January 9, 2012
Greetings from Hawassa!
I just got back Saturday from a whirlwind 9-day (plus 4 day travel time) trip to Northampton. Never had such an easy and pleasurable transition between two such different places. In the past have found the return to the States very disconcerting with all the EXCESS. Too much food, too much activity, too much media and too much stuff. For some reason this time was not such a jolt. Perhaps it was the internet which keeps us all attached despite the distance. I know a little more about friends and family. Perhaps also it is our community in Western Mass, which is not quite as excessive. Friends and family are ok giving underwear or donations to good causes for Christmas presents. Or maybe I am just old and don't think as deeply as I used to.
It was wonderful seeing my terrific family: Leah came in from DC (sorry that new son-in-law Gavin had to work); Masaye warmed the upstairs bed for me on arriving from Hunter and Mulu trekked all the way by train (with buddy Eli) from Macalester in St. Paul. We did a belated Christmas feast with Lisa Baskin and Arky Markham and Daniel and Helen Tesfalidet/Kinfe at our beloved Great Wall Restaurant and then stumbled home, drunk with food.
Leah is working hard as a film producer with Eye Candy and having to deal with the uncertainty of Gavin's upcoming posting after finishing his residency in June. We hope that she and Gavin might be able to come to Hawassa and perhaps Gavin could work at Referral Hospital in June. What a treat that would be!
Mulu and Masaye both are doing great and finding themselves to be serious students in their respective colleges. They too are considering coming out after school lets out.
Helen and I were foolish enough to accompany Mulu and Leah to the Holyoke ice skating rink where Mulu wanted to practice because he is on the Macalester hockey team. Masaye was wise enough to stay away. Leah maintained her dignity skating around the rink, but Helen who, as a respectable Eritrean, has never put on skates, and I who last skated at age 6 on Alum Creek in Westerville, both clung at all times either to the wall or to an upright person's hand or else found ourselves on our backsides on the ice. How embarrassing. We might have done better had we slept in late like Masaye. But, life is an experience.
Friend Arky is more than holding her own at age 96, and I dragged her around Leeds, Holyoke and Springfield picking up all the asthma goods – nebulizers, albuterol, masks and peak flow meters – that were donated by Lisa, Tom Plaut (via Jane Cross), and Louis and Clark Medical Supply to bring back to Hawassa. All that with the pulse oximeters sent by Brother Jake Fratkin and Lisa's monster Harrison's medical text filled up a whole huge suitcase that I will be taking in to the hospital tomorrow.
Was able to spend a Saturday Occupying Northampton in front of the Bank of America with buddy Paki Wieland, vigil against the wars with the Northampton Committee, and listen to some hellaceous fiddle music at First Night. I had a moving discussion with Robby and Elli Meeropol about the terrible moral dilemma posed by the upcoming Presidential election.
A huge treat was visiting mis companeros á la Clinica Brightwood on Wednesday. What an amazing crew! How I miss them. What good work they do in Springfield's North End.
Time spent with the kids and friends impressed me with my undeserved great luck in life. If I were religious, I would say that I am blessed, but I am not (religious, that is) and am simply grateful for a world in which such joys come my way.
My hero Elliot came all the way to Addis to pick up me and my truckload of luggage. On Friday night he met with Mulu's birth mom Genet and Mulu's brother Ermiyas and sister Meklas and Meklas' two daughters Mariye age 9 and Hida age 5. We have stayed in touch over the years and watched his sibs grow to adulthood. Ermiyas, whom we met as a teenager, trained and works successfully as a mechanic near Addis.
Back in Hawassa this weekend we joined Elliot's Hawassa U. colleagues Walalign and Amalo at their respective houses for Ethiopian Christmas parties. The Ethiopian calendar is nine days (plus seven years) behind the European and Christmas is celebrated on December (Tasas) 28th or 29th, depending on the year. We ate more njera and tibs (Ethiopian bread and beef dish) than we should have. We drank homemade beer and joined in coffee ceremonies and felt the comfort and welcome of Ethiopian hospitality.
Today am back at Referral seeing patients with problems that confound me – two new admissions with spinal tuberculosis, another who came in with a headache and fever and had malaria but ALSO probably disseminated tuberculosis, and two who suffered endocarditis (bacterial infections of their heart valves) due to their severe rheumatic heart disease. Interns handed me electrocardiograms to read that were more abnormal than any I have ever seen, and I looked around for the cardiologist and realized that old Trumanism: the buck stops here. Oh, dear. In over my head again. Time to run back to the books.
El will be writing very soon to tell about his journey to Arba Minch. Baboons for him, kids for me.
Happy, just and peaceful new year!