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 12/12/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, December 12th 2010, Addis Abeba Ethiopia
Christmas is soon upon us but there is nothing here in Ethiopia which reminds of the western style of celebrating. The traditions for celebrating Christmas here are very different from ours. Ethiopians celebrate on the 7th of January, using the old orthodox calendar. All over Ethiopia churches celebrate but in the north of the country the churches celebrate very solemnly. It is the day that families meet in the churches and greet each other with "Melkam Genna", Merry Christmas.
This week we have participated in two Christmas activities that have given me more Christmas spirit. The International Church had a "Christmas Tea" where more than 400 ladies gathered in a Christmas decorated church. There was singing, choir music, soloists and a play. Afterwards we were served a nice meal. It felt good to be there and absorb the Christmas Spirit all around me.
And today I attended an Advent Breakfast held by the Norwegian Missions Station. We were approximately 40-50 people gathered for lighting of the candles, reading of the Bible and some musical entertainment.
The missionaries are in town for a CE-meeting (Committee-Ethiopia meeting). Tomorrow they are returning to the south again and Asle will have six of them for dinner in Soddo. He is very thankful that we have help in the house!
I am now in my last week of language school for this time. I have had a very interesting way of getting to the school this week. When my friend (fellow student Mattie) finished her classes and I no longer could drive with her I decided to take the bus-taxi to and from classes. Renting a car is a bit expensive and I can go back and forth for 10 birr this way on my own, but I have to transfer and take two bus-taxi's.
There are crowds of people waiting at the bus-taxi stops and when the taxi comes people throw themselves at the doors. As the only white person normally I felt a bit intimidated the first days but I quickly learned that would not work. So now I am fighting for a seat on the bus just like everyone else and it all happens so quickly that I rarely get to ask if this is the right bus or not.
I can proudly say that I am starting to get good at finding my way around in Addis both driving a car myself, and also by taking a taxi-bus. Now when Asle is here he leaves the driving to the Mrs.!
I am so excited and have started the countdown of days until Asle, Maria and Filip and I will be together in Addis again. It would have been wonderful if Sara Janne could have been here too but she hopes to be able to come this Spring and we are very happy about that. We will be traveling northward on Saturday December 18th and will be traveling for 12 days. We are hoping for a good visit together with many good experiences during our trip. I will write again when we are back from our family trip.
We want to wish each of you dear readers a very Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year. Thank you for your prayers.
Best Wishes Kari and Asle
Posted 12/5/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, December 5th 2010, Addis Abeba Ethiopia
Hello! And yes; I am still in Addis and learning more and more of the Amharic language. It is good to be back in school again and the fellow students are a great inspiration.
Thanksgiving celebration with friends in Addis.
There is much school but there are days where I take time for other activities. I have for example visited cancer patients who are being treated at the university hospital, Black Lion, here in Addis. They are given a place to stay through a support group in Stavanger, Norway.
The group there called the project "Cancer Care Ethiopia". An Ethiopian couple living in Norway took the initiative to start this project. This group in Norway rent a house in Addis Abeba with bed places for 15 patients. They receive food and care while undergoing treatments. I went there for the 1 year celebration of the start of this project and it was very touching to hear their stories. "I used to be treated like a dog on the streets" said one of the patients. Here they receive care and feel safe and they were actually so thankful for this opportunity despite their very serious illness. The couple who started Cancer Care Ethiopia are both Christians and the husband has also had cancer. He was very seriously ill but after a tough program of treatments in Norway he is now well. At that point he promised that he would do something for his homeland Ethiopia. If any of you would like to know more about this work then you can check their web page www.cancercare.no; they have both a Norwegian and English version.
Lately I have been in contact with Tone Balder who is Martin Mosvold's niece. Through her I have met many well educated young Christian Ethiopians who live by their motto: "What would Jesus do?" They are running several orphanages for homeless children. They have organized a small library for the children so they will have a chance to read books and get knowledge as early as possible. This is an opportunity they never otherwise would have had. They also have contact with boys who are living on the street and make an effort to help them to get to a better quality of life. If possible the boys are given a place at an orphanage where they stay for about a year and are given training. After this they try to help them find a job where they will then have a better chance of making it in their society.
I was also invited with Tone to a restaurant where her parents were treating all of the children in the orphanage to a meal. Some of these children had never been in a restaurant and were thrilled.
I would also like to tell you about the big "Haile Gebreselassie run" which was arranged here in Addis about 2 weeks ago. The participants ran under the motto: "We Can End Poverty 2015". It was a Sunday morning and we went to see the runners. 35,000 people ran in the 10 kilometer run in the center of Addis Abeba. All wore yellow T-shirts and it was quite a sight to see this long yellow train of people running. I think next year Asle will have to register to run too. Asle is still running to stay in shape.
Now I have given you a short update from my time here in Addis. It is so good to know that our work here lies in God's hands as I must admit that not all days are easy. Please continue to pray for us as we feel the strength we receive from them.
Posted 11/25/2010 in Newsletter
Asle, Thanksgiving Day, November 25th 2010, Soddo
A Thanksgiving Thank You Note.
On this Thanksgiving allow me to share with you the story of the mom in the picture.
She came to the hospital all on her own with her baby. She had been traveling on a dusty road for six hours. The baby girl was less than a month old. Her husband was home sick with malaria, and her neighbors were looking after her two other children.
She came crying towards me outside the outpatient clinic with her child wrapped in some dirty cloths. When I asked her what was wrong she said the child would not breast feed any longer. "Why not?" I said. She pulled aside her daughter's cloths so I could see a meningomyelocele the size of a grape fruit. A meningomyelocele is a serious birth defect in which the bony part of the spinal cord has not closed leaving the spinal cord and the covering membranes unprotected. The skin over the lesion was badly ulcerated. In the clinic we found that the child probably had meningites and some degree of hydrochephalus (increased intracranial pressure). We decided to admit the child and start antibiotics. We needed time to consider our options.
In the meantime the woman gave us all the money she had, Etio birr 200 ($12). That would cover two nights in our "ICU". The benevolent fond, we told her, would cover the rest.
Now, five days later the child is doing well on antibiotics, still sub-febrile but able to breast feed. Every day her mom asks me if we will heal her baby. With tears in her eyes she asks if money is the issue, that she doesn't have enough. I've told her it is not.
The girl's legs are limp. With some heroic efforts we might be able to close the meningomyelocele but she will be paralytic and in need of a cerebral shunt if she survives the surgery. Realistically, this is long-term care and it would cost something this family could not even imagine.
What would you do? Our decision was that the child and her impoverished family would be better off without surgery. So I gave the mother 250 Ethiopian birr (US $15), money that you have enabled us to give, to cover the bus home and food for the road so that mother and child could rejoin their family. The woman was a Muslim-mother. As you know they love their children too.
If you believe in prayers please keep this mother and her girl in mind during this Thanksgiving.
To all our friends, Kari and I are so thankful for all of you. You allow us to show God's care to this mother and many others.
Posted 11/21/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, November 21st 2010, Addis Ababa Ethiopia
After three weeks in Soddo and another three weeks on the road, I'm back in Addis Ababa to continue language school. It's very nice to be back, and even though language school is more challenging this time, I really enjoy it. I have learned 46 fidels (characters) by now, and I am trying my best to start reading. There are a total of 231 fidels, so I have a way to go.
Recently Marion and Jan Arthur Hammer visited Asle and me, and it was so great! Marion and Jan Arthur are our longtime friends. They were in Texas to welcome us when we moved there in 1992 and ever since our families have remained close. Together with them I recently traveled to see northern Ethiopia, where the landscape is captivating and the history is rich.
According to the travel book Lonely Planet:
"If you ever feel that the hectic, modern world we're living in is getting too much, then just remember there is one place in which dragon-slaying knights still live and where the ghosts of emperors still haunt the highlands. Its name is northern Ethiopia".
Our trip up north started the day following Marion and Jan Arthur's arrival to Addis Ababa. We got up at 4:00 am to reach the airport by 5:00. We flew from Addis Ababa to Bahar Dar, where a guide picked us up at the airport. He took us to our hotel and shortly after our adventure started.
Bahar Dar is located at the southern tip of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. We took a boat out on the lake to the see where the Blue Nile starts, to the top of the mighty Blue Nile Falls. Other beautiful sights in Bahar Dar included the several centuries-old monasteries that surrounded Lake Tana. Many of the monasteries date from the late 16th or early 17th century, though others were founded much earlier.
Inside the church
Priest at the church
We visited Azuwa Maryam, which is known for its beautiful church paintings that depict stories from the Old and New Testament. After visiting the monastery we set out to see the Blue Nile Falls from a different angle. After a 45 minutes' drive to a quiet village called Tis Isat, we began a 30-minute climb to the Falls. The powerful Blue Nile poured over the cliff creating both mist and rainbows. It was a fabulous sight. From here the river continues to Khartoum before making its way to the Mediterranean.
Shepherd by the falls
The next day we started a scenic car drive to Gondor early in the morning. Gondor was the capital of Ethiopia from 1855 to 1868 when Emperors Fasilades and Tewodros ruled. Thought the wealth and brutality of this time period is gone, ancient castles and palaces can still be seen around the city.
Castle in Gondor
The next morning we flew to Lalibela, which was the Zagwe dynasty's capital in the 12th and 13th centuries. Legend has it that king Lalibela was poisoned by his half-brother and while in coma he went on a journey to heaven. In heaven God showed Lalibela a city of churches carved into rock before commanding him to return to earth to re-create what he had seen. The city would be the New Jerusalem.
Roof painted in Debre Berhan Selassie Church
Rock-hewn church Lalibela
"Lalibela's rock-hewn churches are remarkable ...... nothing on earth can prepare you for the reality of seeing the New Jerusalem for yourself. It is truly the wonders of Africa".
On our trip we were introduced to the people and ancient Christian traditions of the northern Ethiopian highlands. I came to see that the foundation of Ethiopia is the church. The country has found strength in it from the very beginning. Seeing the country's history together with great friends was an experience I will not soon forget!
Until next time!
Posted 11/14/2010 in Newsletter
Asle, November 14th 2010, Soddo Ethiopia
"And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard"
It's been a while since we sent you our last update. It doesn't mean we don't have anything to share; on the contrary; we have been very busy and have so much to share, but not enough time to sit and write it down!
Kari and I have been on the road for three weeks now. It all started with our trip to Ginir, which we have told you about. After that trip we headed to Addis to welcome our friends from Norway, Marion and Jan Arthur Hammer (who many of you know). From Addis Kari, Marion, and Jan Arthur traveled to northern Ethiopia for four days to see the historical sites there. I stayed in Addis to take care of business. Kari will tell you more about this trip another time. Once back in Addis, the four of us began our journey south. We made a quick stop in Soddo before heading on to Jinka (see map).
The purpose of the Jinka visit was to hold a workshop at the local hospital on resuscitating newborns. The approach was similar to the one used in Ginir, a couple of lectures and a lot of hands on practice. In the middle of the workshop a baby was delivered by C-section at the hospital, so instead of practicing on a manikin the workshop participants got real life experience (see photo).
A Hammer woman who's life was saved at the hospital. Her seventh pregnancy ended with a ruptured uterus.
Our connection to Jinka Hospital is through the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM). Jinka Hospital was the last place my parents served before they died in 2003. It is a government hospital, but NLM collaborates with the state to provide surgical and obstetric services. Currently there is one surgeon and two midwifes at the hospital staffed by NLM.
The hospital is located in one of the most remote and under-developed areas of Ethiopia. Many people there have not heard the gospel. They have not had the opportunity to choose to believe in Him or not. Every day there is a brief morning service at Jinka Hospital where patients and staff can come and hear the good news about our Heavenly Father who gave his very own son so whoever believes in him will be saved (see photo). Through practical care the medical staff in Jinka is able to display the love of Christ to suffering patients.
On Thursday evening we attended the missionaries' weekly prayer gathering. That night one of our fellow missionaries in Jinka shared with us the words from Romans 10: 14-15:
"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
Thank you all for partnering with us in this great mission.
Posted 10/31/2010 in Newsletter
Asle, October 31st 2010, Ginnir Ethiopia
".... and where I am, my servant also will be"
In last week's update Kari told you about our latest adventure into the Bale region of Ethiopia. As you might have sensed it truly was a great trip. I had never been to this beautiful but somewhat isolated part of Ethiopia before. In many ways the trip was an eye-opener.
The purpose of the trip was to visit Ginnir Hospital and in particular Margrethe Mork. Margrethe is a Norwegian nurse with a Master's degree in Public Health. She is working on a project run by the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM, the organization where my parents had their lifelong mission work) that supports the government owned hospital in Ginnir.
The Ginnir Hospital
Margrethe's title is "capacity builder". Her mission is to enhance and facilitate a more efficient hospital organization. A local Ethiopian church is partnering in the project. To support them in their work I was there to give a couple of lectures on basic life support for newborns and adults. After the lectures we used manikins to put into practice the lectured skills.
Officially Ginnir Hospital serves a population of approximately one million people. In reality the number is much higher because there is no other functioning hospital all the way to the border of Somalia. Thus, Ginnir Hospital should have been overwhelmed with patients but due to the hardship of travel in this remote region only a minority of the huge population benefits from the spartan services provided at the hospital.
Picture of reception area - nothing extravagant here!
