Living in Another Culture

I can’t vouch for the absolute truth of all of this, but a lot of people escaped from the Crusade wars in what is the Israel area of today, via a slightly circuitous route through Ethiopia. The evidence offered to support this ‘theory’ is twofold. Firstly, St George, the patron saint of England, is held in very high esteem in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Interestingly he is supposed to have died eight times and risen from the dead seven times. I don’t know of any scientific proof of this. Secondly there are many Tudor roses carved into the walls of the stone churches in the north. Many of the fleeing Crusaders, it is suggested, helped out in carving out these magnificent structures.

I suspect that some of these fleeing Crusaders tried to teach the Ethiopians some basic English words and mathematical terms. But I guess they either weren’t very good teachers or time has dimmed the past scholastic abilities. They remember the word ‘chin’ but now use it for the ‘thigh’ as we call the upper part of the lower limb. They remember the word ‘feet’ but have transposed the word to the other end of the body, and use it for the face. I’m pretty sure that they taught them also the other parts of the face, they almost got ‘eye’ correct and say ‘eyne’. They all know what their mouth is for but forgot the word for nose. This is where their maths lessons came into play. (I suspect some of the English may have been cockneys) so they named the nose ‘arfincha’ because it is an ‘alf an inch’ above the mouth. Sounds reasonable, but I’m not absolutely sure of the truth of it.

I did have a man whose lover bit off a large part of his nose, I guess that is maybe why we usually make love after a meal, so that people aren’t hungry. It was a 3 stage procedure to repair his nose. I’ve put a couple of pictures below the line. I also have a picture of a lower lip bitten off by a hungry lady. But I’ll save that for another day.

Continue reading “Living in Another Culture”

I need a restful break!

For several weeks now I have been working on thousands of slides which I’ve taken over the years and never got around to cataloging properly. I need a break, so I thought that I would show you a few sun scenes from where we live. The one which I always put at the top is from Ethiopia but the following are all from around our property where we live now in a place called Oak Valley. There is no touching up applied. Just as they were.

I could go on with more but I think that’s enough for today. I think the Creator is a Master Painter!

Dominic Cartier

How Big is Australia Really?

I’m proud to be an Australian but love the country of Ethiopia where I worked for many years. Maybe wrongly, but I have often thought that many people think of Ethiopia as a small insignificant African country. And, possibly again wrongly, I have felt that some Australian professional people have felt themselves superior to those working in these ‘backward countries’. I guess this sort of thinking sprang into my mind again when I was watching an Indian movie last night. How can India produce films as good as Hollywood? Well the one I watched last night was better (different) than many I see from the USA. Maybe because they have 1.4 billion people from whom to choose good actors? But let’s not go too far down that road.

Ethiopia is a small African country. It is about sixty percent of the size of Queensland, or about 4 times as big as Victoria. It has a population four times that of Australia. If you want to compare its history with Australia’s, it is much older. Well, if we accept ‘Lucy’ as being one of the first human being, then it is older than our Original Australian’s history, and much much older than white Australia. Their ruling dynasty which ended with the murder of Haile Selassie in 1975 dated back to the time of King Solomon in Israel. Solomon died over 3,000 years ago. Then why is it backward? I would offend Ethiopians by asking that for they are very, and in many ways justifiably, proud of their country and people. Certainly they are progressing much more rapidly than the West did!

It has spectacular beauty; said to have massive gold and oil deposits; heights extend from 125 metres below sea level to 4,550 metres; there are enough rivers that all its electricity is hydro-produced.

But I really started to write about tertiary education. In 1968 when we arrived in Addis there was one University with 1,000 students. Now there are 30 Universities plus 61 other recognized private places with Higher Education standards.

According to my Mr Google – our University in North Queensland (JCU) has 17,500 students. Of the two Universities, where I mainly taught, Jimma University has 45,000, and Arba Mintch has 34,000. When we went to Ethiopia there were 300 doctors in Ethiopia and only 13 were Ethiopians. When I went to Arba Mintch in 2011 there were there 20 medical students per year, and when I left in 2016 there were 170+/year. In that same year, country wide, they graduated 3,000 young doctors. They are paid so little that many as soon as the government permits them they leave the country for richer paying fields – often to other African countries.

The last graduation I attended for doctor, architecture and Urban Planning graduates.

Maybe life was never meant to be fair, but a little more fairness would be nice.

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

I couldn’t sleep

Counting sheep didn’t work. Playing games on the iPad only woke me up. I took 2 sleeping tablets – didn’t work. Asked God to let me nod off, but it only brought some old sayings which I love into my head. So here they are.

It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion.

Living lions are pretty majestic but dead what are they? Rotting carcasses, taxidermist specimens, mats on the floor or draped over someone’s shoulders to make them think they’re important. My dogs keep the wallabies out of the garden, lift up my hand when I’m trying to type to be patted. My wife says that I mustn’t feed them at the table but they put their heads on my thigh and look up so pleadingly. I guess Solomon may have had a deeper meaning about useless and useful living but I just think of my dogs – so many of them over the years, playmates as kids, guard dogs in Ethiopia, now just friends!

A nagging wife is worse than a dripping tap.

I’m so glad my wife doesn’t let the tap drip often. I guess living years ago Solomon got away with his sexist proverb! I love the story of the American Indian who called his wife ‘Three Horses’. Eventually someone asked him why that name. ‘It’s simple’ he replied ‘nag, nag, nag!’

I had a Rumanian Plastic surgeon with whom I did lots of deformed chest surgery (pidgeon and sunken chests etc.) He had 2 sayings which I will never forget. He had escaped across the iron curtain.

  1. Doctors are like horse manure – spread them out thinly and they fertilize the community, put them in a heap and they breed worms and stink. Remember I’m a retired doctor but the fees some specialists charge these days make me angry.
  2. People think dying is the worst thing that can happen, but failing to do what you know you should is much worse! I tie this in with a statement of Jim Elliot, who died doing what he thought he should and his death achieved great results. He said He is no fool to give that which he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose’.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and prove that you are! I think one needs to earn the right to talk about certain things. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote ‘you talk about your faith, I’ll show you mine by the way I live.’ Talking is necessary but can be so hollow!

Almost every night I get an SMS message from one of my sons I love you dad!’ and all my kids are very caring and expressive of their love. I fell to sleep, hearing softly in my mind, as my prayer was eventually answered, ‘And I love you son!’.

Dominic Cartier