JAN '09 Djibouti

See also Djibouti '08

JAN '09 - In country again with construction and installation tasks.  Work is work, but what a harsh place this is.  Beginning to understand the land and the culture, we're well on our way with the tasks.  Pictures (right) give a bit of an idea of the severity of the environment.

MAR '09 - This precious Djiboutian child stayed to chat with me after I'd given her grandmother and great-grandmother a ride home. I'd picked them up walking across the dry plains, miles from anywhere, and gave them a ride to their village. They each kissed my hands and blessed me in thanks.

Djibouti is difficult for a Western mind to grasp.  The lack of water inhibits the entire economy.  Life is extraordinarily difficult for all but the wealthy and privileged.

I encountered Muhammad and his son (left and below, badly framed) walking through the desert, gave them a ride home.  Displaced from his home in Somalia, Muhammad brought his family to Djibouti where he works now as a day laborer.  He told me about his hopes for his five children; education, a better life.

His oldest son, Sahal, through a humorous miscommunication wound up in my truck, directing me to what I thought was his sister's house.  As we approached my hotel, I finally figured out that he though I was lost and was providing me directions home.  We laughed, and I drove him back out to his father's house.  


In an interesting African custom, Sahal now claims me as his father.  "You are my father.  Your wife is my mother now, sir."  On roads with which he was not familiar, "Excuse me, my father, for I am lost."  I showed him the secret of how one is never really lost in Djibouti. 

Later in the afternoon, I gathered up my partner, bought some soft drinks as a gift, and went back to Muhammad and Sahal's house (background here, left). Hoping we weren't breaching any social conventions, we offered our gifts at the door. They welcomed us in, sat us on a mat on the ground in front of the house; we chatted for a long while in our terrible French and their mostly non-existent English, laughed a lot, sang 'Alouette' in French, badly, all of us together, and laughed some more. As we made our departure, they asked us to please come again. We thanked them and drove away, back to our embarrassing luxury and convenience.

SEP '09  ROBBED!  In Djibouti again for training and installation work, we managed to get robbed in the slums of Balbala; lost a backpack with passport, computer, etc., all recovered a couple of days later with help from our friends whom we were visiting and the community.  Within a minute or so, the thief was identified and pursued by a gathering of about 20 neighborhood folks who were incensed that their guests had been mistreated.  The fellow wouldn't turn himself in, so the police put his mother in jail as an incentive.  We declined to press charges, so it resolved after a couple of days, but it interfered a bit with our social opportunities.  Time lost filling out reports, talking to police, explaining things once again, and so on. 

These precious smiles (right)  in the crowd that greeted us in Balbala.  Having visited there a couple of times, we discovered we probably shouldn't have.  It's a dangerous locale.  While this picture was being taken, the thief was stealing the backpack from the far side of our vehicle.   With many reasons now to hide at our hotel, I doubt seriously that we will.  Planning to return to Djibouti (and Balbala, probably) in '10.

Children came (lower left) and greeted me later in the evening in Balbala.  I'm sure they wondered what anyone was doing in their neighborhood at night; and a white guy, no less.  Click on the photo to see the strikingly beautiful features of these young faces and the hair arrangement!

My Djiboutian Navy friends here explain that their good looks come from African and Arabian lines. "We are all handsome, and our women are beautiful, no?" Yes you are, my friend, and the children are all precious, a joy to meet.

Balbala, Djibouti

The Balbala area (map, right) should probably never have been in our sights (no 'probably' to it; it's a dangerous place we later discovered), but you guys understand how these things happen.  Now they're our friends, and we'll have to act like it.  Some photos below of the week's events.