Category Archives for "VSO ICS"

‘A Day In The Life’ – Volunteering in Addis Ababa

It’s been a while! An incredible amount has happened since my last post and I’m far behind on my blogs.

This is a quick video I made yesterday on my mobile – Even the default Android video editor is pretty powerful! It was a fun test project to work on and I’ll be uploading some more about the work I’m doing with VSO on the ICS program soon.

A wedding in Nazreth


Through a great quirk of chance, the ICS program coincided with the first wedding in my host family in the past five years. Ethiopian weddings are an incredible spectacle, with celebrations lasting far longer than those seen back in the UK. Luckily enough, the main event was hosted in Nazreth (or Adama), a city around 100km outside Addis, offering me a chance to leave the capital for the first time.

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Life on the Nickel (VSO Allowance)

Yet again I’m hustlin’, hustlin’, hustlin’
but I can’t seem to catch a dime.

Every two weeks at the head office in the centre of Addis, VSO volunteers receive their spending allowance. This is for extraneous expenditure, aside from our accommodation and meals. Things like daily travel to the office, toiletries, phone cards, bottled water and social events. It’s 840 birr. At an exchange rate of 28.6 ETB to the pound, we get £29.37 every two weeks, almost £60 per month, or about £2 per day.

To put it in context our monthly allowance is the average starting salary for a university graduate, or enough to pay the monthly wages for two maids.

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In search of a doctor


Back in the UK, we’re actively discouraged from visiting the hospital, unless it’s a life or death emergency. I can probably count the number of times I’ve been taken to hospital on my hands. In Ethiopia however, GPs don’t exist in the same fashion.

For anything more serious than hay fever or sunburn, hospitals are the only places where you can receive medical treatment. So, after having a persistent cough for over three weeks during the ICS program, I decided to break my internal resistance against visiting the hospital for anything less than broken bones.

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Salam’no! T’ena yis t’illign?

Hello! How are you?

After our initial three lessons in Amharic, VSO volunteers have been let lose upon Addis Ababa and Hawassa. This has obviously resulted in some hilarious language related misunderstandings, including taxi drivers being told to find our parents (walaj alleh) instead of stopping (waraj alleh).

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How to travel in Addis


I’m now almost two weeks into my Ethiopian adventure, and Addis is slowly turning from a monolithic spiderweb of traffic, noise and dust to a slightly more tamable beast. There’s organisation within the chaos of any developing city, and it takes any visitor (or ferengi as we’re known) at least a week or two to see beyond the veil.

With first hand experience of Indian driving, I was surprised to find that, although unconventional, Ethiopia seems to have a much more friendly and organised roads systems. Pips on the horn are only used to signal an approaching vehicle and driving on the opposite side of the road is kept to a minimum. The same lack of respect to pedestrians applies, however. When walking on two feet, you’ll need to slowly wade into approaching traffic and just hope the drivers haven’t been chewing too much chat (a local natural drug) to see you.
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Welcome to Addis

Didn’t manage to get much sleep on the flight, but watched a beautiful sunrise.



Addis is an 8 hour plane journey and 3 hours ahead of UK time, and that’s before you add the complications of Ethiopian timekeeping! Daytime starts at 6AM, and counts upwards to 12, and then repeats at 6PM to create Ethiopian night time. It’s currently 12:34 or 6:34 day time.  We travelled from Bole airport to Addis Ababa university for 3 days of training. The Hawassa team have met their counterparts but the Addis counterparts are arriving a little later.

Here’s a quick pics of some volunteers and counterparts outside the cafe: