A Sense of Place

A Volunteer vividly remembers the sights and sounds of Ethiopia.

By Eldon Katter - Peace Corps Volunteer, Ethiopia (1962 - 1964)

Prologue to a Memory:

We answered the inaugural call

“ask what you can do for your country”

and by the following fall

of sixty two we were with the ministry

of education in exotic Harar

preparing teachers for rural elementary

schools spread near and far

throughout the provinces of Ethiopia

The Memory:

Bewitching Harar

a gated walled city

with high parapets

cobblestone streets

and white minarets

a maze of passageways

with musk and myrrh scents

lyrical sounds and

multilingual accents

people of prosper

in colorful dresses

people of toil

with earth crusted tresses

street side vendors

in corrugated kiosks

gold trimmed cathedrals

and whitewashed mosques

Muslims and Christians

working politely together

praying quietly apart

open air markets

and horse drawn carts

a place graciously open

yet intriguingly secretive

a community of talents

with much to share and give

a mutual benefit

for all concerned

a birthplace for memory

a good place to return

Epilogue to a Memory:

A half century has passed yet the memory still lasts

as we continue to share much from our Peace Corps past

our careers in education have been culturally enriched

by our volunteer days in Harar, RPCV’s forever bewitched


This poem was entered in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. The contest received more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.

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