Well it all started out in the "come to expect it" fiasco. About two weeks ago I had asked the vice dean if there was a car going to Bahir Dar that I could hitch a ride with. The eight hour bus journey is not particularly enjoyable. He said yes, on Thursday (21st) returning on the Monday – this seemed ideal, but living the life of pessimism that I do, I was expecting some problem. As usual, I was correct. When I checked on Tuesday, there wasno longer a car going to Bahir Dar, but there was one going to Addis which could drop me off at Kosober on the way. Not as good, but going from 1000m to 2600m in a 4x4 is much more comfortable and quicker than in a bus, and Kosober to Bahir Dar is on asphalt road and only takes about 1h15 in a minibus so I could cope with that.
Wednesday afternoon, I again checked the arrangements aware that last time I was told 9am collection and they arrived at 7.30am. I am now told that the car going to Addis is a single cab 4x4 and there is no room for me. I can use my CCU budget to pay for 40… no 50 litres of fuel at 350 birr and have a car take me there. Well originally I only wanted to go by car if it was going anyway and 350 birr is 10 bus tickets so I'm not particularly enamoured at this option. The vice dean said it's not a problem as I have some transport money in my proposal so I can use this and says I just have to write a letter. I did query the whole thing and say it was very expensive and it not directly related to CCU (even though I would be doing some training at Bahir Dar University) but the Vice Dean seemed to think it was ok and seemed very in favour of my using the uni car. That, and the thought of the incredibly slow bus journey persuaded me to write the letter. It was getting towards the end of the day and eventually six copies of the order went to various departments, I received 350birr (the driver is not allowed to pay for the fuel and get receipts, the academics travelling have to do that!)
So, a bit concerned about the money, but remembering it's only £20 UK money and I could cover it with my own money if things went wrong, I at least had the thought that I could go at 8am after refilling water etc (which doesn't come on until 7.30am), having a pleasant start to the day etc
That was until the driver arrived and suggested (through an interpreter) that we leave at 5am. We finally got it to 6am, but that's the same time as the bus and I thought this is getting worse and worse. Apparently he needed to be back in Chagni for a funeral.
Thursday, 21st February
So I set my alarm for 5am and got ready and packed and was outside at 6am ready. By pure co-incidence when I looked at The Moon just above the horizon in the direction across from my house, it was dark and I realised it was in eclipse. I subsequently found out there was a lunar eclipse, and totality started about 10mins before I went outside the door. I remember there was
one (that I asked the children in my class to watch) on the day I went to the very first VSO open day, round about this time last year (12 full moons ago.)
The car arrived near enough on time, including two passengers – getting the free ride that I seemed unable to get, but I am on my way. (the tenses in this blog entry seem to keep changing!)
When we got to Chagni (the nearest bigger town to Gilgel) the car suddenly went off the main road and down a side street where about 100 people were gathered – the funeral, I guessed. They parked, and without telling me anything, got out and walked off leaving me to be a ferengi in a cage to be stared at. I started listening to my MP3 player. The driver came back crying
about 20mins later followed by someone who asked where he was going, and he pointed at me and said Kosober. We set off, me being driven by a distressed driver who would rather be at a funeral than driving me. Nether could speak each other's language. Great! I think I understood that it was a friend who was also a driver who had died.
After a quite tense 1h30 we got to Kosober and after paying for the re-fuelling I was off to Bahir Dar on a speedy minibus arriving around 10am.
I may be wrong, but I think the vice dean was so keen for me to use the CCU budget to a) allow the car to have a bit of extra fuel (left over from the journey) but mainly so that the three people, including the driver, got a paid-for trip to Chagni for the funeral. Now I know a funeral is a sad thing, but I wish they were honest about it all. It would've made sense for me to pay 33birr to go by bus, but then where would they get the money for the fuel to Chagni?
Once in Bahir Dar I got a mini-three-wheel moped taxi to the university, got the key from Elsa, who I would be staying with, minibused and walked back to her luxurious government apartment and had a sleep!
