Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Africa from A-Z: Burundi

When I am putting together these Africa from A-Z posts, I often feel like I am skimping too much on the information.  How do you write one blog post about countries with histories and cultures so rich I probably could devote an entire blog to each of them?  But I only have but so many fingers and there are only but so many minutes in a day.  Nonetheless, I am enjoying the opportunity to hear new languages through YouTube videos and learn a little more about the nuances of the culture - few as I have time to explore!

I like the name of the capital of Burundi, Bujumbura, and the official language, Kurundi.  Here is a quick overview of investments in Burundi and if you are looking for natural treasures in Burundi, look no further!   There are many links to safari sites as well as national parks and reserves such as Kibira National Park.  And if you are looking for unique plants and animals in Burundi- there you go! 

I like this blog's use of the word 'treasure' while talking about Burundi and I appreciate his perspective, as an African, on the way African history is taught to Africans.  What do you think?

I am also finding it difficult to find normal, day-to-day news about the countries I am researching.  Maybe I am not researching properly in order to unearth such news (googling country+good news usually yields a lot of Christian sites).  Any tips out there for finding less sad/depressing information on Africa?  However, I did find an article about a baby named 'Good News.'  Hope she turns out to be a smiler.

Here a few links from around the web and a few videos to peruse:
Public/private sector conference in Burundi
A bar killing of 36 puts 16 people in jail.
Kind of a stretch but this pendant has the edges of a Burundi postage stamp on it! 
Life After Violence: A People's Story of Burundi.
Drummers of Burundi.
No more negative images of Africa from Africa - The Good News.

The president, Pierre Nkurunziza, talks about Burundi

Do you have any links to good Burundi sites?  What do you think about these Africa from A-Z posts?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Boston Beauties (and a little bit o' Salem)

Marija took me to the beautiful Bapst Art Library to study.  We got lots accomplished!  And this might be my favorite picture of us together that we've ever taken.  And we've taken a lot.

David is a cousin of mine that lives in Massachusetts with his wonderful wife and family.  The last time I saw him he was getting married in Rockport, MA - look at the beautiful babies he and his wife made since!

Karen and Marija are choosy ladies.  Jukebox music at Tom English's Cottage and literature for Nellie at the apartment.
Suzy and I became pool sharks :)
What a treat it was to visit Boston!  Great food at the likes of The Paramount and The Publick House, and great studying and dart/pool playing at Bapst library and Tom English's Cottage (respectively).  I loved getting the chance to see my cousin David and his wife Natalie and their beautiful children while seeing downtown Salem and eating the best chicken wings I've ever had!  (David is a chef - and a darn good one at that!)   So many thanks to Marija & Chris for hosting me and Suzy for bringing me all the way to Vermont to start grad school!  I'm surrounded by treasures!! 

See more pictures from my east coast ventures here!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Putting in down on paper: Books on Mali

Image source.
While checking out some information on the Fulbright, I found this site and the book pictured above (found on Amazon here).  It was written by a woman who completed a Fulbright in Mali on the role of Islam on education.  Looks good!

I was inspired to compile a list of books on Mali - have you read any?  I've browsed through some - I will try to check them off my list this year!
Monique and the Mango Rains.

A book used by educators in Virgina written by Andrew Prophett, "the esteemed educator responsible for the development of Virginia’s new innovative elementary-level Mali curriculum."  Go Virginia!

Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali.

A book about West African empires - Mali included!

A beautifully illustrated children's book about Mansa Musa: "one of Mali's most celebrated kings."

I am currently reading Segu by Maryse Conde and am learning more about the root of the joking cousins tradition.  When I googled 'joking cousins + Mali' this is what I found - neat!  Audra (and Ben) and I were volunteers together!

Waiting for Rain

I bet this book on Bogolan is filled with beautiful images. 

Dancing Skeletons - a book by a biocultural anthropologist (never heard of that before!) about working with malnourished children in West Africa.  Anyone read it?

Do you have any favorite Mali/West Africa books?  Any recommendations for my reading list?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Heading North!

had to make this one x-large - I love it!

Mom & Memaw picking me up from Sandy's in October (2011)

Imagine this beautiful trellis surrounded by a few more puddles and heavy rain clouds.

