killalla: (Pellew)
Just a quick post to say that I returned safely to Addis Ababa last Monday. Unfortunately, I promptly succumbed to another bout of gastric upset, necessitating a clinic visit and a round of antibitotics - which seems to be the case every time I leave the country, leading me to wonder if I lose some kind of resistance when I go away. I'm on the mend, but I'm afraid that the power and internet situation is going to make updating difficult for the next while, so apologies in advance.

Anyway, I wanted to say thanks to everyone with whom I visited or met, it was a really wonderful break for me, and I had a fantastic time. One way or another, I hope to be back in the United Kingdom (at least for a visit) before or around April 2010. Of couse, anyone coming to the region is welcome to visit me, should you happen to be near Ethiopia. Please keep posting, and do drop a postcard or e-mail when you get the chance!
killalla: (Pellew)
Apologies for the delay in posting, but everything has been a bit manic since arriving here in England - between meetings with NGO partners and personal friends, purchasing things I need back in Addis Ababa, and trying to connect to the internet, I've found myself at Friday already - and my flight is leaving Sunday afternoon. However, this is just to say that I'd love to meet up with as many people as are around and available in Oxford tomorrow, Friday 14 August 2009. I'm thinking of heading over to the Duke of Cambridge around 17:30 for their happy hour and I hope that at least a few people might be able to drop by after work or whatever.

In fact, if anyone is interested, I may even be able to make a dinner reservation at The Big Bang for around 19:30. If you'd like to join in for that, can you let me know by posting here or calling me on my old mobile number? Otherwise, I hope you all might be able to drop by for a drink, if nothing else.

Thanks All

Jul. 6th, 2009 11:44 am
killalla: (Sherlock Hound)
For the information and offers of assistance. I'm going to try the online ticket booking one more time, using a US rather than UK based credit card, and if that fails, I may need to call on someone to book the tickets and have them posted to a London address which I will provide.

Otherwise, the power outages continue every other day for around 12-14 hours, but I fixed the connection for the stove, so when there is power, I don't have to use gas. I've also heard a rumour that outages may continue until November (!) so it looks like I'll be stocking up on wind-up torches and an extended battery for the laptop when I come to England. Meanwhile, I've become the Acting Chair of the Volunteer Committee by default, so I've got more administrative matters to catch up on, and I'm finally getting my act together regarding dance, with a tentative plan to offer a free workshop one August weekend when I get back from England, and then see if there are any takers for a regular weekly class, with nominal class fees to be donated to my NGO.

I've also been managing to invite people to dinner, building on my meager cooking skills, and holding a semi-regular anime afternoon/evening, although since attendees range in age from 6 upwards, we've been mostly watching Ghibli films - Spirited Away, Laputa, and Kiki's Delivery Service. I also had a fellow VSO staying for about two weeks prior to her return to England (sadly, for medical reasons) but I was able to convince her to watch not only some Sherlock Holmes (Granada adaptation with Jeremy Brett), but also part of one of the Onmyoji films. So, I'm proud to still be all about the pimpage!
killalla: (Sherlock Hound)
1) Would someone be willing to make some UK bookings for me? I'm completely failing to book train tickets online, since First Great Western doesn't like my (foreign) address, and Thermae require bookings by phone, which will probably cost as much in long distance fees as the booking will. I've got UK funds and can reimburse you for any pre-payment, and will be happy to buy you a drink/bring you gifts from Ethiopia in exchange.

2) Anyone know of a reasonable and fast way to obtain PSP repairs? One of the buttons on my controller appears to be a bit wonky, and although most games are still playable, it's very annoying. I'm only going to be in the UK for 10 days, though, so I don't know if that's enough time to get it fixed. If you have a recommedation or contact, please let me know.

3) Children Aid Ethiopia, the indigenous NGO that I'm advising would like to develop a new brochure, and I'm hoping to find them a good graphic designer. We can pay someone locally, but a lot of the designers here aren't very experienced, and I was hoping to find someone overseas who might be willing to do the work cheaply or as an in kind donation.

It's quite a simple brochure, just two sides of A4, folded in thirds, and I could provide the copy, plus photographs and examples of previous brochures. I don't think it would require a huge time committment. Of course, we'd provide a fantastic and grateful reference, and we might be able to pay a little, but at current exchange rates, it's on the order of less than 50 pounds. If you're interested or know anyone who might be, please have them get in touch.

Otherwise, I'm well, about to undertake a two week intensive in Amharic language, and looking forward to a holiday in August. Thanks!

