Saturday, October 07, 2006

Les Vacances

I just was on vacation back in the states for my good friend Andy's wedding. It was a great time. Sorry to those who I didn't have time to was a bit rushed..but I had a excellent time hanging out on the West Coast with the wedding party. Here are some pics.

Had to snap a pic of the Space Needle

I sat for 5min trying to get this shot of a salmon jumping upriver. It's not in focus but its still a cool pic.

My guy Andy and his best man at the reception with the mountains in the background

The Newlyweds!

Still had to get in a game of golf with dad.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

dedié à A.J.
In the time honored tradtion of putting out content regardless of what I must press on to provide my small readership a pittance of entertainment. Nothing really has been going on with me. I guess I'm at the point where nothing really seems blog worthy. I'm currently studying for the GMATs, still teaching my computer class, and getting ready to go on vacation to the states for 3 weeks. I will say however that I spent the last week in the Dakar infirmery with a small problem. It's all good now but I got to spent the last week eating well, showering with hot water and sleeping in AC. Anyway here are some pictures that may be slightly entertaining or particularly boring depending on what you are doing.

First up the Peace Corps Headquarters in Dakar. This shot is from inside the courtyard. It used to be Catholic Mission I'm assuming from the cross on the building.

Here is the entrance to the infimery (yawwwn) note the A/C unit

Bunk beds (yaawwwwwn)

Yet another excessive self portrait thanks to digital photography

A cool shot of the "Grande Mosquée" from the Peace Corps courtyard right before a rain

Thursday, July 06, 2006

"Before you think that I don't work..."

Here are some pics from the computer course that I teach at the high school. I'm currently grooming the people there to run and teach it on their own. Hopefully that will happen before I leave.

Basic or not so basic comptuer terms

The Beginnings of EXCEL

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mesdames et Messieurs, Ladies and Gentlemen

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Pics from Jazz Fest

Last week was the Saint-Louis International Jazz Festival 2006. Unfortunately over the last 5 years or so the festival has been in a steady decline, due to poor organization and people embezzling money. This is one of the reasons I guess that I was able to participate in the festival as an amateur musician. It was a great experience to play alongside professional musicians. It gave me an idea of what it would take to be a professional musician...something that I have been giving increasing thought to, although only in a lucid state. It was also a good opportunity to use the new tenor saxophone that I bought in Dakar a little over a month ago. The best part of the festival, I would have to say, were the late night jam sessions. Each night at this jazz club, Marco Jazz, a lot of the musicians that performed in the festival went to jam. It was a great opportunity to play with players that were much better than other words it was a good opportunity to learn from them. Anyway, here are pictures from the jazz fest(more to come soon).

Warning: Due to the magic of photography musicians may appear better than they actually sound.

Afternoon Soundcheck

African Touch on the big stage

Soprano Solo

Marco Jazz Club jam session. The saxophonist on the right was so good he made me want to either 1) pack up my sax and never play again or 2) work twice as hard as I ever have

Perpective shot of the crowd at this tiny club

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Saint-Louis Jazz Festival.

So I've been really busy. Between the computer classes that I teach, helping out at the Cisco Academy, helping out with various small business projects, and rehearsing I haven't had much free time. This month Mondays have been the only days of the week that I haven't had rehearsal. The festival is fast approaching and I'm pretty pumped about it. It starts May 31st and I'll be playing on the first and last day. The group that I'm a part of (african touch) is playing on the last day while the first day I'm playing with a grouped dubbed the St. Louis Jazz Orchestra (put together just for the festival). Although I enjoy playing with African Touch more than the other group, it's the other group that is getting more hype. Here is an article about that group in a Senegalese newspaper. Either way things are going great all around. Being busy in my social life is making my work life more productive in return...unlike Burkina when I was just sitting around all day waiting to do some work.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Anatomy of a Rehearsal.

This is a close up of the group I play with African Touch. Here are a couple of pictures from a rehearsal that we had yesterday. For the time being we have a guest among us. The girl in the picture is from Austria and she is traveling around Africa for 5 months. She'll be in Saint-Louis for an undetermined amount of time, but one thing is certain she is going to perform with us at least once. Yesterday we were practicing my very first song. I wrote it this week using some of the harmonies of another song we play (in the jazz tradition). What this means is that you take existing chords of another song and write a new melody over them creating a new song. There are tons of songs out the with the same chord progression, but what makes them unique is the melody. I also wrote some words to go with it. It was a weird experience hearing the song come to life, but one that I enojoyed nonetheless. I'm looking forward to writing more, however probably without words. It was kinda in this one case that words were necessary. Oh yeah, I didn't mention it was a love song. As embarrassing and hard as it is to is the text.

I want you to be the one for me
I need you to be that one
but I know that it’s impractical
So I warn myself that I must stop
Now one thing I don’t understand
Is how, I still love you.

They say that love is unpredictable
And when love comes it’s undeniable
And you can’t stop what must be true
For us, although you think you know yourself
But one thing you can’t understand
Is why, you won’t love me too.

So what does this mean for the two of us
Does it mean that we should stop because
Not you, not me sense that love will work
For us, so we just keep holding back
Except the one thing we don’t comprehend
Is that love, is simply love.

So yeah once again below are pictures from the rehearsal....

The Bassit Vito is always all smiles.

Here is Jamal, Vito, and Verena working out a part together.

Our incomprable Bayiuma is on the other side of the room beating polyrhythmic delights

Here is Verena trying to work out a difficult line

And out leader Monsieur Jamal Thibault. He's the one who created the group and taugh jazz basics to these Senegalese guys. Because of all of his hard work I was able to just join seamlessly like it was a regular jazz group. Despite the fact that the Senegalese guys were talented musicians the rules of jazz are quite challenging...There's a form that you must respect and you must know where you are down to the beat in the song form at every moment. And that is difficult to learn especially if you are used to just playing something simple repetitively or a call/response format as is the case in African drumming.

