Friday, August 7, 2009

So long.... Farewell.... FINALLY!!!

Hi everyone, its Keely. I sit writing this last and final email in a very different place than the others: in the lazyboy in my parents basement in Colorado, my laptop in my lap and watching television. Welcome back to America Keel…
So sorry it has taken so long to post this message and I commend those of you truly loyal followers who actually read this blog. But there is so much that we never got to tell you all about in this amazing experience. First, I am going to paste our last entry from our “professional” blog that we kept for Superkids (if you have never checked this… it may be worth a trip because there are tons of awesome pictures on that blog:

We spend a lot of time throughout the weeks working individually with these kids… but this week was a little different. And very exciting!! We completed our caregiver education program and it was a HUGE success. Over 35 caregivers, axillary staff members and governmentemployees attended the 8 hour training session. We performed the program on Tuesday and Wednesday so that all could be in attendance. The director of the orphanage, Asenake, was thrilled with the information covered and we were thrilled with the interest and sincerity with which everyone approached the program. We can’t wait to share all the videos and pictures of these amazing days with all of you!

The morning began with the didactic session. We lectured on motor and social development with an emphasis on age appropriate sensory stimulation, positioning during sleep and play, language development, sharing, feeding, hygiene/illness prevention, bone health, and body mechanics during lifting. We also did a great role play activity to teach behavior modification with an emphasis on positive reinforcement. So much laughter and lots of learning too. After adelicious lunch and coffee ceremony (oh and of course a morning tea) we continued with our hands on learning session. In this session we brought several infants to the classroom and allowed the participants to practice swaddling, infant massage, positioning and playtechniques, and oral stimulation prior to feeding. Following the afternoon tea break, we finished up with a group conversation in which we encouraged caregivers to develop a consistent schedule that incorporated many of the recommendations including “out of crib time”, frequent repositioning of infants, outside time and lots of play. They were amazing participants and we had a lot of discussion, brainstorming and problem solving to arrive at an agreement that we are all very proud of. Next, the caregivers were encouraged to list the key elements learned during the class and discussion of how they want to try and implement this into their day. We were so impressed by their dedicated responses. The plan now is to create a white-board with recommendation reminders, schedule, and a place for caregivers and nurses to write notes to improve communication about children. Like we mentioned, an overwhelming success. We definitely want to thank our translator Bisrat and of course our backstage man Yemamu for making everything run so seamlessly, it could not have been better!

And what was even more exciting were the two days following! We walked in to observe increased caregiver interaction with the kids. Lots of singing and talking. There were infants out of their crib on the floor mats in all different positions and several of them were given massages…. and toys!!! The toddlers were taken out to play in the morning according to the developed schedule (which we had NEVER seen them do prior to the education program). We saw lots of toys (which also means lots of tears….sharing is REALLY hard with all these newexciting toys). But we were overall impressed with the attempts of the caregivers to address all these behaviors with several of the strategies we taught them in the program. We also saw improved positioning of feeding and oral stimulation for the children that have difficulty feeding. WE ARE SO PROUD!!!!!

Let’s see, the last big project. We are trying desperately to get ankle foot orthotics made for Elshaday, Baletta and Yordi. Our goal is to provide them with braces that will help prevent deformity and also allow weight bearing to improve the joint mobility, muscle extensibility and bone health. And hopefully…with time increased functional independence. The process is slow, but we are very hopeful that Monday we will finally have all the steps in place and be able to visit the orthotist for our official assessment.

The last week, even upon reflection, continues to be a sleep deprived blur. But we did so many amazing things! I guess I will start by telling you about the trip to the countryside that we took with the boys (Yemamu and Alex) to a city called Awasa. We contracted a driver with a sweet Nike-laden van. The drive to through the countryside was a shocker for me!! The landscape was so variant. We drove through flat barren grass and farmland with fields of crops and many workers tending to the land. Then suddenly there was a shift to this lush green almost tropical landscape with rolling hills. It was absolutely beautiful. We stopped and took pictures and met a young mother with three kids under the age of 3 and one more in the belly. Demonstrating again the enormous societal complexity surrounding the rapidly increasing number of children in this nation.

Arriving in Awasa, we found our hotel and got settled. We spent the first evening exploring, attempting to take a boat ride to see hippos and being rejected due to lack of gas and a rapidly setting sun. That evening, we had an awesome pizza dinner, went out to a cool nightclub and ended the night teaching Yemamu that art of Yoga. Hilarious and memorable!!! We woke up the next day and hit fish markets. Down at the edge of the lake is this huge gathering where you can get fish of all varieties. The boys insisted on starting with the raw fish—the girls watched as the fish came straight off the boat, was gutted and skinned, taken to buy sauce and limes, and lots of eating of raw fish. Next we ventured to the fried fish—this time the girls ate too. It was so delicious!! Literally gutted and tossed in a huge pan of oil. Yum Yum Yum it was so good!!! Then the guys ate some fish stew… the girls were fished out by this point. But the grounds the fish market was on was such an experience as well. There were tons of huge birds--- Ethiopia has over 170 species of birds. And monkeys that we got to feed. Kelly, with the help of Alex, found these cute fuzzy black and white monkeys that she got to sit on her shoulder. Very cute!!

While in the city of Addis we had seen many families and children living on the streets. However, never had we seen such a dense population of young street kids as we did at the fish market in Awasa. Alex explained to us that this city has one of the highest street children populations because it is the largest city in the eastern countryside so children throughout the countryside who’s parents die, often walk into the city. We were all struck by the young age of many of these kids. Kell fell in love with one little girl about 3 years old and she bought her a fish… a few of her little friends joined in the feast. They ate every bit of food off those bones. It really made all of us think about what can be done, how we can begin to advocate for these kids, this society to decrease the number of parentless children in Ethiopia. As I mentioned above, it is so complex and multifaceted… leaving me to believe that if many people would address the issue from their angle and chip away at the problem, we could make an impact. Again, it made us realize just how incredible Gladney is as this organization is involved in helping fund multiple organizations that address this issue from various angles. For gladney is really seems to be about the children.

That night we finally got to go on our boat trip to see the hippos. It was pretty hilarious… I can say that as I was the only person on the entire boat who had a dry seat. The rest of the gang, especially Alex and Keely, got totally soaked—but due to the fragile balance of the boat, the driver would not let anyone move. I have never laughed so hard!! We were really excited to see the hippos—our one and only ‘African” animal that we got to see.
On the way home we stopped at this beautiful natural springs pool. It was so hot!—there were the trickling falls that you could “shower” under and then there were two really warm pools. My favorite part however was watching Yemamu and Alex swim. For those of you who know me… know that swimming is not part of my athletic prowess--- I am a land animal. Compared to these guys, people may have mistaken me for Micheal Phelps. Keel and I tried to give them swimming lessons but never came to fruition…. Lots of laughter though. It was an amazing vacation and such an opportunity to see a small glimpse of what this country has to offer. I know that it made us really want to see some other countryside locations throughout the nation…. Next time I guess 

Back home we had 2 days to finish those… pardon my French but this is extremely warrented: damn chairs!! We faced multiple delays in the creation of these 3 supportive feedings chairs. None of them more blatant than when we arrived to pick up our freshly drilled wood after our vacation to Awasa…. To find that the ENTIRE shop where we had left our wood was GONE!! I mean walls, roof, wood and all. Finally after questioning everyone within a 500 yard radius, we found a 12 year old boy who said that he knew where the shop had been moved. While frustrating to us for sure, even this experience proved to be a moment proving how comfortable and lucky we are here in the US. What had happened to this small shop owner you ask? The government came one day and told him they needed his land and that he needed to be gone in 2 days. The land, was owned by this man. But at any moment, the government can seize land. Now, instead of owning is building and shop, he relocated about half a mile away and was renting a building. It was difficult to be too frustrated with this shop owner--- as you can imagine he was a little busy deconstructing his shop and moving his wood and didn’t have time to cut our wood. Putting us one more day behind. We spent the remainder of the next day ALL day and night finishing those chair. On Monday, the day of our departure, we finally took them to the orphanage and fit them for Yordi, Elshaday and Baletta. It was so much fun to see them in those chairs. Little Elshaday was finally able to sit up and it will be sooo useful for feeding. Hopefully leading to less aspiration, weight gain and improved health for this beautiful little boy. It was pretty hilarious doing these “finishing touches” at the orphanage. We had LOTS of help and interest from all the other kiddos.

