Thursday, March 29, 2007

places i've been

got this from my friend joost. clearly i have a lot of traveling left to do. i included australia since i've already bought tickets for a trip there in may. i'll add benin soon...

create your own visited countries map

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

chillin with the pres

i got a call yesterday afternoon asking if i could attend an alternative fuels briefing with the president. it wasn't as exciting as i thought it might be. i pretty much just stood there with 20 others, the press, secretary bodman and bush. we were hoping he'd mention doe's "clean cities" program in his remarks (it was in the press release) but he didn't. oh well. at least our logo made it into the pic on the white house website! score one for all those clean cities coordinators out there, just trying to displace petroleum, one gallon at a time.

Monday, March 26, 2007

virginia is for lovers

there was lots of love in va this weekend, starting with a quick trip to richmond and 4am laughs with chris, an even quicker trip to hampden-sydney college for lunch with my baby bro pierce, three home cooked meals at my mom's new apartment in lex (so cute), and a really special fundraising event at my dad's with 40 supportive lexingtonians. dad cooked all the food (crab cakes, jalapeno cheese grits, shrimp, blanched beans, creme brulee... etc), rockbridge vineyard served wine, the weather was perfect and i had the most lovely time catching up with adults that have been part of my life since i moved to lex over 10 years ago. it felt a lot like a wedding party, minus the groom. the coolest part was sharing about my heart for africa and getting so much encouragement in return. even stephen said he was proud of me (possibly the highlight of my weekend). pictured are pierce, me, dad and stephen.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

benin update: president and coming elections

COTONOU, March 19 (Reuters) - Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi has said he believes an attack by gunmen on his convoy last week was an assassination bid by enemies opposed to his campaign to stamp out corruption in the small West African state.

Yayi, a technocrat banker who was elected last year on a platform promising change, escaped unhurt when unidentified attackers opened fire on Thursday while he was campaigning in the north for parliamentary elections to be held on Sunday.

Yayi, who will seek to consolidate his political position in Sunday's legislative elections, told church pastors he met in northern Benin at the weekend that he believed the attack was in response to his declared policy to eliminate graft.

"Some people are interested in assassinating me to discourage me in my battle against corruption," the president said at the meeting, which was attended by a Reuters reporter.

"We will not rest in this fight against the corruption which is eating away at our country," Yayi said.

Yayi's election a year ago marked the end of three decades of domineering rule by a small political elite in the former French colony, where a third of the population live below the poverty line and unemployment is rife.

A former head of the West African Development Bank and a political newcomer, Yayi replaced ex-army major Mathieu Kerekou, who had led the small cotton-producing country for all but five of the previous 33 years.

Having won more than 74 percent of votes in the second round of the presidential election, Yayi will be seeking in Sunday's polls to win control of the National Assembly, which has been dominated by allies of Kerekou.

Until Thursday's shooting, campaigning for the March 25 parliamentary elections had gone smoothly in a country seen as one of the more politically stable in turbulent West Africa.

By Samuel Elijah

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

softball never sounded so good

i found out yesterday that all the expats in cotonou get together every saturday to play softball. instant friends for me!! unless friendship is contingent on my softball skills... then i'm in trouble.

this is much better news than the bit about the flies that lay eggs under your skin, causing "bumps that look like bug bites with a red dot in the center" to which you simply "apply vaseline, causing the worm to poke out it's head so it's easily removed." oh, lovely.

Monday, March 19, 2007

why it's called a steakhouse

susanne, laurel and i ate brunch at jordon's steakhouse in ellicott city yesterday, compliments of blind date bob (he gave me a gift card for christmas). it was quite a feast with live jazz to boot. i got the special, open faced omelet with salmon, scallions, capers and horse radish. yummy. but laurel and susanne got the fillet eggs benedict, which was really tops. now i know, always order steak at a steakhouse.

Friday, March 16, 2007

shots fired in benin

COTONOU (Reuters) - Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi escaped unhurt after gunmen attacked his convoy as he returned from a parliamentary election campaign rally in the country's north, a presidential adviser said on Friday.

