Wisdom From An Old Man in Timbuktu

“Whatever happens, we’ll always manage to sort it out under the palaver tree or in the hallway.”  (Old mans Words in Timbuktu Mali, after the 2012 coup d’États ) Is it true? Can we really reason and talk our way out of trouble when some people, it seems, are hell bent on doing evil, killing,…

High Contrast Living Is Two Hours By Ship

“After all, what he had always wanted was just that: to know new places. Even if he never got to the Pyramids, he had already traveled farther than any shepherd he knew. Oh, if they only knew how different things are just two hours by ship from where they are, he thought.”  ~ The Alchemist. Paul…

Pure Humanitarian Rebellion

I was confronted by the presence of one of Mali’s five main radical Islamic groups today, or so I thought. Fear controls people. It is meant to. Mali never ceases to surprise. How we interpret what we see may or may not be accurate. I have been working in West Africa long enough to know you…

Fulani Cattle Nomads, National Geographic, Al-Qaeda, and Me

I can relate to the Fulani people, a little.  Like humanitarian development workers I get the impression that life for the herding Fulani men and boys, who live as nomads for the next 6-8 months, is far less idyllic than it seems. The Fulani people’s herders are moving their cattle south off the shriveled up Sahel…

Losing Everything I Conquered

1986, which was when he insisted I go on the Road to Santiago. – You said that going on the Road to Santiago is important. For it, one must give up everything for some time: family, work, projects. And I don’t know whether I’ll find everything the same when I return. – Indeed I hope…

Language Learning And The Desire To Do Something

“At times like this, after listening for hours to a language which is badly understood, the brain goes into a paralysis; it closes the doors and shuts up shop. I would sit there trying to look reasonably intelligent but feeling completely useless, my eyes glazed, my mouth hanging open, slowly drowning in a flood of strange,…

You Shouldn’t Have To Drink Dirt

We have been rolling out training about waterborne diseases from poor water sources, and contaminated open wells. It is a project to help about 500 people with water contamination issues. With the training, we then set up simple economical water filter systems for the most needy families. They are usually so far off the beaten…

Motorcycles Hauling Fat Ass Across Mali

I was complaining to my dad about how I drive the crap out of my 125 cc Chinese motorcycle in Mali, in order to make it haul my fat ass up some of the hills and valleys going into the villages where I carry on community development and food security work for Man Of Peace…

It Rained and Rained, & I Did Pity Them

Was out on a research trip into the Ganadugu region for a development agency. People living in Mali for twenty years are claiming they have never seen rain in January,  but it has now been raining for three days. The Locals are frozen and wearing winter jackets, and hats, most staying inside, or near fires to…

War…… Give Me More War!

I was supposed to inspect drip irrigated gardens today, but my jatigi is a politician. I don’t speak politician, so his words are often meaningless to me. He has political ears, so when I speak he just nods his head, out of habit, because nothing is really heard. I called this morning to see if…

Let’s Burn Bread Together

You have been in Africa too long when you stop burning the outside of your baguette over a flame to sterilize it, like twenty years ago. However, today you are reminded how Africa savvy you are, because the baguettes you bought this morning have a little sand and gravel on the bottom, and without blinking…