In this section we will keep a chronological archive of any content moved from the main pages. This way you will never miss any important information!
Posted 12/20/2011 in Newsletter
Christmas Greetings from Kari and Asle
"because there was no room for them at the inn... "
My daily jog begins at 6 am. If I go later, the dust and heat become unbearable. Even at this early hour, I am not alone out in the streets. We have been in Ethiopia almost 2 years now and I have more or less taken the same route each morning when I am in the capital, Addis Ababa. Therefore I am now also recognizing some of the people I see each day. Amongst the millions who live in Addis Ababa there is "Maria" who I see each morning. I call her Maria because I do not know her real name. She lives by a low cement wall which divides the road at a busy intersection. She has been living there as long as I have been here and running past.
Sometimes she is still asleep when I come running past, but I see the tiny body under the plastic covering. Other days I see her sitting on the concrete where she is letting the morning sun warm her cold body from the nights chill. I try to make eye contact with her but have not managed yet. Maria looks past me, into a world I do not know. Sometimes her lips are moving as if she is talking with someone that I cannot see. She neither smiles nor cries; her eyes are empty. Even if her address is this busy intersection, it seems as if her soul has moved to another place where no one can reach her.
I wonder about the many practical things, how does she get food? She does not beg as so many others do. With all of her problems you wonder how she can take care of herself a single day. Maybe it is God's angels who are providing her with some food, watching over her during the night and protecting her from the crimes of the street. Protecting her from the hyenas and all of the big cars that pass close by her.
But what Almighty God would allow people to live in such tragic circumstances? I don't have the whole answer, but I know that God has created all, and that He is over all that He has created and that means Maria in the intersection also. I know because I meet God each and every morning when I am running past Maria.
When I see Maria and her home in the intersection, God meets me. When I am thinking about myself and wondering how my running form is, God interrupts my preoccupation and I see Maria. When I am planning all I have to do in His name during the day, then He kindly reminds me of where He is in the intersection.
He also reminds me of what He said "The righteous will answer: "Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you in? or naked and give you clothes? When did we see you sick or in jail and come to you?", and our King shall answer them: " Verily, I say to you: What you did for one of these least amongst you, you have done for me."
That God meets us in the middle of this world's misery is not new. When He was born into this world by Maria, it did not happen in a busy noisy intersection but in a stall "because there was no room for them in the inn", not that time either.
Kari and I want to take the opportunity to thank each of you for being with us and helping to make it possible for us to live here, where God is present in Ethiopia.
Our wish is that each of you will feel that God is close to you this Christmas season.
Kari and Asle
Posted 12/02/2011 in Newsletter
Asle, December 2nd 2011, Soddo, Ethiopia
Hello! Lets take one step back from the last update Kari provided about a week ago.
She mentioned that Soddo Christian Hospital is about to get a brand new CT-machine and some new x-ray equipment. Our good friends in Norway, who recently visited our hospital, donated this. Kari also briefly mentioned that we are about to construct a new building to house this new equipment. This building project deserves its vey own update.
But a donated digital x-ray and CT machine does not necessarily come for free, particularly not in southern Ethiopia. Suddenly, we were in possession of expensive, out of reach diagnostic equipment, but had no place to house it. This is when BrainCare Ethiopia stepped in to help us.
BrainCare Ethiopia is a rather small organization in Norway that was originally setup to support the work of a Norwegian neurosurgeon, Gabriel Lende, while he worked in Ethiopia. Therefore, the name "BrainCare". Coincidentally, when Gabriel moved back to Norway this summer, Soddo Christian Hospital was looking for funds to build a place to house the diagnostic image equipment we had obtained. Gabriel graciously offered to put the hospital in touch with BrainCare. After a few meetings, not only did BrainCare offer funding for the new building, but the organization also committed to a long-term relationship with SCH.
Now, four months later, we're busy preparing for the construction of the building that will house the new x-ray and CT machine. Since the building has to comply with national safety standards for radiation and the new equipment requires a major share of electrical power, the planning has been complex. But we are on track.
I've held off on this update so that I could provide a detailed plan for the building that will house the x-ray equipment. Before we finalized the plan, we had to receive a detailed description from GE for how to assemble the equipment. This description recently arrived from Cairo. In the meantime, work on the building has proceeded in other ways. The architect has collected soil samples from the construction site, a local contractor in Soddo is putting together a proposal, and a visiting American architect (Jeff) has agreed to serve as construction manager. We hope to break ground some time next week and complete the building this spring. BrainCare, our new partner, is financing the whole building project, estimated to cost $164,000.
P.S. BrainCare has also provided $26,000 to the Hospital's Benevolence Fund. Currently, approximately 30 percent of hospital patients get full or partial financial assistance through this fund.
Drawing of the new building
The areal view shows where the new building for the X-ray and Cat Scan machines will fit in
Building the foundation
Everything is dug out by hand
In a few months the building for the new equipment will be ready!
Posted 11/20/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, November 20th 2011, Soddo, Ethiopia
I am so glad to be writing again to tell you all about the great visit we had from our wonderful Norwegian sponsors. We started by bringing them to Soddo so that they would be able to see all that they have helped building up. Anesthesia equipment, X-ray equipment, much needed lab equipment and the hospital's car/ambulance. They were also shown the plans for the new building which will be where their latest gift will be installed, a CT machine and an x-ray machine. We hope to have this in place by this coming spring.
The entire staff was present for a ceremony to give them thanks. They received a thundering applause for their gifts. The hospital is now equipped and able to help many patients they previously were unable to do anything for because of the lack of equipment.
Visiting the Children's ward at Soddo Christian Hospital
The C-arm for the X-ray machine arrives
We took them on a road trip of Ethiopia so they could see a bit of the country. We went from Soddo to Awassa Yrgalem, Bale Mountains, Goba, Ginnir and Raito. We took this trip to show them the expansive work of the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) in this eastern part of Ethiopia.
In Awassa we showed them the village fish market where the local fishermen sell the catch of the day and proudly show the variety of fish to be found in Lake Awassa. From here we went to a park to see the "Guereza" monkeys. They are so tame that they come and eat from your hand.
From Awassa we went on to the Bale Mountains, which brought us up to 3500 meters (11,500 feet) above sea level. It was quite cold up on the top of the mountain and we met small children running around barefoot and naked. Poverty makes it necessary for the people to be tough and have to take a lot without complaining.
In Goba we went to the hospital where NLM has started education of health workers. The gynecologist with responsibility for the training program met us and took us around on a tour of the place. He was very enthusiastic about getting the program going as quickly as possible. Women out in the districts greatly need help when there is a difficult delivery.
