Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ethiopia Day 5

This day was the second day of clinic, and it seemed slower than I thought it would.  I figured that word of mouth would have gotten around and people would have lined up at the door waiting for us to show up.  But only 2 or 3 of our stations were functioning as many of our physicians were occupied with home visits (I believe this was the day Sumer’s youngest child had symptoms of meningitis and Dr. John was occupied for the day with the family at the hospital.  Luckily it was nothing as serious as that).  With so many of our doctors occupied, perhaps we seemed slower because we couldn’t get as many patients through the door as the day before. 
This day was definitely an interesting one in terms of patients.  We had one woman who was in our back “private” area for quite some time. She came in and was 8 or 9 months pregnant.  Using a translator (our high school helpers were always so professional and mature during some of these hard cases) Stephanie and Samme tried to discern if her water had broken.  Apparently she was 2 cm dilated and had been leaking for a few days.  I believe the diagnosis was that her water had broken and the baby had been without amniotic fluid, so she was sent to the hospital.  Her name was Helen and last we heard (days ago) she was undergoing an emergency C-section.  While I was hoping to have a new little life make an appearance right there (and I totally would have been a part of that), we caught something that could have been detrimental to that little baby’s life.  I hope things are going well for her and her (hopefully) healthy new baby.

Two of our wonderful translators
Also during this clinic, I was able to sneak away from the pharmacy and sit in triage for a while working with some kids on crafts.  The Bright Hope kids came for their physicals today, and I was supposed to spend the day with them, just hanging out.  But no one let me know they were here or where to go to set up, so I only spent a few minutes with them.  Pastors little daughter Lydia had come to be seen, and she was standing by the door with Kathleen as I was making my way.  She was a beautiful little child and I stopped to talk to her.  She grabbed my hand and I ended up sitting in the doorway while her small adept fingers began braiding my bangs.  At one point she was trying to pull my hair out of my ponytail to braid it.  Her work was small and didn’t stay very well, but it was great. 

After visiting with Lydia, I made my way next door with a bag full of crafts.  There were only 6 or so kids over there, so I started passing out necklaces and bracelets and tried to figure out a way to communicate with them.  It was interesting trying to find a way to show the kids how to make the jewelry and let them know that it was ok to start making them now.  That was really a challenge, trying to overcome that language barrier.  It was funny to watch the kids too, who would often take the packet and put it in a pocket, only to stick their hand out and ask for more.  If I told them they already got one, they would make a comment like “for my sister” or “for my mother”.  Of course, I gave them extra, but only after feigning a bit of scolding.  The kids were also eyeing some pipe cleaners, which I handed out to make more bracelets.  Their little wrists were so small, we folded them over a few times to make them fit.  One little girl took the pipe cleaners and made a little figure out of them.  Each time the figure talked, she would use a different, higher pitched, childlike voice.  It was very interesting to see that part of kid-dom, especially girls, translate cross culturally.

We only did a few of the crafts before the kids were called away to go back to the school.  They were all super cute and fun, and I wish I was more confident in myself in order to be able to enjoy them more.  I was worried about not being able to communicate with them, or not having enough crafts, or any number of other things that really probably didn’t matter much at all.  Janet’s grandkids had also made the cutest things to pass out.  They had sent bottle cap necklaces.  The strings were made from old t-shirts, the caps came from oriental trading, and the mom had put small images on the caps.  Super cute idea that I totally think I am going to borrow for my elementary schoolers.  Also, Charisse had put ribbons around the wide rubber band bracelets and made beautiful hair bows or bracelets for the girls.
Craft time
After clinic today we went back to the Guest House to “freshen up” before heading out to go shopping.  I didn’t shower or anything like that because I didn’t see the point, it’s not like you could ever really get clean it seemed.  There’s a smell that accompanies you from Korah. Not a bad smell, but dusty, unclean.  And there’s dirt constantly under your fingernails, no matter how many times you wash your hair.  I didn’t get under my fingernails clean until a few days after I got home.  I didn’t shower until Monday night after returning home and when I took my hair down to wash it, it still smelled of Korah.  I got a little sad washing it out, a part of me feeling like I should be keeping that with me as a reminder.  Maybe even as proof that I had actually come and gone from this place. 

