Welcome back to the blog
Interestingly, despite being back in Ethiopia, I can now view and post directly on the blog so perhaps the block has been lifted….for a while.
Well, we managed to leave Ethiopia easily enough despite my having a mismatch between my residency permit and my current (emergency) passport and pretty soon after we landed, we got a train up to London to get a new passport. This all went smoothly enough and we managed to get everything sorted in time to fly off to Switzerland for a week of skiing.
So what has it been like being back in the UK? Hmmm, well it is all certainly very different from Ethiopia. Simple things like standing under a warm shower that has fast flowing, clean water provide enormous amounts of pleasure. Being able to sleep without feeling bugs crawling on your skin means that you stop counting the new bites when you wake in the morning. I felt like a child in a sweet shop when I went to the supermarket and had to stop myself from buying almost every product in the store. As you might imagine, eating has been enormously gratifying, although I suspect my taste buds have been over stimulated with the fantastic variety of different tastes. Actually, the diversity in food that we have in the UK is really amazing when you compare it to countries like Africa. After being in Ethiopia for a while, you get used to the limited food options. Food becomes more of a means to survival rather than the Western approach where eating is a social and cultural experience. So when I returned to the UK, it was quite a shock to be surrounded by so many different food products. Indeed, I found it hard to choose what to eat and so ended up eating a bit of everything. Despite this, I have managed to retain the weight loss from our first few months here (about 6kg in total). The difference now is that I feel hungry more whereas after a while in Ethiopia you get accustomed to not eating all the time and you stop feeling so hungry.
So having enjoyed all the luxuries of the UK (and Switzerland), I have to confess to feeling a little anxious about returning to Gimbie. I started asking myself why I was doing this. Why not just stay in my comfortable world where I have a great life with everything that I need. Well, I guess that I feel that I have not yet achieved what I set out to achieve. I have a reasonably good appreciation of what Ethiopia is about and some notion of understanding about what the problems are. Actually, I think that Bob Geldof (whatever you might think of him) is right in that a key problem for Africa is the political situation. If the government had the right mind-set, I think it could make things better for the people living in rural Ethiopia. Instead, it seems to have adopted a whole mixture of policies from various western countries, but without the infrastructure and mentality to actually make them work. I’m not sure how much of what goes on is intentional and how much results from a domino effect. For example, the government introduce various policies surrounding transport; cars cannot be imported if they are over 5 years old as there is increasing pollution and many cars are not roadworthy, leading to injuries and death. But cars that are imported are taxed at 250%, making them unaffordable for almost all people here. They don’t make any cars in Ethiopia. So people have to keep their cars until they literally fall apart, but before they do this, the decrepit, battered engines produce enormous amounts of pollution.
I also want to come back here to keep working on my project, which is actually going very well. As with all projects, I have been through a phase of wondering if it is all worthwhile, but I am pretty sure that it is now and I do feel that the process of getting people to be more prepared for the birth is going to work. How sustainable it will be is another matter and one I will worry about a bit later.
One of the attractions to Ethiopia is that life is fairly simple here. Without choices over aspects of everyday living such as eating, housing, occupation, and even perhaps health, life is pretty straightforward. You don’t have to worry about what you are going to wear, where or what you should eat, what social engagements to accept or refuse, what holidays to book, what colour to paint the bedroom wall, what type of car to buy, what make of camera to buy etc etc etc. There are few choices and in some way, this makes an easier, certainly less stressful, life. In the West, we have a stunningly high level of sophistication that encapsulates every aspect of life and requires us to be constantly making decisions, often weighing up the risks of one choice over the risks of another choice. After much agonising, we often wonder whether it was the right decision and whether we should have done something differently. If you don’t have many choices, it’s much simpler.
All that said, however, my cases are filled to the brim with clothes, shoes, toys, books, medical equipment, food, baby milk, nappies, football shirts and even some mini Easter eggs. So I have brought just a selection of our sophisticated life here in the hope that it will provide others with some of the pleasures that we often take for granted.
Tomorrow we head off with a driver and his car to Awassa, which is supposed to be a very pretty area south of Addis. We stay there for a night and then head to the border between Ethiopia and Kenya (Moyale) where, if everything goes according to plan, we will be reunited with the car. Oh yes, we haven’t given up on that little project. After much discussion, we decided to get the car transported on a lorry from Nairobi to the Ethiopian border. This way, we don’t have to go back to Kenya (something I’m really not keen to do). It has been fixed – the suspension, the shock absorbers, the axil that holds the gear box and numerous other smaller things – and so we hope to have it here for at least 3 months.