Does this picture make you hungry?
I am making my way up the eastern seaboard (and a little bit inland) on my way to SIT to begin graduate school (the time is finally here!).

On Saturday morning, Mom loaded Memaw and I (and some snacks) into the car and took us to Williamsburg to meet Aunt Sandy for a trade-off and then brunch at the Trellis - what a treat!

Once in Richmond I dropped off my bags and met up with Laura and Jackie (next time, Amanda & Ryan!).  After seeing my cousin Dave's beautiful new home, Sandy, Memaw, Megan, Dave & I headed for dinner at Stella's.  I shared artichoke moussaka and a kale salad with Sandy that were scrumptious.  Later that night Jackie, Laura, Taylor, Seth and I made a late night run to Country Style Donuts for a sweet treat.  Food spoiled much?

It is just the beginning of the journey and I am looking forward to the rest - stay tuned for more!

**And we did lunch at the Franklin Inn - grilled cheese and chili!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Africa from A-Z: Botswana

Image source.

I do wonder what it would be like to live and work in a country such as Botswana whose population is the size of Bamako, the capital city in Mali where I recently lived (and plan on soon returning!).  The lady who writes this blog knows!  This one, too!  With the Kalahari Desert, Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta - there is a lot to explore!
Survival International is a not-for-profit that seeks to protect the rights of tribal people around the world - including those in Botswana being displaced by the pursuit of diamonds.   A PCV blog in Botswana.

Botswana has a stock market and this looks like a neat site to follow if you are interested in business in Africa.  There soon may be a railway cutting through Zimbabwe and Mozambique or Namibia.  Controversial sounding but exciting!  The American ambassador to Botswana sounds like a real gem!  She recently made a tour of the country and visited with local leaders and NGOs including Women Against Rape which sounds like a powerful organization.   

Anyone ever visited?  What's your favorite thing about Botswana?

Friday, January 20, 2012

The King & I, Martin Short & the Sandler Center, oh my!

Last night Dad and Sheri took me along with them to see Martin Short at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts.  What a treat!  We had dinner before the show at Havana Nights Jazz & Cigar Club
and went back for dessert and a little jazz music afterwards! 
On January 8th, Memaw invited Mom and I to see the King & I - also at the Sandler Center.  I did not know so many of the songs I had heard while growing up like 'Getting to Know You' and 'Shall We Dance' had come from this production!  While the end of the piece left me a little uncomfortable (the whole 'westernizing' the Siamese people...) - spending time with Memaw & Mom is precisely my cup of tea!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bono brings down the house in Mali!

Image source.
Bono, the co-founder of ONE and front man for rock band U2, recently took the stage at the Malian Festival in the Desert in Timbuktu - not to be confused with the Festival on the Niger to be held in Segou next month (here is my take on last year's festival!).  Bet everyone who cancelled their tickets for security reasons is kicking themselves in the can right now. 

I do hope that the north of Mali, and the whole country by association, will find peace from the recent and continuing acts of terror by known and unknown groups in the Maghreb.  Mali deserves better than AQIM.

Another post from the web on Bono's visit and a PCV's blog post about meeting him and Jeffrey Sachs at her site which is one of many Millenium Villages

Did anyone go to the festival?  How was it??

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kate's bridal shower in Fredericksburg, VA!

At the end of 2011, Corrie, Kate's little sister, organized a bridal shower to celebrate the nuptials of Kate and Tony in 2012!  We gathered in Fredericksburg, Virginia - first at Corrie's apartment downtown and later at the historic Kenmore Inn where Corrie is an innkeeper!

Delicious treats and eats, drinks and winks and stories full of glory - it was a great chance to celebrate Kate and Tony's engagement and their September wedding.  I feel so lucky I got to be a part of this celebration and am already looking forward to coming home again to be a part of the wedding (I'm a bridesmaid!).  Peruse below some of my favorite photos from the day and a video I put together - I hope you enjoy!

