Saturday, October 31, 2009

Meetings at MAI Headquarters

After breakfast this morning, we walked to the MAI office, which is about 15 minutes away from our hotel in Addis. There is a sidewalk most of the way, so it is a pleasant walk. I do struggle as we walk past the Orthodox church block that has homeless people and beggars lying on the sidewalk. I wish that I could somehow easily and effectively help them solve their problems immediately. But I realize that this is simply impossible for one man to do. I do feel good knowing that in the long run, the aid that we are giving to them by increasing the food supply in the country will be a lasting solution that will help more people and hopefully be lasting change.

As we approached the office, I was so excited to be greeted by Abenet and Teddy. They are such good people. We had a great meeting with all of the MAI staff. Paul had us all introduce ourselves and tell each other about our background. There are about 20 staff members here now, with more being added in the near future, with over a dozen different projects going on all over the country. It amazes me that less than two years ago, they first arrived in the country and now we have an extremely rapidly growing business in a country where everything goes at a snail’s pace. It is nothing less than miraculous. Our goal is to do everything we can to help prepare the Ethiopians to never face a famine again. The vision of this endeavor is incredible. I love to work for this company and its lofty goals, and I try to do my best every day and pray that I can live up to the mammoth task that lies before me.

Abera and I put together our budget for the next two months and planned out the work for the next couple of weeks. I am so grateful to have such a good manager to handle that part of our stewardship. When we arrived back at the hotel, my mind was flooded with thoughts and ideas but I decided that I should stop to relax and unwind so that I could be more effective in my work. Mark let me borrow his David McCullough book of short biographies called "Brave Companions". I read two of them about people that I should have known but didn’t: Alexander Von Humbolt and Louis Agassiz. History should and could be so exciting if these people’s stories were told.

I talked with my brother, Lloyd, for several hours before heading to bed. I have really enjoyed spending time with him. We have spent more time together in the last week than the last 20 years combined, I think! I have decided that all of my brothers and I need to have a brother’s retreat and spend some time enjoying each other’s company.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Land O' Lakes Co-Op Farms Tour

Today Haven, Mark and I went with Tsehay and Degefa from Land O'Lakes to visit dairy farms and cooperatives. We saw several small dairies that were doing well as dairymen but had also learned the value of manure to grow vegetables. They had some wonderful produce that they sold in Addis Ababa.

This Land O’ Lakes consulting project, funded by USAID, is really successful in this area. They choose a well respected farmer in each area and train him/her then have them work with the other farmers in the area. The milk production from the farms that we visited is twice that of the national average.

Land O ‘Lakes has also helped the farmers with cooperatives to collect and market the milk to the large processors. One of the cooperatives was frustrated that they were only paid half of what the processor was selling their milk for. They were seriously considering putting in their own processing facility. The Coop has also set up a cooperative “bank” where they can leave part of their milk check in the cooperative and others can borrow from that fund. It is a great system that they are very proud of and they did it and are doing it on their own without government instigation or intervention. This cooperative has 56,000 birr currently in their account available to lend out (approx $4,400.00 US).

It was exciting to see the entrepreneurial spirit of these farmers. They now have more than enough for their own families and are generous with others lifting the whole village with them. The management practices are still 50 years behind but they are eager to learn and improve. One lady we visited recently had 11 baby calves die within their first week of life. We evaluated their facilities and procedures and identified several major items that she could change to remedy her problem. She then told us that a neighbor was selling out and she would love to have us buy that property so we could be her neighbor.

When I see so many good people working hard to make life better for themselves and for others I really get excited about what we are doing here. With their drive and enthusiasm we can partner to catapult Ethiopia’s agriculture industry to twice its current production and beyond.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Progress and Plans for Ethiopia

This morning I talked with my family on Skype again. It is so fun to see their faces and talk with them. I'm sure my company will appreciate the much smaller phone bill. Last time the cell phone bill was over $2000 for my 1-month stay! And I didn't even get to call home as much as my employer granted.

Last night I met with members of the team, including the owner, Paul Morrell, to discuss our progress and plans here in Ethiopia. At times I am overwhelmed by what we are trying to accomplish here. But Paul has an incredible vision of what can be done here, and he has the drive needed to support us in getting it done.
We were just leaving to meet with an equipment dealer at the Land O’Lakes office, when one of their representatives called and said that the meeting would have to be cancelled because a flight had engine problems, preventing the arrival of the dealer. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I asked if we could meet with the representatives anyways. We met with them for almost two hours, discussing the dairy industry in Ethiopia, and our plans to be a part of it. As we left, we all agreed that the past two hours was some of the most valuable hours that we had spent on this trip.
Later that evening, Evan, Haven and I walked to the "Beer Garden Hotel" for German food. The waitress struggled to understand us, and became so confused that Evan ended up not getting to even order a main course. She brought us carbonated water instead of regular water, and assumed that the appetizer that Evan ordered for all of us was his meal. The manager even came out to clarify the order. It was a frustrating experience, but not atypical. The Ethiopian waitresses, in general, are not very well trained on how to take orders and provide good service. There is definitely a need for education in restaurant management in this country, if any of you are looking for a reason to come over here! ;)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Embryo Transfer at Federal Research Centers