"The vehicle which was hit by the bullets was in the position which the head of state usually occupies. But this time he happened to have changed," Didier Akplogan, communications adviser to Yayi, told Reuters by telephone.

The attack happened late on Thursday at around dusk close to the town of Ouesse, some 240 km (150 miles) north of the West African country's main port city, Cotonou.

Yayi's convoy turned back towards the north rather than carrying on to the capital after the attack, said Edgar Guidibi, head of communications for the FCBE alliance of political parties which support the president.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

home sweet home

i'm home. really, the east coast is my home. my trip to tx was absolutely lovely, but man, it's a different world out there. a good world... nice world... but this world (maryland, virginia, etc) is home.

i do wish i could take my friends on a field trip to tx. i bet most of you have never seen/smelled a feed yard, a grain elevator, really expanse farms... it's like being in a time capsule. very cool.

and the best part, of course, was visiting family. pictured are my mom's parents on the left, me, and my dad's parents on the right. all four in one place. note the effects of wind... my dad's mom's hair is not that big. tx is windy.

i really thought this would be a final goodbye for some of my family. a lot could happen in the two years i'm away. but our parting actually lacked that sense of finality, to my relief. the truth is, they're in good health. my mom's parents had a tickle war on the way to the car before they took me to the airport. my great grandmother will likely live to 105, much to her chagrin, and she'll continue to pray for me every night. my dad's parents rent out some of their farm, but still run the place, which is no small task. things will certainly be different when i return, but this is not the end.

i think the only one i really worry about is my mom's mom, whose alzheimer's makes it hard to tell if she'll know who i am next time we meet. maybe if i can make it to one of my cousin's weddings this summer...

Monday, March 05, 2007

buy a truck, get free boots

one of the dealerships down here has a deal... buy a new ford truck, get a free pair of boots. only in tx.

this pic of me with my great grandmother dorie is actually from 2 years ago, but it'll put a face with a name for you. yesterday i spent over two hours talking to dorie, who will be 101 on march 23. knowing this could very well be the last time i see her, i'm trying to think of a new question to ask her every day. yesterday i asked how she met my great grandfather, brownie. (his name was charles... thus charlie brown... thus brownie). brownie and his family traveled in a covered wagon to roswell, tx. they actually shot squirrels and cooked biscuits in an iron skillet over an open flame (fueled by cow dung). brownie was in 5th grade when dorie first met him. she was a year ahead of him in school, and though all the other girls thought he was cute, she thought the purple and orange plaid shirt he was wearing was horrendous. brownie picked up a job cleaning up the school to help out his family. while dorie waited for her parents to pick her up from school, she and brownie would talk and eventually became friends. there's a lot more to the story i'll leave out. but brownie really started courting dorie while she was in college (yes, my great grandmother went to college). one day brownie and dorie were sitting in the back of her parents car on the way home from church when brownie said to dorie's dad, "dorie and i would like to get married." the car suddenly lurched forward as dorie's dad accidentally slammed on the gas. he said nothing. brownie waited a few minutes and said again, "dorie and i want to get married..." dorie's dad finally said brownie cold marry his daughter once he had saved $100. it took brownie a year to do so.

Friday, March 02, 2007

off to tx

i'm leaving for texas tomorrow to see all my family, including four grandparents and a great grandmother who turns 101 this month... how cool is that? this is likely the last time i will see the texas crew before moving to benin, so it's exciting and sad all at once. pictured is the dirt road that leads to my grandparents' farm. i love the big skies there.

p.s. i have written 3 songs in the past month. my first 3 songs ever. i'm about ready for a record lable.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

i think this is funny

i just got a paper back monday, and these were the comments.
This is a nice piece of writing--clear, provocative, attentive to text, well-reasoned, and obviously with a point to make. I believe I disagree with your argument, but you do make a strong case... I want to stress that any substantive disagreement I have with your argument does not at all prevent me from recognizing and admiring its quality as an essay. Good work. My only concern is that it's too short... but since I approved this topic, I'm at fault, I suppose; I didn't think one could treat the topic so well in such a short paper. Obviously, I was wrong.
does anyone else think that's funny? i also think it's cool a tutor can disagree with you and respect you at once. yay st. john's.