See more photos from the day here!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Africa from A-Z: Benin

The third country in my Africa from A-Z series is Benin.  My friend Ryan was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin before joining us in Mali for a third year.  When I think of Benin I think of Nadine, our sweeter than sweet Peace Corps nurse turned embassy nurse who has Beninese roots, voodoo (Benin is, after all, touted as the birthplace of voodoo!) and that the country is a must-see for adventure traveling.  If you are looking to visit Benin, here are some helpful travel hints.  Unfortunately, I have not yet had the chance to visit but surfing the web for information on the country is a close second (or third to first-person experiences!).
One of Ryan's PCV friends from Benin traveled around West Africa on a motorcycle (after completing his service) with a friend of his from village to photograph people from the nomadic Fulani tribe scattered throughout the region.  Their website, found here, is a must visit - the photos will take your breath away.  Here is a link to their facebook page.
The man who made the video above was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin in the 90s and then revisited with his wife and children in 2007.  What a dream come true for a lot of volunteers!
UNICEF Benin put together this video about a standardized grading tool developed to encourage parent participation, even in the face of their own illiteracy, in their child's academic life.  I wonder how it really works??
Angelique Kidjo looks to be Benin's musical star!  Here are some more musical treasures!

One of the many top things to see and do in Benin looks to be a visit to the Pendjari National Park.  Elephants, hippos and even bats! :)

Benin from A-Z:

Awful story of a Peace Corps Volunteer, Kate Puzey, murdered in Benin.  A truly tragic story - she and her family remain in my thoughts and I hope posts like this will keep Kate, Benin and the safety and security of everyone at home and abroad in the forefront of their thoughts. 
African button earrings!
This necklace is awesome.
Looking for the movie theater in Cotonou?  Here it is!
Living National Treasures (I love anything with the word treasures in it!)
Looted treasures.
Benin highlights.

From BBC:
  • President: Thomas Boni Yay
  • Population: 9.1million (UN, 2011) 
  • 1975 - November - Dahomey is renamed the People's Republic of Benin.
  • Capital: Porto-Novo
  • Major languages: French (official) Fon, Ge, Bariba, Yoruba, Dendi
  • Main exports: Cotton, palm oil 
** My friend Kafui who I met at the 2010 Global Shea conference in Mali just let me know that the 2012 Global Shea conference will be held in Benin in April as well as the Cashew conference which will take place in September.  Thanks Kafui!
I'd love to hear from you - have you ever visited Benin?  Am I missing any must-see or must-dos in the country?  Next week I'll learn more about Botswana - has anyone ever been?  Anything I must learn??

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

home is where you are

As I walk into Shogun the heavy smell of fried rice and soy sauce washes over me while waitresses glide by in swishing kimonos. The smells and sounds bring back a wave of memories. Birthdays, awards, proms – I have celebrated many occasions here with my family and friends over steaming plates of sautéed vegetables and steak and shrimp dinners. Along with the delicious food another constant is Pang – one of Shogun's Teppanyaki chefs who prepares flaming Japanese meals on an iron griddle before amazed patrons. My first boyfriend, childhood friends, an awkward ring-dance date and of course family – he has met them all and seen us grow up behind steam clouds and plates piled-high with zucchini and soy beans.
Pang prepares vegetables and scallops - yum!
But at Shogun my memories go beyond food. For as long as I can remember there has been a tall glass case just beyond the entrance of the restaurant and on the way to the bathroom that is filled with inexpensive trinkets and shiny earrings laid on embroidered pouches. As children, my sister Lindsay and I would excuse ourselves to the bathroom during dinner just to look at the treasures behind the sliding glass door and talk about which ones we wished we had. My Dad had no qualms about sending us to the corner in public for misbehaving and sometimes, after yet another time-out and sometimes just because, Pang would slip away from our table after preparing the meal and take a pair of earrings or chopsticks from the case by the restrooms for Lindsay and me. Gifts or not, time-outs or not, we always looked forward to eating out at Shogun and seeing Pang.
Dance at the Moulin de la Galette by Renoir
While waiting for our table to clear and during our meals we would catch up with Pang. From middle school to high school and finally college and beyond, Pang followed all of our studies and paths in life and always had an anecdote to share with us relating to our lives. For me it became art history when I majored in it at Mary Washington, along with French. On a college break a few years back, my family reconvened at Shogun as usual to catch up and celebrate another semester behind us. After the meal, Pang asked us to wait and came back a few minutes later with an extra-large, framed print of Renoir's Dance at the Moulin de la Galette. There used to be a Big Lots next to Shogun and there is still a CHKD thrift shop where Pang said he would drop in before work and scoop up deals like this print. Always a sucker for a deal and beautiful frames and prints I oohed and aahed over it along with the rest of the family. And then he gave it to me, just like that.
Last year we spent Dad's birthday in Vegas - this year we decided to up our MSG intake and head to Shogun!  Delicious!
After being home for the past three months, we finally made our annual family visit last week for my Dad's birthday. I cannot remember the last time Lindsay and I looked into the tall glass case at the end of the hallway and we no longer get sent to the corner for speaking out of turn. As we put on our coats and prepared to leave this last time, Pang asked me if I was still interested in art history since it has been nearly 4 years since I graduated. 'Of course!' I replied and then he darted to the back of the restaurant, reappearing a few moments later with two large, framed prints and an art history textbook. We talked about the prints and where they came from and then he offered me the book – some things never change!