Shopping was an interesting experience.  There are small shacks lined up on a street, sharing walls, all selling scarves and clothing, shoes and cds.  The street is shared with a primary school, so there were children wandering in groups in various colored school uniforms.  They all wanted to stop and touch you, asking you how you are either in Amharic or English.  They were forever looking at you.  Sometimes they would say something in Amharic and then turn towards their friends and laugh before continuing on.  At one point, our small group got spit at by at least one child.  Reason for this reaction is unknown.  While we were making our way to the shopping street, I saw something I’ve never seen before – a woman squatting in the gutter, skirt hiked, doing her business.  Despite all the men who utilize nature as a public toilet, this woman was the first and only one I’d seen do it.  I wonder if it is a source of shame for them where it’s not for the men.  What made her decide it was ok to squat in public – could she just not hold it?  Is it really socially acceptable and we just hadn’t seen anyone up to that point?
While shopping we tried to stay together and keep an eye on each other.  We all had “buddies” that we tended to hang around with and we worked to make sure that if someone deviated from the group they had hooked up with someone else from the team.  At one point, Beth and I were walking on the far side of the street, where the shops were a bit farther away from the road, and we had turned around to check on a group member.  Walking a few steps behind us was Sami driver.  That touched me in a way that I cannot even fully express.  Amidst this crowded street, in a foreign country where sometimes very foreign things go on (like a meat stall where the meat is cut fresh off the bone, and people wait in line for it outside of the little detached shack on the side of the road in front of some shops), and here was this familiar face walking with us and protecting us without our knowledge.  Saying goodbye to Sami at the airport I told him how much this meant to me and my eyes got a little teary.  It doesn’t help that I think it speaks highly of a man who is willing to protect a woman and that is a prominent quality I long for in a husband.
We spent a little bit of time shopping on the street here but there wasn’t much to do for the amount of time we had.  A lot of the shops were selling similar items and it was kind of that mentality where if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.  I bought a beautiful green skirt for 200 birr.  Our group reconvened more quickly than we were supposed to so we piled into the vans and headed off to another shopping location.  Sumer knew of this place outside the city that acts as a refuge for women with HIV/AIDS.  It’s a church with a fountain that many believe has healing powers.  The women I think have the ability to live on the church property but I know that they work to make goods that are sold there and help to benefit the church and the program.  I bought two necklaces with orthodox crosses on them that match, one for me and one for my brother, and two pairs of earrings, one for mom and one for Emily. 
After shopping we made our way to Island Breeze, a restaurant owned by Americans that offered a lot of the tastes of home.  (Before we turned down the street that Island Breeze was on, I saw the weirdest sight that perhaps gave me my only culture shock experience in Ethiopia.  We made a right hand turn down the street before turning left into the Island Breeze parking lot.  Just before that right hand turn, on the right was a bright yellow shop, carrying nothing but DeWalt power tools.  I’ve never seen anything like that in America, much less in a poverty-inflicted country).  Anyway, Island Breeze had a really cute and laid back atmosphere and an awesome brick oven where they made their pizzas.  I ordered a ranch chicken wrap, but the chicken was breaded and not grilled and a little over done.  It wasn’t fantastic but it was nice to at least recognize something on the menu.  We had a large party but dinner took more than 2 hours if I remember correctly and by the time we left I think we were all ready to go home.  Of course the night concluded with some Bananagrams but with a larger group than our normal three or four.  It was fantastic and I felt like it was really a time when we got to bond as a team.

