Monday, 29 November 2010
HI all, so slightly regretting not keeping up with my diary/blog because 1: it's a real job writing the catch up, and 2: But I guess it's been caused by the fact I've been really busy at work and having a good time all round in my spare time. So I guess you can't do the good stuff if your always writing about it. Having said that, I am still going to try and get in the routine of updating more often.
So here is an account of my past 5 almost 6 weeks. Saying it like that I realise I really have left it a long time. Apologies.
Friday 15TH, Journey to the centre of SNNPR Region. Awasa as I might have mentioned is the central town/city in our region. It is only 50 years old and about half the size of Plymouth in population. In area maybe smaller due to generally higher population density here. Situated next to the smallest of Ethiopia Great Rift Valley lakes it is a well planned city, in a picturesque setting, with the valley wall rising up in the distance, running north east to south west on either side.
Brad (my new accomplice in Hossana) also needed to head down that weekend to meet up with some other Peace corp volunteers so we headed out towards Awasa early in the morning. After only an hour or so of beggars getting on, and Brad teaching me the local Language of Hadyisa (This being the Hadiya Peoples zone of the Southern Nationalities Nation People Region consisting up to 40 other zones and thus ethnic groups -some of these only being adjoined to the Ethiopian empire around 100 years ago by Emperor Menilik, Haile Selassie's Predecessor) …. for how to get rid of them 'waha wona' meaning 'god will give it to you' .After some time ,we set off. I spent the journey reading documents that would help with my meeting and Brad spent it in pain, his legs being even longer then my own.
On the way down to Awasa we head east off of the southern pointing arm of the plateau upon which Hossana sits at the end of and upon which 250k to the north of Hossana, sits Addis Ababa. We meet the road which heads south down the centre of great rift valley towards Awasa. At this junction is the Town of Shashesheme. It s the poor lookingcousin of Awasa. However, it's worth mentioning as it is the town which was declared by the last Emperor of Ethiopia (before he was deposed by the military junta) to be the international home of Rastafarianism. Accourdingly I think it is true that foreign nationals are able to obtain residency based on there return to their religious home. And they do. They are rich here and are able to live a Rasta life. Ethiopia has many differing religions, The main being orthodox, Islam, protestantism.. There is a genre of music called Shashesheme Reggae, which is in both English and Amharic and some Ethiopians as you might observe in one photo sport rasta colours and dreadlocks. (although the same colours do make up the Ethiopian Flag - the flag from which most other African nation have taken their colours -true story) Apparently, many of Bob Marley's many children often visit the town.
Arrival At Awasa CK and Awasa CTE
I was met off the bus by the VSO Regional Advisor for CPD who works in the regional office in a similar role – capacity building. She is not only there to advise V.S.O members in fact that is not her job at all. She is a useful source at the start of my placement and in the same field or department though, only at the regional level and so is working with other colleges like mine support the current process of making CPD part of the education profession. Short version is that she was very useful and gave me the ideas about how to get things moving.
After she had told me about the CPD she took me to meet the people working in Awasa CTE on CPD – in other words, same department, different college.
Afterwards we went to the English Language improvement Centre We met up with the co-ordinator of this. He is a great guy. The college grounds – they are beautiful in Awasa. At my college necessity mean they use the ground to grow grass to sell as fodder.
After a quick shower at my friends ( I cant emphasis how important having a shower upon my arrival is. 1 because it's what I miss most. And 2, for hygiene and public relation reasons) We headed out for the traditional Volunteers meeting as the pizza restaurant. It was good to meet the Peace Corp guys and Coincidently it was 3 of my friends birthdays this weekend and so everyone was more boyant than usual.
Saturday. On the Saturday we decided we would go out on the lake and view the Hippo's. Another V.S.O. who was in from another remote town, only to the South East of Awasa and who is keen about wildlife was especially keen and so after trying to haggle with government set prices we got a boat past the New resort built by Haile Gebrey Selassie (the runner not the deceased Emperor) and met the Hippo's. Now i've seen hippo's in a lake from the shore before but not in a boat. Maybe because of my ignorance, I wasn't too scared. We really got close to them and the boat driver kept on have to reverse the engine or circle out in order to keep a distance. Still we were often at as little as 10 meters away. Then the baby appeared. It was cute. I've now realised why babies are cute. It the simple fact that their heads are far to big for their bodies. As you can imagine this Hippo Baby (calf I believe) was not an exception. It had only been born in the night and the mother was not at all pleased. It surfaced on our side of the pack, the mother made aggressive noises accompanied by 180degree mouth openings which uncovered her awesome and hideous teeth and the rest of the herd moved our way. Even the driver. driver had had enough by now and we beat a retreat.
Now to save me going on about them in the future it is required that I describe the situation in one go. I truly am thankful I am not a female for the sole reason I rarely find myself in the situation that I have to anything much more than stand in the doorway. The travel guide says 'toilets in Ethiopia will not form your fondest memories' -powerfuly understated. Although I do mostly frequent locals places. For some reason toilets in all but the very very best of places are poor.
That night, Saturday (but toilet description ensues) more drinks and some lush food with the peace corp guys. I discovered 'chacalour tibbs'. Immediately after I spent 30mins using the 'rest room' (a typcial example, metal shack with shit everywhere encircling a drainpipe with concrete foot placements, tissue paper, urine and faeces on the floor did abound. Use of a bucket to flush) This was the first time I had been ill since my arrival in Hossana and necessity was the only thing that would get me into a public toilet.
Sunday This was a flying visit and on the Sunday I headed back so that on the Monday I could get stuck into completing my tasks with Fasah and Mohammed. When I reached the bus,somehow I left straight away which was great. Last one on!
Monday Work under way Having returned from Awasa with some good ideas, given to me by Karen but more importantly, a renewed determination to get on with things.
At the end of the previous week I had visited a number of primary schools with my line Manager Fasah.
The object of our visits was to collect information about the schools that we were required to submit to the regional education office. So with this in mind and my renewed vigour I created a visual timetable on the Monday made on 3 A2 sheets it shows the entire 36 weeks of term left in my placement. As I write I am halfway through the 1st sheet. Crazy.
Tuesday. Schools. After Monday we returned to schools, this time with the addition of Muhammed. We aimed to complete our task of visiting all 14 school by the end of the week, having visited 3 the week before.
In the evening I met up with Brad,
For my first few weeks here Brad had not been here. After discovering this I messages him again to see if he wanted to meet up as I had heard he would probably want to. We met for luncheon and then later for dinner. We went to eat at a spot called St Georges (As well as being there most important Saint it is also the name of the most popular beer, and the only one you can generally get on draft.
Most of our nights consist of us ridiculing each others accents and culture (Brads impression of an Englishman is almost identical to that of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins and apparently I sound like a cowboy or Redneck or someone from Fargo (place and film))
Brad speaks fluent Amharic, both reads and writes it fairly well too. He is good to learn off but realistically it will be almost impossible to be as good. All my collegues are professionals and English is the official language of business and education. I'm trying though! And can easily get by to eat and shop.
Except for the passes through the town, the only white people in the town are Brad, Megan and myself.
Wednesday After our little discussion about Toilets I thought the subject of food or more precisely my eating habits, should be explored. Additionally it is suitable as in this period* as well as my daytime work based activities getting going, at night with the discovery of Brad I found myself exploring for the first time town at night and its associated 'times'
*(the period between my arrival and aloneness (not looking for pity) and Brads arrival/return to town)
Of course before Megan or Brad arrived I was eating out. However I was on my own and exploring things for myself. I was at home many an evening, being less inclined to tackle the Hyaena's and with no one in town to keep me there, my exploration of eateries was limited. Similarly my colleagues mostly live in the compound or naturally go home for lunch on the college bus service. I had had some invites and attended some peoples houses for lunch and dinner but most importantly Muhammed had not arrived. Now that I was out in schools, I was spending many lunch times in town and it was Beers and Tibbs in town at night.
Tibbs is my main source of protein and pretty much the only thing I eat out. It's more than me just being boring. 1St, Most restaurants (in my town) will only have 2 or 3 dishes this is because most restaurants.Tibbs usually being one (A butchers is just a guy in both with an animal strung up ready to take what you want. Each restaurant also has one) The point is though, that if someone comes to restaurant they invariably want meat. And tibbs is universally popular. 2nd you can get a good cut and know it. 3rd I like it. The exception is Wednesday and Friday when it's fasting day. Then it is non meat only. Bayonet consist of a pile of lentils, a pile of mashed up sweetcorn, a pile cold beetroot, and shiro. It doesn't compare to Tibbs
Tibbs is Fried/broiled sheep or goat meat (I don't usually ask, but you can tell goat, it's tangy/fragrant in an almost gamey way and tougher) in a greasy sauce. I hated the grease at first but I'm getting used to it.
