Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ambassadors of the United States

I had a good morning here at the Lilly Valley Hotel.  I talked with my family including Loren and Lyle for quite a while.  I was pleased to find that they are all doing well.  My family is the core of my life and it is hard to be away from them.  However the knowledge that the Lord will care for and bless them in my absence gives me the comfort that allows me to leave them and come here to work.

Evan and I left just after 9:00 so we could make it to church early.  Instead of being early we were late.  After the meeting I asked the Branch President what time church started.  Last time we had arrived at the same time and it didn’t start for 15 minutes at 10:00.  He said that they start gathering at 9:30 and start when everyone is ready.  I guess sometimes that means that church starts at 9:35 and sometimes it starts at 10:00.  Next time we will be there at 9:25 just in case.

We missed the first half of the sacrament, but Daniel had experience with late comers. He passed us by with the water, then when he was finished brought us the bread and then the water.  The O’Crowlys were welcomed to church today by the Branch President asking them to speak.  They did a very good job taking about “inquiring of the Lord and the sacred grove”.  They asked me to teach a youth Sunday school class which consisted of Gutama, Damitu, Tofege, Mesafinet, and Mubarek that all spoke Oromic and Daniel and his friend Yehune that spoke Amharic.  I decided to do a role play of the first vision and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.  I asked each of them to volunteer for a part.  Then I had them come to the front of the class and act out the story as I told it.  Mesafinet and Daniel understood English the best so they translated as we went along.  I think that it went fairly well considering the circumstances.  I’m sure the Spirit was helping with the understanding.

After church, we drove the children and Mambrat back to the VOH. The five children were all fighting to sit in the middle seat.  I climbed in the back and invited Mubarek, the oldest, to join me.  Domitu, the only girl, was relieved because she was being pushed out to the back.  Mambrat came out and asked me to sit in front in my place but I told her that the front was her place. I explained to the boys that it was important to show respect for women.  I told them about how Christ on the cross thought of his mother in spite of the pain and asked his disciple to care for her.

When we pulled into the VOH compound I was surprised to see the children cleaning the porch and the windows.  They had made the building shine, which is really a feat in Ethiopia.  They invited us to stay and eat lunch, but we did not want to impose so we went back to the hotel.

I have thought a lot lately about how the United States has influenced the rest of the world.  Friday I was in a restaurant that had M-TV playing.  I was so offended by the music and videos that I got up and turned it off.  I explained to Abera and Emebet that it was upsetting to me that people equated that type of filth with America. Abera confirmed that due to the movies, Americans are thought of as pistol packing machines of destruction.  I asked him what he thought about Americans after spending two weeks in America.  He said they are totally different than what he had thought.  

Right now my mind is being abused by the rap music that is blaring from loud speakers half a block away. It does not contribute to the spirit of the Sabbath day. By far the two most common billboards that I see are Coke and Pepsi. Not that the product is necessarily bad, (Drinking either of them is better than river water and in some cases really helps with the digestive problems caused by the food here), but the advertisement shows an unrealistic picture. Since when does drinking cola make you beautiful, happy, or any of the other things that they try and portray with their ads?  Like it or not, these are ambassadors of America. 

I see many flour and wheat sacks that have the US flag on them. These are food aid which in the short run stave off starvation, but in the long run undercut the farmers and breed dependence and laziness. I feel very good that we are trying to bring education and sound business principles here that will help them see the value of their country, and more importantly of themselves, so they can shake off these chains of poverty and starvation that really shouldn’t have ever been part of Ethiopia.  I pray that we can continue to have the type of government that will be an example to the nations of the world.  We have an amazing blessing living in such a wonderful society, but I fear that too many people are willing to trade the challenges of prosperity for the assurance of dependence.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Working with Friends

I’m in Shashamene now, staying at the Lilly Valley hotel, which has clean and comfortable rooms, a luxury here in Ethiopia. My back misses my own bed at home though! I had breakfast with Evan: omelets, pineapple juice and hot milk for 45 birr ($3.56).

Makonen called and asked me to come look at his milk cows, so Evan and I drove over to see them.  The cow that just calved had some edema (swelling) under her belly.  The veterinarian told him to drain it out by lancing it or sucking it out with a needle.  I told him to just leave it alone. 30 years ago in the US, vets used to drain excessive edema, but they have learned that the cow will take care of it herself, and that trying to fix it often causes additional problems.  His other cows and calves are looking very good.  He wants me to artificially inseminate them when I come back in March.

