Who Needs Water?
Mar. 9th 2003
Again, this has been a very busy week. And one without a lot of water.

I'm not quite sure when it started, but many Ethiopians are respecting their long fasting period which lasts for fifty-five days. They normally fast on Wednesday and Friday, but this is fifty-five days without any food made with animal products. This includes eggs but may or may not include fish depending on who you talk to. Those that eat fish claim that fish have no blood and so are exempt from the no animal stuff. I have decided that I will mostly observe the fasting period, although I am willing to be flexible. Now is a probably a cheap time to buy meat, but I wonder how fresh it will be.

Of course, buying meat would suggest having somewhere to cook. Which I have not. I still do not have a place to live. Although I have seen one house this week, it was not up to the VSO standard. Importantly for me, there was no kitchen. Not even one outside. This means that there is no basin or sink that can drain waste water away somewhere safe. Maybe I am being a fussy ferenj, but VSO probably know better than I the problems of kitchens, toilets, showers and the like. I think that I will trust their judgement.

We lost our running water on one of the days this week. I think it was Tuesday. Of course, if I had been keeping the diary up to date then I would know exactly when it was. As the week has gone by, the reserves of water have been falling. Firstly, the toilets and showers near to me that the students use was locked. This is because the toilets require water to flush. There is a pit latrine nearby which does not require water. I don't know whether it was built to avoid any problems in case the water supply stops, but it seems a pretty good idea. I think that it's probably best to just say that western, watery toilets don't cope too well. For a while, we were able to go over to the canteen where a large tank on top of the building supplied water. I took the plastic bin that had served me well as a water container previously. I could fill up with water there and then fill my water filter back in the room. However, the water from the canteen's tank also ran out. From this point on, we had fairly regular deliveries of water in large plastic barrels, taken from the local hand pump. At about 4am on Sunday morning I was woken by a dripping tap. It was the first time that I had been happy to hear a dripping tap in the night. The cause of the problem was maintenance work being performed on some storage tanks. I wonder if there will ever be enough pressure for my shower.

I have had a slight bit of trouble re-arranging my labs. The students are split into four sections. Each section has three hours of lab a week. I wanted to increase this time by adding an hour, but splitting each section into two. I thought that finding out who was in each section would be easy. However, it turned out to be a bit more difficult than I thought, because nobody had control. Myself and another teacher have suggested that the registrar handles the assignments and tells the students that they may not swap the sections. I hope that the 'official' sections will be posted on the notice board tonight.

I spent my Thursday night trying to type up some comments I had on the proposed curriculum. I needed to make sure that they knew that there was not agreement from me. On the Friday, some of the staff had a meeting and the minutes from the meeting echoed many of my concerns. We sent both the minutes and my suggestions to one of the parties who was going to be present. I was very careful in my suggestions to word everything as an improvement. I would prefer to just say why things are wrong, but I don't think that would work here.

I have been curious to learn how close to a local salary my allowance is. My allowance is 940birr a month. At the time of writing, there are approximately 14birr to a pound. The institute must pay for my accommodation (once I get some). Another ferenj thinks that their institute pays 1200birr a month for the accommodation. I was told that an Ethiopian, with a PhD (they get them from India) doing my job would be paid a bit over 2000birr [This turned out to be an extreme under-estimate!]. That seems pretty close to me. And, as a ferenj, I will normally pay a bit more for things just because they see the white skin and bump up the price. This probably isn't unreasonable considering past experience of ferenj.

The students asked for some extra tutorial time, and I was able to give some extra time at the weekend. However, the extra time is eating away at my time to actually 'do' things. I don't want to repeat extra labs next weekend, so I will definitely try to avoid it. Next week, with the labs changing, I hope things will become easier.

On the Saturday, I went into town with my boss, and we ate at the Yordanos. With it being fasting time, they didn't bring us the usual menu. Instead, there was a vegetarian buffet. The buffet was excellent and I have really started to take to the enjera. I have not yet mastered eating with it, but I am sure that is just a matter of practice.

Some people say that Mekelle is non-malarious, some say take care in the rainy season. Unfortuntely I cannot put up my mossie net in my room (I do not think that the other vols have them). Even the person providing equipment said that I didn't need one. I took one anyway. I am also taking my Lariam; I haven't noticed any side effects so I can afford to. This does mean that I will try to flatten any mosquitos that I see. In England I would probably try to get them in another room and close the door. Here, I treat every mossie as an airborne disease delivery system and I try to flatten them whenever one is in the room. Trouble is, they can move so quickly when they do not have any blood in them. I have tried flattening one several times tonight. I think that I have got him, and he has managed to fly away just quickly enough. The chances of them carrying malaria is very slim because it needs to be a certain type of mosquito. The specific mosquito gets a little nose bleed at about this height and heads back down to the richer oxygen. I have a feeling that they won't be so smug tomorrow.