Island Breeze

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 4 - Clinic

This was the first day we set up clinic in Korah. If I remember correctly, we got a little bit of a late start – it was maybe 9am when the vans picked us up. The actual task of setting up took some time, but the stations looked great when we were done. We had five stations of seeing patients, and a small waiting area and table for the pharmacy. I jumped in and helped Beth set things up and run the pharmacy, partially because it was the safest area (no blood and guts) and partially because I already knew her and had dubbed her my “buddy” for the trip.

The pharmacy med chest

We had the pharmacy set up with a med chest on top, and then tubs containing cough and cold medicines, topical, gastric, and OTC pain meds. Eye drops and some of the topical were kept on the table where we filled prescriptions. I learned a lot about pharmacy type things, like Tylenol and Advil are dosed based on weight. You can’t give Ibuprofen to a pregnant or breastfeeding woman. Bactrim treats UTI’s and I think it probably a little resistant in the area because it’s so commonly prescribed. Ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasites, doesn’t work in the area because I don’t think the parasite is found in the area; we more commonly used Mebendazole. The most common things we treated were eye complaints (dry, itchy, bothered by the sun, etc) and stomach issues. Triage was given things like OTC pain meds, tums, eye drops, Neosporin and band aids in an effort to treat people there and only send big cases to the doctors.

Maste playing doctor

I didn’t make any notes in terms of specific patients or things that affected me. This day I think spirits were high and we were stoked to be really starting to settle in doing what we came to do. I do recall that we were supposed to be able to leave our things in the church because the door had a lock, but it turns out that each day we were going to have to pack things up and move it all across the street to the church office. That was a bit of a pain in the butt but by the end of the week we had quite the system down and could set up the 6 station clinic in 20 minutes or less. We got to eat lunch as a group in the church. The lovely ladies at the Guest House had made rice and vegetables for us, and it really hit the spot. I didn’t eat much for breakfast because I wasn’t feeling super well but being able to put something on my stomach made me feel a lot better.

Clinic on Tuesday was a later one, and we didn’t start closing up shop until about 5pm. We went back to the Guest House and had dinner with the promise of ice cream later. I remember this dinner was candle lit but I don’t know what we had. Salad, because we all questioned whether or not it was safe to eat, and probably beef and pasta because we also ate a lot of that all week. We did a fair amount of sitting around after dinner, waiting to go to ice cream. We were told we’d be leaving around 7:15pm and didn’t hit the road until close to 8pm. I was surprised when we loaded up the vans, as I thought it was a place we were walking to. Apparently there is nothing safe to walk to within that radius of the Guest House, so we took a van into Greater Addis to a place called Kaldi’s. It was reminiscent of American Starbucks, selling coffee and some food, but the food was hardier than Starbucks, including things like burgers and fries.

Maste sat across from me and it gave us a good time to chat. I asked him about his life and he told me how Young Life came in and introduced him to the Lord. And how he went to University and studied Business Administration. For dessert he had ordered a vanilla frappachino, but unlike the states, the drink didn’t have coffee. I got chocolate and strawberry ice cream. Someone had ordered a plate of fries, and I started eating my ice cream with the fries. The ice cream was thick and rich and wonderful, although I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical of milk in Ethiopia. Maste was eyeing my concoction with some wariness but I convinced him to try it, telling him it really was good and reminding him that I was daring enough to stick my hands in injera. He tried, dipping a fry in my ice cream, and the look on his face was priceless. I think he had a bit of a hard time swallowing it. Haha. He said that Americans eat some weird stuff, but I say his distaste comes from a general lack of knowledge about desserts, since I don’t think most Ethiopians eat much dessert.

Mmm, ice cream
After ice cream, we made our way back to the Guest House. Beth and I played Bananagrams with Andy and learned a bit about his past. He is a very interesting person. Just as we were getting ready to go to bed, one of our teammates comes downstairs saying she doesn’t feel well. Beth and I talk to her and eventually we wake up Dr. John and Kathleen, because we think she is having a slight panic attack. We spend a good part of the early evening awake, just chatting and waiting for her medicine to kick in. We don’t make it to bed until after 1am.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ethiopia - Day 3 Akake

Monday was similar to Sunday in that we spent a lot of the day travelling.  We made a short visit to the Akake boarding school as we made our way back home from Shashemene.  At Akake, we saw around 50 kids.  This clinic was a bit more of a challenge, as it was an open air, uncovered affair. 

