. This would be his last write-up if he was found not following the work orders and site policies as defined in our Post Book.

Unfortunately on that day a huge problem arose on my way to the site.

At 2:30 pm, I was stuck in the freeway, before the intersection of 55 South and 405 South, heading toward San Diego. The traffic jam was atrocious. At 2:45 I was getting pretty nervous, and the traffic still wasn’t moving. It wasn’t only the south side that was jammed; it seemed the north side was equally crammed with vehicles going nowhere.

3:00 pm!

Nothing.

3:15 pm!

Nothing.

Remember, these were the days before the sleek cell phones were ubiquitous. My walkie-talkie radio frequency was unable to connect me with my office, either. Now, I was fidgeting and cursing, not knowing what to do. There were hundreds of people out of their vehicles watching the scene intensely. Something was going on for sure; I simply couldn’t tell what it was from my distance. I could hear, however, about twenty feet away cheers, clapping and loud applaud. The crowd ahead of me was distracted by the incident and didn’t mind to stay there for what seemed infinity.

I, on the other hand, had an assignment to send Iron Mike back to his home and if I didn’t follow the instruction, my job was on the line. Imagine my nervousness at this stage. I could see the sad face of my mother if money to be forwarded to her would be any less. And the confrontation with Iron Mike wouldn’t end peacefully either; I can guarantee you that!

Then, like everyone else, I got out of my car and went a little to the front where the main action was going on to witness the incident. I was expecting some kind of fist fight, a result of road rage, between two combatants. Why the police wasn’t summoned so far was beyond me. Although the cell phone was not everywhere at the time, there were still some privileged people who possessed it and wondered why they didn’t call.

Alas, I was in for a big surprise.

As I looked, with my neck stretched, I saw a young man whose car was parked about twenty feet ahead of every vehicle, and there was a cat in the middle of the freeway, completely paralyzed from fear, not moving. She must be a lost cat, now at the risk of being crushed in the freeway by speeding vehicles, not only by one, but by hundreds!

Except the young man who was adamant to save her wouldn’t allow it.

He was adamant, alright, you could tell that from a distance.

Only in America, I said to myself.

In Africa, where I came from, that man will be shot along with the damn cat for his foolish conduct! I kept watching. The cat didn’t trust the man who was trying to save her. She wanted to flee. Every step he took forward to grab her, she ran away from him. When he stopped following her, she would stop moving. When he retreated, she moved toward him. When he was too aggressive, she resisted him.

After about five minutes, it was obvious he had gained some ground on her. You can tell she was half way trusting him. For every gain however, the onlookers applauded and cheered. This was equivalent to Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon. Armstrong’s courage was a test of

humanity; so was the young man who stopped thousands of vehicles just to save the life of a frightened and lost cat!

What more courage do you want more than that from Americans?

At last, the cat came to him, falling in his arms as if she belonged there. The freeway applaud could be heard miles down in San Diego. In a planet of cats, the cheer was even louder. The guy entered his car with a newly acquired pet and drove away with a smile. I followed him. He was headed toward the Newport Beach, only about five miles further south. I wanted to meet this incredible animal lover and see his soul. As a Griot, this was the type of a story I sought desperately.

Now, as far as firing Iron Mike was concerned: Forget it!

He probably would have crushed my bones anyway.

I caught up with the Cat Man (who couldn’t be more than twenty or something), as soon as he exited the freeway. I waved. He lowered his window to talk to me.

“Hey, that’s amazing!” I yelled.

“Thanks.”

“No, thank you, thank you. Thank you!”

“Not a problem, I love animals.”

“Do you live in Costa Mesa?” I asked, sill in my car.

“No, I’m actually not from here,” he said.

“I’m Daniel.”

“I’m Michael.”

“Hey thanks again Michael. Good luck!” I said, and drove away.

That brief encounter with this young man meant a world to me. I felt as if I was meeting Moses. It was that deep. That day (I didn’t even go to work), I went to a nearest pet adoption agency and donated fifty dollars. The next day, when I reported to work, I was told that I had been sacked of my job title for not calling or not firing Iron Mike. Another Field Manager was sent to the post and got rid of the officer after finding that Iron Mike actually had on a different T-shirt that read “FUCK YOU!”

“It’s amazing what you find in America. Here is a man risking his own life in the middle

of a freeway just to save a lost cat from getting hit. And then there is a man who is trying his hardest to pass for a black man and challenge the system. What country am I in?” I asked myself eternally amazed.

Finally, I was back to my regular security job and resumed my writing.