NLM has chosen to work in Ginnir because of the great humanitarian needs but also because the people living there are predominantly Muslims. The focus of NLM's mission strategy in East-Africa is the Muslims and particularly the Muslims of Somalian ethnicity. They are the ones that still have not heard that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life"
To Kari and me it was a privilege to see the work at Ginnir Hospital. Margrethe's work is not easy. As a foreigner she is on here own. On a good day the drive to Addis Abeba is 11 hours. With very limited resources at her disposition the challenges at the hospital must seem overwhelming. Within the hospital organization she has only limited influence. Many patients seeking help at the hospital are critically ill with nowhere else to go. The boy in the picture to the left has a fatal cardiac illness.
One early morning when Margrethe and I were sharing thoughts on what we were doing in Ethiopia she read me what Jesus said in John. 12: 26 "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be."
The trip to Bale allowed us to see Jesus in Ginnir making his presence know through a faithful servant.
Until next time,
Posted 10/23/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, October 23rd 2010, Ginnir Ethiopia
Greetings and now we have arrived in Ginnir after a nine hour drive through a part of Ethiopia with such beautiful nature that it is difficult to describe.
We drove through flatlands with green and lush cultivated fields as far as the eye could see. From there up a mountain pass to the elevation of 4000 meters (over 13,000 feet) with mountainsides still cultivated as in the days of long ago and where the colors were a pleasure to the eyes. Further on down from the mountain and over yet another long area of fields with so many types of wheat and corns that were golden and healthy. It cannot be compared to any place I have seen before.
It is so difficult to understand how this country can have starvation in the south where food must be distributed to the inhabitants after having seen all of this. Well, I know it takes a lot of food to feed 84 million people. Ethiopia is incredibly big and after 9 hours of driving we are still just half way to Somali land.
Toward the end of the trip, about 2 hours away from our destination, we started to wonder if we were on the right road. We drove on clay slippery roads, up steep and narrow uninhabited mountainsides, but all we could do was to trust our GPS and hope for the best before darkness set in. It would have been quite the challenge if we'd had a flat tire or mechanical problems. However God was with and we had placed the trip and our safety in His Hands.
We were warmly welcomed at Margrete's. We tried to call her underway but there was no cell phone coverage on this stretch of the trip. She however had dinner waiting because she had counted on us arriving before nightfall. This is exactly what we did.
It was sunset as we drove into Ginnir and it had rained so much that the roads were a muddy mess. There are no asphalt roads up here. When we were going to fill gas in the car we couldn't as we would have had to stand in water up to the ankles.
While at the gas station we noticed two big trucks (Isuzu's) that had up to 4 camels loaded on them. They were going to Nazaret to be slaughtered. Asle started to talk with the drivers and could tell them "Where we come from we eat pork (which is a big NO-NO here), but we don't touch camels." They had a good laugh as eating pork is considered very dirty here.
Now I am sitting on the terrace, writing from Ginnir while Asle and Margrete are at the hospital and trying to inspire and encourage the workers there. Asle is going to give several presentations, be with the workers in their daily routines, and seeing what is missing and what they need for improvements. He also brought some equipment for them. We will be here 5 days and I hope it will be a bit warmer as I am so cold sitting here with a fleece blanket and wool socks....IN ETHIOPIA! You would not think it was possible, would you?
At 10 a.m. I had tea with four of the workers on the property. They came and sat on the terrace with me and I spoke away in my broken Amharic. It is a peaceful and wonderful place and as I sit here I am reading about northern Ethiopia. I am studying Amharic and reading a good book. There is little I can do at the hospital so I am appreciating being served by the house maid. It is so nice to go to a ready set table because during 15 of the 19 days in Soddo before this trip, I had been making and serving dinners and lunches for guests.
Beetle hard at work on our daily walk in the area
We will be taking an afternoon trip to Raito which is located about an hour and a half's drive east of here to the NLM (Norwegian Lutheran Missions) missionaries who work there. They are involved with evangelizing, health work, and water and farming projects. It is a young family with a 6 year old son, and a teacher.
They young family lives in a very simple house with outside toilet.
Simen, their 6 year old son, is showing me their outhouse!
The teacher has a temporary room which also functions as a class room until her simple house is finished. I praise them for their dedication and willingness to serve.
Living quarters for the missionaries in Raito
There is no internet connection up here in the mountains so I will send this when we arrive back to civilization.
Next time we will write more about Asle's work at the hospital.
For now, as always, thanks for your caring! Kari
Posted 10/11/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, October 11th 2010, Soddo
Hello again to all of you who look in on our Soddo updates. Not all of our days are filled with exciting news, new equipment, new travel experiences, etc.; most of our days, like everybody else's, are just everyday life. But we feel it's important to share this with you as well so you can see what everyday life is like here.
The maid and garden boy having a lunch break.
The beauty of speaking a language! I am now back in Soddo as of two weeks, after an intensive language training course in Addis. I have thrown myself out there and I am using as much Amharic as possible. My house help and garden boy both look at me with a combination of amusement and admiration when they hear me trying to formulate complete sentences. They are patient but occasionally laugh when they have to come with corrections. Everyone here at the compound knows that I have been in Addis attending the language school and encourage me. When I am out in the town on errands I also just speak away and do my best even if it is far from perfect. When they answer me they speak much too fast and I have to repeatedly say...."Algebanjum ebake endegena". "I don't understand, can you please repeat". The most difficult part is the way the verbs change from the present tense to past tense and rarely do I manage a perfect sentence...but they understand! And that is wonderful!
I will give you an example:
I want to eat bread and banana = Ennei dabbo na mos mebillat efellegallo.
I am eating bread and banana = Ennei dabbo na mos e je billa hu no.
I ate bread and banana = Ennei dabbo na mos bela ho.
I would love for you to hear Asle when he speaks Amharic. People think he is an Ethiopian when they have him on the phone. His Amharic has just exploded since our arrival here.
This week we have also had workers here building a small shed where we can keep our outdoor tools. Asle has negotiated a price and explained to them how we wants it. However the workers wanted to be more creative and while Asle was in Addis, they constructed what they thought was a better design. Now this was not well received and we are back to the starting point and Asle is the supervisor. Not only is Asle the doctor of anesthesia but also he is an advisor, computer expert, fund raiser, construction worker and encourager here on the compound.
Last week there was fall break in Norway and this has brought some tourists to Ethiopia. We have received earlier missionary children with their families, missionaries on their way southward, a stranded family on a country road...too bad we don't always have our camera with us as there are many amusing things we would have loved to have captured on camera.
Ingvild Labråten, (former assistant responsible for the music at the Norwegian Seamen's Church in Houston) has been in Addis Abeba. We were very sorry that she could not come down to Soddo for a visit, but she did send us a gift with a Norwegian who out of the blue, knocked on our door one evening. It was such a nice surprise! Would have loved if Ingvild could have come too.
Next weekend we are going to Ginnir to visit a clinic there. This we will write more about later. For now I ask that you please continue to pray for us!!! We certainly need and appreciate your support.
Greetings from Kari
Posted 10/3/2010 in Newsletter
Asle, October 3rd, 2010 Soddo
I can't remember if we have told you about the Eye Clinic here in Soddo. If not, it is about time to do so.
It so happened that this week we had a visiting team from the States that have come to work at the clinic for two weeks.
The Eye Clinic in Soddo is a collaboration between Medical Mission International (MMI) (http://www.mmint.org/) and Soddo Christian hospital. MMI's intent is to meet the need for medical care among the world's poor. They do this by mobilizing volunteers for one- and two-week medical projects and by establishing and equipping permanent medical centers. One of these centers is the Eye Clinic here in Soddo. Our good friend and neighbor Harry Bower (his blog) is the optometrist who year-round runs the well respected clinic along with three Ethiopian trainees.
The visit by the eye team is an annual event. This year there are a total of twelve on the team, three ophthalmologists and the support staff. The way they go about their work is impressive. (Please make sure to scroll all the way down and see some pictures of the team in action!) They are professional and very efficient. The team arrived in Soddo on a Sunday afternoon after an overnight flight from the States and on Monday by noon they had their surgical microscopes up and were operating on cataracts. A lot of people coming from far away are getting help. Primarily the team focuses on cataracts. Older people who have not been able to see in years are getting their vision back. It is truly a miracle. The patients pay a symbolic amount of 100 birr (US $6.50). By the time the Eye Team leave next week they will probably have screened 1,500 patients and operated on approximately 200 cataracts or other eye surgeries.
We here at Soddo Christian Hospital thank the team for coming and for showing God's care to the people we live among.
Until next time,
Kari and Asle.
The provisional waiting area of the Eye Clinic
Eyes are being anaesthetised before surgery
One of the operating teams...
...and the other team!
After surgery, the patients are waiting for the bandages to be removed
Posted 9/28/2010 in Newsletter
Asle, September 28, 2010 Soddo
This is the weekend for updates and keeping in touch with friends and supporters. We have four days to enjoy during this extended weekend.
Monday is probably the most significant Ethiopian holiday throughout the year. The Ethiopians commemorate the finding of Jesus Christ's cross in Ethiopia. According to the traditions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church it wasn't actually the whole cross but a fragment that was found here. But it is still worth celebrating by eating a whole lot of raw meat. Tuesday is also a holiday. This day the Muslims commemorate Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. And we are enjoying both days.
Kari came down from Addis on Saturday. She got a ride with some fellow Norwegian missionaries working further south. She has been in Addis attending language school for six weeks; Amharic is now the language of the household! It is good to have her back here in Soddo. She won't be here that long though. In two weeks the two of us will be traveling to Ginnir hospital further east in the Muslim region of Ethiopia. This is a hospital where our fellow Norwegian missionaries are working. We will keep you posted on that trip.
Here in Soddo I am happy to say there is progress.
People are being helped with their physical needs. The hospital is following Jesus' example by healing and telling the news that God "in his great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope ... that can never perish, spoil or fade" (1. Peter 1:3-4) Our staff evangelists tell us that people are listening and receiving the good news. Last Friday we had a meeting discussing how we could do a better job in following up on the new converts as they go home. One thing that was mentioned was the need for more Bibles and other texts that they could take along with them home. Funding for the evangelist to visit the former patients at home was another issue. Quite a lot of them are former Muslims going home to a hostile environment.
It is a delight to work with our new anesthesia machines. The new reliable equipment in the operating rooms has allowed me to spend more time in what we like to call the "Intensive Care Unit". Last week we actually had our first patient spend the night intubated on the ventilator in the ICU. The patient's story was tragic. The older gentleman who is blind had pulled the knife and cut his throat in an outrage over his son's behavior. We were able to close a wide-open trachea. But the nerves enabling him to speak and breath through his larynx are most likely severed forever. Still he was very happy when friends and family came to visit after the operation (see picture).
Our "Out Patient Clinic" (OPD) is being expanded (see picture). Actually you have indirectly contributed and enabled this construction. When we came here we paid US $ 30,000 towards our own housing. Our house was already built by other means and the money is now being used towards the OPD upgrade. This is a very busy department and the facilities have been far from perfect. Thus, we are very happy to see this project come along.
Thanks for partnering with us here in Soddo.
Posted 9/20/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, September 20, 2010 Addis Abeba
Asle has just left to drive south to Soddo again. We had a week together here in Addis Abeba which was great. Asle was again working on getting more equipment for the Soddo Christian Hospital. He has been to meetings with the people at Myung Christian Medical Center, which has a well-equipped hospital. Asle is trying to get new and needed x-ray equipment for our hospital in Soddo. He is also trying to get some new laboratory equipment which is made to function in our part of the developing world.
I have been attending the language school daily and three days a week I have been coming home to homemade Norwegian dinners. We have now employed a maid who was about to lose her employment after working more than 30 years with the mission here. She makes the best meatballs, stew, cakes and cookies, etc. You better believe this is wonderful. It is a pleasure to have her in the house. I have invested in a small vacuum cleaner to help her with the house work, but that machine scared her! She much prefers taking the small rugs outside and shaking them rather than using that noisy machine.
Now that I have help in the house I have to go out and find the ingredients needed for her to make dinner. This week I came across a very well stocked vegetable store. They had cauliflower, leeks, cucumber, paprika, and Chinese cabbage; items I never find in Soddo.
I also want to mention that the Sunday before Asle arrived in Addis, I had lunch with some nice neighbors. The young couple is Silje and Aksel, who are a young missionary couple working with NMS, Norwegian Missions. They are my neighbors here in Addis. There was also another couple, Allison and Mark who will be my new neighbors in Soddo. We went to a restaurant with a beautiful view over Addis.
Asle's trip back to Soddo had been delayed by two days due to the death of a father of a colleague of his in Soddo. Upon hearing of his death we immediately went to visit. We showed our sympathy by sitting in a tent outside the house and talking with the family. It was peaceful and quiet but occasionally the sounds of grief were heard.
The next morning there was an outdoors funeral with between 500 and 600 people attending. Fortunately it was not raining and the funeral took place at an old and honored cemetery.
The tombstones were placed on a hillside and the beautiful marble headstones made it very picturesque. The minister held a beautiful service there and the daughter gave a memorial. There was singing and yet another daughter spoke of her memories of her father. It was good to be there and see how everyone showed caring for the grieving family.
Going to a funeral gives perspective and reminds us that our time here on earth is only temporary.
Goodbye for this week.
Greetings from Kari and Asle
Posted 9/12/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, September 12, 2010 Addis Abeba
Melkam Addis Amet!
Happy Ethiopian New Year!
