Thursday, May 01, 2008

Once again, money is coming up as an issue here. A lot of volunteers find our salary of about 1600 Birr a month insufficient. I sympathize, but I can’t help feeling a bit judgmental too. We are volunteers after all, not UN staff. And I am here as much because I know I need to have less as because I know others need to have more. I do crave certain things – decent chocolate, decent toilets, but overall I find it pretty easy to manage here on the salary I get. To some extent I think I can be tolerant to a fault. But this is an opportunity to live a simpler lifestyle, and one would reasonably be expected to embrace it.

Today is May 1, a meaningless holiday here but still a day off work, which works well as it is also the feast day for Georgis church where I live. So people have been pouring into this part of town all day and filling the houses with music, food and suaw (homemade alcohol).

There are students from Axum University staying at the college this week while they do practicums at the high school. Unlike at teachers’ colleges, students at universities come from across the country, and so usually speak Amharic or other languages rather than Tigrigna. I was reminded of how insular Tigray (and especially Adwa) is when I was at a cafĂ© yesterday. One of the Amharic-speaking students needed a friend to translate as he tried to communicate with the waitress about what juice was available. Iit was a conversation I could have handled, and I suspect the need for the translator was more about the student’s need to keep a line between Amhara and Tigray than about any real language gap.