Tag Archives: Lalibela Educational Trust

Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody

Rotterdam 015

Marianne Carolan, Rotterdam, 2008.

This week my friend Marianne would have celebrated her birthday.  One of my best memories is the trip I made with Marianne and other sponsors to Lalibela, Ethiopia in January 2007, during the Timket celebrations. Marianne had set up the Lalibela Educational Trust in 2006, to ensure there would be enough funding for sponsored children when they moved into secondary and tertiary education – university, nursing college.

With her 2007 Christmas card she sent a change of address: she’d bought a flat in Rotterdam, to be close to her new partner.  She was going to join an accordion orchestra and find a violin teacher.  I booked my flights in November 2007, the month Marianne’s GP mis-diagnosed, telling her symptoms were just Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  After the photo was taken Spring 2008, Marianne donated her accordion to the woman director of the orchestra.

 

Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody

The March visit had been planned
as a celebration of your retirement.
We walked on Calshot beach
summing up our lives, loves,
gifts and regrets.

Later, in your study upstairs,
we listened, connected
to your white MP3.
I couldn’t stop myself
from humming along.

Your ex-colleague (younger,
glasses, a little overweight)
started to speak in the silence –
when the men have stopped singing.
At your cremation they let
that alto voice fade away

Leaving Addis Ababa

i.m. Marianne Carolan

Stretched out across three seats,
tucked under a thin brown blanket,
my friend two rows behind me.
Blinds are down, this return half empty,
breakfast our next call, then Heathrow.

I can still smell roasted coffee beans:
a ceremony performed with precision.
I see round Tukul huts, the market, hills,
blue school uniforms, the churches
carved from rock, priests in white robes.

A boy and his widowed mother.

We donated dictionaries, old laptops,
mobile phones, Man United shirts.
We improved our Amsege’nallo,
bought breakfasts, wore the white
gowns they gave us for Timket.

Our new families in Lalibela. Epiphany.

This poem is dedicated to the memory of my friend Marianne.  It’s her birthday today.  After an educational trip to Lalibela she started sponsoring a boy there.  Her friends and colleagues too started sponsoring children, some of them orphans.  As they moved into higher education, more funds were needed – to see them through university and nursing college.  That’s why Marianne set up the Lalibela Educational Trust in 2006.

With Marianne and other sponsors, I travelled to Ethiopia to meet my “Lalibela son” and his mother.  Our visit in January 2007 coincided with the religious Timket festival.