A PJ Monday

So, I’m still receiving comments about how fun P.J. is. I have to admit, I didn’t expect him to be so popular.

I had a rough start to today. Let’s just say there wasn’t enough caffeine and sugar in my system to compensate for my Black Friday weekend in retail. Number seven. When I first accepted a job working part-time, I never thought I would stay this long. I wanted something to allow me flexibility and to leave my stress at the time clock. Both are usually true.

P.J. and I headed to West Chester early this morning and spent the day doing homework in my office between helping students as a history department graduate assistant.

Before too long P.J. had to use the facilities and you can imagine his confusion when I had to explain to him why the ladies’ room had urinals. You see, P.J., this building used to be a dormitory and it once housed male students.

We finished our work and had to decide what the next leg of our day would bring. After much debate, we opted for coffee. The nice man at Dunkin Donuts sold us TWO peppermint crunch doughnuts for a dollar. That meant we didn’t have to share! P.J. couldn’t have been more thrilled because he knows I am a bit of a glutton.

But I did have to be in the adult in the room and point out to P.J. that we needed “real food” and not merely sugar. I have a long night ahead and the sugar/caffeine roller coaster would do me more harm than good. We walked outside and right next to the Dunkin Donuts there was a natural food store (Great Pumpkin Market). That sounded great as P.J. and I have eaten more than our fair share of junk over the holiday weekend.

They had some raw honey at very reasonable prices so I picked that up and I discovered one of the “power sandwiches” I would eat occasionally during my vegetarian days.

As I walked toward the front of the store, I found a discount section and there was a power sandwich AND some fake turkey salad.

The clerk turned over the discount items and discovered they were out of date so she gave them to me for free! And since a bear is a scavenger P.J. didn’t mind at all.

Like good children we ate our dinner first and then had a doughnut.

Kachapuri

During our last visit to Moscow, we ate at Kachapuri, twice, and fell in love. We took my daughter there tonight for a feast of pumpkin soup, tarragon lemonade, lamb stew, a special local cheese cubed and breaded, fried zucchini, and the biggest chunk of real fish I’ve ever seen. And a beer for me. Oh, and I almost forgot… Two kachapuri.

Coffee and St. Basil’s

It is so wet in Moscow today.

We have been drenched to the bone several times already. Sigh.

So after our morning adventure, we decided on a cup of coffee and found a delightful shop with good looking pastry and the word that we recognized as Russian for coffee.

We speak a total of five words of Russian yet someone managed to order coffee and juice and cookies and a delicious poppyseed loaf. And a chocolate muffin cupcake thing.

After that it was more struggling with the rain… And dear daughter losing the hotel room key and the 500 rubles spending money I gave her.

IMG_3968Of course, I took a picture of her in the Moscow streets with her inside out umbrella.

And St. Basil’s was delightful. Gorgeous architecture. Art students drawing in the halls. Ancient coins and tools. Great music. Various examples of metal work and religious art.

 

 

Lido Beach thoughts 

I heard about the attack at Lido Beach while at work today. I visited Lido Beach last week. Last week.

I flew to Mogadishu on a flight from Djibouti, a stopover on a flight from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I and my travel companion, M, stepped onto a plane full of black African men and women in black niqab.

The flight was originally a Jubba flight, but it turned into a code share with Daallo, the Djibouti national airline that had once gone defunct.

I noticed immediately that the staff appeared to be Eastern European and not very happy about their current assignment. Part of the problem was apparently the baby that a preschooler had on her lap. A preschooler was holding a baby on her lap before take-off! 

I think, perhaps, the enthusiastic flight attendants were bickering over who needed to deal with that. The woman crew member finally gave the baby to the man who might have been the father and moved the girl to next to the potential mother.

The flight attendant went for the baby lap belt extender and somehow, the baby ended up on the child’s lap again. This flight attendant, receiving no help from the male staff member (I swear he folded his arms, huffed and went and sat in his fold-down seat), seemed on the verge on losing her mind.

She finally forcefully grabbed the baby, realized how gruff she seemed, and made some sort of Russian-esque “coochie coochie coo” noise. She passed the baby to the mother and buckled everyone in before they could move.

And we didn’t see flight attendants again until landing.

  
I don’t want to digress too much with the beginning adventures, but now that I’m safely home I can tell you we stayed at Hotel Sahafi and I found it amazing.

  
There staff did a wonderful job feeding us and protecting us.

  
The first place we visited was Lido Beach, the most recent site of a terrorist event. Last week I was there. Last week I was frisked (in that special intimate kind of way that only happens in Muslim countries) and passed through a metal detector to go the beach.

   
   

And I did think it odd to have such tight security for the beach, but I had just arrived and it hadn’t really sunk in where I was.

Mogadishu.

And we had four armed guards with us as the local population frolicked on the beach.

  
The woman swam in their long dresses and headscarves. Boys and young men played a game of soccer in the sand and joked that we were scouts from FIFA.

But Mogadishu suffered a nearly 25 year civil war, a tribal war that only ended in 2012. Hopefully someday this gorgeous city and delightful population will be a place safe enough to visit without security.

But today it is Mogadishu.

  
Of “Black Hawk Down” fame.

   
 
Where Pakistani tanks line the streets in addition to American military carcasses.

 

A land of barricades.  
 
And passive defense systems to protect against suicide bombers.

   
    
 
And battered buildings, many “destroyed” but occupied.

  
Even what used to be embassy row… Now protected by barbed wire and suicide bomber walls because peacekeeper soldiers sleep in the wreckage of what used to be the embassies.

   
 
But in the end, I went back to a cozy hotel room.

The Amazing Lives of Camels

Our second day in Somalia featured some excursions outside of Mogadishu. We visited… for lack of better terms… a camel dairy farm.

Apparently we arrived at just the right moment as two of the camels were mating. We were told that camels mate for four hours, and we had arrived in time to see the camels finish. (I posted a video on my Instagram account: angelackerman.) A baby camel gestates for 13 months and will have an average life span of 25 years.

Camel milk is touted for its medicinal properties against cancer, HIV and other diseases. We tried some fresh out of the camel (from a communal African bowl) and it was sweet and had an almost vanilla-like taste. I kept comparing it to almond milk in my mind.

They gave us some in a plastic sandwich bag, tied at the top in a knot, to take home. The armed guards in our contingent and our other staff also took some, but they bit the corner off their bag and drank it right away. We put ours in the hotel fridge. After dinner, M bit the corner off the bag (not as eloquently as our Somali hosts) and we poured it into our water glasses.

I mixed up the glasses and M corrected me. At this point I reminded him that we had shared a communal bowl with a bunch of random Somalis and he was concerned about switching our glasses…

We both decided that cold it tasted like milk. We were disappointed as neither one of us likes milk. Maybe you have to drink it warm.

 

 

The Coffee Lady in Mogadishu

On our first day in Mogadishu, we were driving back to our hotel, Hotel Sahafi, when the traffic slowed and a gendarme told us that the white car a few car lengths ahead of us contained a bomb. Apparently, a suicide bomber had made it this far (about two miles from our hotel) when authorities noticed the bomb and the bomber-to-be deserted the car and ran.

As a result, the road was closed and we were rerouted until the car bomb could be diffused. We were returned to the hotel and locked in for the night. While our driver and guide were getting information from the gendarme, I noticed this woman making coffee and started taking photos. Since I don’t speak Somali more than “Yes,” “No,” “My name is…” and “Move,” I didn’t realize at the time that we were so close to a live bomb.

Of course I used the time to snap street photography from inside our vehicle. These photos were taken on the outskirts of a makeshift village of refugees who left their homes in flight of the rebel group Al Shabaab.