Sunday, August 9, 2009


Well I'm not really kaput but I am finished (in three months to be exact). So my blog posts keep coming later and later. Sorry you guys who read my blog, I just have trouble mustering up the energy to write. Everything here is about the same though. I'm fine, actually just getting ready to go to my close of service (COS) conference at the Sheraton hotel!

Every Peace Corps volunteer has their COS conference about three months before they are finished with their service. Its just a time to wrap things up, fill us in on any last minute stuff and specifically to talk about resumes, finding jobs, interviewing, grad school, government jobs, etc. Basically COS conference is there to prepare us for life after Peace Corps.

So lately I've been doing some of these things on my own, working on my resume and looking at jobs. I've enjoyed my time working abroad with the Peace Corps so I figured I'd try to find somethng along those lines again. One job that really caught my eye was teaching english in S. Korea. The contracts are usually for just a year, there are a lot of benifits, free housing/airfare, good wage, etc. so I'm really considering doing this in the spring of 2010.

I wont start applying until January of February so we'll see what happens with that. My plans might change from now until then.

Well thats it, short but sweet. Thanks again for everyone who's sent me letters and packages! It's all been greatly appreciated! :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Adventure That was Mali

Oh, well hello there! I haven't posted in so long I'm having trouble getting going here. Right off the bat I'd like to say that I'm fine and doing well (I know I always say that, but really it's the truth). Everything in The Gambia has been groovy, nothing to big has been going on, just keeping up my work and trying to do a little good.

Recently though I was on a three week trip to Mali. My friends, Ted, Tim and I left Basse, The Gambia on Jan. 7th and traveled all over Mali until the 27th. It was really a terrific trip all around. The first obstacle was getting there. That was accomplished by driving overland for three days to Bamako (Mali's capital and biggest city). Despite what you might be thinking, especially if you read the blog about my guinea trip, the drive to Bamako was flawless, relaxing, and really quite enjoyable.

Somehow the moon, sun, planets and everything else aligned in out favor and we were able to get car after car without any problems, long waits or break-downs. It is really unheard of to have the kind of luck we did with transport. So finally we made it to Bamako after three days and are planning to take the bus up to Mopti the next morning. Ted was originally a Mali volunteer so we all went out for drinks with some of his buddies who were in town. It was really nice meeting them but the best part was when they told us there was a Peace Corps transport going up to Mopti the next morning! This was unreal, I couldn't believe our luck. So we quickly rushed back to the bus station, refunded our tickets and got our seats secured in the Peace Corps car. Jackpot!

We reached Mopti just fine and on the following day went down to see the mud Mosque in Djenne. It was actually really cool to see because its all made out of mud and wooden palm beams. It's one of a kind , which is probably why its a world heritage site. To see pictures of the mosque and the rest of my trip just click on the link labeled pictures on the right of the page.

From there we went to a wedding in Hombori. It was actually two Mali volunteers that were getting married. Ted was invited to the wedding since he knew the bride and groom so naturally Tim and I came also! The great thing about Hombori is that there are rock formations everywhere. Just think of the American southwest and you'll get a good idea of what this part of Mali looked like. Really dry and dusty with lots of red rock, tall buttes, and big spires of rock. It was here at a place called "The Hand Of Fatimata" that we did a bunch of rock climbing. For those of you who didn't know I did a little bit of rock climbing back home in Washington so I was especially excited to get a chance to climb in Mali. To say the least, it was amazing, by far the biggest highlight of my trip.

After the wedding and the rock climbing we traveled further north to a town called Gosi. Here we went and saw elephants in the wild. Apparently they migrate north from Burkina Faso (another African country) up into Mali. This was so unexpected because before we left for Mali we had no idea we would be seeing elephants. Then after talking to the Mali volunteers we found out about the elephants and decided we couldn't pass it up. So we went! There were four males in the group that we saw. It was really nice, we walked out to the area where they were feeding. I felt like this was less intrusive than bringing a four wheel drive vehicle out which would have stressed out the animals even more because they got this weird metal thing buzzing around them.

