I suppose if they were honest every ex-pat living here in Ethiopia will have occasional moments when the only thing they want to do is go straight to the airport and fly home. Well I had my first experience of this two or three weeks ago, in the middle of the night. Insect bites are a fact of life in the tropics, and Chris and I have coped with them intermittently over the time we have been here. I can sometimes be seen sitting at home in the evening with my trousers tucked into my socks as I am convinced unseen bugs are attacking my lower legs from the floor.
When I came to teach at Bingham I didn’t expect the opportunity to attend a conference for professional development (for some reason called 'Africa 2.014') where the participants are drawn from schools across the globe. The venue was a large (3-form entry) international school in Addis which uses the American curriculum.
In Ethiopia “why?” is usually a rhetorical question. Several times a day, despite a continuing determination not to, I ask “why?” Why did the power just fail? Why did my patient at a local clinic get an injection into each buttock when they only had a cold? Why try to build an entire railway system in one go rather than do a kilometre at a time?
As Haile was about to drive me out of HQ on Friday afternoon Ato Lallago who works in the kitchen ( (“Ato” = “Mr” – respect term as he’s a bit old) knocked on the taxi window and asked if we were going past Tor Hailoch. it was pouring with rain and it is quite common for someone to ask for a lift in these circumstances. Many HQ and Bingham employees travel a long way on taxi vans to work and often have to change taxis more than once. Tor Hailoch is a huge interchange for taxi vans and is on our way home (at least, one possible route) so I leaned over to the back seat and moved all my clobber including my lovely big man’s umbrella and Ato Lallago hopped in (as best as a guy his age can).
The UK government is often promoting more exercise for children. ‘Walk to school weeks’ are just one of the outcomes of this. For children attending Bingham walking to school is not an option. They arrive by taxi or are part of a complicated car share. No one lives in the vicinity. This is because the area around Bingham is dominated by tin shacks and small souks. Bingham families usually live on guarded compounds with a collection of homes, or in a house with a walled garden in one of the more middle income areas. The space around the house for children to play is often quite limited.
Longer ago than I like to remember a neurology registrar was doing a lecture on epilepsy in the Clore lecture theatre in University College Hospital Medical School. He asked us to give him some causes of fits. Tony Davies (hi Tony!) and I were sitting a few rows up from the front and he shouted out “exercise!” Puzzled looks. “Pardon?” said the registrar.
The sequel to our visit last week to the homes of China and Yetimwork, saw three of us setting off in a Bingham van to buy tarpaulin for a roof repair and some supplies for other individuals. An Ethiopian had found two pieces of tarpaulin on sale for 350 Birr each. However when two foreigners asked to buy them the stall holder first bumped up the price to 1400 Birr - well you can’t blame him for trying! There was a delay while he searched for the receipt book (almost nothing can be purchased here without a receipt).