Saturday, January 2, 2010

Closing post for this BLOG ...

See you at this URL for my next BLOG. I leave for Addis again on February 1, 2010. Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are ...

Musings while on my way from FRA to Ottawa ...

The flight itself from Addis to Frankfurt was OK, as mentioned in a previous post. While waiting to leave Addis, I went for a bite at the Satellite cafe and it was a nice send-off to Ethiopia. I got the menu right away then the servers appeared to be too busy chatting with one another, adjusting the TV, and sitting around doing nothing to take my order. I finally managed to make eye contact with one of them and ordered. After the burger arrived, I asked for some extra mustard, which sat held by one of the servers for a few minutes while she and 3 other staff chatted with someone at the counter about who knows what. Welcome to Ethiopia.

I watched Public Enemies on the screen on the Air Canada. It was good, but fed my fire about how we love to idolize criminals; I know my Sweet Thing will read this and tell me I'm too negative. Steven and Benita are picking me up at the airport and ST told me they are having people over tonight for the new year. I slept a third of the way on the ADD to FRA flight and hardly at all so far on my way to Ottawa.

I coined an expression in Ethiopia as I am well known for doing often ... "An Ethiopian moment". Here are the top Ethiopian moments in my 5 months in Addis:

1- Sitting at the cafeteria at MoFED one day, we are told they have no machiatto (their version of the lahte). We are unable to hear what we are being told since the milk frothing machine noise drowns out the server's voice. That same machine is the one that is supposedly not working, leading them to not be able to serve us what we want.

2- I ask what is for dinner at the Dulcian compound one day and since there is a tendency there to use too much salt on everything, I am told "salt" was made for dinner.

3- When at Select restaurant, I ask for a menu and am told they do not have one. I ask them to being me some food, and am asked "what kind?". Is that not why one has a menu?

4- I ask for mustard at a restaurant one day and they bring mayonnaise. So I ask for mayonnaise, and mustard arrives.

5- The coffee ladies are caught one day hiding cake and bombelino (a donut-like treat). Dr. Paul looks behind the counter of the cash register area and sees some of both.

6- Three, count them 3!! MoFED people enter my office and discuss a ruler that was in the office prior to my occupying it. Where has the ruler gone is the subject of the discussion and they decide to advise me not to leave any office accoutrements near the window as they may be stolen. That ruler discussion must have cost MoFED a few hundred birr for the time that these 3 people spent worrying about the delinquent ruler, probably valued at less than 50 birr.

7- A swarm of workers descend on the very steep lawn outside the Prime Minister's palace and proceed to mow the lawn with garden shears. I do applaud the environmentally friendly nature of the effort, and together they make the sound of a small helicopter.

8- There used to be a large hole near Meskel square with a few feet if water and a large amount of refuse floating in the aqua. One day they drain the hole somehow then proceed to start filling it with about 2-4 feet of dirt. Then they take the dirt out of the hole using a ramp of dirt concocted prior to the removal of the dirt JUST put there.

9- One always sees piles of dirt and the new holes that said dirt came out of all over Addis. I finally figured out why they dig a hole in Addis ... so they will have some dirt to fill up the hole they just dug.

10- Almost all of the vehicles in Addis are manual transmission. When they park said vehicles, they always put on the emergency brake and leave the transmission in gear. I have never seen a vehicle roll anywhere while in gear. This is similar to their habit of putting a rock behind one of the rear wheels when the vehicle is on an incline so it does not roll.

Don't get me wrong ... I love these people (habesha) and have a deep amount of respect for the way they do things. They are creative and inventive with the ways they do things not to mention how most of the labourious tasks we do in the west using fossil fuel burning equipment they do by hand in Ethiopia.

I will be making one final post to this BLOG but need to surf the web to ensure one of the words in that very short post is spelled correctly. This last post is crucial to the whole adventure and I do not want to mess it up.

I copied my BLOG into a Word document a while back and it occupies 186 pages at 13-point Garamond font, single spaced. I just wish there were some way in Googles blogger engine to sort the posts chronologically by ascending date of post. They are always sorted by descending date of post and there does not appear to be any way to do what I want.

