"It's a dangerous business, going out your door.
You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet,
there's no knowing where you might be swept off to..."
--J.R.R. Tolkein

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My First Week

I never thought Africa could be cold. It was really quite pleasant to step off the non-air conditioned plane at Hargeisa Airport and feel a blast of cool wind on my face. We arrived in the midmorning, before the sun had gotten a chance to bake everything in the afternoon. Then it cools off and the wind picks up, until the its so loud it sounds like a hurricane and it’s hard to go to sleep at night.

Everything here seems built for extremes. There are only a few acacia trees that dot the rocky, desolate landscape. People build huts shaped like igloos out of scrap metal and rags.

The language sounds like rocks hitting against each other (I’m sure it will make more sense once I begin to learn it). I have heard that the words for “please” and “thank you” are rarely used. I guess when life is harsh and short, there is little concern for those things.

Nevertheless, there is much to see and do. The market in Hargeisa is a real treat.

One of the first things we did was buy cloth to make Somali outfits (which are rather involved—women have to wear a petticoat, a moo moo, a head wrap, and a cumbersome headscarf/wrap to be worn over it). But people really seem to appreciate it if a Westerner assumes the local fashion.

Of course, while we were combing the market for women’s clothes, we had an armed guard following us the entire time. The rule is that any Westerner traveling here has to be accompanied by an armed escort the entire time (and there’s no getting around it. Believe me, I’ve tried).

I wonder how many Americans would be comfortable being followed around by a black guy with a gun…

Of course, they are helpful too. We went on a nature walk one day and Kenai (my coworker’s son) got tired, so Axmad Farah gave him a lift.

Kenai is so excited to be here, especially about the animals. We have baboons, camels, little mini gazelles called tik tik, hyenas, giant tortoises…

And, of course, goats…

Workwise, the kids aren’t here yet, so there isn’t any teaching to be done. But we’ve been hard at work cleaning up the school, organizing the library, playing with the village kids, and working in the garden. One day I taught the cooks how to make pizza in the outdoor clay oven (even in the pouring rain, it still tasted pretty good). The kids keep texting us to say they can’t wait to come back. I think it’s infectious, because frankly, it’s the first time I’ve been excited for a school year to start.

Thanks for reading, and take care!


  1. Nice journey, Sophie!
    I love the way you writing it and I can't wait to read more from you...


  2. Love your blog sophie! Keep it up! Especially the fascinating details. A petticoat, really?

  3. The pictures are great!!! They add to your descriptions. Thank you!!!!!

  4. Hi, Sophie!
    We are all having dinner in Panton. we are having marinated swordfish, deep fried okra, and tomatoes with basil.
    We love your entries and think you are a great writer.
    Tons of love! We miss you!
    Erica, Will, Lynn, Kim, other Will, and the grandparents.

  5. Nice!!! I hope that you are doing well. We will have to Skype soon. Your posts look wonderful. Keep them up!

    Much Love,
    Sophie #2

  6. That sounds really amazing, Sophie. I wish that I were having an adventure like this, too!

  7. really curious about the gun men, sophie..ho ho..moreover if I were there as a Journalist...oopss!