Hello, Friends and Family.
Greetings and love from Hawassa, Ethiopia.
Elliot and I arrived in Addis Ababa late Monday night Ethiopia time after 19 hours of flying, to be greeted by a wonderful lady from the US embassy, Eyerusalem or Jerry. She set us up in a hotel in Addis for the night, the Addis View, high on a hill overlooking the sprawling city. Jet-lagged and much more affected by altitude than either of us had remembered (Addis is over 9,000 feet), we spent the next day waiting for our ride to Hawassa (which didn't come till Wednesday), getting a briefing from the local CIA guy at the palatial US Embassy, trying to get phone and internet service and going for a walk in our neighborhood. Addis Ababa is huge, and the people represent many of Ethiopia's ethnic groups. There is 40% inflation and 60% unemployment in the country as a whole, but unlike Nairobi, we felt safe in the city streets at night.
The next day we finally connected with a car that had been sent from the University of Hawassa and took the 6-hour drive to Hawassa which is much lower in altitude and located on the lovely lake Hawassa, one of a series that dot the Rift Valley down into Kenya. The country is green and warm, with maize and vegetables and coffee grown. Hawassa is a lively and very enjoyable African town, with few forenjis (europeans), much small business, but the major economic force being the public Hawassa University where Elliot will teach anthropology. It is a new university, part of the government's plan to federalize and extend education to all the provinces. It is so new and the brain drain so severe, that noone else in his department has a PhD. We had a great night out with 3 of his new colleagues in Anthro, who began discussion of the complicated politics of a complicated country in the middle of a very compicated region of the world, surrounded by Egypt, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, not a one of which is without violent conflict. It is a conversation that I hope will continue for the next 9 months.
We are staying in the University-run hotel, staffed by students in the hotel department, where the food is great – lots of fresh tilapia from the lake – and the staff is very kind. Good thing: we still are sort of stumbling around and I still am not falling asleep at the proper hour. We take our antimalarials and pull down the mosquito netting over our bed at night (yes, Leah, we are being good!) drink lots of bottled water (which kills my environmental soul but we will soon be able to boil our own from the tap) and watch Maribou storks, Egyption vultures, kites, and many other exotic birds from our porch.
The first night I grappled with extreme homesickness, despite the good conditions. I miss all of you and your wisdom, thoughtfulness and kindness. Friends and family are irreplaceable, but hope that we can help and learn here.
Will write again soon after meeting with the hospital staff tomorrow. Love, Marty