Category Archives: Black Lion

Berbere, Big Butt of Beef, and a Wagon of Beer

I have to be honest, I am scraping the bottom of the barrel these days. I’m pretty darn worn out – and trying (REALLY TRYING) to refill the tank.  But, I don’t really want to get all too serious, and so I’m just going to load some fun pictures and remember the past few weeks full of habesha goodness. 

I promise there will be a full blog post on the ferengi who cooked injera and lived to tell about it.

Ethiopian Cooking Project with some new and awesome friends – Mulu, Bayesh, and Tigist. 

The Ethiopian Project Dinner, otherwise known as A Warm Wisconsin Welcome by the Ethiopian enthusiasts, Mr. SillyPants and Ms. Plum and their family includes the now ‘must have’ wagon of beer. Because, you can roll it out for any impromptu party.

Ethiopian Project Dinner – Wisconsin Harvest Welcome /An amazing standing rib roast and plenty of buttery sides.

The food was delicious, the company was delightful.


The wagon looks small, but the local brews were not.


Entertaining for the Ethiopian Project…

American ediblesEthiopian edibles

and my two besties showing their support and approval

We’ve had a VERY busy 7 days with 2 seriously rockin’ dinner parties at our home. Mr. Silly Pants counted AT LEAST 25 friends at each evening. Fabulous food. Amazing friends.

No time for writing; no energy for recounting the fun. We’re just letting it sink in, settle, and stay awhile. And, we’re prepping for Thanksgiving. First, I have to conduct Parent/Teacher Conferences tomorrow night, in which I am the teacher.  You catch my drift? We’re happy and exhausted around here. Off to bed….a full life it is.

Anatomy of a Party

The Menu

Roast, Hard Rolls, Horseradish, Mustard

Orzo Salad, Waffles Favorite Green Salad

Roasted Root Vegetables, Fruit Skewers

Union Cafe Beer Nuts, Spinach Dip & Crostini, Cheese Platter featuring local cheeses

Plentiful supply of local  beer and wine

Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream & Coffee

The Audience: A guest list FULL of Ethiopians who are involved  locally or via Addis Ababa University with the Ethiopian Project.  My children, biggies and little, will be in attendance as we use our amazing space to throw one heck of a party for our esteemed friends and colleagues committed to bringing improved health care services to Ethiopia. This is the program that Mr. Silly Pants joined last year for a 10 day ALSO effort.  It’s an honor to continue our involvement.

We look forward to welcoming new friends to our home tomorrow.

It’s unlikely I’ll be taking pictures, but I WILL BE SOAKING IT IN.

ALSO in Addis #4

I received this message while sitting in a HUGE traffic jam on my way to present information from the White Privilege Conference to my school board. I sat and read. What a treat. Once again, I’m copying and pasting. Mr. SillyPants is burning the candle at both ends – this gig is completely engrossing for him. Read.

We had a very emotional and fulfilling day today; this was the day that we certified instructors for the ALSO course and prepared them for their presentations tomorrow to a new group of students. It was a long and arduous day, with examinations lasting until the mid-evening. However, the success of the training was quite evident and we realized that this program we are teaching will undoubtedly make a difference.

Ethiopia unfortunately ranks as the 6th worst in terms of infant mortality worldwide. Infants are 1000 times more likely to die in childbirth here than in the United States. This is not due to the quality of training here; in fact, the obstetricians, general practitioners and midwives here are VERY well trained. As we taught our curriculum, we could see constant nodding (not due to sleepiness but *understanding*!). These medical providers KNOW this stuff.

The problem is one of access to healthcare. There are more Ethiopian doctors in Chicago or Los Angeles than there are in all of Ethiopia. Stated another way, there are 2000 physicians in Ethiopia, serving 80 million people. That’s one doctor for every 40,000 people (consider THAT when you think about scheduling your next doctor’s appointment).

At the end of today’s training, providers thanked us, with teary eyes, for presenting a system which could be easily taught in areas throughout Ethiopia; that, actually is the goal of the ALSO course – – – providing a learnable curriculum which can be used in a variety of settings. Many of the attendees voiced their plans to implement and teach this curriculum in their communities as soon as possible.

