Sunday, November 22, 2009

Missionary Testimonies & A Baptism

This morning I got into the shower, only to find that the water was gone and had not recharged yet. {One of the little inconveniences of not being at home!} I took a quick brief shower in the few drops that were coming out.  I could never get the temperature regulated right, and some part of the shower was cold and part of it was hot. I guess I'll have a positive attitude and say that at least I had water for a shower.

I rode with Wes and Alyssa to church in Addis and listened to the missionaries speak today.  The first speaker was an Elder from Debre Zeyit that had just received his call.  He bore a strong testimony of the gospel and the guidance of the Spirit.  I really enjoy church here.  It is simple, yet very powerful.  After the meeting there was another baptism. Ashagere performed the baptism, and this is the second baptism that he has performed that I have been able to attend.  He was also ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood last week at the organization of the District.  It is so exciting for me to see his progress.  He came to church as an investigator the first Sunday that I was in Ethiopia.  I met him then and had talked with him and his friend at length about the gospel.  The Spirit strongly bore witness of the truth of the gospel as we talked.  It is great to see the spiritual progress that he has made. It is a great way to finish off a successful trip to this beautiful country.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ethiopia & The Wild, Wild West

This morning on Skype I was able to listen to Erika and Christy play a very inspiring piano and flute duet that they are going to perform for the Relief Society in Church this Sunday.  I am so grateful that they have developed their talents to the point that they can touch others' lives with their music, especially mine. {Note from Erika: I included this personal detail because I think that it is so amazing that Lonny was able to listen to us play this live, in real time, even though he is half-a-world away. This is the way we, as a family, are able to deal with his long absences. With modern technology, and a little effort on our part, we are able to feel part of his work, and he is able to feel part of our lives, despite the distance. We are able to visit with him nearly daily, and it is a huge blessing for us.}

I loaded up my gear and headed to the gas station to meet Eddy.  He and I had a great discussion as we drove to meet with the dairyman he had told me about yesterday. We talked about our families, Ethiopia, the LDS and Jewish religions, and education.  He was just married a few months ago, and his wife is with him here in Ethiopia.  She is studying psychology.  As we talked, I felt that he would benefit from reading the Book of Mormon, so I took the one from my pack and wrote a little introduction in it and presented it to him. I really had an enjoyable time talking with him.

We went to Ami Ariel's farm, west of Holeta.  Ami is a successful Israeli farmer that has decided to come and teach the Ethiopians how to efficiently grow vegetables.  He has drilled a well and installed a drip irrigation system for his farm.  He has also constructed a chicken raising facility, a green house, a processing center for the broilers, and has refrigerated containers for storing the broilers.  He has made a simple, efficient and modern operation where he can instruct Ethiopians how to better raise food in large quantities.  I was very impressed with him as a person and with his operation. 

This afternoon I wanted to unwind and relax, so I looked through the movies here at the office and found a couple to watch.  I first enjoyed The Shootist with John Wayne, and then watched The Sackets. As I watched these movies, I thought about the type of men it took to settle the old west.  In a sense, Ethiopia has some of the same challenges as the Americans had back then, as there are many people fighting day-to-day just to survive.  The American west was built upon the backs of people who weren't satisfied with just living.  They wanted to make life better for themselves, and more importantly, for those who would follow.  That is what is needed now in this country, men and women who will stretch past the cultural norms and past their comfort zones, and do new, "out-of-the-box" things that will propel their society forward into a time of prosperity.  The resources are here, they just need to be developed and properly utilized. {Our hope is that we can be a part of helping them with this effort.} 

I had a good talk with Joe Morrell tonight.  He is busy working on getting all of the newly-purchased farms here up and running.  They are trying to finalize the contracts on the land, and get the equipment selected and purchased. It is fun to see things starting to come together with all of our many projects. 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Final Visit to ATARC & Rose Growing Facility

This morning I had a great discussion and scripture study with my family this morning via Skype, and I even had the webcam working.  I am looking forward to seeing them in less than a week! I had a quick breakfast, loaded the truck and headed for ATARC (Adami Tulu Animal Research Center). We dropped off Abera at the Negele office, stopped to buy some gifts for my family, and picked up Gebre on our way there. Having Gebre along helped us get past the guard at ATARC, though he still looked us over carefully before letting us in.  The whole dairy crew was there, so I taught them about using an ultrasound and went through all of the steps of flushing (retrieving) embryos, showing them each of the items in the backpack that I left them.  They are hesitant to proceed for fear of failure, but I hope that knowledge and experience will push them past that barrier.

In between the visits to the federal research centers, I stopped at the rose farm in Ziway.  I had met Eddy, the building contractor, on my last visit, and he had invited me for a tour.  They currently have over 850 acres of greenhouses in Ziway, and they are the largest rose grower in the world.  Eddy's company builds the structures for the rose growers.  I talked with him about getting different types of building materials for our projects.  They get their materials from Israel, the US, and China. Eddy is a Jew from Israel that has worked in many different countries.  He was married four months ago, and his wife just recently moved to Ziway with him.  I consider it another tender mercy that I ran into him.  At one point in our conversation, he said that he had a guy ask him about building a dairy.  He is going to meet him in Holeta tomorrow and asked if I would like to go along.  I readily agreed so he is picking me up at 7:30 am tomorrow.

