Monday, April 26, 2010

Health Exhibition

This past weekend there was a Health Exhibition at the Expo center located off Meskel Square. Since there are no street names or numbers, I elected to ride with the MCM shuttle. Otherwise I might still be riding around looking for the Expo. There was a large turnout and MCM presented itself well. Dr. Einar and I went visiting other booths, making new friends, and sharing our experiences and plans with each other.  The Koreans and Ethiopians were very professional, and I was proud to be a part of this group. My non-biased opinion was that our booth was the best. The fellowship was a bonus. (See slideshow in sidebar.)

-- Don


Saturday night I saw a consult in our emergency room: Karen, a 29 year-old Belgian lady touring with friends in Northern Ethiopia on a bus at night when the driver lost control. It was in an isolated area and was some time before the accident was discovered. The driver was killed, many people injured and my patient suffered a concussion, fractured R femur and multiple trauma. They were eventually taken to a local hospital and spent several days at that facility and then came by vehicle to Addis Ababa, and our ER. Karen was a very sick trauma patient, and we operated on her leg 11 April. Her recovery was slow but she never complained. Her dad, Oswald, flew in from Brussels and was a great help, as was her local friend Karim.
    Barbara had her dad over several times for food and friendship and encouragement and a number of outings in the city for food and drink. The volcanic ash problem in Europe aborted any attempt for medical evacuation and when seats were obtained it was a joyous occasion celebrated in her room before departure.

    Nationalities in the group photo: Belgian, French, Ethiopian, American, Korean, Norwegian! All these nationalities helping one special lady and her dad!

-- Don

Lemlem and Fikru

One of the joys of living in Addis Ababa, is the new and old friends that are a part of our lives. Lemlem (pronounced LumLum) is a wonderful young lady, who, with her husband, visited us in Orlando last year. She and Barbara go out each week shopping and have lunch together. Her mother, Martha, invited us to her home last Sunday for lunch, and, along with a family friend, Meseret (who is a caterer), prepared the meal for us. It was a wonderful Ethiopian meal with many dishes and even French fries for me. Of course they cut way back on the spices for us wimpy Westerners! Lemlem’s sisters (Meselale, Hiwot, Theseat) all pitched in. Lemlem’s brother is getting married in several weeks in Awassa, and Martha modeled her dresses for the occasion.
    All of this was followed by the traditional coffee ceremony. The dishes were cleared from the table and a specially designed, low table was brought in with tiny coffee cups placed on top. One of Lemlem’s sisters brought in a brazier containing burning charcoal, placed it on the living room floor, and began the process of roasting the coffee beans. The green coffee beans were placed in a long handled pan with holes in the bottom. The young lady worked diligently to fan the coals, which generated much smoke.  At the same time she continuously shook the pan back and forth across the top of the brazier. The husks from the coffee began to fall onto the floor. This first part took about 30 minutes, and when the coffee beans had turned brown, she then walked around the room to show each of us the results of her labor and for us to catch the tantalizing aroma of the freshly roasted coffee. The beans were taken to the kitchen to be ground, and then the traditional pot of water was brought out and placed over the coals to reach the desired temperature. When the water was hot enough, some of the freshly ground coffee was put into the pot of water, and the coffee was then ready to be served.  Warm popcorn served in a large tray was brought in and passed to each of us. Popcorn is traditionally served at a coffee ceremony. Participating in this Ethiopian ritual made for a very special ending to a lovely afternoon.

Fikru is a young Ethiopian artist friend of Jeff (our son). Jeff introduced us several years ago, and we have one of his paintings in our family room in Orlando. His work is abstract, and he has been quite successful in Europe. We have acquired and are enjoying several more paintings for our apartment in Addis. His wife Josephine is French with a PhD in archeology. They live six months of the year in Paris and six months in Addis Ababa. We visited his Addis studio at his home where he grew up in the Sidesk Kilo area. His mom and dad are warm and sweet folks. We have discovered that  his dad is very photogenic. My photography doesn’t do him justice.
    Fikru is busy preparing to join Josephine at their home in Paris for the next six months. They are building their dream home here, so I suspect they may be back sooner than later! (See slideshow in sidebar.)

