My 101st Heated Stew attempt.

Our small church has two congregations. At 9AM we have a service for mainly older white people, you might label us a ‘dying’ church. But we do have an outreach into India, South Africa and Ethiopia where people from an overseas church which was disrupted have scattered to other places. The outreach is by the internet. Then we have a much younger Indian congregation which meets at about 10.30 for a service and then an all age Sunday School. Once a month we have commenced a combined service with communion. Today was the first such combined service.

You might wonder what a dog staring at a Television set has to do with church services. I’ve written about my dogs before. Sadly they are both dead, euthanized, because they got into my sheep and started killing them. Here is Liesel staring very intently up at a very colourful, very active packed scene. What is she thinking? How is she reacting? I talk to animals, I may be even more stupid as I sometimes talk to myself. They recognize expressions, they respond to moods but I don’t know what they are thinking. I guess when I talk to myself I can tell myself what I’m thinking!

So what has that got to do with church this morning? The Indian adults, although from a different background have been in Australia for long enough to understand our ways of thinking. But I wondered what the kids thought. Their church services are in their own tongue, Malayalam, and this morning was the first time some children have been in an adult English speaking service. The kids’ English is good, but there are real differences in styles of worship.

In the morning tea afterwards I called one of the little kids to talk to me. He was a bit shy and his older brother came to guard him. He’s in grade 1. So I asked him if he could add up. ‘Yes’, he said. I asked him to add up 1+1, then 2+2, then 6+3 and he got them all correct. I saw him counting on his fingers. I knew that kids in grade one don’t deal in thousands so I asked him to add up 6 thousand and 3 thousand. He looked at me with his head on an angle to the side, thought for a moment and said nine thousand. So I asked him if he knew subtraction. The bigger brother said that his little brother hadn’t learnt that yet. So I told him, the older brother, to let his brother try to answer. So I asked 2-1, then 4-2, then 9-6 and he got them all correct. I then asked what if he took 4,000 from 10,000. And sharp as a tack he told me 6,000. For you and me very easy, but I thought for a grade one boy, that was excellent.

I wonder what people think and how much they understand when a church service is going on. The Indian children sat perfectly well behaved – not a noise out of place. But how much did they or any of us hear of the prayers, the songs, the preaching, the communion? I guess it will be told in the way we live our lives this week.

Please note the small skateboard under the table, in the dog picture above. It hasn’t been used for many years. The small boy seen below playing below with two of my grandchildren was run over by a train and lost both legs and an arm. We were allowed to bring him to Australia for medical help but not permitted to adopt him. He used the skateboard and the little ‘do-dad’ in front of him in the picture below to get around. He is now a University student in the USA. We still correspond but I’d love to see him face to face before I die!

He used to love sitting in front of the TV, conducting Andre Rieu as he watched a DVD.

The day I first met him he was about to be discharged to be a beggar on the streets of Ethiopia. I brought him home that evening and it was the beginning of a long friendship. He knew no English, but we had Amharic as a common language. I asked him if he had to get up to pee at night. He said ‘no’. I asked because I knew it would either mean a wet bed or me getting up to carry him to the loo. Then I asked him if he ever woke up screaming at night after the accident. I was surprised and delighted when he replied ‘There is a God in Heaven and I have left it in His hands.’ He was somewhere between 8-10. It was drizzling rain and, on a dirty road, I kept having to use the windscreen wiper and following behind other vehicles when the rain stopped I had to use the water spray jets to clean the window. I tested him when he asked where the water came from. He had never been in a car. I told him that there were two little boys under the hood and I would give them a little electric shock and they would pee for me. I kept a straight face. He looked worried for a moment and then burst out laughing. ‘Now, tell me the truth!’ I knew we would get on well, and we still do.

People can think! It’s what they do with what they’ve learned that counts!

Dominic Cartier.

What’s in a picture? Memories

I certainly didn’t expect to see this picture when I opened my computer this afternoon. But there it was straight in front of me.

It’s not the best quality picture but it holds lots of memories.

  • Our only daughter was born when we were home on furlough in Australia but then we returned to our work in a mission hospital, where I was a surgeon. For our daughter’s sake I had better not tell which year it was, as ladies are so conscious of their ages. It was however well over 40 years ago. She is as lovely and beautiful a daughter as anyone could wish for.
  • The young man, a late teenager, was employed as a gardener but took on the role of her constant carer and companion. He loved her heaps.
  • One morning he arrived late for work and we asked if he had had his breakfast. He hadn’t, so we asked him to eat with us. We were having fried tomatoes and onions on toast. He ate it all but then said something I will never forget. ‘You foreigners don’t like all our food. Now I understand why. That was terrible.’ Innocent lovable honesty.
  • He had tuberculosis of his neck glands that responded to treatment’
  • We attended his marriage some years later. He has a lovely wife and beautiful children. Sadly one shortly after graduating from University died.
  • He’s still alive but has known tribal persecution and suffered several major health problems, but is still a man I’m delighted to call a friend.

All that flashed through my mind from just seeing a poor quality old photo. I loved the kid, loved the man and his family and still even in his relative old age think very fondly of him.

Dominic Cartier

Making the Cross meaningless…

Sometimes I dream and it is surprising the odd things which pass through our imaginations when dreaming. I had a dream…

As someone who doesn’t like war I dreamed what gimmick I could popularize to make it so that we can still have a holiday on ANZAC day but not have the soldiers all marching around dressed up as if they idolize the concept of fighting, and the old ones reliving those times of past wars with the terrible loss of life and destruction of property. Supposedly the wars won peace and now we have a world with no more fear of further such horrible world events as WWs I & II. In my dream when I sit and think it seems to all be glorifying a falsehood, for there are new wars beginning somewhere around the world every day.

