Greetings to all. We have thoroughly enjoyed all your comments. Thanks so much for sharing them and keep them coming. Our day started with hopes and prayers that our luggage had arrived safely. All the phone numbers they provided us to check on the status of the luggage didn’t work or weren’t answered—which made us a bit nervous. After 4 days of living in the same clothes (with a few exceptions), we were a distinctive group with well worn, slightly soiled and a tad odorous clothing. At breakfast, Amy DuPont and Mark Bronson joined us; they flew in from Frankfurt the night before.
After breakfast, we headed to the airport. Instead of all going through security screening and waiting in line for over an hour at the luggage claim desk, I went in first and found that my luggage had arrived. The attendant couldn’t check on the other luggage without their tags, so we all went through security again. While waiting, again, in the lost luggage line, the other team members checked the huge storage areas and found our bags all with yellow handles—a very wise investment. The team pulled 28 bags out of storage—all were there! We all had to have the bags rechecked by the attendant and then go through customs screening—only one person was pulled out to have his luggage searched. Iyad brought a halothane vaporizer (for an anesthesia machine) and it probably looked a little suspicious. With a little fast talking and smiling we got through. Now we had to figure out how to mount 32 bags on our vans (Amy and Mark’s luggage was now added). Somehow our drivers figured out how to load them all on top of the two vans we were using. After 3 hours, we were finally able to head out to Project Mercy in Yetebon.
We had a great scenic drive out to Yetebon. We drove by a lot of construction being done on the edge of the city—many multi-unit apartments. Once we got out in the country, the terrain changed noticeably as did the road occupants—occasionally a truck or bus, but mostly donkeys, herds of goats and people walking. Our driver was amazingly skilled in maneuvering around the animals anticipating which direction they would be turning.
We stopped at a World Heritage Site, the Tiye Stellae. This site has many carved stone monuments (stella) that are believed to be from around the 12th century serving as burial headstones. Several of the stones had swords carved on them representing the number of people they had killed. It was a great stop on a long day of travel.
We arrived at Project Mercy around 3:30 and quickly unloaded our bags. We were assigned housing—most of us are in the round houses (tukuls) and the guys are in the square bungalow. After unpacking and sorting the kid’s books, surgical items, T-shirts, bags, etc., we were given a tour of the campus. Especially impressive were the experimental gardens—avocados, mangos, figs, olives, coffee, sweet potatoes, onions, tomatoes, kale, chard, and many more. The produce is used to serve the campus workers and volunteers and the excess is sold to provide financial support. In addition the crops that do well are then introduced into the community as healthy alternatives to some of the marginal food crops currently being used.
Dinner was a feast—fresh baked bread, lentil soup, chicken on rice and fresh salad. We have a full room with a total of 20 eating. Fresh roasted coffee was available as well as Ethiopian green tea. After dinner, we had a meeting with the Zondra, the long term volunteer, Lali—Marta and Deme’s son and the students working at Project Mercy and the volunteers working here from Princeton. We made tentative plans for tomorrow and plan to be at the hospital at 8:30 to start surgery. We are planning on running two rooms—one with the local surgeon and the other with our two surgeons. Our nurses will be busy working alongside the local staff. Our two anesthetists will keep the two rooms sleeping. Besides the surgical side, we talked about a number of other options for the team including sewing projects and teaching sewing, substitute teaching for two of the students that will be in Uganda several days while we are here, teaching English to 5th graders that are struggling to read—kids are taught in Amharic through the 4th grade and then switched to English in the 5th grade—more difficult for some, gymnastic classes (Amy volunteered), First Aid classes and eye exams for a number of students that are struggling with their vision.
Everyone is tired tonight so no Euchre, but everyone is relived to be here at Project Mercy and excited to start the day tomorrow.