A visit to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital

The following post is an excerpt from my journal written while on holiday in Ethiopia last December. We were visiting our daughter who was teaching at Bingham Academy, an international school in Addis Ababa. After leaving Ethiopia we travelled to Morocco and Spain. I’ll write about those countries soon.

In the garden of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Ethiopia

Thursday 8th December 2011: Addis Ababa

We were up again at 6am this morning for a walk. During the night I had the best night’s sleep I’d had since arriving. One of the problems we have faced acclimatising to the altitude. We are gradually getting there. After staff devotions this morning we were invited to the senior assembly. The main focus of this assembly was to watch the K – 2 classes perform the Christmas story. This was both charming and delightful; we were privileged to have been invited.

In the garden of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Ethiopia

At 10 o’clock our driver for the morning arrived. Rose arranged for her regular driver Alemu to take us to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. The son of the CEO is in Rose’s class and she managed to arrange an appointment for a tour of the facilities. We were made to feel most welcome by one of the office administrators.

Our visit to the fistula hospital was most inspiring, bringing tears to our eyes as we realised the extent of the work and how a simple, inexpensive operation can transform the life of a young woman who has a fistula problem. We came away convinced and convicted that we must help raise awareness of this work. We quickly thought of ways of helping the hospital and the patients in practical ways, not just with donation of money; simple things like encouraging people to make quilts or knitted rugs for the patients. If you’d like to help this wonderful hospital click here for details.

In the garden of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Ethiopia

At the end of the tour we spent time talking to our guide Feven. We exchanged email addresses and website URLs. She is in the process of setting up a tourist business. Her clients will have a tour of Ethiopia, including the participants spending up to a week giving hands on volunteer work at the hospital. We are keen to assist in promoting this as well because it would help the hospital, assist local people with jobs and see some profits channelled into the hospital. You can check out her website here.

In the garden of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Ethiopia

The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Ethiopia

Camera troubles while in Ethiopia

The following post is an excerpt from my journal written while on holiday in Ethiopia last December. We were visiting our daughter who was teaching at Bingham Academy, an international school in Addis Ababa. After leaving Ethiopia we travelled to Morocco and Spain. I’ll write about those countries soon.

Wednesday 7th December 2011: Addis Ababa

This morning we went for a walk again at 6am, had breakfast and joined everyone for morning devotions in the teachers’ lounge. Later in the morning I did some reading, sent some emails and went back to the lounge for morning tea. We had a long conversation with a couple of staff members (both about 5 years older than me) who have been at Bingham Academy for 3 years. Some 40 years ago they came from Meadows which is a small town about an hour’s drive from our home.

Most of the teachers left for class so we sat down so Corinne could finish her cuppa. One of the teachers who started the Horizon Boys programme, came in to chat with us, mainly about its history over the last 6 years, but also about her own call to teaching, her interesting social and family background in Scotland and how she is committed to Bingham. Her family – she has 7 siblings – all want her back in Scotland, none of them are Christians.

Earlier in the morning I started to head out to photograph some birds. I took several shots near Rose’s apartment and then the camera played up. There was a ‘lens error’ message on the screen. It wouldn’t close the lens at first but after a few tries it did. Then it wouldn’t switch on.

In desperation I searched online for a solution without much luck. This appears to be a common glitch with this model and most who had commented on this online suggested returning the camera to Canon. That wasn’t an option for me while travelling in Africa and Europe over the next 5 weeks. Another concern was that the one year warranty runs out before we return home. My son emailed me some fairly drastic solutions but I took the simplest and softest option; change the batteries. That seemed to work and since then have taken over 50 photos without any further problems. [Postscript: I didn’t use that set of batteries again during the trip and had no further problems, taking nearly 3000 photos during our trip.]

My daughter's apartment on the campus of Bingham Acade

Life at Bingham Academy, Addis Ababa

The following is an excerpt from my journal written while visiting our daughter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last December.


Tuesday 6th December: Addis Ababa

At 6am we were all up so that we could go for a half hour walk around the school oval. During our walk I was able to get some close up views of a Hooded Vulture on the ground. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me (I did get good shots a few days later). We went back to Rose’s apartment just as the sun was rising. We had breakfast and then attended staff devotions at 7:45am.

Hooded Vulture, Ethiopia

The students started arriving at the end of devotions and the small car park became a conglomeration of cars, taxis and mini buses as well as students, not quite as crazy as outside on the streets but busy for a few minutes all the same. We accompanied Rose to her home classroom for notices, roll call and prayer time. They are a lively group of typical year 7s.

During the morning I did some reading, wrote in this journal, sent a few emails and wrote three poems. Later we joined the staff for morning tea, chatting with several during the break. In the late afternoon I went for a walk along the perimeter fence and managed several bird photos. I also saw and photographed one of the school tortoises, of which they have six. Later we both helped Rose with the Horizon Boys programme again.

Rose and Sylvia’s housekeeper cooked a lovely lasagne for our dinner. At 6pm we were driven by one of the teachers to St Matthew’s Anglican Church for a musical programme of songs, Christmas carols and excerpts from The Messiah. The programme was interesting and varied and very enjoyable. I estimated that the church could comfortably seat about 150, but over 300 crowded in, packed tightly, with standing room only for at least 50 latecomers. The programme went for about one and half hours.

St. Matt’s is Rose’s church of choice in Addis. She normally attends the Sunday evening service with usually 20 – 30 attending. The morning service sees about 50 attending. They provide breakfasts for up to 200 local school children daily. They also have a study library in their complex with up to 200 children using it daily and over 1000 contacts with students in the neighbourhood. Quite an outreach potential.

The trip back to Bingham Academy was far quicker than earlier in the evening as the traffic was moving more smoothly. Despite that, traffic is quite horrendous at all times with cars seemingly going in all directions and none keeping any semblance of staying in lanes. Most traffic is only travelling at 20kph so most incidents are minor. Of more concern is the vast number of pedestrians who largely ignore the traffic and use all parts of the road as a footpath. Like many developing countries, the car horn is an essential driving tool.

Most distressing on our return trip was the vast number of homeless people sleeping on the footpath. Most only had a single blanket and they were all sleeping on the ground. One person I spoke to claimed that the population of great Addis Ababa is about 7 million; one million of them are homeless. The problem is enormous; what can one person do? I know very little of local politics but the enormous waste of money and resources in places like Australia, America and elsewhere, is a moral and social catastrophe. What a difference some of that money would make in places like Ethiopia.

Rose’s travel jottings

The last few weeks have been very busy. Our daughter Rose, a teacher in one of our rural high schools, has taken up a teaching position in a school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the rest of this year. My wife and I have been busy helping her to get ready for this big adventure as well as tidying her house and garden ready for a house sitter while she is away. It’s been an exhausting few weeks but now she is safely in her new environment and quickly adapting to life in a strange culture.

Good writing skills run in the family as she has reactivated her blog to help family and friends share in her adventure. Her site is called Rose’s Travel Jottings (click to access). I’d recommend a visit every few days, especially as she adds photos. And later in the year we are planning to visit her and then the three of us will travel several other countries together. Stayed tuned for our adventure too.

Good reading – and good writing.

Rose Hampel