Saturday, June 6, 2015


In case you missed the memo, after a very, very crazy, unstable, and generally not great last year I have somehow found myself in Hargeisa, Somaliland working for a start up that sells solar lamps to off grid communities. Sadly enough one of the aspects of moving here that I looked forward to most was simply the chance to sleep in the same bed for four months.... Small luxuries.

But besides staying put for a while, it is exciting to have the opportunity to be in this little known place even if it is hot wearing a hijab and lots of layers everywhere. Two days in and I've already absorbed lots of information. I hope to keep this space updated more regularly with stories and observations. A bit from my first days:

  • FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is extremely, extremely common here. Something like 90% of women here have it. 
  • Somaliland is not a recognized country although they have their own government complete with a parliamentary system, elected president and government ministries. 
  • Before coming here I had read that most of the money/economy in Somaliland comes in from Somaliland's diaspora population (Somalilanders living abroad). After two days this has become more evident to me. I guess in summer the diaspora comes back so in one evening hanging out with an American Somali (lander) I met three Dutch (I can't get away from the Dutch apparently) Somalis, and people speaking perfect British English. It's an interesting demographic. Life is cheap here but everything seems to be internal since they can't really export anything. 
  • The landscape reminds me of Karamoja, Uganda and Turkana, Kenya. Semi arid, with scrubby, thorny bushes. Camels and goats are all over since the people are pastoralists.
  • In many ways I feel like I am in any African country (if I'm going to generalize..). People are warm and friendly and life is colorful here. Time is laid back, and people have large families. Even though only my face shows I still stand out and people are keen to practice their limited English on me with frequent greetings of "how are you?" Apparently there is an equivalent word for mzungu here but I haven't mastered it yet. 
  • Another change will be the work week. Fridays here are like Sundays in other countries. However, unlike the west, Friday is the only day off. So that means 6 day work weeks. 
  • Internet is relatively fast here and easy to find. 
  • While it's clear that Hargeisa is developing and is lacking proper infrastructure, it's easy to find nice food and coffee, and even stores seem to sell a relatively decent selection of items (for very cheap prices). I'm still a bit confused how this can happen since most other African countries I've visited are not actually that cheap if you choose to live a more "western" lifestyle. 
  • In two or so weeks Ramadan will start and I'm not sure how this will affect my working schedule. Pretty much everything closes down during the day so I will definitely have to be cooking for myself. 
 That's all for now. Hopefully I manage to write more coherent and interesting posts in the future!


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