On Sunday night, we did take a quick hiatus from chair building to host a movie night for the kids. A few weeks ago a TV and DVD player was donated and we had been planning this evening since. We came in after dinner and surprised the kids by watching Bolt and brining a few other requested videos. Thank God that we had power on this night!!! It was so fun to cuddle up with them all and see the orphanage and all the kiddos at night time. Memories we will cherish forever.
After finishing the chairs on Monday, we had dinner and coffee with the caregivers. Spicy spaghetti, lots of laughter and hugs. And then goodbyes. I sit here unable to really use words to describe that night. It was such a mix of emotions of love, wishing we could have done more, feeling like we had helped so much and at the same time… as if we were letting them down. It was hope that they would catch a break, that they would find success, joy. It was one of the hardest days of our life. Letting go.

A long flight, both of us studying for and passing our board exams, packing and moving to our new homes, visits from friends and family… and finding a way to carry this experience with us everyday. To allow it to change us, and make us better. To try and spread this message and continue to fight for these kids even upon our return home. To think of these people, these kids, our friends everyday. To love. –That about catches you up to speed on our lives.

Thought of the day: I wish I was in Ethiopia right now...

With that I am going to sign off. Thank you for your support and prayers throughout this experience. We could never have done it without you. And the way that we all really continue to make a difference is to get people involved in the mission. We love all of you!!
Keely (and Kelly)

p.s. I made this video for my church… thought many of you would enjoy seeing it. Just a glimpse at the beauty and life of these resilient kids.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Raining It's Pouring

Hello ladies and gentleman. Keely O’Dell here. Long blog post
coming…so lean back, take off your shoes and get comfortable. Here we

So much to report since last we talked. Lets see… I think last you
heard from Kelly, she was home sick. Well, she continued to get more
and more sick until finally going to the doctor and learning that she
had bronchitis. She was prescribed copious amount of medication (all
for less than 2 USD… that puts those Walmart prices to shame!) which
unfortunately took a while to kick in but she is slowly starting to
feel better. YAY!!

We have been really busy, spending a lot of time a Kebebtsehay.
Everyday (after our 2-3 taxi rides) we make the walk in on the gravel
road. As we approach the gates, we start to hear tons of kids shouting
“you, you, you….candy. candy. CANDY!” And there are all of little
hands reaching out to greet us. And this is just the neighborhood
kids, playing on the road near their homes. As soon as we walk in, we
are greeted with screams of “Keelly!!!” (this is some type of hybrid
name that everyone seems to call both of us). Quickly followed by
tons of Salam no ‘s and Dana no’s (Amharic greetings), kisses on the
cheeks and lots of high fives and hand shakes (we have taught them a
signature handshake which ends with “blowing it up.”) Everyday that we
walk in, this moment, regardless of what I was feeling before… is
amazing. And then we wade through the crowd and into the baby/toddler
room. And are again greeted with cries of KEELLY!!! And little bodies
running towards us. Goodbyes are pretty much the same… just in
reverse order. And lots of promises of our returns in the near

This last week we have really felt good about the progress that we are
making at the orphanage. Finally lots of our efforts and projects are
coming to fruition. We continue to get to know and improve our
relationships with the caregivers. They have started to take a lot
more interest in what we are doing and value all our efforts to help.
Kelly and I are getting geared up for the education programs next
week. (well, lets be honest… there is still a lot of work to do!!!)
The director of the orphanage and the caregivers are all very excited
to learn, which is a great start. Other progress… in random order: We
were able to get an appointment for Addisa (the little baby we told
you about a few posts ago) with a pediatric neurologist in here in
Addis. As per usual, the process is a little thrown together…but we
are so thankful that she is getting the care that she needs. Also, we
have arranged to take several of the kids we work with to the
orthotist so that they can have braces made for their feet and ankles.

And the chairs…oh the chairs. We bought all the supplies late last
week. A long process that took several hours and making even more
friends at the Mercado. The next day, we got all the metal cut
according to our plans. Then, we realized that several of our cuts
were wrong. Then we got them cut again (finally, about five days
later….oh the joys of limited power!) And now they all sit in a pile
on our living room floor, waiting for us to put them together
tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Lets see… what else. Well, there was a four day stretch that we
didn’t have water. Now, you might being saying to yourself- that
doesn’t sound fun, but how bad can it be (and those of you who know me
well are saying right now… Keely get serious, you hardly take showers
more often than that at home). Well, it gets a lot worse if…
A. if you have bronchitis (see paragraph 1)
B. have to use the entire bucket of water for one toilet flush…. And
you live in a house with four girls
C. If you gave the house keeper basically all your clothes, thinking
the laundry would be done on day one of no water… and you had to wear
the same clothes over and over hoping that maybe just maybe today
would be the day the water would be turned back on and your clothes
would be washed.
D. rainy season officially begins…. Which can be loosely translated
into muddy season.

Seriously though, the rain has begun. And we were all shocked to know
that not only does it rain. It rains hard! And hails too. Usually the
mornings start out sunny and then it rains in the afternoon. It is
kind of funny because there will be tons of people on the streets,
walking around/ shopping….what have you… then suddenly the rain begins
and within seconds the street vendors pack-up or cover their items and
everyone seeks cover in some enclave or under an overhang. Then it
pours (and or hails)—about 30 minutes. And then just a few minutes
after it stops, everyone is back out on the streets going about their

It has definitely given me a new understanding for the shoe shining
business. A thriving and very popular business venture for young boys
in the city. It costs 1-2 birr per shoe (inflation that Yemamu says
is up from 50 cents per shoe in his shoe shining days). Anyway, I had
my first opportunity for a shoe shine on Wednesday this week. Its
quite a process really- an art. They take out your shoe laces and
scrub with soap and water, but manage to not get your socks wet at
all. Then a little shine and a re-tie. And they were REALLY clean.
(for about 12 hours…until it rained the next day). Supply and demand…
these boys are onto something!

This last weekend was awesome. Starting with Saturday… we spent an
amazing day getting to see the lives of our Ethiopian BFFs—Yemamu,
Alex and Misfin. Not sure if we have introduced all of them to you…
but explanations will follow. We started first with Yemamu getting a
tour of the Leprosy and TB hospital that is right next to his village.
Since both his parents were struck with leprosy, he lives right near
by in what has become a leprosy colony. It was an amazing
facility—very humbling. To look around at the beautiful trees and
building, the colorful tin houses, and the kids running about and to
realize… this is their life. All these thousands of people who are
affected by this disease, this poverty. At the hospital, there is a
huge craft store where people who have been affected by leprosy are
employed making crafts. These beautiful and impressive good are
completely home made…beginning with the spinning of the thread, making
the cloth, and embroidering the fabric. We came back a few days later
and bought lots of cool stuff!

