Friday, 27 March 2009

Photo update

Here are some photos to go with some earlier entries:

The new recorder group.

The maths group (notice me and the three woreda reps in the background – can you find the twins?)

One of the woreda reps teaching using bottle tops as teaching aids. The card represents 10 “corkie” or bottle tops. Can you see the children looking in the window? – can you imagine in England children staying behind to watch a maths lesson through a window? Also, some of these children are so enthusiastic, they arrive two hours early!!!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Break in!

When we got back from lunch on Monday, we started noticing a few odd things: First Göran noticed there was half a banana in the fridge. Then we started noticing more things: There was orange powder on the table and on the floor; two glasses were dirty that I knew I hadn’t used; the tap on my water filter was at a funny angle; there were dirty finger prints on the fridge door; one of the snickers we had in the fridge had been eaten and the wrapper had been hidden behind other bars; Göran’s bar of chocolate had been eaten and the rest replaced; two of my “laughing cow” cheeses had been nibbled.

Anyway, we knew it was either a very large, intelligent rat that can open screw-top jars and use water filters, or someone had been in the house. There was a birr note left on the table and nothing of any value had been touched so we suspected children, not any kind of organised burglary outfit.

The mystery was solved pretty quickly when we asked the neighbours if they had seen anything, and one of the boys said his brother and another boy (both around 4 years old) had been in and had a little feast. It’s the parents’ reaction that is so different here: At first they laughed and said it is cultural to go into people’s houses. I followed this with, what and help themselves to things in their fridges and leave a mess? They said, no, and they apologised.

This is like a previous occasion when someone’s son of about two years old threw stones at me, and the father just looked on and laughed.

Later both sets of parents apologised and as the boys were only four, we’re not too bothered. It’s good to know who it was.

The problem had been caused by a series of errors leading to the back door being left unlocked. I always lock the back door every time I use it, but Göran does not – he checks it before he goes out. I knew I had locked it the night before and when I took the key out in the morning to give to the cleaner I didn’t check it first. Anyway, it turns out Göran had been out the back first thing in the morning and not locked the door, and when he went out of the house later, he checked the door (which is stiff) and assumed it was locked. Also, the cleaner didn’t come like she was supposed to, and if she had, she would’ve been in the house and the boys wouldn’t have come in. It’s like an over complicated butterfly effect.

Anyway, problem sorted and it did make another, hopefully interesting, blog entry!!!


This is driving us mad. Apart from being off for extended periods, as I mentioned in a previous entry, it is now going off for short (minute or so) bursts, maybe once an hour, or maybe every 15 minutes. If anyone is watching Ethiopia from a satellite, it must look like a lighthouse!!! (And the mobile phone network is off, the internet didn’t connect this morning and the water if off!)

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Workshops for college students and other news

It’s all go at the moment. I suddenly got involved in running a series of workshops for the trainee teacher college students. I had been planning to do it, I just didn’t know when and then all of a sudden I got the chance.

On Wednesday, I had around 40 chemistry students and spent three hours demonstrating and explaining active teaching methodology with examples and use of number fans. I then moved on to classroom displays and teaching aids. They all seemed to enjoy it – I managed to get quite a few laughs in, especially the “draw a horse in one minute” task to show them that sometimes an iconistic picture is enough and there is no point wasting time drawing photographically accurate pictures.

The students all got to use rulers and, like last year, I caught a few starting measuring from 1cm instead of 0. It seems really funny that in this part of the training I am teaching 18-20 year olds the same lesson I give my 8 year olds back in the UK. Of course, some of these 18-20 year olds have never really had the chance to use a ruler – certainly not in primary school.

Another big laugh came from a number fans demo when the students have to select a picture from the 0 – 9 board. There were pictures I had drawn like “Mr Men” for different sizes, colours and shapes, so for example I would ask “Which one is the big, red, square.”

Well this time I asked “Which one is Dibaba? (the college Dean.) It’s really great when you can tap into humour when the people you are talking to have English as a second, or third language.

Now, as part of Negessa and Aberham’s training (The guys sent from the remote woredas to work with me for two months), they will be giving the training to two more groups of students on Thursday and Friday.


Recorder groups continue, including the group where two of my students are teaching a new group. This gives me yet another insight into teaching. I can watch people who are not trained teachers trying their ideas of teaching. Last week they were a little nervous but the main thing I noticed was that they were forgetting that what they know, their students do not know.

Home Alone

Göran is away for the week following up his training in college last week (training that, due to some guy in an office 700km away translating the time, the duration and the number of attendees wrong nearly didn’t happen!) He will be helping people from different woredas get their computers up and running (themselves hopefully!)


We’ve had the old spot of rain over the last couple of weeks, but over the last couple of days we have had sudden periods of very strong wind and on Wednesday, this was followed by moderate rain. This is quite a bit different to the pattern of weather last year. The up-side is low temperatures, the downside is increased humidity and mud!!!


