Author: Jett Thomason

The Second Best Way to See a Country

  I like Djibouti in the morning. I wake up early in the US, so jetlag throws my natural tendency into overdrive with a 3:15, 4:30, or if I’m lucky, 5:00 am wake-up call. I have spent the past week in Djibouti at a training conference for our new Somalia program. US Government restrictions on official travel to Somalia (and Puntland and Somaliland) have channeled a large number of donor conferences and foreign involvement in the Horn of Africa to Djibouti. Arriving on business, working all day and a large part of the night, I have sadly not been...

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Oranges and Stalin on the Black Sea, Batumi, Georgia

By Jett Thomason   A few years back I got the chance to visit the Black Sea coast several miles from the Turkish border in a town called Batumi. Batumi has been a major port since the Russians won the land from the Ottoman Empire in 1877. This was the first port to begin shipping out the Industrial Age petroleum from Baku on the Caspian Sea. The resulting economic boom still defines the city’s architecture, with its crumbling facades resembling Paris much more than Moscow.   The city is hemmed in on two sides by the Black Sea. Since...

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Portraits of Poutine

By Jett Thomason “So what’s the food like in Canada?” I ask. Chris, environmental engineer and admitted Canadian, is telling me about his country at a Washington, DC winter happy hour. “Well, basically it’s pretty much the same as the States.” I knew it. “But there, we’ve got a great bar food that originated in Quebec. It’s called ‘poutine’.” Not quite the melodic French flow of words like hors d’oeuvres or entrée that I was expecting of a dish from Quebec. “Oh man, it’s great!” Chris is enthusiastic. “French fries and cheese curds. It’s so good!” Cheese curds were introduced to me by an ex-girlfriend from Wisconsin, so there’s a soft spot in my heart for a squeaky curd. But I’m not really feeling the pairing with French fries. “And then,” Chris continues, “You add gravy on top!” “What, like brown, regular gravy?” I ask. “Yes. Man! It’s so good.” I take a long swig of my beer. “Chris, you Canadians are alright, but I’m never eating that poutine stuff.” Six months later I’m cowered over an Ottawa diner with Chris, his lovely wife Christine, and a large group of their friends. My fork is poised with a prime load of fries, cheese curds, and slightly congealed brown gravy. I take a bite. Man, it’s so good. Ottawans know that poutine is good. They love poutine and God love...

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On the Water in Guinea: Part II

Read Part I: On the Water in Guinea Part II We have been following the other boats. There is an art to seeing the schools of fish playing just below the water and on each boat men are standing tall, not even realizing their legs roll of the boat. There is an art to seeing the fish and anticipating where they will move next. Then there is the more practical approach of assuming that if there is already someone out there with a net in the water, it might not be a bad idea to cast yours, too.  ...

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On the Water in Guinea: Part I

By Jett Thomason Part I I’ve been living in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, for six weeks now. Conakry is a city built on a peninsula jutting into the Atlantic and it has long outgrown the French planning for the town. Two million people have been living poor and densely packed for fifty years in the limited space. Each day I’m driven to and from work along this peninsula. Fishermen at the Conakry port loading provisions and ice for a trip out into the Atlantic. The bon-ta-bon is a Sierra Leonian boat design used all along the West African coast for fishing trips of anywhere from one to ten days. With long hours at work and long hours in sitting in traffic, most of my interactions with Guineans are with the staff drivers. My favorite driver is Eddie. My most substantive conversations in Guinea with Guineans have been in the half hour commute each day. It is currently the dry season and we recently had a burst of rain – last monsoon fits of the climate making its cycle around. I catch sight of the ocean between concrete buildings, golden water with the setting sun outlining one of the islands just off the coast of Conakry and the air much clearer with the rain-cleansing from earlier in the morning. This pristine view from a distance belies the scene along the road where everyone...

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The GoMad Nomad Travel Mag is an online magazine for independent travelers publishing original travel articles on popular and off-the-beaten-track destinations, volunteering and working opportunities abroad, and practical travel advice on long-term, adventure, alternative, and budget travel.

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