Diary Week
Monday 5th April
05:00 Partly woke up, checked the clock, and then dozed.
05:30 Tapping at the front compound gate - probably the guards changing over.
06:30 Get out of bed and try to read some email. Twenty minutes trying but unable to read anything.
07:30 Service car arrives to take all of us to MIT. On the way to MIT, Tsehaynesh, a member of staff, was the only one to notice anything different about me. We had decided to do something silly with the students. Yesterday, Ali and Jackie had made some beard extensions for me. Oh yes, the beard is back and bushier than ever. We originally were going for fu-man-chus but we just went with what appeared to work. Today, I was sporting some rather magnificient pig tails extending from either side of the mouth. We thought that ribbons at the end would have been an overkill. All of the other staff in the car had either not seen or were trying to ignore it. I want to do some silly things with the students because the Ethiopian sense of humour is not that far different from English. They just don't seem to exercise it as much. Something else that is odd in the car, Awet the electronics lab technician seems to want to be deliberately rude to at least myself and Alison. We're not sure why but think it has something to do with the fact that Ray is leaving.
07:55 Arrived at MIT and had to find a key for the auditorium for the 08:00 lecture. The auditorium normally remains locked and you have to get a key. Unfortunately, the main key has been lost. I was able to use Dr Mulu's master key to get in. Although the students could see the 'beard extensions', there were very few comments. They really did not know what to say. There was some giggling (especially from the girls) but very little talking to me about it. Those that did ask were told that Ferenji beards just grow these extra bits as a celebration of Easter.
10:00 Dash back to the server machines to make sure that they are working. Power failures are regular occurences here. This means that in the morning, you must check that everything is working okay. However, when you have lectures or tutorials at 08:00 everyday, that can be difficult. Fortuntely Tsega can do this most days.
10:03 A visitor from Addis was brought into the office to have a look at what we have here. Had to be rude though and send them away because the lab is starting and the machines must be ready for it.
10:06 Made the changes that I needed to have made to the web pages for their labs (it is updated for the Monday lab at 10:00).
10:15 Although I am officially a lecturer, I spend as much of my time doing system administration. I had to spend some time fixing a student's login problem.
10:19 Left the lab and went over to meet the visitor in Dr Mulu's office.
10:27 Met the visitor from Addis. Tsegenet will possibly be helping us teach next year. She is currently doing her masters at Addis. We spent some time talking about how things are working here and some time talking about her masters project. The whole time I was conscious of the silly beard extensions flapping wildly when I shook or nodded my head. She had a sense of humour so that's good.
11:40 Finally finished with our visitor. One of the interesting things is that she brought a mobile phone from Addis. The mobile network had literally only been turned on that week. There are now about four shops in Mekelle that will take orders for phones but the phones are not available here yet. The phone rang while we were talking, and like most Ethiopians, they answer the phone rather than concentrate on the business at hand.
11:45 Went for general discussion with Ali and Hans.
12:00 Went around the corner for lunch. MIT is in a village called Ainelam. Ainelam is not very large and there are limited places to eat. In fact, we only know of one.
13:00 Returned to MIT.
13:25 Started work on next week's lecture notes. We do not have enough books in the library so I have to write substantial lecture notes to allow the students to read information on the internal network.
14:06 Momentary power failure.
14:40 Tsega's experimental machine starts to fail - it switches off at random moments. This is a real worry because machines fail due to the power failures. However this seems to be some kind of overheating problem. We just take the side panel off, lie the machine on its side and it is working fine. When there are faults like this, we do not have time to fix them properly.
14:41 A storm has been brewing in the background for some time. The rain starts to hit MIT.
15:20 The rain finishes. Fortunately the computers in the server room and labs were not affected by the storm in anyway.
15:50 Tsega was asked to take a radio network card from a machine to lend to the visitor. The radio network has not been setup because administration have not arranged for the conduit to be fixed to the walls. This will be an embarrassment when Wheaton visit in the near future. I must make sure that administration have another chance to stuff up so that we do not get the blame. It is being lent to Tsegenet (the visitor - our lab tech is called Tsega). Her masters project involves radio networks.
16:15 Discussed a student's exam with Alison. Some of the students are not happy with their exam results. I am not willing to show them their exam papers (they should pay a fee to the registrar). However, Alison agreed to review the papers and then explain to them what went wrong. Possibly their knowledge, or more likely is a problem with their exam technique.
