Friday, November 30, 2007

office depot chat help?

heidi: I'm getting a message that my item is 3 day delivery and it won't arrive if I order today until next Friday. I must have it to take to Ethiopia on Tuesday. Can I pay more to expidite?
Agent30 has entered the session.
Agent30: Hi Heidi.
Agent30: Thank you for contacting the Office Depot online assistance team, my name is Jacob and I have been assigned to your query.
heidi: hi
Agent30: Could you please provide me the 9-digit order number to assist you further?
heidi: 000669235
heidi: i can pick it up today in Columbia, SC 29169 if it is local.
heidi: i also need two of them
Agent30: Could you please provide me your zip code?
heidi: i just did, my local one. But, I can either pick it up here today, or it must be shipped to zip 83835 by Tuesday.
Agent30: One moment please...

Agent30: 83815
Agent30: Thank you Heidi, this item is affable in the above zip code.
Agent30: Here is the complete address 131 W. NIEDER AVE
Store# 541
COEUR D ALENE, ID 83815 and the phone #(208) 676-0846.
heidi: okay, that does not help. I am in 29169. I can pick it up near this zip code today. OR, I need it shipped to 83835 by Tuesday. I can not pick it up in 83831, as I am not there.
Agent30: One moment please...

Agent30: How about this address 2242 W PULLMAN ROAD
Store# 612
MOSCOW, ID 83843?
heidi: I'm in SOUTH CAROLINA. You keep giving me addresses in ID and I am not there. I can pick up the ram in SOUTH CAROLINA today, OR I can have it shipped, by Tuesday, to Idaho. I can NOT pick it up in Idaho as I am here in South Carolina and it is a 3 DAY drive from South Carolina to Idaho. The reason I can get it shipped to Idaho is because a person traveling to Ethiopia is there, but that person CAN NOT go pick it up. I can pick it up today, but only in the Columbia, South Carolina area, which is zip code 29169.
Agent30: One moment please...

Agent30: I am sorry Heidi, I just gave the information which I got. This item is available only at those location which I provided. If you want to make a delivery for this item with pleasure you can do it.
heidi: I don't understand what you are saying. You can overnight ship it to 83185?
Agent30: I am sorry Heidi, we do not overnight the orders. If you order today you will be getting it on Monday.
Agent30: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
heidi: When I tried to order it, it said it would take 3 days and be delivered by Friday which is too late.
Agent30: One moment please...

Agent30: I apologize Heidi, the mistake is on my side and I dint see the complete information about this order. This item cannot be picked up and it is a special order, so it will take 7 to 14 business days.
heidi: So, are you saying it is not available at either store in Idaho that you mentioned? And, it is not available in South Carolina anywhere and it is not possible to overnight it to me at all for any price?
heidi: And, are you also saying that the message I got when I tried to order it saying it will take 3 business days is incorrect?
Agent30: I apologize, this item cannot be pick up from any of the store and it is not available in stores. It will take 7 to 14 business days to deliver.
heidi: So, it is not possible to pay extra and have it overnighted to me?
Agent30: One moment please...

Agent30: I am sorry Heidi, it is not possible to do overnight delivery even though you pay any extra charges.
heidi: Okay.
Agent30: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
heidi: no
Agent30: Thank you for choosing Office Depot.

This Service is available 8 am- 8 pm EST. Monday through Friday. Please don't hesitate to use this service again.

Have a nice day.
Agent30 has exited the session.
Chat session terminated.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Storytime: how to calm your child

This is our nightly calming bedtime routine. It works very well on Zion, who settles down peacefully during the story every night as demonstrated here.

Here is the link to it on youtube:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Updated with Photos

I finally put photos with the Ethiopia entries, just scroll down to see. Your thoughts are always welcome - that way I know I'm not talking into a void and we can have a conversation. Actually, a void plus Laura, who is always saying something nice:).

