University Guest House- My mini Ethiopia

The conclusion- but not The End.

There is a big difference between a home, a house and an “apartment I rent”.

For the past two months, I have been referring to the University of Gondar Guest House, as my home. As I see it, home is where you look forward to coming back at the end of a long day, you love being there and the people, neighbors and even the furnitures, windows and the doors- welcome you, wait for you, make you feel warm and desired. This guest house apartment, makes me feel exactly the same.

On our first encounter, I was obviously not geared enough to make a first impression. I had travelled a 30 hours journey- from States to Gondar- still in the same clothes, I had put on three days ago- sweaty, dirty and exhausted.

I was guided into one of the apartments by my colleagues, Rebekah and Gifti and I guess we both, like being humble. The apartment didn’t seem of making any compelling impressions too. It was dark, damp, moldy, broken door handles, years of mishandling and poor management written on the face, with BIG BOLD letters.

The following days, waking up early with call of prayers from the adjoining mosque, sitting on the balcony with a cup of coffee and working out through my emails/ SCOPE related work had to be my every day morning ritual.  As I made way through my days here, I switched into a better available space, mended locks, swapped rocking bed to a more stable one, hammered in few nails here and there, chose the driest and cleanliest appearing mattress, replaced brighter light bulbs, basically redesigned my conditions through the limitations. [resource] Limitations, as a matter of fact, is omnipotent, varying only in its forms and grades of severity. The key lies in adaptation!

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My early morning workspace with a  Frenchpress coffee and a view.

 

As my days transited to weeks and now weeks into months, I have started to realize the life of the guest house. The slow life yet full of subtle complexities. So subtle, you have to wait, watch and ponder to realize.

Each apartment, every individuals living in it, every plants and each bird perching on the rooftop, light bulbs barely hanging the broken holder, even the flaky paints on the walls, have their own tales to tell. Combined together as a unit, they give the guest house a life.  They provide a breath, a soul and a character- very similar to the giant nation outside its walls. Complex, diverse and difficult, the life of the guest house, my Mini- Ethiopia.

The long and short term residents, the management staffs, cleaning ladies and occasional events at the hall, bring about the cultural and ethnic diversity in the guest house.

One of my neighbors, a permanent resident at the guest house is a Radiologist working at the University Hospital with his wife and their month old boy. Originally from Addis, he brings in the culture of a city grown man, drives around in a Toyota, a luxury in this part of world. Another neighbor, during my first few weeks of arrival, was a German medical student who had been here for past 3 months. He  shared me his understandings of the guest house, the hospital, Gondar and some Ethiopian society and culture- of course what he could see  through his German lenses.

Further more interestingly on learning individual perspectives, my time here also overlapped with another SCOPE fellow, Ethiopian-American girl, born and raised in USA from Ethiopian parents. She added a different angle to help my understanding,  painted through stories shared by her parents and relatives, may be at times across the dinner table, when they talked about their country of origin.

Coming back to my Mini-Ethiopia, the events and weddings, that  always follows by hours of loud music and dance live unto the Ethiopian music culture, which every Ethiopian is proud of!

The guest house has a multi purpose hall which can be rented for parties and events. The weddings are a sold out event! I invited myself into couple of them and tried their shoulder dance ( obviously after drinking couple of their free beers) !

Typical habesha dance comprises of complex shoulder movements,  matching to the beats of the music playing. Nothing like you have seen or done in the West. You have to see it, to understand. Human body is weird and is capable of unfathomable possibilities, but I would never have imagined that our shoulders could be moved in so many different patterns and speed.

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Weddings are a common event in the guest house hall.

 

You will be called upon, often as a challenge for a dance by men and women alike, so be ready with your dancing shoes or may be dancing tops/shirt this time!

The guest house also houses variety of trees, flowering plants and the  birds living in them. I see them as a mini-representation of the rich  bio-diversity of this country.