16:30 Started to prepare for the following day's tutorial.
17:00 Service vehicle to take us back to the house, however we were going to the Axum hotel for Hans's birthday (the day before).
17:25 We arrive at the Axum hotel. The hotel is very nice but very expensive 250 - 300 birr a night (about 15 to 20 pounds). As a VSO we would stay at the Merkab in Mekelle. This is 15 birr a night (about 1 pound). We headed to the restaurant section for a meal in honour of Hans's 40th birthday. While waiting we were able to watch some TV. It was CNN so it wasn't good TV. In fact most of the presenters looked so odd and all had some kind of speech problem. I wonder how they got the job.
20:37 Arrive back at the house after walking home from the Axum. I gave Hans the satisfaction of ripping out my beard extensions. Ali wasn't brave enough to do it and both her and Jon whinced. Hans did it quickly though so it wasn't really painful. Once we arrived we met Tesfakiros (one of the guards), after we had been in the house for a few mintes Tesfakiros seem to have disappeared so we locked him out to make a point. When he tried to get back in, Hans called out for Tesfakiros to answer the door.
20:50 The water has been off for much of the week. So, once we returned we checked whether there was enough water pressure to fill our large barrel. When there is pressure you take the opportunity to have water. We filled up the barrel, but the tank on top of the house also filled that night.
22:50 Bedtime.

Tuesday 6th April
03:00 Woke up and could hear Hans awake, working. Started to doze.
04:50 Got up and tried the Internet. Still nothing happening. Ali was feeding scooby and the guard. I'm no sure whether having a guard is more like having a child or a pet.
05:25 Started to walk to MIT. We were a bit late so we were walking straight across the muddy fields (they have no crops at the moment). It is still dark at this time and we are walking through hyena territory. Hyenas have been known to attack humans. We hope that they will have full stomachs by the time of morning. In case you are concerned by this (we are), I have started to carry 'anti-hyena' spray. Actually it's just a very big aerosol but I take a lighter with me as well. The intention is to scare off the hyenas if we should actually meet any. If it needs to be used as a weapon then I guess that we will find out what barbecued hyena smells like.
06:05 Arrive at MIT for the circuits sessions. This is realistically the only time that we can do it. Students are constrained in the times they eat. Either they eat at the scheduled times or they do not eat. There is very little option for just getting a sandwich from somewhere. The students seem to enjoy the fact that people are interested in them and are willing to make them do things.
07:00 Finished the circuits and had a shower. After finishing the shower, there was a knocking on the door. I thought it was Alison and was decent enough to be seen. However, it was one of the female students (they use this shower as well). I was surprised that they were not embarrased by the fact that I wasn't wearing much. Normally she gets embarrased easily but I guess that isn't something they find a problem here.
07:30 Breakfast with the students in their canteen. Breakfast consisted of a dollop of marmalade and two bread rolls. The students do not seem to be very cheery in the morning and we noticed that nearly all of them were facing the same way, making conversation difficult. One possible reason for the general glumness is that they are fasting and cannot eat meat. They see this as a big deal. At Ferenji heights though we almost never have meat (Ali and Ray are vegetarian). I wonder how they would cope.
07:57 Pick up the tutorial notes.
07:58 Get a laslasa (soft drink).
08:00 Running tutorials. This is my chance to have closer contact with the students and observe how they are doing. It also allows them to practice a little bit when it comes to presentations. I try to get some of them to come up to the board and explain things to their friends.
10:00 Dealing with lab problems and writing a notice for the lab attendants. The lab uses an automatic logout system at the moment. This means that they can only use the lab in their alloted period. However, some students are allowing their friends to login using their account (a breach of rules), the notice was to tell the Lab Attendants (students with the key to the lab) to look out for this.
11:10 Start work on this week's Thursday lecture.
11:30 Went to talk to Mulu about the books that are supposed to be coming from India. I hate having to do so much chasing but I really suffer without the books. I have to spend so much more time preparing lecture notes.
12:10 Lunch
13:20 Return to the office
14:00 Molla came to visit. Molla has left MIT and got a job at Dashen Bank as an administrator and was just saying hello and explaining what he was doing.