I met with Dr. Tamrat at DZARC and left him with the supplies for embryo transfer work and also left eight embryos to implant.  I encouraged him to work together with the other research institutions.  Each place has expertise and equipment, but together they would have the strength of their combined knowledge. Ironically it worked out that all of them need something that the other has in order to actually go through the full superovulation and transfer process.  Dr. Tamrat introduced me to a new PhD student who is going to do his dissertation on bovine reproduction, so ET may become part of his work.  I really like Dr. Tamrat, and see a very bright future for him. {Sidenote from Erika: On Christmas Day, Lonny received the best Christmas present he could have gotten when he got word that Dr. Tamrat had gone ahead and retrieved and transfered several bovine embryos successfully without Lonny's help! We were all so thrilled!}

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Visiting Dairies in the Arsi District

This morning, Abera and I met with Mulgeta (whose job is the equivalent of a U.S. Extension Agent) for the Arsi District. He had accompanied us when we went to ATARC to implant embryos in August.  I was impressed with him then and knew that he would be a good resource for us. 

Mulgeta taught us about the dairy industry in this area and took us to several industry related sites. We started at the vet clinic where the farmers take their cows for treatment or to be bred.  They had an arsi cow which was being treated by the vets for a severe case of mastitis, which is taken care of by the dairymen themselves in the U.S. We also watched their AI technician breed a cow. It sounds like the conception rates are very good, but it's difficult to tell, because the farmers don't keep very good records. It costs about 36 cents to breed a cow as compared to $25 to $40 in the U.S.

We visited the Bereket Dairy, which is a very progressive Ethiopian dairy with 15 cows, which is considered a large dairy here. They milk their cows three times a day.  The mid-day milking is perfect timing for the afternoon coffee break. They are thinking about getting milking machines in the near future. The cows are fed atala, which is the waste from distilling corn, and wheat straw.  The animals look very good and the heifers grow very well. They were breading their heifers at less than one year of age.  I talked to them about using their manure as a fertilizer for gardens. We visited the milk collection center that they own, and learned how it worked.  They sell most of their milk as raw, whole milk. What they don't sell, they churn to butter and then make into local cheese from the buttermilk.  I did notice that they had a refrigerator and a freezer in their center, which is not common here.

We also visited a couple of medium size dairies with 5 cows each.  They were feeding the wet distiller's grains to the cows also. It costs about 5 birr for 25 liters of the mixture.  Each cow gets about that much each day in addition to the straw and water.  As near as I can tell the only other supplement is oilseed cake which is soaked in water then given to the cows.  Gitie, the owner of the one of the dairies had paid 12,000 Birr for a cow from HARC. It takes a lot of milk to pay yourself back for purchasing a cow that expensive.  She averaged 18 liters a day, which would have her paying for herself in a year. We talked to them about ET and they said that they would like to learn.  I will probably do some training in January when I come back. 

These are some of the best dairies in the district.  They are producing about 15 liters of milk/cow/day, which is three times the national average. The dairymen that we talked to were excited about learning more modern dairy techniques.  They have seen the value of better genetics and better feeding, and want to learn more.

This evening we drove up to the bridge by Turgee.  Brent, Lloyd, and the villagers have made a lot of progress on it.  The best progress was infusing the local people with the understanding that they can make a difference themselves. They don't have to wait for someone to do it for them.  It is a great success story!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meeting with the Kabeli Leaders at Kokosa

This morning we woke up in Kokosa to a cool 46 degree chill. It gets quite a bit colder up here at 8400 feet than in other parts of Ethiopia. Luckily, I had double the mattress and double the blankets as last time I was up here, which helped me have a much better night's sleep.

We loaded the supplies in the truck and headed for the corrals. The herders already had the Boran heifers separated out for us, another instance that shows that the Ethiopians desire to work hard once they know what to do.  I prepared the syringes, while Abera doctored one of the Boran heifers that was sick.  We gave the two Holsteins a shot of Ivomec and put tags in their ears. Three of the four Boran heifers had really good heats and good CL's so I implanted them with embryos. I think that by next time, the rest of the heifers will be ready for embryos. It went very smoothly, now that Abera and the crew have learned how to quickly and quietly work the cattle through the shoot. 

We checked the horizontal well pipe and found that it had a small but steady flow of 10 gallons/hour.  We put a bucket underneath it, and set a timer to see how long it took to fill up, to measure the flow. Abera will build a water trough there next week. We have identified half a dozen places where we want to do the same thing, and if it works out, we may do even more.  I am very excited that it is working so well.
Next on the schedule was an important meeting with the Kabeli leaders of the nearby village. It is important that they understand what we are doing here so that we can work together on improving the opportunities for their people. Abera told me the meeting would start around 9am but I didn't see anyone waiting at the homes when we got back there at about 9:05am. I busied myself with cleaning, packing, and computer work. Finally, around 10:00am, I asked Abera what the deal was.  He told me that he had told them 8am , which meant that they would probably be here about 10am. By 10:30 some of them had arrived, and we started the meeting at about 11am.

They arrived to find that we were making progress already on the property. Abera had the area around the office grazed off, and the area around the homes cleaned up and plowed for planting vegetables.  He also has the entrance gate looking better and a new fence going around the main buildings and well area. This helped to start everything off on the right foot, leaving a good first impression.

We answered their questions, talked about what we were doing, and asked their advice on several issues.  We showed them the seep spring development and they were very impressed.  The main thing that they would like us to do is to educate them and their children. I told them that we would need to work together on developing a plan to do that.  When they left about four hours later, everyone was very enthusiastic.

We were almost finished with the meeting when the District Security Administrator and the District Police Chief came to join our meeting.  As we finished up, he asked us some questions that we had already covered previously.  I said that we could just end the meeting and answer their questions after the others had left.  In a stroke of genius, Abera asked if any of the others wanted to briefly recap our meeting.  For the next 10 to 15 minutes, two of the Kabeli leaders reviewed what we had gone over earlier that day.  It was a really good review, and showed that the people are on board with our projects. While they were doing that, I had the idea to hand each of them a new crisp Birr bill as a token and reminder of what we were doing.  I explained to them that it wasn't to spend but to use as a source of inspiration and encouragement.  The meeting ended with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement. Abera and I spent and additional hour with the District leaders answering their questions and discussing how we will work together in the future.  They are happy to have us there using the resources to help the people.

