dinsdag 7 juli 2015

A sad day for the Regional Education Bureau (RIP Kassahun)

July 7, 2015
Today I was planning to finish some work, before I go to Addis tomorrow for a team building day and for A Financing for Development Conference from July 13-16.
Sadly, a co-worker has died in a car accident yesterday and many people attend the funeral in Aysaita. It is the second co-worker that has died since I am here. Both were drivers of the bureau. The driver today died in a car crash. Traffic here is pretty dangerous and accidents happen all the time. I feel sad for him and his family, but mourning in Afar is not common practice. That is strange for me too.
I hope in the afternoon the persons I need, will return, but for now I make the best of it and write a new blog. This will be the last before I visit Europe next month.

So what have I been up to since May?
Just yesterday at 5 o'clock
I have been in Addis twice, once during the Elections. I stayed with my friend Saskia and once for a Project Review Meeting with almost all of the stakeholders in the project we are working in.
Outside bed
In Semera everything is very basic and with the harsh weather conditions, the dryness and the lack of good restaurants so it was nice to be away for a while. I still have no AC in the house and do not sleep that well at night.

Saskia, Rani, Mother-in-law and Selam
When I came to Saskia’s home the first time I came to Addis, she was preparing a big party, for her and Rani’s Birthday. She did not tell me there was a party, so you could say I came at the right time. The party was very good, with lots of delicious foods and drinks and everybody had a fantastic time

After the party was over, it became quiet in the house again and I was feeling tired and sleeping a lot for a few days. The relative coldness (20-25 degrees Celsius) in Addis was very enjoyable and I had not realise the weather had worn me out that much.

I also decided to spend a little more money than I normally do and treated myself to a few luxurious things. So I got a massage, a haircut and a mani- and pedicure.
Result of the Manicure and haircut

Around Hilton Hotel Addis

On the first of June I returned to Semera and was interviewed by Senior High School students about my life and work in Semera and how it is to live in a Muslim culture. That was very nice to do and for once Ethio Telecom was working properly, so without an interruption we spoke for about half an hour. Later the teacher and my friend Aad put a short film on Facebook. A nice impression can be found on the link below. 

 The work within the REB has slowed down somewhat. That has to do with the heat, the ending of the school year and now the Ramadan. The most important things I have done since the beginning of May were writing a few reports and letters. At the end of June, I wrote a proposal for developing the process Knowledge Management within the REB. The first step in this process is to find a means to share the Information of the Bureau, both internal as external. Practical and financial reasons have made us decide that we will start with developing a Website first.
Another important and milestone since my last blog was being part of the Project Review Meeting which took place in Addis in June. All the important stakeholders and volunteers attended. On the first day the volunteers presented their accomplishments of the first 10 months of their project. On the second day of the meeting the future plans were discussed and agreed upon.

Tatek VSO-E
Rahel VSO-E Acting-Country Director

Tesfay VSO-E

Tesfay VSO-E

Mohamed OudaVice Head  AREB 

Mohamed Ahimye Planning Manager AREB

Emon Komakec
Patricia Koops

Margaret Rosamond

Titi Sinayangsin
Benishagul Gumuz representative

Benishangul  Gumuz representative

Group Picture of Participants Review Meeting
After the meeting I spend another 2 days in Addis. Some of the volunteers are leaving Ethiopia (and by now have left), so we had some delicious dinners and went out for drinks. Jon and I discovered by change a French restaurant called Mandoline (close to Axum in Hayahulet). The food there is absolutely great, it cost you a few birr, but sometimes you just have to. If you’re ever find yourself in Addis, you should give it a try.
The day before I went back to Semera was dominated by food as well. Well I lost about 7-9 kilos since my coming to Ethiopia, so I can indulge in the occasional binge. I started with breakfast with Roland, Saskia en Rani just next to Mul Muls bakery. Good omelette with cheese and great coffees.  Around twelve I went with Blen and Selam to a Kitfo house (Yohannes Kitfo Bet in Hayahulet), where I ate the Cabbage Kitfo and tried a little bit of the meat Kitfo (although I do normally eat no meat). The taste is great and the cheeses and breads that go with it are a pleasure in the mouth. In the evening, Jon, Ally, Judy, Margaret, Peter (ex-VSO) and me went to Sangam (on Bole Road), the oldest Indian restaurant in Addis. Delicious food and also a must eat.
Jon, Patricia and Titi at Mandoline

Mandoline parking lot

Mandoline garden

Mandoline garden

For the rest of the time, when I am in Semera, I hang out with friends, drinking an occasional beer, swim and soon I hope to get my bike, so that I can cycle around Semera. I have met some new friends like Havana, Monica and Chris. Unfortunately Chris assignment ended last week so I met him and after two weeks he’s already out of the country, Havana is on R&R and Monica is back in Germany. So not a lot of direct contact with them at the moment, but those days will come again. I went to three parties, 2 farewell parties and a graduation party, where I had heaps of fun and was dancing a lot.

