With half an eye on coming home to the UK in a little over a month my attention last weekend was split between two events.
Here in Ethiopia all of the VSO Axum volunteers took a trip to Adigrat to visit Helen and Ashley, two of the VSO volunteers there. We got the opportunity to see the paediatric ward there, which is an old army barracks. There is a lot of space compared to Axum hospital and they’re also creating a neonatal unit. I am definitely jealous of the space that they have – all of our unit could fit into one of the rooms they have! The building work is completed for them (ours is still ongoing!) and they had done final cleaning that day. As in Axum there are still some outstanding issues that need to be sorted with the building before equipment can be moved in and the unit start to function. After looking around there was a coffee ceremony for Ashley as she is completing her placement and heading back to the UK. Lots of speeches were given, including a very complimentary one from the hospital CEO, and a beautiful cultural dress was given to her as a present. After the visit to the hospital we had a relaxed weekend with a farewell meal for Ashley combined with an early birthday meal for Helen on Saturday at the local cultural restaurant. We got the Sunday lunchtime minibus back to Axum with lots of twists and turns, unscheduled stops and passengers vomiting it was an enjoyable journey as always!
Back in the UK though I was missing out on all the fun of the Tour de France in Yorkshire. The Tour passed by the bottom of my parent’s street on the Sunday so there was a family party weekend at their house The ‘Hello Hello’ theme, yellow bikes and bunting created a party atmosphere. I got lots of updates and photos of all the action that included late night antics after a gig in Holmfirth I understand 🙂 I really missed being part of the fun there as well as seeing everyone after being here in Ethiopia for a year.
I’m looking forward to heading back to the UK to take part in all the celebrations and fun that happen with family and friends back home. At the same time I will miss all my friends in Ethiopia and the fun and celebrations we have had here.
The journey began with getting up at 4.45am to walk to the bus station so I was ready for when they opened the gates at dawn. The mad dash across the stony, dusty ground began as soon as the gate opened – everyone desperate to get a seat on the bus. I was directed onto a minibus instead of one of the larger buses that would go on to Mekelle as I wanted to get off at Adigrat. After bargaining on the price, I knew it should be 44 birr he started at 100 and we settled on 50 with me to tell the traffic police I paid 44, I sat and waited for other passengers to board. No one seemed to be joined me with everyone getting on one of the two buses next door so I abandoned my minibus and hopped onto one of the buses which left almost immediately despite not being full. It was an old green single decker bus and the inside was covered in chince curtains with lots of fringe. The aisle was very narrow with barely room for the conductor to squeeze past. The first stop was Adwa where we picked up the rest of the passengers after a long wait around in the bus station.
We travelled through spectacular scenery snaking up and down winding mountain roads. There were smallholdings all along the way with terraced hillsides and crops grown on even the smallest bits of land. Since the rains have only just finished the countryside is still green with the leaves on the trees, cacti and the tef (local grain) in the field. The closer we got to Adigrat the less green it became with the crops further along and some even being harvested and the field tilled as we go closer. Following arriving in Adigrat I took myself down to Eve hotel to wait for Helen and Ashley to finish their morning of work. The journey continued later that afternoon with us all sitting with our luggage in the back of a hospital car. The beautiful scenery continued with the main problem being trying to avoid all of the cattle and donkeys trying to commit suicide by walking in front of the truck. The driver was very good at emergency stops!
On the way back the driver kindly stopped at various points along the way for us to take pictures and pointing out orthodox churches sitting on the top of hills. After a great day spent in Adigrat with Helen and Ashley it was another early get up to catch the bus back to Axum Sunday morning. This time I ended up getting on a minibus, which left when all of the seats were filled. Travel sickness seemed to be more of an issue – it was dealt with by the conductor passing out plastic bags and one guy sticking his head out of the window! As on the way to Adigrat about half way along the road everyone started passing money forward. The bus then stopped and collected a bag full of small balls of soil wrapped in plastic. People then secreted them about their person or rubbed it onto their faces. The soil came from Debre Damo an orthodox monastery which was founded in the 6th centry and only allows male visitors. After a quick and unexpected change of minibus in Adwa I made it back to Axum by 9.30am.