First Rains
Feb. 19th 2003
For breakfast I ate with the students in their canteen. Breakfast was one white roll (quite dry) and some injera that had been cut up and already had its sauce (fasting) on it. It was alright but I am glad that I had plenty of water with me.

I have tried to get online today through the laptop but I have not succeeded, but Andy from the university was able to provide me with some very useful dialling information. I will try again later because I really do want to get on-line. I must have loads of emails to check.

I have found out more about the course structure and where I fit in. MIT will definitely run degree courses for four years. The education system is changing so the current year are actually do a preliminary year before starting the four year programme. Some of the courses from this year may be offered to next years students, but alongside their first year.

I need to develop and deliver the preliminary courses which will be in things like Word. Yeukk. Just what I didn't want. However, it looks like I will be doing more in the way of support, which will be interesting if the machines are mine to look after, but I will need to find an apprentice. Passing on skills is a vital part of VSO.

At the moment, I think that I have complete freedom in the development of the courses for this year (they might not be used again). However, there will be a lot of courses. I believe that I will need to develop the next two years worth of courses, but I doubt that I will be able to do anything with the final two years courses. MIT has, quite sensibly I think, decided not to offer a modular program at this stage. Students can choose one of four programmes, such as electrical, or computing, and then the courses are fixed within that programme.

I had my first session with the students today. They are mostly fresh from high school (about eighteen or so), although there are several older students. The campus is predominantly male (6 girls, 99 boys). I hadn't arranged anything special, I just wanted to introduce myself and get them talking. I wanted to get them up and discuss what they had learned. I picked on some of them and out of four only one of them was too shy to speak. I didn't push it because the style I would normally use in the UK is quite different to how most of them will have been taught in the past. VSO normally tell you to ease into a placement but I am going in a little bit harder than most.

As I was about to go over to the session with the students at 16:30, I heard a rumbling from outside. I thought it sounded like thunder but I dismissed it and just assumed that it was the wind running against MIT's architecture. But, it was thunder and while walking across to the classroom I got a little bit wet. The rain wasn't heavy at all, there were a few large drops but it has cut the dust down quite a bit. This is a little bit early for the small rains but, according to the VSO director, it is not unusual for them to come now. Later this evening, the VSO driver said that I was 'lucky' because I had brought the rain with me. I hope is true and there is a enough rain following me to break the drought.

In the evening I was due to go into town and was waiting for the driver to turn up when a couple of students came over and started talking. Again, it wasn't long before I had a whole crowd around me. They were impressed with my one word of Tigrigna, and the few words of Amharic. They were interested in VSO and seemed surprised when I handed them my VSO ID card and could read that I was paid a local salary. They were also quite interested in the UK and universities and other stuff. Maybe they were being polite, or maybe they really are just bored. The campus is pretty small and entertainment limited.