Pushing On a Dream

I’ve been rather absent. I have several good excuses.

I blame it all on the International School of Djibouti and I blame all that on my husband.

He’s the director and visionary for the school. He is also teaching and I have been conscripted as secretary, administrator, website developer, photographer, substitute, social media manager, errand runner, facilities manager, extra curricular organizer, chef, school nurse…and anything else that needs to get done person.

What does that mean, practically?

It means that, without stopping any of the other things I did before, I’ve added twenty-five hours of work to my weekly schedule. Those hours are spent in the office. Never mind the mental and emotional hours that go into a family start-up like this.

Mostly, I love it.

I love our school – our students, teachers, parents, the community that is growing. We started the year with 10 students and now have a student body of 19, with the wide age range of 3-17. We’ve had school picnics, field trips, holiday parties, celebrated birthdays. We moved the entire school halfway through the year to an incredible new property. We built a beautiful playground. We’ve played basketball, baseball, done yoga and art, hosted music classes. We’re working with refugees to partner and provide education and educational materials. We have an ever-growing and well-used library.

It has been an incredibly steep learning curve and we are still, I think, on the upward climb of that curve. We have students and parents who are patient with us and also who challenge us and encourage us to keep growing, to think creatively.

Sometimes, it is hard to have my husband as my boss. Go figure. Yesterday, at home, I said to him, “I’ll be your secretary at ISD but I’m not your secretary at home.” It was a nasty, snide comment in response to a snide request and is one small example of how we are working out working together. Not all bumps and bruises, but not all chocolate and roses either.

Probably the number one thing that has fallen to the wayside in this season of pushing, pushing, pushing on a dream, is this blog.

I wish that weren’t the case. I wish I was able to focus. But I sit down to type up some thoughts and a kid comes in with a bloody knee. Or I open a blank word document and instead of thinking up thoughtful responses to refugee travel bans, I can only think of how much toilet paper I need to buy for the preschool classroom.

I’m still writing. I’m just not hitting ‘publish’ as often.

I’m a little afraid I’ll get rusty. Like a runner, trying to come back after an injury. Or that I’ll lose my audience, like a has-been actress still trying to light up the screen.

I’m still here. I hope you’re still there.

Anyone else pushing on a dream lately? How’s it going?

Stuff I Like, for Expatriates

Quick link: Lists for Expats

I like lists. I make a lot of them, sometimes just so that I can cross items off the lists. At A Life Overseas today, I’m give readers some lists.

Expatriates are offered, for good reason, many useful lists. How to apply for a visa, how to pack, how to choose a school, how to learn language…this is not a post of those kinds of lists.

They are more like lists of things that help the expat live, either by challenging thinking or by providing a break from thinking.

Click here to see the books, podcasts, and songs I’m suggesting for expatriates: Some Lists for Expats

The Mysterious Letter In My Purse

Quick link: Letter from a Stranger

I have an essay at Brain Child today that feels important in this global moment. The essay is about a letter in my purse, about the love people feel for family and about why, on earth, do I keep this letter? But as I consider the relationship between the girl who wrote it and the sister she wrote it to, I’m reminded that, of course and it feels so ridiculous to even have to say it, but of course, these Muslim girls are just like non-Muslim sisters. Loving, teasing, gentle, hoping for the best for each other. Go figure. Humans being humans.

I have a letter in my purse written by a stranger, to her sister, also a stranger. It is written in blue ink on lined notebook paper, folded over several times and crinkling around the edges. It is written in broken English with a line of Arabic, a few hashtags, and a scribbled local telephone number.

I found the letter when we moved into our current house. The house was furnished but we weren’t keeping most the furnishings. The landlord asked us to move out what we didn’t want and keep what we did want. The things we removed would be tossed away.

I’ve always been fascinated by what goes on inside other homes. After dark, warm light spills out of living rooms and kitchens onto snowy Minnesota winter streets. I jog past and glance in. People’s mouths move but I hear nothing, they eat dinner but I can’t smell it. They watch television, the green glow reflects off glasses, but I don’t know what show they’ve chosen.

