A Travellerspoint blog

Well, not quite the last night after all

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Hello again,

We thought we'd update our loyal subscribers :) and let you all know what's going on with us tonight. We were supposed to leave for Bamako, Mali tonight, but when we arrived here at the airport, they told us that airline workers in Bamako are striking, so there are no flights in or out of the country. They say the strike should be over tomorrow or the next day, so we are hoping they're right. We can't find much info on this on the internet (any news would be appreciated) but it doesn't sound like too major of a thing. In the meantime, the airline has put us up in a very nice hotel near the airport with room and board on them, so we are not struggling or anything. The next flight (if the strike is over) is tomorrow evening at 11pm. We'll let you know what's going on as we do!

Mariel and Ben

Posted by vagabundos 14:54 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Last day in Casablanca

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Hello all,

We're hanging out in the internet cafe again (in case you're in Casablanca, it's Apollo Cafe and they have great banana juice); we come here enough to email that they know us and shake our hands. Sadly it's probably our last visit, as we leave for Bamako, Mali tonight. The flight is at 11pm, so we will start working our way toward the airport via taxi and train at about 6 or 7. The flight will get into Bamako at 2:30am or so, and Dr. Bagayoko (most often Dr. B) of Medicine for Mali will pick us up then and take us to our host, Fanta's, house. She gets a lot of visitors from the US, as her husband was in Nebraska at a university for awhile. Mariel has been working on learning Bambara, the local language in Nana Kenieba, and Ben's French is getting quite good (Mariel's is slowly coming along). Our stay here in Casablanca has been great. We've tried lots of interesting foods and drinks (with no negative repercussions) and seen some interesting sights.

The Hassan II Mosque, 2nd biggest mosque in the world! It holds something like 105,000 people. This place is gigantic and very pretty.

Here's the stairway inside our pretty cheap hotel. There is pretty tilework like this everywhere, so that's one stereotype about Morocco proving to be true. One that isn't is the wearing of full body covers by women. Some wear headscarves and long robes, but it seems like most women our age stick to jeans and tops like Mariel wears. Al-Jazeera is on in about every coffee shop, though. That may have been expected.

And just because we didn't post any pictures the other day from New York City, here's the standard "I went to NYC" shot:


Hope everyone and everything back home is going well. We miss you and love you!

Mariel and Ben

Posted by vagabundos 07:06 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

The Journey Over

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Hi all! We thought we'd better say hello from sunny Casablanca, Morocco! We arrived a few hours ago and are lazing around in the hotel before getting some dinner and going to bed, early. It has been a long 2 days. We spent our 10 hour layover at JFK in New York walking around the city and saw some interesting sights: 5th Avenue, Central Park, Times Square, Madision Square Garden, etc. Our flight on Royal Air Maroc from NY to here was comical. We sat on the runway in the plane for 3 hours before leaving, and weren't told what was going on. Ben was zonked out quickly though, from Ambien, and Mariel had a book to finish anyway. They had good dinner and breakfast for us.

So, we are in Casablanca and have no specific plans until Monday afternoon, when we leave for Bamako, the capitol of Mali. We will just be relaxing and frantically checking mcat scores daily until it's time to get to work. Ciao for now!

Posted by vagabundos 10:49 Archived in Morocco Comments (1)

Getting all geared up!

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Hello everyone!

No, we haven't left for Mali yet, we just thought we'd try out this new travel blog (so no, you're not going crazy, we have switched sites to a more reliable one). Anyway, I thought this would be a good opportunity to tell you all what we expect to be doing during our 8 weeks in the village of Nana Kenieba, Mali (plus our 8 days in Morocco).

While there, Ben will be completing his public health practicum focusing mainly on permethrin-soaked mosquito netting, useful in preventing malaria infection. Mariel will be doing some unstructured research for her senior honors thesis in International Studies (Global Health) and working on a variety of things. We'll both do work on the mosquito nets (or bed nets) project. The plan for that one is to get the bed nets to some local women's groups, who will distribute them to people in their village, especially children and pregnant women. Another project we're talking about doing is a demographic survey, where we just find out about people's families, what people have died from, how many babies they had, etc. There may also be a nutrition study, which sounds particularly interesting, where 2 villages that are virtually the same are compared because one has a lot of malnourished people, while the other does not. Mariel might also work on a survey regarding cooking/stoves in the village, which could help out Mark's work there. We have also talked about working on repairing some latrines. There has also been mention of us doing some basic health education, which Mariel is especially excited for. But to sum it up, we are looking at lots of different public health projects that could use help, and we're going to be doing whatever we can while we're there.

As for general background on the area of Mali where we're going, most of the people are Muslim, though Mali is a secular state (not Islamic). Women do not wear headscarves or the full-body outfits typical of the Middle East, though. Modesty is expected, but it comes differently: women must cover their legs down to about mid-calf, but shirts are optional. Women typically seem to wear long skirts and tank tops. Men are pretty free of rules, and it looks like they stick to loose-fitting semi-Western style clothing. They mainly eat rice and millet with sauces, especially peanut sauce, and it sounds like we will be eating meat often, though most Malians don't. We will have a cook there who also does laundry, and a translator. Ben has taken intensive French and been studying it a lot, too, so he knows a fair share of that. He's also begun to study the local language, Bambara. Mariel, on the other hand, has been pretty busy with the MCAT and applying to medical schools, and knows very little French (si, non, oui...) and no Bambara... maybe Spanish will come in handy? Another thing we've been busy learning is how to ride a motorcycle, as the organization has a small one there for us to use. Once again, Ben outshines Mariel at this so far, but we both have plenty of time to learn on the ground. 100_2779_JPG_-_2.jpg

Well, now anyone who reads this knows about as much as we do about the whole thing. We're very excited and can't wait to tell you more!

Posted by vagabundos 13:20 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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