Teacher's house in Raito
Market in Raito
The same day we travelled on to Ginnir and Raito where we were given a tour of their hospital and clinic. When we visited the hospital in Ginnir it had rained heavily the whole night and the roads were muddy, slippery and inaccessible. We had to be transported by a four wheel drive jeep. On a nice day when the roads are dry, we can walk the distance in 5 minutes. When we arrived this time the hospital looked terrible because it was so dirty due to all the mud outside. Margrete was quite embarrassed by the way it looked but something good did come out of it...when our guests saw how difficult the situation was they offered to pay to have a water pipe which could provide the hospital with a more dependable water supply. They also offered to pay for a concrete parking area, so that people who enter the hospital wouldn't have to walk through the mud.
We rounded off the trip with a night at Sabana Lodge in Langano. We enjoyed a beautiful view of the lake and had a delicious dinner. The next morning we went for an early swim before leaving back to Addis Abeba, and our guests return trip to Norway.
Thank you to these wonderful donors and all their help here in south Ethiopia.
Greetings from Kari
Posted 10/28/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, October 28th 2011, Soddo
Hello, dear readers.
I have just finished two weeks of teaching English at "My Sisters".
There were 21 very interested and motivated students with a good sense of humor. Despite the fact that their knowledge of English was very limited when we started, they were good sports and were willing to participate in both individual and group work. We put a lot of emphasis on reading out loud and conversational English and then tried to work in grammar and spelling and vocabulary building together with the themes we were using. So now it remains to be seen how much will stay with them after two weeks of intensive classes, three hours daily. We will get the results next week when they will take their final exams.
I have also been engaged in another activity for "My Sisters" this week; I've been out looking at a piece of property for sale. They definitely need more room for helping the poor in this area. The property we looked at did not work out because all of the buildings on the land would have to be torn down and rebuilt. This would end up being way too expensive, but I am sure there will be other possibilities and we are constantly checking out properties for sale in the neighborhood. The right place will turn up eventually.
"My Sisters" has a nursery school, a clinic, a vocational training program for hair dressers, a training program for nursery school assistants, an orphanage, a youth group, a library and an after school program for students who need extra help with their lessons. As you see they offer a wide variety of programs and it involves and helps many people.
Today was also a very special day of graduation at "My Sisters". There was a solemn ceremony with presentations of diplomas, speeches and refreshments. The students wrote and delivered their speeches and the student with the highest grades was given a gift. They were beautiful in their caps and gowns and with diplomas in their hands. They now have a much better chance at quickly getting a job. There are many who want to hire them. A few shed tears in thanksgiving for their opportunity of getting their education through "My Sisters".
I just have to say it is wonderful being a part of something functioning so well in this country. God cares about "My Sisters", and we sense His help daily, in our work.
Thanks for reading and thanks for praying for us. Kari
Posted 10/14/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, October 14th 2011, Soddo
Hello my friends!
Construction work is not easy in rural Ethiopia; this is what I have learned in the last five months. Everything here is handmade and requires a lot of hard labor. Construction and design in a "western style" are unfamiliar concepts to workers here, so the guesthouse renovation project has really been a learning process for everyone involved. Getting workers to see that details mattered was perhaps the most difficult part. However, after many rounds of trial and error and much hard work, the renovation project is now nearly complete. Actually, it is far enough along to house guests, the first of which arrived yesterday. There is still some work to be done, like decorating the walls, buying lamps for the nightstands, and finding a new sofa and dining table with chairs. But these are minor things and not our immediate priority. Soon, we will also start building an outdoor patio where guests can enjoy the nice highland air and temperatures here in Soddo.
The new guesthouse addresses a great need here at the hospital. Now we can invite evangelist teams, doctors and nurses who can share the gospel and train hospital workers, both of which help improve the lives of Ethiopia's poor.
KariBelow you can see the project as it progresses, and the (almost) completed results!
Construction work starts
Workers - hard at work!
The new guesthouse from the outside
Bedroom #2 - opposite view
The new kitchen
One of the two new bathrooms - the other one is identical
Posted 9/22/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, September 22nd 2011, Addis Abeba
Hello from Addis,
It has been a very busy and good time here since the last time I wrote. We have had visitors from Norway. We traveled to the Bale region with our guests as Asle had to go there to participate in meetings regarding a project.
Coffee break along the road
Margrete, (NLM missionary) and Asle had again met with the regional Minister of Health who signed papers in agreement for the start of a new mother/child project. At the Goba hospital they are very much hoping for a program which will teach their health workers how to perform Cesarean sections out in the rural areas. One of the health clinics is located in Raito and we will start a pilot program here. We also visited this clinic in order to familiarize ourselves with their conditions.
The trip went on to Ginnir where Asle had managed to acquire parts for a broken anesthesia machine and instructions how to repair it. Happily this was successful with good help from Ole, our visitor and an engineering professor from NTNU in Trondheim.
The anesthesia machine is working again!
Brave doctor in the Sofo Mar caves
On the way to Ginnir we made a stop at Sofo Mar, the largest limestone cave system in all of Africa. We were truly captivated. The caves are a little off the beaten track, so without a local guide it would have been difficult for us to find it. This is also a place for Muslim pilgrimage.
From Ginnir we took a 10 hour drive northwards. We passed by Sheikh Hussein, which is one of the most holy places for Muslims in this part of the world.
From here we passed through fantastic mountain landscape and parts reminded me of the Grand Canyon. The most exciting part was probably the narrow roads which wound their way along the mountain side with steep edges and loose rocks which were falling down along the mountain sides. We only met a couple of cars along the whole stretch.
We were tired when we arrived at Awash National Park but the lodge where we had made reservations was located deep inside the park. A peaceful area, so we were able to enjoy the waterfall, clean air and good food in beautiful surroundings. It truly restored our energy. The next day we walked down to the waterfall and watched crocodiles sunbathing in the area.
When we were about to depart for our trip back to Addis, two young Ethiopians came towards us. They were carrying a large knife in their belts and I was wondering if they were guards. but it turned out they were not; one told us that he was a protestant evangelist. His family was Muslim and he had earlier been an Imam. When we were going to leave he asked if he could please ride with us up to the main road and while doing so he witnessed to us his story while Asle did the translating. When we arrived at the main road he said we must pray together and he thanked us for the ride and then left us. It is fantastic how open he was. Very inspiring thoughts.
Thanks for your prayers. We are forever greatful. Kari
Posted 9/5/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, September 5th 2011, Soddo
This week I have been doing something quite different. I have been a Norwegian teacher and that was fun. The first day I worked with Sara (in blue), a sixth grader and was teaching her some "home making" skills. We were going to make a vegetable and dip tray for the Norwegian students and their parents. First of all; this starts with the exciting trip to the local market where we bought what we needed. The selection was a bit limited but we managed to find carrots, paprika, cucumbers, avocados and some strawberries. We went home and started an important step, washing all the fruits and vegetables in chlorine water and then to scrape and clean them. With this abundance we now could start "the fun part"; to decorate the trays and the results you can see on the pictures below.
