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Natalie Jo Ehrlich, Ph.D.

 

Dr. Ehrlich was born in Meridian, Mississippi on February, 27, 1957.   She earned her Ph.D. in Health Science at the University of Arkansas in 1995.  As an Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma, she was asked to work with the Minister of Health and lecture to healthcare leaders in Saudi Arabia.  Dr. Ehrlich has traveled throughout Europe and volunteered in third world countries such as Albania and Thailand.  Most recently, she worked as a volunteer with the Minister of Education in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The following journal letters were written during the months she lived in Ethiopia.

 

Journal Letter 1 - October, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

 

Just a note to thank you for the time you have taken to write me and for keeping me in your prayers.  I believe that God has brought me to Ethiopia and although I知 happy to be here, I find myself looking around me and wondering what I can really do to make a positive difference in the lives of so many.

 

I know my dad is trying to keep the family updated about what I知 doing, but I want to bring you up to date on the latest developments.  First, let me begin by saying that I知 working with International Foundation Education Self Help (IFESH).  IFESH is similar to the Peace Corp in the way of using volunteers; IFESH is a private organization rather than federal.  IFESH was established 15 years ago by Rev. Sullivan and has received federal money for many programs being implementing in Africa.  If you want to learn more about IFESH you can visit www.ifesh.org.

 

When I was offered a last minute position with IFESH, they weren稚 certain what my job would encompass.  The original plan was for me to be a higher diploma leader which would involve my training teachers how to use active learning skills in their classrooms and teaching a university class.   However after I arrived in Ethiopia I was told that the Ministry of Health (MOH) wanted me to join a team of consultants from England that has been working on developing the health (AIDS) curriculum.  After reviewing a pilot study, I find my assignment is to measure the quality of the education and make recommendations on how it can become more effective, with a focus on offering education for all  (i.e. the rural areas, not just the capitol).   This curriculum includes distant education (DE) by digital plasma screens and my preparing scripts and manuals that will assist teachers with their DE presentations.  As many of you might know, AIDS is an epidemic in Africa, and there are many double orphans due to this deadly virus.  Orphanages are overflowing and many young children have become beggars, sleeping on the streets.  Without effective education and implementation, this number will continue to increase.

 

My office will be with the MOH in the capital (Addis Ababa, population five million people).  The MOH is in the process of moving across the street from the US Embassy, so I will be in a secure area.  Our team met with the new Ethiopian Ambassador and her staff earlier this week.  They briefed us on the political struggles going on within Addis Ababa.  Specifically, there was a large demonstration between the opposition and the new party earlier this week which resulted in violence.  The police are on high alert as rallies are scheduled for this Sunday.  As a result of these latest developments, the US Embassy had advised all US citizens to keep a low profile and stay inside their homes on Sunday with enough water and food supplies to last for three or more days.  IFESH is taking precautions and driving all volunteers out of the city. So no need to worry; I won稚 be here.  During the briefing at the Embassy, we were informed about the meaning of the different sirens and since I知 the only volunteer working in the capital, I was given

 

Special instructions on when to 電uck and cover (due to car bombs) not something I was looking to hearing; however, as I said earlier, I知 following their instructions, so no need to worry.

 

IFESH is providing me with housing, so the monthly stipends I receive will cover my other in-country expenses.  In addition, God has provided a 塗ouse sitter that will be paying a portion of my house payment while I知 here.  So everything is working out.  I have only one request from you. Please keep me in your prayers for my health and safety.  Although Addis is not at high risk for malaria, there are new cases reported daily.  Even with the prevention medication, one can still get sick.  Since there are many side-effects, I won稚 be taking the medication unless I travel outside the city.   In addition, IFESH is still looking for a place for me to live. (I need to be out of the hotel by the end of next week.)  Most homes hire a security guard to stay with them; however, I will not be hiring one as I would be very uncomfortable having a stranger living in my house. We are looking at a villa later today (that won稚 require a security guard) so I hope it will work.  Again, I ask for your prayers for my health and safety, and that I will help make a difference in the future of Ethiopia and the lives of so many precious children. (They are on the streets everywhere).

 

Hope this letter wasn稚 too long.God bless you all!

 

Love,

Natalie Jo

 

 

 

Journal Letter 2 - October, 2005                                                                              

Greetings from Ethiopia where the sun shines 13 months a year!!

I'm still trying to adjust to being here.  The hardest thing for me is seeing so much poverty everywhere.  I wonder what Jesus would do if he were here.  So many beggars...and of course they ask Americans all the time for money, because they think we are rich.  When I first arrived, I gave $ to all the children, but then I realized many were just taking the money to their mothers.  It's sad, because some mothers are using their children to beg because the children are more effective.

Last week when I was coming out of the bank, a little boy (the size of a 7-8 year old, but 14 yrs old) approached me and asked for money using his hand to his mouth.  I knew he was genuinely without.  I stopped one of the other boys (in a school uniform) and ask him to interpret for me. The boy's mother was dead and his father was in another part of the country.  This little boy was literally living on the streets alone. Of course he had no shoes (most children here don't) and when he raised his shirt, it looked like he had been beaten as he had many scars.  His stomach was swollen from malnutrition and his clothes were truly filthy rags.  Rather than give him $, I wanted to take him to a place that would take care of him (feed, clothe and shelter) and pay for his education (only about $15-$20 dollars per month).  However, the boy was afraid to go with me.  By the time I found my IFESH driver, he had left.  I wish I had at least given him some money.  I hope to find him again one day when I go to the bank.

Yesterday when I came to work, there was a mother who had picked blades of grass and laid them on the sidewalk for her and her small child (1-2 yr old) to sleep on.  They were still lying there....it was heartbreaking.  It's not just the children who beg.  Old ladies have followed me and hung on to my elbow begging for bread (not money).  Whenever they ask me for $, I try to give them food instead.  There are fruit and vegetable stands everywhere, and men often walk by selling oranges from wheel barrels, so food is easy to buy.  I know it's not much, but it's all I can do.

 

I moved from my hotel into a compound this week.  The owner lives in a house in front and has two houses she rents inside the compound.  The other house has a Muslim family living in it.  (They are fasting right now.)  My house is the smallest, only 5 rooms; 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 1 living room, and 1 dinning room (which I will use as an extra bedroom) and a kitchen.  The house is very old and was made of mud; however the walls have been updated (covered with some type of boards), and the owner (Mulu) had it all painted white.  The floors are inexpensive tile, but I plan to clean them really well and wax them this weekend.  It has lots of windows that open from the inside out with shutters that close from the outside in. This week the Ministry purchased me a 3/4 bed, a stove and a refrigerator. Next week they plan to buy me some living room furniture (probably cane...it's the least expensive here, but I really like it). The compound I live in is in an old part of town, and as Addis goes, it's quiet.  Mulu has lots of big trees and flowers. She plants them in everything, old paint cans, old sinks, etc.  I know it doesn't sound very nice, but it really is.  We have a guard (Kassia) who is only about 20 years old.  He is very nice and works very hard. I see him doing laundry and washing dishes, and he is always sweeping the fallen leaves.  We had two guard dogs, but one of them died yesterday. I felt sorry for Kassia because he is really attached to the dogs.  He feeds them and puts them on and off their chains every night.  The one that died would bark a "warning" but the other one is very, very mean.  He doesn't want to warn you, he wants to bite you!  I definitely won't go out of my house at night after he has been left off his chain.  A good thing is that a puppy followed Mulu home a couple of weeks ago and she kept her (got her shots and wormed). The puppy's name is Romeo and I really like playing with her.  You can tell that Kassia loves her too. One dog died and God provided another one (although I don't think Romeo will be a very good guard dog - she's too gentle).

I've applied for a land phone (so I can get Internet at my home), and hope to have it by the end of next week.  It's hard for me to check my e-mail every day because it's so slow at my office. Sometimes I never get on, and it cost $ per minute when you access the Internet in the Internet cafes.  I'm learning how to speak some of the language here and travel by van-taxi (12 people in one car) and change van-taxis to get to and from work.  I really don't care for it very much because I have to pass so many poor people on the streets.  It cost 2 Burr compared to I0 Burr for a private taxi, so it's one of those necessities.

I like the church I've been attending.  Last Sunday I met a lady there from Colorado Springs.  She comes to Ethiopia every few weeks/months and works with a young mother's ministry here.  In rural areas, the 12 and 14 year old girls that have babies don't have proper medical care and after they deliver, they are often torn up inside and have medical complications.  She is part of an organization that has started a place (similar to the Ronald McDonald house) for young mothers and their babies to provide them with the proper treatment and help they need.

Well, I better close for now.

Love,

Natalie

 

 

 

Journal Letter 3 - October, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

 

This has been the most difficult week I have had since arriving in Ethiopia.  There have been times when I have wondered what I was doing here and if I was really able to make a difference.  I know I have shared with you about the great poverty here; still, I can稚 escape it.  Sunday afternoon I was coming home from church and I saw a man sleeping in the grass beside the sidewalk.  One of his legs was swollen about 4 times the size of normal and it was covered with cancerous soreshis foot was almost rotted completely off.  It was very hard for me to see him lying there.  I felt sick to my stomach and fought to hold the tears back.  As I walked past him (not knowing what I could do), I thought about Jesus and what He would do if He were here.  My first thought was He would heal the man and the man would stand up and walk and then jump for joy.  But what could I do?

 

As I continued my walk, I saw some of the regular beggars I see almost every day.  There is an older man who has fastened a large piece of black rubber under his bottom so he can scoot along the rocky sidewalk without it piercing himself.  As he scoots along, he begs for someone to just give him some bread or spare coins so he can eat.  Another regular beggar is a toothless woman with an old wrinkled face.  Her eyes pierce though me as she looks into my eyes and holds her hand out for anything I might give her.  I shift my eyes, and as I look across the path I see the street boys.  They are huddled together and are quietly sharing conversation.  They are wearing dirty ragged clothing and few have shoes.  They sit on sheets of plastic they use to cover with at night.  It gets cold at night in Addis.              

 

I wonder what Jesus would do if He were here.  Yet, Jesus isn稚 herebut I am.  What does He want me to do?  What does He expect me to do?  What can I do?  I feel totally helpless and begin to think I was idealistic to think I could make a difference.  Life is too hard hereway too hard.

 

I think about how spoiled I really am.  Just two days ago I arrived home from work to find that my 3 English TV channels (only connection with the US) weren稚 working, my cell phone run down (I couldn稚 find the password to recharge it) and my internet not working.  I went to bed frustrated but telling myself that things would be better the next day.

 

The next day I awakened to find I had no water. not just a lack of hot water, but NO water.  I had no choice; I had to wait for the city to release the water lines.  While I waited, I called the satellite technician who assured me he would be there within the hour.  He arrived at 2:30 pm (6 hours later) and charged me 100 Burr to replace a faulty wire (even though I had just purchased it from him 1 week earlier).  Meanwhile, I found my password for my cell phone, and the phone company was able to give me instructions over the phone as to how to connect to the internet.  Things were getting betterstill; no waterno water Sunday, no water Monday.  Water finally came on Tuesday.

 

When I woke up this morning (Wednesday), I had red itchy rashes all over me.  I thought about going to the doctor, but I don稚 have enough money to go (until I get paid next week) and medical care here isn稚 that good anyway.  So instead, I asked another volunteer with whom I work (from England, who has been here 3 years), and she said it was for sure flea bites.  She told me that they stay in clothes and when you put them on they bite you because they are really hungry    I guess I will have to get something to wash my clothes in and make sure they are all washed.  The encouraging thing is that she said the longer I知 here the less likely I will get fleas.

 

All I have and still, I complain.  I think about the people who have no roof over their heads, those who are left on the streets to beg for food - those who are disabled or infected with deadly diseases.  Although Jesus isn稚 here in person, He is here inside of me.  I don稚 know what He would do about all the hunger and pain I see everyday, but I do know what He wouldn稚 do.  He wouldn稚 complain.  He would be thankful and He would do all that he could to make life better for those He lovesand He loves all the children (big and small)we are all God痴 children.  As I have struggled though this difficult week, I have come to learn that I must not lean on my own understanding, but trust Himtrust Him to direct my path and to use me to make a difference.  I致e decided that, although poverty is painful to see, I am helping make a difference here by improving the quality of the education system.  Education is the answer to poverty and, although I might not see the fruits of my labor right now, I am making a difference for the next generation of children.

 

I知 also praying about starting a Saturday school for the children in my neighborhood.  I have a covered carport, and, since I don稚 have a car, I may as well make use of it.  I知 sure if I get a plastic tarp and spread it on the ground underneath it, children would enjoy sitting on it and listen to me read them stories and teach them some simple fun songs (i.e. Deep and Wide) in English.  Children who don稚 go to private schools often aren稚 taught English, and they are behind when they enter the 9th grade, as all the courses are taught in English.  I think this would help them learn English and also allow me the opportunity to share Jesus with them.  I would like to provide cookies and something to drink; however, if I were to do that, word would spread and there wouldn稚 be any room in my compound.  As it is, I think it will be pretty crowded because the children smile and run to touch me when they see me walking.  In addition to my house, my landlady (Mulu) rents another house to a Muslim family in our compound.  I don稚 know what they will say or think   Please pray for me - that God will be the leader (not me).

 

I know this letter is rather long. I知 trying to write one letter each week and I hope it was okay for me to summarize my week for you.  Until next time, please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

 

May God bless each of you!

 

Natalie

 

 

 

Journal Letter 4 - November, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

 

This will be short journal letter this week due to the present situation occurring here.

 

Yesterday there was rioting in Piazza (the area I pass through to get to work) and Mercato (the main shopping area) in Ethiopia.  I now have to walk to work (about a 50 minute walk) so unknowingly I walked through Piazza about 20 minutes after it happened.  Later in the day there were injuries and deaths on both sides (the people and military police) in Mercato.  Again, I was unaware of what had happened and had gone shopping for groceries.  Fortunately, I wasn't any place near the area of the up-rising.

 

I woke up this morning to what sounded like a gun shot and people shouting.  It was followed by many more shots, so I thought it was firecrackers and the people celebrating the last day of the Muslim fast.  However, shortly after that my boss tried to get hold of me, but couldn't get through.  He called the compound I live in and told them not to allow me to leave my compound until further notice.  I didn't understand what was happening and was told that what I had heard earlier were gun shots (not firecrackers).  The military police have been going into compounds and taking young people out and shooting them.  They believe the young people (mainly college age) are responsible for the uprising against the new government.  I walked outside of my compound to see what was going on, and I could see only scattered traffic on the streets and shops that are closed.  The military police are walking the streets with rifles, and the few people that are out are hurrying down the streets.

 

I went back into my house and decided to get on-line.  It was then that I received the e-mail notice below....I live in Megenagna.  Still, I'm not afraid for myself....I'm afraid for the people.  Our guard is a young man (about my son's age) and I worry for him.  Please pray for him and the families who have lost loved ones.  Also pray that the peace will be restored in Ethiopia before more lives are lost.

 

Thank you for your continued prayers.

