Monday, February 26, 2007


Around nine o’clock Friday night Allyson learned that her next post will be Rome. Our first choice was Berlin, but – believe me – we’re perfectly happy with Rome. We spent the weekend celebrating and daydreaming, but, fact is, we still have to spend another full year here in Bamako. Allyson’s tour ends in February 2008. Then she’ll go to Washington for six months of language training. So we won’t even get to Rome until August 2008. … I’ve already decided which soccer team I’m going to root for in Italy: Lazio. Sure it’s one of the neo-fascists’ favorite teams, but I just love those powder blue jerseys! … We’ve hired a part-time driver named Adama. He’ll work Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s a bit of an extravagance, but at eight dollars per day we can probably afford it. … Here’s a bit of friendly advice: When in West Africa during mosquito season – which means all the time – it’s a good idea to check the toilet bowl for mosquitoes before sitting down. Trust me on this one.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

So, when I was substitute teaching at the American school last Friday, the seventh graders were in the middle of watching The Diary of Anne Frank. They'd started watching the DVD the day before and I wasn't sure where they'd left off, so I asked them, "Did you get to the part where you find out which one is the robot?"

Blank stares.

Man, when I was in seventh grade that would have cracked me up. Still does, in fact. It's a classic! Kids today...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Today the Marines sponsored a “photographic scavenger hunt.” It was pretty fun. We got a list of Bamako sights and had two hours to take digital photos of as many of them as possible. There were five teams. We drove all over the city, photographing various monuments, landmarks, and slices of life (the football stadium, donkeys, goats, foosball tables, etc.). Allyson and I teamed up with our friends Brad and Adair. We thought we’d done great but, of course, ended up finishing in last place! … Yesterday I was a substitute teacher at the American School here. I’ve offered to fill in when they’re in a pinch. Of course, I have no training, expertise, or even interest in teaching. But hey, it’s a hundred bucks a day. Yesterday I “taught” high school English, which is to say, the kids watched a DVD. My goal, however, was achieved: At the end of they day they were all still alive. And so was I. … I am putting the finishing touches on my book proposal and sending it to my agent on Monday. Fingers crossed, everybody. … Allyson will learn what her next post is by February 26 – and probably sooner. Keep those fingers crossed.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Allyson is going to submit her bid list tomorrow:

1. Berlin, Germany
2. Rome, Italy
3. La Paz, Bolivia
4. Vilnius, Lithuania
5. Athens, Greece
6. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
7. Belfast, Northern Ireland
8. Taipei, Taiwan
9. Brasilia, Brazil
10. Mumbai, India
11. Sarajevo, Bosnia
12. Curacao, Netherlands Antilles
13. New Delhi, India
14. Paramaribo, Suriname
15. Nicosia, Cyprus
16. Brasilia, Brazil
17. Sofia, Bulgaria
18. New Delhi, India
19. Hanoi, Vietnam
20. Shanghai, China

Brasilia and New Delhi appear twice on the list because she is bidding on two different jobs in each city. There is a very strong likelihood that she will get one of the Top 5 jobs on her bid list. But there is also the possibility (however remote) that she (we) could be sent someplace that’s not even on the list.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I would like to call for a moratorium on the phrase “Houston, we have a problem” (and all variants) in stories about Lisa Nowak, our crazy diaper-wearing Astronaut stalker (e.g., “Houston, we have a love triangle problem”).

While I’m at it, it’s always bugged me that Ron Howard changed the line to “Houston, we have a problem” in the movie Apollo 13. What John Swigert (and, later, Jim Lovell) actually said after the explosion on Apollo 13 was “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” which really means something different altogether. At least he didn’t change it to “Houston, we literally have a problem.”

By the way, wouldn’t it be cool if Lisa Nowak married Steve Jobs and became Lisa Nowak-Jobs? Ironic, too.
True story: I went into a McDonald's once and detected some kind of commotion back in the kitchen – or that place near the microwaves that passes for a kitchen in a McDonald’s. Two young women were engaged in an animated discussion. I couldn’t make out the nature of their Socratic Dialogue, but at one point I clearly heard one of them blurt out to the other, “But girl, look how pink it is!” This, to me, raised all sorts of uncomfortable questions. I don’t know whether they were talking about something on the menu or a delicate matter of personal hygiene, but, whatever the source of said pinkness, it was the kind of thing you just don’t want to hear in a fast food restaurant – or any restaurant, for that matter – especially from the employees responsible for food preparation. It made me glad I’d only ordered a cup of coffee.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

On the way to Ouagadougou last month we stopped for the night in Banfora, a quaint (by West African standards) town in southwestern Burkina Faso. There was a really mean dog in the town, walking around growling and barking at everybody. The locals kept yelling at it: “Boosh! Boosh!” We thought it was the indigenous word for “dog” or maybe “go away,” but it turns out that, because it’s so mean, the dog has been named Bush. …

It looks like we won’t be going to Segou for that big music and arts festival this weekend after all. Too much work to do. We need to figure out Allyson’s bid list and I need to get my proposal done. …

Insect of the Week: Very tiny ants. Every afternoon (usually around three o’clock) hundreds (thousands?) of them march in a column from a light fixture, across the ceiling, down the wall, and into the cat food. Needless to say, it’s pretty gross. Not much we can do about it (besides hiding the cat food), but I’m sure they’ll all be gone next week, only to be replaced by much bigger ants or those huge roaches that fly or those tiny bugs that seem to come out of the shower drain or those really wispy insects that are practically invisible until they die and cover the kitchen counter by the hundreds (thousands?)…