Yummy. Raw meat in Ethiopia is a real treat. The white looking meat you see here is really the fat inside the hump from the back of a bull. I wholeheartedly agreed with praying over this meal, which was breakfast in a town called Boditi, on the mountain overlooking Soddo.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

David in Croatia

Yeah, pretty much looks the same as David in SC. But, I think he is having fun, so that is good. We are going to decorate for Christmas tomorrow. It is early, but with chicken pox keeping us at home, it should brighten the day.

UPDATE, email from David:
(notice in the photos everyone is wearing coats INSIDE. I would not do well there, as I wear wool socks when it goes below 70 here)
It is Wednesday night and we fly back tomorrow. The last couple days have been very crazy and I have not been on line much. My computer was at the building where we were working last night so I could not even use it. We did rack wiring yesterday and the day before and re-worked the whole sound system with the new speakers that we brought. Branko is really nice and wants to be a good host and wants us to see things so he has us scheduled for lunch at this place up north with people that wedge knows and one night with Branko’s parents, etc. Wedge lived here for a month once and has visited several times as well. It is kind of like we are fighting for the time to get the work done that we need to get done.

Well we finally finished the wiring tonight, after the concert. We were pretty much done but went and set up the concert with two wires bypassed and on rack not neatened up yet. The concert went really well. This is their model for local concerts in these little towns and it works really well. The find a children’s hospital or children’s home or something and ask them if they can do a benefit concert for them. They then find a local musician or two to open up the concert. Tonight they raised about $600 for a children’s daycare center that we visited earlier today. About 300 people were there and the children from the center sang a song first, followed by a local musician backed up by the band. The band is Branko on guitar and lead vocal, his son on keys, another son on drums, an electric guitar, and two backing vocals. They are all really good. They just jumped in with this guy doing country music without any rehearsal. The son who plays keys (he has a total of 4 sons and 1 daughter-Sarah) is really good. He played along with these kids singing on songs that he had never heard. He let them start and would just throw in a chord after he heard it but by the second verse he was just playing along. He is a music major in college and plays a lot—pretty much all Jazz/Fusion kind of stuff.

The sound guy they have is really nice. He does not have much experience and they don’t give him as much respect as he deserves but he is really sharp. He is not very good at the art of mixing yet (which is what bugs them) but he has the signal flow and technical ends down. I think he can learn the art of mixing with some time.

The place we went today was right beside the Slovenia border. Yesterday we were somewhere where they said “that hill right there is Hungary”. Unfortunately we did not get to cross the border either time. Some of the things up there reminded me more of Romania—but not as poor. It was more like the Black Church area of Romania.

I have done a really poor job of taking pictures. I think I have about 3. I will get a copy of Leon’s pics. He has been taking more.

Well it is 12:30 and I better pack up and get to bed. We have a couple things we “have to see” in the morning. I also would like to get some paper money. I have not even spent a dime since I got here. The first day Leon paid for lunch at a restaurant and Branko was visibly offended. I have not exchanged a cent or spent anything. They just cart us around and feed us. I said I wanted to get some souvenir money and two different people came back with baggies of change. I am not going to ask or they will just give me bills. I will try to get some after they drop me off at the airport.

It is not like I have had a chance either. We have always been with someone or just been at the shop where we worked. I have not even had a chance to buy anything. Tonight they gave us a gift bag of chocolate, a shirt, a mug, some other snacks, etc. I feel bad that they are spending so much on us.

Diary from the Amsterdam Airport

Copied from my notebook:

Usually I sit facing the windows, but today I face the Christmas decorations and I can’t stop looking at them – all the overused phrases are right, “marveling at their beauty” “drinking them in” “my small piece of heaven.” The contrast to the ineptly strung, millennium flag colored lights draped across the Addis airport, and my “oh how pretty!” exclamation when we drove up shows how far I’ve traveled since immersing myself in Soddo.

Last night, I chose to interview my interpreter in the tiny room that is Kidist and Ayayu’s home. I didn’t want the Westernized background of book and fireplace in the guesthouse, nor the green of the fluorescents. Rather a plain white wall and the light of an uncovered 60-watt bulb, my camera perched on a worn Bible. I realized as he answered my questions that my ear has adapted to his speech – both accent and style, and that much of what he says will be unusable in “sound bite” form.

