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Travel: Beirut day dreams

A planet of song …

Mosque along the river in Mostar, Bosnia.

By Garrett Palm

I daydream a lot. Often these daydreams are of whole new worlds that I think I am creating. A while ago I had a reoccurring daydream where I took Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation to planets throughout the universe that I found fascinating. Yes, it is embarrassing to admit, especially since it was a daydream from my twenties so I can’t say I was really that young. All I can say in my defense is that I grew up on Star Trek. Continue reading

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Travel: Starry nights — and trinkets — in Dogon Country

“Buy from here, good price”   

~Alpha, our guide for Dogon

Dogon Country. ©BY GARRETT PALM.

The storage sheds of the Dogon. The heads of the households each have their own. They're raised up to keep mice out. ©BY GARRETTT PALM.

By Garrett Palm

Exhausted from working in the Saharan sand and sun at the Festival in the Desert, the majority of us volunteers boarded a penasse outside of Tombouctou to return to Mopti. We quickly fell asleep. The idyllic ride back was the same as on the way up: Sunset over the water, moonrise, villages on the river banks going to sleep and waking up, Bozo fishermen throwing nets into the water from their pirogues, and kids yelling “toobob” from the shores and waving. At Mopti, a large group of us split to trek in Mali’s Dogon Country.

The Dogon Country follows the Bandiagara Escarpment, a 150-kilomter sandstone cliff that reaches up to 500 meters in height. Trekking there is not tough; your bags are transported by donkey cart to the next village seven to eight kilometers away. You have to leave early in the morning because, even if it is winter, it is in the Sahel, the shores of the Sahara. In winter the nights and mornings are cold but the days are still hot. As usual, no matter how much SPF 50 lotion I applied, my Scotch-Norwegian skin on my Greek nose burned.

The Bandiagara Escarpment. ©BY GARRETT PALM.

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Travel: World music in the African desert

Garrett! Do you remember me? I am your first friend in Tombouctou!”

~Salek, Ishmael, and Beekeepa, separately

Intercultural jam session. © BY GARRETT PALM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Editor’s note: Correspondent Garrett Palm recently traveled in West Africa, volunteering at the Festival Au Desert. This is the third installment of his story.  Read part one: Travel: Green tea and music videos in Mali, and part two: Travel: Along the Niger River. More photos at Palm’s Flickr feed.

Festival in the desert, Africa

Tuareg gather at the Festival in the Desert. © BY GARRETT PALM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Story and photos by Garrett Palm

Arriving at the port of Korioumé outside of Tombouctou was a shock. The boatmen all told us different times for our arrival. We pulled in a few hours before any of their guesses. The plank of wood over the muddy bank bowed under our weight, after 30-some hours of being well-fed with capitaine, a local fish straight out of the river, served with beet and potato salads.

One other penasse pulled to shore at the scraggly port, consisting of a few mud huts. Three other Westerners waited for their driver (they were early, too). I approached them to ask where they were from — Southeast side of Portland, Oregon. I called over the other Portlander on our boat, owner of a world music record label. They were part of a group of eight from Portland, including a family with two young kids in kindergarten and first grade. So far, every American I met in Africa was from Portland.

Why does Portland have its people everywhere? Brooklyn, where I recently lived, is full of Oregonians. We all love our home and talk about how we miss it, so we weren’t driven away by boredom. Portland just produces people who are curious about the world.

The moment we got off the penasse the hard sell began. Craftsmen came straight to every white face, holding up  jewelry or hats,  asking what you think a good price would be. There was some of that in Bamako, and more in Mopti, but it was non-stop in Tombouctou. The vendors do not accept “no, merci” for an answer, no matter how many times you repeat it. Continue reading

Travel: Along the Niger River

“In my next life I want to come back as a Bozo fisherman.”

~ Corbin from Vancouver

A Bozo fisherman at sunset on Lake Debo.

Editor’s note: This is part 2 of Garrett Palm’s travel report from Africa. Part 1, Green Tea and Music Videos in Mali, is online here.

Garrett most recently reported from the Festival Fringe in Edinburg. Follow his Tumblr, Life is a slow Harold, and check out his Flickr feed for more photos. You can also follow his African adventures on Twitter.

