March 28, 2009

I found out Tuesday morning that Sunday, my cousin Kristen Ching, her husband, and her two children were killed along with two other families and the pilot in an airplane crash in Montana. My Mom called to tell me. Apparently it’s all over the news. A coworker, not knowing we were related to the family had read about the crash Monday. We had not been able to get online that day. I’m going to miss them so much. Life is so fragile.



March 28, 2009

Wagari Bobo, a guard at GAH, wants to borrow money to build a house. The other day during conversation about how to obtain the needed capital, he asked Mark how it is to be related to former president Bill Clinton. According to Wagari, the word is out that Mark and Bill Clinton are family. It was the first Mark had heard of this news. He let Wagari know the rumor is false, and then jokingly asked Wagari if he was related to Obama. Wagari sadly shook his head “No”, and then said, “But if I were, I’m sure he would help”. Obama is dearly beloved in Ethiopia. There are t-shirts with pictures of Obama, posters of his hopeful face, books about his life and cafes named in his honor.

 Mark had forgotten about this incident when a few days later, he walked into a local Bank in Gimbie to transfer some money. One of the bank employees nodded and respectfully let Mark in, saying “greetings to Bill Clinton’s blood brother!”  Oh, dear!

We can’t figure out how on earth this rumor got started. Does Mark look anything like Bill? We don’t think so. 

Recently, Jonah received several new T-shirts in the mail from his grandmother, Oma. He wants to wear all of them every day. The first several days he tried wearing three or four T-shirts at once. Since it’s hot here that wasn’t working, so he started changing outfits several times a day. In the process, he discovered he likes very much finding “outfits” that match. He now prefers to have his shirt, socks, shorts and underwear all the same color (this is possible since he wears a lot of navy blue and red). Mission accomplished, he gets very excited, showing me how he found the matches and then put them on all by himself- zippers, buttons and everything. Today he had on his full plastic raingear suit- a complete match- blue from head to toe. It took some major negotiating to get him to take them off. I pointed out the clear blue sky and the sun shining down, he reminded me of how (two days ago) he and Daddy had walked to the garden when it was not raining and on the way back, got caught in a thunderstorm, getting soaking wet.




March 16, 2009

March 15, 2009

Friday, Jonah and I walked to the post office. I held his hand as he eagerly skipped along, his pockets stuffed full of bananas, one banana grasped tightly in his right hand. The guard unlocked the Hospital door and we parted through a crowd of sweaty people hoping to get inside. Jonah let go of my hand, and running up to the old beggar at his usual post on a piece of cardboard near the front of the Hospital, he unloaded his Bananas into the old man’s lap. Jonah’s face beamed as the elderly man clasped his worn hands about Jonah little ones. “Galatooma” said the old man, the smile on his warty face revealing a mouth full of rotten teeth and receding gums. 

Jonah ran back to me, waving goodbye, and took my hand again. As we walked along, several young women began calling to Jonah. Hearing this, he turned around smiling and called back “You, You, You!” (this greeting is what local children call out to foreigners- he has discovered it gets a good response) the ladies looked at each other and begin to laugh.

As we turned out the gate, as usual, a crowd of curious children began to form around us. “Joan”… “Jonny”… they called. The local children usually just want see what the “Farangis” (foreigners) will do and would be happy for a Birr or two.

Our following assembled, we started out for the Post Office. The children were thin, and dressed in ragged clothing. Some had plastic shoes but others were barefoot. Some had sores on their faces, others had faces and hands smeared with dried snot and dirt. Some had wet coughs. All were very dirty. One boy, who looked something like a pirate, wore ragged red pajama pants that hit just below his knees and two layers of holey, mis-sized striped shirts. The boy with the pirate pants took a place along side Jonah. The rest of the children followed behind us as we made our way up the concrete-slab walk that straddles the drainage ditch. We looked down at our feet, trying to miss the sometimes large holes between the concrete which reveal the trash and sewage below.  The air felt warm, and dusty and was laden with the smells of Gimbie: exhaust, sweat, smoke, chickens, donkeys, and fruit. Soon we saw the little blue and white Post Office surrounded by a concrete wall and a weedy patch of dirt which ended in a pile of purple bougainvillea in the corner. I told Jonah to stay nearby as I joined the line in front of the grimy glass window. Jonah and the boy with the pirate pants happily exchanged bougainvillea flowers among themselves. 

