Monday, March 25, 2013

2 months down – 22 months to go!

Is it 2015 yet?  I ask this question jokingly.  But also, “Back to the Future II” is on TV.  Where are the flying cars?  And the power-lace shoes?  Back in reality, I know I have a long time to go here in Djibouti.  But again, we’ve been here two months (however, we left our home, friends and family almost three months ago).  A lot has happened within those three months.. and also a lot of NOTHING has happened in those three months.

Imagine living in 80+ degrees every day, with the ocean all around you.  Sounds nice, right?  However.. we don’t have a car to get to the ocean unless someone else is going and they have enough room in their car for our family.  Which, isn’t often.. so we are hermits most of the time.  Which has its benefits.  For instance, if we are inside.. we are in air conditioning and out of the sun.  Every time we spend a day at the beach, we end up with pretty bad sunburns.  We do have access to a driver to get where we need to go, but that doesn't include the beach.

Can you believe that we live near this?

80+ degrees is very nice, especially when there is a nice breeze (and for my Wyoming friends, no.. I’m not talking about a 30 MPH breeze).  It’s wonderful.  And I’m ever so thankful that I’m here in the warmth every time I hear about a snowstorm back in the states.  However, I’m told that when the “big rain” comes, then the heat will follow.  And I am also told that the heat is from May – September.  And when I say heat, I mean 100-120 degrees every day.  OK, I have about a month left of the pleasant 80+ degrees.  Right?  Well, I’m really afraid.  Because it has been raining over three hours now.  Thunder and lighting, the whole bit.  Normally, back in the states.. I would be loving every minute of the thunder and lighting.  But when I know that 100-120 degrees is following this spectacular show, I’m a little more worried.  And also with this rain storm, is a fermenting smell in all of the bathrooms and the kitchen.  It smells like I’m getting a perm at the salon.  Outside our compound walls, is a huge mud pit.  When I was out on the balcony with Emma, watching the lighting and listening to the thunder, we saw a local man walking down our driveway, and then fall and slip in the mud.  I have said often, I don’t understand why people even bother wearing white pants or shorts or white anything in this country.  Now his shorts are brown and white.  And let’s not forget, rain in itself is a phenomenon here in Djibouti.  As, it only rains five or six days out of the whole year.  All Emma wants to do is go outside and play, as she does most days.. but it just won’t stop raining.  But with the lighting, it isn’t safe.  And with all of the dust, she would come back a big mess.  And when she would come inside, she would probably slip and fall.

About to go snorkeling at Sable Blanc beach

Positive and amazing things that have happened to us the last two months:  Sable Blanc (White Sands) Beach, snorkeling, walking the dog on turtle island, warm weather all the time, learning French, Bryce brushing up on his Arabic, meeting new friends, seeing Darius Rucker for free in concert at Camp Lemmonier, learning a new culture, learning a new way of life.. seeing things from a different perspective, and starting a very impressive shell collection (some of them were still occupied by hermits, but we returned them to the ocean).

Darius Rucker in concert at Camp Lemmonier
The start of our shell collection

Not so positive things that have happened to us or that we encounter daily the last two months:  Numerous mosquito bites, sunburns, excessive diarrhea, knee issues, back issues, plumbing issues, lack of water, lack of power, two gecko's in the house, lack of internet, lack of phone, lack of transportation, boredom, passport issues, mosquito bites, mosquito bites, mosquito bites!  Positive thing: the mosquitoes should be going away soon!

Life in our house:  The concrete/tile surfaces bring echo’s in the house, sore feet (because we walk barefoot on them all the time), sore knees, slippery surfaces which have caused Emma to fall several times, including down the stairs.  Power outages are very common.  Once, it caused the water pump to malfunction and then we didn’t have running water for a while until someone showed me how to fix it.  Fermenting smells from the pipes happen on a regular basis, not always from the same source.  But, we have working air conditioning.  We have a generator.  We have access to two satellite TV sources (Armed Forces Network and Arabic TV).  The mattress that we were provided has been an ongoing issue for me.  Last night, we finally received the mattress pad I ordered online.  This mattress pad had a review left by a college student that said it even made a college mattress inviting.  However, one night has proved to me that even an expensive mattress pad can’t fix a mattress made in Djibouti.  We are thankful for the DVD player, and also being able to buy movies at the NEX on base (as well as many other wonderful comforts of home items.. we love the NEX!)

Our front foyer, finally got some carpets.  Thank you!

Food:  The embassy provides us an option to order bulk food.  Ever since we received our first order, life has been much easier with some comfort foods from home.  If you go to the local store, fruits and vegetables are very expensive, so we have mostly frozen goods that are much less expensive and there aren’t a lot of cereal options.  The milk here is French.. and you buy it non-refrigerated.  It is long-lasting, and once it is opened you must keep it refrigerated.  However, it is easier to buy milk in bulk here than it was when I lived in Wales.. so that is a plus.  Our fridge and freezer are “European” which translates to “small” compared to American models.  So, when we did receive our bulk food shipment, we didn’t have enough room in our freezer for everything.  So, we sold some items, we gave some away.. and yet, we still have some things in the fridge that should be in the freezer.

Household goods:  When we moved into our house over a month ago, we checked on the status of our household goods coming from the states.  We were told, they had forgotten about our items.. and were still in Wyoming.  Yesterday when my husband checked the status, the goods had finally reached the East coast!  Our first shipment is due April 19th.  I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about that.  And our car is hopefully due the first week of April.

