Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Part 3

Final Days Part 3

Now it may seem that my last two blogs were a tad negative – and so they were but I am trying to stay positive and amuse myself in the last few weeks I have here. I am trying to remember all the good things about Ethiopia, and there are some. However, I do not have the will or the inclination to recount them here at the moment. I am hoping when I return that I will remember things with fondness, like the Ethiopian penchant for plastic flowers. They are everywhere and of every gaudy colour possible. In fact plastic allows for an array of vibrant colours not often associated with flowers. My favourite is bright violent blue. Blue bridesmaid dresses are this season's choice for young ladies. And the blue has to be a violent deep blue and shimmery. As do the associate flowers. Ethiopian bridesmaids never carry real flowers – I have no idea why – especially as there is an abundance of beautiful flowers that grow year round. Every landlord I know cuts back flowers. My present landlord uprooted all the flowers planted by a previous volunteer. What a pity. But bridesmaids must carry plastic flowers and wave them out of the car window as they ride around town in the wedding car and drive round the roundabout several times before moving on. Last Sunday there was a queue to use the roundabout for wedding car horn tooting and waving of plastic flowers. Plastic flowers are everywhere – even in the President of SNNPR's office and the office of all the Deans of Universities.

I was asked to give the SNNPR President an English lesson and was asked to prepare something ahead of time. I took the opportunity to print off reviews from web sites recounting the terrible hassle tourists and visitors receive on a trip to Ethiopia. We discussed the shouting of ferengi, you you etc, the perception of people outside Ethiopia and how much hassle we get from beggars and those simply shouting at you. We even asked him the question of how he would feel if someone in England or Australia shouted nigger at him in the street. His answer was very interesting. He said that if he was in London he would think the guy was just mad as he knows that most British people do not think that way and would be offended if one of their compatriots shouted at a tourist in that manner, but that if it happened in Australia he would feel distinctly uncomfortable as many Australians have a poor attitude to the Aboriginals and that he may be thought to be one of them and therefore come in for some serious ridicule. President Shiferew is a smart shrewd man with many interesting ideas. I enjoyed his company immensely so when he asked if the hassle we had discussed was as bad in Awassa I said it was worse than Addis. He replied saying that he guessed most educated Ethiopians would not know this as they do not receive the hassle. But that as he has access to newspapers and radio he would start a campaign to stop the hassle of ferengi!!!! If that is my legacy then I am happy.

And so it is time to come home. Almost all my clothes are ripped, torn and threadbare and will be required to be thrown away. Which is just as well as VSO have booked me on two different airlines  - BMI which allows me 30kgs from Addis to Heathrow and then BA which allows me 20kgs from London to Glasgow. Good old VSO, unable to see the difficulty this would present. I'll need to eject 10kgs along the way. But it will also be good to come home to a new wardrobe.  2011 – 2012 will be a year of new beginnings and I am so looking forward to it. I have mixed feelings about Ethiopia and its people – but I have had some amazing experiences (which I hope to share here when I reflect back) and learned a lot – including how to make pancakes and popcorn – and met so many incredible people from so many countries. But I have developed and grown as a person. It could just be something that hits you when you turn 40, it could be that I have had to challenge myself and my (at times) unreasonable behaviour and behave better. Or it could be that living cheek by jowl with some of the world's poorest people puts things into perspective or it could simply be that I have found my other half. My better half.  I have found someone I am completely myself with and who understands me and accepts me entirely and with whom I have a future that I am truly excited about. But most likely it is a combination of them all and I am comfortable with myself and who I am. Travel really does bring you home to yourself and it is a happy place to be. Happy Travelling Blogees!!!!!!!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Final Days

Final Days  Part 2 (of the Trilogy)

