Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Happy Birthday Brother!
Where to begin with my first impressions of DJ. After having been here only about 36 hours its hard to know what is a real impression and what is just fatigue, jet lag and all around exhaustion. We arrived at just past midnight and from the air you couldn’t see much…no huge uses of electricity, no highways with lights, no traffic lights. It seemed surreal having just come from a stopover in Riyadh in which the entire city seems to be one big light bulb. We landed and exited onto the tarmac, hot and breezy and en mass made our way to the airport which looked a bit like Kigali’s. Like sheep we herded into our respective lines all the while our eyes on the lookout for our “expediter” someone from the embassy whose job it is to help get us through customs and immigration. Our friend found us and told us what line to stand in and then we didn’t see him again – funny cause the line we were in initially was much quicker than the one we got moved into.
All of our luggage made it! A small miracle considering we had six suitcases at 23 kg each that went from Seattle to DC to Paris to Riyadh to Djibouti. Ohh wonders of wonder. Our social sponsor picked us up and helped get us settled into our house – we are in temporary housing until our permanent house gets “clean and shiny” according to O boy. Our sponsor had picked up some groceries and made sure things were set up in the house – like the beds being made and shower curtains hung up.
After a quick six hour nap, I was picked up from motor pool and started my new job. It’s pretty interesting so far (easy to say two days into it) I am the first medical officer that the embassy had had and everyone I have met has been so warm and welcoming. There is a ton of work to do in the Health Unit – lots of systems implementation and organization. In my first few days I ordered about 10K of equipment for the health unit and all sorts of office supplies for me! My desk was EMPTY! In my life I have never inherited an empty desk – not one pen, pencil or staple…not a pair of scissors or a piece of tape. I can see the progress that needs to happen in the HU and it inspires and overwhelms me all at the same time.
Djibouti is hot and sticky and dusty and the sky often looks white to me. I look out and it’s as if a storm is brewing and it’s about to rain…but it doesn’t. Djibouti is wide open and flat and I can see for what seems like forever. The ocean is visible from the road our house is on. Djibouti looks broken down and in disrepair and in need of a good scrubbing and a coat of paint (but maybe that’s just my mom’s genes on me). It’s expensive here. Eric just told me that the loaf of wheat bread I bought cost about 6 bucks and the kilo of chicken breast costs $28. OUCH – time to start baking bread! Someone else told me that it is the 2nd most expensive place to live in the world…that seems a bit of a stretch but the point was not lost, it is very expensive here.
The Djiboutians that I work with are all friendly and open. The women dress modestly and most are fully covered, even the lady today who told me “I’m Canadian, too!” after learning that Eric is Canadian. Women wear what appear to be a long skirt that is usually a solid color with a lace hem, topped by a vibrant printed overdress and then a veil that is worn over the head. Lots of women that I have seen are pretty decked out – fancy earrings, lots of costume jewelry and sparkly bejeweled flip-flops. Many men wear a piece of fabric wrapped around their waists with a short sleeve shirt over the top.
Our work week is Sunday – Thursday and this messes with my mind. Today is our “Saturday” and its really a Friday! Orion’s school week is Saturday – Wednesday and the school starts one hour later two days a week. It's funny how you comfortable it is to say MWF so now when I think about school schedules I have to think Saturday-Monday-Wednesday school starts at 0730! Lord, it gives me a headache just thinking about it.
It's my Thursday and I am tired. I had my first breakdown yesterday at lunch - got to the cafeteria at 1245 and there was nothing left...not one scrap of curry, no piece of bread, nothing. I forgot how important food is. I love it and moving to a new place with nothing means that Eric is constantly thinking about what he is going to prepare and I just have faith that it will all be ok. Sometimes it is but yesterday it wasn't.
Today has been better. I planned ahead and brought in my lunch and ate it while catching up with folks on FB. Cheese - some brown bread - salami...not fruit or veg rich but for right now that's ok.
Its been stressing me out a bit trying to plan O's birthday. It won't be anything big - just the embassy kiddo's and some cupcakes and juice - the problem there in lays. I have no cooler and no muffin tin. I finally got up the nerve and emailed the entire American staff and low and behold I have borrowed a muffin tin and two coolers. YAY! Now O can have the strawberry flavored cake that he picked out with Grandma and the adults can have an icy G&T and we can call it a birthday!