We have a new driver that picks us up at 07:30 morning and returns us back
to ferenji heights after 17:30. I find his driving quite scary. Even more so if you
can't get a seat belt. However, the near death experiences are made all the more worse
for his choice of music. Hans had never heard Celine Dion before. Lucky bugger. Not
only does he now know who Celine Dion is, but he seems to be developing a nervous
tick every time it is being played in the car. If it's not Celine, it seems to
be Michael Bolton. Fate can be so cruel.
The students have now had Internet access for a couple of weeks. So what do we think
is the most popular activity? Downloading pictures of Britney Spears it seems. I
haven't really had any time to check exactly what is happening, and to which sites they
are going - I am not going to police them. I just found it funny. I asked why they
didn't download more pictures of black female singers. They said that there weren't
any beautiful ones. This I think deserves further investigation. And yes, one had
downloaded a picture of Celine. There are some very sick people. Surely, downloading porn
is more acceptable.
Ray is still in Addis. The doctors there say that they do not think that it is either
Typhus or Typhoid. Certainly the drugs she was taking were having bad side effects.
They have taken her off those drugs and stopped her from having dairy products and
food with too much fat. They seem to think that it is a regular but unidentified
Tadesse is our guard. He basically hangs around the house to deter people from
breaking in. It isn't a very exciting job but it helps him to pay his rent.
Recently he applied for the job of a driver at MIT (we have the new
minibus). We supported him by writing a letter of recommendation and
making sure that he got to speak to the right people. It turned out quite frustrating
because after the first visit they said that he hadn't brought the correct papers.
In fact, we knew that he had. They then said that because he hadn't completed
grade 10 he couldn't be employed. There was nothing about whether he was competent
to drive, or that we thought highly of him. We didn't want to lose him as a guard,
but we did want him to take this job if he could. If you're grade 10 but can't drive
you might be able to get the job I guess. It's all arse about face, and I doubt
they even looked at the letter of recommendation or just couldn't understand why
we had written one. Partly because they don't know what to do with it, and partly why
would you write a letter about someone else?
We have made Tadesse happy though. Hans had an idea, supported by the rest of us that
if Tadesse needs to be grade 10 to do anything, then we can help him. As an 'employer
perk', we have allowed Tadesse to go to school in the evenings (we are in the house)
and we will pay the school fees (15 birr a month! (1 pound)). Hans and I told him
in broken Amharic and his face was such a picture. It really has made his
week. The guard stuff can't be very interesting, and he also has a chance to
take something extra from the job.
The weather has been a little wet recently. We have had a couple of storms. This seems
too early, especially from my experience last year. I hope that it is good for
the crops. I am aware that a recent documentary screened in the UK showed
this region and pointed out that the situation is worse than in 1984 when
band-aid was started. This was why Michael Buerk (the great ham welcher)
was here a little while back. However, here in Mekelle, I have seen very little
of that. I must get out and see more of Ethiopia. Band Aid was an emergency measure,
these are problems that people here must solve. I wonder if the 'chancer' culture
I experience everyday was in anyway created by Band Aid.
On a more amusing note, I have another line taxi journey to record. This time
it was from town back to Ferenji Heights. This line taxi didn't have
a battery though, or at least one that couldn't be charged. It was the smallest
line taxi I think that I have ever been in. But, once it had enough people in it,
the driver got in and called over people to help push it. We were laughing in
the taxi already. Five men push the taxi down the rough road, and it started.
At the end of this road was a major road, that the driver wanted to turn around
in to come back up the road where it was started. We got to the major road, and while
the driver was trying a three point turn, he stalled it. We then needed another
five men to push start us along the main road. He called them over using
the minibus's horn which had just enough power for a half second blast
before trailing off like a braying donkey.
Once the taxi was at last running,
the driver had to put it in reverse pretty quickly. Ahead of us was a land cruiser
coming the other way. Like a chase seen in a film, the battered line taxi was reversing,
the land cruiser was charging us from the front.
When we eventually got to drive up
the road we had been pushed down. One of the passengers had had enough and
got out. She wasn't going to pay for this, and fair enough. However, we had to
wait for another passenger before the taxi would leave. And then, after 50m, this
new passenger realised that she was in the wrong taxi and got out as well.
When it came to the traffic lights I was sure that the taxi would stall again
but somehow it kept running. It managed to keep running through
quite a few 'woraj' (stops). But halfway up the gentle hill to Ferenji Heights,
it stalled. No need for anyone to push though, just roll back down the
hill and bump start it in reverse. Trouble was it didn't seem to be starting and we
were moving faster and faster, snaking across the road. I was cursing
my view out of the back window. The driver jammed it in gear and got started
before things felt really dangerous. The rest of the journey was uneventful,
but although I couldn't definitely translate I am certain that one of the
women in the taxi asked for no more calls of 'woraj' until the final
This has been another week for preparing late for lectures. This week I really did not
know what I was going to be teaching them until I wrote the title on the board. Next
semester it should be different, but that's what I am thinking all the time.