Having given the name of my father to Medhane’s wife’s at the reading at the british council Medhane called today excited with information “your grandfather Stefanos is from Adegebray, it is your families first home, where your father was born”. So now I must visit the village where my grandfather is buried. I have a picture of him at home which I was given by one of my uncles in America when I visited them for the first time.
At Albergo Italia in the courtyard the Journalist is met by her friend XXXXXXXX a quietly spoken man tall man who is written in her book. “I will take you to Adegebray” he says. In no time The Journalist XXXXXX and I are sweeping out of the north of asmara, speeding through the Eritrean highlands. The landscape is flat and fields filled with barley but scorched too. Crops are low and rain is scarce. But it is like being on top of the world.
“here it is” he points as we approach a collection of houses nestled in the collar bone of an hillside “adegebray”. He parks the car and we trudge up the rocky road to a man on the town’s edge who is building a wall. The traditional walls here are like the dry stone walls of Lancashire. We approache him and I decipher snatches of the conversation “Gidday Stefanos.. enquo sellassie” and my grandfathers name “Stefanos” . The man who is building the wall squints in the sunlight and nods.. we then follow him and I meet a collection of distance relatives, all whom know of me, Ghideys son is who I am.
There is much celebration and each home offers to coffee and food. My great grandfather enquoselassie was a general of some sort and a law maker under Emperor Haile Selassie. He had three sons Wolde, Stefanos and Kesret. Stefanos is my grandfather. Stefanos had many amount of sons and daughters of which my father Ghidey Stefamos is one. Stefanos went to live in Addis Abbaba in Ethiopia. His children attended Addis university and then went to America to continue their studies but due to revolution, never returned and now live in America. I see the church that my grandfather, a millionaire, built for the vilage.
This journey of mine is never over is it? I spend my adult life searching for my family I meet my mother at 21 and and here I am twenty years later meeting my grandfather and grandmother on my fathers side. It’s alot to take in – but isn’t it always so with family. Isn't it always alot to take in. Here is the church my grandfather commissioned and here the bell he had made for the bell tower, with his name inscribed within it here is his grave and my grandmothers grave adn me, here is me.
On the way back we visit mai nefeh the damn which provides water for Asmara. While stood upon it Tahame whom like most other men in this country, served on the front, tells the story of the lizard that he watched prowling after an insect. Nature was a welcome distraction on The Front, as it is here. The lizard stalked the insect slowly slowly moving each leg up into the air and down towards its next step. Just as it was about to lunge, poised to catch its prey, a bird swooped down from a branch and scooped up the lizard. I think of this story as eagles sore and wonder what it means.
I found my fathers birthplace today. Coincidentally it is 1st September, eleven days before the anniversary of my fathers passing in a plane crash in the mountains of Gondar on September 11th 1973. I visited the plane crash site in 1995 with a BBC film crewe. I leave my grandfather and grandmother, a stone on their graves.