Thursday, 17 July 2008

Robin Hood and Yorkshire

School play

Yesterday I saw my old school play, "Robin Hood". I really enjoyed it, the sound when all the children were singing was excellent. It was also good, for the first time, to be able to sit back, relax and watch it without having to take photos, video, conduct, manage children etc. Oh, and I won the interval raffle and got a big box of chocolates - my first in 10 months!!!

Things I have noticed here in the UK:

It’s really nice being able to walk around here without looking at the floor all the time, like in Gilgel, where you’d trip over a rock or uneven surface if you did that. The smooth pavements are great!

It’s also so quiet. In Gilgel, you always have very loud insect / frog etc noise at night, and here there is nothing.

Things that have changed about me:

I did accidentally start to say "Amisaginalo" (thank you) to someone who brought me a coffee the other day and I have the urge to ask "sint now?" (How much is it?) in shops.

When I meet people, even people I don't know that well, I also want to shake their hands or hug them, like everyone does in Ethiopia.

Other than that, it really has been easy settling back down in the UK. I wonder if it will be as easy going back???


Well, later today I’m off to my old university city, York, to walk the wall and stay the night, then to Scarborough for a few days. I love walking around there with the high peninsular with a castle on it, and, of course, the sea. Also, Whitby is near, and I might visit there.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

7 days later...

I love broadband wireless Internet!... and water and electricity 24/7! And a clean, flush toilet!

I've settled back very quickly. In the last week: I've hired a nice new car (it plays MP3 CDs, has air con, power steering etc - a bit better than my 17 year old fiesta which died while I was away); been to McDonalds (twice); KFC (once); had cheesy chips on the beach at Eastbourne; watched a carnival at Brighton; visited my old school and done a presentation to all the children on my exploits in Ethiopia; visited friends and family; used the internet a lot; bought second-hand books from charity shops; bought books, DVDs and hardware from the net...

I love it!!!!

Tomorrow I go to watch "Robin Hood" a musical play being performed by pupils from my old school, then I'm going away for a few days before the schools break up for the summer holiday and it gets really busy.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

I'm back!

I'm back in the UK.  It's really weird because it feels like I was just in the house yesterday.

The flight left pretty much on time but was then delayed for over an hour in Rome, waiting for Heathrow to give us a time slot to land.

When we finally did land we had to wait another 15 mins for a gate to become free for us to "park".  

I finally arrived home just after midnight (which is just after 2am for me on Ethiopian time.)


Sunday, 6 July 2008

Last entry from Ethiopia

If all goes well, tomorrow I will be on a flight back to the UK for a summer "holiday", before returning to Ethiopia in September.

I had a relaxing time in Bahir Dar, and then things started going downhill when I got a call on Friday to say my 1:30pm flight was delayed until 3.00pm. I got to the airport in plenty of time and we were actually on the plane at 2:30pm. The engines started and all was going well until the port engine cut out and a while later the pilot informed us there was a slight technical problem. I got a little worried when an old guy with a "garden-shed"-type toolbox walked across to us. After sitting on a hot plane (no engines, so no air) for about 45mins they announced that we had to get off and go back to the terminal. They didn't give us much more information, but it seemed like there was a plane flying up from Addis Ababa which could take us back.

The grey clouds gathering in the sky were a bit foreboding and my hopes faded as 5pm passed and it started a heavy downpour with lightning. Finally, at around 6pm they told us the flight was cancelled, but we would be put up at the Papyrus Hotel with free food. I could've gone back to Judith's, but it would've been more complicated with the transport and it was all going to be free anyway so I went for the hotel option. I had a nice fried fish, then went to my room to read (by torchlight as there was no power) and had an early night.

We were told that the bus would take us to the airport at 5:45am, so I was ready, but it eventually left at 6:15am. Then it was back at the airport, sitting around until finally we left around 8am. I got to my hotel in Addis around 9.45am and spent the day just going with the flow including visiting the museum with "Lucy" in it – the oldest discovered human who was found in Ethiopia, and eating an expensive cheese sandwich in "The Sheriton" hotel (£150 per night) while listening to someone play the piano in luxurious surroundings.

My next entry should be made using a broadband wireless connection in the UK!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

No Communication - lots of news!!

Written on Monday 9/6/08 at 09:21 - Kerosene

No power since Sat night – I’m on the generator in the college
I think I got some emails out last week, but it didn’t stay connected long enough to receive.
Water was ok at the weekend but not on this morning.
Having got some kerosene in town, I am now using my kerosene stove which is quite good really. If you set it up correctly and get a blue flame, it doesn’t make things too black (like the wax one) and it’s hotter than the electric hot plate.
Mobile phone network still not working – it’s been over a week.
This is dialling and re-dialling and not connecting. It’s very annoying.

