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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thank you.

I often have an issue with putting things off that I don't want to do. In this case, I've been putting off writing this blog post. Its not because I don't want to share my life with you all, but rather I don't want to really face the fact that I'm not in Kenya anymore and that that journey of my life has come to a close. I can't tell you how many times I've sat down to write or laid in bed day dreaming about what to say but when I go to write it down, I just have a continual blank page in front of me...but today I'm facing it and writing.

My last 5 months in Africa were incredible. I can't quite pinpoint what made it so incredible, but it was. Africa became so different to me than when I had first started my journey a year and a half ago. The beginnings of my adventures were bound with fears and uncertainties. Slowly as my time in Africa progressed, the Lord began to strip those fears away and in return asked me to replace those fears with trust. I did. I would often fail and allow fear to overwhelm me but time and time again the Lord provided small reminders to trust in Him.

This past September (right after the plane crash which involved the two missionaries from my mission) I found myself overwhelmed with fear and heartache. I missed my family and friends and wanted nothing else than to end my time in Africa early and to go home and be with people who knew me and could tell me that at the end of the day, 'everything will be OK.' I remember picking up my phone and calling my dad and telling him that I was finished with Africa, didn't want to be there anymore, and that I wanted to come home...NOW. I had anticipated his answer to be something like this: "Sure pumpkin, come on home. You've been there long enough and you are going through some tough stuff lately. I'll buy you a ticket home and you can take some time and see what is next." Before I even picked up my phone to call him that day I dreamed about leaving Africa and how great it would be to be back in the US away from all my hardships that I found in Africa. Sooo...when I got quite a different response from my dad, I was shocked and furious. He said " can't come home. I'm sorry, but you committed to a year and coming home is not an option. I know its hard right now but you will hate me later if I tell you to come home now." I remember being sooooo angry at that response that I called my mom later that day hoping that she would tell me that she would talk to my dad and see if they can get me home. Nope! Not her either. She agreed with my dad 100%. If it wasn't for the fact that I was on a missionary budget and didn't have enough money for a plane ticket home, I would have been in a jet in an instant.

I couldn't understand it at the time. My mind was so consumed with going home in September that I couldn't even look past that. I felt like that would be the best medicine for escape from Africa and come home where life is 'easier.' Now, after not only spending a year in Africa, but rather a year and a half, I am SO thankful that my parents didn't allow me to come home then (and that I didn't have enough money to fly myself home!). I am so glad that I stayed. If I had left in September, my view on Africa and missions would have been horrible. I was at a low point and leaving then would have kept my view of Africa at a low.

Now that I gave it time, allowed myself to reach my commitment mark, and to see Africa in all four seasons, I left at such a good place. It was so difficult for me to leave but I knew that that meant it was the best time to leave. I didn't want to leave at a point were I was thinking "Leave my bags, just get me on that plane and get me out of here!" It was so difficult for me to say goodbye when I left. I had made so many rich friendships over the year and a half and I didn't want to leave them behind.

I'm praying about whats next in life. I'm not certain about it. I know that the Lord has really grown my love for photography and I hope to use that gift in as many ways as possible. Upon return to the US, I've embarked on a new adventure. I've started my own photography company. I want it to be used to tell continue the stories I heard in Africa as well as to share people's stories from all around the world. You can visit the new site at

Please be praying for me as I seek the Lord's leading. I don't feel that my call to the mission field is over yet but I am praying for direction as to the 'what' and the 'when.'

You all have been a great support to me during my time in Africa. You've been with me through the good and the bad. You've showered me with prayers and encouragement and you've blessed me by your support during my time over there. I am so grateful for this past year and a half and it's impact on my life.

Thank you for coming with me on this great adventure!

Monday, May 17, 2010

My past weekend....

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Small blessings

I wanted to share about some ways that I have been really truly blessed this week! They are small ways but have humbled me and made me question if I am really taking advantage of ways that I can bless others.

I do not know if I have mentioned this before, but here in Kenya, most people have 'house-helpers' which are women who come and help you with house work. At first I felt really silly about hiring someone to do my laundry and such but once I realized that it is giving someone a job, I let down my pride and started having someone help me around the house. It is such a blessing while working to know that your laundry is getting washed, and hung... and I never thought I'd say this but I am going to really miss ending a day of work and walking back to my house as the sun begins to set, drop off my bag, grab my laundry basket and walk out to the grass and pull off my freshly cleaned laundry from the line... ah its the little things like this that I'm going to miss... the simplicity of life.