Visiting Shogun, like spending quality time with sweet friends and family as I have done these past three months, feels like coming home. 'Is it hard to come back?' people ask me when they learn I live in Bamako, Mali, a city over 4500 miles away from Virginia Beach as the crow flies. While I know people struggle and triumph in different ways when they return from the Peace Corps or come home after a long time away, I am blessed that I will soon be returning to Mali and so I know what the (immediate!) future holds. And anyways, with dear friends, good food and a supportive family around the world, wherever I am – home is where you are.

I found this banner (and bought it!) in Phoenix

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Repurposed Soap Makes its way to Mali

Black soap from Shea Radiance
A non-profit, Clean-the-World, takes old hotel soaps and shampoos from the United States and re-makes them to ship out to underdeveloped countries and people who are too poor to buy soap.  What's your take on this?  Are folks who really need it the ones getting it?  It would seem to be a better use to send the soap to domestic violence shelters in the US rather than send it across the world where they already have the ability and the resources to make soap (and not to mention you can buy it for as cheap as 100CFA which is about 20 cents).  I know that not all families can float that much always but can Clean the World ship re-purposed soap bars to those in need forever?  Maybe I'm missing something.  Some say to rethink using hotels that do not support such a cause.  What do you think?

Sorry it's in Dutch or another language whose alphabet I do not know...but it's a woman talking about her work in Mali and being a soap seller after receiving a loan from CARE.

Here are some links from around the web on soap and shea butter (which can be used to make soap):

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Africa from A-Z: Angola

Image sourc
Before doing some digging on Angola, the second country in my series Africa from A-Z, the first thing that popped into my mind was a bunny of the sweater-making variety.   
First thought: Angora bunny which I thought were Angola bunnies.  Not so. 
But then my mom corrected me and told me that these bunnies whose fur makes sweaters are angora and not angola.  And so I thought of a few more.  Conflict, diamonds, dictator.  All of which turned out to be more on point than bunnies.  However, after some probing I learned a few new things about this south African country which gained its independence from Portugal in 1975 and is surrounded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Namibia.  I think you might, too!

The wildest fact I learned about Angola was the United State's collaboration with South Africa 
during their South-African Border War (aka Angolan Bush War) which raged from 1966-1989.  Like most wars, it looks like it was a complicated mess.  The war involved Cuba and the USSR as well as Angola and Namibia's bids for independence.  South Africa, in cohort with the United States, recruited and sent black Vietnam war veterans to Angola to help fight against Cuba and the Soviet Union's encroaching influence on the country (!!!).  Yeesh.   Here is a fiery article from veterans against the Vietnam war talking about the United State's intervention in Angola.  Makes your heart hurt thinking about all the men and women dying for the freedom of our country - and also for our foolishness as we pursue the protection of our economic interests.  Because Angola is not only rich in diamonds but also in black gold - and is one of the largest exporters of oil to the United States. 
Image source.
Angola: Journey Through Change, is a photography book highlighting the devastating effects of internal strife and war spanning 40 years.  Looks like there are some powerful images to be seen focusing on the effect of landmines that have been found and continue to be discovered in the country.
Angola, like many countries, will also host presidential elections in 2012.  And Angola boasts the title of second-largest oil producing country in Africa (producing 1.9 million barrels a day) and also that of second longest-ruling leader.

Did you know that Leila Lopes, Miss Universe 2011, is from Angola?  I did not!  If you can't watch the video I'll give you a synopsis: She believes in extraterrestrials, that women are more capable than men (though I find her logic a bit weak..) and she would like to be a butterfly if she had to be an animal.