The biggest tree right in the middle of a stretched alley  that divides the two main guest house buildings, is a giant Acacia tree. Acacia trees are probably one of the most important vegetation in this ecosystem. It is the only source of a cool shade, timber and oasis in the hot scorching desert sun. There is also an equally important Olive tree in the yard. Besides many of the other purposes a tree can serve, Ethiopians also use the smaller branches and shoots of this Olive tree as a tooth brush.

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The green space right in the middle of the guest house.

 

On the darker side, the guest house also hosts stories of the violence,  insecurity and checkered past. There are security guards at the gates day and night, when they are visibly armed with their automatic Kalashnikov rifles. One of the guard I talked to, after realizing I was scared by the presence of a weapon, candidly handed me over his gun, and rolled over his pants with pride to show me his right calf which had a thick scar of a bullet injury he sustained in the battle against Eriteria.

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He kept us safe (I don’t know from whom!), BUT with a smile!

Life inside the guest house also has shortages and adversities similar to what the country still faces. There are unannounced power cuts, water shortages. You share your apartment with rats and beds with bed bugs and fleas. There are broken locks, when you open a cabinet, the whole door can fall on top of you. The walls and roof leak. I somehow also managed to flood into the apartment right below mine. I devoted my scientific brain to identify the culprit faucet, only using one of them a day, for any purpose and asking for results. But it surely required more than my simple hit and trial method could decipher! I am left without conclusions even to this day and flooding in her apartment sadly, still persists.

Despite many adversities, the nestling birds on the rooftops, their chirps, the trees in the yard and their cool shade, chilly  early morning mountain breeze and laughter and care of the staffs make the guest house MY home.  The staffs no matter what time of the day, regardless of number of encounters in the same day, always greet you with a smile, followed by a word salamnu and a handshake with shoulder to shoulder touch, every time.

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And I guess this is what living and surviving in adversities is. After a shout out when my taps run out of water, I receive a gift of two buckets of water on my door!

Today, I am putting a hold on my series of blogs on Ethiopia until my next visit. This is a conclusion but not the end!

 

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Chenchoq Health Center visit

August 25, 2018

After a long wait for the rains to stop, the roads to clear and the political turmoils to settle we finally were able to schedule our health center visits. On the 25th of August, a memorable day for me,  I joined the FLAME data collection team on my first ever health center visit to Chenchoq Health Center. Our mission was to collect Maternal and child health data and conduct a meeting with the intervention group- the priests and health development army for our study.

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The health system in Ethiopia follows a hierarchy with  Federal Ministry of Health on the top followed by Regional Health Bureaus, which is further made up of Zonal Health Departments, Ward Health Offices and then finally the Health Centers. The health centers are the first point of entry or primary care centers for patients into the health system.

Chenchoq Health Center falls under Chilqa Ward Health office, North Gondar Zonal Health Department, Amhara Regional Health Bureau and finally the Ministry of Health.

Our ride of 2 hours began at 7:30 am when the university vehicle driven by Shikur Amman with our FLAME colleague Getayeneh Antehungena and  Atalay Gosha came to collect us ( me and Rebekah- another FLAME fellow from Seattle) at the University guest house. We then headed to the University condominium in Agego, where Adino and Alemmeh joined us.

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Chenchoq Health Center with Saint Michael Church on the background.

Chenchoq health center, in Chenchoq Kebele, is immediately below a circular Saint Michael Church. This center is also important for us because it was one of our pre-implementation survey site during our planning p

 

 

hases. This visit was indeed a very good learning/inspiring moment for me. I was already impressed enough by what the FLAME intervention and SCOPE program as a whole, has been doing in empowering and brining positive changes women and newborn’s health. This visit made it more possible for me to understand the real essence of the program.

I had two specific responsibilities that day. One, to help our data collectors in collecting the data, monitor their process and assure quality data collection. Second,  to interact with the health professionals, get their views and understand the situation of the facility and their perceptions towards the intervention.

The head of the center was in Gondar for a training of two weeks, so I was briefed by Mr. Aschalew Dissie, clinical nurse  who was working in Tangura health center for a year before when he was stationed at Chenchoq last 2 months.

