The Elephant Cloud


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Footsteps To Healing

November 28th, 2010 by · Africa, Ethiopia

“And they all knew just the cure for what ailed them: an injection … [It] was cheap, and it’s effect was instantaneous, with patients grinning and skipping down the hill.” Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone

Families humbly stake space around the crumbling bush clinic in Southern Ethiopia, half a morning passed and the line still snaked around back through town.  My translator pulled me aside after our first 15 patients, whispering “People are becoming upset, you are not treating them properly. You are not offering them marfey.”

Since the 1920s medical volunteers have come to these bare villages, treating known and unknown ailments with local tinctures, antibiotics when available and always with marfey.

Sensing my confusion he explained families walk for days to come and get the ‘injection’ cure.

Was there something I had missed in my schooling, had my tropical medicine training in Tanzania been so far off, what ‘injection’ were they talking about?

Gimbi’s Hospital pharmacist smiled in agreement, “Don’t worry its only sugar water, but they feel so much better.”

Seven months have passed and we are ready to return to Ethiopia, back to the places, the people, and the fascinating world of tropical disease and third world medicine.  In January 2011, we will join FootSteps to Healing. As a team of four, we will be working with the Ethiopian Department of Health to train rural health officers in emergency obstetrics and neonatal resuscitation and documenting the health care plight of these women. Read our Newsletter.

You’re Invited:

Come join our Fund Raiser at Darcelle’s in Portland on Friday Dec.3rd at 6pm. The irony of these show-women raising money for their less fortunate sisters born in rural Ethiopia is beautiful and powerful. We look forward to seeing everyone and send a warm thank you for your support.

Fundraiser Efforts To Date:

KEEN has generously donated 900 pairs of shoes to facilitate the Ethiopian women’s walk home after surgery.

Book clubs reading Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone  have invited members of our team to participate in interactive fund raising discussions and slide shows, contact us for details:
•     December 21, 2010, 1 P.M
Tennis Bookies Book Club: Tucson, AZ
•     February 17, 2011, 7 P.M.
Lake Oswego Library Lecture at Marylhurst University: Commons-Hawthorne Room.

All donations are tax deductible; no charity administration fees are deducted.
Your full donation will be applied to the project. Donations of air miles are also
appreciated. Please specify “Footsteps to Healing: Mota Project” with your donation.

Please join us.  Love to all.


KEEN Donates Shoes to Podoconiosis in Ethiopia

August 1st, 2010 by · Africa, Ethiopia

an impoverished landThis spring we traveled to Gimbie, Ethiopia where I made a promotional video with Monica Barlow and Binyam Teferi to raise awareness for Podoconiosis, a debilitating disease just “rediscovered” in western Ethiopia. The video has since been widely viewed, including one very important viewing by the good people at KEEN Shoes.

Joni Kabana, a friend and professional photographer in Portland, has been working extensively to raise awareness of health conditions in Ethiopia.  In the process, the video was included in her presentations and as a result, I’ve learned that 918 pairs of shoes have been donated to Gimbie for the patients suffering Podoconiosis, courtesy of KEEN.  We are currently looking into avenues to get them there and I am extremely pleased that video played a role in helping the people who’ve touched me so deeply.

I’ve re-attached my video and a photogallery of Monica and Binyam delivering shoes to rural Ethiopia in April 2010.




May 25th, 2010 by · Africa, Middle East, Morocco, Palestine, Syria

darlene in casablancaThere is always water. Mosques of the old medinas go hand in hand with the hammam. Courtyards are adorned with fountains and in some, large ablution rooms lay deep within the mosque. It is social, it is for cleansing ones self.

In Casablanca, the mosque is built over the sea. A bastion of faith on the old sea wall, the tides and waves curling into its foundation. Inside the fortress, a pocket of calm. From end to end a small channel carved into the marble floor, where water flows, cooling and soothing with its unique whisper.

courtyard of the alabaster mosque, cairoI stand barefoot on carpet, my sandals at the entrance with two men silently abuzz in arabic murmur. I am at ease in the peaceful inner décor of mosques. I am afloat and untouchable. There is a coolness to the marbled protectorate and a calming in the patterned mosaics. Calligraphic inscriptions of the Qur’an ring the columns and trace the contours of the sanctuary. I cannot read the arabic verses and so, uninterpreted, I am alone to inhabit my own story and welcomed to do so. I look inward, but feel expansive, heeding every breath.

In Damascus busloads of Iranians descend the old city on this stop of their hajj.  All in black, men in fine western suits and women draped head to toe. They are immaculately dressed, the women sharp in their embroidered burkas, fine slacks and leather shoes of the latest european fashion. Amongst themselves they hum with anticipation behind black sunglasses, but outwardly, they have all but removed themselves as anything more than a physical holder of the space they occupied. It is at once both eerie and oddly beautiful in its mystery and anonymity.

Darlene kneels on the soft divide between the muslim and christian halves of the mosque, a shrine for a prophet shared by both faiths. She is cloaked in a borrowed hood, yet her golden curls betray her. Families approach, smiling, and offer forth their children. Disinclined, but gracious, she accepts them and the families come to her and take photos, fathers and mothers with their children, collecting memories.