-- Don

How did I get here?

Our first week back in Addis proved to be an exciting one. On Monday of that week, Mr. Kim, the General Manager of the hospital, told us we were to be ready on Wednesday at 9:15 AM for an appointment  with His Excellency, the Honorable President Girma Wolde-Giorgis, President of Ethiopia. Whoa!! Back in February I was asked to rewrite a letter to the president, requesting he write a foreword to the thirtieth anniversary memory book of the Myungsung Presbyterian Church in Seoul, Korea, the sponsoring church of the Myungsung Christian Medical Center here in Addis. Little did I know then that Mr. and Mrs. Kim would hand deliver that letter to the President.
    On Tuesday evening we were alerted that plans had changed and we were now to be ready to leave at 4:00 PM. We had errands to run that day, but planned to be back with ample time to carefully dress for our first ever appointment with a President of a country. We were returning to the hospital and at 2:30 were almost back when Don received a phone call from Mr. Kim with another change of plans. We were now to be ready to leave at 3:00 PM. So much for leisurely getting ready for this very important visit!
    Thankfully, I had already chosen what to wear. In the rush of getting ready, I pulled the hem thread so that more than half the hem of my skirt was now hanging down. Fortunately, I had safety pins. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself thinking, “Here I go to see the President with five safety pins holding up my hem.” I had forgotten my jacket had a three-quarter sleeve length and the blouse sleeve came to the wrist. I pushed the sleeves up hoping they would stay in place and not work their way out from under the jacket. My hair was standing on end from being out in the wind and my nail polish was chipped. Nothing to do, but go feeling not quite put together as I had planned for our first ever presidential visit.
    We have driven by the highly guarded grounds of the palace many, many times. It covers acres and acres and the foliage is so dense one cannot see the palace. Absolutely no photographs are allowed to be taken from the street and the area is not open for public tours. We entered through a gate in the high walled fence into this seemingly forbidden palace. It was almost too much to take in.  A pastor Mr. Kim knows, is also an aide to the President. He was waiting for us just inside the gate. We were asked to step outside our vehicle, and Mr. Kim and Don were taken to one guard house and Mrs. Kim and I to another.  Our purses were thoroughly searched and anything that was considered questionable was removed and stored in a locker. I decided if we ever returned here I would bring almost nothing with me.
    We were escorted up the winding driveway to a gigantic and imposing building, truly a palace. On either side of the entrance steps are colossal statues, which I recognized as David. One statue features David holding a lamb in one hand and a staff in the other. The opposite statue has David playing a flute and a lamb lying at his feet. The Star of David is symbolic in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Some of the carpets in the palace feature the Star of David woven into the pattern.
    After going through more security we were ushered into a foyer with ceilings that must reach to heaven. Greeting the guests on arrival is a huge tiger skin rug with a very big mouth, opened wide and baring his teeth. To our left was the reception hall, another enormous room with sitting areas leading to the far end where there is a very high backed chair, looking somewhat like a throne, on which the President sits to receive guests on special occasions. One wall featured a very large tapestry of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, two very important figures in the Ethiopian Orthodox church.
    We were led into a very beautiful side room off the foyer, and it was about then that my emotions were getting the better of me. Don and I were invited to sign a thick guest book that looked like it had been in use for quite some time. The book contained the names of kings, queens, presidents, heads of state, ambassadors and other important dignitaries. Don and I were now adding our name to this impressive list of guests. I was overcome and said to Don, “How did I get here? I am a country girl from Hampton, Florida.”
    We were to wait in this lovely room until the President was ready to see us. The pastor, who is an aide, stayed with us and made us feel very much at ease. Mr. and Mrs. Kim had recently been to a dinner at the palace, so this was nothing new for them. After about twenty minutes we were taken to His Excellency’s office. Very large curtained, French doors opened into his private office, which like everything else we had seen, was gigantic. President Giorgis was seated behind a beautifully carved desk, and as we were introduced he extended his hand to us in greeting. We were then invited to sit around a lovely, low table, which had a top fashioned of a rich burl, with the patina of fine old wood. We were told the base was carved from one piece of wood. After some conversation, three men in formal attire came bearing a tray of exquisite bone china cups, with wide gold bands around the tops. We were offered coffee or tea from lovely silver pots, and a tray of cookies was then brought and passed around.
    Mr. Kim asked that during our visit Don speak to the President of the continuing vision of the Korean hospital and its goal of improving medical care, specifically in the area of Orthopaedics. Don spoke of the effort of MCM hospital to partner with Black Lion, the government hospital, in establishing a residency program, training young Ethiopian doctors who will be able to bring quality Orthopaedic care to the people of Ethiopia. He did a very good job relating this information and I think the President is grateful for MCM and its ministry.
    We found the President to be extremely charming and gracious, probably knowing more about American history than we do. He has spent some time in the states. He is a devotee of Thomas Jefferson, having visited Monticello ten times! On a visit to Texas, the governor gave him a Stetson hat and a pair of boots, which I understand he wears quite frequently. He autographed a picture for us, in which he is wearing his Stetson.
    After an hour long visit we determined it was time to go, but before we left, Mr. Kim requested we be allowed to visit the lion cage. We walked up a short distance from the palace where two very large Abyssinian or black lions were lying. This species of lion has a beautiful, black-tipped mane. We found them sleeping, but they awakened as we approached, looked at us, and opened their enormous mouths, not to roar, but to yawn. We were told these lions are descendants from the family of lions that were kept by Emperor Haile Selassee.
    The office of the President is largely symbolic, but yet extremely important. He attends to state business, receives many heads of states and is often seen at important functions. He is elected by Parliament. The power of the nation rests largely in the office of Prime Minister. National elections will be held this year on May 23, and the incumbent Prime Minister will once again be seeking office.
    It was an incredible experience and hard not to be awed by the surroundings of the palace and by His Excellency, the Honorable President Grima Wolde-Giorgis, and the position he holds. It is my guess the President is a very approachable official, but nevertheless, the question remained with me, “How did I get here?”