We moved along toward Yemamu’s house and stopped to talk with some
other young men, his friends, about a church that they were
re-building. These guys are so inspirational. I’m not nearly
eloquent enough to portray to you all the level of despair that could
be felt in this village. But these guys had the most amazing faith.
Their mission, you could feel the difference that they were making.
They are bringing hope. They showed us pictures and told us stories
of the money they had raised to pay school fees for kids in the
village, the trips they made to the nearby dump to attempt to bring
kids to youth group and to help their parents find work. I know that
we have said this several times… but I hope we are demonstrating to
you all the amazing spirit of the people that we have been fortunate
enough to meet here. It has surely inspired us…
Finally we got to Yemamu’s house and met his parents (who look just
like him), his cat (with no name….many people here don’t name their
animals) his nephew (another spitting image) and lots of his friends.
His mom made us coffee and we took about 500 pictures. We just love
him to pieces!

Next it was off to Alex’s house. He lives very nearby (just behind the
dump that I referenced in the previous paragraph). Alex is the
“physical therapist” at the orphanages, employed part time by Gladney.
He, like Yemamu, has an amazing story of redemption through his
belief in Christianity. He was basically spending his youth on the
streets until he met a Young Life leader… which completely transformed
his entire life. Without being to redundant: we are just so in awe of
his inspirational transformation. His kindness is unbelievable! We
went to his compound where he lives with LOTS of family members. We
poured some injera with his mom (please look up on Wikipedia for an
explanation of injera) and participated in a coffee ceremony (a very
cool process where they roast the beans and everything…you could wiki
that too) and had lots of fun goofing around and playing with all the

Finally, we went to meet Misfin. He is one of Yemamu’s good friends
that we had met our first week here. We went to a cute outdoor café
for a macchiato (for those of you counting… that is 3 coffees… LOTS
of caffine for two girls who don’t drink coffee back home). But it
was a great cap off to an amazing day, a life changing day.

On Sunday, we made big plans to go on a short trip outside the city
with the boys. After a quick church service at International
Evangelical Church (made even shorter by our 30 minute truancy) we met
the boys near the center of the city, a huge taxi stop called Mexico.
We then ate a traditional Ethiopian meal…or at least watched to boys
have one. They ate raw meat, ours was cooked. Literally we sat down
20 feet from the hanging carcasses. The boys ate piece after piece,
explaining to us the true delicacy of the fat. Apparently that is the
best part. Our cooked tibs were really good too though! We ventured
on towards our destination, the Meta Brewery. It was basically a huge
outdoor area with a waterfall (disappointingly small…but apparently
gets a lot bigger in the rainy season), a park, swimming pool and huge
bar. We had such a fun day just hanging out, playing cards, telling
stories and laughing a lot. We also sat on/rode a camel, Keely and I
chewed some chat (momentarily, until one of the park guards took it
from us…you can Wikipedia chat too…if you’re interested ).

Oh, and I almost forgot, one of my greatest dreams in Ethiopia was
also realized on this day. First, an explanation: the taxis, or mini
buses, as they are called are really just blue and white 15 passenger
vans. There is one driver, and well…he drives. And then there is an
assistant who stands, usually leaning outside the sliding door window,
and yells which stops they are going to. And then once you are on
board, this assistant takes your money. Well… on the way to the
waterfalls, I got to be the assistant. Me, in all my glory with my
coral scarf blowing in the wind, shouted out the window “Sepita,
Sepita” until my one and only passenger signaled me to stop. At which
point I signaled the driver to stop, opened the door and hoped out.
And after some prompting for the boys and the actual attendant, told
the woman how much she owed and collected her money. Hilarious… and
awesome! For those interested, I will be sure and download the video
of this experience on the blog upon our return.

Another thing that has made this last week so crazy is that our dear
sweet little roomie Kelsey departed for home today. We spent lots of
time this last week making sure that we conquered all the things on
her to do list. Among them was an awesome dinner party that we had
for lots of our Ethiopian friends to say thank you for all they had
done for us. As we are all from the South (sort of right?) we decided
that Tex Mex was really the only way to go. We made a huge spread of
taco build-up complete with pico di gallo, refried beans, taco meat,
and even chips and guacamole. YUMMY!! Then after dinner, we all went
out for some good ole fashion Salsa dancing. It was so much fun.

Everyday is such an adventure here! As I write, I think of about 100
other things that I still haven’t told you about. But everyone else
has gone to bed… and I am getting tired. So, I will bid you farewell,
for now. We miss you and love you. Hope this tides you over, but
can’t wait to share stories and LOTS of pictures with you upon our
return home.

Thought of the day: WE MISS YOU KELS!!! You have only been gone for 3
hours, but the house is too quiet (except the toilet is still running
and it just started to zenab on the roof) We will miss your joy
everyday! Love ya.

Until next time,

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bob The Builder

It seems like it has been a little while since our last post, but I’m
not sure there’s too much to tell. I (Kelly) am writing this while I
sit home sick with a bad cold and sore throat. It’s pretty hard not
to go to the orphanages, but it would be worse to expose these kids to
any more germs than they already face every day. So for those of you
that have requested clarification on who is typing, this post will be
written by me (still Kelly).

Friday night was our first trip to the cinema. The popcorn is really
good, and we were pretty excited for the movie Teza. It was written
and produced by an Ethiopian who is now a professor in the States. It
was mostly in Amharic, although a few parts were in English, with
English subtitles. The movie was amazing, although really heavy. It
has a lot of information about the history of Ethiopia and the
socialist revolution, as well as racism and the effects it has. The
movie has left us wanting to know more details about the history of
Ethiopia and what this country has been through. We highly recommend
this movie for those of you that could have access to it in the

Last Saturday we had a pretty fun adventure. The morning started with
me standing in the shower for an hour with shampoo lathered in my hair
waiting for the water to come back on. It didn’t, so I finished with
about half a bottle of water because we were out of that, too. We
decided to go to the top of Entoto Mountain, where there is a museum,
old palace and a view of the entire city. Along the way, we made a
stop at Entoto Market, where apparently all the locals do their
shopping. They had some neat little booths and stores, and we must
say we made out at one earring stop where we all bought a crazy pair
of dangle earrings made from bull horn. We call them our friendship
earrings. A few other good purchases were made, including Kelsey and
Keely’s Addis Ababa fabric for pillow making once they’re home. We
then proceeded to get on a public taxi to head to the top of the
mountain. Keely was talking with the person who takes the money on
the taxi who offered her a deal of being our personal tour guides for
30 birr. Apparently, before we knew it, he kicked all the other
people out of the taxi and was driving us to top by ourselves. We
arrived at the top, got out of the taxi where they asked for their 30
birr. Not sure why, but Keely paid him the full 30 birr as she said
“you are ripping me off.” He hopped back in his taxi and left us
standing at the top of the mountain at the entrance to the compound.
We first headed into the museum where the ticket seller gave us a
little talking tour. There was nothing explaining what each item was,
so he ended up being really helpful. Someone else led us around the
rest of the compound to the church and he old palace. Although the
day was cloudy, it was beautiful and we had a great time. After
leaving the compound, however, we have never felt more out of place
here in Ethiopia. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE (there is a village
at the top of the mountain) were watching our every single move. It
was awkward and uncomfortable as we snapped a few pictures and waited
for a public taxi to pass us by and take us back down.

