Well, it has been two weeks in country and I can say that it is not that bad. There are a few things you have to get used to like having a roommate, living in a 8′ X 20′ space with that roommate, walking 50 yards to the bathroom outside, sharing that bathroom with hundreds of camp mates, and the Africa heat.
Our living quarters are called CLUs (Containerised Living Units). Basically, they are 40 foot shipping containers made into apartments. One container has a wall placed in the middle separating it into two 20 foot spaces. There are two people per end that share these living spaces. I live in the only 2-story CLU. Kind of nice cause I have a redneck deck that overlooks the flightline. The area where we all live is called CLUville (Cleverly sounds like Whoville) and people who spend too much time in their quarters are known as CLUsers (cleverly sounds like losers). The bathrooms are peppered throughout CLUville and are known as ablutions (fancy word for toilets and showers). They are basically 40 foot shipping containers with half filled with toilets and the other end with showers and sinks. The showers are only 2X2. I can’t put both of my elbows out without touching the walls. Due to overcrowding on the base and the limited ability to process waste water we are requested to take a combat shower. This means you turn on the water and get yourself wet for 30 seconds. Turn off the water and lather up (Take as long as you like). You then turn on the water and rinse for 2 mins/30 sec. If we don’t conserve water this way we will be forced to close bathrooms and limit access… hot weather and limited showers… bad idea. You can either do your own laundry in CLUville or drop it off and have it done for you. Both have advantages. I prefer the drop off/pick up method because I hate walking down to the laundry room every 15 mins with my clothes until a washer comes open.
We live about a half mile from where we work. I am getting on a routine of carrying my uniform to work and wearing shorts and a T-shirt then changing there. This saves you from being covered in sweat all day from walking around in your hot uniform in this humidity. There are a lot of ridiculous rules that make you have to think hard before leaving your current location. You can’t have a bag and go into the dining facility (Chow Hall, Galley, name depends on which service you are in) or BX. You have to walk past all of these to get to work (about halfway between the point A and B), so if I have my uniform in a bag walking to work I will have to walk past the chow hall to get to work, change, then walk back to the chow hall without a bag (Negating the purpose for wearing civilian clothes to work in the first place because you will sweat). Planning my trips makes my head hurt. Not sure if you have heard the riddle about the old man and the bridge. He is carrying a hen, a fox, and grain. He can only carry one across the bridge at a time because it is an old bridge and it can’t bear the weight. He can’t leave the hen with the grain because the hen will eat the grain. He can’t leave the fox and hen alone because the fox will eat the hen (if you don’t know the answer then Google it). My life on a daily basis is solving this riddle.
Food on the Camp is only in the chow halls. No restaurants on camp to buy food. Nice because it is free and I am not wasting my money on fast food. The meals are typical cafeteria food (today’s meatloaf is tomorrow’s sloppy joe). They do a good job of providing variety and adding some ethnic foods in their to keep it from getting boring. Tacos, Chinese, Filipino, etc… Every Saturday is steak night. It’s not too bad. You can get food 24/7, but only certain hours are sit down meals the hours outside normal meal times are packaged to-go.
You can buy nearly anything you need in the BX. You may not be able to get your preferred brand, but they have the essentials. Knowing this could save you from over-packing. You can buy snacks there as well. There is a 24-hour gym that is pretty nice. There is a running trail around the perimeter that goes for about two and a quarter miles. A coffee shop called “Green Bean Cafe” which is essentially a Starbucks in deployed locations. It has Wi-Fi and it is where I am writing this post from. There is a rec-center called “11 Degrees North” where you can play pool, darts, ping pong. It is also the base club where they have Karaoke, DJs, and other entertainment. There is a big outdoor stage and huge patio for hanging out. This is one of two places where you can buy beer. We are allowed 2 beers a day. The selection is not too bad. A couple of African beers that I have never had that I enjoy. Tusker and St George’s. They also have French beer called 1664 and one of my favorite German beers Franziskaner. The other location to buy beer is The Old Cantina. It was closed for renovation, but just reopened. It is where the older folks hang out. It’s an outdoors venue and is pretty laid back. Local acoustic bands play there every once in a while. They call the 11 degrees “11 disease” because it is like a typical club with all of the young kids trying to hook up with each other.
We are allowed to leave the camp and travel downtown Djibouti. This is a good way to break up the monotony of camp life. I will talk about this in future posts. Hope you enjoyed the quick verbal tour of Camp Lemonnier.