Aly Ahmed (miss you)


Tikist & Ertoban

Havana & Chris (farewell party)

Dancing Patricia
Dancing Chris and Kurabachew
Chris in Afar Skirt and Kurabachew 
 Some last remarks (remarkable things)

* Sleeping out. Because of the heat lots of people sleep on a bed outside the house. Since 2 weeks I do the same, as sleeping inside with only a fan is killingly hot.
* Chairs 1: The chairs at work, in restaurant are in bad shape. The Health & Safety service in my country would have filed a complaint, but nobody here seems to mind.  
* Chair 2: The plastic to protect the chairs during transport is never taking off
* Chairs 3: Offices by managers do not have normal chairs, but sofas. The higher the manager, the more luxurious the sofa.
* AC’s: In most offices of the higher management you’ll find AC’s. Another sign of status, although they recently started with placing AC’s in more offices at the AREB.
Solomon and friends at Solomons Graduation
* When I am in a car and sit in the middle and want to get out, the man prefer me to climb over them rather than they get out to let me out. I REFUSE THOUGH! But you see the lots of women do it here without protest.
* In Afar Bajaj (Tuc-Tuc) and line-taxis are always overcrowded. Seems there’s always room for one more. This is actually forbidden and you will not see this practise in Addis or Hawassa.
Bye for now, I have East on my mind.

dinsdag 5 mei 2015

And the temperature is rising…….....................

May 5, 2015

It’s been a while since my last blog, but that always seem to be my opening sentence. Lots of things have happened and I almost threw in the towel, for of lack of progress and cooperation at work. It seems that Ethiopia wants development without reform (new outcome without change) as a friend who also works in Ethiopia nicely put it into words.
After a few ‘collisions’ (both cultural and about work ethos) with several people, I decided to take a little break and that did the trick.
In this blog I will include more pictures, because some friend and family in the Netherlands have difficulty reading English.

Holiday in the country
From the beginning of March till March 11, I visited Saskia, Margaret, Roland and Michael and travelled to the southwest part of the country. This part reminded me much more of Africa than Afar. It was good to talk in Dutch face-to-face with people who understand instantly what I was going through.
In Addis, I treated myself on some nice dinners and bought delicious things I cannot get in Afar, like olives and sardines. I stayed a night at Saskia’s house. Saskia is a Dutch woman who lives in Ethiopia, she is married to an Ethiopian and has a consultancy firm. She worked for VSOE before, so she knows how things work when you’re a volunteer. Despite the fact that she lives in Ethiopia for several years, she has not lost her Dutch characteristics, especially in traffic.
I spend two nights at Margaret’s house, another volunteer, too.


Then I travelled by Selam bus to Roland in Hawassa.  He has some troubles with his placement too and we talked about it at length. Hawassa is a nice town, clean and organised and a lot of good restaurants. On the first night we ate at Papa Charly, a good Italian pasta with a good wine and a very very friendly and warming Italian owner, named Charly (not very suprising ;-)), with a tiramisu to end the meal. Simply delicious.
We took a boat trip on Lake Hawassa and saw Hippos from very close and the resort of Haile Gebreselassie from a distance. I like his philosophy, he does not give money to the Ethiopians, but employment. Some Ethiopians do not like him because of that, they only want him to give money with nothing in return.
The most striking thing during my stay with Roland was, that we both grew up in the same neighbourhood and attended the same primary school, but did not know each other and we only have a few years between us.

Haile resort

Next on the trip was Adola (also know as Kibre Mengist, but I did not know that at the time). This was the original destination of my trip, as I promised Michael that I would visit him. This time I travelled with a level 1 bus which started in the middle of the night. At the bus station, I asked if I was in the right queue for the bus to Adola and they said yes. But as Ethiopians do not easily say no, it is often difficult to judge if they mean really mean yes and if they understood you. According to Michael the road was bad, but I did not think so (in Afar we have much worse ones), so the first 1 ½ hours I was a little worried if I took the right bus. After approximately 5 hours the bus arrived in Adola. Michael picked me up from the bus station. I found the village very nice, much better than the image I had through the description by Michael. I stayed in a new hotel, booked by the dean of the college where Michael works. No hot water yet, but no broken things either. Michael showed me the villages and I bought some nice clothes for a good price. On Sunday we travelled to the country side with the loveliest priest I have ever met, named Father Giuseppe. He wanted to visit some new Catholic communities and we could join him. He had the most amazing stories about Ethiopia, but also about his live and how he became a priest. The next day Father Giuseppe had to go to Hawassa, so I spend another few hours in his company enjoying his stories. All and all the trip was very good for my morale.

