Our dog is queer
Aug. 29th 2004
Back again, recharged and refreshed, ready for the final run. I am now a bit over three-quarters of the way through my VSO placement if I keep to the two year time. I don't expect to be departing much from that although I might be here a little longer so that I can see a bit of the north of the country. We have our trip to the south coming very soon so I hope to be able to get some good photos there.

I returned to some quite big differences. The rains have arrived and you can clearly see their effects. Mekelle is much greener and not quite as smelly (not that it compares to Addis on the honk-o-meter). Many of the rain storms have been torrential. I guess that this is not good for soil erosion, I just hope that the crops survive.

Another thing that I returned to was a new house being built quite near ours. The area in which we live, Adi Hawzi, is quite a nice area. There is 'hollywood' close by (Adi Haki) with all the really posh houses. Our house is kind of posh but amongst more traditional stone, open buildings. Between Adi Hawzi and Adi Haki is an area of open land across which we walk to get the line taxi into town. The road that takes the line taxis in and out of town is now obstructed by a new house. Well, a house upto about shoulder height. Considering I was away for four weeks, it is a surprise to see this, and quite literally in the road. The taxis are going around the house and through small back roads. Mekelle is now subject to a 'master' plan of which I assume that this is part.

Posh house or not, meat left in a fridge that no longer works creates an almighty funk (I think that's an appropriate use). I returned to the house to the stink of rotting meat. Hans had prepared food for Scooby ahead of time so that I wouldn't have to do anything. Scooby even had a walker. Unfortunately, Hans's plans didn't quite work out because the fridge seems to have been damaged by lightning. Neither Tsega (seratanga) or Haile-Mariam (dog walker) thought that this was a problem. I got rid of the rank meat and Scooby was lucky enough to get treated to fresh meat. This involved quite a trip because it was a fasting period and you can't get meat in the nearby siga beyts (meat houses).

This house is a subject that has been foremost in my mind since coming back. Currently, Ali is back as well, and prior to that Bella was here. But, before that I was alone in the house for a week or so. I hate being in this house alone. It is very, very unsettling. The house is so big, it makes you feel vulnerable. The compound adds to a feeling of vulnerability rather than security. Voices from nearby construction seem to be amplified and concentrated so that they sound like they are just outside the house. I'm guessing this is a mild form of what people would feel after they have had a house broken into. It's really not a nice experience. The only thing that definitely physically happened (as opposed to being in my head) is that some children, presumably, threw stones at the windows. Fortunately, the guard (well his kid actually) chased them away. I assume that they were just bored kids. I also assume that they were aiming at the windows in a typical half hearted Ethiopian attempt. They missed. Even if they had hit, it probably wasn't hard enough to break anything. As usual, there has been hassle with the guards, but that just seems to be life.

One night, I identified a sound missing from Ethiopia at night - the occasional shutting of car doors. That really is a reassuring noise in England. There was another thing I identified this time in England. Something that I must have been noticing subconsciously is the way that signs appear in different countries. This is a way I identify places. I got my first taste of returning to England as a different country after I found myself sitting outside Asda just staring at its sign, comparing the shape of the letters with other places. It seemed more German than English.

It's still break time here and i'm currently marking exams and work from last semester. Despite this, I have seen a couple of students though and they told me that the interview I did for Hidri caused a bit of trouble. Hidri is the student's magazine and at the end of last semester, they did an interview with me. It seems that some of the students and staff were not too happy with what I said. All the students that I have seen so far said that they support what I said and knew that I was just being honest. I was a little bit blunt, granted, but I feel that there is a real need for opening a few eyes. I was asked how I see Ethiopia and I told them. I look forward to the students returning so that they can raise these issues. I have a feeling that they won't be willing to do that though.

Bella has returned to the UK now. I was very, very glad for her company recently and it's a shame to see her go. It was interesting because she was not a VSO and seemed to have a bit more freedom but less support. Her Mekelle life has seen her making a film in the brothels of Mekelle, teaching English to AIDs orphans, and consoling the terminally ill victims of AIDs. I hope that I (and others if interested) get a chance to see the film. I don't think that it will be on BBC2, but you never know.

Although I originally wrote this on 29th August, I left it a bit and it is now Sep. 12th, the day after new years. Ali and I went round to to the house of Seid and Tsega (seratanga). The houses were very different. At Tsega's house it was a big, happy family affair with lots of children. Although language was a barrier it was easy to play with the children. At least two of the men were war veterans and were in wheelchairs. One of them I was having very poor tigrinian conversations with. He picked up one of the smallest children near me and placed her on the bench. She promptly crapped on the bench but it was flicked away so quickly it was like a magician's sleight of hand. Nappies are not used here. Obviously, they have the skills to cope without.

We spent about two hours at Tsega's house being fed well. I was given plenty of meat. I normally eat extra so that we don't look rude because Ali does not eat meat. It can be hard work though, especially when you are eating dulet (the sheep's tubes). Tsega had also cooked some beles (cactus) as well. This is something that is being encouraged in this area. At Mums for Mums (a charity where Ali works) they are really pushing this as a local source of income and nutrition. We keep getting beles juice, jam, chutney, syrup, or whetever they have managed to concoct. Beles juice tastes a bit too much like grass for my liking.

It is very different at Seid's house. She lives with her mum (a little mad) and her son. Again, food was whipped out. This time it was doro wat (chicken in a hot sauce). Although I don't like coffee, I will drink it when it has been made for me in these situations. The atmosphere was very different here. It didn't have the same 'happy family' feeling as at Tsega's. A trick that worked with Seid's son, and at Tsega's house was juggling. The kids loved to see someone juggle. I have never seen Ethiopians (other than the circus people) who could juggle.

In case you are wondering about the title for this one, the dog seems to get 'wood' at the wrong moments, i.e. when I am stroking him and not Ali. He also seems to be chasing the boy dogs rather than the girl dogs. Currently he is tied up outside for being naughty by trying to dig his way into the house.