Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not-so-hungry hippos

There's a group of American Rotary members here in Niamey this week, and I've been living not-so-vicariously through them. They're here on a trip to inaugurate some wells they sponsored to provide reliable drinking water to people in the villages where they're located.

We stopped first to see the mayor of Torodi, a village about an hour's drive southwest of Niamey. We also stopped to have a look around a health clinic there.
I was amused to see a faded Peace Corps logo painted on the gate to some kind of compound; it seems that there had been a regional sub-office there at some point.
Finally, they stopped at some wells in the area that they had sponsored in a previous year, to see how they were doing. While we were there, some locals came by to get some water and we posed for a picture.
They're also here to see what there is to be seen, with an expedition yesterday a few miles up the Niger River to see hippopotami in their natural environment.That was quite a treat. We started by getting into a large canoe with an outboard motor.

And soon enough, saw some hippos! They were not super photogenic.

We also got off the boat at a small village to walk around.

In this village, there were, inexplicably, lots of bats.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Niger sejourn

I've arrived in Niger! Sitting in the Peace Corps office in Niamey, which in many respects is like the Peace Corps office in Tegucigalpa, except they call it a bureau rather than an office for the most part and it has Zarma and Hausa language materials, not Spanish-learning books. As they say, Le plus ça change ... le plus c'est la même chose. Or, I'm told, that's what one sixth of Nigériens would say, since that's the proportion that speaks French. That's right, Nigériens, not to be confused with Nigerians.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to exploring Niamey. I've already got a tentative agreement to have another PCV show me around on bike (it will be my first sub-Saharan biking experience, since I took a spin with Cindy Berning in Morocco for my first African ride) and am obviously looking forward to that.

Photos will come later. Email me to request photos of any certain aspect of the trip!

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Better late than never

Traveling, I'm not online as much as I am at home, and certainly not enough to post all the funny things that happen. So here are some Facebook status updates that never made it online, and it's too late now:

  • is pretty sure the immigration officer in France didn't look at the passport picture, just stamped it.

  • has only been outside for 10 minutes and is sweating already.
  • has some ideas for names for the camel burger at Café Clock in Fes: McCamel, McBerber, the Berber Burger, the Two-Humper Quarter-Pounder with Cheese...

They need some work, but I figure it's too good to pass up this chance to update you on what might have been if I'd had a Facebook or Twitter interface handy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Leaving on the next plane

I'm not quite sure on the reasons, but my flight to Niger was cancelled tonight. Maybe not enough passengers to justify flying a whole plane there (and presumably back again)? In any case, they've put me up at a fine four-star hotel--the nicest place I've stayed in quite a while. It's a big change to go from places with no hot water to this. My other observation is that the regular rate for a room is probably as much as I've spent in the last week for all my expenses.

Hopefully I'll be on the next plane from Casablanca to Niamey. If I'm not, I'll regret it. (OK, enough with the Casablanca references.)

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The road to Morocco

What a whirlwind of a trip. We started in Tangier (with a well-deserved reputation as the hustler capital of North Africa) and wended our way clockwise around Morocco, through Chefchaouen, Meknes, Fes and now to Marrakech, with a detour to the Midelt area to visit my friend Cindy's Peace Corps site. I don't have the time or the bandwidth here for photos or more prose, but I'll get to that sooner or later.

I'll also say that I'm a little disappointed that so many cool things are happening in the U.S. right now, especially in Pittsburgh: Netroots Nation and Bikefest, just to name two, that I'm missing. I'm looking at the schedule of bike events and getting quite jealous, but this has been a great trip and isn't nearly over. And surely there will still be cool things in September when I get back.

So apologies to the reader for not updating more, and I'll try to get something up soon.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What a day

  • Walking around the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Good times.
  • Stopped by the National Museum of the American Indian, which has a good collection but a better building.
  • Fulfilled a long-standing agenda item, going to the National Botanical Garden--one of the few buildings subject to the Architect of the Capitol.
  • Was a visitor at the new Capitol Visitors' Center. Cost overruns or no, it seems very well done. (Told that a certain line was where they took walk-up tours of the Capitol, it was all I could do to refrain from saying "I used to give tours here!")
  • Dumbarton Oaks unfortunately closes at 5 p.m., which left me with precious little time to see their stunningly great collection. Stop by sometime if you're in the area.
  • Washington Nationals baseball game with Bob and Adam (and Stephanie, kind of). When they're not playing the Pirates (as they were earlier this week), I guess I'm a Nats fan!
Tomorrow (demain): To France!

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I hear the drums echoing tonight...

There actually was a guy playing steel drums by the Dupont Circle Metro station earlier today, but my drums will be playing mostly from Thursday onward. I've put together a fairly ambitious trip for myself with the main destinations of Morocco and Niger, via Paris, passing through Ghana and for at least an hour on a layover with Royal Air Maroc, Lome, Togo. I get back to the U.S. on September 19.

I'll update more as the trip goes on, but let it suffice to say it's going to be an adventure of the first order, not in the least with some of the logistics of getting to the airport, checking some luggage and all that. Here's hoping I make all my connections, and I don't get too many dirty looks for my not-so-great French!