Cairo

Jun. 8th, 2009 01:03 pm
killalla: (Sherlock Hound)
Pyramids: 6 (3 at Giza, 2 at Dashur, 1 at Sadaqqua - Only saw the interiors of 2, though)
Hotel Upgrades: 2 (One suite with Jacuzzi bath, one loft with 2 bathrooms and balcony)
Swimming Pools: 2 (Perfect temperatures, and lots of time for relaxing)
Belly Dancers: 1 (On a river cruise which included other traditional entertainers)
Fantastic Meals: 5 (Roast Chicken and Flatbread! Ice Cream! Japanese food!)
High Speed Internet: Approximately 30 minutes (Effective minutes, about 5)

So, the Egypt trip was great aside from the massive fail of getting high speed internet access, the attempt for which took about 3-4 hours and resulted in perhaps 30 minutes online, but with the signal dropping often enough that I couldn't manage to download a thing, including the update for my antivirus, which was *extremely frustrating.* So, no film trailers viewed or anything - I guess I've got to wait until I visit England in August. But otherwise, I had a really nice time, and enjoyed the experience, so it made for a nice break. Since returning, though, I managed to fall prey to a bad bout of chronic digestive upset, and have finally given in and scheduled a clinic visit. Until then, I think I have to take it easy. Hope everyone is well.
killalla: (Pellew)
So, this week has been a good one in the article of post - I received a copy of Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running," on loan from [livejournal.com profile] tronella, a postcard from [livejournal.com profile] metame and [livejournal.com profile] leathellin, and a fantastic amount of media (House, OMG, House! And Big Bang Theory!) from the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] insidian. Thanks so much, guys!

I'm doing my part to share the love as well - postcards went out a few weeks ago to everyone who requested one in the exchange, so you should be receiving them soon if you haven't already. (Let me know if you *don't* get one, though, as I'm trying to track the post I send - I posted a Mother's Day card back in mid-April, and my mother *still* hasn't received it!) I'll also be posting out some parcels of my own when I get back from Cairo.
killalla: (Default)
Right, so things are improving - my fellow volunteer is recovering, although medical repatriation is definite, and there has been a break in the rain. We still have no power about every other day, though. :(

Also, my housemate has finished her service and returned to the UK, so I've now got the place to myself. I anticipate this lasting for about three moths, so if any of you fancy a visit, do let me know - although, the rains are likely to begin in earnest quite soon, so really, this is the time.
It's odd in a sense that this is probably the most domestic living situation I've ever experienced - as a self proclaimed bachelor, I've preferred studio or one bedroom apartments, or even en-suite rooms to the situation I'm now in - a two bedroom bungalow, with courtyard/garden, bath, kitchen and living/dining area. I'm fortunate in that it's quite a pretty, homey place with wood and brick floors, as well as a day guard who assists with cleaning and laundry. (Important, as all washing must be done by hand and hung out on the line to dry.) In the absence of microwaves and ready meals, I am also doing things like baking cookies and making soup (most recently, real chicken noodle boiled from the bones of my housemate's roast chicken dinner) out of sheer necessity - if I want nice food, I have to make it from scratch. My most recent visitor from England (a former work colleague) was duly surprised at what she called my 'domestic goddess' makeover.

The other aspect to this is that I don't go out as much as I used to, again from necessity rather than choice. In light of recent events, I'm even more careful about not being out alone after dark (7:00pm), and this makes even going to an early evening film, as I did last night, and exercise in carefully arranging my journey home through a combination of accompanying friends and night guards - it's either that or a taxi, which can become quite expensive (relatively speaking). So, I go to language class, I invite people to dinner quite a bit (at least once a week, on average), and watch DVDs. Oh, and I babysit, since a number of my friends here have small children. Ethiopia is actually quite a child friendly place, since the majority of the population is young (under the age of 30). Most theater, music, dance, etc is out of my price range, particularly once you add in the necessary cost of safe transport. The same is true for many restaurants. Overall, I find it a bit more restrictive than I'd like, but I'm adjusting.

All the more reason, though, to look forward to my holidays - as I've mentioned before, I'm in Cairo from 28-31 May, and I've now booked my visit to England for 6-16 August. I know this will overlap a bit with Worldcon, but I'm hoping I can see you con-goers the following weekend (15-16 August) when you've returned. (I couldn't schedule it earlier in the end, as I want to be eligible for the intensive Amharic course that will take place in late July.) Anyway, I'm hoping to find time for London, Bristol, Bath and Oxford in my ten days, so let me know if you're around?
killalla: (Sherlock Hound)
Things I Miss When In Ethiopia:

Ice Cream (Which is available, but rare, expensive, and not necessarily very nice - plus, I have no freezer.)

