Around the World

The Old West-Wyoming

My dear friend Liz recently moved to Wyoming.Sit back and enjoy her adventure of living in the Wild West. Be sure and check out her beautiful pictures too!

Liz also has a blog,

Love of the Old West. His dream? My dream?

Living in the west has been a dream of Techno-genius most of his life. The mountains seemed to call his name. When we married, I didn’t share that vision. That dream.

We vacationed in Wyoming regularly and I tolerated, I mean enjoyed it. I did see the beauty in the mountains. The draw of the clean, crisp skies. The vastness of the views. But…. it seemed so empty. Nothing to do. No shopping – to speak of. Few eateries. Not many museums and play areas for the kids. I didn’t ‘get it’.

Until…. the summer of 2012.

We had taken a big Southwest family vacation. This trip culminated in a two week stay in Wyoming at my in-laws “mountain home”. Techno-genius worked from his sister’s house for a week while the kids and I ‘hung out’ in the mountains. Basically just doing life.

During this time, God grabbed hold of my heart. I saw the mountain views in a new light. The simplicity of the area was suddenly appealing. The friendliness of the people, refreshing.

Suddenly, I got it. The love of the Old West. It had made it’s way into my heart.

After some conversation; some planning; approval to live in Dad’s house; Techno-genius’ company agreeing to let him work remotely; we were moving from the suburbs in Ohio to the mountains of Wyoming.

Our little town – population of 270 – is much like taking a step back in time. We have a Mercantile store; a saloon; The Old Corral Hotel and Restaurant; even our post office looks like something out of an old western movie.

It’s not uncommon to look out our back window and see a small herd of deer knocking on our neighbor’s door, asking to be fed. Yep, seems it’s common practice in our ‘subdivision’ to feed the deer in the winter. An amazing sight. I swear they hear the sliding doors move and they come hurdling across the fields to the house bringing forth the food.

Antelope bounding through the neighborhood is another typical wildlife view we enjoy. Occasionally we are even privileged to catch a glimpse of several jackrabbits hopping around the yard. Or foxes padding down the road. The neighbor’s horses frolicking in their acreage is a loved sight of all the kids. Giggles generally ensue as the large creatures roll around, legs flailing in the air, back and forth, till they finally spring back to their feet.

The currently snow covered mountains greet us every morning as we watch the sun rise over their peaks. Then again each evening they bid us good night as the sun sets on the opposing side of the vast open sky.

Prairies and ranches filled with livestock – horses and cattle, an occasional alpaca, maybe even some sheep – line the dirt roads that encapsulate the main means of travel here.

Winds in Wyoming can be amazing. This winter it was quite the feat to tackle snow drifts in our driveway caused by the high winds. Such drifts are typical in the winter months all over the mountains.

The beauty and simplicity here are unparalleled.

God worked in my heart and helped me realize “my husband’s dreams should also be MY dreams.” Now, they are; living and loving together in the mountains of the ‘old west’.

A view walking into her subdivision

A mountain view in the neighborhood

The heart of our little town, “main street” if you will. If we had a Main Street. This is where all the businesses are located along with some housing.

Just one of the businesses in our town- most look similarly. Like you walked into a re-enactment park.

The deer knocking on our neighbors door

The Williams Family

Around the World, Life

Life in the Cocoa Capital of Côte d`Ivoire, in West Africa

A special thank you to Kaity Smoot. She is my first guest post in a new series, Around the World. Kaity is a close family friend and it has been a privilege watching her grow up and become the woman she is today. I am always fascinated to see where she will land next in her travels to help make this world a better place to live.

I grew up in Richmond, VA and because of my mom’s close friendship with Jamie, I often babysat her (at the time,five) children. Now I am a specialist in agricultural economic development and for the past six months I have been working with the World Agroforestry Center on a project in Côte d`Ivoire, in West Africa. The project seeks to increase cocoa yields in the region, and my particular job is to analyze the market for the products of certain trees which can be intercropped with cocoa, since such integrated sytems are more ecologically sustainable. For this research I have conducted a number of focus group meetings and have implemented a survey of 400 cocoa farmers plus 100 sellers, transporters, processors, and consumers.

I live and work in the town of Soubré. This little-known town is the capital of the world’s top cocoa producing region. The small family-run cocoa farms in the region thus form the basis of the world chocolate industry. Unfortunately, only a small portion of the profits earned in the chocolate industry trickle back to the farmers in this area, and throughout the cocoa belt of West Africa, which as a whole accounts for 70% of global cocoa production.

That is not to say that the region is completely impoverished. In fact, during my stay in Côte d`Ivoire I have been struck by the richness of the country, in terms of natural resources, community connections and values, human knowledge and initiative, and even availability of some modern ammenities. In fact, there are many aspects of life which I prefer here when compared to the U.S., namely that is it much easier to be connected to the environment and to others in the community. Because of the prevalent stereotypes which portray Africa as a continent plagued by persistent war, famine, poverty, and disease, I want to focus on sharing some of my observations which debunk these myths, at least with regard to this particular area of Africa.

The Sassandra river which flows through Soubré supplies fresh fish and lobster which can be purchased in the local market for just a few dollars a kilo. Locally produced cassava, plantains, peanuts, palm oil, fruits, vegetables, free-range (by default) chicken, and much more are abundant in the bustling local market. The water system is good enough here that I have no problem drinking unfiltered, unboiled tap water. This is an improvement over the water systems in many other, more “developed“ places that I have visited, including Lebanon, Russia, and even Davis, California.

Extended families of cousins, in-laws, and family friends live, cook, and eat together and support one another. Young children play soccer in the streets without fear for their security. In the smaller villages it is common for women of the same ethnic group to form a cooperative to do work together, alternately planting and harvesting in each member`s fields, or pooling their collective palm production to make oil and soap.

The entrepreneurial spirit here is astounding : nearly every household is engaged in multiple activities, from cocoa farming to selling cell phone credit and styling hair. Nearly every person in the country speaks at least three languages. My co-workers in the ICRAF Soubré office (all Ivoirian) are incredibly knowledable and dedicated, working an average 50-60 hours per week. I also really admire the internship system that is common in the country. Every university student is assisted in finding an internship with an organization or business that relates to their area of speciality, and they write a thesis which provides useful, applied information to their host organization.

By emphasizing the positive characteristics of the region I do not mean to downplay the negative. The rural road system here is terrible, with hundreds of dirt paths that become almost impracticable in the rainy season. More work needs to be done to spread health clinics, water pumps, electricity, and schools to the most isolated villages. But in general, I have seen more assets and opportunities than needs and deficiencies, which gives me great hope for the future development of the region.

Together with my team of surveyors at our celebration dinner; they are proudly displaying their certificates of participation in the survey training and implementation.

Me in October 2012 conducting a focus group meeting with women in the town of Miangabougou

A lesson in traditional West African cooking: pounding foutou with my friend Erika Atta.