Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 28, 2009

Still having trouble with time and awoke at 2:30. It was very noisy outside with people on the street yelling, and roosters, donkeys, and dogs all making their respective noises and again with the prayer songs being broadcast over loud speakers at about 5 am .

We left to have breakfast and I called home briefly on Evan's phone to see how the computer problem is. Things seemed to be going better with that but another problem with other things. It makes me feel helpless to be so far away.
The next destination was another set of plots outside of town. My first impression was how dark the soil was.  It looked similar to how black our soil in Idaho is after a rain only this soil on top was dry. It was somewhat a sandy loam. The soil was of the type that most would love to have in their garden. I hope when we travel to Robe abd Goba, the soil will be as nice.
The grain trials were the same varieties as the day before and the best grains seemed to be the six row barleys such as “Millennium.: As for the hard red spring wheat the best performer was a variety named “Buck Pronto”. Some pests on other varieties were apparent such as rust and termites on the roots which I have never seen before.

As at previous plot sites, there were several local agronomist people who were there to be with us. They all stated their education and specialty and very eager to be with us. I find the Ethiopians to be very humble people; very nonthreatening, always willing to help and serve us and willing to receive any advice we were willing to give.  The next destination was a Dept. of Agriculture facility that included a resource building similar to where a county agent might work. They had a library room with some tables and desks and in the corner there was a small bookshelf with a small collection of agricultural books, mostly in English. They recognized that it was small and asked for help of how they might add to their collection.There were adjacent buildings that we toured. Next was a repair/machine shop. They had a couple of government vehicles getting dusty and told us they needed repair but didn’t know how to fix them. They told of countless others through- out the country that were inoperable and in bad need of mechanics.

We went inside the machine shop where there was a large lathe, band saws, drill presses, welders, and other machine tools. Thy told us that most of what they have had broken and missing parts and unsure of how to fix them. They have been given the duty from the central government to design and develop equipment that would help agriculture in their country. Because of their limitations they were only making such things as poor designed wheel barrows with which to carry crops from small fields, small burners for villagers to cook their food on. The most productive item I felt was a little grain and sorghum thresher of the sizes that were operated by hand or small motor. They would sell them to someone in a village that would use it on his own crop then rent out to others. The design and structure would be thought of as substandard by most in the US. It was the same story in their wood shop building with broken down equipment with no knowledge of how to repair it. Lloyd, after recognizing their dilemma stepped up and said that he has a brother at home that is handy at repairing such equipment and to write down the make and model numbers and he would  see what he could do. We later thought that it might be beneficial to have Paul Morrell send someone over to help them in these matters and that it would bolster our relationship with government. I left with such a sad feeling that their agency was in such sad shape and how in the world could the people of Ethiopia’s lives improve any time soon. I had the feeling that they were looking at us in humility for any help we could give.
We then went back to town to get some lunch after which I separated early to go to an internet café next door but it was closed for some reason. Our driver Andu, was patiently waiting outside in the shade on a chair so I went to visit with him. We talked about little things and he said he was married with an 18 month child and really didn’t like large cities and he wants to live in a small town. He asked if I was familiar with the American show ”Small Village” and that would be the ideal town in which to live. To live on a small farm in quaint little town was the perfect place. At first I did not know the show of which he spoke but soon realized he was talking about “Smallville”. I laughed and assured him that isn’t quite how it is in small town USA but that our small towns are usually far better than the large cities. He said he liked shows and movies that weren’t full of sex and violence but were more uplifting. That was a breath of fresh air coming from a young man over here. In our travels the last couple of days we have talked a little bit of the church. Amsalu was given a Book of Mormon in Oromo language by Evan on a previous trip to Ethiopia and he asked if it were possible to get one in English because though he is more fluent in speaking Oromo he is more literate in English and that he would very much like to attend church with us on Sunday. Well the three of us Mormon white boys in the back seat couldn’t help give each other the “wide eyed stunned” look. Lloyd told him he had a copy to give him back at Addis and would be happy to take him to church. Amsalu is a very intelligent man of 49 years with a wife and two children, 14 and 17. He is well read and enjoys reading self books. He asked if we had ever heard of one an author of several books that he enjoyed reading by the name of Stephen Covey. He was impressed to know that he was Mormon. He thought that we might know him and that it would be great to invite to Ethiopia to speak. Evan and Lloyd quickly said they had never met him and that would be a tall task. Well of course I had to tell them of time I went to West Yellowstone to church and we sat together on a bench and became “best buds”. Well maybe a little exaggeration on the “best buds” but thought it might not be too impossible. I have really grown to enjoy Amsalu. I feel there are many more like him that are smart, humble and ready to hear the gospel and that more than anything will bless this country. I think our influence here is underestimated with much potential.

