Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Floors are done!

Fundame's cement flooring work has been completed.  Four classrooms, an office, store, covered walkway, and the schools outdoor reading and meeting area  all have a fresh smooth layer of cement. 

In total, the flooring's area is 332 sq meters.  Believe me that's a lot of cement.  We went through three 8 cubic meter trucks of aggregate and over 270 bags of Portland cement.  It looks great, and it will be there with little maintenance for decades to come.  Well worth its 5,000 dollar price tag.  

Tamesgin and Salamu working together to complete the covered walkways cement foundation.

Ayella smoothing out one of the classrooms cement finishes. 

Adding Portland cement powder to the floors finish.  This may seem odd, but its common
practice in Ethiopia to prevent small cracks from forming.

Covered walkways cement foundation nearly complete.

The out door reading and meeting area's cement work is nearly complete 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My sister is coming to town

Kahlyn, my 25 year old sis, is currently on her way to Madrid's international airport. Her bags are packed for 6 weeks of Ethiopian living and working with her favorite big brother (she only got one). It will be a fun and productive adventure.

That sister of mine is very well traveled, she is thoroughly experienced in immersing herself in new and different cultures, and shes incredibly kind. She's got the make up of someone that can handle herself and make the most of any situation regardless where she is. Kahlyn will have me for support, but if anyone, she would be able to get by just fine on her own.

Kahlyn is coming out to Ethiopia to collaborate with ER on our upcoming literacy and healthcare outreach programming. For the last couple years Kahlyn has dedicated her life to educating herself on all things bees. In that time she has become well versed in creating and sustaining highly productive bee colonies in a variety of types of environments. Her work has lead her to focus on more than just the apiculture's economic benefits. Rather, Kahyln has focused much of her energy on the numerous and very important health benefits of properly managed apiculture. We feel that much of her programming would work harmoniously with ER's 2013-14 healthcare outreach project. We all at ER, especially my field team, are greatly looking forward to working with Kahlyn over the coming weeks.

Our time together this spring will be spent preparing for next years project implementation. Kahlyn will travel with me to Kembata-Tembaro to familiarize herself with the community and the current state of the regions agriculture and health practices. We will be meeting with local farmers, bee specialists and public health officials to discuss the expansion of ER's potential foray into apiculture. It will be a very informative trip that will provide critical contacts and useful site visits for Kahlyn's planning.

Take the time to find out much more about her work on her website


Bee Gear


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Getting past normal

I live in rural East Africa.  People die out here much earlier and much more often than a majority of other places in the world.  Regardless of line of work, location, or poverty level, the regular loss of human life is a very difficult thing to become accustom to.   However it is something that I have come to expect to encounter in my daily life.  Viewing death constructively is something I am working through. 

Since I’ve been in Azedebo, I‘ve noticed that within the average week, the population of around 3,000 buries two of its community members. Often the deaths are violence related, old age, or attributed to one of three types of “malaria” (the last is in quotes because any time someone dies with an elevated temperature it is blamed on mosquitos).   This week was no different.  We lost 3.  A school directors wife to what seems to have been meningitis, a village elder to “old age” at 65, and my neighbors 14 year old son to a Hyena attack in their front yard in the middle of the afternoon. 

Over the last 2 and half years I have worked and lived along-side the communities that benefit from Tesfa/Ethiopia Reads mission.  It can be an incredibly sobering life. Coming from a middle class Midwestern neighborhood where death was the back of my mind, this current life of mine has ushered it to the forefront.   

I believe that in the moment, death is often avoidable.  Fate may exist, but in my mind, we each are largely in control of our own actions in the parameters we exist within.  My life in South Minneapolis, Chicago and New Orleans was at times tumultuous, though the dangers I encountered were for whatever reason searched out.  Danger is relative, and here in Kembata-Tembaro, danger and it’s confidant, death, are so pervasive they have become normalized.   Rural South West Ethiopia’s cards are unfortunately stacked against its people.  Living amongst a population that has a life expectancy hovering around 42 (that number is dragged down by the high rate of death of children under the age of 5) urges a white male from a fortunate upbringing to reflect.

