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Bittersweet

November 2, 2010

We have had so many experiences in Ethiopia that I just didn’t have the ability to relate to you all. I wish we would have been able to be more connected to our friends and family during the past 7 months and at the same time realize that we wouldn’t have had the experience we did if we were. I am beginning to reflect on things as we have our last macchiato, last look at piece of scenery, goodbyes to people we may not see again, and I know we will miss this place. Ethiopia is a place of immense beauty, striking contrasts, and is a desired place in the world among developing nations. We are leaving very dear friends here and will continue to support what they are doing once we are gone. I have worn my “I Love Ethiopia” T-shirt with pride and I don’t like slogan tee’s, but we are excited to come home and see you all! We will be there soon. Love the Baginskis.

For People Who Like Picture Posts

October 19, 2010

Kids at Entoto

So I thought I would just do a post of the last month in pictures and maybe a few words.  We started at Entoto when my mom and Margaret came over to spend a few weeks with us.  Entoto overlooks Addis and is a great way to get out of the smog.

Don't feed the baboons.

I traveled to Duss to install a solar system on the church and Margaret did some first aid and healthcare.

From the roof of the Landcruiser after just driving into Duss.

Hand carved canoe on the shore of the Omo River.

Kara women carrying water from the Omo River.

Lights and power for a TV/DVD, with no generator!

 

Hi

Gulo and the second wife.

A caring heart.

Roasting a goat in Duss.

We are in Africa!

The Savannah

An Ibex or is it an Antelope?

Happy New Year at the Addis Children’s Home

Moving Again

October 18, 2010

We have loaded everything important to us on top of the Landcruiser and have now reached civilization again. We are in Hwasssa having breakfast and heading north to be tourists for a while. We are enjoying our moving again and want to take in as much Ethiopia as we can in the next two weeks before we head out on a plane. We are coming home! I will write more in a little bit.

Full Circle

October 3, 2010

It was 5 A.M. and the Landcruiser was fully loaded from the night before.  50 kilos of Maize, 50 kilos of sorghum, pots and pans, solar panel, very heavy battery, and a whole lot more.  We made the rounds through Jinka picking up all of our passengers, which included Lale Simi, his wife Gulo, and their child Dera, (Yosef’s Family), Lale American, (Friend of Lale Labuko), Lale Labuko, Tyler, (Lale’s Friend from Georgia), Margaret and myself.  We were loaded!  This was to be Gulo’s first trip back home to the tribe since she had left 5 months before to give birth to her son Yosef.

We rambled down the dirt road towards Key Afer, then on to Turmi where we stopped for coffee.  Turmi is a true African bush-town with little more than a veterinary clinic and a couple shops that didn’t appear to be open yet on this sunny morning.  We had some coffee and headed out into the real bush.  The road to Duss is really a riverbed and a wandering path through brush and termite mounds.  It was a really bumpy three or so hours and we were there. We first drove into Lale and Gulo’s compound where I was able to jump up on the top of the Landcruiser and unload all of the supplies.  This is where I captured my first panoramic of the place I had envisioned for so long. Duss sits on a dusty plain overlooking the Omo River.  There is very little vegetation and a couple of trees, not much to shelter you from the 115 degree midday sun.  The village is comprised of 20 or so Gojo’s or grass huts.  The government has built a school and an NGO has built a clinic, sadly neither of which are suitably staffed or supplied.

I was overpowered by emotion as a gazed out over the Omo River and this setting.  I couldn’t understand the source of this at the time. Now I know it marked for me a conclusion of one story but also the ragged unfinished edges of another.  Gulo was home.  We met her when she first came to Jinka to have her baby.  We lived with her in Addis where we had brought her for medical care.  We were neighbors in Jinka where we shared Sunday afternoons and coffee on our front porch learning about her culture, her needs, and her heart. We cared for her baby when he was first brought into the world. Now I was blessed to see her gleaming back in her home where I knew she belonged.  As for the unfinished edges, there is where the hope lies.  My heart is torn for these people as I see the place where many children have been cast for fear of a curse that only One can remove.

Update

September 30, 2010

Sorry for the silence but it has been quite a month for us here. With my mother and Margaret showing up I became complacent in my desire to communicate. We have had an awesome month of seeing God work in this place and in us.

An update on projects: we have finished the water tower, and most of the plumbing is functioning at the children’s home in Jinka. We got the kitchen serving area cased with wood, had a bunch of shelving built, built the rainwater collection system, and built a ladder “local style”. The last thing we need to do is build a “Gojo” or traditional home for the nannies and kids to get out of the sun. We are going to modify it to be more of a “surf shack-cum-palapa” and build it with the guys at the children’s home and a couple carpenters we know.

At the beginning of the month we rode north to Addis to go get my mom and Margaret, a nurse from Sacramento. We had a relaxing weekend in Addis thanks to Paul and Margaret and a few free nights at the Addis Hilton! Thank you again guys! Part of the plan was to have Margaret help Emily teach a healthcare class for the nannies in the south and as timing had it we were finally going to go out to the Kara tribe in Duss (pronounced Duce).