We couldn’t make it all the way to Addis so we stayed in the same motel as two nights before. As we sat at inner Amsalu had to discuss the hardships of raising teenagers and we had a good discussion about balance of our children’s agency, a very interesting discussion.

October 27, 2009

In the morning we arose and had breakfast at the café next to the motel;  the same place as we ate last night. They knew we were coming so they put a lot into our breakfast. They served us omelets, cheese melted on ham (I think it was cheese & ham), bread with an assortment of marmalade, natural honey, and even a chocolate butter spread. They served us orange juice that was some of the best I have ever tasted, very sweet. The meal was really quite good. We loaded up into the land cruiser and left.
The scenery changed to beautiful green hillsides which were farmed as best they could.

Sorghum fields were most prevalent which were very tall. They prefer tall varieties because they put the stalks to use for feed, building huts and burning for fuel. Other crops included coffee, teff, maize, some papaya and even banana trees. Another plant grown in this region is a plant called “chat”. It has green leaves that are chewed on and it is a hallucinogen that is valuable to sell to some Arab countries which they use in lieu of alcohol. We are on our second day from Addis and still no sign of any mechanized equipment used in fields. Huts with pointed thatched roofs became common.

Other family structures included homes with the dimensions of a common rectangular home but the walls were made of branches plastered with animal dung and straw. People with goats, oxen drawn carts, women carrying things on their head lined the road. We were in and out of small villages.

Our driver was honking and weaving through them in an un-courteous way. I tried to see of we could go a quarter mile without passing a pedestrian and could not. The terraced hillsides started to remind of what it might look like in Vietnam or those type areas with lush green valleys and low clouds making their way across. It was a pleasant surprise to see such vegetation in what most people think of as an arid drought ridden country. The view went on for miles and miles. We did not have a map to tell where we were and tried to get Amsalu to explain on paper but they really could not. With no road signs etc., I wondered how they knew where to go and the driver said all he had to do was ask someone which way to turn when the road divided. They must have a lot of faith in their countrymen.

We finally arrived at the first government run test plot area. It was somewhat primitive but looked similar to those in the state. There were workers there and many children there who new we were coming. The children wanted to see the Foreinges, (not sure of spelling but sounds like “for-en’-jays”), which means foreigners. I’m sure we were the first Caucasians that many of them have seen. They came close but as soon as I would speak they would scatter as if afraid. They may not have ever heard a different language from a man. As we took pictures they were very much entertained to see themselves in the viewer of the camera.

The plots looked interesting. The soil looked rich and red similar to some I have seen in Hawaii. There were barley, wheat, and other type plots. Most grain varieties grown here were brought over by Evan Maxfield from Utah State University and other common varieties grown in the Idaho-Utah area. They were replicated and we got a pretty good idea of which varieties faired best. It looked obvious that our varieties outperformed the local varieties. Some of the varieties I can remember include, Jefferson, Alturas, Winchester, Baroness. We saw our first tractor there which was a near new Claas, a German made row crop type tractor of about 100 horse power with a cab and four wheel drive. Other crops tested there were various forage types, Coffee, teff, and even banana trees which were bearing after only three years.

We then left for a long ride to Harar, ET. The scenery suddenly changed soon before Harar to a much more arid and rocky terrain. We got into cell phone coverage that Evan could call out on. It would be almost 8:00 am at home so I finally got that call home through Evan’s phone. All Shelley and I had time to talk about was that her computer crashed and can’t get email etc. We then lost contact and then Evans phone went dead needing a recharge.

We got to the best hotel in town (which is not saying much) to spend the night. Relatively clean but... .
We do have electricity and our own bathroom. Water runs at a trickle. We had a nice meal at a relatively nice restaurant with a fancy waiter, clothnapkins, etc. It was Lloyds 40th birthday and thought we’d go all out. The menu was impressive. It had a large variety good looking food. I ordered lamb chops, they later came and said “sorry no lamb”, how about the sirloin steak, the waiter later came back “sorry no sirloin” , filet mignon? “yes I think we have that”, then again came back “sorry no filet mignon”. How about chicken? “Sorry”, so what do you have? “Peppered steak”, ok peppered steak it will be. We had a good laugh. It was actually really good and only cost the equivalent of $2.80/meal.

There was in Internet café just outside the restaurant so I dropped an e-mail home. Internet is painfully slow here in Ethiopia. Blogging is not only impossible but not permitted due to clogging bandwidth.
October 26, 2009

The jet lag effect had me awake at 4:00 a.m. After tossing and turning, I decided to get up and write an e-mail home but couldn’t get the hotel wireless internet to work. The next best thing was to write the e-mail message in my MSWord program which would be sent later.