Happy New Year from Ethiopia! This weekend we have celebrated the Ethiopian New Year, which we entered on Saturday September 11, at 6 am.
New Year's Eve we celebrated with Marit and Tore Vågen (representative of the Norwegian Lutheran Missions) in our apartment here in Addis. We woke up in the morning with canon shots being fired to mark the New Year which here is 2003.
Girls celebrating the New Year
It has been a very wet and humid week in Addis. One of the days we were almost back to hurricane Ike conditions. That day a Danish family had to evacuate and stay here at the Norwegian mission, because in Mekanissa where I am going to the language school I am attending, the river rose and within 5 minutes they had to wade out of the house with water up to their waists and two small children in their arms! The current was very strong and they held on tightly to the children. What a frightening experience for them.
Asle is visiting Addis now and we were able to celebrate the New Year together. It was wonderful to be able to be together with him here in this apartment and share the holiday. Today we went to the International Church; and what a wonderful feeling it is to worship together with people from so many different parts of the world.
"Imagine hundreds of people gathering together from 40-50 different countries. Imagine these people worshiping from their hearts. Imagine people from different cultures and countries all realizing that they have more in common with each other than they have differences. Imagine gathering once a week and growing in the understanding of what it really means to follow Jesus from your heart, without getting caught up in outward religious formalities. Imagine gathering in a beautiful worship center designed to help you encounter the living God. The good news is that you don't have to just imagine this, you can experience this and more each week at the International Evangelical Church in Addis Ababa."
This quote is from the webpage of the IEC (International Evangelical Church) in Addis. The webpage is www.iecaddis.org for those of you interested in checking it out. Today we had the pleasure of experiencing this fellowship. Could it possibly be like this in heaven?
Best wishes to you all and again Happy New Year, Kari
Here are some pictures from the service at the IEC:
Worship team at International Evangelical Church
About one third of the congregation
Kari in the middle of the picture. Can you spot her?
Leaving the church after the service
Posted 9/4/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, September 4, 2010 Addis Abeba
Hello again! It feels like a long time since I last wrote. I have been in Addis Abeba for the past 3 weeks attending language classes. Happily I can say it has been great.
The "fidels" that we are supposed to learn
About a year ago I attended a one week course at the same language school and at that time I was very frustrated. How in the world was I going to learn this language which is amongst the three most difficult in the world??? But this time is different. I really feel I am starting to get just a little bit of understanding of the language. How the sentences are structured and built for example and not just memorizing grammar. We sat and listened to and recorded the teacher for two weeks and developed our vocabulary picking up new words and phrases. After the class we go home to listen to the recordings. We have homework for our classes practicing phrases and after two weeks we start to use the language. It really is fantastic.
We are only 4 students and amongst them is an American couple by the name of Alison and Mark. He is an OB/GYN doctor and they will be our closest neighbors after Christmas. That is right; we will be living wall to wall with them in Soddo. There is also one more American girl in the class and her name is Elisabeth. She married an Ethiopian 2 months ago and she and her husband have an orphanage here in Addis. You can see us all in the above picture. Our teacher is Hanna and does just a wonderful job.
Tea break in the courtyard og the language school
I have also become an experienced driver here in Addis. You just must be aggressive here or you will never get anywhere. The toughest driver is the one that does best. In the roundabouts that are built for two lanes of cars, quickly fill with five cars! And at red-lights, if there are no cars, well you just do not stop and this is frightening but if there is no light at an intersection... well, you just drive straight in with cars coming at you from at least 8 different directions and.... hope for the best. Incredible!
Today the 19 year old who is here for a year with the NLM (Norwegian Lutheran Mission) got her driver's license. Guess who was asked to accompany her on her first drive here in Addis?....yes, no other but me. It became a nightmare for her. She panicked when the cars started honking at her from all directions. She was exhausted after 15 minutes, stopped the car, asked if I had my license with me and would I please take over. Luckily I did, but no way around it, she has to get behind the wheel again soon and try, try again. After all; practice makes perfect.
The weather can also be very challenging. One day when I was driving home from the language school, the rain came down in buckets. The roads became rivers and small cars in parking lots filled with water. I tried to take some pictures but it was impossible to capture the true chaos on camera.
Another new experience/challenge this week was when we decide we would take a minibus/taxi. We wanted to take it to school one day and knew that we had to transfer on the way. But how to find the correct taxi in the total chaos (must use that word again) of taxis. A boy hanging out of a bus window called out and pointed in the direction to where we should go. Our language skills are not that advanced yet but we managed to use our senses and instincts and found a taxi by forcing our way through the hordes of people and believe it or not, decided we want to do this again and more often.
The minibus/taxi with the shouting boy hanging out the window
Inside the minibus
We sat all the way in the back
In a few weeks I will be writing again about life in Addis. New experiences are constantly presenting themselves. I am becoming more independent as I cannot expect Asle to take care of everything for me. He will be writing the next update. So until next time I remain always happy to share my experiences and thoughts with all of you, my friends of the Soddo Project.
Posted 8/30/2010 in Newsletter
Asle, August 30th 2010 Soddo
Tuesday almost two weeks ago at seven o'clock in the morning our night guard came knocking on our door. "It's here," he said. I knew exactly what he was talking about but was in the middle of my morning coffee, so I hurried up to the hospital with my coffee mug in hand.
Our agent in Addis Ababa had called me the night before to tell me that he had successfully navigated our new anesthesia machines through Ethiopian customs. He informed us that they had been loaded on a truck (these trucks you can see all over Ethiopia and are called "al Qaida" because they kill so many on the roads) and should be in Soddo by the next morning. As I came up to the hospital I saw the truck with the new machines parked right outside of the Out Patient Clinic. A team of helpers was already busy unloading. It was a misty and cold morning but that couldn't put a damper on the joy I felt.
Half a year had passed since our generous donors in Norway (who still prefer to be anonymous) had promised us the money to purchase the new anesthesia equipment. Deciding on the right equipment took some time. We ended up ordering machines from a British company called Diamedica, who it has been a delight working with. The Glostavent machines they produce are specifically developed for our kind of environment; they are simple, robust and almost "self sustainable". Now that all the workstations have brand new monitors to look after vital signs of patients during their sleep, pretty much all the work the anesthesia staff needs to do is provide the anesthesia gas. These screens have perhaps been the greatest improvement of all the equipment. It is a great relief to be able to take care of a sick patient with monitors that are actually functioning, especially small kids.
So the last week has been one big celebration as we have unpacked the seven machines one by one and started using them. Two of the machines will be used in the ICU for critical care. All the staff is happy and proud. Friday lunch called for festivities. Soft drinks were served to all the staff in the OR and ICU with chocolate all the way from Addis Ababa for desert.
From all of us, THANK YOU to our generous friends in Norway!
The new anesthesia machines arrive in Soddo early one morning
Unloading the new anesthesia machines from the truck
The first test run of the new anesthesia machines - with the old machine as a backup in the background!
The first test went well, and a critically ill patient benefits from the new machine
After the new machines were installed, it's time to celebrate!
... and more celebration!
Posted 8/18/2010 in Newsletter
Filip, August 18th 2010
This week's update is from Filip, who recently visited with his parents in Ethiopia.
As most of you may know, I was originally planning on joining my sisters this past Christmas break on their trip down to Ethiopia but decided to push my trip back due to a certain big football game (whose resulting score I'd rather not talk about). As a result, I was able to save my trip for this summer. As you're probably expecting me to say, I had an awesome time!
I wanted to share with you all one of the biggest realizations I had during my trip. To some it may seem rather obvious and that I'm preaching to the choir. To the rest of us, however, I think our days are often too busy to give it any more thought than the little that is often sparked by the media.
What I'm getting at is the kind of help Ethiopia needs. Most times when we're shown pictures of Africa in advertisements, news, etc. we're given the idea that anything we can give helps, "just make sure to give". But from what I learned from own observations and long discussions with my dad, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, in certain areas, the idea of just giving freely has hurt more than helped.
Take for example some local kids my friend Graeme and I met playing Playstation 2 at the local "sports bar" in Soddo. We were only planning on checking the place out but ended up joining in fun and taking pictures with them. As we were heading out with the kids still crowding around us smiling, one of the kids turned to me, changed his expression to a frown and put his hand out to ask for money; basically a complete change in character. When I shook my head to indicate I didn't have any money on me, all his friends around started laughing and the kid gave in and smiled again... I guess for him it was worth a shot to get an extra five minutes on the Playstation (1 birr = 5 minutes of Playstation).
This kid was definitely worse off than I was and could have used some financial help. However, his situation wasn't a struggle for survival. He has grown up in a society where they are used to foreigners handing out money, and probably figures it's worth a try asking for some every time he meets one. I know this is a very specific example, but sadly this child's mentality is one that many Ethiopians share and depend on.
All this is not to say that we shouldn't be helping, but it's to emphasize that we need to be cautious to just giving blindly. There is a greater need to make sure we're trying to help with long-term needs of the country, for example building an economy by educating, industrializing, providing jobs, etc.
Now, I didn't travel across all of Africa or even all of Ethiopia, and I know that the type of help needed in different areas around Africa vary extremely. My point, however, is to not only give, but to research and give. We need to ask ourselves questions, like in Ethiopia's case, how does free food help the local butcher, farmer, mill workers, or even the local markets? Does it provide more than just a temporary fix that may actually hurt in the long run? Let's research and give for results.
Other pictures from my trip:
My crazy travel companions Graeme and Deborah
Long layover in London on our way to Ethiopia allowed for a little sightseeing
Lunch break with spectators on our way to Arba Minch
Kids waving as we drove by
Posted 8/10/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, August 10th 2010 Soddo
It is still rainy season, but now we have actually had a couple of sunny days, and that is soothing for both body and soul. It really affects your mind when the weather is bad. Now the streets are full of mud and so slippery you have to watch where you put your feet. We had a visit from an America lady last week, and she went to the market one day. Suddenly she found herself laying flat on her face in the mud, and the market traders and other customers cheered and applauded. Too bad I wasn't there with my camera!
Makeshift bird bath in the garden
Asle and I have spent the last weekends when the weather permitted to look around in our garden and take a few walks in the neighborhood. We discovered the first passion fruit from our own tree, and there are lots of birds who find the time for a bath on the terrace. They are pretty thorough with their morning routine here.
Our first passion fruit from our own garden!
As we walked around the neighborhood we took some pictures to show you how the middle class live.
They have nice yards and many plants, trees and shrubs to get a lot of shade.
They are proud of their properties, and if you can afford a corrugated iron roof, you are definitely among the wealthy.
As the pictures show, all houses are made of the same material, a mixture of dirt and grass.
They have doors and windows of wood, which is also a sign of prosperity.
Some even paint their houses.
When Ethiopians come to visit us in our home, they think it's very strange when they see I've hung an old window and an old door on the wall for decoration.
The biggest news for me is that next week I will start on a language class in Addis. I will initially be there for 6 weeks. In the class I will also meet our new next door neighbors here in Soddo for the first time. They arrive from the United States on Saturday, starting their mission service in Ethiopia with a six-month language course. I'm excited to meet them and get to know them before they move in next door.
A big "Thank you" to all of you who still follow us on the web page, and again thank you for your support and for remembering us in your prayers. We need it. The problems are many, the workers are few.
Until next time,
Posted 8/1/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, August 1st 2010 Soddo
As promised in my last update, today I will tell the story of the trial. If you missed the dramatic events that lead up to this trial, please read my July 14th update in the Newsletter section!
The police reports were prepared for both Filip and me before we left the capital. The main evidence, a large cash pile of 100 bills, was locked in a cabinet at the police station. We couldn't stay and wait for the trial to begin, but we had to promise to come back later. Several times while we were down south the police called to confirm that we would come back for sure. They wanted us back sooner rather than later so that the boys who were in custody could be brought to the judge. Unfortunately we had already promised to come to the clinic in Jinka that week, so we insisted on coming back to the capital when it was time for Filip to go back to the States.
Thursday, July 22 at 8:30 am we showed up at the police station as promised. In fact, we came so early that we got to see the morning parade of the police force. When I pulled out my camera to capture the parade, I was politely asked to put it away. This was obviously not a "Kodak" moment!
We began to suspect that the case had not gone as the police had wanted. When we sat in the car with the police on the way to the courtroom, they cautiously asked us to be prepared to stay the next day as well. It turned out we were on our way to the magistrate court to extend the detention of the boys. Suddenly we understood that the case could just as well last one, two or perhaps several days. The main problem for the police was that our good helpers who had caught the boys with the money, were also called as witnesses, but so far they hadn't been able to get hold of any of these witnesses. Out of respect for the important work that the police did in connection with the case, we promised that we would be in court the next day, but only under the condition that the other witnesses could be found.
The mattress factory
The rest of the day we spent making some key purchases, including new mattresses for the guest beds (the old ones had deep indentations in them) and 3 new tires. We have punctured four times in the last three weeks, so our tires were obviously not designed for the kind of driving we do when we go out in the districts.
Another flat tire!
Around lunch time we had to treat ourselves to a macchiato at Kaldi's, the local "Starbucks wannabe"!
The next morning we reported back at the police station at 8:30 am. We were escorted directly into the office of the chief police inspector. Somewhat embarrassed he explained that the police was forced to drop the case. For various reasons they had not been able to find the crown witnesses in the case. We can well understand that this can be difficult. Addis Ababa has a population of somewhere between 3 and 5 million people. Only a few main streets have names. No house numbers, so there are no street addresses. We parted as good friends, and although they would love to give us back our money right away, the key to the cabinet was nowhere to be found! The police inspector promised to put all their effort and prestige into finding the key.
