Wednesday, April 20, 2011
This year the Easter Holiday has grown into a 5 day holiday, starting tonight (its Thursday here already)!!
We normally have a 4 day holiday – with Good Friday and Easter Monday being added to the weekend as public holiday but this year another traditional holiday collides with the Easter – ANZAC Day – and so that holiday is on the Monday and Easter Monday is on the Tuesday – o in effect we have Friday, Sat, Sun, Mon and Tuesday as holiday!!
Some places will be open – the larger supermarkets and so forth – and in the tourist areas, restaurants etc, but a lot will close.
A lot of people like to go away for Easter and having the extra day had compounded that – the roads in this area are already chocka – and there have been crashes from impatience ad speed!!
This morning I slipped into town to pick up some fresh fruit and veg and catch a Curves Zumba class – and it was already busy in the shops. Everyone in a hurry, pushing and shoving everywhere!!
Then we went home by the ferry terminal and the 4WDs were 3 deep lined out of the gates – maybe 100 waiting!! It will be all day before they all get over there!! And we were home and unpacked by 9.00am!!
We are on the mainland just over the water is Fraser Island – the biggest sand island in the word and a big tourist drawcard. It is a very popular place for people to go for Easter though its far nicer as far as I am concerned when there are less people there!! It will be very crowded over the holiday!!
We are hibernating in our own house and grounds – as we always do for the holiday – the next trip I will make to town will be on Wednesday next!!
So I hope you all have a very Happy Easter – and a healthy, enjoyable one too
Saturday, April 16, 2011
As I go around Sparkpeople – I often check out blogs and status statements. Although there are some people who are definitely making an effort I am left wondering what the others are doing??
I realise that the Sparkpeople principal is that if you eat something off your program you forget it and get back to program at the next meal!!
This works in some cases, however, time and time again I see people who have eaten right off program on one day, then say they feel ill as a result, then the next day, and in many cases the day after, they repeat the same thing again!!
Why?? I am fairly sure this is not what Sparkpeople mean.
We all go off program occasionally but not every day, time after time!!
Weight loss takes time, effort and sacrifice by the person doing it!! No matter how much information is available to you on this site – and there is a huge library of wonderful information available – it is YOU that needs to actually make that effort to commit!!
Certainly at the start of my commitment I made a lot of sacrifices. It has got easier in the time I have been working on it – now the program is a total way of life – it has become almost reflex and I don’t eat off the program even if I go out!! I chose places where suitable menus are available!! Friends now know I am serious – they serve suitable food or ask me to meet them at the pool, or in the park instead of basing a social occasion on food.
But, I can hear you say, its easy for you now – they can see that you are committed to succeeding!!
Stop and think for a moment about that statement – If I hadn’t made the commitment at the start, if I hadn’t made the necessary sacrifices and changes and kept to the program at the start , if day after day I had eaten what I wanted. If I had said, “Oh well! Tomorrow is another day” then what would I have to show for it?? Would my family be backing me still, and would my friends be backing me?? I don’t think so!! This is not to say I was and still am always perfect – Never!! However its an ODD occasion, then straight back on program – and I have my results to help keep me on track!!
Had I not made that initial commitment – there would be no results !!
The same now with exercise – I get up in the morning and exercise - its like another part of getting dressed, like cleaning teeth, or doing hair!! Even if I go to Curves, and whether I go or not depends on whether I have to go to town since petrol cost has sky rocketed, I still do at least 1 DVD first thing!!
However I feel so very sad for those who are for ever going off program – each time off is more junk for the body to cope with, more bad habits to try to over write in the brain. Each time getting back is harder, requires more effort, more commitment!! So often – this ends up proving too hard – and they end up giving up!!
Saturday, April 16, 2011
The photos in this part of my blog were taken by my Father and he also labeled them—as I cannot ask him to identify them, I am hoping the places as labeled are correct.
During the long holiday—at the end of my first year , my parents flew out and we hired a car and driver/guide/security person (he was all one!!) and traveled a bit— to see different areas of the country. The car was a large Mercedes sedan, but it ran well on the rough, unsurfaced roads.
The first place we went to was Lake Tana—the lake that is credited with being the start of the Blue Nile—which, with the White Nile flows down stream to give rise to the mighty Nile River.
Lake Tana was North of Addis Ababa.
Then we headed over towards Eritrea—past the most religious town in Ethiopia , Lalibela with its churches carved out of rock, past the Semien mountains and to the edge of the Danakil depression to see a salt lakes. There was unrest (basically political unrest) in the area but we never had cause to feel unsafe, though we passed a couple of local people on the road with rifles slung over their shoulder.
