India to Ethiopia -1968

I had spent five and a half months in India and my wife had joined me for the  last couple of months. We had been down in the south near Kerala, but flew to Delhi to pick up our visas for Ethiopia where we planned to work for many years.

We stayed in old Delhi and caught a taxi to go to the Ethiopian Embassy in new Delhi to get our visas for Ethiopia. Our taxi was passed by another taxi and our driver saw that as a cause for a race. On the road ahead we could see two ‘coolies’ carrying a telephone pole on some sort of towels on their heads. The other taxi went in front of them; instead of slowing down, to let them pass, our driver went between the two men under the pole! It taught me about what are sometimes called ‘telegram prayers’. 

Not that trip but an Indian taxi with our eldest son.

We got our visas stamped into our passports.

In the middle of the night a day or two later we very carefully prepared our stuff to travel to Ethiopia. Knowing that the weather in Ethiopia, arriving at about 8,000 feet above sea level, can be very cold (and also because of the weight) we wore our winter jackets, packed two very small cases for the two boys, each weighing maybe 2 kg, our own hand luggage to the allowed limit and our bags were within the weight limits. I can’t remember exactly but I think the boys didn’t get a normal allowance. At the counter, as we booked into the flight, we were ordered to take off our 4 jackets, both adults and children; put all our hand luggage on the scales, and of course then we were well overweight for the luggage travel allowance. We were charged US$70 (worth about US$520 today), given our coats back to wear and our hand luggage to carry and put on the plane! I was a bit ‘cheesed off’, but there was a sense in which we got our money’s worth. The plane had few passengers and we had enough seats for both parents to have 2 empty seats for the then small boys to lie down and sleep.

We arrived in Karachi and dozens of Chinese, on their way to Tanzania, began filing onto the plane. The hostess indicated for us to allow the boys to keep sleeping. The Chinese kept filing in, and the hostess kept signalling us to let the boys sleep. In the end the plane was full but with the boys occupying 2 seats each; and they slept almost all the way.

roughly the route taken

Leaving Karachi, we travelled at about the same speed as the rising sun moving from East to West, so that we had a beautiful view of the sun arising on the Arabian Peninsula Coastline for several hours, before turning south-west towards Addis Ababa. It was great to look down on the thousands of Australian gum trees which grow in abundance in Ethiopia. 

coming into land in Ethiopia

My cholera injection, given the time I had spent in India, was one day out of the six month expiry date. So while my wife and the boys passed through, and went to where we were to stay at the mission  headquarters. I was taken to quarantine. Fortunately I was able to discuss reasonably with a doctor there, who gave me a shot and I travelled to our place. Entering the room, my distressed wife threw her arms around me and stopped crying sad tears for joyous ones. The kids looked up from their lego, but did seem pleased to see me. 

Dominic Cartier

Pandemic Funerals

African sunset

Pandemic limitations have reduced the numbers at funerals, but have also made it possible to attend (or at least listen to) funerals without travel. In 1968 we arrived in Ethiopia. The man who had been station head at the time when I had to leave in 1973 for health reasons, had a funeral last Saturday in Canada. My wife and I attended the ceremony. Well, not quite, but we watched it on U-tube last night.

Seventy years earlier he had travelled by ship with two other young men for their first term of missionary service. So it was interesting to remember not only my contacts with the man who had died but also with the other two.

The dead man had married a beautiful lady and by the time we knew him had 4 children. He was a good leader, but what I remember most was that his youngest child, a daughter was about the same age as our oldest son. We had a platform type swing in the front of our place, and his daughter and our son used to, during school holidays (they both went to boarding school in Addis) stand at each end of plank, goggle eyed, swinging back and forth. Puppy love, I guess; nothing came of it.

Some years later I met him again in Addis. He had remained in Ethiopia in an Administrative role during the time of the communist rule. I visited during that time for the Australian division of the mission. I wanted to visit my old hospital but was forbidden. Everyone thought that it would cause a riot. But, I did need to do a bit of travel in Addis. I did not have an in-date Ethiopian licence. One of his sons, who had a licence, was out visiting him. So my friend offered his son as a driver. His licence had been obtained to drive automatic vehicles. All the vehicles available had stick gears. I’m glad that the traffic wasn’t as busy then as it is today. It was a scary ride, but we did arrive both ways without an accident.

I knew one of the other men quite well but the story is second hand. Much later he and his wife adopted a young Ethiopian girl. I can’t understand how but the Ethiopian officials allowed them out of the country without a Canadian visa for her. The other end wouldn’t let the child into Canada. The guy, nice but a bit pushy, unsuccessfully argued with them for quite a while, but eventually put the baby on the desk and began to leave. ‘OK, she’s your problem now’, he said.

baby

He was called back, some agreement was reached, and eventually everyone was happy.

The other guy with his wife who went with him on the same ship reminded me of a couple who were working on the Ethiopian-Kenyan border. There were poor roads, no phones, his wife as the only trained nurse in a nurses clinic on site; there was no other medical help available without travelling hours on terrible roads. They were so ‘out-on-a-limb’, distance wise and in political uncertainty, that the headquarters in Addis had  radio contact with them each morning and evening. And describing the roads as terrible, I mean terrible, unmade, ‘mud-slides’ and rivers with no bridges to be crossed.

clouds in mountains

Late one Saturday afternoon the husband complained of abdominal pain, his wife assessed him as having appendicitis. It was too late to fly a helicopter down but the decision was made to get everything set up for action in the morning. A helicopter was arranged, and everything was planned to be able to leave in the morning if he was still unwell. After the morning radio contact we would make a decision depending on what his wife thought. She was still worried, so another nurse, and I set out with sterile instruments, sterile disposable drapes, a spinal anaesthetic tray and a strong torch.

