Till, Till, Till
Feb. 12th 2003
For the last few days we have had more training and more amharic, but nothing much new on the different things front.

Each of us had a one to one chat with a member of staff responsible for our area. I found out more about my placement, and more about Mekelle. The more I find out though, the more it seems to be a relatively 'easy' VSO. Of course, I am not there yet. The little bit of information I found out today was that I don't actually have a house yet, and that I would be put up in one of the institute's guests houses, which are designed for visiting lecturers. The reason for the change is because of the distance between the proposed house and the institute. It was proposed that I stayed at the staff residences for Kalamino high school. These are supposed to be very nice but are on the opposite side of town, about 8km away from the institute. The suggestion is that I will be provided with a driver to take me into work and back home again. An idea that I find a little bit odd. The other option is a house in Mekelle itself. I will have a couple of weeks to decide but I think most of that time will be spent finding out what I am supposed to be doing.

In order to function at our placements, we need a bit of stuff. We had a trip into Addis to buy equipment. This was most definitely an experience. We went into a large (for Ethiopia) shop that stocked most of the stuff we needed, but they had a very small inventory. Good quality knives are almost not existent, sauce pans are most definitely stick, and not non-stick, and you do not get to choose the colour of your bed linen (you're lucky if you get to choose the size). This is confirming what we had been told about Ethiopia. It has equipment, people can afford the equipment, it's just getting a decent flow of equipment that is the problem.

Paying for the stuff was a real bind. I made the mistake of going to the till to pay for the stuff only to find out that I need to first go to the till where they price things. At the pricing till, you need to stand back while a couple of members of staff work out the price of the goods, argue a bit, and then write it onto a 'receipt'. The receipt is actually in triplicate, the other two copies being created by carbon paper. Once you have had your goods priced, you can then move to the paying till. Here, the prices and totals are checked, and you can pay for the goods. All three of the receipts are stamped (in purple as always) and two are kept. You can then move to another table were two gentleman try packing the bag. I don't think they did this, it seemed that as one put something in a bag, the other one took something out. All in all, buying stuff can be a very slow process. However, I have been told that as a result of the receipts and other measures, Ethiopia has an impressively low rate of corruption, so that can't be bad.

Most of us made another purchase: a world space radio. Essentially, this receives digital radio signal from satellites. This includes some BBC channels. Whether the Radio 1 listed there is BBC Radio 1 I have yet to find out.