More driving….got to Maychew (My-Chow), a small town, around 5 pm. Checked into a large white hotel, about 4 stories high. Brand new. Two desk clerks that looked around 15 checked us in, with much scrutiny of our VSO identification cards. The rooms were Spartan, with tile floors, double bed and a weak overhead light. We went out for dinner with CUSO-VSO volunteer Mike Bobeic – from Winnipeg! We met him at one of his favorite haunts, a little family-owned restaurant that smelled of kerosene (many Ethiopian restaurants do) and had a limited menu. Meat, meat and meat. I had their only other offering scrambled eggs. We also cracked open a bottle of Tej we had picked up on the way to Maychew. Tej is a honey wine and I was worried it would be syrupy, but the flavour was more like a sweet-ish, citrus fruit juice. Delicious! Mike has been in Maychew as an IT advisor for two years and has embraced the experience whole-heartedly. He entertained us for hours with stories about the college where he works, his Ethiopians friends, his “ferengie” pals in the Peace Corp stationed there, and mountain hiking.
We got up at 7:30 and met him for a hike. Winding up small dirt paths behind the town, we crossed a stream, giant cacti and women walking their donkeys and cattle home. A gorge, cut out by flooding waters during the wet season became our route as we made our way to waving fields of golden wheat and sorghum outside the community. Small-hold farmers were gathering the grain and many had their oxen out, stamping it down, separating out the chaff. Men with hand-hewn pitchforks made of tree branches lifted the wheat into the air repeatedly. Flying every which way, the grain slowly was being separated. Mike, a laughing, hearty soul, grabbed a pitchfork and joined them. Ethan got into the fray and snapped a million photos.
Mike is setting up a network system for the college, which will be one of the first in Ethiopia. He’s dedicated and has met many challenges along the way, such as getting budgets approved and equipment ordered, but it’s all coming together. It will be up and running by the time he leaves next year, and he’s hoping to come back on a consulting basis to help them out in the future. “Ethiopia is like Canada was in the mid-1990s. Everybody pooh-poohed the Internet then and look what happened. They have the same attitude about networks here right now, but it will explode in the next few years,” he told me. When his posting is over in a few months, he plans to come back as a consultant. “I want to be here on the ground floor when Ethiopia takes off.”