Sunday, January 19, 2014

Shake Your Djibouti

Winter break is a LONG break at the International Community School of Addis Ababa and we intended to fill it to the brim with new,fun and exciting experiences for our family. Since moving to Ethiopia the Hubs has had the opportunity to travel the African continent extensively, the kids and I have had some amazing trips but they have all been confined to Ethiopia.  This break was our big break! Our chance to travel outside of Ethiopia and to see the Africa that people imagine when you tell them that you live in Africa. Hollywood Africa!  The Lion King, Africa!  That’s right folks, we were going on Safari. Never, ever in my life did I expect to see elephants, zebras and giraffes in their natural habitat.  Let me say that again, NEVER EVER in my life did I think that I would get to go on Safari! To say that I was excited is the understatement of the year. I have been looking forward to this trip since moving to Addis in April.  So, you are wondering, where exactly were we headed?  We decided that Tanzania made the most sense for our family. Not only could we go on safari but we could also visit the island of Zanzibar. I know that admitting this will show all of you seasoned world travelers just how naive and uneducated I really was prior to moving to Ethiopia, but I have to admit that I only had a general idea where Zanzibar was located and that was based on one line from the movie “Muppet’s Treasure Island”. 

So, I’m super excited for this trip but we took two trips over the holidays and before we get into the Tanzania trip I have to tell you about the trip that we took before Christmas. The original plan was for the older boys to accompany the Hubs on a work trip to Djibouti on the 20th of December. While in Djibouti the boys would have the amazing opportunity to go Whale Shark diving.  I want to clarify that Whale Sharks while technically sharks, I guess, eat krill and not human children, so stop worrying.  Also, we should address the name of this country.

YES! The name is Djibouti, lets get it all out, Shake your Djibouti! Check out that Djibouti! Get your Djibouti over here! The list goes on and on and if I didn’t mention that, I’m sure that your brains would keep returning to the funny name of this little country and you wouldn’t be able to concentrate on the rest of the blog post. So now we can stop thinking about Djibouti and get back to talking about my trip to Djibouti. So I was planning to have a relaxing weekend with just the little man, Jacob, back in Addis. All of the other men folk would be gone and we could spend a quality weekend just chilling out and preparing for Christmas. The fates had other plans for us though. Apparently the childcare situation changed and the boys would have been left alone in the hotel if I didn’t also go on the trip. The Hubs was able to acquire some reasonably priced airline tickets for myself and the little man and we were set to join the rest of the family in Djibouti.

Friday December 20th we all boarded the Ethiopian Airlines plane and headed out of Ethiopia for the first time in nine months! The flight was quick and uneventful. Funny thing about Ethiopian Airlines is that they ALWAYS feed you! The flight to Djibouti was about an hour long but we got a sandwich, drink and snack all before landing… but barely before landing…sheesh, I hardly had time to snarf that thing down before they came around with the trash bags to clean up before the final descent. 

After we landed we had to get our passports stamped and let me tell you, boarder crossings SUCK! Seriously, getting through customs is annoying when you are a single person but they are a terrible nightmare that I would not wish on my worst enemy when three man-children accompany you!  It probably took about 45 minutes to get all of the paperwork filled out, wait in line and then get our stamps; it felt like no less than 4-5 hours. Jacob was literally lying on ground in the middle of customs. When I moved him he kicked, screamed and basically humiliated me by ensuring that every person in the room witnessed a truly bratty American child in action! YEY!

Jacob -1
Mom -0

After what felt like an eternity we were through customs and looking for our ride to the hotel. The best hotel in Djibouti is the Kipinski. The Kipinski has about 12 pools, and playgrounds and everything that is awesome!  We did not stay at the Kipinski. The price of one room is about 400 USD per room, per night. The hotel would not allow us to squeeze our family of five into a single room, so any far-fetched delusions that we may have entertained of spending the weekend in the luxurious atmosphere that is the Kipinski Hotel evaporated with one glance at our bank account.

Instead, the Sheraton hotel shuttle met us out side of the airport and we quickly loaded into the van for a speedy ride to the hotel.  I didn’t spend much time exploring the city during our visit, in fact my hands on knowledge of anything outside of the Sheraton is extremely limited but I can say this, the traffic was almost non-existent and I didn’t see one goat or sheep at all while we were driving to and from the airport.