Ok, so how I was blessed this week... My house-helper has been gone for the past month. I have been able to manage, doing laundry when I can and not sweeping here and there. Two weekends ago I went on one of the most amazing hikes of my life. I left the hike sooo excited about the adventure that I didn't really care how my shoes and I were covered in some brownish-green slimy waterfall water. When I got home, I simply took off my shoes and left them on my porch to dry. Since my house help wasn't here I didn't think much about my shoes staying on my porch. A few days ago I came back to my house over my lunch break. I noticed my shoes were missing but didn't think much of it. As I was doing my dishes and looking outside my front window above my sink I noticed my gate guard walking over with my shoes. I was curious what this man was doing with my shoes so I stayed quiet while he was on my front steps. While watching him I noticed something dangling form my porch... shoe laces....white shoe laces... no longer brownish-green shoes laces! I stared at him as I watched him carefully set up my shoes so that they would properly dry in the African sun.



I had to take a deep breathe as I realized how self-less this man was. He saw that I had dirty shoes on my porch and while his job is not to wash them, he took it upon himself to bless me. I still get a bit misty eyed when I think of that. The next time I saw him I made sure to thank him... he wasn't expecting anything nor held out his hand for a few shillings. He just smiled his big smile and said "Karibu!" (You are welcome!).

Ahh... to bless others this way too... service. What a challenge to my heart.

Story #2 goes as so... Many friends here, and friends who have visited me have joked that one of my unofficial ministries here is 'market ministry' where I minister to all the people at the market selling their goods. Its true, I know tons of them by name and love sharing a conversation with them... but come on, someone's got to minister to them! So what if they sell cute earrings and scarves, right? ;)

There is a particular group of vendors that I have loved getting to know this past year and a half. One of the women is the one who made my beautiful bed spread, Esther. I have enjoyed getting to know some others, share in their laughter, and their warmth. There are probably about 8 Vendors in this one location. Its a peculiar location, the back of a parking lot near a shopping center. I can't remember how I stumbled upon them but I am really glad that I have. I had not seen them all since January and today I decided that I would go into work early so I could get off in time to go sit with them and catch up. As I neared the parking lot I saw them all and was so eager to say hello that I didn't realize they changed the whole order of the parking lot...and lets just say I barely missed a cement pole....

I went up and greeted them all and asked how business was going. Although they all said business was not good since the new construction of the parking lot, they were eager to hear how my life has been, where I have traveled to, and why I have been "lost." (The term Kenyan's use when saying they have not seen you in a long time.) I got to sit with Esther for a long time and hear about her family, her business, and life in general. I love just being able to catch up on these friendships... it had been way too long.

One of the men I hadn't noticed was the flower man who sells me flowers for my house. I went into the shopping center and came back to walk past my friends and say goodnight to them. Thats when the flower man hopped up to give me a bouquet of flowers! Ahhhhhhh! I normally am not the type of girl who needs/wants/expects flowers from people but these were specially because with them he said "Its to welcome you back to us! Karibu, Rafiki!" (You are welcome, friend!).
Once again....


Check out how bright and cheery these flowers are. How amazing and thoughtful of him to do so! And I must say, he is quite the florist to match up such beautiful flowers all together. I love wild flowers and he happened to combine that with some yellow me! :)

Once gain... to bless other this way too...a sweet gift. What a challenge to my heart.

I'm so thankful for these blessings this week. Sweet and small but powerful. I hope my eyes are just as open to be able to think of small ways to bless others when they didn't ask for it or expected it... to go the extra mile, just because.



And this is just to show you what my commute home from work looked like. Yes.. it rained a lot to day (Thank God, right?!) but that meant that there was a river on my path that went up mid calf... insane. As I juggled my bag and computer, I hiked up my jeans as high as they could go and hoped for the best as I tried to not slip in the muddy murky mess on the way home. While moving quite slowly, a neighbor of mine who was smart and had rain boots on tromped passed me giving me a sympathetic laugh....

Knowing she is a nurse I half joked with the question "sooo how bad is it to be walking in here barefoot right now?" Her response being, "Oh yeah... you might get some fun critters from that! Perhaps de-worm when you go back to the states!"


Rain boots would have been an awesome investment...

