Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ryan's 1st 24 hours...

Ryan wrote this about his first day experience on our way to the South after landing in Ethiopia.

Have you ever had a bad couple of days? Well let me tell you a little about my driver on this trip to Shanto. First, in his defense, the vehicle he has to drive is far from stellar. It does tend to sway around a lot and he has a lot of trouble getting it into 4th gear. That said whenever he turns to pass a car it is as though he is trying to do the slalom course.

Yesterday he had a tough time getting the vehicle to go. We stalled numerous times and several of them were because he forgot to take the parking break off when we were starting to go after lunch. This caused us to fall so far behind the lead vehicle that we lost them and took an unscheduled tour of a before unseen portion of town, nearly hitting a commercial stall when we went to turn around and also nearly getting the four wheel drive vehicle stuck at the same time. We also had the misfortune of backing into a light pole and curb when we stopped to stretch our legs.

That brings me to today. Once again we had fallen behind the lead vehicle when we got to one of the numerous round-a-bouts here in Ethiopia. We took it so fast I was thrown over into Rob, the tires squealed and Rob and I were sure we were going to tip over or at the very least lose some of the luggage strapped to the top. I guess if you are going to get in a car wreck you may as well do it with a MD by your side (more on that later).

In Ethiopia it is not against the law to have your unsupervised animals wondering around the road. It is, however; illegal to hit them with a vehicle and kill them. While I do not know for certain we did come really close to a goat at one point, I heard a loud thud, as one would expect to hear if a goat head had contacted the side of the car, people yelled at us and we quickly sped out of town. When the lead car pulled over just outside of town we simply continued at a high rate of speed until we were several Kilometers down the road.

Within a half hour of that we expertly hit a hole (it was to big to call it just a pot hole) which jarred the vehicle enough that the hood nearly popped loose. Stopping along the side of the road we took a piece of rope and tied the hood down with a piece of rope.

Off we were again, down the road to Shanto. By this time we were well off heavily traveled roads and proceeding down the dirt road. When we rounded the corner in the middle of the road only to be greeted by a bus coming in the other direction. With the simplicity that only our driver could have shown we swerved out of the way. The problem was there was a man on the road in the way of us so instead of hitting the man, we continued forward and through a ditch that is close to a foot deep and probably 3-4 feet wide.

What happened next I am not one hundred precent sure. I know I was thrown into the air twice. The first time Rob tells me he was thrown over into me so I can only assume that I was thrown into the door. When I came down I felt severe pain in my tail bone as though I had landed on a bar. I then was thrown forward because I remember thinking I was going to go over our driver. I believe that is when the rope holding all the luggage on top broke and the luggage came crashing forward, breaking the windshield and taking off the driver's side windshield wiper. When it was all said and done Rob had hurt his elbow, my tailbone was either broken or bruised, and the only damage to the car was what I mentioned. We felt lucky. The windshield was in place and who needs wipers when it doesn't rain much anyway.

The day went well. I had a surprise birthday party Shanto style. Complete with a cake and really big sign.

 Desalegn and I talked about the animal project and I helped Rob with some menial tasks while he did physicals. Then a one year old girl was brought in with severe infection around her eyes. I had to hold her down while Rob cleaned the abscess above her eye. At one point when we were bandaging her I thought she died. She went so limp and she dropped the sucker she had in her hand. We hope to see her tomorrow to start her on antibiotics we pick up in the morning but Rob isn't sure she will live through the night.

We all piled back into our vehicles to make the return trip to Soddo when it started to rain. Funny how you don't think much about a wiper until you are driving in the rain. Well, let's just say the passenger could see okay. But did we stop? no! Why?  Because we are men and we are not going to let something as little as no vision slow us down. We pressed on.  When we came to the "Y" in the road that we did not know which direction to take, did we stop? No! We pressed on. When the windows fogged over and we could not see through the fog did we stop? No! We pressed on with open windows because the defrost did not work. When it rained so hard we could not see the road at all, did we stop? No, we pressed on. Eventually we found the lead car waiting for us at an intersection telling us to head to the right, did we stop? No, we went to the left. This was fortunately corrected quickly.  To make a long story shorter, we lost the lead vehicle again and it took us so long to get to Soddo that they came back looking for us. Rob and I had a great laugh the entire time because if we didn't laugh we would have surely cried.

