Saturday, June 30, 2012

Smiling Priest

Hinda on Mule Cart Pulled by Hafiz

Poor Hafiz

A Very Brave Woman

Hinda and Helper

Pizza, Popcorn, Coke, Ethiopian Coffee, Incense, Hinda

Peter Having Dinner with the Mayor of Axum

Taking Shelter In Rain Storm

St. Giyorygis Rock Hewn Church, Lalibela

Turze and Her Son

Where the Ark of the Covenant is Stored, Axum

Happy Janitor in Gondar

Praying in Yellow

Women Praying in Axum

Mother, Daughter, Umbrella

Old Man Walking

Plowing and Planting

Potter at Work

Going Home

Girl From Awra Amba With Tatooed Cross

Girl Waiting Outside Church

Getting Water From Queen Sheba's Pool ,Axum

Bless You

Praying with Geez Prayerbook

Ethiopian Orthodox Priest

Red Curtain in Church Chanting Room

Simpler Than a Wheelbarrow

Blue Nile Falls Brown With Mud

Black and Orange Abstract

Blog 4 ethiopia June 30, 2012

Blog 4 Hello!
We just returned from a week’s trip to the “historic north” where we visited Bahir Dar, Axum, Gondar, and Lalibela, but more about that in a moment.
First we want to tell you about some work stuff that we are very excited about and will brag a little if that is ok. We are usually more modest, but this is worth being immodest. Save the Children is a US NGO that among other things distributes Plumpy Nuts, a kind of peanut butter in a packet so that children can suck it out. It is made especially for malnourished children. The long and the short of it is that apparently African Services committee tried for 7 years to partner with Save the Children-USA, but we did it in just over a month. The Memorandum of Understanding has just been signed. What does this mean? Simply children, who might have died, now will live.
Another coup: We were able to develop an excellent working relationship with the US CDC, and they are impressed with our NGO and have taken steps to help us partner with some one or more of their grantees which we expect to lead to more positive outcomes for African Services Committee especially in the areas of prevention, treatment for HIV, and STI’s.
We are also working to help a group of Commercial Sex Workers get training so as to earn an income for themselves and their families other than commercial sex work. 
And also, we helped African Services Committee plan and carry out two excellent dinner party fundraisers including auctions at each. We netted about 350,000 ETB the equivalent of about $20,000. More important than the money which helps indeed is the fact that African Services now knows that they can do it and that it can be done successfully.
And finally, we got a major donation of condoms and family planning methods from the company that we usually buy from. This will tide us over until the money that we are expecting comes through. Thus more women can keep from getting pregnant, and less people will contract HIV. We are also working on trying to develop partnerships with UNICEF and WFP, but it is a little slower going and much bigger beaurocracies. No, we didn’t do all of this completely on our own, but by working with the staff and leadership here who worked hand in hand with us. It is really our job to help build capacity which we are doing. OK, so much for the bragging. In any case, we feel good and there is still another 7 weeks or so to go and we expect to be able do much more.
Yes, we are working hard and having fun too. Yes, we are having fun but I need you all to know that although Peter and I discussed and developed all of these ideas/products, you all know that Peter is not shy about asking questions or for money so he is the one that did all the front work, while I stayed in the background.
Here is some bad news: Peter lost his phone to pickpockets. Three 9 or 10 year old street boys pretending to try to sell him gum and tissues. His third time being pick pocketed in Africa and the second loss of a phone, and an expensive one at that.
Bits and pieces:
Here when you park illegally, the police just take your license plates and you can’t drive at all.
Our satellite TV is mostly Arabic stations, so at prayer time, the program is interrupted for prayers.
 It is really cold here. Addis is over 8,000’ high, and at night it is chilly enough that we had to buy a thick comforter for sleeping.
I celebrated my 74th birthday here a couple of weeks ago with a very nice party at work and a nice quiet dinner in an Italian restaurant with Hinda and then another celebration at our neighbor’s house.
You can pay one birr to read the newspaper and then give it back to the vendor to resell.
At all intersections there are no working stop lights so most cars don’t stop, everyone just goes when they can. Hinda sometimes has to close her eyes.
When was the last time you used carbon paper. Hinda’s fingernails turned blue from writing receipts at the fundraisers.
We have two taxis we use regularly, one during the day and the other to take us out at night, the drivers name at night is Wondie and his taxi is practically falling apart and help together with tape and glue. Both taxis have strong gas and exhaust odors in the back seat so we take turns riding in the back. No sense trying to find other taxis they are all the same.
We have been told that farmers are giving up growing coffee and now growing khat, which is a mild stimulant, something like marijuana, legal here and is quite lucrative. We are told that the farmers are making a lot more money so they are sending their children to school including university, which will help to make this country better.
