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Ethiopia by E-mail

Subject: Newsletter from Addis Ababa
Date: Sat, 30 Apr 2005 20:41:42 +0300
From: Pat Rollin (parollin9923@hotmail.com)

HI everyone,

We have not written in two weeks because I was sick. I am feeling better now but I went to Gemini on April 20th and was told the next day was a holiday so I did not have to work. It was the birthday of Mohammed and the schools were closed.

Things have been changing here again. The mayor of Addis said that he was stopping all building plans until the new year which starts in September. So Gemini is now thinking they have a reprieve until September so I guess they are not moving and have already moved some of the stuff back. So it may be business as usual and looking for a new place to move so they don't have to move twice. Although they are waiting to get a letter from their sub city office saying they can stay on the ground until September. Hopefully they will find a site which is bigger for all sites to move in together but still close to the people they serve. So I came home and we had dinner and I got really cold and could not get warm so I went to bed and stayed there for 2 days. Jim was home and was watching me and making sure I drink something. The university was closed because of the holiday. I felt somewhat better on Friday but still spent the day in bed.

We had hot water heater problems so Jim went to work on Friday and got a hold of Burhanu who said they would come look at it in the in the afternoon on Friday. Jim came home around 3 and they still had not come then about 3:15 Burhanu and 5 other guys came in. The hot water heater in the bathroom has sprung a leak. They decide the only thing they can do is change the one in the kitchen to the bathroom then they have to write a letter to the building to write a letter to the government agency in charge of the building to come fix the water heater. But there are no shutoff valves on either heater so they tell Jim unless he will pay for the shutoff valves there is nothing they can do until Monday and it will probably take two weeks to get the water heater problems totally fixed. So Jim gives the 10 birr to go buy the valves. While some of them are gone the rest of the men have the water to the whole building turned off and they move the kitchen water heater to the bathroom and then they wait until they get back with plugs and plug the kitchen pipes so now I have to heat water to do dishes. But at least we can still take a shower even if the water tank is smaller. They say it recovers faster. We will see. We still have cold water in the kitchen.

Jim went to work and was supposed to go to Nazret on Friday but they could not get the final arrangements for the car so he came home. On Saturday morning he went to Nazret to do his site visit which was on his birthday. I was feeling better but did not go with him because the plan was we would go to Dessie for 3 days the middle of the week. I did not want to stay in Addis while he was gone that long. But the car which was supposed to be all arranged was not available this week. So we did not go to Dessie. He did get a couple of site visits done this week in Addis. We are still hoping to do a little traveling while in Ethiopia but we will see.

My (Jim) trip to Nazaret to do a site visit for one of the student placements was interesting. My student is working with an NGO that works with HIV/AIDS patients & has a program to educate & prevent the disease. They have several sites near the main office. They took me to a sugar factory. It is more than what we think of as a factory. There are 15,000 people living on the factory site, and the site includes the sugar cane plantations that they use to make the sugar. They plant year round so they can harvest year round, except in the rainy season. There is a real town on the site and a hospital. The plant was built 15 years ago during the Derge regime by the Dutch. Many of the workers are transient workers that come from as far as north Ethiopia (this is the south). There are three "classes" of people there. The transient day laborers, the factory workers, and the managers. The transient people live in housing not much different than the migrants in Michigan. They do the planting & harvesting, all by hand. Many of them have left their families home. The factory workers live in 15 X 20 foot square cornered homes (one or two rooms). The factory workers have families, earn about 250br/month ($1 = aprox 8.7 birr so that is about $29 USD). They have large families and 10-12 members living in the home is not unusual. The managers live in nice homes with manicured lawns. Their area is separate from the other areas and was where the Dutch managers lived in previous times. We had lunch at a very nice recreation area reserved for the managers & their families. It is interesting, they have exchanged one kind of discrimination for the another. In the previous times, the recreation area was reserved for white people only. The people working for the factory are somewhat better off than others because they get hospital care & are receiving anti-retroviral drugs that others in Ethiopia cannot get.

I finally worked out the process for getting a car to visit local (within Addis) NGOs and convinced everyone that I should be doing site visits for the student placements. I went out to 6 sites in Addis Ababa this week and met with 9 students & their supervisors or co-workers. One NGO I visited in in the Addis Ketema community on the north edge of the Mercato. After the meeting, I was taken to a weavers shed where the men are weaving very nice cloth. This community has migrated from the Gamo/Gofa region in southern Ethiopia to find a better life. I went into one of the "villages". It is a small gathering of one room huts around a couple common areas. Each hut houses a family of 6-12. The women were doing laundry by hand with water they had brought up from a river. There was no electricity. There is a common latrine and common kitchen area. The women in the past have gathered firewood from the mountain but it is getting scarce. The NGO is trying to get them to use bio-gas created from the waste in the latrines for cooking. They showed us the cooking burners and they worked good, but the woman who showed us said they don't produce enough gas with bio-gas processing so the burners run down quickly and they still need to gather firewood.

