No, I am not headed for this tiny African nation at the southern end of the Red Sea. I never heard of it until Tuesday when I learned that my son-in-law Sean is leaving for Djibouti tonight, Wednesday. He works for Sea Lift Command, which delivers supplies and personnel in support of the U.S. Navy. He retired from the Navy last spring after 20 years and is now doing substantially the same thing as a civilian. While with the Navy, one of his assignments was traveling to Antarctica to take the trash out- something that's done in January, at the end of the summer season.
When we learned that the ship to which Sean is assigned is in the Gulf of Aden my daughter and I both sought to learn more about this tiny country with the unpronounceable name. It's a Muslim country, about the size of Massachusetts and is next to Somalia, which might be the reason that Sean's recent training was learning how to fight pirates. It's a dry, arid land without any agriculture and very little potable water. Its population is about a half-million and life expectancy is about 41, which will make Sean, 40, an elderly man. The majority of people live in the capital city of Djibouti and the remainder are nomadic herders.
Average income is about $3,000 a year and there's a 60 percent unemployment rate Hepatitis, malaria, and typhoid fever are common and the risk of water and food borne disease is high.
I suspect Sean won't be leaving the ship very often. I also think it's pretty unlikely I'll be visiting Djibouti anytime soon.
The Web site www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ makes for fascinating reading but it's pretty scary stuff. I probably wouldn't want to go to lots of places that I found to be perfectly fine had I read the CIA's take in advance.
But Sean has promised to send photos and to stay in touch by e-mail. If you're interested I'll pass along his observations.