dinsdag 30 september 2014

First week in office

This week was our first working week for the Afar National Regional State Bureau Education Bureau (as the official name is) or REB or bureau. On Tuesday we only had a short meeting with a two of the managers. Desara (Curriculum) and Mohamed (Teachers Development). There are two other department Licensing and Inspection, but these managers were not in. Another important manager who was present and who will be Emon’s linemanager is Muhammed (lots of Muhammeds, Mohammed Muhameds here). He is the manager from the staff department Planning. This department is important, cause,  as they said, everything that happens in the bureau passes through Planning. 

I did not get the chance to meet the Bureau head, because he is in Addis at the moment and so is the vice head, but we met him last Sunday at the airport. He will probably be in next week and then I hope to have an opportunity to meet him.
On Wednesday we got some basic information on the departments and were introduced to the workers from the Planning department, but not a lot of induction has taken place until now. There are a lot of important meetings with people from the Woreda’s* and it seems we have come at an inconvenient time. There was not even an office for us to work in, but since yesterday that has been arranged. There is no AC yet but a fan, but at the moment there is a power cut, so the fan is not working and it is pretty hot in and I am sweating like a pig.

If I have understand it correctly, today is the last day of the meetings and after that there will be more time to introduce us properly and then we can start work and facilitate the REB to overcome their challenges. I hope we can sit together and talk about the performance indicators and goals for the bureau for the coming year(s).
Last week a day was spend waiting to be moved to another location, there is no house for me yet and all the hotels were occupied. In the end Emon and I could stay for a few nights at the UN World Food Program guest house, but unfortunately we have to move again today, back to Arte. I really hope the housing situation will be solved soon, because I do not like to live in hotels a lot and packing and repacking every two three days.

On Saturday we went to Logia with Nessro and her brother Hussein. We did some shopping and after that went to Nessros and Husseins house, where Nessro prepared a coffee ceremony. First the beans are roasted, then cooled, then grinded and at the end hot water is poured onto them and then it is served. Just before serving some sort of incense is burn in a pot and that makes the room smell very nicely. We got some popcorn and dates? (dadels) with it. This is also eaten when fasten is broken or in the morning before fasting starts during Ramadan.

 Traditional crafts from Afar
 Goats in garden of Nessro and Hussein
Living room Nessro and Hussein

To conclude this blog, I will point out a few things that really strike me (as odd?)
·  goats everywhere, even in restaurants
·  phones will be answered always (even in meetings)
·  the soap bar in the hotel was changed every day
·  lots of things are broken or badly repaired, even new things you buy are broken or crappy (phone and surge protector), according to Emon it’s African-Chinese quality and not European-Chinese quality J
·  if you let the hotel wash your clothes, you probably lose a few items
·  people are very hospitable and friendly
· children react to a white person, the same as everywhere in Africa, touch your skin and hair, handshakes, running towards you, shouting hello how are you? etc.
·  when you start a conversation with someone, don’t be surprised if your breakfast (or dinner) is paid for
·  everywhere there is sand and dust
·  water is always lukewarm (even from the taps), unless you just bought it from a shop

 Neighbour kids of Nessro and Hussein, very curious about the faranji

* Ethiopia has Regions, like Afar where I work, these are divided in Zones and the zones are divided in Woreda’s and they are divided in Kebele’s which makes that the lowest level.

dinsdag 23 september 2014

First Days in Semera

Groupfoto with volunteers at VSOE

Sunday I arrived in Semera. Nessro was at the airport to meet us and checking in was easy. I had to pay 1250 birr (about 50 euro) extra for my luggage. Only 20 kg was allowed and I had 50 kg extra. This was because I took 49 kg from the Netherlands and From VSO we got also some equipment for the house we are going to live in. Besides that, I did some shopping and bought some food items and kitchen utensils.
Emon and I are currently in a hotel called Arte Ale. It is a good hotel and it has AC and some generators if there is a powercut, which happen mostly in the evening. It is uncertain when we will be moved to a permanent house. At the back of the hotel is a Mosk and every 3-4 hours the Muezzin calls for prayer starting at around 5 o’ clock in the morning.

