This one will be quite heavy on the photos, and there is definitely some animal
interest in this one.
Saturday was the last day for exams. I needed to run two extra exams, one was where
I postponed an exam before it happened because it looked like a power failure was
imminent, and the other actually had a power failure during it. Because it was a
Saturday, and one that I was likely to have a bit of spare time on, I took in my
posher camera to take pictures of any of the birds that I could find. Molla accompanied
me in the morning before the exam as we went looking for animals around the MIT campus.
The campus is not huge, but there is normally something new for me to photograph.
We headed into the now long grass behind the academic building. A month ago, it was
very short and patchy. However, the heavy rains have given it the food it needs to
grow, and the dew was wetting my trousers half the way up to my knees.
Joining us in the grass where some grasshoppers. Their camouflage was extremely good
and I only managed to see it because it moved. There were also some pretty impressive
cacti, so I made sure that I got some photos of these.
It seemed to be a day for the animals, because, although they did not come close to
us, some of the birds with the blue breasts that I had seen previously posed for
a few photos. I need to get some of the red breasted ones as well. They basically look the
same except that they have a purpley-red breast. It was unusual to see just two of these
birds. They normally hang around in gangs.
Back at the academic building I was able to take several photos of other birds. I was
to find out later why all the birds were out and about, and not scared of being
eaten by anything. The large black and white birds (with the ice cream removed from
their beaks) were out in force on the top of the canteen. They were trying to show
off to their friends with their 'trick' of standing on one leg. 'Look mum - no
Also, flitting about the building, were some orange breasted starling birds. I had been
trying for some time to get a photo of these. In England I wouldn't normally care too
much about the birds, but because they are new, and possibly because I have too much
work to do, I am very interested in them at the moment. Also, I can probably speak
nearly as much of their language as I can the local's. I think this means that I feel
that I have a more personal relationship with them. Not true of course, as I was telling
bill the greater stork, just the other day over tea. Once you can see the photos, please
tell me exactly what these birds are - I cannot find out from the locals.
There was another bird, and one that I had not seen. The only thing that I can think that
it looks like is a curlew but there isn't normally enough mud flats around for them.
I had a break between the exams and so I took the opportunity to take some photos
of MIT for a brochure that they are preparing. There was an ulterior motive to
this. Yes, MIT could get some photos, and I had an excuse to have a poke around
the dormitories and other places to get some photos that I might not have been able to
get otherwise. I'm sure the students would only be too happy to oblige though.
Many of the photos are posed, but it will probably provide something more than other
places in Ethiopia have. Although most of the animals seemed to be very lively that
day, we also found a dead bat.
After the second exam, I made one of my most interesting discoveries since being here.
Not that it's an original discovery, mind. As I walked out of the building I could
see several flying insects but I didn't think much of it. I noticed on
the ground two insects, one following the other one's bum closely. This I thought was
a little bit comical, but that was all. I then noticed one of the other insects, the
flying kind that seemed to have got itself stuck on the ground and was desparately
trying to fly away. What I also saw littering the place was a large number of
insect wings. But, this made sense because of all of the birds that were quite
brazenly eating the insects right in front of me. Molla said that at this time
of year there is often a swarm of these insects over a period of a day or two. Flying
ant day, basically. This explained why all the animals were out and not afraid.
A feast was laid in front of all, and they were not the main course. Although I did
notice the fun that the ground squirrels had when then charged at the birds. They
wouldn't eat or attack it properly but it seemed a very enjoyable game. Molla
said that there would be a source in the ground for all of the flying insects and
we set off to look for it.
I'm not sure when I made the 'discovery' but it came as
a bit of a surprise. I was watching yet another one of these insects that had
'stupidly' got themselves trapped somehow on the concrete. Another one flew
straight to it, and landed directly behind it. Then, and I had to look twice,
they both discarded their wings and started to walk along, one following the other
one's bum closely. The walking insect and the flying insect were one and the same. What
I think is happening is that a female lands and wiggles her bum in the air to attract
a male. It had looked to me that she was stuck and trying to get away. But no, she
was giving her best seductive wiggle. When the male finds here, presumably they have
flown far enough away from their old hive and so discard their wings to find somewhere
to bury themselves. Once a pair have 'found' one another, no third parties can
interrupt, they soon go away if they bump into a pair. Molla and I tried our best
at a bit of match making but we only seemed to be able to catch females. We had
a harem of about five but then we gave up. However, we know for sure that they
must voluntarily 'give up' their wings because that is how we were catching them. Their
wings were very strong. I spent a bit more time waiting to see the 'magic moment'
again. And yes, you lucky people, I managed to get it as a movie, although there isn't
much of an intro to it. It's just stright into hardcore, un-cut insect porno-filth. I
am wondering if I should dub some music over the top?