-- Barb

Return to Addis

We arrived back in Addis on the evening of April 3, the night before Easter Sunday. What a wonderful welcome from six of our friends and a driver! We retrieved our bags and with the help of a friend sailed through customs with no problems. This doesn’t always happen so we felt very fortunate.
    Mr. Kim is a New York Yankees fan. He was happy to receive some softball equipment I bought at a second-hand store in Orlando.
    Our friends, Dr. John and Suzy Heinbockle, and their children Lewis and Rachel, arrived a few hours after we did. Don and I finally got into bed about 2:00 AM. We all were up on Sunday morning in time to attend the Easter service at the International Evangelical Church. We took the Heinbockles to the Hilton for a lovely poolside, Easter Brunch, and were entertained by traditional Ethiopian music and dance. We made a short grocery store run and then returned to our apartments to crash.
    Suzy and children stayed a week and then went back to the States for the kids to begin school following their spring break. John stayed on another week, working in the hospital. John renewed friendship with Dr. Laura Fitzpatrick at a dinner at Antica restaurant and did some work with her project of training nurse anesthetists. We enjoyed having John around, eating meals with us, and relating the day’s happenings. He was a tremendous help to Don, not only in the operating room, but in helping to sort and inventory Orthopaedic  equipment and instruments that were stored away in a warehouse.
    We had a very busy first week back in Addis. Between our schedules and the Heinbockle visit, we were able to transition back into life here. We had a wonderful few weeks in Orlando seeing our family and friends, but each time we leave it is very hard to say goodbye. However, we do love being in Addis and were happy to return to work and our friends here who make us feel such a part of the community. (See slideshow in sidebar.)

-- Barb