Warning A part of this diary entry may not be easy
reading. If you are feeling squeamish, then read it
I allowed myself to wake up slowly today. Although, before
I got out of bed, the maid let herself into the house. I had
asked that she did not come at the weekends. I got up, tried
to talk to her but I couldn't remember the names of the days
of the week. She then just left, and I didn't see her again.
Before leaving, I wrote a note (trying to write fidel script)
but I have no idea whether it was legible.
My first challenge this morning was to try to find the post
office, although I did stop off for a sprees juice first. I
got hopelessly lost on the way to the post office. I could
have asked, but I decided to continue walking about and
exploring the outskirts of Mekelle. I passed the 'new'
market. This was the distant market that I had been taken
to on my first weekend in Mekelle. From outside the market,
I could see row upon row of stalls made from thin logs and
mail sacks. Mail sacks seem to be a standard building
material here. Outside of the town, the children are not
sure whether to say hello or not. Most just stand in
your path and stare. Some of them have open mouths,
some of them have snot dripping from their noses. I am
thinking of creating an Ethiopian Eye-Spy book.
I did eventually find the post office but was told that I
had to come back on Monday to open my own PO box. Post does
not get delivered to houses. It is delivered to a post
box. While I was in the post office, I took my chance to have
a snoop around the post box room, never having seen one
before. It was just rows of small, grey metal boxes. Each
with a lock and a number printed on the front.
After leaving the post office, I had another explore and then
headed back into town to meet the other VSOs. We had lunch at
the Yordanos (probably the best restaurant in Mekelle). It is
still fasting time, so the vegan buffet was present. Every
one of us went for this. If only mum could see the things I
eat now, although I haven't gone for the beetroot yet.
I parted company after lunch and headed back to the house.
I wanted to put up the mosquito net. Firstly, I arranged the
pieces of wood to form a 'four-poster' effect. This didn't work
too well. I changed to plan B and this is working much better.
I have tied all four pieces of wood together. They are
standing vertical behind the beds headboard, and are pushed against
the wall. From the top of these pieces of wood runs a piece of string
up to the curtain rail. From this piece of string the mosquito
net is now suspended. This should be a good deal easier than
the hoops method I had been forced to use. Tomorrow I will probably
coat it in the supplied insecticde. I still have the pieces of
conduit. These stop the net from draping against my feet, and give
me a place to hang the net when I am not sleeping.
After the success of the mosquito net, I decided to head back into
town to try to buy some pillows and a table lamp. I knew a shop in
which I had seen a table lamp and started my walk into town. A small
boy came up to shake my hand. In his other hand he had some birr.
I asked if the money was for me, and he offered me his hand. I asked
him what his name was, 'Abrahim' I was told - a common Ethiopian
name. We walked hand in hand along one of the main roads. I was
a bit worried that he had decided to just follow me, and I was glad
to hear his mother calling him as she walked behind. She seemed
quite happy that he was with me. I think that he might even
be the little boy that offered me a flower previously. I must try to
remember his name. I think that we could have our first recipient
of a plastic, glow in the dark frog.
After parting company with Abrahim, I headed towards the electrical
shop. It was while walking along one of the main streets of
Mekelle that I saw something that might come back to haunt me.
A man was crossing the road, and a younger man approached him from
behind, unseen. As he got close, he slowed and then appeared to spit
onto the lower part of his back. I assumed that this was because
he hadn't paid, or they had had an argument. Karma worked quickly
this afternoon. The spitter, made his get-away by crossing back
over the road. He didn't make it. He had not seen the blue and
white form of an accelerating line taxi. There, right in front
of me, the taxi hit him. Even if the taxi had working brakes,
they would have done no good. So intent was the spitter on a
clean get-away that they had turned immediately into the path
of the taxi. There was no blood, just the sound of scrapping
on the ground as he was dragged along the street while the
taxi tried desparately to stop. Thankfully, it managed to do so
in a straight line. Immediately people came rushing over. I
wanted to join them, but, and I am certainly not proud of this,
I remembered my VSO training. There have been situations before
where a well meaning VSO has tried to help in these situations.
In the end, they were accused of causing or contributing to the
accident. It is suggested that we do not get involved. I tried
not to draw any attention to myself, and keep moving away.
This was an accident involving only local people, it would
have happened regardless of whether I was there or not. This I
told myself to make myself feel a bit better as I continued
to move away from the now stationary taxi. As I was moving
away, people were rushing past me to have a look. I tried
to look one way, but move the other. Again, trying not to draw
attention to myself, just in case there was a problem. The
person who had been injured or killed was probably about two
arm's length away from me before he jumped back. I could see the
back of the taxi, and a motionless body laying in front of
the taxi. I imagined pools of blood forming, but I could not
see any. Fortunately for me, the electrical shop was very close.
I headed straight in there, and concentrated on my amharic to
distract my mind. I was grateful when the shop owner wanted to
chat, and I was able to spend enough time in the shop so that
when I left, there was largely nothing left to see outside.
I have no idea what happened to the person who was hit. The taxi
was moving fast. I would not be surprised if he was killed.
At least habesha tend to be light - that may have helped him.
Even if he did survive, I do not envy his chances.
I headed across the street to where I thought I could buy pillows,
and then needed to head back over the street again, being
very careful to listen out for any calls of ferenji. I wanted
to listen to hear if anything else was being said. There is
nothing to say that anything like that would happen here. It
probably wouldn't. I'm not going to take the chance though.
As soon as I had got my pillows, I headed for the back streets
to take me back home. I felt like I had done something wrong
and needed to hide. Of course, I had done nothing but I
maintained a low profile as much as possible.
Seeing something like that does make you think, of course.
I am hoping that by writing this I will be able to off-load
the image a bit. Walking along I was reveiwing where the most
likely places are that I could be involved in any accident.
Please be sure, that I am real careful around the roads
here. I try to stick to the pavements, and I might be
religious in this from now on. I have had a quick review of
the house for slip hazards, knifes, and anything else
that could cause harm. I don't think I can make it
Before getting back, I seemed to pick up someone following me. I
changed direction a few times and they were definitely following
me. They seem to be one of the people that I think of monks.
They do not appear to be religious, but they have same shawls
and sticks. I was thinking of how to lose this person when
I met someone who I had met before. However, I have met so
many habesha that I tend to forget who is who. He was particularly
put out becuase I normally just walk past him. I do not think
that he realises that as a ferenj, you cannot say hello to everyone.
You do start to ignore people. Sure, every 'hello' is just
a hello, but it may be (literally) the hundredth hello that
hour. After talking to him, and agreeing to see him at MIT (he
is going to see the Dean) I headed back to my house. I had forgotten
about the 'tail'. And, I was now in the street where I live. I
toyed with the idea of going past the house and doubling back
to see if he followed. In the end, I just went up to the
front door of the compound, watched him for a while as he
walked past staring, and then entered the compound and closed the
dor. The compound itself seems quite secure, and then there
are locks to get into my rooms. I think that there is a guard
at night but there always seem to be familiar faces around
so there should not be any problems.