So i tried sending an e-mail of what i had already typed up in my room yesterday but it doesn't work for whatever reason. bummer b/c there was lots to say. \i guess i'll try to post it again tomorrow. i'm at the university now and i just finished teaching my first few lectures to the professors. i think it went well. i'm having fun teaching but i'm super bored in my down time. i will have to try and hire someone to take me to a museum or something here. i can't wait until this weekend when the Dean will take me to some rock churches, that should be really good. So the reason behind my subject line is that last night this random anatomy professor showed up at my hotel and i was in my pajamas but didn't want to be rude so i invited him in. after some small talk he then asked me, 'are you doing the exercise'? i was like, what do you mean? and he said, 'your body, it is too big, it is unhealthy for you. is there something wrong with you that you are so big?' at this point i'm likely beet read and terribly embarassed. not only did i want to kick this guy to the curb but i wanted to teach him a lesson in manners. now on his behalf yes, i'm aware that i'm too heavy and i'm sure to an Ethiopian i'm the size of a whale, but it was still unpleasant to here. so then i told him that no, i'm not sick, that i just don't have good eating habits and have been very stressed and that by the time i get home and play with ezra after work that the last thing i want to do is go work out. he then made sure to tell me that i was living a very unhealthy life style and said that the last vet that came here was very thin and that her assistant is a personal trainer and that it's too bad that i don't live closer to Alabama so that she could help to fix my body! WOW... so now when i'm walking around campus not only do i think these people are all staring at me b/c i'm white and a woman but now i'm thinking ' ohh, here comes the big fat white lady!' hahahaha
geezzz... needless to say i'm even less excited to be here right now. don't get me wrong the guy is very nice and i know it's just a cultural difference so i'm not blaming him, if anything i blame myself for letting myself gain so much weight BUT it's still not easy to hear from some person i'm known for all of 5 minutes.
A bit of good news is that last night i went to bed when it was dark and woke up this morning when it was light out!!! YEA! so hopefully my clock will be reset some and i won't be so tired during the day anymore. today at the hotel i saw someone eating a potato! YEA, so tonight i'm going to see if i can just order a plain potatoe. for breakfast i ate oatmeal with bottled water mixed in an old animal cookie bag, not heated or anything. DISGUSTING but i'm desperate for food. i'm going to try to send this before i type more.
Becky Lee Burk
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Day 6 (1/19/09)- So it's 5am and I am wide awake. My good health was too good to be true. L The past 2 days I'd only eaten 2 meals. Sunday I ate breakfast and then spent the rest of the time at the airport and when I arrived in Mekele and found no one there to greet me I didn't know where to eat here that was safe and since I can not cook my own food here as I could in Addis I just opted to try and get some sleep and wait until the morning. So Monday morning I ate some toast here at the hotel with marmalade. Their version of toast is actually quite good. I guess the closest thing I can compare it to is pizza dough. So I was feeling great and went to the University and met with the entire staff and they were all lovely and very accommodating. (they literally only have 2 antibiotics here … Oxytetracycline and Penicillin). I sent the e-mail/blog post that most of you likely read yesterday and honestly minutes after I sent it I started to break out in cold sweats. I immediately knew what was coming next b/c of my history of GI issues. I tried to quickly take 500mg of Ciprofloxacin and some Pfenegrin (spelling?) but that didn't even touch the nausea and cramping. So thankfully I found a post graduate student who spoke very good English and he tried over and over to call the Dean but the cell reception at the school was very bad so we just started walking toward the road to try and find someone to take me back to the hotel. This is at around 11am and I was supposed to teach at 2:30pm. After what felt like an eternity we were able to flag down a driver to take me and the student rode with me to make sure I was okay. Once I got to my hotel room I started vomiting over and over. They came back to the hotel and picked me up at 2 o'clock in the hopes that I would be able to teach but the little activity it took to get to the University again made the nausea start all over and I began vomiting again. We think it had to be the marmalade b/c I have been very careful about eating/drinking and if I'm not sure about something I just don't eat at all. I'd rather go hungry then be sick. So I fell asleep at around 3pm and now am wide awake but feeling MUCH better. I ate some applesauce and crackers I brought with me with a little peanut butter for protein and so far my stomach is really more sore then nauseous. The worst part is that I was so looking forward to teaching and some of the staff were going to take me downtown to celebrate the eve of Tim Kat (spelling?) which is the celebration of Jesus' Baptism. The holiday is actually today so there is no school and hopefully the Dean will pick me up to go and see the celebrations. My biggest fear is being our among the masses and getting sick again. Then I will teach on Wednesday the classes that I was not able to cover.
