Balls, Prisons, and Pigs
Mar. 13th 2004
I'm still playing catch up a bit with the diary entries. So some of this goes back quite a way. In the last entry I forgot to mention the one year cross over point. There was no big party or celebrations, but the 'count down' has started. Yes I will be quite glad to return the UK. Of course, the locals here will say that it is because of television or some other thing that they might be wanting. In reality the biggest problem here for me is the 'chancer culture'. I'm not saying that I haven't enjoyed my time, but I do look forward to the end of service. The students are fantastic and so I normally concentrate on them.

The problems with the curriculum continue. My suggestion of just eliminating the external advisers is not really accepted very well but the curriculum they have proposed is not, I think, the best one for the students. People are talking about how the curriculum will develop over time. However, surely you should start with the best one you can before it becomes fixed? Why spend your time polishing turds?

We had a curriculum meeting in Addis. It was a very short meeting although it took myself and Jon away for four days. I feel that the curriculum advisers should have come to Mekelle but that wasn't possible, and then admin looked at me funny when I insisted on a certain hotel (about 9 pound a night, which is a lot). They said that I could have a hotel upto about 1.50. I pointed out that if I am going away on business then they should put me in a reasonable hotel. I had made suggestions a very long time ago that the advisers come to Mekelle and if they haven't sorted it out, then that was their problem. Mulu had promised that he would book the hotel and did not, in fact we had to do it ourselves but that meant that we made sure that we got the hotel we wanted. All in all it was very annoying, and all so avoidable. It's very frustrating when you know that things could be so much better.

The one advantage that being in Addis had for me was meeting up with other voluteers from my intake. I was very glad to meet up with Jenny and Neal who I hadn't seen in a whole year. They are based at the university in Awassa. We first met at our training in Harborne Hall (the VSO training centre in Birmingham). It was so nice to go out for a meal with them and the new volunteers. While in Addis, I was asked about a rumour that someone started about me. Apparently I had been arrested and in prison for a week. Gossip and rumour is standard amongst the VSOs - there are always some made up stories doing the rounds. It can be interesting to see where the rumour manages to reach without phones and other forms of communication. Seamus was my top suspect as chief rumour monger. However, I do not think it was him after talking to him in Addis. Seamus normally blames me for rumours but I haven't actually started any. Other suspects include Charis at Kallamino and maybe Lindsy in the program office. When the opportunity arises I will retaliate with rumours for everyone. I shall assume that all are guilty. Daniel my programme officer at VSO had phoned Mulu to check that everything was okay, but I didn't hear about any of this until I went to Addis for the curriculum meeting.

The thief, or another for all we know, returned. This time to steal Tadesse's tracksuit bottoms that he had left on the line. All in the house are a bit suspiscous about this. We are wondering whether he knew who the thief was. Maybe the tracksuit bottoms were not really stolen but it was done just to show him as a victim as well. Either it shows that he is being devious, or that he is both stupid enough to put the clothes in the position again, and incompetent to guard. Although it was not a nice thing, we gave Tadesse his marching orders. We had explicitly said when started working for us that he could not have another job. Yet, one of the reasons he could not guard at night was because he was trying to do extra work during the day. It will be a real loss to his family - this was his main source of income and it would be difficult for him to find another job. We were flexible upto a point, but no further.

With Ato Abebe's help, some guards were arranged for us from the Kebelle. The Kebelle is like a local council. They look after things in their area. When you get guards from the Kebelle, they are normally ex-military and bring their own guns. Shortly after the new guards arrived we heard that Tadesse had been complaining that we had fired him because he did not have a gun. We tried to squash that rumour as quickly as possible but in as nice a way as possible for Tadesse. He possibly geniunely believes that. He has probably forgotten that Ray and Jon at least specifically requested the guard not to have a gun. They have let this conviction slide now though.

There are two replacement guards, Haddush and Hadgu. The first time we arrived to see Haddush we were greeted by the face of a killer! He doesn't need a gun, anyone looking at him wouldn't bother breaking in. I suspected that he was actually a big softy though, and this is turning out to be the case. I guess he is about fifty and smiles from ear to ear if I try speaking to him in Tigrinian. The other guard was a bit of a problem. He is much older and we think that he is a bit of deaf. This isn't good in your night guard! In fact, Hadgu has also been fired now because he was asleep at night when he should have been guarding. I don't mind the guard being asleep if he is a light sleeper. However Hadgu was dead to the world at night. One night Ray and I returned from a party at Terri's house. It was about midnight when we reached the house and tried to get in through the front gate. Our key would not open the gate because it was bolted from the inside. We shouted out for Hadgu from the front gate. He was asleep about fifteen metres away. He didn't wake up so I went to the side gate to bang. You might be thinking at this point why didn't I climb over the fence? This is something you avoid doing when you have a man in your compound with an AK-47 who is paid to stop thieves, even if he is sound asleep. Hadgu didn't wake up even when I was banging on the side gate (about eight metres away). I then decided that I would probably be safe enough to climb over the fence, but I did get Ray to keep any eye out for movement from where Hadgu was sleeping. Once over I could open the gate and let Ray into the compund. Once we had entered the house and done what we needed to do, we opened the back door to have a look at Hadgu. We stood talking about five metres away from him and he still did not wake up. He is no longer our night guard.