Appended on 10/06/08 at 8:48 – didn’t connect on Monday at all.

Water came on just as I was leaving this morning so I managed to fill things up. Went to visit a girls’ school with Marta (other VSO volunteer) yesterday – the government-run school for orphaned girls (or really, young woman as they are mostly 15 or over) will become part of the cluster in September.
Power came back in my house yesterday, but as the main “fuse board” to the mains in the college is down, it means they can only get electricity in the Admin building by using the generator.
Still no mobile signal.
At night, walking home, I have seen some dots of bright green flashing light. I haven’t been drinking, it’s made in the bodies of tiny fireflies and is quite cool!

Added on 11/06/08 evening - Desk Top Publishing

Well still no net connection or mobile signal. There is power, but there is no water again and hasn’t been since yesterday morning. I can survive two full days now (or 3 if I have a less frequent bowl wash!!!)
I’ve been working all day on Desk Top Publishing the Graduate magazine which includes the 100-odd photos of students I took before going to Addis (all sharing one gown and hat.) Also, editing the English text which sometimes is in very strange Ethiopian English order and has unusual vocabulary. It has also involved adding comments and messages in Amharic script.
I wonder if I’ll be back in the UK when this email finally gets sent!!!

Additional 23:15 - gint

I was watching a DVD when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was another scorpion trotting across the floor. It’s funny, it’s another word that I think of in Amharic first (gint) before English. I dispatched it with a blow from a bottle of multivitamins!!!

Added on 14/06/08

No internet or mobile all week. Marta has gone back to Addis.

Added on 16/06/08 - Bazaar

There was a Bazaar here at the weekend, which is like a county fair. Lots of important Ethiopians were here, more 4x4’s than I’ve ever seen in Gilgel. Also the water was on for a lot of the time, and the electricity was on all weekend. There was the unveiling of a sign and plaque, singing, stalls etc.

20/06/08 22:40 - English club

Well, I think the whole email blackout / no mobile signal is not a technical problem. It is possibly a political / security problem. Apparently in the troubles a few years ago the government turned off text-messaging on mobiles, so this could be a similar response to a perceived security threat.
Anyway, I’ve just returned from an “English Club” presentation in the main hall in the college. I set up the P.A. and music and with two hours to go found out I would be speaking. In the end the hall was full of instructors and students which I’m guessing was about 300 to 500 people. My speech went ok, I think – got a few laughs. The play the students did was good, but the whole programme went on for well over two hours with lots of speeches from different people and at one point a group of audience decided to leave, and the response from the “management” was to lock the doors – lock us all in!!!! Talk about a contained audience!!! At the end, when the doors were unlocked, a glass panel in the door was shattered in the rush to get out!!!

I finished DTPing the Graduate magazine and it’s gone off to print. I’ve been sorting out the CCU room and preparing my budget for next year so that everything is ready for me to leave next week (or maybe last week when this entry finally appears!)

Yesterday, “my” grade 2 class performed the songs I had taught them to several hundred other students in the school. The programme including “One two tie my shoe”, “London’s burning” (with round), “Frere Jacques” (with English French Accent!), “Head, shoulders knees and toes”, “Land of the silver birch” and “Hine ma tov” (Hebrew). They did really well.

Sad News

I heard some sad news in the week. Apparently, four VSO volunteers returning home a few nights ago in Addis Ababa were hit by a bus being driven by a drunk driver. One of them was killed instantly, and three others had a variety of broken bones etc and were flown out to Nairobi in Kenya for treatment. They are recovering well. This is what I believe happened, hearing it from a couple of sources, but for official news it is best to contact VSO direct. My best wishes go to those and Nairobi and to the family of the deceased.

22/06/08 School Celebration

To celebrate the end of the school year there was a “fair” at the local school, where I teach.
There were some stalls, like spin the wheel, roll the coin and “hit the hanging gourd with a stick while blindfolded” games. Also there was dancing and singing representing the major ethnic groups in the school: Amhara, Argo, Shanasha, Gumuz (I hope I didn’t forget anyone); a play about parents not letting their children go to school, so they can work in the fields; some speeches; and a P.E. display including lots of running and tumbling and at one point leaping over children laying on the ground. After each successful run, more children were added. I think it was a case of keep adding children until there is an accident! In the end I think 11 children laying side-to-side were jumped over, with the jumper landing on their hands and doing a back flip.

