Myself and another member of staff had been told before I went back to the UK that
we no longer needed to pay for food at lunch time. We had been asked
for 140birr a month (a lot). The justification for not paying was that
the other person is payed nothing from MIT, and I am not 'paid' as such, I
get an allowance. This amount is much lower than an Ethiopian doing the
same job, and as a Ferenj you cannot get money to go as far. Many places
increase their prices for Ferenji.
However, we were recently told that yes, we did have to pay, and that they
had 'only been joking'. Both myself and the other member of staff agreed
that this was definitely not the case. And the person saying this was trying
to avoid blame. It turns out that the very nice lady who serves our food has
not been paid for three months. I wonder where the money is going. I have
certainly lost all faith in finance here. It's been six weeks now since
they could organize soft drinks. Although you will get a personal promise
that somebody will get them. Of course, they do not. Incidently the same
person in finance recently costed the equipment I predicted that we
would need for next year. I thought that the value was too high on one of the
sheets of paper. I looked more closely, one thing was listed as 60,000 birr.
It was 200 cable clips, the white hooks with nails that you hammer into the
wall to hold cables in place. Each box of 100 costs 6 birr. I already have
two of them. Listed on the inventory, each single clip costs 300 birr.
Competence is sadly lacking, and I am going have to be careful in case there is
some corruption going on here.
I asked this person why the canteen lady cannot get the soft drinks. He said that
she was not experienced or competent. I think a job swap is in order. So far
she has never failed to serve us food.
During this week, we found that food was no longer being served at lunch time.
I had just paid the money as well! On the Monday, myself and Sister Ruth hid
ourselves in her office and ate biscuits for lunch. When you have Enjera nearly
every day, many things are actually preferable, especially with a sweet tooth.
We would look out for food in the canteen occasionally but there was none. I saw
the other staff after lunch and asked them where they got food, and they said that
they all went into town because there was none here, I asked if anyone
knew that there would be no food, and it turned out that Ato 60,000 birr knew
that the lady was not coming (because she has not been paid). He was also in the
car that went into town for food. I found him after lunch and asked if he
knew, and when he said yes, I asked if he thought that it would be nice if myself
or Sister Ruth had been told. All you ever seem to get though is a hollow
apology and a worthless promise. There are some people I feel that I just cannot
trust - and this is not 'Ethiopian', it is personal.
Last weekend I was hoping to spend more of it away from MIT. However, I had to spend
all Saturday there to set up the new desks that arrived. I was quite happy with the
old desks, but my boss was insistent that we set up the new desks. There is quite a
lot of work involved because I must put in all of the wiring and network cabling.
In the UK, the floor would normally have enough sockets and network points
accessible though the floor. Here, I have to tie or strap eveything onto the back
of the desks to try to make it look neat. I managed to finish shortly before going home
but that meant that I was not able to try to really set up the Internet connection
on the weekend, which I had been planning to do. This annoys me because I am already
using up my free time, and trying to provide something for the students. When I have
to do this at the weekend, then it breaks my promises. I didn't really have much
option because we had guests coming this week, and it needed to be done. I happen to
know that the guests would have preferred a working Internet connection, but
what would I know?
On Wednesday we had a number of guests arrive from America. They are from Wheaton
College and have been very good to MIT. The reason for their visit is to have a look at
MIT and to get some contact time with the students. There are five in total and they are
all computing related.
A small reception had been organized, and our three female students were dressed in
traditional clothes to greet the guests. They were then taken into the canteen, where
the usual lady was there to make coffee for them. She had graciously agreed to come
back in for that. We had some biscuits, fruit, and some bread. The bread was moudly
but nobody else seem to notice. That's not surprising since most people took just
one bite and then left it. Actually, maybe that's why they only took one bite.
Lots of photos were taken, and then the guests were whisked
off to Bubu Hills by a TDA car. Bubu hills (get the 'I know a friend that you don't
know' out of your head already) is a very posh restaurant being refurbished on the
side of a hill overlooking Mekelle. It has been closed since I arrived. However, we
noticed on the Sunday that the lights appeared to be on. I had been here once before
in a TDA car but I had not realised what it was. Our guests are the first ones
to stay here, although it is not fully open yet.
The next day the guests came in and we decided what we were going to do for the rest of the
week. My job has been no teaching this week, but I am doing 'support' for them - making
sure that they have all of the software they need and trying to keep the lab running
smoothly. This means that I have only had two jobs this week, instead of three.