The animal watching was rounded off at MIT by some photos of the ground squirrels who
were, erm quite proud, to be in the photos. The abundance of food definitely allowed
them to show their more playful side.
The animal activity didn't end at MIT however. When I returned home that night, I found
that Nelson the gecko, or his relative, had returned and was sitting on my wall and in
range for a very close up photo. I hope that he can still see after getting the
flash in his face.
After the excitement of Saturday I found myself in a 'quiet' mood on Monday and not
really wanting to talk to anyone after the written exam had finished. I'm not
sure why, but I was all for hiding away somewhere to get the exams marked. However,
when I got to the office I found that I just couldn't be bothered.
Tuesday was a pretty hectic day with lots of things appearing. In the morning, I had to
invigilate one of the other exams. Then in the afternoon I had to visit a local
garment factory. I knew that I was going to go but the fact that I was going today
was a bit of a surprise. The idea is that we will network the factory, which is
being built, using the students as much as possible.
The drive to the factory was interesting. This was only the second time that I had been
outside of Mekelle since arriving nearly six months ago. The last time I had been along the
road was to go to the airport. This time, we were going to the site opposite the airport.
I had wondered at the time what the thing being built was. What was really noticeable
was the change in the scenery. When I had flown to England, it was very dry. Not even
my sunglasses could make the scenery look very green. This time, there was long green grass
all along the main road and I was glad not to have my sunglasses. I thought that this
must make the Ethiopians happy becuase they put grass on their floors to make them
We arrived at the factory and went inside to have a look at where network cabling could
be positioned. Although I had seen it before, it did seem odd to have women working
with the men in construction. There certainly seems to be some part of the equality
here. However, it doesn't stretch to the pay. The men are always paid more. In what
seems normal for a building site here, there is always somebody spraying the walls with
water. I'm not sure why, maybe the cement dries too quickly otherwise. This building
site was no exception, in fact I think that there were two. As we walked through the mud
I was looking around for all of the accidents waiting to happen. We certainly weren't
issued with hard hats, and the nails sticking out of the wood were positively wishing
that somebody would stumble near them.
Inside the administration building we were able to look at where cables were being placed
and were the phone lines would be. I was drawing a little bit of attention, but not as
much as I would have expected. It turned out though that there was another Ferenj here,
working on site.
We also went over to the 'factory' part that appeared to be a large empty hanger. Workmen
were scurrying about the metal rafters trying to fix a roof. Needless to say that they
did not have any safety gear on. It was here that I met the other Ferenj. I think that
he was Italian but it was hard to place the accent, it didn't seem to come from a
single country, just like the equipment, neatly laid out and
ordered on the floor; it had come from many European countries judging by its packaging.
I got very excited when I saw what I thought was a guinea-pig. However, it turned out
to be just one of the orange breasted birds. Big dissapointment. It's odd when you
are standing above a bird you can't recognise it. My boss also thought it was a
guinea-pig, or a big rat at least.
The pickup took a detour to get back to Mekelle, through the town of Qihar (get the
sniggers out of the way now). The electrician who had joined us to look at the
clothes factory had to see the church here. As we left the main road, it was nice to
see something that was more like a village. In a fairly central part I saw many
little raised platforms of stones. These were only about 10cm high, and probably 2m by
2m. Composed of neatly arranged stones. The platforms themselves were arranged in
a neat and regular pattern. It was only when I saw one with a wooden frame and mail sack
roof that I realised what they were, and where I had seen them before. This was
the 'market'. On a market day, this is where the stalls would be. Presumably they
would bring their own rooves. I had seen this before when I had first arrived
in Mekelle, at the new market.
As we approached the church I commented that it looked more like a mosque. They
agreed that this had been one of their fears when they designed it. However,
I was shown some of the features that made it Christian. Most importantly was the
cross on the top. The church was on the top of a hill, overlooking the
rest of the town and was surrounded in wooden scaffolding where it was still being
constructed. It had a round shape and was topped with a green dome. It had been
constructed from neatly cut, regular stone blocks and had large open windows.
Once inside, I could see the wooden scaffolding filling most of the church
and was shown the separate part where the model of the ark of the covenant was
to be stored. I was told with a sense of pride that women are never allowed in there.
It made me really wonder about their religion. I must subtly ask why women are not
allowed. There is a special temple where no women are allowed to go. In fact, no
female animals are allowed in there either. They're proud of that one as well.