Now I drink a small cappuccino that cost $5 exactly, and watch young Dutch men in cargo pants build a 20-foot evergreen beside the cascading lights that still grab my eyes after every four words.

It’s not yet Thanksgiving at home.

I’m touching Ruth’s other world – her Netherlands, and thinking how distant Christmas seemed in Ethiopia. They celebrate on January 7th, and people enjoy injera with doro wat together. It is the day after the celebration in most Latin countries. Christmas presents include traditional Ethiopian clothing and playing cards for children. Some give gold.

My Ethiopian friend, who works at the embassy talked about her Christmas traditions. She bought a tree from a person leaving their tour (embassy workers from abroad work two year tours) with some ornaments. Her girls do the decorating, and add hand made cards and string beads each year. This year she thinks they are old enough to go out and purchase the roughly made nickel crosses to use as decorations. She will explain to them the history of the designs. All the crosses that have wings are from the Lalibela region, while those with geometric, symmetrical angles hail from Gondor or Axum.

I wanted to buy a book on the crosses at the Addis airport. My choices were the one I could afford, boasting yellow photos, cut and paste type and devil-may-care, off the top of the page layout. Or, an incredible book far above my price and size/weight for travel range.

I wish I had visited a bookstore in Addis.

At the Orthodox Church in Soddo that blasts prayers in the middle of the night – in Geez, a language no one speaks, I bought a gold colored cross for 30 birr ($3.34). My nursing student translator called it a “germ spreader” since the priest holds it out to people so they can kiss it. Also for 30 birr, I bought a thing that jangles. I don’t know the English word for it, but it intrigued me because the handle was made from a giant bullet shell. All the metal is the color of the shell, verifying my belief in the link between war and religion.

I wish I had bought more of them because it is hard to find good gifts for men, and I think these would be appreciated; at least by my strange friends.

The guys building the tree are using a genie lift now, and I realize I got full fat milk in my drink and will likely have a stomachache if I finish it. But, it cost FIVE DOLLARS!

Maybe Ruth will buy some clanger-janglers for me.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Croatia and cleaning

Got home late last night and I just dropped my husband at the airport for his trip to Croatia. I'm waiting to hear if the airlines will take their overweight baggage, which is a sound system. I'm a bit concerned as the flight leaves soon and he still has not called.

I just cleaned out my coffee pot. I had left grounds in it three weeks ago, so you can imagine! ugh. But, I brought back plenty of green coffee beans, so I will be roasting them up and enjoying really good coffee very soon. Then, on to straightening up the rest of the house and answering client emails.

My other plan is to add photos to the blog entries. Internet was too slow to email them from Ethiopia.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My Last Night

It is night in Addis. I am alone in the guest house, which is a change after spending this week with two other families, one from South Carolina. We figured out we had been together before - one mother, who just had a baby this week - was a fitness instructor in the Firm videos, and I had rented lights to them for one of the shows she did. Small world. She was on a billboard in Five Points for a long time, which may be why I kept thinking she looked familiar to me.

So, tomorrow I fly out. I really miss my family, so it is good to be going home, but I don't relish the many hours in the air.

Much of what I did this trip I could not blog about because it was personal to the families involved. But, I think from it have gained a deeper understanding of the amazing culture here, which has been very good for me.

Today I visited a government orphanage, and interviewed a young girl who cared for her little sister and managed against great odds to feed her and get medical help for her until she was adopted. This girl has been given the materials to start a small business and I know she will succeed. Her story was quite motivating to me. I also ate mocha ice cream at Kaldi's coffee shop with a friend and her two beautiful girls.

When I get home, after much sleep, I hope to put photos to the words I've written here. Thank you all for taking this journey with me and for your prayers.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More Tears Today

Today I spoke with two HIV positive women who chose
to give up their girls for adoption before they die.
I asked them what they were feeling. I asked one of
them what she would like to tell her daughter on her
wedding day. She told me about her own wedding day,
at age 14, and how her parents told her she must go
and sleep with her husband. She wanted to run away
and not do it because she was so scared. She said she
didn’t want her daughter to go through that.