Human Resource at Chenchoq Health Center:

Position Number Remarks
Health Center Head

1

He was in Gondar for training.
BSc Nurse

1

Midwives

3

Administrative officers

3

Health Information Technician

1

As per Mr. Dissie, the center receives 20-30 patients rest of the week except on Thursday and Saturday when it gets crowded with about 100 patients, due to the   adjoining farmers market. Three explanations come to my mind- people awaiting the markets day are not really ill, their ailments can wait, or they are a long distant from the center. This adds on to how people in developing nations still regard their health as secondary, they wait for the market day to pay a visit to the clinic.

Chenchoq health center conducts around 10-15 deliveries per month. The deliveries are conducted by the midwives and nurses. In any case requiring referral, their nearest referral center is Ikeli hospital 30 minutes drive away. The center or the ward does not have any ambulance so the patient’s family/relatives have to arrange for public/private vehicle in case of referrals. For those who cant afford or are unlucky enough not to find a ride, traditional homemade stretchers and piggy back  riding on shoulders are also not rare.

 

Few interesting things that I noted:

  • Digitalization of patients records was going on rapid pace. Two local teenage girls were hired for this purpose of uploading  data of all old and new patiens in a nationwide uniform HMIS software.
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    Digitalization of patients records.

     

  • Separate Out patient room for Young patients, aged 10-24 years of age. There was no patient or clinician in the room that day, but the walls were full of educational messages about HIV/AIDS and Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT). This depicts the disease burden of HIV in Ethiopia and Africa in general plus the  efforts to combat and the focus on this particular age group.

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    Power outlet.
  • The powerof the whole village had been disrupted since last three days due to road constructions. The center had a generator setup by the government. It was operated 5 hours daily. The power sockets of the entire facility could be seen crammed up by cell phones and electrical devices belonging to the hospital staffs and nearby villagers.

The Intervention team meeting:

The intervention team meeting, with Priests and Health Development Army (HDA) and moderated by Adino and Rebekah, started at 10:35 am with a blessing prayer by the oldest priest in the group.

It was a full attendance meeting with 9 priests, 9 HDAs and 3 health workers from the center who also attended the meeting. The participants updated each other with the progress of the program, their activities and difficulties. Concerns were expressed about the challenges raised by traditional birth attendants in the villages who were opposing our intervention.

Strikingly, unlike other  group meetings I have seen, the participants here were very patient, well behaved, attentive. They took turns to speak, no one got ever interrupted nor looked bored to listening. This meeting ended at 12:20 PM with the blessing for every one.

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I have worked in resource limited settings all my career. I can therefore, relate to the situation of these health centers and the surrounding villages. Though there is obviously a lot, yet to be done,  the medical team of the health centers, non-medicos of the intervention group, the religious faith leaders and our health development army, living and working in these meagre conditions, are real life warriors.They deserve a respect that they rarely get. Though I cant recall the words of the priests prayers, blessed be all- Amen!

 

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Adjoining Saturday Market

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Things that startled me in Ethiopia

Here, I enlist few things that were able to capture my attention and worth mention here during my time in Ethiopia.

  1. Get your shoe washed

Washed-Yes, you read it correct, its washed- not shined. Ethiopian men, I should say have an obsession for clean shoes. There are shoe shiners on the street side else where in the world too. They polish and shine your shoes, or cobblers who mend your shoes. But where else have you seen young boys with small buckets, soap and brushes who wash  your shoes for you.

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A teenage boy with his shoe cleaning stall.

 

The rates do vary based on your shoe type and size. The biggest challenge for me, was not the rates they charged but the amount of time I had to wait for mu shoes to dry up, before I could put them on again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. 2.  Brush your teeth, as you go

Many Ethiopians still use the tree branches, as their tooth brush. Mefaika the process of brushing in Amharic generally involves the tree stems specially from wera tree (Olive tree). One single twig costs 1-2 birr and can be used as long as the stub remains. So people, specially men, who go to work in the morning, get dressed and their mefaika happens all along their way to work.