That night, we met up one of the Americans we had met at our first
week at Beza Church. We grabbed something to eat and bought movie
tickets for what we thought was an action or suspense movie (I can’t
remember the name of it right now…State of something I think). In
this mall with the cinema near our house is also a kid’s version of
Dave and Busters. So obviously with time to spare we had to try a few
things out. We rode on one of those things that takes you up high and
drops you, which was very exciting. We also did the bumper cars. We
have some pretty good pictures from Michael’s camera that we hope to
be able to show you soon. As we headed into the movie, I noticed that
all the previews were Disney and Pixar related. It wasn’t too long
after that we realized we were watching UP. At least it was a good

Sunday we met up with one of the women we met at the wedding so she
could take us to her church. It is a very small congregation, 20 to
30 people, with the service held in a house. The pastor is a man
named Eddie who has lived here for five years but was from Raleigh,
North Carolina. We were at the service for almost four hours and we
were all pretty exhausted by the end. There was worship and dancing
and singing and screaming and praying in tongues and a sermon in
Amharic. Each of us had someone sitting next to us that translated a
brief summary of what the guest pastor was saying, which was nice to
be able to understand some of what was being said. Because the
service was so long, we missed the brunch we are so excited about at
one of the restaurants we frequent, but we’ll plan for this week! The
sound of pancakes and waffles with syrup, omelets, muffins, juices and
more makes our mouths water.

The rest of Sunday was pretty relaxing. Keely and I did a little
internet checking and walked around the little mall here. I
discovered a really great jewelry shop and there is a very interesting
bookstore we spent some time perusing. Keely got two books that I
think she has already started reading. I don’t remember what they
were about…but I do recall her bring pretty excited about them.

This week has been a busy one with work and trying to get things
accomplished. We’ve spent a lot of time at Kebebtsehay and have
started the plans for a new project. We are going to be making three
chairs for the three older (maybe two years to six years old age
range) kids with more severe disabilities. We have them sketched out
and the measurements planned…we even busted out sine, cosine and
tangent to make sure we calculated everything exactly correct. I even
taught Keely the SOA CAH TOA rule (sin = opposite/adjacent, cos =
adjacent/hypotenuse, tan = opposite/adjacent)! Today we should be
getting most of the rest of the supplies. The frames will be made
from metal L shaped bars that have screw holes every 9-11mm. These
should allow for some growth of the kids. We’re using wood panels for
the seat and back, and then padding them with foam that is used for
sleeping mats. We’ll be taking pictures of the process and are
excited to leave something tangible behind for the kids.

Another project that is going well is the jewelry. In fact, they
should be finishing the rest of the 120 necklaces today. I’m going to
head to the office where they’re being made today at noon to take some
pictures. We’re hoping the pictures will help promote the jewelry
sales back in the states.

We were also fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the Mother
Teresa Sediskilo Home on Tuesday. This is a place for the dying and
destitute of all ages. The inside of the compound, walking through
the adult areas, was particularly difficult. The residents were
sitting around outside covered in blankets or laying in their beds
being bathed and cared for by the nuns. These people are dying, so
compared to the alternative of dying alone on the street, this is a
good place to be. There are apparently people that just stand in a
line by a back door trying to get in. They let them in as beds free
up, but free beds means someone has died in their place. The kids
room, however, was much more joyful. There is a play area with some
toys and Kelsey and Rachael did a coloring project. All the kids have
varying degrees of disabilities, but all seemed so happy. Keely and I
were able to observe and work with the physical therapist there who
was trained by some traveling Italian teachers. They have a lot of
really nice equipment here, including wheelchairs for all the kids,
standers, trikes and more. I, however, became the patient at one
point when I felt like I was going to pass out. Not sure what
happened, but after some water, an Odwalla bar and a few minutes of
laying down, I was feeling much better. We plan and hope to visit
here again soon. In fact, there is a wound clinic there on Tuesdays
and Saturdays that although Keely will not be visiting, I think
Rachael and I will. As we were leaving, we all bought bracelets made
by the residents with the Ethiopian flag colors that were being sold.
Because no pictures are allowed in the Mother Teresa compounds, these
will serve as a memory of this place. There is also another Mother
Teresa Home called Oscow, which houses people with HIV. About 450
children and adults make up the population at Oscow. Some of them are
homeless, while others families take them there to get treatment with
the intent of them returning home following the treatment regiment.
According to Rachael who volunteered at the Mother Teresa homes, Oscow
is a much more joyful and fun place. We’re interested in planning a
trip there soon.

Also hopefully on the agenda for us will be to tour some of the
hospitals here, spend some time with the Gladney doctor and see his
routine for the kids check ups, and I would love to be able to help
with the placements of kids with their adoptive families. There are
currently nine families here right now, and since families are
permitted to come every two weeks, there should be another round in
two weeks. We have scheduled our caregiver education program for June
23 and 24, and although we still have a lot to prepare, we have a
great outline with goals and objectives and are glad it is finally in
the books. The caregivers are really warming up to us now that they
are getting to know us better and see that we are here for a longer
period of time. We’ll keep you updated on the program plans as they
come together.

Tonight we’re heading to an authentic cultural dinner, complete with
dancing and music. I will likely be a spectator, considering my
dislike for the Ethiopian food I have had thus far and my even more
dislike of having any stomach sickness. The other girls are all
pretty excited about it, though!

Last but certainly not least, we are in the process of planning a
trip. We’re not quite sure where it will be yet, but we have a few
things in mind. Kelsey leaves next Sunday, the 21st, so if she’s
going to be able to come with us, we have to get things figured out
pretty quickly. We’re hoping to make a decision today.

Okay, so much for not having a lot to catch you up on. And I
apologize for the lack of humor today…my sore throat has rendered me
humorless. Consider this informative.

Thought of the day: Being sick in Ethiopia is lame.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Whistle While You Work

We have had a busy and very productive week here in Addis! We have
spent most of our time at Kebebtsehay, but also an afternoon at
Kechene and this morning at Kolfe. We’ve realized we haven’t told you
all much about the orphanages and the kiddos we’re spending at lot of
time with. Since there aren’t too many anecdotes to share from this
week (although there are some and we will get there!), we figured this
would be the perfect time.

We’ll start with Kebebtsehay. This orphanage houses kids about 12
years old and younger, and has the most little ones of the three
government orphanages. We spend a large part of our time in the
toddler and baby room here because it’s where three of the four kids
with disabilities are and because these young years are so critical
for normal development that we’re hoping to make a big difference
here. There are about 15 babies/young toddlers that are treated like
babies that are just adorable. Unfortunately, they don’t often get
too much out of crib time, so we had our first “baby group” this week.
One caregiver puts out a mattress on the floor during her shift and
gets all the babies out. This was fortunately one such day, of which
we took full advantage. We had toys and were able to engage and play
with each kiddo and allowed them time in different positions (tummy
time is a very rare commodity in their world) and practicing their
sitting and rolling skills. It was surprisingly efficient and lots of
fun…. Except for one (make that 7) little interruptions. That would
be the toddlers. They tried so hard to stay away as we worked with
the babies. But the toys looked like soooo much fun!!

There are two boys that are a bit older, fourish, Fraul and Danny who
are the ring leaders of the toddlers. They are quite the little
stinkers. So much attitude in those little boys! They are always
scheming something… and have a very bright future in pick-pocketing.
But they really all are such a joy.

One day this week we were both working 1 on 1 with a baby (a task that
is virtually impossible…because as you sit down, you basically become
a jungle gym for all the others) Anyway, we each had a baby in our
arms and suddenly we see a group of them huddled in amazement around a
mop bucket. It wasn’t a second later that the nursery was filled with
a soothing song. It was basically repetitive humming and they all
joined in jumping around and cooing. There were soap bubbles in the
bucket… and they thought it was so cool, they were singing and playing
as the cleaning lady worked to wash the windows. Sometimes they have
to work hard to play….but almost anything novel and they can create a
very fun game to amuse themselves. As we write this, we are watching
the video on the camera, the smiling faces and beautiful eyes….ahh, it
gives us chills even now. We just love these crazy kids.