And the best!
The following day I went to the International Christian School in Bingham. There the objective is for the students to use their English to try to make new friends. The school days are from 8:20 until 3:25 which is a very long day for a Norwegian first grader. I was with Leah (in pink above), a third grade student and was helping by being her "translator". We came to a class that had a very good teacher, who did a great job of making us feel included.
3rd grade class
The school days start daily with a "Bible study". The teacher was creative and gave the students various projects tied to the Bible story. There was focus on mutual respect between the students and teachers. "What kind of a teacher do you want?" was asked. "What kind of a class do you want?" Throughout the day the students could save up play time, "Golden Time". Then every Thursday they could possibly get up to 45 minutes of play time if they had behaved well. This was interesting for me to experience as I felt at least 19 years behind the times as that was when we first moved to America and my children started school there.
Bible study on the floor
Good conversation with the teacher
We have been back in Soddo for a couple of weeks now and the guest house is definitely taking form, but the workers are in no rush. My aim is to have the guest house ready to be moved into and ready for use in about a week, but "pushing" does not necessarily help. Then you risk getting conflicts. A cup of tea occasionally with the construction boss and a conversation does much better.
There was also some painting needed inside the house this week, due to the past rainy season. A few leaks in the roof were found. The painter and I also sat and had tea and bread together, talked a while, in Amharic, and this helped move things forward. Progress is being made!
And finally I want to add that a colleague here at the hospital is sick. Four days ago, Asle had to travel to Addis with him. The American doctor has had high fever for over a week, and showed no signs of improvement. Many tests were taken for various tropical diseases but they all came back negative. In Addis Abeba he was admitted to the Korean Hospital and more tests were taken and they also came back negative. The doctor remains just as sick running high temperature.
This morning an Ethiopian electrician came and knocked on my door and asked how things were going for the doctor. When I had to tell him that there was no change he asked to borrow my Bible. "Kari, we must pray" and he looks up in my American Bible 2 Chronicles, chap 6 and reads verse 19, verses 32-33 and verses 38-40 for me. Thereafter he says, "We must get on our knees and pray", and this we did. When we had finished praying he said, "I will return each morning and afternoon so we can pray together until the doctor is well." It is fantastic to know the workers care that much about us. Can you also be with us in prayer for our fellow doctor until he recovers...thank you, Kari.
Posted 8/20/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, August 19th 2011, Addis Abeba
Asle and I are still in Addis Abeba. Asle is working daily with the project at Black Lion and is so very dedicated to this work. He is excited every time they make some small amount of progress.
We are also happy that we are nearing the end of the rainy season. We feel lighter and happier in spirit when the sun comes out. Not only do we humans like this but animals too. Below is a series of pictures of two doves sitting on the gate of our fence. They were enjoying the sun and feeling spring fever.
Earlier this week we went for a visit to the home of one of the guards. His wife just recently had a baby. They live within walking distance of the NLM, Norwegian Lutheran Mission. We put on our plastic shoes and found the way through the muddy roads. They lived in a nice small dirt house and when we came in the mother made coffee for us. The coffee ceremony is traditionally long because of all that is involved. First they wash, clean and dry the coffee beans, after which they grind them and roast them. While the coffee is being prepared, they pop popcorn and serve with the coffee. It is very good coffee that is served in dainty small cups.
The mother making coffee
The whole family enjoying the fresh coffee
Let me tell you about "My Sisters". I visited this organization for the first time this week. It is an "independent, Non-government organization (NGO), which wants to help poor women and their children who are living in the Makanissa area of Addis Abeba in Ethiopia. Most of all we always want that "My Sisters" will be viewed as a real SISTER; a listening, accepting and loving support. WE pray for God's continuing blessing over our work, that all who come must meet the unconditional love of God." (quote from their web page.) If any of you are interested in finding out more about the organization then you can go to their webpage, www.mysisters.no
I will now be helping this organization with practical assistance like fund raising, and giving classes. I want to help in the area of young child care teaching those who will work as nursery school assistants. The others colleagues at My Sisters are very caring and dedicated workers so I am looking forward to the time I will spend with them. I know we will have good team work. I will be writing more about this at a future time.
For now, as always, your friend Kari and greetings from Asle.
Posted 8/8/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, August 8th 2011, Soddo Ethiopia
As I mentioned in my previous update, it's the rainy season. The rain often comes with such force that the rivers overflow and the roads are washed out. They are often completely impassable.
Our house has always suffered during the rainy season. It is built down in a small valley, and every time it rains the water washes into the foundation, causing a damp and rotten smell. But we were finally able to start building a concrete drain leading the water away from the house, and we are quite pleased with the result. The work started over three months ago and is still not finished. Everything is done by hand. Large stones are carved and cut to fit and the effort has been fantastic. The workers are very upbeat and it's been a good working environment. My contribution has been limited to the catering; but a little tea and bread in the afternoon creates good team spirit!
A new patio outside our entrance area is part of the water drain project
Part of our hard working team
I'm just amazed every year when I see how everything bounces back and grows around us in the rainy season. We have an abundance of passion fruit; the avocados in the garden are huge with yellow and juicy flesh. We have rhubarb soup almost daily to utilize all the rhubarb. I have canned several jars of beets and given the rest to the workers. The beets are big as grapefruit. Sugar peas are hanging heavy on the bushes and we eat as much as we can. Every morning we use the blender to make a juice of mangoes, bananas, papaya and pineapple. It's a fabulous juice! I guess we can say we have a healthy diet... The only drawback with all these vitamins is, says Asle: "In the end, we are going to be the only ones left in the retirement home."
A few days ago we received some good news from the government. Asle had another meeting with the regional health minister, and it gave positive results. They have approved and allowing us to bring the CT scan and X-ray equipment into the country "duty free".
This week we also met a Swedish medical student, Sofia. She is in Soddo to do a research project on public health and nutrition. She has never been to Africa before, and we understood she's been somewhat lost and lonely in a small hotel room in the city. We came in contact with her last Wednesday and have now offered her to stay in our house for two weeks while we are in Addis. It's definitely a lot safer to stay here on the compound. God leads us in so many ways.
Waiting for dessert. From left: Allison and Mark (neighbors), Sofia (Swedish student), and Asle.
We will be travelling for the next two weeks, and when we come back I hope to finish the work on our guest house. Stay tuned for an update soon!
Posted 7/28/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, July 28th 2011, Addis Abeba Ethiopia
Hello all! It's been a long time since we've updated our web site. I've been gone for two months, spending time in Norway and in the United States, and came back to Addis Ababa last Saturday. It is the rainy season in Ethiopia, and the heavens open up with heavy rain several times a day. The streets are muddy and you have to watch where you place your feet. The clothes remain damp inside the apartment and we must dress for the weather.