  1. Display of arms

If you are early bird and decide to go on morning walks like I do. Don’t be shocked by people specially the night watchmen, walking back to their homes with Kalashnikov rifles on their shoulders.

Despite the governments major programs to control the number of domestic firearms, having an automated weapon and displaying it in public is a sense of respect, manhood and has been deeply engraved, specially in the rural communities.

Guards at the university guest house also carry big guns during their night shifts.

  1. We care, thats why we share
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A traditional Ethiopian meal with Injera.

The traditional and most common form of eating is by sharing from a common plate. The friends and family gather round a table, food is served on a large, almost 2 feet plate. Injera, the sour bread with fermented dough forms the base and spices, lentils, vegetables are placed on the top.  Every one eats from the same plate, with their bare hands using injera as an edible scoop or a wrapper to form a bolus. The most surprising is gursha, that is an act of respect and love but involves feeding you, into the mouth.

 

  1. The never ending tale of Time telling

Their sense of telling time, no matter how hard I have tried to understand, still remains a confusion.

First hour of the day corresponds with the rising of the sun, and last hour is the sunset. Six o clock in the morning international time is 12 in Ethiopian time. The 12 hours distribution pattern in my logic should be made possible by their location near the equator- nearly 12 hours of daylight any time of the year.

Ethiopian national calendar is also distinct. It has 13 months, 12 lunar months as of  Julian calendar, exactly 30 days each. The last remaining month however has 5 days (6 in leap year).

This calendar began 7 years 113 days behind Gregorian (Western) calendar, hence the Ethiopian New Year is celebrated on September 11 and Christmas on January 7th.

  1. Meat lovers paradise- if you can dodge the fasting!

If you love meat, as much as I do then Ethiopia is your paradise. Meat is consumed in a variety of forms and cheap too. But if you are unlucky as I was, then you might sum up your time in Ethiopia in their endless fasting. During the fasting meat and meat products, including milk are impossible to find (except in high-end tourist restaurants).

Note-The Ethiopian orthodox Christian community fasts for  almost 200 days in a year. The longest fast, Abiy tsom, which literally translates to the great fast runs for 55 days. This ends with easter celebration on the last Sunday.

7. Streets ruled by bajajs

Bajaj, Indian three wheelers named after the company that manufactures it, are also called tuk-tuk else where in Africa. These are the easiest and swiftest, not necessarily the cheapest mode of transport in Gondar.

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A bajaj undergoing maintenance in a funky pose!

I was quite surprised to hear the cost of individual bajaj though almost 6000USD. Much of it is blamed on the governments automobile tax and being landlocked.

Bargaining with 50 % from what they ask is the rule of the thumb. However, knowing what they pay for the three wheeler and comparing it with what they make in a day, its not an easy life for them either.

Remaining on the topic of locomotives, the number of two wheelers, motorcycles are also strikingly very low compared to other cities in developing nations.

The list can go on. After all Ethiopia is a very big nation, with hundreds of cultures, numerous languages, ethnicity and millions of years of history. It amazes me everyday and in every new interaction.

 

Streets of Gondar

Keep walking

The streets of Gondar are busy, colorful, vibrant and full of life- as life can get! I have been walking between the University guest house (at college) and the University Hospital (at hospital), almost everyday for the past two months.

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This stretch of about 5 miles, a good 40 minutes walk, is a work out for my legs, but
both a feast and a challenge for my eyes, senses and my  brain-body coordination.

For those who need to see to believe, the road has trees and bushes with most beautiful colored leaves and enkutatash flowers (yellow small Ethiopian daisies) all along and on the traffic islands in the middle. Often at various days of the month, both men and women come out in their traditional attire,  called gabbi and kemis respectively, white woven cotton dresses with colored embroidered borders.

While your eyes are feasting, be careful not to fix your glare for long, you might not have enough time to leap over the potholes and cracks amidst the slabs on the walks. Trust me, they appear where you least expect and are large enough to swallow you entirely.