Internet:  The internet is my saving grace!  I admit, I spend a lot of time online watching my favorite TV shows.  However, that is also because there isn’t much else to do during the day since our household goods haven't arrived yet, especially when Emma is napping and Lilly is at school.  Also, is my friend.  I may shop at Walmart more now than I did when I was within driving distance.  Things that I can’t find here.. like our favorite cereals, Hamburger Helper, Macaroni & Cheese, contemporary rugs, dog food, flea treatment for the dog, rash guards for the family, my preferred brand of diapers (to name a few of the items)… I order online.  And most of the time, I qualify for free shipping.  It may take 2-4 weeks to arrive, but the cost of ordering online and waiting is cheaper than buying it locally.  Because locally, it was imported anyway which makes it very expensive.  And if I order it online, it also arrives with English directions!  But because it takes so long to arrive, when things do arrive.. it’s like Christmas!  But the internet isn’t always reliable.  In fact, all weekend.. it has been mostly offline.  And while I write this, the internet is down in the storm.

School:  Lilly goes to school Saturday – Wednesday.  However, Bryce works Sunday – Thursday.  This gives us one day together as a family to do things.  While Lilly is at school, so far… they have only been teaching her French and Math skills.  She doesn’t have to do anything else while she is there, because it is all in French which she doesn’t understand and cannot do the work on her own.  This has been very hard for me to accept.  Mostly because, they put her in the grade level below where she was in the United States.  So, for everyone who encouraged me that it was a good thing for her to go to the local school… I do believe that it has had a positive experience for her.  However, next year.. we will be enrolling her in home school and hopefully continuing where she left off.  As well as doing online summer school to help her catch up.  I really hope that enrolling her in the French school won’t put her behind even in the American school.. when we return to it.  Lilly refuses to speak French to us at home, however she does correct my pronunciation of some words that I say in French.  Especially “Merci.”  According to her, you need to put some spit behind it, and sound like you are about to hock a lugi when you say it.

Everything is harder in Djibouti:  This is what a new friend told me to tell my mother.  My mother asked “Why do you need a housekeeper.”  And my friend said “Everything is harder in Djibouti.”  Physically, mentally.. no matter what, it is harder.  Including the surfaces in my house.  Keeping up with the dust is pretty hard when you have a toddler demanding your attention constantly, but also it is very hard when you are in the bathroom with diarrhea most of the day (yes, “too much information” but this is my life now).  Our compound has a gardener, that is paid for by the landlord to keep up with the flowers and trees.  We pay him a little bit each month to walk the dog.  And when our car comes, he will also wash our car every week.  Emma has fallen in love with our housekeeper, Saredo.  Saredo not only cleans, but she LOVES Emma.  At first, Saredo would take Emma out to play for a little bit, and then Emma would play with me while the Saredo cleaned the house.  Now, whenever Saredo is here.. Emma wants NOTHING to do with me!  She She would rather follow Saredo everywhere and help her clean the house, and beg for her to go outside and play.  And never mind that I offer to take Emma outside to play.. no, she only wants Saredo!  And if daddy comes home and Saredo is here, she doesn’t want anything to do with him either!  Emma LOVES Saredo!

Saredo is wearing Emma's new sunhat.

Slowly but surely, life is becoming more comfortable.  It improved when we moved into our house, because being in our own home is so much better than four people living in one small hotel room.  It improved when we received our bulk food order.  And I know our quality of life will improve when our car arrives, and then we can finally start exploring this country more.  And improve even more when our own household items arrive.  And then maybe (just maybe), I won’t hear Lilly complain about how bored she is and how there is nothing to do here (even though she has games galore and her sister to play with).  But, we are day dreaming about our trip home this summer.  Mostly, we talk about the foods we miss, how we are excited to see our friends, how we want to go camping, and Lilly wants to go to Camp Namanu.  Yes, we are looking forward to several things.  While we were here, we didn’t notice that it was Valentines Day, or St. Patrick’s Day, and didn’t even realize that it was Palm Sunday until we saw something on Facebook (because Lilly was at school and Bryce was at work).  This week for Holy week, we have two Easter events to attend, and Grammy sent an Easter care package for us to enjoy.  But otherwise, it is a whole different world here.  On TV recently, they showed “Blackhawk Down” and “Out of Africa”.  I’m seeing both of those movies from a different perspective, even after such a short time here.  But again, we have a long way to go until we are “Out of Africa.”  22 months to go!

Update:  Over three hours of rain with no drains in the streets = flooding.  Our compound is an island with a moat.  School was cancelled early since the roads were flooded all over town.  Bryce went to get her, but couldn’t get through because of the grid-lock traffic and floods.  However, she did get home safe from another embassy mother, who rescued all of the embassy children that had yet been picked up at school.  So, it looks like I will be online shopping for some mud boots now!  Because apparently, it is needed.  I have no phone, internet has been down most of the day.  I’m out of minutes on my cell phone.  Luckily, my neighbor hasn’t had as much drama.  However, her house is a little flooded.  Another day in Djibouti!

Flooded outside our compound

Flooded down our driveway.

Flooded inside our compound.

Currently a cool 72 degrees in Djibouti.