Looking back towards Lake Tana—and that could be The Semien Mountains in the background.
The drought was starting to be more noticeable as we went North.
As we drove along we saw some interesting things
Since there was no feed available they had to walk the cows along the road so the cows could get what little they could find.
We saw camels by the road as we headed North
And people waiting for a bus or other transport—the road is surfaced here so this will be the main North road.
And outside a village the donkeys being bought in loaded with firewood to sell at market. They used the wood to make charcoal for cooking.
Then we approached the lake we were heading for—that had salt—salt that used to be collected and sold.
As we walked towards the lake the ground glistened under our feet and was crisp to walk on.
It was very low here and hot!! Very Hot!!
One of the lakes here, in the Danikil Depression is—155m or –500ft (below sea level) the lowest place in the world and the year round temperature varies from 25C (77F) to 48C (118F) which makes it one of the hottest places in the world.
Only one river flows into the Depression—The Awash River and this ends in a series of lakes., the salt being formed by evapouration of the water by the heat.
A lot of fossils have been found here.
We were only on the edge of it and it was hot—so we got out fast—leaving it behind to go to Harar.
Harar is a very old city with walls. The old city is within the walls, but there are newer parts outside. It was the old city that was fascinating for us. There are supposed to be 33,000 people or there about living in this small area of a square km or so. But the narrow streets aren’t crowded,
There are many Mosques and the house where Haile Selassie grew up is within this area.
One of the gates into the old city.
Inside the gates, in the old city of Harar.
A market in front of a Mosque
A street inside the old city
Outside the walls, looking along them. Its amazing how thick they are.
The night we stayed in Harar we came outside the walls after dark, to see the Wild Dogs (Hyena) feeding. They are timid, strange looking animals and this was the first time I had seen them, though I had heard them often before. There were numbers throughout the country then —sadly their numbers have been decimated with drought and starvation to the point that they, like many African animals, are endangered.
We then headed back to Addis Ababa—over some rough unsurfaced roads
Past more signs of drought and the impending disaster (drought and famine) , that was to come to the notice of the rest of the world not long after this.
And past a couple of interesting looking villages, that shall remain nameless—because I can’t remember their names, and the slides weren't labeled!!
Until we got to Addis Ababa—and then continued on South a bit to a Resort on the Rift Valley with a gorgeous Rift Valley Lake
The town of Debra Zeit.
I had the chance to swim in the Lake and found it warm, and rather like swimming in fizzy lemonade. It was extremely buoyant and actually hard to swim as I tended to be too high in the water and my legs kicked air instead of water!!
An interesting experience though!!
There was a market in town that we enjoyed an hour or so wandering round.
And then we headed back to Addis Ababa, my parents to the UK and me to the school for my second year in Jimma.
At the end of my second year there, during my long holiday, I dropped into the UK Embassy in Addis Ababa to be told it was advised that we leave as there had been intelligence that an uprising was imminent!! It was July 1971.
I decided to take their advice and returned to UK. As I left Addis—we could hear gun fire from somewhere in Addis Ababa, though it was a year or so before the uprising really took hold!!
Next week I will start a new series on my next job in Zambia. Africa—yes—but so very different from Ethiopia.
Monday, April 11, 2011
To those of you who think that making the necessary lifestyle changes is too hard, or would interfere with your lifestyle.
When I was younger, actually all my life – I was overweight – and made an odd attempt to lose weight – as I did for the rest of my life until this time (several odd attempts actually – some serious) but in reality I was having a great time – I was travelling a lot, I was healthier than I deserved to be with the weight I was carrying, I was running about having fun with boyfriends and generally living life to the full and probably a bit more too!!
Every now and then my Doctor and my parents would say that I needed to control my weight, it would come back to bite me – and I’d make another attempt but they never seemed to work – but then life was good too and weight loss got in the way, besides I was fit and healthy so what could happen??!! I never cared nor thought about the future, or more correctly my lifestyle in the future!! The “now” was more important!!
To fast forward to “now” – I have no teeth – they have all gone had – and I need false ones – but there is an 8yr waiting list!! So I carry on looking like an old krone!!
I have severe osteoarthritis in both knees – my knees have collapsed inward and I am staring at a double knee replacement – and have been told that will take a year before I can exercise and do Zumba again fully, not to mention the 4 yrs wait to even see a specialist to talk about the op!!
