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.