Pharmacy from a bag

The set up at Shashamene was outside but underneath the covering of an amphitheater.  Akake had nothing but trees to offer protection.  It proved a bit difficult this time around as there was no triaging area.  The kids were coming to us without as much information as we’d had yesterday, so we sometimes had to weigh kids to get the correct dosing for medications.  I’m working with Beth again in the pharmacy, and to help her as much as I can, I’m trying to pull out the medicines she needs but am not worrying over the amount to give them.  However, with limited space, the only place to put them is on top of the medicine chest.  This area only holds so many things, and with the wind blowing, we find ourselves chasing papers more often than we’d like to. 

Luckily, on the whole, these kids are healthy, and it appears as if this school is more expensive than the school at Shashamene.  The kids wear blue and white uniforms and many of them speak at least a little English. 

Funny, not so funny story - towards the end of clinic, one of the Eggum team members comes up to me and shows me a packet of pills, asking me if I know what they are.  Looking at the packet it’s obvious.  The 6 tablet packet of Mebendazole has been handed out to each patient that is seen, regardless of diagnosis, to treat parasites.  This packet is distinctly different though – it’s empty.  The kids are being instructed to take one tablet with us, then other one tonight, following every day with one pill in the morning and one in the evening for 3 days (when the pills are gone).  Clearly something got lost in translation.  Beth consults her phone and discovers that, luckily, the worst that will happen is this kid will get terribly physically ill for a while.  Poor guy.

Once we got back to the Guest House, Beth and I stepped out on the balcony to survey the view. 

Our house looked directly into the school yard of the private school across the street, South West Academy.  There were some kids outside the school yard wall playing a game in the dirt of the street.  While we could never figure out the object, it involved tossing a marker of some sort while perched atop another player like a horse.  Inside the wall, there were a few kids waiting to be picked up.  They found great pleasure in yelling at us, asking us if we were Americans and calling us beautiful ladies.  One kid got a kick out of sticking his tongue out at us.  They were cute kids, and seemed to be well taken care of.  Green uniforms were required for school and one of the parents was very well dress as she came to pick up her son.  It seems that school in Ethiopia is free but uniforms are required and must be purchased.  The option of education is there but a lot of families cannot afford to pay for the uniforms so their kids do not attend school.

I also wanted to spend some time making some cultural notes.  Seemingly trivial things that I don’t want to forget, like Coke is called Coka and they serve it warm.  Although each time I ordered it in restaurants, it did come out cold.  The coffee is bitter without sugar but it’s normally served with sugar I think (the two times I had it I had it served once with and once without sugar). 

When driving, one faces many obstacles.  Not only are there no working traffic lights (we did see some in Greater Addis but they were not working), but traffic often gets close enough that a misplaced hand could spell disaster.  Livestock often crosses the road at inopportune times, requiring some quick thinking behind the wheel.  One will often see sheep, cows, horses, goats, yaks, and donkeys just standing in the middle of the highway testing fate.  Horn honks on the road can mean many different things.  Most often, however, they do not mean “You're a jerk” like they do in the US.  It’s more often a “Hey, I’m coming up beside you to pass, don’t change lanes” or “Hey pedestrian, don’t cross right now." 

This area is also a no-flush-TP culture.  Actually, both times we were in the Addis air port, there wasn’t even TP in the bathrooms.  You’ll often see people, mostly men, peeing on the side of the road, although most make the decision not to face traffic.  We did, however, see one woman utilizing nature in the middle of a busy intersection on our way to the Post Office district to shop one day.

Tomorrow is our first day of clinic in Korah.  Lots to do!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ethiopia Day 2 - Shashemene

Right now I'm laying under a tee-pee mosquito net, not feeling too much like a princess despite my canopy, basking in the warm dry air of Africa.  Our room smells like deet.  There's malaria in the town of Awassa and all precautions are taken. 