We also want to tell you all a little bit about the kiddos we are
specifically working with one on one. First, Yordi. His smile can
capture your heart. He is so happy, its amazing. He is about 6 years
old, we think. He had some kind of brain injury when he was very
young, but no one can really give us any kind of details. He can sit
up…and his favorite game in the world is to sit and “blow raspberries”
and holler “ohhhh-woop!” He is blind and partially deaf, but really
responds to all the caregivers and other kids. Everybody loves Yordi.
Currently, he can sit by himself with supervision. We have lots of
goals to work to improve Yordi’s functional movement.

Little Elshaday is next. She is about 2 years old (again we
think….don’t really know) It is just really hard to tell. She is
REALLY long, but REALLY skinny. Similar to Yordi, we suspect some
kind of brain trauma…but no one really knows anything. She is a doll.
The first day we walked in and she was laying motionless looking up
at us… with a huge smile. Now, just two weeks later, we see her
holding her arms out to us when we come in and getting really excited
to see us. She is a very smart little girl. We immediately were
concerned about her breathing and ability to feed. We have been
talking with several therapists back home to get advice on
interventions to help with her oral motor skills. This week as we
were working with the babies, a group of visiting American’s came to
tour the orphanage and play with the kids. We were so fortunate that
one of the women happened to be a speech therapist. She was so
helpful and gave us great advice that we have been able to apply to
several kids. It was really a blessing!
Masqanaw….aka Baletta: We have recently learned that this hilarious
child is actually a little girl. It is quite difficult to tell the
sex of the kids without observing a diaper change because pink is a
unisex color, everyone’s hair is short, dresses are often the outer
layer of clothing for everyone. Anyway, Baletta is the kind of child
that just immediately fills you with joy. When you say that her laugh
is contagious…it really doesn’t do it justice. She sits in her crib,
rocking back and fourth and randomly dies laughing!!! And we mean this
is a full body shaking … sometimes she laughs so hard, it is silent
and she is just sitting there jiggling! She particularly enjoys
watching Keely’s signature fist pumping dance moves. She can sit up
in her crib unsupported, but gets very little stimulation or even time
out of bed. We have lots of ideas on improving her core strength and
seeing what she can do.

Finally is a little new comer that we are very worried about. Her
name, Addisa, actually means “new”. (like Addis Ababa means “new
flower”) We think she is about 4-5 months old. We have major concerns
about her hearing and vision. Both are obviously impaired, but we
don’t know to what extent. She is so sensory sensitive that any
tactile stimulation on her back increases her tone to such a degree
that she screams in discomfort. And often we have observed seizures,
especially when she gets scared or upset. To add to the concerns, she
also has pretty significant feeding issues as well and currently can
not suck on a bottle. Right now we are really trying to focus on
calming and decreasing her sensitivity to all stimulation so that she
can sleep and hopefully adjust to this new environment. We are doing
a lot of oral simulation to help with feeding. But she is sweet when
her body finally gives her a second to relax. She loves to fall
asleep laying on her belly over your arm with her little head resting
on your hand.
There are lots of babies that are a little behind developmentally that
we are working with a lot too. One especially is a little girl named
Ruth. We both noticed her the first day that we walked in. She was
basically emotionless… pretty much the only kid there who couldn’t
have cared less about us. She was scooting around on her bottom a
little… but mostly just observing the room. We both have worked to
gain this wise little girls trust and help facilitate some more
efficient movement patterns. We are so excited about her improved
emotional response to everything. Now we get a big grin when we walk
in…and maybe if we are lucky, a little yell from across the room. She
is soooo fun to cuddle with!

I (this is Kelly typing now) had a bittersweet day this week at
Kebebtsehay. As you may recall, I fell in love with a little girl
named Tedala on our very first day at the orphanage. Keely likes to
say she has me wrapped around her finger Although I love love love
all the children, she really touched me specifically for some reason.
Well, I was holding her on Monday and an Ethiopian gentleman came in
the room. His English was good enough to tell me that he had come to
Kebebtsehay to adopt one little kiddo, but was ending up with two one
he saw how absolutely beautiful this little girl was. And she really
is SO beautiful. She has little tiny features and two huge front
teeth and is absolutely a doll. She loves affection and to be held.
So after some questions to Yemamu, it was clarified that she was
indeed being adopted! It happened so fast…he was there on Monday and
Tedala was gone on Tuesday. I spoiled her a little more than usual on
her last and even woke her up from her nap Monday afternoon to say
goodbye (a big no-no usually in the orphanages…sleeping kids = less
work for the caregivers). I am so excited for her and want only the
best, but can’t help knowing that I will miss her for this next month
and will wonder about her for years to come.

We finally got the wheels turning on the Kechene jewelry making!
We’re planning a meeting with the girls on Monday to see who is
interested, and are even hoping to teach them how to make purses,
tablecloths and placemats. Look for finely crafted Kechene products
coming to the U.S. once we’re back.

Today, Friday, Keely, Keely and I went to visit Kolfe, the older boys
government orphanage. After almost an hour and a half on four
different taxis (we’ve had some taxi trouble the last few days…flat
tire, stalled taxi, our taxi today hit a person, chaut chewers (a
moderately illegal stimulant) yada yada), we finally arrived. We had
a few big plans after our tour which may have consisted of some
Frisbee and teaching the boys four square. Little did we know it
wasn’t quite the mood for such games today. After our tour of the
facilities, which admittedly have very few resources, we found
ourselves in the middle of an emotional Amharic conversation where
many of the boys were discussing their frustrations about the limited
attention and resources they receive as compared to the Kechene girls
home (from the very basic translation of about an hour long
conversation we received afterwards). Needless to say, we didn’t play
any games. We did, however, get some great ideas. We’ll enlighten
you with one…we think, and it has apparently already been in the works
at one point, it would be amazing to get these boys some business
training and some resources to start a business that would allow them
to sustain as a home and provide for them long term, as opposed to a
band-aid fix of monetary donations. We’d love to chat with some of
our business friends and perhaps even some business schools about the
possibility of this training program.

As for our personal lives, the really funny stories have revolved
around our taxi services (see above paragraph for a quick synopsis).
We did, however, lose water for a day and a half because of damage to
the water line while our street is under construction. Now, a day and
a half doesn’t seem like a long time as I type this, but it is when
your toilet requires water (a substantial amount, actually!) to flush
(especially troublesome for those battling a case of travelers
diarrhea), and you may or may not have taken a shower in a few days.
Fortunately, it wasn’t too long and things are up and running as usual
in our house.

Last night was “date night” for the four of us! We went to a nice
restaurant that seconds as an art gallery with some really beautiful
original paintings. Kelly may or may not being trying to figure out
how she would get one of said paintings home. The food was, by far
and unanimously, the best we’ve has since being here in Ethiopia.
They have a little bit of everything…Italian, steaks, fish…and
everything we had was great. They even have a spinach salad! We
haven’t seen spinach here up until that point, so some dark green
vegetables were looking very appealing. Needless to say, Makush will
be visiting frequently for our newly established weekly “date nghts.”

Okay our friends, we think it is about time to wrap things up on our
end. Tonight we are going to see an Amharic movie at the cinema (with
English subtitles, of course) called Teza. It’s directed by an
Ethiopian who is a professor in the states and we think it’s about
socialism. It is supposed to be one of the best Ethiopian made films
ever, so we’re pretty excited. We’re also heading to Entoto Mountain
this weekend, so this little day trip may provide some interesting
stories for our next post. Until then….

