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Archive for the ‘Ethiopia’ Category

– I found out that I can take a shower with one-and-a-half small pitchers of water.  If you give me two more pitchers, I can wash my hair.  Yes, it takes more water to wash my hair, than it does to wash my body.

– We often use toilet paper as our napkins during meals here.

– Each time we go walking outside the compound we gather an entourage.  A flock of children come running and surround us, then follow us wherever we go.

– It’s not IF you have diarrhea but WHEN you have diarrhea.

– The roosters crowing and cows mooing outside our window are sounds that Casey and I have felt at home with – sounds of our childhood on the farm.  But the loud footsteps of running monkeys on our roof and wild dogs howling for hours on end through the night are new for us in Ethiopia.

– I love the smell of coffee.  I hate the taste of it, but love the smell of it.  We lay out coffee beans in our bathroom to cover up the smell of the raw sewage.  Sweet.

Market day - Dembidollo, Ethiopia

– On Market Days (Wednesdays and Saturdays), we commute into town with the rest of Dembidollo residents.  It is a sea ofdonkeys with a scattered few of us humans humming them along.  The occasional truck may pass, but donkeys, goats and cows have the right of way.

– I have been called “lady” by the Egyptians, “white-person” (mazungu) by the Ugandans and “mama” by the Rwandans.  I was even lucky enough to be called “madam” in a few places in Rwanda, which I actually took a liking to.  Here in Ethiopia I am called “faringee,” which simply means: foreigner.

– I am white.  Not olive toned, tan, or Latina colored as I had always thought, but just plain white.  You see, in Africa, where everyone else is incredibly dark, we become lighter.  Now I understand better what it must be like to be an African-American in a mostly white society.  Here, we just call ourselves “the crackers.”

– Staring is commonplace here and not considered rude.  People, children especially, will be walking right next to you with their head cocked sideways and won’t take their eyes off of you for uncomfortably long periods of time.  I try to do it back to them, but for some reason it just feels strange.  And really, it doesn’t have the same effect on them that it has on us. (As for me [Casey], I have made it somewhat of an entertainment to stare back, particularly at the little kids.  There are typically two responses.  The first is the kid gets a big smile and then grabs the nearest friend and exclaims something to the tune of, “Hey, the cracker just looked at me!”  The other (and a bit more entertaining) response is the kid gets a wide-eyed look of terror and begins to back away as quickly as possible, usually accompanied by screaming and/or crying.  It’s all fun and games until I give “the stare” back.  I’ve also had fun staring back at young men staring at my wife.  They hold their gaze a bit longer than the little kids but the effect is somewhat similar.  But the screaming is all inside, I am sure.)

– I start my morning each day with a cup of freshly warmed milk straight from the cow’s udders.  One of the hostel girls (orphan) carries over the fresh milk in a recycled water bottle after she milks the cow.  This is then warmed and ready for us at mealtime.  I make hot chocolate out of mine (insert smile)!

– The water came on for about an hour this morning.  Not only that, but it coincided with the electricity being on at the same time, so we felt in luxury. We frantically filled our bathroom water drum with water so we can flush our toilet for the next few days and take a bucket shower here and there.  There are big white chunks of something floating around everywhere in it.  We are hoping that they will all settle at the bottom before we shower next.

– I found a dead cockroach in the cooking oil the other day.  The cook looked at me strange and laughed at me when I asked if we still wanted to use it.  She just grabbed a few teaspoons out of the can and put it in our dough, left the cockroach floating inside, and placed the large can back in it’s designated place.  Apparently, we have been ingesting the roach remains for sometime already.

– Remember dial-up internet?  We had forgotten, but now we remember.  I think it is still trying to connect.

Feeding Program at school

– We become real-life bobble heads every time we hit the road in Ethiopia.  The roads are a sea of deep dirt potholes – sometimes muddy and the other times crazy dusty.  We haven’t experienced third gear very often.

