Writing in a Small Town

I live in the capital city but it is the capital city of a small country. Total population: 800,000 give or take. Total population in the city: 600,000. I can, and have, run around the entire city on a morning workout and need to add loops or extra roads to make it a ‘long’ run.


We have lived here twelve years. We are some of the few westerners who speak Somali. My husband was a professor so he taught hundreds, if not thousands, of students. This makes him easily recognizable.

There aren’t a whole lot of expatriates and there are almost zero expatriate blogs about life in Djibouti. My photo is here, right up there in the corner. That curly blond hair. That’s me.

I’ve realized lately that people recognize me. I used to think it was just my husband. Once, when our kids were little, our son said, after driving around town for a while, “Dad, I think you’re famous. Like a hundred people know your name!”

He was super impressed and we haven’t let him forget it, we regularly laugh at how ‘famous’ Dad is.

Once I wrote in a post about how I was tired of running, that I should maybe give it up. A commentor said, “You can’t be that tired of running, I saw you this morning.”

Another time I was in the grocery store on a quick errand. I wore clothes that felt grimier than pyjamas and I was pushing a stubborn cart around a corner, grimacing and nearly grunting to get the darn thing to turn its rusted wheels. A man in the aisle greeted me with a loud,” Djibouti Jones!” and pointed a finger. “You’re the reason I moved here!”

I was so shocked that it took me a minute to realize he was pointing at me. “I hope you aren’t angry with me for doing that,” I said.

“Oh no, I love it.” His employer had suggested moving him to Djibouti and he hadn’t been certain until he stumbled across my blog, which apparently gave him the confidence he needed to take a risk on this country.

I’m not boasting. I’m not famous. I feel kind of silly about it, in fact. And lately, I’ve started to feel uncomfortable with my online presence. It just feels weird. Am I the only one to want to shy away from this social, online exposure? I feel more cautious about baring my life for strangers than I used to. Is it because I’m getting older?

I’m not sure how I feel about this. And now, writing it, knowing people will read it, the people who see me every day, that feels weird, too.

This might be why I haven’t been blogging as much lately.

Somehow the attention makes me shy away. When my neighbors say they see me running almost every day or taxi drivers I run into at the airport ask me why they haven’t seen me around lately, I feel funny and am tempted to quit running. The more people mention they’ve noticed something I do, the more seriously I contemplate not doing that thing. I’ve always been that way, I am, by nature, shy. Timid. Not so gregarious. But I love to write and I love when people read what I write. Writing, because it is done alone, gives the false impression of isolation. But then it goes out into the wide world and there is no more isolation.

I’m currently working on an intensive, long-form research based project and that is consuming a lot of my time, energy, creative resources, and brain power. I don’t know how much of it to share here, while I’m still in process but the process will likely be quite long. So, I’m trying to figure out how to balance that with blogging and with living.

I haven’t figured it out. I don’t want the blog to fizzle while I focus on this other project, though I’m not sure how or what to share about it here. And, I don’t want the the paralyzing feeling that comes with feeling overexposed but I love writing and am encouraged that this small space on the internet has encouraged people and helped them to live well here.

So. What do I do?