A restaurant usually consist of an inside area, perhaps two of three other rooms and a courtyard all in rather plain, unfinished but nicely painted concrete. The furnishingis mostly plastic covered rickety tables and fragile chairs plastic stools. To attract the attention of a waiter is required that you clap and make some noise which is traumatic, being reserved and British, but if you don't, you just sit, getting hungry. My latest tactic to get their attention is to call them brother in amharic, which, whilst done by Ethiopians, they find me doing it, bizarre.
Still on food, we approach the subject of how to eat.
Eating and Feeding
I haven't used a knife and fork since I left the training centre. For breakfast, food is served with bread to pick things up with, every other time food is always served with injera which is the flat doughy stuff (some people call it flat-bread but this is as misleading as calling an omelet a pancake, you get the shape but that’s all)which you tear off, do a wrapping thing which i'm gradually getting the hang of and put it and inevitably your fingers into your mouth.
When you have two or more people having a dinner together you will always share the same dish. The restaurant will simply bring a bigger dish. Whatever wOt you have order will be placed in the middle.
There is also a tradition here to feed other people who are your friends.
Clean hands If you are one of those people who always like yo hands clean, The fact you sit with grease on you fingers when eating for some time would be too much.
(tissue is called 'soft' here which I think is excellent, we should call things by a descriptive more often like the floor 'hard' or coins 'shiny' or people we like 'friendly' or even people we don't like …...)
Friday In work, our task had been delayed and would continue the next week and the reasons are now not individual memorable.
Saturday FOOTBALL Saturday I woke up at 6 in the morning, (first light) and headed down to the football pitch. Aka, the cattle grazing area, aka the hyaena’s nigh time prowling area, aka the learner driver circuit, aka the only piece of grass I’ve seen around town, named The Goformayda. Anyway I headed down and was pleased to see 2 or 3 groups of player starting their games. (apparently I was late). I headed towards the most organised looking bunch. Granted they had only jumpers for goalposts (the shorter the goalkeeper the smaller the goal, as it was judged unfair to allow a goal that the goalie couldn't reach. Even if they were short) Neither was there any apparent pitch boundary. In fact, just like when back in school, each instance of the ball going too far was decided upon at the time the collective sort of knowing if it was fair to continue of not. After a short wait the game that had been being played ended and I joined the group that had been waiting at the side of the pitch and formed a team. I played on the left and drifted up and down the wing, finding myself supporting the defence because we were obviously up against the best team of the three and as it turns out people don't really bother to defend here. It was quickly apparent I was hopelessly unfit and my fears for the run 5 weeks later spiralled. Despite this the game as it turned out was to continue until the best of three goals match had concluded. All the other players were pretty awesome at attack. All could step over like a pro and there were even show-boaters who fancied themselves as being a bit 'fast', who had managed somehow to have their name printed onto an old Man U or Chelsea shirt. Short passes was the name of the game. When ever I long passed the ball across or up the field they honestly thought I’d miss hit it, even if it did reach it's surprised but intended destination. None seemed to really be interested in defending and there was no real skill in the goalkeeping. When I saw one using there hands it was a surprise. (despite this and my unhealthy state, they didn't let me in goal, which was frustrating as I'm pretty good there most of the time.
Firstly we scored a good goal with one of our better player out manoeuvring three defenders to create and score an easy chance. This spurred our opposition into a period of attack which resulted in one of the 2 awesome players scoring a 20 yard screamer. This was follow by a period when I was sure we would concede another and thus the match. Then our right winger had the ball and countered up the right midfield. one of our attackers broke away and I headed after him into central midfield and then attack. After being cornered, in one rare incident, the winger crossed it diagonally in. Weather or not it was intended for me or for the attacker 10 meters ahead, it glided in over my right should and came onto my left foot. Bringing it down gently, like a baby caressing a feather, with this one touch I took it past a defender, let it settle and scored the winner with a 15 yard grass cutting half volley. That’s right, I was awesome.
Unfortunately this resulted in our team continuing on to play the next team as it was evidently winner stays on. Whilst my team was delighted with me and my goal, I could have done with a rest. I revived somewhat and more confident now that I had assuaged my team mates suspicions, that I might be a little bit too crap, with the scoring of the goal. I then however proceeded to play terribly. Still we won this game and in the 3rd I eventually got myself into goal and performed somewhat better.
I headed home some hours later and had my weekly bucket shower. Lush.
Sunday That Sunday we went out to the new restaurant it is really quite nice with tiled things wood and straw rooms and a fountain with no water in it. For some bizarre reason it is called Eindhoven, and they spell it differently every time. Any way it is the only place I care to visit which serves Chacolar tibbs. Chacolar Tibbs differs from normal tibbs in that it is cooked over charcoal which they then place in a little clay pot with meat on a top layer (it looks a bit like a giant version those perfume burners you can buy) So it cooks in front of you. It isn't so oily, but a film of tasty grease remains for you to mop up .It is awesome
Mitmita is what I order with every meal and is a ground pepper similar to the more widely spread Burberry pepper. You roll up your already chillied meat inside you injera and then dip in the orange spicy powder.
Little South Africa
Many people here often go to south africa if possible to raise money and come back. The number of buildings higher than one story has gone from 2 or 3 a few years ago to well now it is lots and lots. All the time buildings are spring up and plans others are being posted. The money is sent back to buy taxi's, tuk tuks, pay for houses, start business’s, anything.
Friday 29 This week was spent visiting the schools with Mohammed. It was good to have seen all the schools. I didn't enjoy one of the children spitting It is moments like these that make you want to have command of the language.
Saturday Chickens I had wanted some for a while and my neighbour moving his hen house out of his garden for anybody to take signalled my chance. I headed to the Market successfully haggled the price to a 1/3 of the ferengie price, which was still 5 birr (not much) above the local price and carried my dehydrated, hungry chicken back in the taxi.
Lay D Diana and Queen Egglizebeth are just about surviving a neck ringing at the moment. In order to pay their way, they must produce 68 eggs. Every time I buy feed, this number continues to rise. In three weeks, they have laid 10. Diana is Really stupid and ran off with local cock after the first couple of days. Luckily she did not become pregnant. Liz is a more with it, but nervous. Picking her up result each time in her pathetic attempts to peck me. After they ran off with the cock I had to find better ways off securing them and they are now always on length of rope. It's not cruel everybody does it here. Cruel is running around for 30 minutes chasing chicken which lay insufficient numbers of eggs.
Tuesday Hyeena Update. Because I now frequent town at night it is required that I think of how to get home. Sometime Megan and I share a late night bajaj. When I'm on my own I take a pillion which is a taxi on the back of a motorcycle I must state here that V.S.O. Does not endorse it because no helmet is provided. Anyway, it is only a short ride, about 2 miles. Megan prefers the Bajaj. Anyway here is the conundrum. After dark, the bike ride and the contract bajaj cost 10birr. A head. 1/8 of a days allowance. It gets dark at 6. the line taxi's cost only 1 Birr. They stop about a mile from my house and to get home means walking next to the Goformeada and through a bit of forrest. They dont stop running until 7.30 sometimes.
What to do? Before 7 everybody is out and so a swift walk home just after dark is fine. The other night however, I was out later than I expected, past 7.30. I walk up to the place in town where the bikes go from, but just as I arrived a line taxi came around the corner and stopped. I hopped on and hopped off at the other end, only 1 birr the poorer.
When I alighted I realised there were few people out. So I set off at a pace. Now when the Hyena's arrive you hear them calling to each other. But before that though, you hear the dogs yelping. It' not the same as when they set each other off barking. It's distressed. This yelping is the only reason, I think we have wild dogs living in our compound. Nobody owns them but everybody tolerates them for that reason.... So I have to walk down a long road upon the right of which is the expanse of fields after just under a mile, I turn left then right into the forest and walk for about 1/4 of a mile to my compound turn right just before. This night as I was walking I heard on the other side of the field the yelping start and get closer. Then, as I reached my turning, again closer. The hyeana's when they come, approach from the north east. The road runs north, and compound is to the north west of the road. So you can see that I'm not necessarily heading away from them as I enter the forest. All this is in my head as I walk down the forest road, picking up a stone as I go. As I turn the corner to reach my compound now just 50meters away, I hear the hyeana's call at the far end of the small field which borders my compound. I hurry a little, I'm relieved to get inside. I close the door to my house and the compound dogs begin to yelp.
