27.07.2016 16 °C
Yesterday was St Gabriel's Day. There is some complicated system in the hospital where each 'suburb' of Barhirdar is assigned a Saint and the nurse or midwife living in that particular suburb hosts the celebration lunch for their Saint. It was Amaled the theatre nurse who had the privilege this time. Luckily it was a quiet day as, at exactly midday, almost every staff member piled into the ambulance for the journey to Amaled's house. Somehow we managed to fit in 17 people! It was a short but thrilling trip with everyone chatting away excitedly.
On arrival we were ushered into the house, washed our hands and lined up for an enormous plate of amazing Ethiopian food. I am now very comfortable eating without utensils although I'm still not as efficient or neat as the locals. Everyone was offered homemade beer. Now I'm not a beer drinker at the best of times but......this was one of the worst things I have ever tasted! Fortunately many locals also don't like it so it was acceptable to not finish.
Seconds were offered then we were all ushered out to wash our hands and hop back into the ambulance. It was all over in about 1/2 hour! As we left, many more people were arriving. It is the custom that whenever such a celebration occurs, all the neighbours are automatically invited and anyone else who happens to pass by is encouraged to 'drop in' (including the poor and homeless). I am blown away by the generosity of these beautiful people.
This afternoon the staff put on a goodbye gathering for me at the hospital. For some reason I don't understand, it was a 'tea' ceremony rather than a 'coffee' ceremony. The process started with a prayer then I had to cut this massive cake while they clapped. The Administrator made a speech to thank me for my work and then I had to reply. This was very difficult and Marjolein had warned me that it is not polite to show emotions. I struggled but managed to say a few words without falling apart. I think I might have promised to return!
It was then time to eat again. Part of the ceremony involves eating popcorn! I would love to know the origin of this - no one has been able to explain. You may recall I brought several huge bags of lollies with me for the trip. I actually (surprisingly) didn't eat them all so took the remainder to the ceremony. The staff had clearly never seen or tasted anything like this but loved them. At one point, one of the midwives was looking quizzically at a jelly snake. She was trying to work out what it was and then someone obviously suggested it might be a penis. Suddenly the place erupted with raucous laughter - everyone got their own snake and there were a lot of rather suggestive movements going on to fits of hysterics. And then they discovered the jelly babies.......they must really think we Australians are odd!
I had a quiet evening, packing and drinking a glass of wine with Marjolein. She had to go into work for a short time and returned with this gorgeous note for me:
How could I resist? I went into the hospital to visit them one last time. They were SO excited, gave me huge hugs and thanked me for coming. One of the patient's husbands took a photo of us.
My last night was interrupted by the most spectacular Ethiopian thunderstorm. I seriously don't know how some of the houses survive! On waking this morning, I was without power but 15 minutes before I was due to leave, it suddenly appeared and I quickly had a (hot!) shower. I even managed to have a final coffee....
Solomon picked me up in the ambulance and off we sped to the airport. It was a fascinating time to be on the road - so many people and animals (and the occasional car).
OK, so maybe there needs to be one more post!