So the food shortages continue, but I am still getting enough veg to keep the plumbing clear. This is more than can be said about the general plumbing in Ethiopia. As you know I have a deep loathing for the sanitation here – it is probably the thing I dislike the most and something I will never understand. Men peeing constantly in the street is bad enough but I am increasingly becoming irate at men here using the ladies loos, especially when not peeing. I shall go to the ladies room and it will be occupied – no problem – but then time is marching on and my lukewarm dinner is becoming increasingly cold. Then the noises start, usually a lot of grunting, and finally after an age a man appears. I take one look at the wet floor and the mess left behind, then I lay into them. They all claim that they did not realize this was a ladies toilet. If I can read the sign in Amharic as well as recognize the international symbol for a lady then I am sure they can. The reason they use the ladies toilet is that they have soiled their own room and have moved on to soil elsewhere. These men are disgusting. It is also true that Ethiopians do not know how to flush a 'Western' toilet. Can't / Wont? Even at the MoE no flushing took place!!!! Don't understand the people here sometimes. But in truth the general state of plumbing here is appalling. But one gets used to it. For example I cannot fill the kettle for a cup of tea while Paul is using the shower or said shower will stop working. If I use too much hot or too much cold water in the shower – shower will stop working. There are more plug sockets in the bathroom than any other room in the house – there is only one in the bedroom and there is no toilet cistern that actually works properly; there will be an array of plastic, wool, straw, string attached to the stop cock that needs pulled and every tap leaks – except when there is a water shortage. Which is required from time to time to dry out the bare wires from all electrical appliances.

My new favourite electrical appliance is the laminator!!!! It truly is the best thing for Ethiopia. I have to makes sure, however, that it is plugged in to the right socket with enough voltage to heat it up. But I have been making resources for my last workshop and the best thing is that they can be re-used. Albeit not by me as I witnessed my colleague collecting armfuls of resources at the end of the workshop for which he did zero preparation and very little presentations during the four days. My second colleague was a bit distressed and went round picking up what was left. And of course not one thank you between them, it was all "I need this" and "I need that…" They were welcome to all my hard work. It was a rather strange workshop. I had organised two training sessions so all the trainers could get together and agree on a plan for the four days and decide who was responsible for which sessions. When the workshop started it was very clear my two colleagues had done NO preparation and had expected me to do ALL the preparation. I was feeling somewhat charitable in my last official duty as VSO volunteer and made up power point presentations for them as we went along, though my patience was tried when one colleague told me to wake up in the middle of her Amharic presentation and put certain information on the screen. She told me her next session would simply be a translation into Amharic of the session I had done that morning and I should use the slides I had already prepared. I reminded her that the slides were in English but this was not a problem. I wasn't really sure why there was an Amharic session using English slides. It was a bit like watching an English movie that had been badly dubbed into Amharic with English subtitles. Why were the trainers there I wondered. The workshop had already been cut by one day and the three remaining days were shortened by 1.5 hours. But then I discovered not only were they getting a per diem they were being paid as trainers – more than half a month's salary for 3 days work. Not bad work if you can get it, especially if you leave the ferengi volunteer to do all the work!

Final Part of the Trilogy to follow as will the Editors Cut on Ethiopia.

Final Days Part 1

Final Days 

Part 1

Well my blog friends I am coming to the end of my time in Ethiopia. I officially finish my placement in Awassa on Friday 10th June. This has resulted in much goings on in my head; reflection on my time here and thoughts about coming home. Such reflection and thoughts are rarely coherent in one's own mind and become even more obfuscated out loud. So let me just recount some of the amusing aspects of life here in Ethiopia that I have failed to include in previous blogs.

