Showing posts from 2011

Merry Christmas!

Happy to be home rather than overseas at this moment.  Although I love to travel, there's a lot to be said for the conveniences we have here in the US.

I Need To Start Posting More!

I lose my enthusiasm for updating this blog when I'm not traveling.  I need to start getting out more and seeing the sights in my local area, right?  What's common for me here in San Antonio might be interesting for those who've never been here.

Czech-Slovak Festival

Here is a video with accompanying music that was played at this festival in San Antonio a few weeks ago.  Everyone was hospitable and I had a great time.


I snapped this picture with my IPhone while on vacation at my family's house in West Virginia. It's amazing how tame these wild animals can be when they're hungry. This fellow was only one of many that regularly visit the deck in the backyard.

It's Been Too Long

I haven't been able to post the last few weeks due to a lot of events happening in my life.  I flew back safely from Djibouti and was absolutely exhausted upon my return.  After all, I was in transit 40 hours!!!  I also had some difficulties with my house that took a lot of my time.  Finally, I visited Kentucky in order to see family.  I go back to work tomorrow (ugh!) but am glad to be home.  I hope to do better in the future.

On The Way Home!

Well, I survived Djibouti a second time which few can say.  I am now in Johannesburg awaiting my flight to Atlanta.  I still have more pictures of DJ but will wait to post when I get home.  Too tired now!

Which One Is The Cutest?

I'm taking care of these animals during my last week in Djibouti.  It's very therapeutic after what I've been through.  Now, let me give you some information about each picture.
#1 His name is James and he funtions as an alarm clock usually before daylight.
#2 I can't remember her name but she's the shy one in the bunch and the sister of James.
#3 This dog is called "The Mouse" because of his face, I believe.  He originates from the Canary Islands.
#4 Finally, these are the outside cats who don't have any names.

Okay, which one do you think is the cutest?

Lake Assal Revisted

I visited Lake Assal four years ago during my last assignment here but wanted to see it again this time before I left.  It's reputedly the lowest point in Africa at 509 ft below sea level and the third lowest in the world.  Here are two pictures with the second clearly showing the salt content in the lake.  I dipped my hand in the water and was still scraping salt off my hand a few hours later!

Just When I'm Leaving . . .

they put up traffic lights.  These are literally the first traffic lights I've ever seen in Djibouti.  They were working the other day but they had to turn them off.  Why?  The lights caused two accidents because drivers assumed other drivers would stop when they didn't.  I like the old system of every man for himself!

Let me add, there are no people on the streets because it's 4pm, Ramadan, and 110F outside.

Follow The Directions

I've been passing this sign every day and finally decided to take a picture of it.  The one strong message I get from it is "Don't turn right!"
Well, as of today, I have only 12 days remaining in Djibouti.  I can't believe it's almost over.  If I have learned one thing over here, it's that there are many things more important than money!

First Day Of Ramadan . . .

. . . in Djibouti.  I've been told the fasting will cause the amount of work to decrease.  How could that be possible?  Does that mean people will cease having a pulse?

Major Sandstorm!

There's a major sandstorm happening in Djibouti right now!  I took this picture around 5pm but it doesn't convey the seriousness of the storm.  Current temperature is 106 having cooled down because the sun is blocked out by the sand.  The wind sounds like a freight train.  I hope it's over by tomorrow morning because I have a long drive to work.

Five Weeks To Go!

Yes, only five weeks to go but this is going to be the longest five weeks of my life!  The temperature ranges from 110-115F every day and doesn't go below 100 at night.  Since the AC in my hotel room isn't the best, I always feel a little warm.  Those who know me, know that I actually like warmer weather and keep the AC on low in my own home.  Imagine how you'd feel if you were here.  And, August is supposed to be even hotter!  Since I don't have AC at all at work, I don't know how I'm going to manage.

Some minor annoyances that used to be funny are making me really angry now.  For example, due to the heat, the electricity is always going off during the afternoon.  My hotel has a generator so it never becomes dangerous but when the electricity goes off, you lose the internet for at least the next several hours.  You see, there may not be anyone at the internet company in the afternoon to restart the system.  I know that's hard to believe but it's true. …

What's Wrong With Me?

I haven't posted anything in two weeks?  I need to get off my butt and take some pictures and put them up.  The problem is the 110F plus weather.  It makes me not even want to go outside!

111 Degrees in Djibouti

According to weather reports, the temperature hit 111 degrees in Djibouti yesterday.  I believe that is the hottest temperature I've ever experienced.  I don't even want to go outside!