 When we arrived at the hotel the kids and I waited while the Hubs checked us in. We waited and waited and waited. Apparently Djibouti is not a family vacation destination…big surprise.  When we arranged our stay at the hotel the Hubs did it through the Internet with Sheraton International. He was able to get us a great deal on the rooms, rent one, get one half off and kids eat free and some other family oriented perks. Well, they had heard nothing about this deal! The Hubs is not a quitter though! He fought and fought and argued (in French) and called on the phone until, FINALLY the hotel acknowledged that there was indeed a deal and we should receive all of the perks of this deal! That only took about 2 hours. Sometimes I exaggerate a little when it comes to times and how long things take…I am not exaggerating right now. We sat in that lobby for 2 hours!!! I’m positive that if the Hubs didn’t convince them to give us the family deal, listening to my kids bicker with each other would have convinced the hotel eventually.  We finally checked into our rooms. They weren’t adjoining but they were right next-door to each other, Brenden and James shared a room and the Hubs, Jake and I shared the other room. After such a tiring day we all retired to our beds and rested until dinner.

We ate at the hotel where in I got to see the Hubs ‘mad French speaking skills’ in action. I have to say, I was impressed. He ordered every meal that we ate in French and while he says that his French is terrible right now and that he needs practice I thought he was Grrrreat!

The next day was an early one for everyone but Jake and I.  The older boys along with the Hubs left bright and squirrely for Whale Shark Diving. Jake and I slept in and then staggered downstairs for some breakfast. The spread was pretty nice, bread, yogurt, bacon, eggs, pancakes, fruit, olives, cheese, milk, and cereal, basically any breakfast food that you can think of. Jake and I ate as much as we could and then headed back to our room to get our swimsuits on. The only thing for us to do was to swim at the pool.  

We hung around at the pool for a few hours enjoying the sounds of the ocean (we couldn’t swim in the ocean but we could see it) and playing in the pool. This continued until one of my personal nightmares came true. My son, pooped in the pool! Yes, that is right, chilling in the pool one minute and then, loud enough for the entire pool deck to hear, “Mommy, I pooping in the pool!” What the?! Oh My GOSH! I run over and rip him out of the water, luckily it’s all caught in his swim trunks and super lucky, no one else was in the water. I assume that there is some sort of protocol for when a kid takes a dump in a pool, I didn’t wait around to discover what that protocol was. I marched his little butt into the bathroom to clean him up before heading back to hide in my hotel room until the pool staff changed out.  We spent the rest of the day napping and reading in the hotel room until about 5pm. I figured that by that time it was probably safe to head back down for another dip. The Hubs and other boys weren’t back yet but Jake was getting restless so I decided that we could give swimming another shot. I gave the toddler a long talk about how pooping in the pool is gross and that he should never EVER do that again! He agreed that pooping in the pool was a bad idea and assured me that it would never happen again!

Jake -2
Mom – 0

We swam and swam and enjoyed ourselves with out further incident. The Hubs returned from his great adventure. From what I heard it was AMAZING! The Whale Sharks that the boys swam with were HUGE, even though they were only adolescents. They also got to go snorkeling and had an all around great day, where in no one pooped anywhere that they should not!

We ate dinner together and then went to our separate rooms. As the Hubs changed into his jammies I saw it….the angry purple sunburn! Yes, the burn was so bad that it looked purple! The funny thing about this sunburn was that the middle of his back was not burned. Only the edges of his back that were burned but those edges were FRIED! His back looked like a picture frame! I couldn’t help it, “Oh my gosh, what happened to your back?!” I cried. What a silly thing to say, I knew what had happened; one of the kids must have helped with the Hubs sunscreen application. He replied with, “What do you mean?” “Well, are pretty badly sunburned”. That was followed with a quick look in the mirror and exclamations about how Brenden should never be relied on to help one apply sunscreen.

The next two days consisted of the kids and I hanging out at the pool and trying not to annoy all of the European sunbathers that the pool attracted. There were virtually no children at this hotel and very few women. Most of the people lodging at the Sheraton were foreign military; the place was basically a fancy barracks. The lack of children did work in Jacob’s favor however, he was quick to win the hearts and minds of the kitchen staff.  Despite my attempts to control the little beasty, his adorable voice and cute smile ensured that the kitchen staff were always delighted to see Jacob and more than happy to provide him with as much chocolate pudding and milk as he could carry at any given time. He would smile and give them a very endearing “Merci” which ensured that he would be provided with more snacks the next time he happened to be anywhere in the vicinity of the kitchens.


