December 21, 2010


I'm now in Spain visiting my my aunt, uncle, and 3 cousins. When I arrived it was around 4 degrees celsius which I think is in the 40's farenheit. A bit colder than Djibouti. Yesterday I went into Barcelona with my cousin Juan Francisco to buy a few things and look around. I also went to Starbucks which was super cool since Djibouti may be the only country on earth that hasn't been touched by American food & beverage chains. On thursday we leave for Malaga to spend Christmas with my cousin's family so that should be fun. I also hear its much warmer in Malaga.

December 15, 2010

more observations

One thing here in Djibouti that I find disgusting is nose picking. This is an accepted part of everyday life and I see people engaging in this behavior in class, on the street, in the bus, and everywhere. There is no shame to be had in digging around in your nose for several minutes. Oftentimes in my class students will be digging for treasures for several minutes while they listen. Wow.

Another strange thing I witnessed today was a man kissing some children. I assume they were his children but affection or even communication between a father and children is rare. One of my students told me this morning that the only time he talks with his father is when his father asks him if he is passing his exams at school. Other than that, they don't speak to each other. In western culture fathers are considered integral to the upbringing of the family here they seem to just provide the finances and the muscle if discipline needs to happen. Or the experience of my students does not represent Djiboutian society.

December 13, 2010

Djiboutians in the street

Last night as I was walking near my house I saw some girls approach an intersection. There were 2 groups about 20 yards apart and they were screaming at each other. As I got closer one group stopped in the middle of the street and continued screaming while the other group came to meet them. Eventually there were about 5 teenaged girls screaming at each othe in the middle of the road. A taxi stopped and waited for them to move but they didn't and he drove around. i watched for a minute as cars approached and just drove around the group of hysterical girls. I felt compelled to take a video on my phone but it was close to dark and its hard to see, but you can hear the screams!

December 9, 2010

My Journey into Africa: To Never Have Enough

My Journey into Africa: To Never Have Enough: "I crawled into the bus and picked a window seat. While I was waiting for it to fill, a poorly-dressed man carrying a cane came to the window..."

STOP! Read the link before continuing

A Cop arresting a beggar near the University of Djibouti. I found this on Google Images.

This was written by another American living here in Djibouti. I've experienced all these things myself and have been pondering many of these ideas since I arrived.

I read a blog called Good Intentions Are Not Enough and she has written about this kind of stuff extensively. I emailed her to ask whether I should give money to beggars? She said no, give money to organizations that are working in your country. NGO's, the church, etc. I don't know if thats the answer but its a start. I still give money to beggars sometimes but I do have some guidelines.

If i have water I offer, most people have turned me down. I NEVER give money to people who pester mem walk by me, tug on me, harass me in any way. Giving them something only reinforces their behavior and I refuse to be a part of that. The ones I give money to are the quiet ones who are sitting on the sidewalk, usually mothers with toddlers or infants, or to old people. There are routes that I frequent and I see the same people there and some of them I give to semi-regularly. Outside one of the grocery stores there is a young girl who always talks to me, sometimes I give her food but if I don't give her anything she doesn't get mad at me like many of the children do.

What do you think?

December 6, 2010

Christmas plans

I am now officially going to Spain for Christmas/New Years. I bought my ticket yesterday and I can't wait to see my relatives and eat home cooked food! Feliz Navidad!

December 4, 2010

Djibouti Jones: Hot and Thirsty

Djibouti Jones: Hot and Thirsty: "Here is a great article about the heat in Djibouti, even at this cold time of year. The best, most accurate quote is, 'but I can tell you, t"his is indeed, a different kind of hot."

