Sunday, June 15, 2014

Winter/Spring 2014

Hi Dear friends and family,

It has been some time since I last wrote and in that time I spent 6 weeks in a rural village in Senegal, ran a trail 1/2 marathon with my mom, ventured down to the southwest USA, made it back to Wisconsin to attend medical school graduation, and most recently moved to Boise to where Stephanie and I will be starting our next adventure.  What follows are stories and pictures I thought worth sharing, I hope you enjoy!


Due to fortuitous circumstances I was able to visit my brother Patrick in Senegal for 6 weeks this past winter where he is an agro-forestry PeaceCorps volunteer in his second year.  We lived in his small hut in a rural village 28 km from the nearest road with no electricity and worked on building a mud brick house and farming when not adventuring out on foot or bike.  Our other brother Matthew was also able to join us from 2 weeks from Australia where he is living and working and it was the first time we had all been reunited in over a year and a half.  The time with both of them was amazing and I feel most grateful for it.  Pics and a story follow:

Sunrise in rural Senegal seen on a morning run.

Green mango sauce made from, you guessed it, green mangos:)  Extra special as with no knife I bit off each little chunk then spit it in the jar before we cooked it.  A lot of sugar and little salt and voila!  It was in fact, despite appearance, quite good.

Patrick's cob oven he built about to be filled with banana bread.  His village LOVES the banana bread and Patrick doles out small amounts to all his "family" (a wide network of people only loosely tied by blood).


In order to get water for cooking and bathing we had to carry buckets to either the well or, much easier, Patrick's family had recently been installed with a water tap.  One fiery hot afternoon (average afternoon temps were 100-110) we went to get water and two young girls (maybe 7-9 years old) helped us carry some of the heavy buckets back (another story, the women are so strong with such incredible balance!).  As we entered Patrick's yard a gaggle of 5 or 6 more kids joined in the parade (privacy is different, people walk into anyone's house pretty much whenever).  We had planned to give our two helpers a jolly rancher like candy in thanks but did not have enough for all the kids.  we handed one each to the two girls who promptly opened the candies, cracked them with their teeth in roughly equal pieces, and handed out the shards to all the children present.  I was astonished.  However, as I spent more time in Senegal I came to see that very different principles operate and one of these is that whatever you have, you share.  If you are about to sit down to a delicious meal you spent hours preparing and a person walks by, well, you invite them over and give them half.  And if a third person comes by, yup, they get some too.  While this seems to make it tough for any one person to rise above and get rich I also didn't see a single person I thought was homeless during my time in Senegal (in further discussion with Patrick this principle is most pronounced in the rural areas and less functional in the bigger cities).

Delicious pizza from the same oven.

Patrick and loaded bike ready to go.  We went most everywhere by bike and the 28 km from his village to the nearest sizable town took us about 2 hours at a decent pace.

Cashew fruit!  I had never seen these before despite eating many cashews.  The cashew is located in the gray/green structure on one end and needs to roasted then cracked open.  The fruit itself is delicious and we feasted on them almost daily.

With Patrick (left) and Matthew (right) heading into the local forest for a day exploring.  We found several huge african mahogany trees, saw a wild boar, and got chased by swarms of blood sucking flies.  A great day!

An interesting spike tree we found on our ride!

This is a sunset from Patrick's hut.  Apparently I failed to include any photos of myself in this section but I swear I really was there and didn't just have Patrick send me a bunch of photos. Really.

1/2 Marathon:

My mom used to walk a fair bit but had never run over 6 miles when she decided to run a half marathon with me!  We chose an event that, in retrospect, was not a great starter course (over 3000 ft of climbing on rough trails and roads) but she power hiked the ups and ran the downs like a champ.  Our whole family was and is very proud of what she is accomplishing.  Way to go mom!  The run was a blast on my end and I hope to do it again in the future.

Left - at the finish together (the mustache was an Africa-inspired edition after my beard growing adventure failed) and right - cruising down the path.


A dream of both mine and Stephanie's for some time had been to journey to the southwest USA to hike, camp, and explore.  This spring we were able to do so.  I ventured down first in my little truck.  My dependable little truck that never ever has problems and always... wait, what is going on, why am I losing power?!  Long story after never getting towed in my life I was towed twice in 3 days before a rough and tumble man named, I kid you not, "Biggie" in rural Utah fixed me up for good.  Car troubles aside I proceeded to hike up mountains and down slot canyons before picking up Stephanie for the second leg of the journey and checking out Zion and Grand Canyon national parks.  Epic is all I can say.  I definitely plan to return.  One fav hike was hiking up the "narrows" in Zion, the main valley narrows into a canyon where you then walk up the river in 1-2 feet of water, the walls close in to just 30-40 feet across and then shoot up 1500 plus feet.  Pics are nice but you really have to be there to fully appreciate it.  Would love to share more pics and stories on this one but time is short.  If you're planning on going I would love to share what I learned and any tips.


After initially not thinking I would be able to make it back for the official medical school graduation ceremony our plans changed, and boy was I glad they did!  Stephanie and I first stopped in Milwaukee where we had spent 6 months together and were able to visit with my grandfather George as well as Stephanie's former work colleagues from Core El Centro and many wonderful medical school fellow students and instructors.  From there we headed to Madison where we spent time with Don and Joanne Schalch, met up with more classmates, friends, and mentors and attended graduation.  I was very grateful for a chance to provide a proper closure and thank the many amazing individuals who made my time at the UWSMPH such a remarkable experience.  Thank you!

Stephanie and I at graduation!


For those I may not have told I matched at the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho located in Boise, ID.  And, in fact, I start tomorrow!  Stephanie and I are thrilled to be in Boise and were fortunate to find a great little apartment in the north close the the clinical sites I will be at as well as job opportunities for Stephanie, near the downtown, just 1.5 blocks from a co-op food store, and within a mile of a huge trail network (140 plus miles and over 4000 feet vertical right out the door!).  We are excited to have people come visit so if you are in the area or would like to come let us know!  

Our apartment is the front and center door.  We are part of a 6 unit building from the 1930's or 40's which has been renovated into apartments (and one studio).  While I would like to take credit for the functional + beautiful set up inside our home it really came from Stephanie.  Behind the building there is a communal space where we have already been able to plant a small garden with flowers, kale, tomatoes, peppers, and cabbage.

Getting up in the foothills in the early morning, Boise in the distance.