Addis Ababa, week 1

I’ve completed my first week in Ethiopia. I’ve spent most of the time working with the ecbp team behind the project. This week, we have been preparing laptops for distribution and have completed the first round of teacher training at a local school.

It is difficult to appreciate just how simple this school is. The classrooms are bare, with nothing more than desks, chairs, a blackboard and sometimes a sink. It will be an interesting contrast to see children using high-tech XO laptops in this environment.

I never know what to comment on when people ask for my opinion on the area. My hotel is in a newer part of town, on a busy road. Blue-and-white taxi buses fly past, breaking every rule of the roads that I’m used to, with someone hanging out of the window shouting out the destination. Many vehicles are old and the petrol fumes are a little unpleasant, and combined with the light air at this altitude it is hard to get used to breathing while on the road-side. Ethiopian children swarm around you, trying to sell chewing gum and clean your shoes. The local food is nice, and extremely cheap, but a bit too much of the same to have all the time.

There is more industry here than you might expect, but I think it is heavily propped up by foreign aid. During a conversation with a local about the country in general, he made the amusing remark that he views Ethiopians as lesser successful than people in the west because Ethiopians are generally lazy and get nice weather all the time!

Amharic is an interesting language. Thanks to a patient coworker, I’ve picked up some basic phrases, can count to 39, and have acquired some basic understanding of the Ge’ez alphabet. Vowels only exist as suffixes to consonants, so there is a nice mapping from written form to pronounciation. Other interesting differences include the calendar (it’s new year 2001 in Ethiopia, and there are 13 months in a year), and the time system (00:00 is sunrise, not midnight). Sometimes I don’t know whether to believe the people who tell me this!

After spending almost all of my time working this week, I ventured out today and saw some more of the city. It was interesting to see the older districts, more typical of the area. I confronted my fear of the aforementioned taxis (assisted by a friend!) and practiced my minimal Amharic.

On Monday, I will visit a school a little out of town. I’ll be observing the teacher training, then I’ll assist with Wednesday’s deployment of 650 laptops to the students.

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5 Responses to “Addis Ababa, week 1”

  1. disa Says:

    Hi,
    I wanted to ask you how do you connect in ethiopia on the ETC’s dialup with linux, as my last attempt on may this year failed with some “loopback detected” error.
    Anyway, it’s true that they start counting the time at 6am!! and that it’s 2001!so weird :-D
    (I’ll be in Ethiopia next week (from mon 29 sep) to setup a gentoo server in our addis’ office, and I’d realy like to se the XO developement! or maybe just have a beer :-)

  2. Daniel Drake Says:

    I’m using broadband, I think. At both the hotel and office I have an ethernet connection to the internet. so I don’t know about dialup.

    Email me nearer the time and we’ll meet.

  3. Tom Says:

    If you’re honest you’d also realize that there are many things these people could do to improve said school themselves. Clean it would be a good start.

    By the look of their clothes I seriously doubt their appartments lack a tv.

  4. dsd’s weblog » Blog Archive » Ethiopia’s second OLPC deployment Says:

    [...] a school in Addis Ababa. The school itself is similar to another local school that I wrote about in my first week, although smaller (approximately 1000 students, rather than [...]

  5. BuzzMoo.com » Blog Archive » Update from Ethiopia Says:

    [...] for the past half a month working on that country’s first OLPC XO deployment. He now has a great series of posts covering his (continuing) time there, full of impressions, insights and photos. Some interesting [...]

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