After a long and strenuous day we had a pizza at the local pizza restaurant. The rain poured down, and it was cold in Addis. We had just paid the bill when the police called and announced that the key had been recovered. They insisted that we should come directly to the police station to collect our money, so we did. And that was the end of the story!Until next time,
Posted 7/24/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, July 24th 2010 Addis Abeba
We are now back in Addis, this time to send Filip back to the United States, but also to witness in the trial for the robbery two weeks ago. They called Asle when we got back to Soddo, and urgently asked us to come back to attend the trial. So tomorrow morning at 8:30 we will be in the court house! We'll get back to that in the next update.
We have also been back to Jinka; Asle to work and Filip and I as good supporters. On the way south we visited a market in "Key Afar." A very stylish tribal people (the Banna people) were at the market that day and we got some nice photos.
After the market day, the Banna people pack up and go back home.
Some of the local Banna boys.
After a day's work Filip and Asle got a nice hike up in the mountains. Acting surgeon at the hospital in Jinka, Torleif Kiserud and his really fit daughters from 6-10 years old, were climbing up the steep hills like mountain goats. I decided to pass on the trip, as high elevation running doesn't suit me well.
On the way back to Soddo we spent another night in Arba MInch. It was difficult to find accommodation in the city, as it was graduation weekend. The families are always proud to have a family member who graduates from college, so it calls for a celebration. In the evening we decided to try the local fish restaurant in town, and there was a long line due to the graduation parties. After an hour of waiting we got a table and were served the restaurant's specialty; roasted whole fish:
Before we went back to Soddo the next day, we stopped to buy fresh fish from the market in Arba Minch. Last time we were here and tried to buy fish, the market was closed as one of the fishermen was eaten by crocodiles.
This time when we arrived they were in the process of gutting the fish. All the fish remains were used to cook soup that was sold cheaply to the local people. As we were getting ready to leave, around 25 of the locals had gathered around us to hear Asle speak Amharic. Asle decided to buy soup for the entire gang, and that was a big success!
Cooking fish soup.
Two days after we got back to Soddo we celebrated Filip's 20th birthday. Filip, Asle and some of the foreign youth workers took a trip to Amasa national park, about 2 ½ hours drive from Soddo. I had to stay at home to teach my pupils, but also to make a surprise party for Filip!
Filip and his new friends on his birthday trip
On their way up in the mountains.
Boys will be boys... why sit in the car when you have a nice roof?
Back from the trip; a surprise birthday party!
20 candles have been blown out; wishes have been made; let's eat!
Until next time,
Posted 7/14/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, July 14th 2010 Arba Minch
As I write this we are on our way to Jinka for a clinic visit. It's a 10 hour drive so we've made a stop here in Arba Minch. But this time I want to tell you what happened in Addis last weekend.
We just sent the first group of guests back to America. It has always been, and still is very nice to have friends visiting us. We were back in Addis to see the guests off at the airport, and at the same time Asle attended a two day meeting with the management team from the Haukeland hospital in Norway. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss the start of an anesthesia education for doctors in Addis Ababa that Asle is spearheading.
In front of the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Abeba
While Asle was in the meeting, Filip and I went to the Sheraton hotel to withdraw money, and then the plan was to walk around to look at the city life. At the hotel I got 6000 Birr (a fortune), and put the money in the pocket of my jacket. When we came into the city, suddenly two young men came up behind me and put a hand in my pocket with lightning speed. The money was gone! But Filip reacted just as fast and ran after the thieves with me in tow after him. We could not catch up with them, but the Ethiopians had understood the situation, and shouted "thief!" in Amharic and it spread down the street. In the end somebody managed to stop them and the police was summoned.
In front of the Police Station.
Being interrogated by the police officer!
We were taken to the police station to give testimony. It turned out the officers understood very little English, so we had to come back later in the day with Asle. After the interrogation I was asked to come back on Tuesday (three days later) to witness in the trial. Asle had to explain that we were on our way south to the clinic visit in Jinka and unfortunately had no time to wait in the capital. So I had to leave the money as evidence in the trial. Now we must return to the police station the next time we are in Addis and retrieve the money. Yeah, this is the second time I have been robbed in Addis, so now I will definitely look over my shoulder more often than before, but I'm still not really frightened.
Of other news we can mention that this month we received the "Yard of the month" award! The competition was started on our own initiative after we bought a manual mower last time we were in Addis. See the picture of the proud garden boy.
Posted 7/8/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, July 8th 2010 Addis Abeba
We are now back in Addis to take our visitors to the airport. Graeme and Deborah are returning to the US today, but we're happy that Filip will stay another couple of weeks with us.
Filling up the car to go back to Soddo
It's already been two weeks since they arrived, and the first week we spent in Soddo to let them adjust to both time difference and elevation.
Butter distributor in Soddo
The butter is packaged in retail size pouches, ready for resale.
Local bakery in Soddo
Having added another work week behind us, we took a trip to Arba Minch the next weekend.
We made a stop in Chencha to see the wonderful scenery this area has to offer. Along the way we had lunch in the open with all the villagers around us, we stopped at a local weaving factory and saw again the hospital area where Asle spent his first years in Ethiopia.
The next day our first breakfast at the hotel in Arba Minch made memories for life.
We had been served toast, mango juice and coffee. The window behind Asle was open, quite high up on the wall. Suddenly a large male baboon jumped through the window, over Asle's shoulder and landed in the middle of the table. The baboon grabbed the toast from two of the plates, and disappeared through the same window again. We were left speechless, and to be honest a little scared.
After breakfast we went into the "Netch Zar" national park, which this time was almost totally overgrown due to the rainy season. Green and lush, but many places were almost impassable. The car nearly got stuck several times and even felt like it would tip over. Some tourists from Denmark came behind us, and their car got stuck and they had to spend two hours to dig it out. On the way out of the park, we got a flat tire in one of the steep slopes. We looked straight down on the Crocodile Lake on one side, and the steep hillside on the other. No cars were able to pass us. In addition, the jack turned out to be too short to lift the car enough to get the tire off, so we had to put the engineering student and pre-med student to work! The boys took rocks to put under the jack, and I said a prayer as this looked a bit hopeless. It was very hot, and earlier in the day we had driven through areas with lots of tsetse flies, and they can bite hard. But fortunately, the flies stayed away and after an hour's hard work we were on the road again.
The next morning when I was in the shower, I turned on the lights and saw a large scorpion crawling across the floor. Just some of the surprises to be expected here, although they are not always very pleasant...
The crocodile is watching us!
The hippo is protecting its offspring
Bird by the lakeside
Back in Soddo we had time to sit down and digest all the new impressions with our guests. Crocodile Lake was probably the scariest. The boat captain took us pretty close to the crocodiles and hippos, but I guess that's one of the unique experiences and excitements we can offer our visitors! I have to admit I wasn't too brave myself...
Kari and Asle
Posted 6/26/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, June 26th 2010 Addis Abeba
Today we are back in Addis Ababa, and tomorrow morning we will pick up Filip, Graeme and Deborah at the airport. We are very much looking forward to their visit!
Green and lush fields on the way to Addis
Notice the power lines delivering electricity to the huts
The trip north from Soddo was like driving through a green oasis. The rainy season has surely brought life to the nature, green and lush everywhere. The fields are bursting with ripe corn and millet, and as far as I can see it will be a good year. We are still a little unsure if this is the major rainy season, or an extension of the minor rainy season. No one seems to know but we'll find out in the next few months.
Busy traffic on our way in to Addis
After arriving in Addis we made some necessary errands, including buying a manual lawn mower for ourselves and plumbing supplies for our neighboring apartment, which is being rebuilt for the arrival of a gynecologist later this year.
I have also visited the International Church where they had a bazaar today. There were a lot of tempting homemade things for sale. All the proceeds go to a good cause and it makes us spend more than usual and with a good conscience.
This time I found some very nice pottery serving dishes for only $ 10 a piece.
Toril trying on a turquoise scarf at the bazaar
Waiting for lunch to be served on Toril's terrace
We were also invited to Asle's cousin Toril for lunch. "Injera wat" was on the menu, this is a local Ethiopian dish. It's nice to have friends in the big city, but she will move south to Jinka when a new school year begins. The main reason she's moving south is that her duties at the Norwegian school and guest house in Addis eventually will go away. The conversation during the luncheon was mainly around the Norwegian mission's new strategy, where the main resources are being focused on Somalia and the unreached Muslim population there. It feels sad, but it's probably the right decision; Norwegian missionaries have been present in our part of Ethiopia for over 60 years; but now they turn their attention towards a nation that for a big part has not yet heard the gospel.
Posted 6/20/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, June 20 2010 Soddo
A new week has passed and I feel that I'm back in the ‘game' again.
This week I have had two days with English classes, and it was great to see the attendance on the first day back at school. 15 hopeful students filled the classroom with smiles and joy of seeing each other again. They are so motivated, and it is a joy to be their teacher.
The not so good news is that this week the damp rainy season has brought with it a number of mosquitoes to Soddo. It is not necessarily the malaria mosquito, but it's better to be safe than sorry, so I spent two days trying to patch up a mosquito net for our bed. It has not been entirely easy with a sewing machine that's almost antiquated, but Asle is very pleased with the result as he will no longer get the mosquito net in the face at night. But it's not decorative; just practical.
The old guest house
I have also worked some more with the plans for building additions to the guest house. Being able to receive visitors is gratifying but also very important to the operation of the hospital. We often have guests. Many are foreign visitors who come to help in the work at the hospital, evangelism teams, ophthalmologist teams, architect teams, electrician teams, etc. We welcome groups of 12-15 people who will stay here, from a few days or weeks to up to 3-4 months.
The soon to be 'new and improved' guest house!
The new guest house we are planning has long served as an additional temporary lodging, because we also have a smaller permanent guest house. However, from next January our existing guest house will be home for our new gynecologist, so the goal is to convert the current temporary guest house to our new permanent guest house.
The guest house we will remodel was originally planned to be part of the administration building. For example, guests who stay there have to share toilet and shower facilities with permanent employees. This is a great disadvantage. Currently the guest house has two rooms; four beds in one room and eight beds in the other. In addition, there is a common room with a small sink to wash the dishes in, a refrigerator, a stove and a sitting area. Guests must go through the entire administration building to get into the guest house, which means that the administration building cannot be locked when there are guests present.
I have drawn a proposal to create a separate entrance, installing a kitchen bench with sink, and add two bathrooms. Each bathroom will have two toilets and two showers. There should be access to the bathrooms through the bedrooms, and we must make closet space for guests to put their clothes. We've tried to bring in three tenders, but things take time here in Ethiopia, so we have to be patient. Our preliminary estimates indicate a price tag close to $ 15,000.
Does anyone want to help to build God's kingdom in the form of a guest house?
Posted 6/12/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, June 12 2010 Soddo
Finally back in Soddo, after a long leave to Norway, America and back to Norway. It was a wonderful break to be back with friends and family for a while. I must confess that the thought of coming back to Soddo was a little difficult for me but I do believe God must have had something to do with it because the change to being back here went a lot easier than I expected. I was given the feeling that I had been missed and people were happy to have us back and that did something inside of me, a feeling of belonging. Sometimes when it feels like God is far away from me, He really is at the closest.
Asle met me at the airport in Addis on June 3rd with camera ready to take pictures of my arrival. It was evening and we went straight to the guest house where we were served fresh homemade rolls by Toril Bøe and after that straight to bed. It had been a long trip.
The guest house for missionaries in Addis
School dormitory for the students in Addis
Ready for departure! Getting ready for the trip from the guest house in Addis back to Soddo
The next morning we did our usual rounds of shopping for things that we do not get in the shops in Soddo. Then straight to the car and homeward bound to Soddo. It has rained a lot lately so everything was so very lush and many colors of green. When we arrived home to our house I was amazed by how well everything in the garden had grown while I was away. We had planted small apple trees a couple of months before we left on leave and now they already had apples on them. Our papaya tree which was a small bush when I left was big and full of fruit. The strawberry section of the garden had doubled in size and the avocado tree is full of avocados. We eat at least 6 each day! The grass has filled in nicely and grows so quickly the garden boy has difficulty keeping it cut. I think we may have to buy a small lawn mower next time we go to Addis.
The first apples are almost ready to be harvested!
The Papaya tree in the middle of our lawn
Our garden boys are cutting the grass by hand
The garden boys get a well deserved lunch
This week I used my time to get back into routine and get everything in place. Wongel (our help in the house) has been sick again from the malaria relapses she gets and therefore I have had more time to do things myself. And next week it is back to school again and we expect more students. When it is "the rainy season" we always expect more student as the schools in town go on vacation.
I have also started a new "pet project". They are building a small user friendly guest house. I have actually made a drawing of what needs to be added on; two new bathrooms, a small kitchen counter and the small house needs to be painted. There are so many who travel through here; Missionaries, evangelists, doctors, electricians and other guests who live here on the compound while they are here, so this house will be a big help. It will cost about $15,000 to build, so if anyone reading this would like to help with this project, we are very thankful for any extra donation to help pay for this. I am always so happily amazed how things work out. This guest house will be used by the many who are here to donate their time.
And this is as far as my first week has gone and we will be as always so thankful for all of you who send your thoughts and prayers. We have been greatly encouraged by so many of you who support us and the work in Soddo.
