Debbie goes to Ethiopia! A VSO volunteer in Assosa. Here is my blog.

Hello/Goodbye January 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — debzif @ 16:08

One more post from Debiopia……

This will be the last post, but in the way these crazy blogs work, this is going to be the one that new visitors to the site will see first.  To those website wandering people – this is a blog about my life living as a VSO volunteer in Assosa, Ethiopia.  I have tried to make this blog interesting and vaguely educational.  It’s hopefully useful if you’re thinking of visiting Ethiopia, or doing a VSO placement.  Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to.

For those lovely friends and family who have actually read these posts during my adventures, thanks so much!  Writing was therapeutic in itself, but without any readers whatsoever I probably wouldn’t have done it.  Thanks for reading!


– Debbie


Walls and Fences October 15, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — debzif @ 12:43

It’s finally here!  The post you’ve all been waiting for – the exciting sequel to gates, this is the collection of walls and fences that delight your eyes around Ethiopia.

These are the walls and fences that mark out one person’s home or work compound from another.  There seems to be three main approaches: the bamboo, the corrugated iron, and the concrete wall.  I know which I prefer…..!  Here are all three next to each other.

walls fences assosa ethiopia


Stripes definitely seem to be in fashion, along with brightly coloured paint.  The thick walls I used to think were for security as well as protection, but then my friend pointed out that they often only exist along one side of the compound.  Well, they certainly make for a brightened up world!

Grab some popcorn, and enjoy the slideshow!

(and yes my fence is in here….note fence not wall…..but which one?!)


A day in the life…. October 2, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — debzif @ 17:25

Meet my friend Bekele!  He took my camera for the day documenting what he got up to, then chose the photos he wanted for here.  He says this is a very typical day.  He lives in Assosa and works as IT support.  I’ll let the pictures tell his story!


The “look” of a volunteer May 9, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — debzif @ 11:09

Before I became a VSO volunteer, I remember looking through lots of different blogs about volunteering, and reading articles and seeing pictures.  And I also remember thinking “huh, there’s a definite ‘look’ of a volunteer”.  I remember wondering if I could be a volunteer as I didn’t know if I had that look or not.  But I think it’s not really a choice; the look, without you knowing, is slowly forced upon you…..

Scarves – I challenge you to find pictures of ten different female volunteers who aren’t wearing scarves.  It will be tough.  Scarves are just essential.  It must be one of the criteria at the selection day, that you are not adverse to wearing scarves.  Firstly, they exist in a lot of countries, they are cheap, and often ridiculously beautiful.  Secondly, man are they practical.  In hot weather, they keep the sun off you.  In cool weather, they keep you warm.  When it’s dusty, you can use it as a shield or tie it around your hair.  Other uses include tissue (dirt on your hands?), blindfold (trying to sleep on a bus?), nose blocker (smelly toilet?) and other more embarrassing uses (“oh no, what have I eaten”) that I probably shouldn’t blog about.

Jewellery – similar to the local, beautiful and colourful reasons for buying and wearing anything, there are lots of local handmade, gorgeous and inexpensive jewellery to easily jazz up the 3 t-shirts we brought out with us.

Long skirts –Covering up below the knee is very important in a lot of countries, hence the “long”.   They are very useful to fit in (blend in?) with some of the local cultures.  Moreover, they are super cool when you’re wandering around in 30+ degrees.

Straggly hair – apologies to other vsoers out there, but a lot of image searches show volunteers, especially female, with long and slightly straggly hair.  I most definitely include myself in this.  But this is ok, it gives us our “look”.  Hair cuts are sometimes possible around the world, but when language is a problem, do you want to risk it?  And here, our hair is so different to locals that they don’t know what to do with it at all.  And things like straighteners and hairdryers may be in some volunteer’s backpacks, but whether the electricity is on or the humidity /rain are playing nice, well, that’s another matter.

Surrounded by grinning children – this is just how life is out here, with everyone super happy all the time to see us….!  That should be sarcastic, but actually it’s more truthful that it was meant.  As volunteers, we really do have to go right into the heart of the community, rather than drive around all aloof in our cars.  And locals appreciate that, and many are just excited to actually be able to interact with the crazy strange looking person.  Or maybe they’re just excited they’re getting their picture taking and can’t wait to put it on facebook.

A smile on our faces  – again, to be fair, it could be that when a camera points to us, we have to smile.  And there are definitely downs as well as ups in a volunteer’s life.  But we’ve chosen to be here for whatever reason, and are living out that desire.  And, (most of the time), learning and enjoying, living and experiencing, a whole new way of life.


Spelling Bee February 8, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — debzif @ 15:55

This morning I went to a spelling bee contest.  No, I didn’t take part 😦

The trials had taken place over the past few weeks, and this contest was for the top 6 students from 10 local primary schools.  The ages, and grades of the students, varied quite a lot – according to the rules competitors had to be under 16 years old, but lots seemed much younger.

It was amazing to see how well the students did.  I personally found it quite difficult.  Not necessarily because I’m bad at spelling, but because I found the pronunciation of the words hard to interpret.  Croissant / crescent?  Mummies / mammoth?  At one point I thought it was porcupine but it was actually book keeping.  If anything, it made me realise how important good pronunciation is for understanding.  But also that it’s really subjective – the students seemed to know exactly what he was saying.  What is good pronunciation?  Lots of ethiopians say they’re weak in it, but everyone else seems to understand them.  And what to aim for?  British?  American?  Nigerian?  Ethiopian?

Anyway, so there was a writing round, and then a couple of speaking rounds.  It was again interesting to hear some of the spellings – lots were accurate, some less so, but the ones that were wrong, but “right” in some logical way were really interesting (access = akses, menu = menyou) – man English is so difficult to spell!  And of course to make it harder, the students had very little idea of what they words meant.

The 8 winners will go to Addis to compete in the finals.  There’s talk that the winners will go to the US, but I’m not entirely sure if this is true – the website seems to have different information.  But hopefully going to Addis will be an excitement in itself, the students should be proud they’ve managed to spell so well in a completely different language!!

The winners

The winners

Speaking part

Speaking part

Written test

Written test








1 year anniversary February 4, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — debzif @ 08:16

One year ago today, the adventures in Ethiopia began.  Actually, with all the training and planning and packing, they started a while before a year ago…..but it wasn’t until 365 days ago that I set foot in this country where I am now living.

If asked what the highlights of my year has been, I wouldn’t know what to say.  Obviously there’s the events that I’ve written about, the cultural spectaculars and some amazing places and scenery I’ve visited.  But really it’s the day to day stuff that’s the most interesting – living in a country gives you an insight that I really don’t think is achievable by visiting for a short time.  

Having a milestone like this has made me think about my life here.  In the work place, well, my achievements “on paper” are perhaps not as I would like, but there are definitely a few things that have been done that I can focus on.  But in terms of life experiences – the amount I’ve done, seen and learned is ridiculous.  I’ve seen things I could never have imagined, and met people who amaze me in so many ways.  I’ve learned, (and am still majorly learning!), a lot about the world, how it works, and the influences that affect things, and inspirations that drive people.  I’ve had my eyes opened to different cultures, different ways of life, and different interpretations of the world.  

The world is big, full of amazing things, and although this year has been up and down (what year isn’t?!), I consider myself incredibly lucky that I’ve been able to experience such a range of new and interesting things in the year that has passed.

Another year to go!