Tuesday, May 25, 2010

entry 2

OK, obviously the internet here does not favor Mark and I, since it took us two weeks to get the first blog up, not for lack of effort. I feel obligated then, since I currently have access to try and get at least one other blog up. It will be short, since I am not a blogger, and only funny on certain days (according to my lovely girlfriend and old roommate, and today doesn't feel like one).

The election in Ethiopia took place on Sunday, and preliminary results are in. The news looks good for the party currently in power. This however is not shocking. Despite some claims by the opposition and Human Rights Watch, the election seemed to go off without much of a ruckus. It will be interesting to see reactions in the next few days. There were enough European Union election monitors around to ensure what is hopefully a fair election.

Mark and I took a trip down to Sodo to visit with the man who runs the Mossy Foot Association and is the main man for Podo in Ethiopia and Africa. He had some great information for us and took us out to some of the Podo clinics. All I can really say without getting graphic is that all the research and pictures do not prepare you for seeing the infections up close and in person. It was a great and motivating experience. Mark is still down in Sodo, visiting all of the clinics and doing his information gathering.

I have been back in Addis since Friday and have been preparing for my first trip out to the Western Region of Wolega with Christel. The clinics out in this area have not been operating as long as the ones in Sodo, and are a bit newer to Podo treatment. I leave tomorrow and will be out for two weeks, during which we will give away the first batch of shoes donated by TOMS, a very exciting time.

A couple of personal notes. The country is truly beautiful. The land especially in the rural areas is green and lush. The drive to Sodo brought beautiful scenery, and a glimpse into the life of the subsistence farmers that make up the majority of the population of this country. It is evident why family is so important and large families at that. It appears to be a full days work to get the harvest to the market and back, so there has to be people back at the homestead to do the actual farming. The homes are beautiful, huts made up of grass, mud, sticks and cow dung. Most had beautiful paintings and designs on the outside, they were by far the most aesthetically pleasing buildings I have seen since being here. And as previously mentioned, the views from them were breathtaking.

The kids were a trip. Shoes and pants optional, and playing with balls made up of plastic bags, twine and mud. three sticks made a volleyball net or soccer goal. It was very cool to watch. They yelled "Ferengi" constantly which means white person. Comes from when the French were hanging around, and from now on I guess all white folks are french, I know AMoreland might have some thoughts on that.

So that is that, the landscape and people are beautiful, "best looking people in Africa" I have been told on numerous occasions. The projects are coming along nicely, and Mark and I have been enjoying all of our experiences. I know Mark has a blog written about the coffee ceremony, which is very cool, and which has made me drink more coffee in two weeks than I have in my entire life (not hard since I had drank one cup in my entire life before coming here). So he will hopefully get to share that with all of you soon. I will be without internet for the next couple of weeks, so in the meantime, be cool.

entry 1 - 2 weeks later

Our trip got off to a bumpy start to say the least. We finally received our visas from the Ethiopian Embassy the day before we were scheduled to leave the states. Our flight from Chicago to London was delayed 2 hours, but we still had an 8 hour layover in London. During this time we decided to take in all that England had to offer, but first we had to get into the country. I passed through customs without any problem, however Ben had previously been denied a visa and had to “sweet talk” the customs agent into allowing him out of the airport for a couple of hours prior to our flight to Addis. After a 30 minute hassle, we were finally through customs. We jumped on the Underground and headed for the city. While in London, we stopped for the cliché fish and chips at a local pub and toured the Natural History Museum.

We were greeted the next morning at Bole International Airport by the owners of our guest house. After settling into our apartment and resting from the 2 day journey, we decided to walk around the city to get our bearings. This orientation to our new home has taken the entire 4 days we have been in Addis thus far. We have been lost, walked in circles through torrential rains, and had absolutely no clue where we were much of the time. Thankfully, we now have a map and are beginning to become accustomed to our area of the city.

Ben and I were without internet for our first 3 days in Addis. Although this does not seem like long, we felt obliged to try and let friends and family know we had made it safely. Not to mention the important things: try to go 3 days without checking email, twitter or facebook. After trying endlessly, we were finally able to get our CDMAs to work thanks to some help from new friends we met through a woman with whom we will be working.

In addition to these new friends, we have also met the individuals we will be working with closely. Dr. Gail Davey is a British medical doctor who is the leading expert in Podoconiosis. She has lived and worked in Ethiopia for 9 years now. We have also met Christel Ahrens, a German nurse and TOMS shoes consultant in Ethiopia with whom Ben will be working closely with on his project and Surafel Tadesse, another TOMS consultant in Ethiopia. They are all fantastic people and have made us feel as at home as possible.