Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gad Elmaleh at The Birchmere

Last week Abdoulaye and I headed to The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA after work to see Gad Elmaleh, my handsome hubby's favorite comedian.  I wanted it to be a surprise but I got too excited and so I told him beforehand (try, a week or two after I bought the tickets three months ago) so there goes that one.  

Surprise or not, the show was excellent and a fun way to process a foreigner's experience in America (the foundation of Elmaleh's schtick).  The show was in French, peppered with English phrases for emphasis (Elmaleh is fluent), and kept the whole crowd rocking in their chairs.

Apparently Gad has been called the French Jerry Seinfeld and I like the comparison.  His humor is thought provoking, based in everyday interactions and relatable - not vulgar or offensive.  Here's a trailer below of Gad & Jerry in a car.  I've never watched Seinfeld's clips of comedians in cars before - they're cute if not a little long :)  There's also a clip below of the sketch Abdoulaye repeated a lot while learning English and with an English translation!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Falling for it

A snapshot on my way home - delightful!
Each morning and afternoon I think about my commute to and from work.  Bus, bike, or metro?  I ask myself.  The weather usually dictates my reply since each mode of transportation takes approximately the same amount of time.  As soon as I get on my bike, I always remember it's my favorite way to get around.  Coming home yesterday afternoon, I snapped this picture and felt the thrill of Fall around me.  

I love my rides to and from work because they allow me (nearly) uninterrupted opportunities to reflect on my day.  I mentally comb through what I hope to achieve and the good and bad of the day before.  Lately, I have also really tried to put into practice some of the methods I'm reading about on this blog about de-cluttering both my physical and mental surroundings.  

As I kick off my final semester of graduate school, I am committing to giving my best to my studies to produce a piece of research useful to a broader community than my Mom, husband and close friends who are taking an interest in my work :)  At the same time, it sometimes pains me to hear how busy we all are.  I've tried to take the word out of my vocabulary because whenever I say it myself, I realize it doesn't make me feel good to be busy (or imagine myself to be) and it doesn't make the person with whom I'm speaking feel good either.  When someone tells me they're busy I either feel like 1) I should be busy, too! or 2) What are they doing that I should be doing? or 3) Why is it such an automatic reply to say we're busy?  

This is a bit of a rambling post but this idea of 'busyness' is often on my mind as I pedal through quiet streets unused by drivers on their commute and through trails on my way to and from home each day.  I am striving to strike a balance between my family, my work and school - and somehow it's been easier in the past few weeks in large part because I've been mentally committing to making the balance.   

What do you think?  Is this a naive way to be thinking?  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Friends, Mud & Unity

Jordan, a friend from grad school, and Jonathan came to visit this weekend - their first stop on an East Coast extravaganza (Florida to New Hampshire!).  It was fun hosting our first out of town guests and hitting a few of the sites (Library of Congress & the Capitol) with them.
After I dropped them off, I headed to Loretta's place so we could go to the DMV - now she's a freshly minted, licensed driver!  Hurrah!  Then it was home again, home again before heading out to a Southern Africa picnic for a brief moment and then heading back home to get ready for a SIT dinner party.  Debie and Dan came over to celebrate Jordan & Jonathan (seems couples only date folks with their same first initial!)'s arrival.  I love love love when our home is filled to the brim with friends.  Makes a house feel like a home.

Sunday I met up with Meredith, Rabayah & Cassie to visit the Mali exhibit at the Natural History museum.  A bit disappointing (to me!) but wonderful to have a chance to get together with those ladies.  Then we headed back to Cassie's and my old stomping grounds for the 9-11 unity walk.  A filled-to-the brim weekend with real treasures.  
Rabayah fits right in (well, in that she smiles about Mali, too)!

Friday, September 6, 2013


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I am on a roll today.  Abdoulaye and I listed our guest room on Airbnb last night and we already have folks booked for a month!  Then, I've been stressing about these tickets I got for Abdoulaye as a surprise for his favorite comedian, Gad Elmaleh.  The only catch?  The show is in Boston and it just didn't make (financial) sense to head up for a couple of days (can you believe I'm too impulsive sometimes?? :).  But what was I going to do with the four tickets (and I couldn't keep the surprise, either :)?  After trying unsuccessfully to unload them on friends, I just called World Music/CRASHarts and they reimbursed me practically on the spot.  Such a blessing!

Now I can look forward to the rest of September with a little bit of an easier breath.  This weekend is going to be a treasure - a visit from a friend in grad school, this party, this exhibit and this walk.  Later this month, we have the wedding of a lovely friend, a visit from my parents and hopefully a little nephew/sister-in-law/brother time at the end of the month.  I can't wait.

What are you looking forward to doing this weekend?  September?  Can you believe the weather here in DC?  I am loving that crisp in the air!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Toki Undeground: Mary Washington is all over the place! :)

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A couple of nights ago Jackie came into town - what a treat!  Molly, another friend we were meeting up with, suggested we head to Toki Underground on H Street, owned by UMW grad (my alumnus) Erik Bruner-Yang.  There were four of us - all University of Mary Washington grads - and we were able (to my surprise!) to get a seat at the counter in front of the kitchen right away.  

I remember reading about Erik's restaurant in the Spring 2013 edition of my alumni magazine and thinking that I would have to wait for hours to get a seat in his slam-packed eatery.  I'm glad I was proved wrong (though the restaurant didn't have an empty seat while we were there)!