Today was a very busy day which made it fulfilling and exciting. We went to two Federal Research Centers to set up donor and recipient cows for embryo transfer. These institutions both had good(for Ethiopia) cows to use as donors. They also both had many research animals that we could choose from to use as recipients. These animals had been at the centers longer than the ones at Adami Tulu and were in much better condition. We were able to use all but one of the animals at each place.

The exciting part for me is that once we showed the staff what to do with animals they took over and did most of the work with Haven, Mark and I helping a little bit along the way. At Debre Zeyit a lady showed up with a large TV camera. I think she must have been from the local news but I am not sure. Seyoum drove down from Addis and met us at Debre Zeyit. It looks like he is going to be able to be their when we flush the cows in two weeks.
We arrived at Holeta just as everyone was headed to lunch. We thought about starting the work ourselves but the guard at the corrals wasn’t even going to let us in to the animals. After talking with him for several minutes he finally relented and let us walk in. We decided not to push our luck and just wandered around making observations. We noticed that the lug nuts were missing from their hay cart which caused the holes in the rim to wear. On the other side of the cart they had welded washers to the rim to stop the hole from getting bigger.
Haven got a rope and made a rope halter which we used on most of the animals because the holding facility was not the best and the animals were trying to jump out. We also volunteer to trim the feet of their best milk cow that had toes about six inches long. Haven taught them how to do it so hopefully they will continue to do it in the future.
The highlight of our trip to Holeta was the new milking parlor with 10 milking machines. It was the first milking parlor that I had seen with padlocks on the cow gates going in and out of the barn. This is in addition to the guard at the corrals and the guard at the gate to the compound. They were just starting to use the machines and were very excited about them. Now I can finally say that I have seen automatic milking machines in Ethiopia.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Adami Tulu Embryo Results - Round 1

I slept well last night - finally! Unfortunately, it was a short night because I was up late doing scheduling, and then I was up early to talk to my family on Skype before heading to work. At least I am feeling a little more refreshed than before. Unfortunately the fish that I ate last night had a negative effect on my digestive system. I made four trips to the bathroom before starting my day. I chose my breakfast wisely.

Yared our driver took us to Adami Tulu today where we checked pregnancy on the 40 embryo recipients. We only had seven animals pregnant. This is lower than we would have expected in the United States however given the condition of the recipient cows and some other issues we don’t feel terribly bad. We now know that success can be achieved under very adverse conditions.

We will select 30 of the best animals to use in the next phase of our program. We are going to retrieve (flush) embryos from “good” cows here in Ethiopia and implant those embryos in their recipients. They are very excited about us teaching them this procedure. I am excited to start round two with animals in better condition, this is a learning process every day!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Success at Debre Zeyit and Holeta

I didn’t sleep well at all last night. I was hoping that since I had been so tired all day I would be able to sleep. As soon as I closed my eyes my mind was flooded with all sorts of images. They were mainly Ethiopian in origin, but mixed with a lot of everything else. I would open my eyes hoping that when I closed them again things would have cleared out or slowed down but it didn’t help. I prayed for help and tried to calm my mind down but didn’t seem to get any relief. Then I tried focusing my thoughts on the next days work, and after a while I was finally able to drift off and sleep, more or less, until 6:00 am.

I did have a pleasant surprise when I logged onto my computer in the morning, because I had a call from Erika on Skype. I could see the whole family, but not hear them, and they could hear me but couldn't see me! They hooked up Joseph’s netbook and that solved the microphone problem on their end. I wasn’t able to get my camera working, maybe tomorrow it will work. It was great to see everyone!

I hurried to the restaurant and gobbled down some breakfast. We hurried down to the lobby and watched and waited. I kept watching for the taxi but it didn’t come. After about 15 minutes I made some phone calls and found out that the staff was just barely arranging for the taxi. I was tired, stressed and very frustrated. We waited for almost an hour, still no taxi. I made some more phone calls and found out that the taxi had gone to fuel up and was told that it would be there in 20 minutes. Half an hour later I called again and was told that there had been an accident on the road, and in driving through it the driver who was following our employee got lost. They were hoping that he would just come to the hotel but he didn’t ever make it. So the staff finally gave up and contracted with another driver and brought him to the hotel. We were two and a half hours late leaving. The staff apologized profusely as we headed out. I told them thank you and that it would work out.