This incident with the Man and the Cat in the freeway had a pivotal role in my life. I learned to love animals deeply. America to me is a huge university with countless branch of wisdoms to be attained everywhere, not merely in campuses and traditional research and learning institutions.

America is a university on her own!

Americans are awesome!

They came to Ethiopia in 1962

Dazzled by the American Peace Corps presence and intrigued by their thinking, I, along with my friends followed them wherever they went.

To Mars? Sure, why not!

We saw them in the marketplaces when they were mingling with the locals, engaging in petty bargaining over a small price for a live chicken. They were having a blast.

“What is the price of this vegetable?” they ask.

“Two pennies!”

Then, after finding the real price for the item (a penny), while enjoying the excitement in bargaining, they would leave the scene with a dollar left for the merchant without any purchase. A dollar at that time was ten times what the merchant could have made in a day, given to him by the time-conscious Americans.  We went wild witnessing this incident.

That side of the Americans’ magnanimity was seen as insanity.

The merchants were bedazzled.

They would scream, “Come again, Ferenji! Come again!”

Later, they would talk about them over their coffee gatherings.

“Let me ask you something,” one would ask.

“Ask.”

“If an American came and asked your daughter for marriage, would you bless the marriage?”

“No!”

“Why? These Americans seem kind, gentle and generous. Don’t you want to see that character in a son-in-law or daughter-in-law?”

“No, that’s not what I am thinking.”

“What are you thinking?”

“You see how big and how loud they are?”

“Yes, they are loud,” confirmed the second one.

“What if they are just as loud and as big in the bedroom? I don’t want to hear my daughter screaming while I am at her house for a visit. Oh, God!” he would say, as if he heard a loud groan.

For the Americans, the scrutiny was inescapable. Trying to be part of the community and part of the people, they made themselves available, on every corner. One famous Peace Corps member in particular who quickly learned how to play a masinko (popular Ethiopian musical instrument), and was fluent in the language, became the star on Ethiopian television. For us, he was larger than Elvis or Frank Sinatra. He sang like a native with an impressive style and energy, attired in Ethiopian costume, giving the people of Addis Ababa a sense of appreciation for their culture and music. Some of us even wanted him to lead the country! Many men were willing to give their daughters to this man, despite the loud noise that could emanate from his bedroom.

One American, I remember, trying to be like the natives who crossed a river infested by crocodiles, ended up in the bellies of two crocodiles. This was hearsay by the way, hearsay emanating from the stupendous nature of the Americans. It was equivalent to seeing a small antelope and claiming that it was a lion. The Americans created those fantasies in our brains.

A native woman who had heard of this horrific incident, as was told later, said, “I bet you that American has exited through the other end of the crocodiles.” When asked how, she responded, “Because the American is strong!” So, the make-believe stories about the Peace Corps volunteers mushroomed all over the country.

There was another Griot tarik (story) I had heard, which I will never forget. It was told that a female Peace Corps volunteer returning to the capital city after a three months stint in the rural area (drinking mud water and eating raw meat), found a nice looking Ethiopian guy on the street of Addis Ababa. She was dazzled and took him to a nearby hotel and made love to him.

In broad daylight!

She didn’t even wait for the night to cover her room. She didn’t ask the sun to go away. She didn’t even close the windows. She didn’t enter between the sheets. It was all on top of the bed, they said! All exposed! And the sun was watching. And the world was watching. And the king f Ethiopia was still on his throne, watching!

In our custom, sex was performed in the dark. The body remained hidden. Carnal pleasure was deemed as vile, something gross and ungodly. But this female American went into her room and took off all her clothes and exposed her entire body to that lucky man in broad daylight!

Then, it was told again, she sat on top of his body and made love to him. When the guy came out from the hotel, it was reported, he was weak and shaky. His buddies congregated around and started the interrogation. They thought she had beaten him up.

They said, “What happened? Did she beat you up?”

He confessed to them, that she sat on top of him and rode him like a horse, completely dominating him. He said, she smothered him with passion. She had him in all kinds of positions he had never experienced before. In the end, he told his friends, it was an explosive experience and the best sex of his life.

“Oh, America! She’s even number one in sex,” we said in unison.

There were also nobler acts by the Americans. Their incredible thirst for adventure was the talk of the town. The mosaic of Ethiopian life and its diversity gave these young people what they sought in Africa. Perils were ignored as the young men and women who, undeterred by attacks from hostile tribes, or being mauled by savage lions, crisscrossed the country to explore. Spirited and courageous, they vowed to penetrate the impenetrable. Sharing their world, while at the same time learning a bit of our African culture undeterred by the grim realities of our life, became their motto.