Our drive back to Shashemene was typical: bouncy roads, lots of people, a few near misses as we passed big trucks along the auxillary road where the construction is taking place, etc.  We unloaded at the hotel, and Abera headed home. I had my usual rice with meat sauce for dinner and headed for the shower.  I had some fleas or ants or something biting my legs and I was anxious to get them off.  I think that I have a dozen or so new bites that itch like crazy.  I need to remember to soak myself with Off when I go to work the cattle here in Ethiopia.

I am almost all caught up with my journal entries, that Erika is abridging to create the blog. I think that I spent a minimum of an hour on each one, and close to two hours on the longer ones, but I know that it will be worth it to have this record. [Note from Erika: Yes it is! It is so inspiring to see how the Kabeli leaders grew in enthusiasm as the meeting progressed. It is touching to me how anxious they are to have their people educated. It is so neat how sharing what to us is just a little, makes such a big difference in the lives of these people. It renews my enthusiasm and fills my heart with gratitude that I can play a part in this most amazing project!]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Building a Spring in Kokosa

Today Tadesa came at 7:00am (1:00 Ethiopian time) to pick me up. We picked up Abera at his house, then went to the Village of Hope where we implanted an embryo in the milk cow.  I was glad that she is cycling and I hope that she will follow her daughter's lead and be pregnant.  We then looked around the compound.  I was excited to see that a couple of the young men had taken my advice and brought chicken manure over for their gardens.  Two of them were well-weeded and growing nicely.  I gave Mambrat some fruit snacks for the children and some purple carrot seeds.  I think that they will really have fun with them.

We purchased pipe, staples, buckets, and food, and then headed up to Kokosa.  We arrived just after noon, so we unpacked the truck and sat down for our lunch of bread and fruit - simple, but satisfying. 
We took a couple of shovels with us and headed down over the hill to find a place to pipe a spring.  Abera showed me a good place and we started digging.  I showed him how to jump on a shovel to get a nice big shovel full of dirt.  The sod is beautiful, rich and dark.  It holds the moisture like a giant sponge.  We dug down about a foot deep.  We hadn't dug very far before a couple of workers came and took the shovels away from us, wanting to relieve us of working. I had to teach them how to use a shovel too.  Abera and I left them working and went to scout out a few other places to put spring fed water troughs.  We stopped at the corrals, and I showed him how I would like to build a shoot and corrals under the shed.  We wandered around and found the cows.  The Holstein heifer looks great, and the steer is growing quickly, much better than they looked when we first purchased them. The Arsi heifers look fantastic and the Boran heifers are starting to shine also.  This is fantastic grazing land. 
While we were walking back, we were caught in a heavy downpour.  We took shelter in the dormitory and made plans for the spring while we were waiting out the storm. After the rain slowed, we ran over and grabbed the generator battery and carried it back to the house so we could charge it.  We tried drilling holes in the pipe with our little drill but it took way too long.  Abera got some nails, heated them in a fire and used them to poke holes in the pipe.  It was starting to get dark when we finished with the pipes, so we grabbed the shovels, buckets and duck tape and headed down the hill.  On the way I filled the buckets with gravel that they had for making cement for the fence posts.  We taped the two pipes together and laid them in the trench.  I poured the gravel overtop of the pipe, then filled the trench back in.  We each made a trip up the hill to get buckets full of gravel.  Water was trickling nicely out of the pipe when we finished.  I estimate six to ten gallons an hour - not a lot, but enough to fill a water trough overnight.  Abera was pleasantly surprised.  I think that he had doubts that it would work.
It was dark by the time we made it back to the house.  The guards had some corn roasting on the fire for dinner.  It was well done but tasted very good. I love it here in the mountains! The air is fresh and clean. The birds sing like crazy and have an amazing variety of songs.  The people are very friendly and quick to help whenever they can.  It will really be nice when Abera has the garden growing and some fruit trees in.  He will also try a beehive up here, and we'll see how it works. What a beautiful place!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rest Stop Between Projects

I had a great night's sleep last night and woke up, all ready to go, at 5:30am. I worked on my journal for a while, and then called my family on Skype. We had a good chat with my camera working, so it was really fun to see their reaction when they saw me. I have had problems with it almost every time that we have tried to talk. We had a long scripture study, and then family prayer.  I am so grateful that all is going well at home.  Erika is a real trooper J.

We cooked pancakes for breakfast, with butter that actually tasted like butter. Most of the butter here is made after the milk has aged a little without refrigeration, so it has a sharp rancid taste to it, not very appetizing to me. I have become the self-appointed dish-doer unless Wesson beats me to it. I spend so much of my time thinking, that I enjoy the change of doing something that doesn't require me to think.

I cleaned up all of the embryo transfer equipment and packed up for my next adventure. I will be giving most of the stuff to the three research institutions, so I brought it along with me to drop off on my way back. Tadesa came over at noon and we headed south. We saw grain being harvested all along the way.  I did see one combine out in the field, but most of the work is done by hand with the oxen threshing it by walking on it.  I stopped and took a couple of pictures, and we had to stop for a herd of camels crossing the road. We visited Dr. Hailu on the way down. We had a good visit, and I encouraged them to keep practicing.  He feels comfortable with the embryo transfer part, but would like me to help them through the flushing (retrieval) part one more time.