The first day, I was suffering from the heat, but now on my third day it gets better. It is around 35 degrees Celsius and that I can handle. In the summer it’s more than 10 degrees hotter, but that will be in a few months, so I do not worry about that.
I even slept well without turning on the AC.  I do not like the AC much, because it makes so much noise and I do not expect to have an AC in the house where I am going to live, so I have to get used to it and better start right away.
On Monday we did not go into the bureau (we still are in the hotel although Nessro said we would go in at 8:30 (2:30 Ethiopian time, but I come to that later). We got another day to acclimatise to the conditions here. Emon and I took a stroll through the surroundings and I expected no plants and shrubs, but I actually saw flowers.

On Sunday I even watched a soccer match in a sort of a café. Although, I do not like soccer very much, the match was entertaining 8 goals. I was the only woman in there and when I came in everybody looked at me.  So probably it is not common for women to go to a bar.  Luckily the guys in the bar were more interested in soccer, so after 30 seconds they turned their heads to the TV again.
As I wrote above, we have not been in the bureau yet. Nessro called at 8:30 that there was a meeting with the management and that it was not possible to come in. A little strange, but now she said she was going to get us from the hotel around 4 (so 10 o’clock in European time). In ten minutes as I am writing this. I really hope we will get in today, because I would like to start.
This morning, I had to change rooms, because my double was reserved for another person. There is some congress tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. I am now in a single room, but closer to the hotel lobby, so probably I have internet in my room J. 
Next time I hope to tell you more about my work for the Regional Educational Bureau.

Patricia, Nessro and Eamon

woensdag 17 september 2014

Mäskäräm 7, 2007

This is my first message from Ethiopia. I, arrived together with another 3 British volunteers, at Sunday. On Monday another volunteer from Indonesia came and today, in European time September 17, 2014 a volunteer from Uganda arrived. He is also going to Semera.
I really like it in Ethiopia. The people are friendly and helpful. At the VSO office we have our In Country Training and we learned a lot of useful stuff we can use in our placements. We also learned some of the language, but that is quite hard. I do recognize some words now when people are talking to each other.
A very peculiar thing we learned this week is about the time. The Ethiopians are in a different year than the western world. I will try to explain. There are 12 months of 30 days in Ethiopia and there is a 13th month of 5 days (or 6 in a leap year (schrikkeljaar)). The year starts at September 11, so I actually missed the New Year just by two days.  We are now in the month of Mäskäräm. I will probably also learn the names of the other months, but that is not for now.
So not only, do the Ethiopians have a different calendar, the hours are also different from ours. At dawn the day starts and when it is 7 a.m., the Ethiopians call it 1. Noon is six o’ clock and at six in the evening they start over again.
It is very important, when you make an appointment to ask if they use the Ethiopian time or the western time otherwise you could be in for a surprise.
I see also a lot of poverty in Addis and around the office of shacks where we have our orientation training, but even all the shacks have satelite dishes, which look funny.
The food is quite good, they have a pancake called injera and on it there are different types of meat, vegetables and so on. You eat with your hand and most of the time if you eat with a group you share a big dish.
Yesterday, I met another volunteer who goes to Semera, Emon. I think we are going to work together a lot, because our functions overlap. If everything goes to plan (and you never know) I will be flying to Semera on Sunday. It will be quite a challenge, because everybody who hears I am going to Semera, says: ooh my God. Luckily a lot of people also say that it will be a wonderful experience. I will finish now, because we are starting today and a representative of Semera has arrived.

donderdag 11 september 2014

Only two days left in the Netherlands

Hi all,

Welcome to my blog about my new job in Semera, Ethiopia. I have never written a blog, so I hope it is not to boring for you.

Today is Thursday, September 11 and only two more nights (nog twee nachtjes slapen) till I leave for Addis. I am really excited and eager to go. I have done a lot of preparations and that was pretty stressful. Even the day before yesterday, I found out that I missed my Hep B shot and that I had to know my blood type? (bloedgroep) otherwise I would not get a VSO Id card in Ethiopia. This is almost settled now, then packing, saying goodbye to a lot of persons and then it's time to go.
In Addis, we (other volunteers, who I do not know yet and me) will have an In Country Training and then I will go to Semera. My job is Planning and Management Advisor for an REB (Regional Education Bureau) in the province of Afar. I hope to facilitate the Education Managers, School Inspectors and School Directors and maybe many more with their management practises.
I have heard the internet connection in Ethiopia can be very bad sometimes, so I do not know how often I am able to do updates on this blog or on Facebook.

For now, see you