Saturday, October 22, 2011

Greetings from Hawassa!

El and I just returned from a lovely walk behind the Guest House where we stay to a small village and the  Langano Lily project. We walked on a dirt road past the lovely red lava rocks behind our apartment to a turnoff where lived about 20 farming families who had gardens and goats and cattle. The village is surrounded by fields of tobacco and corn. The houses are neat mud-stucco with wood beams underneath. After the village we followed the signs to Langano Lily, a large Saudi-owned flower-raising project with long rows of green houses and irrigated fields. We could smell the pesticides (present but not overwhelming) and see the water tanks. Ethiopians do work there but this was land presumably previously controlled by small farmers for subsistence production.  The government has leased large sectors of the country for agricultural use by multinationals, esp. Chinese and Saudi investors in flowers and biofuels.
The up side was the gorgeous Rift Valley with the cliffs rising to the East toward which we walked, the 
beautiful birds, and the ubiquitous kids playing soccer with home-made rag balls in the midst of the goats and cattle that they were supposed to be herding.
Our other great adventure this week was the Thursday trip to the Hawassa market. It is much bigger than we suspected with hundreds of stalls filled with vegetables from the countryside, clothing -- both traditional and western, cheap chinese-made housewares, Ethiopian bedding and, of course, cattle, goats and kids. It was beautiful and chaotic and exhausting. We got lots of essentials, even the clothespins that El insisted we would never be able to find, and with our new pots are starting to boil our own water so that we don't have to buy those *!#% plastic water bottles. Our friend Emilia took pictures (we forgot our camera) and will download for us soon.
My work at the Referral Hospital is taking shape. I have no real program to follow, so am spending time trying to figure out how to be most useful. I am able to provide my colleagues with some sense of how things could be improved for them and our patients. We serve people who are overwhelmingly afflicted with life-threatening infectious diseases and yet we have access to minimal resources to evaluate and treat. For my medical friends: We are constantly treating meningitis but the lab will not/cannot do adequate Gram stains or cultures. There are no blood cultures and no cultures for tuberculosis, when a good 1/2 of our patients have or probably have tuberculosis. Yet there is some good medical knowledge here among the physicians and a real desire to teach the medical students. I am watching and learning and adding what I know from my western training when it is helpful, having a real fear of displaying arrogance that WOULD NOT be helpful.
El is preparing for classes next week. I am uploading some of the pictures from our walk.
We feel supremely lucky to not only live in a lovely town with great friends, magnificent family and satisfying work in Massachusetts, but to have come to a place that is truly fascinating and inviting. Ain't life sweet!
Our love to the Occupiers and congrats on Obama finally announcing the end of the official occupation of Iraq. Let's get rid of the mercenaries and end the occupation and wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Love, Marty

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