Not bad for a weekend...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What took me so long?

Sorry that it has been awhile. I've been waiting for this momentous day for quite some time. I now have DSL at my house. Now I no longer have to deal with internet cafes with their old computers that don't have all of the necessary programs to support a good "web experience." Anyways I can now watch streaming video at my house with no problems. I'll also be looking to keep up with American TV by downloading episodes weekly. Anway here are some random pictures to look at. As for's still coming. I will admit my last post was quite ambitious, but such is the nature of this kind of work. I'm still striving to reach all of my goals, now the hard part is mapping it all out.

Here is the famous bridge in Saint-Louis that connects the mainland to the island. It's a couple hundred years old (as St. Louis was the first place in Africa colonized by the French in the 17th century), and it's orgins are still being debated by historians.

The bridge upclose

Here is a picture of a Giraffe at a National Park that I went to while I was at IST (In Service Training). It was a pretty cool park because for once we got to see (giraffes, rhinos, water buffalo, and gazelle) which no longer reside in nature in West Africa...I have yet to see a lion though.

Here is a picture of my second concert at the French Cultural Center in town. Things are going well musically. I'm getting alot of opportunities to play here in town (in Burkina all I did was practice which got frustrating so more or less I stopped playing regularly). So I met a French pianist (the guy on the right) and we play/practice together weekly now. He composes most of the songs that we play. Currently we are looking for gigs wherever we can find them. We've got one coming up next weekend so that should be fun. The other three guys are senegelese. You may be shocked to see a contrabass (surtout en afrique), but that was the doing of the french guy. He's got a awesome house with a "studio" that has a grand piano, a contrabass, and various percussion equipment not to mention AC. He tought an electric bass player how to play the contrabass. Additionally he tought the two percussionist the jazz form. They are excellent drummers but they had to learn the layout and structure of the jazz form. Such as the concept of an 8 measure intro. Anyway, if you would like us to come play at an event for you, the name of the group is "African Touch" (must be said with the proper French accent, btw the group was named way before I showed up on the scene), we will be more than happy to come provided that you pay airfare and accommodations, lol. Believe it or not the bass player (who has "toured" in europe before with his senegalese afro cuban band, if you've been to West Africa believe me you know the type) is sending a recording of this concert to his friend in Belgium to see if we could play in a jazz festival. I must tell you that at best we are an amateur group that couldn't stand up against a band of professional muscians. That said however the music that we play is so niche that not many people play what we play. Also remember the mindset (partially drive by guilt of the vestiges of colonialism) of a person in Europe, "Let's get an African band from Africa to come play at our festival." Look, I doubt that it would actually happen, but wouldn't it be cool to get a free plane ticket to go to a jazz festival? The odds are not favorable but on ne sait jamais....

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ma Parole

So it seems this time around I’m putting up much more photos and much less commentary. I’d have to say it’s the product of a fast internet connection and a busy schedule. Unlike my first 2 years of Peace Corps… I feel like my time here is a bit rushed. I just got here and I only have 11 months left. There is so much that I want to do, and it seems I don’t have enough time to get it all done. My goals range from personal to professional. To give you a brief idea of where I am right now and where I want to be in one year’s time (in no particular order) :

• Study for and take GMAT
• Help get the Cisco Networking Academy more students and organize its finances (coordinate with US and European offices to develop program goals in Africa) could possibly include travel to other African countries…we’ll see if Peace Corps will allow it ;)
• Work with the United Nations Development Program in Saint-Louis on Small Business efforts
• Possibly organize a summer program with Kellogg Business School (although the outlook is looking bleak)
• Complete CCNA 1 and 2 Cisco Certification
• Learn Wolof
• Perfect my French
• Get back into “near” marathon shape…so I can at least train for my second one upon “re-entry”
• Gig with my saxophone on weekends (ask for MP3 clip of my first concert and see pics below)
• Applications for Business School in the fall

So as you can see I’m going to be quite busy. No more sitting at home reading book after book. Even if some of the things don’t pan out I’ll still have a full plate. I just got back from a Cisco Systems conference in Dakar that had directors from the US and Europe as well as the directors of the academies from francophone Africa (made me feel like a real grown up). I had a little bit to contribute to the conference because the directors from the US and Europe either 1) don’t speak French or 2) have a clue about how IT works in the African culture context. I’m currently trying to I get an information packet together on how to request a Peace Corps volunteer for the academies. Also I met with the representative for the UN for Small Business in St. Louis and he can’t wait to start taking me around to show me all of the different activities here. As you can see there is definitely more name dropping which will do nicely for the B-School applications. Also, I bet you also noticed a difference in what I’m doing in Senegal compared to Burkina…I’m working locally and internationally at the same time. It just goes with my theme for this third year. BIGGER AND BETTER. Whether it’s my living conditions, work, or social life…that is the running mantra… to be continued all things mentioned above are to be put on hold for, you guessed it, I.S.T. (In Service Training) which will be three weeks looooooooooooooooooooonnng. So till then I got to be patient and get back to my grand plan in March which at that time I’ll just have 10 months! Allons-y!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I don't have alot of time, but I wanted to throw up pics of my apartment and view in St. Louis. I'll of course update them as these are the pics of the day I moved in with my apartment yet to be set up.

The Living Room

Living Room Angle 2

The Kitchen

Kitchen Angle 2

The Bathroom

Bathroom angle 2

The Balcony

The View from the Balcony (Senegal River with Atlantic Ocean and the city's island in the distance)

So as you can see living conditions have improved and la vie n'est pas mal en ce moment. Now I need to get it together, learn some Wolof, and start changing the world for the second time round ;)
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