Goethe once said, “With sufficient learning a scholar forgets national hatred, stands above nations, and feels the well-being or troubles of a neighboring people as if they happened to his own.” President Kennedy’s troops in Africa were showing no religious borderlines, no color lines, no racial lines, no class lines in doing their jobs, as they brought hope and aspiration to Africa; but above all, they brought a piece of America with them to our continent!

Equipped with courage to accept the burdens and responsibilities of leadership, not only of America, but the world over, the Americans came to Africa with a message of hope. And in Ethiopia the name Kennedy was on the lips of every man, in every household, as America became synonymous with charm, joy and comfort.

More than anything else, however, we couldn’t anymore label the Americans with any color. The white Americans didn’t look real white to us, even though they were white.

There was something mysterious about their nature. Unlike other whites, who happened to be obnoxious and lordly, the Americans were easy, comfortable and laid back.

This was the age of innocence.

It was a crucial time when our perception of white changed completely. First, the behavior of some whites like Father who courted a selfless life of virtue, kindness and compassion in our continent, shifted our beliefs about the white race. Then, to top it all, Kennedy’s troops, the Peace Corps, demonstrated the degree of the human race’s union and its capacity for love.

The arrival of the Peace Corps in Africa and beyond stirred a curious aspiration about the world beyond ours. Thanks to their influence, we all wanted to see their country and devour their big burgers! Sure, I, too, wanted to meet John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis, Jr., and the rest of the Hollywood gang. I wanted to go to America and be an American! But above all, I wanted to shake the hand of John F. Kennedy. I had no idea why I loved that man, but I wanted to come to America and tell him how much his leadership meant to me and to the rest of the world. Yes, and ten million yeses, the Peace Corps idea is a stupendous idea that should be celebrated and cherished.

Thank you Peace Corps!

And thank you to many-many American Peace Corps volunteers!

About Me

daniel-gizaw

In a span of forty years I wrote five books: The Story of the White Man, The Prince of Africa in English. Three more in Ethiopian language ( An African Mother’s story,  Fike-Kidus –an epic tale and  history of the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1936 – and  my Great Odyssey), all completed.

Let’s make one thing abundantly clear before we move further. English is a second language to me, therefore, here and there, you will see me struggling with words, even syntax. I am keenly aware that a proof reader could have corrected them, but I didn’t want the flavor of the narrative to lose its punch. For that reason, I have left some of the errors untouched. In fact, in the early seventies my broken English and my accent were a laughing stock. I wanted you to see them in their pristine state, without embellishment. Some of the things I said then were unmentionable, even incomprehensible. I had reprimanded myself quite often, after a word I had spoken sounded alien to me, that I should stop talking in English altogether. I mean stop talking! Remain speechless! For infinity!

“How do you expect people to understand you when you call an acquaintance named Daug as Dog” I would yell at myself.

So half of my journey – say the whole decade of the 1970s, was lost by trying to understand the difference between Doug and Dog, how it was pronounced, but even after a decade of laborious effort, I still called Doug “Dog!”  I sometimes had trouble even to enunciate my own name correctly.

People kept saying “what did you say?”

“My name is Dan-El”

“What?”

“My name is Dan-El.”

“Oh, Daniel!?”

“Yes, yes Daniel,” I would say with curse words drooling in my throat.

Come think of, the whole of the 70s, was gone rapidly in the blink of an eye while I was struggling to tell people who I was. Mean time, I missed out on the Bee Gees.  Regan’s salvo against Jimmy Carter meant nothing to me. I blindly admired Regan. In San Francisco, where I lived, the Mayor and the City Supervisor were shot and killed and I didn’t know the political nuances in their demise. When I go back to Africa to tell my people about the Americans, and suppose they ask me to sing like the Bee Gees, what’s I supposed to do? If they asked me about Regan, what should I say?

“Why did the mayor die?” They would ask and what will be my answer?

I’m sure they want to know about Michael Jackson, and then later about Madonna.

And there I was calling myself a lion griot missing out on the basic and vital elements of the stories that were important to my people back home.

I am a rabbit Griot; that’s what I am!

In regards to my name, the way we Ethiopians pronounced Daniel was exactly how the Good Lord had pronounced it some ten million years ago when He first created Daniel.

It was beautiful. It was unadorned. It was hollow.

We never had any problem for ten million years! Never, never, never!

