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About

Posted in Uncategorized on July 13, 2014 by Home Strange Home

I lived and worked in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, a self-declared sovereign state which is the success story of Somalia. I wrote this blog to share my day-to-day experiences of life in the Horn of Africa and to inform people about the existence and situation of Somaliland, an independent nation that is yet to be internationally recognized as such.

I have since returned to the US after 13 years of living abroad. I started a new blog, Home Strange Home, in which I blog about the ups and downs of my re-acculturation experience.

M.I.A.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 20, 2011 by Home Strange Home

After making daily posts on this blog since my arrival in Somaliland in early March, my regular readers are probably wondering where I have disappeared to over the past two weeks. I am very sorry to have disappointed or worried you by this unexplained silence. I now want to update my friends and readers on the situation.

Two weeks ago, on the Tuesday following the death of Osama Bin Laden, we (meaning my colleagues and house mates) received a death threat from someone claiming to be Al-Shabaab, the Somali Islamist jihadi insurgent group (referred to as a terrorist organization by most western governments) with self-proclaimed links to Al-Qaeda.

While we had no way of ascertaining the veracity of the message, we treated the threat seriously and responded to it by taking measures to increase our security levels. It was a stressful and anxious week to say the least.

While the threatened attack has thankfully not materialized, given the circumstances I have taken the personal decision to leave Somaliland. This was a very difficult decision for me and I spent much time deliberating the choice. After two months, I felt I had just started to settle in to life in Hargeisa, to better understand Somaliland, and to feel happy living there. Not to mention I really enjoyed writing this blog and sharing my day-to-day experiences of life in Somaliland.

However, much as I felt sad about ending my stay prematurely, I also felt that I could not justify taking any potential risk to my life or health. What is such a shame about the whole incident is that all of my other experiences in Somaliland have shown it to be a very safe, peaceful, and welcoming place.  I don’t believe that the person or people who made the threat are representative of the average Somalilander. And I still encourage people to visit Somaliland.

So, the end result is that I am no longer living in Somaliland and therefore I will no longer be updating this blog on a daily basis. But I hope readers will still benefit from reading my past posts and will continue to make comments.

Telesom

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Reliable, as long as its in Somaliland.

One of the ubiquitous brands in Hargeisa is Telesom, the leading Somliland mobile phone company. Like Dahabshiil, you see it all over the place – emblazoned across buildings, painted on shop fronts, immortalized in shitty roundabouts, and plastered onto billboards.

When I first arrived, I went to the big Telesom office downtown on Independence Avenue to buy myself a Somali SIM card. It’s a bargain at only $5, especially considering that you get $2 worth of credit for free when you buy the SIM card. Unlike in the UK, where acquiring even a pay-as-you-go SIM card requires an unnecessary amount of paperwork and activation phone calls, your Somali Telesome number will be ready to go in two minutes flat. (Amusingly, several of us went to get our new SIM cards at the same time, and our numbers were suspiciously similar, with only the last digit varying from 5 to 6 to 7.)

The only slight issue with your new Telesom number is that, like many things in Somaliland, it seems entirely disconnected from the rest of the world. While it works perfectly for sending texts and making phone calls within Somaliland (and is refreshingly cheap), you will never receive any text message anyone ever sends you from abroad (it probably gets stuck somewhere in Djibouti). And while you can definitely receive phone calls from abroad, it doesn’t always work – some calls just don’t connect. So if you want to get in touch, best to email me.

Somaliland visa

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Somaliland's answer to a green card.

Today I got my passport  back from the Somaliland Ministry of Immigration, now sporting a new page replete with wonky stamps and biro scrawl.  When I arrived in Somaliland via the Berbera Airport in early March, I was given permission to enter and stay in the Republic of Somaliland for six days.  As I plan to stay for 4.5 months, my employer needed to arrange a longer-term visa for me, and also a visa that would allow me to exit and re-enter the country.  So for 2.5 weeks my passport was in the hands of the Ministry, and now that I have it back I am the official holder of a one-year, multiple entry visa to the unofficial country that is the Republic of Somaliland.  This could take the cake for one of my most exotic stamps in my passport ever…

Ridiculous signs

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2011 by Home Strange Home

What NOT to bring into the hospital.

Somaliland is full of unintentionally comic signs. Just when I think I’ve seen the most ridiculous sign ever and it couldn’t possibly get any more absurd, I have to whip out my camera again to capture a laugh-out-loud advertisement.

I think the absurdity of many signs and advertisements can be chalked up to a combination of poor English and the vast cultural gulf that seems to exist between Somaliland and the rest of the (normal) world. Sometimes you just have to ask yourself, what the hell were they thinking?

I can’t upload all the photos here, but some of the funnier ones I’ve seen or heard about are: a company called “Shitco,” a pharmacy down the street that sells “Drugs from Europe and other developed countries,” a sign that confusingly states “Human rights are rights for blind people,” and a school which claims to “cross the boundaries of space and time” in providing education.

"Other forms of exploitation" remain ominously undefined.

I was thinking of detaining my child but this sign persuaded me not to.