I cannot walk far, though this is better than it was – I will never walk far till my knees are done – I need a scooter – and that has its own mobility problems as it needs a trailer to take it into town and my DH has to load and unload – and at 82 that is hard for him!! I have to take the scooter on holiday too and that is worse than having to take the kitchen sink!!
Then I need to ensure that all places we stay away from home are handicapped friendly!!
In the end one just gives up and doesn’t go away!!
Another problem - its hard to get up steps – and getting down is worse – and when one goes out, to a friends house – often there are steps – and then there are the chairs – if they are too low I can’t get up!!
And then there is driving and independence – I have to have a medical every year and because my eyes are deteriorating because of the diabetes I will lose my licence in the next year or so, We live 10miles out of the town, with no public bus service – so in effect that means I will have to rely on my DH to take me everywhere – so my independence is gone!!
And I am only 67yrs old!!
It goes on – so many things that are difficult now – and why??
Because I didn’t lose weight when I was younger and my weight led to type2 diabetes and between them the weight and the diabetes have caused so many problems to my life now!!
Yes I am losing the weight – yes, to a certain degree I am reclaiming my life – but my knees will never go back, never heal by themselves, my teeth will never grow back, my eyes will never get sharper and although I have dropped both my blood sugar and blood pressure to normal levels and am maintaining them – I need to be checked for the rest of my life as the level can creep up again even with a healthy diet and exercise!!
I know you are thinking these things might have happened anyway – or other things – I agree – life carries no guarantees, but I do know that without the extra weight my body would have been a lot happier and I might even have lived life at 150% !!
So – if you are thinking about losing weight – do it now – don’t let life intrude and put you off – and hopefully you will enjoy a healthy retirement, free from at least some of the problems that overweight brings!!
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
By 1971, I was getting itchy feet again when I saw an advertisement for teachers wanted in Ethiopia!! Rush to Atlas—OK—once I found it was on the Horn of Africa it sounded like fun, !! Visions of David Livingstone flashed across my mind!! Wow!! Was I wrong!!
I had this interview in Central London—in a very tatty old building that was the Ethiopian Embassy HQ. I was afraid of using the lift, it was really old and rattled. Then I was asked a few questions by a couple of dark people that looked different from what I had envisaged, much finer boned and carried themselves proudly. Then one of them looked at me and asked if I could run up the stairs—I did—and discovered that was the medical exam!!
So after finishing teaching the school year at my UK school I set off to a country I knew nothing of.
The journey was “interesting” We flew to Uganda, landing on the roughest runway I have ever experienced—all the oxygen masks fell out!!
There we were off loaded into the transit lounge—a small tin shed that was soooo hot!! There were about 10 chairs and we were left there for several hours. Then we were loaded onto the Ethiopian plane—and landed at Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa sits at an altitude – 2355m (7726.4ft) and its very noticeable—I felt puffed at once. However I should say that I didn’t notice it after a short time.
photo is the centre of Addis Ababa
This is Africa Hall—it was opened in 1963 and at its opening by Emperor Haile Selassie—he described it as “ an inspiring symbol of the noble aspirations of the African people."
It is where the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is headquartered as well as most UN offices in Ethiopia. It is also the site of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which eventually became the African Union
The striking window is to commemorate the opening of the hall by Emporor Haile Selassie.
While I was in Addis Ababa I learnt a bit about the history of a country that has a very extensive history. I have tried to give a potted version here—the history is woven into everything throughout the country, but not in a dry dusty way, as a living history. Though in another way—it was a very dry dusty country as the huge, tragic drought was just starting to bite!!
Ethiopia is a land of contrasts – of ancient history and more modern problems of uprising and famine. It is a totally land-locked country, totally unlike any other.
The people are very beautiful—very fine boned and very proud. They carry themselves proudly and are proud of their country. It didn’t matter if they were poor beyond belief, living such a hard life as most Westerners couldn’t begin to understand —they had their pride. The time I spent there made me re-assess just what is important in life.
Some of the highest mountains on the African Continent – the jagged Simien Mountains, which are World Heritage sights – are here as are some of the lowest areas – the very hot Danakil Depression – with its sulphur holes and strange lunar landscape.
Ethiopia is old, beyond imagination – as Abyssinia its traditions and beliefs date back over 3000yrs. Even before that there is record of “Dinkenesh” meaning “Thou art wonderful” as she is known there (she is also known as “Lucy” or Australopithecus). She is estimated to have lived 3.2mil years ago. Her remains have been found in a corner of Ethiopia, and sit now in the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa.
