Time has been playing tricks on me. The last two weeks seem to have gone quickly,
far too quickly. Tsega has been coping very well, although I can see that she
is upset. One of the stangest things for me emotionally is how 'disconnected'
I have been feeling. Presumably this is natural in these situations; because you
know that it is happening so there is little point in being upset. Also, maybe
because I have moved on many times in the past it is now easier. This doesn't
mean that I am happy. I'm not sad either. I'm more devoid of these feelings,
although there is obviously many things that I will miss so I am looking at
these more carefully.
The VSOs were invited around to Prof. Soori's house one night for some fantastic
Indian cuisine and to learn about where not to go in India. Also at the gathering
were some board members who had managed to get something for me that had been
proving very elusive. I had taken a fancy to the Ethiopian team's tracksuit, and
there it was in all its oversized garish glory. I had tried to buy one previously
and failed, Alison had also been trying. We found that they could be ordered
on the Internet but only women's ones. The board, probably Araya, seemed to have
had more success.
Before leaving I had to say my farewells to the VSOs and my friends from Mekelle.
I booked us into the Yordanos that still sells pizza and brought all of the
5birr notes that I had been saving since arriving. Pizzas are expensive but I
almost had enough to cover all of the food and beer. I had spent some of the
money already on the student's laslasa. I made sure that I put some of the fives
to one side for a tip for the waiters. The salary they receive is very small,
and I don't know how much they would normally make from tips. This
Yordanos wasn't the only one I had to make a trip to, I headed off to the
one with Kibrom to say my goodbyes to him.
Before leaving Mekelle I was frantically trying to arrange hand over notes,
system operator guides, and other training. It was a little stressful to say
the least. However, I was glad that I knew that I had sorted out all of the
VSO paperwork. I also managed to write reference letters for the computing
staff so that if needs be they have an official bit of paper, stamped from
someone with a Ph.D. Two days before leaving I posted the students' grades
for their final course. They had done well. Unfortunately I had abandoned their
main piece of course work because of time and power problems, but they performed
well in the exam that I set to be at an equivalent level to an exam in the
When the day came to leave, several of the students were waiting to say goodbye to
me at MIT. I had told everyone that I would stop by on the way to the
airport. Here too were Tsega and the lab tech guys. The Toyota pick-up that
took me to the airport was struggling with the weight of students that had decided
to jump into the back. They had a bit of trouble getting into the airport terminal
because they didn't all have ID but with a little bit of persuasion, everyone
came in to the terminal where I met Cactus who was heading down to Addis for Jon's
wedding. The students took lots of photos, and then most headed back to MIT when
the pickup left. Three students, Asfaw, Biniam, and Nesredin, remained to keep
myself and Cactus company until the flight left. I guess because of the situation,
they could be more relaxed and we were able to tell some jokes, rude ones included.
These three students were amongst the students with whom I have had the most
contact. In particular Asfaw this term has been a circuit training regularly and has
probably kept it going. Before leaving, I gave him a personal present - my training
watch. The watch has seen better days and in itself isn't a particularly good
watch anymore, however it was a symbolic thing for the circuit training.
Just before leaving I was able to meet and shake hands with Chandra, my replacement.
The aeroplane to take us to Addis had just brought him from Addis. Although I
have yet to see how it will work out I hope that it will be better than the part
time teachers that were used last semester. I have never approved of the use of the
part-timers. Given a choice between nothing and the part-timers I would still
need to think carefully. Of course, gven the choice between part-timers and
an active method of finding full time instructors in time is a different choice,
but not one that actually seems to be considered seriously. The students had
made their opinions about the part-timers clear. I do feel sorry for them in this
respect, having seen one of the white boards after the part-timer had been in
there. I described the board as if the worms from the bottom of a bottle of tequila
had been dipped in ink and told to crawl over the board. It really didn't represent
anything useful for teaching. I think we have managed to eliminate this kind
of scrawl in many of our students so it is such a shame that someone who is
supposed to be their teacher is perpetuating shoddy practice. This is another area
in which our work, if it makes a difference, might not do so for a considerable
period of time. Our students, if they are teachers, may be doing things differently
and will need to be both diplomatic and determined.
The flight to Addis was quick and easy, and after leaving the airport, myself and
Cactus got a taxi to the hotel. I could have asked for the hotel's service but
it has always been a bit flaky before. The only tasks to do in Addis were to
have an exit interview with Daniel, my current placement officer, and
to be a best friend at Jon's wedding to Mulu. The exit interview was simple
enough and I picked up all of my credit cards and everything else that I had left
in the safe at VSO when I had first arrived, two years previously.
Jon's wedding took place on Saturday, 26th Feb. However, before that, the
best friends needed to meet beforehand to discuss what would happen. Also,
the male and female best friends needed to meet one another. We already
knew Jackie of course, but we were to be escorting Biznesh, Magleet, and
Bimbi. Jon's four best friends comprised myself, Hans, Rob, and Cactus. On
the day itself, best friends were dressed in the same suit or dress and we
escorted the bride and groom to the wedding ceremony in a park in Addis.
Jon had told me about where they were going to have the ceremony (they
were already officially married at a registry office). The area
was being dressed before the wedding so we wouldn't be able to see the highlight
of a grafittied, over-sized penis drawn on a zebra on on of the walls. Sometimes
there's no justice.
The ceremony was extravagant. That was how I was trying to politely describe
to the Ethiopians that asked me. In reality, it was way over the top and
cheesy in the extreme. It seems that the worst, most sentimental parts of
a western wedding have been borrowed, but then maybe it's been borrowed from
America. It seemed that time had to be inserted for the vows - these weren't
as important as the cake (with a lovely advertising sticker on the front),
the sparklers, or sitting up on a podium. The food was a mix of normal
Ethiopian fare, and western food. Half a cow was hanging up to provide raw
meat. The best thing about the ceremony for me was that it gave me a chance
to catch up on what was happening with other VSOs. I also got to see
Hagos for the last time, someone I hadn't seen in a long time. I guess that it
is the only wedding that I have been to with guards with AK-47s. That
many people in one place attracts thieves and street children. The guards
keep an eye on things and throw them out.
The day after the wedding was a party for Jon and Mulu at the house of some
VSOs in Addis. Alison and others had been helping by cooking enough food
for half the day. The best friends had specific clothes to wear and had to
escort the couple to the party. They were dressed as a king and queen for
the night. I don't think Mulu was too happy about us asking whether Jon was
going to pull a rabbit out of his sleeve or something. For me, the party
was my last night to see VSOs - most of them would have left for their
placements by the following day.
The diary date is for the last night in Ethiopia. I am actually writing this quite some
time later while sitting at my parents in New Zealand. There was far too much happening
at departure to worry about diary entries. I hope I can remember enough of what
was going on.