Observation on the life and people of Ethiopia never fails to amaze me – and not always in a positive way. One thing that I can never get over is the complete lack of common sense. Thinking skills here are non-existent. One of the capacity building efforts Paul would have liked to support here is training Ethiopian's to ride a bike properly. We are constantly amused that cyclists here ride with their heels. Now it is certainly within the realms of possibility that they do not realize that peddling with the balls of your feet is much more efficient way to gain power and better on your thigh muscles but surely commons sense would prevail, as by riding with your heels it means that your toes and the front of your feet overlap the front wheel, making it increasingly difficult (nigh impossible) to steer the front wheel. So to counteract this problem cyclists here ride duck-footed – with feet pointing outwards away from the bike – thus endangering their thigh muscles further. And what with men's predilection here to wear those ridiculous long pointed shoes they are practically doing a plie on the bike simply to avoid tangling their toes in the front wheel spokes. Simply moving their feet backwards a little on the pedals would ensure greater speed on the bike and less damage to the thighs. But alas no; this common sense approach evades them. But in terms of speed though, there are moments of alacrity. As I cycle past on my bike any Ethiopian men I pass simply speed up to overtake me, peddling with all their might with their heels. But they cannot sustain the pace and I simply cruise past them 2 minutes later. So they speed up again and pass me. This cat and mouse chase continues till I get so sick of it I simply put into top gear and leave them in a dust cloud. I once did hear an Ethiopian say –'Wow she is fast!' I wondered at this strange behaviour till I was watching the Awassa 7km run. I was standing at the sidelines cheering on friends as they passed. A friend Mark passed and there was much shouting, jeering and laughing as he passed. I asked my friend Tes what was being said and he replied that the Ethiopians were shouting at other Ethiopians – 'quick run, don't let the ferengi beat you' which produced a burst of runners to fly past Mark. Apparently it is not cool to be outdone by a ferengi – I guess especially in running for which Ethiopians are renowned.

Apart from the dubious Emperor Haile Selassie the most famous Ethiopian is Haile Gebre Selassie (no relation to the emperor) the marathon runner. Our friend Dee completed the half marathon in two hours and as I was congratulating her another friend declared that Haile could do twice the distance in the same time. Its true – Haile ran the marathon in just under 2 hours – his record has still not been broken. He is a great advocate of running in Ethiopia and attends all the local running events. He is a real credit to Ethiopia. He is also a millionaire and the owner of one of the few five star hotels in all of Ethiopia and the 'Face' of Johnny Walker. Ethiopians are mad for Johnny Walker and when I tell them they should try real malt whisky they say 'What like White Horse'!!!!!! Anyway Haile's hotel in Awassa is on the lake and a lovely (though expensive) way to while away an afternoon (a macchiato is 15 birr as opposed to the usual 3 birr. Though that is still less than a pound.). The hotel is still somewhat under construction. When I spied and enquired about the tennis courts on site I was told it was free to play there till the whole site is finished. And so each Sunday Tes, Mark and I venture down to the Haile for free tennis and one morning – there was Haile himself. All tiny bits of him. He is really small. We had a quick chat and he seemed pleased we were using the courts. Afterwards Paul and I shared a steak sandwich – one of the best I have tasted anywhere in the world. And it is definitely better than the plate of chips I had the other day which came free with a large piece of broken glass in it. When I held it up to the waitress she looked at me wonderingly and her face said 'Why is the strange ferengi putting bits of broken glass in her food?' I decided not to sue as I hadn't actually swallowed anything. Unlike my friend Megs who nearly swallowed a cockroach found in her coffee. Well we all need a bit of protein from time to time.

Food is one of the things I am looking forward to. On the whole, I have a very healthy diet of fresh vegetables and there is something extra sweet about eating avocados and mangoes straight from the tree of our garden. But there are things I miss, like a decent wine (not the Ethiopian powdered kind), especially cold white wine and cheese. We haven't had cheese in over a month here. Food items come in fits and starts. For a while we had cheese and now none. Also there is not yoghurt to be had at all. But worst of all there is no sugar and no oil. Sugar doesn't bother me but Ethiopians consume sugar on enormous scale. There is an urban myth here that says the reason Ethiopians eat so much sugar is that a number of years ago the government transmitted health notices saying sugar was good for you, in order to boost sales of sugar. But whatever the reason, sugar is a vital component in Ethiopian coffee. Now the government has fixed prices for certain food stuffs, such as bananas, sugar, milk, bread, beer, beef and soft drinks. The only places exempt from charging government prices and can charge what they like are 'places where ferengis tend to go'. And this was reported in the newspaper!!!!  So sugar became difficult to get. Some places were not even selling to ferengis and you could only literally get it from under the counter. The prices soared from the fixed 7 birr a kilo to 15 birr then 30 birr a kilo. So there was sugar to be had, but only on the black market. To counteract this government institutions were given a ration for each member at regular prices. So we all had to bring in our plastic bags for our 5 kilo ration of sugar. Now I never use sugar but was able to 'pass it on' to others. Volunteers don't get paid much, but our serentenga was very happy. We are awaiting our ration of oil too as this ahs completing disappeared off the shelves. Makes cooking incredibly difficult and olive oil is no good for popcorn. So with no popcorn and no sugar the Ethiopian coffee ceremony is in jeopardy.!!!!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Just one item this week...

