By Nathan Vanderwerker
Over the past few months, I’ve come into contact with a very extraordinary man. This is a man so dedicated to his work and the well-being of others that he has sacrificed almost 25 years to the country of Ethiopia, which is now a second home for him and his family. Who is this man?
His name is Dr. Jerry Paul Bedsole, and he is an extremely well-known Foley resident and veterinarian working part-time at the Loxley Animal Hospital. The story begins in 1970 when Dr. Bedsole took his first mission trip and stepped off of his first plane ride into Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. It proved to be an adventure from the start with some problems with the runway in the city Asmara which is located in northern Ethiopia. “I remember getting off the plane, and it being very muggy and rainy. I didn’t know a word of Amharic, any of the people, or even ways that could help me get around. I could have been on the moon and it would be no stranger to me than where I was. Eventually, I was finally able to exchange my USD currency for Ethiopian Birr (coins). I had one telephone number, which belonged to my missions administrator. I called it and explained my situation to him, and he replied that he was on his way.”
After getting the hang of his mission trips, he brought his new wife, Rosie, to live full-time in Ethiopia, where they raised their family of three boys, Paul, Philip, and Peter. While talking with him I asked a few questions.
Q – When Was the last time you visited Ethiopia? And How did that go?
A – Well, we went in early 2000. We went for a mission trip to Kenya for a week and on the way back we visited the missionaries in Ethiopia that we knew. The kids we took with us had a fantastic time,they got to experience Ethiopian culture and also see the hardships of the third world country. Our last stop was in Cairo, Egypt where we saw the pyramids and visited museums. It was just a great trip overall..
Do you have any comments on the current state of Ethiopia at the moment?
Problems are rising now because the Ethiopian government is doing things that the people aren’t very fond of. As with most African countries, people’s culture,language group, and family are more important than the country and government itself. Therefore, when central government starts doing things that displeases a group, they get a bit upset and that’s how most of the skirmishes and revolutions break out. Right now they’re having protests, but I don’t think any shooting has broken out between them.
Whats your favorite Ethiopian meal?
First, I would have to explain the kind of food the Amhara (one of the highlander tribes) indulge in. They make a lot of stews known as Wats, mostly made from sheep, beef, chicken, lentils, or vegetables. Another key thing in Ethiopian food is that they love spices and peppers. They also make a bread called Injera, that is two feet in diameter, about a half-inch thickness. It has a spongy and rubbery texture to it. They cook this fast over an extremely hot fire. The way they eat is unique. You place the bread in a large round pan and the various stews around it in small portions. From there you tear off the bread and dip it in the stew. My favorite Wat is made with sheep and a fair amount of spices.
How would you describe the Ethiopian people as a whole?
The Ethiopian people are kind of a transition between Arab north Africa, and the black African nations to the south. They are however very related with the Arab world. There are also 82 language groups in Ethiopia alone. They are the same, yet they are different. They are very loving people once you get to know them though.
What was your first impression of the Amharic people?
Well, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Back in World War II, Ethiopia was dominated by Italy. After this, they passed down fear to their living relatives to be very cautious about foreigners, especially white people. (I also would like to say that some of these tribes have never seen a white person. For them, to see you would be like seeing an alien). So when I first arrived they were very weary of me, but over time, me and the Amhara tribe got so close that I would consider them to be blood family. Heck, I bet if it came down to it, we would lay down our lives for each other.