Ohhh and Feliz Cinco de Mayo! I had full intentions of making guacamole... but unfortunately my bowl still looks like this:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

North Africa Film

North Africa from AIM On-Field Media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


One of the things that I got to do while freelancing in North Africa was to take a camel desert tour into the Sahara and camp in tents with some locals. It was beautiful out there! Sand dunes as far as you could see! Two of my roommates and best friends flew over from the States to join me on this adventure. I took photos for the work I was doing and was in complete awe the whole time!

Our tour started with a night in a desert hotel. It was pretty vacant so my friends and I had tons of awkward laughs at not knowing what we should be doing or when. Like dinner... I think it wasn't until 10pm that we finally ate but we weren't sure if we were supposed to stay in our rooms or go to the dining room.

Around 9pm we went into the dining room wondering what the deal was since our sleepy eyes were winning over our hungry bellies. We found a room full of men sitting there and lounging on pillows. So, being 3 woman, we went to the furthest corner in the room and sat there staring at them wanting to say "hellooooo, we have no idea whats going on!" Finally our food came and it looked like a hot bubbly cheesy pizza... we were excited...until we found out what it really was. A shallow bowl of greasy fatty meat sunk in some tomato paste and topped with egg whites (what we thought was the bubbly cheese). Gulp. Had to be better than eye lashes, right? We ate what we could so we didn't waste food.

After dinner, the lounging men played drums for us. Sarah did an awesome job at being an apprentice to their drum beats.

The next day we woke up late and had some breakfast on the dunes. It was awesome... a cute little paris type table and chairs on top a dune with a little tiki umbrella and tea and coffee. It was amazing.

After breakfast, we headed out to hike up the biggest dune we could find. It took 'fo-eva' to hike it. We had some fun filming our own videos of our last words in the desert just in case...since it looked like we were in the middle of no-where. ;)

Around 4pm we hopped on some camels and headed out for a TWO HOUR camel ride. It was amazing. We had a big caravan of camels and we were led by a man in a turban who really liked to say "For example." Let me pause to explain this. You know when you need to pause and think for a moment while speaking? You usually use words like "so" or "um" right? Well, this man, our tour guide, used the phrase "for example" for every pause he needed to make. It took EVERYTHING out of me not to crack up every time he would explain something because most of his sentences sounded something like this...

"We will be leaving, for example, around 4 this afternoon, for example, evening time. We will then be riding on our camels, for example, each person gets their own camel. It will be about a, for example, 2 hour camel ride. We will stop for sunset, for example, on a dune, for example, where we will hike up."
Amazing, right??

We spent the night in tents in the desert. It was great. My roommates and I were put in this tent that was made of sticks and rugs hanging up. The rugs had holes in them and we commented how cool it was to see stars through the holes. We didn't think those holes were so cool later that night when the sky opened up and started pouring rain. I kept laughing through the night because there was nothing we could do about the rain or the holes letting in the rain. We were soaked.

We got up and had breakfast and figured we should caravan back to the hotel while there was no rain. The 'For Example' man told us that it only rains 4 times a year in the desert... and yes, we were experiencing it full on. Not 5 mins after we left our campsite on our wet camels did the sky open up again and it rained... then it poured. I then made the colossal mistake of saying "it couldn't possibly rain any harder!" ...because it did. Not only did it rain harder but it never let up. Not only did it not let up but it started to hail. Little pellets of frozen rain in the middle of the Sahara desert. Seriously? Our tour guide didn't even have a statistic for how many times it hails in the desert, in fact I'm pretty sure that it never does, for example.

We laughed the entire 2 hours back to the hotel. There was nothing else you could do. No trees, no shelter, just dunes. At one point we saw a 4x4 car come over a dune and we all got our hopes up thinking it was coming to rescue us from the hail-ish weather. Nope... just out for a joy ride. So we continued on. I now know the true meaning of the phrase 'soaked to the bone.'

The tour company that we were booked through kept apologizing for the bad weather thinking that it ruined our experience. Not at all, it actually enhanced it. We loved all the laughter that came from our helpless experience in the desert. We'd do it again in a heartbeat!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Orange Juice

Hello to you all! I'm sorry that I've been so MIA these past few months. I arrived back in Kenya mid January and while still getting over jet lag, hopped on another plane to travel to North Africa. I spent the entire month of February in North Africa doing freelance design and photography. I was nervous about this trip: the length of the trip, traveling alone, and a culture I was unfamiliar with. I think the fact that I was still jet lagged helped with my culture shock however... I was too out of it to really think much, I had to jump in head first and soak it all up.

