Remembering Cooler Days

100 degree + temperatures before 8:00 in the morning fry my brain. Yesterday we moved some boxes to a container and apparently it was 115 degrees with 130 degree heat index and those numbers felt good when we stepped out of the container. To quote my daughter, “It was hard to breathe in there.”

So here is what I was able to come up with for the blog today.

Remembering cooler days, across the border. A rainy Somaliland day.

Remember Cooler Days



Happy, high-and-dry-heat June, when a hair dryer blasting sand into our eyes is what it feels like outside. Please don’t say, “Yeah, but its a dry heat.” It is a dry heat. A dry heat in which it is hard to breathe and that makes me thirsty the second I step out of an air-conditioned room. To be honest, I actually don’t mind the heat this year. Probably that is because the power cuts have been minimal. And I try to convince myself that it is a like a constant hug or like being wrapped up in a quilt. Or maybe I really am acclimating. Or maybe I’m just happy the humidity and constant dripping is over until September.

Now I’m off to find myself some frozen watermelon cubes…

Art in Djibouti

Quick link: The Color and the Shape

Writing over at EthnoTraveler today about Djiboutian artists. This picture is from last year’s Independence Day, painted along a wall near the center of town.

Art in Djibouti

Yahye is a Djiboutian painter. Before I met Yahya, I confess, I had low expectations. I had seen Djiboutian paintings, or thought I had. Rows of them lean up against the curb by the Oil Libya gas station near the port. More paintings line the sidewalk across from the Cinquiéme grocery store.

These paintings are garish: orange sunrises with little nuance or depth of color, women carrying babies, their bodies devoid of dimension and personality, trees sketched with no character, animals painted with little imagination. One unrealistic painting shows camel sillouhettes in front of a towering acacia tree on the shore of a mountain-ringed lake. Another has two camels walking between mountains toward a cartoonishly red, orange, green, blue, and white starkly rendered rainbow.

The only people who buy these paintings are tourists and expatriates and I often wondered where they wound up once they got home. I wondered about the artists and I wondered if this was the best Djibouti had to offer. I knew there had to be more. But where to find it?…

Click here to read more about Yahye and the struggle of Djiboutian artists to find a way to encourage each other and display their work: The Color and the Shape


The Shelf Life of Expatriate Clothes

In Djibouti we drink UHT milk. This is milk that can sit on the shelf forever, until it is opened and then it must be refrigerated. We also call it “long-life milk.”

There is no such thing as “long-life clothes” in Djibouti. This is due to:

  • sweat that requires us to change at least once a day six months out of the year
  • salty tap water that wreaks havoc on laundry (and appliances)
  • blistering sun that dries the laundry since we don’t have a dryer
  • dust and crows and fly poop that stains the laundry on the line
  • the fact that we have essentially only two seasons: hot and hotter
  • inexpensive but poorly made clothes available locally that often fall apart after one wash
  • and being worn by a member of the Jones family which means dirt, ketchup, BBQ sauce, or many other types of stains

All these factors conspire against clothes lasting very long IF we count length of time as the way it is traditionally counted, as in, with the passage of time.

(I’d like to see a commercial for a detergent that can handle this:)


IF, however, we count length of clothing time in terms of the numbers of seasons worn, I think I have some incredibly long-wearing clothes.

I’m from Minnesota. In Minnesota there are four seasons and everyone, legitimately, has four sets of clothes. This means if I wear my winter sweaters for a single winter, though I have only worn them for one season, I have gotten a full year’s worth of use from that purchase.

Djibouti has really only one season. Other than blue jeans (which I wear in January, only and only because I insist on blue jeans at least once a year, just to retain the semblance of normality), I wear my clothes all year-round.

If I wear a shirt winter, spring, summer, and fall, which in Djibouti is pretty much all the same, I have worn it for four Minnesota seasons.

Shelf Life of Clothes

Translation: I have gotten four years’ worth of use from that purchase.

Today as I talked clothes with another American friend, I looked down at the tank top I was wearing. Navy blue, so the sweat stains don’t show up easily. Pretty boring, but also timeless. I bought this tank top five years ago and am still wearing it.

Translation: I have gotten twenty years’ worth of use from that tank top.


Great news for that tank top, a wise choice.

There are negatives to this, however. The negatives come in the forms of swimsuits, underwear and bras, and anything that isn’t black or navy blue.

I had a white t-shirt this fall. It lasted about two months before the armpits were stained yellow. That was a single-season/single-year wear.

Swimsuits tend to last less than one calendar year. By Djibouti-clothing-math that does equal four years of Minnesota swim-wear, but it also means we have to plan accordingly and bring more than one or two back, buying swimsuits locally isn’t an option.

Let’s not even talk underwear and bras.

I’m coming to Minnesota this summer. I will be shopping. I will buy things and then will feel sick when I see the piles of swimsuits and shoes and skirts for my family of five laid out to be packed into a suitcase.

