As part of the SCOPE fellowship, Sheldon and I are housed in the University of Gondar Guest House. The guest house is comprised of about twenty apartments encircling a shady courtyard, filled with tall, swaying trees and constant songbird trills. Sheldon and I share a two-bedroom apartment with a balcony, sitting room, and basic kitchen.

Judy, a British teacher who has called the Guest House home for years, told us that in prior years, the units were filled with volunteers and researchers from around the world, and that impromptu potlucks and games of volleyball were common. Unfortunately, most of those ex-pats left Gondar during a period of political turbulence last year, leaving Judy as the only foreign presence. Gondar is safe again, and the volunteers and trickling back in, Judy said, but it is still too quiet here.

Immediately upon unpacking, Sheldon and I made mental lists of things to fix and change at the apartment. Most of the lightbulbs were dead, and all of the light fixtures covering them were so grimy as to obscure the light. Several new lightbulbs and a mass-scrubbing of the light fixtures brought illumination to our space. We rearranged our balcony and installed a clothesline, creating a relaxing and utilitarian space to watch the songbirds flit from tree to tree. We bought buckets and filled them with water to have on hand during the inevitable water outages to come. The previous SCOPE fellow, Pan, left several bags of kitchen supplies with Judy, which we were thrilled to unpack and organize on our spare kitchen shelves.

The electricity has been off for two days now (evidently, a problem with the transformer that is affecting the whole neighborhood). We strung battery powered “fairy lights” on the walls and relaxed by candlelight. Since there is no ETA on the return of power, and we rely on electricity for warm(ish) water, my project for this afternoon will be to buy a small charcoal burner for heating pots of water on the balcony for tea and showers.

Our apartment is beginning to feel like home. We wake every morning to the wail from the nearby Mosque and to the birdsong. As we settle into a routine in Gondar, it is good to have a comfortable, ‘home base’, to recharge before we set off for a new day’s work.

Sheldon relaxing on our balcony at the guesthouse

Sheldon relaxing on our balcony at the guesthouse