First Impressions

Hasan looking very professional

Its beautiful here, I live in a giant house with the other 3 teachers that will be here for the summer. One of them is leaving in fall to continue his undergrad and the other two will be sticking around like me.

Its sorta crazy, because I live inside a walled compound with shards of broken glass sticking up around the wall to deter jumpers (though I have a feeling I could get over it if I needed to break in for some reason) with two 24/7 guards with kalashnikovs (Bashi and Hasan – nice guys…they pretty much sit around and chew Khat all day – a local drug that sounds sorta like unprocessed coca). The wall seems to just fit in with the general style of building around here. There are no property rights, so if you want to build a home you build a wall around the area you want to delineate as yours. The nicer the home the nicer (and higher/more dangerous) the wall. As an example the family of an old woman, her teenage (approx) daughter and three little boys live in a corrugated tin shack right next to us, but also have a wall around their ‘property’ (its otherwise indistinguishable from the poorest housing you might see in Latin America). Still, I never thought I’d ever live in a place with walls and guards…

I saw the university the other day and met the the president (Dr. Bulhan), he’s very involved in Somali politics (though he doesn’t campaign for one party or another) and development here; and also has a PhD from Harvard in Economics (very very nice and interesting guy). He’s being really accomodating and may let me teach a class in something more related to my field at the university, and also said he’d help get us free Somali lessons (and i think also arabic lessons) should we want them.

Food here is really good. We went and got a whole bunch of produce the other day and cooked a big meal last night. Living with some vegetarians, so I’ll have to dip out for meat once in awhile. There’s a bougi hotel nearby where you can get pretty western food should the need arise, and a number of food places in the area for really cheap local stuff (around a dollar for a meal). It should be easy to live on the 400$ a month (one woman – who chose to live super cheaply, managed to save 2000$ in 8 months).

The internet is a little slower than Toronto, but other than that my standard of living is way higher than what I’m used to. The rent for the palacial sized house I live in is less than my room alone in Toronto and it has walls 24 hour guards with pick up to and from the University.

Everyone in my neighbourhood seems really nice. I got lost in a really small area the other day (embarrassingly close to my house) and some of the locals were like “you live over there” (idiot). The election results were announced yesterday and pretty much went the way everyone expected, so there’s not likely to be any violence and the opposition party won – so democracy seems more active here than in some of the ‘actual’ countries. I’ve had a few conversations with Westerners who believe that being recognized would actually fuck up Somaliland to a large extent, because right now the government doesn’t really do anything but take a little money off the top, whereas if there was a ton of aid money that could be embezzled then it would be worth fighting to stay in power; and on top of that civil society seems to have done a great job of rebuilding things since Somaliland declared independence in 1991.

The palacial house I live in from outside

The palacial house I live in from outside

Across the street at dusk

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