Friday, November 16, 2012

Back to Bora, Ethiopia trip - Day 1

In May of 2011, I traveled with DOMA International to the remote Ethiopian Village of Bora, to assist in medical clinics and learn to understand and appreciate the challenges and beauty of life in this remote corner of the developing world.

From November 4 -14, 2012, I revisited Bora -- both to see first-hand the progress being made on a permanent medical clinic, and to reconnect with the wonderful people of the area that had been so welcoming and open during my first visit.

I woke on Sunday morning with a familiar feeling -- "why did I ever agree to go on this trip."  A week earlier we  returned from a fabulous cruise to Hawaii, and I was wishing I could spend a few  more days at home.  I often find myself having this regret as trip departures approach, and as a result, was pretty sure I'd change my attitude once the travel got underway.  Eventually, that proved to be the case, but at the time I was feeling a bit down.

All morning I fussed around the house finishing up unimportant tasks and, a bit grumpy, looking in drawers, closets and corners for anything I might be forgetting.  I knew from the last trip that anything I brought along would likely be hand-carried up the mountains  (a 6 mile hike with a couple thousand feet of vertical gain), and certainly didn't want some poor porter lugging extra weight so I could have yet another pair of shoes or another jacket.  But how many pairs of pants do you need for an eight day trip that includes three nights in a sleeping bag?

A recent report from Amber, the leader of the medical team, said the weather was unusually wet.    At the last minute, I decided to throw in a pair of hiking shoes, and put nearly everything in plastic garbage bags -- a decision I'd be very happy I'd made later, but not for the reason I originally expected.

Because the only direct flight from the US to Ethiopia leaves from Washington DC at 10:00 am, I had to fly to Washington the night before the long haul flight on Ethiopian Air.  While I appreciated having as much time as possible at home, I definitely hated taking the last flight of the day from Chicago to DC, knowing if there were any problems, there was no easy back-up plan.  As it turned out, this time I was lucky.

Once I reached the airport in Omaha, I was able to check my main bag all the way through to Addis Ababa -- a luxury as the suitcase had no wheels, and retrieving it in Washington DC and hauling it to my hotel would be a pain in the neck.  My two flights went off without a hitch, and I rolled into the Hampton Inn near Dulles Airport at around 1:30 in the morning, knowing that at 7:00 am, I needed to be on the shuttle to the airport.  That would represent the start of a fatigue that would never completely leave me throughout the entire trip.

As I laid in bed, trying to go to sleep, I reviewed the list of people I thought would  be my traveling companions -- a list I'd compiled from emails I'd received.  Two of the team I already knew -- Dan, the leader of our team, and Armin whom I'd traveled with on my previous visit.  Both these guys were a lot of fun, and part of the lure of making this return visit.  Joining us would be Jamie, Carrie, Kristen and Curt.  I was a little nervous -- small group dynamics can be tricky, and one or two rotten apples can be the difference between a fun trip and misery.

As I drifted off to sleep, my final wish was for a team that would bond well, accomplish our assigned tasks without major problems, and would be fun.

I wasn't going to be disappointed along any of these dimensions.

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