Immediately after seeing the elephants we walked to this village and paid to ride camels. I wasn't sure if I wanted to fork over the money because I'd already ridden a camel in Egypt but in the end I caved and decided to go for it again. I'm so glad I did too because it was incredibly fun. We didn't ride them for that long but it was really neat because it was only us giving the camel commands, there wasn't anyone leading you around like they do in a lot of places. Oh and FYI, camel breath is probably the most foul, raunchiest, dreadful smell that you will ever encounter. I had the pleasure of standing in front of the camel when the owner decided to open its mouth for some reason or another. That smell is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Next stop Dogon country. Dogon is a region near Mopti that is known for its cliff side villages and in some cases cliff dwellings. There are many villages in Dogon, so we hired a guide, Samba, and hiked with him for four days inbetween some of the more picturesque villages. We also got to try some of the local foods like home made millet beer and then this food that they call Toh. Toh is interesting because it tastes disgusting but the Dogon people eat it for almost every meal. It is the staple food in Dogon and much of Mali so I suppose if that's all you know you probably think its pretty good.

After hiking in Dogon our trip was basically over. We were homeward bound, and by home I mean The Gambia. Transport back to The Gambia wasn't as good as on the way there but all in all, decent. There were a few times when we had to wait an hour or two for the car to show/fill up but other than that I don't have much for you. Tim, Ted, and I, the three T's, made it back safe and sound. Oh and by the way, we did all of this, food, transport, lodging, and souvenirs for $500. I know its great, I was surprised too!

OK all, be sure to check out the pictures after your done reading. Oh and if you want to hear more about my Mali trip, your out of luck! You'll just have to wait until I get home! Cheers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Boy and The Cow Cart

It was right after breakfast when I started getting ready to ride to Ndungu Kebbe (the village next to mine where I teach sometimes). I had just taken my bicycle out and closed my door when my 13 year old host brother Moussa entered our compound driving the cow cart. Mind you this is a relatively big cart with two big cows tied into the yolk pulling it.

So my brother comes lumbering in with the cow cart and since its a cow cart he's going really really slow. Due to the slowness of things all the boys in the village are jumping and climbing all over the cart. Its fun, its cool, so yah, everyone was jumping around and having a great time. Except for one kid.... who falls off and gets run over by the cow cart.

Now as this is happening I'm literally standing three feet away. I watched him fall, watched his legs get pinned under the tire, watched the cows stutter for just a split second before powering over the kid and running him over from his feet to his shoulder and then watched him lay there and begin to bawl. Oh by the way his head was spared, it kicked out at the last minute so the tire missed it.

Before I continue I'd just like to clarify that I was standing three feet away but there was nothing I could do. My bicycle was between me and the cart so really the only thing I could do was watch... and what a show it was. Ok, now back to the kid. Miraculously he was fine, a little scraped up and probably bruised but there were no broken bones and no serious injuries that I could see.

It was pretty crazy, I couldn't believe I actually got to witness something like that. Just goes to show that, "fun can be fun until someone gets hurt, and then fun isn't fun anymore!"

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hiking Guinea

Greetings all, yes it’s me again. I’m back in action with another amazing blog entry for you all to devour. It really has been a long time since I’ve updated my blog and for that I apologize. Hopefully though this post will make up for all the lost time and disappointment you’ve had when getting online and not finding anything new and interesting to read.

Now that I got that out of the way I can start to tell you about my incredible adventure through the wilds of Gambia, Senegal, and Guinea. It all started when my buddy Ted asked if I wanted to go on vacation to Guinea. Naturally I said “yes” and we began organizing the trip. Other volunteers were also invited to go so in the end 7 other volunteers and myself traveled down to Guinea. Our vacation was one week long; we left on October 21st and came home on the 27th.

Monday the 21st finally rolls around, the morning is hot, not a cloud in the sky. We are sitting in the Basse (the staging point for people traveling to Guinea from the Gambia) car park trying to catch a ride down to Douke, Guinea. Yes, Douke is our final destination. There is a man in Douke named Hassan Bah and he owns a small eco-lodge. It’s a very beautiful place nestled up in the Guinean highlands with great hiking, spectacular views, and waterfalls everywhere you look.