But the good thing with the rainy season is that it is green and lush and good growing conditions for farmers. While on the other hand in the southern part of the country the famine is spreading. Here in Addis Ababa we don't notice the famine, but for the population in the south there is a very difficult time. They are displaced and need all the help they can get. Along the country roads we see trucks with food and supplies heading south.
Finally the whole family together again!
We had some very good days in Norway and the United States. Sara Janne's graduation was the highlight in Galveston. She has now finished medical school, but she still has four years left before she can practice as gynecologist, which she will spend in a hospital in Charleston, South Carolina.
Still too small for this!
Maria wanted less festivity for her graduation, and chose to take a trip to Norway to celebrate her cousin's confirmation. She now has a Master in public policy. We owe a lot to Filip, as he through his internship with United Airlines managed to get us cheap tickets to and from the United States. It was very nice to get to spend many days with the kids!
Tomorrow Asle and I will head south. Asle will participate in a project meeting in Robe with the county physician. The project is a pioneering work in east Ethiopia, where the goal is to improve health services in rural areas for native women and the newborn. We will drive by Hawassa so Asle can meet the health authorities in the regional capital. He will discuss plans for an X-ray and CT institute in Soddo, a project that takes up a lot of his time. After this visit, we hope to be back in Soddo Monday afternoon, and we will continue to keep you updated on our work going forward.
Below are various pictures I took this summer:
Asle outside the hotel; taking care of business!
The missionaries take a rest by the Bale mountains
They dig out the road so we can pass
As always, thanks for your encouragement and support!
Posted 6/11/2011 in Newsletter
Sara Janne, Spring 2011, Ethiopia
My cousin Elisabeth and I recently traveled to Ethiopia to visit my parents and spend some time learning and working in the hospital. We were also fortunate to get to travel around a bit. As we found out the hard way, traveling within Ethiopia is not easy, at least not when you don't have your own car. Here's a quick recap of some of our most memorable road trips:
On a trip to Langano (the only swimmable lake in Ethiopia), we were a group of 6 western girls travelling by a hired van. Among our company was a young and outgoing obstetrician named Stephanie. She had a couple of home visits planned on the way there.
One of her patients was a young Muslim mother who had recently delivered a premature girl. Since the patient lived far away and would probably not return to the hospital for follow-up, Stephanie decided to go to her instead. We had no address or way of communicating with her. All we knew was the name of the town she lived in (unbeknown to us, there are two towns in Ethiopia with that exact name. Luckily we chose the right one.) Once we came to the intersection where her town was, we started asking around. Every time we received the same answer: "just a little ways further." We passed hut after hut, all of them looking exactly the same. Miraculously, after 30 minutes of driving around, we stumbled upon her family's compound. The entire extended family (at least 30 men and some women) squeezed into the hut while the doctor did her examination. When the young mother complained about not producing enough milk, Stephanie attempted to milk her breast and breast milk shot right at my cousin's face. The whole hut broke out into hysterical laughter, everyone except Elisabeth that is. The family later thanked us for coming by. Never had they experienced a doctor caring enough to follow-up after being the patient was discharged from the hospital.
Great grandfather in the village where we made a stop
Snake encounter on our way to Jinka
Another memorable trip was when Elisabeth and I set out from Jinka in southern Ethiopia (the last place our grandparents lived in Ethiopia) to Soddo, a distance that takes on average 7 hours by private car. We decided to be adventurous and take the local bus. We squeezed into the vehicle at 5 am in the morning with our luggage taking up our entire legroom and pathological samples from the local hospital balanced on our laps. We didn't arrive in Soddo until 8 pm that night. Elisabeth and I would occasionally move in unison to avoid cramps and complete lower-extremity numbness from sitting locked in one position for too long. Although quite uncomfortable, the trip was very memorable. For the first couple of hours the bus was quiet; everyone was asleep leaning on whatever or whoever was nearby. People were friendly, offering us everything from injera watt (the local dish) to fruit to khat (a chewable stimulant), which we politely refused. The trip offered great opportunities for people watching and sight-seeing. Among the other passengers on the bus were the Mursi tribe's leader and his wife, a lady with an impressive stretched out lip and ear lobes. They were on their way to the capital to discuss tribal politics.
Elisabeth sleeping on the bus. That girl can fall asleep anywhere!
Then there was the time we caught a ride with a local missionary headed south. We were 4 people crammed into the back seat of a car, one of them a charming young Ethiopian boy who had never driven in a car before. That showed when he suddenly became so carsick he vomited all over the inside of the car.
As for local transportation, there are these amazing 3-wheeled vehicles called bajajes that serve as local taxis. In Soddo we became friends with the owner of one. Whenever we needed a ride home we would call him up only to have us drive ourselves home in his bajaj. Great memories!
Posted 5/2/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, May 2nd 2011, Soddo
An Unpredictable Day
This has been a turbulent day! It started as a peaceful and quiet Sunday morning, but as the day went on it became quite hectic. A missionary and three Ethiopians had stopped and visited us on their way north. We served them coffee before they went on their way. About 15 minutes later we got a call from them saying they were on their way back with a youngster who had been hurt. Apparently, while they had stopped along the road to make a phone call, a young boy had climbed up on the ladder on the back of their car. None of them had noticed this. When they started up and were on their way again the child had jumped off while the car was picking up speed. And again no one noticed anything in the car, until a car came up from behind and stopped them, telling them that the young child had jumped off of their car and was lying hurt in the road. Immediately they turned and went back, picked up the boy and brought him to our hospital. The police came to investigate and wanted to hold the missionary overnight, however the missionary had to go to Addis. Asle posted bail for him and is now responsible for what happened until the missionary returns in 4 days' time. The missionary borrowed our car for the trip to Addis.
The entrance to the prison where they wanted to keep the missionary after the accident
In front of the prison with the fence to keep the prisoners from escaping
It's absolutely not a good situation to get involved in things here; it easily gets very complicated! When we drive on the roads I often feel uneasy and there is so much to watch out for. There is everything from cows, donkeys, small children out in the roadsides alone, youth under the influence of something, old and unsteady people, etc.... You have to be completely concentrated and it is quite intense. We do start every trip with a prayer asking God to protect us on the road ahead.
Some of the things you have to look out for - and share the space with - on the road!
Making a U-turn takes time when your 'engine' is uncooperative
Adjusting the speed to the road condition is a universal traffic rule!
Students on their way home from school
Children using the road as their playground
Not everybody has their own car!
Funeral procession along the road
As you see this day was absolutely unpredictable. Starting off peacefully and ending with such distress. I do thank you for praying for us and our lives here. This was an extreme occasion but it certainly is helpful knowing many cares about what happens here.
