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By this Author: vagabundos

Beach Bums

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Hi again,

We are here in Cunit, Spain. We´ve taken a brief break from relaxing on the beach in order to check our email. We´ve also come to plan our trip from here to Madrid. We are looking at either an overnight train or a cheap flight, if possible. It´s been really nice laying around in the sun, but we´re also excited to see Madrid. Ben has visited there before and has fond memories and good stories about it.

Yesterday we relaxed on the beach, played badminton and frisbee, and grilled out all day. It rained pretty hard last night so we were up late waiting for it to die down. We got to hang out and drink beer with some Germans who were stuck out of their tents, too, so that was interesting. On Saturday, we took a train into Barcelona and had a really good time walking around. We saw lots of cool architecture that Antoni Gaudi did- the famous Park Guell, with the mosaic lizard, a huge cathedral called La Sagrada Familia, and a very neat house, Casa Batllo. We also walked around on the streets, went in some shops, and walked by the ocean and in parks. Barcelona is a fun place! Today we plan to laze around again on the beach. We will leave for Madrid tonight or tomorrow.

That´s all for now. See you all again soon!

Love,
Mariel and Ben

Posted by vagabundos 04:50 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Welcome to Espana

(bienvenidos a espana)

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Hello,

We're a few days late in letting you know, but we've made it to Spain safely. We got here on Wednesday and found a campsite, which proved to be farther away from the ocean than we expected and full of RVs. After getting about 2 hours of sleep, we transferred to a hotel downtown. We are moving again to another campsite, which is about 50 km south of Barcelona and 30km south of where we are now, Sitges.

We spent all day yesterday hanging out at the beach and wandering around town. It's very nice here, and the beaches are spectacular. The water is amazingly blue and clear.

Sorry for the short entry, but we've got to go catch the train to Cunit!

Hasta luego,
Ben y Mariel

Posted by vagabundos 02:12 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Greetings from the Spice Capital of the World

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Hey everybody,

We arrived in Marrakesh, Morocco (aka Spice Capital of the world) today after a long day and night of traveling. Our plane left from Bamako a little late last night (it was supposed to leave at 2:30am but really left around 4), so we only got about 2-3 hours of sleep in the terminal and plane. Immediately after getting off of the plane at about 7:30am, we boarded a train at the airport that took us to Marrakech by way of Casablanca. The train ride was long and we were pretty cramped and sleepy, but we met some interesting people. We even got a chance to speak some Spanish again as we sat next to a couple from Equatorial Guinea, even though we found ourselves saying "oui" instead of "si" at times, and even throwing in some Bambara...

We rested this afternoon and walked around the city of Marrakesh some. Our hotel is right downtown, just a few blocks from the famous spice (and other stuff) market. We're planning to go there tomorrow. I'd like to buy some spices to bring home, but I'm not sure they'll make it through customs. Anyone know? I won't buy any strange white powders, maybe just some red and yellow ones. We'll see.

Anyway, the city is very nice. It seems more European than Middle Eastern. It has a lot of big fancy buildings, nice restaurants, and good hotels. We found one for a good price that has a wireless connection nearby that we have tapped into. Tonight we took the opportunity to sample a Happy meal at the local McDonald's. We were excited at first for burgers, but about halfway through we remembered that McDonald's really isn't that good. Oh well, it was a good time.

So tomorrow we look forward to checking out the market and renting some bicycles to ride around town. We'll spend tomorrow night here too, and then fly out to Barcelona the next morning at 11am.

Hope everything is going well at home, and we'll talk to you again soon!

Love,
Mariel and Ben

P.S. About the promise of photos last entry: I had a really hard time uploading them, the connection was very slow, so there aren't any new ones now. I will try to get them up if I can in the next week, otherwise they will certainly all be posted when we get home to Iowa. We'll let you know on here!

Posted by vagabundos 15:09 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Last days in Mali

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Hi everybody,

We made it back to Bamako after 2 weeks back in the bush with the Brydens, Joe, and Dr. DeVore. All in all, we had a really great time in Nana Kenieba and the other villages. We hope to be back next summer, or maybe even sooner..! During the past couple weeks we've done many things. We wrapped up our mosquito net program by visiting all of the villages again and checking to see if they'd sold their nets. 2 villages, Nana Kenieba and Saguele, required 2 followup visits to get them motivated to sell, but as of now, the women have sold all 20 nets in each village! So the program was a success. The next step is collecting the buyers' payments every week and eventually they will generate enough money to buy more nets in Bamako. It's all in their hands now; it will be interesting to see if the program has continued on our next trip over.

