Magic Beans
Feb. 16th 2003
In fact, not only do you not need more than one ply, surely you don't need a whole sheet.

I spent some time wandering around the MIT (Mekelle Institute of Technology) campus early in the morning. Like many places in Ethiopia it is in a compound surrounded by a tall fence. Just outside the fence donkeys and camels were carrying loads. The campus is nowhere near as large as a university campus might be in the UK but the buildings look fantastic. Not that I know anything about architecture but it is clear that they have been designed to be in style with other buldings. The deep drains make it clear that if we do get rain, then we should expect something special.

The students (currently a little over 100) live on the campus but they didn't seem to be about in the morning. From peeking into their rooms it seems that they are in dormitories containg six beds. Talking to another VSO, the students are very keen to learn. This is partly becuase they don't have anything else to do. There is a canteen on the campus but only plans for a shop.

I was picked up at about 10:00 and taken into town. I was due to meet up with the other VSOs at twelve so I took myself for a wander. Some of the roads were closed off (had rocks across them). I could see that, at a roundabout, people were waiting for something. I looked further up the street and saw more people and then I could hear cheering. Shortly after a group of cyclists turned around the roundabout and headed back the way they came. There was a race between two locally sponsered teams and this was quite an event. I walked through the spectators, and then headed off down a back road and then into town to meet the other volunteers.

After a bit of a chat, and watching the victory celebrations for the winning cycle team, we headed into a local market in search of some special beans. We could only buy them wholesale here, so we headed off to a market quite a walk away. The market was amazing. There were hundreds of stalls all closely packed. It was mostly covered by plastic or cloth, some of which draped down into your path. Also, you had to be careful because it wasn't very tall. The 'roof' was held up by wood beams sitting atop of short stone walls. Between these stone walls there was often less than half a metre and it was in these paths that you had to navigate through it. Each stall had its own toothless old woman and a selection of products that could be bought by the kilo. Small children were desparately interested and wanted to shake your hands. The stall holders were quite clear in their instructions to the children to leave us alone.

We got the beans and walked back to town, and then around a trade exhibition. This too was very packed but had a very good variety of things to buy. It's a shame that I do not yet know exactly what I will need. Having seen the two major markets I am fairly happy that I will be able to get pretty much anything. I was also shown some 'ferenj' shops that sell imported goods.

I have also bought toilet paper and the water is at least partly working.