I thought I’d start this week with a question that’s been bugging me since last weekend. I’ve been able to watch most of Newcastle’s games since I arrived here, in a kind of corrugated iron barn attached to a bar near where we live. They seem to have access to all sorts of channels, and usually find the Premiership games on one of the Arabic sports channels. Access to the barn costs two birr (about eight pence), and so far I haven’t seen anyone buy a drink. People seem to arrive for the first game of the day and stay for the whole afternoon. What struck me last week was the fact that most of the people in the barn were passionate West Brom fans, and seemed pretty knowledgeable about the club and players. Why would anyone lacking a geographical connection to West Bromwich decide to support them? Obviously I’d have found it easier to understand if I’d been in a room full of adopted Geordies, but of course with Newcastle’s current blend of French-Senegalese flair, who could blame people for supporting them?
This week I was finally granted access to the National Stadium, to train on the only all-weather track in Ethiopia. Scottish Athletics provided me with a letter of recommendation, which I’ve been taking to the Ethiopian Athletics federation every couple of days for the past three weeks, in the hope that the only man who actually has the authority to do anything would be there. The Chief Executive is also a House Representative in the government and, apparently, has fingers in numerous business pies too. In spite of the fact that there are around twenty other members of staff, their main function seems to be to check facebook accounts and watch twenty-four hour news, and there was no way anyone else was going to be able to do so much as stamp a letter without the chief’s permission. The advantage of spending so much time in the Federation is that I met Mohammed Aman (world indoor 800m champion), and Gebre Gebremariam, who seems to be a bit of a player. He was distracted when Richard and I asked him to sign some vests by two girls from the National team, who he kept pushing together, saying ‘inshallah.’ Perhaps he was expressing his hope that they’d both end up on a podium together in the Olympics, but I’m not sure.
RAB are currently trying to get a visa so that Edau (above, left) can run the Balmoral 10km. Given that he can run 29 minutes for 10km in training at 2,400m, he shouldn’t have too many problems winning the race. Getting permission to travel to the UK is usually far more difficult, however.
The Climate Change Forum are also facing a few problems with bureaucracy, as the government has just passed new laws regarding the financing of NGOs, which reclassify a lot of expenses as ‘administration costs’ which used to be ‘programme costs.’ As NGOs are obliged have a ratio of 70:30 of programme and admin costs this obviously causes a few issues, and apparently DFID are being forced to hire lawyers to protect the projects that they have under way at the moment. The preparations for Earth Day in Ethiopia have been seriously affected by the new rules, and so have plans to carry out small-scale community projects in May (which are somehow now ‘administration costs’ too). The tightening of regulations on NGOs goes back to the elections in 2001, when numerous civil society organisations accused the government (which is still in power now) of vote rigging. With another election coming next year, the government has banned any organisation that receives more than 10% of its funding from abroad from undertaking any activities in human rights, gender equality, children’s rights and a host of other issues.
On a lighter note, here’s are some photos. The first is a picture of my next door neighbour, Eyo. He doesn’t care for trousers.
This is where we trained on Saturday. It looks like Edau is doing some kind of dance, but it could be one of the many elaborate Ethiopian stretches.
Indale, who ran 2.14 for 9th place in the Rome marathon last week, and looks as tired as the old man standing behind him…
A very Ethiopian house:
Last but not least, for the running geeks, here’s last week’s training:
Sunday 25th – AM 12 miles steady.
Monday 26th – AM 8 miles steady. PM – 4 miles steady
Tuesday 27th – AM 3 x 3km on dirt road (5 mins recovery). PM – 4 miles easy
Wednesday 28th – AM 7 miles easy. Slight cold at the moment. PM – 4 miles easy.
Thursday 29th – AM 4 miles easy. PM – 4 miles steady (tried to go to the track at the National Stadium, but there was a football match on)
Friday 30th - AM 8 miles steady. PM – 4 miles easy.
Saturday 31st – AM 12km tempo run at 2,700m in 41.01. Pretty tough. PM – 4 miles easy.
Total – 82.5 miles.