Monday, January 20, 2014

Oh yea, and here's one from a grant I'm working on. I want to look at why Yanfolila has lower rates of anemia. Could it be because they don't grow cotton, and (seem to) have healthier, thicker forests? Give me some money, and I'll go find out! I served in Peace Corps in the extremely anemic region of Kolondieba.

Two more that I made... I just stumbled across the data online, couldn't resist throwing it onto a map.

Monday, December 30, 2013

One of my favorite places to hang out on the internet when I find free time is on reddit's map enthusiast community:  Users can submit maps, comment on them, and vote them up or down.  I've taken the time to make two maps that I've posted there, I figured I'd re-post them here.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sa Pilipinas!

So here I am in the Philippines!

I just finished two weeks in Manila, the capitol, for training.  Manila is a city of extremes - it has terrible pollution and poverty, as well as some of the nicest, cleanest malls in the world.

Here's some shots from the Mall of Asia, with a parking lot so clean you could eat off of it, and even an ice skating rink!

Nevertheless, the usual street scene is choked with motorcycles, pedestrians, cars and tricycles.  The air is noisy and dirty.  The most common form of public transit is in elaborately decorated and personalized vehicles called jeepneys.

Although Manila has plenty of western malls and supermarkets, old fashioned street markets abound, filled with fish, meat, produce and lots of random oddities.

(live eels)

This is my training group, after a day at the beach.  Since a very common means of transit among these 7,000 islands is leaky wooden boats, we had to go through water safety training.

And this is us with the American ambassador to the Philippines, Harry Thomas.  I'm wearing a Barong, the traditional Filipino formal wear.

I just got to my site on Friday night, and have been enjoying a relaxing weekend after the chaos of Manila.  I start work for the first time tomorrow.  My housing here couldn't be more different from how it was in Mali - I have running water (hot AND cold), electricity, AC... actually I live at a wakeboarding resort!  The provincial government here owns a wakeboarding resort with lots of space, and since I will be working for them and they are responsible for housing me, they decided to put me up here.  So this is more Posh-Corps than Peace Corps I guess.  In fact, here's the view from where I'm sitting now:

Saturday, July 28, 2012


So I found myself unexpectedly back from Peace Corps: unemployed and living at home.  A situation I never wanted to be in.  So I applied for stuff like crazy, back in Africa and all over America.  I finally found a position though the SCA with the Juneau Forestry Sciences Lab.  This stuff is a lot more like what I was doing in Ohio than for Peace Corps.  I love working with forests and doing research in them.  I also love working internationally, in other languages and with other cultures.  Someday I hope to combine those two loves and work with forests and communities on a global scale in the fight against climate change.

Anyway, I'm in Alaska now!  Probably till Christmas but maybe longer.  Most of the work I'm doing is inside, analyzing and organizing data.  I do get some exciting field time, though. Here are some pictures. (The last four are thanks to my friend Andrea!)

Here are some shots of the Mendenhall Glacier, literally down the street from my house:
"Bergy Bits" - little icebergs that have broken off the glacier
A photo from on the glacier, which is actually really dirty 

These are from a 8-day data collecting trip I took down to Prince of Wales Island
 The float plane that I took to get down there!

 Some of the crew and our leader, "El Jefe" at snack thirty.

 A visual sample of the slash we had to deal with.  Slash is all the crap (branches and logs) left behind after logging.  It is unstable, rotten, and often several feet deep.  Probably the most challenging terrain to get through anywhere ever.

Our camp!

And finally:
The northern lights!  Felt so blessed that I got to see them.  It was such a miracle that the sky was clear at the same time as Auroral activity this far south, it really felt like it was meant to be!

Mali ends

So my time in Mali was cut short.  What an unexpected disappointment.  I had put so much work and personal investment into Mali: committing my time, learning the language and culture, making amazing friends in my village, getting close to other PCVs...

It took months, the better part of a year, to adjust to my life in Mali.  But I saw it as an investment: work hard to live in such a strange and uncomfortable setting, so I could get to know people from a totally different way of life as my own.  I wanted to get to know them on a level that could only be achieved through two years of total immersion.  I wanted to make lifelong friends, and even, possibly help them improve their lives.  

I was really looking forward to that second year.  It was all set up to be one of the best of my life.  I was just beginning to have an amazing time, and getting the ball rolling on some big projects.  I guess I didn't get as big a return on my investment in Mali as I was expecting.  But I still got a lot.  I met some amazing people, learned Bambara, and fell in love with West Africa.  And even I didn't get the full Peace Corps experience, I got enough to be certain that I'll be back.

And as disappointing as it was for me to leave early, my troubles are nothing compared to what the people of Mali have had to endure: an ethnic revolt, islamofascists, civil war, a coup d'├ętat, an embargo for a landlocked country, destruction of ancient religious shrines, a drought, withdrawal of much of the Western aid Mali has become dependent on.  And no clear resolution in sight...

Ala k'a nogoya

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Seasons in Africa

Last October I took a walk around Kissa and brought my camera with me.  It was at the very end of the rainy season and the land was at its lushest and wettest.  I took some pictures of Kissa's giant Baobab tree, the pond, cornfields, paths and lanes, houses and even a well that was filled to the brim.

Then, a few days ago, I went around re-creating all those same pictures.  Except now Kissa is at the end of the dry season.  The grasses are all dead and burned away.  The pond and wells are dry.  Trees have lost their leaves.... So here are the pictures:

The Baobab Tree:

A Cornfield

The Pond

Mango Trees

Oil Palms


More Mango Trees

The Well