 

Natalie

 

 

Email:

 

> U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa

> Warden Message

> November 2, 2005

>

>

> To all American Citizens in Ethiopia:

>

The Embassy is issuing this Warden Message to alert U.S. citizens that various disturbances have been noted in Megenagna, Piazza, Mercato, and Old Airport areas. The situation is very fluid, and different areas of Addis Ababa may be affected at any time. American Citizens are urged to avoid these areas.

>

Please refer to the message of November 1, 2005 for further information.

 

 

 

Journal Letter 5 -.November, 2005

Good Morning Family and Friends,

 

If you watch CNN, you are aware of the current political problems in Ethiopia, particularly Addis Ababa (the city I live in).  To keep updated, you can read news reports on the CNN web page (CNN.com) under world events, Ethiopia.  Basically, there has been rioting here since November 2nd resulting in many injuries, and as of today, more than 50 people have lost their lives.  Businesses and taxis shut down on November 3rd so the only form of transportation has been private cars; however government buses started running again this weekend.  In protest, several of the buses have been set on fire.  In addition, over 1,000 people from the opposing party have been arrested and jailed.  They are being investigated and "counseled". The counseling consists of physical abuse and various forms of torture (ex. electrical shocks).  The government issued an order yesterday (Sunday, November 6th) demanding all taxis/vans and businesses open today.  The opposition has replied that they will not comply until their leaders are released from jail.  It is about 2 pm now and there are no taxis/vans on the streets and only some stores have opened for business.  There have been truck loads of soldiers sent in, and they are heavily paroling the streets.  Since I work for the government (ministry of education) my boss is not allowing me to return to my office yet; however, many of my fellow Ethiopian colleagues have returned to work.   I知 being picked up later today to attend a meeting called by the US Embassy for all American citizens.

 

In order let you know how I知 doing, I thought I would share some things that have happened in my life over the past week.  Although Wednesday and Thursday were a little unnerving, I was tired of being confined to my house and so I decided to go for a walk.  I enjoy walking as I see much more of Ethiopia when I walk than when I travel by taxi/van.  I found some people walking on the streets and some small vegetable stands open along the small streets (what we would call allies).  I put on my IPOD shuffle and enjoyed listening to my contemporary Christian worship and praise music.  I really like walking to the music and seeing the children playing outside their homes.  I don稚 think I have told you how really beautiful Addis is.yes, there is a lot of poverty, but the city is set inside a bowl surrounded by beautiful green grass mountains.  Regardless of whether you are walking downhill or uphill, you can稚 help but see the beautiful mountains that surround the city.  And the weather is really perfect! Although the streets are rocky, walking along the streets can still be enjoyable.it痴 all in your frame of mind.  In order for me to avoid the main roads, I chose to cross the street in front of my compound and walk down a different road.  The people are very friendly and always smile and nod their heads, as if to say hello, when I pass by.  Those who can speak English are quick to yell 滴ello to me.  I welcome their greetings and always respond with a happy greeting.  The children are perhaps my favorite.  If they are old enough (5 or up,) they run to greet me by either waving enthusiastically or tagging along with me for a few steps.  Although they don稚 speak English, our eyes communicate and they know I am as happy to see them as they are me.  Those that are younger aren稚 allowed to leave the front of their home, so they just stand there and grin at me.  I love it!

 

My walk took me up and down, and gradually I had climbed to the top of a winding road.  At the top, on the left hand side of the road, I could see a grove full of people dressed in white.  As I got closer, I realized they were standing in a cemetery.   On the road walking towards me were literally hundreds of people walking dressed in white clothing. The women wore white garments with white sheer head coverings and the men wore white shirts.  They were filing into the cemetery in rows of six to eight across.  They continued to walk up a narrow dirt road through the cemetery and joined the others who had already arrived.  It reminded me of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow my Grandpa Ted use to recite:  I wondered lonely as a cloud that floats ore veil and hill, when all at once I saw a crowd, a golden host of daffodilcontinuous as the stars that shine and twinkle in the Milky Way; they stretched a never ending line across the margin of a bay.   Yet, these weren稚 yellow daffodils, they were people dressed in white.   I couldn稚 begin to count the number of people I saw.there seem to be no end to the line walking up the hill towards me.  I asked the gatekeeper what was happening and he told me that it was a funeral for a lady who had been killed earlier in the week.  She was a teacher and had only one child, a daughter who was studying abroad.  I was invited in and so I entered and sat on a tree stump towards the back of the cemetery.  I wanted to pay my respects, but decided to move on as I was a noticeable distraction (being a foreigner).  As I left, I decided to take another route home.  As I was walking down the street, I came to a burnt line that crossed the road (still full of ashes).  During the previous three days, fires were started all over the city to stop traffic and tires were often set on fire in the middle of roads.  I was at one of those road blocks (not far from my house).

 

The next day, I decided to go exploring again to see if I could manage to get to the church for Christmas choir practice.  On the way, I stopped along the sidewalk to watch some young boys play football (soccer).   I could tell they liked my watching them, and it made them feel important.  One time the ball was kicked into the street, right past where I was standing, and one of the boys went running after it (not looking either way for traffic).  I hurriedly stepped out into the street holding my hand up for the oncoming car to stop.  The driver smiled at me as he stopped, and the boy beamed as he ran back to play.  It means a lot for children to feel valued, especially here.  The church was further than I thought and after walking over an hour, I decided that I would try to catch a bus.  I had been warned to never ride one of the city buses (due to overcrowding and pick pocketing); but after all, that was before there were no taxis/vans, and the buses I had seen passing weren稚 crowded (didn稚 have people standing in the isles and hanging out the windows).  So, I decided to experience another part of the Ethiopian life and boarded my first city bus.   Addis is divided into many different areas (like small towns, only you can稚 tell where one ends and one starts).  I live three areas away from the church I was going to, which meant I would have to change buses to get there.   When I finally arrived at the church, I found a note posted to the gate that choir practice had been cancelled due to the recent events.  Not ready to return to my compound, I decided to walk on to one of my new American friend痴 home (from Missouri) which was another couple of miles.  Nancy was surprised to see me, and we had a nice time visiting with her Ethiopian host family.  She couldn稚 believe I had walked and ridden the city buses to get there; it made me feel like I really accomplished something.  She had not traveled anywhere for several days and decided she would like come to my house and watch some 鄭merican TV.  She was still unsure about riding the city buses (due to previous bus burnings) so Mulu, my landlady, came and got us.  It was nice having someone to talk with at my house (especially an American).

 

The next day, Nancy decided she would be adventurous and ride the bus to church with me.  We didn稚 have any problems getting there.  The first service of the month the children participate in the service; so needless to say, the service was great.  After church, we started walking to the next bus stop.  Instead of taking another bus, we decided to explore a different part of Addis, so we ended up walking most of the day.  We bought some bottled water while we were walking, and it wasn稚 long before we came upon a small cluster of street boys (about age 7-9) asking me for my water.  Since I don稚 drink after anyone, it was hard for me to give them a half of a small bottle of water to share.  Instead I motioned for two of them to come with me.  About a block down the street we met a man pushing a wheel barrel of bananas.  I pointed to the bananas and ask if they wanted some?  Their eyes widened and their heads bobbed up and down as their faces turned to smiles.  I told the man I wanted 1 kilo of bananas (about 12-14 small ones).  He started to pick the bad ones and I stopped him and told him I wanted good ones.  He shook his head yes and pointed for me to choose the ones I wanted.  I pointed to the boys and to the bananas motioning that I wanted them to choose the ones they wanted.  It was wonderful to see their smiles when I gave them the opportunity to pick the bananas they wanted.  As I was waiting for the man to weight the bananas, I looked back and saw the other boys sitting on the ground; I asked for a second bag of bananas.  The man gave the boys each a bag of bananas, and they were as happy as any child at Christmas.  Since I hadn稚 found a place that sold water yet, I bent down and took 10 birr out of my bag and pointing to my water I gave them some money to buy water.  They yelled with joy.  Before I let go of their hands, I pointed to the other boys and told them to share the bananas and buy water for them all.  They nodded their head up and down as fast as they could and as I walked away, I could hear the excitement in their voices as they went running back to their friends.  Although, I would have preferred to have bought them water (rather then to have given them money), I was happy knowing I had given them something to eat and just a little bit of happiness.

 

Well, that brings us up to date.  I know this letter is the longest ever; however, I hope you find it interesting and informative.  As always, thank you for your continued prayers.

 

Love, Natalie Jo

 

 

 

Journal Letter 6 - November, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

 

This week I want to tell you about a little girl named Angie.  Yesterday as I was walking I looked across the street, and I was moved to see a little girl (named Angie who was 10) carrying a baby on her back and walking with her little brother (about 7), a  sister (about 3) and another boy (about age 10).  I rarely take pictures of street children (because I don't want to make a big deal that they are so poor and different from what I usually see), but I walked ahead so I could stop and take their picture.  Angie saw me and crossed the street to see me.  I took a couple more close-up pictures and then showed them to her and the other children.  They smiled when they saw themselves, but quickly asked for money.  I told them "velum" which means no or none.  However, then I told them that I would buy them some food and motioned for them to follow me.  We had to cross the street, and as we did, some people told them to go away and leave me alone. (Many Ethiopians don't like beggars bothering Americans and tell them to leave us alone.)  I told the people that I didn't like children begging for money, but I did want to buy them some food.  They told them what I said (rather strongly) and the little girl started to pout...she turned her head and stared into a totally different direction for several minutes and would not look at me.  Suddenly, she griped the hands of her two siblings and started to cross the street to go back to where she had come from.  The people around started laughing...I followed her and tried to tell her that I wanted to buy her some food.  She started walking fast and hurriedly wiped some tears form her eyes.  It was ironic because rather than children following me, I was following them.  After about 2 blocks we came to where her mother was standing.  I asked for a passing Ethiopian who speaks English to interpret for me.  I had them tell the mother that I was upset with her for training and using her children to beg for money.  The mother just looked at me with a blank look on her face.  I then told Angie that I thought she was a good sister and I was glad to see her taking such good care of her sisters and brother.  I told her that I wanted to buy her some new shoes. (She only had parts of shoes to walk in.)  The people there asked me if I wanted to buy her friend (the older boy) shoes also and of course, I said yes.

 

We had passed a children's fashion store a few doors back, so I took Angie痴 hand and took them to the store.  After we were in the store, I noticed her younger sister and brother had followed us; now I had four children, instead of two.  I told the man working in the store that I wanted four pair of shoes and asked how much they were.  He told me they were 120 Birr each.  I told him there was no way I was paying that much for children's shoes, so he lowered the price to 80 Birr.  Again, I said that I couldn't afford 80 birr times four.  He suggested I only buy two pair now and two more pair another day.  I said that I could not disappoint the two younger children and I needed four pair.  He said okay, he would sell them to me for $50 birr each.  I agreed and then we began trying the shoes on the children.  The children were filthy and I hadn't smelled anything like their bodies order since I gave baths to the children in Thailand.  You can't imagine the smell...I just wanted a bath tub full of bubbles so I could wash them from head to toe.  The store owner put their feet into a plastic sack before he tried their shoes on them.  The owner wanted to give them shoes he had left in their sizes (ex. some dress shoes for the older boy), but I told him that I wanted good tennis shoes for all of them.  We ended up with black ones for the older boy, light blue for the younger boy (that had lights in the heels) and two-toned pink with princess crowns for the little girl.  I tried to get Angie to pick another pair, but she wanted (and got) white ones with red trim.  They really needed some new clothes, so I managed to talk the store owner into four shirts for a total of 250 birr.  Again, I had to negotiate for some nicer clothes; however, it was worth it once the children saw themselves in the mirror.  When we left the store, the mother had bundled up their old shoes.  I told her I wanted the old shoes. At first she didn't want to give them to me, but I pointed to the new ones and said I wanted to trade.  She handed them over and I gave them to the store owner to throw away.  I took a picture of the children and showed it to them.  They were all smiles as I waived good-bye.

 

I walked to another part of piazza to talk to the man who had sold me my land phone (the cordless battery is bad).  He agreed to replace the battery and I started my walk home.  Before I left the shopping alley, I saw Angie.  She was walking with two of her girl friends.  She had on her new shirt and her head was covered with an old cloth.  As our eyes met, I smiled and said, 滴ello Angie.  She smiled back and stopped as if to talk.  I noticed she was barefooted.  I asked her where her mother was and she turned and started walking back the way she came from.  I followed her and about two blocks away, we came to her mother.  Her mother was sitting on the corner with another lady and the other children.  The other children had on their new shoes and Angies white shoes were sitting by her mother.  Angie quickly went to her shoes and put them on.  As I started to talk to the mother, another man told her what I was saying.  I took the rag off of Angies head and put it on the mothers lap.  I told her that she shouldn't send Angie to beg for her, and that if Angie didn't wear shoes, she could get infections and very sick.  I bent down to Angie and told her that I knew she had to help her mother, but she needed to wear good shoes to protect her feet.  I couldn't do anything more, so I turned and walked away.

 

As I walked home, I thought about how little of a difference I had made.  It was easy for me to judge the mother, but she had four children to feed and it really isn稚 easy to find work in Ethiopia.  I'm sure she would have preferred her children have shoes, but food was more important and it's not as likely that a little girl with new tennis shoes will get as many coins as a little girl poorly dressed.   I felt defeated.  I told myself that I had done the best I could at the time, but it didn't change anything.  I can't get Angie off my mind.  I have so much to learn.  I think if I were able to work in orphanages, I would be able to make more of a difference. 

 

Working with the Ministry of Education (MOE) is supposed to be one of the best jobs here; yet, I would rather be working with children than with so much bureaucracy. Since I first arrived, my job assignment has been redefined by the MOE.  I'm working on reviewing and improving the education accreditation system in Ethiopia (incorporating some of US policy and procedures) - something I would normally love to do, but I can't seem to focus on all the research and paperwork required.  Please pray for me - that I will have a clear mind and stay focused on my purpose here.         

 

Bless you all and Happy Thanksgiving!  Natalie

 

 

 

Journal Letter 7 November, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

 

I trust your Thanksgiving was a memorable one and that you and your families are well.  My Thanksgiving was spent with some of my American friends and most of the Ethiopia IFSH teachers (assigned to various cities in Ethiopia).  We meet at the Hilton (yes, there is one in Addis Ababa) and enjoyed getting to visit and share a 鍍raditional turkey dinner.  It was lovely.it was the first time I had seen any meat that looked appetizing since I arrived .yet, it didn稚 taste like the turkey I have eaten at past thanksgivings.  Perhaps it was the lack of gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce or maybe it was experiencing my first Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie; still, it was great to be with other Americans.  However, let me assure you, there is no place like home and I thought of many of you as I reflected on my previous Thanksgivings.

