Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hartebeasts and pedagogy

Greetings from Hawassa. Another sunny, 80-degree day. The rainy season is definitely over and we can expect very little rain from now to next July. It will get hotter as the months go on.
The sky is hazy, not sure what that is about. There is little source of human-made air pollution-- no factories and not a whole lot of cars or trucks. Possibly it is dust from the desert in Sudan to the west? Don't know.
Sunday was a lovely day. El and our friends Emilia and Adam and Rhobot rented a car and drove to the northwest to the  beautiful, isolated Senkele game preserve for the endangered Swayne's hartebeast . We were the only visitors at the time, having reached it after bouncing over 10 kilometers of rutted dirt road through high-altitude Oromo farm country. We had previously asked several other local Ethiopian acquaintances about the park, and none knew about it, though it has existed for 40 years only about 50 kilometers away from Hawassa.
We visited the park with a guide provided by the Ethiopian military who led us on foot to the hartebeasts. We got within 30 yards of a group of more than 50 and just watched while they watched us. It was lovely, and very different from other experiences in game parks. In Kenya visitors are never allowed out of cars and the cars pile up on one another to see the animals.
On the way back to Hawassa we passed the Mulu Motel in the town of Aje. Will upload the pictures when we can get the card.
Elliot has finished his second week of teaching and is beginning to enter the groove. I was suddenly asked to teach the medical students today at the Referral Hospital when the head of the Department, Dr. Bire, said without warning that I should lead teaching rounds since he needed to go to neurology clinic. So I led 25 medical students down a 2-hour search for what makes an "elderly" -- I believe he is 50 years old! -- man with asthma, a past history of tuberculosis and ongoing hiv infection "swell up". It was fun and interesting since I spend most of my time as a doctor treating patients and do not take the time to explain the steps of gathering information through history and physical and then sorting through differential diagnosis. The students are smart but very shy and they speak very softly with -- to me, of course -- thickly accented English. And I found that I talked too fast for them. So we did our best to suit each others' needs. I need to spend more time with them on the physical exam part since there were some real weaknesses there, but all of us will learn in this process.
I also have been asked to "moderate" (still don't know what that means) a lecture by one of the medical students on tetanus or lockjaw. I have never seen tetanus in all my years of training and practice but it is relatively common in Ethiopia and the rest of east Africa. A young man was admitted with it and I had only the vaguest idea of how to treat it.  So the medical student and I decided to put together a powerpoint on it. Once again, the learning should be good.
On the social front, we had a lovely dinner last night at a popular Italian restaurant with one of Elliot's colleagues in Anthropology at Hawassa University and his wife.  It was the first time we had ridden in a car in 2 weeks, all our travelling having been either by foot, bike or bajaj. Gasoline is over $5 a gallon here and academics' salaries are very low, less than $250 a month. Thus we don't expect a whole lot of joyriding in Hawassa.
Tonight we will eat with Laila Dharabi and her co-workers. Laila was a high school friend of Leah's and is the daughter of our old friend Kathy Fennelly. She is on the Planned Parenthood staff and coincidental to our stay here is visiting PP affiliated organizations in Hawassa. It will be interesting to get her take on women's rights and access to contraceptives in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has considerable power in the country and is firmly against birth control, but Orthodox friends have told us that, for them, that is not a tenet that they follow. Educated couples put off childbearing until their mid-late 20's but poor young women get pregnant in their teens, sometimes early teens.
Tomorrow night will be the first of what we hope will be regular Amharic lessons with our young friend Rhobot, who lives with her family in our apartment building and will begin her first year at University of Hawassa. I now have the numbers down, at least to 20, and am starting on telling time and the parts of the body. I am determined to learn the writing, too, which is probably most closely related to Arabic.  Boy, I wish my mind were several decades younger!
We are well, we are getting plugged in, we may even get a refrigerator soon! We have a water filter and now have a system of boiling for health and then filtering in order to be able to stand the taste! This morning I had my first home-made oatmeal. This afternoon El put up a line so we could hang out our unmentionables on the porch and out of public view.
Life is good. We miss you and read avidly about the growing movement for economic justice in the US. Send us your thoughts. Love, Marty

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