Chapter 8: Crisp Boxers & Stiff Drinks

By 4:00 each day in West Palm Beach we were home from work, plopped on the couch snacking, watching the latest Ellen show we had on the DVR and trying to decide where to get take out.

At 4:10 PM today we were on a patio next to our school with 3 colleagues, drenched in sweat, learning new steps to an African dance from a Malian dancer with tiny dreads who only speaks French and who we sort of understood, with three drummers pounding on interesting looking, handcrafted drums, and with the Niger River and the green hills as our backdrop.

Dancing With the Non-Stars (that’s me at far left totally in synch, and Jamey at far right just standing)

During our frequent breaks (and thank god they were frequent) one of the resident tortoises the size of a manhole cover ambled by. And the clouds were like a Jesus painting. Seriously, are we really here?

We were looking for a change of pace in life and I think we’ve found it, like when a child finds a surprise by sticking a fork in an electrical outlet (which, by the way, in Mali are round with 2 little prong holes). The world as we knew it is long gone, and we are loving the contrast.

Stopping at a roadside stand yesterday, we paid $6 for five bags full of fresh vegetables that in the U.S. would have cost $100 at Whole Foods. But at our next stop, a sort-of


Western style grocery store, we paid $40 for a sad little Made-in-China ironing board that’s dorm room size. Later four of us ate lunch for $5 each at a local restaurant specializing in heaping plates of traditional West African food, then at the drugstore around the corner I paid $75 for 8 Meflaquine pills. So I guess the moral of this story is if you want to stretch your cash when you come to Bamako, eat lots of local food, wear wrinkly clothes, and embrace malaria.

It’s been a week of especially crazy contrasts. The students returned to school. Well, 84 of the original 200 kids from last year actually returned. The U.S. still hasn’t allowed the dependents of its Embassy staff to return since the March coup (even though things in

Faculty of the American International School of Bamako

Bamako are A-OK) so we are short a whole gaggle of American brats. Apparently the Dutch and Danish, who never even evacuated in the first place, aren’t big scaredy cats like some countries I know. There is a senior class of one this year, a cool Malian-Dutch kid who is the sole student in Jamey’s AP Physics class (so much for sitting in the back of class texting while the teacher lectures!). He’s a shoe-in for valedictorian from what I hear, and definitely will be in top 5% of his class. On the elementary side of the school every other classroom is empty since three of us are teaching combined classes, K/1st, 2nd/3rd, and 4th/5th, freeing up classrooms in between us. It makes for a spacious environment, plus I have pilfered everything from the now REALLY empty classroom next door so it’s like having my own private Target.

I have seven Grade 5 students and six Grade 4 students so far. From the minute the first student walked in during student orientation and told me my classroom smelled like gin I knew I was in the right place.

My expansive classroom/Olympic gymnastics venue

Among these 13 they speak Danish, French, Portuguese, Bambara, Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish, and English–only 2 speak English as a first language and half of them are tri-lingual! I have the child of the Danish ambassador, the child of the current Mali Prime Minister, and two children whose parents teach at the school too. No pressure (he says as he takes a swig from the bottle of Bombay Sapphire hidden in the crayon box).

The classroom discussions have been a tad interesting too. Example from the first day:

Me: Do any of you have teachers in the family?

Gin Student: My grandmother teaches college in Vancouver.

Me: Your grandparents live in Vancouver? I love that city.

GS: Well my grandmother lives there. My grandfather is gay and has a boyfriend and they live in another city.

Me: Did I hear the bell for recess? (swig, swig)

And what I found bizarre is during that exchange not one student even winced. Hell, even I don’t even know anyone with a gay grandfather!

One of the students’ Andy Warhol-style self portrait.

On Friday I played the song “Perfect” by the band Simple Plan, a heart wrenching, based-in-fact song in which the two brothers in the band sing about how they didn’t meet their father’s expectations (even though they are successful, wealthy musicians). I asked the students to analyze the lyrics for the main idea. PM’s son answered, “It’s just so cliché, Mr. Fessler.” They are keeping me on my toes for sure.

We bought a vehicle from a departed teacher (one who left the school, not one who died).