At 2pm, we met Abera at the Shalom Juice Bar.  We each had a juice and a piece of cake for 42 birr ($3.33) for all three of us.  The juice is so good. I wish we had a good juice bar in Genola. This afternoon I borrowed Sherlock Holmes from Evan and watched it.  It is nice to get a little break from reality to give my mind a rest.  All day and much of the night I am analyzing our project here and trying to think of the best way to move forward.

I asked Abera about his family.  His father is a retired farmer and he has 15 siblings, most of which are farmers. He has one brother that is a successful government leader and one brother that is a teacher.  He said that from the time he was very small, his father prayed that he would be successful.  Abera has worked hard his whole life in many different occupations including farmer, laborer, painter, and cattle manager. He is currently taking classes on the weekend so that he can be better prepared for life.  He is a great man, and a jewel among Ethiopians. I love working with him.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Beautiful Drive to the Marketplace in Duke

I listened to John Bytheway to go to sleep last night and slept very well.  I woke up once due to a cough from this cold that I have had but was able to get back to sleep after I got a drink a glass of water.  When I awoke at 6am, I was very sore from driving all day yesterday and being cramped in that little truck. We drove 600 km (370 miles) about nine hours. The two lane road was paved all the way but we shared it with everything from big slow moving trucks to squirrels.  

Drowsy driving isn’t as big of an issue here because you have to stay alert all the time.  Even then you usually get an adrenalin rush a couple of times an hour as something or someone runs out in front of you. Today we only drove 400km (250 miles) in about six hours.  I am very grateful that 40 plus years ago the Italians built that road. It is amazing that it has held up so well for so long.  I guess the mild climate and lower traffic allow it to last a long time.

The road winds through the Ethiopian highlands in the south of the country.  It is some of the most beautiful land that I have ever seen.  The first couple hundred kilometers is lush green mountains that grow all sorts of fruits, pineapple, mango, banana, false banana, etc. The second half of the drive reminded me of Utah’s Dixie.  Deep red soils contrasted beautifully with the green trees and shrubs.  Like most of Ethiopia everything that was even remotely edible had been grazed on.  Irrigation could really make that area blossom and decrease the seasonal flooding that they have.

We headed to the market in Duke to see what the cattle look like.  We asked villagers directions to the market and meandered through the city paths until we finally found the market about a mile west of town.  In contrast to the run down mud huts, the large market place was impressive.  The whole market had a four foot stone wall with a railing on top of it.  There was a separate yard complete with shade for each of the species, sheep, cattle and camels.  The sheep and goats were sold by the kilogram so they had some scales that they used to hang them to get their weight.  There was a cattle scale also but it looked like it had never been used.  The cattle are sold as a total dollar amount.  

When we first arrived, we saw all of the sheep and goats being sold but couldn’t see anything else.  When we asked around, they said that the cattle gathered to the east, and some of the buying went on there before the cattle arrived at the market.  We drove over and looked at the cattle and camels for sale.  Most of the cattle were on the thin side, but not near as bad as the ones that we had purchased last summer.  We found a couple that looked pretty good so I explained to Abera what I was looking for and why those particular ones met my criteria.  We met a couple of brokers and exchanged numbers with them.  It looks like we can save about 1000 birr/animal and get better quality animals.  I am glad that we drove down, even though it was a long drive.

On our way back, we stopped to meet with Girma, the manager of the Boran Breeding Center.  They have a few animals for sale, but they don’t have any of the 1st calf heifers which we want.  We had lunch at the restaurant.  It cost 39 birr ($3.25) for the three of us to eat. Abera and Emebet both had ingera with different sauces and he ordered spaghetti for me.  The sauce tasted like really spicy key wot, not impressive.

We dropped off Emebet at her apartment in Awasa, then headed to Shashamene.  We were almost to the hotel when a guy ran right out in front of our vehicle.  Fortunately, Abera was driving slowly and was able to screech to a stop.  Abera was really shocked and asked if it was his fault.  I assured him that it was not and that he had done great.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Grazing Mayhem & Traveling South

My alarm went off after about four hours of sleep.  I dragged myself out of bed, did some final packing, and then headed upstairs to meet Abera.  We loaded up the truck and headed south to Shashamene.  I let Abera drive so that I could try and get some more sleep.  The roads were fairly clear that early in the morning so we made it to Abera’s home in about three hours.  I slept off and on as we drove down and felt pretty good.