We have discovered that domestic planes leave the airport as soon as all passengers arrive, this means that if they have sold 25 tickets, and all 25 passengers arrive at the airport an hour ahead of takeoff time, the plane just leaves, and sometimes we actually arrived at our destination before the time we were supposed to leave the last city.
We are both having fun with the custom of kissing and hugging when greeting someone, Peter gets to kiss all the pretty young girls and I get to kiss all the nice looking men. In general people tend to hold on to each other when walking along the street or often have arms around each other.
 Now for our trip to the North. We took a short flight to Bahir Dar which is the place where the Blue Nile starts. There is a large lake, Lake Tana which is the source of the Blue Nile, this flows into Blue Nile falls which is extremely brown this time of year since it is rainy season and the mud is everywhere. We are told that in October the water will be white going over the falls but not now. Getting to the falls was on an extremely bad road and then a 45 minute walk in which we were caught in a downpour our where we took shelter in a small lean to with a number of other people.
Our next stop was at a village, Awra Amba, which is run as a commune with everyone having a share and everyone doing the work. We ended up walking 2 KM on an extremely muddy road in the rain, had lunch and then had to find a way back to the car. The villagers said they could take us in a cart driven by a mule for a mere $3 so we agreed. They filled the cart with hay and a mattress and we got on. The mule’s name was Hafiz, and he kept getting stuck in the mud. Hinda thought the cart might be too heavy so she got off and started walking, not long after, Hafiz really got stuck, his front legs were stuck in mud up to his knees, he could not get out. Peter got out of the cart, the driver and two other men unhooked Hafiz and pulled him out. We decided to walk the rest of the way, but the driver felt it was his responsibility to make sure we got to the car so he would not leave us and walked the rest of the way with us.
We finally made it to Gondar that evening and the next morning visited King Fasilades palace built in the 1630’s. Unfortunately, during the Second World War when the Italians occupied Ethiopia and used this palace as their headquarters in Gondar, the British bombed the palace and much of it was destroyed. However, we found it to be an extremely restful place, quiet and beautiful grounds. The King also built an Olympic sized swimming pool which is still used each year in the month of January when a copy of the ark in which the 10 commandments are kept is brought out and thousands of people enter the swimming pool to be baptized and other customs are performed. Like throwing a lemon at the girl you would like to marry. Our guide told us he has done this 10 times but missed so now he is practicing every day and will try again in January.
In the afternoon, we went to a Falasha village, although there are no Falasha’s left, they have all gone to Israel, the village is used by an NGO made up of single mothers who make pottery in the same way the Falashas did. The NGO has been operating for the last 16 years and has enabled quite a few single mothers to earn enough to send their children to school and live. They do train others and we are going to suggest that African Services Committee use their training program to train some of the commercial sex workers that are clients.
We than headed for Axum where the Queen of Sheba was born and lived. As you may know she and King Solomon had a son named Menelik, she lived in Ethiopia and King Solomon lived in Jerusalem. Legend tells us that Menelik, brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Ethiopia where it still resides guided by one monk. We also learned about the legend of Queen Judith, a Jewish woman, who lived in the 10th century and destroyed many of the churches as the ruler of Ethiopia. In the evening we had dinner with the Mayor of Axum who happens to be a relative of Asfaha, the Executive Director of African Services Committee. We had a nice evening and enjoyed his hospitality.
Our last stop was Lalibela, where the spectacular rock hewn churches are. It is almost unbelievable to think that these churches were built by King Lalibela in the 12th and 13th century with only hammers and chisels from top to bottom. They are massive and it took only 23 years to build 11 of them. They are really impressive and to be inside during a mass seeing many priests and people praying, hearing the chanting and music was a special experience. Another nice part of this last city was that we had a man who came with us to help us put our shoes on and off and watch them when we went inside the churches.
 As with all our other tours on this trip there was always someone there to hold Hinda’s hand and help her up and down the steep, slippery steps and walkways. She is thankful to them and made sure they all got a nice tip.
Ok, this has been a long blog, but we hope you have enjoyed it. Let us know any comments you might have. Talk to you all soon. Love, Hinda and Peter