Kari and Asle
Posted 6/6/2010 in Newsletter
Asle, June 6th 2010 Addis Abeba
Addis Ababa is the capital and largest city of Ethiopia with a population of 3,384,569 according to the 2008 population census. It is located on a well-watered plateau surrounded by hills and mountains, in the geographic centre of the country. As a chartered city Addis Ababa has the status of both a city and a state. Addis Ababa is often referred to as "the political capital of Africa", due to its historical, diplomatic and political significance for the continent. The city is populated by people from different regions of Ethiopia - the country has as many as 80 nationalities speaking 80 languages and belonging to a wide variety of religious communities. Addis Ababa lies at an altitude of 7,546 feet (2,300 meters) and this is only one of the reasons why a run in the city is quite an adventure. Let me share with you a couple of images from an early morning run last week when I was in town to meet Kari coming from Norway.
Still quiet in the neighborhood as I start my run
The distinctive Addis Ababa blue taxis parked over night
But, the funeral store is open for business.
I was told there was no problem, the coffins would be made to fit
Boys in uniforms going to school
The traffic is picking up in this busy town.
The town is booming, lots of construction wherever you go
Next to the corner store the butcher is offering fresh cuts.
Have your shoes polished for a new day
In the morning the orthodox Christians go to church for Morning Prayer. The church can be seen in the morning mist up in the hill
A street vendor is offering candle lights for the prayer
A priest at the corner offers his blessings for the day
He also looks after the stores of the church
When I asked for a picture he was more than happy to pose.
As the Christians leave for their worldly activities they are offered the Lord's blessing for the day
On my way back the neighborhood has come to to life.
Posted 5/30/2010 in Newsletter
Kari, May 2010 Norway
Asle is now back in Soddo and working at the hospital. The first thing he did upon arrival in Addis Abeba was to order the anesthesiology equipment which we were so fortunate to receive funding for. We all are hoping it does not take too long before it can be delivered to Soddo.
I am still in Norway but preparing for my return to Ethiopia soon. We had wonderful days in the United States together with family and seeing many good friends again. And it was so very wonderful to see the dedication and involvement of the church, the support committee and other friends who have shown such enthusiastic support of our work.
The days in the United States went very quickly. It was so fantastic to come home to Galveston and see how nicely the island is being rebuilt after Hurricane IKE. We had wonderful walks on the beach and enjoyed feeling the sea breeze again. We received lots of dinner invitations and the pleasure of visiting with friends again was indescribably wonderful. To feel the support and caring for our work is heartwarming. While we are living and working in Soddo it is of utmost importance for us to have someone helping us from home. Therefore it is a blessing to see with our own eyes the sincere enthusiasm of the Norwegian Seamen's Church and also the Norwegian colony there. Many thanks to all of you who are with on our team!
On our last weekend in Texas we accepted an invitation to the Ethiopian church in Houston. Abate and Meaza and their son Ebby are our good friends and supporters here. During the service, Asle gave thanks to the congregation for their support in thoughts and prayers. After the church service we were invited to Pastor Tesfa and his wife for lunch.
We celebrated the 17th of May on this same Sunday at the Seamen's Church in Houston and were honored to be there for the drawing of the raffle for the collage Anne Sagløkken had donated.
Now I am in Norway. I have been visiting my brother and sister-in-law. I am so thankful to see my brother's progress and daily improvement after his health problems of not long ago. On Saturday my sister and her husband are coming to pick me up and I will spend the last part of my leave with them in Gjøvik.
As always it is wonderful to be in touch with all of our friends via this webpage. I will be writing next when I am back in Soddo.
Goodbye for this time. Greetings from Kari and Asle
Posted 5/17/2010 in Newsletter
Houston May 17th 2010
Home leave is soon over. Kari and Asle are on their way back to Soddo on the 19th and back to their everyday life working to make a difference in Ethiopia. It is difficult to imagine what a difference missionaries have done in this world. So many small villages and so many people given hope.
Kari and Asle have been busy with meetings and taking care of practical needs. Fortunately they have also been visiting with friends but first and foremost having time with their children.
Both Kari and Asle have participated at different activities at the Norwegian Church and just this week the church had drawings of two big raffles. Last Wednesday Hildegunn Thuestad won the hat made and donated by Marit Doucet. On Sunday at the big national day celebration at the church the collage donated by Anne Sagløkken was drawn and the winner was Nina Othilie Høiland. So far about 5,000 dollars have been made by way of raffles! All wonderful help which the Aarslands so appreciate.
Now we wish them a good trip back and look forward to hearing from them when they are back to work again. Best wishes from all of us who are friends of the Aarslands and the Soddo Project.
Posted 5/15/2010 in Newsletter
Houston, May 15th 2010
During their stay here in Texas Kari and Asle have had a chance to take a trip down memory lane; and today they just want to share a couple of pictures. They are posted below.
The Aarsland family prior to their first trip to Ethiopia in 1963. Guess who the young boy on his daddy's lap is...?
Taking a road trip was very adventurous in those early days! Not exactly highway standards here...
Back at his childhood's home in Gidole, after more than 40 years.
Posted 5/10/2010 in Newsletter
Houston, May 10th 2010
There is a dream in most people of childhood memories that draw us back into what was a good time. Asle Aarsland spent most of his childhood in Ethiopia arriving there at 3 years of age. He remained there until 15 years of age. Though he has returned many a time to visit his parents who continued their mission work there, he had not had the opportunity to go back and relive on a daily basis, the country that has meant so much to him.
Last year the opportunity arose and for Asle, it was a simple decision...Yes, I want to go. Yes I want to give back something to this country and to the people whom I care so much for.
He and Kari knew the days would be tough; the challenges many. But Asle had a dream and the dream of helping a hospital would be a dream come true. In already, under a year, he has come a long way.
Soddo Christian Hospital is staffed by several foreigners in volunteer positions. There are Americans, Dutch, South Africans, Norwegians to name some of the nationalities tied to this hospital. There are also many locals and for them it was truly wonderful to get a new Doctor of Anesthesia who spoke their own language! Asle came and could go right in to work and what a big difference that makes. This makes one of his biggest goals so much easier to achieve. The goal, to teach better techniques to those working there, to teach new anesthesia nurses, and to go out into the countryside and teach the health care workers how they can do a better job. They understand him, can ask questions and know that he knows what they mean. Having grown up there playing with local children he not only learned their language, but knows their way of thinking. Understands their customs and is able to get them to understand newer methods.
Shortly after arriving a new goal appeared; Upgrading the equipment. Asle has worked hard on writing to colleagues in the US and Norway. Some have sent much needed pieces of equipment. Recently though he received an email from an anonymous donor that he would receive $250,000 to buy more of what is needed. Friends in Norway have even used their 50th birthday celebration to raise funds. What a blessing it has been for the hospital and for the people who can benefit from the improvement of equipment.
I know that Asle and Kari are rewarded through many daily experiences that they so faithfully share with us here on this web page. Knowing that God wants them to be in Soddo and seeing that he provides the means for being there they see as their greatest privilege. Kari and Asle will not be there forever, but they intend to be there as long as they see it as God's will.
Now Asle and Kari will be returning to Ethiopia and we look forward to the next update being from them. Thanks for reading. Ellen
Posted 5/4/2010 in Newsletter
Houston/Galveston, May 4th 2010
Asle and Kari are enjoying busy days with full schedules here in Texas and we are all very happy to be getting some time together with them. There was a meeting at the Norwegian Seamen's Church last Saturday and Asle came with a request. He asked if I would please present the team working closely behind the lines so to speak, to help make their stay in Soddo possible. So, let me begin from the beginning.
When Asle and Kari first contemplated taking on the position in Ethiopia for two years, they knew it would be difficult. They realized they would need help. First they spoke with Pastor Jan Tommy Fosse who was the head pastor of our church at that time. When he heard what they wanted to do he enthusiastically said "Great, let us see how we can help". As the Seamen's Churches are a mission in themselves, they cannot support and send out missionaries as many other churches do, but Pastor Fosse took it up with his superiors in Norway, and with the Church Council here in Houston and it was decided they could "adopt" the project. The Aarslands would get the support of the church by us making it our missions project. We dedicated ourselves to pray for them and we do have them in our church prayers every Sunday. We also would give about three offerings a year to them and otherwise assist in raising money for them. Pastor Fosse was convinced that we who live here in Texas would be benefited by looking outwards and wanting to help others who are less fortunate. That it would be good for the congregation to be actively involved in supporting this.
Now our new head Pastor, Ingvild Mydske Fallegård, has wholeheartedly agreed and is enjoying getting to know the Aarsland family while they are here visiting. Also Pastor Eirik Aadland-Tappel, our youth pastor/chaplain, has been enthusiastic from the start.
Next then came some of the practical considerations, how to get things to work. Gathering donations from a group of sponsors who want to help Kari and Asle with the financial burdens and make it possible was the number one challenge. Here we have two fantastic ladies who said, yes, we want to help. Marit Doucet is in charge of reaching out to people and getting the word out.
Inger Ryden has taken on the big job of channeling all the donations and seeing that there are properly kept records of all donations. We like to think of her as our Minister of Finance!
I, Ellen Laegreid, help out with the web page together with Terje Odden. We try to keep all the communication flowing and stay in close contact with Kari and Asle.
There are the many donors who have committed to give on a monthly basis, and other donors who give occasionally. Not to be forgotten are the people who generously give so we can have auctions to bring in money. Right now let me remind you we have a beautiful hat which Marit Doucet designed and donated. We also have a collage donated by Anne Sagløkken, a Norwegian artist living here in Houston. These will soon be raffled off, now in the month of May, so if you have not had the opportunity to buy raffle tickets please do so. You will be supporting the Soddo Project and also have the chance of winning a wonderful prize.
Asle and Kari asked me to thank all of you who are reading this webpage and have shown such interest in their work. They are so uplifted by the fact that there are so many who care.
Last but not least, when we worshipped together last Sunday, Asle and Kari felt the strength of the prayers of the many who are praying for them and their children. Praying also for the success of their work and that they truly will be blessed by these years in Soddo Ethiopia.
I hope I have done what they asked of me. Any readers who have questions are free to write to us with comments. Just click on the ‘Contact us' link on our home page and we will gladly answer you. Greetings from Kari and Asle and from the whole team of supporters here at the Norwegian Seamen's Church in Houston.
A couple of words from Kari and Asle: We're now looking back on nearly one year in Ethiopia, and the challenges have been plentiful. To be able to help people in need and give them an opportunity to become acquainted with God is a privilege. There is no way we could do this job alone; it is teamwork on all levels. We will extend a special thanks to the committee, but also to the individual and corporate sponsors and supporters who have made this possible. The help and support you have given us have far exceeded our expectations, and we see that as an expression of God wanting us to continue the work we have started.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1. Corinthians 13, 1-3
Posted 4/25/2010 in Newsletter:
Houston, April 25th 2010
Let me introduce myself. My name is Ellen Laegreid and I am one of the committee members helping Kari and Asle while they are working in Ethiopia.
Kari, Ellen and Asle at the Norwegian Seamen's Church in Houston today.
They have now arrived home for a short visit in Texas, both for personal and practical reasons. Asle is working at the hospital he is on leave from in Galveston. Kari is checking on their home. Both are enjoying a short visit with their 3 children.
This morning they shared an inspirational update from their work at the Soddo Christian Hospital, with the congregation at the Norwegian Seamen's Church here in Houston. I am wanting to share with you some of the highlights from this update.
The slide show said what words can't. It started with their decision to move to Ethiopia and how the first months were quite the challenge. The decision came at a difficult time for them after experiencing a lot of damage to their home in Galveston after Ike. However they felt it was a calling that they had long been expecting. Asle spent most of his childhood in Ethiopia and always had a longing to return and do more. Kari gave much consideration to this and felt it was the right thing for her too. She prayed and yes the decision was made.
For the first couple of months Kari poured lots of energy into making their place a warm and welcoming one. The job was not easy but Kari was determined and managed the incredible. Now they have a very cozy place where they often entertain other missionaries who pass through Soddo. A home is very important when you are in a new place. You have long and hard days often, and the need to be able to come into a place where you feel peace makes all the difference.
The road trips to small villages, the tribal people they visited, the rural clinics were all part of the slide show. I have been reading the webpage now since it was started and it was amazing to get a little more feedback on some of the patients they have helped. This is truly why they are there. They want to make a difference for the people of Soddo.
Remember the stories that have been here on the web earlier. The two children who had been thrown on a fire because their uncle thought they had stolen the equivalent of less than a dollar. Well, now the girl was finally able to go home after more than a year of help. The family could not pay but fortunately the hospital was able to use money from a small benevolent fund they have to assist in emergencies. She would never have lived without their help. The brother did not survive. The girl is safe with a loving family now.
Remember the child who had been badly bitten by a hyena? Well, he has also healed well and when asked what he remembers of the attack he says the animal was very ugly! Fortunately the child got the help.
Not long ago they wrote about Brook. He had been hit by a bus on a small rural road and had severe head injuries. Asle and Kari stopped, helped and yes, this is the reason the boy lives. Not only lives but they have been told by people from his village he is improving and running again.
There were many other patients they showed pictures of and how they are improving. Asle said several times..."this is why it matters".
Asle and Kari told us how much it meant for them to know that there are so many who are interested in their work. They feel strength from knowing this and really appreciate everyone who is supporting them and praying for them.
