What’s Been Going On

July 21, 2009

We sat down to lunch today to our favorite treat -reminiscent of our time in Nepal- Dahl Baht and Tarkati (lentil soup, rice and curry). I say reminiscent, because we can only sort of make it authentic. There is no brown rice or Nepali spice, but in the market stalls of Gimbie one can find garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander and green chilies and these make for a pretty good vegetable curry and Dahl. We had two 15 year old twin girls and their 10 year old younger sister over for lunch. They came begging for money to Mark’s office this morning. Their mother (who works in the housekeeping department) is in the hospital with Typhoid and has had to spend all her money on medicine. Mark took food to their mother and employed the girls (who are out of school for the summer) doing odd jobs in our yard for the day. They liked the lentils and rice, but quietly pushed the vegetable curry around their plates. I told them this food was from India and pointed to India on the laminated map we keep on our wall. They giggled and covered their mouths.

Times are hard this season for the people of Gimbie. Not only was the coffee crop poor, but electricity is so scarce that concrete is being imported from Pakistan instead of manufactured in Ethiopia and has doubled in price as a result. Because of the high price of concrete, most construction has stopped for the time being, and many people are starving hungry and out of work. Just this morning Mark had 6 people in his office asking for food, money, work, or all of the above. We try to personally employ who we can with odd jobs. There are lots of weeds to cut around campus since the rains started. The Squires of course aren’t starving, especially with all the dried fruit and nuts kind family and friends have sent over! Our large, regular meals are delicious and occasionally tinged slightly with guilt. How can one wholly enjoy a good meal when people one cares about have been without one? So, every day I make extra food and send it with somebody. I know I’m not really making a dent in the problem, but for those people who get a meal that day I’ve made a difference and that helps.

Mark has been busy in his “off work” time coordinating an evangelistic series. We had some donations come in for Bibles and literature as well as a complete set of 26 Share Him sermons! Together with the projector and DVD player donated by Dr Oxenholt we have the supplies needed to begin. Three young Ethiopian men from Mark’s Friday night Bible study are translating the sermons and will preach them in the Oromifa language. This week in the evenings Mark is working with each of the young men on presentations. Share Him sermons are really nice because they can be followed word for word and have pictures to go with each thought, but the Ethiopian men will need to get used to the system of using a laptop to advance the slides and reading the sermon notes they have translated into Oromifa. The series will begin at 6:00pm each evening and will last for 18 nights. There will also be a children’s program with Monica, Stephanie and Renee helping to lead out. Ansley and I (with Jonah) will help watch the five babies at Monica’s house while she does children’s programs each night. People seem excited about it. Already hearing of it, people from at five other villages have asked us do evangelistic meetings in their villages. With the new small portable generator that was just donated we hope it will be possible to do this soon. We also hope that with the combination of DVD player/Projector/Generator, we can do more health promotion teaching in the evenings at all of our outer clinics. We can do health promotion lectures with pictures by hanging a white sheet up from a tree anywhere and running the computer and projector by portable generator( very doable once the rains stop). There are simple things we can get the word out about that could make a big difference. For example, there is the prevalent problem with goiters and iodine deficiency, but an iodine tablet every few months or iodized salt would prevent it.

It’s been cold and wet around here. Our laundry mildews on the line and the hospital blankets take days to dry. Money was donated for a laundry spinner for the hospital and though there aren’t any spinners available right now in Addis, Mark was told more are coming. So hope is on the horizon. After our hot dry winter, being the native California Girl that I am, all this cold rain has me thinking its December, and with candlelight every other evening (out of necessity) it seems cozy, like Christmas. So while I know most of my readers are likely enjoying watermelon, sweet corn on the cob and vine ripened tomatoes at the lake, I’m sipping herbal tea and (when my laptop has enough battery) listening to Christmas music. Mark, I must note, thinks I’m silly but Jonah’s all for it (he doesn’t know the difference). Jonah has been keeping me on my toes- or more accurately on my knees praying for wisdom lately. He is a little rascal……sparing the details here. One fun thing though, is that Jonah’s been spending a lot of time playing with his first ever Leggo set (sent to him by his Aunties)! His dexterity is improving and he is making all sorts of crazy vehicles from the kit. It’s fun to see him growing up to do things we did as kids. We borrowed a yellowing copy of Farmer Boy (by Laura Ingalls Wilder) from Ansley. I wasn’t sure if Jonah would like it yet, being he is three and there aren’t many pictures, but he loves it! It’s fun for me to re-read an old childhood favorite.

