Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Greetings from Madrid and my little sabbatical. Am very happy to say that for the first time in my academic career, I received a 4.0 for a full semester of classes. Thus proving if I can do it, anyone can.
However, with infinite sadness, it pains me to write that two days ago I found out I will not be returning to Africa after this trip. It's a long and heart-wrenching story so I won't bother to write it. I hope you all enjoyed reading about my experiences.
All I know is the last two and a half years have been the greatest of my life and when I return to the States the week after next, my heart will remain in Mali at Maison 18.
Here's hoping one day I can return to having a blog from another exciting life-changing area.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Heading North!

Well it's nice to feel normal again. I have been laid up the past week with a classic west african parasite. If there is one thing a person gains from living in west africa--it's intestines of steel. Also finished my exams for the semester--all A's. Thank goodness because there's no excuse for not having good grades when being so far away from all of the usual academic distractions.

Am looking very forward to retiring my laptop and "bush chic" vibe for the next few weeks and going back to the western world. What I am not looking forward to is the journey there. 1st Leg: Fly from Mine to Bamako and wait six hours for 2nd Leg: Fly Bamako to Paris and wait two hours for 3rd Leg: Fly Paris to Madrid and 4th Leg: Drive five hours from Madrid to La Coruna. As long I get there safely, I don't really have any complaints. I know this sounds a little basic but I can't wait to have a UK manufactured Diet Coke and paved roads to drive on sans four-legged traffic jams (see photo above) . Have certainly learned to appreciate some of the simpler things in life. Will also be nice to see some holiday decor (sans x-mas music). You wouldn't have a clue it is near X-mas, Chanukkah or New Year around here. Wish I could also have drunken Santa Tom around to tell jokes and hand out pints of pale ale. Maybe next year.

The most amazing thing happened in the middle of the night last night--it rained! We haven't seen rain in three months (let alone clouds). Very unusual but very appreciated by everyone/everything.

My travel partner will be taking a lap top so I look forward to a Jolly Mali blog abroad. I also wish everyone a very happy (and jolly) and safe holiday season. If possible, try to do something for someone less fortunate than you this holiday season and practice that throughout the year. Lots of love to y'all!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Too much Yoga

Ouch! I'm walking like a robot today thanks to yesterday's workout regime. Most days consist of running or cycling and I haven't done any yoga in a while. Therefore, yesterday (due to lack of proper brain function) I decided to go for a two hour session. I can barely move my arms, abs or arse. Reminds me of the sloth-like days after a class with Paul at Abhyasa (http://www.abhyasayoga.com/).

I am also avoiding writing a final paper for one of my classes this semester. I have a terrible "end of the semester lack of motivation" vibe going on. Nachos and a burrito would be great catalysts to get back in the groove.

The bird photo is an adorable West African Hornbill. Cute yes, but total jerks! Recently, the cherry tomatoes in the garden have been disappearing and when I went out to the garden today, there were two of these little dudes prancing around and eating the tomatoes like they were at a glutenous tomato day spa. And gutsy too because I was right next to them shaking my finger at their naughtiness and they completely ignored me! I originally thought it was the big lizards (which I am still trying to catch to keep as a pet), but now I know the real culprits.

So I promised not to be too political in this blog but I really need someone to get a message back to George Bush for me....... if any of you happen to be at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, please give this letter to "W"

Dear Jorge,
As an American abroad and former Texas immigrant, I would like to ask if you could please do us all a favor and make a true positive gesture of foreign relations before you leave office? My best suggestion is to take a group of America's finest (or Texans) , fly down to Zimbabwe, and shake the living daylights out of Robert Magabe and his men. Feel free to use any tactics you like but please do something to help the evil situation this man has created. You can do it in the name of America or in the name of the great state of Texas, but most of all please do it to help the senseless pain and suffering these people of Zimbabwe are going through.
Viva Tejas, Tricia

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This and That

Although it looks like we're on a flat surface, I can guarantee you that Reinet (the patron saint of Rioja) and I had a decent hike up this "Iron Hill" in eastern Senegal. Never realized until I posted this photo but it seems we are dressed as if we belong to the Malian Chapter of Che Guevara United. I really need to wear a pink scarf or some colorful bangles when out in the bush.
Tabaski seemed to have went well for those who celebrated it. I handed out candy instead of lamb shanks and all recipients were quite appreciative (despite they probably ate the candy after their lamb chops).
I wanted to take some time to say how grateful I am for the Lebanese population of this area. We have some wicked awesome Lebanese dudes on site here who keep the pantry stocked with whole grain flour and soy milk and the DVD player spinning Wes Anderson movies. They can get anything--anytime. I think I will be forever indebted (and probably would not have lasted more than a week in Mali) without all the Lebanese-owned businesses throughout West Africa. I look forward to one day visiting Lebanon and giving everyone a big hug.
I would also like to give hugs to my dear sweet Mandy with her lovely compliments. She is definitely one of the ladies I admire most. Speaking of Mandy, did you know there is a Sammy Terry fan club on Facebook?!?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Viva Tabaski!

