Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve in the Air: Off to Mali

On New Year's Eve we will be flying to Bamako, Mali, West Africa, with a layover in Paris. We will be taking a trip organized by Adventures in Rock in collaboration with Women Worldwide. It is a very unique trip which offers a volunteer experience in a Dogon village as well as an opportunity to enjoy the world famous Festival in the Desert, a music festival which takes place in the outskirts of the Sahara not far from Timbuktu.

Our volunteer work will take place in the Dogon village of Kori-Maounde, located on the Bandiagara Escarpment. We will be doing community service projects as well as teaching English classes, while being hosted by members of the community.

We will spend two nights camping in the Sahara at Essakane, the site of the Festival in the Desert. The Festival was begun in 2001 by the Touareg nomads as a way to preserve their tradition of getting together with one another annually to exchange ideas. It has become a large draw for the international community as well, with people coming from all over the world to share in the experience.

American blues music has its roots in Malian music, a fact which has been explored by western performers including Corey Harris and Taj Mahal. Being the blues fans that we are, we are excited by the chance to see traditional and modern Malian music performed in its native land. One of the best-known contemporary Malian musicians was the late Ali Farka Toure. His son Vieux Farka Toure will be performing at this year's festival, and is sure to be a highlight.

We are really looking forward to meeting our fellow travelers: Pamela, Susan, and Tina. I am not sure whether we will have any internet access during the trip, but if we do, we will send an update.

We are supposed to get a snowstorm today, so we hope that our 5:30 pm flight is able to take off. We have our fingers crossed! But an 8 hour layover in Paris will hopefully be enough of a cushion...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thanksgiving, Island-Style

For the 8th year, we have spent Thanksgiving in St Thomas visiting our good friend Marty. This time we also had the pleasure of meeting his lovely girlfriend, Joan. We had a delicious (and huge!) turkey dinner at the Toad and Tart restaurant on Thanksgiving night.

The next morning we went on our traditional boat ride: Cap'n Marty's Island Hop. We meandered around the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and spent some time at the ever-wild Willy T floating restaurant enjoying some beverages (and visiting our favorite irreverent bartender, Zeus). Later we swam ashore to the Soggy Dollar Bar for some of their signature Painkillers. After the Island Hop, we enjoyed a dinner worthy of Anthony Bourdain at the Old Stone Farmhouse.

The remainder of the trip was filled with swimming, snorkeling, and general r&r. On Monday we went to Coki Point Beach, a fun and funky beach where both locals and tourists enjoy sun and snorkeling. Once again, we stayed at Secret Harbour Resort, in the East End of the island. The beach there is great for snorkeling and watching the sunset.