Ansley, Renee or Petra have been watching Jonah so that I can spend some time in the outpatient clinic twice a week. This has been a great diversion for me to think as a nurse practitioner again and to volunteer some hands on help at the Hospital. It isn’t easy of course. The pediatric patients sometimes make me want to cry. I haven’t seen enough suffering children in my life not to be quite bothered by it. For example, there is the baby boy with TB and a white chest x-ray, sitting up on his mother’s lap to breathe and whimpering in pain with each breath he takes. His mother puts her breast against his face and he sucks for comfort. His little body is emaciated. His mother looks exhausted. The medicine doesn’t seem to be helping. I think of Jonah and empathize with how desperate this mother must feel.

I’ve been working with Dr Priscilla and we’ve seen everything from TB, HIV, Typhoid, and strange rashes to malnutrition and Leprosy. Lately, there have been many cases of Typhoid and Dysentery. Our hospital census is full. Mark and Midhasso (an Ethiopian/American Pharmacy and Pre Med student) did a demonstration on water purification in the outpatient clinic this morning and gave out two large boxes worth of Chlorination-Flocculation tablets which were donated by a short term mission group earlier this year. People eagerly accepted the tablets. It is not only because the strong rains have flushed the dirty streets which drain into the river where many get their water year around, but also that since the chemically treated Gimbie town water is off when there is no electricity, even those who can afford to purchase town water are forced to use the river water many days. Frankly, those diarrhea bugs are hard to avoid. Many volunteers have also been sick with them lately. Jonah for example, was up much of Sunday night vomiting. Praise God the electricity had come on and we were able to give him a warm bath around midnight when he started with the first round- which had covered him with mess. Poor little fellow- he was scared. His eyes were big as he said “Mommy I can’t breathe and my heart is beating”. I reassured him that what he was feeling was nausea and it would pass. After five or six episodes of emesis (and lots prayers) it did ease, and he was finally able to sleep the rest of the night.

Yesterday afternoon we heard desperate screaming in Oromifa. Bagalech (who was washing our laundry) heard the commotion and dashed out the door, up the stairs and to the sidewalk by the morgue. The neighbor women heard and ran towards the sound. I picked up Jonah and ran to see if I could help, too. It turned out little Bony (Jonah’s friend who lives next door), had been chased by a curious monkey. We were relieved to find he was fine after all, just quite frightened.

A big thank you anyone who is reading this for being persistent in checking for new posts. My excuse for sporadic posts is that it has been quite difficult for me to get online lately. The phone lines have not been working in Mark or Paul’s office for several months. There are two phone lines that work at the hospital, but they are in high demand since in addition to the phone lines being down, internet service is also sporadic and several of the Farangi computers currently have viruses which keep them from being able to connect when internet is working (mine included). I do appreciate all the comments and am sorry I have not been able to respond. Sometimes the internet is too slow even to log on to WordPress. But your letters and comments have been downloaded and are precious encouragement to us. Thank-you!



May 27, 2009

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I think I’ve had a writing block. I’ll try again. I have a squiggly three year old in my lap who wants to “snuggle”. He likes that he is wearing his blue fleecy footed zip up PJ’s with a red fire truck on the front for the first time in many months. It’s cool this morning. Yes, let’s start with the weather. The rainy season has officially (and actually) started now. It was said to start May 15’Th but instead we had five more days of warm sunny weather. The Ethiopians were concerned. We heard whispers of the dreaded word “famine” about the campus as the crops had already been planted and the ground remained dry. Yesterday the storms came. First the strong wind came, whirling about a concoction of branches, trash, and dust; then, the clouds dumped their brimming buckets simultaneously on the mix with the fanfare of thunder and lightning. Then as if exhausted from all that pomp, there was calm. A steady drizzled followed last night. The air is clear and the ground is wet this morning. Hope the rain continues, another famine would be devastating now, with some families already going hungry due to the rising price of food. Also, hope Mark and others are able to make it back from Moogi clinic near the border of Sudan before the batter gets too thick.

Both of our laptops (our connections to the rest of the world) are sick with viruses. Even with good antivirus software, in developing countries, we’ve found one can expect these about as often as one can expect a good case of Traveler’s diarrhea for one’s self. Happily, thus far we haven’t had a gap in intelligent computer savvy volunteers yet; first there was beloved Joel who sadly for Gimbie, had to return to the business of his education, but then a day before Joel left, David arrived, a genius who is at this moment doctoring one of our critically ill laptops. The Lord giveth and He taketh away…..