I was able to call Michael the night I arrived in Mekele and I got the bill yesterday for $21.00! I don't have a calling card yet but I was so lonesome I just had to call. That's almost the price I'm paying to stay in the hotel per night. So no more phone calls for me until I get a better deal worked out.
Also a cool thing to mention is that I have been told several times that Ethiopians love Americans and love American culture. But what I didn't expect to be asked is if I'm a Republican or a Democrat. Many of the Christians I have come across ask me this and when I saw I'm Republican they say, "me too!!" I love the Republicans! J When I ask them why they identify with the Republican party they just say b/c we are Christian. Which is think is really neat b/c I also sometimes don't understand (not to sound judgmental or anything) how some Christians can support a man who is so in favor of abortion and doing everything in his power to make it cheaper and easier to get one. Now of course I also know of Christian Republicans who are in support of the death penalty which is hypocritical so I'm not trying to sound all high and mighty here but I just thought it was a neat experience to convey.
Another not so neat experience happened to me in the airport on the way to Mekele. I was reading a book called 'Knowing the Enemy- Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror'. In retrospect obviously not the best book to be reading in a country with a large Muslim population. Anyway…. So when we are waiting to board the plane a man comes up to me and says, "Excuse me but I couldn't help but notice the book you are reading. Who is the enemy? Is it your personal enemy? What does this mean?" Now I'm thinking oh gosh, here we go. So I tell him that I have only read the first 10 pages so far and can't really expound on the book much but from what I can tell so far it just addresses the beliefs of radical Islam and the textual interpretations their reasons for acts of terror stem from. I told him the reason I wanted to read the book is because some of my favorite people (my Somali family I volunteer with) are Muslim but their father was killed by radical Muslims and their brother lives with a severe mental handicap after being brutalized by them. Why would Muslims want to attack and kill other Muslims as seen in Sudan and Somalia? I tried to stress that I KNOW not all Muslims are violent but if Islam is a religion of peace then I wanted to know more to try and understand how they justify killing innocent people. Now of course this man spoke very broken English and I don't know how much he understood. He just kept talking and talking to me and challenging me and I honestly couldn't really understand what he was saying half the time. Then he said, "I am Egyptian. What to Americans think about Egyptians?" Well having read 'Now The Call Me Infidel' I wanted to say that my opinion of Egypt has diminished greatly, but I just told him I was unsure what other people thought but that I had a big problem with Egypt giving amnesty to Muslim governmental leaders responsible for acts of genocide such as Idi Amin. He then told me that I was wrong and that Egypt didn't harbor these people. Thankfully it was my turn to go through the security check point so I was freed from this onslaught of questioning. I felt terrible b/c here I am with a great opportunity to represent America in a positive light and show that people want to understand Islam better so that we can find a way to peacefully co-exist but I lack the proper political and religious knowledge to support my stance. The entire time he was very polite and non-threatening just really genuinely curious. It was me that felt uncomfortable and inadequate as the United States civilian representative.
After that I put the book up and haven't taken it out again J I think I'll read something a little less controversial next time.
Another interesting think I learned yesterday was that the "top job" in Ethiopia to have is a civil engineer. The Dean told me that it is a very competitive field. So I'm going to try and get some sleep now that I have "unloaded" and gotten stuff off of my mind. It all just seems to pile up in my brain with no one to talk to. I can totally see why Tom Hanks needed to create "Wilson" his volleyball friend in that movie 'Cast Away'. Just to have some way to drain the thoughts in your head.