Arriving at the hotel we found that we did not have reservations like we were suppose to and they had no room. I am not sure why it took the Ethiopians 45 minutes to hash this out but it did. Finally it was decided to head out to eat. First he drove forward while I was trying to climb into the back seat. I had troubles getting in before I hurt myself and trust me I did not get any faster. Fortunately I avoided getting run over and was able to enter the truck when it stopped moving. He was apologetic. At dinner, I was suprised when Tamara brought out cards from the kids and candy bars for everyone. She also passed a card around and everyone signed it.

When we left dinner our driver struck again. Literally! This time it was a red Toyota truck that had the misfortune of parking behind us. Even though it was witnessed by a guard he did not get in trouble and we just drove away to our current hotel. I can't say much about this hotel other than I stayed in worse. It was in Mongolia but it was more scary than this.

I got to call the kids at school and they sang happy birthday to me and asked if I liked the cards they made and then I got the best gift of all. . . . Ingrid informed me that as of 9am tomorrow we will have a new driver and new vehicle!  While this probably will not go down as my best birthday ever, it is definitely going to be one of the most memorable.

The next day the van did show up right on time. Not only did the new van and driver have to leave at 2am to be here on time, but they brought another driver to bring the first one and the truck back. They did not even trust him enough to drive himself back to Addis. Heck of a way to, all we can assume is, end your career. Being driven back to the office to be fired. To bad. He was a really nice guy, just not a very good driver.

Monday, April 22, 2013

From Bonnie

I loved the team we traveled with to Ethiopia. I love what they taught me, how they experienced life there, how they interacted with others. I was blessed to watch them serve, and to serve along with them. With that said, I asked my team to share about their experiences. The first one is from Bonnie.  

Thank you Bonnie for your willingness to share:

Even though been putting off writing about Ethiopia, it has never been very far from my mind at any given moment. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was, it caught me unawares -- many times. A catch in my throat, a sigh, a tear that formed in my eye--these were all manifestations in my physical body what my heart was feeling.

 Sure, I was excited to meet up with my husband, whom I hadn’t seen for eight weeks. Sure, we were thrilled to be able to meet and hug our little Girum, whom we sponsor. But I was not prepared for certain moments, like when 225 precious children in tattered uniforms and bare feet came to welcome us with so much appreciation. Like when we went shopping for some socks and closed-toe shoes that we could give Girum and it only cost $20 U.S. dollars. Like when we presented those shoes and socks with the gift bag and found out that they were his first pair of shoes--ever. He is nine years old and in first grade and walks over five miles a day just to get to school and the feeding center. We realized that our sponsorship is just a drop in the bucket among thousands of children, but it is making a huge difference in his little life.

 And then there was the moment that we had a home visit with Girum’s mother and family. “Oh, it’s not far,” they said as we had to stop the van and walk down the washed-out road. Africa is huge, and when they say, “It’s not far,” don’t believe them. We got to the mud hut where Girum’s mother was. This was my first home visit and I was not prepared. I was shocked at the state of her mud hut. I could see the sun shining through the gaping hole in the back. Girum has five other siblings and his mother is a widow. His mother began to cry when we came because she had been praying to God to send some relief. She saw Girum’s shoes and was so grateful. I think Girum is the only one out of that whole family that gets one consistent meal per day. Through a translator we learned that she had her one breast cut off. They don’t call it breast cancer, they call it “breast sickness.” Her first husband had died several years before and she had been hired out to another man. This other man abandoned her, but left her his legacy in the child that she was holding and nursing with her one breast. I assured her of our prayers and then we had to leave. I was crying when we left. The loaf of bread we brought for her was woefully inadequate.

