Saturday, January 7, 2012

Life in the Turd World

Ann takes to the blog....
One thing I’ve noticed here in Djibouti is a strange proliferation of animal body parts on the street. When we were living in Jordan I was walking home from work one day (and it had been an especially hard day) when I looked down and saw a dead kitten. This made me feel REALLY sad and I vowed to keep my eyes above waist level from then on whilst walking in (some) foreign countries.

From Our Place in Menelik Square

Unfortunately I keep forgetting about that. A few weeks ago we went to the swanky Kempinski Hotel for a little escape-from-Djibouti action. A day spent lounging at the pool, waiters with little bow ties bringing us drinks etc. Then we had to go home and since we don’t have a car and it isn’t 120 degrees out (yet) we decided to walk a bit. Almost as soon as you leave the hotel grounds you know that you are back in Djibouti. The bougainvillea and manicured lawns give way to thorny sticks clinging to life in dry, cracked mud puddles. The smell of cocoa butter is replaced by the smell of shit (because people are well, shitting, in the sea). But what really brought it home that we were no longer in Kempinskiland was that I looked down and saw something about two feet long with hair and what was unmistakeably, a hoof. “Is that a goat leg?” I asked Reed. “yup” he said and we kept walking. 

From djib country

About a week later I was walking home from work (not looking down) when I came upon the IOM dog. I used to work for IOM and they are just down the street from our office. The dog is always out in front of their office and he only has three legs and is super scroungy in a very endearing way. The two times a year it rains he rolls around in puddles and then goes around caked in mud for the next month with his little pink tongue lolling about. He manages just fine with his three legs and it would appear that this happened quite some time ago. On this particular day when I strolled past him I had some stale cookies to give him but he was engrossed in something else and was chewing away quite happily and ignored my offering. Curious (no! bad idea!) as to what could be more enticing than stale French cookies I looked closer and discovered he was gnawing on an animal leg, no a DOG leg. Now the strange part is that it was not HIS missing leg as his leg has obviously been missing for a long time but it was some OTHER dog’s missing leg. It even had all it’s little nails still. Sadly I did not have my camera or even Reed with me to witness/process this.

If one does have an affinity for the four-legged friend it’s a tough town. I hit what can only be described as a new low-low when I chased down a pack of teen-age boys and threw a rock at them. They were throwing rocks (they started it!) at a dog and then a little cat and I lost my shit. Yes there are plenty of people that don’t have enough to eat here and I should save my energy for them and some countries just don’t have the same feelings for animals and blahblahblah. Fuck that. I work in a refugee camp and I know how bad off people are and it occupies 99% of my waking hours so excuse me if I want to focus a tiny amount of energy on animals. Wow, see what happens? Anyhoo I was a crazed banshee shouting at them, throwing my rock, stalking them for a few blocks shouting them down in English (I’m pretty sure they got the gist of it, most people seem to understand f-bombs). Reed said “I was right there with ya until you threw that rock…”. I’d like to say I’m not proud of what I did but obviously I am because I am writing about it.
From DjiboutiLicious - Shots from and around our apartment

Another fascinating (might be a strong word here) thing about Djibouti is that people talk REALLY loud. I would go so far as to call it SHOUTING. The lingua franca (besides Frenchy) is Somali and you really cant tell if the person shouting is happy/furious/excited/crazy/all of above. Sometimes they do it right in your face and we call it being “thundergunned” after an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia. It’s a good verb. “You know that short, lighter salesman with the Kanye glasses? He fucking THUNDERGUNNED me today when I was getting off the bus”.

Next to thundergunning horn honking is another national pastime. There is really little to no need seeing as there is one measly traffic circle downtown and not many cars but for some reason they can’t seem to negotiate it and end up jammed in these goofy configurations honking like maniacs, even though they could easily pass the blocking car. I suspect they long for a proper traffic jam so they could really let loose on their klaxon action so they just pretend to be mad and honk away all the while shuddering in ecstasy. 

And then there are the beggars and qat-chewing drug addicts on the sidewalks (and I use the term ‘sidewalk’ loosely here). At first I resisted giving money to beggars but I felt like such an asshole that I started carrying a pocketful of change and when I remember I buy biscuits to give the rugrats instead of money (they scowl, one even gave me the finger). As for the qat I suspect the government doesn’t mind having almost the entire male population addicted to drugs as that effectively prevents them from rising up and demanding oh I don’t know, jobs? Education? Health care? Clean drinking water? Streets that don’t stink like piss? And yes people here pay taxes. You think WE get a raw deal ha!

We fall asleep to the pounding bass of Club Hermes (Herpes)  and waken to the blare of the mosque (4 a.m.). Somewhere in between is another layer of hell which is the karaoke bar that caters to the Japanese soldiers. It's pretty bad but makes for interesting dreams.

One has to be able to HANDLE Djibouti and some days I can’t. But most days it is funny as hell and nothing ever goes like you think it will (should). 
Happy 2012. Peace, love, and fresh air to all!


Anonymous said...

Hey you spunky, rock throwing intrepid traveler... LOVE reading your blog. I'm in Sri Lanka for a week doing some literacy consulting. Looking forward to seeing you in Sea Town in 2012! Hi to Reed man! xoxo susan

acamalaria said...

Hi Ann and Reed:
Do keep it up; it makes Kenya seem like HEAVEN in comparison!
I hope to meet you both in Karen during my visit there(Jan26-Mar4, 2012).

God bless, Larry

Anonymous said...

See you soon , I hope!

Anonymous said...

Rock on sistah! Hahahaha. Ingebor

Anonymous said...

Hey Nan and Reed. You crack me up Nan! Miss you guys so much and hope your having a good time. Love Frances

Anonymous said...

Nan, I love that I can visualize you, your f-bombs, & your rock chasing those little hoods! I can also hear Reedo saying he was w/ you 'til the rock!! Mahhhh!

Now...the 3 legged dog knawing on another dog's lost leg....ugh...& you are sure it wasn't his?! How does this happen?! Wait...I don't want to know!

Loving you friend, xo to Reedo. Aloha!
Kt, Beau & Tatertot