Winner Winner, no more cheeseburger for dinner

By Korbin Smith
Student, Ohio State College of Medicine
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

If there was a competition for the first Ohio State student to get sick during the summer research project, I came out victorious.

I have tried many different types of dishes without getting sick. However, I figured I would give their American equivalent to a cheeseburger a try, and it was a bad decision. Unlike when I feel ill in the U.S., getting ill here is more serious. The majority of our Ethiopian collaborators have reached out to me in one way or another to make sure I am OK. They are all truly compassionate and caring.

Since the rest of our research team changed cities, I am the only one left in Gondar until tomorrow. I immediately noticed people are more willing to practice their English on an individual rather than a group. My waitress for dinner tonight was practicing with me and I could tell she was very excited when I understood and responded.

I understand what it feels like to try to have a conversation in a language you aren’t familiar with. Anytime I can say “Hello” or “Thank you” in Amharic, I do so.

I have also noticed that most conversation stops briefly when I walk into a room.  There aren’t a lot of 6’3” blonde, blue-eyed males walking around in athletic shorts and an Ohio State T-shirt.

All-in-all, as we continue our stay here in Gondar, I am constantly impressed with the class and generosity of the people of Ethiopia.

A lesson in the art of craftsmanship

By Tim Landers, RN, PhD
Ohio State College of Nursingflower_napkin

I’ve noticed some really excellent craftsmanship in Gondar.

Craftsmanship is evident in the way a napkin is carefully folded that turns an evening meal in to a “dinner.”  And craftsmanship is the patience of our waitress giving me a lesson in napkin folding.

Craftsmanship is the way that the pharmacist carefully wrapped up a packet of medication she prescribed for me because of the cold I’ve acquired in my last days in Gondar. It says, “I hope you feel better” before you open it.


Craftsmanship is the certain way a bundle of straw is tied to the back of a donkey on the way to market or the way a cup of coffee is poured when the person actually cares. It’s the expert skill and flair a microbiologist uses to streak an agar plate or a nurse uses to comfort an ailing patient.

One of the great craftsmen I have met is Mr. Abebe Demise. Abebe has a small shoe-shine bench outside our hotel. What makes him a craftsman is not that he does a good job cleaning and shining shoes; he does a great job on shoes from the dusty streets of Gondar. abebe_working

What makes him a craftsman is that when Mr. Abebe is at work shining shoes, he is in the zone. His full attention is on the task at hand. He uses the tools of his trade – he uses all of his attention – to shine shoes. To watch him in action is to see a master craftsman at work.

Craftsmanship is a difficult concept to teach to students in our “Research Methods Course.” There is just a way that a carefully constructed title of a scientific paper can grab your attention. A well-written set of specific aims can explain the purpose of a research project in a way that extends beyond the words printed on the page.  A well-organized literature review can make reviewers beg you to do your experiments.

This skill of craftsmanship in writing grants takes years to develop — and I am no pro.  But I know good grants craftsmanship when I read it—and when I see it.

On my last day in Gondar, Abebe Demise called to me from his shoe-shine bench across the street.  He had a small envelope for me with “For: Tim Landers, From: Abebe” written on the outside.  Inside were two picture postcards of Gondar.

I’d like to think that maybe – just maybe – this was one craftsman’s way of acknowledging a fellow craftsman.


Professor Tim Landers and Mr. Abebe Demise, one of the great craftsman of Ethiopia.

Learning another culture through its food

By Karissa Magnuson
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

I happen to love bread and carbs in general.  At home, I love making homemade bread and even have my own bread machine in my apartment, so I was curious about the bread of Ethiopia. The staple bread, although it is not really like our bread, is injera. It is most comparable to flatbread or possibly a tortilla or crepe. The main differences are its spongy texture and that it is made from a completely different type of grain called teff.

Teff is a cereal grass and is only found in Ethiopia. It is ground into flour and then is mixed with water and baked to make injera.

Injera is included in almost every native dish in Ethiopia, and it is often used to hold the dish, acting as both a plate and utensils.  Ideally, you use the injera to wrap up whatever you ordered inside like a seasoned meat and then eat both the injera and meat. (If you are like me, you end up using a fork at some point, because without a fork, it is quite a messy undertaking.)

Not only is injera used as an edible plate and utensil, it is also often the main course. For instance, the other night, our partners asked if I wanted to try Firfir. To me this dish looked like some sort of meat with mashed up beans served on top of injera. Well, I was having a hard time understanding the ingredients they were listing off, and they kept shaking their heads when I repeated back what I thought were the ingredients until I realized that part of the dish which I thought was meat was not meat but shredded up injera served in a sauce with seasoning.

So there you have it — injera — the staple bread of Ethiopia. By the way, for those who are gluten intolerant, teff is gluten free.

How to Make Injera:

After our delicious meal

After our delicious meal