Will there be Ferrero Roche?
May 12th 2004
I'm feeling a little bit naughty today. I have not gone into work because I don't feel very well. Ali and Jon have been unwell recently and I think my body is fighting off whatever they had. This is making me very tried. I think that I am possibly suffering from exhaustion. There is not one thing that is particularly bad, but pretty much nothing is working at 100%. I am very glad for the continued support of my bowels though. They seem to give me little trouble even though I drink the tap water now without filtering. Shame the rest of the immune system is not working as well.

There has been quite a gap between this entry and the previous entry partly because I am losing enthusiasm for writing the diary entries. I guess that is to do with being so tired. Also, so much more of the daily 'pain in the bum' ness I feel is getting less news worthy. Having said that, this entry should be a mammoth entry. I feel like I am still doing something useful despite skiving from work. There should be a trip away soon for more interesting information.

A slightly funny note to start with. It was Terri's birthday recently and all from Ferenji Heights walked to her house. Hans led us through a back route. Jon was not impressed with this because he had his girlfriend here. The back route took us behind the houses over the patch of land that is commonly used for, well a toilet. I think I may have coined a new phrase for this delicate act of navigation (it was mostly dark at the time). If you have one handy, can you have a look and see whether 'turd-hurdling' is in the Profanisaurus? I can't be sure that it is a new creation. It think it is quite an apt term for our slow and slightly erratic progress across the field.

There have been more problems with the guards. We still have Tesfakiros, but Haddush, the day guard, has been replaced. His replacement isn't here at the moment because he has been ill recently with serious headaches. However, we really do like him and have made it clear that this is not a problem by buying the medication he was prescribed. He was found through a friend of Ali's. I'm not sure what good he would be if he was required to take any action as a guard. He seems ancient (but has an eight year old son) and quite frail. However, he is good with the children, is very friendly, seems very reliable, and is content to sit in the compound all day reading his bible or prayer book.

Tesfakiros's status on the other hand tends to be more variable. I do find him annoying but I try to avoid contact. I think that guards are a good idea but don't really want the hassle. Sometimes I think of the old place and how much easier things were then. Tesfakiros's latest hiccup is borrowing 20 birr from Hans and not paying it back. We keep asking for it and teasing him (our Tigrinian in this area is improving). Prior to this he upset Jon by pointing his gun at him. To put this in context, Jon did return late at night (2 am) and did not clearly identify himself. He didn't want to wake anyone. Personally, I think good on him, he was genuinely doing his job. However, it upset Jon and that would bring into question his suitability. Fortunately, the issue has been resolved. Tesfakiros brings the gun into the compound so that it can be seen by people and then hides it. I doubt very much that there are any bullets in it anyway. Something that Jon said that made me laugh was when he described having the gun pointed at him. He said what upset him most was that Tesfakiros 'made it go click'.

I had always wanted to teach the students how to play Korfball. The last diary entry mentions this but I have abandoned the idea. There is no realistic way that I would be able to do this. I think I shall just be content with running the circuit training. There are six football teams here so I invited the captain from each to come and take a ball. The football teams have interesting names, they are Professor Hawking, Mother Theresa, ?? (can't remember), Sister Ruth, Dr Martin, and Miss Alison. How many people can claim to have had a football team named after them? I think that they could have found some more well known names to use as football teams though.

The circuit training has been going very well. On some mornings we had as many as forty students (at 06:00 from a total of 142 students). We will now be swapping to evenings but this means that it will not be as interesting. We will have to stick to the lit areas. Thursday (tomorrow) will be the first one of these if we feel up to it. What we have noticed is that the students love doing partner exercises. Therefore, piggy backs, wheel barrows, walking up and down the steps in a press up position are all good. I think we have successfully done the VSO thing of adapting it to local context.

A while back there was quite a serious 'AC' meeting in which poor old Molla seem to get a lot of flak for something that was not really his fault. It seems that Mulu and Abebe (head of admin) wanted to grill him for something. We didn't let the grilling go to plan though. Regardless of whether he had done something wrong what they were attacking him for was just plain bogus. It was something like not publishing a date by which the exams had to be marked. Their argument was that this was what caused Sis. Ruth not to have here exams ready. She had already stated that the date would have made no difference and that it was just having too much work. Sometimes people seem to be 'attacked' here and it is very hard to find the reason. Bogus reasons are given. Fortunately this one did not really stand up to any logical argument, not that this makes a difference here.

A few days after the meeting we found that Molla had quit MIT (in fact he had been looking previously). His new job involves software at the Dashen bank with a bit of UNIX work as well I think. I reckon it will be a much better job, higher pay, more respect, and much more rewarding. I hope he does well in it.

