17 August 2012

Research & visit to orphanage

My research is well underway, today I completed my fifth interview. Today I am not feeling well, which was bound to happen sooner or later. I am very dizzy, though I have no fever or stomach problem. Just need to sleep a lot. Tomorrow morning I leave very early for a trip to Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. The Blue Nile constitutes more than 80% of the Nile's waters. It is also the river I am concerned with in my research.

Still continue to explore the city and the surrounds with the assistance of the priest and Sister Carol. In fact yesterday after a lunch meeting I had for an interview, I went with Sister Carol to a place one hour away by bus, which cost something like 20 cents to take, we went to the seminary where she teaches and to the Mother Teresa orphanage for kids with HIV/AIDS. I had read about this orphanage and had, in fact, brought gifts for the kids with me from the States.

I saw my first Ethiopian wildlife at the seminary - about 4 land tortoises. They were chomping away at the grass. The seminary also has a number of cows and sheep. I did not immediately recognize the sheep here as sheep, because they are raised for their meat instead of their wool, so they look completely different. In fact, from behind they almost look like dogs with a long tail. We made our way to the orphanage and were joined by a number of really tiny - maybe 2 to 3 year old - children. one of which obviously had the hairlip operation. They were dressed in rags and who knows where the parents were. The street kids here are so friendly and warm - they reach out to hold your hand and appear to want to walk with you and talk to you - though of course there are the children who are begging for money or food. These kids yesterday were just in want of some attention.

The orphanage is an amazing facility! The kids are all very healthy looking, thanks to the anti-retroviral drugs they are receiving. The drugs are available on this temporary grant to Ethiopia which will, unfortunately, expire next year. The Sisters there are not sure what will happen past this time. The drugs must be administered 2 times per day. They have a full medical staff, many volunteers from both Ethiopia and abroad, and the compound is huge. They also have a brand new school that was built, not only to serve the orphans, but also the children of the nearby communities. The girls who were showing us this place were very proud of the school and of the compound. There are only 7 Sisters working with over 200 children, but this number is down from what it used to be due to changes in government policy. Now no children can just be dropped off to the Sisters, they must be brought to the police if they are. The trouble is that sometimes parents just drop off the kids and there is no record of names, age, or anything.

There is a birthday for the kids coming up and I hope to attend. They have a day where they celebrate all of their collective birthdays. Sister Carol and I stayed some time and we played with the kids a bit. They are a great bunch of happy outgoing personalities. I was totally encouraged to see how their skin, hair, and overall physical bodies looked so healthy. It is amazing what the AIDS drugs can do for the disease, and some of teh kids born with the disease can actually overcome it with treatment.

We also visited the clinic where some of teh kids are suffering from pneumonia and TB. Even this space though was light, brightly colored, full of toys and paintings, and totally clean. The whole facility, and the kids, is so well organized and clean. When I asked them what they need, they said more drugs, and things to keep the kids occupied during the rainyseason, when so much time must be spent indoors.

The older children make things to sell and raise money for the facility. They weave silk, cotton, and wool scarves, make other sewn or woven things, and jewelry from beads. The Sisters were very calm and happy to welcome us into the compound. I wished that I had brought a camera to photograph the buildings, but it turns out that they prefer you do not photograph for the privacy of the kids.

A terrible rainstorm rolled through and it completely flooded out Addis. We took one of the blue and white minivan taxis back to town. I am beginning to become more comfortable with navigating these things. I am thankful to have more to my experience here in Ethiopia than just research on my topic, but am mindful to keep on task with it. I hope to collect about 50 interviews before leaving. I am well on the way, and have many more phone numbers to call and ask for people to participate. I am excited to get out to the actual field site to interview, though now being the rainy season, the area is a bit of a mess, so I am waiting some weeks and will pass these in Addis. I intend to find a language teacher next week and will also have to find a new place to live as my two weeks with the Brothers will be up.

Father Arega, one of the priests staying here, is leaving tomorrow, but has been very helpful in walking me around the neighborhood to show me different parts of downtown. Tomorrow is Eid and there will be a huge celebration here, though I will miss it as I am catching an early flight.