Adola (wat er allemaal niet mee gaat)

Catholic church Adola

Training on Capacity building Planning, Management and Monitoring and Evaluation in Awash

Coming back to Semera, all of a sudden things became busy at work and changed from bad to good. I wrote a proposal for a training and after that prepared and gave the training together with Emon, Titi and Tatek for 57 Woreda Educational heads, principals and process owners and supervisors from 8 Woreda’s in Afar. The training was in Awash, another opportunity to buy some things, I cannot get in Semera. The training was good, but furthermore it was very good to see Titi again and spend some time with her, she has the same job as I, but in a different part of Ethiopia. She did part of the training and during her presentation there was a power outage. I was amazed how she handled it and continued on flip chart paper as if she had prepared it that way.  


group work

group work

Tilahun (participant)
Fassika (Eastern)
This year my Eastern called Fassika in Ethiopian was a week later than normal and without the bonfires. We, Emon and I, were invited to celebrate it at Negusi house. He is a colleague from the Educational Bureau and we had a good time and way too much food and alcohol. We started with whiskey at 10 in the morning, never a good idea, but sometimes those things happen.

Negusie giving food to Emon

 Training Staff Girls Boarding School
Another training has finally kicked off. Two weeks ago, I started with a capacity building training for the staff of the Girls Boarding School. The training is on Management (classroom, school), (continuous) assessment and student oriented teaching.
After some starting problems, a week later as planned, because a projector could not be found due to the absence of a colleague (yes really), only 5 persons attended the training, since there was another festive day and transport between Logyia and Semera was difficult to get and a wrong plug on the projector. As most of the staff are teachers I prepared a separate training (partly) for the principal focused more on her role. The evaluation of the training by the participants was very positive and I enjoyed giving it a lot.
This week the second session was planned, but as I am now on supervision with the Educational Bureau this will be a little later.


Supervision & Sand storm
As written above at the moment I am on Supervision and as I am in zone 1, where Semera is located as well, I only spend one night away from home until now. In December with Christmas and New Year I spend the first Supervision in zone 3. During Supervision a team of specialist of the Educational Bureau visits some schools and Woreda Educational Offices to see how the schools and Woreda are doing and if the quality of Education is improving.  We started on Sunday with a trip to Elidar where we visited 2 primary and one high schools. In Elidar there are no hotels and I slept in a private house. The Supervision was well organised and within one day we finished the Woreda. So only a short drive to Semera, 70 kilometre on a good road, home before seven in the evening, I thought. But never think like that. After a 30 kilometres the team members pointed something out next to the road. It looked like low clouds and I asked what it was. A sandstorm they said. I had heard about them but never experienced one. I said, is this colliding with us and they said yes and that was so true. At the moment it hit us all traffic stopped and you could not see more than a metre in front of you. The car rocked and even while the windows were closed, sand came in. After half an hour we drove on because the view was somewhat better, but we had to stop a few times more, when it got bad again. It was amazing and terrifying at the same moment. The most terrifying was my fear of being hit by a truck as they started driving again after 20 minutes. One of the team members told me that the wind blew much harder sometimes and that the cars would be blown away. At that moment TMI for me. Well we got home safe, I drunk a few beers and was glad there was no power so I could not see the mess in my home. I saw that the wash done by my cleaning lady was totally ruined and had to be washed again. Well that’s how I spend ‘Bevrijdingsdag’ from 8 till 12.

Dobi (Salt Mining)


Dust clouds

waiting for the storm to pass
Some ongoing activities which I enjoy very much is swimming. Last time I told about Genet and how she could not swim. Well, she is a fast learner and after 4 times is able to swim on her own. She is the only black women in the big pool, so you go girl. We make jokes, that Patricia means ‘telik asa’ (big fish) and Genet is makakalinja asa (medium fish) and a friend of Genet (Ceesay??) is tinish asa (little fish). Swimming takes a toll on her though, so most of the time she falls asleep around lunchtime. Further lots of people want to know how to swim better and I provide them with some instructions. They also challenge me to race them and most of the times I say no. If I do say yes, I usually win, although I have to make an effort to do so. I do not like breast crawl, but that’s the only way I can win.
I am still teaching English and I have more students now. I teach two persons privately Abdu and  Aly and at the Boarding School I decided to have a different set up and teach in two groups (advanced and beginners). This way also the high school girls who live at the compound can join. It is pleasant to do and takes up some free time.

Some last remarks (remarkable things)
* Nose picking. Everybody does it in public and they go deep ;-)
* Sewing clothes is a traditional men’s job.
* Someone in Addis told me, that when they build a library, kids made a hole in the roof to steal books. They were so eager to read. I do not approve stealing, but this made me smile. On the opening more than 3000 kids showed up. Compare this to the willingness of Dutch children to read and it makes me sad that they take so much things for granted and happy for the joy the Ethiopian kids still have in reading.
* Sleeping in restaurants and houses of people. It is not strange to go to someone’s house or restaurant and if you feel tired take a nap. Maybe it only happens in Afar, because of the temperature, but I see and do it sometimes too.
* Men are very pig-headed (all over the world). Going home by Bajaj one day, I told the driver to wait, because there was a ditch which we could not cross and my home was near. Coming back after 2 minutes, he was stuck in the ditch because he thought he could cross. So we had to push.........
* Last time I wrote that traditionally the Ethiopian have cushions on the floor where they sleep and sit on, but I stand corrected. It is not everywhere, but more a muslim tradition and as I am in a predominantly Muslim community I assumed it was an Ethiopian custom. But you probably know that assumption is the mother of all …………..