I remember the moment the first time I had to use the “squatty potties.” And then realizing the staff and the children alike had to use these all the time. Many moments were routine, like when I took vital signs from child after child so they could have a medical record after the doctor examined them. Do you know that in Ethiopia, there is a ruler that I marked on a door jamb for children’s heights that will probably be there for many years? I am so very thankful I went on this trip. It brings the mission field up close and personal. When I read about Ethiopia in the Bible I can say I’ve been there. Though I could write much more, I will remember that the moments were precious, unforgettable, and sometimes troubling.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Welcome Back

We received a warm welcome from the FOVC-Ethiopia students.  They come walking down the path singing, and waving their signs.  It is such a precious sight, even as a repeat visitor:

Before they could finish their song, I found little Hannah in the crowd of children.  Hannah is the little girl who attached her self to Ryan's group when he was out treating livestock on our first trip.  At that time, Hannah stole the heart of us visitors.  Because of the desperate situation of Hannah's family, she began receiving schooling through the FOVC program.  It was no surprise that she climbed right into my arms and then made her way to her pal, Ryan.  You can see this in the picture below.

Last fall when Hope Chest added more children to the existing sponsorship program, there was our little friend.  She had grown so much.  Because of the support that Hannah gets through her Hope Chest sponsorship, Hannah continues to grow and learn.

Following our warm welcome, we celebrated Ryan's birthday.
The kids parade was lead by this sign while they sang Happy Birthday. 

 Ryan was  presented with fresh flowers, a true gift from the students.

His "birthday cake" was a double-layered super big loaf of bread with a birthday greeting on the top:

After Ryan broke bread with the knife, and the bread was passed out to the children, we had the traditional coffee ceremony which included roasting coffee and grinding it, before serving it along with popcorn.

Meet Asikanech.  This beautiful bright-eyed child is in need of a sponsor.  
You too can make a difference in the life of a child through the sponsorship program. $34 per month can impact a child for a life time.  You can sponsor her today by clicking on this secure link.  It is my goal for the remaining children to be sponsored before I continue work on the crops for widows project. There are 51 children in need of sponsors in Shanto today. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Team

Did you know I was just in Southern Ethiopia?  It was an amazing trip.  I've been home for over a week now and finally adjusting back to home.  Of course, now that I'm feeling adjusted, I have a slight cold.  Part of my adjustment always includes some stomach issues.  Thankfully, I don't have isssues when I'm in-country.  But when I return home, it's like my stomach wages war with foods.  I'm no specialist or super-smart person, but I wonder if it has something to do with putting foods back into my system that have preservatives, dyes, and other junk.  Enough about that.

Moving on.

The pictures tell stories themselves, right?  Let me start with a few.  But before that, in case you need some background, here's a short overview.  Adopted in 2010, drove South, saw the need.  Made ourselves available to serve in the area of our son's birth.  This was my 3rd trip to FOVC-Ethiopia and Ryan's 2nd.  

This was our team.  From left to right: Thomas, (our intepreter & all around helper); Bonnie & Tom (Dale sponsors. B helped wherever asked. T is more adventurous and took video and photos the whole trip); Antonio (high school student and our comic relief. His first time out of the U.S.); Alex (Hope Chest Discipler, our host, great leader); Rob (team Doc, cracker distributor); Abigail (college student, sponsor, Ingrid's right hand); me; Ryan (veterinarian, my husband; practical thinker); Ingrid (sponsorship coordinator, prayer warrior, awesome). Not pictured: Desalegn (FOVC Director); Kaight (Base Camp, aka Rob's "home-girl"); and Colleen (shuttle driver for Rob to Dulles... but that's a whole seperate story).

Who would have known our team  would have interacted so well together?  Ingrid would.  She prayed diligently for the right team members who would get along.  And that we did.  Not only that, but our team was great at pitching in and helping out where needed.  Whether it was helping in the medical clinic, buying supplies at the pharmacy, organizing donations, crafting with children, translating, wrangling cattle, and every other thing that came up, our team pitched in and helped.  It was a joy to be with such a fun group for 11 days.

Travelling on a semi-regular basis helps me feel at home in Ethiopia.  I love that.  It's also important for me to not become numb to the needs I see when I'm there.  To remember that while they don't need to be Westernized, they also have great need at a very basic level.  It was refreshing for me experience this trip through new eyes by watching some of my team who'd never been there before.  Wanting to help in many ways was also a reminder that what we might think "helps" really can be a disservice to them.  

In the coming weeks, I plan to post regularly.  I've even asked some of my team to guest post.  Be patient and check back.