One of the essentials each time we return to the UK has been to visit our dentist and hygienist to give us the best possible chance of getting through six months without the need to consult either in Ethiopia. Imagine my consternation when I bit into a soft bread roll in August a few weeks after our summer break and broke my tooth. A sizeable piece of filling came away too. Now what?
The thudding of a small military helicopter flying overhead shakes the car slightly. Ahead of me the white-shirted runners continue on their way, clocking up the kilometres and ignoring the aircraft. They're enjoying running down the road that we really need to drive up, but which is blocked by police and soldiers. A dog lazes in the middle of the road, watching nonchalantly.
This week I was waiting outside the compound and was passed by one of our regular school taxi drivers. As he had time before his next appointment, he had purchased a big bag of bananas from one of the “souks” nearby. It began to rain so I followed him into the compound where I watched him pass out the bananas to all the guards. They were clearly happy to receive this small gesture of friendship.
In one of those coincidence moments that lead you to think life is far from random, the brother-in-law of one of the partners at my old GP practice in the UK introduced himself to me in the Bingham Academy teachers’ lounge last Sunday afternoon, as I was relaxing watching the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix. He was here on a pastoral visit with the Church Mission Society, on his way to Tanzania and Kenya.
To my surprise the journey had only taken 20 minutes – I’d allowed an hour more than that. It’s 8am, I’ve just driven off the ring road and I’m parked between a mountain of huge sewer pipes and a local pharmacy. People, goats and dogs are milling around my vehicle as I wait for Andy to come and guide me to the ACT (“AIDS Care and Treatment”) Project compound in the middle of the expanse of slums in front of me.