Bamako street scene

It’s a Honda SUV-something-or-other, totally not my style plus it cost a gazillion dollars to fill with essence (that’s French for gas, pronounced ess-AHHHNCE) But an SUV is totally necessary to drive on the things that pass as roads here. The red clay back road we take to school is less than a half mile long, but it’s an adventurous half mile with foot-deep water covering all of the road in places, mini jagged boulders, mud pits, parts that look like a smaller scale version of the Grand Canyon, and random bushes growing in what would seem to be the center of the road. Riding to and from school is sort of like getting a magic fingers massage from one of those vibrating mattresses, so it’s not all bad. I’m not an auto expert, but I’m thinking these conditions play havoc with all that stuff underneath the car (the other day we were riding with colleagues in their SUV and  a shock literally fell off the bottom of the car into the tire).

Jamey did drive on an actual main road last Friday for the first time, which is far better than our crazy back road but still crazy in many other ways. Our director had invited the faculty over for happy hour, gin and tonics by the pool, and I couldn’t resist (plus Jamey was my DD). So off we went on Sotuba Road, two lanes that somehow handle 4 or 5 lanes of traffic, full of motos (motorcycles), cars, little buses, donkey carts, people hauling big carts of eggs or bananas or auto parts, and people walking everywhere. Thankfully everyone travels at a slower pace than most places we’ve visited, but having motos zoom up on either side of you at the same time when you have your turn signal on and they still stay next to you, well, it just makes for a surreal driving experience. The gin was good by the way, Bombay Sapphire, and she also had US-style junk food, like chips that tasted Ruffles-ish. Definitely worth the dangerous first drive.

Our home is looking better everyday. On Saturday we had a driver take us across town (which in and of itself is a complete thrill ride) to buy some curtains from a World Bank Brit

“Hakuna Matata” says our living room!

guy who was transferred to Senegal. African print material, well made, and featuring our current favorite POC (Pop of Color)…orange…which of course was inspired by the plastic dog I wrote about in a previous post. They instantly brought life into every room of our place and pumped up the Africa-ness. I also used one curtain panel to make pillow covers that I whipped up by hand (thank you Grandma and mom for teaching me how to sew when I was 9). Last step is having one of the maintenance men come to hang our many, many pictures—apparently the solid concrete walls almost require a jackhammer to get a nail in them. Even our gardener has done his magic, which is a miracle since we gave him directions in French (or what we think was French). We now have potted plants everywhere–along the porch, on the roof deck, in the house, at our front gate…come to think of it I may have mixed up the number 5 with the number 55 when I was ordering these. He also took the vegetable seeds we brought with us and planted a raised bed garden next to our house, so I’m looking forward to haricort verts, salade, and other French names that sound so fancy even though they are just plain vegetables.

It is truly bizarre having a gardener, a maid, a driver, and full time guards just for our house. I’m not used to having people open the gates for us, carry our backpacks or groceries in, keep the yard looking perfect, scrubbing the floors and shower and kitchen every day, washing and ironing our clothes daily, and fanning us with long palm fronds (okay I’m making that last one up).

View from our roof deck

Plus they do all of this hard work for so little money…a little more than $100/month for a full time, 5-day-a-week maid (we spent more than that on groceries for the week). The guards get less. Even less than that for the gardener. In the states I was resigned to the fact that as a teacher we were at the bottom of the earnings totem pole, but here we’re freakin’ Richie Rich! It’s a little uncomfortable and hard for us to wrap our heads around. But man do I love coming home to a stack of ironed boxer shorts and socks.

Chapter 6: Waking up in Bamako

The front of “Maison du Coq,” our abode.

On our first morning in Bamako our driver was coming to pick us up at 9 sharp, so we awoke a couple of hours early to get a good look at everything in the light. I mean who knows, there could be a leper colony next door, or cat-sized spiders crawling on the ceiling. Thankfully the bright sunlight revealed no lepers or spiders, just our rooster and cats.

View of our garden and our hoarse rooster, who is still skeptical of our motives.

From the roof deck, that watery orange road alongside our house just glowed like a painting by Thomas Kinkade, painter of light. A boy walked along the road, and his white robe was blowing so perfectly in the breeze that I thought this wasn’t real. Behind him were several girls in green and yellow and orange robes who balanced various things on their head. It all made for a scene out of a foreign film, and boy do I hope I continue to appreciate simple things like this as time goes on.

Today was a whirlwind. After our driver took us on the 5 minute drive to school, Caroline, our school director, met us at the gates and introduced us to all of the guards and drivers–who already knew our names. Greetings are extremely important here. So it goes something like this:

Person 1: Bonjour!

Person 2: Bonjour!

Person 1: Ça va?

Person 2: Ça va?

Person 1: Ça va bien?