My bed at the hotel in Awassa - loving the shiny sheets and mosquito net.

Today was a full day to say the least.  I slept well last night, the bed at the Guest House was firm and wonderful.  We were up at 4:15am this morning getting ready for departure at 5:00am.  We had five vans full of us, our stuff for the overnight trip, the medicines for two boarding school visits (one to Shashamene and one to Akake), and lots of bottled water. 

Our ride began in the dark but it was lovely watching the sun rise over the city.  It was oddly quiet and empty, the hustle and bustle of Saturday gone.  There were a surprising number of people out jogging, although whether it was for exercise or transportation is unknown.  We saw a group of kids playing soccer in an empty street.  Shortly after we began, our caravan stopped for unknown reasons and I saw a man peeing on the side of the road.  Not an unusual occurrence here, but this man didn't even bother to turn his back to traffic.

On our way out of the capital city of Addis Ababa, we were warned that we would likely be stopped as we approached the city limits.  In order to leave the city, a permit had to be purchased and paperwork is given that must be able to be presented when requested.  Luckily the two times we were stopped we were waived through fairly quickly.  We road through the country for at least two and a half hours before stopping for breakfast.  The houses in the country are different than houses in the city.  Aside from small towns, most houses in the country are round, with mud or something looking like stucco walls, and roofs covered in straw or grass.

Typical country villa.
Small town on the side of the road.  These are more like what a typical house in Addis looks like.
Every section of road has potential as a livestock crossing.

We saw a lot of animal crossings, mostly cows.  I asked Maste, one of the translators, if cows were a sign of wealth and he said not really.  I saw a decomposing horse on the side of the road, not too far from two grazing wild horses - they most likely took no notice of their friend's unfortunate fate.  There were also some detours for road construction, and a ton of amazingly beautiful trees.  We saw a lot of people walking along the side of the road with large containers for water.  Some people carried them themselves on their backs or by their sides, some used a kind of cart pulled by either themselves or a donkey.

Breakfast was awesome.  On the way to Shashemene we stopped at a place called Hotel Beteliheem. 

The menus didn't give any descriptions on the dishes so we all guessed when we ordered.  Beth got a Continental breakfast, which ended up being four pieces of toast with butter and jam, and mango juice.  Samme and Stephanie, our two roommates, got french toast, which looked like deep fried bread.  Pancakes turned out more like crepes and apparently tasted too much like injera for Jake's liking.  I got an Ethiopian omelet.  It was pretty "normal" but the eggs were a little too done for my taste.  It had onion and green pepper inside, but probably other things too I didn't pick up on.

The leaders and drivers sat at their own table and ordered a communal dish of injera, some kind of meat, eggs, and a few other things.  Beth and I went over to try a bite and the guys fed it to us, which is apparently a high honor.  It was very good, albeit a little spicy. 

After breakfast, we drove another 45 minutes to Shashemene to see about 200 boarding school kids and give them medical assessments.  We took vitals like height and weight, blood pressure, age, etc at the triage station, and then the kids were funnelled to one of four doctor's stations.  The final stop was the pharmacy for any medicines they were prescribed.  The kids were really cute and most of them just had minor issues like coughs or stomach upsets.  We gave out lots of ibuprofen and tums, and each kid got a dose of Mabendazole for de-worming.

Some of our supplies
The pharmacy station
We set up in an amphitheatre for the clinic.  Shortly after we got all set up and decided we were ready to go, it was time for lunch.  Here are some of the kids (and Jake) waiting to be called to be seen.

