Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Photo Notes

Smiling Baby
The Koreans had a lovely garden in which they grew some Korean-type vegetables, lettuces, peppers, and tomatoes. It looked wonderful when we were here in March, but was in a sad state on our arrival this time. I asked several people why it had been allowed to become overgrown with weeds, but didn't get a clear answer. Perhaps during the rainy season they let it go. A few days later some Ethiopian workers began to clear the weeds and work the soil to ready the garden for planting. This baby's mother and others worked on the garden. The baby, just beginning to walk, stayed with his mother and I assume a brother who looked to be about 8 years old. I don't know why this brother was not in school unless they didn't have the money for books, which I understand have to be paid for. Or perhaps he stayed home to help with his younger brother so Mom could work. I watched them from our balcony and was touched by the tender care given the child from his mother, brother, and other men who were helping. He was just a cute, fat, little one.

Recently arrived, and in the apartment next to ours, is a young Korean couple with their two pretty, little girls. Mr. Moon has a degree in computer science, I believe. Getting these names sorted out is difficult. On their door is a welcome sign that says, "Welcome to the family of Moon Sung Chung," or something like that, yet he is called "Mr. Moon." The little girls have added another dimension here, as there are no other children. They seem to do really well at keeping themselves entertained. During the soccer-tennis match Saturday evening between the Koreans and Norwegians (a follow-up to the arm-wrestling event), their parents were watching the game, and the little girls, fully dressed in roller gear, skated over the uneven stone tiles, actually doing quite well. The parents are trying to get them into an English-speaking school, but I believe when tested were told they must learn more English before they can attend. I think the mother is home schooling them.

-- Barb

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sabbath Dinner at Dr. Rick's

On the plane from Amsterdam, we ran into Dr. Rick Hodes, a Jewish internist from Johns Hopkins who has lived for the past 20 years in Addis, treating children, principally children with severe medical conditions. A few days after we arrived, he called and asked me to see a consult at the Mother Teresa Mission, which is a compound where many severely handicapped and disfigured live, as they could not live or be accepted in the outside world because of their functional limitations or appearance. I saw the child, who had severe fibrous dysplasia of the hip. Many other of his patients have unimaginable deformities.
     Rick invited us to his house for dinner Friday night, the Sabbath was a time of fellowship. He said others would be there.
     Mulagetta II came to pick us up and off we went. His Lata runs with a wind-up rubber band and is held together with baling wire. The inside door handles have long since fallen off, so he has to jump out and run around the vehicle to let you out. The headlights emitted light equivalent to a votive candle, and of course, we had to go to two filling stations before he could purchase petrol. There are no street names in Addis and numerical identifications are superfluous. I had previously recorded the directions from Rick: “Go down Pele road towards the city center, make a left on the street that goes away from Desalegan Hotel (sometimes called the Atlas Hotel) and at the Jupiter Bar make a left and it’s the third house on the left with the green awnings.” Mulagetta’s English vocabulary is the same as my Amharic: zero! We did make it after a lot of sign language and a telephone call to Rick.
     We entered a room filled with some 20 to 30 people lounging on furniture that had seen these occasions many times. They all greeted us, and then Rick gathered us in a circle after all the men had their heads covered in Jewish tradition and sang, read and prayed. He led in the singing of “I’ve Got a Hammer,” and then he went around and broke off pieces of bread and tossed it to each person there, first to his adopted children with a touch of the head. A cup of chowder was offered, followed by an Ethiopian buffet.
     There were patients of various ages and deformities, from dwarfs to amputees (chondrosarcoma), severe scoliosis, and other Ethiopian folks, some of whom share his home.
     There were Jewish volunteer students from the states and Christian US and South African students passing through: Charlie, an American professor at the University of Addis, teacher of demography for 20 years, had to leave early for Morocco for an international demographers convention; Jessa, from New Orleans (originally from Oregon), wandering through Africa by herself, an attractive young lady trying to find a meaningful job; Paul, a South African smiley young man living in London, doing volunteer work; Roger, a Mother Teresa Mission volunteer from Massachusetts, gregarious, enthusiastic, recent college graduate preparing to apply to medical school; Andrew, a recent graduate of U. of California, Berkley doing volunteer work for a Jewish benevolent organization in Uganda; and another young woman from Washington D.C., visiting relatives in Addis.
     There was no lack of conversation. Each person’s story was interesting and their experiences fascinating! Rick captured the attention of everyone with his computer full of patients and their stories. It was remarkable to see the before and after documentations of their journeys with severe disabilities.
     It was also easy to detect in this filled room the love for this man and his commitment to the less fortunate in Ethiopia. He is a quintessential “giver.” (See the Links section in the sidebar.)
     At the end of the evening, an entourage of colorful figures, some still wearing the “menorah-shaped” hats, walked us to the end of the block (the landmark Jupiter Bar corner) to get a Blue Donkey (taxi) home.
     We will fondly remember this unique Friday night Sabbath experience. (See slideshow in sidebar.)
-- Don

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Arrival in Addis Ababa!

