Sunday, July 26, 2009

In hot water, again

Not that I'm counting, you understand, but presuming that I go home when originally scheduled I am officially at the 1/3rd mark of my wee trip to Africa. I'll celebrate with a bowl of ice cream, I think. Maybe strawberry.

So here's the thing. We "make" all of our own water here on Camp Lemonnier. It is generated by an immense reverse osmosis water purification unit. In this process "raw" water containing all that stuff you wouldn't want to drink (let's call it solute) is forced by external pressure through a synthetic membrane leaving all the solute behind and emerging as pure solvent (let's call it water). Of course, the military being who we are, we can't resist an appealing acronym. Revere Osmosis Water Purification Unit is thus R.O.W.P.U., pronounced "roh-poo". Refreshing glass of ROWPU anyone? Anyway, this is all very impressive when done on the giant scale we do it here - hundreds of thousands of gallons a day - but there is one little problem. As you can imagine, all that water is pumped through the miles of pipes to its final destination - let's take my CLU for instance. And indeed here it arrives, flow in gushing abundance from faucet and shower head. It's fresh, clean, potable and...hot! I have never once turned on the hot water in my months here, and it is almost uncomfortably hot to get in the shower - especially after coming back from the gym already steaming. Not that I'm complaining you understand. I'm appropriately grateful for the wonders of science and the dedicated engineers who make my morning shower possible. Besides, it feels marvelous when it stops.

What else? Let's see...we have a new French surgeon in town. He's here to start his 2 year tour, and is now looking for a house in town so that he may bring his wife and children here with him. Naturally such an event can only be marked with a dinner, so we gathered up a group of our surgical staff, piled in the Mystery Machine and headed out. We met at the house of Pierre-Manuel, the French anesthesiologist, and after sitting for a bit to chat and gather the rest of the diners we headed out to L'Historie. This is a third story restaurant just off the by now familiar main square, with a Franco-Djiboutian menu. It is one of the few places open on Fridays, the Muslim sabbath day. Food was superb. I had the house aioli - intensely garlicky sauce with a mayonnaise-like consistency - served with a plate of vegetables and steamed fish. It was lovely, but made me a bit wistful. The best aioli in the world is made by my lovely wife, laboring with mortar and pestle, carefully combining olive oil, garlic and egg to make a condiment that will knock your socks off. The aioli was good. But it wasn't Donna good. Sigh.

Anyway, it was a delightful evening. As an aside, as you'd imagine in Djibouti on a Friday night all the restaurant diners were European. More interestingly, they were almost all tables of men in smaller or larger groups. One of the French at our table told me that the locals call late July and August "the season of the whites", as all the French families have gone home to the cooler climes of France, and the men left here are out most nights for dinner. They did look a bit morose, on reflection - a recognizably hang-dog expression that men too long away from their families begin to wear. School starts again in September, and spouses and children will be back by then, so our wistful soldats fran├žais don't have too long to wait. Interestingly, the French school here is quite large - the largest Francophone school outside the mother country - and has an excellent reputation.

Yesterday we spent at Peltier, but were limited in the morning by the fact that the hospital was
out of oxygen (!). This was amended by early afternoon in time for a laparoscopic
cholecystectomy. As it turned out, getting the oxygen back couldn't have come at a better time. Later in the evening as I attended the Coalition Officers Hail and Farewell, our surgeon Bill and Herman our nurse anesthetist headed back out to help the Djiboutian team with a stabbing victim who had sustained an injury to his kidney and great vessels. (They're call great vessels because when your trauma team hears they're injured they think "Oh great, just great...). I can't think of two folks I'd rather have working on me and I'm sure their efforts were much appreciated. As for me I was left to make what conversation my poor abilities would permit with my table mates, and to once again be deeply impressed by the multi-country, polyglot group we've got here; by how well they function together, and by how strong the bonds thus forged seem to be. We bid farewell to officers from Pakistan, Egypt, France and Great Britain, all of whom went on at length about the value of what the team here is doing and, as importantly, about the value of the coalition experience itself. It is at such times one sees the world as it might be - a place where difference is respected and cherished, while striving for a common good forges bonds of amiable good will. But there I go getting all "UN" again.

Not much else. Got in a simulated 10K today, and an early brunch. I'm in the CLU now, as my valiant little AC unit, turned to "Antarctic", struggles unsuccessfully against the mid-summer Djiboutian sun. I've got a couple of things coming up this week which should be interesting (and yes, they both involve a meal). My friends in the OPSEC world suggest that I tell you about them after the fact, and so I shall. Stay tuned!

Today's picture is of sunset over the mudflats of Djibouti city - the cranes of the port are visible in the background, and a soccer game in silhouette is in progress.

1 comment:

  1. Been following your adventures and enjoy "hearing" you again. I look forward to a smile and a laugh while reading your stories of the culture and outings to the "city". Hope all is well with you.

    Mark

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