Feb. 1st 2003
The day started quite well, Sarah helped me get to the airport but once we had got into the terminal things started to go downhill a bit. Heathrow was having a bad day. I was eventually checked in late and had little time for good byes before heading into the departure lounge.

The flight was between eight and nine hours with a stop to let passengers off in Alexandria. I was in a seat next to another volunteer, Les. As the flight went on most of the volunteers met each other and we could talk about our placements and what we expected from Ethiopia and the in country training.

Once we had landed we proceeded swiftly through immigration. We then collected our baggage, or at least part of the baggage. After seeing the same bags trundle around the conveyor belt a couple of dozen times, a man popped out of the slatted curtain riding the conveyor belt to tell us that all of the cargo canisters had been unloaded. Those of us without all of the baggage would have to wait for the rest of it to turn up later. It was probably either still at Heathrow or had been taken off by mistake at Alexandria. Either way it would be some time before the next flight could bring our baggage in.

Stepping outside of Bole International (Addis Ababa's airport) the air was warm but not hot and smelled of farmyard. Crickets were chirruping loudly but were the only things to break the night's silence. We were led down to the VSO land rovers and then driven to the Red Cross Conference Centre where we would be staying a few days. Normally volunteers would stay in a local hotel. However, there is a national African conference taking place in Addis until the 6th and all the hotels are fully booked.

As we drove through the streets, it didn't match any stereotypes. There were a few corrugated iron buildings but these just seemed to be workshops. We were driving around the recently completed ring road. The first thing that I noticed were dogs walking around. In Ethiopia dogs are normally wild and aren't often kept as pets. The next new thing that I noticed were people, invariably in pairs, walking along the side of the road. This surprised me because of the time of night. It was about 4am and there were many more people than you would see in the UK. There also appeared to be a few shops open. At least that's what I think they were.

On arrival at the centre, everyone was grateful to get to their beds. Most people have a room with a 'single' bed. This means one double bed. If you ask for a double in Ethiopia you will get two singles. This can make sense if you look at it in the right way. As it turns out my 'single' bed is really just two singles pushed together. The room also has an en-suite shower. I decided to have a shower that night, although I was severely down on toiletries, these having been in my lost piece of baggage. It was a cold shower. It wasn't cold because that was the only option but because I hadn't noticed the switch for the heater on the wall. The room is preferable to many of the rooms I have had to stay in the UK.

Although it was very late, or early the next morning, chanting from a local church was already drifting through the windows, competing with the crickets' chorus. They had no chance of keeping me awake though.