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June 10, 2011 / calebdresser

Lunch at the Ambassador

Today is Friday, our one day weekend in Somaliland, and the hospital sits almost silent. A handful of staff are covering the wards, and other than one C-section which I scrubbed for at 5:15 am after waking up to a call from Dr Tanmay, very little is happening. The expat staff and volunteers typically use this lull in activity as an excuse to go out to lunch, and today was no exception.

At about noon, we arranged for a taxi and crossed the ten minutes of dusty rubble and bumpy pavement that separate Edna’s hospital from the Ambassador Hotel. I rode in the boot, as the Brits called it, and watched goats wandering past stands selling bunches of khat. The hotel stands inside a whitewashed compound atop a hill on the southern fringe of Hargeisa, with sweeping views north over the city. Much of the clientele is expats working with various aid agencies, and security is fairly intense. Once inside, however, the grounds are clean and shady. Waiters in black tie carry cool drinks across coloured tile patios, and guests sit at tables set back on beds of gravel surrounded by trees and the red blooms of a local bush whose name I do not know.

Lunch was pleasant. The group today included Jane and Margaret, midwives from the UK, Tanmay, the hospital’s Indian OB/Gyn and his wife Kurtika, Erin, an American NP that leaves next week, and Annabelle, a British volunteer who arrived yesterday from Dubai. We ate spicy vegetable soup and rolls while yellow weaverbirds flitted past our table as conversation drifted from past volunteers to the British tax system to the status of woman who has been in labour on the delivery ward since yesterday. Much to my delight, the waiters soon brought me a plateful of grilled camel steak and onions which I’ve barely begun to digest.


Its late afternoon now, and I’m sitting in the tiny computer room on the second floor. Outside the window, the blue of the sky is losing its intensity, and the flutter of pigeon wings mixes with muffled voices echoing up from the wards. There is much to write about, and little time. I’ve been very busy this week – the last five days have been a whirlwind of medicine, teaching, and planning. I’m rapidly making friends, learning how the hospital operates, and getting a sense of where I will be usefull. I’ve witnessed a great deal, but those experiences each deserve their own post, and I’ll write them up when I can. Suffice to say that I am enjoying my work and the company of those around me.



Leave a Comment
  1. d'Andre / Jun 11 2011 6:46 pm

    Your ice cream eating friends at Purity in Ithaca say hello!

  2. Margaret McCandless / Jun 13 2011 2:25 pm

    This post on your blog was in my thoughts while we were in Mystic at Sea Music Festival. Your meal at a hotel in Hargeisa has very different details from our lunch at the YTB with other musicians and their families, yet the fundamental was the same, in a way: how good it is to be with other people, to become acquainted, and to share nourishment before resuming doing meaningful things. George and I sat with a Yupik storyteller from Alaska, Jack; with a friend of Joe’s, Amanda, whose parents are from the Philipines but who grew up in New Zealand and on Sunday sang sea songs for avid children, with the Brown U group; and with others from around the world. We missed you, as you may imagine, and continue being eager to read your thoughts on your very meaningful work.

  3. Becky / Jun 13 2011 7:48 pm

    Caleb, I keep telling people about your blog (including table-sharers at Purity, see above). Which leads me to my question: is there ice cream in Somaliland?

    • Dee McCandless / Jun 16 2011 9:56 pm

      Glad you got a respite from the work and some time to visit with a remarkable collection of individuals.

      We had great fun getting to sing with Margaret and Joe M. and his gal friends from AAARRRRR, at Sea Music.

      We are having a fairly quiet time in GB, but have connected with Ellen and some other of Dad’s friends and aquaintances. One I just met today, could immediatelly see Dad in my face, that was a little startling but fine of course. We will be playing the next two Sat. farmer’s markets here and there’s a good chance Margaret may be able to join us.
      Thanks for keeping us ‘posted’!
      Much love,

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