December 3, 2010

Djiboutian parking

Last night as I left a restaurant there was a giant traffic jam. Djiboutians honk their horns a lot but last night was deafening. Some very intelligent person had decided to park his pickup in one of the lanes. Both shoulders were already full of parked cars so him parking in a lane meant no one could move. The traffic was backed up for several blocks in both directions and people were yelling and blaring their horns. I laughed at them as I walked past them sitting in their cars. Parking in the middle of the street is common but normally its done on a wide road with multiple lanes not on a 2 lane road with cars parked on both shoulders. What a sight. i took a picture on my cell phone but I dont know how to transfer it to the computer.

November 29, 2010


Last night I was walking through downtown Djibouti on my way home. It was around 9:30 pm and a man came up to me on the street. He said to me "American?" and I said yes to which he replied "Fuck America!" What a pleasant encounter. This man must feel very strongly about this to stop me on the street only to inform me of this sentiment.

As I was walking home I thought about this as well as the malice with which he said it. He almost spit the words out at me. What brings about such strong feelings of hate in someone? With the US government's ongoing "War on Terror" attempting to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world is it even possible to reach someone like this? I would say no.

I had another similar but less profane encounter last week during class. I posed the question where would you go and what would you do if you had the resources? Many students wanted to travel, help develop Djibouti, or help their families except one student. He had 2 ideas. The first was to go to Yemen to join Al-Qaeda to fight the Americans. His other idea was to go to North Korea to join the North Korean military and fight the Americans there. This student is otherwise a respectful, well spoken student who apparently harbors intense feelings of animosity towards America.

Another student previously told me that someday the Muslims will rise as a military power and they will kill the Americans for what they have done to the Muslims. I asked if I would be killed as well but he assured me that he liked me and had no bad feelings toward me. So apparently I will be spared in this violence.

November 23, 2010

Oregon Trail

If any of you have ever played the old computer game "Oregon Trail" you may appreciate this. Along your journey to the Oregon territory your wagon party can fall victim to various diseases including dystentery. I'm fairly confident that I have dystentery or something like it at the moment. Enjoy.

November 22, 2010

exam time

today I gave midterms for the first time. the first class was chaotic, attempting to give an exam to about 140 students in a tiny room. im sure loads of them were cheating but I can't very well fail the whole class for cheating, or can I?

The next class was only about 40. 13 of them were definitely cheating and another 8 have many of the same answers. that means that around 50% are cheating, that I know about.

It really is quite shocking. Even the students who would have no problems passing are cheating and getting caught meaning they will fail. I don't understand this mindset. The test was listening to an english conversation and answering comprehension questions. Some of them showed up after we listened to the conversation and still managed to answer almost every single questions correctly. Unreal.

I don't know if its fair or safe to make conclusions from this experience but I will say that IF this is reflective of the Djiboutian mindset, and it may very well not be, than it explains a lot of things about this country.

November 20, 2010

Lac Assal

So yesterday I went to Lac Assal, a salt lake that is the 2nd lowest place on earth after the Dead Sea. Check it.

November 18, 2010

writing about Africa

apparently this is how to write about Africa. Thanks to my cousin Jesse for finding this.

In other news I'm going to Lac Assal tomorrow.

November 16, 2010

eid al adha

its the day of the eid al adha celebrating Abraham's almost sacrficie of Ishmael in the Quranic version. I think every French soldier in Djibouti is in the downtown right now. this is the largest number of white people i've seen here. yesterday there were several sheep in my apartment building. this morning they were all slaughtered. there was some blood on the steps today which was special.

in other exciting news i cleaned my whole apartment today including the toilet, the shower, and i even mopped.

November 13, 2010

Africa's economy

According to this website Africa's economy is equal to that of Chicago and Atlanta combined.

November 10, 2010

Africa Unchained: The Bane of Decrepit Seaports in Africa

Africa Unchained: The Bane of Decrepit Seaports in Africa: "In Foreign Affairs: Africa has the least efficient ports in the world. Dwell times -- the amount of time a ship must stay in port -- for the..."