Sayyida Ruqayya Mosque, damascus, syriaWalter and I enter a neighboring mosque early one morning. There is only a hint of the surge of pilgrims that will later fill the streets and halls. It is a persian mosque with a martyr’s tomb. A slain child, daughter of a caliph, bloodline of the prophet. The tomb is adorned in gold beneath a dome of glass mosaic. Women in black huddle and cry softly. Families lean tightly together, reciting the qur’an amongst themselves. Tears of faith and belief for the little girl, as one by one, men and women enter the hall and press themselves against the tomb.

We are on the floor by the marble columns of the entrance when an elderly gentlemen steps forward. After a moment, he turns and comes to us. I look up into his eyes. “I am Iranian,” he says and extends a welcome. In turn he shakes our hands, touches his heart, then turns and walks to the tomb, where he presses his head against its side and closes his eyes.

In occupied Palestine, we cross the square and stand at the open door of the mosque named for the second Caliph. Atop a flight of stairs a small, venerable gentlemen in a conservative, gray western suit and stocking feet, waves us up. He is the muezzin, the man who sings the call to prayer, and he invites us to join him.

The prayer hall is a large, humble space on the second floor where we are joined by several men who joke about the merits of sons and daughters and share with us the extent of their own families. When the time comes, we are invited downstairs into his station, a simple room with a microphone and stereo system wired to the minarets loud speakers. With us seated beside him, he smiles, stands, and turning to the microphone, he sings.

The adhān covers the entirety of Arabia.  By design, this call to prayer penetrates every nook of the city. It is intentionally loud and often tinny. However, on that afternoon in Palestine, when the muezzin sang, we heard that call in its purest form. We shared the intimacy of his song, his heart, and his pride. The complicity of organized society confounds me the world over, but the gifts of an individual does not.




May 20th, 2010 by · Middle East, Palestine

“Why do you want to venture into the West Bank?welcome home

Ominous 25ft walled gates wrapped in barbed wire and torn plastic bags escorted my crossing. Passport control, one-way turnstile, another passport control.  An endless reminder of entering somewhere forbidden, dangerous as I cleared each security check, until the last gates opened and I entered Bethlehem,  said birthplace of Jesus Christ.

Snaking for miles, dividing the Holy Land,  stark gray walls on the Israeli side give way to artistic expression canvassed across the Palestinian walls,  so began my journey of photographing these images.

I was advised to keep my nationality quiet, but when the first question, “Where are you from?” reverberates down corridors and alleyways within the Middle East, I prefer not to lie, “I’m American.”

This set off a monologue of emotion with misunderstanding, sadness and rare spouts of anger.  At times, we were brushed off or asked to leave,  more often we were invited into the homes of Muslims,  a gesture of peace.

As a non-Muslim woman, I was surprised when the Muezzin of the Bethlehem Mosque invited me upstairs to his Minaret,  a room reserved for men, where at precisely 1:15 he sang  the call to prayer.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains one of the world’s major sources of instability.  Through my extensive travels, humanity prevails and people world wide share the same aspirations- a world free of war, famine and destruction.



Travel with a Good Book

May 7th, 2010 by · Africa, Egypt, Jordan, Middle East

can't remember where i took thisThere is a magnetic draw to the Middle East, where history is so powerful that people completely lose themselves. It is the home of three of the worlds largest monotheistic religions, all born of a single father, reading from a common book. And I love a good book. Immersing myself in the fiction and wrapping myself in the prose.

The Torah is comprised of the five books of Moses, the Old Testament contains these same chapters and Islam builds on these origins, referring to Christians and Jews as people of the book and telling of Moses in the Qur’an. The story is bigger than any one single book and the chapters I found myself wrapped up in are those of Moses.

I flipped pages up and down the Nile, thumbing thru the tombs, lingering in the temples. It is an adventure story of double identity along the banks of the desert river. An orphaned boy sent adrift in a peasant’s basket to be raised in a pharaoh’s court, from pauper to prince, then back again, as a young man re-identifying with his people, driven to murderer, and forced into exile a fugitive.

darlin' on mount sinaiIn the Sinai we drank beer and dove the reefs for two weeks along the Red Sea, a hundred kilometers from Mount Sinai, where in exile Moses found love by the well, purpose through a burning bush, and guidance in the ten commandments. Along the way we met Mary and Jesus, two Californians studying in France, with whom we climbed the mountain and drank beer. Sure, its a different story, but you can’t deny the profound irony of it.

Entering Jordan we traveled the last verses.  His brother, Aaron, was laid to rest in Petra and he himself by Mount Nebo, from where he first saw his peoples Holy Land. Refreshed from a swim in the Dead Sea, we also looked out from atop Mount Nebo, over the valley of Jericho, the Jordan River, and on to Jerusalem and the Holy Land which Moses would never know, as it was divine will that he never set foot in the promised land.

gotchaThese may have been Moses’s chapters, but the story is not so simply contained. It is just a footprint for a much larger mystery. Hidden away in the north of Ethiopia in a simple church’s dark interior, is said to rest the Ark of the Covenant, brought to Ethiopia by King Solomon’s lineage thru Ethiopia’s Queen of Sheba. It is guarded by one man, for life, seeing no other visitors but him on one day a year. Or perhaps it was the Knights Templar who found and moved it from David’s Temple in Jerusalem. It is these questions that are best left to scholars like Dan Brown and Indiana Jones. Or, just maybe the two brave Nastansky women who raid tombs professionally, if you know how to find them and are willing to pay the price.