Then I will remind myself that I haven’t shopped for a year this time and probably won’t for the next two full years. I am shopping for eight years worth of a warm season. For five people. Translation: Forty years of clothes! And I know, from years of experience now, that two years from now, come mid-April our clothes start to disintegrate, stretch, and become permanently misshapen. When everyone has yellow pits and holes and see-through shorts and unmentionable unmentionables, that’s the sign. That’s how we know it is time for a break.

Like my math? How do you figure clothes-math?

The Bookshelf: Ramadan and Fasting

Ramadan and Fasting

Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, started June 18. This means Muslims don’t eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. In Djibouti, and many other places, this is incredibly difficult. I’ve fasted several times during Ramadan, though only once for the entire month, and my respect for those who maintain the fast is high. I’ve also fasted at other times of the year and in different ways. My personal faith conviction is that yes, I should fast, but also that Jesus didn’t lay down an exact methodology or time frame for it.

So, this week I wanted to look at some books that talk about fasting and also about Ramadan.

A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer by John Piper

The first is one that has been significant for me. I read it in college, slowly and thoughtfully, and it left a massive impact on my beliefs and my actions. Though many authors tout the physical and mental benefits of fasting, I love food too much to relinquish it without this deeper, spiritual call to fast. In a world of gluttony and abundance and over abundance, of needing to be satisfied, needing things easy, going without food is absolutely contradicting this tidal wave of cultural pressure to be comfortable. People tell me they can’t fast because when they do, they feel dizzy and weak. Yup. You’re supposed to feel dizzy and weak, you’re designed to need food so going without it is hard. That’s partly the point, at least one of the points. To remind us of our weaknesses. Anyway, this is a great book.

7 Basic Steps to Successful Fasting & Prayer by Bill Bright

This is a really short booklet, just 24-pages, but it is a great resource for Christians wanting to grow in their discipline of fasting and who have questions on how to go about it. Practical and obviously a quick read.





Here is a link to a series of articles and videos about Ramadan. I have not had the chance to look through them, found them through Twitter.

I am assuming that not all Djibouti Jones readers have a background in Islam or knowledge about the month of Ramadan or other tenets of the faith. Karen Armstrong provides an accessible and interesting read on Islam, including Ramadan in Islam: A Short History.





And now I guess I have to confess that I haven’t read much more about fasting. Oh, chapters here and there in books about Islam or about Christianity. I could reference those books but instead I’ll send you to links from In Culture Parent. This post includes six books geared toward children about Ramadan. Here are a couple:

A Party in Ramadan

Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story


What I’m Reading This Week

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. What can I say? Fascinating. Fascinating. Creepy. Really well written, an excellent read.

Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller (she also wrote Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood which I loved). I read her first memoir in one day. I had a little stomach bug, very minor, but took it as an excuse and spent the entire day in bed, reading. The kids were still little and it felt luxurious. I’m really enjoying this one so far as well, she seems to be writing from a more mature place, more reflective. So good for Third Culture Kids, expats, people from quirky families. Love it.

The Fear Project: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing . . . and Love by Jaimal Yogis. Not the best book I’ve read in my life, but really interesting, entertaining, and insightful about how to conquer our fears. Also – why it might be perfectly safe to swim with great white sharks without a shark cage…

What are you reading?

Coed Twin Birthday Parties. Yikes.

Quick link: The 4 Gender Stages of Coed Twin Birthday Parties

More twin fun for you this week, this time at Brain Child. I got the last variety of twins in the graphic, the kind I wanted. Though I wasn’t a person who ‘wanted’ twins or even thought it was a possibility, once we found out there two in there, I wanted the pink/blue variety.

Twin Birthday Parties

I love celebrating my kids. I don’t love throwing birthday parties. I am not into complicated decorations, cute themes, or goodie bags. I like baking and eating cake. I like playing games and staging competitions. So, I love twin birthday parties. Two-for-one.

I have boy-girl twins. Once in a while I considered throwing two separate parties on consecutive days but that simply seemed too daunting and in the early years my twins shared friends. I prefer the utter chaos of one fantabulous afternoon to the never-ending exhaustion of back-to-back sugar highs. Two cakes but only one day of raucous fun. Two easily definable teams for game time. You know how people tell mothers of twins when we are pregnant with them that this is such a great deal? Well, when it comes to birthday parties, this finally pays off. My twins have had a total of twenty-eight birthdays but only half that number of parties. Score!

I have now quit throwing birthday parties for my twins. They can have sleepovers or can hang out with friends and we’ll have a family celebration on our own but no more big parties, they’re too old. However, in the earlier years even as we lumped all the kids together no matter their gender, I had a thing or two to learn about parties, kids, and especially twin kids and twin parties. One of the main discoveries was the four gender stages of coed twin birthday parties…

Click here to read the rest: The 4 Gender Stages of Coed Twin Birthday Parties