Then the Americans came (and I had no idea where they came from!) and twisted it and mangled it and called me “Da-n-yel”. There was a time when I had turned around to see if they were actually calling someone else. The way I pronounced my name, however, sounded to me mellifluous, and it was useless to spend any more time responding to them. At one point, I had truly concluded that the Americans didn’t speak English.

Still, I persisted on with my journey, unaffected and undeterred, the name still clinging.

Between 1990 and 2000, for a whole decade, I changed it to Dan.

In 2001, I aborted that name and went back to Good Old Daniel. I think I was a masochist desiring more torture and agony. I smirked at people in a condescending way for their faux pas.

“Oh, these Americans! What do they know?” I would say to myself condescendingly.

And so I proceeded with my journey…

I started this journey from the highlands of Ethiopia blindly, with no preconceived destination, at the age of twenty-five, at the height of the Vietnam War, not ever expecting that my great name, the great Daniel would impede my plans. Imagine spending a whole decade changing your name just to fit in. In a way, I was daring, hopelessly romantic, foolish at times (“stupid” is the word), and trusting in God too much for my journey to succeed. I wanted God to make that name the greatest name in the universe, so I wouldn’t feel enormously self conscious.

I had set out to discover the world – a world terribly inhospitable to a black man, and violently mired with wars and conflicts, even without the presence of the “Black Man.” Sometimes, it felt as if I had started all those wars by being black.

By the way, as a Griot the war stories were moving. The Yom Kippur War (1973), where I was stranded and waiting to die was horrendous. It was equivalent to my story when I was accosted by penis hunting tribe in the middle of nowhere in Africa!

Have patience: You will come to that part of my story soon.

And so, yes, I am a Griot. I can Griot for the whole day and the whole night! I have enough stories to Griot for a lifetime. Following the footsteps of my grandmother, who was a superior African storyteller and a notorious Griot, I had picked up some of her stupendous talents. I remember when my grandmother told a story about a flower that suddenly grew in her backyard lopsided and turned into a giant horse.

Truly, there was no flower. And no horse.

She was that good to make you think there was a flower and a horse and a manure.

I also follow the footsteps of all my African Griots in bringing these stories to you.

In my books –The Story of the White Man, The Prince of Africa and My Great Odyssey

to America, I have tried to emulate these talents of my ancestors and hope that I had achieved a modicum success.

Now about my gratitude to Americans…

 

The Lion Griot

In the ancient Mali and Senegal, the village griot was considered a master storyteller when he reached the age of forty and is thereafter named the Lion Griot. In the old Nubian culture the master storyteller had to have an elephant trunk as a trophy for his great talent at the age of forty-five. In the Good Old Man-Jah culture where I came from, you are anointed as a Lion Griot at thirty-five. On June 1st, 2016, I will be seventy-two, too old for elephant trunk trophy or for any lavish accolade, but lucky enough to have traveled extensively to gather my griot stories from around the world.

I have lived in Israel during the raging Yom Kippur War when Moshe Dayan and Golda Meier went at each other’s throat, one aggressively asking the military to penetrate beyond the Sinai and to push into Cairo, while the other calmly exercising caution. It was a time when the Shuttle Diplomacy was in full swing (with Kissinger running to Egypt to meet Anwar Sadat, then going back to the USA to meet Nixon, then returning to Jerusalem to consult with Golda Meier) while I was buried in an underground tunnel, trembling, frightened, and cursing the day when I chose to be a Lion Griot.

Then, by amazing serendipity, I got out of the underground tunnel and went to London, then to Toronto, then to Kingston (Jamaica), finally ended up smoking weed with Bob Marley and a bunch of other Rastafarians, getting high. In the later years I had the opportunity to travel to Madrid, Lisbon, Istanbul, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Cairo, Athens, Warsaw and Haiti, among others.

Every place I went, I entertained my listeners with my story of wars, tribal conflicts and religious fights. Everybody thought I was an amazing griot, most courageous and fascinating black man who had seen it all. Of course, I didn’t mention the part where I was actually holed up in an underground tunnel in Israel during the Yom Kippur war, scared like a chicken.

It has been over forty years since these incidents took place and I am still here.

And as an old griot, lucky enough to have traveled this far I bring the Story of the White Man, a story never been told in its entirety. I also bring, actually, the Story of Mother Africa.

But first, check out my gratitude to Americans. I salute the people of America who gave asylum to  millions of immigrants from around the world who escaped the endless persecution, war, hostility, poverty and religious conflict in their homelands. I share my sentiment about this great land from my own personal perspective. I have selected, out of hundreds, only seven magnificent stories of my own to applaud the people of America.

Thank you.