Damn Good Biking

Damn Good Biking
Mammath Mountain

Saturday, December 22, 2007

No place like all my homes

Prior to leaving Niger I had a town meeting with my village

The setting was at night, the stars were out, many were coming and going to the night market to socialize and buy food, it was the conclusion to a typical day in my village.

The next day I would be leaving for the States and needed to address my village and share with them my thoughts and provide the proper gratitude

Behind my house between the mosque a single lantern on the ground marked the spot of the meeting. Many came, some familiar, some not. Women, men, children, ages of all ranges came to hear me speak.

I expected to be nervous, I had never addressed a village before, especially in a different language other than my own. But that wasn't the case, I felt completely at ease, like this was what my life is supposed to be like.

In the dim light I spoke for the first time in Hausa to a mass gathering of my village.

Not to villagers who needed me but to my new family whom I needed more.

I spoke of my work, and gave a thousand thank you's for the devotion and grace of my villagers effort to welcome me to the village and include me as one of their own.

"When I return and people ask me where I am from, I will say my home is Dan Saga, and that new family is a village in Africa. "

If it sounds overly sentimental, well it should.

Back in this place I am visiting, yet where I have lived for a large portion of my life, things easily become hazy and its easy to lose your way, but in Niger its simple. If you have family, community, and a place to call your own in life what could anyone else really need.

Prior to leaving for Africa all ever wanted for as long as I can remember was to follow my dreams and live in Africa. Now there is so much more I want.

In so many ways leaving everything behind in the States brought me closer to home. I left Dan Saga certain that my future was in agriculture and my future home would be on my family farm in northern Missouri. But even to get to that point is going to be another adventure, but none the less exciting.

But I am not coming back just to seclude myself away on a farm like many tend to do

I am planning on finishing my work in Dan Saga for atleast the end of the next growing season and then after that if I feel satisfactory with my work then its going to be time to move on.

So what am I going to do?

Glad you asked.

To take over my farm means that I have a lot to learn about many things, especially in learning new models of Agriculture but the goal is to use my imagination and create a farm entirely unique.

My goal is to turn a traditional American family farm into a local, regional, national and international resource,training, and recreational center for farmers, artist, peace makers, or anyone who feels compelled to enjoy the pleasures of living off the land and connecting with others.

Currently I am looking into the possibility working with my good friend Matt McCue (the guy pulled out of the PC to return to Iraq) in California to hone my skills and expand on my ideas. My goal is to create a national network of farms where vet's from the Iraq war can come, take some time to heal, learn a valuable skill, and hopefully teach others about the pleasures of how to nurture life instead of take it.

Why am I doing this?

Because its needed.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and its only going to get more interesting from there.

Its nearly christmas and there are many things I am thankful for in life.

I have wonderful friends, family, and many others always rooting for me to go further in life, your support is always greatly appreciated and it inspires me to keep going further.

The support I recieve reminds me if that if what I am supposed to do with my life is genuine than those who understand will listen and become part of it in each individuals own way.
Its the wonder of how closely we are all connected to each other

Guess this is my way to thank you all over the last year for every bit of support that has overwhelmingly came my way.

okay my Nigerien sense of time still persist and as always I am running late for my own party two hours away.

To sai anjima, tahi da lafiya

"Okay until later go in peace"

Saturday, December 15, 2007


It is 2048 Sunday December 16th

I am laying prone on soft pillows listening to incredible blues music streamed live from the Internet and soaking up the atmosphere by the flickering light of a lit fireplace and I ponder the question.....

is this home?

I know the faces, my dog is resting loyally beside me, and the BBQ ribs just eaten were delicious but something is missing.

Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled to be home but this life is going to take some getting used to.

for example:

the food is plentiful and tasty and readily available but the connection and intimacy i feel in Africa to my environment is gone. I am reminded once again how we are living apart of nature instead of a part of it.

None of the food consumed today was by my own hands, nor from anyone I knew. In fact with only a few meals eaten today more was spent than what i spend for nearly an entire month on myself in my village.

