Today was a day full of surprises. I woke at 6:15 and headed out for my first run. The first surprise came in the form of an Ethiopian running partner. A young man dressed in blue jeans, an Obama T-shirt and plastic sandals spotted me from across the road and began running along with me. Soon he made his way across the street and ran next to me for about a mile or so. I huffed and puffed while his sandals scuffed along the ground and he sounded as if he could carry on a perfectly normal conversation while keeping pace. Eventually he said, “go, go” and turned back. We exchanged smiles, shook hands and I said a quick thanks and continued on.

The next surprise came when Kefyalew, the Ethiopian SCOPE fellow picked me up in a Land Cruiser for our morning trip to visit the Dabat Health Center, located about an hour outside of Gondar toward the Simien mountains. His sweet wife, Ferehewete, meaning fruit and his friend and colleague, Adino, whose name means healer, accompanied him. Kefyalew and Adino implemented the second chapter of the Soul Fathers project at the Dabat Health Center beginning around 2 months ago. I was under the impression that we would simply be touring the clinic, but I soon found out that this was an official monthly meeting with the priests and religious women who had been trained to teach their communities about the importance of antenatal care, assisted births, HIV transmission, prevention and treatment and a few other complimentary topics. I was again pleasantly surprised when all of the priests and religious women showed up for the meeting, relatively on time and Kefyalew, who is small in stature took command of the room. The respect for Kefyalew and the project was palpable. The highest ranking priest who had recruited the other participants reinforced the church’s support for this important project. According to Kefyalew he referred to these health teaching activities as a very important part of their priestly duty and emphasized the importance of integrating the teachings into their routine. The meeting concluded after about 2 hours.

From there I expected we would head back to Gondar for an afternoon of reflective note taking and project planning; however, I was surprised to find that we had been asked to a coffee ceremony at Adino’s mother’s or brother’s house in Debark, abot 20 minutes further north and the jumping off point for trekking in the Simien mountains. I was very thankful for our Land Cruiser as we made our way through the mud to Adino’s brother’s house. His eldest brother Meseret, whose name means foundation, insisted on hosting us. The coffee ceremony was absolutely beautiful and was performed by Meseret’s wife, named Zena, whose name means news or good news. The coffee was hands down the best coffee I have ever tasted! Smooth, dark, earthy flavors with a flawless finish left my palate begging for more.

After leaving Meseret and Zena’s house, I was sure that we would be heading back to Gondar. After all, the trip had already gone on far longer than expected. Kefyalew surprised me with the news that we would first head further into the mountains so we could see a road called the Lima Limo road named after the Italian man who designed the windy path through the mountains. I went along in confusion as to why he would want us to see a road. Well, I was again thankful for our Land Cruiser and trusty driver as we barreled first up then down the very muddy road, hugging the side of a beautiful, lush green mountain. The road was not the point. The view was spectacular. We took some moments to take pictures and ogle at the unbelievably gorgeous landscape. I also managed to teach our new Ethiopian friends about jumping pictures.

As we left the “road” I was sure we were headed straight for Gondar. I was mostly right this time aside from a quick stop to buy the most exquisite honey and another to pick up a sick child and his parents who required transport to Gondar for care. We finally arrived back in Gondar 11 hours after we left.

This day taught me so many things. My conversations and observations were priceless. My heart is happy and my soul sings sweetly as the day draws to a close. I can only imagine the lessons and surprises that lay ahead. Now it is time for sleep. It has been a long day.


A view from the drive to the clinic.


One of the priests giving his report.


Some of the women and priests being restocked with green, antenatal care referral cards to give to the pregnant women they talk to in their communities.


Coffee ceremony – The beans being crushed with a mortar and pestle after roasting over the fire and the water heated and the pour


The view from Lima Limo Road.


Our most successful jumping picture – clearly we have work to do!


First Few Days

I’m sitting here watching the World Cup sipping a beer… not too bad. The last few days have been nothing short of a whirlwind. The trip over was relatively uneventful aside from Kate’s swollen ankles and lots of salty airplane food. When we landed in Gondar we were greeted by Dr. Getahun’s warm smile in his gray Toyota, which carried us to our place of residence for the next three months. After being wowed by the beauty of the countryside, I was pleasantly surprised by the size of our apartment along with the presence of running water and flushing toilets! On our first night we met up with Nancy and Peggy, the co-directors of SCOPE, for a meal and a drink. We, not surprisingly slept very well that night.

Our first full day began at 8 a.m. with a meeting at the University of Gondar Hospital. After meeting Peggy and Nancy we sat Dr. Sisay’s office to discuss financial matters. I floated through the rest of the morning until we met with a group of interested parties from the University of Gondar in the afternoon. This was when the excitement hit. My enthusiasm became hard to contain when we arrived at the Woleka clinic and received a tour from Dagne, the clinic administrator. Walking through the exam rooms and finishing in the birthing room, I had to remind myself that there would be time for all of my burning questions.

The last few days have been filled with meetings, meals and more thoughts than could ever be put on paper. My mind is still reeling as I attempt to digest all that I have seen, heard and felt. In the end I am unbelievably thankful to be here. I found myself thinking, I wish that I had 6 months instead of just 3. Tomorrow we will visit a second SCOPE site and then head out to visit a Food for the Hungry project in rural Gaiynt on Sunday. Now, it’s time for sleep so I can put my full energies toward tomorrow’s activities.


Dagne showing us the flip chart the Woleka clinic uses to teach the importance of male partner participation in antenatal care and HIV testing.