Djibouti dive-in

The overseas project I was in charge of needed another aircraft and flight crew to cover the increased work load, so the company had one boxed and flown into Djibouti via an Air France 747.

When Jean-Marc stepped off the plane I was as surprised as he was, but we had no time to reminisce. I was relegated to getting the import paperwork completed. This was a nightmare until I discovered the appropriate French officials to over-rule the locals and allow the aircraft out of customs bond in order that our maintenance people could assemble the rotorcraft.

Jean-Marc had been with the company for almost as long as I had, but before we ended up on the same job in north Africa we had never spent time in the same foreign locale. He was assigned to Ethiopia, and on his R&Rs went into Addis (Addis Ababa) to scour the markets there for interesting and unusual bits and pieces of gold and silver for his many women around the globe.

I, on the other hand, preferred the more isolated regions on my rotations out, and consequently ended up in Mog (Mogadishu), or Djibouti, or Galcaia, to name only a few. I preferred those places to getting to know the white enclaves in the larger centers such as Nairobi or Jo’burg (Johannesburg), where one could become enmeshed in the local white perceptions of the continent’s native life.

For the most part, I always figured there was no point to going to Africa only to see and experience a white world. Africa is black, obviously. It’s former name on the old maps was the Dark Continent, for the unknown and mysterious visage it presented to the European explorer of the 19th century. I didn’t want to miss out on any of that, even if it was late in the next century.

While our ground crew was busied with assembly, and until the aircraft was ready for test flying, Jean-Marc and I retired to the local watering holes, frequented by Djibouti regulars, la légion Étrangère and various and sundry other miscreants as could be found. At one point we discovered a troupe of misguided Air Lufthansa flight attendants trapped with their flight crew during a strike. We managed to rescue them from their boredom and bring them into the fold.

We spent ten days trolling the depths of Djibouti depravity with our new-found friends, but when our aircraft was readied for departure, we said our goodbyes to the stewardesses and flew off into the sunrise. The oil exploration contract progressed from there, and was subsequently fulfilled and terminated some months later.

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