The Tipping Point

I've been miserable this week!  I don't know if it's the heat or the culture finally wearing me down but I've been angry with everyone and overreacting to every event.  I have nine weeks to go but I wonder if I can hold on until then without doing something crazy.  I would kill right now for a good conversation.  I would also pay money to be left alone while walking around in public.  I lay in bed at night fantasizing about being home and doing the most mundane chores.

This isn't culture shock, it's culture electrocution!!!

Halfway Home

Well, I am now over the halfway mark for my time here in Djibouti.  I'm supposed to be here for a total of six months and I only have about two and a half left.  I was hoping the remaining time would pass quickly but then I thought of a mountain I climbed five years ago in Slovakia.  It was only 2,500 meters but the two-hour walk to the base had already tuckered me out.  I really struggled to reach the summit but once I did, I heaved a sigh of relief.  I mean, after all, I knew the walk back down would be much easier than the climb up.  Yet, when I began the descent, I began to experience worse pain than I could have possibly imagined.  Every time my foot hit a rock, a jolting pain would shoot up my spine.  At the end, I was totally worn out and demoralized.

I hope the descent in Djibouti doesn't have the same effect on me!

The Boy Who Cried Wolf!

Or, maybe he didn't.  You can see in this picture a shepherd tending his flock.  Actually, you can't see the shepherd very well because he's lying on the ground sound asleep.  Admittedly, I have no experience in this vocation but common sense dictates that a shepherd should stay awake while doing his job, right?
Just another day in Djibouti.

Delicious Moroccan Food

One week ago, I was invited to the apartment of a Moroccan co-worker for dinner.  Following the American custom, I normally eat my dinner between 5-6pm but waited till 8pm to begin this meal.  It all started with snacks including nuts, dates, and other fruits.  They were tasty but I didn't want to spoil what I knew would be a big dinner so I tried not to eat too many of these.  When the meal was served, it began with an appetizer called 'Bastilla' which tasted a bit like dessert.  The main course was a dish called 'Cous Cous,' a mixture of some type of wheat extract with beef and assorted vegetables.  All in all, it was a very delicious meal and the first time I'd experienced Moroccan food.

The conversation was interesting as well and the event makes me want to visit this country some day.

Just Monkeying Around . . .

. . . on a Thursday afternoon.  I have no desire to go outside now what with the touts and oppressive heat.  The guys in the picture have the right idea

SOS!!! Please Help!

What should I do in the following situation?

Yesterday, one of the clerks at my hotel asked if he could speak with me. He seemed really upset so I agreed. What a story he told me! He began to speak of the new French manager and how things were changing under her regime. I was aware of her but didn't really know who she was as the hotel has never really seemed to have a manager or, one I ever knew about. Anyway, he told me she has instituted several new rules to improve hotel operations. First of all, no one is allowed to sleep while on duty! Can you imagine! The clerk is not even permitted to sleep at night! When asked for her rationale for such a spartan rule, she exclaimed that hotel security is compromised when the clerk is asleep. Apparently, this person asked if he could sleep as long as he kept his shoes on allowing him to give chase after any thief immediately. The manager replied that he could not sleep under any circumstances because doing so while on duty was also very u…

Of Taxis And Men

Three years ago, I wrote about taxis in Djibouti and how they constantly harrass you when you're walking down the street.  They don't seem to understand when you DON'T need a taxi nor how you could never provide them with a destination when you're exactly where you want to be.  Well, another fact about DJ taxis struck me the other day.  In both my trips to Djibouti, I don't think I've ever seen anyone riding in a taxi!  Of course, someone must hail them and pay or how would they stay in business?  Gas is about $6/gallon here so how could they drive around all day with no customers?  Could it be the government is subsidising all these taxis to drive around, toot their horns, and all in all, annoy the crap out of pedestrians!  This is a mystery I must solve before I leave Djibouti again.

Down And Out In Djibouti

Or, at least my blog was!  For the past few days, I was unable to access this site.  Every time I clicked the link or typed in the address, I would be redirected to ""  Then, I started getting a blank page.  Finally, I was able to access it again.  I hope to post some pictures in the next few days.

A Plea To All Djiboutian Pedestrians!

In the course of my driving in Djibouti over two visits here, I have been shocked by the negligence of the pedestrians in this country.  Day after day after day, I grip my steering wheel tightly while praying I don't hit one of you.  So, I beg all of you to consider the following:

-It is perfectly fine to cross the road but check first to make sure no car is coming.  You should especially NOT step out right in front of a car.

-I realize there aren't enough sidewalks in Djibouti but walking on the side of the road is a preferable alternative to walking in the middle of the road.