So we took the two-day drive to Jinka for what seemed like the tenth time but it was really only the third time south. It is a beautiful country and no picture can capture the broad green farms and hills the way this drive does. When we got home Lale was ready to head to Duss a day later so we started gearing up for Margaret and myself to go with Lale. We were planning to have an impromptu healthcare clinic and I was going to install the solar system for the Church so they could have lights without a generator. My anticipation for this trip could not be understated, I had been waiting six months for this! More to come!

Oh yeah Kai contracted malaria and we got him treated quickly so he is doing great.

The Best for Them

August 28, 2010

 

We just arrived back in Jinka after bringing the children to Addis and their new home. It was bittersweet to leave them in Addis knowing that we would not see them in their Jinka home again. It was also especially hard for Tsizita (Tsi-zi-ta) the nanny who brought them up to Addis with Lale. She is a young woman, unmarried and without any of her own children, so these are her kids.

Today was our first day back and I was working with Hadish to solidify the price for the new water tower at the Jinka orphanage. Negotiations take a couple of meetings here, as nothing is ever entirely clear in the first meeting. I left nearly two weeks ago and gave a deposit, but not much happened while we were gone. This is no fault of Hadish’s because the welder wanted to double the price and I told him to wait for my return.

Anyway we got that sorted and were walking back home when we walked by Gulo’s house. Gulo is the Kara woman that gave birth to Yosef just three weeks ago. We went in to say hello to Gulo and Dera her three year-old and sat down for a visit. What happened next completely changed my perspective on adoption for “our” children. We exchanged hello’s and how are you’s which is all I can really do in Amharic, then Hadish translated for me a couple of questions I had for Gulo. Then she asked. She knew about the surgery that Yosef just received for neonatal mastitis (a rare infection in the baby’s breast tissue, partially developed from residual hormones from the mother). She asked, “Did he cry?” I came up with whatever I could think of in the moment, which was, “Yes, but all babies cry and he is o.k. now. He is healthy and doing well.” I had to turn my head as my eyes welled, and luckily I was holding Dera and could squeeze her. (She is adorable and I love her.) I realized at that moment, “Of course it is better if Yosef stays in Ethiopia, at least Gulo will have the chance to someday get to know her son. She may not be able to raise him but she will get to know him.”

Now this musn’t be misconstrued as diminishing the value of adoption of unwanted or orphaned children. Most cases of abandoned children are best resolved with adoption, but our children are not all abandoned! They are believed to be a curse to the people in the tribes. The tribes believe in this curse, which gives it its power. When the children are believed to be mingi, they really become just that.

Please understand the curses are very real in the tribes. This mother’s love for her child is not lessened by this cultural belief. That is what is so astounding and yet so difficult about the predicament of the Drawn From Water orphanage. We have to save these children from the tribes today so they can see them as they grow into healthy adults defying the curse placed on them. This will take time and hard work from the people here with the support from all of you.

Projects

August 18, 2010

Anyone who knows me knows that I thrive on projects. I wanted to tell everyone how things have changed and what the projects are now. First of all I want to say a very heartfelt thank you to everyone who is supporting us! We have really felt this support and have relished the thought of our friends and family lately. I want to say it again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts, for you make our work possible.

So as most of you know we (I should probably just say I) came to Ethiopia with grand plans to build a children’s village that would be a shining light in the community and a place where kids thrived. Even though I knew I needed to hold on loosely to those plans, it was very hard to come to the realization that a vision like that was not for right now. The leaders of Drawn From Water took a hard look at the needs of the children and decided that a home in Addis would make so much more sense than just one in Jinka. Healthcare, schools, and access to the world, are assets of Addis, but management by the correct people was the need that could be met in Addis right now.

The result is really two homes. In Jinka a transitional home where kids that come from the tribes can be acclimatized to a new world and be processed by the authorities is still needed. There is quite a process to verifying that a child is truly an orphan. The reality is that it is never that simple. Very few of our children are true abandonment cases. Most have parents that cannot keep them due to their belief system. Read more on this on the DFW Blog. So most children have parents that have relinquished them and the Police have to authenticate this and document the story. The other home is in Addis and will be the long-term home for the children once they are allowed to travel by the Government.

The Addis home is in much better shape and was formerly an orphanage so the work is not so extensive. We are outfitting a kitchen and laundry area and just setting it up for lots of kids. In Jinka we have begun building a water tower. I bought a tank in Addis this week to ship down to Jinka. We have already painted the interior and most of the exterior when the South Africans were here. We have fixed the fences that were falling over. We are going to fix all of the inoperable plumbing, build a rainwater catchment from the roof, build a Gojo or traditional home without the walls for a shade structure (imagine an island hut), get some kerosene stoves so the nannies can stop cooking with wood, and hopefully tackle whatever else comes up.

One thing that has been a need for some time is healthcare training for the nannies. Emily has been planning this and thankfully we are going to have a professional come over to help train and certify the nannies. Thank you in advance Margaret DeCoux. So I hope that gives everyone a good picture of what our next two and a half months are going to be like. We will be in and out of Addis more because of our coming visitors so you should be hearing more from us in the coming months.