Adama/Nazareth, YWAM house, first dental day / Island Breeze for dinner
What a great day. We were up early and on the road to Adama (also called Nazareth) by 7am. We had a 2+ hour drive south out of the city, so this was the first and potentially only day we had to worry about mosquitoes. We will spend most of our time in the capital city, Addis, where the elevation is high enough that there is no malaria worry. So out came the DEET and off we went. This day was very special because the Alexanders met their beautiful daughter for the first time. She is in a home that houses area widows and orphans. We were also lucky enough to meet the son of a dear friend that currently lives in my hometown. There are only about 10 children and 10 widows living there right now, but the entire building was under construction, so my guess is that it will become a much bigger home in the near future (well, near in Ethiopia terms). All the kids were very interested in us, but we are a pretty overwhelming group – most were afraid to be held or touched and were very attached to their caregivers, which I actually took as a great sign. Matt had fun right down on the ground with the few that were really excited to play with him – backwards crawling and an etch-a-sketch were the biggest hits! Unfortunately, since all of the children are either matched with or referred to families already, I can’t post any pictures on here, but rest assured – they are all beautiful and well-loved!
|YWAM House for Widows & Orphans|
|The paparazzi have arrived to welcome Baby Alexander!|
|It's hard to put into words seeing your daughter for the first time in person!|
After seeing all of the kids, it was off to work. Next door in the church we set up the dental stations and took our posts. They have it all down to a science for sure. There was the intake desk, where we got the patients’ names and ages, then they were off to the assessment station, where the dentist checked their mouths and decided treatment. Given the limited time and supplies, the options were (1) send them off with toothpaste and a toothbrush after a quick lesson on brushing – clearly many have NEVER brushed their teeth before, (2) send them off with antibiotics for any simple infections they may have, or (3) send them off to anesthesia to get numb and then to a dentist for extraction. These people were so brave especially since many have never seen a dentist and they were not made numb before the shots. My job was a patient buddy, so I got to bring the patients through the steps until they were finished. My first patient had to have SIX teeth pulled. This was made even more difficult by the fact that many of the teeth were rotted enough that it was difficult to even get a grasp on them to pull them out. The dentists were amazing – they were all very gentle and had learned enough Amharic to attempt to put the patients at ease. They didn’t have any of the tools that would make the extractions simple in the US because of lack of electricity at the clinics (drills, suction, etc.) Some patients were clearly petrified, but didn’t flinch and barely even squeezed my hand. Some were much more in need of a hand to squeeze or a reassuring hug. Some remained incredibly stoic until the end when a huge smile of relief, or even a single tear, crossed their face. Then they were ready to hug, bow and thank. I’ve never seen so many people so happy to endure pain knowing how much better they would be in the long term.
Matt was a really great worker. Everyone here loves him – the team is constantly telling me what a great kid and wonderful worker he is and the Ethiopians just adore him. The husband (or brother?) of the head of the orphanage loved calling him Dr. Matt because Matt got to wear a medical robe, a facemask and gloves, which he thought was pretty cool! His job was to run dental equipment from the sterilization area to the table where the dental assistants would go get what they wanted. Basically, the sterilization area was made up of four large pots that had bleached/boiled everything at extremely high temperatures for 20 minutes. When the desired time and temperature were reached, a huge blast of steam flew to the ceiling in a loud rush and the entire room erupted with applause knowing that another dentist could resume his or her work. I think the patients were a little confused (it was LOUD), but were quickly calmed by our smiles and thumbs up saying “it’s a good thing”.
We did the dentistry from about 10 until 2pm and then were able to go back to the baby house to see everyone again and to have a traditional coffee ceremony. Back at home I had gone through all of my old jewelry that I haven’t worn in years – mostly costume, some silver and other things. I knew it was a good amount, but that I couldn’t pull it out in a place like Korah for fear of leaving too many disappointed, so I thought this would be the perfect place to hand some out. Every widow, nanny, cleaner, dish and clothes washer got either a bracelet or necklace. For some, the snack-size baggie it came in was as important to them as the piece. The older women were more direct about what they wanted. If the woman next to them got something they liked better than theirs, they asked me for something similar. I think the nannies were so much more taken aback that they didn’t say a word other than thank you and God bless. It was clear that their worldly possessions were incredibly limited. It seemed like such a simple but well-received gesture.
The hardest part of the day was seeing the Alexanders having to say goodbye to their daughter. The adoption process has changed so much that they now have to make two trips before they are able to bring her home. Unfortunately, they have no idea how long they will have to wait to return to bring her home forever. I can’t imagine having been able to visit with Sophie and then having to leave her for who knows how long. It is heartbreaking to even consider.
The other hard part was a miscommunication with the husband/brother that adored Matt. I was trying to figure out how many nannies were not working today so that I could leave some jewelry for them and I kept asking about tomorrow (as in, haw many are working tomorrow?) Apparently, both he and Matt thought that I meant we were returning tomorrow, but we are not. He gave Matt several bear hugs before we drove away and I got a picture. When Matt got back into the van he asked what time we were coming back tomorrow. When I told him we weren’t coming back this week he was CRUSHED. He felt so bad that he had led the man to believe that he was coming back – he was so disappointed. Luckily we had a 2+ hour ride home too, so I left him alone with his thoughts and he finally fell asleep.