SIM Ethiopia has 150 missionaries plus spouses and children. Lots and lots of children. (I almost feel guilty at only having had four). These folks, plus several hundred Ethiopian employees and their families, are my patients. How to get to know them? Go on a five day residential conference and all get into a swimming pool together, on New Year's Eve. We knew before we arrived here that there was pretty much a three line whip for attendance at the biennial "Spiritual Life Conference" (SLC) from 30th December to 3rd January at a "resort" 120 km (that's 2-3 hours drive) south east of Addis.
A defining moment happened on Monday of Christmas week, as I was driving from Bingham Academy to the SIM HQ clinic for my first day doing the job I came here to do. It wasn't the unusually chaotic and gridlocked traffic at the bottom of the road from Bingham, although as a result I had to go a different way - a route I wasn't sure of. It wasn't the unexpected closure of a major road with no hint of a diversion or where to go (they've dug the road up to install a light railway system).
I don't have a lot to report on this week, although I'll blog about Christmas at some point. Anyway, to save me from getting bored I created a map on Google Maps that has some pins in it showing where a few significant places are. Top left is Bingham Academy; even more top left is Lemma's place which has been a focus of a lot of my blogging so far.
Supermarkets (think little independent places in small seaside towns in Britain) require a vehicle to reach them. I needed a few items so I shared a friend's regular taxi. The taxi was 40 years old and the driver looked double that. There was a wooden bench seat at the back and I slid in along with two Ethiopian ladies. The back doors just had a couple of ratchet stubs where the door handle and the window winder should have been, and our driver produced a winder from the glove box and leaned over to close the door and the window.
I'm in clinic today and I want to tell you about Haile. (It’s not his real name but a lot of people here are called Haile. I have also changed the details to preserve confidentiality.) He came to consult with me about a simple problem; nothing taxing for me as a hackneyed old British GP – I’ve seen tens of thousands of problems like his, literally! Haile is middle aged, and struggled into my room coping with a significant physical deformity. I dealt with his presenting problem and asked him about his deformity.
Travel in this city is not for the faint-hearted. The Lonely Planet guide describes Ethiopian transport as "butt-clenching". Driving is quite an experience as Chris has described in her latest post, but our trip in Elias's bajaj caused no small amount of butt clenching, despite the journey being fairly short.
Lest I give the impression that everything here is straightforward, this week there were sewage problems in KG and the laundry that we use for our washing was flooded. In addition, at the opposite end of the building is a little souk (shop) which sells chips, bread, popcorn, washing powder and loo rolls. As the fabric of the building is made of mud, the water leak caused the ceiling to collapse.
On the wall of the SIM HQ clinic there is now a yellow piece of A4 paper. It has to be displayed or SIM Ethiopia will be in serious trouble if (when?) the inspectors come round. On it is my picture, but, much more importantly, a stamp. An official stamp. It's not quite up to the Nicaraguan love of stamping that I noticed there last year (I blogged it - click here if you fancy reading it) but they definitely love their stamps.
6pm Lemma said. So we arrived fashionably late at 6:15pm. By then there was us (Chris, Clare and me), Lemma's family (minus Hana of course as she was newly wed 3 days ago), Lemma's elderly mum swathed in traditional clothes and another similarly decked out Ethiopian lady who will remain a mystery. Clare has been here a long time so she should have known better - Ethiopian timekeeping is unfathomable and despite everything we were very early. We were welcomed in as honoured guests and sat in Lemma's lounge wondering what might happen. As far as we knew we were here for a meal.