Last Tuesday I went to another school to speak English with the kids. It was by far the best class I visited.The school consisted of just one small classroom, complete with walls and ceiling. I'm pretty sure most of these students were a little more affluent than the others I'd seen, and they seemed less angry, which makes sense. Since we were not exposed to the elements and other classrooms, it was easy to hear, and they all were at a proficient level in the language. The topic was "Where do you go for vacation?" which I was a little worried about since it didn't seem like a great topic for poor people.
However, the answers they gave were witty, romantic, and revealing. Many said they go to Ethiopia for better weather in the Summer, but most talked about their dream locals, like Dubai and the moon. The mood was light and very friendly. In fact, whenever anyone spoke, they first took the opportunity to welcome us with "an open heart, open arms, and open face." We did not correct them, and I am thinking of just adopting that phrase into my vocabulary.
On the car ride to the school, I started talking to a guy in the Marines that told me about 'good will' missions where they go pass out donations in the local villages. He said that I could go with him on one if I wanted to. So Thursday morning, I joined him and another Marine (both named Tim) and and interpreter named Kennedy, and we headed out to the village of
Damerjog. To my delight, it was over a half an hour away and we got to bounce all over the countryside in a Range Rover while they told me stories and Kennedy answered my questions about life in Djibouti.
The Tims tried to warn me that sometimes the situation could get out of hand and turn into a mob scene while handing out supplies. I was so excited just to be on the adventure, I truly was not afraid in any way. But the warnings turned out to be unnecessary because we went to the Gendarmerie first and got local police assistance.
Basically, we drove around the town and told all the kids to go to the Gendarmerie to get stuff.
This was SO cool for me because we got to see the people in their natural environment. By the time we showed up, there was already a large crowd waiting. We set up all the stuff and then the police men let 5 or so at a time walk up and get things.
We mostly had flip-flops, which were a huge hit. I noticed most of the kids were wearing flip-flops when they showed up, but often they were several sizes too small or not a matching pair. They were not picky at all about the ones they took, and boys did not hesitate to grab pink ones with applique flowers. The Tims told me later that the big kids just take them from the little kids afterwards, and I commented that some things were the same all over the world.
Overall it was an amazing experience. The kids were so warm and happy. They danced and jumped around afterward (before the bullies beat them up and took their new stuff, I guess) and I was just thrilled to have been a part of it.
Oh yeah, and afterwards I got to go on the marine compound and fondle an enormous machine gun!