Person 2: Ça va bien.

Person 1: (insert more things in French or Bambara like, “May you be blessed” and :Hope you have good health” etc. and go on for up to 5 minutes)

Some school architecture.

Caroline took us through the school where we met the staff (who also already knew our names). Apparently we are rock stars because, unlike the other 5 new hires, we are the only ones who didn’t back out of our contract and showed up. In other words, we were the crazy/committed ones.

The school looks great…a real surprise at the end of a very nondescript, bumpy orange clay road. It’s two stories in some parts and has great details like curved towers, intricate stonework, voluminous indoor spaces, courtyards with gardens, a perfect combination of indoor/outdoor connections, and a location right on the Niger River (pronounced knee-zheer).

Looking at the Niger River from the school terrace, except I do not have a martini at the moment.

There is a large second floor terrace off of the library with sweeping views of the river, and we understand that they hold cocktail parties here for parents. Liquor and education, the perfect pair.

Jamey’s classroom is the size of two science labs. It has everything he needs and more—plenty of those lab table thingys, a private safety shower in case students spill chemicals all over themselves, LCD projector, white boards, storage, cool equipment like a distiller, a fume hood, you name it. It opens into a sassy little courtyard full of plants.

My 4th/5th combo classroom is just down the hall and is also the largest classroom I’ve ever taught in…again one could do a long tumbling pass right down the center. There are windows on 3 sides–one wall is lined with windows looking out onto a terrace, another has a view of the Niger River, and another set look into a planted courtyard. There is an LCD projector, tables (vs. individual desks) for the kids, and tons of furniture to choose from since the school has downsized teachers and students by half since the coup last March…100 kids vs. 200 in pre-K to 12. I have the biggest group of everyone, nine 4th graders and 9 5th graders. It’s so darned big that I’m racking my brain on the interior design and space planning. I could park a car in there and it wouldn’t interfere with anything. Since the school closed unexpectedly in April with the coup, everything was left exactly like it was on April 2nd–stuff still in the student desks, math problems on the board, and a big bar of Godiva chocolate in the teacher’s bottom desk drawer (is it sad that even having been in there for 4 months without AC and with plenty of African critters roaming around, that chocolate bar still looked good to me?). There was also a skinny turd-like thing on the floor, so I don’t know if that’s some exotic lizard excrement or what.

It’s really just like an American school was lifted up from the US and dropped down in Bamako. Everything we are used to having, they have–well, except for standardized testing mania, stressed-out teachers, and a government that continues making policies that harm teachers and students.

Later Caroline took us on a drive to a couple of supermarches (grocery stores) which were surprisingly like stores in the states and fairly well stocked. They do have odd combinations of items sometimes, like flat screen TVs for sale immediately adjacent to the Pringles (of which they had 12 varieties). Of course most of the products include only French names and descriptions so it’s an adventure deciding if we are buying shampoo, juice, or all-purpose floor cleaner (“lemony fresh” can apply to a lot of products, we have discovered). Paying is fun too since 500 CFAs (their unit of currency, pronounced see-fuhs) equals 1 dollar. So our total for our shopping trip (43,000 cfa) sounded like we had bought a nice car.

After shopping Caroline took us to her house in a fancier part of town (just up the block from the former president’s daughter’s home–the one who was chased out in the coup) and it was twice as spacious as ours. She has beautiful art collected from her travels and work around the world (she has worked at international schools in Rome, Zambia, Vietnam, and Bangledesh, and has travelled really everywhere else—including a 7 month overland journey through Africa in the late 80s). She’s having a BBQ Sunday night here for our little faculty of 20, so we look forward to meeting our colleagues.

Our sunset canoe cruise on the Niger River.

In the following days we had some memorable experiences. Caroline took us and a couple of other teachers on a boat ride on the Niger River, in a traditional Malian canoe (this one with a motor, I might add, which most do not have). It was so quiet out on the water, like a different world. Found out that the man-eating hippos are nowhere near Bamako. Also found out that we do not want to touch this river water. At all.

Jamey and I also went alone to a clinic to get our second round of vaccinations. You just show up–no appointments necessary. Dr. Toureg was super nice, spoke English, and had a giganto fish tank in his office. The shots didn’t hurt a bit, but as before the price sure did. At least this time our new school insurance covers the cost.