 

The IFESH teachers stayed in town over the weekend for our first bi-monthly meeting.  It was amazing to hear about their experiences in the field (or as we saythe bush).  Since I am the only one working at the Ministry of Education, I was humbled by the sacrifices they are making.  One of my friends, Rose, stayed with me - her assignment is the hardest of us all.  She works in Hosanna, about 8 hours (by bus) from where I live.  The roads to Hosanna are very rough, and the IFESH drivers have a difficult (and scary) time each time they take her home.  She has no choice but to walk about 3 miles to go to town and rarely has electricity and water (really)!  She also has to gather rain water to bath and wash her clothes.  She was very thankful to get to visit and for the things I 兎xpect and have come to take for granted (for example, using my shower).  Even though I miss teaching, she made me think about how blessed I am to be working in the capitol.

This weekend was the Great Ethiopian Run; it痴 a 10K run that supports the 4.6 million orphans in Ethiopia. According to UNICEF, there are more orphans in Ethiopia than in any other country and many more children who are vulnerable and abandoned by their families and society at large.  Although many of the participants walk showing their support, it was hard for me to just walk (after all, I ran the Chicago Marathon in 1999).  Even so, I have only been walking to work, so 途unning was probably not the smartest thing I have done lately.  I must confess I didn稚 run the whole way; in fact I was very selective in choosing the areas where I ran.  For example, I ran on flat ground or down the hills and kept my eyes looking down as I forced myself to walk up the hills at a 賭uestionable fast pace.  Nevertheless I was proud of the fact I finished the 6 miles in 72 minutes.   After the race, our group went over to one of the IFESH staff member痴 home and enjoyed refreshments and visiting around a couple of outside tables.  It was very relaxing; however after an hour, I was ready to get home, shower and lie down.  After I got home, I took a cold shower and took the best nap I have had in a long timeJ.

 

The guard (Izeah) at our house is about the same age as my son, Jonathan, so I really enjoy him.  He speaks a little English (enough that we can communicate but not enough to be considered fluent.)  I have arranged for him to attend a six-month English class that meets twice on the weekends.  Hopefully, he will be able to understand and speak English much better at the end of the course.  He is very smart and can do almost anything you ask him to do.  Last week, we found an old wooded box/crate and were able to make it into a checker table by turning it on its side and drawing squares on the top.  Although, we didn稚 have any black and red paint, he painted each square with great care using green and maroon paint.  I found an old tree stump that he sawed in halfthey make perfect stools.  Izeah collected various pop bottle tops to use for checker pieces.  I thought I would be able to teach him how to play, but I was wrong.  He is so good that the first time I played him he still had 9 pieces (out of 12) left when I was out.  Needless to say, either I知 not very good or he is really good.  Still, he is anxious to play me a game each time I walk in the compound at the end of the day. (I知 getting better.)   I hope to get a chess set for him so I can teach him a new game.   

 

Work is going well.  I have learned a lot about the educational history of Ethiopia, and my main assignment is to come up with a written proposal to improve the accreditation system here.  The US education system is about 40-50 years ahead of the Ethiopia system, and although it isn稚 possible to completely close the gap, I think we can implement some policy changes that will definitely make a difference in the quality of education here.  I知 just now beginning to see what I can bring to the table to effectively improve the quality of Ethiopian education.  Please keep me in your prayers for wisdom and that I can make a difference.

 

Well, I知 at the end of the page, so I better close for now.  Please know I知 thankful for you allfriends and family are true blessings in our lives.

 

Love Always,

Natalie Jo

 

 

 

Journal Letter 8 - December 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

 

I know it痴 been awhile since I last wrote; however, I have been very busy (yes, even in Addis, one can get overwhelmed with things on their 鍍o do list.   Hopefully this letter will bring you up-to-date with my life in Addis Ababa.

 

The last letter I wrote described my Thanksgiving.  In America, I知 accustomed to ending Thanksgiving by putting up my Christmas tree.  I didn稚 think I would be able to find a tree in Addis, but surprisingly, some of the stores (that sell American and European items) starting decorating their stores and putting up artificial Christmas trees for sale.  I知 not sure that it was wise for me to buy one, but I decided since I might stay another year, it was a good investment.  I chose a 7 foot (slender) tree and decorated it with a 渡et of lights and 24 assorted colored balls.  In addition, I was able to find a beautiful Ethiopian nativity set and a garland which was long enough to make a wreath for my front door with enough to hang over the doorway.  I was able to manage a red bow for the wreath, so my house looks very 鄭merican.  To top it off, my Aunt Jo sent me a package with a variety of Christmas ornaments, a stocking to hang and a string of red beads that really make my tree POP!  It has really cheered me up to come home after work, and I have enjoyed watching the lights on my tree and listing to a Christmas musical CD I brought with me from home.  I知 looking forward to inviting some of my new Ethiopian friends over to celebrate the holidays with me. 

 

My house has become quite comfortable thanks to my landlady and friend, Mulu.  While walking through the compound (with a bricked wall fence,) I saw an old bathtub half full of fallen pine needles.  I mentioned it to Mulu and told her how much I longed for a bathtub instead of the small square sunken shower.  She was kind enough to have it installed with new white tile placed all around it.  The bottom of the bath tub was rusted so she had it sprayed with an air-compressor (the same as cars are painted with).  The results are more than I could have ever imagined or hoped for.it is like new, all white and shiny.  I couldn稚 touch it for a few days, but it was well worth it when I was able to take my first hot bath.  Until you have done without one, you can稚 imagine how good it is to have access to such a luxury.  I am ever grateful to her for caring enough about me to pay the price to take such good care of me.  I thank God for his continuous blessings!

 

My older sister, Kanell, sent me a wonderful care package and included some money to help feed the orphans.  It isn稚 hard to find a place to bless children here.  The day after I received her package, I decide I had better get something for lunch (to take my vitamins with) and since they have pizzas (about the size of your hand) for 2 birr, I thought it would be a good choice. They make them all up at the beginning of the day (they aren't warm) and put them in a display case with pastry. Sure enough, there was a little boy (about 8) asking me for money or food. I took him in with me and pointed to the case asking him if he wanted one. He nodded yes and I let him pick out which one he wanted to eat. I then took him to the back of the cafe and let him pick out a pop to drink with his pizza. He pointed to an Orange Fanta. I asked if there was a place he could sit to eat and drink his pop (all the 6-8 tables had people sitting at them already). A man that was sitting alone pulled out a chair for him to sit in. The waitress poured his pop into a glass, and he gave me a big smile as I walked out the door. I thought I would pass his smile on to you.  I wish you could see their faces when they are treated like they are worth something.

 

I wish I could tell you that it has gotten easier for me to walk down the streets of Addis. Maybe it has. Still, just when I think nothing else will affect me, I知 caught off guard and moved beyond belief.  The disabled heavily populate the streets in Ethiopia. Some are genuine, and some are not.  Unfortunately, due to the years of poverty, begging has become an occupation in Addis to the degree that some are referred to as 菟rofessional beggars.  Understandably so, this makes it difficult to be certain that you are helping rather than hurting the people in Addis.  When I first arrived, I wanted to give to everyone; now however, I try to be more sensitive to the Holy Sprit before I give.  Perhaps that is one reason I buy food or needed clothes, shoes, etc. rather than handing out money.  I have seen Angie twice since the purchase of her white and red shoes.  I知 happy to report that both times she has had her shoes on (although they aren稚 white anymoreJ).  Both times she has greeted me with a smile and I her with a kiss on the cheek.  I think I知 known to some of the street children in Piazza (an area between my home and work) because when they see me, they flock after me.  I was amazed the last time that they led me to a place that sold bananas.  Once we arrived at the stand, children starting coming from all directions.  One of my friends was with me and later told me that was the problem with trying to help some; there are just too many to feed.  Still, I was very happy to buy bananas for them. Honestly, it wasn稚 that much.

 

Another person who affected me recently was a young man I came across while crossing the street from the bank.  He was sitting almost hidden between the shrubs dividing the two lanes of traffic.  I must admit that I walked by him at first; however I didn稚 get more than 10 steps before the Holy Spirit spoke to me to take another look.  I turned back and saw a man who had been badly burned.  He was missing all of his fingers and most of his legs.  His face was scared and as his eyes meet mine, I couldn稚 help but think of how truly difficult his life must be.  It would be almost impossible for him to find work in Addis and yet, he was still a person with the same needs I have.  I walked back and gave him 10 birr.  As he clasped it between his hands I said 釘less You and he leaned forward for me to touch the top of his head.  He wore a knitted cap, and as I placed my hand on his head, I could feel his pain.  As I walked away, I was thankful that I had looked back; yet I was sad that I couldn稚 do more for him.  I really don稚 know what to do.   

 

Another interesting event that has occurred in my compound is the interest in 摘nglish class.  Since I started sending Izaia, one of the contractor痴 son痴 (helping his dad work on Mulu痴 house) expressed an interest in going with Izaia.  His name is 鏑ove (I don稚 know if that his real name or what his name means), and he is close to Izaia age.  Izaia finished the 9th grade, and Love has finished the 10th grade.  Neither one of them is interested in returning to high school to complete their degree; but they understand the value of being able to read, write and speak in English.  If a person has mastered the English language, they can find much better paying jobs here.  For example, being a guard at the U.S. Embassy pays really well.  In addition to them, there are two maids that work in the 溺uslim house inside my compound.  One of them is 16 and the other one is 18.  The 16 year old has had no schooling while the 18 year old has only completed the 6th grade.  They both want to attend. Without any education the younger one wouldn稚 be able to follow along; however, the older one should be able to learn if she really works at it.  I have decided to try to teach the youngest one some of the basicswe値l see.  J

 

My son, Jonathan, is taking care of some of my financial matters for me and as such I have made him my Power of Attorney.  I recently sold our first home in Arkansas (used for a rental) and had to reinvest in additional real estate.  Jonathan found a condo in Denver that he (and a couple of his friends) have moved into and are renting (to make the payments).  As such, it was necessary for me to return to the states for a short visit.  I left here last Friday night (arriving 24 hours later) and returned the following Wednesday morning.  It was very short, but I really enjoyed getting to spend a few days with Jonathan. He is working hard and I知 really proud of him.  This is the first Christmas we haven稚 been together and needless to say, it will be hard.  Please pray for us both.

 

I know this has been a very long letter; but I want to close with another short story.  Today I was walking outside my office and saw three little girls just walking down the street looking into the string of cafes.  They were very poor, and if you have ever seen the pictures of my sisters and me when we lived in Mississippi, you would have recognized us in them.  I called out to them and they turned and walked towards me.  I noticed they all needed their faces washed and the littlest one was in great need of having her nose wiped.  I bent down and pulled out a Kleenex from my bag and attempted to wipe her nose. It was dry so it didn稚 do much good.  I smiled at them and asked them if they would like some pizza.  They nodded their heads up and down and we went into the caf.  The pizzas are small but were too big for them each to eat one, so I asked the waitress to cut them in half.  She put them on a plate and as I bent over and offered them each one, another little girl came running up and held out her hand.  I smiled and said 登kay, just a minute.  She seemed afraid that she would be left out. After taking their pizza, they all just stared at me - no smiles, just their big eyes.  As they walked off, I wondered what they were thinking.  When I left the caf, a man asked me if I was there to help the orphans.  I told him that I wasn稚 working with the orphans, but I wanted to help feed them because I love Jesus and I know he loves them.  He smiled and shook his head yes and told me thank you.  It痴 amazing to me that such a little act can mean so much to the people here.

 

I want to thank each of you for praying for me and for the Christmas cards and care packages I have received (Mom, the words in your card meant so much to me!)  I have them sitting out on my book shelf, and they make me smile every time I pass by them.  I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and remember - Jesus truly is the reason for the season!  Please take care of one another and keep Ethiopia in your prayers.

 

I love you all!

Natalie Jo

 

Journal Letter 9 January, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

 

I hope you enjoyed the Christmas holidays and that the New Year brings you much happiness.  I知 still enjoying my life in Ethiopia.  I have grown accustomed to living here and couldn稚 wait to get back from my Christmas break.

 

One of my teacher friends from the US and I decided to backpack around Israel and Egypt for our Christmas break.  We departed Addis Abba at 1:15 a.m. on Christmas Day, arriving in Tel Aviv early in the morning and traveled on to Bethlehem.  The driver was Palestinian and couldn稚 enter Bethlehem, so he dropped us off at the check point outside the city gates.  As we walked passed the guard station onto the street, it began to rain and we had no idea where to go or what to do.  However, it is just like our heavenly Father to send us help when we need it the most.  Out of the huge, blue tour buses pulled up and stopped where we were standing.  As the back two doors slowly opened in front of us, our eyes followed the stairs leading up to a man with a big smile who asked 展ould you like to join us as we tour Bethlehem?  We did not hesitate as we quickly replied 添es, thank you!  The bus was large enough to hold 80 people, yet the tour consisted of only about 30 people huddled around the guide in the front half of the bus.  We sat in the back of the bus (near where we entered) across the isle from each other on elevated seats that provided us a bird eye痴 view of the city and countryside.

 

When we stopped at the place where Jesus was born, it was truly amazing.  I was totally unprepared for what I saw when we stopped to view the birth place of Jesus.  I don稚 know what I was thinking.  Although not realistic, I guess I was expecting to see a manager.  Instead, we entered a beautiful church filled with breathtaking pictures portraying the birth and life of Christ. Then the tour guide opened a door that was on the floor, revealing the original floor of the church built around the manger where Jesus was born.  As we passed through the underground portion of the church, we came upon a sacred place that was built directly over the manager (located below).  Although I知 not Catholic, it was clear the love they have for Jesus, and many of them leaned in to kiss the sacred place of His birth.

 

We were able to purchase some items from Bethlehem (mainly Nativity scenes made from olive wood) before we left.  After we left the tour group, we were passed through an underground check point to re-enter the road back to Jerusalem.  There were only about 10 people in front of us; yet the entry process appeared to be intense during which some were actually denied entry.  However when it came our turn, we heard a voice from the loud speaker ask 哲ationality? to which we replied 鄭mericans and U.S. Citizens.  It was like we were royalty. The gates swung open and we heard the same voice say 溺erry Christmas and enjoy your stay.  We didn稚 even have to put our backpacks on the conveyor beltwe just walked right through.  It felt great to be Americans!

 

We stayed in hostels in the old part of the city of Jerusalem.  The first night we stayed in a place that looked like a scene from The Ten Commandments. I almost expected to see Moses walk around the corner.  The steps and walls were built completely out of jagged gray rocks (just picture the movie and you are thereJ.  Due to lack of availability, we couldn稚 stay there, so the next day, we moved to another hostel that was run by nuns.  However, it was actually better (cleaner) than the first one, so we stayed there for the rest of our visit.  Every morning the nuns provided us with a breakfast that consisted of pita bread, jam, sliced cheese, boiled eggs and tea/coffee.  They rang a large bell at 7:30 every morning and I could decide if I was back in summer church camps or in a church. 