This was emotional and overwhelming to me, in fact, it took me to the point of tears. (Those who know me understand I’m a little emotional, anyway). I was so moved because I realized the enormity of the need here in Ethiopia. And, I was humbled by the fact that there is so much that I take for granted.

My hope and prayer is that these talented and committed providers here in Ethiopia will have new tools to “make a difference.”

So, the other reason I’m really wound up is that Richard and I finally had a chance to meet. I didn’t get back to the Hilton until 9pm, but Richard took a long cab to come to the Hilton for a drink. (He had Coke, I had a somewhat grainy and disappointing Merlot). We talked for nearly two hours and, frankly,he had me choked up a few times.

Richard, who calls himself “our son”, is doing very well. I think he was initially quite worried about misleading us, in fact, he apologized again and again for saying he was in medical school when, in fact, he only qualified for nursing school. Of course, as you probably already know, my response was that you and I were so proud of him and were not angry at all. In fact, I told him that we understood why he thought we might be “disappointed” but wished, instead, that he had realized we would be as happy with his admission to nursing school as to medical school.

He was visibly relieved, but he felt the need to apologize over and over.

He was also so FUNNY – – – I think he felt the need to “prove” that he was doing well in school. When he heard I was here teaching obstetrics, he interrupted me to say, “Oh yes! We are learning about first stage, second stage and third stage of labor, plus the problems with descent of the fetus and bleeding and other complications of pregnancy.” (Truthfully, he KNOWS this stuff. I have no doubt that he is doing well in his classes – – -he again demonstrated his hard work.)

Perhaps the most moving moment was when he stated that he realizes that he is “lucky to receive this gift of education”; he said that “most people in my country never have this chance – – – this is a great responsibility to me, to give back to my country in any way I can.”  I responded with one of the only Amharic words I know: “Ishi”. (I understand.).

I told Richard that we were “so happy to be a small part of his success”; however, I think that the major part of his success is his determination, his skill and his motivation to “do good in Ethiopia.” (his words).

Through a short, two-week trip to Ethiopia, we met Richard, Getnet, Getu, Alemtsehaye, and, of course, our amazing Blueberry, and these connecttions have changed us forever. For our family,  the sponsorship of Richard, Getnet and Getu is but a small inconvenience. In fact, I doubt we ever feel the “pinch” of their requirements. (Our support of our 2 kids in college takes much more planning – – – yes?). Yet, I see what a difference this small contribution makes in the lives of our good friends here in Ethiopia.
It is late in Addis Ababa – I must say ‘goodnight’ and leave additional details for another e-mail/blog post.

ALSO in Addis #3

Mr. SillyPants sent a love letter, with a promise of a blog post tomorrow. I culled some sweet details including:

… I miss our son so much. My attachment to him is so profound and so deep that I am truly experiencing a new type of longing when I am away from him. (Being in the land of his birth doesn’t help alleviate that at all.)

However, this trip has been wonderful and I am so happy with how things are turning out. We finished our first class today, graduating about 80% of the class (which is a very high percentage when ALSO is taught in a developing country). I think we have a great team for teaching but the main reason for the high graduation rate is the excellence of the physicians, residents and midwives here.

Tomorrow, we begin the instructor’s training then on to letting them teach a new class on Thursday and Friday.

I am also hoping we can do more shopping soon – – – I haven’t yet found a 108″ tablecloth and need to also look for coffee, Addis tea, berbere, and a map. I got a few nice baskets already, as well as a carved lion for Blueberry (as Ethiopia is known as the Lion of Judah). (An addition by Ms. Plum – of course I sent my A+ shopper husband a shopping list!).

I personally look forward to hearing more details from Mr. SillyPants. He’s typically quite verbose, so the days must be long and intense. I am also happy to report his gastro-upset didn’t last and he’s feeling good. I wish him a good night’s sleep and sweet dreams. I’ll enjoy posting tomorrow’s news!

