Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dogon Country

Hi there everyone.

Quick update. Kids are doing well. Just got back from Dogon Country. Interesting people, beautiful scenery and an incredible history. Here are some pictures.

Exploring through an old village above Treli.The gang.

This is what travelling is all about. The old village above Treli.

Our Dogon guide Mumado and our driver Moussa.

Brendan on top of a house built out of mud in the first village we visited.

This was he view from the village of Ende where we stayed last night. I finally found a geocache after two unsuccessful attempts. This one was by the rick spire. Billy and I went up this morning to get it before we keft Dogon Country.

Brendan playing with some kids in Ende.

Siobhan in her element. Picking out different fabrics and negotiating a price.

Well, that's it for now. I need to get some sleep.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bamako

We've been defeated by the heat and have opted to hire a car and driver for a few days. The 24 hour journey from Senegal to Bamako was a great experience and we are definitely glad we did it but I think having a car (with AC!) will make the next few days much easier. Tadhg was quite dehydrated this morning but perked up quite quickly, only to then be taken out in the heat again to catch a bus east to Segu. At the bus station just before we went looking for a bus I decided that I'd rather chill out in a hotel for another day till Tadhg was 100% again and I think Steve was pretty relieved! So we're in the hotel with the best pool, have been talking to a few expats, have eaten lots and watched a couple of movies and have managed to arrange a 4WD car with driver that fits all of us and is reasonably priced.

So a little bit about Bamako. The good stuff first. It is a small city with not too much traffic, lots of greenery, the Niger river flowing by, good fruit for sale and very few tall buildings. I liked it as soon as we drove in. The flip side is that it is one of the dirtiest cities in the world. Rubbish and rats everywhere. It's a public health nightmare. It really is food for thought and we've been talking a lot about it. It doesn't have to be this way, does it? So many problems and so few solutions. So far though, I have really liked the Malian people and having two young children with us is definitely a help. People either laugh hysterically or want to talk to us or at the very least they smile and stare with interest. We're looking forward to getting out of the city where things will likely be much better.

In teh city so far we have walked around a lot, been to the market, the National Museum, a high point overlooking the city at sunset, the Niger river, swimming in a hotel pool... We stayed a couple of nights in the Catholic Mission and had a six bed dorm to ourselves, did all our laundry, ate yummy street food, met soma interesting travellers. One girl has just come to Bamako fro, Scotland on a motorcycle with a friend and has got Steve and I all fired up and planning our own motorcycle trip (a few years away once the kids are old enough to stay with family for a few weeks) but there's no harm in dreaming :)

Tadhg was more or less back to his normal cheerful self this evening so we're heading off to rural Mali in the morning. More later.

I've just tried to get some photos on but this computer isn't cooperating. Next time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Some more pictures!

At a checkpoint stop in Senegal. Tadhg was the centre of attention.
Sept place from Dakar. Nice and cosy.

A Dakar beach.

Brendan getting the hang of peeing in the hole.


Our first West African meal. Yassa poisson; fish, rice and onion sauce.

Outside the house that Paddy has been living in for the last few months. Brendan and Paddy in the distance I think.





West Africa Update #2

Well, how do I describe it. Awesome but emotional. We are all doing fine both in health and spirits. Brendan is loving the different environment and Tadhg loves his multiple daily baths. We are in Bamako, Mali and it is really busy. Lots of traffic. People keep pointing at use when ever we have Brendan in the big back pack carrier. Not sure if it is because it`s different (the carrier) or just because we are carrying a two year old. I`m sure it`s the first. It is even funier when they don`t notice Tadhg on Siobhan`s back until she turns around.

So, how did we get to Bamako... in a nutshell, a long bus ride from the border (different story for another time), a ferry crossing because the bridge was under repairs, the an even longer bus ride to get to Bamako (12hrs). All I know is that I`m glad we pushed on. Siobhan, the kids and I treated ourselves to a nice little hotel which had a pool. Brendan loved it. He kept going on about `Daddy swim to ladder and back`. So we did.

Side track, Brendan is really singing alot these days. Black sheep, twinkle twinkle, ABC`s and 1-2-3`s.

Today we moved to the Mission Catholic which is realy nice because it has a locked court yard so Brendan can have free reign of the courtyard.
Went up to Point G over looking the city at sunset. Had a nice view over the city.

Came back and had an excelent spag and bean diner and some frites. Yummy.

Anyhow, enough blabing. Here are some pictures as promised.

