Friday, May 11, 2012

Silver Lining

Well, we're officially back at home in the USA after a whirlwind of traveling.  After Peace Corps Mali was evacuated to Ghana, this is what we did:

Beach hostel near Butre, Ghana
We headed West on the coast of Ghana to a remote beach hostel and then a less-remote beach town.  Highlights were final moments with Peace Corps friends, watching a Champions League soccer game at backstreet bar with Ghanians going wild, a hike to the next beach to surf, and a $2.50 lobster dinner behind a fisherman's house cooked by his sister.

12'x12' tree house we rented
We headed back to Accra, and crashed at my high school pal, Vicki's house.  We had a great weekend with Victoria and her pals.  We ate well, slept in AC, and washed the sand out of our clothes.  She also took us to an awesome Ghanaian second hand clothing market where we were able to stock up on a few essentials for the colder climates to come.

Brunch at Victoria's
Thanks to a well-timed invite from my aunt, we decided to spend a week in Switzerland with my aunt and uncle's house in Basel.  After seeing all of my siblings go to Switzerland, this was something I had been pining for my entire life.  It was everything that I imagined and more.  Anna also remarked that Switzerland was infinitely more exciting than her Heidi and Swiss cheese mental picture led her to believe.  We had a decadent week back in the 1st world (Switzerland and Mali are about as far apart as you can get on the spectrum of wealth) and were spoiled rotten by my aunt and uncle.

On the Rhein in Basel, Switzerland
The Rigi near Lake Lucerne 
Switzerland was just beginning to see Springtime.  It was beautiful with buds and flowers beginning to pop everywhere.  Thanks again to some last minute clothing and shoes we picked up in Ghana, and many loaners from my aunt and uncle we had more than our weekend bag of hot weather clothes from Mali (most of our clothes are still in our mud hut in Ke-Macina, Mali because we were unable to go back to village after the coup).

Out for a drive in my uncle's 'new' ride
1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III
The princess in her chariot (with throw pillows)

My aunt and uncle took us on some wonderful tours of sites throughout German speaking Switerland as well as over the border into France and Germany on day-trips.  My uncle shared some of his vast knowledge of sight-seeing history and family history throughout the week.

Day trip to Riquewihr in Alsace, France with my aunt
Alsacian vinyards
Animal preserve in Alsace
Mouret from the old city wall
Day trip through central Switzerland with my uncle
First snow sighting in 15 months

We had a blast spending time with my family, and were even able to pick up my cousin from school in Lucerne for a weekend of tram, train, and a ferry rides in beautiful locations, as well as a pottery market in Germany.  Our Swiss relatives are VERY fun hosts.

Lucerne (with Montana hotel in the background, top right)
Vitznau turntable
Waiting to go up Mt. Rigi
Patio dining in Basel

We didn't suffer in the food department.  My aunt is an incredible cook, and fed us gastronomic wonders every day.  I wish I had taken more food pictures, particularly of her skate wings and horse steak, which  were my absolute favorites (maybe of all dishes in my life, no joke).

Foie gras
Austrian bread pudding

After Switzerland we jumped on the train to Paris where we found the General.  Joe, better known as the General in most circles, and his girlfriend Adrianne had come from visiting another Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal.  They originally had a ticket from Senegal to Mali to visit us, but settled on Paris after the coup.  We only had two full days in Paris, but packed in the fun wandering around the city.  The General and I managed to pull an all-nighter before our flight back to the US.  It was really fun to see him and to meet Adrianne.

With the General in Paris

Arc de Triomphe
My favorite cafe in Paris
Had fun with the General's girlfriend, Adrianne
Back to basics
From Paris we took the uber economic flight to Washington DC with Delta's Russian affiliate including a layover in Moscow.  At the check-in desk at the airport in Paris, the booking agent said he had never seen a ticket from Paris to Washington DC through Moscow.  Highlights: none.  They are still using the sickle and hammer with wings logo.  If you like watching old Bambie era nature cartoons in Russian on a single airplane-aisle TV, then I recommend this carrier for you.

In DC we had a wonderful weekend with my brother, Tom, and his girlfriend, Laura.  They fed us well, and tried to catch us up on 2011-2012 new media and gizmos like Apple TV.  I also went the wrong way on a one-way major parkway with my brother's car, which was scary.

We are now in Montana, getting spoiled again by Anna's family and friends.  It is nice to no longer be living out of a suitcase and have a real bed and some of our clothes and things back.  While so many things are easier here due to lack of cultural and language barriers, there are some complicated things I didn't miss like the DMV and forms at a doctor's office.  Our confusing travel/residence history really complicates things with the paper-pushers at these places.

We are starting to process what actually happened in the past two months and what our experience means for us.  We are also trying to come up with a game plan for the future.  I had envisioned many hours of thinking about our next move in life in our mud hut through 2013, but we have to figure it out on the ground here.  First we are road-tripping around the US this summer, then possibly work and/or school this Fall.

Settling in, back in Montana, May 10th 2012


  1. Glad you are back! I wish I could be in Bozeman right now. Except for the snow.

  2. What a trip. you guys are awesome! welcome home!

  3. Glad to have you both home! Hopefully we will see you soon.

  4. Seattle is a great place to visit in the summer!! We have a spare room and cold beer on tap. If you come later in the summer-there will even be a baby for you to get your baby fix. :) Glad to see you are both home ok and enjoying your travels!!