Monday, October 31, 2011


Accra with high school pal, Victoria

We returned last week from a quick trip to Ghana for a little R&R and had a blast.  All African countries are not the same.  Ghana = futuristic.  I suppose it is relative to living in Mali, but it sure seemed as if we went fast-forward into the future as we drove toward Accra.  We went the budget route, and took a non-airconditioned 45-hour bus through Burkina Faso to Accra, Ghana complete with pitching a tent and camping on the Burkina/Ghana border waiting for the border to open for the day.  We stayed in Accra for a few days, ate ice cream and sea food, went to a great concert, and visited a friend of mine from high school in Lincoln, NE who is now working in Accra.  Following Accra we went down the coast to Cape Coast to spend 5 days at the beach.  Cape Coast has a rich and tragic history of colonization and being a slave trade hub, so we managed to squeeze in a slave castle tour.  I do not think we will take a 45 hour bus again, but would definitely recommend Ghana as a destination. 

Bands from the concert:
Alliance Fran├žais in Accra (outdoor concert venue)

Rainforest in Kakum Natl. Park

Canopy walk above the rainforest

Dutch slave castle in Elmina

Castle courtyard

West Indies Trading Co. logo

Tiny room for starving misbehaving slaves to death

Anna (way too happy about all this)

3,000,000 slaves passed through this small doorway, now covered with iron bars, over the span of 300 years onto boats headed to America, the Caribbean, and Indonesia

Boat building seen from the ramparts of the castle

Bridge over the castle moat

Sunday, October 30, 2011


September 22nd, Malian Independance Day, known simply as "vignt-deux," is THE biggest party of the year in our village. We invited two neighboring volunteers to join the festivities with us last month. The celebration begins with a soccer game in the afternoon of the 21st as people from neighboring villages flood into town. We brought in a ringer to join in the soccer game, a friend and neighboring volunteer who used to play in college. The village was extremely impressed to see a toubabu in action on the field. The eve of the 22nd, street food and dance parties in every neighborhood until dawn.

The morning of the 22nd, thanks to a well connected friend, we scored VIP seats to hear local government officials speak and watched a parade featuring tradional hunters and marchers from surrounding villages. Mid day - street food and treats not usually available at our weekly market. In the afternoon - canoe races on the Niger River, again viewed from VIP seats.

View of the town square from our VIP seats

The parade begins

Parade marchers ready for the canoe race

Watermelon season begins

The race

Friday, October 7, 2011


Well, it's officially autumn now and its signs are everywhere in the USA.  My baby sister is one month into college at St. Olaf where the trees are in peak fall-colors mode.  I have seen emails and pictures of pumpkins, sweatshirts, and leaf piles.  I have been checking on (unhappily after the Wisconsin loss) Nebraska Husker football scores.  Here, while it is autumn, there is no fall.  After rainy season, we are now in mini hot season before winter.  So it is back to 100-110 degree days.  Trees here are growing well, not shedding leaves.

Recently while trying to explain the autumnal climate in the USA, Anna told a Malian village woman that leaves fall off of the trees this time of year where we come from.  The response was priceless- the woman asked Anna, "Can you then gather them and eat them?"  Good question, I guess I don't know... 

(here there are many sauces for rice or millet dishes that are made primarily of leaves of various trees, there are also quite a few traditional medicines made with leaves, so her question was pretty reasonable, just funny for an American)

Anna's banana tree