Day 7 - I've been in Africa for a week already. In some ways if feels longer then that and in some ways it feels like I just got here. So yesterday I was feeling a bit better and I really wanted to experience Tim Kat so I called up on of the professors and he sent a car to come pick me up to meet them to see the celebration. It was amazing! If you've ever seen pictures of the priests at Lalibela with their heavily decorated umbrellas and robes leading a procession then you know what I'm talking about. Honestly it reminded me a lot of Mardi Gras. EVERYONE heads downtown to first meet at one of the large churches and then they parade downtown into the piazza where they sing their prayers and celebrate. What was so neat to witness is how the different tribes and zones w/in those tribes celebrate. They each wear different traditional garments, some sing and dance, some beat huge drums, some have these really long sticks that they tap on the ground and dance with.. I LOVED it! I got some video on my camera so hopefully I'll be able to post that when I get home. There were also some decorated horses. The kids wear either traditional muslin clothes or suits and ties and wear visors embroidered with the date and location of the celebration. Some wear little make shift crowns. They also have sashes that say Ethiopia and are like the ET flag and carry these large wooden sticks that are wrapped with thread in the colors of the ET flag. I wanted to buy a sash and stick for Ezra but the guy I was with didn't know where to guy one and said I may be able to find them in Axum L Then after the groups celebrate together they break up and each goes their separate ways to their own church where the celebration continues. We saw some of the procession from the street then went to the balcony of a hotel (much like you would on Bourbon Street) and watched the rest from there. I hoped that they guys would bring me along for more celebrating but they just dropped me off at my hotel. I was trying to find something to do so I walked the grounds of the Castle compound a bit and then just came back to my room and watched movies. Again I was left all alone w/ no idea of where to go or where I could get some safe food so again I went hungry. I am STARVING! I like this hotel b/c it's sort of out of the way and everyone is very nice but no one really speaks English so it's not like I can just ask for directions or just walk somewhere. I'm trying to ration my food I brought since I still have over a week left here. I'm supposed to teach today at 2:30pm so until then I'm on my own again. Then tomorrow I teach again and Friday I'm on my own but Sat. and Sunday the Dean is supposed to take me to see some of the famous rock churches and sights of Mekele. So I guess I just have to look forward to being bored out of my mind for a while. I would hire a tour guide but that costs so much money. I hear there's this depression where it's like a sea of salt near here that's supposed to be really amazing and at least I'd know that would take up most of the day so it would give me something to do. I can't really complain b/c everyone here is busy working and teaching but I really feel left out to dry ya know. The 3 things I'm craving the most are salad, fruit, and chocolate J And of course my boys!!! I'm soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo lonesome. With so much downtime I can't help but wish I was at home or that they were here with me. Everytime I start the remotely think of home I have to just immediately push that thought out of my head or I'll start crying. Don't get me wrong I love Africa but I miss my family and being able to eat things without worrying about getting sick. Today I feel great though I so far I have no residual abdominal pain so that's good. In retrospect I wish I'd brought some beef jerky, dried fruit, fruit leather, and an electric one cup tea pot or something that could boil enough water to make easy mac or oatmeal.
Also a funny thing is that I have started to do the inspiratory sound that people here do to signify "yes", or "ah I see". I only noticed that I did it after one of the professors pointed it out. He was like… how long have you been here? Do you speak Amharic? Then I realized that I guess since I have picked up on a lot of words and their mannerisms and greetings that I'm doing pretty good. J No one in Mekele has come up to me begging for money! I mean in Addis you can't go 100 feet w/o having someone put their hand out or follow you for money. So I think I'm going to look into my travel book and try to fill some of my down time so that I don't spend this whole week in my room re watching Harry Potter over and over.
