As I stand in the kitchen and clear (although undrinkable) water flows from the tap into the sink, I glance through the apartment window. This affords a great view of the river that meanders behind the school compound wall. I can see a lady about to do the same chore as me - washing up. The difference is that her water today is a deep muddy brown and flowing downstream apace.
I spent a week at Oak Hill College in north London in the summer learning about some tropical diseases, courtesy the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF). When you check the stats, Ethiopia is the place to go if you want to catch most of them. I’m all prepared for onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, tape worms, malaria, TB, typhoid; the list goes on. however I wasn’t prepared for furuncular myiasis – I should ask Dr Vicky Lavy, the CMF international director, to add it to the course.
One of my colleagues went to visit Yetemwork’s Mum only to find that she had given birth three hours previously. She had delivered the baby herself and he was wrapped in a scarf, but was quite cool and hadn’t fed. Advice was sought from a Dula (an Ethiopian lady taught basic maternity and post natal care), who was driven over from another project.
Shoehorned into economy class seats on an Ethiopian Airlines “Dreamliner” on our way back from Heathrow to Addis I discovered that you should only put one, not two, flimsy plastic cups into the cup holder on the back of the seat in front. Chris was sleeping peacefully with an empty cup in front of her and trying not to wake her I popped a fresh plastic cup of water into the empty one ready for when she awoke.
Ruth is one of four children and when she lost both her parents she was also separated from her brothers and sister. She and her sister were taken in by an Ethiopian Orthodox man who had two wives. Ruth’s sister (to whom she was very close) was taken in by one wife and lived in Addis. Ruth meanwhile was taken in by the other wife who lived in a town outside the capital. She did not see her siblings while she was growing up.
Some significant events in our lives have taken place at or around election time, not least Aaron’s birth, the 28th anniversary of which was celebrated last week. I had helped bring Mrs Thatcher to power in 1979 – something I had begun to regret by the time she was up for her third term on 11th June 1987. Having sat up until 3am watching the results I sullenly slid into bed knowing the “Iron Lady” was going to win again only to be woken up by Chris 30 minutes later to be told her waters had broken (Chris's, not Mrs Thatcher's). Later that day we had met Aaron for the first time and Mrs Thatcher was in power for the last time .
(I have permission from all the people involved in these cases to share their stories on my website.)
Several years ago Fekadu and his family had been living in very poor circumstances - until he was employed by SIM Ethiopia. Although the wages are low he has been able to support his wife and two children, doing a job that involves being on his feet all day.