We finally arrived at Debre Zeyit two and a half hours late. Jeilu was there to greet us and we got started checking cows. Dr. Tamrat came shortly after and helped me with the palpation. These animals were in much better condition than the ones at Adami Tulu in August. I did find one open cow that hadn't been bred according to them. Later when they checked their records they found that she had been bred 60 days ago. I evaluated their equipment and set up with them to start everything on Wednesday. I couldn’t believe how the stress melted away as I was working. I was very grateful for this relief. We bade them goodbye and headed out for our next appointment: Holeta.

Our taxi driver got lost on the way to Holeta, so we were just as late getting there as we had been earlier even though we did the work quickly and made up about half an hour. Luckily, they were well prepared for us. We checked five donor cows and 25 recipient cows and heifers. Almost all of the animals were in good condition and cycling reproductively. This was wonderful news. When we were almost done it started raining on us. Haven, Mark and I just kept going while most of the staff headed for shelter. The rest of us joined them a few minutes later when it came down hard. Luckily, it only rained hard for a few minutes. I was very excited with how everything went. I think that we will have much better success with our numbers this time around.

We arrived home late, but feeling much better. We ate at the hotel buffet which is the Ethiopian attempt to make American gourmet food. They actually do a pretty good job. Especially when you consider that they have different tastes and probably think that what they are making is not very good. They usually have tilapia, chicken, and beef for the meat cooked in their spices, and on the side they have potatoes, rice, and pasta. They also make some interesting salads and desserts. The fruit juice is what I like the best. I usually order a “sprise”, which is a mixture of all of the juices that they have.

I was able to Skype with part of my family tonight. The connection was very poor so we kept getting disconnected, but it was still fun to see and talk to them. I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Church & Fellowship in Addis Ababa

This morning we headed to church at the LDS Branch in Addis. (click to see a news story about the first meetinghouse in Ethiopia). I was delighted to see that Ashure, one of the investigators that I had talked to my first week in Addis, was blessing the sacrament. He looks very happy. After church he came up to me and we had a good chat. The branch is growing steadily. There were two more ordained to the Aaronic priesthood and one more baptized today.

After church the whole group had lunch together then sat around the table sharing stories and life experiences for several hours. It was interesting to see the diversity of the group and their experiences. I am glad that we had that time to get to know each other better.

This afternoon Lloyd was finally able to get in contact with his family on Skype. The video is very choppy and it drops off every now and again but other than that it works fairly well. He has talked to them for several hours. I wasn't ever able to get it to work when I was here before. I hope I can get Skype to work with my family too!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Challenges in Addis

I didn’t sleep very well again last night. The Orthodox Christian church had their singing/chanting going on all night long. Usually it only happens a few times at night but last night it was solid all night long. It made for a hard day. Fortunately I got a little nap in the middle of the day so I was able to make it through the day.

This morning after breakfast Evan and I went to the bank to get money for our trip. It was kind of unnerving to carry around that much money. We then drove to a couple of furniture stores to buy some filing cabinets. It is interesting that both shops looked very small and run down on the outside but were spacious, well organized and very beautiful on the inside.

In the afternoon we drove to the “Mercado”, the largest open-air market in all of Africa. It was swarming with people. There were shops of all kinds and merchants clamoring for our business. We purchased a few items but mainly just walked around and looked.

This evening Evan took us to an authentic Chinese restaurant. The food was very good somewhat different than the Americanized Chinese restaurants in the US. On our way to and from the restaurant we walked past many people lying or sitting on the sidewalk. Some of them begged for us to give them money. I desperately want to help these people, but I am still trying to figure out the best way to really help them.

Some of the other men that I am traveling with carry around a lot of one-birr bills and hand them out along the way. I occasionally had some out, but I struggle with encouraging the begging lifestyle. I prefer to give money to those whom I see working hard who deserve a little reward.

The other problem with handing out money, is that sometimes it causes problems for those that I give to. Today Wally gave a shaking old man five birr and a few minutes later to men came up to him and walked him across the street. We wondered if they were just getting him out of the way so that they could rob him.

I know the if work that we are doing is successful, it will eventually help many people. I just wish that there were more effective ways to help more people sooner.
Well, I am very tired, so I am headed to bed. I love my family and I am so grateful for them.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting settled in Addis Ababa

Our second trip is underway, but my body still thinks that day is night and night is day, so I had a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep until early in the morning. This morning we had a good breakfast at the Harmony Hotel. They had a buffet with fruit, fruit juices, pastries, meats, and breads. The fruits were wonderful and the rest was average compared to what I've been eating at home, but quite good for Ethiopia.