Becky Lee Burk
Monday, January 18, 2010
So the good news is that I arrived alive in Mekelle last night the bad news is that I really didn't think we would make it. There were grown men trembling with fear at the extreme turbulence we underwent. I was in a small plane with 2 seats on each side for a total of about 40 people maybe. Flying over the Great Rift Valley was AMAZING! I can not tell you how breathtaking the topography is. I would recommend EVERYONE take a flight from Addis to Mekele just to go back in time thousands of years and see the primal Africa. When we landed I can not tell you how grateful I was. The pilot seemed to keep flying into the weather as opposed to getting over it, then the landing nearly took off our landing gear and the whole plane started skidding off the runway!! YIKES! Then I got to baggage claim, got my things and no one was there to pick me up. Apparently the dean thought I was going to be in in the a.m instead of p.m. I literally was the LAST person left in the airport with no phone number or phone for that matter. There was only one taxi left b/c he had broken down so I just walked up to him and asked him to take me to Abraha Castle where I am staying. The car was like a bucket of bolts and we could only got about 40 miles an hour the entire way uphill! I thought for SURE that we would be stranded but his car powered on and we made it! I had to call CVM in America to get in touch with the Dean for me since I didn't know when I was supposed to teach, how to get there, nothing.. I was totally in the dark. Luckily a school rep. called me late in the night and told me they'd pick me up in the am (this morning). My hotel room has all the basic necessities but the door is made of steel and there is about a 1.5" gap around the entire frame so snakes, bugs, anything could easily get into my room! I am paranoid about getting in bed with a big snake or spider under the covers! The staff is very nice and the landscaping is beautiful though. I couldn't sleep this morning b/c the Muslim prayers started at about 4am and the Orthodox prayers started as well and it's like they have a contest against each other to see who can pray the loudest. Not good for sleeping. Also one Thursday I started having vision problems. Like with my glasses on I can not see anything up close w'in about 2 feet. I have to take my glasses off to type this now, to look at my camera, to read. it's really freaking me out b/c yesterday I started having dizzy spells. I don't know if it was altitude sickness or what but I need to make an appt. with an ophthalmologist ASAP b/c I don't know how I'll do surgery if I can't see.
I start teaching today at 2:30 and then I've been invited to the local Tim Cat festivities. The Ethiopians celebrate epiphany then. I have to get going since I'm on a professors computer but I just wanted to let everyone know I'm okay aside from the whole vision thing.
Becky Lee Burk
Sunday, January 17, 2010
|Gosh I love being in Ethiopia w/o being sick! Kind Hearts Care Center and School is in what Ethiopians would refer to as the country even though it's really barely outside the city limits but it is gorgeous! Wonderful mountain views and little to no smog. i love it out there. Kind Hearts has got TONS of acreage so i was talking with Peter (children's hope chests go to man) and I was asking why they don't have chickens or goats or even cattle on the land since there's plenty vegetation and at least they could either slaughter them to feed the children more then just rice or they could sell them to raise funds for the center. He said that since now Children's hope chest is involved that they hope to raise funds to purchase some livestock for that purpose. The entire facility is bare bones at best. The class rooms are nice and have a blackboard and a desk but the entire facility is surrounded by a polluted river that makes animals and people sick if they fall into it. it's that foul! So the kids are at risk and until they can clean up the river or dig a trench/well for watering the animals they won't be able to get any livestock for a while. Their other hope is to build bathroom and shower facilities there. Right now all they have is a lean to tin building with a hole in the ground. let me just say that I've had to get over my fear of spiders really quickly since most of the shinta baits (bathrooms) are in tin shacks with all kinds of critters living in them. i also was taken to the hope chest office and saw their donation closet. There are LOTS of school supplies. They don't need any more for a while. I brought a suit case full and what they really need are clothes and shoes. Peter also said some of the stuff that has been donated they haven't handed out b/c they don't know what it is. I was chatting with the gate guard and peter came up to me with a SLINKY and said, "Becky... what is the meaning of this? What does it do?" I had also brought a few games of jacks and they had no idea what that was so i'd say if you want to bring donations just keep it simple. |
At first the kids were very shy and seemed a bit scared of me honestly, but then i brought out the candy and it was like a riot and i then had about 30 new best friends! There is a PRECIOUS boy there named EZRA!!!