And finally Caroline took us to the US Ambassador’s house for drinks and later dinner at a restaurant down the way. We were joined by a coupe of US Embassy nurses and another teacher who works at our school’s satellite location, a gold mine waaaay out in the middle of nowhere. She’s from Alaska so she’s used to being far away from civilization. The Ambassador was fascinating and oh so interesting. She’s casual and funny and she plays the flute too. Who could ask for more.

Our canoe had me, Jamey, the media specialist Jenny from South Africa, Caroline our director from Australia, Anka the secondary math teacher from Holland, and Sushma an administrative asst. & psychology teacher from India. Love em all!

Chapter 3: Escape from Planet of the Tests!

Since my previous posts have explained our reasons for going to Mali, West Africa to teach, it’s time to introduce our new school: American International School of Bamako.

AISB front entry of the new campus overlooking the Niger River

Here is the official description from our school handbook: The American International School of Bamako (AISB) is an independent, coeducational, private day school which offers a full U.S. educational program from pre-kindergarten (age 3) through grade 12. The School was established in 1977 to serve the needs of American and international community students seeking an English-Language education. The school year is divided into two semesters.

My students will be from North America, Europe, and Africa, primarily the children of either embassy workers or NGOs like Save the Children. They will all speak English, though there will be some who require ELL services.

A brand spanking new campus opened in April 2011. The new campus includes spacious classrooms for all primary grades, a secondary campus with student lounge areas, athletic facilities, science labs, two computer labs and a wirelessly connected campus, library and performing and visual

Malian Prime Minister at AISB’s opening

arts facilities, all on five hectares all overlooking the Niger River. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was quite the big deal, attended by Malian Prime Minister Madame Cisse, as well as the Malian Minister of Education and the U.S. Ambassador from the American Embassy.

At AISB there are about 200 students in K-12. The faculty includes a full-time school director, Caroline Jacoby (originally from Australia), secondary principal Randy Neen, 25 full-time and 2 part-time teachers, including 17 U.S. citizens and 10 teachers of other various nationalities. All professional staff members have university degrees or teacher certificates and more than half the faculty hold Master’s degrees.

AISB students wearing the school’s African pattern

The school schedule is nearly identical to the schedule in Palm Beach County. The AISB school year is approximately 176 days and comprised of 2 semesters divided into 2 quarters each. School runs from late August until early June. Three long holidays occur during the year, one in October, one in December and one in April. The school day begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 2:20 p.m.

Besides he 3-week winter holiday and 2-week spring holiday, there are a few school holidays that we don’t have in Florida, including Sept. 21-22 (Mali Independence Day), October 20-29 (fall break), January 24 (Muslim Holy Day), January 31 (Muslim Hold Day), May 1 (International Workers’ Day), and May 24-25 (Africa Day Holiday).

I knew this school was the place for us when I read the school’s mission statement and belief’s statement. For the first time in years I won’t be part of a school system where the goal is to get kids to pass the big state test at the end of the year! I will be able to actually teach with the needs of the kids in mind. Unlike Florida, my pay won’t be based on student test scores, I won’t be forced to spend days/weeks/months preparing kids for a single test, and I’ll even have some sense of autonomy in my classroom. Teachers with autonomy? What a concept.

AISB Mission Statement

The American International School of Bamako is committed to providing a challenging, enriching, English-language American-based educational program which encompasses holistic student development in a nurturing, student-centered, multi-cultural environment.

AISB Beliefs Statement

– We are a community of learners in which education is a cooperative endeavor involving students, parents, staff and teachers.
We believe in encouraging resourcefulness, creativity and self-expression.
– We will give our students the tools necessary to become life-long learners.
– We believe each person is a unique individual with dignity and worth.
– We believe in providing a supportive and safe learning environment.
– We believe our students should develop an awareness of and a respect for different cultures, locally and globally.

AISB main lobby

I did the hot pink highlighting above because that’s a huge statement, something most U.S. schools can’t say anymore. I can actually focus on giving kids a holistic education steeped in creativity, and depth, and with a global perspective. I wouldn’t be able to do that in the U.S. (or at least not openly).

And while the school is based upon the American Educational System, it has unique “international qualities” due to its setting in the Republic of Mali, in French-speaking Africa, and due to the diverse international backgrounds of the school population. Modifications to the basic American program complement the school’s international setting and population–such as French Language instruction and the inclusion of Malian culture, history and geography in the curriculum. How cool is that?

Chapter 2: Hello, Mali

If you read my previous post, you know the backstory about our obsession with being abroad (and yes that’s “abroad” not “a broad”). So here’s how we went from dreaming to doing.

