Yesterday I took a taxi to Churchill Avenue, near the oldest district of Addis (which was only built in the 1880s) and had a long walk back to Bole Road. On Churchill Avenue there are lots of shops selling Ethiopian handicrafts, many of which are beautiful, but where the owners come and hassle you with no respite. This kind of thing makes me very unlikely to buy anything. There were also some amusingly tacky and weird gifts, including keyrings with a photo of Ethiopia’s PM, Meles Zenawi and the caption “Long Life”, and T-shirts with pictures of Tewodros II, the emperor who was in fact a bit of a tyrant, but who has something approaching heroic status here due largely to his symbolically defiant end (suicide rather than surrender to foreign enemies) and his fight to the end against a superior British force. Then there were two strange reminders of Ethiopia’s recent Communist history – a massive monument to Cuban-Ethiopian friendship, in characteristically bombastic Communist style, all red stars, hammers and sickles, and noble workers striding purposefully into the future.
Then the darker side – a recently-opened museum at the corner of Meskel Square, a monument to the ‘martyrs of the Red Terror’. In 1977 Mengistu, feeling confident and secure in his position now that he had murdered most of his opponents within the Derg, made a speech in which he threw a bottle of blood to the ground below, signalling the time for his newly-armed militias to go around killing his opponents. The museum estimates that the Derg killed as many as 500,000 Ethiopians over the remaining years of their power, and that does not count the million or so who died in a famine in Tigray that was as much the result of Mengistu using hunger as a weapon against the TPLF as it was of drought. No details are spared of the tortures inflicted on opposition figures, and the museum is dotted with haunting black-and-white mugshots of those who were arrested, another reminder of the strange tendency of monstrous governments to obsessively document their own crimes. It was a sobering hour or so, and prompted me to pick up some books on the period when I walked past an English-language bookshop later that afternoon. It was also very strange to see, in among the self-help manuals and ‘secrets of successful businessmen’ books, a copy of Asser’s Life of King Alfred. I find it hard to see a demand for Anglo-Saxon literature in Addis Ababa, but then again I was surprised to hear Berhe, my guide in Tigray, tell me that his favourite film was A Cock and Bull Story, so perhaps it is time just to ready myself to be continually surprised.
I am doing OK, though getting very glum about the fact that none of these job contacts or applications seem to be going anywhere at all. The Nairobi thing is stil working its way through Save the Children’s global HR department, and might yield an internship – but apart from that, none of the contacts I brought with me or made here have got me anywhere so far. The main problems are threefold: firstly, that I have no experience, secondly that I have limited time here, and thirdly, perhaps, that I’m not quite sure what I’m after. Is the main priority to find development work (in which case I’m not doing well) or new work of any kind? Is it to stay in Ethiopia regardless of whether the job is right (in which case teaching is my best chance, but would still feel like a step backwards)? Or is it to have some time away and a holiday or sorts (in which case, what am I doing wasting my time jobhunting)?
It does look likely that if I wait here long enough, eventually I will make the right contacts and be in the right place at the right time. The trouble is that it’s very difficult to do that when you also have to worry about money, especially given that my landlord has not yet
paid back my deposit. I’m also going to have to get back to the UK when planned rather than staying on, so I can see my family (I’m going to miss my Grandad’s funeral), and also to attend the interview for the Quaker job in Brussels. So staying on indefinitely without work is not really an option. In any case, the various options that might keep me here longer – namely the teaching jobs – are not really very attractive unless I can get a decently-paid job in an international school, and it’s the wrong time of year for that, though the teacher at the British International School who couldn’t show me around because of illness is now better, and says he will put in a good word for me to his Director. She might apparently be looking for someone to do one-to-one EAL tuition, very much like what I did in my first teaching job in London. I have said no to the One Planet job – It’s the wrong kind of school, and I’m also not keen on primary teaching, while I also don’t think I can in good conscience accept a job like that knowing that I will jump ship when the right development internship comes my way.
I’ve spoken to people that the Cambridge careers service put me in touch with who started their careers in development with just turning up in the right place at the right time, including someone who is now working for the UN. So I know it can work out. But when it doesn’t feel as though you’re in either the right place or the right time, your confidence gets knocked, and that’s the last thing that you need when trying to network, pick up contacts, and actually trying to persuade people that you are worth taking a punt on. I’m practically down to going and knocking on organisations’ doors at the moment, and that’s leaving more to chance than is ideal.