My Son At A Close Distance

He reeks.

Days of going without a bath because he lives in a house with no walls and no heat and he’s too cold in the morning to take a shower have taken a hold of him.

He’s leaning on me now, cuddly, warm, all 24 years of him. He is petting my hair as I sit with my face buried, expressing his response and shame over getting caught bringing pot in his tattered suitcase after I asked him to combine his clothes with his brother’s.

He thought we might want to have some fun.

The redeye plane is full and silent, except for the insomniacs. I watch Ben play the trivia game, win after win after win. How does he know all of those answers? Other players look for his seat, to find out who the hell AIUIOO is.

He sleeps now.

And I’m wide awake at this insane hour, listening to Hello Good Morning under my noise canceling headset while reading The Alchemist.

Musky kinda smell. Earthy and unsettling, pushing forward memories of another time and another distant person.

But this time he’s my son, of frail 6’4″ stature and desperately wanton of a normal mind.

Ethiopia: Everywoman’s Health Sends Two Physicians To Perform Surgeries

One of Portland’s most successful private practices, Everywoman’s Health, sent two surgeons to assist with the surgeries in Ethiopia.  Owners Dr. Philippa Ribbink and Dr. Kim Suriano took time from their busy schedules to provide care to the women in Ethiopia.  Their partners back home had to fill in during their absence, so appreciation goes to the whole practice for assisting with this incredibly important work.

Read Dr. Philippa Ribbink’s first hand account on her blog.

Ethiopia: A Book Is Created

David Maier’s integrated design class at Mount Hood Community College will be taking on the assignment of creating a book that will depict the state of women’s health in rural Ethiopia.

A copy can be obtained by purchasing is directly from

Here are some images that I gave the students to use for this book:

Book Content

Faces of Ethiopian Women and Children

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Ethiopia: Dongoro School

On a side trip to an outer clinic, we were able to see a typical school house.  We were astonished to see that children and young adults, in their urgent desire to be educated, had to do their school work on broken desks.

We would love to find a school in the US who would consider “adopting” this school.  Funds could be raised to replace the desks, and badly needed supplies could be purchased for the students.

Any takers?

Ethiopia: End Of The Day

Our last day stretches long, and we can’t sleep.  We have a 10 hour drive ahead of us in the morning, but all we can do is walk around the surgeon’s house and find mindless things to do.  Where is that coffee mug? Did you get a photo of the view outside from the porch? Should we freeze our water we will take in the vehicle? What should we pack for lunch?  Where is the headlight I just set down?

It is all nervous energy to diffuse our real feelings: we are not ready to leave. We all agree that we have only scratched the surface regarding how we can help this hospital do its vitally important work.

Ethiopia: The Beginning Of Man

It is said that the beginning of manhood began in Ethiopia.  Looking at the faces here, I believe it.

Here is a model of “Selam”, representing the earliest and most complete skeleton of a child human ancestor ever discovered in the history of paleoanthropology.  She was about three years old when she died 3.3 million years ago.  This was 150,000 years before “Lucy”, whose skeleton was also discovered in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia: A Fusion Of Cultures

Dr. Rahel Nardos moves calmly down the aisles of the ward, smiling and touching the arms of patients.  Growing up in Addis Ababa, Rahel earned a scholarship to attend the American School.  She set off to America to get her undergraduate degree, and soon was sitting in a classroom at Yale, enrolled in medical school.  Her work is becoming more refined as a urogynocologist as a fellow at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU).

Rahel is devoted to her country, and feels a strong desire to return in some way to help women’s health in rural settings.  She is writing a proposal so that OHSU might start sending a rotation of doctors to Gimbie Hospital.  We all have high hopes that this proposal will go through.  The women of Ethiopia and the medical staff at Gimbie will benefit, and the OHSU students will increase their knowledge by working with pathologies rarely seen in the United States.

Rahel worked day and night at Gimbie Hospital, long after the other doctors retired for the night. Most importantly, she connected with the women via hope and understanding.

We are in awe of you, Rahel, and hope to be a part of your journey.

(See extremely tired Rahel dancing to Madagascar’s Olombelo Ricky’s music here.)

Ethiopia: Daughter Brynn Finds Her Place

White skin and blond hair is rarely seen in Ethiopia, so Brynn has learned to navigate the stares and pleading requests for her attention. When our vehicle stops for gas, crowds of young men press their faces up against the glass and call out for her to look at them.  Most often, she does not exit from the car, as it creates quite a frenzy.

I am proud of Brynn’s involvement here.  She is thoughtful, kind and does not shy away from the difficulties.  I see her tending to patients, cutting suture during surgeries, extracting teeth, even performing pelvic exams to check reinforcement levels after surgery.  As well, she delights in playing with the many orphans that constantly surround her and we all can see that this experience has had a marked effect on her.  She is unwavering in her confidence, even in the most dire situations.

I am not sure I could have handled this so beautifully when I was her age.

Ethiopia: A Rural Woman’s Life

A woman who lives in rural Ethiopia has a physically taxing life.  Wood is gathered and carried home, water must be fetched, and just gathering enough food for one meal a day is a labor intensive effort.  When she becomes ill, her world stops and her children try to fill in as best they can.  If her illness is lengthy, her family suffers greatly, sometimes abandoning her in search of comfort elsewhere.

Most of the women we interviewed have been living with their prolapse or fistula condition for many years.

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