This text was composed on my new MacBook and its text editor's spell checked flagged the word "Garamond" ... obviously this is not an industry standard font and must be some insidious invention of Apple's competition in the northwest corner of the state of Washington ...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a concept

I have been on the T-Mobile pay-as-you-go internet server in FRA for the last 15 minutes and WHAT A PLEASURE ... a usable bandwidth and think I have transported more data in this mere quarter hour than I did in 5 months in Ethiopia ... Burhan checked for me and when I return to Addis February 2 we will dig up an ETC card that works with the Mac.

Saving the best for last

I think of all the classic debacles since I have been in Ethiopia, the absolute best happens my last full day in Addis. The Dulcian clan gave me a framed picture of an Addis blue taxi with the time-lapse blur of a blue van in the background. So I decide I will ship it back rather than carry. Some 2 hours later, I return to work with guess what in tow? A framed picture exactly the same as when I set out.

The first stop was EMS, a world-wide shipper that in most countries would be happy to ship a beaker full of lithium (:)). In Ethiopia we are simply told they would not accept the responsibility of breakage. I was under the impression that someone created bubble-wrap, cardboard, etc., and why not fleece the ferenge for the appropriate packing material, and ship. No such luck.

Next stop DHL. They have packing materials in the outlets I have frequented in the USA and Canada that could wrap an Airbus. Nothing here and they as well will not accept responsibility for breakage. They suggest returning with the pictire suitable protected and they would be happy to ship.

Next stop merkato. Dereje feverishly speaks with someone on his cell, then we arrive in merkato in a familiar location near the grey mosque. We obtain some bubble wrap, styrofoam, and cardboard for 110 birr, a platry $10 CAD. They tie it with twine and we happily trundle off to DHL. They process the order and it takes 15 minutes to print the waybill ... the cost ... a mere 1,004 birr which is ridiculous. I know someone who shipped a blanket and a few other things to the USA for less than half that. Ok, so I take the Mac stuff out of the box and suggest they ship that alone, the size of a handful of letter envelopes weighing less than 3 pounds. The cost for that must be reasonable ... a mere 445 birr. I give up. We head out for parcel post in the basement of the EMS building, then I realize I do not have the energy and we return to work I will check the picture which is now wrapped to sustain an explosion.

I realize as I leave Addis on Lufthansa about 2:45AM that I have forgotten the picture in Dereje's truck. Now hat's a debacle if I ever heard of one :). I am camped out in Frankfurt until my flight home at 1:45PM. I was in the middle group of seats from Addis to FRA and a woman beside me slept 75% of the way using her seat and the 2 empty between us. I did manage to stretch my legs and establish my rights to at least one of the vacant seats as soon as she woke up.

There will be a few more posts to this BLOG then I will say gooten nacht and await the start of the new BLOG at this location ...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Done done done done (deal)

The new contract is in place. Ferenge is returning to Addis on Tuesday February 2 and starting work on Wednesday February 3. We are pleased to be coming back to Addis though some day as the economy improves I am looking forward to working in Ottawa and hanging out with friends and family.


That name reminds me of a term of endearment Glenn McLeod used for me at the OAG when I worked there from 1989095 ... My Cabbey. That was a takeoff on an old "profession" of mine in the 70's as a taxi driver then dispatcher.

The Mac world is brand new to me and I have not had my hands on one since I worked for teh Carleton Board of Education the 1983-84 school year and then it was an Apple IIE. How times have changed, and he married a Jewish girl at that :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Almost sayonara ...

It is supposedly Mac minus a few hours. I am having people from work and the likes of Melaku and Hiruy over to Blue Drops tonight for a party to say thanks for "looking after me" in Addis over the past 5 months. It's also Ottawa minus just over 2 days and Sweet Thing about 1 more day on top of that. I saw the final draft of the new contract today and we will be signing tomorrow. There were punches thrown at the garbage wagon today outside Bilo's. It looked as though a guest picker jumped rank and tried to claim an empty plastic bottle before a more senior picker had a chance to scour the refuse beforehand. This went on for about 10 minutes until the fellow pickers separated the two adversaries.

This is to be my last night at Deker as I do not need accomodation Wednesday night due to my leaving at 2:30AM Thursday. I have a 6 hour layover in Frankfurt and am toying with going into town for a few hours. We shall see. I am leaving at 2PM today and will get the driver to visit all my haunts around Addis to take some photos. We went to a club to see jazz last night. The first set was the standard 4 piece then a different drummer and two reed instrument players made a din for about 30 minutes and we welcomed its end. The drummer was great and very very very busy.