Sticky Rice (Even the Chinese restaurants serve a drier local variant, and the best I can do at the moment is basmati - but I may have found a source...)

Internet (Or at least, reliable and regular internet, not interrupted by power outages every 3-4 days, random telecoms outages, or the connection just not working.)

Things I'll Miss When Out Of Ethiopia

Tibs and Injera (Good injera, spongy and not too dry, and meat from an animal that may have wandered down my street in the past few days...)

Sourcing Good Groceries (It's the satisfaction that comes from taking the effort to know that you can get good sausages at *this* market, that *that* shack will sell nicer carrots, and there's this woman who sits on a blanket along the walk home that occasionally has green beans.)

Sleep (Because, guess what? Turns out that with no internet or television to distract and entertain me, I actually go to bed at a reasonable hour, and then I wake up at sunrise.)

Otherwise, things are going well - we have a lot of meetings of various kinds (Sector, Mainstreaming, Volunteer Committee) this month, so I'm out of the office a fair bit, but I'm hoping to be able to stay on top of things. Oh, and then there's the Cairo trip coming up, which should be fun! I'm thinking of booking a visit to England in late July - early August, so I hope I'll be able to see some people before they go off on holidays of their own.
killalla: (Sherlock Hound)
Well, I’ve failed to update for a while, but that’s largely because I’ve started to fill out my social schedule a bit more. I now have Amharic lessons twice a week, which are helping me to expand my vocabulary and improve my fluency. I haven’t found an Ethiopian dance teacher yet, but I’m planning to offer some bellydance classes once my current housemate finishes her stint and returns to England, as I am hoping to have the place to myself for a few months. And it will come as little surprise to anyone who actually knows me that I’ve been elected as the newest member of the VSO Ethiopia Volunteer Committee, representing the Addis Ababa, Adama, Assela, etc. constituency. Now, largely this is because I was unopposed, but it should give me a platform for advancing an idea I have regarding information and experience sharing with JICA and Peace Corps volunteers.

I’ve also had a visitor, a former work colleague of mine from England, who had a two day stopover on her way to Sudan and Uganda. This was nice in that it was an excuse for some shopping and eating out, although it did stretch the monthly budget a bit. But I've now got a bit of a routine tour for showing out-of-town guests the delights of Addis Ababa - which includes the National Museum, one of the better pastry shops, an open market and a cultural restaurant among other things. So, if anyone if considering visiting Africa this year, I encourage you to let me know.

More importantly, I'm sorting out my own travel for the year, and this includes a long weekend trip to Cairo in May with another VSO (High speed internet! Unlimited hot water! Swimming pool! Oh, and pyramids.) and a trip to Japan in October with my folks. As they've kindly offered to use mileage to get my ticket for the latter, this means I can schedule my planned England trip for whenever. I'm thinking of the summer, which is the interminable rainy season here, and the tickets are looking cheapest for late July/early August. UK people, is there anything happening this summer that I should try to attend/shouldn't miss? Conventions, parties, visiting people? Let me know, and I may try to adjust my flights accordingly, fares permitting (There's several hundred dollars difference between the ccheap flight and one of the others). Both my UK flight and the Japan flight will probably involve stopovers in Cairo, so it's good that I'll have experienced its airport in advance. And, if it's nice in May, I might just try to squeeze in a longer visit to Egypt just before I go back.
killalla: (Pellew)
Now that I'm a bit more settled in, I thought I go ahead with my Great Ethiopian Postcard Exchange. Basically, if you would like a postcard from me, please comment below (all comments are screened) with your name and address, and I'll endeavour to send you one within the next, say, three months or so. It would be really nice if you could send me one in return (I love getting mail, particularly when in distant outposts), but it's in no way required. Requests from young persons especially welcome.