Best of greetings, Kari
Posted 4/24/2011 in Newsletter
Elisabeth Lunde, April 24th 2011, Soddo, Ethiopia
Let me start by introducing myself and telling you why I am here in Soddo. My name is Elisabeth Lunde and my uncle is Dr. Asle Aarsland.
I have so many family ties to missions work, hospital work, and just in general to the people in Ethiopia, that it was time for me to revisit the country with all these memories. When Sara Janne, my cousin, suggested that I travel with her, visit my aunt and uncle and work for a few weeks at the hospital there, well, I saw this as the right time and right opportunity to do so. My mother, Gunvor Aarsland Lunde is Asle's sister and she has also grown up in Ethiopia. I am a Registered Nurse and I work at Oslo's Community Doctor's Clinic.
Relatives, patient, Olaug Irene and Elisabeth at the ICU
For the past two weeks I have been working in the Intensive Care Unit at the Soddo Christian Hospital. I have been working with Olaug Irene who is also a Norwegian nurse and also is volunteering here for a short period of time. We are working side by side with Ethiopian nurses. There are three female nurses and the rest are male. This is very different from Norway where more women are nurses than men. During my stay so far I have certainly seen how privileged we are in Norway with our health system. We are guaranteed good health care by well-educated personnel and the very best of modern equipment. In comparison to the hospital in Soddo, we have endless resources in Norway. I also came to Ethiopia to develop myself as a nurse and now I ask, what more have I learned while here?
First of all; I have learned that when you do not have much equipment you have to think and plan very carefully to maintain good and hygienic practices. It is a challenge, and at the Intensive Care Unit here, there are yet many improvements which can be implemented. I have learned how to use some simple and basic methods.
The ICU nurses are practicing open airways and bagging; Elisabeth is the patient!
The customs in the Ethiopian hospitals is ever so different from my home country. You see this in the involvement of the family in the care of the patients. All patients must have at least one person with them to help with the personal care and hygiene of the patient. They also are helping with the meals, and they have to help actively with the treatments of the patients. I definitely see how the involvement of the family is a big help when the patient is going home and the family knows what to do. This is perhaps something we should include more of in our Norwegian health system.
The fact that the patients have to pay for the equipment and medicines used at the hospital is a new thought for me. In Norway this is included. In Ethiopia when a patient needs a blood transfusion, a member of the family must first donate blood to the hospital in order for the patient to receive a bag of blood in return. This is a good way to decrease the problem of a need for blood donors.
During my time here I have been closely following a young patient. He is 7 years old and has recently removed his large intestine and part of his small intestine. This became necessary after a very long period with diarrhea. The first few post-operative days he was in a lot of pain and struggled with his breathing. Most likely he had pneumonia after the surgery. He was very malnourished and weak. The last few days of his stay at the hospital he slowly showed improvement. First he wanted to sit in a wheelchair, the next day he walked a short distance, and the last day when he was going to leave, he managed to smile. He is quite a boy and we hope that he will start to gain some weight so that the doctors will be able to close the colostomy in about 3 months' time.
These have been exciting and enriching days for me here in Ethiopia. I have also enjoyed outings to Langano, mountain trips with the Aarsland family and perhaps the most exciting day was when we met one of Ethiopia's biggest heroes; Haile Gebrselassie (long-distance running athlet), and took our picture with him.
Elisabeth, Haile Gebrselassie and Sara Janne
I am looking forward to yet three more weeks here in the country my family always speaks so much about.
Greetings from Elisabeth Lunde
Posted 4/11/2011 in Newsletter
Asle, April 11th 2011, Soddo
We have been blessed the last couple of weeks with a great visitor.
Olaug Irene Meltveit came to Ethiopia three weeks ago. With a difficult Norwegian name she quickly became known as "Sister Iren". She came from Stavanger in Norway where she usually keeps herself busy as an intensive care nurse at a university hospital. Irene has worked in Ethiopia as a nurse for a full year before, so she knew what she was getting herself into when she decide to lend a helping hand here in Soddo.
At Soddo Christian Hospital we have wanted help in our Intensive Care Unit for a long time. There was a great needed for a well-qualified nurse to help us improve our services. What we call the ICU is more of a postoperative care unit, although we keep our most critical patients there too. Our operative activity is getting busier day by day and the ICU staff's workload has become overwhelming. So when Olaug Irene offered to come and help us for six weeks, we were very thankful.
"Sister Iren" has a wonderful way of getting along with her co-workers. One morning an ICU nurse she works with came up to me and said, "Your friend Sister Iren is my joy". Not many mentors get such an endorsement from the local staff.
In our ICU there is a long list of issues that our visiting nurse is helping us improve. Hygiene, pain management and medication, monitoring of vital signs, recordkeeping and nutrition are just a few of these matters. Through great leadership, Irene has had a remarkable impact on the services our hospital provides. But even more importantly "Sister Iren", through personal example, has reminded us all of our call to bring compassion and care to those in need.
"Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least
of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
We are grateful for your help, Sister Iren!
A busy day in the ICU
Irene with the parents and one of the young patients. The boy had a difficult airway needing a lot of attention after surgery to the neck.
Sister Iren in the ICU
This malnourished boy barely made it after his abdominal surger
Family members waiting outside the ICU
Posted 3/29/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, March 29th 2011, Soddo
A HAPPY FOLLOW-UP ON BROOK
Do you remember this story? A year ago Asle and I were on our way back to Soddo from Chencha. We were driving down a steep mountainside road and down in the valley we witnessed a bus accident. The bus had turned completely over and a little boy was very seriously injured and lying in the middle of the road with the other passengers standing all around him unable to do anything. Asle ran to the spot and took over. First we brought this young boy with us to a small local clinic and gave him the immediate emergency care he needed, and after he stabilized we took him with us to the hospital in Soddo where he remained in a coma for 5 days. Then as he came out of the coma he was paralyzed on one side. Slowly the paralysis started to disappear and he could stand again but had a lot of problems with normal movement. For those who follow this web page, you may remember him, his name is Brook and I know that many of you prayed for his recovery. (If you missed the story, you can look in the 2010 Archives, April 2nd 2010 update).
Yesterday we drove the same road again together with Olaug Irene, the intensive care nurse who has now arrived from Stavanger and is working here in Soddo for 6 weeks. We had developed the pictures which we took at the site of the accident and had them with us hoping to be able to locate the spot where this happened.
We did find the location and then it was just to ask about Brook. We showed someone a picture of the accident and immediately they knew who we were looking for. We followed a group of children to Brook's house. Brook was home and he came running out to greet us! Asle asked if he could show us his skills, and he ran off, jumping around and boxing with both hands. He was completely able to move normally again and with a big smile on his face; and oh, so charming.
With a warmly touched heart and great thankfulness to God, we watched Brook playing. So full of life and so happy, and so were we.
