I hope you read my essay Djibouti the Beautiful at EthnoTraveler last week. The site features unsung people and far-flung places and offers fabulous stories and unique photos. I love being a part of the writing community there and how it is pushing me to develop and improve in descriptive writing.
I realized though, that when I write about that kind of natural beauty and then write posts about going crazy, you might get the impression the only good things Djibouti has to offer are beneath the ocean or a flash of yellow in the desert or a purple flower rising out of trash. And I don’t ever want that to be the single story you hear and believe about this country.
Today I want to tell you about the beautiful people. And I don’t mean beautiful in a condescending or physical-appearance kind of way. I mean kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity, and well, read on and you’ll see.
Our house helper was at a wedding party where they served succulent dates, sugar cubes, and yellow raisins. She thought of us and grabbed an extra handful to share the next day.
My language helper came the morning the Two went back to Kenya and brought tin-foil wrapped packages of cookies for them.
I had lost touch with a dear friend and prayed to find her. That same day her husband drove by while I was running. He skidded to a stop, hollered at me, ran across the street, shook my sweaty hand, talked for a while, and exchanged phone numbers, all in front of a truckload of coworkers and intrigued passersby. My friend called an hour later.
Earlier this week I was feeling lonely and tweeted a friend to ask if she wanted to go out for coffee that afternoon. Instead, she treated me to a morning of coffee and conversation and a visit to the hairdresser.
We heard a rumor that a Somali Canadian family had moved in across the street. Sunday Lucy and I went over to try and meet them. A different woman was driving out of the cul-de-sac. She shouted (in a warm way), “Who are you and where are you going?” I explained that we were meeting our neighbors. She said, “I’m a neighbor. I’m going for a drive around town. Get in the car.” Why not? Lucy and I got in and spent the afternoon cruising Djibouti Town, getting to know our neighbor.
While working on my book I realized that I need to read some more books about Islam. I asked a friend if she had any quality books I could borrow and the next morning she had a stack ready for me, as well as a willingness to explain my misunderstandings and help me learn.
Lucy and I went for a walk. She was trying to kick herself in the head while walking (don’t ask why). A school kid, probably one of the same kids who stoned us a few weeks ago, approached and asked if Lucy participates in karate and gave her a thumbs up sign and smiled.
This was all just in the past week (aad baad u mahadsan tihiin). It isn’t easy to relate with a person who talks funny, has a bad accent or uses awkward phrases, who eats strange food, wears strange clothes, makes cultural faux pas every day. But that’s me and these people are the most beautiful thing about Djibouti.
How do people revealed beauty to you?