Dr. John checking for lice with Yiesmachew interpreting

Evelyn taking down some basic information in triage
Janet getting some vitals
Most of the day I was responsible for maintaining the waiting line.  At first, I helped unpack items and put them in the appropriate area.  Once the doctors started seeing patients, I spent a little bit of time watching over Sandy and Pat's shoulders but soon felt like I was more in the way than I was helping out.  I know so little about the medical field I couldn't even take notes for the doctors.  I went around to all the stations and asked if anyone needed anything and then spoke with Cherrie about where I could be most useful.  She asked me if I couldn't maintain the area where the kids were waiting to see a doctor but had already been through triage.  It was an interesting place to be in, but hard sometimes to get conversation going with the kids.  Some of them spoke English but some didn't, and you can only get the kids to teach you to count to 10 so many times (I have that mastered, by the way!)

Learning numbers

This girl on the left I talked with for a long time.  She told me she wants to be an artist when she grows up and she asked me if I was happy (the second kid to pose that question to me that day).  I said yes and asked her the same, to which she replied yes.
I did get to work with Beth a bit in the pharmacy and that was fun but overwhelming at times.  We had no lunch break this day, just a little section of time to eat a granola bar or whatever we had on us.  We closed up shop around 5:00pm and headed to an Italian place for dinner.  It had excellent food - pizza, lasagna, gnocchi - and I had my first Ethiopia Coca (p.s. it tastes the same.  Often you'll find it served warm but in most restaurants they give it to you cold).

After dinner we returned to our rooms at the hotel in Awassa and crashed.  We got to sleep in a little compared to how today started and were headed to Akake tomorrow for our second boarding school visit.  Here's a few pictures of our hotel room.

This is the door to the bathroom (the door into the room is on the same wall).  Beth and I found it comical that the t.v. had a plastic bag over it.  We don't know why.  It wasn't plugged in either.

Our bathroom.  We had to put a towel in the window because you could totally peek in from the courtyard if you had wanted to.  Things were clean and we were pleased that we could get hot water too (although I didn't let the tank heat up long enough before I showered and ended up with a cold one)
The courtyard
Protective measures

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ethiopia - Day 1 con't

Once we arrived at the Guest House, we took stuff in and unloaded the vans, piling everything just inside the courtyard.  We got our room assignments and then reconvened for lunch, something we'd all been looking forward to as our last meal was airplane food around 6:30am.  Lunch at the Guest House consisted of french fries, an orange, and pasta mixed with vegetables.  I can't tell if the pasta was done in oil or butter, but there was always a little liquid left in the bowl.  The food was delicious and so much better than airplane food!

Teammate and roommate Samme posing with just a portion of the totes brought from the States.

After lunch and a regrouping session, we took a trip into Korah.  Arrival in this area of the city was a little surreal.  The setting was much like I'd imagined, especially since I'd done a fair amount of pictorial research before travelling.  What surprised me was the response we were met with as we drove in.  Kids ran beside the vans, knocking on windows and waiving and smiling, reaching into open windows to tap shoulders and say hey or ask for gum.  We had a hard time getting out of the van because of the crowd of kids who had come to see us. 

This was a moment of discomfort for me.  I was seated on the third row of van seats, inside by the window.  As the people in front of me stepped out I hesitated. It's not that I didn't want to get out, but I had one of those moments - one of those "What the heck am I doing here?" moments.  How was I supposed to relate to these people?  I'm not good at meeting new people in America, how can I meet new people in this foreign country?  There was a brief moment where I took a deep breath, eyes closed, and then I stepped out of the van.

Immediately upon our exit, hands were grabbed, arms were stroked, names were asked.  The kids were adorable, although I remember wondering how long it had been since some of them changed clothes.  I stroked hair and held hands, picked kids up and tried to dole out as many smiles and waves as possible. 

On the streets of Korah is open sewage ditches and animal bones, old shoes, trash and unknown substances litter the streets.

Street in Korah.

