Thursday, 30 August 2007

Inoculations part 5 and Wealden VSO Lunch

This morning I had my final inoculations, rabies number 3 and Hepatitis B number 3. Unlike last time, no bleeding on either arm! The rabies one is interesting as it only slows down the disease if you get bitten by anything. The advice is, even if you're not bitten but just licked by a mammal on cracked skin, to go and get the treatment. For me, in somewhere that isn't on a map, that might mean that if I get licked by a dog on a sore hand, I'm technically supposed to go on a 6 day round trip to Addis to get treatment. Would you do it?

In the afternoon I went to the local Wealden VSO group's fundraising lunch. I met lots of people there including some Returned Volunteers (RVs) who had done VSO work in the past. One lady had been on three different placements since retirement. There was a good buffet which I stocked up on and entertainment was provided by a live jazz group. My car was noticeably the oldest one there, but it was made up for by the fact that I was the youngest person there!!! (I'd better be careful what I say, as I was handing out cards with this blog address on it, so I don't know who'll be reading it and I'm hoping that some of the people may donate more to VSO, perhaps using the link on the right to my fundraising web page!!!) Thanks again to the hosts for the food and company, and I'll keep the group updated with my progress during the two years. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Doh! TVs and cars

Last month my reliable 15 year old TV needed a £46 repair and today, with one month to go, I found out my car (I've had for 8 years) needs a new exhaust and two new tyres which will cost over £200. On the positive side, £200 is less than it would cost to rent a car for my last month in the UK, but this is getting silly! What next!

[pic of car nr Workington last week]

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Lakes and Blackpool

As part of my tour around the coast (of Britain and Ireland) I have just returned from the North West of England. After my SKWID course I went to the Lake District. I stayed in Windermere and visited lots of the coast from Maryport to Whitehaven to Grange-over-sands (look them up on a map!)- drove along two very steep and narrow passes (Hard Knott and Wrynose) near sunset - amazing views of the hills and valleys. I Climbed a small hill with 360 degree views including Lake Windermere, and also walked around a nature area at the southern tip of Walney Island (near Barrow-in-Furness.) On the last day there, I kayaked on Coniston Water where I visited two small islands in the middle of the lake.

Next, I went South to Blackpool. I stayed about 5km from the town where it was less "glitsy" and noisy! I had a good day just walking along from my hotel, out on all three piers and along to a giant mirror ball passed the pleasure beach with its giant roller coaster. In all, I estimate I walked about 15 miles, finishing with a walk along a massive sandy beach on the north end near my hotel as the sea came in (it comes in very quickly as the sand is fairly flat.)

I'm really going to miss the sea when I go to Ethiopia. I love visiting all coastal places whether natural, rocky, sandy, ports, dodgy seaside resorts etc.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

SKWID training course

Just finished a five day course in Harborne (near Birmingham) which, like before, was pretty intense. Some long days from 9am - 8 or 9pm. First there was a health and safety session telling us a bit about the diseases we might expect, and how to filter and boil all drinking water. [Number 1 problem is botty trouble!!!!]

Then on to SKWID (Skills for Working in Development) proper. I was in a group of around 18 people, 4 going to Ethiopia and a few teachers among us. At first the course seemed full of jargon and acronyms and I thought (as did a couple of the teachers): "Oh no! We thought we were getting away from all the jargon and paperwork that seems to dominate teaching in the UK at the moment." We had a mega-overdose of "Participatory approaches", "Facilitation" and "tools" to use when negotiating. We did learn a lot though, especially about how just bundling in to a situation without thinking of the consequences of your actions and how it will effect everyone (including the silent majority) is BAD! We also learnt how to do a stakeholder analysis - which was nice.

Anyway, after five days of getting up and collecting breakfast, course, biscuit and coffee break, course, lunch, course, biscuit and coffee break, course, dinner, course etc people were getting a bit stir crazy and it was like (in northern voice): "Day 5 in the big brother house - three volunteers tried to climb over the wall when the coffee ran out."

The last day, in small groups, we had to prepare a scenario and facilitate a participatory discussion (e.g. five of us had to be pregnant women in Cambodia and one of our group had to facilitate a discussion about a new health center using a "tool" to aid this discussion - e.g. guided drawing or role playing.)

So overall, once all the jargon has been filtered out by my brain, it gave me a good idea of some things to think about when I go to Ethiopia.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Info about Gilgel Beles

I have been in contact with a volunteer who was in Gilgel Beles a year ago. He doesn't know what it is like now, but here is some information he has given me in answer to my questions:
  • You pronounce Gilgel Beles: Gil (as in a fish gill); gel (as in jel like jelly); Beles (=bellez).
  • Gilgel Beles College of Teachers Education is a new college (opened February 2005.)
  • Where I might be staying: residence in the college campus has greater facilities than the accommodation in the town (including spacious houses, cold showers and “flush” toilets).
  • The college (at August 2006) did not have any internet facilities.
  • There was a small internet cafe in the town with extremely unreliable dial-up connection.
  • you can buy toilet paper in any town or village in Ethiopia.

The journey to and from the capital city also sounds fun:

"The journey to Gilgel Beles from Addis Ababa is split over two days (first day: 12 hour journey, Addis Ababa to Chagni; second day: 1-2 hours journey, Chagni to Gilgel Beles).
There is no direct bus from Gilgel Beles to Addis Ababa; and the return journey may involve three or more bus journeys (depending on availability of buses!) Most likely first day: Gilgel Beles to Chagni / Kosober; then to Debre Markos (total 6-8 hours); second day: Debre Markos to Addis Ababa (total 6-8 hours). "

On Malaria:

"I did not have any malarial problems; although most staff and students in Gilgel Beles do. I used a mosquito net (over windows, door and bed); I also took larium malaria tablets. "


"The native language of Gilgel Beles is not Amharic. However, the majority of the residents speak Amharic (as they are not originally from the area). The ‘locals’ speak Gumuz, and various other languages from the Benishangul-Gumuz region. English is not widely spoken. The only people who speak English are the Gilgel Beles College academic staff and some other teachers and government workers in the town. "

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

More info on Gilgel Beles + Flights

I have just found out that the last volunteer in Gilgel Beles, where I am going, left in August 2006 and VSO haven't managed to fill the other post there, so I will be on my own (expat-wise), at least until February.

Also, I now have my flight date - 26th September, where I will be leaving with 20 other volunteers going to to Ethiopia (7 from straight from London, and the rest from connecting flights from Manchester, Amsterdam etc). We will arrive in Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia) at 02:25 in the morning - nice (although Ethiopia is 3 hours ahead so it will only feel like 23:25.)

Inoculations part 4

Well this morning I had my second rabies and my first and only meningitis, and I have just got back from another clinic where I had my Yellow Fever vaccination. That one squirted out a nice blood dribble down my arm... nice! I now have three plasters on. One on my right and two on my left arm!!

Only two more to go...