The daughters have already changed roles with their
mothers, and they talked about how they were worried
about who would take care of their mothers when they
go to the States. Yet, I could see they were excited
about the possibility of a new family and a good
education. One of the mothers had prepared her child
well for the transition. Hers was the interview where
I could no longer see my viewfinder after the first
few questions.

After all I have seen here, no one could ever convince
me that a poor or sick mother in a mud house cares any
less for her child than I care for mine. I really
miss my kids. I want to hold them and I long to look
at them while they sleep. My kids were born of other
women in another countries, yet I get to look at them,
I touch them, and they bring their joys and sorrows to
me. I am beyond blessed.

Dr. Ruth Droppers

I usually shower in the morning, but Ruth showers at night. After spending an hour with her at the hospital, I can see why. Personally, I struggle with just stepping into the hospital here because it feels like I’m diving face first into a rising wave of
germs. Yet, Soddo Christian Hospital is very clean compared to other local hospitals. The outside is beautiful, there are covered walks connecting the wards and flowers bloom everywhere. It seems that the clean air and the flowers promote rest and healing for the tired, sick and dirty patients. Twice a day the floors are scrubbed, yet, the people coming in are often filthy from travel on the dirt roads, hours or days of travel by foot or carried litter or donkey cart, continually drenched in the dusty wake of passing trucks. To me it seems everything has a film of dust and sickness that makes me want to bolt.

Additionally, it is difficult for me to handle the onslaught of emotions that pound me when I see the people suffering. Sitting in the ER at home, more often the length of the wait grabs my emotions harder than people’s pains.

But here, though I am focused, I can't keep up with Ruth – she mentions doing an ultrasound and it is finished by the time I change the setting on my camera and reach the room. Her work is like triage after a disaster, every day. The waits are quick, but the cases are extreme. On call at night, a toddler in his father’s arms arrived with a knife wound to the eye. It was his good eye, the other blind from birth. When asked at 8pm when the accident occurred, we heard it happened that morning. At first, I feel angry – why was he not brought in earlier? Then, it occurs to me they likely have been on their way here since the accident occurred.

Another man refuses to give Ruth a direct answer to the simple question, “do you ever eat fruit?” She gives up after three tries and tells me he probably has chewed a lot of chat, and is experiencing the depression that follows the high. Today she’s
frustrated with people who won’t answer her questions. But, she does not show it. Each patient feels special in her presence. She has a way of repeating what they say to her that makes them know she is listening, even if she has a different idea of what to do. “So, the other doctor would not give you an x-ray for your stomach pain? I see. And, you feel you need an x-ray? Perhaps we could do a ultrasound instead, would that be okay with you?” She smiles at the patient, and nods, encouraging them to buy into her plan. She is incredibly gifted with non-verbal communication, which I think serves her well in this culture.

The woman we met in the clinic, whose breast was destroyed by TB shows up the next morning. I found her outside the hospital, wandering lost and ignored, and sent her to Ruth. She is one of four wives, and her husband no longer cares for her. She also has five sons and no daughters, and the sons do not care for her either. No one will pay for her to have help at
the hospital. Ruth thinks they must want her to die. It is decided that she can be cared for from the benevolent fund.

Since meeting her, the supreme sadness of her life sits on my shoulder. I see her when I look to my left. Her eyes, her face, her hand pulling back her shawl to show me the horrible wound. Me, the photographer, the one with absolutely zero ability to
help her aside from a hug and my warmest smile, I was given the pleading look, beseeching me to do what her family refused to do. To help.

