Monday, February 16, 2009

President's Day Weekend

I had a pretty good weekend.  At CJTF-HOA weekend and holiday mean 'work less' not 'no work'. Saturday was a half day, Sunday was a rare event of not stepping foot into the office at all, and today, President's Day, I only worked a few hours.  Its gotten pretty busy around here, the new core staff is smaller and they have lots of great ideas: so more work to do with less people.  Even so I still had some fun.  On Friday night there was a wine tasting at the camp cantina.  It drew a big crowd and was a good time, even got rowdy by 11 Degrees North standards (which is still fairly tame).  On Saturday night I played some poker, it had been a long time and I'm reminded that I'm not good at Texas Hold Em.  I missed out on the baby orphanage trip again, sold out, but I've been promised a spot for next week.  On Sunday I went out to 'French Beach'.  We did not have the local expert with us and had to find the place on our own based on memory of one trip and some trial and error.  There aren't any signs and most of it is a dirt road where 4WD is helpful.  On the way there we some some camel eating a very thorny bush, I don't know how they do it, check out the video.  The weather and water were very nice, relaxing.  Its a quiet spot behind a tall ridge.  When you arrive you can pick the little shack of your choice and some plastic chairs are brought out.  This cost us 1000 DJF (~$6) after negotiation down from 1500 DJF, as well as a couple of bottles of water from our cooler.  I drove on the way back and I'm now confident I can find the place again with ease.  Today I did some studying for JPME after a few hours at the office, hit the gym, got dinner, and now I'm writing this.  

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Change of Command

As of Thursday 5 February CJTF-HOA is now under the command of RDML Anthony Kurta.  Along with the new commander comes a new "core staff". This core staff is composed of Navy personnel that have been training together for the last four months, they all just conducted turn-over here. They are just a portion of the HOA staff but the biggest group that changes at once.  In the Admiral's first all-hands call he expressed a view of 'maintain course and speed'. More to come...

Pats Cheerleaders & Lowenbrau

Armed Forces Entertainment brought another show to Djibouti.  This time it was 5 cheerleaders from the New England Patriots and 5 NFL football players.  The show was decent but short, not up to the high bar set by the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders.  In between songs the football players were on stage asking trivia questions and giving away footballs.  At least I got to enjoy some Lowenbrau, the "good" stuff from Germany not the Americanized junk.  Who remembers the jingle from the TV commercials?  

Lake Assal, Djiboutian Grand Canyon, & Goubet

Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to some local sights in Djibouti outside the city. Lake Assal was the highlight.  It is a salt lake and also the lowest point on the continent of Africa (515 feet below sea level).  The white in that picture is not sand, its crystal salt.  Lake Assal is also the saltiest body of water in the world with the exception of places in Antarctica.  Swimming in the lake was a good experience, great temperature (even in January!), and very peaceful - no one was around except my small group.  It is so salty you can float standing up.

On the way to the lake we stopped by at the so-called Djiboutian Grand Canyon. A great view, I didn't expect it of Djibouti.  We also visited the Bay of Goubet (pictured is Goubet island) as well as some beaches.  One beach featured black volcanic sand.  The landscape is lunar like, mountainous with volcanic rock scattered everywhere, very desolate, but beautiful in its own way (as long as you don't mind the lack of green).  We even passed a camel truck on the way back.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I previously posted about the Containerized Living Unit (CLU) that I lived in the first two weeks here while waiting to move into a better unit.  That was a dry CLU, here are some pictures of my current CLU that I moved to at the end of November.  All the amenities, like A/C, private bathroom, internet & cable connection.  That's good living!

My Audi is Gone

My wife took the kids and the dog to her mother's house in Florida for the week after Christmas.  I didn't want that many miles put on the car because it was getting very close to the scheduled maintenance for timing belt replacement. Unfortunately, she didn't know that.  On the way home the car overheated in Georgia.  They were stuck 700 miles from home.  After a lot of drama the car was towed to an Audi dealer in Charleston and the family rented a Uhaul truck to get home (because one-way car rentals required a trip to the airport and the Uhaul was cheaper).  The diagnosis was a water pump failure (which is driven by the timing but and also replaced during timing belt job) which stripped the teeth off the timing belt - now the cams and valves aren't moving so they collided with the pistons.  Result is a completely destroyed engine.  A new engine and labor would have cost several times the value of the car so I sold it, especially with me stuck here in Africa.  The car got posted on Craig's list and several Audi forums.  I was surprised at how much interest it received and it was sold at a reasonable price within 1 day.  In the end the mileage on the odometer was still 900 miles shy of the scheduled maintenance but I guess I should have done it early.  Pictured is the car when new in December 1999 and then its last day.  Big disasters have to happen when I'm on deployment of course.  Audi, I hope your new owner enjoys you as much as I did all those years.

Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders

Armed Forces Entertainment brought the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders to Djibouti.  They danced around for an hour then signed their photo and posed for pictures.  A good show.