I'm not quite sure when it started, but many Ethiopians are
respecting their long fasting period which lasts for fifty-five
days. They normally fast on Wednesday and Friday, but this is
fifty-five days without any food made with animal products. This
includes eggs but may or may not include fish depending on who
you talk to. Those that eat fish claim that fish
have no blood and so are exempt from the no animal stuff. I have
decided that I will mostly observe the fasting period, although I
am willing to be flexible. Now is a probably a cheap time to buy
meat, but I wonder how fresh it will be.
Of course, buying meat would suggest having somewhere to cook.
Which I have not. I still do not have a place to live. Although I
have seen one house this week, it was not up to the VSO standard.
Importantly for me, there was no kitchen. Not even one outside.
This means that there is no basin or sink that can drain waste
water away somewhere safe. Maybe I am being a fussy ferenj, but
VSO probably know better than I the problems of kitchens, toilets,
showers and the like. I think that I will trust their judgement.
We lost our running water on one of the days this week. I think
it was Tuesday. Of course, if I had been keeping the diary up to
date then I would know exactly when it was. As the week has gone
by, the reserves of water have been falling. Firstly, the toilets
and showers near to me that the students use was locked. This is
because the toilets require water to flush. There is a pit
latrine nearby which does not require water. I don't know whether
it was built to avoid any problems in case the water supply
stops, but it seems a pretty good idea. I think that it's
probably best to just say that western, watery toilets don't cope
too well. For a while, we were able to go over to the canteen
where a large tank on top of the building supplied water. I took
the plastic bin that had served me well as a water container
previously. I could fill up with water there and then fill my
water filter back in the room. However, the water from the
canteen's tank also ran out. From this point on, we had fairly
regular deliveries of water in large plastic barrels, taken from
the local hand pump. At about 4am on Sunday morning I was woken
by a dripping tap. It was the first time that I had been happy to
hear a dripping tap in the night. The cause of the problem was
maintenance work being performed on some storage tanks. I wonder
if there will ever be enough pressure for my shower.
I have had a slight bit of trouble re-arranging my labs. The
students are split into four sections. Each section has three
hours of lab a week. I wanted to increase this time by adding an
hour, but splitting each section into two. I thought that finding
out who was in each section would be easy. However, it turned out
to be a bit more difficult than I thought, because nobody had
control. Myself and another teacher have suggested that the
registrar handles the assignments and tells the students that
they may not swap the sections. I hope that the 'official'
sections will be posted on the notice board tonight.
I spent my Thursday night trying to type up some comments I had
on the proposed curriculum. I needed to make sure that they knew
that there was not agreement from me. On the Friday, some of
the staff had a meeting and the minutes from the meeting echoed
many of my concerns. We sent both the minutes and my suggestions
to one of the parties who was going to be present. I was very
careful in my suggestions to word everything as an improvement.
I would prefer to just say why things are wrong, but I don't think
that would work here.
I have been curious to learn how close to a local salary my
allowance is. My allowance is 940birr a month. At the time of
writing, there are approximately 14birr to a pound. The institute
must pay for my accommodation (once I get some). Another ferenj
thinks that their institute pays 1200birr a month for the
accommodation. I was told that an Ethiopian, with a PhD (they get
them from India) doing my job would be paid a bit over 2000birr
[This turned out to be an extreme under-estimate!].
That seems pretty close to me. And, as a ferenj, I will normally
pay a bit more for things just because they see the white skin
and bump up the price. This probably isn't unreasonable considering
past experience of ferenj.
The students asked for some extra tutorial time, and I was able to
give some extra time at the weekend. However, the extra time is
eating away at my time to actually 'do' things. I don't want to
repeat extra labs next weekend, so I will definitely try to avoid it.
Next week, with the labs changing, I hope things will become easier.
On the Saturday, I went into town with my boss, and we ate at the
Yordanos. With it being fasting time, they didn't bring us the
usual menu. Instead, there was a vegetarian buffet. The buffet was
excellent and I have really started to take to the enjera. I have
not yet mastered eating with it, but I am sure that is just a matter
Some people say that Mekelle is non-malarious, some say take care in
the rainy season. Unfortuntely I cannot put up my mossie net in my
room (I do not think that the other vols have them). Even the
person providing equipment said that I didn't need one. I took one
anyway. I am also taking my Lariam; I haven't noticed any side
effects so I can afford to. This does mean that I will try to flatten
any mosquitos that I see. In England I would probably try to get them
in another room and close the door. Here, I treat every mossie
as an airborne disease delivery system and I try to flatten them
whenever one is in the room. Trouble is, they can move so quickly when
they do not have any blood in them. I have tried flattening one several
times tonight. I think that I have got him, and he has managed to
fly away just quickly enough. The chances of them carrying malaria
is very slim because it needs to be a certain type of mosquito. The
specific mosquito gets a little nose bleed at about this height
and heads back down to the richer oxygen. I have a feeling
that they won't be so smug tomorrow.
Again, this has been a very busy week. And one without a lot of