In Dakar on the street just outside the daycare where we slept for the first night.
Flat tire on our way to the ferry terminal for our stay on Ile de Gorée.

Tadhg struting his stuff at a beach in Dakar.

Checking out the surf.

Buying some stuff for the long trip to Bamako.

Monkey boy having a banana for a late night snack and a ride on Daddy`s shoulders.

Getting on the ferry at Kayes, Mali.

On the ferry. They actualy started bailing the boat qs soon as we casted off.

This is where we had to get off the ferry.

Tadhg getting lots of naked time.

Brendan pointing out some of the different carvings from a door from Dogon Country at the hotel.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Senegal

I don't know where to start. Please bear with us, short posts and lots of mistakes are quite likely qs this keyboard is very different;

Day 4, Tambacounda

It is hot hot hot, one man we met todqy guessed 37C but with the humidity it feels hotter; We spent about 8 hours in a sept place today, a type of share taxi that we had to ourselves as our group totals 6 adults plus Brendan and Tadhg. It was a very long hot day but everyones spirits are high, how could they not be given the amazing country we are travelling in? Brendan and Tadhg are doing well too, both were naked ,uch of the day having wet cloths draped over them but in all honesty I think Tadhg is the least bothered by the heat.

Our trip over here was an adventure in itself. We set of straight after Steve's exam, 3 hours driving, two hours sleep, flight to New York, tried to get a hotel room for 8 hours but none available at an affordable price so we headed oin to Manhattan instead on the Air Train and subway. Our mission was to buy a hat for Brendan and to chill out somewhere and take turns to nap. Eventuqlly found the hat but sleep proved to be more elusive. Back to the airport via a wrong train to find we only had 20 minutes to check in. Skipped the queues to both first class checkin qnd security qnd then ran about a mile to the gate, only to fiund our flight delayed. We eventuqlly took off about 3 hours late. Sleep remained elusive for Steve and I so thqt when we arrived in Dakar at 6 am we had had no ,ore than 4 hours in over 48 hours. No worries though, Paddy and his "brother" took us to our digs in a school in Diady's neighbourhood where we slept a lot and ate a lot for the rest of the day. The feeling as we drove the 40 min ride to the school was one of excitement and contentment. The most striking thing for me was that we were just surrounded by people, just humanity everywhere. I also felt instqntly at home in a way. Being at home with my family is of course wonderful, but for as long as I cn remember I havbe felt most myself when I'm trqvelling. I feel so alive and reqdy to soak in all the experiences co,ing our way.

We didn't need to venture further than the front step of the school because there was so much to see and take in right there in front of us. I couldn't possibly do it justice if I tried to describe everything we were witness to just in those first few hours. The sights, smells, sounds, the people, especiqlly the children, and all the goings on right there on that sandy street. And we ate our first West African meals, everyone sitting around and sharing from one giant plate, with so,eone picking apart the fish and chicken and giving us the best bits.

Caitlin, Billy and Jo were delayed by about 24 hrs having got stuck in Casavblanca; Luckily they arrived on the same plane the following ,orning and we headed to Goree Island, an old slave trading port and French fort and colonial admin post. Brendan enjoyed the ferry, Steve felt three pickpocket attempts on his wallet, we had our first downpour, everyone went swimming in the sea, Steve scraped his nipple on some barnacles, we had a lovely meal, stayed in a pleasant hotel, ,et an wonderful canadian couple who have invited us to visit their house (with pool) in Bamako, Mali....

After Goree we spent the night in Dakar City Centre. The boys had a dip in the ocean on a crowded beach, we ate more delicious senegalese food and got scammed twice. (both small, harmless scams that were very obvious and avoidable but hey ho, it was our first day in the big city)

Time is running out. I*ll post despite the mistakes; I hope it isn't hard to read;

We think we might head for timbuktu but aren't sure yet. One day at a time;

All well and very happy; Photos next time. Over and out;

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lariam dreams

Oh man, I have never felt anything like this.
We took our first Lariam pill at lunchtime on Friday. Everything was hunky dory until about midnight. I fell into a deep sleep much more quickly than usual and immediately started having very intense dreams. They became nightmares and I looked at the clock a few times only to see that time was passing v...e...r...y slowly and each time I went back to sleep the dreams got worse.