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My colleague, another FLAME fellow, Rebekah testing her skills of balancing.

For your auditory pleasure, there are of course the birds and loudspeakers competing for your attention.

The birds- magnificently colorful, singing and chirping their melodies while soulful prayer calls sound from the churches and mosques throughout the day (and very early morning! My room is right next to a mosque).

However on the street the audio waves are dominated by deafening honks from the jeeps, busses and bajajs (called tuk-tuk elsewhere). Stores and restaurants blast Ethiopian-American Jazz and occasional english hip-hop songs through loud speakers at their doors. I am curious wether this music actually serves to attract or repel their costumers!

Gondar and its streets also serves for your skin and senses of touch. On its beautiful mornings, you can always feel the ting of chill, reminder of you being next the mountains.

Back to the streets there is always the hustle and bustle, crowds and a ride on the public jeep, wont leave you much of a so called persona-space! And there are of course children, poking you, trying to get your attention for a reward of some petty cash or candy.

Now for a person who relies on his sense of taste the most, then you are here for a treat! Gondar and Ethiopia as a whole, is known for its culinary delight
s. You might run the risks of get tired of Injera (sour bread with fermented dough), the staple food, after you have to eat it everyday, almost three times a day. But, there is always a small coffee shop, a small bakery or a fresh juice center to be discovered at every corner, serving fresh brew or a cool grind.  My two favorites are fresh avocado mango juice and shekla tibs (grilled ox meat served on a two tired clay pot with burning coals on the bottom)

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The avocado, guava and mango juice combo!
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Fresh pastries and cookies with a cup of coffee. An early morning delight.

 

 

Amazing Ethiopia

The continuum 

Ethiopia has remained an unfathomable encyclopedia for archaeologists, researchers, zoologists and social scientists. There have been Numerous expeditions, years of research, and yet they remain riddled by its countless indecipherable mysteries.

It is very early and my voice too small to even attempt describing the amazing Ethiopia!

Earlier this week, I escaped the noise and crowd of Addis Ababa for some educational time in the National Museum of Ethiopia.  The museum is located at the heart of city, along with Addis Ababa university and is an easy taxi ride from almost anywhere in the city.

img_2706The museum building itself is a modest one. Construction going on in one major section limits the space of the museum, but the green lawn and colorful flowers in the yard makes up for this. This is the only (little) green oasis and flowers I had seen since I arrived in very much concrete Addis. I remember a friend working for the Swedish embassy here in Addis saying she takes her kids to the Sheraton Hotel for the only green space in town!

They do a full baggage inspection and a whole body pat before letting you into the museum, and the entrance fee is surprisingly only10 Birrs (1 USD ~ 27 Birrs), which is way less that what you pay to enter other popular public/tourist sites in Ethiopia.

Going through the museum and its display I  couldn’t help but wonder at the marvels Ethiopia has to offer to humankind, our history and civilization.

Ethiopia- Cradle of humanity

This is the land where most of our oldest human ancestors once roamed.

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Lucy at her best.

Lucy is the most famous hominid fossil, dated 3.2 million years old, discovered in 1974 at the head of Rift valley, (made by a convergence of African and Arabian Tectonic plates) in Afar region.  Lucy in Ethiopian language (Amharic) is known as Dinkenesh which translates into “you are wonderful”. Lucy even years later is still dignified as the mother of humanity, though much older hominid fossils have been discovered- most of them in Ethiopia.

 

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An artist model of Selam, 3 years of age, 3.3 M years old!

 

 

 

Selam is the skeleton of a three year old child. But, is 150,000 years older than Lucy! She is the earliest human skeleton discovered, alive 3.3 million years ago. Selam stands for “peace” in Ethiopian language.

 

 

 

 

 

Ethiopia- the crucible of cultures

Ethiopia depicts a scene of complexity with immense diversity and a plurality of cultures. Ethiopia is the home of the oldest known alphabet in Africa, 2000 years old.

