International Day of the volunteer: 5th of December (The diary makes a re-appearance)


Up at six. Wash myself in a basin.  Make breakfast.  Hazard a cup of tea knowing the next time I will be able to go to the toilet is at midday.  Today I am going to try and brave extra attention and wear my VSO tshirt to work for the day that’s in it.

My counterpart is the first one to comment.

“Oooh, very surprising! Very lovely! Ais, today you look smart!”

(Just to confirm I was wearing a massively oversized promotional t-shirt and jeans.)

“Very…how can I say?…delicious?”

Uncontrollable laughter followed and I told him he was entitled to call it what he liked!  He takes me for coffee to celebrate my feast day as he is calling it 🙂

Busy day at work, arrive home at 5:30, gobble down a bit of dinner ahead of going back to work for an observation of the night sky with the science club and fellow volunteer David at six.  In the end, there was no need to give myself heartburn as the lads are running on Ethiopian time and arrive half an hour late.  But Physics waits for no man! Not even an Ethiopian and we are left with just 15 minutes to make the ten minute journey to the University and get set up to catch the first of three planned observations, the international space station flying over Woldia.

We wave at the six lunatics on board it from down below but I don’t think they see us.  We also observe an iridium flash and a USA drone.  It is a fun way to spend the evening and really I hope we do it again soon, I desperately need to get out of the house more.

Home after eight, I knock on the door at the compound, where have you been?!  Abebu’s sisters are visiting and there were no lights on in your house!

77,000 illegal Ethiopian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia were deported back to Ethiopia today. Three of them are Abebu’s sisters.   There are ten of us there in a two metre squared room.  The injera comes out and I tuck into my second dinner, which is becoming quite the pattern with me these days.  That and a cup of coffee at nine o clock in the evening to wash it down.  I made a half-arsed protest at this which I knew would be easily defeated by these my most formidable adversaries.  I opted simply to tell them the truth; that I won’t sleep if I drink it.

“She lies!”

Abebu explains to everyone that my motivation behind this lie is that I know there is not a lot of coffee and I want it to be spared for the other guests.  Everyone exchanges glances which seem to say, “What a sweet, sweet thoughtful girl”.

The three deportees look wrecked.  Abebu sees they are in danger of falling asleep and insists they cannot fall asleep until they have drank the coffee she has prepared.  The women, her sisters, know her better than I do and so they don’t even try to suppress her idea with logic, they just drink the coffee as they are told before trying to go to sleep.

I suggest to give them another mat to sleep on from my house and an extra blanket seeing as the three of them are curled up on top of each other on one sleeping mat like cats.  As usual, I am given far too much credit for this extremely ordinary idea and am declared as very clever, very beautiful and very kind.  (How will I ever go back to Ireland at this rate?)

Unfortunately for me as I am en route to my house to collect the sleep-wear I am seized by another of the neighbours who tells me I must go for coffee in their house.  It is now ten o clock at night.  This is unfathomable.  I tell her I have to get the blankets etc and she follows me to make sure I am not simply trying to go to sleep which would be rejected outright as a reason to decline the invitation for coffee.

There is plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead! In this life, we must drink coffee!

So after depositing the items with Abebu and bidding that household goodnight, I go to the next.  Three more cups of coffee later, the woman of the house is asking me why I don’t drop in more often to talk with them in the evenings. Seriously?! I haven’t time to bless myself around this place, woman!

Somehow the conversation moves onto mosquitoes and the mosquito net they have been promising to install for the past nine months is at once remembered and it is commonly felt there is no time like the present to do the job.  Eleven o clock on a school night!

We all troop into my house and it is a Faulty-Tower type scenario trying to get the net up with plastic string, strips of fabric, sellotape and iron rods.  The end result is an aesthetic abomination and will probably serve to attract more mosquitoes than deter them.  Ali stood back to admire his handiwork when he was finished and declared it to be a beautiful design.  We all laughed uncontrollably.


Ali heads back to the house but Hadiya stays on, feeling a sudden urge to rearrange all the furniture in my house ahead of the visit of my family in two weeks’ time.  Half eleven on a Thursday night.

One by one all the women of the compound gather into the house like moths drawn by some invisible yet compulsive force (to redecorate).  Half a dozen women each with their own understanding of where each piece of furniture would look best.  They wander into the kitchen and are aghast at the fact that the washing up lies undone in the sink. (If anyone knows where I am supposed to get the time to do this type of thing in between coffee invitations, please tell me!)  After they are happy with the redecorating they set to work cleaning.

Midnight and they are satisfied, having cleaned and rearranged the house in the habesha style which means having all the furniture shoved up against the walls.

It is now half one in the morning and as I tried to warn Abebu earlier I am absolutely wired to the moon and can’t sleep.

But as you can see it hasn’t been a bad day and there has been lots of laughter which is always good 🙂

Not a bad day for International Day of the Volunteer!

Thanks to VSO for making my volunteering dream a reality, thanks to everyone at home for supporting me so well and thanks to all the volunteers!

And hi to everyone at scouts tonight, wish I was there ❤ xxx


4 responses »

  1. Aisling. I get such a kick from reading your blogs. I’m a friend of Joan and have been following your progress since you left Ireland. How in Gods name do you remain so cheerful? i wouldn’t survive a day! I feel. Shocked by the fact that 77,000 illegal workers deported back to Ethiopia …just like that!! I live in such a cocoon here in Ireland. I’m delighted to know your Dad and sisters will soon be with you. Sheila

    • Hi Sheila! Thanks so much for reading! And great to catch you on line. I try to remain cheerful in written form as much as possible but I have MAJOR mood swings here in reality! My friends and family are typically on the receiving end of it and I wouldn’t be able to last a day here without a call or text or mail from them. The situation regarding the Ethiopians in Saudi is a very complex and distressing issue which I don’t really know if I can talk about on this blog. You should do a quick search on the internet about the conditions they face there if you can. On the other hand, there is a serious problem of joblessness here which is the reason they are so anxious to go to Saudi. Nothing is ever simple! I too am very anxious to see my family here! Thanks for your support! Have a nice day 🙂 x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s