Friday, January 26, 2007


My friends Scott and Deb Westcott e-mailed me this picture of their son Ben reading my book (which they got him for Christmas). Very cool! Incidentally, I learned this week that the book will be coming out in paperback this fall. … When you hear that someone “literally lost their head,” you can be pretty sure that the word “literally” is being misused. But not always! (Thanks to my friend Gary Andrew Poole for that one. By the way, Gary’s got a great blog called In the Fray. Check it out.) … Did the 1980 Phillies wear jerseys that zipped up or buttoned up? It’s a controversy that raged on this blog last fall. Well, new evidence has surfaced that the jerseys had zippers before 1987 and buttons thereafter. … Next weekend Allyson and I will be attending the annual Festival sur le Niger, a three-day African music and arts festival in Segou, about three hours up the river from Bamako. Accommodations in Segou are almost impossible to find during the festival, but friends who are renting a house have offered to share it with us. It’s supposed to be a pretty amazing festival, and we’re really looking forward to going.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Allyson and I just got back from Ouagadougou last night. What a trip, 600 miles/15 hours each way on some of the worst roads imaginable. One stretch had so many potholes we could barely go 10 mph.

On our way home yesterday, about 150 miles from Bamako, we had a blowout. We were going about 70 on a reasonably good stretch of road when we suddenly heard a very loud banging sound and the car started shaking. The tire was shredded. We were in the middle of nowhere. West Africa nowhere. It was kinda scary, but everything worked out. We flagged down two teenagers passing by on a motorbike, and they helped us change the tire. Actually, they didn’t help us change the tire – they changed the tire while we watched. I was so grateful that I gave them each 10,000 francs – about $20, probably as much as they make in two weeks.

While we were in Ouaga, Allyson got the “bid list” for her next job. There are hundreds of jobs on it, but only a handful in “public diplomacy,” the area that she wants to work in. We have to whittle the list down to 20 and submit it by February 15. Right now the Top 5 are, in no particular order: Skopje, Sofia, Jerusalem, New Delhi, and Bishkek. Of course, that could change. In fact I’m sure it will.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The weather in Bamako right now is actually quite pleasant. It’s the “cool season,” which means daytime highs are “only” in the 80s. But that’s still considerably more comfortable than it was before Thanksgiving, when highs were still approaching 100. … On Saturday, Allyson and I are driving to Ouagadougou, the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso. She has a two-week temporary assignment there. (The drive takes about 12 hours each way.) It’s our first big overland trip in West Africa, and we’re really looking forward to it. I just hope our vehicle holds up!