Hippos and Hijacking

There is only one item for the blog this week.

My friends David and Maureen have been on tour for the MoE and Awassa was the last set of visits on a long month's tour. Paul and I said we would look after them and pamper them, help them rest and show them the sites of Awassa. I think it will be quite a while till they visit Awassa again!

One of the highlights of Awassa is a boat ride on Awassa Lake to see the Hippos. Having checked various places and prices we decided on taking the boat from the Lewi Hotel – one of the few five start hotels in Ethiopia. A lovely spot to chill out with a (rather expensive) beer.  After a macchiato we were ready for our trip. Paul and I had previously been out on the Lewi boat and we had a very nice driver / pilot. This was Paul's sixth trip on the lake and for me the fourth, but we still both love a look at the hippos. This time the boat was jammed packed full of people – Ethiopian's and ferengi alike.

It was a lovely morning and everyone was buzzing with excitement. The only thing to disturb our peaceful journey was the little speedboat from the hotel which sped past us, disturbing the waves. Our worry was they would upset the hippos and scare them off.  But by the time we reached the hippos the speedboat was on its way back, short trip which smacked of 'I have money and can do what I like' attitude. But it meant we could watch the hippos in peace. And we were well rewarded for our patience. I have never been so close to these majestic creatures. They have enormous heads – I mean really huge and they had more than their nostrils and tiny flappy ears out of the water. I felt truly privileged to be so close to them. All too quickly we had to head back – it was after all only an hour's trip. But the trip back lasted two hours!

As we proceeded back to the hotel the driver of the boat slowed down. I noticed several row boats and thought – 'Oh hell we have driven over their fishing nets'. Fishing is a major source of employment and income for the fishermen in Awassa. Then we saw one of them holding a gun. Maureen thought it was a spear gun to get fish. Paul thought it was an excellent photo opportunity. Then we saw another boat with a guy with a gun, then another and another. We were surrounded by half a dozen rowing boats all with armed gunmen. There was a lot of frantic shouting in Amharic and we were being corralled into the middle of the lake. It was clear by now that something was 'going on'. The driver of our boat complied and we piloted slowly to the middle of the lake where we met up with the speedboat which was also being held at gunpoint. By now we thought that we were going to be robbed, and there was an amazing array of photographic equipment on the boat. The waiter from the hotel sitting next to me stuffed his money and his sim cards into his shoe. I did the same. It actually went through my head that they could have my phone but it was too much of an annoyance to lose my sim card – especially now that the cost to replace a sim card has gone up by 25 birr! There wasn't much money in my purse and no ID, thankfully. I even said to Paul to take out the memory card from his camera as he could replace his camera but not his photos. This too went down my sock! It is amazing how clear your head can be when faced with six guns pointed at you. I still wasn't convinced the guns were real. Everyone by now was thinking the same, that we were going to be forced to the other side of the lake and robbed. But then more frantic exchanges took place in both Amharic and Afan-Oroma (the language of the fishermen from the other side of the lake!) Finally an Ethiopian guy who works for the UN got up and starts shouting at the boatmen with the guns telling them (we find out later) to go away and leave us alone. Next thing we hear gunshots and in seconds we all hit the deck. This was now really serious. The waiter and one of the boatmen were first to the floor. Then the shouting got more and more frantic and with us all squashed on the floor of a rather small boat it was difficult to know what was going on. Slowly as the shouting stopped we one by one sat up again. The two Chinese people and the driver of the speedboat were boarding our boat. The gunmen took over the speedboat and told us to go on our way. They seemed anxious we leave quickly and there were cries of Amesaganallo (thankyou) as we drove off.