Thought of the day: Today during the discussion with the boys of
Kolfe, a white van pulled in. One of the boys turned to us and in
English, said “that’s my mom and dad.” We weren’t quite sure what
this meant, so we turned to Yemamu and asked. He said “it’s the
government.” It was a very poignant moment and way for this teenager
to express his reality. This was a very powerful moment for all three
of us to understand his life.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gotta Get That Boom Boom Pow

Thank you thank you thank you!! We finally were able to read all the comments that everyone has been leaving and it was sooo amazing. It was so great to hear from everyone, a welcome touch of home. Both of us felt recharged and we really wanted to write another post right then. But guess what—you guessed it. Suddenly the power went out.

So here we sit… Sunday morning. We are going to church in about 30 minutes at the International Evangelical Church. Both of us have several personally significant reflections on the last couple of days, so first from me (Keely):

As Kelly may or may not have mentioned, the two of us were sick. Well, let me rephrase. Kelly had a scratchy throat and “sinusy head” and I well… to maintain some modesty lets just say: the toilet became a common seat for me, we are almost out of toilet paper and all the Ks in the house realized that the walls are incredibly thin. NOT my proudest moment. But the Cipro we got from the Dr for just such an occasion worked like a charm!!

And now to Kelly’s rant:
I am going to punch our shower in the face! The water pressure has steadily dwindled each day to now being a small trickle or sometimes no water coming out altogether. My hair is long and thick, and I can put the shower head right over me and no water will reach the shower stall…it is simply absorbed into my hair. It takes me twenty minutes to shower, as I can barely get the shampoo and conditioner in and out of my hair. Also, this morning, the water was either scalding hot (like, first degree burns to my scalp) or freezing cold. No happy medium. I would love to say that I’ll only be showering once a week, but I just can’t do it. We get way too dirty here in Addis (which can be noted by the black bottoms of my feet everyday). Ah, the drama.

Enough of the funny stuff—we have had some really amazing experiences in the last few days.

On Friday, Kelly, Kelsey, Keely and I (yeah, its quite a mouthful—and I think both Keely and I can state that it is VERY crazy having to use that name… and not be talking in third person!) Anyway, we all went to the foster care centers at Gladney. This is basically a transition area for the children. Once the agency matches a child with an adoptive family they are taken from the orphanage and cared for in the foster care center while all the paperwork and court issues are handled. Typically this is about a three month process, but occasionally it can take years. It was amazing for us to see the difference that resources can make!! These children are so much healthier, happier and better cared for- there are just way more caregivers, a full-time doctor at their disposal and toys… yes toys!

We had a very significant job to do. We were to write personality updates on 40 children which are sent biweekly to their adoptive parents. All of us were really humbled by this assignment because of our interactions with the parents a few days earlier. One dad, holding his new little girl in his arms teared up and said: those five sentences may seem insignificant to you or even a burden, but they were our lifeline for our baby. It was the highlight of our week. Needless to say we all approached this with our whole hearts… and we pretty much loved just playing with and getting to know all the precious kids. My personal favorite was when we opened the gate to one house to find 10 tiny babies, under the age of about 6 months nude sunbathing!! They were all out on mats absorbing the vitamin D and drying out their diaper rash. It was adorable and hilarious!!

And what a day we had on Saturday:
It began with a trip to the Bizarre at the International Evangelical Church. This bizarre is held the last Saturday of every month and contains all hand made crafts made by people with disabilities. It was amazing. There was everything from spoons made from bull horns, rugs (Kelly bought a beautiful one), jewelry, furniture, wooden toys, paintings (Keely bought some of those) and sooooo much more. I am in love (obsessed as Kelsey continues to say) with an old photo I got of a “patriot” Ethiopian family from the era when they were fighting the Italians. It is amazing!!! Everyone in the family has guns…even the little three year olds. Nothing makes me feel happier than little kids with guns! (just kidding, for those of you who don’t know me… that really was a joke!!!) And Kelly’s take on her cross…this thing is amazing. It is old (but not antique, I was told) and was used during prayer ceremonies when the crosses were put on sticks and paraded around. I have seen a lot of these all over the city, but this one really was different to me. In the middle of the center little cross, there is a carved angel bowing its head. I can’t explain why this one means so much, but I just really couldn’t pass it up (although I tried…I even left the store because I wanted him to bargain a little more!). I can’t wait to show it to you once I’m back in the states 

Back to Keely…
We went shopping near the city center during the afternoon. There were tons of typical souvenir shops lined up along one street. And all four of us managed to find some great treasures: purses, scarves, more pictures and paintings and a huge beautiful nickel cross. The four of us have a lot of fun together. There must be something about the Ke- name thing. Very cool people! The cab ride home was hilarious! We met a cab driver who waited for us to finish shopping and after some significant haggling on the price, we rode home with him. A ride that consisted of blarring rap music (poker face and boom-boom-pow and others) lots of dancing (from the cabbie and us) and Kelsey getting scolded for taking a picture of the presidents house (its illegal to take pictures of government establishments here).

But the uniqueness of our day had only just begun. We spent the evening bringing the term wedding crashes to a whole new dimension. Keely (number two) had met an Ethiopian guy on the plane who had invited her to experience a wedding. He was the best man. The four of us were not about to pass an opportunity like that up!!! We got in our finest clothes (an order which proved to be quite difficult as all of us had packed for a trip to Africa, not the prom… but careful trading amongst all of us, and we were able to come up with four pretty cute outfits! All of us in our signature scarves).

We got there and had a little difficulty finding our way in to the 800 person reception. But Sammy (Keely’s friend) sent an assistant to help us find our seats. It was a great mix of traditional and modern. We are all surprised that the overall vibe was pretty Americanized. Dinner, buffet style, was our first official taste of Ethiopian cuisine complete with Injera (spongy bread that they pile everything up on) and raw meat. We had heard that this is a true delicacy- they literally just take a butcher knife ( a VERY sharp one) and just… ywisht (that is the noise the knife made) chip off a hunk of meat from the hanging carcass.

And the dancing . It was great fun. Basically it went something like this. They sang a repetitive song for about 20-30 minutes. They were primarily worship type songs wishing the bride and groom a future filled with prosperity and the blessing of Jesus. With each verse the enormous mass of people formed a huge circle and performed the two signature aspects of the dance routine: either jumping up and down arms raised exalting praise with loud singing or doing a massive crouch with the bride and groom at the center of the circle whispering the words. We went back and forth between these two styles over and over and over…

There was cake cutting and feeding each other, champagne toasts with the bridal party and lots and lots of dancing. The bride and groom were so cute, both obviously having the time of their lives. We were all so touched that we could be a part of it- what an experience.

This is a great time to comment on the overall generosity and kindness of the people that we meet here. Obviously, an impromptu invite to a wedding illustrates that. But we also met several people at the wedding who we made quick friend with who invited us to church etc with them. We are growing increasingly popular… our phone has like 12 contacts!

This post was actually finished after church:
Again a very inspiring and fulfilling experience. The church that we went to today was truly international. The church was packed!! From Kelly’s perspective…the church was MUCH different than last week. It is much more traditional and as Keely put it, “I felt like I was in Texas” (the pastor was from Texas, but also talked about his North Carolina ties!). It was refreshing to hear some known worship songs that really touched my heart. The sermon was the last in a series about heroes. The mantra appeared to be, “in heroes, character matters.” We were talking about Caleb and the story in Joshua where Caleb and Joshua go and wonder, according to God’s will, for forty years. Some important points I noted (although random in connection to each other)…it is important to stand up for what is right, even if it’s against the majority; we hold our opinions, but our convictions hold us; and in Proverbs 4:23…guard your heart (for God), give your heart (to God), as in release your talents and skills to bring glory to God in all you do. These points really meant something to me today. So thank you, my heroes, for your love, support, integrity, selflessness, commitment, courage…for your character, that encourages me to look to you, and to God, to discover His will for me.