January 2011: While presenting at a conference in Orlando, noticed another presenter’s bio said “lived and taught abroad for 17 years.” Interrupted her lunch to get the scoop. Told us that she and her husband (with kids in tow) taught at international schools in 7 different countries, including Kenya. American style schools, tax-free salary, housing and everything else provided, and no high-stakes testing. What?! Told us to Google “International Schools Services,” (ISS) the organization they went through to do this.

February 2011: Paid fees to join ISS. Both of us were approved after filling out 3 zillion application papers. Even though it was the tail end of the recruiting period for the 2011-2012 school year, began emailing international schools across the globe. Lots of jobs in the Middle East, but discovered their laws weren’t exactly supportive of couples like us (e.g. Saudi Arabia: same-sex sexual activity punishable by death, prison, fines, and/or whipping).

March 2011: Skype interviews with international school in Kenya! Looked promising until our research revealed 14 year prison sentences for gay people. Didn’t work out after all, we breathed sigh of relief. Made big chart of scary countries to avoid.

Niger River, Mali

April 2011: Decided to get serious–if we were really moving abroad we needed to unload our worldly possessions. Put our house up for sale in the worst real estate market ever. Sold full price within a month to former editor of Architectural Digest magazine (as a guest house, mind you). Sold decades worth of our “stuff” at an estate sale. Learned you can actually survive without 10 boxes of Xmas decorations, massive collections of Fiesta ware/turtle figurines/1950s furniture/metal lunch boxes/etc, and 37 kinds of cookware. Sad to see others buy our stuff just to add to their stuff, but happy to take their cash! Even scanned scrapbooks/photo albums to make digital versions, and chucked the physical versions. Our load is lightened and we’re ready to rumble.

June 2011: Moved to a 700 sf furnished apartment in happening part of town, walking distance to everything. Came with our clothes and art. With weekends free of lawn care, Home Depot trip$, and home maintenance torture we concentrate on snagging international teaching gigs. With dwindling opportunities for the 2011-2012 school year, decided to focus on 2012-2013 possibilities. That recruiting season would start in the fall.

September – December 2011: Planned to attend a recruiting fair but in meantime emailed dozens of international schools we were interested in, all located in countries where we wouldn’t be flogged, fined, or hanged because we were a male couple of 25 years. Many amazing possibilities (exotic locales with warm climates a plus, of course). Had Skype interviews with international schools in China, India, South Africa, Korea, western Africa (Mali). Nothing solid yet.

American Embassy, Mali

January 2012: Received another email from Head of School at the American International School of Bamako (AISB), in Bamako, Mali saying they were still interested. Had another Skype interview at 5 AM our time (thank goodness the video wasn’t working), said they’d let us know in a day. The next day we got an email that started with this:

Dear Jeff and Jamey,
It was a pleasure talking with you both yesterday. We feel that you would both be excellent additions to the AISB faculty and community and as such I would like to offer you positions at AISB for the 2012 -2013 school year. The contracts will be for two years. Jamey would be teaching MS/HS science which would encompass; Grade 8 science, Grade 9 conceptual physics, Grade 10 Chemistry, Grade 11 Biology and AP Biology (probably) or possibly AP Environmental Science. Jeff would be an elementary classroom teacher teaching grade 4.

A two-year contract that includes housing, medical, moving expenses, and even an R&R trip to Paris!

Before we accepted we consulted with a director we befriended during our international search, a super helpful person who knew a lot about most of the international schools. A colleague of this director sent this statement about AISB:

I have worked with the Directors and several Boards at the American International School of Bamako during the past three years (in governance workshops and in their last head searching).  It is a great little school — the community is small and friendly, as is the staff; teachers and administration are professional; the new school director, Carolyn (who is Australian) is excellent; parents consist of many expatriates from many different countries (mainly from North American, Europe, and Africa), working mostly in development and diplomatic organizations; Malians are very friendly, outgoing, with a strong visual and performing arts culture.  Bamako, Mali is also hot all of the time, dusty winds part of the year, poor people and undeveloped infrastructure. To me, positive attitudes at the school and among Malians, all of which are in abundance, more than compensates. I’d go there in a heartbeat.

Excellent director, nice people, AND a strong visual and performing arts culture?! It’s like Glee Africa!

The Great Mosque of Djenne, Mali

Then we checked with the travel website Lonely Planet. Here’s what they said:

If you only visit one country in West Africa, make it Mali. This is a country as rich in historical significance as it is blessed by an extraordinary array of sights, not to mention being home to many of West Africa’s major cultural groups.