I will be meeting with Kari again this week to ask her more questions about their life in Ethiopia. While they are here they need to get a lot done and they also need some time off. So until they are back in Ethiopia I will be doing the updates. When they return to Soddo they will take over again. If any of you have questions you would like for me to ask them, then please just go to the Contact Us section and send them to me. I will gladly try to get your questions answered.
Kari and Asle send their greetings.
Posted 4/11/2010 in Newsletter:
Update April 11th 2010
Kari and Asle are on the road this week, and also preparing for their trip back to Texas on 4/16. In lieu of a Newsletter, Asle sent us some pictures this week that instead of showing places, things and diseases, they focus on the people they are sent there to serve. Asle called the series
Faces that tell a story....
Father and daughter waiting for her surgery.
Another patient waiting for treatment
Selling honey at the local market
Another Mursi girl with her earlobe decoration
Mursi beauty. In addition to their earlobe decorations, they also also pierce their skin to create artistic decorations
No comments needed!
A man waiting at the clinic
Indigents waiting for their weekly ration
Flies are a big nuisance while waiting at the clinic
A local gentleman
Just one more cup of coffee!
I'm wondering what's on her mind...
The owner of a local store
Posted 4/2/2010 in Newsletter:
Kari, Soddo April 2nd 2010
Good Friday and it is a quiet day here in Soddo. The Orthodox and the Catholic Churches are quiet. People do not even greet each other because it is a day of sorrow.
We have another church right next door to our compound which is the Evangelical Gospel Church, "Mulu Wongel". They started their service at 6:00 am. They have loudspeakers on their rooftop and the service is able to be heard over most of the town. The service lasted for two hours and then complete quiet.
Asle and I were reminded of some verses from 1 Peter 5, 2-4 today. "Feed the flock of God; care for it willingly, not grudgingly; not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve the Lord. Don't be tyrants, but lead them by your good example, and when the Head Shepherd comes, your reward will be a never-ending share in his glory and honor."
We were called to be an example for the flock with a willingness to serve. It is not always easy but we pray that God will be with us and thank Him that He is able to use us here in Ethiopia.
Beautiful mountain landscape in Chencha
Our tasks are many and many unexpected things happen right in front of our eyes. On our way home to Soddo from Chencha last week we had such an experience.
First we saw the turned over bus, then we discovered the lifeless body in the middle of the road
We were coming down the valley when suddenly at a distance we saw a bus which had turned over. When we reached the site of the accident we saw the wheels were still spinning and people were trying to climb out of the bus. We stopped the car and by the side of the bus we saw what appeared to be a lifeless young boy in the middle of the road. Apparently the bus driver had swerved trying to avoid hitting the child and therewith lost control of the bus and it flipped over.
Asle ran to the child to see if he was alive and he was! He had a bad cut in the head and blood was running out of the unconscious child. The people were crying and feeling helpless. Asle took control. The mother and two uncles went with us in the car to a nearby clinic. I sat in the back seat with the uncle who was holding the child. Blood continued to trickle out of the wound.
When we arrived at the clinic they examined the boy and stopped the bleeding. Police came and a lot of family came. Now we had to make a decision as to what the next step would be? Will he survive? Should we take him with us to Soddo? After an hour at the clinic we decided we had to take him to Soddo Christian Hospital if he was to have a chance at surviving. An uncle and a policeman went with us in our car on the back seat with the boy. We drove the next two hours on a bumpy road until we reached Soddo. Here x-rays were taken immediately. They showed a big crack in the skull but without the equipment for running a CT it was impossible to know if there was brain damage. The child was unconscious and under observation in the ICU for 5 days. Then he slowly started to wake up and the family members around him were filled with joy. The first sign of health was when he asked for some bread and tea because he was hungry. He could not stand to begin with but Asle helped him onto the floor with unsteady legs.
He is still having trouble with his arm movements but when Asle brought him some caramel candies he tried as best he could to take the paper off using both hands. We are not sure how well he is able to see but he is moving his eyes. There is progress every day. This morning his father had him in a wheelchair and Asle said he looked very happy. His Christian parents have named him Brook which in the local Amharic language means "blessed".
Tomorrow Brook is going home to his village. There is a lot of work still needed and much prayer for this child. If you would like to be with us praying for him we will be happy. Asle and I are so glad that we made the decision to take him with to Soddo and we believe that God has a purpose for this child and his family.
Easter Blessings to you all. Kari and Asle
Posted 3/28/2010 in Newsletter:
Kari, Soddo March 28th 2010
Hello and again we have had a full and interesting week behind us in Ethiopia. Last Sunday we drove to Arba Minch where we would stay for a few days and go to visit the hospital there and two other local hospitals in Gidole and Chencha.
As I have been to the hospital in Arba Minch several times before I did not accompany Asle this time on his rounds. I spent the time sitting on the front porch of Magnhild and Bernt Lindtjørn. This is the house that earlier has been the home of my in-laws. I relaxed enjoying the breeze and the sound of birds singing through the mosquito net. Everything was lush and green in the garden and the garden boy was busily cutting the quick growing bushes. I sat there greeting the people as they walked by. "Tenastelin, dena deratscho? Dena, dena exiabier jemesken" .. which means.. "Good morning, have you slept well? Good, good. Thanks be to God". "Chai tefallegalle?" which means "Would you like some tea?" And if I was going to go a trip into town I would say, "Innei katama hid allo". My new language, doesn't this sound easy??
On the second day we drove to Gidole Hospital. I was able to join on the doctor's rounds and as I am a nursery school teacher, this made a great impression on me! There are patients with all kinds of unusual diseases rarely seen in western countries. A young woman with an abdomen so big it looked like it could explode. Her eyes showed fear and the reason for her problems was a liver which was not functioning. Her eyes were asking as if in prayer for help, but the hospital here could not help her so she was just there waiting for death. Oh, I could tell of so many more patients but now I would rather focus on something positive. Across the street from the hospital area was a small section of huts which had been built for expecting mothers who were at high risk of having complicated births. Here they could come and live waiting for their time to deliver. This is part of the project Bernt Lindtjørn has developed with the hope of reducing the numbers of infant deaths. We also made rounds of the hospital laundry, kitchen, sewing room and visited with the personnel. In the sewing area only men work as only men are allowed to operate the sewing machines! We are attaching pictures so that you can get an impression of the conditions here.
The hospital kitchen in Gidole. Here they are making the national dish 'Wot'
This is also from the hospital kitchen; but here they are preparing another dish called 'injera'
This is the laundry room at the hospital in Gidole
...and this is where they are drying the bed sheets, blankets, etc.
These are some of the huts that were built for the pregnant women
And here is one of the expecting mothers who's staying in a hut.
This is the classroom at the hospital where they do nutrition teaching
The cafeteria at the hospital in Gidole
On the third day we went up to Chencha which is at an altitude of 3,000 meters above sea level. We drove up steep climbing roads which were in poor condition due to rains. When we did arrive we were warmly welcomed and served coffee. Afterwards we made rounds of the hospital but there were very few patients there which is due to a lack of equipment. This is where Asle is going to try to get some simple anesthesia equipment for them and teach them how to use it and maintain it. A part of the problem is, if they have equipment they do not necessarily know how to take care of it or repair it when needed.
This is the current anesthesia equipment at the Chencha hospital. Everything is very old and overdue for replacement.
It was here in Chencha that Asle lived the first part of his time in Ethiopia as a child. He was only 3 years old when his family moved here and many memories came back to him. For example how he made toy airplanes with the twigs from the bamboo trees and how he ran freely in big open areas. He was also able to see the old surgery room where his father worked. Many memories!
This is the surgery room where Asle's father used to work
And the house where Asle grew up!
They still know how to make toy airplanes!
Our trip home to Soddo was a bit more dramatic than we wanted it to be but that I will have to continue with next time I write. The important thing is that we are well home in Soddo now and I wanted to send this greeting so you could read about our week!
I also like to wish all of you a Happy Easter week! Kari
Posted 3/21/2010 in Newsletter:
Asle, Soddo March 21st
Here's a hypothetical scenario: What would you do if you were provided with $250,000 to help other people? If you were living in Soddo, Ethiopia you would have no problem spending the money. The needs here are overwhelming! You would probably focus on the needs closest to you. And maybe you would also consider where the greatest long-term benefits would be. This is a mind game I have been playing ever since we came to Soddo; If I had the money how would I spend it for the better of the people we live amongst?
Well, this is no longer a "mindless mind game". Last Monday morning we were informed by e-mail that a couple in Norway (they would rather remain anonymous) would like to give us the $250,000. The money is to be spent on anesthesia-related equipment at Soddo Christian Hospital (SCH).
The night before we received the great news, we had submitted an application to the Norwegian couple describing the needs at SCH. We had described the old and unreliable anesthesia machines, machines that put patients (especially small children) at unnecessary risk of complications. We had mentioned the lack of proper patient monitoring both in the operating rooms and in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). And, finally, we had mentioned our dream of having a couple of ventilators in the ICU. The e-mail response the following morning was brief and concise: "We see the great need for the equipment. Your application has been granted".
Now we are thanking God for the generous gift this wonderful couple has given to the patients we strive to help at SCH. A year ago we didn't even know these people. The funds they have donated will enable us to improve our care dramatically. I am no longer playing the mind-game; rather I am busy figuring out how to make the most out of $ 250,000.
While you digest this information, here are some pictures from Asle's day to day work at the hospital:
Anesthesia provided to a patient that will have his malignant eye removed. The anesthesia tubing is "home-made" to fit the small patient.
We can't wait for new machines!
Our old bronchoscope being used to explore the airways
A newborn is helped breathing
A critically ill child at the "ICU"
Posted 3/13/2010 in Newsletter:
Kari, Soddo March 13th
This week has been extremely busy at the hospital. There are four operating rooms and they have been in full use all week; approximately 15 - 20 surgeries per day. When Asle has to force himself to take a lunch break in the hospital cafeteria then you know it is busy. He prefers to come home for lunch. It has something to do with the use of way too much oil in the foods and sanitation in the dishwashing department that affects his appetite. He prefers his food "fat free".
I was able to make the workers in the hospital kitchen happy this week though. They have not been happy with their salaries and there is nothing I can do about that as this is a hospital decision. But what I could do that pleased them so much was to bring clothes that had been sent from Bergen, Norway. Enthusiastically happy women went home with 3 or 4 new outfits each and were ever so grateful. They were going home to be "models"!
The trip to town the other day brought a pleasant surprise. I was able to buy fresh milk and yoghurt. What an improvement! There is a new supermarket which opened recently in the first floor of a new hotel in town. When I brought Asle there the first time we were served complimentary tea from the hotels coffee bar. Again it was Asle's Amharic that impressed them. When he speaks their language only the best is good enough.
To be able to use the language is so very important. I am still working on this!! Now I can fuss at children in the street, and can give short instructions to the gardening boys. I also can greet people so there is some small progress. I have learned about 250 words and can manage in the stores and I can count to 100. Fantastic!!!! But now there will be a short pause in my learning of the language. I will be going 2 months to Norway and the US.
Today is Saturday and we had a trip into town. We stopped for a "macchiato" at a rooftop café and met many graduate students from Soddo University. Today is graduation and they were all in caps and gowns and so very proud sitting there with their diplomas.
Poverty and wealth go hand in hand here in Soddo. Gigantic contrasts. Poor street children running around in rags, to these elegantly dressed women walking around in their high heels. Quickly you notice that the high heels are in the minority.
And now the happiest news from this week is that I was able to "Skype" with my brother in Norway. For those of you who do not know it, he has been in the hospital in Norway for more than 2 months. Now he was home again in his own house. After 2 months of great uncertainty and much prayer, God has made all well again. We have so much to be thankful for and as I so often say, our God is good.
Greetings to you all, Kari
Below you will find some pictures from the everyday life in Soddo and our local neighborhood.
Asle in front of the Soddo post office
The new bank building.
This is the cloth market in Soddo. Where's the fitting room?
And the fruit market
Local shoe market in Soddo.
And the local food store in Soddo. For some reason they don't accept my Kroger card here!
The new bus station. A white face is always causing some commotion
The local sports stadium. A good view of the owner's VIP boxes!
Back home and some of the neighborhood stores.
Banana plants in our front yard. The harvest has begun!
Posted 3/7/2010 in Newsletter:
Asle Soddo March 7th 2010
The other day I had the opportunity to go with Dr. Mary Vanderkooi to her outreach clinic. She is an experienced medical doctor who has worked in Ethiopia for many years. Her focus is the people living in the districts with barely any other health services. Her work sort of represents the opposite of what we are providing at Soddo Christian Hospital. Using the very minimum of resources she tries to help the patients in their local community. The people she cares for do not have the means to get to the hospital. She is seeing all sorts of diseases although malaria, malnutrition and skin infections predominate. By numbers her kind of patients represents the overwhelming health problem of Ethiopia. I was very impressed by Dr. Vanderkooi's work and was also reminded that the needs of the Ethiopian people can not only be met at the hospitals.
Below is a picture cavalcade from our trip to the remote areas west of Soddo.
This is Mary's outreach clinic in a remote area west of Soddo. The patients are already waiting.
The poverty in the area is overwhelming, and in addition to medical help Mary also brings food. Here they are handing out corn to the poor.
Despite the poverty, if people stay healty they can achieve old age. Here is a patient who's had a long hard life.
Dr. Mary at work with a young patient
One of the patients arriving at the clinic. No fancy ambulances here!