Keely again, just got chills from reading what Kelly wrote. At the beginning of the sermon, the pastor said something that really struck me: as he returns to the U.S. for the summer, his wife said that she most misses how tangible Jesus is here. For me, I am continually amazed at how tangible the love is, the Spirit, in the people. It really fills you when you enter these churches, its awesome!

Now we sit at Kaldi’s coffee. Kelly sitting next to me sipping down her mocha frappicino. This is known as the Starbucks of Ethiopia…and also one of our favorite hangouts (if only it had wireless internet) It has awesome juice, every kind, color and texture you can imagine. We love it.

Thought of the day:
In case any of you are wondering our return address is as follows:
Mattios house, house of Barbie
Dan Style
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

(we don’t actually get mail here, there is no address on any building and therefore were left to create our own. Do not actually try to send us mail. But expect to see this return address on any mail that you receive from us)

So we will sign off for now. Thanks again for all your love.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Navigation Station

Yesterday we were able to navigate our way through the taxi system to Kebebtsehay (the real spelling) by ourselves! Yemamu wasn’t feeling well so called us in the morning to let us know he wouldn’t be joining us for the day. We had a lot planned, so we made our first trek alone. We starting completing our basic evals on some of the younger kiddos and have completed about 10 or so in the last two days. We’re seeing a fair amount of developmental delays and sensory issues, as we would expect from their environment. We also feel like a few of the little kiddos are deaf, so we’re excited to have met a gentleman who works at the US Embassy whose wife is coming in town and is a speech therapist doing early intervention. We’re going to connect with her soon and see if we can’t have them more thoroughly checked.

We have a new roommate, Kelsey, who arrived from Fort Worth Texas last night. Since we only allow Ke- names to live with us, we have another Keely moving in on Thursday. Then we’ll have a full house!

We have determined that our neighborhood’s scheduled power outages are Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We’re getting more used to them and were even able to stay up past 8:00 p.m.! Adjustment is going well.

It’s reallyyyy lonely here not getting many comments here! Just wondering who is out there  Thanks to those who have been keeping up with us and leaving your thoughts!

Nick- have to say HAPPY TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY!! I realize it’s tomorrow (the 27th), but I don’t foresee a blog post since we have no power Wednesday, so I’m telling you I love you and am so thankful for your love and support. Can’t wait for so many years to come.

Thought of the day: Life is lonely without blog post comments.

P.S. We are experiencing our first rain storm here in Ethiopia! The raindrops are big, hard and cold. We’ll let you know how it turns out.
P.P.S. It poured and we were the only ones outside.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday morning church

Today is our first Sunday here in Ethiopia. Yemamu and his friend
Misfin go to a church called Beza International Church, which is where
Keely and I were planning on going anyway. The service is three hours
long, and we were told by one of the American Gladney employees that
is was “very charismatic.” Well, it definitely was! We were about an
hour late because the roads were closed and so it took Yameum and
Misfin a little longer to get to our house. We missed the worship and
singing portion, but made it in time to hear all the sermon. It was
great and I think we both felt like it really applied to our lives and
what we’re doing here. The pastor talked about love and
relationships, and how important it is to love your enemies and those
you like just the same. We are here to share love and show compassion
to these orphans and help with their development. After the sermon
there was a new attendees refreshment stand in the back and we met two
Americans, one from California and one from Atlanta. Ruth, the
Californian, has been here in Ethiopia for eight months and has one
month left. She is teaching kindergarten English and lives very close
to us. Michael, the guy from Atlanta, has only been here one week and
will be here for a total of two months, very similar to us. We
exchanged phone numbers so we may hang out or get something to eat
sometime. It was nice to meet a few people and we’re starting to feel
a little more settled.

Keely’s quick addition: echoing everything Kel just said. I just want
to try and convey the awesomeness of being in church today. It was an
amazing service of hope, love and transcendence. And to share it with
a group of people who have so completely given themselves to their
faith was touching and inspiring to say the least. Okay… back to

We are still working on figuring out the taxi system, but we’ll be
taking it by ourselves to the Gladney office tomorrow! I have to say,
though, this really won’t be testing us too much. We only have to
take one taxi and then walk a few blocks. We’ll be heading to
Kababitsahay and Kechene tomorrow after meeting Yemamu (we just
learned, this is how you actually spell his name!) at the office and
we be starting to plan our programs in more depth.

My final piece of luggage, the bin of 50 pounds of toys, has finally
arrived in Addis today and will be picked up. We are excited to start
introducing these wonderful toys to the beautiful children. We will
try and get some pictures to show their excitement.

Thought of the day: Faith is love.

Unreliable generators lead to LONG blog posts

So many things to tell, and we promise, we tried to tell you sooner!
So we don’t have electricity three days per week. The days rotate
between parts of town. Yesterday, there was no power in our
neighborhood. There is a nearby internet café that was using a
generator though, so we stopped in and Keely had written a really long
blog post. Then all of the sudden, the generator ran out of gas and
turned off…along with our computers, so we lost everything. It was
funny-frustrating and it was getting close to the time that we should
usually be home by, so we figured we would follow up today. I’m
turning the reigns over to Keely to re-create her post to catch you up
on the last few days.

1. We got in to Addis at 4:30 a.m. and they lost Kelly’s box of toys.
This is yet to be recovered.
2. Our house is very nice. We have three bedrooms, a kitchen,
bathroom and living room. In anticipation that we are getting two
more roommates (which we are), Kelly and I have bunked up, sharing the
queen size bed. Don’t worry, there is plenty of closet space. And
neither of us really toss and turn… so maybe a little creeperish. But
it works!
3. Kelly doesn’t like bugs. Keely kills the bugs, but only if they
threaten Kelly or are in the kitchen (including the refrigerator).
Keely doesn’t let Kelly kill the bugs with the bug spray she
purchased, because Keely is afraid it will not only damage the
environment, but lead to her own death by asphyxiation. Kelly thinks
she is very silly. The jury is therefore still out on bug killing.
4. We have a cell phone. Sometimes the network doesn’t work.
5. We exchanged some of our American dollars on the black market for a
great rate (sorry dads…but it was legit (well actually, not really)
because all of the other Americans do it, too). The black market
exchange rate is something like 1 USD = 13.3 birr.
6. Yo’ Mom. Ha, our “guide’s” name is Yemeum. Phonetically that’s ya
mum, like yo’ mom. His unofficial duties include but are not limited
to: introducing us to everyone, teaching us how to use the very
confusing taxi system, bargaining at the Mercado, helping us buy good
fruit, laughing at us try to speak Amharic and basically being one of
the most generous and gracious people we have ever met. We love him
and are so glad he has got his eye on us. You will definitely hear
more about him in the future.
7. Which leads me to the fact that we are basically the only white
people (see quote of the day). Most Americans/Brits that come to
Ethiopia are coming to adopt a child. We met an Irish couple at one
of the orphanages yesterday who are adopting a baby girl. But they
are so wonderful and are spending full days at the orphanage sharing
their love with all the babies.
8. Walking down the street in Addis, at any given moment one has the
potential to see: 500 cars and taxis, 1000 Ethiopians walking on the
street, 17 shoe stores side by side, a herd of goats, 3 mules, 1 bull,
a movie theatre, an internet café, 7-8 restaurants, one blind beggar,
and several people sleeping on the street, oh and that is what you can
see through the smog (and you will hear, about 20 dogs barking).
Welcome to Addis ladies and gentlemen! Its got character that’s for
9. We had our first (and second) maciados today… the Ethiopian coffee
drink of choice. (And even though neither of us are coffee drinkers,
we like it--- possibly because the ratio of sugar/cream to espresso is
about 3 to 1.)
10. We took one of the coldest showers of our lives (I know it was
Kelly’s cause I could hear her gasping for air and groaning throughout
her entire 7 minute shower). Now that we know how to work the hot
water heater…. It won’t stop whinning us.
That about catches you up on our settling here in lovely Addis. But
the good stuff is really still to come! The following will be the
highlights of our time at two of the government orphanages and the
children we are already pretty crazy about:

