Monday, October 12, 2009

A Dinner Party and the Bole Airport Effect

There are no pictures for this post - it wasn't that sort of night last night. I didn't take pictures. Instead, I soaked in the first time I have had Ethiopians in our home. I inhaled the experience with every pore and every breath.

We had 20 people for dinner to offer a warm Wisconsin welcome to 4 Ethiopian medical fellows (2 docs and 2 nurses) who are participating in an amazing initiative to bring an emergency medical faculty program to the Black Lion Hospital in Addis. You can read about the program here. Our involvement was .... well, dinner. And more - but the more is still a work in progress as we work to make our welcome go beyond one evening's fellowship.

We invited a cadre of friends - all VIP's at the university involved in various health related capacities. We also added official program administrators to the list, none of whom we knew. And then the connections made themselves obvious with the multitude of greetings - it was as perfect a mix as I had hoped. Community was quickly established, and there were more than a handful of surprising connections and common interests.

Our gathering was complimented with delicious food; slow cooking meat for pulled beef and pork sandwiches - garlic green beans - sweet potato maple pecan salad - fingerling potatoes with leek and scallion - fruit salad - and an assortment of Whole Foods desserts. (D, our "rustic menu" did not include a can of baked beans you open with a camping knife). There was plenty of wine and beer on hand, of course, and coffee.

Blueberry was at his best...NOT. He decided not to nap on Sunday, and after playing for 2 hours in his crib he was up and at 'em with no nap and a distracted mommy and daddy. While Mr. Silly Pants spoke a sweet welcome to our guests, Blueberry wiggled in my arms yelling at the top of his lungs, "Momma Momma!" pointing vehemently at the tray of goodies and wanting only to eat the raspberry tops off of the tortes. Thank goodness for Waffles, who enjoyed a good meal and then stuffed the wee one into his snowsuit, put him in his Bob stroller, and took him out in the dark of night for an evening walk. Sleep settled in quickly and he made it all the way to his crib in the arms of his favorite awesome big brother.

I could go on and on about the conversations around the table - about medicine, about government, about poverty, about delivering health care in Addis and in rural areas, about maternal health care, about direct cash aid....I'm telling you - amazing. Our guests BROUGHT IT!

Instead, I'm going to share a few things.
Number 1: If you read this blog you know about Richard, the boy we send to medical school in Addis. Guess what? Dr. Makeda and Dr. Melaku are BOTH part of the faculty for 'our' young man's college. Let's just say we now have a new layer of encouragement and accountability for young Richard. We are thrilled to have this unexpected and amazing connection for him and for us (Dr. Makeda's son is also a 2nd year student - so that is awesome too). We wait to hear news of our sponsored student through our new sets of eyes :-) .
Number 2: My long time and dear friend, Artist Margaret, who supports the family of AlemTsehaye (mom plus daughters) also received some encouragement and practical assistance in her efforts to help AlemTsehaye and her family. Dr. Makeda is going to initiate contact with AlemTsehaye in Lalibela. We've had some barriers to communication with her that we think are issues of cultural bridging (gender based?) that Dr. Makeda is going to help us sort out so that Artist Margaret can go forward with a richer understanding of AlemTsehaye's life. In addition, AlemTsehaye will be in touch with an amazing Ethiopian woman, herself a child of a rural community and a mother.

Finally, number 3....this one is harder for me to articulate:
I don't know how to say this to people-but I said it at my dinner party. I said it in the presence of one my dearest friends, my husband, and to Drs. Makeda and Melaku with tears in my eyes. I spoke about how deeply Ethiopia settled in my heart as I stood in line at Bole Airport ready to leave Ethiopia. I was there, in Ethiopia, taking another woman's child to be our child. Nothing will EVER feel like this again in my life, and it has ruined me forever, in the best possible way. I took a treasure - a perfect boy - because his mother could not take care of him. Her reasons are her reasons, and they are our reasons now too. They are ours, collectively, as well, because WE are part of the global community that participates, in silent and complicit ways, to maintain power structures that oppress other people. I don't have the answer, and I know a large part of the answer lies in the hands of Ethiopians themselves (who need grassroots change from the top - down). But Sunday night we did something structural to promote, support, and encourage change.

Yeah, I don't really know how to write about Sunday night.

3 comments:

rebekah said...

You wrote beautifully about it. Still, I imagine it was so so much more as well.

Mindy and Baldwin said...

I'm bawling. That last paragraph was too much- you've articulated it all so well.

Liz said...

This post made me cry...not sure what else to say...