Africa

Djibouti Travel Blog

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common trash dispenser
Well I got the word that I'm going to be spending 6 months in Djibouti, two weeks prior to departure.  My first reaction was this must be a joke.  So after taking it all in, I decided to look up any information on Djibouti that I could find.  After all I've never heard of this place before.  So Wikipedia saved the day yet again.  A quick snap shot of Djibouti:  They gained their independence from the French in 1977.  It's located between Ethiopia and Somalia.  There are approx. 500 thousand people in the whole country.

14 December 2007- June 2008

This mission was going to be different from any other mission I've ever done.  I went back to the US for some training, and a few weeks later I was bound for Djibouti.
Cute kid
  When I arrived, we unloaded the plane, and went through customs.  I get checked in and arrive to my Container Living Unit (CLU) which is a cargo hold, turned into a dorm room.  I was more excited that I had A/C then anything.  It was hot!  The temps were around 28c and it was December!  So I got situated with my new job, dealing with computer networks and communications.  After getting adjusted I wanted to go out and help the community.  I joined a program called Community Assistance Volunteers (CAV) and we set off to find jobs that we can do to help the community.  Along with the CAV team, I work closely with the local English schools, as part of a US Embassy program; I go to these schools and hold English Discussions for a couple hours a week.
Brought to you by Crystal, refreshing water!
  This is formed to better understand the local customs and mentality as well as give them more insight to Americans in general.  Plus it helps the students who are trying to speak English, becoming more proficient. 

In the school I go to there's two students that will stand up in front of the class and present their discussion with so much passion and research in a topic, it's absolutely amazing!  There discussions are always the highlights to our discussions.  We'll talk about everything from world peace, the future of Africa, role of women in Djibouti, the role of men in Djiboutian society, Khat, AIDS, falling in love, and so on and so forth.  I've learned so much just from going to the schools, and then I could in books!  It's an experience that is irreplaceable!

Working with the French Veterinarian and volunteers at the Cheetah Refuge has been great as well!  There are three Cheetahs that are in this 200 acre or so enclosure.
Khat
  The land was donated to him by the President of Djibouti!  The refuge is about 6k away from the city and is really quiet.  Gazelles are running around, along with other African wildlife.  The French Vet asked us if we could help him clean up around the refuge and help maintain the grounds.  None of us had any problem jumping in with the team.  We're currently trying to build a library for him so that he could open up an education center out there for the schools in the region.

So after a while of working, I wanted to go out and play.  I went to Mousha Island, located 30 minutes out from the port.  The island is about 800 square meters and has little vacation huts on it.  There I went to the dive shop and set out to get some dive time in the area.
Schwarma stand....mmmmm
  The clarity was incredible!  Plus there was a lot more sea life, then expected.  It was great diving out there!  I highly recommend it!  I'll write some reviews on some of the dive shops for you all.

Walking around town the streets are live with little souvenir shops and clubs.  There's at least 11 clubs within walking distance from the main square.  The vendors have a lot of masks, wooden animal statues, jewelry, and clothing apparel.  The main problem is they are extremely aggressive about getting your money.  Haggling is a huge key out here.  If you're not interested in anything, they try so hard to find
Something you want, or at least point you in the right direction for a small fee.   The hardest part is when kids come up to you asking for money for food, when you pay them, they take off to their parents and they use the money to buy the drug Khat.  Khat is an opium type of drug that suppresses your hunger, makes you thirsty, and some people get hallucinations.  There's a big misconception with this drug out here.  A lot of the users feel the drug is harmless, and it's cheaper then paying for food.  It actually costs more for a bushel of Khat, then a schwarma sandwich.  A lot of the users save half their income for Khat, and spend the other half on their family and selves.  It's really sad.

I think one of the craziest things that have happened since arriving here is when my friends and I were walking with Joe, our friend from Somalia, and this undercover police officer came running up to us and started hitting Joe in the leg with the stick.  He was arrested because another guy from the streets told the police he beat him up and stole his business (guiding my friends and me around the city).  The odd part is, none of that was true, the guy was just jealous.  So we had to go to the chief of police to explain everything and get our friend out of jail.  That was a night I'll never forget.

There's a hotel that my friends and I go to a lot on Sunday, since it's our day off of everything, called La Siesta.  This place is great for 75 dollars US; you can get a day room, and hang out at the pool all day long.  We've made friends with the bar tender and the life guard, to where we all just sit around the bar and share stories.

Overall this journey has been a great experience and it has opened my eyes to a whole new aspect in life!  I'll be going back to Sicily in June, and a part of me wants to stay to continue the humanitarian work, while another part is ready to get back.



Aopaq says:
Wow...sounds like an amazing experience! As a teacher, I especially liked to hear about your time with students at the school. Hope I can get to Djibouti one day.
Posted on: May 19, 2008
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common trash dispenser
common trash dispenser
Cute kid
Cute kid
Brought to you by Crystal, refresh…
Brought to you by Crystal, refres…
Khat
Khat
Schwarma stand....mmmmm
Schwarma stand....mmmmm
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