We had two alternative plans in place. If there was a fear that it was far progressed we would bring him back on the helicopter so that he could be watched in hospital in Addis, after surgery; or if it seemed the correct diagnosis but an early case we’d operate there and leave him in the care of his wife.

We travelled down at low altitude in a glass bottomed helicopter. It was soon after the civil war had ended and the people were frightened of low flying air machines. As we passed overhead, the men and their beasts out ploughing took off helter-skelter, often the men in one direction and the beasts in the other, still pulling their ploughs. I don’t know why the pilot flew low; it wasn’t funny for people on the ground; but it looked so from above! And when I say that we flew at a low altitude, what I should say was that we didn’t fly far above the ground. Ethiopia is mountainous so we had lots of ups and downs so as to not hit mountains. I guess we fluctuated between four and ten thousand feet, altitude wise.

table operation

At any rate I decided (correctly) that he had early appendicitis so I operated on him on the kitchen table, using a strong torch for light (held by the pilot) and under spinal anaesthesia. After surgery we watched him for a couple of hours, had lunch and returned to Addis. The next morning on the radio his wife was asked how he was getting on. She said that he was in the garden watering. She called out to him; he was happy and said ‘Thanks for making house calls.’

Pathology proved the diagnosis correct.

Dominic Cartier

King Jafir the second.

Most people know something about Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. One of his titles was King of kings. This is no reference to the Biblical title of Jesus whom Christians call King of kings, although Haile Selassie was an Orthodox Christian. The word king is defined as a noun meaning ‘a male sovereign or monarch; a man who holds by life tenure, and usually by hereditary right, the chief authority over a country and people.’ In many countries, however, there can be multiple kings. The term here is used to define a life-time position of authority over a group of people. Thus in Haile Selassie’s time there were many who were called kings. I, for instance, in southern Ethiopia have sat at a meal between the Buna king and an American Ambassador acting as the co-translator from the Buna king’s language to Amharic and then by me from Amharic to English. The king was there all powerful over his tribe even though by that time Ethiopia was a so-called democracy.

One of the kings under Haile Selassie was King Jafir II. His father King Jafir I introduced Islam into the Oromo people in the Jimma area of Ethiopia. The story as told from the Muslim and the Christian sides varies and isn’t of relevance to this article.

King Jafir II was born in 1861 and reigned as king 1878 to 1932. His palace although made out of mud still stands and is a major tourist site near Jimma. Unfortunately it is beginning to crumble.

Jafir photo
The king was a big man said to be over 7 feet tall.

Jafir window
The open window is suitable for the average sized person; the closed one was specially built for him to look out over his kingdom!

Jafir collage
On the left you see an Ethiopian teenager sitting on Jafir’s chair. In the centre is his super-duper king-size bed. And on the right a double minaret-ed mosque which is just outside the palace.

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The outside of the palace. It has many rooms in part at least because he had many children. I have not been able to find a family tree for him but as a Muslim he was entitled to as many as four wives and many important people had even more.

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Children’s rooms were upstairs and the courtyard below for their pleasure both for personal involvement (eg in swordsmanship) and for watching various contests and acts.

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Overlooking Jimma city from the palace. Jmma is one of the larger Ethiopian cities.

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Jafir was king of a very fertile countryside – famous as the homeland of coffee.

I enjoyed my visit there.

Dominic Cartier.

 

Old photos from Ethiopia.

I cannot boast of being a good photographer. Here are a few photos from the past with a bit of explanation. The first photo was taken through an airplane window. The smokiness is real in that without electricity every home has an open fire, and picture was taken early in the morning.

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Ethiopia has 70 percent of the mountains found in Africa.  The highest is Mount Dashen at 4543m (14930 feet). It also has one of the lowest and hottest places in the world. The Danakil depression is 125m below sea level.

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The north is also famous for its 11 churches, hewn out of rock. The place is called Lalibela, where an Ethiopian Emperor of that name set out to restore the region to Christianity after a Muslim invasion. The churches are outstanding, being of a single piece of rock! Some believe that English knights, fleeing from Jerusalem during the wars there, helped in the building. This is maybe supported by the inclusion of the English Tudor rose in so many of the carvings. Others say that, at night time, angels came and helped in the building.

 

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There are seven monasteries of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on Lake Tana from which the Blue Nile starts its journey into Egypt. Above is an example of the multitude of paintings painted  in typical Ethiopian style. They are found in abundance in these monasteries. Not in this painting which is of an angel watching over Mary and her Son but interestingly you see amongst the many paintings  two saints whom most of the churches don’t recognize. Kidus Pilatus (St Pilate) – sainted because he was the only one who sought to have Jesus released, when he was being tried before His crucifixion. Another called the Cannibal Saint, who supposedly loved eating human flesh but has been sainted because he gave a glass of water to a thirsty girl. The story is that Mary put her hand on the scales when he was being tried after his death.

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I don’t think they make the horses drink petrol, but these little carts are a very common form of transport in the countryside. Although the car per population ratio is low the car accident per number of cars is very high. One of, if not the highest, in the world.

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On a straight open bitumen road. Note the rocks placed to warn motorists. It doesn’t help if you are just topping a hill and the rocks start just over the top!  See lake Shalla in the distance – the deepest lake in Ethiopia. Its depth is 257 metres and its area 12X15 km.