Have no doubts I wouldn't be out that late again without planning to catch a taxi bike. I didn't like it.
I also have a theory though. They killed as many as 80 hyaena’s just before my arrival to stop them eating people. I reckon i've got until after Christmas for them to breed significantly.
In other news a V.S.O. Volunteer here was bitten badly on the arm by her landlords dog which didn't comfort me as I arrived from dodging Hyaena’s to have a growling dog lick my hand when I couldn't see them in the dark.
And a teacher in a town to the south of me had his stomach removed for him, in the street, by a lion.
Wednesday Cleaning Day I was inviting people around the house on friday and I was made busy buying roasted barely (a favourite here) biscuits, stuff to make brochetta, an inadequate amount of popcorn (which they have with their coffee mostly) and Coke which they mix with Ambo
Ambo is water which appears from springs in a place of the same name. It naturally emerges carbonated. All they do is stand over it with a bottle and pass it on.
Friday 5 Paper
Fireworks night Apparently i'm an eccentric (I hope this is the spelling or I'v got this horribly wrong)
I spent much of Wednesday and Thursday evening collecting firewood and straw and stuffing a pair of trousers and an old sheet of Brian's the last volunteer that Megan had sown into a shirt with the straw. Many of the people in the compound still were unsure what I was doing and must have assumed I like stuffing people with straw and burning them.
So Friday arrived, I was all set and at 1, which is 7pm your time. (Hang on. Their clocks go with the sun. So what we would call 6am is 12 to them and 7am is 1 etc)
So some of the neighbours came around.We had drinks, food and a bonfire which for 2 or 3 minutes looked like it might set the dry grass on fire, despite the fire barrier I had made and then we set off Chinese made Roman candles. See pictures! After it was over we headed for town. Unfortunately I also had to pour 2/3 or my water suplly on the fire
I think I had actually got too excited about November the 5th because they actually offered me the day off to celebrate.
Saturday Market Saturday we visited the market as my volunteer friend had not see one yet. We were followed by a bunch of hilarious kids trying to extort money from us and then later we went to the opening ceremony of the revamped Youth centre Brad had been working with. They had raised enough money to buy a sheep to slaughter as well as a lots of other food. There was a coffee ceremony, a band and speeches and also I spent my time counting the scratches incurred building my Bonfire (79) and performing keggles during.
Shankula Sunday On Sunday 2 of us set out to climb up the highest point in Hadiya Zone, Called ShanKula (a capital means an explosion in this case or at least an emphasis)
We set off at 6 to avoid the sun. Picked up breakfast and then tried to find transport. We tried bajaj's but none went that far or were interested in a contract. Eventually we found a bus that was taking the dirt road that went past Shankula to a place called Dimo. We would get off at Kusho and it would only be 20 birr. A 10th of the price I had anticipated for a contract I thought would be necessary. Bonus. And so with no idea of how we would return we set off on a 50minute bus ride
At over 3000m there are 4 peaks, each almost completely independent. It only took an hour from the base and after we had completed the highest one we climbed back up the another which lacked trees and so sported a good vue. To the north, Hossana, to the east another Mountain, Ambricho the last peak at the edge of the wall of the valley before you head east down into the Great rift. To the south the rolling hills before you get to the more rural areas home to the Oromia people. To the west the ridge which marks the valley beyond within which runs the Omo Wenz River. Beyond the valley which separates Hadiya from the west, lays Jimma, one of the homes of Coffee.
Our second assent had not pleased the self nominated guides whom we didn't need and who had assumed we would return past their town after the first climb and thus provide them with just cause to ask for payment. At our turning from the road to climb the second peak, they begged we continue to their village, gave a quick, lame, attempt at a cry for money and then hurried off.
When we eventually did return to the village the boys were there. We asked when the next bus would be. No English was spokenand our Amharic was not getting through and many besides may have only spoken Hadysa and quickly a crowd of 200 assembled, which must have consisted of the entire village. After a bus appeared going the wrong way we decided the crowd was too much and to hotfoot it to the main road, about 4miles north east. For 2 miles of this a lady carrying a baby ran bare footed asking for money and getting her baby to ask for money. After 3 miles a bus going the wrong way appeared and said he would come back soon to take us for a price of 300birr at our exclamation he told us we were rich. We informed him we were volunteers and he drove off with a promise to return. I didn't think he would return unless to collect his extortionate price so we headed on. 20 seconds later and a bus going the correct way stopped and wanted 50 birr Remembering the receipts, I showed these. He realised I knew the real price and told us to 'get in' – common phrase for any form of welcome here. We actually got back for less because we had walk part of the way and a lawyer on the bus insisted we not be ripped off. We got back to town at 4.30 and headed straight for a cold beer. 'Ice cold in Alex' styli.
Monday School improvement plan
I was back to work Monday and feeling the burn from the walk as I set off to one of the schools to discuss their school improvement plan.
Tuesday The realities of living in a Water scarce environment.
OK, so lets be realistic here. I have water. It comes to me from a tap, it just doesn't come very often.
Mostly the water comes for half an hour a day. Not on weekends. Recently however things have been a bit different. I've been away a bit and so not able to arrange stuff around being at home to collect water. Secondly they are here they won't be able staff. This has meant that the water was off for a week. Luckily I was away much of it but did run out. Now the water is only turned on every other day All this has meant that I received my first real glut of water in three weeks, yesterday(friday). It's funny how happy the sound of a tap spluttering to life can make feel. I filled everything!
Still I and the people in my compound are lucky. If I don't see some old lady or young girl carrying a 'jerrycan' as they call it a long distance it is a strange day indeed.(in fact they are not standard issue metal jerry-cans but WHO subsidised yellow plastic containers) And not all the water they carry is clean.
Even when I have water, how I use it has had to change. Much of my water is used twice. With the lack of it flushing the toilet becomes a lesser priority. Having enough to drink and at least a little to clean dishes is the most important. And then something to wash with. Thus water used to cook potato’s in is reused to rinse greasy dishes before their proper clean. And used sink water is used to flush the toilet.
Getting my water ready to drink is just as much a job as getting it from the tap. If nothing else I don't mess with how I deal with the water. I must boil it and because of the altitude, of around 2300-400 m just boiling the kettle is not sufficient to kill all viruses and amoebic cysts – which sound evil going by there name. I must boil it at a vigorous boil for 3 minute unless I also want to contract typhoid of which is possible even with the jab if only less harmful. After boiling which takes time, again at this altitude, it must cool before it goes into the filter. And so you can see, if I have no water when the tap comes on, it doesn't mean I can drink. In fact it was dark yesterday(friday) before I could start drinking to make up for the lack of water over the previous few days. (I can easily walk the mile to shop to buy bottled water but it is expensive so I avoid it, although last week it was necessary)
It does mean I have to choose strategically when to wash clothes, when to wash myself and has forced me to take the executive not to shave, at least until Christmas, when I will have a personal review period. - to see what has or hasn't happen
Wednesday The Deane of the college has just been reassigned
On Thursday we travelled down to Awasa. After waiting for some time we got up and moved to another bus, half the bus got up in fact and made their way to another. Obviously the driver was annoyed and came to the other bus with us. The ensuing argument saw me fall like a bridge across a river, across an open drain and thankfully not down the 6ft drop. This event of a ferengie falling, put an end to it all and we got on our way.
Upon arrival, I headed down for a beer by the lake and then a quick game of table tennis, then it was sundowners and food with my friends when they got off of work.
Friday 12 Conference
I was up early on Friday to attend the conference, roped into a small presentation the day went off without event.
Saturday, Another conference day followed by visit to the nightclub 'climax'. Avoiding the prostitutes, we hit the dance floor.
