Sunday, October 28, 2007

Debre Birhan

Work: Things are moving along with finding out of print book dealers, finding local dealers, and more. There are several good Horn of Africa disertations available and trying to look into those as well. We are having another mtg. to discuss progress of the grant acqisitions this week. Thanks to all my colleagues in Tucson and SLC that have helped me!

Other: Continuing to enjoy hot water showers! Last weekend, a nice wildlife trip to Debre Birhan, about 3 hours north of here in the Shoa province. The views were all interesting, lots of herders with their cattle, lovely tukuls-local homes with the round thatched roofs, and farmland growing teff-local grain for making the injera bread and much more. About 20 of us signed up for this trip and after locating a hotel, we continued on for about 1.5 hours to Ankober, the ancient capital of Ethiopia. This whole area is cold and windy due to the higher altitudes. We stopped at a scenic viewpoint to take photos of the valley below. There were lots of terraced fields on the mountain slopes and we walked around cattle, donkeys here and there, horses, goats and sheep. Some hiked for another 3 hours in Ankober to see the remains of the palace and some hiked for awhile and then browsed the little suqs for peanuts, fabrics and local shopping bags. We had dinner at our Hotel Eva (owned by famous Ethiopian runner Gettiye)-some of us had lamb tibs (grilled lamb strips) and wine which was very nice. The area and rooms at night were very chilly-probably in the low 40-50s. Early the next morning, we left for Debre Sina. We were on a good road built by the Italians in the 1940s and dotted with bridges and a few tunnels as well. Along the way, we stopped at another outstanding viewpoint and saw gelada baboons and came across wool hats and oregano for sale! We purchased as much as we could and I also purchased a walking stick. A bit later, some of us walked down the road leading to town for about an hour. There, we stopped for more shopping-basketry, oranges, a new fruit that is like a crinkled looking melon (will try that later), small bananas, guava, fava beans, roasted barley called kollo- a local favorite, more oregano, local fabrics and more. We then continued on and found a picnic spot for lunch and stretched our legs. Once again, we arrived in Debre Birhan and visited the Trinity Church. This Ethiopian Orthodox Church is a bit unusual as it has two statues in the compound that were dressed in real clothes (perhaps due to the chilliness?). We took photos and then headed back to Addis Ababa and arrived around 6pm. Another wonderful wildlife trip.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Have hot water -as of Saturday!

Work: The library here consists of the Ethiopian Languages Section, The Foreign Languages section and the Technical Section. Recently, two catalogers were hired to try and take care of an immese backlog of materials found in these reading rooms and in the back rooms piled almost to the ceilings. They started to create an online catalog some years ago and the unedited version is available on two computers in the Foreign Languages Section. But, the computers are usually not turned on and am not sure if the staff know about using it. So, the users rely on the card catalog. Photo copying and sometimes scanning is available. Important lectures or talks or other events are at times held in the Foreign Languages section in the afternoons or evenings. Tables are pushed around and make seating for about 100. This is the venue for the IES lecture series which are generally very good and free to the public. It appears that book theft is a problem here, just like in libraries all over the world. We are trying to think of ways to stop this theft as some of these are rare or out of print materials. This library is only open to Univ people and to those who have membership cards to the IES society. On the second floor of our building is an ethnographic museum. So we are used to seeing many people, especially foreigners, come take a peek at the library which is housed on the first and second floor.

There are plans for a brand new IES Library building adjacent to this building. Not sure when the actual construction will begin but it is definitely needed.

Other: The University Housing Adm. folks came to the apt. 8 times to fix the hot water heater in the bathroom but were not successful and that took over a month. I took the suggestion of a neighbor and hired my own plumber/electrician. In about an hour, things were fixed! I cannot believe I have taken bucket showers for over a month.

My apt. is located on a very busy street on what some locals refer to as the rich part of town. New high rise buildings are found everywhere and more being built. There are numerous shops, supermarkets, restaurants, offices and more around me. It is consantly busy with buses, mini-buses (which I usually take), taxis, cars, and many pedestrians. The sidewalks, unfortunately, are mostly new "cobblestones" which make it hard to walk on. Many are of different heights, so it is not walking on an even surface. Occasionally a stone or group of them are missing. Sundays are my favorite in Addis for getting around. There is less traffic and air pollution on that day. There are new billboards advertising everything. The problem is that they are huge and low to the ground at an angle. So, if you are not watching where you are walking on the sidewalk, you could easily run into one of these large billboards.

The main road where I live takes you to the airport. Every week or more, I encounter an odd scene. When the local or foreign dignitaries have to go to the airport, motorized traffic is shooed away.They are to take the side streets or other streets. The new federal police in their blue camaflouged outfits and rifles have their backs to the street and watch us. They are set about every 20 feet or so and sometimes instruct us as to where we should be walking or whatever. Then, after about 15 minutes of quiet, about 8-12 vehicles zoom at least 100 m.p.h. down the street to their destination. After about 10 minutes, traffic and the noise resumes. Sometimes, the regular police also assist them.

In the Emperor's Kitchen

Work-Internet has not been working or slow, hence the slower posting here. I moved to my "permanent" office about two weeks ago. They call it the basement but is on the ground floor in the back. This building was the former residence (palace) of Emperor Haile Selassie and my present space is what used to be the Emperor's kitchen. I am sure it is just one of many kitchen rooms. This office has a very large window, about six feet by four feet, and opens to trees, flowers, and birds. I have a computer and large wooden desk, a large antique looking office cupboard, a couple of other tables and two chairs. There is also a little service window with wood doors which I think the cooks used to hand over coffee or food on trays, perhaps to the kitchen staff. Across from me is a small resource room which is mostly computers for post-graduate students. There is a lavatory around on the other side (squatting), but since it lacks water, will continue using the one on the third floor. A history professor's office is next door.

