Ethiopia: Injera!

We could not wait to be able to taste authentic injera again, and we were not disappointed. The colorful array of spicy sauces, anchored by salad with an orange/lemon dressing was just the ticket after a hot day on the streets. We usually don’t eat raw foods here, but at this hotel, we are assured that raw foods are cleaned with bleach.

Eat up!

Ethiopia: Addis Ababa!

We arrived in Addis Ababa at our favorite hotel, The Mimosa, only to have the proprietor great us from his memory of when we were here last year. We felt like we were coming home. First night jet lag is always a favorite time for me: I love getting up before the first rooster crows and listening to the hustle and bustle of life on the streets starting up.

No matter how many times I come to Africa, I always seem to forget about just how amazing the sound of birds is at dawn. I really feel our world when I am here: those singing birds; the heavy smells of eucalyptus, coffee roasting and grass; the wake-up whiplash of being bounced around in a vehicle on rocky roads; the unrelenting eye contact. Addis is a sensory playground and we don’t have a choice but to participate. And, we want to.

Herds of goats strive to keep out of a chaotic stream of cars and trucks, men carry 5-6 squawking chickens by their feet, children run barefoot and amok trying to hustle you into buying a few sticks of gum, girls walk seductively along the sidewalks seemingly quite aware of their effects on the masses of young men, Muslims socialize with Christians, music blasts and songs compete for your attention everywhere, business people stroll in their finest attire. Even an occasional street sex worker beckons in a whispered and hopeful breath. It’s all here, fast and furious.

And it seems that every time we walk outside, it does not take long to get exhausted from so much visual and audio richness. Addis is alive!

We have been busy setting up cell phone communication, making last minute travel arrangements and running errands to prepare for our month here. Dr. P and Darlene will take off for Mota, and Jay and I will fly to Arba Minch to fulfill an assignment for Mercy Corps.

We are happy, and fortunate, to be here. Ethiopia, we love you.

Jay, Dr. P and Darlene get jostled by the taxi

Ethiopia: Education & Health Care Support

In rural Ethiopia, a young girl marries early, often by the time she is ten years old.  She often becomes pregnant before having her first period, yet her pelvis is not large enough to give birth.  Many severe maternal health conditions occur in rural Ethiopia; some can be devastating and ostracizing such as fistula. And too often, young girls die during childbirth.

A rural Ethiopian girl’s common purpose is to become pregnant and raise her family.  Over the years, her body will bear the brunt of extreme water and wood gathering pressures as well as childbirth injuries, and she rarely is offered the choice to not have more children. However, it is a great honor to bear a child and nurture it with vigorous focus and determination.

To witness a young woman struggling hard to stay well enough to feed her children here is very disheartening.  A human life is precious, and when I look into each child’s face I encounter – whether found wandering on the streets, or in the arms of a loving mother, or working hard to shepherd a herd of cows – I feel a sense of awe in that they are able to survive at all despite so many obstacles.  And yet, they continuously find reasons to express an easy smile.

According to Partners In Health, nearly 1600 women and more than 10,000 newborns globally die every day from complications of pregnancy or childbirth.  And it is well known by now that statistics indicate that poor education aligns with fertility issues.

As I contemplate the needs of Ethiopia in particular, I think of several priorities right away: educating young girls, establishing reproductive and health awareness, getting more doctors and midwives to be willing to train and work in rural areas, building more rural hospitals, obtaining sources for clean water, and developing better transportation options for those who are ill.

It can be overwhelming to see so many problems intertwined and having a domino effect upon each other. People frequently ask me why I become involved with such difficult and seemingly dire conditions.  When I take the time to think about this, the thought of new spring growth comes into my mind. Is the crocus intimidated by the cold, hard, winter packed earth?  No, the fragile flower transforms into new life by slowly pushing a tiny bit of dirt away at a time in order to make its way to its fullest expression.  How does that flower break through the heavy earth?

Perhaps this is how we can all work together to help a young girl in Ethiopia: one small gesture at a time. Ethiopians teach this lesson every day as they move forward navigating one obstacle after another, one small step at a time, consistently focusing on solutions rather than the issue they face.

Please join us during our time in Ethiopia by reading about the forthcoming stories we will encounter during our extended stay.  We will be visiting schools, hospitals and programs where devoted support has been established for many young girls and women in rural Ethiopia.

We welcome your comments and ideas.  Together, one small gesture at a time, we can work toward effective solutions.

1859 Magazine: Sunstone, Career Changes and A Lovely Man

I had the exciting pleasure of working on three articles for the Winter 2011 issue of 1859 Magazine.  Traveling to the wilds of Oregon’s most remote SE corner to the town of Plush, I photographed the conflict over mining sunstones.  For another article, I met several people who chucked their corporate jobs and re-invented themselves. And I met a most special man, John Callahan, the literary executive of Ralph Ellison’s unfinished manuscripts.

Thank you, Kevin Max, for giving me these assignments.  They rock my world.

Queens Raise $5000 For Ethiopia

Our FUNraiser at Darcelle’s was a smashing success, and a total blast of a party.  The queens are amazingly talented, and we all did not want the show to end.  Here are a few snapshots from the evening, and check out Dr. Philippa Ribbink channeling Janis Joplin here.

Thank you, Darcelle’s!  We love you!

(Above photo by Michael Schoenholtz)

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