Sunday. The Elephant Having climbed the hill by the lake some weeks before the next target was the hill nicknamed 'the elephant' because of its broad back and pointed peak at one end. Despite being lower than Shankula in altitude, from bottom to top the difference was greater, and steeper. We walked the few miles to the base through a new and well made estate. For the first mile we had 40 kids in tow. They died off after a fair climb up and we were alone on a relatively flat summit. We circled around the aerial mast station compound guarded by soldiers with machine guns and headed for one of those little pointy things which shows you the top. On the way back a guy inside the compound who had been cutting grass was watching us try to take a timed photo of ourselves together. So I tried to pass the camera through the fence to him and asked to take a photo. He immediately started shouting. So slightly perturb I carried on setting up the photo. After a couple of shots (pictures) 3 soliders appered sporting AK47's or alike, climbed through the fence and headed towards us. I picked up bag and we all started to continue along the path. When the main guy with the big gun asked for money I simple replied yellom (there is none) whilst holding my camera by my side and looking away. I was relieved when he laughed and repeated my reply. I ws temped to ask him to take the photo but checked myself.
Monday Italian and ice cream, because Monday and Tuesday were national holidays, there seemed little point returning home before then. And so on Monday we spent the day eating. We had the icecream in a mock version of starbucks.
Travel Tuesday public holiday. Tuesday I travelled back home. (sorry if some things I include are mundane but they are for my benefit later, as much as yours now)
Wednesday Was back to work and my main job was preparing for my workshop about how to prepare and use interactive learning resources with current college students the next day.
Thursaday, The next week I would be walking alone as my coollegues would be attending a conference
Friday 19 travel,
Brad and I got up mega early because the owner of our favourite wOt bet also owns a new minibus. Whilst we are advised not to use minibuses because of the speed and the chat chewing high drivers, this one is brand new and the driver was good.
Burger, Brits and Beer So anyway, we arrived
SO as I said the we arrived in Addis at midday despite a flat tyre. Hungry for 20 minutes we search for the Babylon of Burger makers we had got wind of. At last we found a quaint colonial building inside was polished wooden flooring and leather seating, a chess board and paintings of English country vista's
The burger was immense. Real! Bacon which is unheard of. In fact it was my first piece of pig since my arrival. Melted cheese and a good quality burger with salad and a sauce which tastes like the MacDonald's sauce. Immense. This splendour was an indicator of the things to come this weekend
After departing from Brad and the Burger(actually of course the burger came with me - for a while) I made my way to the V.S.O programme office to check in and pick up my residence permit. As I arrived, so did my friend from the wild Balin Mountains. She had got a lift with her friends girlfriend and they invited me back to the Embassy for lunch at their cute cottage in the grounds. As I said before there is golf course but also I discovered a stables and people riding horses that didn't look like they wish to be put down. And a tortoise or 2. Ironically the girlfriend was French. Without her I wouldn't have got in. So it took a French person to get me into my own embassy. After lunch I headed to the market which was between my hotel and the embassy to buy some trainer for the race. After shopkeeper tried to rip me off, so prompted by my friend, I showed them my VSO pass which say in Amharic that I am a volunteer earning local wages. And what do you know it worked. Less than half the price. Your price, £16
I had a shower at my hotel and then meet with many of the V.S.O.s who were taking advantage of the discount the programme office has arranged with them, then we headed out to the 'pride bar'
after a few beers and almost breaking my left food on a camouflaged flagstone (skinned 2 of my toes, not good prep for the race) we headed in a group of about 25 to the German beer Garden. With real German Purity Standard Reinse Hiegaborg (sorry Alex) Beer. I had 2 steins of blond and a lush pizza.
Of course After this,it was home time.
Saturday. Truly, a great day.
We got up early in the morning and headed out to the centre of Addis, not that it has one. I'd a few s the night before as discussed and that combined with the amount of pollution in Addis whilst being stuck in the back of a rackety old minivan bus made me start to feel sick. Once out we got directions to the Sheraton and headed up hill to it. Ironically or perhaps appropriately enough it overlooks some of the worst slums in Addis. We found it and walking off the street was literally like walking straight from the Third world to the first world. This Place is amazing by western standards. After finding that one of us (not me) had been pick-pocketed and having had a search we gave up and headed down to the pool. Loungers out and as you can imagine (and gather from the photo's) it was lush. We supped Strawberry Dakaries and chilled!
later we headed up for high tea! They have it all wrong! Or I do. I Thought hi tea was just a few bites to eat with tea, possibly just scones, but this was a buffet. Not massively extensive, but all the same. Salmon sandwiches, wafered cheese wholegrain sandwiches, amazing stuff inside croissants, spring rolls and more. (you can't get cheese here other than this weird powdery stuff with no flavour so these were snapped up)
Then the desserts! Little chocolate tarts, strawberry stuff sprinkled on magic things. Some ridiculous chocolate cone thing which actually made me well up a little bit as I drew it towards my mouth. It was that lovely.
The best bit of all is that it was all you can eat. So we did. I guarantee they made no profit out of me. The normal people in the lounge. (When I say normal I mean the business men, the rich African Union diplomats families, old white guys who are paying the local prostitutes they are with to be there etc)were going up getting a few nibbles, then returning for a dessert. We on the other hand discussed whether it was bad form then decided we had paid for it and were going to rinse the lot. I got 2 plates of savouries (stacked) and then three puddings. Everybody on our table of 6 did the same and there were only a few overlaps of deserts. Naturally we tried and polished off the lot.
At the end of the day, I stopped to check the prices of the rooms incase I wanted to treat myself.
5 grades: 1 $495 – 5 $7985 per night, plus tax, plus service. Plus apparently Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stay in the 10,000 Doller Pent house
You may guess for yourself if I will get to stay.
I don't want to miss out the Tea. I haven't had tea since my trip to Hossana. It's all made too pitifully. But of course this was high tea I supped, oh yes indeed I supped. But what then do I drinkat other times? Well this brings me nicely onto....
Addicted. Before I came here I could count on my finger the cups of coffee I had drunk. And even then these were out of necessity. Like being on a freezing cold beach in the middle of winter at 12 at night waiting for dad to catch some seaweed so that we could go home. Or again on picnics when some bright spark would decide that somehow a cup of coffee could taste better than even a bad cup of flask tea.
So you can see I hate coffee. I even have the flight reflex when someone breaths on me after drinking the stuff. The tea isn't tea here though and people all go for a Buna (coffee) and for some reason I just decided that a Machiato tasted nice one day. Not the first day. For the first month, coffee was repulsive still.
Now I drink 4 a day or 2 at a time. And I always ask for torKEela Machiato, which is stronger. I can't stand this milky stuff. Interestingly I have found that 4 Machiato's before heading out for beers prevents a hangover the next day. Don't ask me how. I don't make the science, it's just a fact of life.
Hilton and the Man
It turns out that a few of us registered in a different but slightly more expensive way than the rest of our fellow V.S.O. Runners. We couldn't find out how to find our t-shirts we needed if we wanted to collect a medal at the end. My friend got the number and after leaving the Sheriton we were required to head to the Hilton. I know a real drag. So off the 3 of us went. We arrived collected our pack and then were told that we should attend a complimentary meal with a complimentary drink. OK i'm stuffed, finding it difficult to breath without the chocolate eclaire from earlier making a guest star appearance, but free food and beer is free food and beer. And the Hilton is the Hilton. So despite the Hilton being a bit aged and looking a bit like the inside of an airport terminal as well as the toilets being only 5, we got the food and drink. I wasn't terribly impressed with the food as it was 'a pasta meal for running prep' and pretty bland. We sat down then the race organiser got on the mic. As well as some other famous runners, Haile Gibre Sellasie was to be coming and saying some words. Now I had heard of him before arriving in Ethiopia but being here, you realise he is the most revered sportsman, a national hero, I can't relate an English equivalent because we have many. He is really just one on his own at present, makes him more important to Ethiopians than if there were more. He is a legend in the world of long distance running and is about 40 and as you may have heard in the news is only just to retire next year after a blip 2 weeks ago.. I don't usually go in for that whole celebrity thing, mainly because I don't watch T.V. But also, of course, because I'm above all that. We all agreed though, it was a good find meeting him. About 300 other ferengies were there because they had travelled over to take part in the race and many were members of organisations which had raised up to 380000 birr over 15000 pounds each. So they were called up to have their picture taken. My cheeky friend crept up behind the organiser and mentioned that there was a group from V.S.O here (our entrance fee was our donation) and he called us up. Thus the photo:
My friend who I mentioned was staying in the British embassy went to his palace of a house and had her medal signed by him and had lunch with him. Random.
Sunday Race. We got up early and met in the lobby of the hotel, the race start time was to be at 9 and we had to meet at 7.30 with everyone around the corner at V.S.O. After making sure I was the best dressed runner (Having done no training what so ever, I had decided that it wasn't how ran but how I looked doing it). We all met and got the bus to the Hilton. Once there and after some photo's we headed to the start line.