Mali’s natural wonders range from the deserts of the north to the fertile greenery of the south, with the Niger River weaving a path through the heart of the country. The lucrative trade routes of the Sahara once made the region the world’s richest, and the Niger, one of the grand old rivers of Africa, still provides Mali’s lifeblood. To journey along it (preferably on a slow boat) is one great journey.

Not far from the riverbank, the extraordinary Falaise de Bandiagara rises from the plains. It shelters one of West Africa’s most intriguing peoples, the Dogon, whose villages and complex cultural rituals still cling to the rocky cliffs. A visit here is utterly unforgettable.

Some of Africa’s greatest empires also rose from the Niger’s hinterland and bequeathed to Mali some of its most dramatic attractions: the legendary city of Timbuktu – whose name has never lost its remote allure – and the gloriously improbable mosque at Djenné are merely two among many. Even in places where the landscape seems too barren to support life, you find Mali’s famous elephants sharing the Sahelian soil with Tuareg and Fulani nomads.

There’s almost as much to hear in Mali as there is to see, with a musical soundtrack provided by some of Africa’s most celebrated stars. Whether you dive in to Bamako’s wonderful live music scene or time your arrival to coincide with the country’s two world-famous music festivals, Mali’s diverse rhythms will soon have you on your feet. 

SOLD! We signed the contracts and began to plan our exit strategy.

Chapter 1: You’re Lookin’ Swell, Mali

When we tell people we’re moving to Mali, West Africa to teach school, they ask one of three questions: (1) Is that a country? (2) Is that where Madonna adopted those kids? (3) Are you running from the law? (answers: yes since 1960, no that was Malawi, none of your beeswax).

I’ll provide the backstory to give this all some perspective, and to reassure everyone that this is not a last-minute lame-brain scheme.

College student Jeff strikes a pose in Egypt

Childhood: Loved that TV show “Big Blue Marble,” where every week they showcased a kid living in another country. Decided I definitely needed to expand my horizons beyond the midwest. See, TV doesn’t always rot your brain.

High School: I was a non-Spanish-speaking exchange student sent to Trujillo, Peru to live with a family and attend school. Ate guinea pig. Hiked three days on an ancient Incan trail to Machu Picchu. Decided I needed to see the rest of the world. Especially places where they didn’t eat guinea pig.

College: Found a summer internship in Nuremberg, Germany where I worked a month before backpacking through Europe and northern Africa. 12 countries, 2 months, 2 pair of pants, 4 shirts. Rode camels around the Sphinx, saw Evita in London (the musical, not the politician/icon), did not eat any animal considered a pet.

Jamey & Jeff outside of a temple at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Adulthood: Jamey and I vow to travel abroad every year to an exotic destination. Soon realize this plan would work better if we had chosen an occupation paying slightly more than teaching, like being an assistant co-manager at a tanning salon, or selling Avon. Nevertheless we manage to stick to the plan and experience riding a pony across the volcanic plains of Iceland, boating for 2 weeks down the Volga River in Russia, drinking snake wine in Vietnam (again with the pets-as-food thing!), ballooning over the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, celebrating Christmas night in a smoky Fado bar in Lisbon, floating in an inner tube down an almost undiscovered river in the jungles of Belize, walking throughout the streets of Prague at 3 AM Easter morning as the snow fell, and drinking super sweet, cavity-inducing tea with a family of Berbers in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Travel becomes a crack-like addiction: the more we do it, the more we want it do it. “They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said no, no, no.”

Jeff & Jamey in Granada, Spain

Jeff & Jamey in Thailand

Adulthood Part 2: Brought like-minded travel friends Ilean and John into our addiction. Adventure is ramped up. 3 weeks in Thailand riding elephants (not plastic ones attached to a spinning carnival ride), hiking to a remote hill tribe in the mountains to bunk with the villagers, visiting a Buddhist monk who lived in a cave in the jungle and wanted Jamey to remain with him. Found Carmen Miranda’s grave in Rio de Janeiro, and the grave of Evita (the politician/icon, not the musical) in Buenos Aires. Ran around those giant heads on Easter Island. Stayed with the Kuna Indians on an island off Panama (and convinced Jamey’s parents to join us!). And in Nicaragua discovered that bad ceviche can have long-lasting effects. Despite the diarrhea/vomiting, started to consider living abroad vs. just visiting.