Another example:

When i flew into New York our flights were all canceled and as the lines to the help desk congested tempers flew "this is absurd!" "how can this happen?" "what are you going to give us because we can't fly out?"

Sai Hankuri "have patience" It is not human incompetence that created this situation its the whims of nature and there is nothing that can be done so why not stop bickering, meet some amazing people from all over the world, hell drink a beer and relax.

When was the last time you really relaxed?

Once during hot season in Niger I waited for over 12 hours in the bush in a unfamiliar town, no money, no language, didn't even know if the car was coming. But i made the best of it.
I wrote, met people, played mandolin, and just passed the time as seen fit.

I'm not trying to prove anything, waiting is just a part of life and when you have to, do something. But just don't complain wastefully and ruin someone else's day and your own.

Somethings are just beyond your control, so sit back, ride it out and find a way to make something positive out of it.

The next morning after flying into NYC/USA my damn Nigerien mindset said "take your time" get to the gate and you'll leave when their ready to.

The end result being,the ticket counter thought I was nuts for thinking like this and my return home was delayed for an afternoon.

But because I took my time I opted to take a connecting flight to salt lake city and fly over the US o' A and reaquainted myself with the majesty of the American landscape and visit a place never before visited.

the worst that happened was that i met some nice people, readjusted a little more to America, drank some incredibly tasty microbrews, and then had many a discussion with strangers and even met the "we should just kill em all over there and take the oil" mentality.

Who is the terrorist here?

this guy was even Native American go figure.

A couple years ago I went to Mexico and stayed in some friends apartment during christmas break for a month.
After returning people asked or actually stated "makes you appreciate what we have eh?"

My answer was, nah it just made me understand and respect the people more who leave an incredible culture and their families to work for practially nothing and little thanks.

They might not have much, but they have a lot more joy from what little they do have.



My first full day back seems more of a novelty than a realization that this was my former life.

I have been home for only a short time and I can already conclude that there needs to be a Peace Corps program for America.

But we need the volunteers to come here.

but all and all it is wonderful to be back and spend time with my family.

Merry Christmas everybody it is good to be back.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


If you have not heard the news yet, here it is.

Recenlty within the last two days land mines have exploded in my city, (Maradi) and another volunteers city. (Tahoua) There were two nigerien deaths and a few injuries.

Also about two weeks ago another ordinance exploded in the city of Dosso in close proximity to one of the States’ largest fuel collection points.

No Peace Corps volunteers have been harmed or is in danger.
I would like to forever repeat that.

Currently we are all on stand down, which means that all volunteers are on lockdown to their current position, either village or regional city. If the violence escalates then the next process will be to collect all volunteers to their regional capital until further notice from the Peace Corps administration.

But if the worst occurs then all PCV’s will be collected, sent to Niamey, and then we will close up shop and wait outside of Niger until the higher ups decide whether to continue our efforts in Niger or not.

But if things continue to escalate and this occurs then PCV’s have the choice to either wait things out, or commit to another Peace Corps program and contiue their service for the duration of their contract.

Currently we have three volunteers from Guinea how were relocated after violence and unrest earlier this year.

Might be interesting to serve in two different places. But Shush, none of that talk.

Dan Saga is home.

As can be expected many of us are praying that this doesn’t occur, Peace Corps Niger is one of the longest running programs in the operation and it would be a pity if once again the unrest of man and his worst of his virtues to wage war against fellow man has once again prevented others from living in peace.

It definitely isn’t the first time that my time here or my life has been affected by this foul virtue of man.

Its shaped my life, guess its why i do what i do.

Someone has to wayfarepeacefully.

Unsure of what I would do if the worst occurs, I feel confident stepping onto that plane returning to the Estados Unidos (USA) on Thursday the 13th, that I will be able to return after my vacation and that this journey was not spent in vain.

Okay I will write more about this tomorrow but for the time being I just wanted to give a brief summary of the current news.

Peace be onto you all, my devotion to promoting it could not be more emboldend

p.s. Merry Christmas.