Hi all, Just writing in to say that I’m fine here in Addis. We’re all tucked up safe in ILRI and are hearing things through the BBC website. I’ll be in touch with more news soon.

Update on the Actual Day (added 11/5/05):

So when Loza Mesfin, the coordinator at ILRI for the workshop, comes in on Monday [ETA: TUesday–sorry, my days are getting all mixed up] morning she apologizes because she’s late because apparently there’s been a bit of a disturbance in town—political stuff. No worries though it’ll probably blow over. OK, no problem. So we talk about arrangements and the local Muslim holiday (Eid–end of Ramadan), which is apparently set by a lunar sighting so they won’t announce until tonight or sometime when the actual holiday falls (apparently in other places they just set it to a particular day). So we go over the agenda, make a few changes in logistics (and a few back up plans in case my voice fails), and have lunch. I begin the pattern of having too much to eat by getting the lamb stew with vegetables and potatoes and then getting all billy badass and deciding to have injera and a dessert too. Can’t finish it and feel bad since everybody else has wiped their plates and I’m sure I’ve committed some kind of international faux pas.

We go back work and have a meeting with three representatives of an NGO called Aidworld. They’re in Ethiopia working on another phase of their project to bring lightweight/low bandwidth websites (called Low Band I believe) to the developing world (they started in Kenya) and also to test out need for and reception for a possible lightweight webmail client (to prevent the Hotmail and Yahoo users from using up nearly half the bandwidth in Internet cafes and make it much cheaper and easier to send text-based email). We had a good chat and they got a lot of useful information from Gracian and Vimbai as did we. They are going to sit in on the workshops to see how connectivity runs institutionally and to talk to the participants about connectivity at their institutions (nearly all Ethiopian). They were also interested in my assessment of AGORA since they will also probably be doing a review of AGORA and HINARI for bandwidth optimization, tech support and skills needs (IL-wise).

I go back to my e-mail feeling like everything’s under control when Steve (Glover from the UK, another one of the facilitators) comes in and says he’s read that people were killed during the rioting (I think he said 13 at first) and a bunch more were injured. I’m getting ready to post to my blog and thinking, man that’s awful, but then more selfishly, geez Mom is going to freak out if she hears this. So I quickly post to the blog a message that I’m fine.

Because it’s office closing time, we pack up and head off to the club with the guys and I’m starting to think about things as we walk through late afternoon sunshine on a beautiful day where we can hear the recording of the muezzin’s call to prayer and I’m thinking people were just shot in political demonstrations not so far away and that’s just wrong and a little unsafe (I’ve never been that close to political violence which isn’t close at all) and I can’t contact my mother who’s probably worrying. So I go into the apartment, tell myself to calm down and get a grip because Andrews’ will not dissolve in the face of minor political unrest, which is not even in the near vicinity. I go outside and Gracian tells me that international calls can’t be made after office hours (which this is, not that it occurred to me because I didn’t think I could make calls from that phone anyway) and I start to talk about how mom is going to freak out and very very embarrassingly I cry a little bit. Yes, cry. Shut up! Just tearing, uncontrolled yes but minor. And I’m betting Gracian was thinking “Oh my God they’ve saddled me with this green American girl who cries at the first sign of distant political unrest,” but he was very nice about it as I got myself under control. Thinking about it, his situation is worse in that he is away ffrom his wife, two daughters and the 12-week-old baby boy he hasn’t been able to see much of because he’s been travelling.

I think it’s that bit where you realize that you’re not in Kansas and you’ve known that and you’ve been fine but sometimes the strangeness and terribleness overwhelms you and you just want your mother and you can’t get her and then the guesthouse attendant comes out and tells you that your mother called and they told her you were fine and settled in but you can’t talk to her which just drives the point home that you are far from whatever you know. So minor freak out. . .Bound to happen in any trip:)

So then we all go to the club and have soda and beer (12 birr (about $1.20) a round for 4 people, which you can’t beat with a stick) and then to dinner where we talked about sports (cricket and soccer/football are big and Vimbai and Steve are big fans) and politics and how bad the situation in Zimbabwe is (300% inflation in the last three months and they’re having to get together in clubs to import tankers of fuel–there is no Hallmark card saying for sorry your country’s so screwed)

The situation was not without its aspects of comedy (heck we were all laughing about the absurdity of the troubles in Zimbabwe, which seems to be a common theme around here–you’ve got to laugh or you’ll cry). And during dinner, I get up suddenly to go to the bathroom and the dining room attendant woman (or whatever her function was) leaps up and asks me if I’m OK and if she can do anything for me and I just shrug awkwardly and say no I’m just going to go out for a minute. And dead silence falls as I leave and I’m in the bathroom and another attendant lady asks if I am OK and I just shrug uncomfortably and she gives me a knowing look (as does everybody when I return to the room and they ask if I’m OK). Yeah, good times, good times. . .