Tag Archive | Korbin Smith

Haggling for souvenirs

By Korbin Smith
Student, Ohio State College of Medicine
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

After the conference in Addis finished, we were about to do some touring throughout the capital of Ethiopia.  Downtown Addis has the biggest market in all of Africa.  This market is essentially hundreds of small stores all selling a mixture of food, clothes, and souvenirs. Growing up in a family in which going to garage sales was a regular family activity, I was prepared for the price negotiations.  In other words, “this wasn’t my first rodeo.”

While I did have a decent amount of birr to spend on souvenirs, I wasn’t giving up my money without a price battle.

After feeling out the atmosphere of many different shops, I began the negotiations. I am not going to name the specific things I was purchasing to avoid ruining the surprise for people back home, but I can describe my negotiation strategy.

I picked two items I liked in one store, and the owner told me 300 birr.  I decided that it would be a good strategy to offer half the asking price.  After being shocked that I was haggling, the owner said 250. I followed up with 200.  Ultimately I said 215 as my final offer, and they took it saving me 75 birr. (That one is for you Dad.)

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Interviews and data collection

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Ohio State student Korbin Smith helps interview a farmer in the South Gondar region of Ethiopia.

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Ohio State student Laura Binkley and University of Gondar faculty Dr. Reta Tasfay and Mr. Dagnachew Muluye interview a health care extension nurse about rabies.

Photos by Rick Harrison, Ohio State University Communications

Data collection, shoulder dancing, and tailored suits

By Korbin Smith
Student, Ohio State College of Medicine
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

The initial data collection for the project has been finished.  Our group was unable to blog or access the internet over the last week due to traveling in small towns throughout Ethiopia that don’t have internet.  To catch up, we traveled from Gondar to Woreta where we conducted interviews before moving to Debre Tabor.  It is crazy how different the climate can change Imagehere with a 40 minute drive.  Woreta has a warm climate with temperatures probably averaging around 80 degrees.  A 40 minute drive to the highland in the mountains and Debre Tabor was probably around 55-60 degrees.

Luckily for me, this means I now have a cold.  I am beginning to think I have a weak immune system, as I am always the only one to get sick.  From Debre Tabor we met with Dr. Gebreyes, who brought a photographer and Dr. Sauvageau, a neurosurgeon from Ohio State. It was good to see others from Ohio.  We drove to Bahir Dar which is the city that borders Lake Tana, the biggest lake in Ethiopia.  Being a fishing connoisseur, it was very neat to see the traditional fishing methods.

We celebrated finishing the data by going to a traditional Ethiopian club in which we saw many styles of “shoulder dancing.”  I think I can dance better in Ethiopia than in the U.S.  As long as you can move your shoulders to the music you can be accepted as a dancer here.  People are less inclined to judge me on my overall lack of rhythm (or if they are judging me it is in Amharic and I can’t tell).

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Once we returned to Gondar I was happy to pick up the suit that I had ordered in the city aweek ago.  Since I am a rather tall, skinny, and lengthy individual, the suits already made did not fit me.  Dr. Tamiru, a partner we have been working with, took me to his tailor who agreed to make me a suit from the cloth of my choosing for 1,900 birr.  While that might seem like a lot in the U.S. that is equivalent to 100 USD.  This is extremely inexpensive for a customized tailored suit. The suit fits excellently.

In addition to completing the data collection, I have appreciated experiencing different aspects of the culture here in Ethiopia.

Winner Winner, no more cheeseburger for dinner

By Korbin Smith
Student, Ohio State College of Medicine
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

If there was a competition for the first Ohio State student to get sick during the summer research project, I came out victorious.

I have tried many different types of dishes without getting sick. However, I figured I would give their American equivalent to a cheeseburger a try, and it was a bad decision. Unlike when I feel ill in the U.S., getting ill here is more serious. The majority of our Ethiopian collaborators have reached out to me in one way or another to make sure I am OK. They are all truly compassionate and caring.

Since the rest of our research team changed cities, I am the only one left in Gondar until tomorrow. I immediately noticed people are more willing to practice their English on an individual rather than a group. My waitress for dinner tonight was practicing with me and I could tell she was very excited when I understood and responded.

I understand what it feels like to try to have a conversation in a language you aren’t familiar with. Anytime I can say “Hello” or “Thank you” in Amharic, I do so.

I have also noticed that most conversation stops briefly when I walk into a room.  There aren’t a lot of 6’3” blonde, blue-eyed males walking around in athletic shorts and an Ohio State T-shirt.

All-in-all, as we continue our stay here in Gondar, I am constantly impressed with the class and generosity of the people of Ethiopia.

If generosity equaled power Ethiopia would control the world

korbin smith

By Korbin Smith
Student, College of Medicine
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

As we began our interviews with the locals I was amazed how easy it was to get people to volunteer. Everybody in this country wants to talk and help.

My group consisting of Dr. Atnaj Alebie and Tadele Atinafu have been more than helpful. They are brilliant professionals as well as very kind and humble people.

Together we were able to collect our first set of data in rural areas successfully and efficiently. Hearing what the rural adults and children believed caused rabies was truly incredible.

While many answers cause me to be concerned about their safety in an area where rabies is prevalent, it is inspiring to know that our work is needed.