Last week we had a great meeting about the grant and purchasing library materials for the project. I volunteered to look into out of print dealers who may have Horn of Africa materials. The library has purchased some materials, are in the midst of purchasing some more and hope to purchase other titles soon. It appears that like in other libraries everywhere, theft continues to plague this collection. I volunteered to serve on the library security committee as well.

I received a couple of reference inquries and hope to track down some journal articles. There is no reference desk in our library, surprisingly. I am hoping to use the library with these reference questions and see how it operates as well.

Other: Eid came and went. Great numbers of Muslims were on the streets on that Friday morning as it was declared a holiday. They went to pray outdoors the Stadium in their finest and newest clothes. Sometimes, they would be chanting as they walked to and back and some roads were also closed due the the large numbers of people participating in this religious event.

A group of us joined the wildlife society on a trip outside of Addis. First night was in Lake Langano at the Bekele Mola hotel-the water was choppy and very brown looking. It was pleasant to sit outside and have drinks and chat with the others. A few went into the water and enjoyed it. Unfortunately, another small group of loud music users was next to some of our rooms and of course we did not sleep well. A nice breakfast buffet and we were off to Sankale. En route, our bus had a small problem and stopeed in Shasemene to get it fixed. Some of us found a coffee place and enjoyed that and other drinks. In Sankale, we visted the Swayne's hartebeest sanctuary. Evidently, there are only 275 of them and the government is trying to protect these herds. We drove in a Landrover around the tall grass to see these graceful and shy animals and then walked around as well. We saw them grazing but when they noticed our vehicles, got in a line and seemed to dance away. The terrain was full of thorny acacia trees or young shrubs full of thorns and some small wildflowers inbetween. It was hot. We arrived in Wondu Gennett at dark and found our rooms. Some enjoyed the hot springs and waterfalls and some enjoyed the hot springs showers in our rooms before dinner. The next morning, we again had a nice buffet and sat outside. Vervet monkeys eyed our food hoping for scraps. There were also giant vultues circling around. Many took a few leisure hours to enjoy the water, to take photos of the numerous flowers, or to argue with the hotel bill. Just like most hotels in Ethiopia, there are two rates-one for local people and one for foreigners. (sometimes, there are more rate advertised). Since we were a group of 33, we were supposed to get a small discount as well. We proceeded to the Wondu Gennett School of forestry and had a pleasant walk along the trees and shrubs in a rain which lasted for about 30 minutes. Then we lunched there and headed back to Addis and arrived home about 7:30pm. We saw a huge amount of bird life and numerous interesting farming scenes along the way.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Big rains have ended!

Work: Things are moving along and look forward to tours of the different areas of the library this week. I have started looking into what databases this library can access via the main library as well. Am considering starting a Database Review where we open all the databases and study them. Perhaps we shall do this twice a week and discover the highlights of each resource., just like I started doing at the Univ of Utah Library. I was shown a new office space- in the basement this time -(am in the fourth floor attic right now) but it is not ready as yet.

Other: All of a sudden the rains stopped. October will be windy and dry according to what others have told me. Last week a friend from the wildlife society told me about a flamenco dance performance at the National Theater. The performance was fine and the theater was big and wonderful. It was built during the emperor's regime. Also, found brown bread in nearby supermarkets! The fasting season of Ramadan will end soon and Eid will be a holiday here. Still waiting for them to fix my hot water heater at home.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

In Darkness and Rain

At the Univ: Had brief meetings with some of the library staff and also met the director of the Inst. Last week, I was invited to tag along to visit bookshops in Addis to peruse future acquisitions. There has been a lot of material published both in and out of Et. I started looking at some databases which might be helpful in retrieving citations for my work. There are many! Also, the head of the Abysinnian Baptist Church, Mr. Butts, was here with a delegation. They visited the museum and had some meetings. Met some of my former colleagues from various area libraries as well.

Other: Last week I turned on the hot water heater for my shower (or geyser as they say here). It sort of blew up and knocked off all the lights in the apt. I called the guards who decided to find the main fuses, but it took them about an hour since that room did not have lighting! This week the univ. is supposed to fix the heater, so we shall see. Meanwhile, am boiling water on the stove and then dumping it in a bucket so I can have a bath that way.

Actually, each day the power goes out for 10-20 minutes. There seems to be a generator that then restores things. Since it is a high-rise apt building, I heard there was an elevator as well but would hate to be stuck there, even for 10 mins. At work, I have only seen the power out once.

Rains and heavy rains continue. Yesterday was a bit eerie with it being so dark and just sheets of heavy rain for hours. Just when I thought it would end, it would continue pouring endlessly. These rains were supposed to have ended a month ago.

Started up my Amharic lessons twice a week with my former teacher. The verbs are the trickiest as they agree with fem, mas, polite (that is big here!), etc. From years ago, I mostly remembered the nouns. I would like to learn to read some Amharic. The menu in the Staff Lounge (Univ restaurant) used to be in Engl and Amharic but now is only in Amharic. Most shops and office are in Engl and Amharic.