Aisling Healy’s Diary 2: The Edge of Reason

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Wednesday, 18th of September: Up at 4:00, pack bag and wash myself.  Get a bajaj part of the way to the bus station at 4:30.  All goes well.  I identify the bus and am surprised to be greeted by the men who fed me tea yesterday morning in the office.  It is unusual for them to be here at the bus rather than in the office and I get the feeling they are there to see me off- bless them!  One of them insists I give him my number.  He then gets on at the front and loudly instructs the bus driver and everyone else to take care of me.  Everyone smiles. What lovely people they are!  Thankfully I happen to be sitting beside someone I know so I do not have to endure a ten hour attempt to subdue the amorous attentions of a stranger I am not interested in.

Nothing major to report, then ten hours later we arrive to Addis. I get off the bus, walk to the nearest line taxi point where I spy four foreigners waiting and recognise the back of a head of a volunteer friend.  Turns out they are a group of new volunteers on a scavenger hunt of downtown Addis to orientate themselves with the city.  What are the chances?!  A great welcome to Addis.  I join in on the very last leg of the hunt, accompany them to their hotel and then out to eat something.  Get back to hotel exhausted.

Thursday, 19th of September: Volunteer meeting at the offices from 8:30 to 1pm, then have lunch with new volunteers to introduce ourselves and explain our role.  Spend the next few hours helping two volunteers having a crisis- one who has just arrived and is finding the experience a bit too much and the other who is looking for a pair of plain black tights in a city where black fishnets are all that is kept in stock for the prostitutes.  We have coffee with the newbie and then go on a mission looking for the tights.

I wash and delouse myself, shave armpits and legs ahead of British embassy reception for the new volunteers which we are also invited to!  5:30 bus to embassy, drinks and nibbles affair where I do my bit for my country by trying to drink the British tax-payer dry in the limited time given.  Met two Irish women namely the Kerry wife of VSO Ethiopia, herself programme manager for Trócaire Ethiopia and a women from Fethard who is the head of Concern Ethiopia!!! Brilliant to hear a Tipp accent!  After embassy have a drink with a former VSO volunteer who is heading home to Ireland the next day.  Get a call from a friend that his brother is driving back to Dessie, three hours away from Woldia, in a jeep on Saturday and I can go with them. YEEEESSSSS!!!  Grim ten hour public bus journey avoided!  Get to travel in comfort with someone I actually know and like who will not be hitting on me or trying to get my number for the length of the journey.  May be able to take pictures and take extra baggage!!!! Score!!!!!!!! 😀

Here I am with the new volunteers before we went off to the reception at the Embassy :) They are such a happy lovely bunch :)

Here I am with the new volunteers before we went off to the reception at the Embassy 🙂 They are such a happy lovely bunch 🙂

Friday, 20th of September: Meeting with VSO Senior Management team and Volunteer Committee until 1:30.  Then an enjoyable lunch with some of the other VolCom reps.  Brought one of the reps to my hotel so she could go for a sleep in my room, then ran a few errands with two others in the city.  Got back to the hotel and took some of the new volunteers shopping for things they might need in their placement and stocked up on so much stuff myself that it was difficult to carry back to the hotel.  Had dinner with the newbies but only just managed to keep my eyes open.  Looking forward to going home the next day.  Just before I went to bed got a call from Sami, my friend’s brother, to say that there was “a problem” and they would not be leaving Addis until Sunday, maybe Tuesday or perhaps sometime next week?

Right!  Don’t panic.  No lift, no bus ticket bought and they must be bought at least three days in advance in this direction.  Big holy day coming up at the end of the week which probably means it will be difficult to get a seat… Mind in overdrive.  What to do, how will I get back, I don’t want to miss work…

Alcohol units: Too many too mention

Calories: See above

Time spent on a bus: 600 minutes

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Saturday, 21st of September:  Plan to buy a ticket for the bus this morning but there comes a dictate from VSO Country Director and the UN that all VSO volunteers are to stay in their homes/hotels all day as there is a planned political demonstration which has been banned. The bus ticket office is in the exact location where the protest is due to take place/has been banned from and the telephone network is not working.  Over coffee decide to (at the kind request of Addis volunteers) move in to sleep on their floor rather than be on my own in my hotel room all day and night.  Unfortunately had bought so many supplies the day before at the supermarket that I trudged uphill for about 30 mins in the heat with about 30 kilos of sundries before I got to the house!  Arrived with “stomach problems”- what a wonderful house guest!  Spent a lovely afternoon with the four girls swapping dvds etc and generally being girlie 🙂

Sunday, 22nd of September:  How am I going to get home?  This is a nightmare.  Phone number for the bus company is still not working and also all buses going anywhere to or from Addis Ababa seem to be full for the entire week because of the holy day.  I park this problem and look for divine inspiration instead.  One of the Filipinas invites me to the Papal Nunciate in the Vatican Embassy for Mass which she is playing guitar at.  I walk another 30 mins back to the hotel, collect some of the new volunteers and meet Annie & Francis and we head off taking three line taxis to get to the address.  REALLY ENJOYED the mass and bemoaned the fact that I can’t go in Woldia.  Legged it directly after mass on my own to go to another part of the city where I had a lunch invitation from the Kerry wife of the VSO Country Director.  I hadn’t a clue how to get there and just put my blind faith in the people of Addis Ababa and they didn’t leave me down.  Four line taxis later, having been guided by a lovely Muslim woman who was thrilled by my Amharic and a man who purported to be the Minister of Health and insisted on taking my number and tried to take me for coffee, I arrived in the general area of the house.  Rang Martina to ask for directions and somehow figured it out on foot.  Spent a wonderful afternoon in a real home J  Delicious food and drink, two little Hiberno-Ethiopian boys, Tadgh & Seán, some other kids and a few other VSOs.  The most important thing about this event was that we ate chicken- CHICKEN!  Got dropped off near the girls’ house later and walked home where Cat the hostess with the mostess had kindly invited two of the newbie Doctor volunteers to dinner to discuss anaesthesiology which was very interesting.  (There are 90 million people in Ethiopia and 15 anaesthesiologists.)  My suspicions about the problematic neighbour in Woldia are confirmed when I receive this text message,

“Hi my SWEET! Bring me eggplant, kikember & fresh piper. PLEASE! “I Miss You”.

No space in any of the bags to bring her this, already bringing home lots for my actual neighbours who I know and love and I make the decision not to buy it, the consequences of which I understand I will have to deal with later.  The confused, hurt, guilt-trip face. Uggggh.

Alcohol Units: Again too many to mention

Calories: See above

Number of line taxi changes in Addis: Eight

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