– We have attended a coffee ceremony (often in our honor) every other day since the day we arrived in Ethiopia.  During these traditional coffee ceremonies they scatter freshly cut grass and beautiful flowers on the ground to “bring in the freshness and fragrance of nature.”  There is a small table with coffee cups placed on the grass and then the host sits on a small stool next to a mini charcoal stove where they roast freshly picked coffee beans in front of us.  These beans have been drying in the sun for the past few days, no joke!  After being roasted, and while the smoke is still rising from the pan, the pan is then passed by the guests so we may draw the smoke near us with our hands and inhale the aroma (I love this part).  It is then ground up with a pestle and mortar before being brewed and served to us immediately.  Neither Casey nor I drink coffee, but we partake it with honor here.  Of course I cannot get mine down without throwing in an extra spoonful of sugar or two (though commonplace is three).  That’s okay though, it adds to the experience right?  So you will be happy to know that we are often running around with an authentic Ethiopian buzz here.  Ethiopia…the birthplace of where coffee was discovered.


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We are the World…

I had a specific picture of Ethiopia in my mind.  It was a barren, flat and dusty land, with no food or water and sweet children half-naked who walk around with exposed distended tummies.  Amazing what media can do.  I realized that my picture of Ethiopia was the common picture of this country back in the 80s during the Band Aid era – you remember Michael Jackson, Bruce Springstein and Bono hollarin’ out “…we are the ones to make a brighter day, so lets start givin’”?  It was the picture of the terrible famine that struck east Africa, of which I am thankful to remember.  I am thankful that it made it back to the “west” where we were somewhat educated as to something that was happening on the other side of the world.

Daughters of Charity - Dembidollo Compound, Ethiopia Catholic Church

So the children here still run around half-naked, clothed in rags (literally), and there are definitely parts of Ethiopia, the south specifically, that remains barren, flat and dusty. But in Dembidollo, the far western region near Sudan, it is lush green and mountainous.  There are these incredible gigantic trees that are begging to be climbed, that remind me of Africa’s tree of life; there is fertile land where coffee, peppers, papaya and tomatoes grow willingly, and just about anywhere their seed lands; and of course nothing would be complete without the typical African roads, rocky, pot-holed, sometimes muddy or sometimes dusty, that would be completely impassible without the all-amazing Land Cruiser 4WDs (of which I am now a believer in Toyota’s Land Cruiser after seeing what it can do).  It is beautiful here.  We are in very remote and rural Ethiopia.  And though the land seems fertile to grow, sadly, the people remain hungry and are literally the poor of the poor.

We are working with the Catholic Daughters of Charity.  Through our friend Larry and the non-profit Tropical Health Alliance (www.thaf.org), we were connected with the sisters.  We are staying in their compound, for two weeks, and we have been spending our days observing their projects, health clinics and attending mass and festivals with them.  I have nothing but pure respect for these sisters.  Their call, their hearts, and the determination they have to help and serve the poor – it is beautiful.

Some days we just observe, others we are honored to help.  We have felt compelled to learn more about the elderly here and have taken upon ourselves to do a sample of interviews to the few people who have been supported by an elderly program called OPA (Old People in Africa).  They receive a whopping 25 Ethiopian Birr – the equivalent of $2 US – per month as income.  The majority of the elderly are too debilitated or old to work anymore, uneducated, have no family left and simply have no other income.  They are desperately poor.  No retirement funds here.  The elders are forgotten.  Observation: It seems the givers find it easier to give money to causes when there are pictures of cute innocent children who are hungry, than it is to consider giving money to an old person who looks as though they will die soon anyway.

The term “old” in Africa looks very different.  Old starts at around 45 years of age, and a man who is only 50 years old often looks like a man of 75 years back home.  They have very hard lives here.  Their bodies are worn down from the 40-60 years they have spent in the sun doing manual farming, carrying multiple loads of 60 lb water on their backs up hills every day, or bearing and caring for 6+ children. They often live in one room, open shacks where rain and wind can enter, thatched roofs made from local crops, with no bed, and their cooking kitchen within a foot or so of where they lie to sleep.  Some are lucky enough to have walls made of cow shit (literally) that offer protection from the rain, but they often share their one-room home with the sheep who defecate on the floors next to their kitchen area.  There is barely enough space for us to step in, but every person scrambles to find us the best seat in the house as we are welcomed with excitement and open arms.  Though they have next to nothing in comparison to our western lives, they have much in heart and hospitality.

One of the homes of an OPA client

One of our interviews accompanied by Sister Tsehay

So that is just a glimpse of what we are experiencing in this beautiful place.  Though some of it difficult, we have learned a lot about Love and a bit about life in rural Ethiopia.  We will soon hit Addis Ababa, the capital city, and get the honor and chance to meet our friend’s son that they will soon be adopting in February.  How cool is that???

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