E&E RPCVs
My Memories of Mike Brady (page 2)
My Memories of Mike Brady
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A transfer leads to a change in career plans
His contract was initially for two years, yet he extended his stay for two more years. He did not want to leave the place at all.
     He was transferred to Harar, but his heart remained in Mettu. Eventually, Michael was presented to the Emperor as an outstanding teacher (Misgun Memhir), and awarded with a Certificate of Excellence. Michael cherished that certificate more than his MA, or MD or PhD. He always showed that to any one who visited him, with pride.


Haile Selassie I presents the Misgun Memhir

     While in Harar, Michael observed how many Ethiopians perished from easily curable diseases due to lack of medicine and trained medical doctors. He developed a new interest, entirely different from his original profession (English Literature) in medicine and decided to return to the US to acquire the knowledge with which he could serve Ethiopia for the rest of his life. He borrowed money and enrolled in one of the medical schools in the US. As a mature student, it was not easy to get a placement at first. However, Michael always said that his certificate from the Emperor did the trick to achieve the nearly impossible. He completed his MD with flying colours after six years of hard work.

Mike returns to Ethiopia
Unfortunately, by then, the Emperor’s government was overthrown and a dictatorial military regime was in power, and Americans were no more welcome as friends by then. For the Dergue regime, every American was a potential CIA spy, and therefore an enemy.
     However, that did not deter Michael from returning to Ethiopia with a burning desire to serve the people he loved so much. Contrary to the advice of every one, including his students and close friends from Mettu, Harar and Addis Ababa, Michael traveled to Ethiopia in 1980. What happened to him might have put him off forever. He made the mistake of going to Mettu to see relatives of his ex-students. While he was in the home of one of the families of his poor students, whom he had helped to travel to the US and get life, Dergue cadres arrested and detained Michael. That broke the hearts of all those parents who knew Michael as their own close family friend and someone who cared for them more than any one else. Mothers came out crying and begged for mercy. After seven days of detention, Dergue cadres eventually released him, took him to Addis and demanded that he leave Ethiopia immediately. As Michael had already finished his money by then, he obeyed their orders and left but vowed to return. Michael used to say that there was no force in the entire world that would prevent him from going to see Ethiopia whenever he longed to return. He lived up to his words.

A life serving Ethiopia and Ethiopians
Upon his return to the US, Michael was offered the post of Students Medical Director at Claremont University. He served the university brilliantly, but his heart was in Ethiopia, particularly, Mettu. He approached various organizations and secured medical equipment for the Pediatric Department of Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa. He also managed to secure some medical facilities for Mettu Hospital. He managed to secure scholarships in medicine for Ethiopian doctors, and assisted them in developing their careers in the USA and their return to Ethiopia. He forged friendships with Ethiopian doctors and started supplying them with medicine and the necessary things wherever he could, whenever needed.
     Every year, he saved money and traveled to Ethiopia, regardless of the risk he faced. He was ready to pay any sacrifice for the love of that country and the people. In 1981, he went back to Addis and met me as a fully-fledged lecturer of Addis Ababa University. I could not describe his joy of seeing me teaching at the university level. He boasted about me to everybody he met and introduced me as one of his first students who became a university “professor”. Every time he returned, he gave away his savings and went back to US empty handed only again to save more money, to return and give it away to the needy. He took so many young aspiring Ethiopians to Seattle, and made it possible for them live with one of his family members, mainly his mother and sisters, until they could build up their own lives. Many of them are now well-established men and women around Seattle and Tacoma living wonderful lives. His mother Audrey, his sister Angela Mary (Pat) and Mary-Jean looked after every Ethiopian Michael entrusted to them and helped them to stand on their feet. Michael’s family is a family of love. People matter to them more than anything. No wonder Michael cared for people so much. Moreover, the family members followed the legacy of Michael and all fell in love with Ethiopia. He took his sisters’ children to Ethiopia and showed them why he loved the people and the country so much.

Friends visit
In August 1990, I traveled from the UK to the US to visit Michael, for a change, and some of my friends whom he took over to America and completely changed their lives. I stayed with him for a few weeks. He left his bedroom to Teshome Bayu, one of my childhood friends and a dear brother, and me. For the first time in my life, I was offered an opportunity to sleep on a waterbed. I did not like it as it was wavy and too fluffy for my body used to sleeping on hard rough mattresses. But as Michael insisted on, I had to appreciate the offer and sleep in it. He spoilt us with treats. He took two of us to Hollywood Universal Studio, Disneyland and Palm Spring. More than his treats, I enjoyed what I saw in his house. His house was full of books about Ethiopia. He had a collection of rare books that are hard to find anywhere else. He had more books on Ethiopia than on his medical profession. Michael must have spent a fortune in collecting them. I read and read as much as I could and wrote down the titles of the rest, which rose curiosity in me. We discussed his eventual return to Ethiopia for the rest of his life. I strongly advised him to wait until the country’s stability returned.
     In 1991, the dictatorial Dergue regime was overthrown. Michael thought his dream had come true. We strongly advised him to wait. He accepted our advice but kept on making his annual pilgrimage to Ethiopia, helping hospitals and assisting the poor he knew. To his horror the new regime was no better than the previous one. Michael was appalled that Ethiopia was divided along ethnic lines and subjected to abuses. He saw people he knew very well and talked to, like Prof. Asrat, jailed and their rights stripped off. However, he kept on going back to Ethiopia and helping the needy while painfully delaying his return for good.
     In 1999, Michael and Adisu, one of his beloved students and friends (my rock friend, upon whose shoulders I leaned in my hard days) came to London to see me on their way to Addis for another round of the usual trip. I was so pleased to see them. Michael had dreams for Ethiopia, which he shared at the time with me, which had not yet materialized. I told him that he should start living for himself as he had already done for Ethiopia more than any one of us could have done. He would not listen. He thought nothing was enough for Ethiopia. He strongly believed that there were still more things to be done to help and we were not doing enough. He counted on his students scattered across the globe to help that land and people they belonged to and he loved so much. He believed there is a strong force to change Ethiopia to the better. We had a wonderful time together those few days Adisu and Mike spent with me.

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