The religious and cultural diversities of Ethiopia give rise to sense of different nations in its different regions. Some of the major cities and its highlights are:

Axum– home of Monastery of Zion and biblical Ark of the Covenant.

Lalibela– its rock-hewn churches.

Gondar– the imperial city, with ancient stone castles.

Harar– the walled city, one of the holiest site for muslim religion.

 

Ethiopia- the home of warriors

One of the oldest known monarchies of the world, Atse (King of the kings) have a recorded history 3000 years old in Ethiopia. Ethiopia was the beacon of freedom, the only country in Africa to remain independent against colonizers. Ethiopian rulers like Emperor Tewodros and Menelik II gave this nation a sense of unity and led the country against the encroaching forces.

Ethiopia- the roof of Africa

Ethiopian massif is a huge plateau in the center of the country and occupies more than half of its land mass. This outstanding topographical feature was formed in the tertiary era as a result of its active volcanic activity, traces of which can still be seen in the great Dankal deserts. There are nine peaks which rise above 4,000 mts, among which Ras Dashen (4,620 mts) is the fourth highest peak in Africa.

Ethiopia- the home of Blue Nile

The blood line of Africa, river Nile has two major origins, White and the Blue nile. The White Nile originates from Lake Victoria in East Africa while the Blue Nile begins from Ethiopia’s lake Tana, about 30 kms downstream where it forms a thundering waterfall of 400 meters wide, 50 meters tall called Tissisat (smoke of fire) falls.

The Blue Nile river gets its name from the blue color it obtains during the dry season. This river flows around 800 kms in Ethiopia before entering Sudan, where it is joined by the White Nile forming the Great Nile and finally resting in the Mediterranean after its journey of almost 5000kms.

Ethiopia- 13 months of sunshine

The calendar and time telling are both unique in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian calendar has 13 months. 12 lunar months of exactly 30 days from the Julian calendar and then one remaining month of 5 days (6- leap year). Their calendar is 7 years 113 days behind theGregorian calendar and their New Year is marked on September 11th.

For a novice person, the Ethiopian way of time telling can be a bit confusing. Here, the first hour of day, the sunrise is the beginning of the day. So six o’clock in morning international time is 12 in Ethiopia. The night hours begins at sunset, six pm standard time is 12 again.

And of course…

Ethiopia- home of coffee

Coffee, a crucial component in everyone’s daily routine today, calls Ethiopia its home. It can still be found growing wild in the South west tropical highlands of Ethiopia where it first originated.

Coffee and its stimulating properties are believed to be discovered by the Ethiopian goat herdsmen, who noticed that their goats were attracted to shiny red fruits which made them over-excited. Coffee was then introduced to the rest of the world through slave traffic routes originating from South Sudan, into Ethiopia ending in Saudi Arabia.

Today, coffee is Ethiopia’s largest produce and export, covering 60% of its total export and 5% of the worlds coffee!

One of the objective of my SCOPE fellowship here is to learn the culture,  history, social demography. I continue to explore and learn more about this amazing nation and its people everyday: mesmerized by its marvels, I can just ponder and say “Ethiopia you are truly Dinkenesh”!

 

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Truly said- Million years of life and culture in Ethiopia

 

 

From Nepal-US to Ethiopia

The beginning

My first ever journey to Ethiopia and the whole continent of Africa, began with an early morning flight from Dulles Airport, Washington DC. I was standing in line to collect my boarding pass and I could already feel the welcoming vibes around me.

Every one- passengers awaiting in the line, fellow seated next to me, or the air hostesses rushing down the aisle- were remarkably very friendly. They were all happy, candid  and eager to talk with each other, often leaning or standing close, close enough to be considered a violation of personal space in the West.  As  soon as the captain turned off the seat belt sign, people started forming small groups at every corner possible and delved into conversations for hours, often breaking into bouts of laughter. An almost 14 hour Ethiopian airlines flight to Addis Ababa, gave me plenty of time to contemplate the quality of days I was about to experience in the upcoming two months.

