July 19, 2009 ·15 Comments
Emily will be writing to Somalilandpress about her experience in Somaliland and will be offering tips to anyone who may want to visit the unrecognized republic along the way – discover Somaliland from a Non-Somali perspective. This is her fifth article – adopting their way.
Hargeisa, Jul 19 2009 (Somalilandpress) — I finally feel like I’m living the good life here in Hargeisa. It took a little while, but I’ve gotten used to calling people walaal [brother] and learned not to smile when negotiating a price since it foils my bargaining skills. I’ve adapted to changing my shower schedule to the afternoons when the power is off and I have all the time in the world, from the mornings when the water’s colder and I’m in a rush. From Borame to Berbera I have had the pleasure of swimming in the Gulf of Aden (wearing a dirac of course) and eating freshly plucked peppers which I didn’t know were spicy until my eyes welled with tears. Being here I have begun to feel more like an anthropologist than anything else. My favorite thing to do is hang out with whoever I can, and try to understand life here from their perspective.
I’ve also recently started taking Somali classes every day which I enjoy very much. Before coming here I had learned some Somali in the U.S. but at the time I didn’t realize how vastly different the dialects are in the south of Somalia versus in Somaliland and other regions. Most of my Somali friends back home are from the south, or as they call it here, “Xamar”. As a result, I speak using words from xamar, so people here that do understand me (and many do) like to tease me for it, and then a great many people just plain don’t understand some words which I worked hard to learn and have rendered themselves quite useless. Needless to say I now have a much better sense of the different dialects and also different clothes from different regions, so I’ve smartened up a bit.
A few weeks ago I stayed in the famous coastal town of Berbera, home to a huge port and as black and brown sand beaches whose shores host more camels than people. In Berbera I learned about the painful love story of Elmi and Hodan, and visited the bakery where Elmi used to work (“Father of Love Bakery”). Berbera felt peaceful, intensely hot and generally abandoned, so that the town was a sort of carcass of old buildings, rusted cars, and lackadaisical inhabitants.
I’ve had the chance to spend more time at the University of Hargeisa recently, and have included a picture here incase you’re curious. The students I’ve met are very eager and capable scholars and new programs are constantly developing. There is, however, a shortage of books in the library and for classes. Luckily online libraries help, but the classes are all held in English, the books need to be imported, and with no proper mail system here and the huge expense of DHL and Cargo for sending items, the lack of books is palpable. Nonetheless I have been very impressed with the caliber of the programs and curricula, and both the students and faculty are doing excellent and meaningful work. This weekend there is actually a literary festival here in Hargeisa which will feature poetry, theatre, and a book expo.
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If you want to learn more about Somali poetry and songs and the like, http://shunuuf.tripod.com/ has a huge collection of writings in both Somali and English.
All the best and thanks for reading!