Day One in Mogadishu

On the right, fluffy clouds cast shadows on the glistening sea. On the left, the only legitimate IDP camp (Internally Displaced People) comes into view; orderly tents that belie the conditions faced by those that call them a temporary home. In comparison, they are the lucky ones, with services and conditions that while minimal are a clear step above the over one hundred improvisational settlements around Mogadishu.As we head off the tarmac I’m reminded of the joys of wearing a head scarf, trying to keep the darn thing on. It eludes me time and time again as the day goes on, readjusting in respect to the Muslim culture of Somalia.The airport shows signs of recent improvements as well, with video cams capturing the images of those who dare to visit the reviving city. Biometric scanners are being installed for fingerprinting as well. Someone is tasked with keeping us in an orderly line; this is a good sign. Still chaos and noise abounds as we head out into the scorching sun that reflects on freshly painted walls.

As we exit the airport, more than a half dozen young men strapped down with belts of bullet rounds and machine guns appear in a Toyota pickup directly in front of us. We follow close behind. It isn’t long before I realize that they are our protection. I suppose that is better than the alternative.After settling in we head out to visit several hospitals in the city. Time and time again, women in headscarfs coyly look and then break into smile. White bearded men and fresh young boys sneak a look and then reveal their chat stained teeth in welcome. People are friendly and we converse in nods and looks as I go about the hospital. Joking with some being, thanked by others.
The second hospital that is known for having the manicured courtyard full of people seeking treatment and refugee is relatively quiet. There is a wise old turtle that makes me think of the children in my life and stop to take a photo. The streets going home are crowded with people doing business. Life is clearly coming back to the city. Of course the following day there is an IED in the same hospital. It’s clearly still touch and go in Moga.My favorite was a room with three women. The first is an elderly woman with severe diabetic complications gestures her welcome to photograph her. She reveals a reflection that I am sure to cherish for time to come.The second is a friendly young woman who has been shot by a burglar in the leg. Only once I look back at the photograph do I see the damage to her eye from some previous injury of this warn torn city.The third is a visitor who has been eagerly encouraging me to photograph the first two women, asking to see the photos. I love how communication needs no words. She then insists on her own photo as she strikes a pose. She is clearly satisfied with the results.
Later this woman has been brought in from Baidoa after an explosion. She has lost half her arm and both legs are bandaged. We look at the admissions board with a young doctor and note that weapons related injuries are down aside from a notable spike to 26 on the day that the theatre was bombed.
We return to our guesthouse, populated by other do gooders. The camaraderie reminds me a bit of the first day of an adult summer camp, everyone curious to see who is who. It turns out several are former colleagues who we determine numerous connections around the globe. Fresh and juicy watermelon compliment succulent camel. I could take this cook home with me, he is so friendly and good! Don’t know where I will find the camel and fish though!
This wise old turtle was found at the hospital. As a good Auntie, I take photos of animals and less dramatic images for the kids in my life. Enjoy!

Now off to bed after several nights of minimal sleep. Thanks to ear plugs and an eye mask, I sleep nearly ten hours and then workout to an exercise video in the morning before starting the next day.

Miel

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