14:30 Had a quick look at photos up to this point.
14:15 Lecture/Lab/Assessment preparations
17:00 Service to take us home.
17:35 Rested on the bed for twenty minutes. I have a sore throat starting - I think I have caught a cold from Jon.
17:55 Personal project work
18:50 Because Rob is running most of the English tutorials this week, Ali agreed to do the cooking. Hans seemed a bit disappointed when the usual trick of asking me if I wanted any more back fired. I want to make sure that I eat enough on circuit training days.
21:40 Showering. In this house, we have a hot shower. That's quite a luxury. I had got used to a cold shower. It's prudent to have a shower whenever there is water.
22:30 Bed

Wednesday 7th April
05:00 Woke and then dozed.
06:30 Got up and found that the sore throat was really starting to take hold.
06:40 Internet is not working properly still. The morning has normally been pretty good but something is causing it to be very slow. I now have a theory about this. It looks to be the link between here and Addis. If the link is partly transmitted through microwaves then the fact that we have rain at the moment may be causing that link to be unreliable. Ali tried to download her email for an hour but had to give up.
07:00 I was ready for the car and spent some time trying to learn how to actually use the posh camera. The smaller camera that I would normally use I lent to Terri. She had her's stolen recently. It is on indefinite loan. I hope that she will get a new one from her insurance.
07:30 Service. This driver is very reliable and a very sensible driver. We are all very impressed with Solomon.
07:56 Get laslasa.
08:00 Tutorials. The students are talking about something from mathematics that I have never seen or heard of before - the set of whole numbers. At least I have not heard of their definition and it is inconsistent with mine. I decide to check this up later.
10:00 Check with Tsega that the labs are running okay. Return to the office to find that Sister Ruth has got a piece of banana bread waiting for me on my desk.
10:20 Discussing English assignments with Ali. There are some advantages in being such a small group. Yes, we do have far too much work to do. However, the work we do is much more coherent than I think it would be in other places. Partly because it makes our lives a little bit easier, and partly because it helps to motivate students here, we try to integrate elements from the different subjects.
10:40 Writing up some of the diary information in rough.
11:00 Responding to some of the student emails and newsgroup messages. As far as possible I am encouraging them to use the newsgroups. They can post a message that all can see and I will only normally need to answer it once.
11:30 Working on next week's lecture notes.
11:55 Mulu came to the office to report on the progress of the books and computers. They are currently in Addis (although I am not 100% convinced). What is unusual about this event is that it is active. Being given information voluntarily is not common.
12:20 Lunch with Rob and Tsega
13:00 Working on lecture notes.
14:30 I have asked Hans about the students' W set - the set of whole numbers. He is the maths instructor and has not seen it either. I went into the library and asked a student to show me a book that defined the W set. Fikre was happy to show me, and it was indeed defined in at least one of their maths books. Situations like this I take as an opportunity to show the students that it is not bad to admit ignorance some times, especially if you make an effort to remove that ignorance. It appears that many Ethiopian teachers would not admit ignorance or be open to questioning. I don't think that is good for academics, scientists, or engineers which is what I think we have here.
14:40 Working on lecture notes.
15:50 Working on tomorrow's lecture.
16:10 Working on next week's labsheet.
16:40 Fit in a bit of administration work on the computers by adjusting the times when some things happen.
16:50 Had a look at Saba - the computer that used to be on my desk. Saba (Sheeba) was damaged in a power failure and has not worked since. I took the computer from Ray's desk and put my hard disk in it. I am very doubtful that I will be able to fix it at all. I do not know whether it is the power supply or the motherboard that has failed, and I do not have the time to repair it.
17:00 Service. The service was delayed slightly by Jon discussing a course called 'workshop practice'. It was supposed to be starting this week. However, it appeared that some necessary equipment was locked in Mulu's office and he had left already. Jon arranged for a notice to be put up for the students. It seems to be common for people to be left in the dark.
20:10 Shower
20:30 Dinner
22:45 Bed

Thursday 8th April
06:30 Woke up and got up, sore throat continuing to get worse. This could be a problem today because I have a lecture as well as the two tutorials.
07:30 Service. This time, I used the camera to take a video clip of the route in. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with today because I was looking at the things that might be seen yesterday. Today was nowhere near as interesting.
