Christmas In Ethiopia

This was definitely a Christmas to remember. First of all, Christmas day is celebrated on January 7th in Ethiopia, so the clinic was open which meant we didn’t really have the day off. Thursdays are immunization day out in the community, and we have to drive the clinic car out to the site, so we decided to all go as a family.

We all enjoyed being out in the community spending time with the local people here. Our immunization “station” was set up right among some huts so there were plenty of kids and animals to play with…

After spending the morning giving immunizations, we came home and celebrated Christmas with our traditional chicken tortilla soup. It was delicious and tasted just like home! (Not the same without the Richters, Armbrusts and my mom, though.) It was funny because we invited our house helper, Maaza, to eat with us and experience an “American” Christmas. We are pretty sure she thought the soup was terrible – poor thing! We got such a kick out of it because it is unfathomable to us that someone could not like tortilla soup – but we figure it must blow their minds just as much that we aren’t devouring their traditional foods either. Cultural differences are an interesting phenomenon…

The poinsettia on the table was our Christmas tree. There are twenty foot tall poinsettias all around the mission station that are just beautiful. We cut one off and put it in a Fanta bottle. What is Christmas in Africa without Fanta? 🙂

How could we forget to add the Christmas Eve saga?? The girls found a stray puppy that they convinced themselves we would let them keep. They has already bathed it and fed it before we even knew about it and had totally bonded – he even had a name – Buddy. Being the lame parents we are, we had to tell them there was no way they could keep him. Okay, so I’ll admit he was amazingly cute and cuddly, but then we would come back to reality. We tried to reason with them about rabies and the fact that we were saving them from getting these “terrible awful shots in their stomachs”, but they were still devastated. On Christmas Eve of all nights to have this unfold! There were so many tears shed. It was dark by the end of everything, and we had no idea what to do with the poor puppy for the night, so we told them they could keep it just for the one night and the next day we would find it a home. Well – it was a genius plan!! That crazy puppy was up all night long crying and then he pooped on their floor (which Mia then stepped in) and we made the girls take care of EVERYTHING! I don’t know how Santa even snuck in the house with everyone up all night! The next morning they were in our room at 6:30 asking when they cold go look for a new home for Buddy. Genius. No more puppy. 🙂

The biggest drama came after Christmas lunch. Some fighting broke out between two of the local tribes. It is crazy how fast things happen here. One of the tribesman was speared by another tribesman and he was brought to the clinic. All of a sudden there were about 150 people wailing and crying for the guy who had been speared. It is definitely disturbing when that many people are wailing. The man was losing a lot of blood and he needed to get to the hospital immediately. We weren’t even sure if he would survive the drive. Shane loaded up the clinic car with the patient laid down in the back with his IV and about 14 other people. We are not sure who all the people were, but in Africa you always seem to accumulate a carload of passengers whenever you are driving.

Let me tell you, taking a patient to a hospital from here is not an easy task! First of all, the dirt road to get out of Langano is pretty bad. It is basically miles and miles of potholes, so you have to drive really slowly. Just to give you an idea of what it is like, when we went to do immunizations earlier in the day we hit a pothole and Guzehegn and Negesso (two male nurses) smacked heads and almost gave each other concussions. We actually stopped the car for a minute for them to recover and one of them had cut his head badly enough that we considered stitches! The patient lying in the back of the car was moaning every time Shane hit a bump. Also complicating things was the fact that it was getting dark so Shane couldn’t see the potholes and the clinic car was overheating (happens every time).

It took Shane about an hour and a half to get to Sheshamani Hospital. This included a brief stop at the police station to fill out a report on the incident. Evidently, in Ethiopia even in a life and death situation you have to stop at the police station before being treated at the hospital! Shane kept arguing with them that it was insane to be stopping at the police station first. Fortunately it only took a few minutes and then they proceeded to the hospital. The entire time the car was overheating and they were trying to avoid donkey carts in the road. Shane spent the whole drive saying to himself “God is sovereign”, “God is sovereign”, “God is sovereign”.

One of the funny things about the Ethiopians is that no matter how dire the situation they always say “chigger yellem” which means “no problem” One of the guys kept saying to Shane “chigger yellem” and Shane would tell him, no, there really is a “chigger”. It ended up being and exhausting 4-5 hour ordeal. We keep asking the locals how the man is doing, but the most we can get out of them is that “he is not dead”. I guess that is something. 🙂

By the way, Shane was able to do this all over gain the following day when he transported a pregnant lady that was bleeding to the hospital. Fun times.

