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The Abandoned Troglodyte Village of Niansogoni

The Abandoned Troglodyte Village of Niansogoni

I will freely admit that I really had no idea where I was going as I sat in the front seat of the car driving along a bumpy, pothole filled “road” leading miles away from Banfora and all other signs of modern civilization. I had spent the morning enjoying the sunrise over Lake Tengrela, looking for hippos from a rickety canoe and then climbing around the relatively famous Sindou Peaks – all before lunch. Our next stop was the village of...

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Hippo Spotting at Sunrise on Lake Tengrela

Hippo Spotting at Sunrise on Lake Tengrela

It was still dark out when Ibrahim met me at my hotel in Banfora. An early start was crucial in order to be at nearby Lake Tengrela both for the sunrise and to catch a glimpse of some hippopotamuses (hippopotami??). The lake is just a short drive outside of Banfora, off the asphalt road and a few minutes along a dirt road. It is known for its hippos and locals believe that they do not attack people because they are sacred (unlike these...

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My Introduction to Burkina Faso: Bobo Dioulasso

My Introduction to Burkina Faso: Bobo Dioulasso

Bobo Dioulasso is the second largest city in Burkina Faso and the first city I stopped in as I arrived from neighboring Mali. The name of the city comes from the names of the two tribes that first settled there centuries ago – the Bobo and the Dioula. I was very curious to see how it might compare to the two cities I visited in Mali (Bamako and Segou) because Monique (the owner of Papillon Reizen who arranged my trip into Burkina) had told...

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Where I Want to Go in 2015

Where I Want to Go in 2015

By now, you have probably read a dozen or more different posts about the best places to travel to in 2015. I always find those lists interesting, more for the places they leave out than the places they include. Indeed, I’m not sure I spotted any of my target destinations on any of those lists. But then again, I tend to stray pretty far from the beaten path. I have a growing list of places I want to get to in 2015, but I already know I...

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Goals for the Year Ahead

Goals for the Year Ahead

Ah, New Year’s resolutions. It’s that time of year again, right? When I looked back at last year, I also took a look at my New Year’s resolutions post from last January. It was specific, yet vague at the same time and as I read through it, I realized I really didn’t stick with any of my resolutions. I said last year would be a year of saying yes and living in the moment and while I think I did a better job of the latter, I definitely...

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Crossing the Border from Mali to Burkina Faso

Crossing the Border from Mali to Burkina Faso

Border crossings always make me a little nervous. I was pulled aside and questioned going from Moldova to Ukraine, fought past dozens of pushy Uzbek women going from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan and was worried I wouldn’t even make it from Georgia into Azerbaijan. While nothing truly horrible has ever happened, I still wake up with butterflies in my stomach when I know I’ll be crossing a land border that day. And so it was when I woke up in...

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2014: My Year in Review

2014: My Year in Review

With one day left to go in 2014, I have been relishing the chance to slow down and reflect. The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity and I really haven’t had a chance to just stop and think. At all. Last January I wrote about 2014 being a year of yes and living in the moment. I pledged to stop looking ahead constantly and to continue saying yes to opportunities as they arise. I also had some more conventional resolutions: to...

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The Pottery Village of Kalabougou

The Pottery Village of Kalabougou

It was late afternoon by the time our pirogue pulled up on the banks of the village of Kalabougou. Located on the left side of the Niger River, it was less than an hour’s ride from Segou, a town about four hours north of Bamako. The visit was timed perfectly – it was a Saturday, the day that the women of the town would be burning their pottery. Kalabougou is known for its pottery, which is sold in both Segou and Bamako. The women of the...

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Celebrating Thanksgiving in Mali

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Mali

I don’t often spend Thanksgiving at home. Past Turkey Days have seen me drinking pisco sours in Cusco, eating pizza in Rome and sampling questionable Mexican cuisine in Irkutsk. But I’m not sure any of those experiences quite compare to spending the holiday in West Africa. I started the morning in the village of Folona, wrapping up my visit to see a school that Passports with Purpose raised money to build last fall. It was fitting, I...

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What Happens When You Return Home After Visiting an Ebola-Infected Country

What Happens When You Return Home After Visiting an Ebola-Infected Country

I knew what I was getting into when I left. Just days before I got on the plan to Bamako, Mali, authorities ordered enhanced screening procedures for travelers returning from the West African nation due to a new outbreak of the Ebola virus. But I carefully read everything I could find on the CDC and other websites and was confident that, barring anything completely crazy happening, I would be considered extremely low risk, even no-risk,...

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