April 20, 2016 Final Full Day in Alage

Wow, in some ways it has flown and in some ways it seems like I have been here forever. This week we have spent touring some of the programs in other departments. This morning we toured the Natural Resources Department and saw some amazing things. They have a project which growing silkworms and producing silk. It was fascinating to see the process from start to finish.
This afternoon we toured the apiary and the dairy farm. It was a little frustrating because our tour guide spoke some English and understood almost none. That’s pretty much been our experience here to varying degrees. There’s one thing I have learned in my travels here and elsewhere. When you say something to someone or ask a question and they say “ok, ok or ya,ya” that actually means…”I have no freakin’ clue what you just said but I don’t want to admit it and want it to stop.”
Usually when I have been in another culture for this length of time I can say I have begun to peel back the onion but I have to say this time I’m not even sure I found the onion. I can’t quite figure it out. The college sits on over 10,000 acres of land although I’m not sure how much total is under some sort of production. They have a dairy facility with a capacity of 1,000 cows – a milking parlor with 20 milkers and a closed milk handling system all the way to pasteurization. The milking system is not working and they are down to 108 cows milking by hand and using all the milk for butter and cream – and I wouldn’t eat any of it. The same thing with the silk worms. The Chinese have an expert running the program up to producing the cocoons but none of the machines which spin the silk are working. They have an amazing swine facility with 2 – 20 sow farrowing houses and are producing some nice pigs. But in Ethiopia well over 50% of the population does not eat pork for religious reasons my question is – why do you even have a swine program? Apparently there is a good market for pork to the growing Chinese population but I’m still confused. And my poor colleagues in Plant Sciences have nothing to work with at all. They are thoroughly covering theory but the field experience is sorely lacking.
So, I can’t put my finger on the whole situation. When I have asked the younger staff they recognize the problem but have no idea why it is what it is. Today we asked a seasoned staff member and he gave a wry smile and said “you’ll have to talk to the Dean”. Ah, nothing more need be said as the saying goes.
So, I have to write a report to turn in to the bureaucrats and walk away wondering how much good I have done. It has been amazing and amazingly frustrating at the same time. Maybe I need some distance and time to really come up with a conclusion. Maybe it was enough to just be. On my first day here one of the instructors said “you left utopia to come here to teach us. You are a good man.” I guess that should be enough.


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