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My wife and I spent 7 weeks in wonderful Ethiopia.   (published in Ethiopia)

June 23, 2010 by   Comments(0)


My wife and I spent 7 weeks in wonderful Ethiopia. For the first month we were volunteering through Projects Abroad. We lived with a local family in the district of Maganga, Ethiopia. The house was simple, sure, but we had a comfortable bed, hearty portions of enjira and shiro, and were treated to the fascinating coffee ceremonies that make up an integral part of life in Ethiopia.


I volunteered as a teacher and got to work at both a local primary school and an adult education centre. The kids at the school were so full of energy and such a pleasure to teach. The school principal allowed me to organise a football tournament at the end of term and we had a team from each class and over 300 children either playing or cheering on from the sidelines. The adult education centre required a completely different teaching style and enabled me to conduct discussion groups with students of a variety of ages on different hot topics – like economics, politics, history and Ethiopian society – it really gave me a fantastic insight into everyday life in Addis Ababa.

My wife is a qualified physiotherapist, and so she volunteered for a charity in the city. During the month she was able to help disabled children in various orphanages around Addis Ababa, as well as conduct an outreach programme for children unable to get to a clinic or hospital.

We found both placements incredibly rewarding and educational. We are very grateful to Projects Abroad – they took care of everything. They met us at the airport, gave us a guided tour of the city, and ensured we were settled with both our families and our placements. They organised cultural nights, meals out and cinema trips where we could meet other volunteers, and were always ...

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My wife and I spent 7 weeks in wonderful Ethiopia.
My wife and I spent 7 weeks in wonderful Ethiopia.

Three Questions To Eldana   (published in Ethiopia)

June 23, 2010 by   Comments(0)

Three Questions To Eldana – Host sister

1.    Are you happy to host volunteers? Why?

Æ  Definitely, me and all members of the family are very happy to have volunteers in our house - any time welcome. You know, before we hosted volunteers my knowledge of western people and their countries was very much limited and unclear but now, thanks to volunteers from different countries, my knowledge about their culture and country grows from time to time and my life style and philosophy has changed. I really appreciate their thoughts for humanity and that they gave out free service for the needy – I like that the most.

2.    How do you help out volunteers at the house?

Æ On my first meeting with volunteers I say Hello and inform them to feel free and consider the house like their house and to ask anything they want. I know still there is a gap in cultural differences but if we have discussions openly  all the time, there will be solution to that as well – this is what I say to volunteers every time. I am happy to help volunteers in any way.  So far I id different trips with  them, out to cinema, tea and coffee and took them to Merkato.

3.    Any unforgettable moments with volunteers?

Æ I am like a friend to most of the volunteers who stayed in our house. I will not forget  when we did the trip to the north part of Ethiopia with kim- when we had to change the car wheel seven times – you would not believe this was in one trip. And the other thing, again with Kim, we travelled until one

    o’clock after mid  night because we missed the way from Bale mountain to Harer. This happened because we decided to have an adventure and the driver did ...

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Three Questions To Eldana
Three Questions To Eldana

The life and history of minibuses   (published in Ethiopia)

June 23, 2010 by   Comments(0)

 By Jason Macrae – Journalism Volunteer.

For anyone without a car, one of the cheapest, easiest and most reliable ways of transport is taking one of the many blue and white minibuses (or shared taxis) which speed up and down the streets of Addis all year round. The process is very straightforward: listen to where the minibus is going to, get in, pay the “weyala”, and get out once you have arrived at the chosen destination. For thousands of Ethiopians, this is a routine they know by heart and put into practice every day. Yet many people ignore the history of these minibuses or simply never ask themselves how exactly they are managed every day around the city. 

The minibuses first came into service in Addis around 1980, although nobody was able to remember precisely their exact date of creation.  They were naturally introduced as a means of public transportation as Addis desperately needed an efficient and inexpensive taxi service for people who did not want the hassle of larger buses and who could not afford taking a private taxi every day. Prior to the minibuses, the very first taxis which operated in Addis were known as “kour-kour” - small vehicles which can seat up to two people and still operate today in some Asian countries. These did not last long and were then replaced by Fiat Seicentos, which prospered around Ethiopia in the 1960’s and 70’s.  

 Minibuses are driven around every day by drivers. They will generally start work between 5 am and 6:30 am, and finish their day between 10 pm and 11 pm – meaning they will be driving for at least 14 hours every day, accounting for breakfast and lunch pauses. Drivers will usually take around half an hour off for breakfast and an hour and a ...

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The life and history of minibuses
The life and history of minibuses

Three questions...   (published in Sri Lanka)

June 23, 2010 by   Comments(0)

Everywhere you go in Sri Lanka, everyone you meet has three questions for you. Where have you come from, what is your family and where did you go to University.

The first of those questions is easy to answer. The second, not so. Marriage is for life here and the concept of parents re-marrying and so gaining parents and brothers and sisters is very strange and many just cannot understand. They also frown on discovering that I live a long way from my family and that at 32 I am still single and living in a house on my own! Here, you live with your family until you are married and if you go away to study you come home at weekends. I’m still not sure why it matters where I went to Uni – that was a VERY long time ago. I’m guessing it’s because most volunteers who come over are either pre or post uni. I’ve admitted to being a Science teacher for the last nine years, which impresses some of them – that I’ve done nice years, not that it’s Science! I’m keeping the Physics part of my degree to myself for now; there’s signs up all over the place for tuition in A-Level Physics…and I’m not here to do that!

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Three questions...
Three questions...

On the roads   (published in Sri Lanka)

June 23, 2010 by   Comments(0)

The roads are, as in the UK, drive on the right. And, from what I’ve seen attached in very large print to the walls surrounding the Transport building in Colombo the Highway Code is the same. That is really where the similarities end.

Pedestrians are the lowest of them all. There are no pavements in the more remote parts of the country and in Kaluthera there are white lines on the edges of the road to show where you should walk. If you are in the way, someone will sound their horn at you. Next come tuk-tuks – 2 stroke taxis that are small enough to squeeze through the gaps in the traffic. The white lines for lane markings are ignored. If in doubt, drive down the middle. Then there are motorized carts – not so many in the built up areas. Motorbikes and pedal bikes are a hazard to pedestrians, but at least passengers on motorbikes are expected to wear helmets too. Private cars are generally well driven, because it’s a privilege to own a car here, seat belts and indicators are optional. They still sound the horn to get you out of the way. Taxis are air conditioned and drive as though you are an emergency patient. Much use of the horn, lots of expectation that slower moving vehicles will get out of the way. Lorries are immune to any road laws – they have ‘fully insured’ painted on the back which means they own the road. Well, they think they do. The only thing a bus will give way to is another bus coming the opposite way – and then only if the road is a bit narrow. Buses will overtake anything on the road, even if they are then going to screech to a halt at a bus stop (local knowledge needed here, since most aren’t marked in any way) and cause chaos behind them. Buses don’t ever get too full for passengers, and ...

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On the roads
On the roads

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