I left home for Ghana on 10 May 2008. My flight took me from Tampa to New York to Paris to Ouagadougo. I slept in Ouaga for a night and took off early the next morning for the Ghanaian frontier at Paga. There I met my research assistant, Pastor Isaac Yen, and we made our way to Bolgatanga, capital of Ghana's Upper East Region. I was in the area for nearly three weeks to field test a survey on local politics in the rural villages of Nabdam constituency just west of Bolgatanga on the Bolga-Bawku road. Most mornings Yen and I would head off into the villages mid-morning and return to Bolgatanga around dusk but we took one day off to visit the neighboring area of Tongo where the Tenzug Shrine, a UNESCO world heritage site, is situated.

From Ghana I left for the Bandiagara Escarpment in Mali. To get there I made a mad dash across Burkina Faso by taking the 6am bus from Paga to Ouagadougou. Once in Ouagadougou I bought a bus ticket to Mopti in Mali and waited for 6 hours for the bus to arrive. The bus ambled along and made it as far as Ouahigouya by nightfall where I was told I should spend the night and return to the bus station in the morning. After talking with a few Ouahigouyans I decided the onward voyage tomorrow was not guaranteed and began to make alternative arrangements. To make a long story short these alternative arrangements included the back rack of a Peugeot moped and more than 200 kilometers of dusty countryside.

We left Ouahigouya just before 7am and arrived in Kani-Kombole, Mali just before sunset. Having survived a high side crash into a sand dune, hours of a rather uncomfortable seat, and some pretty hot sun I arrived in Dogon Country and found accommodations for the night. Despite my difficulty getting there I have to say the escarpment and Dogon culture really are pretty spectacular and worth a visit if you are in the area. Late the next morning I hitched a ride on the back of a slightly more substantial motorbike through the mountains towards the town of Bandiagara where I got in the back of a pick-up truck with 22 of my closest friends and their livestock bound for Mopti. There I enjoyed the sights, took a river cruise of the Niger, and recovered from my travels. From Mopti I headed to Djenne to see the largest mud-brick mosque in the world and the small island's infamous Monday market and then continued southwards to the tranquil river town of Segou. My flight to Senegal was scheduled to leave late on 7 June so the day before I took the bus to Bamako where I holed up at the five-star Catholic rest house in the city center.

When I arrived in Dakar, Senegal I joined a group of other US faculty members in a Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) program. This meant gone were the days of two meals a day, public transport, and a dirty mosquito infested room with a feeble fan. Despite the "exotic" Baobabs and African art, Dakar really is a city where someone from North America or Europe can feel right at home. Outside of Dakar the tour group visited the island of Goree, the beautiful beach resort town of Toubab Dialaw (where the youths really loved the stickers I brought), the old colonial capital of St. Louis, and the center of the universe for the Mouride Islamic brotherhood in Touba.

After six weeks of living out of a pack I returned home not too worse for the wear.