08:00 Tutorials. Rob, the physics (and currently English) instructor sat in one of these.
10:00 Continued work on next week's labsheet.
10:20 Remember that I have a lecture at 13:00 and will need the key so I go off to find a key that I can use.
10:45 Ato Abebe, the 'head' of administration says that he will find a key for me so I head back to continue work.
11:20 Sister Ruth comes for a chat. Unfortunately these can take a considerable period of time.
11:55 Ato Abebe gives me a key for the lecture hall. Really, this has to be done before they go to lunch because the lecture is at 13:00. In general, you are lucky if you see a member of administration back before 14:00.
12:00 Lunch
12:50 Collect lecture notes and head over to the auditorium to give today's lecture.
14:00 Continue work on next week's lecture and labsheet.
17:00 Service. Hans and Jon get off in town and I take their bags back to the house.
17:30 Dropped Ato Belay off at the university.
17:40 Arrive back at the house. Ali had returned to the house earlier to interview someone for the position of the guard. Our day time guard, Haddush, seems to be absent a lot of the time so we are looking for a replacement. These guards we got from the Kebelle. They are supposed to be reliable and serious. That's been a joke so far so we can't be bothered with the Kebelle anymore. The young man being interviewed is a friend through Jackie.
18:00 Go up to bed for a few minutes to rest, mostly my throat needs resting.
18:20 Ali goes into town for some shopping. Because there is no one else in the house I am a bit cautious about leaving Hans's and Jon's bags downstairs. I worry that I might fall asleep so I bring them up onto the upper floor. You can get quite tetchy and cautious living here - there's something about the house, not Ethiopia.
19:30 Shower
20:00 Tomorrow is a holiday. This is partly why I chose this week to keep a diary - for variety. For the first time, we decided to watch a film together. I sometimes watch one myself at night but not very often. Ali and Jon spent a bit of time discussing what film they wanted. Hans was not interested in a film and retired to do some more work on his maths. The discussion then turned to a favourite topic of discussion - my sandals. I have had these since I arrived in Mekelle. I think I might have even written about them. However, what people find particular offensive is the fact that they are in such a state but I will not buy new ones. They still do the job and they're not that bad. I will admit that I am keeping them because they wind up the others though.
20:30 Hans cooks a favourite treat of ours - pancakes. Apples are a rare treat from Addis.
21:30 Jon is talking to a friend from Addis. He has managed to keep quiet about her for a long time. Normally I would wind him up but I think it's subject best left alone on the wind up front. Confusingly, she is called Mulu. I can see this getting difficult. We will get to meet her soon because she is coming here to visit.
21:40 Arranged the cinema for 'film night' and watched 'Mystery Men'.
23:40 Bed.

Friday 9th April
06:30 Woke up. As is often the case, this morning is Karaoke morning. In some cases the churches and mosques seem to have the lyrics but not the tune, or the tune but not the lyrics, never seem to have both at the same time.
07:00 Got up and made sure that I had an orange and a vitamin pill (I brought a large supply). On Friday I normally take my anti-malarial. It does not appear to be necessary. However, seeing as the Lariam does not seem to give me any side effects I would rather be safe than sorry. I have already planned to hide in the house for most of the day. A holiday is not a good day to be out on the streets if you are a Ferenji.
07:30 Practicing some Tigrinian.
08:30 Tidying up the computers and preparing some emails.
12:00 Started an experiment with some potato bread. My book on bread was at Rob and Jackie's. However I am starting to get better and cooking it without following the recipes. With the make-shift oven it takes a long time. While experimenting with the bread, I also tried to fix the toilet's flush mechanism. Most of the time we do not let the cistern fill with water because the washer is leaky and we soon loose all of our water. My other good deed of the day was sharpening all of the cutting knives.
17:00 Having a guard can be a real hassle. Tesfakiros is quite good but he is a bit too 'high maintainence' for my liking. It is difficult to communicate. Our Tigrinian is poor and his English is non-existent (not moaning about that though). You think that you have finished the game of charades that passes as a conversation but then he comes back with the same action, be it film, book or play. Like a child (and I think this is a communication problem) he wants you to know when he has done someting extra like cleaned up dog poo. We tried to tell him to take Saturday night off but he said that Saturday would be a problem because of all of the people around on the night before the big holiday (Easter Sunday). Maybe our Tigrinian isn't that bad after all.
