Monday, February 19, 2007

My Visit to Camp Lemonier

Hi everyone one! I hope all is OK with you.

I am SO excited. I just spent an entire day on a military base. It is SO cool.

Keith, Kristin, and Malcolm are in Djibouti to visit the military base. It is called "Camp Lemonier." It is home to something called the "Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa." Kristin says that's a fancy name for a military unit that is working in this part of Africa to keep bad people from hurting Americans. Here I am with Keith near a sign outside the camp commander's office.

The base is located near the Djibouti airport and it takes about 10 minutes to get there by car from the hotel. But, getting past the first entry to the base isn't easy. Our driver is named Tony. He is an Air Force captain from Oklahoma. He is very nice! Tony has to stop at a series of gates or "checkpoints" in order to get on the base. Soldiers with big guns guard each of the checkpoints. At the last gate, everyone in the vehicle has to show their passport. I was really worried when I heard this since I don't have a passport, but Kristin told me she had made special arrangements for me. Whew!

But Kristin forgot to tell me that I was going to be separated from her at the last checkpoints! At the last checkpoint, everyone in the vehicle has to leave ALL of their bags (that includes Kristin's purse). Keith, Kristin, and Malcolm then have to stand in a certain spot and they cannot have their hands in their pockets. While they stood in the special spot, a soldier with a big gun opens all of the bags and looks inside. Kristin told me not to worry. She says the soldier is just looking at the equipment. I guess this is like security at the airport. But there isn't an x-ray machine, so it isn't as fun. (And don't tell Kristin, but I was kind of afraid of the soldier with the gun).

I asked Kristin why the solider has to look at all of the equipment. She says the soldier is just double checking to make sure everything is OK. I guess this makes sense. As soon as the soldier is done, Keith, Kristin, and Malcolm have to hand their passports to another soldier. He then gives them a special badge that they must wear while working on the base.

Keith, Kristin, and Malcolm are very busy in meetings and talking with people who work on the base. I don't really understand what people are talking about in the meetings but it sure sounds important. And, I am not sure who Keith, Kristin, and Malcolm are meeting but Kristin tells me they are very important. I am going to have to believe her on that.

Look carefully here you can see me and Keith helping Malcolm tape a television interview. Keith and I are holding a special vinyl circle that helps Malcolm's TV lights.

How cool is that?! Now I am learning how to be a television journalist. But I have decided being a radio journalist is MUCH better (shh...don't tell Malcolm that!). Malcolm has LOTS of heavy equipment that he has to carry everywhere. Keith and Kristin have a lot of equipment to make radio programs, but it all fits into one bag. It is also doesn't weigh as much as the TV equipment.

In addition to the meetings, we were given a tour of the base. Tony says the base is 95 acres. I think that is really big, but Tony says it is small. Our first stop on the tour was a watchtower at one end of the base. Keith and Kristin got to climb to the top. You could see the entire base and the ocean. It was really cool. I asked Kristin to take my photo in the watchtower but she told me that it was against the rules. She says it has something to do with the security of the camp.

Although I didn't get my photo in the watchtower, Keith and Kristin were allowed to take some photos during our tour.

Most of the military people working at Camp Lemonier live in tents.

I thought it would be so cool to sleep in a tent until Tony showed us his tent. It is dark and he lives with 15 other people! Tony's space is MUCH smaller than my bedroom at home. Now I am glad Kristin, Keith, and Malcolm are staying at the hotel!

People who are really important or who have worked on base for a long time get to live in a special trailer like the ones in the photo below. They don't look all that special to me!

Camp Lemonier is like a mini-city. It has a big gym, an outdoor basketball court, a movie theater, stores, and an outdoor restaurant. This is a photo of what Tony calls "downtown" Camp Lemonier.

This is the fire department.

Did I mention to you that it is REALLY HOT here in Djibouti? It is 90 degrees and sunny outside. Kristin also says it is really humid. I'm not sure I know what that means, but it does feel kind of wet and sticky outside. It is just like the weather in Iowa in July. There are special colored flags and signs on the base that tell people about something called the "Heat Stress Index." Kristin says it is a measurement of the temperature and that humidity stuff. She says when the humidity is high, it actually feels warmer outside than the temperature on the thermometer. I had no idea!

Green means the heat stress is low. Whew! It is hot enough already outside!

Because it is really hot, Kristin says we have to drink lots of water. There are big yellow boxes like this one all over the base. They are filled with water bottles. I guess we won't be thirsty!

Everyone on base has been very nice to us. We even get to eat in the camp's big cafeteria. There is SO much food in the cafeteria. It has way more food than the cafeteria at my school. I really wanted my photo taken in the cafeteria. But Kristin can't even bring her purse inside the cafeteria. I guess it has something to do with security. But, Kristin does let me peak outside of her pocket.

There is a small Burger King trailer on base. We haven't eaten there but here's a photo of it.

There are a few places on base where there are BIG guns on display. Kristin says they are NOT loaded. They are just on display. Here I am with Kristin by one of the guns.

There are SO many neat things to see and do at Camp Lemonier that I could write about it all day long. But Keith and Kristin need to get back to work so I guess I better let them have their computer back.

Until next time....