I ask Ruth if she ever cries. She tells me two stories, one of a breach birth to a woman so brutally circumcised that the child could not be born. The woman’s mother was with her. Likely, it was she who cut her daughter and removed every part of her that said she was a woman. Ruth said the woman’s mother gazed blankly ahead, “I am not going to think about my responsibility in this tragedy.” Ruth said she cried over this because the baby did not die because of some environmental cause, but because of something done to his mother by another woman. The second time she cried because a mother starved her baby. She had too many children to feed. So, she kept food from the youngest, and when he was almost gone, brought him to the hospital. All the nurses cared deeply for the baby, and tried desperately to save him. Then, Ruth saw the moment the mother realized she could have brought him earlier and he would have lived. She saw the realization cross the mother’s face that she alone made a devastatingly wrong decision.

Later in the day, a little girl I kissed in the children’s ward succumbs to malnutrition and dies. I had seen her dad standing next to her bed each day when I went to take “my” boy for a walk. The vitamin enriched Unicef milk, purchased on the black market, did not arrive in time to save her.

Some things you can buy if you know who can get them, but morphine is next to impossible to get. Chemo, radiation, strong painkillers, common blood thinners for anesthesia are just a few of the things not found here. Some doctors have a small stash of pain killers. Ruth is not one to hoard, so today she gives a patient who is dying some relief. We talk about a friend who had his leg amputated above the knee. One of the other doctors kept the leg in his freezer to use as a teaching tool. “Honey, where is the ice cream?” “Check under the ankle!” Amputation seems to be the common cure for cancers, tumors, hyena attacks, snakebites and more.

A few days ago a container arrived from Switzerland. It was sent over after my last visit a year and a half ago and has been in customs until last week. It was filled with crutches, which will be put to good use. I saw a man on the street using a tall stick and swinging himself around it to move, so I asked my translator to send him to the hospital for a crutch. It is nice to think about how a crutch might change his life. I can handle thinking about a crutch today, but I can never do what Ruth does.

If you wish to help Ruth and her work, you can send her a donation (a check from an American bank is fine, there is just no tax deduction here:
Stichting Witte Velden te Hilversum
Postbanknumber 1485137
IBAN: NL 41 PSTB 0001 4851 37
mention her name: for Ruth Droppers

Email of the foundation is:
Email of contact person in Netherlands:

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Back in Addis

I tried the internet café down the street. Located in a short shipping container, it had two old computers and a baud width of 31.2 kbps. Enough to really test my patience, which, though it has increased dramatically since leaving the States, was not enough to handle the two-minute waits between button pushes. I finally got my own computer screen to turn on, so I am going to see how long it takes before my mouse freezes up. Hopefully a long time.

I had the weirdest reverse culture shock driving into Addis. After only 10 days down South, I was blown away by the money here, and even more by the availability of food. The fruit stands filled with normal size, plump tomatoes, potatoes and even beans.

At a coffee shop chain started by a young woman and patterned after Starbucks, called Kaldi’s, I saw numerous Chinese people, kids sporting ipods, and well dressed business typing away people on laptops. I also had one of the best cappuccinos of my life. The foam was covered exactly in half with a thick coat of powdered cocoa. I was glad to hear that the coffee shop chain was not owned by the Saudi sheik that seems to own everything else here, the Sheraton, the malls, Home Depot and pretty much anything else that is new and big. He is also building a glass-fronted hotel in Soddo, and I imagine may be helping to build the big mosque there as well. It is he that is mentioned in the articles about Starbucks not paying the coffee pickers a living wage. He owns the farms.

I’ve been thinking a lot about living wages. David and I have this discussion often. On one hand, if you are making $1 a day and before you were making nothing, then your life is improved. But, how can one live on a dollar a day, and how did the person now making $1 live before that income? When doing research on the parents of adopted children of my friends, I found that a number of the birth moms made between 30 and 50 birr a month ($2.50 to $4.50 a month) making injera for a living. Injera is the local bread, made entirely of fermented teff flour and water, usually cooked on a clay plate over a hot fire made in a small hole in the ground. It is similar in look to a large pancake, but grey, with more air pockets. Teff looks like long grass and has tiny black seeds, which may be ground into flour. It grows in the higher regions.

