Leaving Dessie behind, my heightened emotion was matched only by the scenery which took a turn for the spectacular and the road morphed into a series of what can only be described hair-pin (and hair-raising) bends with breath-taking views of the valleys below and ranges of mountains on the other side.
It was to take three hours to get to Woldia but unluckily for the driver I hadn’t taken a note of the time as we left Dessie and so instead satisfied my curiosity and my anxiety by asking him every 15-20 minutes whether we were near Woldia or not. The urban “metropolis” was soon left for dust as we delved deeper into the mountainy uplands of rural Ethiopia. We passed through several very small villages along the way populated largely by camels and strung together by streams of pedestrians walking for miles upon miles to reach the next village. The houses were made of sticks and mud, what I would describe as “wattle and daub” construction. This scene was medieval at best and I began to wonder all over again whether I could hack this? With every turn of the wheel I was being propelled closer to Woldia and I can tell you here and now that it’s one thing to decide on a dull November day in a well lit, comfortable, cosy office in Dublin that of course you would have no problem living without water or electricity on tap, of course you would have no problem not being able to eat what you would necessarily like for two years, of course you could live and work in an environment where you are the only white woman in a town of over 45,000 people…but it is quite another to be faced with this impending reality! I began to wish that Dereje would drive ever so slightly slower.
But you can’t put off the inevitable and eventually we did arrive to Woldia at five that afternoon and with trusty Dereje by my side, together we went to inspect my accommodation.
The experience in Dessie left me a small bit apprehensive and as we opened the man-made door in the corrugated iron fence I held my breath. At first the place seemed deserted but after a few exploratory grunts in Amharic, a tiny Ethiopian lady emerged and we were greeted warmly by my soon to be landlady, Hadiya. She ushered us towards the prettiest looking of the houses inside this sleepy little compound and again I held my breath as we opened the door into my new life.
It was love at first sight! I couldn’t believe my luck- the house was fit for an Abyssinian princess! As far as I could see, it had recently been refurbished in an Arabian style and it was a veritable palace in comparison to some of the other places I’ve seen so far. I felt a bit guilty that this big beautiful house was all for me but equally I was relieved and excited. The neighbourhood seemed quiet and secure and two other volunteers lived nearby. The landlady and her family were warm and friendly and ready with a smile if reluctant with English. I was sold on the place immediately and could visualise myself being happy there.
The only fly in the ointment was the fact that there was no toilet, shower, sink or water of any kind in the house. Now some who know me may very well say that I could easily have lived there without running water having lived in Scrouthea for many years as a kind of preparation for the third world and indeed the experience of Scout camp every year. But I thought I would at least hold out for an indoor toilet 😉 We went for a look at the communal outdoor toilet and of this experience all I can say is that some day I will get the courage to go back to that place and I will take a photograph.
They were to set about doing the plumbing work as soon as we left, although it would take a few days to be finished.
Myself and Dereje debunked to the hotel for the evening and I felt absolutely and perfectly content on my first night in my new hometown.