We stopped at the Sabana Resort for an early dinner, since we had skipped lunch. I ordered a cheeseburger and fries, but was really disappointed with it. {Erika here: maybe one of these days, Lonny will learn not to order American-style food in Ethiopia!} Tadesa ordered a rice, egg, and meat dish that looked really good.  He must have seen me drooling, because he scooped up a bite and put it on my plate. It was really good.  The mango/strawberry esprice that I had was excellent. For Ethiopia standards, the Sabana Resort is really a nice place.

We headed to the hotel in Shashemene, and had just checked in when Abera arrived. We spent about an hour talking about our plans for Kokosa. On Wednesday we will meet with the community leaders in Kokosa, so I talked with him about preparing for that meeting. Overall, it was a good day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Very Special Day

Today was a special day with two important events. The first LDS District was formed here in Addis Ababa, which is a huge milestone for the Church. This was also a special day because Danny & Worknesh got married! I went to the wedding to support Danny and Worknesh, and it was a great event that was fun, and that broadened my cultural awareness of Ethiopia. Some of the staff were able to go to the church meeting and came later for the wedding reception. The all said that the meeting was very good.  Akawak, our accountant, was put in as a member of the district council.

We celebrated Worknesh and Danny's wedding as only Ethiopians can celebrate, with lots of food and dancing!  We started by going to Danny's home in Addis where we paraded through to congratulate him, accompanied by the Christian/Ethiopian music playing.  There were several cameras and photographers, and lots of people.  On the way out of his home, there was a table of food for the guests. After another half an hour, Danny ceremoniously left his house and climbed into his "limo".

Shemelis led the procession in one of the company pickups with a cameraman in the back filming the motorcade. We made a loop around part of Addis, then drove to Holeta, honking our horns along the way.  An Ethiopian tour bus followed behind us, and blared an annoying airhorn, but it was still fun. We drove through Holeta and stopped at a hotel on the far side of town.

After another half an hour wait, we drove back through Holeta to Worknesh's home, where they had two big tents set up outside the fence, and one in the yard. We were escorted into the front rows of seating inside the two big tents. In front of us, on a raised platform, were the ornamental chairs and tables for the wedding party. There were two big, tall, armchairs for Danny and Worknesh in front of one table, and four other high-backed chairs and a table on either side for the bridesmaids and the best men.  The tables were nicely decorated with white tablecloths and flowers.  It all looked very beautiful.

Danny and his entourage danced and sang through the tent into Worknesh's home. Someone suggested that he was going to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Then they came solemnly marching out with the bridesmaids and the best men leading, followed by a spectacular scene of the bride and groom. They both looked so nice. After everyone was seated, the priest arose and started the ceremony.  The only part of the ceremony that I understood was "stand up" and "sit down", but it was still wonderful. The ceremony lasted for about 10 minutes. Worknesh and Danny just sat on their chairs behind the priest the whole time.  There were no "I do's" as is customary in the U.S.

After the ceremony, we followed them into their yard where they had another tent set up for the food.  They went out of their way to have some bread there for us "farenges" (foreigners).  I loaded up my plate with some of what I knew and some that I didn't know. Most of it was very good, and there were some battered vegetables that were incredibly good. I had some injera with dura wot (stew)  and a couple of other things, but I'm not sure what they were. I struggled to eat one dish that had long strips on sheep fat in it.  I was glad to have a Coke to wash it down.

After the meal, the dancing began. At first just a few people danced, but after a couple of songs, more joined in. The native dance is a head and shoulders jerking motion as the feet step to the beat of the music. A couple doesn't hold each other, but dances in front or alongside each other. In fact, they don't really pair up at all, they just all congregate in the center and clap and dance. People are encouraged to do a "solo dance" where they strut their stuff as others clap and encourage them. Paul and Wally each took their turns, to the delight of the crowd. They weren't as smooth as the Ethiopians but they made up for it in enthusiasm.

The dancing went on for a couple of hours, and then it was time to cut the cake. The cake-cutting ceremony lasted about half an hour, with a lot of pomp and circumstance. Danny's personality really came out as he teased the audience each step of the way. Our ceremonies are so boring compared to theirs. Once the ceremony had ended, we took pictures, said our goodbyes and left. We are all excited for Worknesh and Danny. They make a wonderful couple!

Haven and Mark were packing up to leave, so I spent some time with them discussing the past three weeks.  It is incredible what we accomplished in that time.  I will always be grateful for their assistance and advice and  I consider it a miracle that they came at this time to help us better define what we are doing here in Ethiopia.

Once everyone had left I had the opportunity to sit down with Paul and talk about our projects and Ethiopia in general. Paul is a great businessman, and listens carefully to the information given to him and asks probing questions to get to the real heart of an issue. I am so grateful that I have an opportunity to work for him.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Feedlot Tour at Nazaret

Today Haven, Mark and I went to an appointment at a private feed lot by Nazaret and met Seyoum, a very successful entrepreneur, who left his secure government job to create a cattle sales business. He started seven years ago with a few bulls, and now has 350 in his feedlot. This is the second feed lot that he has built, and he has plans for several more, plus a dairy and a center for sheep and goats. He has a very good understanding of running a business in Ethiopia and dealing with the export market.  He also understands how to take advice from experts and has learned the value of feeding cattle properly.  Seyoum has involved experts from the animal health and nutrition fields in his business, and takes good care of his animals. He is a great example of what an entrepreneurial Ethiopian can accomplish when they have the initiative and resources. He will be a good contact for us as we go through the process of establishing our cattle businesses. 

