Swift Karma
Apr. 5th 2003
Warning A part of this diary entry may not be easy reading. If you are feeling squeamish, then read it another time.

I allowed myself to wake up slowly today. Although, before I got out of bed, the maid let herself into the house. I had asked that she did not come at the weekends. I got up, tried to talk to her but I couldn't remember the names of the days of the week. She then just left, and I didn't see her again. Before leaving, I wrote a note (trying to write fidel script) but I have no idea whether it was legible.

My first challenge this morning was to try to find the post office, although I did stop off for a sprees juice first. I got hopelessly lost on the way to the post office. I could have asked, but I decided to continue walking about and exploring the outskirts of Mekelle. I passed the 'new' market. This was the distant market that I had been taken to on my first weekend in Mekelle. From outside the market, I could see row upon row of stalls made from thin logs and mail sacks. Mail sacks seem to be a standard building material here. Outside of the town, the children are not sure whether to say hello or not. Most just stand in your path and stare. Some of them have open mouths, some of them have snot dripping from their noses. I am thinking of creating an Ethiopian Eye-Spy book.

I did eventually find the post office but was told that I had to come back on Monday to open my own PO box. Post does not get delivered to houses. It is delivered to a post box. While I was in the post office, I took my chance to have a snoop around the post box room, never having seen one before. It was just rows of small, grey metal boxes. Each with a lock and a number printed on the front.

After leaving the post office, I had another explore and then headed back into town to meet the other VSOs. We had lunch at the Yordanos (probably the best restaurant in Mekelle). It is still fasting time, so the vegan buffet was present. Every one of us went for this. If only mum could see the things I eat now, although I haven't gone for the beetroot yet.

I parted company after lunch and headed back to the house. I wanted to put up the mosquito net. Firstly, I arranged the pieces of wood to form a 'four-poster' effect. This didn't work too well. I changed to plan B and this is working much better. I have tied all four pieces of wood together. They are standing vertical behind the beds headboard, and are pushed against the wall. From the top of these pieces of wood runs a piece of string up to the curtain rail. From this piece of string the mosquito net is now suspended. This should be a good deal easier than the hoops method I had been forced to use. Tomorrow I will probably coat it in the supplied insecticde. I still have the pieces of conduit. These stop the net from draping against my feet, and give me a place to hang the net when I am not sleeping.

After the success of the mosquito net, I decided to head back into town to try to buy some pillows and a table lamp. I knew a shop in which I had seen a table lamp and started my walk into town. A small boy came up to shake my hand. In his other hand he had some birr. I asked if the money was for me, and he offered me his hand. I asked him what his name was, 'Abrahim' I was told - a common Ethiopian name. We walked hand in hand along one of the main roads. I was a bit worried that he had decided to just follow me, and I was glad to hear his mother calling him as she walked behind. She seemed quite happy that he was with me. I think that he might even be the little boy that offered me a flower previously. I must try to remember his name. I think that we could have our first recipient of a plastic, glow in the dark frog.

After parting company with Abrahim, I headed towards the electrical shop. It was while walking along one of the main streets of Mekelle that I saw something that might come back to haunt me. A man was crossing the road, and a younger man approached him from behind, unseen. As he got close, he slowed and then appeared to spit onto the lower part of his back. I assumed that this was because he hadn't paid, or they had had an argument. Karma worked quickly this afternoon. The spitter, made his get-away by crossing back over the road. He didn't make it. He had not seen the blue and white form of an accelerating line taxi. There, right in front of me, the taxi hit him. Even if the taxi had working brakes, they would have done no good. So intent was the spitter on a clean get-away that they had turned immediately into the path of the taxi. There was no blood, just the sound of scrapping on the ground as he was dragged along the street while the taxi tried desparately to stop. Thankfully, it managed to do so in a straight line. Immediately people came rushing over. I wanted to join them, but, and I am certainly not proud of this, I remembered my VSO training. There have been situations before where a well meaning VSO has tried to help in these situations. In the end, they were accused of causing or contributing to the accident. It is suggested that we do not get involved. I tried not to draw any attention to myself, and keep moving away. This was an accident involving only local people, it would have happened regardless of whether I was there or not. This I told myself to make myself feel a bit better as I continued to move away from the now stationary taxi. As I was moving away, people were rushing past me to have a look. I tried to look one way, but move the other. Again, trying not to draw attention to myself, just in case there was a problem. The person who had been injured or killed was probably about two arm's length away from me before he jumped back. I could see the back of the taxi, and a motionless body laying in front of the taxi. I imagined pools of blood forming, but I could not see any. Fortunately for me, the electrical shop was very close. I headed straight in there, and concentrated on my amharic to distract my mind. I was grateful when the shop owner wanted to chat, and I was able to spend enough time in the shop so that when I left, there was largely nothing left to see outside. I have no idea what happened to the person who was hit. The taxi was moving fast. I would not be surprised if he was killed. At least habesha tend to be light - that may have helped him. Even if he did survive, I do not envy his chances.

I headed across the street to where I thought I could buy pillows, and then needed to head back over the street again, being very careful to listen out for any calls of ferenji. I wanted to listen to hear if anything else was being said. There is nothing to say that anything like that would happen here. It probably wouldn't. I'm not going to take the chance though.

As soon as I had got my pillows, I headed for the back streets to take me back home. I felt like I had done something wrong and needed to hide. Of course, I had done nothing but I maintained a low profile as much as possible.

Seeing something like that does make you think, of course. I am hoping that by writing this I will be able to off-load the image a bit. Walking along I was reveiwing where the most likely places are that I could be involved in any accident. Please be sure, that I am real careful around the roads here. I try to stick to the pavements, and I might be religious in this from now on. I have had a quick review of the house for slip hazards, knifes, and anything else that could cause harm. I don't think I can make it any safer!

Before getting back, I seemed to pick up someone following me. I changed direction a few times and they were definitely following me. They seem to be one of the people that I think of monks. They do not appear to be religious, but they have same shawls and sticks. I was thinking of how to lose this person when I met someone who I had met before. However, I have met so many habesha that I tend to forget who is who. He was particularly put out becuase I normally just walk past him. I do not think that he realises that as a ferenj, you cannot say hello to everyone. You do start to ignore people. Sure, every 'hello' is just a hello, but it may be (literally) the hundredth hello that hour. After talking to him, and agreeing to see him at MIT (he is going to see the Dean) I headed back to my house. I had forgotten about the 'tail'. And, I was now in the street where I live. I toyed with the idea of going past the house and doubling back to see if he followed. In the end, I just went up to the front door of the compound, watched him for a while as he walked past staring, and then entered the compound and closed the dor. The compound itself seems quite secure, and then there are locks to get into my rooms. I think that there is a guard at night but there always seem to be familiar faces around so there should not be any problems.