During my travels, I try to blend in as much as possible and often have a good success rate. However, I wasn’t expecting to blend in on this occasion. I have to admit, I wasn’t even trying. To my surprise, I realized I was going a much better job than I thought when the stewardess started to talk to me in Amharic. She was gentle and kind enough to apologize upon realizing the truth, but it started to grow uncomfortable when her friends started to point towards me and giggle.

My skin tone and build have allowed me to pass as a Puerto Rican, Haitian, Latino and undoubtedly a South Asian (my origin-Nepal). All of this of course, is limited by my ignorance of their languages. Now that I’ve been in Ethiopia for a while, I have realized I can easily get away with being a Habesha (Ethiopian or local- in Amharic ) provided I improve my Amharic skills from just saying “hello” and “how much?”

How did such a chameleon end up on a flight to Ethiopia?  Let me rewind a few years and share my journey to Gondar, Ethiopia.

My decision to embark on a Public Health Degree with a graduate program in Global Health at the University of Washington was a major career shift. I had been working in the role of a Medical Superintendent of Jiri District Hospital  for the Ministry of Health, Nepal for past 4 years- practicing clinical medicine as well as heading the administration.

At one point, I had reached to the conclusion that this hospital of Jiri valley and its wonderful people had grown in me. I was no less of a Jirel (native people of Jiri), than them. I heeded that I would never leave the place or even imagine that I  could.

Soon after the major earthquakes of Nepal, I was faced with new challenges of acute management and care, followed by the long term rehabilitation and rebuilding phase. Now as I see it, the earthquake not only brought destructions but also provided a myriad of opportunities for Nepal and its people.  Through major media attention globally, the lost mystical Himalayan land of Nirvana and Yeti was once again remembered. Friends- known and unknown all gathered for aid.  It definitely brought down our temples and stupas, our Dharaha (a 9 story cylindrical tower, in the heart of Kathmandu, long symbolizing Kathmandu and Nepal), but it strengthened the bond both within and beyond the nation’s boundaries.

Personally, interactions with the relief teams, primary and secondary responders, psychological aid teams and volunteers both national and international, opened a newer perspective to my existing career. I was then provided opportunities to expand my medical care to relief work, figuring out how to deal with disaster situations both natural and man-made. I was inspired to apply to study at the University of Washington and received a Fulbright grant to do just that. All my career and years of working had prepared me and I was ready for this next step. My confidence was as high as my ambitions soared. Once a lone trekker, in the foothills of Himalayas, I set out to embark on a journey into the wide world.  After all “A man should reach beyond his grasp, otherwise what’s heaven for?”

Now that I am in the program at UW, I have been offered the amazing opportunity to work as a SCOPE fellow in Ethiopia. Here are the some quick facts about this great country I am so grateful to be learning from.

Ethiopia:

In numbers (2016)

Population = 107 million

12th most populated nation in the world

Capital city Addis Ababa

Median Age = 18.8 years

Urban Population = 19.7%

Adult Literacy Rate = 39% ( Males – 49.13%, Females- 28.92%)

Maternal and Neonatal Indicators

Maternal mortality rate = 412/100,000 live births

Health facility delivery = 26%

Total Fertility Rate = 4.5

ANC coverage (at least 1 ANC visit- 2011) = 33.9%

Neonatal Mortality Rate (number of neonates dying before reaching 28 days of age) = 27.6 per 1000 live births

Infant Mortality Rate= 59 per 1000 liver births

Source- Ethiopian Demographic and Health survey (EDHS) 2016, World Bank 2011.

I will be working in Faith Leaders Advocating for Maternal Empowerment or FLAME study, which is an interventional study initiated in 2016, to evaluate SCOPE’s model of brining communities together to improve the maternal and neonatal health.  In this model, faith leaders are paired with members of the Health Development Army (HDA) from the community, to engage with new pregnant women and their families and encourage them to access antenatal care and delivery services.