ALSO in Addis #2

Here are some comments from a personal e-mail – I suspect Mr. SillyPants is a little too fatigued to write a formal “Day 2” post. And, he conveyed he has a little stomach ache, so I’ll take the initiative and post a few of his observations:

……I’m just finished with our first day here. I am bushed after teaching two sessions (labor dystocia and third trimester bleeding) then proctered an “OB cases” session in the afternoon. Everything went really well and, let me tell you – – – these obstetricians and midwives KNOW their stuff. The OB staff who were here were right with us, no matter what we were teaching and the majority of midwives were able to assimilate the new material easily and quickly.

All in all, I’m very impressed with the knowledge level of the OB staff and midwives here. There are lots of challenges here with regards to healthcare but they don’t include training or knowledge, ….

Access to healthcare, well, that’s another problem.

Tomorrow is more of the same, with another lecture, two skills sessions and our testing program. Then, we meet with future instructors on Wednesday.

Speaking of Wednesday, I am meeting with Richard Wednesday night – – – we had a dinner tonight and tomorrow, so Wednesday was the first available opportunity. I called Richard and he sounded very happy to meet that night. I am truly looking forward to it. I will look forward to seeing Richard again to catch up with him and also to reassure him in his efforts.

Well, that is it for now. It is 10pm and I’m going to head off to bed. More work tomorrow.

 (Edited by Ms. Plum to add: Richard is a student we sponsor. He’s enrolled at Central University, where he is studying nursing. When we started his sponsorship, we believed he was pre-med. We have since learned, through our own checks and balances system, that he is studying nursing. We haven’t had a change of heart regarding our support of him, and I think we all learned a lesson, mediated through one of our doctor friends at AAU. You can read about the students we help here and how we organize that help here. I saved y’all his mushy lovin’ stuff – I’m keeping that to myself).

ALSO in Addis #1

I’m normally someone who has no difficulty with words (just ask the rest of the family), however, I’m actually having difficulty finding the right way to get this blog post started. Go figure.

Mr. Sillypants here, writing from beautiful Addis Ababa. I arrived yesterday after an extended but uneventful flight from Chicago through Frankfurt, Germany. I am here with two other physicians to teach a course in high risk obstetrics; this is part of a program through University of Wisconsin which is working to establish Emergency Medicine here in Ethiopia. And, frankly, I’m honored to be here, part of this effort.

You would think that my mind is filled with anticipation of the two lectures I’m giving tomorrow or the “skill stations” I’ll be proctering; certainly, these things are part of my thoughts right now. However, the majority of my consciousness is filled with the swirling of emotions inside of me after again experiencing the richness of this country, of these people, this history, this community.

When we came to Ethiopia to adopt our beautiful Blueberry, we had a week in country to learn a bit about the land of his birth, his heritage, his people. I think I was unprepared for the powerful feelings which arose within me as we had a chance to experience the unique qualities of this land. I knew I would be overwhelmed from the moment we met our beloved Blue; I had no idea I would be so moved by the people we met and the things we experienced.

Well, things have picked up right were they left off. We did a little sightseeing today, visiting the Trinity Church in Addis which is home to Haile Selassie’s tomb; we also visited a museum and a marketplace. It was a nice overview of some of the “must see” attractions here in Addis Ababa. I experienced again the glorious history of this devout land, was able to experience some amazing Ethiopian food and smiled as two youths tried (unsuccessfully) to keep their donkey out of the middle of the road on a busy thoroughfare.

However, what is again so evident to me is the sense of community which exists here in Ethiopia. There is not so much “me” as there is a “we.” Our host at the Trinity Church spoke quietly and reverently about the history of the building, of their faith, of their country. Youths care for their younger siblings, playing happily in all manner of games (we saw two teenagers playing “football” with another boy who couldn’t have been more than 8 – – – they exhorted and praised their younger counterpart even though they could have easily embarrased him with their superior strength and skill.)

The sense of community here is overwhelming. The people here understand what is truly important.

I’m reminded of something which Leo Buscaglia quotes in his book, ‘Love’: “We have never been closer yet each of us are dying of loneliness.” Isn’t this the case? Email, cellphones, texting, cars, planes, Skype, instant messaging . . . it has never been so easy to stay in touch. Yet, our lives are often dominated by things which give no lasting benefit.

We have much to learn from the beautiful Ethiopian people – – – prime on the list is their understanding of what is truly lasting and vitally important.