On the way back, the boy with the pirate pants took Jonah’s right hand and a small boy with green ragged clothing held onto Jonah’s left wrist (his left hand was gripped tightly in mine) as we walked along home. Jonah was beaming again. “Mommy” he said, “These are my new friends! Can we take them home?”  

I’m beginning to understand why Jesus says we should humble ourselves and become like little children. At two, Jonah only sees the human being. He doesn’t notice the poverty, the stench, the disease, the rags, or the dirt. Anyone can be his friend. He doesn’t judge motives or feel guilt. He just loves. 

Little Bird

March 16, 2009

March 15, 2009 

Sabbath on the walk back from potluck, it was hot and breezy. Mark was still in Addis, so I lugged the serving dishes, water, Jonah’s bib and our indoor shoes home by myself. I set the stuff down on the hot cement ledge and turned to unlock our kitchen door when out of the corner of my eye I saw a little brown and white striped bird hopping toward us. It was very close. “Look Jonah!” I said. Jonah’s eyes got wide with excitement. He has been wanting a pet bird badly, ever since we began reading “Thy Friend Obadiah” a story about a Quaker boy with a friend Seagull. He often asks in a whisper, as he crouches toward a bird sipping water from the sink drain, “Mommy can this one be my pet?” Then just in time to escape, the bird flies away leaving Jonah empty handed. 

The little brown and white striped bird kept coming closer. Taken off guard, I wondered to myself if birds can get rabies (rabies is common problem here). “No”, I told myself “I don’t think so, but why this strange behavior? Is he sick?  His feathers do look a bit ruffled”…. Jonah approached, and in a flash the bird was sandwiched gently between his little hands. A look of satisfaction lit Jonah’s face. “Jonah don’t!” I blurted. “Be careful” I warned. “Why Mommy?” Jonah asked. “He might be sick” My thoughts had been said out laud before I could stop them. Instantly I was sorry for saying it. The smile on Jonah’s face fell. Almost tearfully he set the bird down and said “Well then I want another bird”. “Oh, Honey its ok; let’s see if it wants some water.”  I said trying to cheer him. 

The little bird just sat there looking at us. Quickly, I filled my hands with water and poured it onto the cement. The bird began to drink. Jonah found a plastic container, filled it with water and let the little bird sip from it. The little bird cocked its head to the side to look at us between drinks. We offered the bird some sesame seed after awhile, but it wasn’t interested. Instead it flew up to the dill patch a few feet away and began nibbling at leaves.  After watching him for awhile, it began to get too hot for me in the sun. I looked around for Jonah, who had become distracted and was mixing water and dirt. Mud was already on his church clothes. We went inside, leaving the friendly little bird in the shade of the dill patch. 



Farangi Mothering

March 16, 2009

March 5, 2009

I know that suffering and death are a big part of life, but I had planned to focus on the joy in life while Jonah was young by shielding him as much as I could from what he’d inevitably find out later. I had thought this wouldn’t be too difficult, but, that was before we moved to Africa. Now it seems impossible and ultimately wrong, to avoid contact with sickness, suffering, and death. After all, we do live on the campus of a hospital and we came here to help relieve the suffering. Would it be right to deprive him of being able to help, too? 

Now that he is in the “why” stage, things are often more complicated than I want to get. Mornings like today we wake up to crowds wailing near the morgue (not far from our house). Jonah asks “Mommy why are they crying? Did somebody get sick and die? Why?” 

Ever since Jonah had to ride along with us in the ambulance from Gimbie to Addis transporting the Chinese man with a fractured neck, he has been very serious about sickness, and he knows it can lead to death. When Mark or I get a cold for example, and offhandedly say we’re “sick”, Jonah looks very worried for a moment, until I say “but not very sick, Honey and Jesus takes care of us”. 

Not long ago some boys brought us an abandoned baby Antelope, a Dic Dic. It was so cute! Mark and Jonah bottle fed it. It was healthy for 3 weeks and then one morning when we woke up it was sick. It was dead by lunch time. That day, (I’m sure it was a blessing from God) a white cat from the other side of campus followed us home and stayed rubbing on Jonah’s knees and mewing as Jonah trembled with joy, petting and hugging it. Now, occasionally he will tell someone, in a soft high voice, his head tipped sadly to the side, “Our little Dic Dic died”…. “Ya”, he’ll say “It was very sad”. Then he brightens up and adds “But maybe there will be a little Dic Dic in heaven”. 