The colour of the T-shirst was yellow and yellow was everywhere. A real carnival atmosphere had started and was to continue throughout the run around, with 10's of people joining into many groups and chanting and dancing both at the start and during the race. We wormed our way to the start line. After a few minutes one of our party was pickpocketed which was both a shame and unexpected. I had been unable to get assurances about keeping my bag securely in the bus which had brought us and so decided I would have to carry it, containing as it did, much of my money and my camera and some water. The excitement built in the croud of 35,000 and as the clock reached 8.59 the crowd began to surge forward. The troops became nervous and it was possible to see batons raised at the front, some 10 meters ahead. Then suddenly the soldiers turned around and ran and everybody followed. We swept forward and ran happily on in a sea of yellow and to the sound of singing and chanting and yells of excitment. I quickly lost everyone and it wasn't until a Kilometre later that slowing up and turning I found my group of 4 friends. I had seen no signs for distance and we headed on turned past the national theatre and on a level for some time. Next we turned and had a long straight, steady decent for which I knew we would pay. Then a decent ascent and again I found I had lost my friends, Hoping to find them later I soldiered on. A few twists and turns and we hit a slope and could see the steep ascent on the following side. My began to rub and it was necessary run holding it. I had decided that the attitude of the runner in 'without limits' which I had watch again recently would dictate my mood. Therefore I had at the start decided that any tiredness or fatigue related pain I felt was a state of mind and that finishing without stopping what a fact. This was good given the skinned toes on my left foot and the stone in my right shoe that I had discovered shortly after the start and which had now commenced rubbing on the outside sole. But this combined with the realisation that the balloons overhead marked only the halfway line broke my resolve. Then a 50 year old Irish guy ran past me on the next hill. Just as I was contemplating my next move two of the 4 friends I had left behind ran up next to me. And we sorted out that hill. A few corners later and we were still going well and continuing to overtake many. Another Kilometre and One of my friends had to stop for a wee. We circled and waited and 2 mins later blazed on. This small lull really did for us and the next 2k were difficult. We passed the only water station in the race at 7k, which was chaos but I managed to get a water bag to suck on and we proceeded. At about 6k one of the girls had asked if we should walk. No reply. At 7k I asked the other what she thought. Thankfully, 'no'. We headed on. Then my friend who had first suggested the walking, powered off into the distance! 2 of us stuck together for a while in a low mood at the absence of being able to see the end but she regularly trains and it was not surprising when she moved ahead. Which she did when we saw the tall building in the distance about a kilometre away and around a corner. The last K was on my own and I picked up the pace a bit after the last 2k's had seen my legs wanting to extend less and less. I finished in 1hour 7 minutes and 40 seconds. Whilst this is not a good time, I'm happy with it, given that I didn't train at all and that I finished without walking. The battle over pain was do-able after all. Additionally it turns out the blister on my foot from the stone was huge and it was actually easier to run than walk anyway.
We collected our medal and headed for steak sandwiches and chips with beer.
That night was messy. A search for a coffee actually led us to the Beer garden in the afternoon. Then communal beers at the pride bar and then 5 of us headed for a real Indian which was awesome. We then tried to locate a dancing bar. The first was too loud, the next too full of prostitutes and the next was good. The dancing blues brothers (actually 2 guys dressed identical suites set the tone and carnage ensued) My friend pulled out some extraterrestrial moves and had the whole bar in awestruck stitches. Other friends found us after having got wrecked having had to stretcher half their party back to their beds before finding us. 4 more gins later it was home time.
Shop, Having decided that I made a mistake in buying lots of food in Awasa back in early October, besides the powered milk, the porridge and the spices it was a waste. Cans here are 20+ birr a pop. I could buy a full meal out for that, with a drink and have it cooked for me. So I went to the western style supermarket eyed the embassy employees and WaGs with suspicion, as did they, me, and left with just a few spices which I definitely can't get in Hossana.
Travel I could have settled for a long journey back on the big old public bus but I put myself out and by myself found the place where minibuses go from. It seemed strange they go from dodgey back alleys the kid took me down, but apparently they do, and after all, it worked out ok. After a breakneck journey down in under 3 hours( the stories of minibuses being driven by guys on chat is true because I saw him chewing it – not that I believe chat does anything.) I got a meal, walked past 10 white people which was totally weird as I haven't seen half that many in town in the whole time i've been here. They were speaking English and were overweight and stuff.
This week, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday26th, This week has been quiet and thankfully so. After the last few weeks travel I was in need of a rest and to sort some things out at home (such as water supply and storage as well as get some reports done that are due to V.S.O. And the college.
Brad and Megan are both away in Addis to celebrate Thanksgiving
This week we have also had some awesome storms. Before Tuesday it had not rained here since mid September. The lightning is impressive and the thunder deafening. The more changeable weather is a nice change too.
I have been writing reports and this thing, The most up to date news I can give you is that I played football today and put an early end to a quick start to training to run more races as I pulled a muscle, well, ok I pulled my bum, and it smarts some.
Fly's It has only rained a couple of time this week and already, fly abound. As I write a spider based in the window frame, which I was smart enough to declare an amnesty on, has just murdered the fly which had been bothering me for the last 2 hours.
Future This weekend i'm going to restock the cupboard and try to finish the garden I started.
Next week marks the start of 4 weeks I have to get as many of the schools through the school improvement plan as possible -it the regional objective. I'm not doing any travelling until Christmas and it's down to work and routine after being a bit all over the place for the last 3.
I will end this dissertation with a quote from A Brief History of Time by S Hawking, Englishman with an American voice
''Bertrand Russell was giving a public lecture about astronomy. He was describing how the Earth orbits the sun and how in turn the sun orbits a vast collection of stars we call the galaxy.
At the end, a little old lady stood up and said ' What you have just told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.' The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, 'What is the tortoise standing on?'
You're very clever, young man, very clever,' said the old lady 'but it's turtles all the way down!'''
I just can't help it, I'm a sucker for geeky science jokes.
P.S. A film came out that I didn't get to see that you may want too. It's called 'the Athlete' It's about a famous runner who won the Olympic Marathon in Rome, bare footed. for Ethiopia back along. The story is more in depth than that, with twists His winning the Olympics, being the start of the story as far as I can tell. Anyway it has won awards (I think maybe at Cannes)and is half in English with Amharic subtitles and half vice versa.
The sentence they sell it on is 'It took a whole army(Italians) to conquer Ethiopia; It took just one man to Conquer Rome.
See more of my photos on flicker at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/56291449@N07/
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Ok, sorry for the lack of blog so far, but with one thing and another, I've now caught up with myself. Here is an account of my firsts months activities. From here on in, I aim to update once a week.
Thanks for visiting, I look forward to hearing from you all. -- Seriously
Supply of the directors cut of the following will be available by email upon request. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org please do!
Disclaimer: Any misspelling, missed out words or other childlike written English mistakes, are entirely the fault of my parents.
Real Disclaimer: The views stated within are entirely my own at the time of writing, depending on my mood and not necessarily the views of V.S.O.
My First ten days here were great.
We arrived on the Sunday Morning, local time. I hadn’t slept for 24 hours and was shattered. We dragged our bags up to bed and crashed. Another load of vols were due to arrive the next morning and I was to gain a room mate.
During the flight I had managed to aquint myself with some of the other volunteers. The number had risen already to 19. The flight had two legs and after an amazing crimson red sunset, we unloaded two thirds of the plane in Amman. One of the volunteers had be given a place in business class from the start, just by chance, so when most of the seats around him came vacant I strolled down and took up my rightful place amongst Champaign and leg space. However I was discovered and despite flashing a cheeky smile at the flight attendants (probably my downfall) I was spotted and I was turfed out.
After cruising over the desert for a while and viewing the electric paint splats of the towns and cities unimpeded by hills or trees reaching out over the sand, we trimmed the Red sea and Mecca, skirted south of Ertriaran??? for a some reason! and headed down over the reaching sprawl of Addis locked in with its veil of smog and the 4 million people at 2400m by hills and mountains on all sides. Over the city It was dark and there where lines of light just like England and lighting on streets just like any place. However, there were large, vast areas lit only by the moonlight shimmering off their roofs. As we got closer you could see some make shift set-ups, but mostly darkness.
