Wednesday, February 25, 2009

To Ethiopia!

Hi everyone... I'm about an hour or two from taking off for the airport, but I wanted to let everyone know that I'm planning on updating the blog as much as possible while I'm gone with pictures and stories from my trip to Ethiopia. So, You'll all be there with me in spirit.

I've gotten a lot of little shocks over the last few days and weeks that remind me of the reality of my situation - that someone growing up in a small town in Kansas would first of all end up living in New York and second of all travel to Ethiopia for work on poverty and development issues. I guess it seems a little unlikely to me, but on the other hand, maybe it's just as likely as anything. Each of us in the end must take what we are given - sometimes I just feel a little (a lot) guilty that I have been given so much.

In the past month since I have written here, my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy - Emery Oliver. I got to meet him when he was just 10 days old, and now I know what they mean on the commercial when they say "a baby changes everything". Emery really changed the lives of our family - but he changed mine in a special way too. When I was holding him for the first time, I had a feeling like I've never had before - that holding this baby, that caring for him was the most right thing I've ever done - that he would give purpose to my life. Now, I'm guessing those of you that have had your own baby, or that have had someone very close to you have a child have felt something like this. But it was new for me, and has really changed the way I think about things, even weeks later, and I'm guessing probably for the rest of my life. So, I'm really looking forward to my next visit with Emery and the rest of my family for his baptism, just 2 days after I return from Ethiopia in March. Check my sister's blog for updates on Emery, if you haven't already.

While I'm in Ethiopia, I'll be working with our development partner Oxfam America to help them explore strategies with local partners on managing drought risk for poor farmers in the region. We'll be meeting with local banks, government officials, local NGO's, and farmers about the possibility of using insurance tied to local rainfall to help offset some of the cost of using more advanced drought resistant farming techniques (like improved seeds and fertilizer) to help local farmers better adapt to the changing climate and break out of the poverty traps caused by existing climate variability. Here's a recent PDF presentation from my boss on our project with Oxfam in Ethiopia, presented at last year's COP in Poland. Specifically, we're going to be working with teff farmers - teff is the grain that's used to make injera - the main type of bread in Ethiopia (which I'm sure you've had if you've been to an Ethiopian restaurant!)

Also while I'm there, I'll be putting together an audio slideshow similar to this one and this one about our work in the region. The second slideshow above was taken in a region only a few miles from where I will be, almost exactly a year ago - so much of those views will be similar to what I'll be experiencing. I'm really excited about taking an audio recorder along with my camera and being creative - telling our story as best I can.

While I was looking for the map below, I experienced another of those little shocks I've been having lately - as I'm trying to culturally prepare myself for my trip. Average lifespan in Ethiopia: 42. Per captita income: $700/yr. Life in this place is completely completely different than in the United States. How do I reconcile their lives with my own? How do I honor the injustices they face on a daily basis - while zipping around their country on jets and staying in hotels at no cost to me? Is the small amount of good I may accomplish on this trip ever going to amount to anything?

More to come.


Janet said...

Yes son, you've said "yes" to this challenge and so good has already come of this trip.
God Bless you...
I'm looking forward to the blog in the next two weeks...
travel safe.

Dianne said...

wow. as i sit in my cushy apartment and try to motivate myself to write a paper on globalization and the poor, this kind of puts it in perspective, and kind of gives me motivation. and i'm not on a plane to africa, but i'm sure i will be someday, and yet somehow we sat in the same classroom learning about radar 4 years ago... crazy.

Jenn said...

I'm so proud of you Eric! Don't feel guilty about your experiences, God has given them to you for a purpose and you are making a difference with them!
Love you!

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