We all wanted to speed off back to the hotel but the pilot just cruised off, only to stop 10 minutes later to take a phone call on his mobile phone (apparently the noise of the boat made it difficult for him to hear). In fact he had been incredibly calm throughout the whole ordeal and was 'chatting' to the fishermen and seemed to know who they were. David thought the whole thing was a set up and he was part of it, to steal the speedboat. Someone else said it was a revenge attack for the death of two of their fishermen by the Sidamese fishermen (from the Awassa side of the lake). Either way it was a pretty frightening experience, though I didn't realize how scared I was till we finally got off the boat and my legs were shaking. Maureen flung her arms around my neck and cried – with relief. No-one was hurt. We all got back safely.

The reactions of people to the incident have varied. The Police were completely unconcerned and took no details, my colleague at work just laughed, my Programme Office hasn't bothered to call and the manager at the hotel (where we were FINALLY given a free lunch) simply said: "This Is Africa!" Though he was a lovely man and very attentive to us and apologized profusely. We have had phone calls and texts from concerned volunteers and the Country Director called us. But this still remains a country where guns are easily come by and civil strife between tribes spills over from time to time to non-locals. I have been told that the 'squabbling' between tribes is something actively ignored/encouraged by the government in order to divide and conquer. But where will it stop? Does it really need the death of a tourist to create an international incident and set people to action? And in the mean time who is concerned about the deaths of the two local fishermen? And what is being done to ensure the livelihoods of local people in one of the world's poorest countries? And what would we all be willing to do to put food into the mouths of our children in a place where the government looks the other way?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Rain and Sludge and Stuff

Rain and Sludge and Stuff
I have just completed a most satisfying job. It is one of those jobs that I am always meaning to do and never seem to have the time nor the inclination to get round to. I cleaned up one of my pen sticks. Actually I cleaned up three pen sticks. I no longer have double folders with the same names and documents with the same name just numbered 1 - 6 and I now know where everything is. And I am re-familiarising myself with all my school documents before this August. It only took me all afternoon yesterday and all this morning. But a strangely satisfying feeling! Only one small problem - I managed to completely delete my Poetry folder - and from the looks of things I teach a hell of a lot of poetry. I was quite blase when I realised what I was doing as I thought I'd simply recover all the documents and data from the recylce bin! But alas and alack no joy. Apparently when cleaning up and deleting from a pen stick the documents do not go into the recylce bin - I never knew that - so I have learned something in my time in Ethiopia! Thank goodness my hubby to be is an IT Guy, who spent an incredible amount of time recovering my data last night. That would be enough reasoon to marry him, but to be honest I am marrying him for his pancakes and the fact he has the complete series of West Wing!
In practice of my role as the dutiful wife I said I would cook dinner - we had agreed some time ago that as an example to Ethiopian men and young women Paul would do most of the cooking. Men here NEVER cook and would never dream of even entering the kitchen. Our (female) day guard's daughter thinks it is strange that Paul is even in the kitchen never mind he cooks while I lounge on the sofa reading my book. But it is all in the name of capacity building and setting a good example in the name of development! We had little in the house in the way of food, some tatties and a couple of ends of raggedy courgettes, so tatties and veg it seemed to be - till I was enlightened. A few days previously I came into the kitchen to the smell of raosting something. Almaz was roasting chick peas in the back patio. It was a lovely sight, her crouched over the tiny charcoal burner roasting chick peas. It was a delicious smell. The next day she arrived with a small bowl of shiro - chick pea powder - which she had obviously ground herself - truly amazingly fine - and she made a point of handing the bowl to me and not Paul - was she trying to say something? I think she is worried for Paul. She also likes to call me Jenny! So, I thought, we'll have shiro. Shiro and Tegabino are two of the most common dishes in Ethiopia. They are simply powdered chick peas made into an orangey paste and eaten with Injera. I love tegabino, which is usually thicker and spicier, having the spice berberry in it - a tastier version of chillie powder. From my vast knowledge of Ethiopian cooking I was aware that the shiro powder is usually cooked with some onion, garlic and burberry - which also gives it the lovely orangey colour and so I set to. The tatties were boiling and the veg roasting as I set my mind to the shiro - onion in, garlic and shiro powder in, cooked with water till the right consistency and eh viola - a lovely brownish sludge which tasted of nothing!!!! Serioulsy it was a brown sludge. I threw in the raosted courgettes and things seemed a little better, but it was fine with the mashed tatties - turned out to be a comfort food. But I think I'll stick to eating tegabino from restaurants. I also needed to hide my disaster from Almaz or she will probably seriously consider marrying her daughter off to Paul just to ensure he is being fed properly!!! But another reason for marrying Paul is he said he really enjoyed my sludge. We did try out other names for my cooking sensation like gloop - but gloop is always beige coloured to be and this was definitely a greeny-brown colour!!!
Or maybe it was simply that the electricity had gone out which gave the sludge its characteristic palate. You get used to the power going off here often, but last night it was perfect - we couldn't see what we were eating but we witnessed the most amazing thunder and lightening storm I have ever seen. The sky was electric with both sheet and fork lightening - it was like fireworks! And the constant rumble of thunder was strangely comforting. A truly amazing sight!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Bonga Bonga