I woke up in the morning, when we had some free time. I was just in time for lunch. My roommate wasn’t coming so I made myself at home and poured out all my stuff onto his bed. In the night two more groups had arrived and when the last of the arrives showed up our party numbered 36, including British, Indian American, Canadian, Australian, Kenyan, Dutch,, a disproportionate amount of Irish Philippineo, Plymouth, and New Zealander.
After a slow start the first day, things quickly gathered pace.
We had three existing volunteers organising the ict with the support of VSOE which is run by Ethiopian Nationals. The volunteers were what you might call the face of it and had some great advice based on there own experiences. The first night we stayed in the compound as per orders. We were all tired and I prepared for my birthday the next day.
On Monday I woke up, showered myself and generally got ready to go down to breakfast for our first day of training. Then I sat myself down on my bed opened my cards one by one and displayed them. I also discovered a kindle mint cake I had bought in Brighton, opened it up and had myself a little birthday cake. Then I sang myself happy birthday like a mad man.
Whilst what was to follow turned out to a great training period, Unfortunately and prehaps inevitably, the programme for my birthday wasn’t the greatest. Admin, lots of forms and crucifixion by power point.
We did learn a bit about VSO position in Ethiopia. I hadn’t quite got to the very recent history in my book and this was the first bit of knowledge waking me up to the status quo in Ethiopia
We were given the hard fact about some of the challenges facing this Developing country.
3-6 million people annually and 9 million seasonally are dependent on aid to see them through the year.
TO sort out activities for social events, At the end of day messages the social committee was formed and I was on it, It was great to work in a team with some fellow volunteers and I spent the next 9 day running around like a headless chicken. I do like being busy tho so the lack of free time was compensated by not feeling home sick (i’m not saying i didn’t think of you guys, come on!)
SO despite a dull and long first day we did get to go out that evening. As I said before the Irish were there in strength and one of them me a triple Yeni Raki for my birthday, which really spoilt my next day.
The next day also happened to be the first day of my language training. Be chance me and a retired headteacher managed to sit next each other, so together the two of us, John and I, set on a course which has set me up nicely I feel to learn lots of Amharic if only I can get them to stop speaking English to me.
Whereas I was beginning to regret bringing a suit this cming evening convinced me I was vindicated. Dressed to nines I made my way. The evening was to be a treat.
All the volunteer were invited to the Embassy by the British Ambassador. It was also our first view of Addis by day. Smoggy and busy are the allocated adjectives.
On arrival to the vast grounds overlooking the city*, delicately above the quilt of smog we passed through the gates and were met by the disappointing site of some 1990's building. Thankfully we drove around that and headed straight for the 1910’s colonial style proper building. Met on the top of steps by the Ambassador flagged by columns and shiny things
*Out of sight was an 18 hole golf course
Inside was lush and after signing in I shook hands with five or six glasses of some of the best red wine this boy has set his lips around.- due to the fact we hadn’t had dinner yet, I was also forced to have the equivalent of a three course meal in ordurves (all amazing and on waiter service tap – I strategically positioned myself by the doorway leading to the kitchen)
The toilet will stay engraved on my memory forever. The only reason I didn’t give it a 10 is because there wasn’t a monkey with symbols handing out warmed handtowels.
Both the embassy itself and I were sorry to see me leave. We both felt like we’d met someone special and that I belonged. I had come home.
Wednesday passed without much event, We had a very interesting lecture on by a local professor on the development context and how Ethiopia had found itself in the position it had. Being a geek I lapped up the facts which with my excellent book on the history by a Mr something Marcus I will be able to regurgitate as facts of the day hence forth
We then had our first social event which was to have some of the staff in the restaurant who were good at Ethiopian traditional dancing come and show us. The girls particularly enjoyed. We had some beer brought in and that meant that the candle capture the flag game after was hilarious. Running around the compound like nutters in the dark trying to steal each others candles.
Thursday was real highlight.
After some practical tips from the existing volunteers some lunch and a brief by the British embassy Doctor we headed out to the Programme Office in central Addis. We were sent out in groups of three with a list of information to collect people to rendezvous with and items to buy. Points deducted for getting ripped off. It was great to be let out as we were starting to feel like caged hens in the compound.
As we know i can get competitive. Especially when it seems to be one of those rare occasions it may not be something I am obviously destined to fail at. The ladies I was teamed up with really but themselves forward too. Anyway. Long story short we wern’t quite the fastest but almost and we won overall. The best point was when we had almost given up on being able to find a newspaper and were on our way back to the VSO programme office for a well deserved pint, when on the corner I spotted 2 street kids of about 14 or 15 trying to dry out some scanky old news paper. I asked them sint nOw? ( how much) They looked at me funny because they couldn’t see anything around them that a ferengie might want to buy off them. They cottoned on and realised that considering that this ferengie must be crazy they should probably rip him off. 10 birr they said (about 40p). ‘No way’ that’s ferengie price!’ Sost birr said I convinced i’d really nailed this haggling malarkie (3) (i insisted in speaking amharic and they on replying in English) ‘Ha ha 7 birr!’ ‘Amist’ (5) i replied. Ok they said. I knew i’d got ripped off but luckily it didn’t matter on this item. This was comfirmed when I walked away turned around and saw them high fiving. Looked down at the paper the cost to buy it new was 3birr.
We all ended up a bar next the VSO Programme office. We then headed to a v. posh hotel which was sporting live Jazz that night. The music wasn’t amazing but the food was. I had just a burger as it was pricey, but I can still taste it as I look down my spoon at tomato pasta onion and garlic soup.
And the club sandwich that was left over. Yum!
This evening I told I was not in fact the youngest VSO in Ethiopia but the second youngest. Damn.
I struggled throughthe next day along with the other social committee members we set up what turned out to be the most popular event of the week. Abyssinian Olympics. Basicly sports day, but just the funny stuff, with beer. The best events were the banana knee passing game and the orange chin passing game. You just can’t beat seeing 2 people who don’t really know each one little one large trying to give the other an orange with there chin. Ha
Saturday arrived and Things were starting to draw to a close. We continued with our language sessions in the morning. In the afternoon we set off in the sun to the programme office, having our money settlement for the first month and our equipment given to us. Filters etc, plus we had a cooking lessons. Luckily mum, i’m feeling ok about making the best of basic ingredients. I’ve done some marvellous things with onions, tomatoes, garlic, potato’s and pasta these last few days.
We then headed out with an existing volunteer. First obstacle was the rain in shorts t shirt and espadrilles i was hopelessly underdressed for the monsoon style rain I should have predicted despite the sunny morning. Anyway. We did our shopping and I was glad my placement was not in Addis, the smog is headache giving. Skipping amongst rancid water filled puddles very quickly becomes the norm.
AT THIS POINT I WOULD LIKE TO THANK A MR ROBERT CLAHAN FOR HIS INSPIRED DECISION TO BUY ME A JACK WOLFSKIN SAFETY WALLET WHICH HANGS AROUND MY NECK. IT SAVED ME A MONTHS MONEY (100quid) THIS DAY
Anyway. Towards the end of the shopping trip which now I am wishing I bought a lot more food on, A man was talking to his friend and stepped in front on me on a busy corner. I was walking so fast that unfortunately I knocked him over. But as he fell over he put his nearest hand in my pocket.
Luckily I had almost nothing in it. Only a very important pass I’d just been given which he didn’t get because it was so obvious that I just grabbed his hand pushed him away and told him to:- well you can imagine what one might say. He backed off surprised and then smiled and bounced off like an old ex-leper. I was lucky. I owe it to my wide gait which had propelled him to the ground. The plan I’m certain was to hold me up long enough for his friend to rinse my pockets as there was somebody behind me but luckily I just pushed him over.
Again we met up for a drink near VSO but the evening was brilliant. Pub quiz. Written for people born in 1968 and before but brilliant. Best were the intermission games. ‘Who can hop for the longest’ gets pretty violent. Plus a fair amount of cheating occured
Sunday was chilled. Thankfully a later start. A good lecture on geopolitics Then a mano a mano chat (girls in a different room) about the complication of relationships here. The real part of interest to everyone was the statement of how easily you can unwittingly find yourself married.
In the afternoon a city tour. Then a trip up the longest hill in the world to see Addis from above. Cool!
By that evening everybody was shattered and the film room that night was packed.
It got serious on Monday. We continued to continue our language session in the morning.