The Internet connection is being a pain to set up. During the day time I never seem to be
able to get the computer at the other end to answer the phone using the modem
contained within the main computer. It doesn't answer when I phone it manually either.
The laptop seems to have more luck though.
Our guests did bring lots of nice equipment including the hubs that I needed and some extra
large hard disks. Next week they are going to experiment with a radio link to see if it
will reach the Administration building. This is all equipment that I will be able to use in
setting up the computers for the next few years (I want to let my successor have an
On Wednesday, they started their teaching. They are teaching the students a bit about databases
and PHP. I can teach databases, and I could do PHP on the fly, but it is so nice having
some other computing people here. Someone that I can talk to using geek-speak. Someone that
knows their ftp from udp, and knows how crap most Microsoft stuff is.
VSO were also in Mekelle this week for a conference that they had been organising. It
had orginally been arranged for MIT, but it was moved to TDA at the last moment. On
the Thursday night, I finally met up with Wendewossen, my 'boss' at VSO, at
a local restaurant. I had missed them when they arrived because of the car dallying
at MIT when the guests came. With Wendewossen came two other VSO staff, one of
whom may be taking over from him soon. Also at the restaurant were the other
Mekelle volunteers. Two of whom were about to leave.
The Friday night was the last Friday night for Andy and Dave, two of the Mekelle volunteers.
We went out with the VSO staff to a place where we could eat T'holo. This is a
Tigrinian dish made from balls of barley which you dip into a sauce. Everyone is provided
with a wooden, forked stick. The dish was served by a waitress who mixed the sauces
together in their skillets and ripped off barley balls for us. As dishes go, it didn't
appear to contain anything that vomit inducing. Indeed, the sauce was lovely and I
am sure not as hot as it could have been. However, you had to make sure that
you had plenty of sauce on your balls. The plain barley tasted disgusting.
We headed over to Raf and Evas for a party and it was there that I realised how many of
the Mekelle people will be leaving soon. There are now only two volunteers left in
Mekelle (myself and Charis), even one of our good Habesha friends is leaving
for Addis soon. There is definitely going to be a huge hole left with all these
guys gone. If Andy and Dave ever read this, then I certainly salute you and I have
no idea how we can follow in your foot steps in any way. The bars are certainly
going to be feeling the pinch. Maybe the Hawzen closed pre-emptively?
After losing Andy and Dave by accident we separated at about 2:30 in the morning
and I walked back home. I picked up some unwanted company, that I just couldn't
seem to get rid of. They kept asking if I knew Dave and I thought the best
option would be to say no, and walk quickly. Quite typically, he thought I was
'running' and said don't be scared. I said I wasn't and that I was just walking.
and I didn't want him following me. He kept dogging me for most of the way home,
and I picked up another person although they were just intent with saying
'teacher I love you' and trying to attack the odd tree or door. There was definitely
something not right in the head there. He was asking for money, and I refuse
to give money because I do not see that as the solution. What really annoyed me
was that he was asking me for money, but no one else and I asked him about this
in pidgin amharic. Even when groups of well dressed people passed he did not
ask for help from them. My street is quite dimly lit and although I was not
scared I was getting ready for a fight, especially with the loco twin arguing
with a rock on the other side of the road. In truth, violence is very rare so
I did not really believe that any was coming but I did make sure that I knew
where both of them were at all times. Fortunately, just before I reached the
big door to my compound he slowed his walk. I was quite relieved that there was
some light coming from the room/hut immediately inside the compund. This is typically
where a guard would be, but I don't think that we have one. If I had been thinking
faster, I should have said 'hello' to the imaginary guard. Once I got into my room
I did not turn on any lights, just in case they decided to climb over the walls -
I did not want to show which was my room. They would have had a choice of about
six black windows. I watched out of my window but could not see anything or hear
anything. I think the dogs would have made a bit of a fuss because they were loose
but know me and so did not bark.
Saturday was a quiet day for me and I had assumed that Dave and Andy had got
a bus early in the morning. However, this was not the case as I found out
on Sunday when I headed into town, and to the Yordanos. Here I accidently
found Charis, the remaining volunteer. She was tired and looked a bit upset.
She had seen the boys off at about 5:30 that morning and Mekelle was seeming
quite empty to both of us with the realization that they had both actually gone.
Andy might be back, especially if a job is found for him. Dave is probably
gone for good, save visits.
I'll warn you now, some of this may seem a rant (especially if you get
the private sections). Anger levels went well beyond the red zone, although
not for the reason that some of you may think.