Monday, November 26, 2007

"Students Shouting Like Monkeys"

At the University:Finished touring the main library and visited the Computer Systems Dept. and the Binding Dept. Making contacts with out of print dealers for our library acqusitions. Visited the Office of Sustainable Development and chatted with the director. She gave us some brochures for our library collection and promised a price list for their other publications. Met with the Head of the Foreign Languages section who also showed me around the Manuscripts reading room. I hope to work with him at the Reference Desk there in the near future.
A few days ago some students were walking by our building which also houses the office of the President and other university administrators. There are university police posted at each entrance, including for our building. These students were very excited and talking at the top of their voices. I saw the police telling them to buzz off as they were disturbing the place. Then I heard one of the institute staff describing the event as "students shouting like monkeys" and agreed they had to be shooed off! The students quickly hurried out of the way.

Other: Attended a wildlife talk by Prof. Shoshani from the Biology Dept. He spoke of the disappearing elephants of Ethiopia and Eritrea as there are poachers hunting these animals. A newly created Kafta Shiraro Park will help with wildlife conservation and perhaps educating the public about elephants.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Indians and Red Indians

Today is the fifth day of the third month of the year 2000, according to the Ethiopian Calendar. Warm days 70F and cold nights upper 30s F.--------
At the University: The first week I was here two people asked me if I was a Red Indian. I explained that term was no longer in use and Native American was the proper term of today. And then I explain I am Asian-American, etc. One of these people wanted me to find photographs of Native Americans and I referred him to some websites. Many people I casually meet-on the minibus or in shops- ask me if I am Indian and I say yes as that is the easiest answer!

My colleague tells me that the Univ has been hiring professors from India for about 7-8 years to fill in where they do not have local experts. I take it that many Ethiopians are dismayed to see these people getting USD$1500 a month when the local people get less. I see Indians around my apt. building and on campus but they are very serious looking and go about their business. When I take the mini-bus to work, I see a few professors each week as well. One architecture professor and I exchanged phone numbers but she teaches on a different campus from the one where I am. Another one also talked to me-he is from the Informatics Dept. and came to visit my office last week.

I had an excellent appt. at the Embassy last week to discuss higher education resource needs in Ethiopia. There will be follow-up later & I look forward to working with them.

The local book vendor had not responded to our library's questions for about 6 months. I volunteered to contact them. They said they were not aware of a book list that was given to them in May. Anyway, things seem to be settled as the book vendor and his director came to visit me to smoothen things out.

Other: The US embassy held a concert with Addis Ababa's Millenium Committee in the Municipality Theater. I was invited and so were some of my colleagues from the Institute. It was crowded and filled with mostly Ethiopians. First we had some nice hors d'ouvres and soft drinks and I found some people from the Wildlife group. The group Chicago Trio played a series of light jazz and American folk tunes. Later, a group from the Yared Music School played serious Ethiopian songs on their string instruments. The Americans finished up with a few pieces accompanied by a sopranist.

Some friends and I decided to hear the popular Ethiopian singer, Teddy Afro (stage name), last Saturday even at the state owned Ghion Hotel and there were no chairs for the audience. We had to wait 2 1/2 hours to hear him sing and so we bought expensive drinks and food from the hotel. Teddy first started with new tunes which I did not know but later sang a new year song and then his favorites. It was excellent (he writes his own songs), but the cold was intense. My feet froze as it was in the upper 30s by the time we left at 1:30AM! I was surprised by the coldness as I had a long winter coat. Some of the women in the audience were wearing sleeveless tops, skirts, or dresses. But, I do not think they came jus to hear the music. We spent over 6 hours at this open air venue.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cards and Monkeys

At the University: Address here: Marie Paiva, Volunteer Librarian, IES Library, Addis Ababa University, P.O. Box 1176, Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA.
Visiting the main library to see one of the Cataloging Dept for a tour. They use the LC sytem and an open source program, Koha, to get titles into their online catalog. They also maintain a card catalog but in some years hope to discontinue that. We are looking for some out of print and other materials here at the IES Library. Heard back from the local rep. and hope that it works out soon. I had a nice meeting with the head of the Library and got some good feedback. Our database review on Friday mornings continue, but last week the Internet was not that great. Made some more appointments for the main library for this coming week. All in all, lots to discover and learn about the Univ. system and work keeps moving along.

Other: A friend from the UK invited a couple of us to attend an art exhibition at a gallery some distance away. All in all, very nice and I got to see some interesting art work from a local artist and meet some new people. On Saturday, the wildlifers climbed Mt. Menangesha at about 2,900 meters. I chose the easier path which was steep! An Ethiopian woman who knew something about plants hiked with me. There were lots of wildflowers including delphinium and many ferns. It was cool and windy on this hike. We all met up on the top of the mountain and had our lunches and rested. Then, we went down and this time saw several black and white colubus monkeys with their sweeping tails leaping from tree to tree. We also saw a few vervet monkeys hanging out at the cemetery looking mischievous. A few bird sightings as well. On the way home, we stopped at a flower farm and walked around a bit to admire the carnation, geranium, agapanthus, day lillies, and more.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Ahead at full speed

At the University: Last Friday was an interesting day. When I approached my building to unlock the door at 7:50am, I saw a note posted in Amharic pasted on the edge of the doors and forming a seal. I spoke to the Univ police and they said they would send someone else to look at it. That took about an hour. Evidently, they found the door opened during the night and wanted to make sure the interior of the offices was okay. My office was fine and hopefully all other offices were as well.

Then I finally got to start the Database Review with 3 librarians. I had asked if I could do this the first two weeks and nothing was said. The University receives probably 50 databases through donation or arrangment with NGOs. I observed that most of the staff here were unaware of these resources which might be extremely helpful in their work. So the 4 of us met in my office for about 1.5 hours to check on the databases and we searched under the keywords of Ethiopia and Horn of Africa and tried boolean operators, truncation, and nesting. Each resource has to be opened with the User ID and password in order to deter non-educational use as was recommended by the vendors. It was fun and I learned some things and hope they did as well.

Also, the US Embassy called twice. There are new staff there and they want to see what resources the library here has and perhaps what they need. This week I shall be trying to organize a list of online and print sources and perhaps prioritize them. I also briefly spoke with the director of the main Library about getting suggestions for this list. The result is that I have a meeting with the embassy folks in 8 days and can't wait. I would like to invite them here to visit our library, the main library (where I worked 7 years ago) and perhaps the National Library where I worked 10 years ago. One of the problems with online resources is that there seems to be a lack of training for users, from what I have observed. Thus, library patrons continue to use the card catalogs and print indexes.

Other: Visited St. Mary's Church in Arat Kilo as they have a special millenium exhibit. These pieces on display reflect the history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. I joined in with some Ethiopian friends and of course the tour was in Amharic. A deacon found me listening from a distance and took me on a personal tour in English. There were paintings of saints and religious events, photographs, historical items, church books and musical instruments and much more. It was very colorful and packed with items. It was very nicely done and quite educational. The other group had a lengthy tour and we left with the tour still going on after more than 2.5 hours! Attended the Flower Show to see plants and flowers raised by loal gardeners as well as flower arrangements. I should have entered something!