As I mentioned, I know that many of you who read our page, have probably wondered how things developed with Brook. Asle and I wanted to share this happiness with you.
Greetings from Kari
Brook at his house; one year after the accident
Brook and his friends
Posted 3/19/2011 in Newsletter
Asle, March 19th 2011, Addis
Kari has promised that there would be an update coming from me. She has done a good job on behalf of both of us while I was away so I guess it is about time I contribute too.
The major new development on my behalf is the work I am now involved in at Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa. Black Lion is the main national referral hospital in Ethiopia. It also is the site where all postgraduate training of physicians is taking place. This is the reason I have been working at the hospital in the Department of Anesthesiology since January in a project that attempts to support the training of Ethiopian anesthesiologist.
I am not alone on this project. The initiative actually came from good friends and previous colleagues at Haukeland Hospital in Bergen; Norway; where I used to work many, many years ago. The project has been in the planning for almost a year and we have now finally started. At Black Lion Hospital there is a program in place to train anesthesiologists; we have just been invited by the Addis Ababa University to support the training.
As mentioned previously there are about 10 to 15 active anesthesiologists in this country with more than 80 million people. Almost all of these anesthesiologists are found in the three major cities. Addis Ababa alone has 7 of them. Nurse anesthetists are doing a great job, and provide most of the anesthesia. But the surgeons are now requesting M.D. anesthesiologists to help them while performing more complicated surgery. Currently epidurals for labor are not in use. Pain treatment is minimal. There are not enough anesthesiologists to teach the principles of anesthesia, fluid treatment, intensive care, and pain management at the medical schools.
Black Lion hospital is an interesting and challenging place to work. It is a big hospital where patients with complicated diagnosis come from all over the country; many to seek the final help. The surgery that is being performed is quite complicated, particularly considering the sparse resources that are available. I have to admit that I have learned a lot during these busy months myself.
Tomorrow Kari and I are going to drive 5 hours back to Soddo. It's been a while since I have been there and I am looking very much forward to getting back. In the future it is going to be a major challenge keeping up with two jobs that are asking for full time commitment.
We will keep you posted on the "ups and downs".
For now, greetings from Asle.
The big Black Lion Hospital in the background with a communist era monument in front. You will find the hospital in the heart of Addis Ababa.
Morning rounds at the ICU. The patient is a boy with Guillain-Barré syndrome I met when I started working at Black Lion. He is paralyzed from neck down and can only communicate by blinking his eyes. He came in critical condition unable to breath and was helped by one of the three ventilators that are available.
Almost three months later he is able to sit up and wave his hands.
Still not ready to be extubated but certainly happy.
A happy team in one of the 12 operating rooms in Black Lion.
The busy outdoor waiting area at the Out Patient Clinic.
Posted 3/14/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, March 14th 2011, Addis
Hello again from Addis,
I am back here because Asle came home to Ethiopia yesterday evening from Norway....fantastic!
We came to a freshly cleaned apartment, fresh linens on the bed and freshly baked homemade rolls! It is just great to have someone like Serfe who has been a maid for the mission here for over 30 years. The mission is trying to reduce the number of employees so many locals will lose their jobs. This will make life difficult for them as it is not easy to get new work. We have decided we must do what we can to help Serfe to get work. We have not been in Addis that much, but she has always made our stay more pleasant. As soon as we call to say we are coming to Addis, she is there fixing in the apartment to have it ready for our arrival.
The weather here has been great! I have taken walks to the local stores and even needed a light jacket in the early morning. A good Norwegian summer temperature.
Serfe is actually making "komle" today. A Norwegian dish made from potatoes. She is so happy to have Asle back that she is busy making his favorites.... potato pancakes ( closer to potato tortillas), and chocolate cookies. Asle is already back at work today at Black Lion University and is very excited to see how they are doing after the team of American Anesthesiologists have managed to get 10 tons of new equipment for the hospital. The American doctors have been in Addis a month now and have been training personnel in the use of the equipment. A Norwegian anesthesia nurse has also been here and been involved in the teaching. We are hoping for a continuation in this program with help from Haukeland hospital in Bergen.
On Friday a nurse is arriving from the intensive care unit in Stavanger. Her name is Olaug Irene and she is going to go with us to Soddo and help to upgrade the intensive care section at the SCH. Olaug Irene will live with us for 5 to 6 weeks. It would have been wonderful to have had the guest house ready but that has been delayed.
When it comes to the rebuilding and improvements to the guesthouse, we have finally received permission to get started. It was a long process because we first were told by the board in the United States that we were not able to build onto and enlarge the building because of the master plan or drawing which was supposed to be for other expansion on the property. However it appears that things have worked out anyways and we will soon be able to start this work. The drawings for the changes show a guest house with three guest bedrooms, 12 beds so 4 per room, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and a living area, and a separate entrance. We hope to be finished by August, but as we know, things do take time in Africa. I will write much more about this when we get started.
Part of Hanna's family and Alberta
This week I have also visited the parents of one of my teachers, (Hanna), at the language school here in Addis. Her parents live in Soddo. Mark and Allison who are my American neighbors in Soddo, received a visitor, Alberta, who was a retired teacher. She wished to volunteer with a local school in Soddo, and she also wished to live with an Ethiopian family. Hanna's parents right away said they would be happy to have her live with them. We went there to bring this new guest to their home and we were invited in for an Ethiopian meal and coffee. Very nice people and the son in the house spoke very good English while we stuttered away in Amharic. Very informative.
Making coffee the Ethiopian way - Hanna's mother
Eating dinner with Hanna's parents
Well, this was my update for the week and next week Asle will write when he has had a chance to get back into normal routine here.
For now as always, greeting to you our many friends who visit us here. Kari
Posted 3/6/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, March 6th 2011, Soddo
Last week I had a 4 days visit to Addis which was very refreshing. A change of atmosphere and air can do wonders, even though the air in Addis is definitely no better than the air in Soddo! There is much more pollution in Addis but just the opportunity to go out for dinner, to be able to get a haircut and not least of all the chance to buy groceries that are not found in Soddo, makes for a positive change.
I got back to Soddo just in time for the going away party for a team of doctors that had been visiting the hospital here. We held the party at our "Lappa", a nice covered pavillion on the compound. Tortillas were made and served with marinated beef, avocados, and bean casserole, etc.... it tasted like Texas!
There was a disturbing side to returning to Soddo. It did not take long before I noticed that the new "main road" being built to Arba Minch is passing straight by our kitchen window. What previously had reminded me of Bethlehem's pastures and shepherds is now becoming a dusty main road! The house needs to be washed down every other day to make it just barely clean enough to be considered acceptable. There is a layer of dust on all books, lamps, pictures, basically on everything. The windows have to be open a bit to make it livable as it is very hot otherwise. The plants in the garden are dying from the dust and also the machines being used to build the road are causing our walls to get cracks. So frustrating to watch and not being able to do anything about it.
