The other day, my dad asked me to write a short piece about what my daily life is like in Somaliland. I usually refrain from such things, but I think it is a good opportunity to show how normal everything is here. With a few caveats.
[![Office Guest Suite]]
I generally awake between 9 and 10. Although this is late for a work day, if you read to the end you’ll see why. Mostly everyone else is out of the office in the morning either in court or meetings or taking care of personal errands. This is great for me, since I’m a slow waker so I like the peacefulness in the mornings as it lets me wake at a reasonable pace. In many ways the afternoons and mornings are sort of flipped around from life in the US. Things start slowly here for almost everyone. Although I used to have my own house that I rented, these days I’m spending less long stretches in Hargeisa and so we have built a sleeping room here at the office for me to use when I’m here and for the team to use after a late night working when I’m not.
After a freezing cold shower that although painful is effective at getting your juices flowing, I head into our office. I share and office with Hassan, my Vice President, but he is rarely there in the mornings. I like to begin my day with a cup of coffee and some news, as many others do. Here that comes in a flask of Ethiopian coffee my watchman brings from our close Ethiopian tin shack shop and accompanied by my scans of my Google Reader (using Feedly’s skin), Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr feeds. I generally do a more or less quick scan in the mornings. I read a few smaller articles from my feeds, but I just generally skim the headlines and then mark the longer articles that seem interesting for my Readability queue.
After I’m finished with the news, I then usually begin working on whatever lies in front of me. I usually try to start the working day with the mundane admin tasks that don’t require as much thought as my client work. About 12:30 or 1:00 I’ll realize that I’m hungry and ask my watchman to go bring my lunch. We have a hotel about two blocks away that serves a decently nice chicken sandwich and edible fries (which is my typical lunch order). When I reach a stopping point in my work then I take a small break and migrate into our chewing room. This usually involves several trips to get all of the waste baskets in the office, rearrange the cushions in the room, make sure the tea cups and ashtrays are brought in, and also that all my accoutrement is ready.
I like to eat in the relaxation of the sitting room while listening to either some music or a podcast. The rest of the gang usually arrives somewhere between 2 and 3. Our majlis is almost always open to people if they are interested in coming to chat with us. The only times we ask people not to come are when we have a meeting planned. On a typical afternoon, we’ll have 7 to 10 people with us for varying lengths of time.
[![My Chewing Position]]
Chewing sessions are interesting. You make an effort to prepare your spot so everything you’ll need for the next 6 to 12 hours is within your reach. You make sure that your water, your tea, your soft drinks, your fake beer, your chat, your phone, your computer (and cord), your wallet, keys, everything is just around you. At our office, we developed a habit of using our wastebaskets as small tables for our laptops. It works fantastically as the laptop doesn’t overhead and when you’re sitting on the floor it is at a really good height so your back does not get jarred. Also it is quite easy to move when you are changing the way that you sit.
Chewing sessions generally start quite festive and then steadily deteriorate into quietness. Everyone usually is chatting at the beginning, or reading some news, or checking their facebook. Then after everyone is more or less settled in they begin work. In many offices, not only ours, the real work takes place at chewing sessions. Although many expats in Hargeisa are very much against qat (for admittedly valid reasons) the argument that it makes people lazy I simply don’t buy. For me, it focuses me and I actually work quite well when I’ve had a normal dosage of qat. The high you get from qat, if one can even call it a high, is very subtle and take a long time to settle in.
Some people join us but do not have work that day so they will chat or listen to Somali songs or watch TV depending on their moods. The rest of us either put on headphones or we just listen as we are working. It is not unlike a co-working space.
The great thing about a chewing session is that when you need a break or if you have a question you just ask or you just visit with people. If something comes on the news people will generally discuss. If there had been a big political incident earlier that day it will get analyzed in detail. And sometimes people will just work or chat on facebook. It is a very relaxed environment.
Usually people leave between 9 and 10. At this point in the night, I’m usually getting my best work done and so I will often stay going until about 2 or 3 when I snoozily saunter to the sleeping room. Then the cycle starts all over again. So that’s a typical Somaliland day. With a few pictures.
[![Chewing Session 2]]
~ # ~