Yesterday I hired a driver who was fabulous by the way. he's friends with Alaztar and works as a driver to help raise money for an orphanage that he started. So i went to AHOPE in the morning and what a treat that was. i STRONGLY recommend for everyone to go there. It's a very nice facility with playground, great beds for the babies and toddlers with tons of toys and crayons and lots of enrichment. Of course it also breaks your heart knowing that the kids aren't getting optimal care. I fell in love with a little 1 year old boy who honestly is the happiest toddler I've ever seen. But to barely touch him you feel how bad his chest rattle is and he had copious amounts of green snot. of course that didn't seem to bother him a bit. They had a few little babies there as well and it just seems so unfair for someone to have to begin their life with such a disease. For the most part many of the kids looked healthy but there were others that signs of HIV were lingering over like papular growths all over their faces and patchy scabs and hairloss. the nannies were AMAZING at AHOPE. You can tell that they love their jobs and care deeply for the children. i'd encourage EVERYONE to consider adopting an HIV+ child. They will truly enrich your life.
After AHOPE my driver wanted to take me to his orphanage. They have 2 facilities, one for children under 1 year old and another for all other children over 1 year. it is a small facility since they take in ONLY abandoned children. They have 5 girls and 2 baby boys. I think that only one hasn't been spoken for yet b/c he is new. I fell head over heels for one baby girl in particular and was heartbroken to find that she's already been adopted. I know it's a great thing but i wanted her for myself :) They were all amazingly beautiful. the nannies there also are fantastic and actually have beds in the baby rooms so they can be with them at all times. They also put large pictures of the babies adoptive parents over their beds so they can get used to seeing their faces. my driver said that since they only work with one adoption agency and they take only abandoned kids that the process is much faster and less hassle at court.
I was telling one of the gate guards about where i'm from (Louisiana) and trying to explain Cajun culture was more difficult then i thought. When i told him that we eat frogs he cracked up and had to start screaming to any one in the vicinity that "Becky eat frog!" I had to stress that it's just the legs not the whole body or anything. But i was also telling him about gumbo, etoufee, sauce picante (spelling), and alligator. Then since they eat raw meat I was telling him abut sushi which he'd never heard of. Trying to explain a sushi roll was also more difficult then I'd thought it would be.
I went shopping yesterday afternoon but I didn't really find stuff that stood out to me so i'm hoping there better shopping in mekele and Lalibela.
I love my hotel Addis Guest House. The staff is amazing and super accomodating. My bed is very comfy as well. I have such bad jet lag that i'm asleep by 4pm but I wake up at like 10pm and am wide awake. Luckily the TV has a movie channel so i've seen old episodes of Friends, Collateral Damage (twice), the BBC, and for some reason there are all these ridiculously cheesy horor films. This morning i watched Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys!!! And all the commercials are in Arabic. most of them don't even make sense. For example there will be this arabic couple singing and shopping for furniture then all of a sudden it says TWIX with a photo of the candy bars. I'm picking up on Amharic quite a bit. That's not to say that I can have a conversation but at least I can manage a little bit.
So I fly to Mekele at 2pm and I'm anxious to see what the hotel will be like there and where I will eat. For the past 2 days I'm eaten pizza at the same place b/c it's really good. but i'm not sure what i'll do if they don't have pizza there and i don't have a way to boil water.
I have to get going to pack up my stuff since i'm heading to the airport shortly. I'm still doing great health wise and am very grateful for your prayers as it seems like they are really working. I tried to take lots of pictures at kind hearts so when I get home i'll make a picassa album and if you sponsor a child there I will send it to you. I love it here so much!
