Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Recorders and counterpart

I have just finished my first lesson teaching the recorder to five children in grade 3 (they were in the class I taught in last year.) Hopefully dad can upload a picture I took. Yes I can! I selected them last week by a class test and then individually assessing their musical ability. Some are picking up reading the notation really quickly. Today was A&B. This is a bit of an experiment (I pre-prepared a phrase-sheet in English and Amharic which I used to say stuff like “blow softer” and “check you have covered all the holes".) If it works, I might ask for more people in the UK to sponsor a recorder and postage to send it out here, then I can teach more children. I also want to train a couple of teachers so they can continue when I leave.

The latest on the counterpart is that there was one person who was clearly better in the interview and in teaching (he used teaching aids I had trained last year and made some of his own.) More news when all the bureaucracy is sorted and he is actually here with me in the college.

I go to Bahir Dar for a couple of days with Goran tomorrow. He is going to purchase computer bits for the college and I’m there as a guide (and to get supplies).

Ant Invasion

On Sunday night I went into the toilet and saw hundreds of ants coming from behind the cistern. There were regular-sized ones and larger, big-jawed soldier ones and many of them were carrying eggs and white, ant foetuses. It looked like they were trying to set up a new nest.

Our first counter-attack was extensive blasting with “Roach Killer” insecticide spray. They started trying to escape along the place where there would be a skirting board in the UK, into Goran’s room, but he blasted them there. Then we poured a bucket of water to wash them all out. We went to the outside to try and find where they were coming in and sprayed again.

While all this was going on, there was loud crashing and running noises in the roof. We also have a resident rat family and the high pitched sound of the aerosol cans was probably freaking it out.

Also, on the subject of bugs, the other day I saw a spider “running” round and round in circles on a wall. It had caught a fly and was “tying it up” by letting out sticky silk and running round it lots of times. I’ve never seen UK spiders do this. It was quite funny to watch.

Monday update – How often do you flush the toilet and ants come out? When I flushed the toilet this morning (about once every three days it flushes) ants, left over from our battle last night, flushed down with the water. They must’ve been in the cistern!!!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Counterpart interviews and recorders

Recently, I planned and arranged the interviews and assessment of three possible counterparts for me. The assessments included making a teaching aid, role playing an interpretation between me and someone who could only speak Amharic, translations from English to Amharic and Amharic to English, and then there was the interview. Next we are going to visit their schools and assess their teaching.

At the local school I have been assessing the musical ability of children from the class I taught last year. From that, I have chosen the first five children to start learning the recorder with me. That should happen next week.

Last night, when we were outside, Goran was scared by a short, furry snake running past in the dark, purring.

Monday, 20 October 2008

One Year on

Last Friday (17th October 2008) was exactly one year since I arrived in Gilgel Beles!

I remember it like it was a year ago… the heat, the humidity, my water filter candle breaking, no ferengi food etc

Back to this year, I am still trying to sort out a counterpart – some people have applied for the job and I’ve got to sort out how to assess them and interview them. It’s still going to be a while, even if one of them is suitable.

I can’t believe the bureaucracy here. I need to get more CPD booklets printed and instead of just giving the master copy to the photocopy-guy, I have to write a request to get paper from the store, sign for it three times, collect it, write an order to get the purchaser to buy more paper to go back in the store. I also had to write a request, sign for, and collect toner and master sheets. By the time I had been backwards and forwards to get things done, I was exhausted. I has taken about three days (on-and-off) of chasing different people to sort it all out and at one point, I even said to one of the vice-deans “Is it because I is white?” – of course the inverted Ali G reference was completely lost on him. Anyway, now I think the printing will start. Then I can start thinking about getting the teacher training (CPD) programme going in the other schools.

I also plan to do some demo teaching in classes in the local schools. This should allow a more personal, direct approach to improve a few teachers’ teaching styles.

The rainy season is nearly at its end. There was a heavy downpour a few days ago, but that is becoming less and less. The electricity is being pretty good now – on most of the time with just the odd short power cut. Also, the water is reasonably reliable.

Goran and me are really enjoying our new house and are settling in well. Today (Saturday) was a day of jobs. We put up mosquito nets on our windows (glueing them to the window frames) – (Question for PTCPS: Can you remember why mosquitoes are bad?) I put up some curtains in my room (using some nails hammered into the wall, an old metal pole, and some old, dusty material we’d been given) I did a bit more clothes washing in bowls, put up a new washing line and put the external sensor of my thermometer outside. At the moment it’s 7pm, inside the room is 26C, humidity is less than it was a week ago at 77%, outside is 24C, but it got up to 32C this afternoon.

I seem to be getting bitten a lot more than last year. I have bite lumps and scabs all over the place, especially around my ankles and on my arms. Some of it must be flies and mozzies during the day, and the rest could be fleas in my bed. It’s very irritating.

