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A New School for Folona

A New School for Folona

After the amazing reception I experienced in Menie, I thought I knew what to expect when I arrived in Folona the next day to visit the Passports with Purpose/buildOn school there. I thought wrong. Folona wasn’t quite as remote as Menie – it was just a few kilometers off the main road from Bougouni to Bamako. It was also larger, with more than 1,000 residents, compared to just 600 in Menie. And, it already had a school, albeit an old,...

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The Village of Menie Gets a School

The Village of Menie Gets a School

I could see the crowd gathered as our truck slowed to a stop along the dirt road. My hair and face and glasses were covered in a thin layer of dust from the drive through the bush to reach this village of just 600 people. I was not prepared at all for what I was about to experience. I followed Alhouss, a staff member with buildOn, and Kadar, my translator, toward two lines of villagers waiting to greet me. A woman kneeled in front of me...

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Trying to Put My Time in West Africa Into Words

Trying to Put My Time in West Africa Into Words

Every piece of clothing in my backpack seems to be covered in a layer of red, sandy dust – just like my shoes and sandals and backpack and camera and pretty much everything else I brought with me for my two week journey through Mali and Burkina Faso in West Africa. The last two weeks have been like nothing I could have expected and I think it will take me a while to fully process everything – I’m not sure how to put it all into words....

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Support Families in Honduras & Win a Grand Canyon Hiking Trip!

Support Families in Honduras & Win a Grand Canyon Hiking Trip!

By the time you read this, I will have visited the two schools in southern Mali that Passports with Purpose raised money to build last fall. Much more on that will come very soon.   But first, it is time for this year’s PwP fundraiser!   Running from December 2 to December 17, this year’s annual online fundraiser will be raising money for Sustainable Harvest International. SHI is devoted to fighting poverty and malnutrition while...

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Experiencing Pre-Trip Jitters

Experiencing Pre-Trip Jitters

I have butterflies in my stomach as I write this. It’s just over 12 hours until I leave for Mali and Burkina Faso and I am really nervous – more nervous than I can ever remember feeling before a trip. And no, it has nothing to do with Ebola. I was nervous about this trip long before Ebola showed up in Mali. This will be my first travel to West Africa and only my second trip to the African continent overall (Egypt being the other trip in...

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My Plans for West Africa

My Plans for West Africa

I admit, I feel a little weird telling people I am going to travel to West Africa next weekend. I feel like I immediately have to qualify the statement with a “but I’m not going to any countries where Ebola is!” And that statement almost would have been true. While the first case of Ebola diagnosed in Mali happened back in late October (coincidentally, the same day I picked up my visa to the country), the 21-day quarantine for people who...

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Impressions of Bulgaria

Impressions of Bulgaria

The sun was still shining as I exited the airport in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. It was 6:30 p.m., but on a Saturday in late August, that meant I still had about two hours of daylight remaining. I ignored the touts offering me a ride and instead headed straight to the official taxi stand, where I easily hopped into a yellow taxi. I gave the cab driver the address of my hotel with confidence, speaking Russian that could sort of pass as...

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Yes, I am Still Going to West Africa

Yes, I am Still Going to West Africa

I am going to West Africa next month. On November 23, I will arrive in Bamako, Mali and spend one week there before moving on to neighboring Burkina Faso, eventually flying out of Ouagadougou on December 6. I booked my flights back in September and finalized an itinerary for the whole trip in the last week or so. It all became truly official when I picked up both of my visas while I was in Washington, D.C. for work this week. I have been...

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Open House Chicago: An Open Door to the Windy City

Open House Chicago: An Open Door to the Windy City

I have lived in Chicago for more than a decade, but there are still a lot of places I haven’t seen, things I haven’t done and buildings into which I have never ventured. Sometimes all it takes is a good excuse to do so and Open House Chicago this past weekend provided such an excuse. OHC started in 2011 (while I was out of the country) and is really pretty amazing in its premise: open up more than a hundred buildings throughout...

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Why I’m Quitting Travel Blogging. Kind Of.

Why I’m Quitting Travel Blogging. Kind Of.

I recently had an epiphany. I kind of hate what travel blogging has become. When I started blogging four years ago in anticipation of traveling around the former Soviet Union for a year, I was simply looking for a way to share my stories with friends and family, record my adventures for my own sake and maybe inspire a future traveler or two out there. I never got into it to make money or to get free trips. I didn’t even know those things...

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