A staff trip to Wukro was organized. I decided not to go. In some ways this is a bad decision because I have not really travelled at all. Although I am learning that I am not too fussed about this anymore. My main reason for not going was that, as usual, not enough notice was really given and it was like we were being told that we would go. I didn't want to lose a weekend on it. There was another reason though. It was made clear that this was a trip for academic staff only. If the administration staff wanted a trip then they would need to organize their own. In itself I do not have a problem with this but it seems that this was a deliberately devisive move, and one in which I did not want to be a part. It seemed as if administration were being 'punished'. They are crap at their jobs, true but this just seemed to be the wrong approach. One of the craziest things abuout the trip is that people who went were paid a per diem, despite it being a personal trip, and one at the weekend.

Although it was a while ago, something worth mentioning was the level of activity in the skies above Mekelle. Jets had been flying overhead. We had seen something similar when the new VSOs arrived. At that time military helicopters could be seen and heard at night. This time it was jets during the day. Once again, I assumed that they were just practicing. I can see this being sporadic because fuel is not always available. Michael, the german volunteer (from another organization), has been in the army and made an interesting observation - the jets were carrying their weapons. They would not for normal training because of the amount of extra fuel consumed. He thinks that the fighters were a show of strength. There has been a bit of tension at the Eritrean border. There have definitely been more UN land cruisers around. It might also explain the strange and simultaneous arrival of two pairs of tourists, one pair American and one pair Russian, booking themselves rooms into the Castle hotel. One of the few places from which you can see the whole of Mekelle. As I write this, there hasn't been any signs of military activity for weeks. There is certainly nothing scary happening here that we can see.

Our Tigrinian lessons have been continuing although I have come to the point where I do not think that it is worth continuing. Although there is still quite a lot of my placement left, I figure that I have done most of the placement without much of the language. Is it really worth spending part of the remaining time learning? It is a shame because I know that I have let a great opportunity pass. I do consider the loss a matter of circumstance rather than just not being interested.

Ray has now left. There was a big party the night before she left for Addis. I can't say that I was happy

with the idea of a party at FH. It would give the wrong idea to people around that we had lots of money. Yes, they do have big parties for weddings, but the same rules would not apply to us. The catering was being done by the Yordanos restaurant, one of the posh ones in town. The food was very good but I didn't really feel like eating much. I spent half the night on the roof with Michael, or one of the many Cubans (Ethiopia was communist not too long ago). In the end, about seventy people came. There was food, coffee, beer. Half of the MIT staff were drunk on a bottle of beer each. The following day, Ray managed to sleep on as we cleared away the bottles around her. She was ready to leave at 13:00 when the car arrived to take her to the airport. In the car was Awet, the electronics lab technician (the electronics counterpart to Tsega). We are not sure whether it is connected with Ray leaving but Awet normally ignores me, Ali and Hans, when we get into the car. He can't really ignore Jon because Jon is kind of the boss for electronics. Maybe something was going on between them, that's not important. In fact, if he wants to have a face like a slapped arse, then that's his business.

Kibrom is the head waiter at the Yordanos. He has excellent English and as a result, we know him quite well. He got a little bit drunk at the party and was telling us more about his history and getting every one to feel his ears because he throught they were too cold. He has a shaved head and looks like a cross between Kojak and Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate), if that helps you picture the scene.

The next day I was at the restaurant for breakfast. It's normally nice and quiet. I could take the opportunity to talk to Kibrom more about his life. He spent 10 years in America as an illegal immigrant. I think other people would have used the words asylum seeker because he was trying to get away from the Derg. He was saying how he had got himself smuggled in, how he tried to get the status required to stay in America. There were many years of legal proceedings but before the final case was heard, the Derg fell and he was immediately deported back to Eritrea, and from Eritrea deported back to Ethiopia. I wanted to ask Kibrom if he will come to speak to the students about the time spent in America. I think that he will be able to describe both the good and the bad sides. The students are trying to arrange evening sessions where guest speakers can come.

MIT's minibus has had a few extra dents put in it. Fortunately, we do not get taken to work by the bus, we have a car and driver provided by TDA. The minibus has recently has a driver hired, but he is not very good. Rob and I have spoken about this previously, but it became obvious when the minibus was turned over because the driver lost what little concentration he has and put the wheels in a ditch. Fortunately, no one was injured and the minibus seems to have escaped with almost no damage.

The reason that I am asking if there will be Ferrero Roche tonight is that the British Ambassador is currently in Mekelle. He is an ex VSO (many years ago), and has invited the VSOs to drinks at the Axum Hotel. It is nice that the British Embassy and British Council do take an interest in us. It also makes sense because we can provide 'on the ground' information to them, and we must be one of the best value deals that the British government has. VSO is funded mostly by the British government but in terms of return of investment, they get a very good advert for Britain.