I dropped Abera off, then went over to see the alfalfa.  I was terribly disappointed with what I saw.  They had allowed the goats and donkeys to come in and graze most of the alfalfa and some of the safflower.  To make matters worse there was a lot of thistle growing in the grain fields and the safflower.  I went and got Abera so he could see.  He was even more disappointed than I was.  Last year he was in charge of it and had everything looking very nice.  

We ran into Gamachu and Ingeda on the road so we talked to them about it.  Later we met with them and Makonen again.  I was not surprised by the blaming and finger pointing that went on as we discussed the situation.  They went as far as to blame Abera because he had not come and told them to harvest.  After a few minutes, I stopped them and told them that they were wasting time blaming each other.  I told them that we all should look at what we can do different so that it doesn’t happen again.  Wally came over about that time and asked how things were going so I filled him in on the details.  Evan was at the hotel so we stopped in and talked to him about it also.  Hopefully we will see some action.

The cow was in heat when we arrived so I took advantage of the situation and breed her.  I was just dropping the semen in the water when I realized that we didn’t have an AI gun. I found a dry alfalfa stem that would work as a plunger.  I pushed the semen straw as far into the cervix as I could and still hold the end then I pushed the semen out using the stem and a needle.  It is a long shot that she will conceive given the circumstances but there is a chance.  It was better than just throwing the straw away after we had thawed it out.

We picked up Emebet in Awasa when we fueled up then headed south.  I watched the beautiful scenery go by - It is amazing how lush and green the area south of Awasa is.  Further south it starts to dry out and is over grazed like the rest of the country. We stopped at the Boran Breeding center which is about 20 km or 12 miles from our final destination of Yebelo.  We met with the assistant manager Derge since Girma, the manager, was away at meetings.  Derge explained to us what they were doing then showed us around the facility.  The animals look really good for being in Ethiopia.  Some of the six month old calves would outweigh some of the recipient heifers that we have at ATARC.  

The place looks like many of the others that we have seen.  It looks like 30 years ago someone spent a lot of time and money in putting together a facility but not much has happened since.  They have a D8 Caterpillar dozer that is acting as a large beehive.  I counted 18 people just standing around the corrals.  If they were instructed what to do or encouraged to think for themselves the place could really look nice in a short period of time.  Abera is one of the few Ethiopians that I have met that understands the concept of maintenance and beautification.  I am so grateful that he is working with me and I can see Paul’s wisdom in having him help get the 1000 hectare program going.

We checked into our rooms at Yebelo then drove to meet Emebet’s mother.  She made dura wot and ingera for us.  They offered clabbered milk which Abera accepted but I passed on.  When it came time for coffee I explained to them that I didn’t drink it because of religious convictions.  They brought me hot milk instead.  I have noticed that some of the hot milk has a charcoal taste to it. I think that it comes from cooking it over the coals but it could also be a filtering type deal.  I am appreciative of people who have so little but are so generous in giving.

Back at my hotel room I killed a couple of roaches in the bathroom and some mosquitoes.  I tried the hot water in the shower but it wasn’t working so I just rinsed my head with cool water which actually felt very good.  When I slid the slippers away from the side of the bed several more roaches scurried away but I was too tired to chase after then.  The Farenge (foreigner) price for this room is 200 birr ( under $20).  The Abesha(local) room rate is 81 birr ( about $7).  I guess it is a good thing that I am tired or I might have a hard time sleeping tonight.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lost, Pulled Over, Locked Out & Left Alone

The Chinese food that I had last night didn’t set very well with me.  I had Pepto bismal pills for breakfast before heading out with Abera for Debre Zeit. At the AKF feed processing plant we talked our way past the guards then met with Santosh the Asst. General Manager of the plant.  {Erika here: Lonny, let us know what AKF is?} It sounds like they can get us a good concentrate mix with the vitamin/mineral formulation from Holland.  This should be a good formulation for our animals.  The part I like best is that the price is comparable to the local concentrate that we could get around here.

I called Arnold with Alfa Feeds and asked if we could meet with him and see his operation.  He gave me directions, but we missed the first turn and ended up getting very lost.  After calling him a couple more times, we finally met him on the road and followed him to their farm.  Arnold and his colleague, Peter, have set up a nice farm on one of the small lakes around Debre Zeit, and they are growing corn for silage. They seem to be doing quite well. They received a grant from the Dutch government for half of the investment, and they are paying for the other half themselves.  It is good to have another contact in the country that understands modern farm practices.