 

The atmosphere was very different from what I had imagined.  Muslims, Jews and Christians all share the old city and live very peacefully together.  The culture was really different too....there were many small shops and open markets running throughout the city.  The streets were very narrow (not wide enough for driving cars) and were made of old and odd sizes of cobbled stones.  On Friday, Saturday and Sunday the open market is lined with people trying to sell their fresh vegetables (radishes, turnips, bundles of freshly cut mint, etc.) and fish....yes, I said fish open-mouthed and stinky fish. I can't imagine anyone buying fish that has been just lying out in the open like that, but they do...it's the same in Addis.  Needless to say, I didn稚 eat any meat :)

 

While in the city, I walked on top of the old Jerusalem wall and down the Via Delarosa, stopping at the fourteen marked places of importance along the way.  I can稚 begin to describe to you how miraculous it was to see the pool of Bethesda (where Jesus healed the man lying beside the water) and the place Jesus was tried, sentenced, beaten and imprisoned, and where He walked carrying the Cross.  It was very difficult; yet, I was also able to visit the Tomb of Jesus.  Even though many people were lined up to go inside, I didn稚 have any interest as I knew I wouldn稚 find Him there! It was a precious experience for me; sad and yet joyful!    

 

While I was in Israel, I had the opportunity to go to Nazareth, Capernaum, and the Sea of Galilee - another great day in my life.  After touring Nazareth, we traveled to the place where the disciple, Peter (the fisherman) lived and some of the areas where Jesus taught.  Most moving to me was to see the place where he turned the 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread into enough food to feed the multitude.  We also visited the place where Jesus gave us the Beatitudes (Blessed are they.) and an area covered with a glass floor built above some of their ancient meeting places.  The view of the sea was the most calming and peaceful place I have ever experienced.  Last, but not least, we were able to visit the site at the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.  Those that were interested had the opportunity to either get baptized for the first time, or rededicate their life to God.  This was an experience that I couldn稚 pass up; I still can稚 believe that I was able to be baptized in the Jordan River!  I知 so very thankful for this journey.

    

I had such a great time in Israel, I decided to extend my visit there and forgo my trip to Egypt.  I ended up staying eight days (instead of five) and returned home to Addis Ababa, two days early.  I was really tired and don稚 think I could have fully enjoyed Egypt. In addition, I had spent all my money in Israel. J (Did I mention the shopping?) 

 

I know this letter isn稚 about my life in Ethiopia; however, I hope you enjoy it, and it helps explain why I haven稚 written a journal letter in awhile. I will return to writing about my life in Ethiopia in my next Journal letter.  Until then 典enastilign (God be with you).

 

Love,

Natalie Jo

 

 

 

Journal Letter 10 January, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

 

Upon returning to Addis, I was upset to find that the government is now targeting the high school students (ages 14 -18).  Many of the high school students have shown their support for the jailed protesters by boycotting school, forcing schools to be closed.  The government has responded by going to the students houses during the night and literally dragging these young people out of their homes.  They have been seen kicking and beating them on the streets before they put them in jail. (Imagine what goes on once they are behind bars.)

 

The government here is unlike anything I've ever experienced....it is being ruled by a true dictator.  There is NO free press, radio or TV, and when the people oppose, they are arrested, kept in prison and tortured.  The leaders of the opposition (that were arrested in November) have been put before a judge for a bail hearing three times without being released.  As you know from my previous writing, many college students who protested the current government have been jailed (some even murdered), and colleges within and around the city have had classes cancelled for days at a time.  The city continues to be very volatile right now, I wouldn稚 be surprised at anything . . . the people are fed up and are like a time bomb getting ready to explode.  Please keep the people here in your prayers.

 

As for me, last week was a difficult one for me.  As I wrote in my December journal letter, I made a quick trip back to the US to be with Jonathan for a few short days. And although it was great, I think it set me back in my adjustment here.  I miss him and my family more every day, yet I know they each have their own lives and I, too, must do what I feel I知 called to do.  As a mother, I would appreciate it if you would pray for my son while I知 here - that God will continue to lead and use him for HIS glory and that his life will be full of peace and lasting happiness.

 

Getting back to work was a little of a struggle.but I think I知 okay now.  I致e completed my first major draft of the Accreditation Manual and am waiting on our team to provide me with feedback.  However, while waiting, the Director has asked me to develop a new five year strategic plan for HERQA (Higher Education Relevance Quality Agency).  I find it most interesting that he requested it on Friday and wants it in two weeks. J  Amazingly, everything takes a long time here, except the expectations they have for foreign consultant and advisors.  When it comes to our input, we are expected to have it available in record time. J  Still, I知 grateful for the opportunity to contribute what I can.

 

This past weekend was Christmas in Addis.  Although it痴 12 days later than ours, they do a fine job of celebrating.  It was fun to see artificial trees spring up with various colors of garlands and blinking lights.  I even saw a child wearing a Santa Clause costume (mask and all).  I have become know as the 澱anana lady as I still find that children cluster around me and are eager for me to purchase bananas for them all.  My purchase has grown from ス kilo to 1 kilo, and next time I知 sure it will be even more; however, it痴 really not expensive and it痴 a true joy to see their eyes light up.

 

I have found Angie (or she has found me) several times since the purchase of her new shoes.  It痴 always a treat for our eyes to meet, as I知 sure she knows I care about her.  Who knows, maybe one day will be able to talk her mother into letting me send her to school.  When I saw her last week she was with her 澱oy friend (not the same as in America), and I was happy to see them both again.  I was purchasing a loaf cake to take to Christmas dinner at my boss house, and when I turned around, there they stood at the doorway of the pastry/coffee shop.  The doorman started to shoo them away (after all they are little beggars), but I was able to stop him and tell him they were with me.  I invited them in and let them choose a pastry and a soda drink. 

 

The boy pointed to plain doughnuts, while Angie wanted a piece of layered chocolate cake (just like a woman) J and they both selected Miranda (an orange drink like Orange Crush).  We were able to find a place to sit, and Angie sat up tall like a little princess.  When they were finished I asked if they wanted more, and as they both shook their head 渡o. The little boy rubbed his stomach and said he was full.  It was really cute.  I bought them each a bag of cookies and wished them a Merry Christmas as we went our separate ways.  As I left, I was thankful that God had brought her into my life and I was able to give her something for Christmas.

 

You may recall my telling you about a beggar boy who walks the street across from my work place.  I purchased him a small 2-birr pizza one day with some money my older sister sent me to help feed the orphans.  Wellhe has become a regular friend.  Whenever I go out for lunch, he finds me, and we end up buying food together.   Recently I was buying some groceries and he wandered in and found me.  I said hello and asked what he would like today, and with a smile on his face, he pointed to a small bag of grain, some bananas, and two small bottles of 吐lavored juice drink.  I had to chuckle when the man bagged up his groceries and handed him two straws to drink his flavored juice.  Again, the best part for me is to see their smiles as they leave.

 

I was privileged to share something again with the burnt man I recently told you about.  He sits on a street by the bank and literally has no fingers and only partial legs.  His face is badly scared and is the color white from the scars that cover his face.  Yet he is so very thankful for the smallest of gifts.  God has put him on my heart so I will try to find him on a regular basis.  Please would you pray for him?  I have thought about him a lot since I saw him last, and I can稚 imagine how he can have a quality life, but I know with God all things are possible.  Together, I知 sure our prayers can make a big difference.    

 

Since I was only going to be in Denver for 3-4 days, I only took one large suitcase and a carry- on.  While I was there, I told Jonathan about our guard and that they were the same size.  Jonathan was quick to weed out his closet and provided me with an extra suitcase full of clothes to give him.  There were so many clothes; I was able to split them between our guard and another young man who has been working for my landlady.  They are both good friends and are attending English school together.  I only wish Jonathan could have seen their faces as I un-rolled each item of clothing.  They are doing well in English school.  They have classes twice a week (on Saturday and Sunday 8-10:30 am).  After class on Sunday mornings, they meet me at an English speaking church.  I told them it痴 like an English Lab where they can practice hearing and reading English (on the overheads); but, it痴 much more.  They are getting to hear God痴 word and they actually are starting to sing some of the English praise and worship songs.  I have asked them what they think and they just say 砺ery good J

 

I worry that my stories may be portraying me as some 堵ood person, and I don稚 want you to view me like I知 that at all.  I don稚 want to be seen like the Pharisee standing on the corner pointing to what I do.  I知 not doing nearly enough, and what I give is very little.  Truthfully I only share these stories with you because children mean so much to me and they are the ones that always seem to capture my heart here.

 

Well, as they say杯hat痴 all folks!  Please know I love you and am thankful for you all.

 

Always,

Natalie Jo  

 

 

Letter 11 - January 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

 

I hope you are all well and enjoying the New Year.

 

I have tried to journal things that get my attention in Ethiopia; however, I think I have missed some of the everyday occurrences.  I知 going to try and describe more fully what I experience on my way to work everyday.  Unlike in most US cities, there aren稚 regular bus schedules, and it痴 not always easy to get a taxi.  While buses are the most economical form of transportation, they appear sporadically and carry so many people that they often are seen hanging out of windows and jammed onto the steps leading up into the buses.  I always find it amazing to watch them 菟ile on once the doors open. One day I stood open-mouthed watching the door shut on a person痴 back-pack while a person passing by stopped, and simply 菟ushed the rest of the back-pack into the bus.  None of the people seemed to mind; they all just looked at one another and laughed. 

 

There are two different types of taxies.  Line taxies are like mini vans that hold about 12 people and cost a fraction of the price of contract taxies.  Line taxies run regular routes and are watched by the traffic police that stand along the sidewalks to make sure they don稚 overload their taxies.  If they do, they are waived over and given a ticket.  I知 guilty of almost causing a line taxi driver to get a ticket last week when he graciously agreed to squeeze me in so I wouldn稚 be late to work.  Fortunately, I was able to tell the officer it was my fault, and he smiled and waived us on (after all, I was a foreigner).  I didn稚 realize the consequences of carrying additional people, as I had seen line taxies overload passengers in the past.  I had wondered why some taxies would take additional passengers and some wouldn稚. Then I realized it is only in the evenings that they allowed extra passengers.  Why? The traffic police aren稚 standing along the sidewalks patrolling the line taxies in the evenings. Contract taxies are my favorite; however, they are more expensive.  They are called 田ontract taxies because that is what you doyou negotiate a contract amount to the place where you want to go.  While I am known for my ability to negotiate a very fair rate (I know you have no doubt believing this), still, I would rather pay 1-2 birr than 10-15 birr to get to my office.  I try to walk at least one way to the office everyday so I don稚 have to worry about this very much.

 

Addis Ababa is like a never-ending town.  With approximately 5 million people living in Addis, I haven稚 seen all the different areas; however, I think I have a good handle on at least half of the city.  I live in Semen Megenagna an older and quieter part of the city.  A typical route for me is to go to Piazza, then on to Arat Kilo.  If I need to go to the IFESH office, I can catch a line taxi from Arat Kilo to Kezanchis.  Another area I frequent is Bolie Road.  It痴 probably my favorite area because it has several stores that carry 鄭merican items (groceries and cleaning supplies). It also has a coffee shop (very similar menu and environment as Starbucks) and restaurants, like Italian Gardens (their version of Italian Garden).  Yet if you were to ask me my favorite place to eat in Bolie, I would have to say Merchuse, an Italian/Pizza restaurant and art gallery combined with a city hillside view.  The other two areas that I regularly go to are Mexico (the taxi route to my bank) and Starbert (the route I take to go to the International Evangelistic Church).  I hope to venture out of my comfort zones one day soon as I知 sure there are many other areas I would enjoy visiting in Addis (not to mention Ethiopia).  I知 planning on going to Kenya on a safari at the end of June or first part of July, so if any of you are interested, you are more than welcome to come along.

 

In addition to different types of transportation, there are also different types of police (soldiers) in Addis.  While some are traffic police (dressed in tan uniforms), there are also soldiers that patrol the streets and buildings.  These soldiers are dressed in blue uniforms and are positioned in groups of two or three around certain buildings and/or areas.  The numbers increase at times when the risk of demonstrations opposing the government increases.  My office is in the Ministry of Education Building in the heart of the city (Arat Kilo), so it痴 not uncommon for me to see 12-15 soldiers standing around my building at any time of day.  Often times the soldiers ride in the back of trucks traveling in a caravan on the way to a particular section of Addis to make sure the people don稚 succeed in over throwing the government.  Sometimes when I come out of my office I see jeeps on the sidewalks with additional soldiers holding their rifles just waiting for someone to make a wrong move.  I have seen them push young men across the street for no apparent reason resulting in a 菟ush fight.  Although I don稚 consider myself brave, I know I知 too quick to respond and found myself telling them to 都top one time before I realized who I was talking to.  Fortunately, being an American gives me more liberty than most here, as the soldier just looked at me and walked away.  Still, I realize that I need to be careful and think before I react (not always one of my strengths).

 

The last types of soldiers are the ones that wear green uniforms and red berets.  They are the most advanced and are used to guard important government officials and the Prime Minister.  On occasion they have been called out to 都ecure the city and can be seen patrolling the 杜ain streets during important or official events (i.e. Great Ethiopian Run).  However, mostly they are stationed completely around the palace of the Prime Minister.  They are at every section of the steel gate fence and on top of rooftops from all angles.  One time I was riding with one of my friends and I saw them lined up and surrounding a white car (similar to a limo) and when I asked what was going on, he told me the Prime Minister was leaving his compound.  I wanted to take a picture and he pleaded with me to not take it from his car.  When I responded 努hy, they can稚 see me? he pointed to the roof tops and I could see dozens of soldiers with red berets.  I was shocked; but then again, the Prime Minister doesn稚 have the support of the people here so I guess he needs extra protection.

 

I know this letter hasn稚 had many heartfelt stories in it so I will end with one.  Whenever I知 riding along the streets of Addis, I see women carrying loads of things on their backs.  I have watched teenage girls and young women carry dried cow dung piles (bundled together by string) on their backs and thought how horrible that must be and how fortunate I am.  I can remember when I first arrived how awful I felt watching older women (60, 70, 80 years old) carrying bundles of sticks or leaves on their backs.  I wanted to tell the men (young and old) standing and walking around them to carry their loads.  I have come to learn that these women are trying to hold on to their worth.  Without being able to work, they can稚 earn money and are considered a burden and often times forced to live and beg on the streets.  They use these sticks and leaves to cook with and are able to make a special type of bread to sell.  Last week the owner of our compound wanted to have a new part of the garden cleaned and tilled; first however, it had to be cleared of all kinds of miscellaneous 鍍rash.   After I arrived home one evening, I was humbled to see an older lady on her knees using her bare hands to dig through the rubble for leaves and bits of wood she could use for cooking.  When I asked why she would work so hard for so little, I was told it was because she usually had to go out to the countryside and pay to gather this type of leaves.  I was so movedhere was this precious lady, doing all she could to simply survive.  As I greeted her, she stopped for a moment, looked up, smiled and waived to me.  I wanted to do something to help her.but what could I do?  Perhaps I could have helped her dig.  However, after looking at the trash, I couldn稚 make myself put my hands in it. Looking back I wish I would have; but I didn稚.  All I did was stop and try to talk and exchange smiles with her.  Surely, I could have done more.  Why didn稚 I?

