Addis to Mekelle

A long gap since the last entry – it’s been pretty intense.

We’ve been here  just over a fortnight.

Arrived on September 12 – or rather arrived on Ethiopia’s New Year’s Day, September 1, 2004 (don’t ask, it’s the Julian Calendar) – and went straight into ten days of intensive “In Country Training” (ICT) at the Red Cross Training Centre in Addis Ababa. Seminars, exercises, presentations, lessons in Amharic, then Tigrinya (the language of the region we are living in), starting at 8.30 am and ending at 6 pm (or 2.30 and 12 local time, where 6 am is 0), followed by evening activities and outings of a more social nature. One of the more surreal was a formal reception at the British Embassy in Addis, set amidst trees and parkland in a city where such things are rare, a (large) corner of a foreign field that is forever England.


Thirty-three of us in all, a bigger group than we expected, divided mostly between education and health volunteers, with two IT specialists and an accountant. And four “accompanying partners” (APs). Mostly from UK and Ireland North and South, but also from the Netherlands, Canada, the Philippines, South Africa and one person from Ethiopia itself.

The Training Centre felt like something of a bubble and venturing into Addis itself was initially an ordeal. It’s a big cosmopolitan city, but away from the smarter parts – and we were mostly away from them – it is a long way from the ordered cities of the developed world. Ferenjis (the Ethiopian term for white people – probably derived from “Frenchies”) are still interesting enough to be an object of attention. This turns out to be largely friendly or simply mercantile, but it takes a little getting used to.

Won’t dwell on ICT at great length. A really nice bunch of people and as VSO is something of a family (living and working closer to the local community and for longer periods [and less money!] than NGO workers), we will look forward to seeing them again in different parts of the country over the next couple of years. After the 10 days, we went our separate ways, some to stay in Addis, the rest scattering by car, bus or plane to our respective destinations. Great admiration for some heading alone to locations classified by VSO as “remote and/or isolated” – fairly self explanatory. Our city – Mekelle, in the north towards Eritrea – is neither, and there are three other VSO volunteers here, all working in health.

ICT ended with a big outdoor party with the partners of the different volunteers, i.e. the Ethiopian organizations the different volunteers will be working with, the VSO program managers and the volunteers. There was Ethiopian music and dancers – the dancing is hard to describe, hugely energetic and described by Lonely Planet as a mix of the robotic and the erotic.

Leave a comment


  1. Cathy Jones

     /  04/10/2011

    Hi Barbara and John

    Good to read the news of how you are settling in to your new surroundings. We look forward to your future updates. All good wishes, Cathy, Graham and Elliot x

  2. hey guys…great blog!Very impressed with the layout-I still can’t figure out the pic download!!hahahaha
    Love the photoshop work by your rellies in Yorkshire-hilarious!!


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