The Emperor succeeds to the throne by birth and they believe it is a divine right. As such he is all-powerful. The line of succession has come down from times long gone by.
More recently Haile Selassie came to power. He started the modernization of the country in 1916 when he was made a “ras” and was made Emperor in 1930. He played a leading role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity.
Ethiopia has been an independent country for always – except for a very short time when it was occupied by the Italians from 1936 – 1941. There is still a strong Italian influence in the country. During the occupation, in 1935 Haile Selassie came to world wide notice when he made an impassioned speech to the League of Nations. British forces together with Ethiopian Patriots liberated Ethiopia as part of the East African Campaign in 1941.
In 1942 a bill was passed outlawing slavery.
In 1952 the Federation of Ethiopia was formed though this was dissolved in 1962.
Although Haile Selassie was seen as a national figure, opinion within the country was turning mostly as a result of the world wide oil crisis of 1973, food shortages, uncertainty regarding succession, border wars and middle class discontent.
His reign came to an end in 1974 when he was deposed by a Soviet backed military junta and a one party communist state was formed.
The main religion in Ethiopia is Ethiopian Orthodox—Coptic Christian—and they even use a different calendar—the Ge'ez calendar—which has 12 months of 30 days plus 7 spare days—in effect a 13th month. As far as I was concerned that meant that we were allowed our Christmas Day off—and then got holidays for the Ethiopian Christmas in about mid January!! There were also many Muslims there.
It is said that a visit to Ethiopia is like a window directly into the Old Testament, in no other country is it possible to find ones self so dramatically transported back in time or to participate in the sacred rituals of an archaic faith.
As well as getting used to a different calendar—there was a different language. The official language is Amharic—but there are a zillion different languages, or dialects in different areas.
Amharic is written in strange characters and, though I learnt a few (very few) words of Amharic—I never learnt to read or write it!!
Their local dialect, of which there are many throughout Ethiopia, Amharic, Italian, and a bit of English were used in the area I was in.
By now you should be getting a feeling for the vastly different country that I had come to— and I was feeling as if I had been transported way back in history – with the addition of an odd modern, or semi-modern convenience.
I had been posted to Jimma—to a brand new Teacher Training Institute, that had been built and equipped by The World Bank., as aid to under developed countries.
This is an old “Gooney Bird” as we used to call them—A Douglas DC3—it was a mighty aircraft—landing on airfields that other planes wouldn’t have a chance of—as it needed a very short landing space and take off length. Often the runways were in the most difficult positions. I knew of one on top of a mountain that if the plane had “missed” it would have fallen off the mountain!!
This was a real introduction to the country I had come to—the plane had canvas slung seats round the edge, facing in—and they loaded the passengers then threw the “luggage” into the middle—this might include anything from cases to boxes to chicken and goats (live) - but we all flew together, and many times through tropical thunder storms with lightening flashing all round!! Amazingly they had an incredibly good safety record.
I flew on that plane up and down from Addis to Jimma many times in the 2 years I was there, Since it flew fairly low we could see a lot of the country we were flying over.
The main road to Jimma from Addis Ababa—yes its unsurfaced!! And Jimma town from the air.
Jimma lies south west from Addis Ababa—about 330km (205 miles) down a very rough road that certainly was not an all weather road. At the time I was there it was an 8hr or more drive. Because of the state of the roads and the fact that one drives on the right—or as near to it as possible, I didn’t have my own car for the 2 years I was here.
Jimma is at an altitude of 1676m (5499ft) so lower than Addis—but certainly well above sea level.
Jimma is the largest town in the South west—and used to be the capital city of Kaffir, named because it was the chief coffee growing area in the country (when I was there) but the provinces have since been dissolved.
The donkey park—when people rode their donkey to town (they used donkeys instead of horses often) they “parked “them on the outskirts then went into town, and after they had done what they came for—they collected their donkey and off they went.
View of the hills outside Jimma—they show some green still but look very dry too.
My land lady in Jimma grew coffee. A lot of coffee comes from Ethiopia—Arabica beans are very famous and excellent. The Ethiopian coffee bean is in demand in the Western World as the quality is very high.
She used to always have some beans drying outside on racks in the sun and then they were rubbed clean, roasted over charcoal heaters and made into coffee to drink, which we did—lots of it!!.
Coffee beans growing and—the coffee bean
I was to work at the Teacher Training Institute—firstly unpacking equipment and setting it up as it was a brand new institute, and then teaching . The TTI was on a hill a bit outside the town.