North Africa is predominately Muslim. Islam is everywhere, again, something I was unfamiliar with. My first morning I woke up in North Africa was to the call of prayer, a constant reminder of the area I was living in for a month. This call to prayer happens 5 times a day and in the city I lived in, they seemed to have the speakers from the Mosque turned on high! I enjoyed being apart of this culture for a month.

I love experiencing new things, new sights, new smells, new tastes, new adventures! Ok, I take one of those back... the smell factor. Wow... there were some smells that I am ok never smelling again.

Because my trip was so long, I'd like to break up my blog posts in different stories and photos of the adventures I had up North. The first was something that happened on day 2 of my trip.Two of my co-workers joined me on my trip for two weeks of the month I lived in North Africa. We wanted to jump into this culture head first, no fear. So, our first day on the job we decided to go to a street cafe and grab some local breakfast. Our breakfast included a flaky tortilla covered in butter and honey, cafe au lait, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The interesting thing about these street cafes is that they don't have their own kitchen but rather have a runner who runs to different venders to grab the tortilla, cafe au lait, and orange juice.

After our runner sat our breakfast in front of us, I descretely inspected my food rather than throw it in my mouth blindly. Tortilla and the cafe au lait was fine and free of anything forgein but my orange juice was another story. I sat there, bug-eyed, swallowing hard as I pondered what to do about the two eyelashes that were mocking me and my adventurous spirit by floating at the top of my orange juice. I didn't say anything to my co-works about the eye lashes and tried to think if I should just scoop them out or ask for a new orange juice, but then I remembered that the orange juice would come from the same place. I pictured a man sitting there squeezing out a new glass of fresh orange juice as he's rubbing his sleepy morning thanks.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but all my co-workers are men. I often find myself trying to be more adventurous and less girly around them so I don't get identified as high maintenance or the weak link...kinda like the time we had to hike 10 miles in the mountains of Sudan and all. So, while all this was going on in my head, I peacefully continued eating breakfast and drinking my coffee. Finally I decided that I would scoop out the eyelashes and not think about it and just drink it. Trying to be descrete, I slipped my spoon into the top of my orange juice and started fishing. The man who ran around to get our breakfast saw what I was doing and unfortunately misinterpreted my actions. He thought I was trying to unsuccessfully stir my orange juice that had seperated since I took forever to drink it. Before I could even get one eyelash out our my glass, he runs over to my table, grabs the spoon out of my hand, plunges it straigt into my glass and starts stirring as hard as he could while smiling at me and saying in broken english, "fresh orange juice stay not mixed good, drink fast now." Perfect. What a sweet man. I tried not to think about the man who made my orange juice and what he looked like (or what his eyes looked like) and I knew for the rest of the month whenever I walked past an orange juice stand, I would try not to make eye contact with anyone squeezing orange juice. And with that...bottoms up, I drank it all as quickly as I could like a horrible tasting medicine. I figured as long as I'm not thinking about what I'm doing, my gag reflexes wouldn't set in. I eventually told my coworkers a week later what had happened and one of them did remember the guy stirring my juice and then using my spoon in their juice. Lets just say for the rest of my time in North Africa, I avoided orange juice!

Friday, January 29, 2010

I was HOME for Christmas....

I realized, according to my last written blog entry, I’m still stuck in Amsterdam. I finally made it out and will bring you up to speed with the happenings in my life! I am now sitting back in my living room after a full two weeks back in Kenya. I knew … but I was not expecting the F-14 speed it flew with! After the initial “Ohhh no I’m stuck in Amsterdam!”shock, I decided to make the most of it. I met 3 other girls who were traveling from Uganda to Washington D.C. They said I looked a little shell-shocked and so they offered to help me figure out how to navigate the airport, buy a coat and boots, and find our hotel shuttle. I was so thankful for them! For the next 72 hours or so, we spent our free time together exploring Amsterdam through the snow, sharing meals, and hanging out by the hotel fire. It was a neat experience how you can be strangers with someone one second and best friends with them the next. I was truly blessed by their life stories and their friendship in Amsterdam!

