In Ethiopia some unfortunate circumstances meant that my beloved and I had to spend a week in Addis Ababa instead of travelling to see the country's historical sites. This did at least allow me to quiz Irene on her experiences with her organisation. Over dinner one evening in the Hotel Ghion restaurant, she described her time imparting basic computer skills to teachers in the south of the country. The story was a straightforward one – some successes despite certain obstacles (including the petty personality clashes that go with such an endeavour). I sensed, however, that she was holding something back, that there was something else that she was loth to talk about while nevertheless wishing to get it off her chest.
After dinner, as we relaxed over a glass of tej (a local drink made from fermented honey), Irene talked some more about her team and their progress, but this seemed merely a prelude to what came next.
"And then there was the other team," she said. "They were based in the town of S----, far to the south of us. I had not met their chief coordinator, but he was greatly admired within our organisation. People often talked of the great successes he had achieved on previous projects, and this time too reports were coming back from S---- of his team's excellent results. Or so they were at first, anyway. But as the weeks wore on, reports from S---- were less positive. There were suggestions that they had deviated from the organisation's agreed programme, though our coordinators seemed unwilling to discuss this directly with the rest of us.
"Then C---- arrived from Dublin. You remember meeting him? He is the head of our organisation, and his unexpected arrival threw us all into agitation. We could tell that time was of the essence for him, as he had come straight to our teaching centre, dispensing with the usual parade through the town. He summoned a small group of volunteers, including me, into a back room.
"'I'll come straight to the point,' he said, 'It is the other team. I'm sure you have heard the rumours. It's their chief coordinator. He is no longer following procedure. His results are still impressive, but the way he is achieving them is… inappropriate. He is bringing us into disrepute. There is only one thing for it. I need you to go to S----- and bring the project there to an end, with immediate effect'