allochthonous: (we make the golden journey)
St. George doing his thing

The thing I regretted most about my work in Ethiopia (give or take a bacterium or two) was that I didn’t have any time to properly explore the massive amount of architectural and arcahelogical goodies that are so thick on the ground in the north of the country. Sadly, in spite of my initial enthusiastic planning, fieldwork did not turn out to be a synonym for “six week holiday” and my architectural investigations were generally limited to attempts to determine the precise location of the leak in the ceiling of my hotel room. In desperation, I did manage to sneak away from a climate change conference in Bahir Dar to see what might be offered by the “Ethiopian Riviera” and neighbouring Lake Tana, and managed to be a tourist for a couple of days.

Pelicans, cannibals and waterfalls that aren't )

Well, that’s enough dissertation procrastination for today. Cup of tea time, methinks – although this post is really making me miss the Ethiopian coffee.
allochthonous: (Default)
Leave Ethiopia in the middle of a downpour, arrive in London in the middle of a downpour. One of the most frequent questions I got in Ethiopia was "Is it your rainy season now too?", to which I usually assented, and today's weather makes me feel happily justified.

Ethiopia's parting gifts to me were a double whammy of typhoid and typhus, which on the one hand makes me feel interestingly Victorian, but on the other, more practical hand, made the overnight flight home an experience I would not particularly want to repeat. Plus, while antibiotics are a wonderful thing, it's my birthday tomorrow and no alcohol or dairy is going to put a damper on proceedings. Still, I suppose it's preferable to intestinal perforation or metastatic abscesses (I do not know what either of these things are, but the wikipedia article manages to make them sound unpleasant nonetheless) and I do not want to be so interestingly Victorian that I actually expire.

I have to say I am really appreciating finally being able to lie down. Armrests on airport seating really should be banned.
allochthonous: (we make the golden journey)

When I told people I was going to Ethiopia, a common response was “Ethiopian food is so great, you’ll love it!”. So Ethiopian food is clearly pretty familiar to many people, but I didn’t know the first thing about it before I came here and was frankly unprepared, when I sat down to dinner on my first day and ordered something rather at random off the menu, to find my meal arriving wrapped up in what appeared to be a grey dishcloth. More alarming was the fact that there was no cutlery – in fact, said dish cloth (which turned out on closer inspection to be a kind of spongy grey pancake) appeared to be the cutlery. Eyeing the other diners cautiously, I broke off a piece and tasted it – I was expecting plenty of things, but insanely sour was not one of them, and why the hell would you make a sour pancake in the first place (still not entirely sure about that)?  Thus was my first experience of injera, which seems to be the basic component of all Ethiopian meals.

Haing gained a little more experience over the past couple of weeks, below is my highly unscientific explanation of Ethiopian food as I have encountered it so far, based on a rather classy meal I accidentally ordered yesterday, image courtesy of MS Paint and the "speed" of my office internet, which allows plenty of time for artistic endeavour in between clicking “refresh” on my college email account.

Annotated Ethiopian meal!

Things to note: the total lack of vegetables fairly sure the green stuff doesn’t count), the emphasis on spices.Technique: unroll injera, chuck everything else on top of it. Rip off small piece of injera, use to convey food to mouth. Repeat, without making too much of a mess (this is much more difficult than it sounds).

Really, I have no quarrel with the concept of injera, as it is certainly miles easier than eating rice by hand (oh, the humiliations I have suffered in pursuit of that particular goal). My main issue is the paucity of napkins. Ethiopian food is big on sauceuceuce, and the consequences can be messy. In many cases napkins are not available at all, in which case you are obliged to resort to surreptitiously attempting to wipe your hands on the tablecloth or other pieces of injera, or other such unsatisfactory measures. What is almost worse is when you think you have been managing quite well and not dripping too much, when you see a couple of waitresses exchange horrified glances and come at you bearing armfuls of the things, which is not especially good for your self-esteem. Clearly, then, my injera technique could use some work, and for the moment I am forced to choose food that is easily pick-up-able. Thus shiro, which is a kind of delicious chickpea stew, is right out, as it has the consistency of thick soup and I have completely failed to master the digital contortions necessary to convey it from the plate to my mouth in the absence of a spoon. Similarly wat, which is a pretty standard curry-type dish also tends to be a messy eating experience (often the meat comes of the bone and I have not yet worked out how to pull it off the bone politely).

Thus, despite being generally delicious, Ethiopian food is fraught with minefields for the incautious, and until I get better at injera, I am eating rather more raw meat than I would have previously thought possible simply for its ease of manipulation (kitfo is actually dead good though). Fortunately, the food is filling enough that you only really need to eat one meal a day to be sorted, and the rest of the time there are plenty of coffee and juice places around to take the edge to provide the necessary balance (protein, carbs, fruit and caffiene do the job, right?). I have high hopes that by the end of my time here I will be eating wat with impunity and ordering shiro with gay abandon, but for the moment, I’ve taken to carrying a supply of napkins everywhere I go.

allochthonous: (Default)
A volcano has erupted in part of Eritrea that just borders the Afar region of Ethiopia, with a resulting Eyjafjallajökull-like effect on air traffic in this part of the world. Ethiopia, of course, does not have enough going on at the moment.

Minibuses, weather and NGOs )

Anyway, fingers crossed that next week will take me out of Addis and into the project sites, where there will be more entertaining things than public transport to write about (although this seems to be an unfortunate habit of mine, at least Addis doesn’t have a metro system for me to eulogise). I’m enjoying working here, but I get the feeling that there is much more to see out of town.
allochthonous: (i cannot rest from travel)
I am in Addis Ababa, in one piece, and taking advantage of a temporary steadiness in the office internet connection to finally update this blog. Outside, a religious meeting in the local stadium is not letting the rain get in the way of proclaiming the good news as loudly as possible. There is always either a religious meeting or a football match, whatever the weather; they sound much the same from a distance, except the quantity of hallelujahs is rather greater from the former.

Arriving in Addis )

I hope I will be able to get out of Addis soon, because I think that most of the best bits of Ethiopia aren't in it, but in the meantime mosquitoes will continue to feast joyfully on my wrists and ankles and intrepid young men will continue to accost me and attempt to convince me I met them the previous day and promised them I would go to their shop/restaurant/on a date and the rain will continue to ensure that I have not a dry article of clothing to my name, and I will care nothing because I will be sitting under a bamboo awning with another macchiato and a glass of fresh guava juice and all will be well.
allochthonous: (we make the golden journey)
In just under three hours, I'm leaving for the airport. Then I'm in Ethiopia for six weeks. It still really hasn't sunk in, which may explain why I'm having problems engaging in useful, practical behaviour such as packing (posting on lj is apparently not an issue). See you all on the other side...


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April 2015



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