I am now on my 2nd day of vacation. i don't go back until nov 20 so i have 10 days of sleeping in, 10 days of relaxation, and 10 days of doing nothing. My French class ends tomorrow and doesn't start up again until the 20th so I'm on  vacation from everything. Except I have to prepare exams to give the day I get back. 

I experienced a new sensation here in Djibouti. While I was sitting in church I felt cold. The ac was blasting and I was sitting under a ceiling fan and I was cold. That's a first.

I went to a rooftop Ethiopian restaurant twice this week. Its pretty cheap and really good. I'll be going there more often now that I know about it.

November 4, 2010

today's exciting events

Today's highlight was sitting a small child pooping on the sidewalk near the university. Not just regular poop, bright yellow runny stuff that looked like creamed corn.

Also some intelligent person decided to drive a giant front loader used in construction through the narrow streets of djibout. cars are parked on either side of the road and the loader ensured that only 1 direction of cars would be moving. Somebody give that guy a medal.

November 3, 2010

A New Hope and a first

Today was a day of hope. There was an English department meeting and we discussed curriculum development, planning, organization, all the hallmarks of education. I'm excited to see where this will lead but I'm also trying to be realistic about it.

Today was also a first for me. I rode on the back of a motorcycle. It was slightly scary but fun. And don't worry mom its safe, Tom is a good driver.

November 2, 2010

Milestone in Djibouti

2 nights ago I reached an important milestone. the water in the shower was too cold for me. Normally i get in and enjoy a few seconds of cool water but now its too cold and I have to wait for the water to warm up. Perhaps I can say that I am officially acclimated.

October 31, 2010

Djibouti Jones: Beach or Battle?

Djibouti Jones: Beach or Battle?: "We had our annual camp out at Arta Plage this past weekend and, as always, the beach was full of surprises."

American military training at the beach

Spotted in Djibouti

Yesterday I saw a man walking down the street shaving his face with a disposable razor.

This morning I saw a man walking down the street with his shirt pulled up to expose his belly holding it in his teeth.


October 30, 2010

the beach in Arta

this weekend's excitement was going to the beach in Arta, about 1.5 hours away at the end of a long, bumpy, dirt road.

The French have a permanent base/camp/station near there but the Americans had come in and set up a new, temporary installation. This meant that were helicopters and Ospreys (helicopter/airplane hybrids) flying overhead, landing close to us and generally making noise. We also got to see a marine exercise right in front of us. There were some abandoned buildings less than 50 yards from us and 3 personnel carriers drove up and a bunch of marines hopped out, set up a perimeter, and cleared the buildings. That was pretty fascinating.

In between watching American tax dollars in action I found time to enjoy the beach. I went snorkeling, saw tons of sweet fish, hiked up on a hill overlooking the beach, ate a lot of junk, and visited with the other American families there. Good times.

I went to bed at 7:30 last night and slept till 6:15 this morning since i had an early morning class. Being super tired then sleeping for a long time is a good feeling.

October 26, 2010

Does America have a corruption problem?

Where does America rank this year?

Corruption Perception Index

education in Djibouti

This began as a response to a comment but I figured I would turn it into a blog post. I will attempt to paint a picture of education in Djibouti as well as what my role is here.

Education in Djibouti is largely based on the French model. The majority of elementary and high schools are in French. French is not the students mother tongue but by the time they arrive in university they have been speaking it and schooled in it for the last 13 years. Recently, schools in Arabic have opened. These teach regular curriculum along with religious teachings. Some of these students are native speakers of Arabic but many are not. Most students mother tongue is Somali with a minority speaking Afar as their 1st language.

French based means teacher centered. Learning is done via lecture. The teacher is the holder of knowledge and imparts this knowledge to the students through lectures. Homework is rare so students take more classes. My 1st year English students have about 30 hours of class each week with little or no homework. This system is nice for the teacher as grading can only come around twice a semester as the minimum number of exams is 2. A midterm worth 40% and a final worth 60%. If a teacher wants to split the 40% into multiple exams that is their perogative. My large classes neccesitate 2 exams.

