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we are in Bamako, Mali. We? Yes, we. My girlfriend Chiho joined me on my travels in Dakar and together we will spend a couple of months exploring West- and Central Africa. Chiho is a designer and photographer and we frequently collaborate on projects, the last one being the Iraq book (http://www.iraq.christophbangert.com/) which we edited and designed together. Chiho is also an excellent co-pilot, navigator, cook, and packer of things. She has the ability to make huge piles of equipment, clothes and camera gear fit into a tiny metal box.
Additionally she is an experienced video shooter and editor. We started to publish short video clips on my blog, so please take a second to check them out, along with some new still images:
The real reason for Chiho to be part of this trip is obviously to bring some sanity and patience into the Land Rover, which so far has worked extremely well. It has been a huge improvement for the journey to have her with me.
The last dispatch I wrote a long time ago from Dakar. In the meantime I flew back to New York to attend my sisterâ€™s wedding. This involved me being one of the groomâ€™s men, wearing a rental tuxedo and feeling adequately awkward, giving a speech, teaching my father how to ride my old motorbike on a Target parking lot, showing up at the wedding with a rented pick up truck carrying my bike on the back (my sister is used to trouble, she just rolled her eyesâ€¦), fixing my brother in lawâ€™s car, and bringing my uncle to the doctor for the treatment of an ear infection.
After the wedding Chiho and I flew to Hong Kong and China to attend the printing of the Iraq book, which was equally exciting and exhausting because of the great summer heat in southern China and the gruesome 32 hour non-stop printing marathon that we embarked on.
Back in New York we only had three days to take care of a million things, most importantly the preparations for the Iraq show that will open on November 15th at the Redux Gallery in Manhattan.
We barely managed to catch the plane from JFK to Dakar, where we arrived exhausted and terribly jetlagged, not sure if our bodies were still on New York or Hong Kong time.
We were extremely lucky to be able to stay at Finbarr Oâ€™Reillyâ€™s house in Dakar, where he and his girlfriend Uma provided us with a perfect place to get some rest and re-pack the Land Rover that had been blocking Finbarrâ€™s driveway for about a month. Finbarr (http://www.finbarroreilly.com/) is a Canadian Reuters photographer who is based in Senegal and I was introduced to him by Tina, a friend and photo editor who lives in New York. Tina, Finbarr and Uma saved me and I am very grateful for their help.
Chiho and I spent about ten days in Dakar, getting sorted out and hunting for visas. Apart from visas to Mali, Ghana, Cameroon, Niger and Burkina Faso, we proudly received Chihoâ€™s new working visa for America, at the US embassy in Dakar, which was an important step for us as we had spent many months to obtain it.
Equipped with a variety of colorful little stamps and stickers in our passports we finally said goodbye to Dakar and headed for Mali. Still in Senegal though, on the road between Kaolack and Tambacounda, we were for the first time confronted with two realities that will pose a continuing challenge on our African journey:
Bad roads and rain.