After our tour of the feedlot, Seyoum invited us to lunch in Nazaret at the Rift Valley Hotel. I rode to the restaurant with Seyoum and we talked about Ethiopia and her people.  He said that the big problem with the people near the cities in Ethiopia is that they have it too easy. I was shocked at this statement, and listened with interest to his explanation. He said that they don't have to fight for their lives, but they don't have the initiative to really succeed, so they just coast along through life, just barely getting by.  I think that if we can help people feel the joy of work and taste the fruits of hard work they will change in the same way that Seyoum has changed and succeeded. If the people can change, then the country will change also. Ethiopia is very rich in resources, and it just needs the people to take advantage of and care for all of these resources. I think that Seyoum will be a very valuable information resource for us.  I was excited to hear that his two sons are studying to be engineers at the university in Addis. If they are anything like their father, they will be successful in life.

When we returned to the Addis Office, Haven and Mark went to a supermarket to see how meat was handled and sold here. In general, most of the meat is sold fresh in small butcher shops along the road. You simply request the amount that you want to purchase, and they cut if from the carcass hanging along the wall.  They don't really distinguish between different cuts of meat. I guess it is all equally tough. lol. The supermarket has the meat deboned but not in packages or specific cuts. They have a grinder to grind the meat into hamburger, which is rare here in Ethiopia.
I spent the afternoon and evening reading emails, catching up on facebook, fixing my webcam, and writing in my journal. Everybody else gathered to watch a movie that I had seen before so I went down to the bedroom to read. I am trying to finish Mark's book before he leaves. It is a very good book, and at the end, the author makes a plea that we watch less television and read more books, stating that the books we read can change our likes.  I agree 100%.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Embryo Recovery at Debre Zeyit and Holeta

This morning Tadesa dropped me off at Debre Zeyit Agricultural Research Center to continue with the embryo work, and then headed out to take Haven, Mark and Abera around Addis to learn more about the meat industry there. When I arrived, I was ecstatic to see that Dr. Tamrat was already there, set up and ready to go. 

I let Dr. Tamrat do the actual embryo retrieval and transfer this time. He flushed the first uterine horn without too much difficulty other than it took him a long time to get the catheter in and set, which is very fatiguing on the arm. (See picture below of Dr. Tamrat at work.) I was excited that he was willing and able to do it himself, with his assistants helping him. 

Girma, the dairy manager at Genesis Farms, joined us and was intrigued by the ET concept.  He was interested in speaking with his boss to see if they could do it at Genesis Farm.  Dr. Tamrat took the filter in to do the searching, but unfortunately we didn't find any embryos. We set up the ultrasound and showed Girma what ovaries look like.  We discovered that the cow that we flushed had several unovulated follicles similar to the cow at ATARC. I suggested that we use GNRH next time to help the ovulation.  Dr. Tamrat also said that he had palpated the ovaries when he bred the cows, which could be part of the problem.  I told him to stay away from the ovaries when breeding cows.

[After returning to the U.S., I consulted with bovine embryo transfer experts Jared McNaughton and Dr. Roy Silcox, and I have determined that the palpation of the ovaries at the time of breeding was probably the leading cause of our problems with recovery.]

We next drove to Holeta where we retrieved (flushed) embryos from two cows. One of the donors did not respond, but the other two responded very well.  We recovered and transferred seven good embryos, four were from Kekeni, their prize cow. I was pleased that they found four of the seven embryos on their own.  The crew from Debre Zeyit drove over to help, so they were able to see the entire process. It was dark when we went out to implant the embryos, so we used the car headlights to see.  They were all so excited for the success.  I was glad to be part of today's work. The results weren't as good as we would have expected in the U.S., but considering the circumstances, it went very well, and the training overall was excellent, so I am very happy with how everything went.

Embryo Transfer at ATARC and DZARC

Today we had a great day of training at both Adami Tulu and Debre Zeyit.  We arrived at Adami Tulu Animal Research Center (ATARC) at 8:30am and went straight to work. We spent time training them how to use the ultrasound. We looked at the ovaries of the cow that we had flushed the day before and saw that she had many non-ovulated follicles, which may explain why we did not get very many embryos from her. We were able to show some great pictures of her ovaries to the group.  The follicles show up as large black circles on the ovary so they are easy to identify, especially when there are so many of them. We returned to the lab and implanted the one fresh embryo into a donor cow, and we also implanted five frozen embryos into very carefully selected recipient heifers.

We traveled to Debre Zeyit this afternoon, snacking on crackers and jerky along the way.  We bought some banana cream cookies and some Maria cookies, both of which had very little flavor. The Ethiopians don’t use a lot of salt or sugar in their cooking, so imagine cookies or crackers without much salt or sugar and that describes it: bland. It got us by.

They were prepared for us at Debre Zeyit Animal Research Center (DZARC) and had the cow in the stall and ready. Since they had been at the training at ATARC earlier, I told them to go ahead and try to do the work on their own. They did really well, only needing help when they ran into a road block in placing the catheter correctly. This can be very difficult, but will come with more practice. I went ahead and finished the flushing, and let Dr. Tamrat go search for embryos under the microscope while I cleaned up. The teams have been very cooperative and excited about learning.  These are the type of people that are going to make a difference in Ethiopia!

We scheduled an early start for tomorrow morning. Shimelis said that all of the hotels in Addis were booked because of a celebration for Gebisa Ejeta, an Ethiopian agronomist who is currently a professor at Purdue University. He developed a drought- and weed-resistant form of the grain sorghum that also yields 5 to 10 times the harvest of traditional sorghum. He won this year's $250,000 World Food Prize. So, instead of driving to Addis, we just stayed the night in Debre Zeyit at the Tomy International Hotel. We had a nice chicken dinner with our usual fruit drink, esprice, to wash it down. 

