Go Fund Me, Somaliland Marathon

I started a Go Fund Me campaign. For #givingtuesday, I’d love Djibouti Jones readers to consider supporting this project for university education in Somaliland and my third marathon.

If you donate, check out the awards. Here’s one, the Girls Run 2 button:

As of this posting, we have 17% of the needed funds. Thank you!

Couch to 5K before the New Year

Today I am sharing a guest post by Jane Grates.

Maybe you don’t want to race a triathlon or a marathon with me but maybe you would like to start running. Aiming for a 5k is a great way to jump start into the sport.

If you’re like most people, by now the new year’s resolutions you set for yourself back in January are probably long forgotten. Maybe this was the year you were going to start eating right and exercising regularly, but for whatever reason, those audacious ideas fell to the wayside… again… this year. As we begin to slowly creep toward the holiday season, you may be already regretting all the unhealthy decisions you’ll surely make and the weight you’re inevitably going to gain, and yet again, come January, you’ll decide that next year — for real this time! — will be the year that you at long last get your act together and start living your best and healthiest life.

Sound familiar to you?

I’ll tell you a little secret, an observation that I’ve come to over the past decade or so about health and wellness. When you decide you’re going to recommit your life to making better and healthier decisions, the nice thing is that you can start making those decisions right now. No, really! Even if you downed an entire large supreme pizza for breakfast and haven’t exercised in you can’t remember when, if you want to start making healthier decisions, you can do so immediately.

Even though 2017 is already almost over, there’s still plenty of time for you to begin making better and healthier decisions. One of the best ways I think you can do this is by setting a goal to do your first 5k race by New Year’s Eve in 2017. That means that you’ll have all of December to both train for and complete a 5k, approximately 3.1 miles. Even if you’ve never run a step in your life, you’d be surprised at what you can do when you put your mind to it.

Below, I’ll detail some suggestions that’ll help get you on the path toward completing your first 5k by the end of 2017.

Get the OK from your doc first. Before jumping right into things, and especially if you haven’t had a physical in a while, go talk to your doc and make sure everything’s in tip-top shape. Just because you think you may feel or look healthy doesn’t mean that everything is ok on the inside. Plus, you’ll want to get your doctor’s blessing before starting a new fitness program for the first time. Just play it safe and go see him/her.

Begin really slowly and without much expectation. If you’ve never run before, or if you haven’t run in a long time, it may be tempting to think that you’re going to put your pedal to the metal right away and go out, guns blazing, right from the start. That’s a great way to injure yourself, so I can’t suggest not doing that enough! Instead, start conservatively. Go out for a walk and try to run for 10 seconds. See how that feels, and begin walking again. When you first begin training, expect that you’ll actually spend more time getting ready to go run than you will actually running. It may be frustrating, but the reality is that many runners injure themselves because they do distances their bodies are incapable of handling or because they run much too fast too frequently. Particularly when you’re beginning, remember that you’re new to this. You won’t be an expert right away, and that’s okay! You may think you’re slow as molasses, and that’s ok, too. Just be patient with yourself.

Get properly-fitting shoes from someone who knows the sport. Runnings nice in that it doesn’t require much “stuff,” but you’ll benefit from having a good-fitting pair of running shoes. I’d highly recommend going to a physical, brick-and-mortar running store in your area to talk to a salesperson — who’s also probably a runner — who knows the latest and greatest and can recommend a make and model (and size) of shoe for you. It can be tempting to go pick something pretty off the shelf, particularly if it’s on sale, but again, many runners get injured because they get shoes that don’t fit their feet very well or that don’t offer support like they need. Talk to a professional to get an opinion about what you need first.

Consider hiring a coach or using a C25k plan online. If you’re cautious about your training and making sure you don’t overdo things or injure yourself, you may want to consider hiring a coach for your first 5k or minimally, finding a couch to 5k program (often called C25k) online. Working with a coach will bring added costs, but coaches are trained and seasoned professionals who have worked with thousands of athletes over the years and can help ensure that you arrive to the starting line healthy and ready to rumble. Training plans online can also do a similarly-good job, but unfortunately, most any plan you pull from online will be more cookie-cutter in design and not account for your individual strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies.

Remember to have fun with the process! It can be tempting to want to make your new C25k goal the driving force in your life, but remember to have fun with your new challenge! Some days your training will feel fantastic, and other days it’ll probably suck. That’s the nature of training: lots of ebbs and flows. Remember no workout will make or break your race; instead, it’s the totality of the experience and your training regime that will have the greatest influence on your race performance. It’s great to have goals, but I think for your first race, it’s most important to have fun and to finish with a smile on your face. You will literally not have a first time again, so enjoy it and revel in the memory you’re creating.

As we embark on the final month of 2017, it’s important to remember that there’s still time to make good on your fitness goals that you may have set in January. One of the best ways to help stay on track through the holidays is by getting into a training schedule, and with all the holidays coming up around the corner, training for your first 5k in December is a great way to help guide your workouts through the often harried holiday season. Give yourself a chance during this final part of the year, and I bet you’ll be surprised at what you can do when you really go all-in on a fitness goal for once. I’m rooting for you!