Lloyd & I walked around Addis for about an hour looking at the new construction and the different shops and stores. We had numerous street vendors trying to sell us everything from sunglasses to books to clothes. Remembering how full my suitcases were on the way out made it easier to not give in and purchase too much!

The internet here is very, very slow, and our connection in our hotel room isn’t working at all. I picked up a wireless USB plug at the office, so hopefully I'll be able to get on when I need to. My phone has 5 bars sometimes and no service other times. It's very strange, because it doesn’t correspond with Evan's phone service availability, when I have no service, he has 5 bars, and vice versa. I'm not sure what affects those things here.

We walked to the Morrell Agro International office this afternoon where we met with some of the staff. We found out that our secretary, Worknesh, and her fiance, Danny, are getting married on November 15th! I am excited for them, they are a good couple. Danny is also working for Paul now - as a repairman and driver.

I made some calls about our training appointment for tomorrow. They were not ready for us, so we had to delay our start until Monday. This is going to shift our schedule around quite a bit. Tomorrow will be a sightseeing day for us instead of the work that we had planned. Luckily, the second call was more successful, and I found out that the second group is all ready for us to get going. I was very glad to hear that. I sent emails to everyone that I could think of who should be involved. I am hoping and praying for a good turnout so we can get as much training and work done as possible.

Wally, Carol, Kate, Worknesh, Danny, Evan, Haven, Mark, Lloyd and I had a good buffet dinner at the hotel tonight. We had a great time telling stories and laughing. I am very tired now, and I will probably sleep very well tonight. It will be a very welcome change!

I'll post more tomorrow about our sightseeing around the area.
Until then...Dehna hunu! Ciao!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Ethiopian Cowboy Rides Again!

The time has come for Lonny to head off on his second journey to Ethiopia! We have had a wonderful 2 months with him, and we have been so busy doing fun things with our Dad that we haven't made the time to post any pictures or anything else! And there are TONS of pictures to post, so I will post them over the next 5 weeks as we get news of his new adventures. This will probably actually be a blessing in disguise, because it is extremely difficult for Lonny to send pictures over the internet from Ethiopia, due to restricted & slow access. SO, it will be good to have a whole database of pictures to use that will match with his stories. So, no worries, you haven't missed you'll get to start hearing from us again!

Lonny is headed off early Wednesday morning, and to avoid having to get up at a ridiculous hour, Lonny & I are going up to a hotel near the airport in Salt Lake City tomorrow evening. So, tonight is Daddy's last night with the family until Thanksgiving Eve! We've had a nice evening, and a nice American meal of cheesy meatloaf, courtesy of Jessica's cooking. was really delicious! Then we gathered as a family and discussed our Christmas plans.

This year we're going to do something different, a simpler Christmas, in honor of the wonderful people of Ethiopia. Ever since our involvement with this International project began, we have become more acutely aware of how blessed we are, and how little so many people in the world have.

SO - for this Christmas we decided to do a three-part plan:
1. We traded names to choose someone in the family to secretly MAKE a gift for. The only rule is that it needs to be something that you spent significant time on, that will be cherished by the other person.

2. We're going to spend the next two months thinking of gifts that we can give to the baby Jesus. We'll give these gifts by doing acts of service for others, and then writing down what we did on a piece of paper (anonymously), which will be dropped into a large wrapped gift box that will be under our Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve we'll read all of the gifts we have given to Jesus, and see how much service has been given in his name.

3. We are going to do some kind of significant financial donation to a worthy cause, using the money that would have normally been spent on Christmas gifts. We are going to gather ideas over the next month, and then make a decision on Thanksgiving about what will be done.

SO -- simpler Christmas for simpler times! Santa will still fill our stockings as usual, Mom & Dad will probably buy a gift or two for each child, and usually the kids make things at school for Mom & Dad. But in general, our Christmas will be cut way back from a normal year. What's the most amazing? Not ONE child has complained AT ALL! Wow, how about that! I thought I'd hear concerns about not getting all the presents they wanted. But not even one. I'm so proud of them. It's just another sign of how much this experience has changed our lives.

So, that's how our last night with the whole family together (at least for awhile!) went! I asked Lonny if he had any thoughts to share, and he said that when you are sitting in your comfortable homes, with your heaters or air conditioners, good food, clothing, electricity & other comforts of home, remember the Ethiopian Cowboy in his primitive surroundings! ;P

But most importantly, remember the people of Ethiopia who have so much less. Pray for them, that they will begin to catch a vision of what their country can become. Pray for Lonny that he will travel safely, and pray for us that things will go smoothly with our husband and father far away.

THANK YOU for all of your support, love and prayers!!!

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