At approximately 5:30 a.m. there was a Muslim sounding singing chant that came over a loud speaker not far from the Hotel. It went on and on for over an hour. It sure made know that I was in a foreign country.

At around 7:00 I got up and went to the hotel dining area where they had a breakfast buffet. There I joined Lonnie, Mark, and the retired USU professor ( I can’t remember his name). They gave me a tip on getting on the internet so off I went to send an email, but was still not sure if it sent. Came back to breakfast. The
buffet had many different things that were foreign to me. I just had that that was familiar. I then finally met Lloyd who is the brother of Lonnie. He runs the LDS church farm ground in Pocatello and has agreed to help part time.

The day was not yet planned for sure due to other factors. There was to be a three day tour of ag related destinations in Ethiopia for Evan, Lloyd, and me. Our guide was to be a representative of Ethiopia Department of Ag. Before the tour, I decided to go with Wes, Joe Morrell, and Mark to check on cell phones and see the John Deere dealership. We got a taxi and had a wild ride through town. It was interesting to see Addis in the daylight. There was much building going on with scaffolding along side buildings made of wood branches. There were hundreds of little stores lining the streets. People were wandering all over. Every time we had to stop for traffic there was always a beggar who would come to the window. They would motion to their mouths and stomachs and hold out their hand. The driver would scoot along and it would happen again at the next stop light. It was very sad to see. We eventually made it to the JD dealership but could see that it had moved. It was so strange that a dealer ship would be down a narrow dirt road/street.  It still had a partial sign up. I took pictures. We went to the Ethiopian home of Paul Morrell to get the cell phones. It was pretty nice place. I was told that it was rented for about $3,000/month. Much to my chagrin there was no cell phone waiting for me. I guess I’ll have to wait.

We then went back to the Hotel where Evan, Lloyd and Amsalu were ready to go on the trip. I checked out and we jumped into a rented Land Cruiser, chauffeured by a young man, Aldu, and off we went. Leaving the populated parts of the city we saw miles of rickety shacks containing merchants and a multitude of people walking the sides of the road. We headed east and it turned in to country side where we started to see fields of teff; the seed that they make engera out of. It looked like fine grass that had velvety looking heads.

We got to a higher altitude where it appeared rocky with lava rock. We happened to see a Gazelle not far from the road and later a hyena that had been hit by a car. I didn’t know they had hyenas here. Goats became common as well as herds of camels much to my surprise. There was even a recent accident of a large truck that had plowed into a herd with a few camels still lying under its wheels, quite a sight. Our driver motored through it so fast I did not get a picture. Camels are not wild here so any that are seen here are owned. I wished I could get video of the camels and finally saw a herd along the road. I rolled down the window and tried to take a video but it was getting too dark to see. Suddenly I heard a No! No! from a herdsman. He quickly came over and held out his hand and was chattering about something that I couldn’t understand. Our guide said he wants money from you for taking a picture of his camels. It was an awkward situation because I knew I didn’t get any video because it was too dark. But what persuaded us to pay was his AK47 hanging from his shoulder. Evan reached over and gave him 10 Birr (about a $1) then sped off. He yelled at us because he thought it wasn’t enough but we were out of there.

We arrived in a small town and got simple motel rooms and ate close by. I had my first experience of eating engera, bread made from teff then fermented for days. It definitely was sour. Also had spicy chicken soup and goat tibbs which are chunks of goat meat with mushrooms and onions. It was not bad. Everything has a lot of curry and other hot spices. I am going to have to get used to this food.

We were far from Cell phone service and internet and had yet to contact Shelley. The window of time to communicate is limited because we are 9 hours apart.  I went to bed because I was too tired.

My First Trip to Ethiopia

Oct. 24, 2009

My First Trip to Ethiopia

The flight from Idaho Falls, ID was to depart at 7:00 a.m. After gathering everything together and thinking and re-thinking of anything that I might have overlooked of what I might need to go to Ethiopia for four weeks I was ready to go.  Shelley drove me down at 5:00 am. The airport was somewhat busy but things went quickly. I gave Shelley a big hug and off I went. The first stop was in Denver then switched planes to Washington DC Dulles where I had a 5 hour layover. While there I  met up with Wes Haws, his wife Alyssa and their 6 month old boy Everett. Soon thereafter we were joined by Paul Morrell’s brother Joe and son in-law Mark. We boarded the plane and were assigned separate seats.  I sat next to a nice young man by the name of Zirihuan. He has been working and going to school in Minneapolis and was returning home to Ethiopia for six weeks. I enjoyed conversing with him learning some about Ethiopia. I got his E-mail address and his phone number and he said to call if needed.  We were on the plane for about 15 hours with a 45 minute stop in Rome, Italy. We were all anxious to get off when we arrived in Addis Ababa.  Ethiopian Airlines wasn't  bad,  but I doubt it will win any awards soon. After getting off the plane we had to get our visa, it only cost $20 and wasn't much of a hassle. The authorities looked and acted professional. After that we went through customs which was interesting. There were several x-ray machines that our luggage had to go through. Nightmares went through my head of being interrogated by authorities about something they might find suspicious. There was a very large crowd of families waiting to reunite with their loved ones. There was an anxiousness to get through the line, so if anyone paused for just a second to put their bags through the machine others were butting ahead. The authorities seemed not to care about that or even what was even in the bags. It made me think it was all for show. I breathed a sigh of relief as I left the building while being stared at by the masses. I learned that it is a very big deal for people to go to the airport and so for crowd control they require the locals pay $1 to get into the airport, which is half a day's pay for many.