JANE GRATES: Nature lover, doer and record lover. Loving the sweet spot between beauty and function. I make random things with friends.

By |November 27th, 2017|Running|0 Comments|

Another Marathon and I Need Your Help

Dear Djibouti Jones Reader,

I’m going to ask you for something. I try not to ask for a lot or to ask very often. I will, eventually, ask you to buy, read, and help promote my upcoming book, but that won’t be for quite a while.

This time, on #givingtuesday and beyond, I want to ask you to help me participate in a race and to help me fund a University degree for a student in Somaliland. Click here to go straight to the Go Fund Me campaign.

What’s the race?

It is a marathon. 26.2 miles. 42 kilometers.


Hargeisa, Somaliland.

Am I sure women are allowed and welcome?

Yup. This is the first ever full marathon in Somaliland and the directors are explicitly encouraging females to run.

Will there be many?

I have no idea. There is also a 10k, so I assume there will be women in that race, too. But a few or many, no problem. I’m used to running alone. I’m used to being the only female I see running and I’m even used to coming in absolute last place. Though all newbie runners fear being last, I am the only person I know who has quite literally finished last (still got a huge trophy. Third woman. Out of three.)

Will it be safe?

I have asked the director several questions about security. Living is inherently unsafe. You can read what I think about safety here and here and here. (Christianity Today, Brain Child, and Babble)

Why do it?

I really want the t-shirt.

Also? What are some of the things I love most? Living in the Horn of Africa. Check. Running. Check. Education development. Check.

Education what?

The race doubles as a fundraiser. Each international participant is challenged to raise enough money to fund a full scholarship for an entire 4-year degree program for a Somaliland university student.

The race fee includes security, translation, housing, a trip to see a few historical sites in Somaliland, and special visit with the Somali runners participating. So my total cost is this fee, plus my flight and visa, plus what I hope to contribute to the scholarship program.

This is what my husband and I do – education and running (and so much more!) in the Horn. Plus, I hope to write about this experience, including the horrible, miserable training I’ve already been enduring in Djibouti. I always said it was too hot to train for a marathon in Djibouti. Well…a marathon in Somaliland is what it took to inspire me, I guess.

I’ve completed two marathons, 5 and 6 years ago. I have absolutely no time goal for this one because it will be warm. My training has been really, really hard. The conditions will be uniquely challenging. I will be fully covered, which will increase the heat factor and the rash factor. But I know I can do it. It won’t be pretty and it won’t be impressive, but I can accomplish this goal.

Will you help me? If each person who reads Djibouti Jones gave even $1.00, I’d beat my goal: $3,500. (Anything donated over that goal will also go toward funding education in the Horn.)

I opened a Go Fund Me campaign. Here’s what I’ll do for those who donate.

$10.00 donation: I will write your name on my clothes or skin so you can run the race with me

$20.00 donation: I’ll do the above, plus you’ll receive a free copy of the Djiboutilicious e-Cookbook

$30.00 or more: all that, plus I’ll send you a Girls Run 2 button, made by my sister, in honor of the girls running team I helped launch here in Djibouti (while supplies last).

If you’ve enjoyed Djibouti Jones over the years, been encouraged or helped by even a few of my posts and essays, would you consider saying ‘thank you’ by donating to this race and university scholarship?

Thank YOU for reading along!

Wishing you many happy miles,


Click here to go straight to the Go Fund Me campaign.

How Do Third Culture Kids Use Social Media?

Quick link: Third Culture Kids and Social Media

At A Life Overseas, talking about if TCKs use social media any differently than non-TCKs.

This summer, The Atlantic published a fascinating article called Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation? I encourage every parent, especially of tweens and teens, to read it and discuss it with your children.

I read the article with a particular mindset, that of a parent raising teenagers who also are Third Culture Kids. I wondered, how do these ideas apply to my own children? Keeping in touch is powerfully different for a suburban teen chatting with her friends from school than for a teen in Beirut chatting with her friends in Turkey or in Minnesota.

So how do TCKs, specifically, use social media? Both positively and negatively? How can we help our TCKs navigate this fraught world with wisdom and grace? I did a little unscientific survey and asked some TCKs for their perspectives.

Click here to read the rest Third Culture Kids and Social Media

17 Things to Know Before You Come to Djibouti

I get many emails from people coming to Djibouti wondering about everything from where to get decent Wi-Fi to whether or not there are local classes for harpists. On days when Djibouti Telecom services flounder, I’m not sure which is more impossible to find – the Wi-Fi or the harp players. Anyway, I could write a book full of tips for visitors or people moving here (oh, wait. I did! Check out Welcome to Djibouti or Djiboutilicious, my award-winning cookbook.) but here are just a few tips, things to know to help plan your trip.

