Friday, 3 July 2009

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Addis Ababa

Basically I spent the last few days in Ethiopia finishing off a last few jobs, and killing time.

One problem was no electricity for the entire three days (except a few hours over night which was no good to anyone, and a period of a couple of hours when the voltage was around 120V (it should be 220V)) Luckily the Yonnas hotel I am staying in has a generator which they put on from around 6pm until midnight.

The first job I had was to collect my passport from VSO and then change my remaining Ethiopian Birr currency into something useful in the outside world. The government is very tight on loosing dollars - which is a stable currency with world backing. The Birr, on the other hand, is only worth the paper it’s printed on outside Ethiopia.

The first two stops had no UK Pounds, Euros or even US Dollars and the last place said they could only change up to $150 without a resident’s permit and receipts from previous dollar to Birr transactions. My resident’s permit had to be given in to get my exit visa so no luck there. I began to think I would be stuck with a pile of paper, or alternatively I would have to splash out on lots of extravagant meals, souvenirs and a night in the Sheraton hotel.

One taxi driver offered me black-market dollars, but due to a misunderstanding of the accent, I thought he was offering 1 dollar for 40 birr (the bank rate is 1 to 11.3.) I realised afterwards he must’ve meant 14. Anyway, the risk of fake money was too great, and in-case anyone official is reading this, it is illegal so I didn’t do it!

I finally managed to sort this a few days later, in a legal way, I believe. I gave my birr to another volunteer who will be here for another year, and they electronically transferred money from their bank to mine in the UK.

Thursday’s job was to get police clearance by obtaining a “certificate of good conduct” that I will probably need in the UK when I get a police check to work in schools. This involved going to the Federal police department, queuing in several different queues, skipping some queues because I am white and handing over copies of passport, ID card and some photos. I also had to get fingerprinted (black fingers all day.) In about three weeks I will get the certificate (via VSO collecting it and posting it.)

On Friday I went to the VSO office to get my final clearance there and have an exit interview with my programme manager. I had a nice pizza on the roof of a 6-storey skyscraper looking out over the city for the last time, followed by a cake from a coffee shop. Then back to my room to see if I could do something about the excess baggage. (also finding out the water pump in the hotel is broken, so no shower!)

I think I managed to get the bags to within a kg or so of what they are supposed to be, so hopefully I’ll be let off with no excess charge. That’s as long as they don’t check my carry-on back-pack which is almost double the weight it should be!

Then it was watching TV and DVDs while I wait for time to go by before being taken to the airport.

This is the last entry written in Ethiopia.

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