-You should be even more cautious during rainy weather, fog, and at night.  This cuts down on driver reaction time and will more likely result in injury.

-Yes, pedestrians have the right of way but do not have the right of conducting a meeting as far as I know.  When you have a party in the middle of the road, it makes it even more difficult for drivers to avoid you.

I don't know what your motives a…

Decan Cheetah Refuge7

These are the last of the pictures--a hyena and a hungry lion!  I'll try to acquire some photos of downtown Djibouti in the next few days.

Deflated Expectations

Well, sort of.  I came home from work ready to start the weekend off right.  I soon left my hotel room and went downstairs to hop in my car.  I noticed when I started to pull out, some unknown Djiboutian began violently signaling me to stop.  This happens all the time and I ignored him for fear he was going to ask me for money.  I then proceeded to the embassy to cash a check.  When I parked there, I noticed that one of my tires was almost flat and had a nail in it!  I guess this was what the stranger wanted to tell me.  Oh well, I avoided having to tip him for the information.

Anyway, I got some cash and then told my supervisor about the tire.  I was going to try to make it to a gas station but he insisted on helping me change it.  Together, we got it done in about 10 minutes, faster than a lot of pit crews!  After that, I drove to "Pyramid Rental Cars" and they repaired the tire in about 15 minutes.  Everything was so efficient, I almost appreciated being here.  Almost!


Decan Cheetah Refuge6

This ostrich was mean but the zebra was tame enough.  I'll be posting more pictures of the various animals we saw over the next few days.  The cheetah refuge isn't just for cheetahs!

Esquire Article On Djibouti

This an amazing article on Djibouti from '06.  It focuses on the khat trade but also provides a lot of insight into what I endure every day (usually with a smile on my face).  Anyway, please read it and let me know what your impressions are.

Here's the link:

Decan Cheetah Refuge5

This is really a 'thorny' issue to bring up.  But, when walking through the Djiboutian bush, you have to worry about other things besides the animals.  These thorns can really do damage to clothes and hurt a lot when making contact with the skin.  Click on the picture to get a good look at these.

A Night On The Town

Sort of?  Last night, I decided to take a walk in downtown Djibouti.  I prefer going out at night here for a number of reasons.  It tends to be cooler at night and the shops are all open.  The sounds and smells seem more exotic as well.  But, the best part of walking at night is the camouflage effect it provides.  Walking in the dark decreases the reaction time of the touts on the street who can only shout out offers after I've passed.  For example, last night, I was long past the guy who shouted "What do you want?!  What do you want?!" followed by "Massage! Massage!"  I assume he didn't want to give me a massage himself but wanted to take me into one of the various 'bars' while collecting his commission.  In the meantime, I would have been competing with the likes of legionnaires and Somali pirates for the affections of some Ethiopian lady.  No thank you!  I continued down the street and heard another offer from behind.  This was from several old w…

Decan Cheetah Refuge4

I really liked these two fellas but the wire looked a little thin!  The female lion was dining when I took the picture and didn't even seem to notice me.  The male seemed scared as he refused to come closer.

The Road Less Traveled

Or, it should be.  On Tuesday night, I decided the road I drive to work every day wasn't exciting enough.  I mean granted, it is a bad road with terrible drivers and there are also many obstacles to overcome.  For example, there are numerous kinds of livestock such as sheep, goats, and camels that cross the road at will.  There are also the ubiquitous wild dogs and even a stray hyena or two.  Oh, I forgot the people who walk in the middle of the road as if it belongs to them rather than the vehicles.  Throw in falling rocks and blinding fog and you get an idea of what my daily drive is like.

So, how did I make it more exciting?  Well, due to a cold and nagging cough, I literally did not sleep on Tuesday night.  So, I had to drive 45-minutes through all of the above, work a full day, and drive back on zero sleep.  That definitely made the drive more exciting!

By the way, I drive a 'Kia Rio' over here.  If both I and the car survive, I'm going to write Kia and offer my s…

Decan Cheetah Refuge3

Yikes!  That wire looks awfully thin!  I hope the cheetah is looking for the prey in the second picture and not for me.  Click the pictures to get a magnified view.

Decan Cheetah Refuge2

In the first picture, you see a traditional safari hut mounted on stilts.  In the second, you can see rocks marking the path we were told to stay on no matter what.  We were also told not to pick up the rocks as scorpions quite often hide beneath them!

