Please -Forgive the Absence!

I’ve been remiss lately hardly even opening up my blogs. And I want to say why.

I haven’t even had time to comb my hair!

There has been the pressure of meeting the deadlines for publishing my two ebooks. At last they are in the publishers’ hands and due to open for sales in the next few days. They are published through Smashwords.com. They are – ‘Have Scalpel will Travel – memoirs of an older surgeon – revised and updated’ & ‘Medical Diagnostics a Surgical Approach’. The second is definitely medical with pictures.

Then we are not quite prepared for our pregnant ewes to lamb and have a shed and yards to complete in the next few days.

There was a granddaughter’s wedding to attend about 1,500 km away. We drove but whereas once we could do it in a long day it now takes three days. So we were away a week.

We got a broken car window and with all the bits they add into the glass these days it meant a wait of several weeks for the correct glass to be found and a second trip to have the bits tuned up. Now it is much better than looking through cracks!

Then in the last couple of weeks I’ve had a preaching appointment on zoom to India and Ethiopia, another at a church whose minister has just resigned and this weekend in our own church. Our church has a new man arriving in January, we having been without a Minister for a while.

The house restoration is looking good, but the place needs painting! So all I can say is please forgive my tardiness!

Dominic Cartier

What’s cooking?

Some of you older ones will remember the coupons which allowed your family to buy food during and after World War II. I was still pretty young (5) when the war ended so I don’t remember all the details but if you had a slice of bread it often had fat (lard) from the cooking plus some salt and pepper; you could have butter or jam but not both on your bread; special desert was a jam tart which you were allowed to help your mother cook.

(If you note a lot of spelling mistakes it is because my dog is insisting on putting her paws on my shoulder and licking my ear!)

Back to cooking. I remember when we got a coupon allowing us to get some rice – for instance. Basically we ate a very plain meat, potatoes and vegetable diet with very occasional desert. Somehow at Christmas they seemed to go overboard with lots of lonely old people from around the district and a plethora of delicious food.

Then as a medical student I went into National Service. We weren’t allowed to join the medical corps and I was a cook. So I can tell you that maggots float to the top when meat is boiled and scooped off and there is still good meat to serve the troops – while you (the cook) opened a tin of preserved fruit for yourself. It was good training as my wife doesn’t like cooking much.

So then I went to India where the food was so spicy I wondered why they didn’t just serve up the coals. I got used to it but I remember going to a wedding where the food was so spicy that hardly anyone ate much. I asked why for a wedding it was made so spicy and was told that it allowed them to invite lots of guests. I lost about 20 kilos in my 6 month stay in India.

On arriving in Ethiopia they use different spices. In India spices were hot in the mouth; in Ethiopia they were hot both ends – entering and leaving. Graciously the people who knew us toned it down for we foreigners. But it did give me a taste for more than what we had as kids.

Coming up to date, I want to give you a marinade sauce recipe. I sold some land to a neighbour who still owes me money (they are very faithful in their payments) but who kill their own pigs and cattle and sheep. They send us gifts sometimes. We are very thankful for it but it really isn’t quite as tender as you buy in the shop – but as a gift much cheaper!

So I’ll share with you my mixture to make it more tender and which still reminds me of some of my Indio-Ethiopian past. I know you’re supposed to measure everything exactly but I excuse myself by saying I do it to taste. So what you’re getting is approximate.

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of English mustard powder.
  • about 3/4 cup of tomato paste
  • 2 overflowing tablespoons of honey or brown sugar
  • 2-3 dessert spoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 dessert spoons of ABC thich sweet soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons of hot spicy SRIRACHA hot spicy chili sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste.

I mix it all up and if the meat is suitable (eg chops) marinate in the fridge for some hours. Then cook the meat in it. If I think the meat is going to be very tough I use a slow cooker and boil up my mixture separately and use it as a gravy/sauce.

None of us have died; one likes me to limit the tomato paste a bit, but they keep coming back for it!

You might like it spicier, then add some ground chilli – which I tend to do if we have Ethiopian visitors.

Dominic Cartier

Too busy with sheep!

I’ve been so busy that I have hardly opened my computer for days! For ages we’ve been trying to buy some dorper sheep. I’m too old to do much but as the government won’t give me a pension I have to do something to justify the small acreage that I own – that is, to make insurance etc payments tax deductible!

After several months of asking around, last week we had a call saying that someone, living a bit more than 500 km away was prepared to sell us some.

Our son who lives with us, and acts as both a carer (non-government) for us and the place got around to build crates to fit the back of a borrowed vehicle and a hired trailer.

You can see the one on the truck.

Then there was a family discussion as to whether or not they would allow this old man to make the trip. I won out in that I went; they won out insisting that we made it a two day trip. As I slept most of yesterday, the day after we got back, they were probably correct. But I enjoyed it.

The destination was Aramac. Torrens creek is about halfway.

The road from home to the township of Torrens Creek is up through low mountains, mainly cattle country but with many trees and typical of the area we live in.

From Torrens Creek it is flat, almost treeless and somewhat boring! We saw four varieties of kangaroos – Greys and big reds; dead and alive. At the pub where we ate supper we were chatting to a kangaroo shooter who kills them, then refrigerated takes them for the meat market. He was telling me that the government has stopped them shooting greys as there are so few. That was not our impression. We saw about 60 or 70 live animals waiting to jump in front of the vehicle and about half were greys. We also saw several groups of emus.

Aramac has in the area only about 300 people. There are according to the write up on Internet many nearby associated interesting things to do. We went one day arriving after dark and left the next morning as soon as the sheep were loaded. Maybe we’ll have to make a longer trip some time but the sheep were our prime concern.

The owners were lovely people. As you can see they had a pet goat who considered herself very much a part of the family.

After a seven hour trip we arrived home to a setting sun.

so we had to hurry and get the sheep off.

Next morning they remained a tight knit group, but seemed happy enough.

They look scraggly, but you don’t shear dorpers – they shed their wool. They are apparently good meat producers and the ewes lamb twice per year, with a fairly high incidence of twins apparently. we’ll see I guess. Thus we have 12 pregnant ewes and a young ram.

Dominic Cartier

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