N.B. This offer is open until I have fifteen requests, or until Friday, 10 April 2009, whichever comes first.
killalla: (Default)
Apologies for the lack of posting, but there have been a number of electricity and telecoms outages over the past month, and as my Uncle was visiting, I was also remarkably busy at the weekends. Mid March, I arranged a trip with some other VSO Volunteers and we went to see Wenchi Crater (a volcanic crater with a lake and island in the middle) and Ambo, a hot springs/mineral water town and the following weekend I arranged flights to Lalibela, famous for its churches, which are hewn from rock and excavated out of the ground. Both visits were visually stunning, and well worth the effort. Lalibela especially was rather like I'd always imagined the Tombs of Atuan would look like (for anyone who's read Earthsea), down to some passages that you have to walk in total darkness (well, you *could* bring a torch, but the pious walk it blind, as did I). Still no Ark of the Covenant yet, that's at Axum. I'd promise to post more about it at some point, but I don't know that I'd be able to keep the promise, what with the aforementioned connection problems.

Upon returning, I spent a weekend relaxing, which consisted primarily of having a pedicure and baking a cake. This weekend, I hope to make bookings for a quick trip to Cairo, as there's a block of holidays coming up around 1-5 May that will give me several days together. If the local travel agent isn't charging too much more than the internet (can't make bookings online), then it's all systems go. In addition to the pyramids, Cario has *high speed internet* so I'm really looking forward to that. If anyone plans to be in Egypt, let me know.

Otherwise, aside from the 5 hours of BBC 24 in the Roha Hotel in Lalibela, and much delayed print news via the Guardian Weekly, I'm extremely behind on world (and more importantly fannish) events. You, my flist, are remarkably good at not spoliering, even when I want you to - mind you, it's not helped by my friends page not loading 9 times out of 10. So, if you have a moment, please comment with news of note, shows you enjoyed in the last month, and what happened in them.

How was Watchmen? Were people happy with the BSG finale? Has L&O London started yet? And for the love of all that's holy, what's happening on House?

NB: Spoilers (Please!) in comments.

Routine

Mar. 8th, 2009 10:27 am
killalla: (Default)
Just a description of the average day, so cut for your convenience.


The daily grind... )

What about the weekend? )
killalla: (Default)
So, with the first week in post over, I’ve been taking it easy this weekend, aside from a walk to the Post Office to fetch two more parcels, and hosting some fellow VSOs for supper last night. It was a busy week though, as it included site visits to some of our projects, and a lunch out (since it’s just before the start of the long fasting period) with the office that involved raw meat with injera and spices, although I opted for the grilled version. I did promise to eat the raw meat the next time, though - and it did look pretty tasty. In answer to a couple of questions -


The Embassy )


Addis Ababa )

More later….
killalla: (Sherlock Hound)
On Sunday, I walked across an African city (Addis Ababa), listening to a Japanese song (Shima Uta) as covered by an Argentinian singer (Alfredo Casero), which was kind of cool. Oh, and then in the evening I met some other VSOs for Chinese food.

I've been walking a lot here, because I'm not too fond of the line taxis, which are usually too hot and crowded for my taste. I walk to work each morning (about 30 minutes each way), and last Friday, I walked to the American Embassy, which is halfway up to Entoto (as far as I'm concerned) for a reception, and then walked back down to the Arada Post Office in Piazza afterwards, for good measure. Considering the altitude as well, I expect I may not bother with the luxury of a gym membership, but I may try for a regular swim, if my budget will allow it.

On the plus side, I'm beginning to get past the "OMG, I'm in *living* in Ethiopia," factor and starting to think of Addis as home, at least for now. We'll see if I ever think of it as "my city" - for now, it still seems a little intimidating. But we're getting to know each other.

Landing

Feb. 1st, 2009 11:04 am
killalla: (Sherlock Hound)
Have arrived safely in Addis Ababa. We were met by Programme Office staff and taken to the Red Cross Centre, where we will be having our in country training for the next week and a half. There are about 25 of us in this group, and we're being well cared for at the Centre. The weather here is a bit like Hawaii, but not as humid - so if it stays like this, it should be fine. Hope that everyone is well, I’ll post when I can.

Taking Off

Jan. 31st, 2009 10:38 am
killalla: (Sherlock Hound)
So, transport to the airport hotel was relatively easy, I checked in early for the flight and had both a restful night and a leisurely breakfast. Got through bag drop with no problems (just making the 23 kg weight limit by 0.5 kg), and cleared security, reaching the departure lounge only to discover that the Urban Retreat spa at Heathrow closed last week. So, this means I have about an hour and half to kill before boarding, that I'd hoped to spend dozing in a massage chair with a cup of peppermint tea. But, at least there is a free internet kiosk, so I can do some last minute updating before I go.

