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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Travelogue Djibouti (1)

This TL was written November 1, 2007.

Hi, all! Well this time, I'm writing you from Djibouti on the horn of Africa. I arrived here last Saturday and will be here a total of six months. I won't be enclosing any pictures in this letter just because I forgot to buy batteries for my camera. I will definitely include a couple in the next letter though.

First, I want to talk about my trip over. I was scheduled to fly out of San Antonio last Thursday evening at 630pm. Of course, the flight was delayed by one hour, but it didn't matter because my connection to Paris via Houston was delayed by the exact amount of time. I do believe that the airlines know what they're doing. Anyway, I arrived in Paris on Friday at two in the afternoon. As I was waiting for transport to the hotel, I heard some fellow Americans complaining they had been delayed a few days due to an ongoing Air France strike. I was shocked to say the least as I've never known the French to go on strike! I was also concerned that my flight later that evening might be canceled. The word on the street was thirty percent of flights were withdrawn.

Fortunately, my flight flew as scheduled. I later learned that it was just a flight attendant strike; had it been an American airline, I believe none of the flights would have been canceled as there would have been minimal mission impact. Anyway, I arrived in Djibouti bright and early on Saturday morning and was picked up by embassy staff. They showed me around Djibouti city that same morning and I was amazed by what I saw. Slovakia was different and Japan was very different from the US, but Djibouti is other-worldly and I mean that in a positive way. The architecture, the streets, the weather, etc., all of it blew me away. One week later and I'm still trying to take it all in.

The people are very nice and they have this uncanny ability to anticipate my needs. For example, I'd been issued a rental car and was wondering where the local car wash was. That same morning, I went outside and a gentleman had just finished washing my car! How did he know I was looking for this service? I promptly paid him and worked out a regular washing schedule with him. There have been other examples of such prescience from the vendors and men on the street knowing I was looking for a place to eat. I need not think for myself!!

Let's see, what else . . . I visit the embassy quite often. Mostly, I go there to use the gym and/or participate in pick-up basketball games with the staff. I can also write checks for cash and receive mail there. The staff has really made me feel welcome. I've even signed up for French lessons at the embassy. Finally, I'm learning a language that should be relatively easy!

Oh! Every day, I drive out to Camp Lemonier, the American military base. I eat, get my laundry done, shop at the BX, etc. My first day out there, I saw a sign that said 'Somalie' 50km. I thought it was a joke but found out that we're actually that close. I would drive to Mogadishu if not for fear that my insurance does not cover other countries. . .

Okay, I think that's enough for this letter. I'm still just a little jet-lagged and need to take a break now. If you have any specific questions, please write and I'll try to answer.

Russ

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