I am very pleased with the excitement of the staff, and the progress we are making. Now I  just hope that we can start getting technical results that we match with our enthusiasm!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bulbula Market and Embryo Flushing

Today Abera, Haven, Mark and I visited an Ethiopian livestock market to learn how the animals are sold and to see the condition of the local animals. We drove north for almost an hour to the town of Bulbula, where they were holding the market.

They have a large cleared area where everyone congregates with their animals. Donkeys, cattle, sheep and goats are each in a different part of the market. The owners all stand there with their animals until the buyers come along. They haggle over prices, and then if the animal is purchased, it is moved to the far side of the market and kept there until the buyer is ready to leave with his newly-purchased animals. Most of the cattle for sale are the oxen, which are males five years old or older, and there were some weaned calves also. The oxen sell for between 2000 and 4000 ETB ($180 to $360). The sheep and goats cost around 200 to 300 ETB (~$25).

Most of the animals are not in the best condition, and really need some good feed and a round of vaccines and insecticides to be marketable by the kinds of standards I am used to. We were quite a spectacle walking around the market, being white Americans, so we drew a crowd everywhere we went. [*Note from Erika: I guess Lonny's learning what movie stars feel like, because he often has people staring and following him around wherever he goes!]

Around noon, we arrived at the Adami Tulu Animal Research Center (ATARC) for the embryo recovery training. Abera and Tadesa, our driver, went to the cafeteria for lunch while Haven, Mark and I snacked on jerky and almonds. The Adami Tulu staff and the team from Debre Zeyit started arriving at 1:00pm. By 1:30, we had a total participant count of 26 people, and our training was underway.

I spent the first hour and a half discussing the theory of embryo transfer and how it fits in with other management practices. I focused on the need for the trained staff to teach the local farmers to use good animal management practices to increase their production. I stressed that improving the genetic potential of the animals would not do any good unless the farming practices changed to capitalize on that improvement. For instance, Ethiopian farmers could easily double their milk production by providing more clean drinking water to their cows and feeding them a more nutritious diet.

After the discussion, we headed out to the corrals to do the embryo flushing (this is the retrieval of the embryos from the cows using a fluid solution). We had two participating donor cows. The first donor did not respond to the FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) treatment, so we skipped her. The second cow over-stimulated, responding too well to the treatment. The boran cattle are much more difficult than Holsteins to retrieve embryos from, and this cow was a classic example. I was finally able to finish with her. I had some difficulty threading the catheter, but the balloon placement went well, so I was fairly confident that we would have some embryos to look at.

After the flush, we went into the laboratory to search for the embryos. They had a couple of microscopes set up, but they were different than what I have used in the past. It took me a while to get them focused. I searched through the dish a couple of times, but did not immediately find anything. The lab was packed with people trying to see what was going on, which made it difficult to work, since there were so many people hanging over my shoulders (see picture below).

I moved some of the fluid to a new Petri dish so that I could do a better job searching. By this time most everyone had to leave on their bus, and I was beginning to worry that we would not find anything, which could put a damper on our efforts at this facility, and possibly cause the staff to lose excitement for the technology. I decided to search one more time and prayed fervently that I would be able to find something. I was ecstatic when I found a beautiful morula!

[*Note from Erika: A morula (Latin for mulberry) is an embryo at an early stage of embryonic development, consisting of cells called blastomeres in a solid, round ball.]

Relief flooded over me, as I recognized that my prayer had been answered. This was yet another one of those little tender mercies that the Lord continues to pour out upon this project. It is not always easy, and I struggle sometimes, feeling overwhelmed and stressed about the enormity of the task before us, but with lots of prayer and pleading, I am able to make it through, and the Lord always steps in and makes up for my personal shortcomings.

Dr. Tesfaye had stayed there with us when everyone else had left, so he was able to see the embryo. In the U.S., I would have probably been disappointed to only get one embryo, but considering all of the circumstances and conditions, I was thrilled. I carefully cooled the embryo off to preserve it for tomorrow's embryo transfer training.

On our way home we stopped at the Sabana Resort. I was very tired, but knew that it would be the only chance that Haven and Mark would have to see it. The meal was good, and we followed it up with ice cream. It was a great way to celebrate our success, and it gave us a chance to talk about our projects. I really appreciate having both of them to help me. This is such an amazing opportunity. Sometimes I feel like I need to pinch myself to check and see if all of this is really happening to me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Visit to Slaughter Facility & Wando Ganet Dairy

Today I started the morning with a good family home evening with my family on Skype. They were watching the last of a documentary on the Berlin wall coming down. It is fun to see and visit with them. I really miss them! I hope that I can get my camera fixed soon, so that they can see me too. {*note from Erika: me too!}

After breakfast, Haven, Mark and I went to a slaughter facility in Shashemene. It is a very simple concrete building with chain hoists to lift the carcasses. There is one facility for the Christian slaughtered animals, and another for the Muslim animals. They do not store the meat or cut it into smaller sizes. The side of beef is delivered to the local butcher shops, who cut it up per customer order. The hides are scraped and stretched using ropes in a nearby shed. The leftovers are taken out back where the buzzards and hyenas clean up the meat and everything else is burned or spread through the grass. {*Note from Erika...yuck! Just a bit different than the "cleaned up" meat we purchase at the grocery store!}

We also visited the University dairy in Wando Ganet. We made it past the guard without too much begging and pleading this time. He did have to walk back to the station before he came back to let us through. We were just approaching the dairy when we had the good fortune of finding Girma walking on the road. He showed us around the dairy with the new veterinarian that is now on staff. She started about a month ago. They were especially proud of their dipping vat, which is a long narrow swimming pool for cows to swim through. They water has insecticide in it, meant to kill the ticks and fleas that plague untreated animals here. We asked about some new cut lumber that they had on their fences and found out that there is a sawmill on campus. It was a simple sawmill, but it made nice boards made from the nearby trees instead of splintered wood like many of the posts are.