Another highlight was accompanying Dr. DeVore on a few medical cases. Mariel learned a lot about asking the right questions to patients in order to make a correct diagnosis. He even did a surgery on our friend and host, Kany Diarra (who Mariel is named after). She had an infected, swollen thumb and DeVore cut out the infection, which was quite deep, and stitched her back up. For one reason or another, Mariel had a near-fainting experience while holding the flashlight during surgery which we chalked up to being a friend of Kany's. In any case, she recovered quickly and most assuredly does not have a phobia of blood or other bodily fluids. There were a couple more interesting cases: a little girl with a staph infection on the skin all over her body, an abcess on the eyebrow of a young girl, a lady with a dangerously swollen and infected hand, and a woman who found out she was pregnant unexpectedly were among them.

We also traveled to a village called Sandama, which is up in the mountains near Nana Kenieba. It has big redwood trees and is very interesting because it's a village that Medicine for Mali hasn't worked in yet (they are planning to install a water system soon though). It was very obvious that MFM hasn't been there, though. The water supply is just plain gross, we looked in one of the wells and pulled out water that was off-color and opalescent, as if it had oil on top. The children were in general in much worse shape. We saw a girl teetering around on stick legs with a swollen belly who was truly the poster child for malnutrition. Hopefully this village's health will improve drastically once their water system is improved and they receive some health education; these things have done wonders in the other villages.

Another interesting couple of experiences happened when the whole village came to our compound with a group of drummers to play for us and dance. People predictably pulled us in to dance in the middle of the circle one by one, and we all took our turns trying to make our American bodies move to African beats. We many not have succeeded in that, but we definitely had a lot of fun, and the Malians got a good laugh out of it. You can see some pictures of us dancing on the webshots page, which there should be a link to in the last entry.

We have many stories, plus there is plenty to tell that seems mundane to us now. For example, it is common for children under the age of 10 to drive donkey carts alone for miles, even the nurse's children wear witch doctor snake charms, and hissing is a sound that means children are calling you. We really internalized a lot; for example, in the restaurant where we sit now writing this, a waiter is named Moussa and his name keeps being called, and every time, Ben looks up - Moussa is his Malian name. We responded to Kany and Moussa for 6 weeks, so it feels pretty natural now. We made a lot of friends in Nana Kenieba and learned more than we can say. The experience certainly confirmed to us that working as physicians in places like this is really what we want to do for the rest of our lives.

As for the rest of our trip, we will be leaving Bamako tomorrow night, or Monday morning at 2:30am, rather. We land in Casablanca, then make our way to Marrakesh and spend a night there. On the 8th of August, we fly from there to Barcelona, then we have 8 days there before making our way to Madrid and flying out of there on Aug 16. We fly back to Casablanca on that trip, then the next day fly to JFK in New York. After taxi-ing to La Guardia and making a few connections, we arrive in the Quad Cities on August 18. For the information of anybody interested in coming, Ben's big White Coat ceremony is on Friday the 24th of August. This is the induction to the medical profession where the entering class receives their official white coats and takes the Hippocratic Oath. School starts up shortly after, and our lives will be crazy yet again.

So that's all for now, see everyone soon!

Love,
Ben and mariel

Posted by vagabundos 09:06 Archived in Mali Comments (0)

Our New Plans for the weeks ahead

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Hello

We thought we'd check in one last time before heading back to Nana Kenieba tomorrow morning. Steve DeVore, the Brydens, and Joe Dunlay arrive tonight in Bamako, and we'll all leave together in the morning.

Today we changed our travel itinerary for the way back a little. We still return to Moline, Illinois on August 18 but before we get there, we'll be in Spain for a week. We'll fly from Bamako to Casablanca, Morocco on Aug 7, then make our way to Marrakesh and spend the afternoon there before flying off to Barcelona, Spain. Our flight back to Casablanca is on Aug 16 from Madrid. We plan to spend the week checking out Gaudi's awesome art in Barcelona, eating good food, and camping on the beach - woo! This all means we will be leaving Nana Kenieba slightly earlier than planned, on August 6. We are confident we will return in the near future, though - possibly next summer - so it won't be too sad.

That's all for now, we'll be writing again in a couple weeks!

Love,
Mariel and Ben

Posted by vagabundos 11:51 Archived in Mali Comments (0)

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