Depending on what kind of school the students were educated in will dictate their level of English and, to a large part, their behavior in the classroom. The students educated in private, French schools often are very fluent in oral English and easily express their opinions and engage in dicussion. Students from public, French school are usually at a lower level of both speaking & listening. However, all students educated in French seem to be very confrontational, blunt about opinions, willing to interrupt if they disagree, and willing to engage in loud, private conversations at any time during class.

Students educated in the Arabic schools have a lower level of English but are much more polite and respectful. Another teacher told me it is because the Arabic schools foster an atmosphere of respect as well as instilling religious values. Several times, Arabic educated students have admonished the class to be respectful, allow people to express opinions, and generally be polite. I have yet to see this from my French educated students. I frequently have to yell to be heard at my French educated students but have yet to do so with my Arabic educated students

I teach in 1st year students from 2 departments, English and LEAA. LEAA is French for something like applied languages in English. There are 127 English students enrolled this year but that will eventually be wittled down to about 30% of the original number. Most, if not all, of these students were educated in the French system and the disparity between the public school students and private school students is striking. LEAA students are Arabic educated but are studying English and French. There are about 35 enrolled in this program with only 7 women in the class.

This thesis has become entirely too long so this will be the last sentence.

October 25, 2010

Electricity in Djibouti

To say electricity is unreliable in Djibouti may not do it justice. It is notoriously unreliable. This morning I was scheduled to teach from 7:30-11:30. I ended up teaching from 7:30-8:30. Thats when the power whet out and my whole class left. Eventuallyit came back on around 8:50 but it was too late. The power stayed on in parts of the campus until around 9:15.

When I arrived for my 9:30 class there was no power which means no lights, no fans, and no AC. I stood around and sweated with my students for about 20 minutes and eventually told them to go home. I retreated to an internet cafe where I am now.

I'm supposed to have another class at 2:30 but we'll see about that. The afternoon is very hot even with the fans and AC. Coupled with the fact that many students don't feel the need to come to afternoon classes it should make for an enjoyable afternoon. I'm hoping I show up and either the power is out or none of my students have decided to come.

God did not intend that 50 people should gather in a small room on the 2nd floor of a cement building in Djibouti to discuss phonetic symbols and pronunciation at 2:30 in the afternoon.

October 18, 2010

just another day in djibouti

Yesterday, I decided to walk over to Djibouti Telecom try and purchase a new phone and maybe see about getting internet installed at my house. When I arrived it was closed. I read the sign and it appeared to say that it was open for business at the time I was there. I guess they decided not to work that day.

I wandered into town and saw several Naval officers so I knew there must be a ship in town. I went to Nougaprix, which I guess is like the Target or K-Mart of Djibouti, to pick up some things and saw maybe 20 Russian sailors milling about.

The next grocery store I went to had 50 or more Russians crowding the place looking for alcohol, snacks, and sweets. As I was standing in line some of the Russians ahead of me were paying the cashier using American $50's which the cashier took with some hesitation. The best was yet to come though.

Going outside I observed maybe 40 or 50 Russians standing in the street drinking beer. Djibouti is a Muslim country and alcohol is usually only found in establishments for foreigners drinking in public is not something that occurs.
On my way home a man at a kisok yelled at me "Russe, Russe!" I quickly responded that I was American.

Today I went to the same kiosk and the owner was laughing about the the man calling me a Russian, he said "Russians and Americans are very different." Very true and on a side note why does the man at the kiosk speak better English than some university employees with much more education? Another mystery of Djibouti

October 13, 2010

Highlights of the week

1. holding hand with a male student in a non-ironic way
2. going to the French cultural centre to watch an American movie in French
3. 12 beggars asking me for money on Tuesday
4. Finally seeing a syllabus for a class

October 7, 2010


In Djibout most taxis and buses have some kind of name written on them. Tiger, Ras, Samirye, etc. Yesterday I saw a bus with "Beyonce" written in big bold letterso on the front. Also the music playing on the buses is super cool. I need to find out what it is and get my hands on it.

