More than Just Britney
Feb. 19th 2004
What do you get when give Internet access to 130 young men. I mentioned previously downloading Britney Spears stuff, well some of the students have been going for things that are a little more hardcore. Very hardcore in some cases. I have yet to set it up so I can see who is looking at what page, and I do not really want to but there is definitely some naughtiness going on. Because it is not effective use of the Internet (which is only 'open' 20:00 - 22:00), I have to block their access to dodgy sites. I am told that pornography is not acceptable here. But like so many things I am told that is really bad and couldn't possibly happen here, absolutely expressly forbidden, no no no, no-one would ever do it, yet they do. Sex before marriage is another example. No one would ever have sex before marriage or extra marital sex. Absolutely forbidden. Then why is AIDs at 20%?. It's definitely confusing when you are told that something is strictly taboo. I guess it's like the alcohol law for some muslims. I heard that although alcohol is not permitted, if they travel to a neighbouring country then it doesn't seem to count if they get boozed up at a strip joint. I'm sure this will only be a minority. So, this is the situation as I see it in the lab. Some of them, apparently, late at night will quite happily look at porn in the lab, despite the fact that everyone can see them, and despite the fact that some of the students have asked them not to (I haven't asked for names - I will do that through the computer if I have to). Maybe they are thinking that it doesn't count because the pictures have come from America or Spain. Therefore, they are not 'in Ethiopia' looking at porn, they have flitted over the border. I wonder where they see the hypocrisy in British culuture?

To try to limit their access to the porn sites, I blocked all those that I could find. There was some dispute over who would be checking whether the porn sites are really porn sites. I did offer it to the others that work in computing, but neither Ray nor Tsega wanted to touch it with a barge pole. It's a tough job sometimes. I compiled my list of sites to block, some contained regular adverts only, but these too should be blocked because they waste bandwidth. When are we ever going to be able to buy anything? Credit cards are very, very rare and only accepted in about four places in Addis. I estimate about one fifth of the sites I blocked were adverts, that leaves the remaining four fifths as porn sites. The total length of the list: 1020. They've certainly been busy.

I have taken to baking bread. We still do not have an oven but I have been able to make something that works a bit like an oven but I am restricted in what I can cook because I don't think it gets over about 180C. I have been trying fried breads such as doughnuts as well, and I can now do a really good pizza from scratch using a frying pan (you need one with a lid). I used to do a bit of baking occasionally in the UK. However here, where it is difficult to get interesting bread, it is more important. And now, living with the others, it is actually worth taking the time. Not having any measuring equipment also means that you get much more of a feel for what is right, although it does seem that all the doughs I make are the same. We have finally had some curtains arrive at Ferenji Heights. I think that they are quite nice - they are a thick golden material. I was in the house with a sore throat on the day that they arrived. At MIT, Ato Belay ('works' in administration) told Alison that they were pink. Alison flew off the handle a bit because of all the hassle we had getting them in the first place. Sister Ruth told the others not to be worried about his because of the poor knowledge of colours (even in Amhraic or Tigrinian). Belay probably didn't even know what colour they were. When she arrived back home, Alison was still not happy with the colour (although I had tried wrapping hers up in a pink sheet to confuse her). So we all have curtains apart from Ali who decided to lend hers to Rob and Jackie.

One of the things that I have been wanting to do here is to teach the students Korfball. This requires a pitch and towards the end of term, I went out to inspect where the pitch will be, in front of the new dormitory. There is space for two pitches (maybe four but I don't want to get too adventurous). The area will need clearing, and we will need to find a way to make the posts and fix them in the soil.

Also on the subject of sport, MIT had a football match against a local college. The college is called Sheba (Queen Sheeba was an Ethiopian so many things are called Sheba or Saba - how it is really pronounced). The college trains people to use computers for applications. It is well known and makes a lot of money. They also have some quite good football players. The match was arranged for Sunday and the students were not expecting myself or Alison to turn up. We also met Dr Mulu there - another surprise for the students. The match was played on a large dirt pitch at a nearby school. Although students were friendly to each other and the MIT supporters had made some hats, there was clearly some rivalry. In the end, MIT won the match but I have to admit, they did not deserve to win it. Both myself and Alison could see the lack of team play. The celebrations afterwards were quite interesting. There was much shouting and cheering, and the other MIT students ran onto the pitch. And then, we all headed back to MIT. I was glad to see that once we got back to MIT, the teams were shaking hands and knocking shoulders with one another. I had been a bit worried that the rivalry was a bit stronger than it needed to be. Having seen their lack of team play makes me more determined to teach them Korfball. The slightly bizarre moment came (and I took a photo) when we were watching the match and a camel train marched past the back of the pitch. Definitely not a Sunday morning in the UK.

We now have a dog, Scooby. Hans has been looking for a dog for some time. I was happy to have a dog as long as it doesn't mean any extra work for me. If Hans and the others want to care for it, then fine. Ali and Hans went to look for a dog, but Hans had said he was only looking. He managed to break that promise and walked out of the house selling the dog with a new house mate in his hands. The idea is that Scooby will be able to act as a guard dog, and obviously is a pet for us. I think he is seen more as a child by the others though. As for me, I make sure that he is in no doubt about who is the 'top dog'. I know that the others will weaken, but a box outside is more than good enough for him.

Rob and Jackie visited with their dog, Tilla. He was bought shortly after they arrived in Mekelle and is now quite big. The initial introduction between the dogs was full of barking but lots of tail wagging. Then they were playing together for a whole afternoon. The games stopped briefly when Scooby ran into a step. He obviously blamed Tilla for that and tried to have a little bite, but he recovered soon enough. In fact he tries to bite (gently) most things. Although he is getting better and knows that my toes are off limits. Ray's seem very attractive to him. I wonder if it's because of being told off or another reason that he doesn't come near my toes?

Ray has returned from Addis and is slowly getting back into work although there is some uncertainty about what she will be doing. She has decided that she did not enjoy the bit of teaching that she had to do while I was away.

We've had a minor burglary. One night, some clothes were left on the line. By morning Ray's tops and Jon's trousers were missing. They left his underwear though. Make of that what you will. Tadesse, the guard, had been asleep and Scooby had been shut in an outside room by Tadesse. Obviously we were not happy about this. Although, I was not really upset with Tadesse because it would be very easy to take the clothes. The wall to the compound is quite easy to climb over. And, the clothes are not far from the wall. I think the blame is mostly with the person who left the clothes out. Unfortunately, this might mean that another robbery is more likely in the future. Ray is quite worried because in Nairobi thefts can often be accompanied by armed break-ins. Although the others are not worried we are thinking more carefully about protecting ourselves and our property. I personally would be surprised if anyone would risk breaking into the house while people are here.