I found somewhere to live, just down the road from the TTI.—I had the unit furthest from the camera!! It consisted iof a single room for sleeping etc with a very rudimentary kitchen and bathroom out the back—in the open corridor that went the length of the building. It was a place to sleep and work—and the woman who owned the units was very nice and I often ate with her. She was Ethiopian but had been married to an Italian and had an Ethiopian/Italian son about my age (single and good looking!!). Her husband had gone back to Italy. She was the one person who really helped me to understand the traditions, customs and differences in this wonderful, but very different country.
The TTI at Jimma, as you can see it was only just finished
Work at the TTI—since it was so new the students were expected to make the pathways etc—and when they were thirsty from working in the hot sun—they had a drink “waiter” who got water from a trailer of water that was bought in and filled their mugs—no disposable cups here—just enamel mugs!!
The covered area at the back of the picture is the “students laundry” and as you can see the paths are still being made.
I was always impressed by how much the students wanted to learn, by their enthusiasm and by their hard work.
For the second year of teaching I was transferred to the High school. It was in town, where as the TTI had been on a hill outside the town, so I needed accommodation nearer town, I rented a lovely flat from the same land lady.
My house girl wearing the Ethiopian National dress—a shamma.
She looked after my house and me for both years I was in Ethiopia.
I had one out of 4 flats in this building—beautifully finished, typical Italian. Tiled floors and well fitted kitchen and bathroom. The main thing was that there was no water—lovely taps and bath in bathroom, water loo, , sink in kitchen—but NO running water.!!
We are used to reticulated safe water in the developed countries, but there was none of that here. We bought water in 4gal kerosene cans—that the water sellers got from the river. A lot of things happened in the river!! The water was murky browny colour and smelt!!
The river was the bathroom for the local people—they washed themselves, did their clothes washing, children played and washed their animals there, and the water sellers collected water and sold it to the houses from there, to be used for drinking and all other purposes!!
All drinking and cooking water, even water to brush out teeth was boiled for 25 min and filtered before use!! It worked—I was OK during my stay, probably got immune to diseases!!
It does teach one to conserve a precious resource though and to appreciate the supply of clean water in the Developed World.
I doubt that, though there have been changes in Ethiopia, they have good clean drinking water freely available even yet!!
It would be very remiss of me not to mention the huge part the girls and boys from the USA Peace Corps played in Ethiopia while I was there. They often dropped into our flat for a weekend break, and I was lucky enough to tag along with them on vaccination runs on a couple of occasions, so I saw their work first hand.
They traveled to the most inaccessible places, in very difficult conditions vaccinating everyone they could catch (literally) against smallpox. It was because of their fantastic effort that smallpox was almost completely eradicated., at least in Ethiopia. They were a wonderful group, great fun, the ones I met, and extremely hard working!!
The US should be very proud of them and their efforts.
I am sure the experiences they gained during their stay there, will have in some way influenced and enriched the rest of their lives, as mine have done for me.
It crossed my mind that it would be so strange, but not impossible, for any of them to be reading this now!!
The High School was much the same as the TTI—but I taught English as a foreign language as well. We also were expected to teach any subject that was needed if teachers were absent!! This got difficult if it was an Amharic class!!
We had a bit of a distraction here—since the buildings were surrounded by trees—a family of Colobus Monkeys lived locally. These are beautiful black and white monkeys with a long white tail and a very showy white cape that lifted as they jumped and looked spectacular. The monkeys used to gallop across the metal roofs of the buildings and every so often a face, or two would appear at the window. Very amusing and off putting!!
Colobus “pupils” in the tree by the school. They were very inquisitive.
Moving tables and chairs from one room to another in school!! We never had enough - so we "pinched" them from the other rooms, sometimes the students took their own tables and chairs from class to class with them.
Slightly further south was the town of Gambella situated on the Baro River. I was lucky enough to get a ride down to see this town with a Peace Corps vehicle. It was a truly authentic example of an Ethiopian village.
The River Baro at Gambella
Gambella where there were lots of “tuckles” in the town area
An authentic “tukle” is a native home—one room circular—mud brick walls, thatched roof—often protected by a thorn fence round the group of houses.
While I was in Jimma I was extremely fortunate to be invited to a fellow teacher’s wedding. The bride was very shy and they rarely have many photos, though a few of their friends took some—but I was able to get these.
The first is the bride and groom, and the second the Bride’s wedding party.
Unfortunately (but naturally) the service was in Amharic and a Coptic Christian service and I couldn’t understand a word of it!!
Next week as I travel round parts of Ethiopia by car and the drought becomes more obvious so does the history of the country.
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