In Djibouti, where I live now, homes are often surrounded by high walls. Homes that don’t have walls often don’t have windows either, or have barred windows and curtains pulled tightly closed. This is to keep out mosquitoes, dust, heat, thieves, and prying eyes. Like mine. Much of life here is lived outside, sometimes kitchens are pots and pans placed over charcoal fires outside the home. People nap in the shade of trucks parked on the side of the road. Men play pétanque or drink tea while sitting on overturned tin cans arranged in circles. People eat spaghetti from aluminum plates, wrapping the noodles around their fingers while watching football at neighborhood restaurants. Women breastfeed on street corners, kids brawl in the middle of pot-holed avenues.

I enjoy people watching in these countries for opposing reasons. In Minnesota I am merely an observer. The image of life moving on without me, completely unrelated to me is comforting. The people inside could be fighting, grieving, celebrating. No matter what their specific circumstances, they are alive, they are pressing on.

In Djibouti, I enter it. I smell the fried onions, hear the religious debates, interact with the pudgy babies, or join someone for tea. But at the same time, I miss the separation between insider and outsider, like in Minnesota. I miss the mystery and the speculation. I miss the curiosity, the idea that courageous people leave their lights on and their curtains open after dark and that courageous people are what the world needs. And I miss the sense that this glance is a gift, that the people inside could pull the curtains shut at any moment…

Click here to read the rest of Letter from a Stranger




Good Samaritan? Gullible Sucker?

Quick link: Good Samaritan or Gullible Sucker?

Today I’m writing at A Life Overseas about the ongoing conundrum of responding to poverty. I know, I know, I’m writing again about money. Ah well.

I came out of my office, got in my car, and there was a taptaptap on the window. I wound down the window and chatted with the man standing there.

“My wife just had a miscarriage,” he said. “She is bleeding. Can you help me?”

This wasn’t my first rodeo. I know the deal. Another expat had just told him, “I’ve lived here too long to give people money,” and drove away. She was a lot quicker with a response than me. I hesitated.

What if his wife really was bleeding?

I hear these kinds of sentences almost every day and honestly, most of the time when I investigate a bit, they aren’t true. But what about when they are?

I couldn’t offer to drive her to the hospital, that would have been the best thing to do. But my husband needed the car and it was late and I couldn’t call him.

“Where is she?” I asked.

“Follow me,” the man said.

I walked with him about a block, back behind a row of massive new houses. I wasn’t sure how long I would follow him: a strange man, a lone foreign woman, darkness, heading into a huddle of homeless people’s cloth and stick huts. He stopped before we were too far in and pointed at a woman lying on the ground.

Click here to read the rest: Good Samaritan or Gullible Sucker?


Djibouti Jones Published Essays, 2016

I published more than 50 essays in 2016.

am writing

When I write that I feel shocked. What?! 50?! That’s a lot of words, some of them were longform, some super short, and that’s not counting blog posts but it does explain why the blog has slowed down. If only writing paid more than pennies by the hour. *sigh*

Here are some of the highlights:

Published in 2016

Runners World

Running the World, Djibouti


Outpost Magazine

Christmas in the Devil’s Lair


Brain Child

I Know I Should Boast about Battle Scars

Traveler, Writer, or Mother?

Can Kids Make Us Happy?

How to Wake Up a Teenager in 16 Easy Steps

Things No One Told Me About Grief



Beirut Has a Trash Problem

Who Was Hawa Tako?

Around the World in Toilets

Letter from Bankoulé

Dreams of Djiboutian Glory

Tea Time at the TB Clinic


A Life Overseas

How Much Awesomeness Can We Really Handle?

Why Is It Always About Money?

White Savior Barbie Nails It

8 Ways for Expats Who Stay to Stay Well



Being an American Mom, Raising Kids in Djibouti

To the Mom Who Just Had Twins: You Can Do This

People Say We Fight A Lot

22 Ways Teenagers are Basically Super-Sized Toddlers


By |December 31st, 2016|Writing|0 Comments|