Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Philadelphia Eagles fan blog Bleeding Green Nation recently interviewed me about my book (and made the excellent suggestion that it would make a great Christmas gift). Also, the book was recently (well, back in September) reviewed (favorably, thankfully) in Pittsburgh City Paper.
We got back from our trek in Dogon country last night. It took about nine hours to drive up there last Wednesday. We hiked down the escarpment on Thursday, spent that night in a village, then hiked back up the escarpment on Friday. The hike back up was much more difficult than the hike down, I can tell you that. My whole body is still sore. Our guide, a Dogon named Habibou (hobby-boo), was fantastic. Anyway, here are a few pictures…

A menstruation hut in the village of Djiguibombo (jiggy-boom-bo).

Leaving Kani-Kombole on our rented cow cart.

Taking a breather on our way up the escarpment.

An animist teacher in Indelou.

A hunter in Begnimoto fires his gun for us (without ammunition, thankfully).

Last night we watched The Office on DVD.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The annual Marine Corps Ball was held in Bamako last weekend. Among us American expats, it’s the social event of the season. I even wore my tuxedo (well, the one my brother gave me). The event commemorates the birthday of the Marine Corps, and it includes a ceremony where the oldest Marine present is given a piece of cake. This year the oldest Marine was younger than me. (The youngest Marine also gets a piece of cake; he was born in 1986.)

Tomorrow we’re heading up to Dogon country for a two-day trek.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Allyson and I were married on this date in 1998. It was a Friday the 13th, but it was the luckiest day of my life. Allyson is funny, kind, intelligent, and beautiful. I’m still amazed she married me.

It’s been a wonderful nine years: St. Louis, Maine, Los Angeles, Washington, West Africa – and lots of stops in between. Still ahead: Washington (again) and Rome and parts yet unknown. What a life! I couldn’t be happier.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Arrived back in Bamako last night after a long, uneventful trip. I'd been gone just a few days shy of two months, and it feels good to be back, back home with Allyson, the cats, our stuff. And the weather here is as good as it gets right now. It's the cool season, which means high temperatures "only" in the upper 80s and low 90s, but there's no humidity, so it's relatively comfortable. Not like it was in Washington this week, with highs around 50, but it'll do.

Hard to believe we'll only be here another 12 weeks...

Monday, November 05, 2007

For the past week I’ve been staying at a boarding house in College Park, Maryland. The other boarders are mostly foreign grad students here doing research for their dissertations. There’s a German, a Brit, a Finn, and a Nebraskan (not a foreigner but close enough).

Last week I convinced them to let me watch America’s Next Top Model (a, shall we say, lowbrow reality show) on the only TV in the house. In one scene, the background music was Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” at which point the German noted how Wagner’s music had been appropriated by the Nazis. This led to further discussion of Wagner and the Nazis, prompting me to wonder: Do you think anybody else who watched America’s Top Model last week ended up discussing Wagner during the show?



On a similar note, my friend John Petersen was in town over the weekend, and on Friday afternoon we went to the National Gallery to see the J.M.W Turner exhibition. Turner was a British landscape artist in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. According to the exhibition catalog, he was known “for his technical brilliance and startling use of light and color.”

That night we went to a hockey game and saw a couple good fights.



I’m wrapping up my work here in Washington. On Thursday I head back to Bamako. Apparently the Malian Aviation Authority (or whatever it’s called) has decided to resurface the runway at the airport this week. Hopefully they’ll be finished before I’m supposed to land.