October 6, 2010

todays random event

today i was/am in the teachers room and one of the Arab teachers was listening to the rapper 50 cent on his laptop. Not on his headphones or anything just blasting it out for all the world to hear. After awhile he switched over the traditional Arab music which we are currently listening to.
That is all

October 3, 2010

Weird experience at the water company/pictures

So today I finally went to the water company to set up my account. I tried to explain in my broken French what I needed to do and eventually got it taken care of. During the midst of this, the woman who was helping me asked if I had a telephone number so I wrote it down for her and she carefully went over. I was thinking she needed this for my account but then she leans in asks me if she can call me. At the time, I wasn't tracking with what was happenng so I said yes.

When I left the office I began to think about it and realized what had just happened. I didn't realize what she asking at the time since, in the US an office like that is very professional and you wouldn't do something like that with your customers. Not so in Djibouti. So perhaps in the coming days I will receive a phone call from a young Djiboutian maiden probably wanting to "practice English" with me since I'm an english teacher.

Also here's some pictures of the beach. enjoy

October 2, 2010

the beach

Yesterday i went to the beach with some other Americans who work here. It was like bath water and I went snorkeling in the coral and saw tons of beautiful fish. The beach was way down this crazy dirt road but when we got there, tons of people were already there. I attempted to upload some pictures but I've been thwarted on both attempts. Use your imagination.

My school schedule is still in flux. Someday everything will be figured, I hope. I started doing actual lessons today as its already the 3rd week and we have to start sometime.

On thursday I went to an Ethiopian restaurant for the first time. An Ethiopian family I met here invited me to go with them. The food was amazing! I really didn't know what to expect but it was great. Ethiopian food is served on a giant, spongy, sour pancake type thing. You take chunks and scoop up meat or veggies and then dip it into this brown sauce made out of chickpeas i think. Anyways it was delicious.

September 26, 2010

No students

Today I was up at 6:30 for my 7:30 class. I appeared bright and early and found that only 1 student bothered to show up this morning. This same class had anothe class with me this evening but I told my lone student it was canceled and spread the word if she saw any of her slacker classmates.

My next class at 9:30 was a fascinating one. It was 1st year English majors and we debated marriage, love, and Islam's views on these for about 1.5 hours. Many students were very vocal in their opinions of these matters and were able to express themselves very eloquently in English. I was a bit surprised by the comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary of many of the students.

I started studying French last night. That was pretty interesting, I have a very basic knowledge of French but many of my classmates had zero knowledge of anything French. The class was an interesting mix of businesspeople, diplomats, doctors, and teachers.

Weather Update. It's starting to "cool" down here and by that I mean I'm not sweating profusely every time I step out the door. Now I'm just sweating.

September 21, 2010


This morning as I got to the university I noticed the ground was wet and I remember thinking that was odd. I went into the computer lab for about 20 minutes and when I left the building to go to class it was raining! Not a lot and the sun was still shining but it was still raining. It only rained for about 3 minutes but it was still amazing. I've had 3 classes so far. All of them are oral classes. I'm supposed to get a new class schedule soon so I will probably be moved around but for now I'm enjoying what I'm doing.

This week I went to a Yemeni restaurant to have a popular Yemeni fish dish with flatbread. Not much to look at but it was delicious. Unfortunately for you, I don't believe in taking pictures of food so you'll have to use your imagination.

September 19, 2010


Today I finally received my schedule of classes. So now I have the class names and times they meet but nothing to teach. i have 5 oral comprehension classes and 2 pronunciation classes. So i guess tomorrow we will practice oral comprehension by talking about stuff. Should be interesting. I also have a meeting with the other American teachers tomorrow with the Dean of our dep't. Classes are six days a week and I have 2 classes almost every day. The bad news is that 5 days a week i have a class starting at 7:30 am. I'm about to become a morning person.