Angola from A-Z:

Looking to hit the town in Luanda, Angola's capital?  Here's a blog with all the hot spots!
A blog by the wife of a foreign service officer currently stationed in Luanda.
A blog by an oil-worker on the rigs in Angola.  
A bookmark with Angola on it!
And some buttons!

From BBC:
  • President: Jose Eduardo dos Santos (in power since 1979, 69 years old)
  • Full name: The Republic of Angola 
  • Population: 19.6 million (UN, 2011)
  • Capital: Luanda
  • Area: 1.25m sq km (481,354 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Portuguese (official), Umbundu, Kimbundu, Kikongo
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 50 years (men), 53 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 kwanza = 100 lwei
  • Main exports: Oil, diamonds, minerals, coffee, fish, timber
  • GNI per capita: US $3,940 (World Bank, 2010)
 What do you think of Angola?  How are you liking the format?  I wish my links for blogs were not so expat slanted but I can't read Portuguese...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

a few of my favorites

Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, fingers - so much to see, hear, smell, taste and do!  I found this blog via this blog where the author posts about her favorite sight, smell, touch, sound and taste-ful things.  Here are some of my most recent sensory stimulants:
found here
Virginia recently passed me by from the windows of an Amtrak train as I returned home from Kate's bridal shower, New Year's celebrations and a visit with Cat and David and their sweet baby boy, Auggie.  Best way to travel and a wonderful way to ring in 2012!

found here and also here for a steal!
I love when I put on scarves and can still smell the lingering scent of this perfume on them.


Robyn.  Thank you for introducing me to her music (and dance moves!), Kate.

such a great idea to celebrate the small moments throughout the year!


I want to make some macaroons, too!
 What are some of your favorites from 2011?  Looking forward to any in particular in 2012?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Not all that glitters..and gold

Image source
Revenues from gold rises in Mali along with its price while famine threatens the region and trouble rumbles in from the north in the form of rebel soldiers, the Algerian army (there to help Mali?) and Libyan defectors.  Not the best start to 2012 in Mali - here's hoping things get better before they get worse.

Glad I brushed up on Algeria since it features so prominently in recent Malian events.  I still have a lot to learn, though!
Although Algeria's constitution forbids its forces from taking part in military action outside its own territory, the constitution, in practice, is used more as a pretext to justify not sending its military outside its borders. For instance, it is this aspect of the constitution that Algeria has been continually invoking over the last couple of years to explain why its forces have not crossed into Mali to obliterate AQIM, even when invited to do so by its Sahelian neighbours (Niger, Mali and Mauritania), with whom it set up a joint military command in April 2010 for precisely this purpose.
The reason why Algerian forces have hitherto desisted from going into Mali to root out AQIM cannot therefore be because of the constitution. The real reason is that the AQIM in the Sahara-Sahel is a predominantly Algerian construct. source

The series of terrorist groups, or names of various terrorist groups, in the north of Mali is dizzying.  Sounds like a tricky path ahead for Algerian/US relations if Algeria is backing (and/or is?) AQIM and the US is engaging in counterterrorism....  Tricky pickle much?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Africa from A-Z: Algeria

A goal of mine for 2012 is to learn more about the countries in Africa (and around the world!).  I will do this by writing a blog post each week about a country in Africa.  54 countries.  52 weeks (two countries/weeks will be extra special!).  And I will blog about them alphabetically.  I still need to work out some of the kinks about how I will post but here goes for my first country!

I always wonder about Algeria since I do not hear much about it and it is right above Mali.  What happens there?  Does anyone visit?  Doesn't sound like much after the war in 1992.  From my brief perusing it seems like a key country to know more about if I want to dig deeper into what decolonization was like in Africa since it was colonized by France for over 120 years.  It is also the largest country in Africa (and the Arab world and the Mediterranean, for that matter) and has a snazzy 4-mile, much anticipated, metro system.  Also, Algeria cares about the bid for Western Sahara's independence.  Does anyone else?

From around the web:
A zine about Algeria.  An unlined journal.  I would love to have this journal, too!  And a light switch

Books: The Stranger by Albert Camus
Movies: The Battle of Algiers - and here
Music.  Mohammed Lamine.

Image source

What do you think about Algeria?  Any tips for how to organize this feature?
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