Yesterday I was at the CCC (Christian Cross Connection), the orphanage where an afternoon arts and craft day had been scheduled. We have a sick little boy at the hospital and they wanted to cheer him up. The boy is alone at the hospital with no family close by. The children at the orphanage made best wishes cards and pictures for him. They worked really hard writing their greetings in Amharic and English. There are 65 children in this orphanage between 3 and 18 years of age. Katie, an American girl, has been working here at the home for about 1 year now and is together with Ethiopian helpers running the Children's Home. It is a well-run and well maintained home for these children. The children seem to be very happy and secure. They run to meet you with a happy smile and want to take your hand and show you around. They are being taught English from the time they are 3 years old so this makes it much easier for visitors to communicate with them.
Katie with the "washing machine"
Arts and craft day
The children hard at work
Katie with some of 'her' children at the orphanage
In the evening I had dinner guest and movie night here at my house. I have sewn a screen which we have attached to the wall and on movie nights all we have to do is roll it down. Last night we watched "The King's Speech", so you see we keep up to date via pirated films here.
Ready for movie night!
Today is Sunday and the peace of the day has settled in over Soddo. I have baked cookies and a cheesecake which we will serve after the church service at 6 this evening. We all gather together at this time. We are about 25 "westerners" who are living here and in addition there are often visitors. This week we have had 10 extra guests. We are a large flock who are here serving our Almighty God.
Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. I never get tired of thanking you for them as this helps to sustain us on difficult days. Kari
Posted 2/28/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, February 28th 2011, Addis Ababa
I'm counting down the days until Asle returns to Addis Ababa from Norway, and today there are only two weeks left. It will be nice to have him back. During the time he has been in Norway, I have lived a very healthy life. Few dinners, but I have had homemade juice of papaya, mango, bananas, lemons, avocados and passion fruit every day. I'm getting plenty of vitamins! The heat takes a toll on us here in Ethiopia these days, but we try to get some work done anyway.
Last Saturday we went out to a town called Arek, about ¾ hour's drive from Soddo. We visited St Mary's, which is a Catholic hospital. We wanted to see this hospital as we had heard that they have "Maternity housing" for expectant mothers. The two new gynecologists, who just started working at Soddo Christian Hospital, would like to offer something similar here in our district.
At St. Mary's, expectant mothers get to stay up to a couple of months before the birth, if they live far away and need regular follow-ups. The Catholic hospital was very clean and nice, and we met a Brazilian / American nun who showed us around. She had been in Ethiopia for 12 years, but was now on her way home to America. At her departure the hospital will be handed over to Ethiopian management.
OB/GYN room at the hospital
The delivery room
Maternity housing at St. Mary's
This week I have also been involved in food distribution to the poorest single old women and widows up in Otona. About 300 women received 20 kg (about 50 lbs.) corn each. There are three churches that are involved in this project. The priests are responsible for selecting those in the congregation who are needy. Crooked old women come from afar to get food. Some of them had to walk up to three hours to get to the distribution site.
The women sat in the shade under the trees and waited patiently. Those who came from farthest away received their bags of corn first, so they could start the long walk home and get there before dark. I walked around and took some pictures, and everyone was very eager to see themselves in the picture. Some had never seen a camera before and they studied the pictures with great curiosity. They saw people who sat next to them, and thereby realized who they were in the picture. I do not know if they had even seen themselves in a mirror before! Everyone was so grateful to get food, treatment for wounds, and prayers for those who requested it.
About 6000 kg (over 13,000 lbs) corn was distributed.
The corn was carefully measured and filled in bags
The women had to carry the 20 kg bags on their backs. Here one of them is getting help to load the bag on her back
Two of my local friends at the food distribution
Thank you all for still following us in the everyday life in Soddo.
Posted 2/20/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, February 20th 2011, Soddo
Dear readers, Asle is now in Norway as I mentioned in my previous update. I chose to stay here as the weather in Norway is terribly cold now and not so inviting. We have been living in warm climates for a long time and the cold does not tempt us. I know Asle has been to the Salvation Army store to buy a warm scarf, gloves and cap.
It has been a week since he left and I am already counting down the time until he returns. I do have good neighbors here on the compound and they are good company for me.
This week I and my new neighbor Allison visited the Government High School here in Soddo. There are about 5,000 students but only 30% have passing grades! All of their text books are in English but the students have a very limited knowledge of the language. They definitely need more books as they follow their lessons on a screen on the wall. There are approximately 100 students in each classroom and the teacher is always referring to the text books.
The school was closed the day we visited, however there were many students in studying for an upcoming exam. This method of teaching is used throughout Ethiopia. Because we wish to help these students to do better in school, we want to help them to learn better English. The principal and the students very much want our help.
One of the classrooms at the highschool
New additions to the highschool
This week I have also worked a bit in the garden and flower beds around the hospital. We are helping by trimming back bushes and removing those that are dead. It is now the dry time of year and the ground is parched. It is fun to see how patients and their families react to seeing two westerners on all four working the dirt and cleaning in the garden. Some actually come and offer to help saying "erdanj", which means, can we help you? Yes, I have many opportunities to use the language I am learning.
The hospital gardener
I have also returned to the school where I was helping to teach previously. A couple of days ago we who are helping, were invited home to one of the teachers we are assisting. His wife recently had a baby boy and he wanted us to come home to him and meet his family. He lives in a nice dirt house with a living area, kitchen and bedroom. He had nice furniture; the walls were painted and beautiful crocheted table cloth on the table.
We were served coffee of the best Ethiopian coffee and popcorn. His lovely wife served us and she also will soon be a teacher. Education is so very important in this country but it is often difficult to get work.
This was just a short update to share what has been going on in Soddo this week.
Best of greetings!
Posted 2/8/2011 in Newsletter
Kari, February 8th 2011, Soddo
Dear friends, We are back in Soddo after a month of work in Addis. I completed the second half of the language school and Asle started on something that hopefully will lead to the education of anesthesiologists in this country. He spent three weeks at the Black Lion University Hospital and is optimistic.
A couple of weeks ago a plane arrived from Seattle with several tons of anesthesia equipment for Black Lion. Onboard the plane was also a whole team of anesthesiologists, nurses and technicians, who would install and provide training on the equipment.
During the same week a representative from Haukeland Hospital in Bergen, Norway, came to look at how the team would start up the educational program. Asle was able to initiate collaboration between the two teams. Until this summer, Asle will spend 50% of his time with this project in Addis, and 50% of his time in Soddo. However before this can start, Asle will attend a three weeks Peace Corps training program in Fredrikstad, Norway and after that he will spend one week in Bergen. He is leaving this weekend and while he is gone I will be staying in Soddo practicing my language skills and taking care of some other needed projects, and also doing some teaching.