We asked Girma about Elfora Agro Industries. He volunteered to take us down to the south end of the valley where they were located. Unfortunately the guard would not let us in. He told us that we would have to go to Awasa to get permission so we headed that way. In Awasa, we first found their downtown office, but were told we had to go to the farm office. The manager was out to lunch, so we decided to go to the Lewi hotel for lunch while we were waiting. We ordered the tenderloin with mashed potatoes but were very disappointed because we received a round steak and potatoes the consistency of play-dough. On the bright side, I ordered an Esprice fruit drink that was incredible. When we arrived back at the office, the guard informed us that the manager and his staff had headed for Shashemene. These kinds of situations are not uncommon, and make it sometimes very frustrating to try and do business here in Ethiopia.

I thought it would be good for us to visit the dairy at the SOS children's orphanage. They have improved genetics and feed their cows better than the average Ethiopian. Their milk production is higher than the Ethiopian average, at 8-10 liters/cow/day. I was encouraged to hear that they are planning on re-opening their processing facility next year. I hated to see all of that equipment just sitting there without anybody using it.

This evening we had a discussion about the Kokosa property's future. We had a lot of good ideas that I have recorded in another document. There are so many ways that we could go with that property. I will have to refine our ideas into a business plan.

I continue to have problems with insect bites and itchy legs. I haven't had as many lately, but I still get a couple bites each night. I sprayed insecticide in my suitcases and on my blanket to see if I could eliminate them, which seems to have helped. It is one of those annoying aspects of working here in Ethiopia and living in numerous hotels.

{note from Erika: Okay, I'll quit whining about the flies in!}

Monday, November 9, 2009

Land Survey at Kokosa

Today Haven, Mark, Abera and I drove to the Kokosa property. We started at 7:00 am so that we could avoid traffic and arrive early because we had a lot to do. We bought two kgs. of bananas for 12 birr (abt $1.20 U.S.) and some bread and water for 40 birr (about $4.00 U.S.) for breakfast and lunch. The road is better now, and it's easier to travel in a four wheel drive vehicle with good suspension, but it's still a long bumpy ride. It takes two and a half to three hours to get there.

We stopped on the main road just north of the farm. It is probably only three quarters of a mile across to the farm, but there is no road, so you have to drive in a long loop up to a bridge and back down. It takes about 15 minutes. We would like to put a direct road in, but about 400 yards of the way is a swampy area that would be very hard to cross. We are working on solutions for this.

We processed the pregnant arsi heifers and the boran heifers that we are setting up for embryo recipients. We took the tips off their horns, and gave them a shot of insecticide. I was very glad I had Haven and Mark to help with the dehorning, because the chute that we built wasn't the best for holding animals. It took us about an hour to process all of them.

When we finished with the animals, we walked around the perimeter of the farm with Mark's GPS, marking the corners and the altitude at each spot. The farm sits at 8450 feet above sea level. The perimeter of the farm is about five miles, so it was a long walk. It took us almost four hours because we stopped to examine the fence & facilities, and talk about repairs and solution. Now we will be able to make an accurate map of the property. There are dozens of places where the water is seeping out of the hillside, making a bog below it. I think that we can put water troughs in at all of these places, which will provide drinking water for the animals, as well as keeping it from being so muddy. I had my video camera, so I was able to stop and record the lay of the land and the condition of the fences and the buildings. They are all in bad shape and need a lot of work.

As we walked around the property, we had a little parade of 15-20 people following us. The number ebbed and flowed as we went along. It is very interesting how the Ethiopians are so curious about what we are doing. Since they have little of their own work to do, they spend their free time wandering around and observing the work that others are doing. It would be nice if the economy and culture developed enough that all of these people could find things to do to keep themselves busy and productive.

I keep hoping that the road construction crew will hurry up and finish their project. This would make it so much easier for us to get in & out of the Kokosa property. They have several miles of road almost ready, but finishing is taking longer than I had hoped. It's very curious how they finish a couple of miles of road, then skip a couple of miles, then finish another mile or two. I will have to ask why they do it that way.

I was surprised this morning when I called home and found Dad, Mom, and Lyle's family at our home. It turned out that they had come down to listen to two mission reports of some of their Nauvoo mission friends. It was fun to see them, and we had a really nice visit. I am grateful to have such a loving and supportive family. It makes what I am doing here much easier.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another Refreshing Sabbath Day

I look forward to the Sabbath day. It gives me a chance to recharge my batteries and catch up on my journal. I tried to Skype with my family right after getting up, but I couldn't get them, so I just wrote in my journal. My driver arrived at 8:30 as instructed, but no one was ready to go to church on time. I had just eaten a light breakfast in my room, but the others who were trying to get breakfast in the restaurant were experiencing a long wait, as usual. Finally, at 9:00, Lloyd, Evan, Mark Brown and I headed to church. Teddy told our driver how to get there, so with our help, he was finally able to find the chapel.

We arrived just after they had finished passing the sacrament, and the others arrived about 20 minutes later. After the talks were over, the Branch President instructed that the sacrament be passed to those of us who had arrived late. That was something I'd never experienced before, but I was glad he suggested it. After the sacrament was re-passed, the Branch President asked if some of us would take a few minutes and speak. Wally and I each took about five minutes to speak to the members about our testimonies and the blessings of being members of the Church.

