We [Americans] are accustomed to things working out—not immediately, and not every time, and not without a lot of effort, but we expect that we can make things work. If I have taught anything in Ethiopia, it is this attitude.
Explore This IssueAugust 2019
The plan can also be to actually meet in India for their orientation for a six-week observership. By March 2018, the three Ethiopian otology trainees had been through the mill. After a year and three months of work, they were being undermined by their own academic institutions for reasons that remain speculative. Despite these setbacks, we proceeded to their next assignment—meeting in Bangalore to attend Professor Vijayendra Honnurappa’s otology conference with live surgery.
The plan, before things fell apart, had been that I would meet them there and get them settled in with the professor, and then go back home. They had received some funding from their home institution, but they were short thousands of dollars, and my own travel expenses had become solely my problem. But the plan was the plan, so on the appointed day I found my seat in the auditorium in Bangalore and was waiting for them when they came in. They caught sight of me and came up to me, smiling quite sheepishly. These downcast eyes puzzled me, but I greeted them—and then understood what was going on when they looked up. I realized that, for the first time in a year and three months, I saw something new in their faces. It was hope. They were beginning to dare to hope that this would all work out in the end after all, that they might actually complete their educational program.
I thought to myself, “How interesting; they didn’t expect anything to work out.” And that is literally when I understood what it means to be an American and what I was actually teaching them.
Dr. Redleaf is the Louis J. Mayer Professor of otology/neurotology at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System in Chicago and director of otology/neurotology at the University of Illinois Hospital. She is also co-director of the Ethiopian Otology Fellowship in Addis Ababa and Mekelle, Ethiopia.