 

Another long entry I hope it has helped you picture what this part of the world is like and that you will truly count the blessings that God has given you.if not for Him, where would we be? I ask for your prayers and wisdom. And pray that we will all sow seeds and make a difference wherever we are planted for this season of our lives.

 

Love,

Natalie Jo

 

 

 

Journal Letter 12 - February 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

 

It seems like along time since I致e written.  I hope you are all doing well in America.  I must admit that I am missing being there.I miss the snow and the small things that I took for granted.  Be assured there is no place like homeAmerica.

 

I have pages of notes to write about so I will try to decipher my notes and at the same time not overwhelm you with rambling details.  I guess I will start with my favorite street children, Angie and her small pack of friends.  They remind me of the television series I used to watch when I was a child, The Little Rascals.  Although they aren稚 dressed as nicely, they still have the same child-like mannerisms.  If you can recall 釘uckwheat, you will have the picture in your mind.  Their eyes are just as big and their expressions just as delightful.  They have a way of making me feel like I知 someone very special as every time they see me, it is a race to see who will get to me first and be able to hold my hand.  Angie, however, is the leader and she always has an extra big hug and smile for me.  They don稚 ask me for 登ne birr, please, just one birr anymore. Instead they wait to see what I offer them.  Most of the time it痴 just bananas, and they are never disappointed when I ask 電o you want bananas?  They all smile and nod their heads up and down as they lead me to a small fruit stand (I refer to it as the 釘anana Shack) that sits on a sidewalk by the Line Taxies.  People along the sidewalk always look intently as we walk by, turning their heads to watch us as they continue on their way.  Several times I have had men stop and ask me 努here are you taking those children?  It痴 nice to see them smile when I tell them 努e are going to get some bananas.  I make sure the children all hold hands as we cross the street, and as they do, they giggle and swing their arms (just like children in America).  Angie and I make sure we hold the hands of the smallest children, and she leads the way.  I知 always amazed at the children.  Before I do anything for them, they squeeze, hug and kiss my hand.  I always try to make an effort to bend down to give them a hug, and when I do, I receive kissesalthough they aren稚 the cleanest kissesI can稚 help but be touched by their thankfulness.  The owners of the Banana Shack know us by now, and they start weighing the bananas as soon as they see us.  Bananas aren稚 expensive, only 2.50 birr for 1 kilo; that is only about .25 for 8 medium size bananas.  However, bananas are one of the best foods you can give children in Ethiopia because they are grown locally and they are nutritious and very filling.  Still, I must confess, I can稚 just give children a healthy snack; I also let them pick out a small package of cookies.  Even so, the packages are only .50 birr and so the total is usually less than 5 Birr - not much at all when you consider what it means to the children.

 

Once or twice a month, I take the children to a pastry shop.  Pastry shops are everywhere in Ethiopia and are usually filled with people drinking the famous Ethiopian coffee (very strong) or Addis tea and eating desserts.  The expressions are those of dumbfounded-ness when we first enter the shop; but turn to smiles as they see the children pick the pastry they want from the clear glass display case.  The last time we had our own children痴 鍍ea party, there were 6 children circled around a small square table - two girls (Angie included, of course) and four boys (including one tiny fellow2-3 years of age).  The girls selected the tallest of stacked cake squares and the boys all wanted chocolate covered doughnuts.  I thought perhaps it would be good if they ate something for 電inner before their dessert, so I ordered small pizzas for each of them.  I told them they had to eat their pizza before they could eat their desserts.no problem, they were more than happy to oblige me.  Of course, we didn稚 drink tea; instead we stayed with their favorite orange 溺iranda.  The smallest of the boys was so small he had to drink his out of a coffee cup instead of a glass (which left more for the other childrenJ).  I can稚 describe to you the difference such a small act of kindness makes to them.  I wish you could see them sitting up straight and tall like little princes and princesses.  It痴 an amazing sight and just goes to prove that it痴 better to give than receive (so much better).

 

I was able to find someone to go with me to talk with the 杜other of Angie regarding my desire to send her to school.  However, it turned out that the lady I thought was her mother is only a friend of the family.  She uses (rents) Angie to beg for her; so as you can imagine, she has no interest in Angie痴 attending school.  Still, I plan to take someone with me to meet her mother and discuss what is best for Angie and offer to pay for school and whatever else costs are associated with her schooling.  Please keep this in your prayers; sometimes parents find it hard to think of their children as individuals ahead of the income they can receive from using them as beggars.  I知 concerned that, if I don稚 get Angie off the streets soon, she will end up sexually abused, as she is around 12 years-old, and young girls here are often forced into prostitution or early marriages.

 

One of the things I知 learning is how desperate women are here.  During the day there are many beggars along the streets; however at night, the mothers purposely come out and lie on small blankets on the sidewalks with their babies and/or toddlers.  It sickens me that mothers will use this ploy to get sympathy from those who pass by.  Still, many people drop coins onto their blankets; therefore the women are encouraged to continue in this lifestyle.  A couple of weeks ago I was on my way home from work, and as I crossed the street, I saw a mother lying alongside two small children around the ages of 2 or 3.  They looked like beautiful twin dolls with the cover pulled up under their chins.  Their eyes were closed and I couldn稚 help but think they should be at home in a nice soft bed rather than being forced to lie on a hard concrete sidewalk while hundreds of people pass by (in some cases stepping over them).  Even though I知 here, I still can稚 imagine that this is the only way of survival for so many.

 

I think you might find it interesting to hear the way things are done in the city.  The way that new buildings are constructed looks like someone dropped a package of 撤ick-up-Sticks and then tried to stand them all up.  Seriously, it痴 amazing how buildings are constructed here.  There are no metal beams, simply cement blocks with sticks (shaved tree limbs) on top of sticks.  I don稚 really know how they do itbut they do.  My landlady has been having some work done around her house and I went with her to pick up some things she needed.  The building supply places here don稚 deliver sand (or anything) so we had to take large heavy bags with us to get what she needed.  When we arrived I saw a small sand hill surrounded by semi-large round and square hollow pieces of tin (like giant cookie cutters).  They placed the 田ookie cutter tin beside the pile of sand and then started shoveling the sand into the hollow middle of the tin.  After they filled the inside of the mold, they leveled it off and lifted it off.  As the sand fell they began to shovel it into one of the heavy bags we had brought with us, and then they loaded it into the back of our car.  Maybe that isn稚 anything new to you, but it was an interesting experience for me.  By the way, did you know that the fire trucks here don稚 have fuel in them?  Well, they don稚. They wait until they are called to put out a fire and then fill up their trucks on the way to the fire.  I find that amazing but then again, there are a lot of amazing things around here.

 

I know this letter is another long one, but I want to tell you about one more thing before I close.  There are lambs everywhere here; they come in all colors. Some are small and some are large. Sometimes they have one leg tied to a thin rope and look like puppets on a string.  Only these puppets will not be returning for a repeat performance. They are being led to slaughter.  Just imagine the kind eyes of a lamb.  Now imagine that you are sitting next to one on a Line Taxi (mini van).  His legs are folded to meet in the middle of his stomach and tied in a way that he can稚 move them.  The people on the taxi are enjoying watching you look at this helpless lamb.  His eyes meet yours, and you know there is nothing you can do for him.  This lamb is going to be dinner for some family tonight.  I have become accustomed to riding with baskets and large bags of vegetables, fruit, eggs, and even cackling hens; but I just can稚 get use to riding with lambs. or wait..maybe they are goats? J  Either way, animals and I ride the same taxis here!  J

 

Well, that痴 another wrap.  Hope you致e enjoyed reading about life in Ethiopia.  Until next time, remember to be thankful for all your blessings and please, remember me in your prayers.

 

Love,

Natalie Jo

 

 

 

Journal Letter 13 February, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

 

As my boss put it, 鍍oday you池e celebrating your first birthday in Ethiopia.  I have been surprised at the people who remembered me on Valentine痴 Day and my birthday.  I really appreciate the cards and notes.I hope all of you have enjoyed the month of February!

 

Some of the IFESH teachers have been on spring break over the past two week and have come to the city to either fly to places like Egypt or just enjoy a break from their small towns.  It has been great to get to spend time with each of them as their schedules have overlapped with mine thus allowing me much-welcomed American company.  I must say that I have been somewhat 都poiled with the dinners and late shopping we have gotten to do together. 

 

One of my IFESH friends (my best friend) Rose, introduced me to Fred (a former professor of hers) last weekend.  He teaches at Alabama A & M University and has been here the past couple of weeks working with USAID regarding textbooks and learning materials in Ethiopia.  His university was one of the few to receive a BIG grant for this project.  He invited us to dinner and we had a great time.  I had been busy trying to get some things done all day and was looking forward to relaxing when I received an upsetting phone call.  I had almost decided not to go, but I知 so glad I did.  I could have chosen to stay at home alone and feel bad, but thankfully God provided some wonderful friends to minister to me during one of the times I needed it most.  Fred and Rose did an amazing job in lifting my spirits and reassuring me that I was okay.  On the way to dinner we were greeted by some street boys singing 鍍his is the day, this is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice, let us rejoice and be glad in it.. in their language.  I started singing with them in English and Fred joined in as well.  It was great!!  Then we went to dinner, and for the first time since I致e been in Ethiopia, someone (Fred) prayed over my meal. I can稚 tell you how much this meant to me.  It really brought silly tears to my eyes.  At any rate, I had a great time and as it turns out, I知 very thankful for that dayit was a day that the Lord had made.

 

I have begun to notice the many blind people in Ethiopia.  Although I have seen many disabled people, I have not focused on those that are blind.  While it is common knowledge that there are many orphans in Ethiopia, there is an overwhelming incidence of disabled people as well.  On every sidewalk there are people walking with canes.  Some tap the sidewalk to find their way while others are led through the streets.  Often times, children lead a parent or grandparent with their hands turned up like a small cup asking for help.  Teenagers that are blind in one eye (light bluish gray and turned towards the heavens) or in both eyes are always at the line taxi stops.  As you wait inside the line taxi (mini van) for it to get full enough to pull away from the curb, they walk along and tap the sides of the van.  Once their canes find the open passenger door, they stand with their hand out, eyes lifted up asking for compassion and help.  It is very difficult for me not to stare, yet it is painful to just turn my head and look the other way.  I want to help. I really don稚 mind giving, but there are so many of them.it痴 like a never ending sight.  Still, how can I not give anything?  How can, or dare, I say I can稚 make a difference?         

 

 

The trial for the jailed leaders of the opposition began last week.  The night before the trial, traffic came to a complete halt as soldiers forced people out of their cars and searched for weapons.  While we waited in line for our car to be searched, I wondered what people must be thinking.  The area close to me is so tightly knit that whenever they see a soldier they invite him in and beat him up.  When they come back to arrest and punish the people responsible, they can稚 be found, and no one knows what they are talking about.  As we approach the time to be searched, the guards look at me and waive us on bysomething about women not being searched, but I think it was being an American women.  Nonetheless, the arm wave to pass on by was much appreciated.

 

The US Embassy alerts US citizens of any problem areas and/or disturbances in the city, advising us to avoid those areas.  Although I hadn稚 received any such notices since the attacks in November and December, I received another warning notice this week about new disruptions around the city.  One of the areas involves a secondary school only a few blocks from my office.  It wasn稚 much of a surprise to me because the students around here are very vocal.  For example, my building has lots of guards posted around it and along the connecting streets.  The students wear uniforms (different colored sweaters) depending on what school they attend.  The students here wear American red sweaters and when they break for lunch or are on their way home from school, the sidewalks are packed with walking red sweaters.  Every time they pass a soldier you can hear their united voices protesting that Meles (the Prime Minister) is a 鍍hief.  They don稚 stop. They just keep walking and their voices sound like someone scored a touch down at a Texas/Razorback football game.  Watching this I was amazed at their bravery and the stand they were taking.  On that day, as the students were walking, they addressed three soldiers posted on the street with machine guns strapped to their shoulders.  I watched in fear as the solders turned and followed the students. Fortunately nothing happened.  It was just a matter of time before the students and soldiers would clash; now it will be just another matter of time before things erupt again.

 

Here痴 an update on 杜y children:  I know I told you about recently seeing a mother begging with two small children sleeping on the sidewalk while people stepped around and over them, but last night was even more memorable to me.  I happened to be out later than usual (with my IFESH teacher friends) and had to walk and transfer between several line taxis. On the last leg of my journey home, right in front of me, I saw a middle aged lady sitting with her legs folded (Indian style) behind two twin babies (1 or 1ス years old).  They were facing one another and tightly wrapped together.  It was as if they had died and were being prepared to be buried together.  The woman was holding a smaller infant in her arms and rocking back and forth.  She was chanting (or praying) very loudly.  I couldn稚 tell if she was in mourning or pleading for someone to please help her.  I had not experienced this type of begging before, so I知 not sure what she was doing.  I wanted to take a picture, but after I got out my camera, it didn稚 seem right to capture someone clearly in so much desperation.  So I walked on, walked right on by.  Why can稚 I forget her now?  How I wish I could know what I am suppose to do.  I know God hasn稚 called me to minister to everyone, but when he touches my heart and gets my attention, I think I need to do something more.  Please continue to pray for me to follow His will and wisdom.

 

Blessings on you all,

Love,

Natalie Jo

 

 

 

Journal Letter 14 February, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

 

Hello again.  I知 relaxing at home and anticipating the 2006 Confidence Women First 5K Run this weekend.  Four of my friends are participating with me; all I can say is I知 glad it痴 not a 10K like the Great Ethiopian Run.  The proceeds from the entry fee are used to assist women with their education, health, employment, achievement and leadership skills, so it痴 a good cause (although I secretly would like for it to rain so I could sleep in; but there is little chance of that since it has only rained about 4 times since I致e been here). J 

 

Last Saturday I went to the post office to mail a birthday gift to my nephew, Theo.  He will be four years old March 9th and I want to make sure he knows his Aunt Natalie still loves him!  He and his brother, Terek (who is 5 ス) are the perfect ages and I miss getting to spend time with them. (I call them my Sunshine Boys since You Are My Sunshine is our favorite song to sing together.)  Every time I see two little boys laughing and wrestling here I think of them. 

 

I want to tell you about my experience at the Ethiopian Post Office.  First, let me say that it is expensive to mail things from here!  For example, my son also has a birthday this month (26 on the 15th) and it cost me 936 Birr ($85) just to mail his package.  I know that doesn稚 sound like a lot of money; still, when you are living on $300 a month, it definitely affects ones budgetJ.  However, I don稚 have anything to complain about.  Many Ethiopians live on only 400 Birr a month or $600 dollars a year.