But as I was saying, we are sitting in the hot dusty car park up in Basse on the morning of the 21st trying to negotiate for a car that can take us to Douke. Finally at 9am we strike a deal. The second this happens our driver turns into the energizer bunny, he starts running around throwing our bags on the roof rack as fast as possible, herding people to their seats in the car, and just acting like we are in a race against time. We thought maybe it wasn’t really necessary to load up and leave as fast as he wanted us too but to make him happy we humored him.

The car ride down to Douke was also a little cramped. Just think of sardines in a can and then you’ll begin to understand what we had to go through. The car itself is an old Peugeot station wagon. There are the two front seats, a middle seat and a back seat. Normally 9 passangers are crammed into these tiny cars not including the driver, 3 in the back seat, 4 in the middle, and 2 in the front passenger seat!

Since our group totaled 8 people we just bought out that 9th seat hoping that the ride might be a little more comfortable due to the extra room. Personally I really don’t think that missing that one person made much of a difference to our comfort but who knows. All I can say is that it was a tight squeeze! In addition to all this, the road down there was absolutely horrible. It was dirt the whole way, the potholes were the size of small houses (ok maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but they were big!), and we were constantly fording muddy pits of water (luckily not getting stuck in them).

Of course we had heard all the stories of past volunteers who had traveled to Hassan’s before us. So we were expecting the really cramped, long and uncomfortable car ride. I was even expecting break-downs. Guess what, the car didn’t disappoint, we broke down 3 times on our way to Douke. Twice the driver and some other mechanics removed the master cylinder because the car had no brakes and twice they replaced it only to have the breaks go out again after 15 minutes of driving. Mmmm hmmm, that’s right, we didn’t have any breaks the whole time riding down there, even going through the mountain passes. Thank god for down shifting otherwise we would have been in a world of hurt. All this and changing out the back axle at four in the morning was very entertaining. I really have to hand it to our driver, that axle swap was impressive. He had probably done it a million times though because he was carrying the spare axle with him on top with the bags.

So if you aren’t already sick of riding in this car, hold on, because the ride from Basse to Douke took us 33 hours of straight driving! Yup, you heard me right, 33 hours….

Everyone was more than tired when we finally did arrive at Hassan’s lodge but we were so happy to be out of that car it didn’t matter. The next day after sleeping like logs we woke up, ate a light breakfast of tea, honey and bread, and then went hiking. Oh the hiking in the Guinean highlands is amazing, so much different that being in The Gambia where there are only a few small hills. Douke’s elevation is at around 4,000 ft. so we really were in the mountains.

We stayed with Hassan for four full days and during that time were able to complete all the hikes he had to offer. Every day we would go on two hikes, one in the morning after breakfast and the other in the afternoon after lunch. Depending on who you ask they might say these hikes were really strenuous but for me personally they didn’t pose many difficulties. Know what I mean?

As I said before the landscape in Guinea is gorgeous, there are valleys, mountains, waterfalls, and really interesting rock formations all over the place. I had a great time there and am so glad I decided to go. Car ride and all, it was worth it.

One of the hikes we went on was the “Indiana Jones.” The reason for this was quite obvious when we got to see what we were hiking through. It was really like a jungle, there were vines everywhere, huge rock chasms over 100 feet deep that we hiked through, moss covering everything, and crystal clear streams cutting their way through the limestone formations. The scenery was like nothing I’ve ever seen before; I was almost expecting ferries to come zipping out of the nooks and crannies. Enchanting is the only way to describe this place. The Indiana Jones hike was by far my favorite hike.

Besides the phenomenal hiking there wasn’t too much excitement to be had at Hassan’s. That was exactly what I wanted though. All of our down time consisted of everyone picking a hammock and reading the books they brought. I brought a Star Wars book, The Crystal Star. No I’m not a nerd and yes it was a pretty good book. To quote Yoda, “Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things.”

In a nutshell, Guinea was really fun and I’d recommend it to anyone. The car ride back was actually really fast comparatively, 27 hours, and very uneventful. We were all exhausted by the time we arrived in Basse. Sleep came quickly to each and every one of us…. We probably all had really sweet dreams too!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Well it's that time of the year again, yes, I'm talking about Ramadan. I hope no one is dropping dead from fasting. You can all be assured that I'm doing just fine, I sneak bread and Nutella during the middle of the day. My family doesn't cook during the day so I'm left to fend for myself.

