The Invisible Lorry
May 22nd 2003
Again, I have had another very busy week but I think things are starting to calm down a bit. Last Friday things came to a bit of a head at lunch when I went off on one with my boss. I am unhappy about a number of things. Mostly it is having too much work, and work at the wrong level. This is not computer science level.

On Saturday I heard through the radio that the UK had issued a warning about six east african countries. Ethiopia was one that they thought may be at risk. From what I can hear on the radio, it sounds like Al-Queda is asking their supporters to target muslim targets as well. Here, the main religions are christian (in many forms) and islam. There never appears to be any friction. In fact I think the habesha take advantage of their differences. For one thing, they have holidays for both religions. I suggested to a colleague that they need some more religions so that they can have more time off.

Walking around on the Saturday did feel a bit odd. I was more conscious of things. I noticed the taunts and calls more. I must have become quite good at filtering such things. Although I had chosen to work at home on Saturday, it was still work.

Sunday was an interesting day. Not from the point of work, but the point of getting back. We have a new driver (I may have said this already), who isn't the greatest. He had previously pulled out in front of a lorry and I was both surprised and relieved to find the lorry's brakes worked. This is not something you can count on here. If you are worried about me - I do try to bury myself into the middle of the car. The back seat is a good place for this, because they will maybe fit six members of staff here.

On the Sunday afternoon, Molla offered to go to the local hotel to get me some coke. When he brought me the coke back he disappeared very quickly. I later found out why. The driver was in the court in Ainalem. This was a surpise for me because I wonder what the court is. In fact, I wonder where and what the hotel is. Ainalem is not big, and is mostly stone and mud huts. The driver had got drunk and was fighting with the police in Ainalem. Molla had done his best to calm them down, bring the coke back to me, and then had dashed back to get the driver out of the court. I don't know if he would have made the same effort if there had not been members of staff waiting for a ride home. You have to give him the points for making the effort.

When it was time for me to leave, I knew that the driver had been drinking, but there was an escape option: my boss's new car. Fortunately he was at MIT and I could get a lift with him. However, I was asked to find a good reason to have a lift back, and not to say that the driver was drunk. This was quite difficult watching the driver wash my boss's car. He would drop the sponge and then grin at me. There is something about him. He looks like the landlady's dog. I am just waiting for him to fart, sniff it, look proud, and then look embarresed. I managed to arrange an excuse to get a lift back with my boss. I was not going to get in the car.

The drive back was interesting, but in a way it was a very good thing. The atmosphere was very good. Friday had been a bit of a chance to clear the air. Dr Mulu, my boss, is not the most experienced driver I think it would be safe to say. This does not mean that I think he his dangerous, far from it. And, his car has seatbelts. The choice of gear is not, I would say, ideal. We would labour along in third on the mud and stone road outside MIT, and then have a screaming engine in second once we had reached the tarmac. While we were driving there was the sound of a horn and a white pickup drove past. It was the driver, I watched in horror as I saw the pickup twich one way and then the other, but then continued on straight. As we got back onto a mud and stone road, the one that leads up to our houses (we live opposite), a cyclist passed us. Dr Mulu didn't even notice. It was a calm steady, patient drive. I think, one that he was enjoying. Something about it was incredibly funny. I think it was partly due to having been able to say about problems at MIT, and just the steady driving. I have never seen the film 'Driving miss Daisy'. Somehow I think that the name is appropriate though.

On Sunday evening, I went to Mini Bu-Bu to eat, it is a nearby restaurant. There was a wedding, and when I walked into the inside of the building, I found that all the tables had been taken out. Presumably they were round the back with the wedding.

I was guided to a table outside and I sat down and waited for them to bring me my carbonara. This is carbonara without ham (Ethiopians will not eat pig meat) and without cream. It's pretty good though. From behind the building I could here shrill la-la-la-las from the reception. It sounded a bit like the war cry you hear on western films from the red-indians. This was accompanied by the regular da-dum da-dum beat from the Tigrayan music. While I waited I tried to listen to a conversation, although I did not have much success. What I did notice was that it was a joke. I could recognize the timing. I knew when the laughs were coming. I was surprised at how similar the humour seemed to be.

I have been waiting for more equipment for some time now. I was assured that a lorry would arrive on Monday. It did not.

I was assured that it would arrive on Tuesday. It did not.

I was assured that it would arrive on Wednesday. It did not.

I was assured that it would arrive on Thursday. It did not.

I have taken to calling it the invisible lorry. One of the things that it has inside is a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). I need this to protect the server computers here. This is becoming more important because I now have the lab attendants, a single key has been aranged to be kept at the gatehouse, and there is a lab schedule. In essence, I am ready to turn over much of the lab time to the students themselves.