In the afternoon I went to the telecenter, and thanks to a letter from the Dean of the College, got my own internet account (which I paid for, it's about 60 birr per month with 900 free minutes) It means I can surf anytime, even while colleagues in the college are using the college account. Also, if/when I get a phone line I can use it then. I also went to the post office, on the off-chance of post and there was one item – I'm not sure why it hadn't been sent on to me, it was only a
magazine. I found a nice café on a first floor with a balcony overlooking the street, where I had a coffee and a very good chocolate-iced doughnut. I went to the supermarket and got some supplies. I was distressed to find no chocolate bars! Last time there were Bounty, Mars, Snickers etc! Back at the house I had the first shower I had had for six weeks – hot as well! When Elsa and Judith returned, I had a look around Judith's apartment – opposite to Elsa's. Again it is very large, with comfy-chair lounge and hers has a balcony which overlooks the street. The only disadvantage is that there is a bar below which plays music about 18 hours a day which is beginning to drive her mad. We then went out for a meal at the next-door hotel. Lots of
different veg etc – very nice, first "proper" restaurant meal for 6 weeks.
After breakfast I went for a walk along the lake, fending off the usual "Do you want a boat" with "hulet wer befeet" – which means two months ago (I went). Also "gobinyee Idelehum" – "I am not a tourist" came in useful. After scrambled egg and bread (and another chocolate donut) at the café, I went to the university, prepared and delivered my presentation to 10 department reps from the university who have a special interest in English. There were also some students in the session as well. It went pretty well, and I even linked number fans to the electronic voting systems that businesses use to show number fans are not just for children, they are just an inexpensive way of getting feedback and allowing assessment from anyone.
After the uni, we went back to town via another supermarket that has recently opened. It had a larger variety of sweets – but all cheap "copies" of the big brands. As Elsa had bought more heavy shopping, she asked if we could swap bags because of her back. We got a minibus back and outside the apartment we discovered she had left my bag on the bus – luckily it had only 50 birrs-worth of stuff. Amazingly, about an hour later, the minibus returned the bag and I had the first yoghurt I had had since the UK.
Me and Judith had a meal at the Ghion (hotel where I had stayed before where the dining area over-looks the lake.) We had a good egg-covered fish.
Lazy start, shopping in afternoon and great smoothy fruit drinks! Me and Judith had a meal at a poshish hotel (still only cost around 60 birr (£3) including drinks.)
Went to Judith's for eggy-bread (aka French toast) but there was a power cut so we went for a long walk around the lake, I showed her the doughnut café! We had eggy-bread when we returned. In the evening we ate at the Papyrus (where I stayed the first time in Bahir Dar) by the swimming pool. I had a burger and chips – the last meal like that for a while followed by the last hot shower I would have for a while.
Getting the minibus to Kosober was relatively painless, as was the bus to Chagni. The temperature was ok and I had a seat at the front so was pretty comfortable. Then it all went downhill at Chagni. I managed to get on a very full bus, at one point an announcement was made and lots of people got off, but apparently what had happened was that as demand was so high, they had put the price up from 7 to 12 birr to get to Gigel. The next 45mins was a hot, sticky wait without knowing when we were going to leave. When we did depart, it was the usual slow, stop-start trip and by the time I got to Gilgel Beles, six hours after departing Bahir Dar, I was hot, sticky, dehydrated and unlike previous feelings of being "home", this time I was angry and felt like I was back in a watered down version of hell to continue my sentence.
I also discovered someone had been in the house and it looks like they stood on the toilet to use it. It is the only solution to explain the muddy footprints on the seat. There seems to have been a bit of cleaning done and maybe the plants watered so I guess it must be the "friend" of the family who took the key.
My can of tuna slopped on the floor when I opened it – attracting the ants very quickly, necessitating a floor wash – and the temp was 35C! Also, I discovered my bag of flour had quite a few black insects in it, meaning I had to sieve them out – all extra jobs I didn't need on my return. Oh well, life goes on…