Kababitsahay (we will get back to you on the spelling of that!): This
orphanage has primarily younger children. All of them are under the
age of 12, both boys and girls. There are about 20 under the age of 3
years old. We have SOOOO many plans for this place.
1. There are definitely 4 children that we will be working with 1 on 1
and developing treatment plans for. HOPEFULLY, we will be able to
give you some pictures to see these beautiful kids and you all can see
the progress they make in the next few weeks.
2. We are going to put on full day classes for the caregivers to teach
them things from general hygiene, positioning, feeding, infant/child
massage, sensory integration and a whole host of other things. We
have lots of support from the director of the orphanage and can’t wait
to get these programs started!
3. We are also going to do play groups of 3-4 similar aged kids and
work on developmentally appropriate play, movement and peer

Basically the last two days we have been holding lots of babies and
playing with kids and doing a very VERY general physical therapy
triage to see what kids are in the most need of our services. We have
done some positioning to get the more involved kiddos out of their
cribs! Also, just a lot of observing of the lay of the land
currently of how these kids are taken care of. What we do know is
that they all love to be held and cuddled. It is heartbreaking to let
go of one even if it is to pick up another.
Kelly already has her favorite!! She melts at the big eyes and even
bigger front teeth of a little girl. Nick, don’t be surprised if you
use that second bedroom even sooner than you expected!!

Kechene: This orphanage is for older girls, 12-18 (there are about 60
of them) and also young children under 12 (boys and girls). There were
even two itty bitty babies here, one of which was found on the street

When we got here today, three 2-year-olds came running up to us saying
“mama mama.” Talk about gut wrenching. There is one girl here, about
11 years old who we are going to be working with one on one. And then
we are basically going to be doing all the above things as well.
With the older girls, we have jewelry items for them to make things
with which we will bring back to the United States and sell (So save
your money for some Christmas presents folks!) And we are also going
to have short “care-giver” classes for these girls as many of them go
on to get jobs as cargivers at Gladney or the government orphanages.

All in all these orphanages are filled with beautiful children, but
the malnourishment and poverty is extremely evident. With limited
governmental funding, there is not substantial money to properly feed
the kids. There is not enough diapers or shoes (even ones with holes)
for all the kids. There are not sufficient caregivers for the number
of children leading to very limited personal interaction and boding.
And don’t even get us started on the flies!! There are a few kids
that are notably sick and we have already got the ball rolling on
getting them to see a doctor ASAP.

We will leave you with this: our first of many cries for help. We are
so happy with all the support that we have had from you all our
friends and families so far. But there is so much more to be done.
Kelly wants everyone of you to just go ahead and adopt and child!!!
And that would be awesome. But for all of you, please consider
supporting Gladney and Superkids as these agencies support these
orphanages honestly and with the highest integrity. For them, it
really is about the kids.

Quote of the day: “Did he just call me Barbie?” So the story goes…we
were walking down the street and these two 20 something guys walks
towards us. One of them looks at me (Keely) and says something in
Amharic. At which point I giggle and turn to Kelly and Yemeum and
say…: “Did he just call me Barbie?” Laugher follows (but I was
actually serious!). We asked Yemeum what he actually said, and he
declined to say the words…. but I don’t think he called me Barbie.

There you have it folks. We realize this is super-duper long. But
there are so many details we left out already. We can’t let this much
time pass between posts! Thank you for all your support and prayers.
We take the love of all of you with us and share it with these kids


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Security Rocks

We're sitting in the Heathrow airport in London on our four hour layover...two movies, two hours of sleep and three security checks later. Seriously, security. We have watered plants and chugged our remaining water each time we have to head through security. Don't worry, we also took off our shoes and all our jewelry, and have had to exit each airport just to come back in. BUT the good news: my mace has made it though all security checks. I guess they understand the importance of a little protection for a couple of girls.

Checking bags was fairly simply with the help of one wonderful husband, who ran to help us carry everything in and weighed each bag at the airport himself, who then had to rearrange things to make sure everything was under 50 pounds. Because of his accuracy, we can make a correction and say that we are bringing exactly 98 pounds of toys and therapeutic necessities. Amazing. We're pretty excited to see the faces of these kids (and likely adults), as nobody knows we're bringing this much.

We have only one more flight...sort of. We are flying with British Midline (or something like that...), our third airline carrier of the trip. Apparently, we technically have four legs...we make a stop in Amman. We would ask you to tell us where this is, but the amazing world of google informed us it is the capital of Jordan. Sounds cool to me. I've never been Jordan, and Keely hasn't either. Although when I asked, she made me feel like EVERYONE has been to Jordan...I mean, who hasn't? The pictures look pretty awesome, so we're looking forward and crossing our fingers for some good airline views. We may or may not be getting off the plane...this has yet to be determined.

We've also just realized that we don't know where we're living. This could prove to be interesting when we're asked to fill out our customs form of where we are staying for the next seven weeks. Note to selves, we're spending the next hour trying to figure that out. Hmmm....maybe we'll be returning to the states sooner than we think! (Just a side note, I've been looking for quite some time with no luck...eekk! But maybe we can't find it because they don't have addresses...places are just listed by street name. Will update about this situation later, once it is hopefully successfully resolved).

We also just found out that it may or may not be still 2002 in Ethiopia. We have discovered TIME TRAVEL. Nobel prize, here we come. However, this means Keely is 21 and I am only 18. Hmm.....fountain of youth.

We'll be trying to wrap these up with a thought or quote of the day. We apologize we haven't done much to share yet, but we will, we promise!

Thought of the day: There is a mercado in town that is apparently enormous and we are pretty excited to go. Obviously, it's important to be aware of pickpocketers. According to our guide book, once scheme is to do the simple bump and grab. Another, however, is described as "a less subtle tactic involves someone diving at your feet and holding your legs while another pilfers your pockets." We will spend our next hour implementing and practicing tactics to escape said pilfering. Partner self-defense, here we come!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

beautiful child

I spent some time trying to decide what to name this blog. I've settled on this: bareedduu mucca. It means "beautiful child" in Oromo, one of the languages (although not the main one, that is Amharic) spoken in Ethiopia. Now with my limited understanding, I know that "bareedduu" means beautiful, and "mucca" means child, but I'm not sure if I can actually put those two together to make the phrase. For all my purposes, however, I can, and I did.

So here we are, just one day before Keely and I are off to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for seven weeks. We must start off with crediting Janet Fink with Superkids and all those working with the Ethiopian Adoption Program at Gladney Center for Adoption. Even more information about these amazing programs can be found here. These people believe in what they do and in making a difference in the lives of orphans around the world. Amazing stuff.

Keely and I will be working in different orphanages around the Addis area not only with the disabled kids, but teaching the caregivers how to best handle these children with special needs to promote their optimal development. We'll be doing physical therapy interventions, but also offering the love and attention that many of these orphans don't receive. Although electricity and internet are unreliable (at best, it appears) in Addis, we're planning to keep daily entries and update this blog as we can. We hope to both entertain and enlighten people about what we're doing and what we're seeing. We know this will be a life changing experience and we are so excited to have this opportunity.

Well here we are, 100 pounds of toys later and just a few items of clothing in our bags, and we're off to Addis!