There were a couple of local Morrell Agro employees there to bring us from the airport to the hotel in a van, and what a wild ride that was. They are very aggressive drivers. They honk horns, butting ahead, passing at any time and weaving through pedestrians with little regard for life. We soon got to the Harmony Hotel which was a much nicer hotel than I had expected. There we met up with more Morrell Agro people, Wally Odd, who is the vice president of Morrell Agro; Mark Ure from Camas, UT, a Young single guy and very much a cowboy with the hat and boots; a retired USU animal science teacher named Haven; Lonnie, a dairy farmer from Utah; a young lady named Kate who is here with her grand mother to help with the Village of Hope (an orphanage) and Evan Maxfield the agronomist. We then retreated to our rooms. It had nice marble tile in the bathroom and nice quality wood furniture, very comfortable. It cost about $130/night.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Opportunity

Over the past few years we had heard of wonderful and amazing things that Wes, a good friend of our son in-law, has done in other countries. It included such things as being part of projects to build homes in third world countries and most recently for an orphanage in Ethiopia.
While touring the areas where he did his work Wes and his then newly wed wife had been asked by Paul, a successful businessman and financier who was connected with these projects to see if he would accept being a project director of developing a large non-irrigated grain farm there in Ethiopia. He was up for the challenge but not being a farmer himself he had to find a team with which to accomplish this task. My Son in-law had told me of what Wes was up to and I was instantly interested and felt that in my mind I wanted to be a part of this. We heard that Wes headed back to Ethiopia to help secure farm ground that the Ethiopian government was happy to lease to anyone that they felt could help feed their country. Upon his return to Idaho he paid a visit to his good friend Andrew, our son in-law, who is currently working with us on our farm. We were busy harvesting grain and Wes visited with me for some time asking several questions on the processes of farming. I found what they were trying to accomplish was very intriguing. The financier was willing to bring in new equipment, improved grain varieties and what ever it took to make it happen. They just needed someone that had dry farming experience to commit to about two years and manage the farm operations there. Wes invited me to meet with Paul in Utah the financier of the operation to find out more and meet the financier.
I gulped hard. Here was my opportunity to jump on board that I deep down wanted to do. This was much more of a commitment of time than I had thought I could give. How could I afford to depart from our family farm for two years? We are deeply entrenched in our church and community. Last but not least to leave our two little grand daughters. At first it seemed impractical but it kept gnawing at me. I started to ponder my life in depth and started to realize that we have found ourselves at point in our lives that we could actually do this. Our farm is financially sound with no current land payments. My brother who farms with me along with the recent addition to the farm of my son in-law could step in and take care of our Idaho farm just fine. Our last child at home recently left to serve an LDS mission to Uruguay for two years. Suddenly I realized that things are falling into place. Just one problem… I haven’t really talked to my wife about this. The conditions there are not great. The food I hear is not so good. We would be far from most common services that we enjoy in Idaho. I was reluctant to talk about it for fear she would think I was nuts.
The next evening we had a discussion about it and said to her that if she didn’t feel comfortable about the opportunity that I would not pursue it further but told her I just could not stop thinking about it. Much to my surprise she was open to the idea yet I sensed caution from her. We talked about the plight of the people of Ethiopia and knew that our talent and abilities could help.
Wes and I took off a few days later to Utah to have our meeting. It included Paul, the agronomist Evan, Wes and me. I had a good first impression when it was asked that we have a prayer to start the meeting because as Paul put it “this was much bigger than the four of us. There was comfort in realizing that we all shared the same religious background. I felt at ease in giving my recommendations in helping in what they were planning to do and at the end Paul talked about those on staff returning to Ethiopia the end of October and turned to me and asked if I would like to go with them for four weeks to better see if this would be a commitment I would be willing to make. That was an opportunity I was hoping for. I quickly accepted. The past month I have been busy getting the necessary shots, passports, etc. as well as tying loose end on the farm to be gone for four weeks. If all goes well and I like what I see and they like what they see we will be going over again in February 2010.