In the afternoon I met with my VSO programme officer who will be overseeing me and we discussed the move, roles and responsibilities in Hossiana the town in which I will be working
Here are some of the particulars about my placement
Water-There are very serious water shortages in Hosanna and it is important that any volunteers heading there understands this, the college supply is poor and is only switched on for 20 mins a day during working hours. In severe shortages it is sometimes necessary to pay a donkey and cart to fetch water from the main town pipe. The toilet is a pit over which you also have a jug shower
Electricity – is often interrupted. As it is hydroelectric at the end of the dry season, it is often 1 day on , one day off. Cuts often still occur during the on days.
The road between the college and town is safe by day but not from dusk onwards. This is because hyenas that roam the area of park and woodland’ (the campus is surrounded by woodland) 16 people were killed in the last 6 months
–two nights ago I heard the hyenas at their closest yet. About 20 meters away having a chat, about me. ( I could almost hear the pad of their feet)
Back by popular demand that evening was the Olympics, this time with prizes and dancing after.
Tuesday. Final Language Sessions and in the afternoon our partners came. My new employer the
Dean broke the ice by saying it was good I was young.
Anyway the final night was great. The selection of food was immense. Both Ethiopian and western. I hadn’t realised how good because my plate was full up and then I looked up and saw I was only a quarter way around the buffet table. I had writen and delivered a speech because I was in the socail committee and nobody else was daft enough. my speech went down really well. Phil’s wedding had made completely calm about it, luckily.
We also had some professional traditional Ethiopian dancers and a traditional Ethiopian band play for us. The dance mostly, unlike European dances, has the emphasis on the head and shoulders. Which could I magine look ridiculous. But done properly by Ethiopians, as it was , is amazing. The boys, sort of swing their heads around so that it looks like they will fly off.
Wednesday. I woke up Wednesday, not really feeling hung over but with a terrible stomach ache.
After taking medical advice (the advantage of a bunch of vso’s together is that your garenteed a rep from almost every profession. Especially medical.) I had to take some immodium –to get me through the journey- and some stuff what stops your muscles cramping which really did the trick. The driver arrived and after a goodbye (it had been an intense, hilarious 10 days) to all those left waiting for their cars we set off. The road was good
So I must have been really ill because if fell asleep. I awoke as we were turning into a hotel thing for refreshments. I felt ok at this time so accepted the offer of a drink. I ordered tea.
Ethiopia is thought to be the home of the coffee. First discover by goat herders here. Thus tom I have already on numerous occasions had fresh coffee beans roasted and even blessed in front of me. Then had it made into the drink for me.
However, the Tea, I know this is the news you have really been waiting for. If you order tea the Amharic directly translates as tea withmilk. I have yet to figure out the term which ensures that what arrives is not milk with tea. Literally. You receive a cup of warmed throffy??? milk and a shot of tea to pour over.
Anyway we arrived at my placement and I was feeling ruff.. We got hold of the vice dean. I was sick just before his arrival but on his arrival he kindly offered me dinner. I remembered how rude it was to refuse. So I ate. Then I was sick in his garden, which went down really well.
When the key arrived I got everybody out of the house and slept. Wednesday merged into Thursday. I couldn’t wake up when I wanted to. After 18 hours or so in bed. I crawled out of bed. Weakly I managed to get to town and buy essentials. 2 days with no food and I managed an ok dinner. Ironically enough my first self cooked meal contained my nemesis, tuna.
Friday was cleaning day. I had found out the evening before that water comes on for 20 mins at 9 in the morning. Luckily I had had 1.5 litres with me and acquired another litre had which lasted me until then. Luckily I had the sense to get up Friday and fill the buckets because there was to be no more until Tuesday. The house was full of wild life but I cleaned and unpacked in the morning.
In the afternoon I was invited around to 'chat' with some of other lecturers and later we headed out for a beer or two.
Saturday and one of three was the only one left in town but had offered to take me to the market. We started by opening a bank account which went more smoothly than I could hope.
I felt comfortable having a bit of me time until the evening when the meskel ceremony occurs.
It’s a big christian event in the south and celebrates the story of the Ethiopian women who travelled to jeruselem to find the resting place of the cross Christ was crucified on. Apparently it was done by lighting a fire, where the smoke led the women found the pieces of the cross.
On arrival I attracted a lot of attention from the children, being the only white person in town a that time. I was surrounded
I missed the bon fire itself because I had to get back before hyena time. Luckily I had had my hoody on me. Had moved about abit and covered by it, had slipped away largely undetected. Later though, my Ethiopian colleagues are very friendly and when I went to see some local fires in the compound.
One of the adults, a fellow lecturer invited me for dinner. They gave me home made beer.
Monday really was quiet as a feast day. I managed to get stuff done whilst waiting for my first day of work to come and eyeing my water levels which had reached about 4 litres by the time Tuesdays water came.
ON Tuesday I met the rest of the faculty. I managed to get the keys to the office, resource room and model classroom.
I wanted to be busy whilst the other lecturer were away recruiting first year students, Wednesday was spent cleaning and in the afternoon I shifted the 4 tonnes of paper that was lying around the resource centre which the students and existing teachers can use for various tasks
I then ordered everything so that it could be put in an inventory ready for lending to schools and teachers in my cluster unit. Today also opened a PO. Box, If you wuld like to write or send cool stuff like chocolate and books, feel free. Nothing electrical related. Cheers!
My address is
On Friday morning I travelled into town to the bus station for my trip to Awasa. I was greeted by about 40 people. I’m not sure if they expect me to pay them for shouting and walking with me to the bus the first person told me the location of the bus. to be one the safe side I just ignore them. When you get to the bus it has about 50 or 60 seats on it. Each one about ¾ the size of the space needed to sit on properly.
Now the bus is counted as public transport. I know our public transport is private but not in this way. Basicly a bunch of guys, Entrepreneurs I grant you, decide to buy a bus. They can do what they want. There is competition and a market price for fairs so 50birr is the going rate for the 4.5 hour journey or 125 miles, mostly on farms tracks on the sides of hills. I say hills because when a bus goes over I imagine they don’t free fall like in the Italian job. The landscape of the plateau down into the great rift valley is more of a dramatic version of Devons geographically unique rolling hills. As such the buses are going to tumble like those wheels of cheese in Somerset.
SO the journey is a bum numbing, back aching 4 hours but you are fatigued long before you start your journey because they bus does not move until every seat and other nook and cranny is filled. To this end on my outward journey to Awasa, I got on the bus, got off, had lunch, got on waited another hour for the bus to fill. Then there was pandemonium as the ‘conductors’ .flittered between how many people over the realistic number the bus could take, they were going to allow. Would it be 10 or 12. Then as we got on our way and the guy outside the bus station had given up filming me with his mobile phone through the window we picked up more villagers as we went along the way. There seemed to be tens of them at each place. It was distressing as these people were obviously desparate and without a viable means of reaching their destination.
What did strike me on the trip however was the sense of community. Throughout the bus you could see everybody was uncomfortable. It was strange compared to going on the tube say how willing people were to help. I found it hard really figuring out who the children belonged to as the ones that were car sick or fidgety or the parent was tired seemed to be passed around. Children from 4 up to say 9. And these people didn't get on the bus together. Again someone had a delicate earthen coffee kettle, however, it was passed around from person to person as each got tired and at the end of the journey it passed to the owner.
On both ways the person next to me took upon themselves to get to know me. Both bought me a banana chewing and the second managed to squeez my number out of me
I arrived in Awassa with the sun still up and with just enough time to see my two friends apartment which had running water, three balconies, a hot shower and a rat but no yet any furniture, before we went out to the post rendezvous.
A pizza restaurant of sorts. Meat pizza includes lot of veg plus minced meat which has been fried but not drained and then cooked on with the rest. Heaven to me after a week of making different combo’s of tomato, onion and pasta. It indeed looked pretty sexy. The bar is the place where the volunteers meet up every Friday. You think unadventurous but still in a small city here there won’t be that many places worth going and everybody knows to go there. It’s such a tradition that it is even in the lonely planet guide that all volunteers go there. Accourdingly we also met up with some peace corp guys who get mega languages training and speak the language almost perfectly.
Only down side is having to go home relatively early. This is because road travel is so dangerously bad at night the police are stopping it and so after 9 the tuk tuks or bajaj as they are called here don’t run.