ANZAC DAY 2016 in Addis Ababa – the Ceremony
The watching Crowd.

I think that I might choose a Koala. They are not particularly aggressive, they look so cuddly. I’m sure that we could teach them how to have tasty cupcakes, instead of normal koala babies. Their babies could have all sorts of flavours and toppings. And possible I could get big businesses to get involved and make chocolate koalas and surely with their inventiveness to make profit and to take away the horrible thoughts of war. They maybe could make little ‘ANZAC cakes’ with a machine gun included into the icing.

Then I, in my dream, ponder. Quietly an angelic little beastie sits on my left shoulder and whispers in my ear – for a minute I hear the point of the celebration and its significance for our nation. ‘Don’t be stupid’, the figure says ‘and ruin something not perfect but basically good and very significant.’

And no sooner they speak I feel the hooves of a caricature dressed in red tights and with horns on their head and a pitch fork on my other shoulder. ‘Go on do it, try it! You’ll probably make yourself a fortune! Look at Easter – they have rabbits, delivering painted eggs! The chocolate factories are on the bandwagon and make a fortune in ridiculously priced chocolate shells covered with brightly coloured foil. Remember they have made little cakes and drawn a couple of lines across it and call it a cross. People wouldn’t buy it if they didn’t put the real meaning of Easter into it somewhere! Go to, boy! I think you’re on a winner!’ ‘Think back on past Easter days, you will see the kids hunting the bushes for chocolate eggs and the nearby churches nearly empty! Go on, you can do it.’

The Old Rugged Cross

And I wake up. I have choices to make in the real world. What will I do this Easter season and on Anzac Day in a few weeks? But don’t forget it is your life; you are only responsible for yourself. Happy Easter.

Dominic Cartier

Giving a lift in the countryside.

Do you ever watch ‘Morse’ on Television? Have you noticed that the main actor Morse (John Thaw) has a ‘dropped foot’ on the right? As a doctor you tend to spot diseases. And one day I saw this guy standing on the road side.

Taken on the road to Jimma in this picture you can see a lot.
  • The gum trees came from Australia.
  • You can deduce that we are driving on a high plain and in the distance, after a valley unseen for the cloud that fills it, is another mountain range. Going to Jimma from Addis you pass through several mountain range.
  • The ground looks fertile.
  • The old man isn’t standing up very straight. His knees are bent and his crutches don’t go up to fit nicely under his arms.
  • He’s obviously thumbing a ride. I can’t see a house anywhere near, and he is not at a designated bus stop. So I wonder how long he’s waited and to where does he want to go. It’s a long hard walk to any clinic in the area.

Either he’s got a bad medical practitioner who doesn’t know how to set up his crutches correctly or he’s got some nasty orthopaedic problem. His knees are bent; his back is bent over, but if they both were straightened out his crutches would be long way too short. I am most unlikely to know his language as this is a different tribal area. He looks a bit scruffy – see that patch on his knee? He probably has a different scent but most likely BO. I think we could make room for him but the kids would have to be squashed up. We’re in a bit of a hurry, and someone says ‘we’re running late already’. Look carefully – he is human. Wife says ‘well, are you going to give him a ride?’ Should I have?

Dominic Cartier.

Looking at a picture..

You can wander through your photos and think different things…..

  • Why did I take that?
  • I can’t remember what that was!
  • Weren’t we stupid to do that.
  • I wonder where they are now? etc
There are no other nasty pictures to follow and this is just a little six week old baby boy.

This photo takes me back over a lifetime of medical practice.

The past…As a first year intern in Adelaide, in the days when specialists were not as plentiful, I was sidelined into being a temporary anaesthetic registrar for six months to cover a shortage. It would be not even an option in this day of many more available people. But it gave me the opportunity to have a hands on experience which has served me well throughout my years of practice as a surgeon. Almost all of my time in Ethiopia I had to give/supervise all of my anaesthetics when I was the surgeon. So for chests and abdomens, orthopaedic and urological procedures the responsibility for the anaesthetic lay with me. Sometimes I even had to unscrub and deal with a problem before getting back to the operation. And tiny babies are a special problem; this boy was vomiting and needed to have his abdomen opened. I was, once the child (everyone knew that he was a boy, in spite of the troubles which politicians seem to have these days!) was properly anaesthetised going to leave the management at the head end to a cleaner. The length of the trachea in which the tube had to stay was only a couple of centimetres long – if it moved up he couldn’t be breathed for; if it went in too far, one of his lungs and maybe even one and a half of his lung capacity would be blocked off! I can remember my years of specialist surgical training; I can remember leaving my parents and siblings for a life in a land with, to me, a variety of unknown languages and a totally different culture.

The present….Here was the first born son a young family whom they had watched for a couple of weeks as he vomited everything they fed him and they were afraid that he would die. They were unsure if they could trust this young foreign white man, in their eyes an infidel. But they came and all their hopes were hanging on this moment.

The future…He survived and they were very, very happy. But here I have to let my mind float away into the ether. What sort of education did he get; is he married; did he become a good boy and make wise choices; is he a blessing or a curse to those around him. But that is the future of every patient you treat – some you get to follow and know, others are just passing in the night. Do you wonder why I like looking at the photos on my computer?

Dominic Cartier