 

When I arrived at the post office, the postal lady weighed Theo痴 gift and told me it would cost 60 Birr to mail his package to the U.S.  I still had 72 Birr (pay day was just around the corner) so I thought this sounded great!  I had already gift-wrapped the package; however, I wanted to wrap the outside of it in plain paper with an address label.  After I measured it and cut a piece of plain paper, I placed the paper and the box back on the scales. It weighed 50.4 (over by .4) which meant it would cost me 112 Birr to mail.  Since I didn稚 have that much, I decided just to wrap the outside of the gift with clear tape (as it would keep the wrapping paper from tearing).  After I finished wrapping (taping) the package, back on the scales it went..I was still .2 over.  So what could I do but take off some of the clear tape? Now it weighed 49.85 (leaving me .15 to spare).  I addressed the name tag and put it on the boxnow the box weighed 50.1.  Good Grief!  I made the name tag smallernow my package weighed 49.90Finally!  Next, the stamps wouldn稚 adhere to the clear tape on the package, so the postal lady gave me little piece of tape and asked me to tape the stamps on...okay...after I finished taping the stamps on the package and gave it back, it now weighed 50.2I took off some of the tape on the stamps and ask the postal lady to hand cancel my package.she agreed and happily, my day at the post office was finished!

 

Since I have been in Ethiopia I have had to see a doctor twice (nothing serious, just flea bites and the flu).  Visiting the doctor is very interesting here; of course the more money you have the better care you receive. Sound familiar?  IFESH takes very good care of all their volunteers so I have been fortunate to see a female doctor in a very clean and nicely decorated clinic (white walls and green ceilings).  The last time I was in the clinic, I watched two ladies with two small children (I thought one was the mother and the other was her maid/nanny).  One was holding an infant so tightly wrapped that I couldn稚 see if it was a baby girl or boy.  The other lady was holding a little boy (about 3 years old).  As our eyes met, he must have seen something in my eyes that told him he reminded me of my nephews.  He wiggled down off her lap and slinked over towards me.  I bent down and held out my hands to see if he would come to me.  Without hesitation, he reached up and I picked him.  I put him on my lap and started trying to talk to him.  Of course he didn稚 speak English and I couldn稚 say many words that he understood; however, there is one language that all children understandbody language.  They understand smiles and they understand tickling.  We had a great time just interacting in the waiting room.  His giggles reminded me of the Sunshine Boys; it was like lost music to my ears.  Before long, it was his turn to see the doctor and he was called away.  After he left I remembered thinking how blessed his parents were to have him.  When I saw the doctor I mentioned the little boy to her.  She told me that both the children were from an orphanage.  I didn稚 ask why, but I think it was probably due to AIDS.  So many children are left without parents due to AIDS in this country.  Although I realize they are some of the more fortunate children because they have a 菟lace, it still isn稚 a home.  Please do pray for the children here.

 

I could tell you another episode about bananas.but I think it would be better if I tell you about Tisai.  Before I begin, please keep in mind that washing machines are not abundant in Ethiopia.  Basically, I don稚 know anyone who has oneso, it痴 just like you imagine; laundry is done by hand in large round tin or plastic tubs.  The returning IFESH teachers had told me about hiring someone to wash and clean; however, I thought that sounded too much like having a 杜aid.  After all, weren稚 we coming to Ethiopia to help those less fortunate than us, not 砥se them as maids?  Once I moved from the hotel to my cottage, I started thinking differently.  Young ladies would stop me on the sidewalk and ask me if I had someone to clean for me.  When I would say no, they would beg me for a job.  It was very difficult for me.  Those of you, who know me, know that I don稚 need someone to clean for me; I知 a clean fanatic.  However, I don稚 do laundry by hand.and I don稚 like making salads, etc.  So.I decided to hire someone, Tisai.  She is in her early twenties and has enough college (1 year) to be a K-1 teacher; still she can稚 find a job in Addis and she doesn稚 want to move to a rural area.  She works for me two days a week, Tuesday and Friday, and does a great job.  She does the laundry, cleans and keeps my refrigerator stocked with green salad, boiled eggs, fruit salads, juice, etc.  Even though she speaks English, it took her a few weeks to understand exactly what I wanted.  For example, the first time I asked her to peel some grapefruit and pineapple, I returned to find small amounts of juice in two large round plastic bowls with lidsJ.  Still, the juice was excellent!J  I taught her how to make a typical green salad (lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, red onions, etc.) and how to slice cucumbers and soak them in part vinegar and part water.  Try to imagine my surprise when I opened my refrigerator to find a beautiful green salad (with all the best vegetables) when I picked it up and wondered why it was so heavy? When I took the lid off, I realized the salad was soaking in vinegar and water (I mean completely covered)!J  Since then, we have both learned a lot and she has become a trusted employee and friend.

 

There are still soldiers everywhere.  I don稚 know if I will ever get used to seeing machine guns on the streets.  The weather is perfect here; I know I can get used to seeing the sunshine everyday.  There are still homeless and disabled people everywhere; I don稚 know if I will ever get used to seeing street children on every street. There are bakeries everywhere; I know I can get use to the frequent smell of homemade bread.  What else can I say?  As we all know, there is good and bad everywhere.  As for Ethiopia, this is life how is now; it can always get better.  Please remember us in your prayers.  Blessings to you all!

 

Always,

With Love,

Natalie Jo 

 

 

 

Journal Letter 15 March, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

 

It痴 hard to believe how fast time has flown over the past few months.  Instead of only a few months, it seems like such a long time ago that Ethiopia was only a foreign land to me.  I feel like I have lived here for a long time.  I have steadily grown attached to my simple five room house; it has become a home to me and I have feelings of sadness when I think I may not return.  However, I don稚 know what the future holds.  It will be difficult for me to come back as a volunteer with IFESH; although I am considering a teaching position at Addis Ababa University (AAU).   I really miss teaching and think I would enjoy teaching more than working in the government.  Bureaucracy abides everywhere; but for those of you who know me well; always accepting it can be very challenging for me.  It is so frustrating at times.it痴 truly a great struggle to move one step forward here and then the next day find out we池e back where we started.  I really enjoyed discussing this issue with another US professor recently.  He described the current situation we池e facing in Ethiopia as an example of 鍍his dog just won稚 hunt!J  I think that sums up my feelings most of the time.  Still, we can never quit trying to move forward.

 

One of the nice things about working at the Ministry of Education is being able to have lunch on the top floor.  It痴 nothing fancy - just a small lunch room with a serving line that offers simple Injera (the bread they eat here) with different sauces and bottled water, etc.  It may be that you would like Injera if you try it.  It is considered to be one of the main staples here and is an excellent source of protein.  However, unlike the majority of people, I don稚 like it. Maybe it is the way it looks.like a gray, thin, soggy pancake, or that it is eaten with your hands. The fact that it is sour (because it is fermented) doesn稚 help either.  The most popular sauce eaten with Injera is a red spicy sauce that has whole boiled eggs and chicken legs floating in itit just doesn稚 look appealing to me.  However, in all fairness, most people love it and often crave it once they return to their home country.

 

Back to the top floor the lunch room is centered in the middle of the roof, and there are windows and doors that look and lead out onto a slightly uneven concrete floor.  There are bathrooms located outside behind the lunch room, and there is about a four foot rough concrete wall that circles and outlines the roof of the building.  Although there are no eating tables outside, it is possible to walk out onto the roof to take a closer look at the spectacular view.  During lunch one day, one of the secretaries and I moved one of the small square tables (the size of a folding card table) outside with two chairs to enjoy the view and the sunshine while we ate.  It was clearly a different concept, and we received a lot of stares from smiling co-workers as they passed us on the way to wash their hands in the bathroom before they consumed their Injera.  Seeing the view from on top of the roof is unlike any view I have ever seen.  The city is completely surrounded by beautiful hills covered with varying green patches of grasslands.  In contrast to the beauty, directly below lie lines of old rusty tin roofs that are connected like a patch work quilt.  They surround the building and cover the city like a wave bouncing on the sea.

 

Just a few blocks from the Ministry is a place called 鉄unrise Cafe.  Sigee (the owner) is the best friend of Mulu (my landlady) and as such, has become a good friend of mine.  Her caf has outside tables and is centrally located between my office and one of the department divisions of Addis Ababa University, so it is always crowded.  It is very inviting and has its own unique charm.  The tables are all green squares and are strategically placed between large live trees, surrounded by a hedge of bushes.  Shoe shine boys are planted outside the gated entrance and they always ask if they can please shine shoes for 1 Birr.  I always smile at them and point to the fact that I am wearing jogging shoes and my shoes don稚 need shined.  They don稚 seem to understand or care as they always continue to beg me 菟lease, just one birr to shine my shoes.  In addition to the shoe shiners, there are newspaper girls (when the government allows papers to be printed) who will let you read the front page for only .20 and then pay 2 birr if you decide you want the paper.  Since I can稚 read Amharic, I never take the paper.

Sigee has just opened another cafe in the German Cultural Center (located a few blocks further down on the AAU campus).  She was having problems finding German recipes, so thanks to my heritage; I was able to give her some suggestions.  She ask me to show her cooks how to make some German dishes so we made Bierocks (for you who aren稚 from the Ehrlich clan, it痴 similar to a cabbage and hamburger roll); Kase Noodles, Sauerkraut (made in 3 days versus 4 weeks), Bratwurst, Cinnamon Rolls and Fried Apples.  It was an all day process, but we were able to cook enough for 40 people.  Sigee thought everything was great; however, trust me, only the Bierocks were worthy of the Ehrlich name.  For example, the cinnamon rolls were hard (200 degrees on their ovens is like 300 on ovens in the US); the Fried Apples were served cold;  the Kase Noodles were somewhat tough (with a LOT of separation happening in the boiling salt water); and the Sauerkraut, well lets just say it didn稚 taste like Grandmother Tillie痴.   I think we tried to do to much in one day.especially with me being the lead chefJ.   

 

In addition to my banana children in Piazaa; I have made friends with the various children between my office and the Sunrise Caf.  I have told you about some; however there was a noteworthy banana incident that happened a few weeks ago that was different from any I have experienced to date.  I had just finished buying bananas and some juice for a couple of my regular little boys, when I walked around the corner and saw the line of small shoe shiners sitting and shining away.  Their shoe shine 徒its are old car battery cases onto which they have tied or twisted wire for a handle.  They buy their polishes (different colors) at Markato (the largest market in Africa).  One of my co-workers told me that he buys polish and gives it to them as they can make more money from a can of shoe polish than his just giving them a Birr or two.  Although I haven稚 found any shoe polish to buy yet, I think this is a great idea and hope to be able to buy some for them as well.

 

Too much detail.back to the story.  When I saw the shoeshine boys, I wanted to reward them for 努orking rather than begging, so I decided to turn around and buy them bananas as well.  Fortunately, I purchased 2 kilo (16 or so bananas) as they all wanted them.  I began to hand them out and before I knew it, I was literally mobbed.  They started pushing, jumping and grabbing at the stalks I was holding.  I tried to make sure everyone had one; but many of them stuffed them into their mouths or into their pockets so quickly, it was difficult to tell who had already gotten one and who hadn稚.  As I stood there trying to maintain some type of order, a guard came up and started switching them as he yelled at them to get away from me.  I was horrified.  Here I had invited them to partake, and now they were getting switched.  I turned to the guard, grabbed his arm and yelled NO, STOP!!   He looked at me with anger in his eyes, but he stopped and walked away.  I left feeling very badly.  What I had meant for good, turned out so badly.  My expectation for them to line up like gentlemen was obviously unrealistic at best.  I decided that I wouldn稚 give up but rather, try to teach them acceptable behavior (although I was sure they knew how to behave). I wanted to require them to have manners.  For the next few days whenever I passed by, they would hold out their hands and ask me for bananas.  I always responded no and my eyes stressed my dissatisfaction for their previous behavior.  After about a week, I decided to try again.  This time, however, I insisted they line up by motioning my hand and arm in a straight line.  I recruited the same guard to pass out the bananas, and I went to the back of the line to ensure no one was left out.  After the line was disassembled, there were banana peels covering the ground.  All it took was for me to point to the peelings on the ground and the children scrambled to pick them up and stuff them into their pockets J (there aren稚 many public trash cans in Ethiopia). 

 

I知 at the end of the page.so that means it痴 time to close.  I hope the stories I share help you get a clear picture of the real daily occurrences in Ethiopia, without too much repetition or boredom.  I知 truly grateful for each of you.  Please keep praising Him and praying for me! 

 

Love,

Natalie Jo

 

 

 

Journal Letter 16 March, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

 

I trust that life is getting better every day for you; life in my compound is better everyday.  Mulu has a lot of yard, and although she has many beautiful flowers and shrubs, there is one section of the yard (stretching the length of the compound) that hasn稚 been fully developed.  Happily Mulu has welcomed my input and allowed me the freedom to not only 都uggest but also 登versee some new projects and landscaping ideas throughout the yard.  Isaiza and Love (our guard and his best friend) have worked hard for me and somehow are eager to implement whatever I suggest.

 

Our first project was turning Isaiza痴 living quarters into a welcoming place for him to retreat to at the end of the day.  The place he stays in is by the front gate and isn稚 large enough to hold two cots sitting side by side.  He didn稚 have a place to put his clothes and had stuffed them into a bag that he leaned up against a dark green concrete wall - the color of all the inside walls.  A wire hung from a hole in the center of the concrete ceiling and was pulled over to one side of the ceiling in the room with a light bulb dangling down. Posters (free advertisements) had been glued around the top half of the walls.  It was dark, musty and depressing to imagine anyone living there (much less Isaiza).  The first order of business was to sand the glued posters off the walls, repair the ceiling, and install a normal round ceiling light fixture.  We chose a light yellow paint (the color of old straw) for the wall and a clean white for the ceiling.  Even though Isaiza needed a place to store his clothes, there simply wasn稚 any room for a dresser.  So, I decided on a hanging wall cabinet.  Love is the son of one of the carpenters who works for Mulu, and he is able to construct almost anything I can dream up.   He made the cabinet the full width of the room and secured it along the wall facing the door (above the head of Isaiza痴 bed).  The cabinet is made up of two shelves and divided into three equal sections.  Two doors are located on either side covering two of the sections which provide coverage and privacy for Isaiza痴 clothes, etc.  The center section was purposely left open in order to give him a small shelf for his books, pictures, and other personal items.

 

When entering the room, the right side of the door had just enough space for three corner (triangular) shelves (on which Isaiza hopes to put a CD player and TV somedayJ).  The boys painted the shelving white and the doors of the cabinets the same color as the walls.  There is one window in the room (along side Isaiza痴 bed) that has metal security guards on the outside. We cleaned the previous paint off the window and painted the security bars white.  I was able to locate some olive green and lemon grass tweed material to make a bed covering and matching panel for the inside of the window.  In addition, there was a drain outside of his door that often allowed horrible smells to fill his room.  Mulu had intended to have someone install a pipe that would run up the corner wall outside side of his room.  After all the work was complete, she made sure this was done.  In addition, to the 兎xhaust fume pipe, Mulu agreed to pour a concrete slab outside his door.  It is about the same size as his room so it makes his living quarters seem twice as large.  Lastly, we found an old small table that the boys painted gray (to match his freshly painted gray door) to sit on his new 砺eranda.  With some plants along the adjoining fence line and a matching potted plant by his door, he now has a place he can be proud of and enjoy.