The young woman is being examined by Dr. Mary
Another patiend is being prepared to return home. Safety is important during transportation!
This young patient had a severe scalp infection, and is recovering after a painful wash
This young boy is about to lose his vision due to vitamin A deficiency
Malaria is a big problem in the area. One of the most serious long term effects is an enlarged spleen as seen in this boy
In lack of conventional health care, the witch doctors try, usually in vain, to cure illnesses with their remedies. The only results are often as seen here; just badly burnt skin.
While waiting in line to see the doctor, it's time for a refreshment!
Family idyll; taking a rest in the shadow
Just to show that kids are kids everywhere; who can resist a dirty car door? Local artist at work!
"I love Jesus" and so do I.
Posted 3/2/2010 in Newsletter:
Kari Soddo February 27th 2010
It's Saturday afternoon, and exactly one week since we celebrated the wedding here on the compound. The ceremony itself was to be held outdoors, and we worked very hard to get everything ready in time. First of all we had four of the gardener boys cut the grass by hand, remove all roots and flatten the surface as best they could. This took over five hours! Next I took the ‘Mission's Cadillac' and drove them over to the chapel where we picked up the benches. They loaded four at the time in the car, and with half of the benches protruded from the back of the car and two on the roof, and the boys doing the best to hold on to all of the benches, I drove back over the field where we unloaded them. (I wish I had pictures of this....) We had to take eight trips before the job was done, but at the end of the day the benches and the podium were ready for the big event.
The following day was the day of the wedding, and we got up at 6 AM and started decorating the area with flowers on pedestals, bouquets down the aisle, etc. Dark clouds were seen on the horizon, but luckily the rain stayed away the whole day. When we were done with the outdoor decoration, we moved over to the ‘Convention Center' were we set the dinner table for 200 guests. They had two table settings to accommodate all the guests. The ceremony was to start at 10 AM, and I had to hurry home to take a shower and get dressed. Just as I got out of the shower we lost the power, so I showed up to the party with dripping wet hair... It looked like all the other guests had prepared in time as they looked very elegant in their best dresses, especially the local Ethiopian ladies. But eventually my hair dried up and I could mingle with the rest of the party.
The bride (Ruth Droppers) and groom (Moges Mulu) with the groom's sister
The same weekend we had visitors from Haukeland Hospital in Norway; an anesthesiologist (Per Anders) and an ER nurse (Olaug Irene). There is work being done to start an education program for anesthesiologists in Addis, and Asle and Per Anders are very much involved in this process. It's still just in the planning phase and there are lots of hurdles to cross. We also gave them a tour of our hospital and they were impressed with the hygiene and cleanliness. When the time came for their departure they had to take the local bus back to Addis as the hospital car broke down the day before. That turned out to be a nine hour trip with many ‘interesting' events, including an orthodox priest in Addis entering the bus with his collect box and a big cross.
This weekend we have five doctors visiting from the US. They represent PACS which is a Christian education program for surgeons in Africa. We have five surgeons in training here now and the plan is for them to start working in the missionary hospitals in the regions when they are done with the training program.
Elisabeth Loland is also visiting, she's on her way from Jinka to Awasa and will stay here for one night. Her husband is working on a remodeling project in Awasa together with some volunteers from Norway, so I'm sure he's looking forward to his wife coming back!
Until next time, Kari.
Kari included some pictures with her last Newsletter that didn't relate directly to the story, but they illustrate the everyday life in Soddo so we have included them below:
Surprise visitors on Asle's birthday
A trip in the neighborhood: Our lush garden
A trip in the neighborhood: Soddo's first telephone booth!
A trip in the neighborhood: Our neighbor's house
A trip in the neighborhood: Neighborhood boys
Posted 2/20/2010 in Newsletter:
Kari, Soddo February 20th.
Hello to all of our reader friends. It feels like a good while since I last wrote and posted an update. Our daughter Sara Janne who was here had lots of wonderful experiences that she wanted to share and therefore the last two updates were from her. Our daughter Maria also had one update not that long ago and now it is time for me to write.
Recently Asle and I participated in the NLM (Norwegian Lutheran Missions) conference held in Awasa. It was truly a wonderful week. We met, and got to know many missionaries who work for the NLM. They were Norwegian, Danish, Finnish and Icelandic.
The week was very informative for us. We were updated on all of the many projects the NLM sponsors and supports here in Ethiopia. A short explanation of the budget and accounting practices was also presented and very useful to learn about. The Mission has decided to scale back a few of their present projects and they will more and more be placed under Ethiopian control. The NLM will instead be starting some new "pioneering" projects in Muslim areas in the west. Very interesting! The host and hostess at the conference were Mr. and Mrs. Loland. They told me they had met us in Galveston! When I found out they had been staying with our friends Astri and Martin Mosvold in Houston, then a bell of recognition rang and I realized who they were. Small world!
At the start of the conference we had to take a short trip over to Addis to say goodbye to Sara Janne who was going home to Texas. She certainly had a maximum of experiences during the 2 months she was here. She has already shared many of them with you on the previous web updates.
Let me tell you of one small episode we had before she left. She and Asle were going to travel in to Sawla on a clinic visit. Asle and our gardener boy went to the local market to buy some bed linens to take with them. We knew there would be fleas and bugs in that area and did not want to bring our own from home. Anyway, they went to the market and came home with some material they thought very appropriate for the trip. When I got home and looked at it I thought what a strange shape so I asked Wongel (our housemaid) "what is this material for?" She could explain to me that this is a shroud used to wrap dead bodies in. Yes, well, for us it functioned well as a blanket!
I have recently had small surprises while cooking. Three times now I have cracked an egg only to find the start of a small chicken inside. I now have a slight phobia, if that is the correct word, of cracking open eggs! Wongel has put the eggs in water when we buy them and has told me if they float then they are bad, but it says nothing about if there is a baby chicken inside.
Asle's boss and his wife from Galveston have just been here for a week's visit. He has gone with Asle to the hospital and observed how the anesthesia department functions here in Ethiopia. He brought with him much necessary and much welcomed equipment which Asle needed.
While they were here we took them on a weekend trip to Arba Minch to show them the hospital there, and to see the Nechisar National Park, and not least to buy fish.
Normally fish can be bought after 5 o'clock in the afternoon but this day there was no fish. Disappointed by this I asked at the desk when we got back to the hotel why there was no fish.
We were told that a local fisherman had been eaten by a crocodile the day before so today was the funeral and all of the other local fishermen were going to the funeral and therefore no fish. There are lots of crocodiles and hippopotamus in Lake Chamo. The fishermen normally use small light weight boats but the fisherman who had been killed had walked out in the water that day instead to do the fishing. Not a good idea. It can be very dangerous working for your daily bread here.
Of other events I can mention there will be a big wedding tomorrow here in Soddo. About 350 people will attend and I am on the committee for the party. There still are a lot of preparations left to be taken care of so I will end my writings for this time.
Thanks for looking in. We try to update as often as possible but as you see by many of our everyday tasks and events, it is not always easy to get time to get on the computer and write. However we always appreciate the many of you who think about us and follow our lives here.
Until next time, Kari
Posted 2/9/2010 in Newsletter:
Sara Janne Awasa February 2010
I am currently sitting in Awasa, at the Norwegian missionaries' traditional vacation "resort". NLM (the Norwegian Lutheran Mission)'s annual conference is taking place here, and my parents are in meetings all day (they will give their own update). This gives me plenty of time to reflect on my 7-week stay in Ethiopia.
First a little background info: I am currently in my 3rd year of medical school at UTMB in Galveston, TX (the same institution my dad used to work for). I came to Ethiopia right before Christmas on a scholarship with the intention of doing a small research project on febrile children. The purpose of the project is to verify whether or not the simple measures used in the hospital settings here are able to accurately diagnose the correct underlying causes of fever in children.
I have now spent 6 intense weeks in the Outpatient/Emergency Department at Soddo Christian Hospital working with some of the friendliest doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and custodians I have ever met.
Although there was a huge language barrier, I quickly learned that smiling and laughter is universal, and attempting (and usually failing miserably) to ask how someone's family is, goes a long way. The medical exposure I got was unlike anything I would've ever experienced in the States: I saw everything from pneumonia, to car accidents, comatose malaria patients, patients with intestinal TB, spleens the size of cantaloupes, emergency deliveries, and even a psychiatric patient who believed he was British. He refused to speak anything but broken English.
Like my dad likes to say, I am incapable of saying no to an experience. So when I wasn't working at the hospital, I was making the most of what Soddo had to offer. The great part about Soddo is not only are the Ethiopians amazing, but all the local missionaries are, too.
Noah with a local worker in front of the orphanage. Sam with the monkey.
I spent many nights at an orphanage where two American boys named Noah and Sam work. The orphanage houses 48 children ages 2-21 and one monkey. The kids are adorable!
There is one set of 2-year old twins who had been separated at birth and have now been reunited at the orphanage. They were inseparable.
We also climbed the local mountain Damota. INCREDIBLE view! On the climb up we ran into a real life Marlboro cowboy who had never seen a digital picture of himself before. Granted, next time I will wear shoes that actually fit and bring enough water for the 8 hour hike it actually is, not the 3 hours I expected...
Every Sunday soccer games are played at the local stadium, and all of Soddo gathers to watch. It doesn't hurt when you know the star player of Soddo Christian Hospital‘s very own professional team, Sam. He stands out as the only "forenge" in the whole league.
And, by the way, glamour shots are dirt cheap in Ethiopia. Only 50 cents apiece!
To sum it all up, I just want to say, I have had an incredibly blessed time here in Ethiopia. No part of me wants to leave this beautiful country. But hopefully I'll be back one day, maybe on a more permanent basis as one of the desperately needed OB/GYNs this country lacks, God willing.
Posted 1/31/2010 in Newsletter:
Sara Janne Southern Ethiopia January 2010
Sara Janne is Kari and Asle's oldest daughter, and she is following in her father's and grandfather's footsteps in becoming a doctor. She spent the Christmas holiday with her parents, and also used the time to work on a research project while she was there. We will undoubtedly hear more about this project later, but for now she has sent us a 'trip report' from a trip she took with her father and Dr. Lindtjørn. Read her story and see pictures from this trip below!
This is my last week here in Ethiopia. I have now completed my research project at the hospital, which I will come back to at a later time. Right now I want to tell you about the trip I recently took with my dad, Dr. Bernt Lindtjørn and his wife Magnhild to Sawla and beyond.
As you probably may already know, here in Ethiopia there is a major shortage of doctors. Transportation and health care facilities are also lacking. As a result, women who live out in the countryside and experience complications during labor often do not have adequate help close by. Many labor unsuccessfully for many days, finally succumbing to bleeding and exhaustion. You may think all hope is gone, but here comes Dr. Bernt and his brilliant plan: to teach health officers (the Ethiopian equivalent of a Physician's Assistant) to perform emergency cesarean sections. But c-section cannot be done without anesthesia, and who better to help with that than my very own dad?
The first stop on our trip was Sawla, a town 2.5 hours west of Soddo. There is a small government-run hospital there with a single health officer and a couple of nurses (no physician). Upon arrival we were introduced to the most recent success story:
A woman pregnant with twins had arrived earlier that day. She had successfully delivered the first baby at home (see picture of typical hut) but afterwards had difficulties delivering the second one. In order to get to the hospital, she had first been carried on a home-made stretcher for 4 hours, then had caught a ride on the back of a big Isuzu (see picture) for 3 hours. Along the way she was accompanied by her husband and newborn child.
Against all odds, she was still alive upon arrival to the hospital, and a successful delivery was performed by the health officer (see picture of mother and her 2 newborn children).
Unfortunately, this lady was one of the few lucky ones. She had the family support, money, and surprisingly the time to make it to Sawla where there was a hospital. Most women do not. Therefore, the second half of our trip was dedicated to traveling even further into the countryside where we would evaluate new locations to teach emergency c-sections. We drove through mountainous territory, (the very same mountainous territory that my dad grew up in) climbing thousands of feet only to descend on the other side.
It was beautiful. We visited the local health clinics, encountered one of the world's largest goiters (see picture),
met with government officials (see pictures of administration buildings), provided the town with enough entertainment to last them a while, and finally wound down with a cup of coffee at the local café. I could sense the satisfaction my dad felt by following the Lord's example and sharing His grace through medical missions in southern Ethiopia. (His work is a continuation of a family tradition. My grandparents spent most of their adult lives in this art of Ethiopia as missionary-doctors.)
Posted 1/25/2010 in Newsletter:
Snapshots from an ordinary week and yet extraordinary
Asle January 2010
Busy week in the ICU
The highlight of this very busy week in the intensive care unit was receiving a brand new pulse oximeter. This monitor was special to us in many ways and made the week extraordinary for us. A friend from high school, Peder Solheim, was planning to celebrate his 50th birthday and asked us if they could use the event to raise funds for our mission. We suggested asking his guests to help us buy this valuable pulse oximeter, and so it became.
The pulse oximeter is essential when taking care of our critical patients. The instrument lets us know the oxygen content of the body and helps us monitor treatment when administering (see pictures of oxygen concentrators and oxygen on tanks). Happy birthday, Peder, and thank you to all your guests who helped us double the number of pulse oximeters in the ICU. (His birthday was actually in December, but buying a pulse oximeter in Ethiopia takes time)
See our happy head nurse on the picture holding the new monitor.
