Tuesday, February 21, 2006

H5N1 is welcome in Ethiopia

Photo: rift valley birds frolicking with domestic cattle in a wetland near Lake Chamo.

A few months ago I was at a governmental office on work related visit. The time was around when all government offices were undergoing evaluation and “reshuffling” of workers. While waiting for the official I was there to see, I witnessed this conversation between two secretaries:

ጸሀፊ 1 :የሰራተኞች ግምገማ ሪፖርት ወጣ አሉ”

[S1: “the new employee evaluation reports are here”]

ጸሀፊ 2 :ተይኝ ባክሽ ሰምቻለሁ”

[S2: “leave me alone, I have already heard about it”]

ጸሀፊ 1 :ሌላስ ምን ሰማሽ?”

[S1: “what else have you heard?”]

ጸሀፊ 2 (እያለቀሰች):“ምነው ይሔ በዜና እሚወራው የወፍ በሽታ ገብቶ ሁላችንን በጨረሰን”

[S2 (bursting into tears): “I wish this bird disease they talk of on the news comes and wipes us all out”]

From her wish, I gathered the report doesn’t hold much promise for her future job security. On the other hand, her wish could come true. Unofficial reports of dead birds are coming from some rift valley areas. The Great African rift valley, which Ethiopia is part of, is classified by the WHO as having a ‘high risk of avian flu infection’ due to it’s established migratory bird destination. The Ethiopian ministry of agriculture claims that bird flu has not surfaced in Ethiopia, the press release also said the testing kit arrived just last Sunday.

The H5N1 has already been confirmed in Egypt and Nigeria. The rest of the countries in between, especially those within the great African rift valley, have not reported any infections. yet! If you naively assume a semi-straight migratory path between Egypt and Nigeria you will see that the volatile Dafrur region and Chad-Sudan border are in the way. Considering the present situation in those places, a bunch of dead birds are the last of their issues. In fact some would be pleased with an extra hand to make their genocidal wet dreams come true.

Prophet of Change

Sometimes I forget how vulnerable my schedule is and keep piling one initiative on top of the other. My egoportal is suffering as a result. That being, I have said very little about my socio-work life on this blog.

My situation is a bit hard to explain with out getting in to the past 25years of my life so I will spare you the details. I belong to a family construction business that my father sees as his other offspring. In some ways I am privileged to have a job lined up before I even moved here. In the family business, I am in charge of operations, which involves coordinating different departments to get work going smoothly. In Ethiopia, this task is even harder than it sounds. People avoid responsibility like the plague and they manage to do so by doing the least possible work and giving little care to what they actually do. For this very reason, problems are an every day occurrence and most of my time is spent solving operational problems and petty personal differences between workers rather than doing progressive work. And when faced with continuous problems, it doesn’t leave me much time for the rest of my ambition. My brain gets too tired to even think about it. The very few times like right-now where I say ‘fuck it!’ and spend it surfing the net, blogging or fiddling with new software have dwindled with the undertaking of more and more responsibilities. At the moment I have reached a point where I can’t even separate my work life with the rest. As george costanza would say “my worlds have collided”.

To tell it as a fable. The life of many Ethiopians is akin to members of a fire brigade in a town prone to fire. When they are done with one fire they are immediately off to the next, if they happen to have a fire free day, they are to worn out even make love to their spouses. For them, if it is not putting out fires then it’s not worth doing.

My original plan was to change the work atitude of people. If everyone is encouraged to do their job properly and efficiently, then there is no need for me to solve problems, which will have given me more free time to a point I planned to liberate mine and everyone else’s Saturdays. Joining the rest of society that enjoys a two day weekend. Now I am just glad a day goes by with out something going pear shaped.

My father, who is a workaholic and successful at it, thinks I have lost in touch with reality. He told me once “if I want to be ‘ye’lewt hawaria’ (prophet of change) then I should do it on my own time and not waste others”. For him, years of working like a fire man has left him incapable of compromising and has him deal with the loafers in more autocratic ways. Mean while most people are better-off when dealt with harshly. When you try and show them the better way, they automatically assume that you are trying to exploit them. Trying to run a semi-decent work pace, while being a prophet of change has become a dilemma

A year into professional work life and I am already tied of it. Not just that but I am looking for ways to ditch it. In modern society, retiring is withdrawing from active life after you are drained of your youthful juices. I want to retire with my juices intact so that I can do more of what I enjoy.


The comments on this Meskel Square post might shade more light on what I am ranting about

Ishmael and My Ishmael by Daniel Queen will have you question your role in civilization.

Tom Hodgkinson is my guru of idleness. Read The virtue of idleness for his humorous take on this social abnorm.

TOE 08 – Connections and TOE 16 - Head full of Ideas assure me that I am not the only one.

The music of Nick Drake and Tom Waits give me strength at times like this

p.s. Revolutions per Beats is off to a good start and still needs your contribution