 

Next, we began clearing the side yard.  I was only able to help show them what needed to be done on the weekends, but they continued to work hard during the week until the job was complete (well, almost).  After trimming limbs and cutting down a couple of dead trees, the yard was ready to be raked.  The ground was not only covered with fallen tree needles, it had rocks of all sizes scattered everywhere.  As we started raking in the back of the yard, we started to uncover what appeared to be a hidden trash pile.  Black plastic sacks, broken dishes and all sorts of trash just kept surfacing.  We finally had to stop or we would have had a large deep hole in the yard.  Still, we were able to clear out all the trash for at least a foot.  Clearing the dead bushes left a beautiful centered entry into the 渡ew yard.  One of the trees chopped down had a perfect curved trunk that made a perfect arch for a walk-through.  The boys made some wooden ladders out of limbs and attached the arched trunk across the top.  We can稚 decide whether to paint it white or leave it natural.  I thought white, but Mulu thinks natural.  She is leaving it to me; however, it will probably stay natural. (After all it is her property.) J

 

There were many interesting items hidden around the yard.  For example, when Isaiza first came to work for Mulu (3 years ago) he was into weight lifting.  Without weights, he had to make his own.  I was very impressed to see them.  Imagine different sized cans (i.e. paint cans) filled with concrete with an old metal bar connecting the two cans.  The larger ones turned out to be weights he lifts over his head; the smaller ones are used as hand weights.  He also set one end of a chain in the middle of a can of concrete and the other end of the chain to a short metal bar.  He uses this for chin-ups - very inventive.  A couple of other 鍍reasures I rescued (saved from being sold for scrap metal) were a small metal children痴 bed (the size of a crib) with a knit wire bottom and the underneath frame of a baby buggy.  One of the wheels was missing on the baby buggy, but not to worry.  The boys found another wheel and after they removed the outer cover, it was the same size and metal like the other three.  After they straightened the bed and repaired the buggy frame, they painted them both gray.  They placed the buggy frame in front the white rail along my porch with a beautiful potted pink inpatient plant sitting in the middle of it.  The next day I arrived home to see the bed frame sitting along side my water tower (imagine a Texas windmill with a water barrel lying sideways at the top).  Nestled inside the middle of the bed (on top of the mess wire bottom) was a wooden crate of my favorite pink inpatients.  They are so good to me!  Even Mulu jokingly complained to them that Natalie gets all the 兎xtra things while she doesn稚 get anything J

 

Although we don稚 go to the same church, Isaiza and Love are still attending church regularly.  Amazingly, they like the International Evangelistic Church, and I like attending one of the Ethiopian churches.  Last week they came home with some material regarding attending the IEC Bible College.  They both want to take classes there, but since Isaiza has only finished the 9th grade and Love the 10th, I知 not sure they will be able to attend.  Still, I will find a way to pay their way if they are accepted.  It痴 amazing how much they both love going to that church.sometimes they tell me that church was 途eally good.so good today.  It always makes me smile; is there anything better?  I don稚 think so.  I really don稚 think so.

 

Final note: I just received a Waren alert that bird flu has been discovered in an area around Addis and some farms have been quarantined.  Although I don稚 eat meat here; I count on eggs for my protein.  There hasn稚 been any warning to avoid eating eggs; therefore, I think they should still be safe.  What do you think Dr. Amy and Dr. Lisa?  I would like to know what you have heard anything from your 堵rape vine. J

 

As always, I would appreciate your continued prayers for His wisdom and continued good health.  Also, please don稚 forget to include the many precious children and struggling people of Ethiopia in your prayers.

 

Love,

Natalie Jo

 

 

 

         Journal Letter 17 March, 2006

         Dear Family and Friends,

 

The days are passing quickly, and soon my time here will be up.  I still have a difficult time seeing that I知 making much of a difference; sometimes, it seems like I'm not doing much more than handing out bananas.  Yet I know it's not by accident that I'm here, and I try to believe that even though I can't always understand  HOW I'm helping, God is using me.  If He can use me here, then that's more than enough for me. 

 

Some of you have asked me what I知 eating here.  Unlike the locals who enjoy Ingra and occasional 途aw meat, I知 finding there isn't a lot of food I like to eat here (unless I go out to eat at an international restaurant).  Even though there are plenty of bakeries and homemade rolls and bread are very inexpensive (i.e. 1 birr or 10 cents a loaf), I try to stay away from them.   I went on a 田innamon toast binge and I could easily fall back into that habit again if I知 not careful.J  I致e been eating pasta and vegetables a lot lately.  After the pasta is cooked, I add garlic, pepper, etc. with a little olive oil.  Sometimes, I add vegetables, depending what is available.  I don't like the taste of the local cheese and the imported cheese is very expensive, so I have learned to enjoy pasta without cheese (an easy way to cut a few calories)J.

 

When I first arrived, I ate a lot of salads and then I found out where the lettuce, cabbage and carrots are grown.  They are harvested down where the sewer meets the river and that is the water they use for their plants.  You can imagine my disgust when I realized what I had been eating!   I can still find lettuce and other vegetables if I travel about 30 minutes outside of Addis (uphill) that aren't irrigated by waste water.  However, it's sometimes hard to find affordable and reliable transportation to go the distance.

 

There are some fruits and vegetables that are shipped in from outside of Addis Ababa (i.e. pineapple, bananas, cucumbers, green peppers, etc.), so although they are limited, I have started to build my diet around them.  Popcorn is another food that has become a standard to me.  I can actually cook it in a pan on my electric stove without burning it.  I have to shake it a lot (like Jiffy pop) but I'm getting fairly good at it.  Other foods I eat that you would recognize are brown and red beans, Quaker oatmeal (with raisins) and eggs.  There isn't any Miracle Whip here (I don稚 like sandwiches without it), so although an egg sandwich would be great; I stick to hard boiled eggs and vegetable omelets.

 

One of the best places to purchase fresh vegetables is an orphanage just outside Addis.  It痴 an amazing place with an amazing story behind it.  The story goes that a family from Switzerland came to Ethiopia and adopted a little girl.  After she grew up, she wanted to return to her home country, Ethiopia, and help other orphans like herself.   During that time the ruler of the country was moved to give her some land to establish an orphanage. It is a large parcel of land and she has done a wonderful job in developing not only an orphanage but also several schools.  In addition to offering a primary and secondary education for the orphans there, she developed a vocational school that provides the older orphans with the skills necessary to get a job once they leave the orphanage.  The main industry they focus on is agriculture and cooking.  They have a restaurant that serves a five course (appetizer, soup, salad, dinner, and dessert) lunch Monday through Friday.  The students make all the food themselves and are supervised both in the kitchen and as they serve their customers.  The orphanage grows their own vegetables and even has a dairy where they make butter, cheese, etc.  In addition, they have the most beautiful flower garden imaginable. They sell flowers and plants of many, many different varieties.  After lunch it痴 very special for me to walk through the rows of flowers and lean over to smell the pink mini carnations and flowering honeysuckle.  As I walk through the flower gardens, I can clearly see the smiles and gasps of both my grandmothers, Nellon and Tillie, as they walk ahead of me taking great pleasure in the beautiful and breath taking enchanted flower forest that surrounds us.  They would have loved it!      

 

We are beginning to enter the rainy season here, and as such there is a new look along the sidewalks.  Umbrellas are popping up all over town; some are black and some are multi colored.  They are seen twirling above the heads of women as they walk along the sidewalks protecting themselves from the occasional shower or strong sun rays.  However, the beggars don稚 have umbrellas and it痴 difficult to watch them try to huddle under trees or used sheets of plastic.   I wonder what they will do, once the hard rain begins to fall.

 

I have seen so many things it痴 hard to describe them all.  Perhaps one of the most unimaginable things I recently observed was a crippled man on a board with rollers scooting down the street.  Imagine a board with rollers that auto mechanics lay on when they look under the engine of your car (like a square skate board).  Now take that same board and imagine a legless man sitting on it and using his hands (with shoes on them) like oars in a boat, paddling down a busy street.  He moves in and out of traffic, never stopping behind vehicles and always managing to avoid being hit by passing cars.  I watched with astonishment as he skated out of sight.  It was mind-boggling to me that it seemed such a natural occurrence to him and other Ethiopians.  It appeared to be business as usual.

 

Recently I went to Nazareth to collect some research data; the university there is about two hours outside of Addis Ababa.  Since I have been in Addis, I haven稚 seen too much of the 鍍ypical Africa.  However, it was interesting to see a rural part of Ethiopia.  Along the road, there several watermelon stands.  Each 都tand consisted of one huge pile of watermelons (a small hill) piled nicely under a four- post square tarp.  The owners were often seen sitting in a 電ug out in the hill directly behind their watermelons.  I requested my driver to stop so I could purchase some melons to bring back to my compound.  Although they were very inexpensive I unfortunately had never learned the proper 鍍hump sound, so four of the five were pink rather than juicy red.  At first I thought it was just a different colored melon found in Ethiopia, but Mulu, laughingly informed me that my gift of 途otten watermelon was not appreciated by her maids.  How embarrassing!

  

While I was in Nazareth, I saw my favorite animals - horses.  They are used in rural areas as a means of transportation.  They pull carts that look like the wagon driven by Charles Ingles as seen on Little House on the Prairie. Although the beds on the wagons are shorter, the buckboard is just the same.  I had never thought about it痴 being hot in Walnut Grove or Sleepy Eye, but after seeing a similar wagon in a real setting, I asked my driver why they didn稚 make a cover to protect them from the sun?  I had to smile when on the way home; we saw what appeared to be a 塗orse taxi service which consisted of several similar horse drawn carts with bright colored striped material used as a small canopy to protect the driver and passengers from the heat.

 

Lastly, my adventure outside Addis afforded me the opportunity to see camels.  While driving to Nazareth I was surprised to see a large number of camels fenced in a wooden corral (like cows or horses on an American farm).  I wondered what they were being held forsurely not to slaughter.  Was it possible they were going to be used to haul things?  Once I arrived in Nazareth, my question was answered and I saw how the camels were used.  Their backs were stacked high with various items to sell (blankets, pots and pans, etc) and they were being led down the street to the town market place.  As my driver pulled over onto the side of the road so I could take a picture, the boy who was leading the camel saw me and started pulling the camel away from me.  I crossed the street and tried again to take a picture. This time the boy turned the camels back to me and refused to allow me to get a better 砺iew of the camel.  Another boy tried to take the reins from him and turn the camel so I could snap a picture; however, the boy who owned the camel regained control of the reins and refused even more adamantly.  As I returned back across the street to my car, I was able to get a quick picture before I climbed back into the car.  Later I learned that the boy wanted me to pay him for a picture.  Silly me.

 

I will close with an update on the bombings in Addis.  As you know from the recent warnings issued by the US Embassy, there have been several bombings throughout the city.  One of the bombs went off in a line take (minibus).  However, even though I use them for transportation, I知 not overly concerned.  I feel safe and secure in my little house nicely tucked away in the back of my compound.  The guard watches out for me and is faithful to attend to any of my requests (ex. to travel to another part of town to exchange my empty bottle of drinking water for my water dispenser.)  I知 very fortunate to have good friends and a safe haven to live in.  Most of all, I知 blessed to have my heavenly Father ever present and ever watching over me.  Please continue to not only pray for me, but for my dear family and the congenial people in Ethiopia as well. 

 

Love Always,

Natalie Jo 

 

 

                                               

Journal Letter 18 April, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,                                                                                 

 

It痴 been a while since my last letter, and I appreciate those of you who have written to check on me.  I hope all is well with each of you and your families.  Unfortunately, I know of one friend who needs our prayers.  Please pray for my former OU colleague, Dr. Milton Olsen who lost his precious wife last night.  The family found out she was ill less than six months ago, and although Marilyn is with our Lord, my heart is heavy just knowing how much she will be missed.  Please remember her family in your prayers.

 

I have been keeping myself busy working on compiling the findings of my research project for the Ministry of Education.  The minister requested (rather ordered) my director to make a recommendation on how the public higher education institutions can implement an effective student support services (SSS) program.  It appears the faculty need to be unburdened with duties such as handing out bed linens so they can have more time for scholarly achievements (i.e. research).  I personally rather doubt that this can affect the entire faculty; nevertheless, it is apparently considered to be a problem.  Since I have experience working at an American university, my director promptly gave me this assignment.  Now, what makes them think that I ever worked in university housing or have such an interest?  Still, I知 here to help. So I値l try to come up with something for them to consider.  I have been told that some of the universities would like to 登utsource housing, meals and university health clinics.  Although this might 都ound like a solution, I don稚 think it really is feasible.  Public universities are scattered throughout Ethiopia, and although Addis Abba University might be able to make such arrangements (due to it痴 being located in the capital city), it痴 not likely that other universities would be able to find the needed resources.  For example, very few areas can offer housing for so many students, and I can稚 begin to imagine finding 田ompetitive meal plans. Not only does the Minister want a recommendation, but also a plan of action.  Now I ask you, how can you begin to get competitive bids when there are no phone books (let alone yellow pages) in Ethiopia?  Rather than out-source, my recommendation will probably be that they establish a SSS on each campus and hire appropriate staff to manage student housing, etc.  Sounds simple but remember, in Africa, nothing is simple. 

 

An important part of the education system worth reviewing is how education is offered in Ethiopia.  First, public education is offered to all students through the eighth grade. At the end of the eighth grade students are given a placement test.  If they fail the test, they are left behind to be farmers (unless they have money to pay for private education).  If they do really well, they are allowed to continue grades 9 and 10, after which time they take another test to determine if they are 田ollege material.  If they are successful, they continue their education.  If they pass (but with low scores) they are sent to 鍍rade schools.  I find it very interesting that one of the 鍍rades includes becoming a teacher.  After one more year of school, they can become a primary education teacher; however, if they pass the next test, they can continue another year of 鍍rade school and teach secondary classes.  So basically those students who aren稚 smart enough to go to college become the teachers in Ethiopia.  Lastly, I should add that the students who are privileged to get to go to college do not have a choice of which college in Ethiopia they will attend.  Even though they can list their preference, their final test scores determine in what part of the country they will be assigned a college.  Although the government provides these selected students with 180 birr (about $18) each month to pay for their expenses to attend college, it is only a loan. Once they graduate and are employed, it is paid back to the government (taken directly from their paychecks).  So as you can imagine, the students are not very happy about the living conditions at the universities they attend.  For example, often times up to 20 students share an on-campus dorm room.  Since they will be repaying the money they receive for their college expenses, they want to have a say in how they spend their 180 birr (i.e. they would like to have the money and choose their own off-campus housing which might provide them with better living conditions for their money).  Still, what happens if they can稚 find a place to stay or if their landlords decide to kick them out for being to noisy?  In Ethiopia, there aren稚 enough resources to offer both on-campus and off-campus living.  From the university痴 point of view, if they need to offer on-campus living, they must be able to count on a certain amount of revenue in order to pay for the offered services.  However, from the student痴 point of view, the university is not offering them quality services for the money they will be required to repay.