In one dream, I woke up to find horrific things going on in the house. There were black rats and birds with bleeding eyes coming into the house through cracks in the floorboards and above the windows. I have no problem with rats but in this dream I felt real fear. But even worse than seeing these horrible images were the feelings I was experiencing. I had no control over my mind or my body. I was angry and upset, I was flailing about and hitting the walls and floor and trying to scream but without making a sound. All the while, people, including Steve and Caitlin, were standing around me seemingly unaware of what was going on. In another dream I went to my doctor and said "get this drug out of me!" and she inserted a giant needle with a hose attached into my stomach and stuff started pumping through it and onto the floor, emptying my body of fluids from my toes up and I was rolling around the floor in agony.

Wake up... At about 3 am there was a noise coming from the hallway but I was too scared to get out of bed. I felt really extreme fear, something I rarely experience so it was all the more intense. I seriously expected to be attacked by a monster under the bed as soon as I put my foot on the floor so I just froze and waited while Steve went to check.

The dreams continued and for the next few hours I was in a weird state of wakeful sleepiness, sometimes asleep but dreaming I was awake... All things I have had before but not with the same level of anxiety. At one point I turned to Steve and said "I'm not taking that drug again!"

In the morning I felt awful. I was shaking, my legs and arms felt like jelly, probably all down to the adrenaline as it was not unlike after my first skydiving freefall and bungee jump. I felt totally out of it too, my mind was just mush, as Steve would say. When I saw Brendan and Tadhg sleeping peacefully I started crying and feeling terrible guilt for having given the same drug to them. I watched both of them for any sign that they were experiencing the same thing as me but they were fine.

I was back to normal by mid-morning but Steve continued to take the piss for the rest of day, explaining my fast walking pace at the market on the fact that I believed I was being chased by a buffalo, reminding me that the baby carrier was not a parachute and I should therefore not attempt to jump out of the window and warning me that there might a lion lurking around every corner... bla bla bla... oh it's just Alma and Bill, our cats. Very funny.

If anyone is wondering why we chose Lariam, it's for a few reasons. Of the drugs that are effective in West Africa, only two are suitable for children, Malarone and Lariam. Malarone is not okay for Tadhg as he's too small. Lariam only has to be taken once a week, whereas Malarone must be taken every day at the same time and I figured that we could do without that stress on a daily basis with Brendan. Also, there is evidence that it's extremely rare for young children to experience the psychological side effects of Lariam. (How this can be I have no idea) Steve and I have both taken Lariam before without any problems. And lastly, Malarone is about 5 times the price of Lariam, not insignificant when you are saving for a trip of a lifetime.

We have the option to get malarone for Brendan and for Steve and I to swap drugs, pending what the doctor says about breastfeeding and malarone on Monday. Or we can stick with it for now and see what happens next week. So the situation remains fluid.

Other news... Caitlin and Billy are now flying directly in to Dakar just a couple of hours before us. Caitlin's bouts of swine flu and shingles meant they had to abandon their plans to go overland but her blisters are now scabbing over and she'll be okay to fly by Thursday. Billy has survived his first Lariam drugging without any difficulty. Jo heads to Madrid on Tuesday? and then we all arrive in Dakar within a few hours of each other. So Paddy will probably just hang out at the airport for the night till he has gathered us all together. Can't wait!!

Only 3 more sleeps, 2 exams and a corn boil till we're off. Wish Steve luck in his exams. We're heading out this afternoon for a few hours without him to give him some peace to study.

Saying goodbye to more friends

Regularly being parted from friends is an inevitable part of being in the military, but Fredericton is also a university town and if your circle of friends also includes students and university teachers then the problem is doubled. We've now had to say goodbye to four different families that we have got along really well with. Not to worry, we'll keep in touch and it means we have people to visit across Canada!
So yesterday we went to a little farewell cocktail party. Our friends' realtor provided the food (great deal!) and the party was held at their parents' house in a beautiful spot on the Mactaquac head pond.

Steve and Brendan went for a paddle in a kayak, a swim in the river and another swim in their small indoor pool. Next time Tadhg will probably be able to go too.

Tadhg had his first taste of beer. I was on Brendan duty when this photo (below) was taken and didn't see it till later. Steve swears that the can was unopened but, well...

A hazard of this type of fun though is that Tadhg must have grabbed it once it was open too as I came back to find Tadhg at the end of a trail of blood. He managed to get four cuts on his hands that were tiny but nevertheless produced an inordinate amount of bleeding. He didn't notice of course. Below is a much more pleasant photo of Tadhg.

Brendan is still infatuated with cows so we stopped on the way home to talk to some.




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Monday, August 3, 2009

New Brunswick Day

Today was New Brunswick Day and we were invited by the Village of McAdam to join in the festivities as one of many VIPs. The day started off early with a 6:30 wake up in order for us to catch the train. Yup, NB Southern Railway hosted a train ride from Harvey Station to McAdam.