Aha, the leak has stopped leaking! Why? Who knows, we are just thankful for the simple things in life. But to give the 'plumber' (he was a guy carrying around a wrench) his due he did say leave it a week, and he was right. Maybe the hay needs to swell or something.

Well it has been an interesting week. We went on tour for the REB to the west of Ethiopia to one of my favourite sounding places in Ethiopia – Bonga. I have to resist the urge to call it Bonga Bonga. The hours of neck-breaking (by the seatbelt) bumpy riding on the non-asphalted roads was worth the journey. Breathtaking scenery – oh so green and luscious – and there were trees – proper trees; if I squinted my eyes a bit and held my nose I could have been in England. Apparently Bonga is the birth place of coffee – but I imagine many places in Ethiopia can lay claim to this title. Our hotel didn't even sell tea – much to the chagrin of my travelling companion. But it is truly beautiful. What was also encouraging to the soul was to meet teachers and college lecturers working hard on CPD, and without per diem!! There are young teachers out there who want to improve the education of themselves and their students – and it is all the more heartening when you see how little resources they have.

I often wonder at the sense here of spending millions on 13 new universities when the school classrooms are so (literally) bare. And not just bare – but lacking sufficient numbers of desks for students, blackboards crumbling off the wall, 1 textbook per four students (if they are lucky) and 1 teacher for 75 students per class. It is funny how we look at development – all students in Ethiopia have free education right through to the end of university – including being given accommodation allowance. When I think of the debt our students come out with at the end of four years it is staggering – and yet Ethiopians all think white ferengis are loaded with money. Even in the remotest rural west in Bonga – where the sight of a white person is real cause for staring and commotion – there is the cry of one birr one birr, money money money!!! Do they get taught this at school I wonder! But again and again I am coming back to the notion of working at grass roots level – it is fashionable for NGOs working in development to alleviate poverty through working at the federal level. RUBBISH! Let's get back to simply building classrooms and giving schools and children proper places for learning with decent resources. How can we help alleviate poverty if the country won't help itself? The CPD team at the Ministry produced a manual to support teachers in their learning. All schools were to receive copies of this for their teachers and there is recognized funding set aside for this. It has been stuck in planning and procurement at the MoE for over a year now. When I kept chasing it up no-one seems bothered. How can you make a government care for its people? Why, I wonder, are we trying to introduce CPD in schools when teachers can't even get enough books and pens for theirs students and are paid a pittance for their trouble. Primary schools have on average 4,000 students and maybe 50 teachers. It gets back to the Ethiopian blame culture – no-one takes responsibility for their actions. The government blames teachers for the poor education of the students – even though it is not prepared to equip schools properly or pay its teachers a decent wage. Teachers blame their students for not learning even though they do not have the books to learn (students are regularly hit with sticks in schools). A volunteer mid-wife told me she was at a delivery and the baby was distressed and they assumed it was dead or dying. Not one of the Ethiopians took care of the baby. She had to insist on getting oxygen and stuff to revive the baby – which survived due to her care. While all this was happening all the Ethiopians in the room were laughing. When she asked about this she was told that no-one wanted to take responsibility for the baby in case it died and so avoided caring for the baby and used laughter to take away their sense of responsibility! The lack of responsibility is compounded by the fact there is so much 'Aid' money in the country that I think Ethiopians believe that is how you get money – through foreign aid and not actually working – hence the call for money, money, money from the smallest dirtiest child to the fattest well-dressed mama in the street. Paul's counterpart asks every day when Paul will give him his laptop. A friend lent an Ethiopian friend and colleague her camera and it was never returned.  When she asked for it back  her 'friend' said – I am keeping it, you are a ferengi and can afford to buy another one. When the ferengi pointed out that this was simply stealing the Ethiopian shrugged his shoulders and walked off – with camera!

