How The Week Goes

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It came home to us last week that we’ve settled in pretty well.  John was back in Europe – Norway and UK for work last week, and came back with horror stories of how many Birr things cost in Oslo/UK. Not only that, he didn’t even bring a lump of cheddar back with him – odd when you can’t get cheese of any sort here (oh, tell a lie we recently found a box of “Laughing cow”). Strange, in Pangbourne he was unable to come back from the village without cheese.

So the routines? Up between 6 and 6.30. Wouldn’t be so early, but it is impossible not to be aware of the chanting from the churches (broadcast through loudspeakers), which starts around that time, can be 4.00 sometimes. Strangely John’s grumbling seems to start about the same time! It’s Ethiopian Orthodox Christian – which around 95% of people are, the remainder mostly Muslim.

Then, John is on porridge cooking duty – more grumbling (he loathes porridge) – but we’re in this together! Served with the famous Tigray honey, it’s good.  John’s breakfast is always something with bananas – easy to get. Like most things it’s a case of having meals from what you can find, not always first choice, but we’re not exactly struggling.

Whilst I’m at work, the domestic stuff happens when Mehret, our home help, comes into her own. She does all the market shopping for us, which means much better prices than if we hover around. Potatoes, onions, chillies, tomatoes, carrots, garlic and ginger are all readily available. We also encourage her to pick up anything else which looks good. So last week, for example, we had French beans, beetroot, courgette and … a big treat.. aubergines. These, served with lentils, rice or pasta, make up most of our meals, not forgetting eggs. We’d not made a decision to go vegetarian, but meat is hard work. In fact we’ve had meat at home just 3 times since we arrived.

I come home for lunch every day. It would be stupid not to when 1) there are no toilets at work (at least for women – men have walls and ditches), and 2) Mehret has prepared something delicious for us to eat. A favourite dish is “wot”, which is still a cause of confusion – think “Two Ronnies”  with what and wot discussions going round in circles (see link to Simpsons below). The photos show our involvement – peering over her shoulder to see what’s coming up. After lunch there can be another linguistic discussion – will she do shopping or chopping? That’s for the evening meal which she’s largely responsible for as well, along with the other domestic duties. We’re lucky with Mehret, we’re the 3rd or 4th VSO volunteers she’s worked for and her English is pretty good, and she humours us with understanding our efforts at Tigrigna.

Any time of day, we might stop for a juice – favourites are avocado and mango. Wednesday is juice meet-up day with two young American education volunteers here with Peace Corps – Diane and Brittany.Mekelle must easily outdo Paris for the number of cafes and restaurants per square kilometre.

Water – We filter all water for cooking or drinking with a stainless steel bit of kit. At the moment, there seems to be a rough routine of one week of continuous mains water, followed by a week of 3 hours of water in the morning.  We’re expecting an off week next week so have a good stock ready to keep us going.

Evenings, no grumbling from John now –he can find a decent bottle of whisky for half the UK price. Time goes quickly as we and all the other volunteers seem unable to stay up or awake after about 9.30. We thought we’d have loads of time for DVD viewing, but only managed to see a mere three episodes of House since we came and 1½  films. But we love our Kindles.

The weekends mean a Friday night get-together with other VSOs in the area. There’s Sarah and Tsitsi, both doctors, and nurse Criona, who all work in gynaecology or paediatrics. Each week they have stories to tell we’d rather not dwell on. From time to time, other NGO workers appear, so it can be a big party. We’ve just said goodbye to two Belgian nurses who’ve completed a 2 month stay here. And by the way, all volunteers in Mekelle at the moment are women. Sometimes it’s a meal at one of our houses, or a western type hotel (yes, pathetically chips or pizza an attraction!) or a local Ethiopian restaurant. There’s the occasional breakfast out too.

Sunday night tends to be an indulgence: a steak sandwich at the Axum Hotel, Mekelle’s best and only 5 minutes from where we live. Depending on the BBC football schedules (yes, not a misprint), we’ll be there with 50 or 60 local people, mostly ardent Arsenal supporters (something to do with Thierry Henri, apparently). Tonight (20/11) we’re hoping to catch Liverpool-Chelsea. It’s a tough life… John Motson, steak, chips…

English League Football at its Best

And hey, we’re onto food again! Which brings me on to The Simpson’s episode in “Little Ethiopia”. (Link: So true! Enjoy. Yes, we’ve settled in pretty well – and a look through our photos will make you say: why wouldn’t you?

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  1. Elizabeth Godwin

     /  20/11/2011

    Ant was delighted to see John in London and it’s great to catch up with what you are up to on your blog; You both look really on form and where you are looks like paradise – all that sunshine and delicious- looking fresh food and drink and all those happy, smiling people – it doesn’t seem at all as I imagined it would be . In any case, so much the better and I hope things carry on as well for you as they have started
    Ant and Liz

  2. good post barbara! x

  3. At least you are not in the euro zone. In Europe we too will all be on a staple diet of porridge if the politicians carry on with their huff and puff.

  4. Kasia

     /  21/11/2011

    Very, very interesting!


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