5.30 am and as the sun breaks over Choma Hill I am woken by the familiar Call to Prayer…. which means I am back in Mekelle. Here to escape the winter weather, along with a new knee which is improving all the time and an old knee which is steadily deteriorating – but performs better in the warm. I now know that a metal knee sets off the airport alarms – though they’re presumably used to it – one guard just looked at my middle aged wrinkles and said “hip?”
Back to the house and garden which has been neglected for the last 2 months – the dust and overgrowth had to be seen to be believed! Elias, who drives our car, was supposed to be looking after it – but he’s living at his mother’s place in Addis while the car is in the garage (more of that later).
My first job was to undertake fridge-rescue. Like an idiot I had left some food in the freezer which had experienced an extended power cut at some time so the contents had defrosted, gone off and then re-frozen. Ponged a bit but it could have been worse. The house was dusty, dusty, dusty….but a day or two of Flash and elbow grease has worked wonders but not on my hands. I am seriously considering getting some punk-style black nail polish (will I ever get them clean again?) I have persuaded the ants to go back to walking round the outside instead of all across the terrace and have done a hatchet job on the surviving pot plants – though I gather that the landlord took pity on them and watered occasionally.
Having nothing edible in the fridge I chipped myself a cube of semi-solid Nescafe to make a cuppa and decided to have some porridge … on opening the tin I changed my mind. An appetite-suppressing but fascinating sight! A couple of tiny white caterpillars were busy converting my oats into a white spiderweb-like latticework. I left them to it – but the question still remains in my head “were the insects already in the tin the last time I made porridge?” I will never know. I had some rather dusty non-infested pasta and cheese excavated from my suitcase. Since then I have been peering suspiciously into every dry goods container – so far I have spied nothing moving.
The garden is a work in progress – though it looks a lot better now I’ve gussied up the bananas – they are so untidy. I am thrilled to find that one of them is fruiting, I have never eaten my own home grown bananas – I hope they ripen. The rest I will do in short stages… lots of leaf gathering, dead heading the enormous geraniums and trying to control the type of tropical grass which snakes across the ground to trip you up and when you pull it is 2 metres long. None of your prissy lawn stuff here. Of course an early job was to reinstate my purple chairs under the palm trees – after all that hard work a girl has to have somewhere for that relaxing gin and tonic, and the sun is shining which makes it all seem less of a chore.
But more of the car, poor old ‘Boris’ is in the Nissan garage in Addis having some really nasty dents knocked out, the mechanics checked and all the glass replaced. Elias (who is an excellent driver) apparently swerved to avoid a mentally handicapped boy who simply walked into the road – and he hit the ditch, rolling over on one of the mountain roads. He was working on a tourist trip as staff support car so there was him, the cook, the pathfinder and the police guard – but amazingly the four of them all walked away with just a few scratches. The roof rack would have been loaded halfway to the sky with equipment… so it must have been quite a sight with pots and pans, sleeping bags, mattresses, plastic stools etc etc scattered over the hillside. The policeman made out a witness report so the insurance company is footing the bill – though I shudder to think what it will do to next year’s premium.
Elias is having to liaise (daily it seems) between the garage and the insurance office as the garage won’t order any part or do any work until they get the money up front. But the insurance will only pay for one job/ part at a time, then he has to prove that the work has been done before getting a quote/ release for the next item. There is no system like ours of an agreed price for repair between insurer and garage. Here neither trusts the other so everything takes a long time and a lot of negotiation. In true Ethiopian fashion Elias remains sanguine, but I hope the car is ready for the main tourist period starting soon as it is supposed to earn its keep.