Saturday, August 8, 2009

Bridges & Roadblocks

Today I started early after a good night’s sleep. I went to the office to retrieve my email and to catch up on Facebook. I really enjoy connecting with people even though I am a world away.

Paul brought me the ultrasound so we have that ready to go. It went through customs just fine but the probe that attaches to it was held up for a couple of days and took a letter from the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture to get it out. We spent an hour going over our plans for Kokossa and the steps that we need to take to get there. Abera has a good mind for business and understands the Ethiopian society well so we make a good team. We have a lot of ground to cover in the next couple of weeks, and we already have some items scheduled for my October visit.

This afternoon we went to the Sabana resort for lunch. While we were there, eating a very good meal for Ethiopia, we met a reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune and also Matthew, a doctor who is adopting some Ethiopian children. We had a very good visit with them.

We spent the afternoon around the village of Torgee. Last year Brent helped them clean all their irrigation ditches and put in a new head gate. The head gate and some of the plastic used to line the ditches had been stolen. The ditches hadn't been clean and were half full of weeds and silt. Maintenance is not a big priority here.

We then headed for the bridge that the Village of Hope had funded. We had some guides that thought we were looking for a bridge that we could cross and took us up river about a mile. All of this time we are driving on roads that are more like donkey cart paths than roads. In a couple of areas we came to some very wide and deep bogs but we were able to get through them without too much problem. I told Paul that this brought a whole new meaning to the phrase “cruising around town”. It was more like “four wheeling around town”. As we drove through, many children came out to wave at us, some of them begging for money. When we finally got around to the bridge we found that it was the wrong one, so we headed back and eventually came to the right bridge.

On the south side of the river the trail is moderately steep but there is a two foot step up to the bridge. On the north side of the bridge the bank is extremely steep.
As usual we had a crowd of many people swarm around us as we arrived. One of the young men came up to us and spoke in broken English, pointing to the bridge. He said “See this problem? How you fix this problem?” We tried to explain to them that it was a problem that they had the means to fix themselves if they could work together. He said that they were willing to fix it if we paid them to do it. A few of the other teenagers seemed to be more level headed than this vocal one.

It is sad to see a society that will allow such conditions even when they have the power to fix them. As each donkey cart approaches, they beat the donkeys to get them to jump up on the bridge, then they all push to get the cart up. They spend a lot of time and effort into crossing the bridge, but not maintenance to make the bridge passable. We walked down the river 100 meters where the old bridge was. Five long trees were stretched across the river. None of them connected to another. The river was about 15 feet below and running swiftly between rocks. A fall from that bridge would probably mean death, and apparently had in some cases.

As we drove through the beautiful countryside, I was again amazed that a land so rich and fertile could have people starving to death for lack of food. The people have lived in a state of hopelessness for so long that they can’t look up and see the possibilities that are available to them. They could grow crops all year long, but instead they only grow one crop because their seed is poor and they have no irrigation projects to speak of. This land is so fertile that they can get by with poor management practices. In the western United States, our early pioneers would have starved to death without irrigation and hard work developing the land. I hope that we can help these wonderful people learn to catch the vision of what they can do for their country if they will open their minds to new possibilities & the opportunities ahead of them.

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