I ordered a vegetarian Ramen and a Hey Song Sarsaparilla Root Beer - mostly because I liked the name of the drink.  Neither disappointed!  The soup spoon was the size of a serving spoon and made me feel like I was in a cowboy restaurant eating with a spoon made for camping (that had been blown up).  The music was good (not too loud, which is a pet peeve of mine) and the seating made for good conversation with Jackie.  She made a good point, however, when she said it would be hard to come here on a first date here - eating the soup wasn't that easy (read: tidy) and you really have to turn to face your partner since there aren't any tables - only counters - in the restaurant. 

We finished up our meals and took a group picture with our Eagle pride.  The little candies they gave us with our bill tasted like eating a Kix cereal candy; yum!  We didn't order dessert because we were too full with soup but the warm cookies on the menu were tempting.  I was envious of the couple next to us who ordered a plate - I'll definitely order some the next time I go!
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Last Song Before the War: The Most Remote Music Festival in the World

A couple of weeks ago a friend emailed a group of Mali-centric folks here in DC inviting us to a screening of The Last Song Before the War (trailer above).  Cassie and I had already planned to spend the evening hanging out - what better way to spend time together (since we were already likely going to talk about Mali much of the night) than to see a documentary about a music festival situated in Mali?  
Taking me back to Mali
The documentary follows the preparation for the festival from a few nights before through the four-day (and night) celebration beyond the fabled city of Timbuktu and into the heart of the Sahara desert.  As a bonus, Cheick Hamala Diabate, as well as Supernova King, gave performances to a sold-out (or very nearly!) screening at the Burke Theater in the U.S. Naval Museum near the Archives in Washington, DC following the film.

The crowd was filled with former Peace Corps Volunteers, West African diplomats, Mali-lovers and enthusiasts and I'm sure others who don't quite fit into one of those categories (though I think that likely captures it!).  Cassie, Abdoulaye and I arrived just in time for the show to start and took the handful of open seats remaining in the third row, which were just a few spots over from the Malian ambassador to the US and his crew.
One of my favorites from my trip to Segou
As scenes from the Niger river and dusty roads connecting Mopti to Essakane flashed on the screen before us, I couldn't help but think back to my singular Mali-music festival experience in February 2011 when I attended the Festival sur le Niger.  I stayed with Monica & Samer and soaked up the time with the PHARE staff and the home-y Segou feel while experiencing Malian music in a series of unforgettable shows.  Nostalgia!

The Last Song videographers did a great job of capturing the vibe of the festival (or what I imagine it to be like!) from taking camel rides over sand dunes to having jam sessions on thin, woven mats under hastily pitched tents.  The documentary was filmed in January 2011, just weeks before before I attended the festival in Segou pictured above, and just a year (and some change) before the coup d'etat in Bamako forever changed Mali's political stability, credibility and future.  

I find it's hard to go back to a time in my mind before the coup - though most of my time in Mali was just that.  Today, however, I - along with many Malians - will look forward to Mali's future once again and a time when festivals like the Festival sur le Niger and the Festival in the Desert can once again take place (indicating a more widespread peace that will allow Malians to live with less discord and more harmony).

Today Mali will inaugurate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) as president of the Republic of Mali and usher in what I (and many others) hope to be a new era for a country that holds a special spot in the hearts of many.  Only time will tell what his political regime will look like and how Mali will benefit (or not) from his leadership.  I've heard IBK is a sharp shooter who doesn't take diddly from anyone and who can be harsh (perhaps to a fault?).  I'm hopeful, cautiously optimistic and excited to see what lies in store.  Aid money is about to pour back into Mali - here's hoping it gets to the people of Mali and not just the deep pockets in Bamako.

September: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and more!

dusty lily pads
What a non-labor day weekend!  Friday I helped some friends move (well, sort of - they were too efficient!) who are getting ready to join the Peace Corps in Ukraine (woohoo!).  It was neat to meet their friends and hear more about their preparations as they get ready to ship out.  Takes me back to my first blog post and how I was feeling before I left for Mali in 2008.  Eep!
On Saturday, Cat, David & Auggie came over for brunch and then we went to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, which are so close by!  A hidden treasure just 10 minutes away.  There are ponds upon ponds of lillies and gardens off of the Anacostia river and even though we were just minutes from Washington, DC, to look around I thought I was hours away.  Next year I'll put it on my calendar to make the Lily Festival - they make me think of my grandfather who loved lily pads.  I'm looking forward to taking friends and family who visit there as a secret getaway - there were hardly any folks there even though it was gorgeous out and there were lots of picnic areas.
Saturday night we had friends over to celebrate the visit of our friend Kyra's parents and then we danced the night away in support of Guinea Edugrade.  Sunday we brunched with Alys and Luke and I went to a neighbor's baby shower, the largest one I've ever been to!  When I got home, I had a text message from my Dad suggesting we see The Butler, which I had been wanting to see, so Abdoulaye and I headed to our local theater.  I proceeded to spend the next 2 hours quietly sobbing - the movie is so intensely beautiful in capturing the essence of the relationships of Cecil Gaines (the butler) in parallel with political and social movements of the past century.  Definitely a must-see but do not forget your tissues!!

I'm excited to get our finished attic/guest room ready for our first out-of-town guests this weekend - before & after pictures coming soon (once we have a bed this Thursday!).  I'm also thinking about Kate & Tony who got married one year ago yesterday - my how time flies!  
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