September 18, 2010

Pictures from Djibouti

1. a camel in the road
2. outside of the downtown in Belbala
3. the palace of the people. I live in the smaller building to the left

September 16, 2010

schedule? what schedule?

Today is thursday here in djibouti. Tomorrow is friday, the muslim holy day, so everything is closed down. school starts saturday. i was supposed to receive my schedule of classes today, but so far nothing. such is life here. In theory, i'm also going to be taking a french class here but I'm learning not to count my eggs before they hatch here.

Seems weird to think i've been here only a week. it seems like way longer than that. it will be good to finally start teaching and having stuff to do instead of just bumming around all day and sweating. i'd rather be doing something and sweating.

Last night, i walked out into the courtyard of the palais du people. It's a convention center next door to where i live. it was actually cool outside and the breeze was blowing off the sea. At about 430 or so it starts to cool down and it actually feels nice here. But then then its pitch black at 6:30 so that feeling doesnt last long. keep in mind that cool in djibouiti is still a relative term. i'm still sweating even when its cool.

someday i'll have my classes and then i will tell you all about those madcap adventures. until then you're stuck with this

September 13, 2010

Warm Djibouti

Hey guys

I'm in Djibouti now and starting to settle in and acclimate to the heat here. I spent the first few nights at a guesthouse and then moved into my apartment yesterday. My apartment is about 100 yards from the sea so thats kinda cool though I can't see it from my window. Across the street is a mosque built by the Saudis so I get to hear the call to prayer up close and personal 5 times a day.

Now to the heat. You can't imagine it. I've heard that Djibouti is the hottest country in the world and I believe it. Yesterday it was 46 degrees celsius which is about 115 farenheit and thats not taking into account the humidity. Any kind of physical exertion causes sweat. I was unpacking yesteday in the "cool" of the night and after about 10 minutes had rivers of sweat dripping everywher. When its the time of sweating, like right now 1:30 pm, I just stream sweat.

Classes at the University are supposed to start on the 18th though I still don't know what classes I'm teaching. Tomorrow there is a meeting but I don't have high hopes that i will know anything new after it. My liason with the school, Tom, who recruited me and is American shared with me that the classes consist of a name and that virtually everything else is filled in by the professor. Should be an interesting experience.

On the bright side Djibout is a very small city and I can easily walk about anywher I need to go in the downtown. As it is now the heat of the day I'll be spending the rest of the afternoon attempting to remain in air conditioning.

this is getting long so I'm cutting it off. leave a comment or email me

September 5, 2010

The journey begins this week


I leave for Djibouti this Tuesday and will arrive on Thursday afternoon Djibouti time. This will be close to 2 full days of traveling so hopefully I will make it over in one piece and perhaps my luggage will too. Please remember me and pray for me as this new adventure commences this week. 

August 27, 2010

Welcome to the Adventure


There are many blogs that cover a range of obscure and mindless things. This (hopefully) will not be one of those. Rather, this blog will seek illustrate the experiences of me (Dan) as I journey to Djibouti, Africa to teach English at the University of Djibouti. First, lets get some basics out of the way.

Djibouti is the name of the country and the capitol city. The capitol of Djibouti is Djibouti. Djibtouti is located on the coast of northeastern Africa bordering Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. Until 1977 it was a French colony. French is still the language of the university.

Djibouti is 99.99% desert with only about 10 sq. miles of arable land, depending on what source you read. That means it will be HOT and humid. I've heard that Djibouti is sometimes referred to as "Hell's waiting room." Who wants to come visit?

Hopefully I will be able and willing to update this a couple times of week once I arrive in Djibouti. Check back or follow me or just read it when I post it on Facebook.

Thanks for reading, see you in Djibouti

More info on Djibouti
Djibouti factbook from the CIA
Djibouti Wikipedia
An American woman blogs about her family's life in Djibouti