Don and I are doing good and have been warmly welcomed and made to feel at home. We left Orlando with 9 pieces of luggage and $750 lighter and arrived safely with only one piece of luggage...the water skis! (We returned to the airport at midnight and found 7 more pieces of our luggage. The missing one finally came in on another airline. Go figure!) Seppo and his wife, Mr.Kim and his wife, and many others met us at the airport.
    We are settling in and establishing a bit of a routine. The first several days were spent unpacking, getting past some jet lag, and acclimating ourselves to the elevation of over 8,000 ft. It takes some adjustment for Florida folks! The new guest house isn't quite ready, as the furniture, cabinets, and kitchen equipment are coming fom Korea and are now in the port of Djibouti. Supposedly the container will arrive this week. We shall see. Even if it does arrive, installation has to take place. Some road work and clearing of debris also must occur. Meanwhile, we are just fine in the apartment we were in last year.
    In some ways we feel like we have come home. Upon arrival on Saturday night, we were met with  many smiling and familiar faces. Our apartment had been "spruced up" with some new paint and other special touches of flowers and food. We had so much luggage, Mr. Kim, the hospital administrator, asked if we were immigrating!
    We were warmly and lovingly welcomed by other hospital  personnel who reside at the guest house, as well as the kitchen staff. These are sweet young Ethiopian ladies and all wanted to know about our daughter, Kim. When she was here with us in March, she taught the staff to make some Western-type food.
    We have been invited out on several occasions for lunch and dinner. We are invited to the home of Dr. Rick Hodes for this Friday evening dinner. We met him two years ago and were amazed at the miracles he has been able to pull off or arrange for children and young people with most unusual cases. Imagine our surprise to find him on our KLM flight from Amsterdam to Addis! So we have reconnected, and in fact, Don is on the way to the Mother Teresa Mission, where Dr. Hodes has worked for over 20 years. He is an American doctor, Jewish, and working in a Catholic facility. He has 7 adopted Ethiopian boys and about 10 foster ones.
    A Norwegian staff doctor invited me to join in a birthday celebration for his wife. This was an all-ladies event. Most of the women were Norwegian and were the most interesting group, highly involved in the life of this community, and I think all were participating in ministering to the Ethiopian people.
    I met our young Ethiopian friend, LemLem, (LumLum) for lunch yesterday and a little grocery shopping. We had a great time, and I felt as though she was another daughter. Her husband is an orthopaedic surgeon, formerly on the staff here, but now working in another city. We plan more times together, which will be fun for me and hopefully take away a little of her loneliness without her husband here in Addis.
    Don had surgery this morning, and I think quite an audience. There are about 6 Norwegian medical students here for several weeks, and they have been anxiously waiting to observe Don in surgery. They are eager and excited. There are so many Norwegians here right now that the hospital administrator is saying, "The Vikings have landed!"
    I have been preparing some meals for us, which can be time consuming. The vegetables must first be sterilized and then rinsed in sterile water before they can be prepared for cooking. Most of my morning today was spent in preparing vegetables to have ready for the next time I need them.  We have a two burner, portable gas stove top, which sometimes takes a bit of juggling to get everything cooked at the same time.
    Gratefully, we have a washing machine in our building. There are no dryers, which is just fine as the clothes dry quickly when hung on a rack on our balcony. However, this morning, just as I got the wet clothes hung out to dry, the rains came. I remember my mother facing the same battle and the mad dash by both of us to the backyard to bring in the clothes.
    Almost every day we are brought gifts of food or something else. The Koreans have treated us so kindly and we don't seem to be able to do enough for them. We are continually surprised. It is nice to have such close neighbors, in fact, it sometimes feels like we are in a dorm. We have great neighbors in Orlando, but rarely see them as we all live behind the shrubs.
    We know you will keep us in your prayers.
-- Barbara