Mar. 10th 2005
Well, this is obviously an entry after the in country experience has stopped but there are still things different with your home country, and there are still differences about yourself that you are still learning.

Mark met me in the airport, having driven down from Belper. That's one of the things that made VSO a possibility for me - having friends to look after stuff back in the UK. Spending time at their house was different to the previous time, now it was more definite - I was not returning to Ethiopia within a week.

One of the main reasons that I want to write this entry is because while I was at Mark and Ally's, the TV and the radio were building up to 'Red Nose Day'. It seemed to bring into question much of the stuff I had been doing. It also added to the slightly gloomy feel of working out how I would fit into this society - my advantage of being obviously different having been stripped away.

It's hard to know what to say about the Red Nose Day features. Jo Whiley had been sent to Addis, a city I know quite well, and was talking about the degredation and the squalor. Whereas a few days ago, I had been staying in a reasonable hotel, and didn't see the same things. Or maybe I did, but I no longer saw them in the same way. I remember when Baghdad was captured commenting on the way the press had made a big deal of having no water or electricity for a few days. I can now see that some of the things would only affect people if they haven't coped without before. No electricity or water for a couple of days really is not a big deal. I looked for the signs in the Red Nose Day stuff where the portray Ethiopians as being helpless, and that they need our help. Having been on the inside, I do not believe this to be true but I couldn't see RND really pushing this point. The whole RND thing was unsettling because it did make me question whether my two years have been useful and constructive. Was it better to give time and skills than money? Shouldn't I be charging off collecting as much money as possible? The radio broadcasts were making me doubt my own experience.

A few days later I met with Eshtu, a relative of Mark and Ally, and an Ethiopian. I hadn't seen him since well before going abroad. It was great to talk to him, especially after the RND broadcasts. As I talked and showed him photos of his country of birth, it became clear to both of us that he had no idea of the type of work that a VSO does. He didn't realise that we aren't aid workers, or even charity workers as such. We just go there to do a job and to help Ethiopians do theirs. He had assumed that I was going more with the RND way of doing things and was very interested to know what I had really been doing. This reassured me greatly. There will always be scope for both ways of tackling poverty but I think that things like RND can only be temporary fixes and they benefit individuals. For long term developments, these must come from the community and be lead by them. In these situations charity efforts may even be detrimental. I still think that 'you you you' and 'money money money' are hangovers from band-aid. We know that it was not common before, and it is not acceptable culturally.

I think I am still going to be thinking about what I have or have not achieved for many years to come. The placement is fading a bit now, nostalgia and the reinforcement of remembering the good bits mean that the bad bits are slipping away.

After two years, there's the big question of was it worth it. I can say absolutely and without hesitation, yes. It wasn't what I was hoping admittedly, but it was definitely a worthwhile and very different experience. Not convinced after reading the diary? Well I expect to apply to VSO again in the future. There's going to be a lengthy break first though.

Diary Ends.