Data collection in Debark

By Karissa Magnuson
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

For the past two days we have been in Debark, a town about 100 kilometers north of Gondar. Debark was our second data collection site for our rabies research project.

It is a common resting place for tourists who wish to visit the Simien Mountains. On our two-hour drive up to the city, we passed stunning scenery. The countryside is full of lush, rolling hills and looks like a patchwork quilt of rich coffee brown fields and vibrant green countryside.

We passed many farmers out plowing their fields with oxen and an old-fashioned plow. It was idyllic, and I felt like I had stepped back into a different time.  It was hard to go five minutes without seeing a shepherd out with his flock of goats or sheep, and there were always cows, goats, and sheep grazing in the distance. Our van had to stop or slow down a few times as wandering goats, sheep, and cattle crossed the road.

The people of Debark were very friendly and accommodating. For the project, my team was in charge of urban adults and children. It was truly a privilege to be able to walk their streets and be invited into their houses, especially since they knew nothing about me. Every house we went to, I was offered a chair or a place to sit, and a few times, they roasted a snack for me over their fire for me to eat. The hospitality here was truly amazing.

Our last day of data collection, we went up to a small neighborhood on a hill. Immediately we were surrounded by a huge group of children, all probably under the age of 10. They were all extremely friendly and asked me my name.

As my Ethiopian team members told them about the study and asked if they would like to participate, one of the little girls grabbed my hand.

All the children were eager to participate in the study. As we followed them back to their houses, my other hand was grabbed by a little boy, and I was led off down the dirt road to their homes.  Walking from one house to another, my hand was never empty. At one point, two of the children had a little disagreement about who actually got to hold my hand.

When we finished our data collection and were saying goodbye, all the children who had followed us around came over to me and shook my hand, and we touched shoulders. In Ethiopia, when you greet someone you shake hands and touch shoulders with the person. There must have been six or seven kids in line to say goodbye to me. It was truly a heartwarming and memorable experience that I will carry with me forever.

Whether Ethiopia or U.S., independence is a global value

imageBy Ally Sterman
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

Traditions and holidays are important wherever you are and know no boundaries. This holds true for the four of us students working here in Ethiopia. As July 4, neared we thought of the best ways to celebrate this holiday while abroad. Through Ethiopia was doesn’t officially have an Independence Day as we do in the states, they celebrate Adwa Victory in February. This is in memory of the Battle of Adwa, when they freed Ethiopia from Italian colonization.

We were in luck when we found our local convenient store ( a very small one room store with items on all the walls and one very small row of cookies, cereals and juices) at the end of our street had fireworks and sparklers. We purchased a few to celebrate and help make it feel like home.

We decided to try to find something very American for dinner and since our luck with cheeseburgers wasn’t going to well, and hot dogs aren’t common, we all agreed pizza was our best option. We celebrated our Fourth of July as best we could with pizza and fireworks. It wasn’t a traditional picnic cookout with the family and ending the evening with fireworks however it came pretty close.

We have all become close here like family, and our pizza and sparklers were just as much fun as a picnic and fireworks. All in all it was a successful Fourth of July celebration here halfway across the world.


Ohio State in Ethiopia: Now the students’ work begins

By Ally Sterman
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

With the start of the both the new week and new month our Ethiopia summer project really begins. Though we four students from various colleges at Ohio State arrived near the end of last week in Ethiopia, we did not begin our field work until July 1.

Our project takes us into both the rural and urban communities interviewing local adults, children, policy makers, community and faith leaders, as well as health care workers about rabies and dogs. We are set to travel around to three different areas before a workshop is held in Addis Ababa to discuss rabies further in mid-July.

However we do not go out alone. Each Ohio State student has two wonderful Ethiopian University of Gondar partners. These individuals are primarily faculty and staff at the university from a variety of fields/disciplines. They not only serve as interpreters for our project but tour guides of the city and historians for Ethiopia’s culture/traditions/history. They are quickly becoming lifelong and treasured friends. I know I can speak for all of the students about how grateful and appreciative we are for their help and how much fun/enjoyable they are making this experience.

The picture below was taken before one of the interviews conducted by my group. My group’s main focus is community leaders which include teachers, faith leaders, elders, and other various leaders in both the rural and urban settings. This picture was taken of one of the churches we travelled to in the city of Gondar where we had the opportunity to meet and talk to the priests about rabies and the dog population here in the city.


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

Learning Amharic in Ethiopia: It’s for veterinarians, too


By Karissa Magnuson
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

I have always loved learning foreign languages, and when I was in junior high, I considered the possibility of majoring in linguistics in college. However, my passion for animals won out, and instead of being a linguist, I am half way to being a veterinarian. It is nice to know, though, that despite my career choice, I can still enjoy learning foreign languages and incorporate my career and other interests together.

Today at lunch, fellow Ohio State student Korbin Smith and I invited one of our Ethiopian team members, Atnaf, out to lunch at our hotel. I decided to ask her about how their sentence structure works here.

Side Note:  I took German in high school and college and knew that in German if you wanted to say ‘ I would like to play football’ it would be like saying in English ‘ I would like football to play’. Well I was curious how it worked here because I was hoping to actually form a sentence by the end of the six weeks. We will see if this actually happens or not.

Anyways, Atnaf pulled out a piece of paper and started writing down their alphabet. The alphabet in Amharic is like little drawings. Each drawing represents a different sound. For instance there is a character that looks like a ‘u’ and is pronounced ‘ha’. From my understanding the ‘u’ for ‘ha’ is the root for other variations with similar sound/characters… i.e. ‘hu, hi, ha, h, ho’ which will look like the ‘u’ but may have an extra tail, circle, or squiggly attached somewhere on the ‘u’. They then have other root shapes with variations for a total of over 30 characters.

There are a few characters in Ethiopia with sounds that I could not make. For example, in Amharic they have a character that sounds like ‘Kkah’ but with an extra, barely imperceptible sound when pronounced. Korbin and I kept trying to say it, and she just kept laughing and shaking her head and then pronouncing it again. It requires some muscle in your throat or something that we as English speakers never have to use.

Anyway, it was a very interesting lesson, and Atnaf really enjoyed teaching us and appreciated our efforts to learn their language. Perhaps, by the end of the summer I will be able to write a sentence in Amharic.

If generosity equaled power Ethiopia would control the world

korbin smith

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

As we began our interviews with the locals I was amazed how easy it was to get people to volunteer. Everybody in this country wants to talk and help.

My group consisting of Dr. Atnaj Alebie and Tadele Atinafu have been more than helpful. They are brilliant professionals as well as very kind and humble people.

Together we were able to collect our first set of data in rural areas successfully and efficiently. Hearing what the rural adults and children believed caused rabies was truly incredible.

While many answers cause me to be concerned about their safety in an area where rabies is prevalent, it is inspiring to know that our work is needed.