Becky Lee Burk
Saturday, January 16, 2010
|So yesterday was a FULL day. i went to kind hearts and met our kiddos and they were precious. There was one little boy that i really gravitated toward and before I left they told me is name is EZRA!!! isn't that wild. so far i have used 2 squat toilets! YUCK! thank goodness i bring a roll of toilet paper with me everywhere just in case. luckily from being here last year i know what to do with the bucket of water next to the hole in the ground :) |
today i'm hiring a driver to take me to AHOPE and then maybe the fistula hospital or shopping. i go to Mekele tomorrow afternoon. i was so exhausted yesterday that i went to sleep at 4pm but kept waking up during the night so i was up at 4:30 when the Muslims started their prayers. Yesterday i ate french toast for breakfast and pizza for lunch and i'm still feeling really good. i immediately got car sick in the van but i put on my scopalamine patch and took some odansetron (spelling) and felt great after that. The only bad thing is that the patch makes me REALLY thirsty so i keep having to pee alot which is no fun when your options are a hole in the ground or a bush.
Becky Lee Burk
Friday, January 15, 2010
|i'm so excited to be here. This morning i went out from the hotel after breakfast and walked to a piece of land where these shepherds were herding their goats. they were really small and really cute! of course I had to pet some of them, they got a kick out of me and they were joking with each other when i left so who knows what they told each other. i'm waiting for Peter from Children's hope chest to come and pick me up to go south to see our kids. i can't wait. so far i have been VERY careful abut what i eat/drink and i keep praying that God will keep me healthy b/c it's much funner being here when i feel good :)|
sorry about the punctuation but this key board sticks really badly.
I typed up a long post last night so i will try to upload that later on. so far so good! the staff here is great and very accomodating.
i'm already SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO lonesome! i miss my boys sooo much. i love you all and hopefully will write again soon.
Becky Lee Burk
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The second bit of bad news that I received is that Nepal does not allow couples to adopt who don't have proof of infertility. Super BUMMER as I have been really excited about the idea of a baby girl from Nepal. We'll see if anything changes over the next few months but everything there is at such a stand still the agency I called about that issue aren't accepting any more applicants for that program. She did tell me that they have several baby girls available in Kazakstan if anyone is interested.
My nerves are really kicking in now about the fact that I'll be leaving shortly for Africa. I can't wait to get there but I also don't want to leave my boys behind :( Plus trying to organize bill payments, paychecks, etc. while I'm away. It seems like just when I remember 1 thing I forgot to do something pops into my head and I start to get frazzled. I wouldn't care too much except I won't be easily reachable while in Ethiopia and the internet service there is so dicey.
Another bit of good and bad news is that I WILL be able to visit our sponsored child at Kind Hearts BUT we can't bring presents so as not to make the other kids jealous which I respect and understand but I'd already bought lots of stuff and had these backpacks embroidered for my and my sister's children. I'm praying that they will keep them and give them to the kids as an Easter present. I have LOTS of other donations to bring there though so I will be able to give them something, but I just wanted to see their little faces when they opened up their backpack of goodies. Also I won't be able to go to Adama where Ezra was found b/c it's about 2.5 hours outside of Addis and will cost me like $85.00 to get there and I just won't have the time :( So I guess I will save that trip for a time when we bring Ezra back to Ethiopia. I have to get back to packing. Please keep me in your prayers that everything goes smoothly and I don't have any flight drama.
The ambassador of cool, Mr. Ezra Burk :)
Monday, January 11, 2010
I got some more donations yesterday from a parishioner at church which was wonderful but now I'm thinking I may have to add yet another bag to my already burgeoning luggage. I've got 4 large totes already and I'm really hesitant to take another one simply b/c I'll be traveling alone so I'm not sure how I'm going to manage with all of it and my 2 carry ons. We'll just have to wait and see I suppose. Now that I may be able to go and visit my sponsored child at Kind Hearts I think I'll bring lots of stuff there as well as AHOPE. My whole teaching schedule has been changed b/c they bumped up their final exams so I really don't know exactly what's going to happen there. The Dean said I may help with some research projects or do special seminars and technical training for the staff... who knows but I do know it will be an adventure and like Meena said, something magical always seems to happen when you travel with no set plans. Gotta run... still lots to get done.