What does school look like for an American child in Djibouti? For a third-culture kid navigating the space between worlds?
Sometimes people ask me about the differences between Djibouti and the United States, and I feel stumped. Certain aspects of life are so different that they are hard to explain and require a longer conversation than most people are prepared for. Other aspects are so similar that they are difficult to even recognize or be aware of. And in truth, the differences and similarities have a way of interacting and blending into our lives that the day-to-day doesn’t feel exotic but routine instead.
Here are 5 ways daily life in Africa may resemble yours:
1.) We drive cars.
People have asked me whether we ride a camel to get around. However, when driving the car, we have to dodge camels in the road, or donkey carts, or herds of cattle.
2.) We eat ordinary food.
Some of our favorites are pizza, spaghetti, fried fish, rice and beans, and not monkey brains or cow intestines (as people have asked!). But the food we eat is fresh — like slaughtered-that-morning fresh. Or no-chemicals-added fresh. Or made-from-scratch fresh.
3.) Kids play sports.
Often, the best way to show the differences and the similarities is simply through photography. A photo can capture children playing football (soccer) which children all over the world do, and that’s a similarity. But the children might be playing with a big, blue shipping port in the background, or on dirt instead of grass, or in the shadow of a mosque.
4.) We go grocery shopping.
Photos of women grocery shopping can show them inside a store very similar to an American store. But that same photo can show products labeled in Arabic or French, fruits and vegetables not often found in Minnesota. That photo can show her outside of the grocery store, bargaining with a man selling fresh herbs from pink plastic bags.
5.) Children go to school. In Djibouti, my kids learn history, geography, reading and writing, math and science. But they study in French, their school is not all in one building, and their classmates are from all over the world. The school week is Saturday through Wednesday; the weekend is Thursday and Friday. They are home for lunch at 1:00 and don’t go back in the afternoon until high school. In addition, they’re home-schooled in English, where they’re given access to equipment that’s not available in their French classrooms.
Enjoy this story that highlights aspects of an international education for my third-culture kids. See what differences and similarities you can spot!