I arrived around 9AM local time and was a little frazzled. I had only had catnaps for the past 36 hours or so. I was met at the airport, took my stuff to my room, met the director of the school and took care of money stuff. Then I was taken out to see parts of the town and to get tsomething to eat. I can only describe the experience as
Seriously, it was like being in a dream. The lack of sleep didn’t help. In fact, when I was in the Dubai airport trying not to fall asleep, my brain turned all of the announcments that were being done in Arabic into English words. They didn’t make any sense, “Robin airport selfish green rock food…” Anyway, walking through the streets was overwhelming. Totally unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells (as well as some I knew unfortunetly) just about made everything impossible to process. But 10 hours of sleep and some really cool housemates have helped quite a bit.
First impressions of the place are a mixed bag. The air is clean, but thin. I think it is one of the reasons I feel so run down, it is certainly the reason I get so winded walking around and going up stairs etc. Someone told me that we are at 2300 feet or so in elevation. It certainly feels like it.
This place is poor, no really, it is. There’s poor and then there’s Poor with a capital “P”. It has all the hallmarks of a poor place, lots of used stuff for sale, stuff that would be thrown out in the US as junk has some value here. Interestingly, despite the poverty, everyone says that “street crime” is very rare. I attribute this both to the conservative Muslim nature of the place as well as the lack of illegal drug use (which I guess gets back to the first point). There is a wildly popular legal drug here called Qat (or Khat) that is used by about 85% of the people here. Many people are spending up to 50 or 60 percent of their daily earnings on the stuff. It has become quite an economic issue, but it has not lead to any crime.
The food is good, and cheap. One of my favorite things so far is the juice stands. I have fallen in love with a drink that they call “Limon juice”, I’m pretty sure that it is mostly limes with a little sugar added. I can get a decent glass of the stuff fresh squeezed (literally right in front of me) for 30 riayls, or around 15 cents US. My first meal was with one of the administrators of the school. It was a roast chicken, rice (with some other rice like/pasta like stuff), a cucumber/onion/tomato minced salad, a “Canada Dry” cola, and two different dips. I only tried the spinach one, it was good but had the consistancy of snot. So I stuck to the main dishes. Everything was eaten with the fingers except the rice. We got a spoon for that and the salad. Very tasty stuff, the entire meal ran 2000 riayls (10$) for the two of us.
Honestly, when I was walking through the streets for the first time, a bit of panic set in, it was so different. A little sleep and two really cool housemates have gotten me over that inital feeling. Christopher is from Germany and Luca is from Italy. Both have been here for a little while and know the ropes. They have also both travelled quite a bit more than I have. Anyway, they are showing me around and telling me where everything is. We went out last night (see my next post) and had a lot of fun.
Still to do:
Call the guys I had been in contact with before I got here
Buy plane ticket to Malta
Buy a bunch of little things that I forgot and/or didn’t realize I’d need.
Now that I know where the internet cafe is, I hope to post regularly. Pictures will come soon, I still feel a little odd about taking pictures, I feel too conspicious right now. If all goes well I’ll have some pictures of my room up soon.