The next day we got up failry early and went to get some breakfast with another volunteer. After listening to these people who have a hot shower everyday complain about the lack of chocolate. we headed for possible the best food i’ve had so far. It was called a Fattera Special. It’s like a crispy pancake sandwich. In between are eggs meat load of veg and just the most amazing taste. With some honey on top. Plus to make it extra special, i couldn’t even finish. After we went for what described as an orgasmic coffee. Yar, it was ok. If I was tom and I liked coffee, it would have been amazing. But I don’t, so I took it on the chin for you bro. Damn shame you couldn’t be there.
They we went for a stroll down to the lake which was restful
That afternoon a couple of us climbed a hill half cut away for a quarry. The afternoon view with heavy cloud was stunning and a rainbow ever made a guest star appearance
The next morning we got up and once again I enjoyed the pleasures of hot running water and had myself a lovely shower. My favourite time of year. Then we set off to conquer the hill by the lake before it got too hot. However we are useless so we got there at mid day. I'm not going to lie about this. I didn't put on any sunscreen. It hadn't got that hot until then (it the start of the dry season and as a write this it hasn't rained for two weeks) and the result was I burnt, or rather the sun directed it's nuclear generated power specifically down on me. The hill is wrapped in awasa on all sides but on which adjoins the lake.We got a Bajaj over to the right side of town as far as the driver could be bothered to go.
I'm not sure I have covered Bajaj's. When in one you can't help but drift off into thoughts of how many more times exactly are your odds increased of being maimed or seriously injured. It's not that your essentially driving around in a glorified tin can, keeping you from didtches, donkeys, goats or other crazy bajaj's, neither is it fact the wheels are arranged in a diamond so as to ensure capsize(ment?) at some point. It isn't even the fact the doors are made from curtains. More alarming is that whenever you get in one, perhaps motivated by the prospect of good tip from a ferenji, the nut-cases driving you around always seem to be the fastest, most fearless yet technically inept aggressive driver on the 'road'.
We climbed up the side of the hill. Told it was a hard climb, we were relieved to find our selves at the top of the kidney shaped hill. Both the points of which pointed at the lake. We bumbled along the curve of the top we had great views of the lake and town. All the time ducking as the frequent bumble bee's the size of turkish delights sortied overhead, sound like helicopters as they did so. Awasa the town did not exist 50 years ago but has quickly grown to 125,000. I suppose for its useful proximity as a stopping place before travelling on to Addis as well as it's beauty. It is a well planned town and a relief for its roads, lack of craters and dust. The best bit was still to come.
We decided then to try and skirt th foot of the hill back next the lake. As we wnet down we were joined by string of children all happy to follow and see their pictures on the screen after having one taken and not asking for money. Usually the second phrase after 'what is your name' 'is give me money'. So we made our way down and the group swelled to 7 or 8. After walking through wht seemed to be peoples back gardens we follow a hedged path into a clearing the other side of which was hedged by the lake and a hive of activity. For the next ten minutes the female in our party didn't know where to look. Firstly the 56789 or 10 year old boys playing naked in the water between a herd of cows and a flock? of goats didn't cause to much embarrassment but set the tone. Next were the grown men washing in just tee's. Several of the naked boys started to run out of the lake shouting ferenji or 'you, you' and we hastened on. Skirting around the bend we came to a quiet spot. It was alive with wildlife. After taking a pictures of three different kind of kingfishers, and some other colourful ornithological beauties we continued on to pass closely by a man completely naked washing his shoes and several miniature fishermen again with only t-shirts on.
The serious point to this, if indeed there should be one, is that the lake contains Bilharzia a microscopic parasite that has evolved to live half it's life in the lakes resident snails and half in humans. It passes into the body through the skin (really easily) and out in faeces. It can cause problems for all but in children it has lasting damaging effects on several organs, particualy the liver which it swells the give the appearance of malnutrition as well as considerably stunting children’s growth. It effects millions in sub-Saharan Africa but ironically is simply and quickly treatable.
Our posse was still with us and now a man joined us. Suspecting the aim of his intervention we refused his guidance but he persisted. After heading back to our journeys starting place via some even smaller fishermen who had managed to catch some many fish that they were struggling to cope with the weight, the gentleman indeed asked for money for his unsolicited guidance, which I mostly ignored because I was too fascinated by the red kite about 10ft above heads.
On our way home we stopped at the supermarket and I spent a small fortune. It was worth it though. Powered milk, burberry spice, tinned tuna, baked bean, chick peas, bleach, mae ploy sauce, porridge.... mazing!
We then headed for quick a turn around and attended the 1st birthday party of the son of the lady whose job I have taken over. It reminded me that I won't get to see my own Nephews first birthday which is sad. At the party I didn't seem to have lost the strange thing where babies just seem to stare at me. After securing some food we headed of the watch the Chelsea - Arsenal match in a giant shed. The match was predictable but the fight in the crowd next to my head wasn't. Most enteraining of all has to be paying the he guy collecting 10birr ahead for entry, (not a small sum, a ten minute public taxi cost 1birr or 4pence ) serving us 7 birr bears and whilst he has left, watching how many people run in for a free view.
The trip back was uneventful other than Firstly: waiting 2.5 hours for the bus to start its 4 hour journey. Secondly seeing 20 dead goats which had tipped out of an overturned truck which apparently had hit another truck and two now lifeless donkeys and their cart.
So I got back late on Monday. the next day the Dean introduced me to the new American ifish volunteer, Megan, Megan will be working in the English language improvement centre.
Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday were taken up stocking up on fresh food as well doing some more tidying in my Model classroom and resources as well as catching up on bits and pieces and exploiting my newly stocked cupboard of food.
Friday. Action! The vice dean took us to see three school. The centres of the mini clusters within the bigger cluster of 14 schools, the teachers of which I will be working with. All the school were tucked away in the town. Mud and wooden beam buildings, brightly painted and with educational mural on the outsides. Unfortunately we didn't have time to look around the classrooms. The schools we visited were really and happy to meet us.
In the afternoon I bought some scrap 1 by 1ish from a local carpenter who only seems to make pews for churches, carried it home and started to make a compost bin. Realising I had no nails and despit the fact I know I just don't have the patience to make wooden stuff like the old, old man I none the less wasn't going to be beaten and went ahead and started using finger/dovetail joints to build a 4 sided box. Shortly after starting I gave up because as I was guiding the saw in with my other hand on the side of the blade I Pulled the saw back pushed it forward and because the saw gets smaller at the end managed spectacularly to cut my finger open with the blunt side of the saw. I'm up to row 10 now. But neither have I finish or has my finger healed which now has the appearance of a fish with one gill. It's not happy either as it is the same finger I chopped a considerable amount off the tip two summers ago whilst making a sandwich. I never found the tip but the sandwich was very tasty. The reason for the compost bin is mainly because everybody in the compound just chucks their stuff in a hole despite almost all having a garden.
Saturday we visited the market properly this time and I managed, despite the crowd following us
round to see what crazy stuff ferenji might buy, like onions I suppose, to get vegetables for the week making food cupboard look splendid. At the market I also saw a kid selling bugs on threads. A massive beetle of something which he had lassoed round the leg and which was flying round and round like one of those fake bats on wire you buy in dingles at Christmas for no apparent reason.
On Monday I was keen after Fridays atcion. However, first of all my water didn't come on and so I had to spend part of the day securing my supply. Then as it was my first pay day some paper work there got in the way of my plans to start making appointments with my centre link schools.
As it was admissions week, not all staff were at the full commitment of the lessons timetable. Therefore I spent Tuesday and Wednesday with paper work and more preparation in the office and also preparing for Fridays meeting in Awasa with the Ministry Regional Bureau based VSO volunteer of Regional CPD development.
After posting a letter and taking lunch I wondered back to college via a spot of table tennis (which along with table football and volley ball they are mad about here).
I've also started a garden. After asking if I could borrow a mini machete they all use here the gardener for the college instead cleared the bushes next to my house so that I could turn it. I started last night. It is fresh ground
I'm gradually pick axing all 72 meters squared, and it's knackering. To spur me on to complete the job faster is the fact that recently the locals cleared the perimeter fence of foliage. My house is in the corner of the compound and the fence corner is one side of a cross road. During my work I constant get a stream of you! Or ferenji! Or money money. The children are impressively persistent and in a small crowd can keep up their calls until their through run dry.
Last night I spent ages making a crap excuse for a Thia green curry owning to the fact that I don't have 90% of the ingredients. Still it wasn't bad
Tomorrow (Friday the 15th) I go back to Awasa. Fun.
Next Update due this week. Hit me xxx