18 government health centers, six intervention and twelve control sites have been identified, where the study team will compare the outcomes in terms of women seeking antenatal and delivery services. This program aims to provide evidence on SCOPE’s model at increasing the number of women seeking reproductive health care and for its future replication.

Being a SCOPE fellow provides me the opportunity to participate in various components of the study. It is an opportunity of realizing the global health concepts of my classroom knowledge in the field.  So far  24 graduate students from University of Washington and six from university of Gondar have received this fellowship.

The FLAME study is being carried out in the Gondar region of Northern Ethiopia. Gondar as a region, is famous for its ancient stone castles and rich heritage of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity (Tewahedo Church). As rich as its culture heritage is, there is ample opportunity for improvement in terms of general health care of the public and more so of pregnant mother and their newborns.

While I am here to contribute to the program, I am also here to learn. I likely have more to learn than I have to offer, which is why I am so grateful to be here. I truly have been learning since the first day and so far with my 15th day today, have learned to acknowledge a world beyond my horizon.

Hike in The Cascades with Fulbright Western Washington Chapter.

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May 5th 2018 

The Western Washington Chapter of the Fulbright Association organized an all Fulbright Alumni, visiting students, scholars, friends and families hike to the grandeur of the Cascade Mountains on May 5th to kick off the hiking season of 2018.

Our trip for the day began with assembly at the Greenlake Park & Ride, at 9 am. Following the registration and we then board on a reserved Starline bus all excited for the day ahead. 36 of us including families and children had showed up for the day. It was a good turnout.

After about a 45 minutes bus ride along the I 90 highway we came to the first halt of the day: The Cedar River Watershed Habitat Conservation Educational center. There we were met by two of our alumni, who then briefed us about our plans for the day.

Cedar River Watershed Education Center

Rain drum courtyard

Stepping out of the bus, I could hear the sound of drums being played in the distance. A music similar to traditional Native American music, was being played. It reminded me of the original owners of this land, I am standing on. Their lives and culture, so rich and magnificent, yet remains unexplored, unheard and rarely spoken about.

Lush green forest, miles away from the city and pristine water of Rattlesnake Lake on your right. Truly a nature lover’s paradise.

 

We were later guided towards the educational center, on the porch were the drums, and masterpiece of a musical art giant. The drums were placed in meticulous positions with water fountains sprouting at an orchestrated pattern- resonating of a proficient orchestra playing their favorite tunes.

 

In the Cedar River Watershed Education Center, we were welcomed by Anna Constance, an expert and guide for 8 years, she gave us a detailed, intricate briefing of the history, importance and overview of the watershed program.

 

Cedar River Watershed Education Center was built in the year 2001, with an architecture to reflect the history of the land while standing as a model of sustainability. Sweeping views of Rattlesnake ledge is visible right outside the deck.

 

Rattle Snake Recreation area includes Rattlesnake ledge, a distinct rock formation chiseled by ice and time and Rattlesnake Lake- a sparkling turquoise oasis. It is a great place to escape from the hustle and noise of the city, ad to enjoy hiking, swimming, and picnicking.

 

Watershed

Seattle Public Utilities’ Watershed Management Division manages the overall watershed area of over 100,000 acres of land covered by forests, Cedar river, South Fork Tolt River Municipal Watersheds and hills in the Central Cascades.
The water collected here serves as the source of clean, clear, reliable drinking water for over 1.4 million people of greater Seattle area, supplying over 100 million gallons over water every day.

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Ollalie State Park

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After the orientation we had a small time window to observe the exhibits of the center and a time for a group picture with Rattlesnake ledge on the background. Then we hopped on our buses towards the Ollalie State Park.

We stopped for a quick lunch from our breakfasts at the foot of the park. The benches were in middle of grasses with early blooms of spring and Southfork Snoqualmie river flowing nearby. I almost forgot that I was even hungry, and spent most of times on the bank of river, taking pictures of the nature, trying to catch the sound of each waves.

 

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