I will be the first to admit that I am an emotionally distant guy.  That’s been one of the key reasons why I have been able to effectively work and live as I do.  At its root, it’s a conscious decision.  My work is based on immersing myself in communities where hardship, poverty, corruption, drought, poor health is ordinary.  There is hope for eventual change, but most concentrate on getting though the day, rather than building for tomorrow.  To function, I actively mentally disengage as much as possible.  I file all of the negativity somewhere in my memory banks, but I strive to concentrate on the beautiful moments.   If I begin to focus on the plethora of negativity, my capacity falters.  So I digest what I can as I encounter it, and continue to move forward.

Sometimes I do stumble.  The avoidable death of a child, with a future largely undecided, is a rough one to side step; especially in incidents involving local fauna and preventable diseases.  That hardened exterior of mine can only do so much. This week I caught myself going through the motions of asking why and even blaming those life parameters.  In time those sentiments faded, and a more constructive approach amassed.  I am finding that the more I assimilate the more I am processing these events as tangible evidence for the dire need of expansion of ER’s work.  In coming years to better enable our beneficiaries, education and healthcare outreach is a start… but in time we can work with the communities and other NGO’s  to better enable our beneficiaries to create more stable and positive lives for themselves and future generations. 

Ekodaga kiddies

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Almost got us

March 16th in Fundame.

Windows and doors installed.  Finishing mud applied.  Exterior  and interior cement work continues.  Creation of the rain water canals has begun.

Side note: We ran out of cement today. Ejigu and Getch traveled to the local construction material shop to pick up 10 bags to get us through the afternoon.  While arguing over prices with a local store keep a small child (Ejigu thinks he was about 6) jimmied open the rental cars door with a gnarled piece of scrap metal.  Unannounced to him, Lolo came along for the ride, and was  resting in the back seat.  Ejigu then had the joy of  watching the tail end of a Lolo scaring a good deal of sense into the kid.  As Ejigu described it, there was a snarl, then a shriek, followed by the poor kid falling to the ground crying and then scampering away .  Lolo let out a few barks as a small crowed formed to enjoy a good laugh. Ejigu and Getch scooped up our now 12 kilo security guard and joined in.   

Time for sleep. 

Store door being cleaned up

Addisu has now become the local rock laying expert

The canal will be finished by Tuesday

First coat of cement being walked in

Add caption

Ejigu and Temesgin going over the days salary payments

Our doubely reinforced bathroom pit

Windows in

Where we are 

Friday, March 15, 2013

When the lights go out in Durame

The lights go out in Azedebo, and internet connectivity follows.  

We have had 4 consecutive nights of hard rain that has given us a welcome reprieve from dust storms and nurtured fields of wilting greenery. Though unfortunately it has also kept me from knowing what all is going on in the world.  Well enough... Life out here is interesting enough to keep me appeased.  And as much as it all matters, when you are as disconnected as I sometimes may be, its tough to feel apart of anything outside of our lil' community.  NBA highlights, updates on African elections, facebook whatever, and instagram showing off sometimes just has to wait.  It has, until this evening (highlights traded in for a couple good Grantland reads).  Somehow the folks at the local internet factory were ale to right the wires and tubes to allow for the before mentioned and updates on Fundame from me to you. 

So i was in Addis last week.  Meetings galore with the boss man, office staff, and potential future collaborators.  Of course I made sure to get in a few runs in the local mountain range of Entoto, many a cheap beer at the local grocery (king bet as its known by a select crew of cronies), and other not so important but needed things.  

During my time away, the management team effectively pushed things along.  Each rooms foundation was set, the second coat of mud applied, and the bathrom's pit was properly reinforced   

The school looks great, and is till set to be completed by the first week of April.  Im happy.  The management team is working wonderfully with or without me, we are currently under budget on both Azedebo and Fundame, and to top it all off I havent lost the usual 20 pounds by this time of the year.

Since being back a myriad notable events have occurred   If the internet holds Ill be playing catch tomorrow and the next.  I promise there are some spellbinding story lines. 

Patching up the gaps around the newly fit doors

Sallamnesh teach Meret the art of slapping on concrete

Getch leading Addise in the art of installing a door

Cement dust handprints

Self surgery. The dreaded well embedded ingrown nail.  Dont wory plenty of moonshine for antiseptic
End of the day

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fundame photos

Boss is in country and Ejigu and I were well over due for a break.  So we took off for Addis Friday morning.  

Heres a few photos of the progress from earlier in the week.

Two future students joining us for lunch 

Lunch in the schools office

Where we were 5 days ago

Finishing the cob

Hanging the covered walkways rafters