While Asle was busy last week with all these guests and work, I attended the Norwegian Lutheran Mission's (NLM) conference in Awasa. They held their yearly conference at a beautiful property they own there; it has a fantastic view overlooking Lake Awasa. I was invited as a guest as we are not employed by the NLM. They asked if I would decorate the meeting room with the theme "Making It About Jesus".
The Soddo ladies and I started on this right away and came up with an idea that we were very satisfied with. We found some planks of wood on the compound and nailed them together to make a cross. We bought a piece of purple cloth and braided a thorn crown made with thorn bushes also from the compound. We bought three clay pots in which we put palm branches, and last but not least we cut out a dove from a piece of Styrofoam which we hung on the wall. With the help of lighting we got a nice shadow effect. You can see this on the pictures, but it was quite a different effect ‘live' with the lights on the scene, and it was very expressive. All the details in the decorations were meant to point to Jesus.
The decorations at the NLM Conference
The cross made by simple means
The children perform at the conference
NLM's Foreign Secretary in action!
All the missionaries at the conference gathered outside the conference center
We recently received an update from Inger Ryden, who keeps us updated on those of you who help support us with donations. Tusen takk, or thousands of thanks as we say in Norwegian, to each and every one of you that is helping us with our work here.
Posted 1/19/2011 in Newsletter
Asle, January 19th 2011, Soddo
Today is Wednesday January 19th, and it is another holiday in Ethiopia. It is another holiday that shows the uniqueness of this country at the Horn of Africa. In Ethiopia the day is called Timket which means Baptism.
World wide the Christian Church celebrates the same event and call it Epiphany in recognition of the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. The Ethiopian Orthodox celebration focuses on the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. As we read it in Matt. 3:17; a voice from heaven was heard after the baptism saying: "This is my Son, whom I love......."
The Ethiopian celebration is elaborate. One should remember that the Ethiopian church claims that this unique country is host to the original Ark of the Covenant. Every Orthodox Church in Ethiopia has a Tabot, a replica of the tablets in the original Ark of Covenant. On Timket the Tabot is carried from the local church amid joyful song to an open field where a pool of water or a river is located. The Tabots are moved into tents, where they will stay overnight. As the night approaches most of the faithful leave to get some rest while some pious members of the Church spend the night in the tents as the Clergy pray an all-night vigil.
The next morning, once the Vigil is over, a unique liturgy is celebrated. Then the body of water is blessed and sprinkled on the participants symbolically renewing their baptismal vows. During the celebration preachers present sermons and choirs sing rhythmic hymns regarding the holiday.
The event concludes as the faithful escort the Tabots once again carried on the head of the priest back to their Churches. When the members see the Tabot back in its original and safe location, they depart to their own homes, where family and friends will meet to feast on traditional Ethiopian food.
Timkaet celebration in our neighborhood
Torches for sale
Mother and daughter selling whatever you need to celebrate
Everybody is dressed up
Where the Tabots will be returned
Posted 1/8/2011 in Newsletter
Aarsland family, January 8th 2011, Northern Ethiopia
The update this week comes from Maria and Filip, who have been visiting their parents over the holidays. A true 'trip report' from their road trip through the northern parts of Ethiopia!
Maria and I have been fortunate to make it to Ethiopia once more to celebrate Christmas with our parents. Now, a little more than half way through our stay, we've already managed to drive nearly 3000km while climbing to altitudes of more than 3200 meters (10,700ft). This was all a part of our excursion to the northern regions of Ethiopia. Christmas times there don't exactly resemble the cold, white, traditional times in the States or Norway. As you walk through ruins dating back centuries and even millennium, they do, however, give a slight idea of what the original Christmas must have been like more than 2000 years ago. Here are some highlights from our trip from each stop along the way.
Bahir Dar is located right next to the largest lake in Ethiopia, Lake Tana, which is the original source of the Blue Nile and is surrounded by old monasteries dating back to 1300AD. Having rented probably the slowest boat on the lake besides the papyrus kayaks the local monks use, we only had to time to visit one of these monasteries, but that proved to be enough. On our way back we floated by the start of the Blue Nile, which was a must-see.
Gonder was an impressive city that reminded dad of the old Addis Ababa with its old Piaza (town center) built by the Italians. There we visited perhaps the most peaceful church of the trip famous for the multiple angels painted on the ceiling. The most famous sights of the town, however, are the multiple Portuguese inspired castles within the royal enclosure that belonged to earlier Emperors of Ethiopia, the last of which has her bones contained within a glass box shoved in a corner of a small, random museum right outside of town... a little surprising.
One of the several castles in Gonder
The most breath-taking views of the trip at over 10,000ft! Here we drove and hiked to different view points some of which had 2000 meter drops straight down the edge and stayed at the highest hotel in Africa.
Maria with gelada baboons native to the Simien Mountains
Axum is the capitol of the ancient Axumite Empire, but other than that not much is known. This town and the surrounding area is home to the oldest ruins of the trip, including castles, stelae, and tombs, dating back to both before and after Christ. Sadly, having not done too much reading beforehand and picked a rather unknowledgeable guide, all the ruins started looking the same. This is also the most important city for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and is where they believe the Ark of the Covenant is kept.
A rock-hewn church between Axum and Gheralta
View from the Gheralta lodge in the morning
Experiencing and travelling so much in a short amount of time is wearing and by this point in the trip, we all seemed to be pretty exhausted. On our way to Lalibela a professional guide who dad had befriended on the way suggested a slight detour to see some more rock-hewn churches. Taking his advice we ended up at the most relaxing, beautiful, clean, eco-friendly, nicely staffed, quite, etc. lodge of Ethiopia. Not only was the lodge great, but the next morning we had the most exhilarating experience of the trip. Of the 30+ rock-hewn churches in the region, Maria asked our guide if we could go to the most challenging one to get to. After hiking for about 45 min, we began basically mountain climbing up the side of a cliff. Once we reached what we thought was the top, there were about 100-200 meter drops on each side of us. After seeing open family tombs carved into the mountainside filled with bones, we realized we were still not at the church. Looking up we realized it was going to be a balancing act to get to our destination. High off of life and still shaking from nerves, we finally reached a beautifully carved church nearly impossible to get to. (See Will Graham's blog for some great pictures... our camera failed)
After a short stop in Mekele, we arrived in the most famous tourist sight in Ethiopia, Lalibela. Here the churches aren't cut out of the mountainside, but rather dug out from underneath the ground. Our guide proved to be very knowledgeable, but we were most impressed when we asked him if he recalled the Bill Clinton visit a few years ago... turned out not only had he seen Clinton, he had been his personal guide. Of the entire trip, these churches were the most impressive looking from the outside, and were a perfect last stop.