Arnold told us about a dairy cooperative, possibly funded by a Dutch Christian group, that is buying milk from the local farmers. Abera and I drove over to see them, but the manager was not around, so we will go back and visit with them another time.  Arnold said that the cooperative had mentioned some difficulties with the quality of milk that the local farmers bring in.  I would like to know what those challenges were and how they overcame them.

Back in Addis, Abera took me to the airport workers cafeteria, which is close to our office.  He ordered a green salad with tuna for me and had ingera himself.  The salad was very good and I had no ill effects from eating it. The whole meal including drinks cost 56 birr($4.45) not bad for two people.

We drove over to the hotel to have Wally sign our checks, then headed to the bank to cash them.  I thought that I knew the way, and so did Abera, but we missed the last turn anyway and got lost again!  After asking directions several times, we finally found our way back.

I dropped Abera off at the office, then went to “Where Love Is” to pick up Lloyd, Evan, and Joseph.  They had done a good job of putting a garden together in the south corner of the compound, and had also built a fence around it and made rock walkways through it.  The boys were so excited that when the were waiting for their turn on the main garden, they went to the north side of the compound and made another garden!  There wasn’t a lot of good soil on that side, so they went outside the wall and dug some from the side of the road.  It is exciting to see them getting motivated about working and doing things.

We said our goodbyes, then piled into the truck to head back to the house. Just as we were pulling off the Ring Road a police officer waved us over.  He said that we have four people riding in the cab of the pickup, but fortunately he just let me go with a warning.

That evening we walked to the Italian restaurant and had a pretty good meal.  I had ravioli which was made with the local cheese.  The sour flavor was just too strong for my liking.  I should have gone with the lasagna, which Joseph said was very good.

On our way back to the house, I received a call from Fasil who is an acquaintance of Bob Albreicht, a friend of my former co-worker, Karl Ritchie. Fasil has a feed processing facility in Addis, and a dairy also.  I asked if I could meet with him, and he agreed, so I will go see his place next week.

At 11:30pm I went out to get the truck to take Joseph, Lloyd and Evan to the airport to catch their late flight.  The gate was padlocked shut, so I went and knocked on the guard house but didn’t get any response.  I was getting worried, so I went in and told Lloyd they would have to stay another week.  :)  Luckily, a little while later, when I knocked again on the guardhouse door, I was finally able to wake the guard and get the truck.

I felt melancholy as I dropped them off at the airport and drove back to the house. I have a lot to do here before this trip is over, but I am envious that Joseph will get to see the family by the end of the day.  I am so glad that Joseph came with me. He is a great young man and a real friend.  I will miss having him around.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Skype, Email and Bedbugs

This morning I had a good visit with my family on Skype.  They had been at Jessica’s High School performance of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged."  I wish that I could have seen it.  I was in a good mood this morning with optimism for what we are trying to accomplish here, despite our many challenges.  I am so grateful that Erika is so supportive.  Without her support I don’t know if I could keep going.

I spent the day in the office sending and receiving emails. Email is such a fantastic communication tool. I am able to accomplish so much in a short time from one place.  I am so glad that it works here in Ethiopia.  It is not as good as in the States because of the power outages, networks being down and the people not being as familiar with it, but it is still very beneficial. Abera and I met with Wally to discuss personnel changes.  We will hire an onsite manager for Kokosa so that Abera can spend some of his time helping with the 1000 hectares of wheat that we want to plant for seed.

We had exterminators come to spray the house today.  I guess there were bed bugs in one of the upstairs beds. We had to be out of the house for a couple of hours so we went out to eat.  We tried to go to the Italian restaurant but it was closed, so we walked to the Chinese restaurant down the street.  I wasn’t really in the mood for Chinese food and the quality of it didn’t help any.

I met with Elder and Sister Ocrowly, the humanitarian missionaries who are serving here now.  I explained to them the history and purpose of MAI here in Ethiopia.  We had a good discussion about the future of Ethiopia. They are excited to be here and will be a great help to the Ethiopian people. I am amazed by the way the Lord leads and guides our interactions when we let Him.  With His help we will be able to accomplish great things here in Ethiopia.

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