Decan Cheetah Refuge

There's an interesting story behind this refuge.  Apparently, a Somali cheetah was rescued at the port in Djibouti and turned over to a local veterinarian.  He nursed it back to health and then came up with the idea of establishing this refuge.  Visitors, who pay to enter and buy souvenirs, support the project and this in turn has caused it to grow to its current size.  FYI, this refuge is about a 30-minute drive south of Djibouti City and only about 20kms from the Somaliland border.
The first picture is the entrance to the refuge and the second is a typical tree you see in this part of Djibouti.  I will be posting pictures of the animals (the stars of the show) in the coming days.


That's the name of the guard dog that patrols my sector of the worksite.  The other day (no camera unforunately), I heard the distinct sound of a baboon right outside my office door.  Now, the door doesn't catch when pulled together and only locks from the outside so I use a chair to keep it closed.  Anyway, after hearing this sound I looked out the window and so at least 10 baboons (including babies) near my door.  I also saw Bobby who was lying on the ground licking himself while the baboons circulated nearby presumably without fear.
My only explanation for Bobby's seeming disinterest is that he follows the same rules of engagement as our troops in Afghanistan.  In other words, he cannot fire until fired upon.  Even then, he can't fire if he suspects there are civilians in the area.  He's a sweet dog but I'm not sure if he's got what it takes to win the "war."

A Pleasant Discovery

I have been looking at this view for a few days now and never noticed before--but, I can actually see the bay from my worksite!  I guess the haze/fog of March had blocked this before.  The first picture is what I saw before (with monkeys).  The second is what I saw today.  A big difference!

I Found It!

The way to avoid solicitation, harassment, and just being bothered in general.  I really shouldn't share this secret though as I could make a fortune selling it to the expat community in Djibouti.  Oh well, here it is.  The key to eliminating the above is to run; run everywhere you go!  I've found that when I run during my workouts, no one bothers me nor even tries.  It's not because they don't want to disturb me because lord knows that hasn't stopped them from interrupting me while reading, eating or even carrying boxes.  There's just something about running that repels your average street vendor or worse.  So, that's the secret to being left alone in Djibouti.  From now on, like Forest Gump, I will run everywhere I go in this country!

I Wish I'd Had A Camera

Out at the work site, I saw some really big baboons that had wondered closer than they ever had before.  The dogs didn't seem to be around and so, I figured these were more of a threat than usual.  Right when I was considering making a face-saving retreat, several of the Djiboutians picked up rocks and started hurling them.  This worked quite effectively and now I know the weapon of choice should we be invaded again.  I really wish I'd had a camera though.

A Room With a View

These two pictures were taken literally 50 feet from my worksite!  The baboons seem relatively tame and the dogs in the camp also seem to keep them in line.  Good thing because there's nothing here to stop them from entering whenever they want.  What with the terrible weather and wildlife, what chances do you give me for surviving the next six months?

On The Way To Arta

I drove up to Arta the other day for work and it was pouring the rain!  This is very unusual in Djibouti and dangerous on what are already poor roads.  To make matters worse, there was a lot of  fog up in the mountains.  Not only did I have to keep the car on the road, but I also had to look out for pedestrians.  A word of warning, it's not a good thing walking in the middle of the highway during zero visibility.  I've attached a photo of what I had to deal with much of the trip.

And you thought I couldn't do it

relate Africa to Georgia that is!  Read the article below about Georgia attempting to woo South African farmers to their country for agricultural development purposes.  Nothing is without controversy though . . .

Arta Revisited

I drove up to Arta today on a work-related trip.  As you may recall from some of my earlier posts, Arta is a town about 40 kilometers west of the capital and where many important officials spend their holidays.  It overlooks the sea and is kept very tidy by the local population.  But, more importantly for me, the temperature is usually between 7-10 celsius lower than in the capital.  I hope to go out there again many times for a respite from the weather this summer.

Some Familiar Sights

It's so surreal returning to a place you never thought you'd see again.  I'd always planned to return to Georgia but I never thought Djibouti was a possibility.  Yet, here I am.  So many things are familiar with memory buttons being pressed constantly by external stimuli.  For example, it didn't take me long to figure out the purpose of the ubiquitous plastic bags on the streets.  Another, I had forgotten how the taxi drivers use the word 'Yes!' as a question rather than a response when soliciting a fare.  For those of you who have been here, you know what I mean:)

I mentioned in my last post how I'd flown through Nairobi and Addis Ababa.  Most people would prefer the former but I was unexplainably drawn to the latter in the short time I was there.  I can't explain this except that it might have been caused by the euphoria I was feeling in being so close to the end of a lengthy trip.  Anyway, I'd like to spend some more time there.