18:30 Ali cooked tomato soup which we ate with the bread. We do eat pretty well in the house. Better than I would eat back in the UK. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to have translated into a big weight loss though. I'm still a stone overweight. At least the food is healthier though.
19:30 Shower
20:00 Personal project work.
20:30 Because the film had been enjoyed the previous night, Ali and I decided to do it again. Because Jon was going out I chose a film that I thought wouldn't be Jon's cup of tea - Ghost World. This is my 'emergency' film that I was saving for a time when I really needed a good film. However, this gave me an excuse to watch it now and I believed that Ali would really enjoy it. She did.
23:20 Bed.

Saturday April 10th
07:30 Woke up and got up. Tried the Internet and managed to receive two emails. Could see that there was nothing from my parents. Getting a bit worried. It's a pain not being able to hear what is happening when my Dad is ill.
08:00 Tidied up my room. Although it is a small room it needs constant cleaning because of the dust build up. Also it helps to keep it clean because with a Mosquito net, your bed is not somewhere that you can just put stuff unless you want to go through the hassle of tieing up the net. The others do not worry about their nets as much. However, I know that mosquitos like my blood. I think it might have something to do with body temperature.
09:00 Left the house to go to town. Although I am trying to keep away from town because it is a holiday, I believe that this is quite a good time because it is quieter. It takes about five minutes to walk from the house to the line taxi point. I was observing again what I had seen at this time last year. Livestock were everywhere. Chickens had their feet tied and were hanging upside down from sticks resting over the seller's shoulder or, in some cases, hanging down the side of a line taxi, feet tied at the roof rack. Goat and sheep were being dragged or pushed in all directions. They would be taken to a house where they would be slaughtered after the church service that night.
09:20 I normally have breakfast once a week at the Yordanos - the posh restaurant. I have a cheesburger which costs me 10 birr - about 75p. There are many things I like about the Yordanos but at that time in the morning it's because it is almost empty. You can sit and eat your food without anyone else. The waiters know me and know what I want. Living at Ferenji heights, I need to find some bolt holes. Weekend breakfast is one of them.
10:20 Went to the Ferenji shop on the way back to the taxi point. Shopped for luxury goods (most of the normal food comes from a market or street vendors). Goods bought today - washing up liquid, can of pringle equivalents, kits kats (2) (it's unusual that these are here), toilet paper (this is available everywhere though), and some coconut milk (Ali's magic ingredient that we use for most sauces).
10:40 Get into a line taxi. I was offered the front seat but I always choose to sit in the back if I can. Some taxi drivers will try to charge you more for the front. Often you have to wait for a short while before the taxi is ready to leave.
11:10 Arrived back at the house and couldn't find the day guard, Haddush. Talked to Hans about this. Hans is keeping track of what is happening with the guards.
11:45 Had a phone call from Dr. Mulu. We had thought that he was cooking a meal for us on Friday. However, when he did not mention it again we were all quite relieved. It seems that there was a mix-up with the days and it was Sunday that he wanted to cook for us. This would make sense because the fast is not broken until Sunday. I had to tell him that everyone had plans for Sunday now. Even I was going somewhere. He accepted this and then asked if the sheep had arrived. A sheep (live) had been arranged to be delivered at the house. The sheep was of course due to be slaughtered at the house. I tried to dissuade him by talking about the vegetarians and the fact that scooby might try to eat the sheep. I left it that I would talk to the others but could not guarantee that the sheep could stay here.
12:30 Ali returns and I talk to her about the prospect of having a sheep slaughtered here. Understandably she is not too impressed with the idea. We agree that it should be sent home.
14:50 I so wish I could have had my camera to take photos of the sheep arriving. Unfortunately that was not possible. However, Goitom and Solomon the driver brought the ram to our house. I had to explain to Goitom as politely as possible that the sheep could not be slaughtered here and that it must be taken away. I was very careful to thank him for his trouble. It would be very difficult for an Ethiopian to understand that we would not want to eat the meat. The sheep was dragged back into the car and driven off to MIT by Solomon and Goitom. I am writing this on Sunday April 18th and the sheep is still alive and tied to a tree at MIT. One morning we even saw a guard taking it for a walk.
