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Letter to Lyn From Eritrea -No. 1

Letter to Lyn From Eritrea -No. 1

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Published by Dennis Murphy
The first in a series of letters to my wife while I was visiting Eritrea for the Fred Hollows Foundation
The first in a series of letters to my wife while I was visiting Eritrea for the Fred Hollows Foundation

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Published by: Dennis Murphy on May 21, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Dear Lyn,It is now Sunday 18
Nov (2001). about 10:00 AM as I am starting to write this email.Sorry about the problem with the international connection on the phone. If you are havingproblems getting it reconnected, get Kerri to do it. It should be possible to do it over thephone.I received the email from Kerri on Saturday. Half of the country is Moslem, the other half Christian.I do not yet know whether they celebrate Christmas, but will try and find out.Communications in Eritrea are very close to non-existent compared to Australia. OnSaturday when you rang, I was in the process of sending emails to the following people.You & Kerri , Darren & Kathy, Rob & Eileen, John & Val, Norm & Edna, Roy &Norma ,The only two which went through were to Rob & Eileen and John & Val. Theproblem appeared to be the mail server at Senet in Adelaide. Perhaps Kerri can find outfrom them what the problem is.?Below is the text sent to everyone.Dear ? & ?.It is 10.00 AM Saturday morning and we have finally got the lap-top computer going, sowe can now send and receive private emails. Please send any replies toLynden@senet.com.au. This is my Adelaide email address which I will access to readthe email.The factory is only open until 12.00 Noon, so I am quickly sending a note to every one onthe email list this morning just to let them know that I arrived safely and have not yetbeen eaten by a cannibal. Over the weekend I will write up a more detailed account of thetrip so far, it has been interesting to say the least.The expression, “The rat race”, is a totally foreign concept to this country. Nothing, and Imean NOTHING, moves fast here. Email access rates are no different, so in order to sendthese before 12.00 noon I will have to sign off now.RegardsDennisIn the meantime I will only try and send emails to you at Kerri’s place, and ask Kerri torelay the emails on to all the people on the list above when you think it is appropriate.Please ask everyone not to send emails to my address atLynden@senet.com.au, as tryingto download multiple messages at this end is extremely slow and difficult. What everyou, DO NOT send any attachments as these tend to lock up the system. To maximize the
reliability of the system I only want to send and receive emails between you and myself.If anyone wants to talk to me, get them to send an email to Kerri, and she canincorporate it in the body of the text in your replies to me.Keep trying to send emails to my Adelaide address (Lynden@senet.com.au
) as anyemails sent to the Lab can, and probably are, read by anyone. If I cannot access them, Iwill send you an email to let you know.Just make sure that when you REPLY that you delete all of the original message fromme, otherwise it will simply be re-transmitted to me, making it an unnecessarily longmessage. I repeat, long emails cause problems here. Initially I am going to send theemails both through the lap-top and from the Lab. We will find out if you are receivingboth.In between the last paragraph and the next, we have had a general power failure for 10minutes, no sooner had the power come back on, then the lap-top locked up and I lostsome of what I had typed. This is pretty typical of life in Eritrea. If you haven’t gotpatience before you arrive, you pretty soon have to develop it.Now to the account of the trip so far.On arriving in Sydney, I took the shuttle bus to the international terminal and without themobile phone would not have been able to find Ray. We were both in the check –in line,about 20 feet apart, but could not see each other.The trip to Bangkok, took 8.75 hours. Bangkok airport is huge and not very well lit. Thecity is vast, when we took off we were flying over it for about 25 minutes. The lighting inthe city is confined pretty much to the main roads. Impression? what a DUMP. We had aone & half hour wait, then onto Frankfurt.The leg to Frankfurt took nearly thirteen hours. The course took us over Israel, so I wasonly about ten miles from Jerusalem at one stage. We arrived at 6.30 in the morning. Thetemperature was 2 degrees and total cloud cover. We had a six hour wait before leavingfor Cairo and then onto Asmara..The Frankfurt international airport is huge, it actually has two separate terminals joinedby a light rail system. While waiting I wandered around the place and came across a manlying on the floor, suitcase upturned, He looked like he was dead. Nobody took anynotice, even children were playing near him. A girl in a uniform, did take his pulse thencalled for an ambulance. When they arrived (30 minute later) they managed to revivehim, but it was amazing how nobody seemed to take any notice. It was also strange to seeyoung girls in uniform walking around with assault rifles.We left Frankfurt at 1:45 PM Mon. on Lufthansa Airlines. The flight to Cairo was 3 &half hours, arriving in the dark. Ninety percent of the passengers left the plane at thispoint. Nobody appeared to board. Most of the remaining passengers were Eritreans along
with some UN people and the odd business man. We were not allowed off the plane, andwe were on the ground for one & quarter hours. Cairo is a large city. I had hoped to seethe Pyramids as we came in to land, but was out of luck. We flew over quite a lot of theland of Egypt, and it was surprising to see lights covering most of the land. Thepopulation must be huge.The flight from Cairo to Asmara was two and a half hours, arriving at 11:00 PM Mon12/11/01 local time. We were absolutely knackered after having been on the road for 45hours.Now the fun began, but before we begin, you need to know several things about Eritrea.First the population divides into three classes regarding the English language. Themajority have absolutely no understanding of it at all. A light sprinkling of the peoplehave some limited understanding, mainly through hand signs, and finally there is the oddperson who can speak English fairly well. You need to understand that the ability tospeak English IS NOT a requirement to hold a job at the airport or indeed even theSavanna International Hotel..Secondly the Eritreans are a very friendly and family orientated society. Decisions tendto be made by consensus within the group. This involves a lot of very loud animateddiscussion between the people concerned. They also have a policy of full employmentwhere possible. This means where we may have one person to do the job, they may havethree or even four people. It also means a lot of people to all get into the group discussionThirdly they do not have the same sense of time as Western society. Their opinion is,maybe we do it now, maybe later.Fourthly, there is no requirement for a person to be trained in the job before they are letloose on the public.You have to get a visa to get into the place. Approvals are usually made in advance, andthe visa is issued when you arrive. To do this you make a mad rush to the Visa office(small and poky) with a very small lady sitting behind a desk in a very large chair. She isapparently the head honcho. She is assisted by two other women, one of which doesn’tappear to speak English and the other one has enough to get by. The head honcho ladyseems to have a semi reasonable grasp. The idea behind the rush is that you want to befirst, otherwise you can be there for more than an hour. We were second in line and aftersome confusion, we get our visa’s and it’s on to the luggage collection.Needless to say, Ray’s luggage arrives, none of mine does. Three other people are in thesame boat. I find out later that Lufthansa lose the luggage of three or four people onEVERY flight into Asmara (un-bloody-believable). It gets lost at Frankfurt airport(Lufthansa’s home base). If you are lucky it will only take three or four days to be foundand sent to the Asmara. Some people have to wait up to SEVENTEEN days. I was lucky

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