24/06/08 - proposal

The power was off from 0700-2130 yesterday, I guess on one of the “power sharing” cycles. Water still ok. Mobile network and internet still off. The baby in the house is cute, but annoying. I have to close my doors every time I go out, even for a second, otherwise he goes in there. This is particularly annoying when I am filling bowls and buckets and would usually leave the door open so I could carry it straight in.
I am currently teaching an English class to administrative staff twice a week, and for this week, I am teaching one of my neighbour’s children English.
I have finished my 2001 (Ethiopian Calendar) proposal for funding, and with the Graduate Bulletin finished there is not a lot to do at the moment. Still, in one week I will be leaving and going to Bahir Dar, then Addis, then home for a holiday.

25/06/08 - Wednesday - English class

This week I have been teaching English to my neighbour’s children at the cluster centre in the afternoons. The trouble is, other people got to hear about it and now I have three families!! I also found out today that I probably (as much as “probably” means here) be going to Bahir Dar on Friday. I also have to clear out my room as they may use it for other people in the summer.

27/06/08 – Friday - not leaving

Well I was right about “probably” – now the car isn’t going until Sunday (so I’ve been told). It did mean I could finish the last English Language Improvement class with the administrative staff, then in the afternoon taught English to children – from two of my neighbour’s children on Monday I ended the week with a “class” of eight today. Good fun though. I’ve also spent the last couple of days packing and tidying.

29/06/09 – Sunday - still not leaving

Still here. Yesterday the car was changed to Monday!! Will I ever get out of here? Very heavy rain and big storm yesterday afternoon. It is well into “Jungle” rain pattern now: Sunny in the morning, heavy rain in the afternoon. The streams are flowing and the river is high.

01/07/09 – Tuesday - Bahir Dar at last!

I am at last in Bahir Dar. After being told on Saturday, after two postponements, that we would definitely be going at 10am Monday, I went to the college at 9am to find out one of the people due to come on the trip was in another village and would not be back until lunchtime. When I saw him, on his return, he said we would go after lunch. I was told 2pm. After killing time until 3:30pm (during which I was not drinking for the journey, and basically sitting in a packed-away room) I went to the college to find out what was going on. It turned out to be bureaucracy basically – getting triplicate stamped forms signed by all the relevant people etc.
We eventually left at 4pm – left the college that is. We still had to collect a bag of charcoal from someone’s house (it’s more expensive in Addis so they were going to bring some along) and get fuel before we finally left Gilgel Beles. Of course then it wasn’t a straightforward journey: We stopped at the next village to get a school director to put the official school stamp on five sheets of order forms which took a while, then in Chagni, the Vice Dean spent ages in a shop getting butter, oh and we had our tyres inflated. All this squashed in the back seat with three other people.
When we finally arrived in Kosober, around sunset, they suggested it was too dangerous to go to Bahir Dar now, but I really wanted to get to Judith’s luxurious apartment, ferengi food and decent toilet so asked them to look for a minibus. There were none, so I ended up eating injura again (they ate raw meat) and sleeping in a 17 birr per night (about 90p) hotel where the wardrobe consisted of four hooks on the wall, and the en-suite toilet was a plastic bowl (that the Dean told me was for urine only – you get fined if you do a poo in it!!!) The shared toilets were horrendous and I didn’t fancy having to poo in them, that coupled with not knowing when I was leaving the next day prompted me for the first time to use Imodium to stop me pooing in the morning before arriving at Bahir Dar !
It was much cooler in Kosober. It’s at an altitude of about 2600m. The atmospheric pressure is about 75% of what it is at sea level, and in my room it was 19°C, the coldest I’ve been for months. Apart from weird bird noises and a loud car revving, I had a reasonable sleep.
Next morning, having been told we were leaving at 12:00 (6am), I got a knock on the door at 11:30 (5:30am) and had to get ready within about 10 minutes. I’d slept in my clothes and basically had to pack a few things away and use the bowl. They put me on a minibus and, unshaven, unwashed and (thankfully) – not needing a number 2, set off for Bahir Dar. After getting my bags carried to a Bajaj (motor scooter rickshaw) and getting the price down from a Ferengi 30 birr to a still expensive 10 birr, I arrived at Judith’s apartment at 8am. I had a big coffee, then we went to the Ghion hotel and had French toast breakfast overlooking the, very calm, Lake Tana.

At Bahir Dar

I have at last got email connection as I am in Bahir Dar on my way
home - less than a week now.

I have a big catch-up blg entry for the last few weeks to upload, but
can't until I can connect my laptop to a phone line.

Stay tuned...