Protecting him from experiencing disease himself is not easy. On a walk Friday near the isolation rooms of the Hospital (which are along the main thoroughfare through campus) Jonah picked up and brought me a dirty cotton swab and a needle cap. “Jonah! Eeeeew!” I blurted (I surprised even myself –I think it’s been a long time since that adolescent word came out of my mouth!) Jonah began to laugh. Then came my sincere explanation about “germies” and how we can’t see them, but they can make us sick. He’s heard that many times. He knows…. Once I caught him licking the bottom of his shoes just to get my attention. 

Until lately, after running around the Hospital kissing, hugging and shaking hands with friends, patients and family alike, Jonah would shove his fingers into his mouth. I almost frantically would pull them out…That approach didn’t work. We tried giving him stickers when he didn’t put his hands in his mouth and that worked better. Mark said last time we were in Addis that if Jonah learned not to put his hands in his mouth, he’d get him a bike. 

The bike has been a debate all of its own. In America, we wouldn’t have thought twice about getting him one. Jonah remembers his little bike with training wheels that we sold last year, and talks about it fondly. But here, none of the children have bikes. In fact, most adults who would probably love to have one for transportation can’t begin to afford a bike. Children here don’t even have toys. They play with bumble bees tied to the ends of dirty little strings, or they use small weed fruits as marbles. If they are lucky, they’ll own a flattened soccer ball to kick around the dusty streets. That’s one issue with the bike, then there’s the discomfort we feel as parents either way we decide. If we do buy a bike and could have helped someone with that money (buy medicine, remove a goiter – opportunities abound here) is that wrong? Or, if we don’t get him a bike, is it fair to deprive him of any vestige of the American life he could have had if we hadn’t taken him to live in a poverty stricken African town in the middle of nowhere? 

Somehow life here seems to bring out in glaring color, dilemmas we never had in America.  When we lived in America we thought about the suffering that existed in the world, but we didn’t know first hand what it looked like. We could pray about it and give money but it wasn’t in our face.  In Africa we don’t get a break from seeing pain and suffering. Our paradigm of parenting has to change to fit these circumstances. 

I pray that God will keep Jonah humble, open hearted and loving. That God will somehow protect his two year old innocence enough that he can still have a joyful childhood. At this age it is easier—I can cheer him up instantly by showing him a flower, a bird or playing hide and seek. I pray though, that as he matures, he will remain caring, hopeful and joyful.

P.S. Mark brought back from Addis a perfectly acceptable used bike for Jonah that was given to us by Girma. Girma is a retired Ethiopian gentleman we are lucky enough to have on the AHI staff -he works as a kind of point man in Addis for GAH and helps us with business and travel arrangements for volunteers. God solved our dilemma in wonderful and unexpected way!



March 10, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Conundrum: b: “an intricate and difficult problem” (Merriam and Webster)

Mosquito nets are available for free in our community, but too often they aren’t used. Locals believe Malaria is transmitted by “bad air,” not mosquitoes. That is why, for example, when traveling in the bus between Addis and Gimbie, which is an all day affair, in the heat, and with inexperienced travelers vomiting here and there, people coughing here, a woman in labor over there- they make sure the windows are always rolled up. Air con.? Haa!

Tetanus vaccine is available in Ethiopia- we have it here at GAH. Yet the son of one of our hospital workers died of Tetanus this weekend. Tetanus!

We treat poor children for free at GAH. We have a closet full of Unicef milk for malnutrition. Yet in our pediatric ward lays a 12 year old boy our head nurse discovered in a home nearby who is the size of my 2 year old, but with limbs like a skeleton-literally. He is seriously developmentally delayed. It is sooo sad!

Breast milk is free. Yet one of the biggest struggles our nurse midwife has here is convincing mothers it is important to breast feed their babies. Same trouble we have in America.

