Ten days in the UK stretch before me as I kiss Chris goodbye and Haile loads my two half-full cases into his taxi and we set off through the morning traffic towards the airport. Previous experience tells me that putting it in my hand luggage would be unwise, so Bertokan, Chris’s broken laptop, is safely padded and stowed inside one of the cases. The first thing I shall do when I arrive in England will be to courier it off to a repair service.
It all started with a tree branch broken by a storm that blocked the road adjacent to the Bingham perimeter wall last weekend. A tree guy was summoned and the electricity department alerted. There was a danger that when the branch was removed it could fall on the electricity wires. The tree guy did his part, the branch descended onto the wires and sparks flew (the electricity department hadn’t heeded the warning), but amazingly the wires survived. But within a very short while the whole branch been ferreted away somewhere.
It was a damp drizzly Sunday afternoon, the day before Ethiopian New Year’s Day. Naomi (a teacher at Bingham) phoned to say that as she was unwell could myself and Amanda (a new teacher this year) deliver the “doro wat” (a special celebratory chicken dish) that her house worker had prepared to four of the neediest Y’tesfa Birhan girl’s families.
The spirit of Meles Zenawi brought Addis to a halt last Saturday. Despite having died in slightly mysterious circumstances in Europe on 20th August 2012, the previous and extremely popular Prime Minister’s face is still seen on billboards and electronic displays around the city. This being the fifth anniversary of his death he became even more prominent recently, culminating in the annual “Tour Meles Zenawi for Green Development” cycling race across the country, attracting around 100 cyclists.
The school year always begins with a couple of weeks of orientation. About a third of the staff are new and we all need to learn to work together. Thus begins a fun-packed mixture of cultural training, learning about the practicalities of Bingham, and professional development. As part of the cultural training we were divided into small groups and given some fare money to travel on blue-and-white taxis to go to Kaldi’s coffee shop and back.
“Ethiopian Airlines said that? That was never going to happen!” chuckled Gary, as we sat relaxing before heading to the airport for our flight back to Chicago, and onwards to Heathrow. I had just explained how, five weeks ago, Bertokan had been confiscated for being non-functional, and how we had been promised it would be sent to Heathrow a couple of days later. Gary and Peggy have extensive experience of airports, and Addis in particular. Hence we received sympathy, amusement and disbelief in equal measure.
All computers need a name. They may come with a default, such as “Desktop 1E78AD”, so changing to a friendly and familiar name is crucial soon after purchase. Chris’s lovely super-slim Lenovo laptop that she brought from the UK to Addis in January 2015 was soon named “Bertokan”. It should of course have been “ብርቱካን”, but that would have been a little obsessive. This is Amharic for “orange”- as the laptop was a resplendent orange colour. It was designed to stand out from the usual black and grey crowd or perhaps to meld in inconspicuously on an EasyJet flight. (Confusingly oranges here are rarely orange – they are mostly green, although they taste OK sometimes).
Finding a new place to eat, especially one that has decent quality food, is an exciting moment. We had heard about “Five Loaves” for some time, but our first visit was not long before we were due to head back to England for our rainy season break. They do a good breakfast, although as is usual in Ethiopia there was an absence of decent pork products. The cappuccino was lovely and had a rather complex picture on it that summed up fairly well how we were feeling. It’s been a long term, and we were both ready for a break.
It had to happen eventually, but fortunately it wasn’t serious. I’ve driven here for 3½ years now without hitting anything – until last Wednesday. If you could drive here for just a few minutes you would wonder firstly why I don’t have an accident every single time I drive, and secondly how on earth have I managed to miss everything (people, cars, truck, dogs, donkeys, bulls, sheep, rocks, but mostly people) for a whole 3½ years.