There were two specific things that stuck out to me during our first walk through Korah.  The first was a small child, no older than three (I'm guessing on the age and it's hard - a lot of the kids and adults are small for their ages).  I can't remember if the child was a boy or girl, but I remember wondering where their parents were.  This child had its head down, focused on the road, stepping on large rocks without the protection of shoes on its small feet.  Without looking up, a hand was extended, asking for help.  I wondered "If you walk with me, will you know how to get home?  Who's going to know where you are?  Is someone watching over you?"  My fears were settled when, shortly after offering me a hand, the child released mine.  It was surprising to me that this small child wandered without shoes, without a watchful eye.

The second notable moment was after our home visits.  Walking down the street toward the church I pass a mother and her pre-teen daughter.  Clearly mom is upset and scolding her, harshly holding her by the arm and leading her.  I then watch her pick up a hollow stick (what I now think to be sugarcane) and promptly whack her daughter with it multiple times.  During this, I notice my breath coming more sharply and I avert my eyes.  After all, even though I don't agree, who I am to step in?

While part of our goal during our first Korah visit was to get oriented to the area we would be working and seeing some of the area, we were also needing to see some patients that would be too weak to make it to the clinic.  We split up into groups, each with at least one doctor, some nurses and some non-medical people.  My group saw two of the four people needing attention.  The first was a twenty-eight year old widow with three children.  Her name was Awaygaye.  She was HIV positive and had come down with a chest infection (I think Sandy diagnosed her with an upper respiratory infection) and had been unable to leave her bed for weeks.  Among her complaints were an extreme sore throat, stomach ache, and chest pains.

Awaygaye out of her house for the first time in weeks.  This was after a few days of Sandy (in the blue scrubs) visiting and
administering fluids via IV.
One thing that struck me about Awaygaye was her hospitality.  Her room had two beds in it, one clearly for the children (I know this because of a doll placed at the head of the bed).  When we all arrived at her house, there were probably 6 or 8 of us, she insisted that we sit.  And she managed to direct Maste, our translator, in such a way that we all had a place to sit.  She had nothing to offer us but wanted to honor us in the only way she knew how - giving us a place to sit and rest. 

Towards the end of the visit, Awaygaye's daughter came in.  She had talked about her three kids and her fears for them as her HIV advances.  After the assessment, we laid hands on her and prayed.  Rand was holding the daughter, and during the prayer she started stroking my face and hair.  It was clear that she was intrigued by us and our visit to her house.

The second patient we visited was a man who told us he had been bedridden for a year and a half.  He suffered from leprosy, and we think diabetes, and had lost most of the feeling in his lower extremities.  Unfortunately, there was little we could do for him except offer love and some medicine for his pain.  It's hard to believe what some people are able to put up with and live with, and equally hard to believe what contributes to so many deaths.

After our visit to Korah, we spent a good part of the afternoon and evening unpacking and repacking the totes full of supplies.  We tried to group things in general categories and make it easier to find what we were looking for. 

We took over the massage room at the Guest House and starting pulling things out, putting things back in, and moving totes into the hallway.

We had a lot of people, and a lot of stuff, in a relatively small space.  It was probably actually quite comical.

At the end of the evening Sumer (the founder of Project 61 and an American from Tennessee) came in to talk about our day at Shashemene the next day.  Shashemene is a boarding school where some of the children are Korah residents who have been sponsored, moved from life in the trash dump to a school where they are fed and taught.  She made a comment about the kids all wanting to see a doctor because so often someone they know gets sick and a week later is dead without any indication as to why.  How scary that must be - to come down with something simple like a cold and wonder if you're going to die. 

After our pow-wow and a slight debrief on the day, we all retire to bed.  Five a.m. will come all too soon.

Ethiopia - Day 1

This whole thing has been a crazy wild ride.  Yesterday morning I got to the airport at 4:45am with mom and dad, picked up my totes, and waiting in the surprisingly long line to check in.  It being a small, regional airport, and so early in the morning, I didn't expect much of a wait.  One agent was assigned to check in all 6 of us, and I think he got so overwhelmed that he didn't even bother weighing most of our totes.  We had spent a lot of time being very particular about the weight, and before I got there he did weigh two of them and declared them too heavy.  I think once he saw how many of us there were, he just decided not to keep going with that trend.  Such a blessing, right from the get go!