While I was sick, Jim has found out he can get take away at Bombay Brasserie and they told him he just has to call and they will make it and deliver it to the door. He asks if they have a take out menu and they told him when he comes in on Sunday for buffet they will have a copy of the menu for him to take home. I guess he is one of their favorite customers. Because of being sick I have not been cooking and Jim does not cook much and Bombay was one of the few things that tasted good to me. On Wednesday night we went to Bombay for dinner and while we were there it started raining really hard. We waited a while before we decided to just go home and get wet. But one of the waitresses decided we should not get wet so she had the guard walk us home with his big umbrella. We only live up the drive from the restaurant. But I told Jim I did not think any restaurant in the USA would of taken us home.

New Market Buildings in Addis Ababa We went to the open air market and they are rebuilding the stalls and making them out of steel. They are in really nice rows with a walk way in between. The one lady was really excited because she said it was going to be really nice. Jim said the government is making the area a nicer place but will probably tax the stall owners for the nice buildings. We will include a picture of the new buildings. The big area is now open for business although all the stalls are not being used yet. The second area is under construction and we are waiting to see what is going to happen on the third area.

Fantu (the local supermarket) is under construction. They have some big equipment in there digging a big hole. So I guess they are going to have a basement and then build a large building. Some one told us there is a really nice Fantu on the other side of town. I guess it will be nice when it is done. But Thomas told us it would probably take 3 years to build.

Right now we can not decide if it is Abrico that is having a clearance sale or if they have had someone else move stuff into the Abrico building but yesterday they were having a sale so we went. It is household items and they are discounted. We bought a mixing bowl for 5 birr and a couple of packages of scrubbies to use for washing pots and pans. They had really nice pots and pans sets and other bathroom stuff. So we will keep watching the store and checking to see if they get different stuff.

We decided to try a pizzeria with a new sign on Bole Road yesterday for lunch. We got there and the pizza cost about 20 birr a piece so Jim asks the waiter how big they were and was told they only have pizza in the evening. So we ordered an omelet for Jim and Chicken Kebobs for me. They were really good and not too expensive so I guess we will go back and maybe in the evening so Jim can have pizza.

On Monday the 25th Jim got a slip in the mail that he had a package. So Tuesday morning it was off to the post office. He got there and the package was addressed to Jim Rollin and they told him he was James not Jim and did not want to give it to him. Then they finally said ok but the package did not have an invoice so they had to take everything out and count it and the power was out at the post office so they could not figure out the import duty tax we had to pay and said to come back. So Jim called Thomas (our friendly cabbie) and Thomas picked me up and we went to the University and picked Jim up and went to the post office. After a long discussion about the cost of the items in the package they decided we did not have to pay a lot of tax. So they signed the slip and we took it to get the package. Then the man went and got the package and put it on the desk. He then had to go check with the person as to why no tax and then we had to go to another desk to pay the storage fee of 7.90 Birr. Then back to the tax desk to have them sign off the package slip and then to get the package. My brother Terry and his wife Sheila had sent us this package on February 11th. It contained 65 small backpacks which Sheila got from a Drug Rep at work some more pens and bookmarks to give to children here and then they included for our pleasure a box of Vanilla Wafers, a package of Chocolate Pudding, two packages of candy, a candle, 4 puzzle books and some newspapers from Saginaw. Jim sat right down and read the newspapers after putting them in the order of date. It took a long time to arrive but it finally got here. We are learning more about packages that are sent to us. They need to have invoices with a list of everything in the package on them and a price it cost you to buy each item in the USA. They must be addressed to JAMES ROLLIN or we may not be able to pick them up. It takes a long time at the post office because everything has to be checked and double checked. Even with James' tax letter they wanted to charge us to have items brought in. so two trips to the post office and about an hour later we had the package.

So, please, if anyone sends us any mail at all make sure you only address it to JAMES ROLLIN at the P.O. Box at the University. If it is for me Jim will make sure I get it. We would rather not get packages. We have been told by other IFESH people that only half the packages make it to them. We still have a letter that Shannon sent us in January that has not arrived yet. I guess there is still hope. It was tax forms from the US which Jim was finally able to down load off the internet at work.

This week is Holy Week in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Yesterday was Good Friday and there are a lot more animals in the market and on the street. There is a rooster that has been crowing all morning starting about 4:00 AM and I will not be sorry when he is someone's dinner on Easter. The student told me they go to Church sometime on Saturday and then around 3 or 4 in the morning they have a big meal after church. They are all waiting for the fasting period to be over. This is the big fasting period and they are all ready to eat meat and animal products. They asks me what foods we were not allowed while fasting. I told them we do not fast. I said that the Catholics in American fast but they only do not eat meat. They are allowed Cheese, eggs and butter and fish also. I was told this is not fasting. No animal products is fasting.

It is Saturday morning between Good Friday and Easter. Priests and Deacons all dressed up in their fine robes have been coming through handing out reeds and looking for donations. I have not been able to figure out the meaning of the reeds yet but I will. Last week was Palm Sunday and many men wore a palm leaf on their head as a head band with a cross woven in palm leaves at the front. Many women wore palm leaf rings on their fingers. The rings had woven palm leaves in the shape of a cross, pyramid, and other shapes. They wore these palm leaves for most of the week.

Pat and Jim


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