So, here are women with at least two children making $3 a month. I asked five different people what it cost to feed a family of four. The answers I got ranged from 10 birr ($1.10) to 25 birr ($3.00) a day, if the family does not eat meat or much fruit. I spent that range on each meal I purchased just for myself. For a meal of injera and goat meat pieces, it cost 20 birr in the hospital cafeteria. The cheapest thing on the menu was 8 birr. The really cheap food is false banana, and if you see them growing, you are almost guaranteed to find a round house next to them. Inset, or false banana, is made from the stalks of trees that look like banana trees, but bear no fruit. Tastes pretty much like stalk, with basically no nutritional value.

Most poor people drink ½ a cup of water per day, which Dr. Ruth says accounts for many of their health problems. I learned that here, when you are dehydrated, you no longer feel thirst. It happened to me a few times, crept up on me, when out walking for a few hours, I felt weaker and weaker until I got home and forced myself to drink. Only after about two glasses did I again feel thirst.

My daughter’s birth mom lives in a government rent controlled mud hut. It is one room, with a door and a wooden cover for the single window. The room is as wide as the length of her bed, but not big enough to fit my king size bed. It is 25 birr a month to rent. She has a 25 watt light bulb on a wire. No running water, no bathroom, mud floor and walls.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Today I decided to video tape some surgery. It was one that is familiar to our family, a rod into a femur. The surgeons used different equipment than what is available in the States, and putting in the rod looked quite challenging and appeared to take both strength and finesse on the part of the surgeons. Fascinated by the process, I barely noticed that the patient had her face fully uncovered - no mask - until she looked over at me and smiled.

compare this to my surgery:

Blessed Nation?

In Psalms 37:25, it is recorded that David, the King of Israel said, I was young, and now I'm old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging bread.

I've always considered this scripture a promise rather than a statement of someones observation. The other night Stephanie told me about a father who brought four of his kids to the orphanage. All were very hard of hearing or completely deaf. The oldest were in their late teens, so adoption really was not plausible. The family was obviously close to one another and to the Lord. But, the father was worried about his kids, who were ostrasized and abused in their village. He wanted more for them. They had managed as a family to send two of the children to a deaf school, and these two kids had taught the others sign language.

I thought about it long after she told me the story and this scripture came to mind. The next day, we went to visit Dr. Mary. I mentioned the scripture to her and she said fiercely, that verse should not be in the Bible. That, or it is just David's observation. It is simply not true.

Then she described the story of a poor, Christian mother. There are thousands here like her. She lives in a dirt hut where the roof leaks. The floor becomes mud in the rainy season, and she has no furniture. So, she spends the nights holding her children up, out of the water. In the morning, she is soaked to the core, muddy and very cold. But, she has no change of clothing, so to wash herself, she must go the fridgid river waters and wash her clothing while she wears it. Then, she must go, wet, and search for work to order to buy flour. Then she must find wood and light it in the rain to bake bread her food for her family. She is not dry or warm for months.

I have grown up hearing that the United States is blessed because in our early roots, we are a Christian nation. Ethiopia's roots are the same, only older. From Jewish to Christian, this is a country founded on faith in God. So, why is she not blessed the way we are blessed? I question now, is blessing equal to financial success? Are we somehow better than the people here so God chooses to give to us?

Often when I walk here, I think it must be so much like walking in the context of Biblical times. The culture is emotional, and respect for proper heirarchy considered very important. I can imagine two women fighting over a child, and one woman agreeing the child should be split. I can see why goats and sheep need to be separated, because they look alike. I can picture shaking the dust of a town from your feet, or washing someone's feet out of love for them.

"Cry out to Me and I will answer" says God in another scripture.

My young translator told me a story from his youth. "I was on my own from the time I was six years old because my parents did not have enough food. I had some torn clothes, and I was embarrassed because they did not cover me. One day I was so cold becuase of the rain, I said, God, please help me find some clothes. I had the feeling to walk straight down this road. A man came out of his house and said to me, "you look cold. Please, go down to the building on this street, they are giving clothes." God provided for me clothes that day."