Monday, June 29, 2009


Greetings All,


It's been an interesting weekend, although I'm not sure it will seem so in the telling.  June is one of the months for dust storms here in the desert middle east and, although we've had no dramatic wall of dust roll suddenly over the camp, the sky over the last couple of days has taken on a dun, opalescent cast.  At first glance, especially with the high humidity, it seems like it could be fog, but as the breeze freshens throughout the day and the tannish hue of the sky remains, its real nature becomes obvious.  This afternoon as I write there is a perceptible haze here at ground level - the outlines of buildings at any distance are softened, and the color spectrum shifted toward yellows and browns.  Haven't noticed any respiratory effects yet, but I wonder how things will go at the clinic if this goes on.


If you presume that the weekend starts on Thursday - a reasonable assumption in college dormitories and Islamic countries - we started ours off with another superb dining experience.  We'd been working at CHA Bouffard with our French colleagues, and as we changed to head home the Chief Anesthesiologist, Pierre Manuel asked if we'd care to join them and their "biologist" for dinner that evening.  Now, gentle reader, it's not that I don't worry about my figure, but I reckoned that any sacrifice made with the goal of improving public relations would not be in vain.  I did go home and run 5 miles before going out though.  Anyway we made our way out at about 7 pm and on the drive into town could see occasional volleys of fireworks over downtown.  The weekend was dedicated to the celebration of Djiboutian Independence day - June 27th, 1977 - and on Thursday the folks were just starting to warm up for the festivities.


This became more apparent as we wended our way through the busy streets to the general vicinity of Menelik square, and met our French friends at a small outdoor café.  The streets were hung with blue and green Djiboutian flags and strings of colored lights were stretched between the buildings lining the streets.  It reminded me in many ways of coming into a small Sicilian town on the eve of una festa.  The same air of excited confusion and amiable bustle pervaded the square.  Unfortunately we didn’t get back out the next night to observe the festivities themselves – there being some risk of disorder in the opinion of our security folks (who I have great respect for).  I’m told there are fireworks aplenty, but really I have no idea what else goes on.  Fireworks are interesting though.  Donna and I always scratched our heads in Sicily when our little town – Motta Sant’Anastasia – which was in dire need of road work, grounds upkeep and myriad other civic maintenance items would vaporize tens of thousands of Euro every year on extravagant fireworks displays.  Somebody once explained that the local politics were so contentious that the only thing town councils could agree on was fireworks for la festa di Sant’Anastasia.  As Djibouti is essentially a one party government, hard to imagine that is the case here.


Food, at Chez Marco, was lovely.  Warmed chevre salad to start, the n grouper with a garlicky aioli, and a meringue glacée for desert.  Wine was a pleasant Côtes de Rhône.  Not exactly right for the fish but hey, they’re the French for Pete’s sake.  Like I’m going to pick the wine!


Had a brief visit over the weekend from a former colleague, a nurse anesthetist I knew well in Sicily.  He is now on an ERSS.  Can’t tell you what the letters stand for, but he’s on a small surgical team that bounces from ship to ship on deployment, essentially bringing a limited surgical response capacity to Navy ships that wouldn’t normally have one.  Ken was holding up well, but the rigors of transporting team and materiel to one rolling vessel after another were obviously considerable.  We got one or two good Bob Hope Galley meals in him anyway.


Last big event was the coalition Officer's Hail and Farewell diner - held up here in O-6 country on Saturday night.  It is mostly an affair for the Combined Joint Task Force folks, but I guess either because of my gift for repartee and conviviality, or because the venue is right by my CLU, I was honored with an invitation.  We Hailed and farewelled officers from Ethiopia, Kenya and Great Britain, and I got a chance to chat with some of the civilian folks from the embassy as well as with the very nice fellow who is in charge of our Army contingent (of Puerto Rico Army National Guardsmen).  If the meal wasn't quite Chez Marco, well at least I understood more  than 20% of the discussion going on around me.


Watched "The Reader" and lots of "Madmen" over the weekend, immensely enjoying both.  I've got Reza Aslan's "No god but God" on my Kindle - a well written (so far) history of Islam, and am listening these days to Blue October's "Foiled" and exploring a bit more Brahms than I have done before.  Started with the German requiem, and have also been enjoying his cello and violin sonatas.  Hope you are well.




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