Changing money

There are ATMs, at Casino grocery store, at the banks, at Al-Gamil. Don’t try to get money out on the first of the month, they’re likely to be empty. And make sure to check with your bank on withdrawal fees, which can be quite steep. Or – bring cash and exchange it with the money ladies. These women sit on street corners downtown. They have huge bags of cash in their laps. Franc, Euros, Pounds, Dollars, Yen, Shillings, Biir…Hand them your bills and they’ll exchange it for you, with a good and honest exchange rate.

Know where you are going

If you aren’t going to a major hotel, you will need help finding your destination. There aren’t many street names that people or taxis actually know, and few house or building numbers. Check Google Maps to get an idea but don’t expect it to be super accurate, many roads (like ours) don’t show up.

Get high on khat

If you like to try your hand at local (and legal) narcotics, you’ve come to the right country. Khat is a leafy amphetamine chewed mostly by men, mostly in the afternoons. It is sold by young women from wooden stalls along every road in town. Bring a towel to wrap your bundle in, to keep it fresh and cool. Beware if the khat plane doesn’t come in for a day or two, people get upset. Also, beware of taxis or buses zooming around town at the time of khat delivery. They will stop for no one and will take any side of the road.

Go for fish

Find a Yemeni restaurant and order mukhbasa with all the side dishes. For the most authentic experience, try one of the restaurants on Avenue 13. For a cleaner, more family and female friendly (and more expensive but air-conditioned) experience, try Janateyn, across the street from the Al-Gamil grocery store.

Drink the tea

The water tastes a bit salty but is safe for drinking so pull up an overturned aluminum can near a tea stand and indulge. Don’t be surprised if someone offers to pay for your drink and feel free to engage in conversation with strangers.

Have a friendly banter response ready for anyone who offers a marriage proposal

If you are a single foreigner, one of the highest compliments a local can give is to offer you a wife or a husband. Even if you aren’t single, men can have up to four wives. One of my husband’s common responses is, “I can only handle one woman at a time!”

Dress wisely

Yes, you can wear sleeveless shirts and shorts but this is a Muslim country and doing so will likely attract at least some unwanted attention. Feel free to be yourself, but also be respectful. You’re a guest here.

Learn Fromalishicar

The official languages here are French and Arabic. But mostly, people mix it all up. A little English, a lot of French, Somali, Arabic, and Afar, sometimes in the same sentence, sometimes even in the same word. I’ve been known to start a verb in Somali, end it with a French ending and follow up it with an English word.

Save your airplane ticket stubs

All those tiny pieces torn off your ticket? The ones you usually stuff into the seat pocket in front of you or drop on the floor? Immigration officials at the airport will ask for all of them. Not sure what they do if you have an e-ticket, but be ready to pull it up on your phone.

You don’t have to stay at the Kempinski

You can, if you are able and willing to pay. And if you want to be sheltered from the rest of Djibouti. But there are lots of other hotels (and Air BnB’s) that offer decent prices, clean rooms, helpful staff.

Be discrete when taking photos

Ask permission. Many people are happy to be part of your experience, especially when you treat them with respect and ask for permission or tell them how beautiful you find their blue scarf blowing against the yellow doorway, or their line of laundry or the way the men choreograph cement-tossing while building a house. Don’t photograph the many military installations or the police or embassies.

Get out of the city

Local tourist sites include a juniper forest that is home to the endangered francolin bird, kayaking near flocks of flamingos, Djibouti’s Grand Canyon, an active volcano, the Salt Lake, Tadjourah and Sable Blanc, Obock – home of the oldest, still functioning lighthouse in Djibouti.

Expect to see military, local and international

Djibouti hosts the largest US military base in Africa as well as contingents from Japan, China, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia is currently in talks to open a base.

It is hot

Nicknames for Djibouti usually include a reference to hell or demons. Summer temperatures pass 120 degrees Fahrenheit. So yeah, its hot. I really have baked cookies in my car. But it is also so much more than hot. Almost every single news story out of Djibouti focuses on: heat, the salt lake, and the military bases. So sweat and drink a lot of water and talk about something else.

Ask for help

While rare, there are occasional muggings or issues of sexual harassment that occur. If you, especially if you are female, ever feel in danger, like you are being followed or that someone is talking to you inappropriately, you can ask for help and locals will step in to protect you. Djiboutians are kind and proud of the peace in their country. They want visitors to have a positive experience and aren’t afraid to step in, even to come to the assistance of a stranger.

Feel free to crash a wedding

If someone invites you to a party, it doesn’t matter if you know the bride or groom, you are more than welcome. Be sure to greet the wedding party with either a handshake or cheek kisses, wish them congratulations (hambalyo) and stand for a photograph, don’t smile, stare straight ahead as disinterestedly as possible.

Ask for a mélange of halwad in the market, Suuqa Riyaad

This is a sticky candy, best eaten fresh and warm and you can get a small bag full for less than a few hundred franc ($2-3.00). Cheap and delicious sugar high.

Enjoy your visit! Djibouti just ranked in #4 on Lonely Planet’s list of top countries to visit in 2018. So if you are coming based off that recommendation, I hope you have a wonderful experience.

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