It took us about 55 minutes and Brendan had a blast. At least until he was removed from the observation deck because one of the VIPs was not happy with him out back even though Siobhan had a watchful eye.

Once in McAdam, they had a parade, a free BBQ for everyone, train rides and historic walks around the old station just to list a few of the activities.










Here's a picture of Tadhg having a happy moment waiting for our trip back to Harvey Station as well as Brendan & I walking down to check out the locomotives. Note Tadhg's first and only tooth so far.

All said and done, it was an outing well worth it. Best guess, the Village of McAdam had around 4000+ visitors and Brendan's excitement yet again was pure enjoyment to watch (and tiring!).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer Time Fun

Here are a few pictures of Brendan and me in the pool. Although it is a real pain in the butt maintaining a pool and costs a fair amount, we do enjoy it. I think we're in it pretty much every day now that the temperatures are back to season norms. Even Siobhan and Tadhg have been in a few times.











This is a picture of Brendan supposedly watering the lawn. Let's just say he loves spraying everything and anything, including his mummy & daddy.

The Garden Party

Last weekend we hosted a garden party to celebrate nothing in particular, just for a good time. With all the hard work as mentioned in the previous blog post, it was well worth it.

All said and done, we had 26 adults and 18 kids of all ages. The party started off with drinks and nibbles placed around the house. Once everyone more or less arrived, I invited all the kids to come for a swim in the pool. At one point, I think I had 14 kids in the pool. I'll just describe it as organized pandemonium. None the less, it was loads of fun for us all.

By the time the kids where dried off, it was time to eat. Siobhan wanted everything freshly homemade so here's a list...

Spicy chick pea salad,
Three bean salad with a french dressing,
Tossed green salad with blue cheese,
Another green salad without cheese,
Three dressings- balsamic, lemon goat cheese and french
Coleslaw,
Hummus, curry dip and salsa for dipping vegetables and pita bread,
Four big french loaves tied with parchment paper and string with different sandwich fillings:
Brie, ham and lettuce,
Roasted vegetables and hummus,
Brie and tomato,
Ham and cheddar,
(So people could cut whatever sized piece they wanted)
Summer berry mini-tarts,
Apple and blackberry pie and
Homemade mango and strawberry ice lollies.

The only annoying thing is that we totally forgot about taking a picture of the spread we had out. Oh well, such is life. We were obviously too busy having fun with our guests.

Here is a picture of the pool with all the kids and me having fun. (Note Brendan's naked bottom at the bottom :)

We should do this more often because we really enjoy having lots of people over. The last few left around 8.30 after a board game. And we found some more people who might join us on future canoeing trips.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cross Canada Century Flight

With the lead up to our Garden Party, a lot of our time was taken up with party preparations. As a result, Brendan was looking for some attention by Sunday morning and this was the perfect distraction. Brendan and I jumped into the van and went to check out the airplanes at the Cross Canada Century Flight static show.

Once there, it was obvious that Brendan was excited to see all the hustle and bustle on the ramp.

This is a picture of Brendan in the cockpit of John McGregor's Twin Comanche. He started his trip across Canada from Vernon, B.C. John en route for Baddeck, N.S. John used to serve with the Squadron and he had the 403 Wolf proudly painted on the tail of his plane. I had the chance to show him around the Squadron earlier that morning and enjoyed the opportunity.












Here's a picture of another plane I'd love to own one day, a Murphy Moose. Maybe Siobhan will buy me the fuselage kit for Christmas. (doesn't it need wings? ed)

To close, here is a clip of Brendan explaining what airplanes do.

video

Dyeing

Look at these beautiful playsilks!! If only they belonged to us. A friend came round yesterday and we spent the whole day dyeing fabric in the back garden.
All four children were very patient with us as Agi and I got totally engrossed in the dyeing process. And what a process- it is pretty complicated and time consuming but lots of fun. Below was taken as we were rinsing all the fabric out. We did play silks, silk scarves, a couple of bed sheets some clothing for us and the kids and a lunch bag.We learned a lot and are happy with how some things turned out- less so with others. The playsilks are beautiful and held the colour really well, perhaps as they were the first things to be done. Many of the other things didn't hold the colour so well. Possible reasons include not enough fixer and trying to do too much fabric per dye bath. So if Agi's up for it maybe we'll dye another day. Ooh, I always wanted to be spy.


And Brendan eating watermelon. He HAS TO HAVE the biggest piece.