We have been having more and more problems with the baboons. A few days ago I (Allyson) and Moses were walking back from the clinic and we got charged by a huge baboon! It got to about three feet away and was just staring at us. It kept lunging at us to try to scare us and it worked. I started screaming at the top of my lungs and waving my arms in the air – it was enough commotion for all of the guards to come running and scare the big dude away. These animals are massive! The larger ones are probably about 250 lbs. The picture below is one of the medium sized ones.

There is a baby named Genale who came into the clinic in very poor health. Her mother died in childbirth and her father brought her to be admitted into Mana Abdi. Mana Abdi is a “foster home” here a Langano for babies whose mothers die in childbirth. They take care of the babies until they are healthy enough to return home with the father (usually about 6-9 months). We did not think she was going to make it through even the first week, but were praying that she would live. She has been with us for about 2 weeks now and it continues to be touch and go. One day she seems better and the next day she looks terrible. I think we have figured out that she has an intolerance to formula. We have been making her homemade formula from a recipe Allyson found in a book on malnutrition. Genale seems to be tolerating this much better, but she still doesn’t seem quite right. Please pray that she will continue to get healthy.

We also took Moses down to the lake one day to fish. All we have is his tiny “kid” fishing pole and we sure weren’t expecting to catch anything. We ended up pulling in a huge catfish and we were so excited to have fish for dinner. All the Ethiopians up here at camp were pretty proud of Moses’ catch! We were a little nervous about eating fish that came out of a lake where cattle and horses graze and where people bathe and do their laundry , but the prospect of fish for dinner won out.

Learning the language has been a challenge. We meet with a language helper three times a week and each time we learn enough new things to keep us encouraged. We are just taking baby steps and are building on a tiny foundation, but it is definitely coming. It is so much fun to muddle through a conversation and to actually understand some of what was said! Keep in mind that we are studying Amharic (the national language) with our language helper, but the language where we are living here at Langano is Oromifa. Once we get a basic knowledge of Amharic we will begin working on Oromifa.

We are beginning to develop neat relationships with some of the local people. Shane is enjoying his friendship with Mulatu, the local evangelist (and our pastor here). Allyson has befriended his wife, Kalkidan, too. This family lives just a short walk from where we live, so we try to visit them every day. They have three little kids ages 6, 4, and 2 and our kids love to bring little treats to them. It is so important to us to encourage this family and to come alongside them in their ministry. They are from another region in Ethiopia and don’t speak much of the Oromifa language either, so we know they can really use encouragement. All of these new relationships are a whole blog in and of itself, so we will leave you hanging until next time.
Well, we thought we would leave you on a humorous note. A few days ago the sink at Mana Abdi was stopped up. They asked Kaweti (one of the awesome Ethiopian workers at Langano who we love) to fix the sink. He proceeded to disconnect the pipe and suck everything out with his mouth! Barf. Shane woke up in the middle of the night last night and could not go back to sleep because he was laughing so hard and fighting the urge to hurl just thinking about the whole scene. Yummy.

We had to add one more entry since we are not sure when we will be able to publish the next one. Today (Jan 6), Shane was asked to transport some people to a “lixo” which is basically a memorial service. It was for a local pastor/evangelist whose wife had died. A lixo usually lasts a week to ten days and people from the entire community come to pay their respects to the family. As Shane was was driving them to the lixo he began to ask questions and was told that he would be expected to attend the lixo and that food would be served. Internally he began to panic. He had been sick for several days, had eaten very little, and in Ethiopia it is considered impolite not to eat what you are given. When they arrived they were seated next to the pastor in front of everyone. Shane thought that if he did not make eye contact that maybe he would not be given any food. He proceeded to stare at the ground and tried to pretend that he was preoccupied with Moses, but it was to no avail. They brought him a plate that had just been used, poured a little water on it to rinse it and gave it to Shane. It still had food on it from the person before. They put some injera on his plate, but the host did not feel that they had given him enough so they took what was on his plate and replaced it with some of the largest pieces. Then they poured something yellow and soupy (with some chunks in it) on top to dip the injera in. Shane thought that he could take some larger bites and finish quicker and proceeded to eat as fast as he could to get it down. This was a mistake. They thought that since he ate it so quickly that he must love it. Just as he was finishing and breathing a sigh of relief they came up to him and filled his plate again with injera and added some more soupy stuff. In case you are wondering how he is doing – “he is not dead” 🙂

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