I’ve nearly finished “Blue Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s the last book of a trilogy “Red Mars”, “Green Mars”, “Blue Mars” I started about 10 months ago in Gilgel. It’s an amazing story that covers about 200 years from when the first people land on Mars and what happens as more and more people come from Earth to colonise our neighbour planet. It reads like it really happened as a lot of the science is based on current scientific ideas which have been extrapolated into the future. It also covers psychology, sociology, economics, ethics and more.

Next in line is the second book of a new series by Garth Nix (of Mister Monday and Sabriel fame). It’s called “Castle.”

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Moving Day at Last!!!

Well yesterday was the day.

I finally moved across the “road” (aka dirt track) to a new house. I am in an identical room to the one I had before which is quite weird. The only difference is the house is rotated 180 degrees so the sun is in different places at different times of the day.

I started transferring stuff Monday night, but still slept in my old house, then, yesterday morning I transferred the last of my things from my main bedroom, and the next family started moving in, freeing up the room Goran was going to have. Then I transferred my “kitchen” food supplies, bowl-ful at a time to the living room of the house while the kitchen /store room of the new house was emptied. The cleaners came in and did the floors and that took a while. It was all quite complicated logistically!

We had a lunch break then started work – nets up in both rooms, a bit of personal sorting, then Goran started on the toilet (using a razor blade to remove the brown from the seat (yes we have a seat) after the bleach failed to remove it.) At the same time, I got stuck into the sink which was covered in a thick gunge that was green in places, maybe 1cm thick in the bottom. I guess it hadn’t been cleaned since it was installed. It took ages and I thought I may contract something, but at last it looked like concrete and everything was solid and not squelchy. I later commented to Goran that it is nice that our sink isn’t photosynthesising any more!

We ate together in our living room looking out on a nice sunset, then continued sorting.

The kitchen is a complete mess and we’re leaving that until “phase-2” of the clean-up operation. There is a shelf unit which looks like the leaning Tower of Pisa., the ceiling is covered with cobwebs and the light doesn’t work… oh, and the tap in the sink doesn’t work – a tap which is too tall and doesn’t allow the window to open as it bangs on the tap!!!

But, despite that, at last I can leave doors open without old wee-feet coming in, and hopefully won’t have anyone staring at me through the windows. And, there shouldn’t be poo in the toilet when I go in there, and we can sit down without contracting anything, and I won’t be woken by a baby crying or kicking a football at my door.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Our New House (Still Not!)


On Friday I ran a training session for the facilitator teachers who will be leading the groups of teachers on the CPD course. It went ok, but I had a little trouble with the interpreter. I was making general statements like “On the first page of each session notes you see the learning objectives” and he was translating it by reading out all the learning objectives and taking ten times longer than me and slowing the pace. I was being general, he was basically reading everything in a specific session out.

Also, the facilitator teachers were being very negative about any other teachers showing up. I think we (from the college) are going to have to attend the first few sessions just to make the course seem more important!


One of the instructors, who is usually very happy was complaining about feeling unwell and was not his usual self. We couldn’t find out what it was. Later, the truth was revealed. We found out he had been told that he might have to move out of his house to allow me and Goran (pron. Your-Ran) to move in. On Saturday, however, we found out another instructor will be leaving and we can move into that house – just opposite the one I am in now. We were told Saturday, which became Sunday and now it’s Monday. It should be today or tomorrow…


I had my first minor case of the squits yesterday (and today) – I attribute it to a piece of roasted corn on the cob I was offered on Saturday which was handed to me by someone with a questionable hand-washing regime.

My neighbour’s son was hit (accidentally) by a stone in the face last week. It must’ve been hard as there is a large bloody area by his nose and his eye is bloodshot. Yesterday he was having trouble keeping his eye open (it had been ok before). All I could offer was some sterile eye-wash solution and an eye bandage. He is going back to the medical centre today – hopefully – although there are no doctors there – nurses only.

Monday, 6 October 2008

New house... not!

Current situation report:

Electricity: ok (minor cuts for a few minutes, but nothing too bad.)

Water: ok (seems to be on regularly in the morning and evening.)

Washing: underwear backlog cleared.

My stomach: No problems so far!

Bugs: No more tarantulas. One big beetle. No scorpions. I am being bitten by something at night though – fleas or bedbugs I guess.

Toilet: Relative of my family staying with them so flushing poos is inconsistent.

Weather: Quite pleasant. Not too much rain, low 20Cs at night, rising to mid 20Cs in the day. Humidity 75-80%


I have a meeting planned today with two directors (head teachers) from the local primary schools, and the printing of the CPD (continuing professional development) program has at last (after 6 months of chasing) been printed, so things are looking up.

I still do not have a counterpart (which is pretty important, as the whole idea of VSO is that we pass out skills to someone, and I have no-one to pass them to, so I am effectively taking an Ethiopian’s job at the moment.) We have sent a job description to the local schools to get a teacher to be a counterpart, but I’m not holding my breath!


Well of course Goran was told we would move into the new house on Saturday, so…

I am still in my house, he has moved from the local hotel on campus, but not into the final permanent house. We are told that it will now be next Saturday. I’m not holding my breath on this one either (except when I go into the toilet.)