The power situation has been pretty bad recently. So far, in the 18 days of March we have had long blackouts on 12 of those days.


I found a small scorpion in my room on Wednesday morning and in the evening I kept hearing a knocking on my door. It turned out to be a frog jumping towards it, maybe thinking it was a large hole.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Mini tornado. fire and recorders

On Sunday night there was a mini-tornado. At first I thought it was another weather-front gust, but very strong. Big clumps of straw from our roof fell into the centre of our house and lots of debris was blowing around outside. A few minutes later the power failed and apart from a brief hour on Monday, it remained off until Wednesday night. On Tuesday afternoon I found out why the power was still off: Power poles all along the “high-street” were down – they were just snapped off at the base. The wind caused a domino effect I think.

It wasn’t a dust devil as these occur during the day, are caused by heated air rising from the ground and only last a few seconds. The wind we had was in the evening and must’ve persisted quite a while to travel to town and do the damage after it left us, so I guess it must’ve been a tornado – albeit a small one.

A side-effect of no power, is no water (as it relies on electricity at the pumping end.) On Wednesday, the college arranged a delivery of two Jerry cans, but me and Göran couldn’t help laughing when we emptied them into a bucket – they contained big globs of oil (the Jerry Cans originally held cooking oil), and the only thing the water was any good for was flushing the toilet.

On Thursday morning the water was back – hooray, but Thursday night the power is off again!


In other news, I have had an interesting week with the recorder players – the same kind of thing that I would get in the UK, based on the players that are not so good being jealous of the best one (who also happens to be a girl) and the one I have chosen to teach others. I think it is now mostly sorted, by re-arranging groups, and by using the translation help of one of the guys from the woreda who is with me. I am getting on really well with him and he is really good both with translating, and with active teaching in general. He seems to have a good teaching style even with younger children (he usually teaches older students.)

On Thursday, the students began their first lesson teaching younger children. It went quite well although they tried to move too fast, forgetting that what they know, the students do not yet know and need repetition. Still, not at all bad for a first teaching session for them.


On Wednesday the sun was a weird orangey colour due to huge amounts of smoke in the air and in the evening, just before I went to bed I saw fire on the hill near where I live and the sky was yellow with fire in the distance. I woke up around 1am and could hear the crackling of the fire. When I looked out of the window, I saw a long line of fire in the distance, maybe 500m away from the house. This also happened last year. The farmers, I think, burn the stubble from the fields before ploughing, but whether by accident or plan the fire usually spreads over huge areas. Luckily it never made it to the house. Lots of the area around the campus has been pre-burned in a controlled way to stop these wild fires doing any damage.

Monday, 9 March 2009


It’s amazing the temperature here. As I write this at 6pm the outside temperature is 35°C – and that’s after it’s been mostly overcast all afternoon. So far, my data logger has registered 39°C as the maximum temperature in the shade and that was about a week ago. The average temperature (averaged over the whole 24 hours – so includes night temperature) went from a low of 21°C in December to around 29°C at the moment. So to restate that: the average temperature, including the overnight lows is around 29°C.

Last night was interesting. At around 2000, there was a very strong wind (which is rare here) and the temperature shot up about 3°C to around 35°C. I guess it was a weather front, but to stand outside at night and be blasted by almost body temperature gusts is very strange. Also strange, and something that makes you realise how hot it actually is, is when you touch things at the moment: they are warm to the touch. Maybe in the UK, if something has been in the sun, you expect it to feel warm of hot, but when you touch the door handle here which has been in the shade all day and it feels hot, or a mug which feels like it’s come out of the dish washer, it is very weird.

I have adapted quite well. I notice I am sweating, but I’m not really aware of how hot the air is, that’s why it comes as a surprise when all the surfaces and objects are hot.

I’m glad I have access to a fridge this year (when the power is on!)

Friday, 6 March 2009

Doing some good!

It seems to be working well with the two Woreda guys. They have seen me teach actively and I have got them to teach some lessons to younger children in the local school and given them feedback. I have also been teaching them some computer skills.

My favourite project at the moment, started this week is twice weekly sessions for ten grade 2 students (about 8 or 9 years old) who are less able at maths. I have been teaching them, with the help of translation from the guys, and also the class teacher is in watching. At first we checked their basic skills and have had to go right back to one digit addition. I have introduced using bottle tops as counters and also number lines to help them count-on. I realise how much I enjoy teaching, and this is good all round as it is part of the training for the two guys, training for the class teacher and is also helping the ten children.

I also, within the week, will have one of my recorder players starting to teach younger children. Hopefully this will continue next year, when I am gone.

Sometimes I get a praying mantis sitting on the netting covering my window and a couple of times in the morning a bird has suddenly flown up and eaten the mantis straight off the net. Last night was a first: I was just sitting there watching a movie on my laptop and knew another mantis was on the net when suddenly something flew up and did the same thing. This time it wasn’t a bird… it was a bat.