Tesfakiros is the new night guard and he seems much more alert and much younger than the other guards. We have yet to see how he will do but it's quite a hassle dealing with the guards. I am wondering whether it would be easier to get a 'live in' seratagna. That would seem to be as effective as having a guard and they could do some cooking for us.

With the students, I have revisted the building site at Qiha to fit the network sockets. We had fitted the fascias to the sockets but were advised to remove them in case somebody let them slip into their pockets. Not that they would be any good to anyone but that wouldn't stop them from going missing. I tried something on the students while I was there. I asked two of the students to check that all of the sockets were there according to the floor plans. I gave them the floor plans and discreetly watched them. I thought that they might have difficulty. Here, there are almost no maps. It was hardly surprising that the students were having trouble reading and interpreting the floor plans. They coudln't even decide which way around to hold the plans. Turning them through 180 degrees would cause them to completely forget what they had been looking at. Remember that these are students at least nineteen years old. Alison has suggested that we run a treasure hunt for the students, I think that this would be very useful for them.

Scooby is becoming quite a handful. He seems to be fine most of the time but continually wants to bite things. He is okay with me but with the others and with new people he does like a bite. The only time he bites me is if we are playing. He doesn't bite hard but his teeth are quite sharp, and I have cuts and scratches over my hands - we have a full complement of injections before leaving. If you take him out for a walk then you do not really need the lead. He comes immediately when he is called.

Korfball has taken another step forward with the purchase of some balls. The students want to borrow them for football, but I keep telling them that they must wait. I need to get the posts made though. I was going to start practicing without the posts but without the obvious visual sign of what you are supposed to do with the balls, I can see them just playing football with them. I have, however, started circuit training with the students. Whether it will continue during term time I cannot say. I have just finished creating the timetable with Molla and there are no 'free' bits in the time table where all students could attend. I have had quite a few students turn up for just one session and then give up. We are not working anywhere near as hard as a real circuits session would in the UK but this is still new to them. One exercise that they have difficulty with is sit-ups, but I think it is fair to say that they find them all tough. Given that they are not carrying much weight I was expecting them to be better at these kinds of exercises. Something that seems to be missing for most students is the mental strength side of circuits. They need that little voice in their head to say that they will finish these exercises, that they will go faster than last time, etc. Maybe only a few will get it, but I would like them to have that opportunity. I wonder if Keith Grasby fancies a holiday?

The students have had their final exams and I have finished my marking. Because the new students and the existing students took the same course, and some of it was repeated from the previous year, I based my grading scale on the first years only, and then applied it to both years. This means that I have a very high number of 'A' grades for the second years. I will wait and see if I am told that this is not allowed. I am sure that many of the students will try complaining to get an extra few percent - even if it does not change their grade. Term starts after this weekend but I will need to close the computer labs so that Tsega and I can do maintenance work. It will also alleviate the rush that is certain to happen.

Ray has been considering what she will be doing. Although she is still at MIT, she hasn't really been working at MIT since she was ill (basically when I returned). She has been looking at taking a job at Kallamino. She has decided that she definitely does not want to continue at MIT. I think this decision will be the easiest for all. How she will cope at Kallamino remains to be seen though. Although the teaching which be much more in line with what she can do, she will have to deal with being so far out of town. In addition to this, Charis the current volunteer will only be there for a few more months. Her placement will be ending quite soon.

On a very different note, tonight is the night of the pig party. Donkey doctor Keith will have slaughtered the pig earlier and amateur butchers Rob and Jackie will be cutting up the carcus. I'm not actually that fussed - although I would be if it was bacon. I have found that if you fry a bit of bread slightly in olive oil and add some salt then it tastes a bit like bacon (I think it helps that I had done some eggs in the pan earlier). I'm cooking bread for the party at the moment. This is one of the nicest things about VSO. I'm not too worried about the party, but it is good the way that we all have something to do or bring and so much of the food is home made. I will still be glad to go back to Sainsbury's microwave pasta because of the time it saves, but it won't be quite as satisfying.