Story and photos by Garrett Palm

At 5:30 a.m. we started walking from our guest house in Bamako to the Palais de Culture just as the city started to awaken. The air was clean and only a few taxis were on the street. Vendors were setting up their meat and produce stands, while others lit camp and cook fires on the sidewalks.

Our diverse group of volunteers — heading for the Festival in the Desert — was already starting to form what seemed like unbreakable cliques. There was one other North American, Corbin, from Vancouver. The rest were European, aside from one Russian and one Iranian. As soon as we got to the festival the lone Russian and Iranian immediately searched out others from their countries. Several members of the Malian security forces accompanied us. I never quite got what branch they were with, but they had some big guns.

The waterfront in Bamako, Mali.

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Travel: Green tea and music videos in Mali

Correspondent Garrett Palm reports from Bamako

The streets of Bamako, Mali. PHOTO BY GARRETT PALM.

*Editor’s note: Summit Voice correspondent Garrett Palm is spending a few months volunteering in Africa. Garrett most recently reported from the Festival Fringe in Edinburg. Follow his Tumblr, Life is a slow Harold, and check out his Flickr feed for more photos. You can also follow his African adventures on Twitter.

Here’s the latest installment from Dogon Country: Travel: Starry nights — and trinkets — in Dogon Country

Story and photos by Garrett Palm

“You Americans all say ‘Africa’ as if it’s some dark, forbidden continent. But I live here,too.”                          ~ Zara Julius, a South African, to me

BAMAKO, MALI — I stepped off the plane in Casablanca just before sunrise. My first view of Africa was the tarmac, a dark blue sky and a dark red earth. My first smell was of the Royal Air Maroc airplane emptying it’s toilets. I slept in the airport all day, moving until I found the quietest and most secluded spot where I camped for 14 hours.

I arrived in Bamako at 1 a.m. On the flight, I sat next to a Lebanese man living in Bamako and hating it. He had spent two months home in Beirut and was sick at the idea of returning to Bamako to run his night club. He hated the city and the people. He told me we should hang out at his nightclub. I got his number. I have not called him.

Two other volunteers arrived an hour after me. I waited for them out in front of the airport with the taxi drivers, kids selling SIM cards, guides for hire, and an Australian named Ziggy. Ziggy had never been to Africa either, and was excited and nervous to see it. His guide was scheduled to pick him up at 6 a.m. to take him to the Festival in the Desert, Djenne, Dogon Country, and more. He felt like he was about to go on the ultimate adventure, “through the dark continent.” After the other two volunteers, Sioned (British) and Aureli (French), arrived, and after making arrangements to retrieve their missing luggage, we arrived in the city around 3 a.m.  Continue reading

Travel: Taking a moment in the Midi-Pyrénées

A week in rural France with an old friend in a new home

My hosts for a week, Lina and Stephane, walk through the center of La Terrisse at night. The rural town is in the Midi-Pyrénées region near the border with Spain.

Story and photos by Garrett Palm

We rushed to get to the waterfall before the sun completely set. We had intended to get there much earlier, but our day in the rural Midi-Pyrénées region of France had been more enjoyable than efficient. The last few minutes of dusk and the dense forest around the little village of La Terrisse already made it hard to see. I stumbled on wet stones as the trail and the creek occasionally converged.

The trail passed through a small hut partly hanging over the creek, where I stopped for a second to admire the carvings in the untreated wood and benches above the water. It looked like a nice place to spend some time, but the dog and two kittens that joined us on our hike played in the creek upstream as they waited for us to catch up. The little patches of sky visible through the trees grew darker.

The pets lived with my host’s friends, Gwladys and Fred, a name combination I sometimes feel I made up, and their two young daughters, Tchenrezie and Isis, 4 and 2 years old, respectively. This whole family lives in a mud structure they built themselves in a clearing on a nearby hillside.

The mud home of Gwladys and Fred and their family on the edge of the forest.

Continue reading

Roads: Crossing the Himalaya

Khardung La is one of the highest passes in the world

A SECMOL volunteer sits atop one of our buses as we wait for the pass to open.

By Garrett Palm

Oxygen deprived, I mistake the older, leather-clad German couple’s “Sprechen sie Deutsch?” as asking if I speak Dutch. I sing a happy birthday song in the wrong language, learned from my mother, which they greet with polite, confused laughter. Continue reading

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