15:30 Ali and I had a good moan about the problems of living here. The main one is that there isn't really anywhere to relax. You have stress at work, and then you return home to more problems whether its water, guards, children, or sheep deliveries.
17:00 Seid comes round for our Tigrinian lesson. Normally this would be on Sunday but this week it is on Saturday because of the holiday. Seid works at a project called 'Mums for Mums', one that Alison is involved with. I have found that learning Tigrinian is difficult with other people (I am much more interested in written language) and is difficult when you are not sure you want to make the effort. Yes I do want to learn another language. However, when time is so limited for the other things that I want to do, then something has to go. I decided not to attend class like Hans and Ali. Instead I would ask her questions in writing and practice my Tigrinian this way. I think this works better for Seid as well. She is not really a teacher and finds it difficult to think how to structure a lesson or plan a good order for learning information.
18:45 Hans could not attend the lesson today but he returns now as Seid is about to leave. Tesfakiros also arrives and it appears the that the 'Tesfakiros Players' are in full swing with their amateur dramatics evening. Fortunately for me, I have escaped back to my room but it sounds like it was quite a performance. It turns out that Tesfakiros had come to work after a few t'ellas. He was sent home. We don't fancy having someone who is drunk holding an AK47 in our compound.
19:10 Tesfakiros has managed to get down to Tekley's shop. Tekley is the brother of the owner of the house and helps us sort out problems. Tesfakiros is with him to ask why he was sent home. After the phone call, we are thinking about whether we should ask Tadesse to come back. He was the guard we fired after clothes were stolen. The option is looking better by the day. Our life was easier with Tadesse.
19:20 Zebib, a friend of Hans's came to visit. She brought some Ethiopian bread with her for us. Hans knows Zebib from when he was looking for a dog. Now she likes to visit occasionally to practice her English and see what else we have time to teach her.
19:40 Tsega, our seretanga (not the lab technician) also came to visit and brought some more bread. Zebib's face was a picture though because I think she felt that she had been outdone in the bread department.
19:49 There's lots of noise outside. Groups of young men are moving around from house to house chanting and singing. None of it is violent or threatening just annoying. It's part of the celebrations though.
21:40 Due to the noise and the fact that we have 'guests' in the house, I call it a day and go to bed early. I can't concentrate on anything and I am not feeling social.

Sunday April 11th Easter Sunday
06:30 Woke up and got up. Tried to use the Internet. Could read emails but had to give up after 50 minutes of trying to use the computer to transfer some money for the patent application. At least the sore throat was nowhere near as bad.
07:30 Orange for breakfast and started to make bread. I was making two ferenji loaves. One to take to Seids in the afternoon and one for Hans and Jon to take to Rebka's at lunch time. Rebka (Rebbeca) runs a shop near to us and keeps us supplied with beer.
08:30 Finished doing the washing up from the previous night and managed to find a cockroach. This is the first coackroach that I have seen in this house. There were plenty at my previous place. I had always imagined them to be much larger. I give the cupboards a quick clean and can imagine what the reaction of the others would be. I think it best not to tell them.
09:00 Start sorting through the week's photos and editing them ready for putting onto the webserver. This wasn't all of the photos either and it took three hours. Dreading writing up this week (this far without checking has taken about 4 hours. I reckon adding the photos to the text will be another 2 hours).
12:00 Trying to use the Internet again. It is working well at the moment. Much, much faster than before. However, there seems to be some problem with uploading the photos. I do not appear to be able to ftp to the web server. This is how I transfer files. I will need to find another way to do it in the future. Possibly going via the computers at UEA.
13:00 Wait for Ali to return from her busy schedule of eating at people's houses. I have managed to avoid this as much as possible but I had been volunteered to go round to Seid's.
14:00 Ali returned a bit late and we headed round to Seid's. I was told that Seid's mum was a bit mad. She didn't seem too bad but was very, very taken with the beard. The food and drink were very good. It was the standard doro wat (chicken sauce) and t'ej (honey brandy) but of very good quality. The chicken meat was excellent, not the boney stuff I would normally expect.
16:00 Returned to the house. No one really needed any food that night because of all the food we had to eat at other houses. I had managed to get off quite lightly by comparison.
22:00 Bed