Since I missed out on the Whale Shark Diving, the thing that I was most excited about was the possibility of consuming a Subway sandwich. I had heard tell of a Subway sandwich shop at the military installation in Djibouti and I had been fantasizing about it for weeks! Let me tell you, I have not had a decent sandwich in close to a year! Just the thought of a foot long turkey and cheese with everything on it made my mouth water!  I informed the Hubs that if he had even the slightest opportunity to buy me a sandwich he NEEDED to do it, regardless of the cost! I wanted the foot long and I wasn’t going to share it either so if he wanted a sandwich he had better get his own! He said that he’d try his best but that he couldn’t make any promises.  The last day that we spent in Djibouti before our flight left for Addis the Hubs had some work to do and was gone for several hours. I decided not to have lunch on the off chance that he would be able to deliver the goods to me. In the late after noon the Hubs knocked on the hotel room door. As I opened the door he stepped into the room and placed before me a bag that I had not seen in a long, long time. A plastic subway sandwich bag and inside were four one-foot long sub sandwiches.  I was ecstatic; I located the sandwich that was meant for me, come on people, did you really think that I could eat four one-foot long sandwiches?! 
Turkey with provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, olives, cucumber, peppers, basically every veggie that was available, mustard mayo, oil vinegar, salt and pepper, mmm just thinking about it makes me hungry….Hey, no judgments here, everyone has a guilty pleasure and this foot long piece of heaven is mine! I tried to savor my sub and eat it slowly but like many of life’s best experiences it ended all too quickly. 

We headed to the airport and suffered through the laborious process of exiting the country. While the plane was boarding Jacob’s pants *ehm exploded. FABULOUS! I rushed him off to the bathroom to clean him up. Lucky for me I had a diaper in my bag, he seemed to be a little sick so rather than trying to put him back in underpants I put the diaper on him. I tossed his now destroyed clothes away (who wants to smell that on an airplane for an hour?) and headed out to board the airplane. I’d like to note here that bathrooms in Africa, even in international airports, are often more like what you would see at a crummy gas station. So on top of trying to clean him up I was constantly saying, “Don’t touch that, stand here and don’t move, rub this hand sanitizer on your hands”. Uhhhh...


We boarded the plane and took off. I’m ready to be home at this point. I’m sitting with Jake and he tells me that his "skin feels funny". I took a look at him and he seemed fine, nothing wrong with his skin. About thirty minutes to landing and Jacob pukes….everywhere! I do the gross mom thing where I try to catch it with my bare hands in order to contain the mess. At some point I grabbed one of those tiny puke bags that are in every seatback pocket and catch at least some of it in the bag. I looked around and people were staring at me in utter disgust! One woman was staring at me with huge eyes and her hand over her nose and mouth like the smell was killing her. I’m like, dude he puked ON ME! I know it smells! Sorry lady!

The flight attendants rushed around being quasi-helpful. I did the march of shame to the bathroom where Jake and I folded ourselves into space so small that neither of us could turn around. Lucky for Jake I had one more set of clothes in the bag for him to change into. I was not so lucky! He got me good, shirt and pants…COVERED in toddler vomit! I got Jake taken care of and stood him on top of the toilet seat so that I would have more room to move around. I took my shirt off and rinsed it out as best I could in the tiny sink. At this point the flight attendant is banging on the door reminding me that we are about to land. Um, I have no shirt on lady, I’m doing my laundry in here give me a second. I wrung my wet, vomit scented t-shirt out and put it back on. I then opened the door and endured the walk of shame, for the second time, all the way to the back where there were some unoccupied seats. The plane landed and the other passengers were more eager than ever to get off. I decided to wait until everyone else was gone before I walked my smelly self back through the airplane. We made our way to baggage claim and waited for what seemed like forever, for our bags to show up. Then we moved on to customs where there was more waiting involved. My darling children had a ball asking me, "what smells so bad?"…”oh, wait mom, it’s you!” Very funny, boys. Very funny! Eventually we did make it home. Once there I took the most beautiful shower of my life and quickly passed out! Until next time friends and family!

Jake -5
Mom- 0

Surviving Out door Adventures and Air Travel

1.    Always have at least two extra sets of clothes for the toddler.
2.    Always have an extra set of clothes for mom.
3.    Do not allow the 11 year old to apply sunscreen without giving a thorough briefing on how to properly apply sunscreen.
4.    Make sure that the toddler does his business before playing in the pool.

5.    Have a thick skin, your kids WILL embarrass you.

There was a beach but we weren't able to swim in the water. 

Merry Christmas