I was talking with a couple male Djiboutian colleagues in the gym the other day. They are both young-ish, one married, one single, pretty religious, and really nice guys. We were talking about music because the one guy brought in a zip drive and we were listening and watching his downloaded videos of the Back Street Boys on the TV. We spoke about illegal bootlegging and how easy it is to find here. We talked about streaming video and what the government of Djibouti blocks (not much really!) and we talked about private sector competition and how it ends up providing better service to the customer. Pretty heavy topics while on the treadmill. I was spouting off about the telecom industry here and how its pretty much a complete rip-off, which it is. They both agreed, but then one of them reminded me that Djibouti is only 36 years old and America will turn 237 years in a few days. He was very proud of his countries independance and how far it had come in only 36 years and seemed confident that in anouther 200 or so years, Djibouti would have seen the rise of unlimited streaming video!
I feel a tad bit insane right now. My heart is beating fast, I'm super sweaty and sticky and my thoughts are racing. You see I just walked into the house after driving in Djibouti. I mean literally, just walked into the house, taking my wet clothes off as I walked over to the computer and sat down. Grocery bags are still sitting in the hallway and I really have to pee...but first, I need to get these thoughts out of my head.
I have heard people bitch about the driving here and not really processed it cause people bitch about a lot of things and I figured this was just one more thing but I have a whole new appreciation for what people who drive everyday go through. I am normally spared the agony of driving around town much cause Eric does all that, but with our current situation, I was forced to go out to the get some groceries. I have a couple of choices in town for grocery stores - one is close and easy to access the other one that I like is farther away but has a random assortment of things (I was hoping they would have sage - no luck!).
Anyways, its Saturday (which is like Monday for most folks here) and I left the house at 0900 thinking this would give me plenty of time to try and find Nougaprix. I have been there a million times but you know how it is...when I am not driving I really don't pay much attention to how to get to someplace and so I knew vaguely where the store was but wasn't quite sure. I'm not very good with directions anyways and here in Djibouti the streets seem to twist and turn until I couldn't tell you which way was North to save my life. I decided to take the "mickey mouse" roundabout way and pretty much managed to drive through every unpaved, pothole laden, full of shit and people and goat, road until I finally came upon the store.
I successfully grocery shopped and came away with something I hope will pass for cream cheese and some awesome looking lemons that were not on my list but when you see something like that you buy it regardless cause you never know when it will come back in stock. Leaving the store, I thought I retraced my route until I was at a stop light I didn't recognize and suddenly there were FOUR lanes of traffic coming straight towards me. I immediately thought, "holy shit I am on a one way street" but looked behind me and there was traffic lined up. I looked up again and realized that this was two lanes of traffic that had spread into FOUR - kinda like when your cookies don't have enough flour and they just ooze into the space of each other. I wasn't sure what to do when the light turned green...do I just stay stopped, do I drive straight ahead, do I hang my head down and cry? With ten million cars, trucks and buses behind me all honking their horns when the light turned green, I slowly started driving forward and then, like the red sea, the lanes of cars parted and I made it through the chaos onto a street that lead me towards the promised land (or at least my calm and cool house).
“Is it cooler today?” that’s the first thing I asked myself as I rode my bike into work this morning. You see, we don’t have an outside thermometer. I think it would freak me out a bit to see how really hot it gets here. I know it’s hot, I know it’s going to get hotter and that’s just my reality at the moment. I asked myself that question because my ride into work seemed shorter today. When we first got here (in the “winter”) it would take me about 7 minutes to ride to work. Lately it has taken me close to 12…almost double the time. I keep saying it’s the heat cause when its 93 degrees at 7am my feet barely feel like pedaling and I can hardly force myself out the door of the AC’d house. This morning there was a bit of a breeze so I think that was what was tricking me into thinking it was cooler…but the sky was steely gray like it gets when dry and dusty and hot and the sun was a glowing foggy-looking circle.
I have a colleague who has a fancy thermometer, humidity, weather-ball type of thing outside her house. Her husband is into all gadget type of things so this is really quite some contraption. We have a meeting together once a week and at that meeting I always ask her how hot it’s been. Unfortunately, she’s on holiday so I’m stuck wondering how hot it has really been. I thought about emailing the entire embassy but then decided that probably wouldn’t go over very well. I checked out this weather website and their forecast that said it was 102 but felt like 113. That did not make me feel any better…can you see why ignorance is bliss?
I joined a group of folks heading out for a day trip to a place called Sable Blanc (pronounced Sab la blanc for my non-Frenchy folks!) which means “White Sands” and what a glorious trip it was.
We jumped aboard a big huge boat called the Deli that is run by Dolphin Excursions and set out early on Friday morning. Sable Blanc is located across the Gulf of Tadjoura – close to the town of Tadjoura that I visited a couple of weeks ago. Going by boat it took about 2 hours to reach this pristine stretch of white sand, dotted with a newly opened “hotel” and some palaypas, benabs or whatever you choose to call a shady cover on a beach.
I didn’t spend much time on the beach because the snorkeling was AMAZING! This was far and away the best coral reef I have ever seen. The fish were abundant and the colors of the coral crazy cool. I was told the water temperature was 93 degrees (wow!) so it was incredibly easy to spend three hours floating along and looking at underwater life. When it was lunch time, I was a bit nervous to swim from the reef out to the deeper water where the boat was anchored. Not sure how far it was but the water got dark blue and I couldn’t see anything to the right, nothing to the left and definitely not the bottom. It was the strangest feeling – like swimming through the sky at night. Anyways, I convinced a 12 year old boy on the trip to be my chaperone and made it safely on board the boat.
After lunch a couple of ladies and I took a speedboat to the farthest end of the beach where the rocky land came out to a point and got dropped off to snorkel our way back to the boat.
We set sail for Djibouti city and most folks napped on the way back – myself included – as there was a breeze and the sun was not quite so hot. It was an amazing day and I can’t wait to go back with Orion and Eric in tow.