It's interesting because most families will break fast in the evening and then will get up very early in the morning and have breakfast before sunrise. And just for those of you who aren't sure what Ramadan is, it's a Muslim holiday that lasts for about 30 days. You aren't allowed to eat during the day and you can only break fast after the sun sets or before it rises.

In other news, village life is going well. There's always those days where you feel crappy or lose all motivation to do any work but those are few and far between, at least for me. Lately I've been staying busy building beehives, bike trekking around The Gambia visiting volunteers, and organizing a beekeeping workshop for the villages in my area. We are going to be hosting around 40 people for this training, so I hope everything goes well.

Some of you regulars might have noticed that my posting has become less frequent as time passes by. So your probably asking yourself "why is this happening"? Well the truth is, I'm a lazy bum. Writing has never been my thing. So for now I'm going to try and do these little installments whenever it suits me. :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Morocco and Spain

It's 10:58 AM, the clock is counting down. In 13 hours I will be boarding a plane to Morocco. This might possibly be one of the best days I've had so far in Peace Corps. Well maybe not the best day but pretty damn good. I'm not going to lie, this is a much needed vacation that I've needed for a long time now. Village life plus some of the Gambian people can just wear you down to nothing. I haven't blown up at anyone yet but with any luck this trip will help me rejuvenate my will and stamina so that I can continue to deal with the frustrations and problems that bombard me every day of my Peace Corps service.

There's not a whole lot more to say now but you can be sure I'll post once I return to The Gambia...

And I'm back! Sorry for the long wait. It has been about two weeks since the original post but if your reading this for the first time then it probably appears to be seamless. In any event though I had an excellent time in Morocco and Spain. The trip didn't go off without a hitch unfortunately. There were some mishaps along the way which happened actually from the very start. Barcelona is where the problem occurred.

Alex (my buddy who traveled with me) and I didn't feel the affects of this problem until we actually arrived in Marrakech, Morocco which is were our first four nights were spent. You see the problem was our baggage. It never made it from our plane in Barcelona to our connecting flight. As you can imagine this isn't how we wanted to start our trip off but nevertheless its what ultimately happened. What ensued thereafter was us calling Spanair (the carrier who lost our luggage) on multiple occasions, making trips to the Marrakech airport, and probably worst of all, living for four days in stinky smelly clothes that we of course had to keep wearing day in and day out because that's all we had.

That first day we gave Spanair the address of our hotel and they said our baggage would be delivered in the next 24 to 48 hours. After the third day of no luggage we began to become a little anxious about the situation considering Spanair had told us they sent our bags to Morocco but didn't know to what city or even what carrier took them. Laying on our hotel bed Alex and I began to contemplate the possibility of going our whole vacation without any luggage. It would have been possible, luckily we had all our valuables, money and passports on us instead of in our bags so we were ready to go on if that's what it came too. Finally our bags showed up on the "radar" if you will. Turns out they hadn't even left Barcelona yet, it was day three and they were being sent on day four. So on our final attempt we went to the airport again and our good luck came through for us, the bags arrived!

-post unfinished-

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy 4th Of July

Happy birthday America.

Hey all, did everyone have a good time on the 4th, hope so? I ended up having a great time. My boss through a party at his place and invited all the volunteers over. I got there a little early to help barbeque the chicken and pork, there is nothing like barbequing on the 4th. It was a potluck so everyone brought a dish. I have to say, the food was excellent. It definitely beats my average meal of rice with one of three sauces that I normally get.

Not a whole lot to say about the party though. Everyone seemed to be having fun. At about 9pm we all went home. Some of the volunteers are musically adept so they met up back at our Peace Corps house and started playing. We had 5 guitar players and 1 harmonica player. We all sat around while they played together, it was really nice. I've always like the sound of acoustic guitar.

I will leave you with a Gambian proverb to ponder; "Slowly slowly you catch the monkeys tail."