There are occasions when missionaries have to get over their cultivated sense of decorum. During our time in Nepal, I had to get used to hand washing, then hanging my droopy wet undergarments out on the line across the veranda in full view of all passersby. In Ethiopia, with a three year old, we almost always have clothes on the line in stages of drying. But I thought I was experienced. If I was expecting guests, I would conceal only the undergarments hanging a meter from the front door by deftly moving them under a shirt. But I’ve had to change my tactics. Apparently people do not mind seeing my undergarments. In fact, someone must regard them as a thing of seriously functional value as I do. They have been disappearing. I’ve taken to hanging these valuables up on a line inside the house…and now I’m writing about it. Mission life just might be the real cure for shy persons.

The electricity has been out from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm about every third or fourth day this month. We have learned to shower ourselves and power our conveniences and bake our bread whenever there is electricity. We pray for and baby our ageing hospital generator which holds out to keep the lights on, the oxygen concentrators running and the surgical theater in action at the hospital. We are thankful for our additional water tank which our new pump fills and gets us through at least a day of no power. We have learned to enjoy candlelight at home and the quiet it brings.


April 14, 2009

Friday Jonah had a Birthday. Our Cousin Ansley who had arrived from Chad to volunteer as Head Matron at GAH also had a birthday April 10. We had a fun Birthday party for the two of them. One of the games we played was Ethiopian Piñata. Farangi staff donated candies sent to them by loved ones and soon we had a nice little box full of “Carmellos” (as they call them here in Gimbie) to batter blind-folded with a stick.

Sabbath morning during church Jonah snuck in quietly to the kitchen. Unbeknownst to his parents, he found the beaten up Piñata box on the table. He discovered it still contained Carmellos. He stuffed his pockets with them. Showing his age- he kept quiet. At two, he would have showed what was in his pockets the next minute. But now he is three, and apparently, his we are in for a whole new world of parenting.

Soon it was nap time. Quietly and happily Jonah went to bed. Not a request for a drink, not a need for the bathroom a second time, nor the plaintive yearning for a favorite stuffed animal, no, none of the usual. His naïve mother went back to listen to a sermon next door, walkie talkie in hand, and not a peep was heard from Jonah. She felt a sense of accomplishment as she commented on what a good little boy he had been to his father. Maybe three would be easier? After all, wasn’t he out of the so called “terrible twos”?

But alas, an hour later, his unsuspecting mother found him fast asleep in a large pile of candy wrappers, blissfully covered in stickiness from head to toe.

Novice Thief

April 14, 2009

From the kitchen Jonah and I heard banging on the window. We peeked around the corner. There was an empty bird’s nest gathered on a previous walk resting on the sill, but nothing else. Suddenly two furry white and black hands grabbed for the nest, hitting the glass and falling away. Again and again the hands appeared. We started to laugh.  Soon the two furry hands grasped the outside of the window sill, and doing a pull up, the curious face of a large male Colubus monkey appeared at the window. He looked about 40 lbs. He did not appear amused. He had been working very hard, jumping on his hind legs from the ground in hopes of getting the nest and presumably, the treat he hoped was inside.


April 2, 2009

Over a month ago Mark bought five brown hens. Though in America we had been vegans, here in Ethiopia we had added eggs to our diet because of the sometimes limited selection of protein foods for vegetarians. However, the eggs for purchase in Gimbie tend to be expensive, very small and pale yolked, so Mark decided the healthiest option would be to raise our own hens. It’s likely the chickens around Gimbie are somewhat malnourished since the price of grain has risen considerably; making it difficult for local people to feed themselves well let alone their livestock. 

Our hens grew fat and happy as we gave them plenty of sorgum, wheat, and kitchen scraps as well as all the water they could drink. There was just one problem! They didn’t lay eggs. Our Ethiopian friends said we needed a rooster to help the hens lay eggs. We procrastinated on buying a rooster, imagining the addition of yet another voice to the early morning choir of howling Hyenas, hooting Colubus monkeys, and melancholy calls from the local Orthodox Churches and Muslim Mosques echoing through the hills. 

Early the other morning, Bagalech, our helper, brought in three large beautiful brown eggs. “Mark!” I said, “Look what Bagalech brought from the henhouse!” Mark smiled and to my surprise, tears welled up in his eyes. “Trudy,” he said, “last night I prayed that our hens would lay eggs”.    


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.