Mango Salsa

March 10, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mango Salsa

I love this. I could eat it every day. It’s a blessing for us that Mangoes are plentiful and 3 large Avocadoes can be purchased for 1 birr (less than 10 cents) this time of year. Before we left for Gimbie from America, an Ethiopian friend said “There are so many Avocadoes in Gimbie, they are used to play ball”. It’s almost true -they are plentiful- though I’ve never seen anyone waste an avocado. Maybe it’s that the price of food has risen about 30% recently.

Those in America who have access to a good Costco could make this recipe:

3 Large, ripe Avocadoes diced
2 ripe Mangoes diced
1 small red onion diced (maybe half an American one)
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons or limes
1 tsp mild chili powder or Paprika (we use a local spice called Berberea)
salt to taste

March 8, 2009


I'm always finding interesting flora and fauna. Often have no idea what thier proper names are. These look like pink "berries" but they are really like flower petals shaped in spheres.

I like discovering local flora and fauna. These "berries" are really like pink flower petals shaped into a sphere. Very dainty!


March 8, 2009

Mark is working hard. I’ll name a few of the exciting projects he is currently managing (in addition to his administrative duties and hospital maintenance emergencies):

  • Construction of our new nursing school building
  • Remodel of an existing building for new laundry (greatly needed – current laundry is a shack)
  • Remodel of our OPD and HIV care center
  • Land clearing and logging of Eucalyptus Treese in the path of new electrical lines to be strung 3/4 of a mile from the Hospital to the pump at our spring (a step out in faith, as we are waiting for donations to come in for this project the line will be strung by ELPA when the time comes, the larger logs are being milled into boards, smaller ones are being used as forms for our nursing school classroom building project)
  • Construction and design of new retaining wall and steps on lower campus
  • Repair of dirt driveway to garage in preparation for rainy season (Last year it got so muddy the ambulance was unable to get in and out)
  • Obtaining a better water source for an outer clinic
  • Redisign of plumbing and drainage at aging hospital staff house with leakage and mold issues 
  • Harvest season at the garden
  • And… he’s drawing up plans for potential new projects….

 That’s enough, you get the idea.

Friday after Mark returned from the Bible study group he leads in his office at 7:00, he came for vespers at Paul and Petra’s house. Paul was tired too, and we all were glad for Sabbath rest. However, the ambulance, due back that evening (with the rest of our volunteers) had not returned from a three day visit to outer clinics. Paul said “I hope the ambulance didn’t get a flat, or worse two!”  Later that night, after everyone was in bed and sound asleep, there was urgent knocking on our door. It was midnight, and there was word the ambulance had two flat tires and needed rescue. Mark jumped in the landcruiser with Tinsigh and Gedesa and was off. Eventually the ambulance made it home after some tires were patched and switched.

I tried to keep Jonah quiet Sabbath morning and let Mark sleep in. Sabbath turned out to be a restful day. We had a good discussion at Sabbath School and for church, Emily (who is on her way back to America from Chad) gave us a report on the work at Bere Hospital. Her stories were inspiring and it made us thankful for the blessings we have here at Gimbie like: treese, hills, fruit, vegetables, and relative political stability. We had a good potluck and spent the afternoon on Paul and Petra’s veranda, enjoying a warm breeze and good conversation.

Saturday night we had a farewell for two student missionaries who have been very special to everyone at our hospital and a Nurse Midwife from Denmark who has helped a lot to improve things in L&D and the women’s ward. Being here we get many visitors and volunteers. Some become close to our hearts. This year we were blessed with top quality volunteers and we are thankful. As they leave now, one by one, we will miss them.

Today Mark prepared projects for alternate oversight and plans to leave for Addis to get supplies Monday. Jonah and I are staying here. Many Hospital and construction supply purchases, as well as much of our banking must be done in Addis, which is an all day drive (10-12 hours). Once in Addis, getting what is needed can take a week or two because things are not readily available (no Home Depot and Hospital Supply) and the list is usually long. This time he also plans on getting our Land cruiser welded back to together at the joints (thanks to a donation from the UK=). It’s our main vehicle other than the ambulance and it gets a beating on the bumpy Road to Gimbie.

Jonah and I are preparing for a week at home and baking goodies for Mark’s trip. We made sesame crackers, yam crackers, whole wheat rolls and cookies. He shouldn’t starve. Mark purchased 5 hens for us today. Jonah is delighted with his new “pets”! More on that later. Must go.