Camel Caravans
Feb. 22nd 2003
I spent part of the morning setting up one of the new computers. No matter what I am doing people want to help. If you know me, I normally treat this as more of a hinderance, so I am trying to be patient and always except the help graciously. The help goes as far as carrying my water bottle for me, even though I have two free hands. I know that people are being polite. There is quite a bit extra done for 'guests', I wonder how long it will last.

There was one other event this morning - removing a grey hair. Maybe stress does cause them.

At twelve, there was a car going into town, taking staff. I needed a break so I took the car. The car's driver is great. He's called Abraham, and if he knows English he tries not to use it. This is great for me because most of the journey he uses Amharic for me (I think he would normally speak Tigrinya). Slowly I am picking up more words and we can have more of a conversation. I managed to ask him to pick me up at three (nine in Ethiopian time) in Amharic.

Just outside the gates of the campus were the two longest camel trains that I have seen so far. The first totalled 22 camels, and the second had 18. There were lots of donkeys as well, but I still find the camel exotic. The donkeys are often heavily loaded. Across their backs will be two quarters of an oil drum to contain their load, such as rocks.

In town, I wanted to get some electrical stuff. I did not have much luck but my confidence with Amharic is building. In some shops they spoke no english so I was able to ask for a bit of paper to draw something. Nothing special I know but I was at least able to communicate. In one shop I could see something I wanted (local 2 pin - 2 pin adapters) and asked how much. I wouldn't normally try bargaining but the way he was smiling said to me that 4birr was far too expensive. I told him this in Amharic and left. Asking a colleague later, they agreed it was too expensive. 4birr would be about 30p. You could get it for 50p in England so by my reckoning, you should be able to get it for about 15p here. 15p sounds petty huh? Not here it isn't.

Shortly after getting back I noticed some hawks flying and hovering over the campus. Hawks are quite common, or at least around the campus. They seemed to be looking for prey on the ground, and I wondered whether it had anything to do with what felt like approaching rain. On the drive back from town I had noticed the skies darkening. After about quarter of an hour it felt like it was about to rain, and one patch of sky was alive with hawks. I guess some of the ground animals know when it is about to rain, and pop up to be lunch for a hawk.

When the rains came, they started slowly. Once again the rain was warm and it fell in large drops. The skies rumbled but there was little lightening. Unlike before the rain became quite heavy and the drains at MIT gurgled noisly. I would hope with the rain, I might get some shower water. It doesn't seem to work this way. In fact, thinking back, it was at the time of the last rain that the shower water stopped.

In town I bought two kilos of bananas (muz) and a pineapple drink. The drink proudly claims that it is an all natural drink that promotes growth and metabolism. Looking at the ingredients, I doubt this very much. It is incredibly sweet. So much so that I have had to water it down a lot despite the claim that it is also 'ready to drink'. I have also just woofed a packet of bourbon biscuits. I don't go to town much at the moment so I get my luxuries when I can.