Sunday, July 11, 2010

Back to Life, Back to Reality

It's our 5th day back in San Antonio and I'm having a hard time realizing that we were in Ethiopia less than a week ago! Although it sounds a bit cliche, I truly feel that I've grown from this experience. Never would have imagined that I would have the chance to go to the continent of Africa in my lifetime, let alone with 7 classmates for 3 weeks! Ethiopia is a beautiful country; specifically, the rural area around Aleta Wondo is quite tropical and lush. The capital city Addis Ababa is happening--international restaurants, internet cafes, bars, and clubs surrounded us. Poverty is present, but Ethiopians are a happy bunch regardless of socioeconomic status. Whenever we traveled, we heard shouts of "ferenje" meaning foreigners and "welcome to Ethiopia!" I never felt threatened or unsafe, but we had our reliable tour guide Negusse and a few big fellas on our team to protect us if needed. Working with my classmates allowed me to get a glimpse of being a physician--creating teams working towards a common goal. The eight of us had varying personalities that brought a fresh perspective to the table. Being in Ethiopia for 3 weeks allowed us adequate time to really feel comfortable around the people, language, and environment.

Looking back, I feel the trip has exceeded my expectations and goals; we were able to see healthcare in the capital by visiting Black Lion Hospital, CURE Hospital to watch orthopedic clubbed foot surgeries, ALERT Hospital specializing in leprosy treatment, and Luke Society Clinic serving the poor. In comparison, we saw the limited resources available in Aleta Wondo--there was a health clinic run by nurses and health attendants, but no physician available aside from private clinics.

Most importantly, I have learned much from and admire my teammates. Dr. Usatine did an incredible job of teaching as well as guiding our efforts. Team leader Katie Gong: nicknamed Cumem for spicy, bears the weight of the world on her shoulders, responsible, loving. Myra Liu: nicknamed for her calmness, she is caring, easy to talk to, wonderful roommate. Annie Lu: nicknamed konjito for her beauty (inside and out), she is our superwoman that gets the job done, a spiritual fortress. Josh Essel: nicknamed Joseph (for what reason I forget), great listener, kind and gentle. Wade Murray: nicknamed Demolash (Demolisher) because he looks like he can take you out, fun-loving, caring. Matt Murrell: nicknamed Tasfaye for 'my hope', compassionate, knowledgeable, and great at cheering us up. Edward Shipper: nicknamed Alemayo for 'one who sees the world,' brilliant and our comic relief. As for me, nicknamed Tsahai for 'sun,' I've been told that I have a gentleness that commands respect--not too shabby! =)

Thank you all for your support and prayers. God bless.

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