I really enjoyed meeting with these wonderful people again, and seeing how they were doing. I talked to Amanuel for quite a while. He is finishing his high school exams and preparing for the University. They have wonderful youth in this branch. I gave my tie to one of the young men who didn't have one. There is a very good spirit in the branch. Their meetings are simple, but they focus on the core of why we have Church. We go to worship our Savior Jesus Christ, and to recommit ourselves to following His example.

This evening we drove over to the Village of Hope and gave the cow a shot of PGF and took out the CIDR. She should come into estrus on Tuesday, so I will be able to put an embryo in her next Tuesday. We then walked around, looking at the building, orchard, gardens, and toilet facilities. There is a lot of work that could still be done. The children are far better off than they would have been without the Village of Hope, it has been a huge labor of love from those who started it and continue to run it. I am hopeful that we can spend time to love them and help them continue to improve their conditions.

This evening Mark Ure told us about pack trips that he had been on. He had some great stories about people and animals that didn't want to cooperate. We had some really good laughs. It was a refreshing day. I look forward to our trip to Kokosa tomorrow to evaluate the property.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Travel, Meals, Guns & Machetes!

Last night I had the best night's sleep that I have had since arriving in Ethiopia. Haven and I had raisin bran and fruity flakes for breakfast. I think that it is the first time that I have had cold cereal in Ethiopia. We also had a slice of canned ham that was really good.

Shemelis took us to the bank so I could get some money for our work expenses. As we walked up the stairs through the front gate, a guard frisked us and checked my bag. I am not sure whether to feel safer or insulted. They have guards at almost all buildings and many of them will frisk you before letting you in the gate. When we drive in, they often require that the driver leave his license at the gate.

I took out 100 birr in individual bills to give to the beggars. I try and be selective and only give to those that I think really need it. We had over a dozen people come to the car begging just on the way to the bank and back. You see all kinds of different deformities and sad situations.

We loaded up everyone's suitcases at the hotel, packed up at the house and headed for Shashemene. It took us about four hours to get to Kersa Illala where we dropped off Abera. I had to get out and stretch my legs for a while. I walked over to where a man was throwing shovels full of grain in the air to clean it. He did get many of the weed seeds out but there were still a lot left in with the wheat.

I was exhausted by the time we arrived at the hotel. We unpacked, then sat down for our two hour dinner. The waitress brings you your menu after you have been sitting for about 20 minutes, then a half hour later she returns to get your order. Your food comes in another half an hour and she brings you the bill half an hour after you finish your meal. It works out ok if you are prepared to talk, read or work on the computer. I had my most common meal here of rice with meat sauce. It fills me up and doesn't cause any digestive problems.

Lloyd, Evan and I talked about their trip to Bale to see the Sheneka and Alyssa farms. It takes a couple of days just to drive to the farms. With good roads you could probably make it in a day. There is a lot of work that will have to be done.

The morning after they cleared a hectare of land a group of villagers showed up with guns and machetes and told them to get off their land! I guess word hadn't reached them that the government had sold it to Paul. We had been told that no one was using it, but apparently the people are grazing their cattle on it. A couple of our Ethiopian employees were able to talk to the village leaders and get things worked out, but it was a little unsettling.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Discussions with HARC & SPS-LMM

Today we headed to the Holeta Animal Research Center (HARC). We planned a half-hour cushion into our travel time, but we didn't realize that we would have more trouble getting out of the city than usual. When we got outside, we realized that today was "Jesus Christ Day" in Ethiopia, a celebration of the Orthodox Church, celebrating Christ's overcoming the temptations, so the streets were packed with cars and people heading to the cathedral. It took us over an hour to get out of Addis.

On the way up to Holeta, we saw a couple of baboons on the side of the road, which were fun to see. My kids had fun hearing about them that night on Skype. When we arrived at the research facility, we checked the progress on their animals. About one third of them are in estrus which is what we expected. The others animals should follow this afternoon and tomorrow.

They couldn't find the key for the room we were originally going to use, so we set up in one of the labs and crammed all 21 of us in there. They brought us some very good hot milk with sugar to enjoy while we were setting up.

I did a two hour discussion and lecture presentation on dairy management and embryo transfer. There were 19 researchers, staff and students in attendance. I was excited with the discussion that we had and the interest that they showed. The staff had many questions and comments as we went along.

I spent the first half of the presentation discussing ways that they could help the farmers improve, and emphasizing that embryo transfer was just a tool to be used and not the solution to all of their problems. The second half of the presentation focused on the technical aspects of embryo transfer. I lost some of my audience when I delved into the physiology, but the rest of the presentation was interesting to all of them.

We spent the afternoon in the MAI office working on reports and talking about our strategy going forward. Abera and I accomplished a lot of planning and put together our recommendations. Then this evening Haven, Abera and I met with representatives of the Ethiopian Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards and Livestock and Meat Marketing Program (SPS-LMM) to discuss the Ethiopian beef industry. This is a program supported by USAID and Texas A&M University. About 80% of the beef slaughtered in Ethiopia is done outside of a slaughter house in "shade tree" butcher shops, and most of the beef in Addis is sold by one organized group. We have a lot to learn before we start into that industry. We also discussed the dairy industry and the consumers in Addis. This was one of the best meetings that we have had as far as gathering information about these Ethiopian industries.

When we finally left their office about 10:00 pm we found everything locked up so we had to walk down through the parking garage and back up through another set of shops to find a door that we could get out to the street. The streets were almost empty, which was refreshing for me, since the streets are usually overcrowded with people. It was a very fulfilling day.

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