We hopped our small airplane and took a short 30 minute flight to D.C.  When we were almost there, the sun started to come up above the clouds and it was a beautiful shade of pink.  It reminded me a lot of the plane ride to Nicaragua, where we got to watch a full sunrise above the clouds.

We waited around in D.C. for quite some time, found our terminal and a place to eat breakfast, and eventually met up with the rest of our team.  We spent time in the airport getting to know each other.  I think it was 16 of us that left from D.C.  Cherrie and 3 of our other team members were already in Addis.
A portion of our team waiting in the long line to board the plane.

The flight over was very long.  We sat on the runway for clearance for almost an hour, and didn't take off until 12:30pm.  I lucked out with a window seat and didn't have anyone in the middle seat.  The guy on the aisle I didn't know.  The first half of the ride was do-able, but after about 6am EST (or 1am in Ethiopia), it seemed unbearably long.  I was starting to feel antsy and a little sick from being cooped up and seated just before we were able to get off.  The plane was a little warm and felt stuffy.  Plus, thirteen hours is just a long time (it'll be closer to 17 hours coming home though - oh man!)

The country was a lot greener than I'd expected, and more mountainous.  I suppose the green comes from the fact that the rainy season just ended in September.  It was beautiful coming in and seeing the patchwork landscape.  Also, last night sometime in between me groggily turning over, I looked out the window and got to watch lightening from above the clouds - beautiful!

African landscape, although which country I'm not sure.

Old airplanes at Bole International Airport
Once we unloaded the plane (when they opened the back cabin door and let in a little fresh air, it was like Heaven), we went though immigration to get our visas and through customs.  There was a $20 charge for the visa, and they funneled you into a small room with desks and asked you why you were here and when you were leaving.  All in all, customs and immigration was an easy process.

After the paperwork, we had the tasks of getting our totes and moving them out the door.  We paid an airport worker $20 to help us.  (Little did we know that each guy that even touched your bags expected a tip.  They wanted $5-$10 USD, even if they only pushed your cart a few feet after you asked them not to.  It got to be a little annoying after we made it out of the gates).  As you go to leave the airport, all your bags are x-rayed.  The official behind the counter can decide to let you go, or to take a look inside the bag.  If they see something inside they like, they can either take it and keep it, or take it and tell you to pay them this much to get it back.  (Operation Smile went in a few weeks before us and all of their totes got confiscated.  The official behind the counter wanted $8,000 USD to get it back and the team had to just walk away).  To help safeguard against this, we covered our medicine chests with navy blue poster paper so that if those totes did get opened, hopefully the official would think it was the bottom of the tote.  I got asked what all my stuff was for.  My answer:  visiting friends.  I didn't lie, I just didn't know my friends yet :).  Miraculously, all our totes made it through without trouble, except one of Ann's that just had clothes in it.  An official searched through it but didn't take anything. 

Riding through the city was an eye opener.  It wasn't anything worse than I'd expected or already seen in other countries, but I figured we'd see more poverty in Korah and in the Addis.  There were lots of "walls" made from little more than corrugated steel leaning against two wooden poles.  It was almost ironic looking at construction throughout the city - new concrete buildings being erected in between scaffolding made from large posts of Eucalyptus. 
Driving through Addis on the way to the Guest House
Construction from the balcony of the Guest House.  Lots of buildings looked like this, half finished, and only sometimes did we see people actually working on them.  One of the trip leaders said some of these buildings have looked the same for 3 years.
There were also a lot more signs in English than I expected.  Stores and shops lined some streets; sometimes it was hard to tell what was a shop and what was a house.  I think in a fair amount of cases it was both.  Some busy intersections were met with donkeys and a herd of goats crossing without pause.  People also seemed to just cross the street whenever and I was amazed at how close a car would get to someone before stopping.  It was a short trip from the airport to the Guest House, luckily, but more on that later!