The worst effects…

I Survived . . .

another trip to Djibouti.  After a short flight to Atlanta and a long one (15 hours) to South Africa, I was incredibly exhausted.  The four-hour flight to Nairobi didn't seem so bad until I found out the next flight wasn't direct to Djibouti but had a stop in Addis Ababa.  Still, I enjoyed seeing it as I had never been there before.  Once I got off the plane, I was whisked away to start some in-processing but finally got to my hotel around 1700.  The next three or four days should be very light and give me a chance to overcome the jetlag.  I hope to meet some of you that live here and have been reading the blog.  Don't be shy!  Also, Kayla, I didn't forget about your comment and will try to write you in the morning.  Now, I have got to get some rest.

In South Africa

and awaiting my flight to Nairobi with a final destination of Djibouti.  I misjudged the flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg; it was actually 15 hours and I'm really tired right now despite the fact I slept about six hours on the plane.  I will board the flight in about 90 minutes but won't arrive in Djibouti until about 11 hours from now.  Please check my grammar because I'm kind having blurred vision at the moment!


I'm sitting here at the San Antonio airport getting ready to begin the long journey.  It's going to be about 36 hours in transit before I arrive in Djibouti.  It will be very surreal arriving in a place I never thought I'd see again.  I'll try to post again during the layover in Johannesburg.

Departing for Djibouti

I'll be departing for Djibouti in a few days flying via Atlanta, Johannesburg, and Nairobi.  I feel like I'm well prepared for the trip and have all my affairs in order.

How do I feel about the trip?  On the one hand, I'm not apprehensive at all because I've been there before.  On the other hand, I'm very apprehensive because I've been there before.  It's a really tough country to live in!!!

The Golden Temple in Japan

Also in the Kyoto area, this particular temple seemed to be the most surreal of all.


I just received my itinerary for the flight to Djibouti.  It looks like I'll be going via Atlanta, Johannesburg, and Nairobi.  A roundabout yet interesting route to say the least.  The last time I went there, I simply flew through Paris.

It's Djibouti Again!

I recently found out that I'll be going to Djibouti again.  It was not my first choice but Georgia's not available now and Egypt, well you know what's happening there.  At least this time, I'll be able to hit the ground running and make the most of my time.  I just hope it's not too hot this summer.

Patrick, are you still there?

Kyoto Temples2

Some more similar to the ones below.  Very therapeutic!

Kyoto Temples

I'll be posting more pictures of these over the next few days.  There is more information on this topic under the Japan heading in the left margin.

Japanese Food

Way back in '07, I traveled to Nagoya, Japan for my employer.  I was fortunate enough to live there for six months and participate in all facets of the culture.  I developed quite a taste for Japanese food as well and ate it whenever I could.  Not only was it delicious but it was also very healthy.  Many medical problems in American would be eliminated if we followed a similar diet.
The picture shows the food we were served at a traditional restaurant in Kyoto.  Tomorrow, I'll post some pictures of the temples I saw there and the surrounding area.  Another great memory in my life:)

Snow in San Antonio!

For the first time since I've lived here, I saw snow in San Antonio.  Amazingly, there was about an inch on the ground when I woke up this morning.  But, I wasn't affected too much since I'm orginally from Kentucky where they have much more snow than this.
Anyway, after getting ready I began the journey to work at 0530.  I could tell right away that something was wrong as the roads seemed too slippery for such a small amount of snow.  Well, what I eventually discovered was that the storm had begun with freezing rain and then the snow covered the sheet of ice that it left.  Furthermore, San Antonio doesn't have snow plows so the roads were in their natural condition.  I was about three-quarters of the way to work when my boss called me on my cell.  He told me that the reporting time was now 1200 and I need not leave home till then.  Since I was almost already there, I decided to go on in.  After arriving, the boss called again to say work had been cancelled for the day! …

Another Great Picture From Georgia


The Land of Milk and Honey . . .

. . . and grapes!  Where else can you find grapes growing in a downtown area for all to enjoy?

Who Needs Prozac???

I need only look at this picture to feel on top of the world!  Click on picture for full effect!

A Few More of the MI-24

When I was in the army, I couldn't even travel to Czechoslovakia.  In '06, I was able to enter a Slovak AFB and take pictures with the permission of a public affairs officer.  How times have changed.

MI-24 Pics!

On the way to the hangar, I managed to catch this chopper in flight.

Inside the cockpit!

One last picture with friends before departing.

These pictures were taken during a visit to a Slovak AFB in Fall '06.  The main thing I remember about that day was how terribly cold it was!

Near Roznava