Djibouti Jones

I write about running, writing, and raising three children in Djibouti, east Africa. Sponsored the first 5k for women in Djibouti and supports a local organization coaching Djiboutian girls and providing job skills training.

Rachel Pieh is a winner of Top 25 Outdoorsy Moms - 2012

Which outdoor activities do you do on a weekly basis?

I have three children; boy/girl twins (11) and a girl (6). I run five days per week, always outside whether it is snowing in Minnesota or 120 degrees in Djibouti. During marathon training, I maxed out at 60 miles/week but usually run 30-35 miles/week. I have run two marathons and multiple shorter races. Sometimes the kids run with me, or bike along on the side.

We live in Djibouti, which is a small coastal country in east Africa. Almost every week my family heads to the beach where we build sand castles, sand alligators, or sand princesses, bury dad up to his neck, snorkel, cliff jump, ride camels, fight off hungry goats or donkeys, hike the hills, and try to avoid getting sun burned.

We also enjoy biking, playing at the park (though a lot of the playground equipment in Djibouti is broken!), impromptu soccer games in the yard, and working on our slack-lining skills, of which I have none.

What's your favorite outdoor activity to do with your kids in the summer?

The unanimous family answer is: Whale sharks! In Djibouti, the best time to be outdoors is actually the winter but temperatures are still in the 80s and 90s, which feels like summer. Our favorite thing to do is to swim with whale sharks. The largest fish in the ocean, whale sharks can grow longer than a city bus. They come to Djibouti every January. We rent a small boat, throw on our snorkel gear, and head out into the Gulf of Tadjourah. We swim around, beside, beneath, over, these massive fish.

Another favorite activity is to explore Lac Assal, or the Salt Lake. This is the lowest point in Africa and we float in it, like the Dead Sea. Near the Salt Lake is a series of hot springs and rocks where the kids scramble around. Then we head to Ardoukoba Volcano and the vast lava fields surrounding it for more exploring and hiking.

Djibouti is the hottest country in the world, too hot during the summer months to enjoy these hiking activities. So during the summer, our favorite outdoor activities are to sit in the water at the beach in town or to go to a hotel swimming pool and hope to catch some shade.

What's one tip you'd give to moms who have a hard time fitting outdoors time into their busy lives?

Walk, and bring your kids along. Walk to the park, the store, the bus stop. You can use that time to review vocab words, math concepts, science lessons. Use the time to bond and to connect with your neighborhood. Learn the names of the trees or birds or flowers that you encounter. If you walk alone, use the time to plan out meals or your next writing project, pray, invite a friend, think important, deep thoughts of nothingness and relaxation and let the fresh air guide you.