Now there are genuine cases of poverty here – but it is getting harder and harder to distinguish who they are, and it is frustrating to have worked in a VSO placement where you thought you were going to be doing capacity building and sharing your skills when in actual fact they simply want you to do their work for them. So having travelled to Bonga has been a mixed experience. We were literally swarmed by children all trying to touch our skin, small children were actually being trampled on by other children to get to us. Real pop star stuff – but quite frightening and unsettling. I still do not understand the fascination they have for white people; it's a real mystery to me. People will literally stop in the street and stand and stare at you while you are having a coffee in a cafĂ©. But I have come away remembering those teachers who are freely giving of their time and energy to improve things for others and their country. They are all young (in their late 2os early 30s) and I believe they are the great hope for their country. It is time for the new generation of Ethiopia to take over – and I wholeheartedly support them.

Monday, 21 March 2011


The Good Awassa Life


The first thing Paul and I did was re-arrange the house. We moved the bedroom to the front of the house where it is cooler and quieter – the day and night guard live at the back and we used to be awoken to the sound of thumping – grinding the coffee beans. All Ethiopian women roast and 'grind' their own coffee. Ethiopian coffee is the best coffee I have ever had and it is a pity that Western companies and policies do not support/allow Ethiopia to roast, package and export its own product. Coffee companies in the west buy raw, green coffee from Ethiopia and then roast, package and sell it themselves. As Western companies will only buy raw coffee they can buy it incredibly cheaply – forcing local people to work incredibly hard for very little money – but if they stopped selling the beans as a protest Western companies would go elsewhere and many many local villages would simply not survive. Corporate greed keeps poverty alive. It wouldn't take much to support local factories to set up their own production of coffee for export – but no doubt import taxes in western countries would make it too high for them to compete in the coffee market – and no doubt 'experts' would quote a number of other 'issues' which would make this impossible. But the only way Ethiopia is going to get out of the cycle of poverty is not through AID but having their own healthy economy. But whether the west would really allow this to happen is a different matter. But I digress. I have been reading books like 'Dead Aid' which explain comprehensively and clearly why AID not only does not work – but actually inhibits poor countries from growing and developing – but that is for another time. I think we should start another campaign alongside Drop The Debt Campaign – called Drop the Aid Campaign.


Anyway, it still remains that Ethiopian women cannot buy reasonably priced ground coffee in their own country, and so roast  their own and 'grind' it using a large pestle and mortar where thy bash the beans. It is incredible how smooth they can make it. They also have special coffee pots where when they pour the coffee in a particular way so you do not get any of the ground beans in your cup. Necessity really is the mother of invention. The kitchen tap was dripping – normal here - but incredible amounts of water are lost due to poor plumbing. We left in the plugs in the double sink over night to catch the water to use it in the morning. Just over night both sinks were full and there was a small lake on the floor. When you consider this was just one kitchen over one night and that all plumbing here is abysmal it is astonishing to think this amount of water waste is happening in most kitchens around the country, and in a land where water is a precious commodity. Washers simply do not exist in Ethiopia, so how they fix leaks is by wrapping a strip of rope made from hay around the tap. I was struck between admiring their ingenuity and frustrated that the knowledge of having something as simple as a washer does not exist. And this was fixing a leak in a new tap just installed! So we have a new tap – but the same old leak. Ho hum.