You're on your own
Sep. 13th 2004
Today is the start of the holiday - getting ourselves to Addis ready for the trip to South Omo. On the trip are myself, Ali (also living in Ferenji Heights), Terri (a VSO at the university at Mekelle), Rob and Jackie (Rob works at MIT and Jackie at the university), and Lian and Daniel (VSOs at a town called Dessie quite close to Addis).

Only myself and Ali were coming from Mekelle, the others were already in Addis. We had booked ourselves on the afternoon flight but went to the airport in the morning to attempt to get the morning flight. Sometimes, things being flexible works against you, like when you find that a flight has just been cancelled or moved from afternoon to morning. However, given that the system is flexible you might as well use it to your advantage so we waited at the airport and were able to take a morning flight instead. It had been well overbooked but I think the figure of 1/3 of people not showing up for a flight is much higher here. If you don't show, you don't lose the fare, you can just take another flight!

I wanted to try travelling light, so for the two weeks I had one computer bag and one large plastic carrier bag. The computer bag didn't contain a computer it had things like camera and torch in it. It was the only bag I had available after short sightedly giving my back pack to Bella to get her stuff back to England. The plastic carrier bag was packed into Ali's backpack and I was very proud of the fact that I had managed to get wet weather gear in as well. Ali hadn't. Tigray was dry, so what was the point.

As the plane bounced around on its approach to Addis I could see the rain clouds ahead and with no small sense of smugness told Ali who immediately thought that I was deceiving her. I thought the water running across the window would be enough evidence. The plane landed on a saturated runway, and it was not long before we had cleared baggage reclaim and were considering how best to get to the hotel. The hotel we had booked in had an airport service (Central Shoa hotel is becoming a favourite now!) so, after phoning for the service, we stood inside Bole airport looking out to the car park trying to see the van we needed. The rain was very heavy and sporadic, announcing each wave's approach with a heavy drumming at the back of the airport before we physically saw the results out of the large and leaking glass panes at the front of the building. Of course, all this waiting gave me a great opportunity to rub in the fact that I had wet weather gear and Ali had not.

The driver got us skillfully to hotel (it had to be skill, nobody could be that lucky or blessed). After dropping our stuff off we headed to VSO and Ali bought herself an umbrella. At VSO we met some of the brand new VSOs. Their intake is only just starting. However, they should have arrived yesterday and started their training today. Only half of them were here because of a stuff up at Heathrow. The plane that they had been scheduled to fly on had a fault (flat tyre or something) and they were asked to wait outside. They waited for a total of eight hours only to find that the check in desk had forgotten them so they had missed the replacement flight or whatever arrangement had been made. I guess my flight here hadn't been so bad after all, and of course as existing VSOs we found it all very funny but after very little sleep (they complained about the church karaoke and dogs!) the new VSO's sense of humour was stretched. They had tried a sensible thing at Heathrow - phoning VSO headquarters in London. VSO has responsibility for us in some ways and they should make it as wasy for us as possible, right? VSO's reply was, apparently, "you're on your own". I am wondering if we should push for a change in VSO's logo from "Sharing skills, changing lives", to "You're on your own". Maybe It's just me but part of me thinks that VSO should have helped me, but the "on your own" bit is part of being a VSO as well.

The new volunteers didn't do too bad in the end because at least they had us to take them out for food in the evening. We didn't even try to scare them too much but I think the fact that we avoided questions like "So, are you enjoying it" might have given some hints. At the restaurant we ordered tegamino (enjera and lentil type sauce) and tibs (enjera and fried meat). Although a meat eater the tibs proved too hot for one volunteer because she bit into a green pepper with her first mouthful. Another volunteer asked whether the lightly coloured bits of meat were pork. It took a while to work out how to tell her that they were in fact just lumps of fat.