I have been camping this weekend and it was fabulous. We camped on a hill about 1500 feet up. In the photo, you will see the view from our campsite and the Senegal river. On this side of the river is Mali and the other side is Senegal. We saw a few monkeys on the hike up and heard them all night long--similar to sleeping through a grandmothers' tea party at the Synagogue. On the return hike, we ran into one of the local villagers and when we explained what we were doing, he was shocked that we survived the night because "devils live on top of the hill." Local Malian folklore always says evil spirits live on top of each of the big hills around here. If the evil spirits happen to be the beetles that were crawling all over my backpack this morning, then call me a local folklore believer.

Tabaski begins tomorrow, here's a website with a great explanation of it: http://www.nhm.org/africa/tour/unit001/016.htm Not exactly my cup of tea. Evidently all the cows, chickens and goats in the villages give a sigh of relief on Tabaski. I'm certainly one of those people who would be a strict vegetarian if I had to do my own slaughtering--let alone doing it for religious purposes. My heart and thoughts go out to all the local sheep tomorrow and I tried my best when I suggested they slaughter heads of cabbage this year but I received the "you are a crazy white lady" look again. I would love to go on a sheep rescue mission tonight but I think the other person in this household might object to my compassionate efforts.

By the way, for those of you who might like to know, here's a great story of some "real" American Ambassadors to Mali........ (just when I thought Air Force dudes couldn't be any more sexy, along comes Humanitarian Air Force dudes.....)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is it really December?!

Wow! It's really December. (only 16 more days til Galicia!!) The temperatures have finally gone down to the lower 90's during the day and 70's at night. It scares me to think what the Spring will be like. I'm told it's the hottest part of the year. Oh Joy.

Everyone is preparing for Tabaski, which begins on Monday. I will explain more about Tabaski later this weekend. FYI-Vegetarians might want to skip my Tabaski post. Ramadan and Tabaski are equivalent to the Christmas/Easter or Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur of Mali Muslims.

By the way, did I ever mention the local language here is called "Bambra" and that Mali means "hipopotamus" in Bambra? Now you know--impress your friends.

Another interesting Mali factoid is Lemongrass grows wild here. Back in Houston, there was only one Asian grocery store (in a town of 4 million) where you could buy fresh lemongrass. There are at least 8 lemongrass patches in the back yard. Now if I could just grow some nacho and India Pale Ale patches in the back yard, life would be beautiful. The other night I actually tried making tortillas with the local corn flour here, I think "disaster" is a relatively appropriate description for how they turned out. Oh Texas cuisine--how I miss thee.

By the way, I added a photo of my Mali/Senegal border crossing from this past weekend. First class.

Monday, December 1, 2008

East Senegal Weekend

I have spent the past weekend at an exploration camp across the river in Senegal. (Notice the photo of some of the little dudes hangin' on the river) It's a stunning area. However, I think every Tsetse fly in Eastern Senegal decided to investigate us. It just wouldn't be trip to a new area in West Africa without the local insects giving you a massive amount of itchy bon voyage gifts. This was also my first experience of an all-dude camp. If you have the time one day, I'll give you the one-on-one briefing. I also had my first experience with an interesting array of foods. Not as bad as it could be, but I now know the scent of deep fried fish heads is a superior appetite supressant.
There were some great highlights though, a lung-expanding hike up one of the local hills which included an inadvertant ambush on a family of mongooses (mongeese?). We also saw a huge troop of baboons and some antelope looking things. (Eventually, I will get around to primping my Picassa site so I can share more photos.) The absolute best was the overwhelmingly appreciated organization of a Thanksgiving BBQ on top one of the hills. It has been ages since I've enjoyed a bonfire in the middle of nowhere and cooked everything from scratch on the fire. Bliss....
Hope everyone had a wicked awesome Thanksgiving.