Life in Ethiopia does not solely revolve around the hospital and work. This Sunday, Wongel, our wonderful helper around the house, invited us to her church and brunch at her parents' place thereafter. Although she has moved closer to the secretarial school she attends in the evenings, she still spends the weekends with her parents. This happened to be the last Sunday that Sara Janne was in Soddo before she goes back to the States, and Wongel wanted her to meet her family before she left.
It was a delight to all of us. Even though none of us understood much of the service that was in the local language Woilaita, we sensed a wonderful fellowship among fellow Christians.
Wongel's parents have thirteen children and more grandchildren. We got to meet a handful of them. It was great to meet such a wholesome, loving, and caring family.
Thanks again Peder Solheim and thank you all our readers. Asle
Posted 1/19/2010 in Newsletter:
Kari, January 2010
Dear friends and family, I am again on my way to Addis. This time we are going to apply for an extension to Sara Janne's visa. We also will try to get our permanent license now that we have a car. We are also picking up Maria who is on her way back from Gondor. We will have a last couple of days together with her before she returns to Texas.
In the car we also have the head of Soddo Christian hospital. He is with us as he has been to the United States to pick up some new equipment that has been donated to the hospital.
But let me go back a couple of weeks. I wrote from our trip to Jinka and left it when we were on our way back to Soddo. We had stopped in Arba Minch where we were asked if we would like to travel south and meet the Mursi tribe. This is a very primitive group of people. The women have the big plates implanted in their lips and ears.
When they remove them the lips and earlobes hang limply. They are often naked and their bodies are decorated by a form of scarring. They cut into their bodies and make designs in the skin as a decoration. The families live together in small huts that they crawl into at night.
In this area live a German missionary couple that have a small health clinic and they evangelize. They are truly missionaries. They have put two containers together to be their home and they buy provisions to last for 6-8 months at a time. If they get bad rain with floods they are totally isolated. The roads in the area are often difficult as is but impossible when it rains a lot.
A second missionary couple who live here run a school and are also evangelizing. They have built a small house out of tin sheeting (corrugated iron). They built the house in a round shape and the rooms were open and nice, but difficult to describe. These missionaries took us out and introduced us to some of the Mursi people of this village. The missionaries had used a lot of time and effort to look for words and build a vocabulary so they could communicate with these people and be able to share with them the gospel. This experience truly convinced us that it matters for people to care enough to do this and how such isolated primitive people can be reached and taught. Impressive couples sharing their love of God with others.
The next day was New Year's Eve and we wanted to get home to Soddo so we got in our car and started the 9 hour drive. We did stop in Arba Minch and had a short visit with Magnhild and Bernt. We also got to visit the fistula hospital that was built and is dedicated in memory of Asle's parents.
We arrived home in Soddo to welcoming neighbors who invited us to celebrate the evening with them. They had lots of "finger foods" which Americans are so good at. Sara Janne delivered the evenings surprise when she ran home to our house and brought back "sparklers" she had brought with her from Norway.
Two days later some of the young people here gathered together and decided to climb to the top of "Demato", Soddo's highest point at 3,000 meters. Soddo lies at 2,000 meters. They had a guide with them who could show them the way and they saw caves and other points of interest on this excursion. When they arrived at the top they found an orthodox church there and they stopped here to eat their lunch. At this height they were quite worn out so it was good with a rest before starting on their way down again.
Then came January 7th! What was so important with this date? Well, the University of Texas was playing in no less than the National Championship and our son Filip was going to be there in the band. Sara Janne did not want to give up the hope of being able to see this game. She got two young Americans to help her find a mud house that had a TV and satellite connection... and don't you know it, yes they did! They were able to see a rerun and were quite content even if Texas lost.
Beyond that Sara Janne is mostly working on her project here in Soddo. She will later write a bit about this and what she hopes to accomplish here.
This evening as mentioned Maria is to get back from Gondor and I know she will have a lot to tell from her experience there. So as you see the Aarsland family is busily involved in many sides of life here now and we are all so very grateful for your interest and sharing in our experiences. Until next time. Kari
Posted 1/15/2010 in Newsletter:
Maria, Soddo 2010
This update is from Kari and Asle's daughter Maria. She is a student in Austin, TX and has visited with her parents over the holidays. She has been offered an internship with the organization 'Glimmer of Hope', so she will return to Ethiopia later this year to work with this organization. This is what she wrote:
Well I returned to Addis from Gonder yesterday and looking back I can say that this trip was just as much of an adventure as the previous three weeks I have spent here in Ethiopia. The opportunity to travel to Gonder came up in November when I interviewed with the Austin based international development organization, A Glimmer of Hope, for a summer internship. After discussing my previous internship experience, my generational ties to Ethiopia and my love for the people here, I was on the spot offered an internship as early as the spring. As I was leaving the office the director of Ethiopian programs mentioned to me that she would be in Ethiopia in early January. When I informed her that I too would be in Ethiopia during that time she eagerly invited me to join her and a group of grad students from Boston to survey villagers in northern Ethiopia about their current water, sanitation, education and health conditions. This would be necessary in order to assess needs before the organization intervened.
So that is what I have been doing for the past four days. With translation help from a University of Gonder student, I have talked with several village women who told of desperate conditions and situations that brought tears to my eyes. Among other things, nearly all the women I interviewed had lost a child before the age of five. It became obvious that women and girls were primarily responsible for fetching water. They usually carried 20-liter jericans on their back for 1-2 hours back and forth from a dirty river. When I asked how often someone in their household had experienced malaria in the past year a common answer was "constantly."
I am now, more than ever, very happy to be working with A Glimmer of Hope, and I am excited to track the changes that will occur in this village and others in the future.
Posted 1/7/2010 in Newsletter:
Kari, On the road to Jinka and back to Soddo
When I wrote last we were in Arba Minch. It is still the Christmas week and our daughters Maria and Sara Janne are visiting. We are enjoying traveling a bit in our area of Ethiopia and having mobility with a car to use. Today I will continue this journey.
It was early morning and time to get on the road to Jinka. We were traveling through beautiful green landscape with perfect temperatures. There was a slight mist in the air which kept the trip from being as dusty as it often can be due to the roads. There were small monkeys, along the road who scurried for the bananas we threw out to them. Often we had to plow our way slowly through herds of cattle. We were driving over a small mountain pass which was almost totally washed away by the rains when suddenly we arrived at a part where there was a lot of work going on. They were working on paving a new main road which will lead south. What big contrasts. The washed out bumpy, muddy portions and suddenly asphalt being laid.
There has been an increase in tourism here in Ethiopia over the past 10 years and as a result many come for "safari tours" and to see the indigenous tribes people living in the south. Half naked, well fed children are standing or dancing along the road in hope of receiving a few birr (local currency) from foreigners. They run after the car calling "money, money, money".
This is a side of tourism which may be in the process of ruining the local lifestyles. Where they used to be afraid when they saw a white face, they now run to you begging for money. It had been 10 years since my last visit here and quite big changes.
In Jinka we are staying in a small house 10 minutes from the hospital. The house belonged to missionaries but is vacant at this time. It is located on a very beautiful green lot but it was quite a ride to get here. No road, just high grass to get to the house.
On the second day here we went to the local market. This is where the Banna, Ari and Mali tribes get together and bring their goods to buy and sell what they need.
The men are muscular and wearing short skirts, often have painted scalps and some with feathers, and beaded beautifully woven materials. So much to take in and so beautiful.
After this we were invited to Torleif Kiserud and family for dinner. They live in the house that Asle's mother and father lived in until 6 years ago. The property is like an oasis. In the middle of the yard there is a tree named, "Guri's Memory". Asle's mother, Guri, had taken a jasmine cutting about 6-8 years ago and planted it in the yard. Now it is a big and healthy tree. I have taken cuttings to bring back to Soddo for planting.
There is also built a small straw school on the property where the Kiserud children are home schooled.
After dinner we visited a very impressive museum. A German professor and his students have gathered their findings for this ethnological museum on a hillside of Jinka. They had found tools used by the various people in everyday life and built a straw hut inside so you could see how they lived. They described the marriage rituals, living customs for the men and women of the many tribes of the area. There were many interesting pictures illustrating life in the area.
Today Asle and Sara Janne went to visit the hospital's clinic. Maria stayed home with me. We decided to use the time for the luxury of washing our hair and heated the water as the shower has only cold water now. I had woken during the night to a dripping sound and when I got up there was water all over the floor. The hot water tank had a leak!
I am sitting writing this to you without internet connection so I am hoping to get it sent from Arba Minch on our way back to Soddo. Maria is reading a book. The weather is beautiful and we are sitting on the veranda enjoying the surroundings. So strange the big differences in nature here in Ethiopia. Everything from draught dried lands where they must give out food to hungry people, to this beautiful green paradise with plenty enough water.
It is 12:30 and we have been invited to Hanna Rasmussen (Danish missionary) for dinner. And this evening we are going to visit Margit and Elise (Margit is the Danish anesthesia nurse who works with Asle on the project. Elise is a mid-wife). Tomorrow we start on our way home to Soddo. We plan to stop in Arba Minch if we can find a hotel room. We want very much to visit the hospital there with the Fistula section, dedicated in memory of Asle's parents. We will also look for a place where Sara Janne can stay while she is there doing some research on the hospital and work here. Perhaps Bernt and Magnhild Lindtjørn are back from Tanzania and we will be able to see them. Asle is going to work with Bernt after Christmas on a project out in the districts. This is the project teaching health workers out in the rural areas updated and better methods.
New Year's Eve we will be back in Soddo and celebrate together with the staff there. Our year starts anew and we look forward to our work with enthusiasm. Thanks for reading and sharing in our experiences here. We truly value this time with you on these pages. Kari
Posted 1/2/2010 in Newsletter:
Kari, Happy Holidays 2009-2010
Again Seasons Greetings from Asle and myself and now our two daughters who arrived right before Christmas. Maria arrived on the 17th late in the evening and without her luggage. Two days we waited and thankfully the next KLM flight had the missing suitcases. It was very good for Maria to be able to get into her own clothes again though in the meanwhile fortunately had been able to borrow some from me. Sara Janne was arriving in a couple of days so we stayed in Addis while waiting and used the time to absorb some of the country's history.
We visited the palace of the late Emperor Haile Selassie, the old emperor's palace of Menelik II, and the Trinity church where Haile Selassie was coronated and later buried.
Finally the day came for Sara Janne to arrive, which she did bags and all thankfully. We left the same day on our trip southwards to Awasa (Hawassa). There had been a long draught in this area of Ethiopia so it was truly a desert landscape we traveled through. We arrived at our destination by sunset which is important here, so we could settle in before it got dark. We were not able to get our favorite house number 1 where there is a fantastic view and hyenas crying right behind the fence at night, but did get house number 6 which we shared with missionaries from Woito. The following day we walked into town to see the local morning life of people here.
Awasa has developed into a very nice small town by Ethiopian standards. On our way back to our lodgings we took a "budgi" which is a 3 wheeler used as a taxi. We passed by the local fish market and it did not smell very good there. Heat and lack of ice do not do well for fish. There were storks there snapping up what they could of the remainders of fish and were more like vultures. Not pleasant to see but part of natures cleaning up brigade.
We stayed two nights in Awasa and then headed home to Soddo. It was the 23rd of December and much activity on the compound. We joined in with all the decorating and making gingerbread men. In the evening we had what they call in the United States White Elephant gifts. Everyone brings a wrapped present and after everyone pulls a number the person who gets number 1 starts by being able to choose a present. The next person with number 2 can then either steal the gift from number 1 if he liked it or choose another of the presents there. It was quite entertaining.
On Christmas Eve each family stayed to themselves and celebrated with their own customs. We had our traditional Thanksgiving dinner (exchanging chicken for turkey) as more typically Norwegian cuts of meat like pinnekjøtt are not found here.
And there were shepherds in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
We also changed our usual dessert of caramel pudding to mango porridge. We had been so busy during the day decorating and cooking that it was not until after the Christmas meal that we helped the girls with unpacking their suitcases. There were so many practical but simple things we needed, like Ziploc bags, baking powder and batteries; and after this we started to open the many Christmas gifts sent from Norway and the US. It is many years since Asle and I have received so many gifts. Many thanks to you all!
Christmas day we all celebrated together with the others on the compound. First we made pancakes (crepes) and after eating these and sharing in bringing the fillings used, we had movie night where "The Nativity Scene" was shown.
Already the next morning we packed our car to visit the clinic in Jinka. This is about 9 1/2 hours from Soddo.
We drove through Arba Minch where we decided to stop and be tourists for the day. The road to Arba Minch is not good to put it mildly. They are repaving the road but we are not allowed to drive on it yet. It took us 3 1/2 hours to drive 12 miles! When we arrived we were very ready to get out of the car.
We had lunch and then went to visit the Crocodile Sea. We took a small boat out on the sea and got very close to a really big crocodile.
We also saw many smaller crocodiles and a hippo family which popped out of the water just a few meters away from us. That evening we stayed in Arba Minch's best hotel which was very nice on the outside but left much to be desired regarding cleanliness and maintenance on the inside. The usual mold and plumbing problems.
Asle and I are using this time with our daughters to see many places and share some much valued time together. I will write again soon about our arrival to Jinka and time together there. I just wanted to fill in all our much appreciated friends who read our webpage on what our Christmas week has been like. As you can see we are enjoying being here and celebrating a very memorable holiday. Thank you again so much for gifts, thoughts, and not least, your prayers. Kari