I feel like today was a true representation of Ethiopia–incredible inspiration and incredible despair, and mixed in we experienced true beauty and spontaneous acts of friendship.
We immersed today at the University of Gondar where we embarked on the true purpose of our visit: launching our iPad initiative and beginning to develop our communication plan for curbing rabies.
The day began with a meeting on the collaboration to combat rabies and moved on to our One Health Summer Institute plans, before I was able to spin off with representatives of medicine, veterinary and communication to begin crafting our message and determining our medium.
After a poolside lunch, Cory Tressler of ODEE was his usual amazing self, as he introduced our hosts to iPad technology and the iTunes U courses developed for their training and use.
It’s impossible not to learn something new whenever Cory starts presenting, and we went over our allotted time with a spirited question and answer session.
It is also impossible not to be inspired by our hosts, who have fewer resources than we can even imagine, but possess enthusiasm that cannot be contained. Their challenges are many, but their spirits are so strong; there is no question they will achieve all that they set out.
Yet the reality of Ethiopian life was shown to us just a few hours later, when we visited the Gonder hospital.
One of our first stops was the under-renovation cancer ward, which resonated most with me because of my own husband’s struggle–and recovery from–non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I automatically compare his chemotherapy experience in a state-of-the art oncology facility with the Gondar cancer patients, who will be treated in a single cinder-block room smaller than our average Ohio State classroom.
Survival in our cancer wards is expected, with all the tests and treatments modern medicine can provide. In Gondar, it is prayed for, as most diagnostics are only a guess and diagnosis come long after treatment is even an option–especially for cervical cancer.
While we were there, a nurse from the hospital died because testing that might have diagnosed and saved her was not available. We passed neonatal wards where cribs were considered a luxury, and saw the sick and crippled waiting outside for attention.
Cory and I were both overwhelmed and virtually silent as we rode away—struck mute in part by what we saw, but also with the realization of how random life must be to provide our loved ones with so many gifts and opportunities, while others struggle to survive–and even thrive.
We gratefully ended our day on the most beautiful note–with a tour of city’s royal castles, built by a succession of Ethiopian Kings beginning in the early 17th century. The historical significance paled only when compared with the will-not-say no tenacity of our host, Dr. Wondwossen Gebreyes, who managed to talk–and encourage with a few Birr (Ethiopian money) for the castle to stay open long enough for our tour.
It is from Dr. Gebreyes that today’s headline saying comes–an Ethiopian trait that signifies there is more to any quest than simple desire. Sometimes you need to try a new angle to achieve your goals.