I have no idea what internet or telephone access will be like in Addis Ababa, and it may be a few days before I am in a position to post or respond to any e-mails. I can't think of any reports or notices that I owe to anyone, but this is just to say not to panic if you don't hear from me for a little while - I will post as soon as I can. Otherwise, I hope that people will stay in touch and let me know what is happening in Oxford, London, and elsewhere. And now, it's off to another new adventure!
killalla: (Default)
OMG, Ethiopia! Ahem. That said, I *think* I'm more or less ready, at least in the essentials (passport, travellers cheques, documentation, good book and change of clothes). I still have too many possessions, and am struggling to do something with them, and Maplins have failed me, so I have no extra laptop battery, but that's all survivable. I have one and a half full free days to panic after work ends tomorrow, and I've arranged a car and airport hotel, so things will ideally be relatively stress free once I head for Heathrow Friday night.
killalla: (Default)
Anyone know of a good place (online or otherwise) to purchase an external rechargeable battery for a laptop? One of the guys at my VSO training had a great one that he bought via Maplin, but I can't seem to find it in their online store. I suspect I may be calling it the wrong thing - is it a power pack? Power source?

Basically, what I'm looking for is something I can plug in (when we have electricity) that will store up power, and which I can then use to power the laptop (when we don't have electricity), but which will plug into the laptop power socket rather than requiring me to power down and replace, as with the laptop's internal battery.
killalla: (Pellew)
Just under two weeks to departure for Addis, and I've still got quite a bit to do to finish getting ready - return items, post items, pack items, purchase insurance, etc. etc. However, the telethon is over at last, so that gives me a bit more flexibility to get things done, although I am working until the Wednesday before I leave. As regards the telethon, our outcome was quite respectable - just slightly higher than the last time, which was far better than expected given the difficult economic climate.

I'm also rather sanguine, because I've got my insurance reimbursement from the flight to the Canaries I had to cancel over Christmas due to Martian Death Flu, and a cheque I'd posted to my parents which I'd feared lost has turned up at last (I sent it Airsure, and it took only, what, 5 weeks to arrive?!). Plus, the SHSL Annual Dinner was most enjoyable, and everyone was very kind about my imminent departure.

After some thought, I've decided not to have any kind of formal going away party or such - I'll try to catch Aylesbury people at the January meet, Oxford people at the book swap, and London people at the weekend, if I can manage a flying visit on Saturday or Sunday. (I still need to collect my last comics and terminate my pull list with Gosh!, although I could probably get them posted.) Alternatively, if you're local and have a free evening over the next few days, do let me know.

Also, if anyone is thinking of visiting East Africa in the next year or so, drop me a line, as I'll be relatively close to Egypt, Kenya and Dubai. (Well, closer than I am here, anyway.) I'm already starting to plan...
killalla: (Default)
So, this week has mostly been spent suffering from Martian Death Flu, which is what happens when you're at work 14 hours a day in high stress conditions for a week, and then go to a training weekend with people (with diseases) from all over the country. Note to self: Soldiering on with training through high fever, dizziness and nausea does not help your ability to recover from illness, although it apparently makes you a good negotiator. It must be that talking fox who was giving you good advice...

As a result, I've been off from work since Wednesday, trying to sleep, not hallucinate, and also not cough up a lung. I am partially recovered, but managed to relapse myself twice over the last three days by thinking it wouldn't hurt to leave the sickbed for a few hours. I'm still coughing, feverish, weak and achy, and I have a touch of conjunctivitis. The upshot of this is that although I probably could have managed to get there without collapsing, I'm not going to be in the Canary Islands for Christmas. Second Cook duties on a Tall Ship are strenuous and more importantly involve food handling, so it really wasn't a good idea, although I nearly convinced myself to give it a shot last night. But as my flight was scheduled for this afternoon, the danger of overdoing it (again!) is largely past now.

Just to say, then, my apologies for having failed to respond to any posts, e-mails, telephone calls or other missives from the past several days. (Oh, I did manage not to default on [livejournal.com profile] yuletide largely though virtue of having been 90% done when I first got ill. Still that last 10% was a struggle, and I'm not sure if the story's a bit too surreal as a result.) I will write/post/mail you what I owe you in due course as I recover bits of my ability to think. Also, if you're around for the next week, look me up, as I'll unexpectedly be around as well - but I may need to keep to my bath chair and cups of weak tea for a few more days, and no, the dry rattling sound doesn't mean I have tuberculosis, I just got vaccinated for it....
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