 

Before I can make a recommendation, I have to provide knowledge of the problem.  This has involved a student survey aimed at establishing the current level of satisfaction and addressing what needs to be done to improve said services.  Since my interest is in health issues, I used this opportunity to include questions regarding prevention and medical treatment (after all a quality university health care clinic is one of the items the Minister requested information on).  I also included questions regarding all aspects of Student Support Services (i.e. library services, tutoring, access to computer labs, etc.) which hopefully will produce a useful report for future use.  In addition to a pilot study, the final survey consists of 65 questions administered to a sample size include of 600 surveys (500 students and 100 faculty members from 10 universities).  So needless to say, I have a lot of data which means more statistical analysis that I wanted.  However, this has given me the freedom to work from home (more flexible hours and fewer distractions) and I have enjoyed it!   Well.enough of work!

 

Some of you have asked if I will be returning next year.  Honestly, I don稚 know yet.  Right now probably isn稚 a good time to ask me as I知 very homesick for my family.  I have to admit that I have been envious of my fellow teachers who have had some of their family members come to visit (one was an 87 year old mother who traveled alone from California).  So I知 really looking forward to having my sister (Kanell), my son (Jonathan) and his girlfriend (Lindsey) coming to see me soon.  I think we are going to go on Safari.what a great adventure! J As of now, I知 planning on returning to the US in July.  However, I have been offered a two-year teaching appointment in the medical school at Addis Ababa University (AAU) that would start in October, should I decide to return.  The medical school is trying to begin an MPH program and has received proposals from both Emory University and George Washington University (GWU) to help them begin the program.  President Carter (with the Ethiopian Carter Center) works closely with Emory University (since they are from Atlanta) and has promised to find the funding for the program should AAU choose to accept their proposal.  However, unless I received an appointment from Emory or GWU my salary (although great for Ethiopia) would be minimal with no benefits.  For example, when asked about health benefits I was told if I needed medical care, I would receive 吐ree treatment at the public hospital. This was not comforting to meJ.  Even though the only debt I have is my 杜onthly house payment, I turned 49 this year and I need to be making more significant contributions to my retirement, so I知 not sure it痴 wise for me to sign a two year contract which would allow me to just break even.  Still, it痴 hard for me to know what to do.there are some things more important than moneyright. J  

 

Since I haven稚 been out and about much lately, it痴 hard to describe what痴 going on outside my compound.  I will tell you that Easter here is really wonderful.  Many of you may not realize that Ethiopia has some of the oldest churches ever.it痴 primarily an Orthodox country.  They fast on a regular basis.  Every week there are two days they don稚 eat meat and they give up meat completely for weeks at a time.  Prior to Easter Sunday, the people here had been on a no-meat fast for several weeks.  It痴 so common that when you go to eat at restaurants many don稚 even serve meat; instead they offer 吐asting foods on their menus.  On Good Friday (which was just last week) not only are they off for a 塗oliday but they also spend the whole day in church.  I mean the whole day.  You may wonder how they all fit inside the churches.  They don稚, but it doesn稚 matter to them; they simply surround the church.  This doesn稚 just happen on Good Friday.  Every time I pass a church, I see hundreds of people around it.  They are either kneeling or just sitting and looking at the church.  It is also worth mentioning that people often make the sign of the cross every time they pass a church here.  It doesn稚 matter if they are walking, riding in a line taxi or driving (yes the taxi drivers take their eyes off the road and look at the church and make the sign of the cross on their chests).  I don稚 mind though, really I don稚. It just takes a couple of seconds, and after all, they do slow down while they are doing it. J  It may sound like I知 making fun of them, but I知 really not.  I rather admire their commitment to acknowledging their belief in Jesus and his death on the cross for our sins. I think we can all learn a lesson from them.

 

Back to Easter in Ethiopiabeginning on Good Friday, they all fast until midnight on Easter Sunday morning. It is a complete fast, not only do they go without food, they also go without water!  The fast is followed by a great celebration.  On the eve of Easter Sunday (Saturday night) they dress in white and carry long orange/yellow- colored lit candles.  It痴 the most glorious thing you can imagine.  The churches are full and surrounded by thousands (the population of Addis is 5 million) of worshipers.  At the end of the service you can see them walking down the streetscandles still glowing.  The glow illuminates and spreads a lasting ray of light much like the end of a spectacular firework show.  After they arrive home, there is a great feast where they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  I asked one of my friends if they also lit candles on Easter night and she said 渡o, because Jesus has already risen and is no longer in the tomb.   That痴 what Easter is like here.  It痴 an amazing celebration of the true meaning of Easter.  I might add that I didn稚 see any chocolate Easter bunnies and there were no Easter egg hunts (at least in my neighborhood).  I had thought about buying some food coloring and dying eggs with the children. I知 so glad I didn稚.  I think it would be wrong to introduce our 摘aster culture to them.they seem to have kept the real meaning of Easter in tact.I wouldn稚 want to spoil it. J

 

Well, I知 out of space, so until next time,

Love,

Natalie Jo

 

 

 

Journal Letter 19 April, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,                                                                                 

 

Hello to all.  I hope you are enjoying the arrival of spring in the States.  The rainy season is slowly but surely arriving in Ethiopia.  I知 told it will be in full swing the by end of June through August.  However, I think it must be arriving sooner this year because we have had several 塗eavy showers during the past few weeks. 

 

I must begin by telling you about some of the children.  Recently, I was looking for a Bible bookstore so I could buy some Bibles for my two guys and the girl who washes my clothes.I wanted to get them a Bible that is in Arabic and English (side by side); however, the whole Bible hasn稚 been translated altogether.  Still, I can buy the New Testament and Psalms (which is great).   I want to get their names put on them; however, since they don稚 offer that service in Ethiopia, I知 hopeful I can find someone who can get it done for me in the States and mail them back.  Since most places don稚 like to 途isk printing on merchandise not purchased there, I知 not sure how hard it will be.  If you are interested in helping me, please let me know.J  When I found the Bible Store, it was on a top of a hill that required climbing musty smelling cement stairs.  At two different levels, the stairs had a small enclosure where two young girls sat with their backs against the wall.  The staircase was not well lit and I was surprised to see them.  It had been raining, so maybe they were there to get out of the rain; however, I got the impression they might have been there for a long time. They were about 13 or 14 years old, and it was obvious that they had very little. They were poorly dressed, and while one sat with her back against the wall, the other one stood up and her eyes looked right through me.  I hesitated, but then I continued walking.  I have thought about them a lot the past few days.  I wonder why I didn稚 stop and do something for them. I should have done something!  Why are there so many homeless children here?

 

On my way back home, one of the 途egular little children 田aught me.  As she ran across the street to grab my hand, her face was smiling ear to ear and she kept saying one English word 吐riend, friend.  I bent down and said 土es, I am your friend.  Shall we have bananas or oranges today?  She shook her head in small quick jerks from side to side and said 渡o, I want cake.  I was in a hurry to get out of the rain and the pastry place was several blocks away, so I tried to convince her to want 澱ananas today or 登ranges today, but she kept on saying 渡o, cake, I want cake.  Since we were already in front of a fruit stand, I offered her bananas AND oranges.  She finally agreed and after our purchase, I promised next time we would get 田ake.   She smiled and off she went with the little friend (who was fortunate to get to share her fortune of mixed fruits).  Looking back, I wish I had taken time to get her cake...hopefully I will have another opportunity before long!  Please don稚 forget to pray for the precious forgotten children here.  Also please pray that I will not let another opportunity to bless one of them pass me by.  I should never be too tired or in too big of a hurry to stop and show His love to themthey are worth so much more than my time.

 

Things are going along as normal in my compound.  Mulu is planning on taking a short trip (three weeks) to New York next week.  She has an apartment there she needs to check on (she sub-lets while she is here taking care of her mother).  It will be different with her not around.  I imagine her maids (she has three) and the two maids that stay in the 3rd house in our compound will be a little more lively than usual.  They seem to have more company when she isn稚 here.it makes me smilehowever, be assured I keep them in order. J

 

Isaza just returned from a week of vacation with his family in the rural area (14 hour bus ride).  He knocked on my door this morning just to let me know he was back.  He is such a good guy; however, unfortunately he didn稚 do well on the 8th grade exam so he has little hope of a solid financial future unless he continues his education in a private school.  His six-month English class ends the first of June and starting in the fall he wants to take night classes to complete his education.  Of course, I have committed to paying for it (about $20 a month) as long as he makes passing semester grades.  He wants to be an auto mechanic.  This would require his finishing two more years of secondary and two years of trade school.

 

His best friend (Love) spends a lot of time in our compound.  He is very bright.  He passed the 10th grade exam, but only well enough to attend trade school.  He wants to be a draftsman and needs two more years of school to accomplish his goal.  I have already arranged for him to begin in the fall.  If I can, I want to get Love a computer before I leave.  He has had one year of training on computers and really loves IT; plus it would help him with his plans to become a draftsman.  He and Isaza are both great but yet so different.  While Love wants to be a draftsman and loves computers; Isaza wants to be a mechanic and loves watching TV.  Isn稚 that typical?  J

 

One of my concerns now is Mulu.  Although she has lived in America, she still views her employees as her 都ervants.  As such, I知 sorry to say that she hasn稚 liked my 堵iving to the Isaza and Love.  Isaza (our guard) tends to her flowers, washes her car, etc.   She pays him 120 birr ($12) a month and provides him with a room and meals.  Ever since I gave Isaza some of Jonathan痴 clothes and he has been attending English classes and church, she thinks he isn稚 a good worker anymore.  She told me that 渡ow, he thinks he is somebody and he is ruined.  However, I fail to see any difference in the garden and her flowers look as beautiful as ever.  What to do?  She tells me that I don稚 understand the culture here and that you can稚 treat 鍍hem as equals. Yet I can稚 treat them any differently.  Out of respect to her thought, I make sure that when I give Isaza a little extra money (i.e. for Christmas or his Easter travel) she doesn稚 know about it.  Recently, Love told me that when I leave, Isaza will leave too.  I asked him where he would go.  He told me that he would either find another job (where he can go to night school) or he would return to live with his family and become a farmer.  Although I don稚 want to see him leave, I think it might be the best for him.  I doubt Mulu will allow him to attend night classes, and at age 25, he needs to start thinking about his future.  I have considered renting a place for him and Love to live in while they finish school.  It痴 possible to find a large one room 殿partment for around 500 ($50) birr a month (with all the utilities paid).  The bathroom is 都hared among the tenants and each room is allowed a dorm size refrigerator and portable 2 burner cook top for their food.  I could consider this as part of their school 電orm fee; but I知 not sure yet what is the best thing to do.  Still, for about $90 a month, I could sponsor two young people through college.  Of course, I would need to buy them some furniture (i.e. beds, refrigerator, etc.) to get them set up.  If I were really financially set, I would invest $5,000 (dollars) and buy them a cab to use to make money while they were in college.  These guys aren稚 lazy; they just lack the resources to get started. Wouldn稚 life be grand if we could help everyone get a start in life? J 

 

In closing, let me share something that I never expected.  When I came to Ethiopia, I came as prepared as I could with over-the counter medicine.  I don稚 like taking medicine, but I will when I am really ill, and I didn稚 want to get sick here without my Night Time Vicks, etc.   Well, one day I noticed that Isaza was walking rather slow and sluggish. I asked him what the matter was and he said he pointed to his head and frowned.  I figured he had a bad headache, so I gave him a couple of Aleve.  The next time I saw him, his headache was gone.  A few weeks later he and Love were clearing out an old part of the garden and somehow, he skinned the front of his head (at the hair line).  He immediately came to my door.I put peroxide on it with a bandage and insisted he get a tetanus shot (which cost 80 birr or $8 at a public hospital ER).  A few weeks passed, and one of Mulu痴 relatives cut her foot on a broken cup.  They immediately came to get me. After much peroxide, I realized the cut was too deep to stop bleeding so I put gauze on it and wrapped it with an Ace bandage (tearing and tying it like a real nurse).  I insisted she keep it elevated and that she, too, be taken to get a tetanus shot.  Since she was one of Mulu痴 relatives, Mulu took her to a private hospital (double the cost); nonetheless, she received the treatment she needed.

 

When she returned, she couldn稚 thank me enough for wrapping her 澱loody foot.  Now I know the high risk of HIV here, and I should have grabbed my latex gloves, but going back to get them just didn稚 seem like I would have been showing her my true concern for her (not me).  I didn稚 have any cuts or open places, and I was very careful. (I can hear my doctor/nurse friends and relatives nowI promise I will wear my gloves next time!)  Okay on with it.a few weeks later, Love was coughing and sneezing and obviously sick.  After the second day of seeing him with no improvement, he received some over the counter cold medicine.  His symptoms lasted about five days and, just when I was about to insist he go see a doctor, he got well.  Now while I can understand Mulu, Isaza and Love coming to me for 杜edical help, I was quite surprised when one of the maids from the Muslim house (in our compound) knocked on my door and started rubbing her throat motioning to me that she wasn稚 feeling well.  I gave her the last of my cold medicine (3 doses) and told her to take one then (at night) and one when the sun came up and the last one when she went to sleep the next night.  Now try to picture my motioning the sun coming up and her going to sleep the next night (head on my folded hands).  Still, she understood and left smiling.  As I shared this story with Rose (one of my IFESH teacher friends) she laughed and said 登f course, what do you expect when you have peroxide, bandages and over the counter medicine?  I never really thought about it, but I never expect to be viewed as a 途eal doctor.  Still, I知 thankful for whatever I can do to help 杜y people (those who live in my compound) feel better.  Thank you for your continued prayers!

 

Blessings on you All,

Natalie Jo    

 

 

Journal Letter 20 May, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

 

This will be my last journal letter from Ethiopia (at least for this trip).  I知 amazed at the feelings I知 having as I pack (and repack) my bags to return to the United States.  I wish I could say that I have made a big difference during my time here and that Ethiopia is a better place because of me.  However, in good conscious I can稚 say that my efforts here made much (if any) of a positive difference in the lives of the people here (especially the education system).   One thing is for sure my time here has made me a better person; more thankful and more patient.  I知 very thankful for the time I lived here and the precious lifetime friends I have made.  

 

My heart is happy to be returning to my country, yet I have grown to love the people in this country so saying goodbye is more difficult than I imagined.  The boys (Izaisa and Love) have been exceptionally helpful to me during the past two days.  .It has been hard for me to adhere to the weight limits on my luggage (50 pounds).  I have re-packed and switched items in my suitcases numerous times and finally decided that even though I知 leaving a lot of things behind; I知 taking home more than I came with so I will need to pay for an additional piece of luggage.  Even so, the boys have been taking my suitcases to a shop down the street to weigh (and re-weigh) to help me make sure they still aren稚 too heavy.  I guess it has been a good way to keep us busy from the inevitable 堵oodbye that we are facing.  Leaving them behind will be like leaving a part of my family; they are dear to me and I will worry about them and always wish life could be better for them.

 

I really don稚 have anything else to say now. I think you know my heart and I hope you have enjoyed reading about my life experiences in Ethiopia.  May God continue to bless each of you and may you remember this little special place in the world in your prayers.  Please pray for the people and children in Ethiopia       

 

Love Always,

Natalie  

 


 

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