Once I FINALLY made it back to the states I had my first bite to eat, state side. It was pretty anti-climatic: Einstein’s bagel and cream cheese. But hey, that was my first bagel and cream cheese in a year, so I was happy! I had a 4-hour layover in Detroit (yes, I missed the Amsterdam-Detroit terror attack by just a few days!). Once I left Detroit my heart was pounding in anticipation for being in VIRGINIA after almost a year!!! And the anticipation of seeing my family was overwhelming! Seeing them again was like, well, “coming home.” That’s the best way to describe it… 6 warm hugs waiting for me! (My friend Sarah came to the airport too!). They were all wearing Santa hats-hilarious! My bags, as expected, did not make it. Africa taught me at least one thing: “Hakuna Matata”… “Don’t worry.” And so I didn’t! I knew my bags would come and I was finally with the ones love! (They finally showed up on Christmas Eve).

Once home, 3 of my best friends came over! We all laughed at how normal it was to see each other. No tears, no jumping up and down, just long amazing hugs. I needed that. It was just…familiar! We all had some amazing chicken burritos that my mom makes and I had missed out on for a year. They were better than I remembered! Go Mom!!!!! That night was filled with laughter, stories, and many hugs. My heart was full that night! I’m truly blessed.

As the week drew nearer to Christmas, the hustle and bustle began! I was quickly reintroduced to Northern Virginia. Question: Do you all ever slow down???? Geesh! Haha. I ran errands with the family, attended a Christmas party here and there, finished up shopping, tried to sleep off the jet lag, and rest in remembering that I was home with my family! Christmas Eve was super fun. My family has a tradition of the 4 kids making Gingerbread houses and then having a contest to see who’s wins. Even though we are all (almost) in our 20’s, I think we still have about 4 categories for winners so no one feels left out: Most traditional, Most futuristic, Most candy-on-without-falling-over, and most colorful…something like that. We spend hours on them as we tend to be a wee bit competitive with each other. But its fun!

We also go to explore the Gaylord hotel all lit up in her glory for Christmas! We went to the National Harbor to look around and went inside the Gaylord to check it out. Wow. Its insane! When we walked in, we noticed in the foyer a huge… HUGE yellow Christmas Peep (like the marsh mellow). We found out it was a kid’s game seeing if you can spot all the Peeps hidden throughout the Gaylord. So, being the adults we all are, we set off and found them all. They also had this spectacular water show where they told the true Christmas Story of the birth of Jesus…. (taxes!!!). It was a great night with the family!

Christmas Eve was spent spending quality time with the family and going to Immanuel Bible Church for the Christmas Eve Service! It was so great to be back at IBC again! It was a great service and I got to see a lot of special friends. Afterwards we high tailed it out of there to indulge in another Christmas Eve tradition: Outback Steakhouse. Not a bad tradition, ay mate?

Christmas morning came with traditions of it’s own. Suffering from jet lag, I of course got up at 4:30 am and tried to fall back to sleep till around 6. I came out of my room and my older brother was already up (seriously like a little kid on Christmas morning). We then made an executive decision for the rest of the family: time to wake up! :D We jumped on them while they were sleeping nicely woke them up! We walked down the stairs in age order and “ohhhhh”-ed and “ahhhhhh”-ed over the tree and the stockings. After opening the stockings we had our traditional Christmas morning breakfast complete with a “Happy Birthday Jesus” Coffee cake.

After breakfast we went to the tree and opened up presents. The most random gift was the one I gave my younger brother: A sheepskin rug…. Literally looks like a sheepskin. It kinda smelled and its kinda odd and I think everyone was thinking “Why, and how dirty is that thing???” It made me laugh to see their faces!

Christmas was just a great day to be with the family. We actually had a WHITE Christmas! My DREAM for years!!!

It was a memorable day…to remember the true meaning of why we celebrate, to be with the ones I love, and to just rest and cherish each moment. My thoughts often went to Kenya where I wondered what Christmas day was like there.

As soon as Christmas came, it went. Hustle and bustle began again.My family all piled into a car on the 27th and headed up to the city that never sleeps… NYC! Woot wooooot! So fun! We got to freeze are backsides off, eat hot dogs and pizza! We walked and walked and walked! My family had a big secret they were keeping from Megs and I. After a huge Italian dinner in Little Italy, they decided to walk towards Broadway to reveal. As we were passing the Lion King my sister and I kept saying “Remember the time we were on a safari… remember the time…..” Right then my family handed us over an envelope and inside were 6 tickets to “The Lion King” Broadway show! We were in shock and so excited!!!!

I fought my jet lag during the performance but it was so spectacular. The opening scene: goose bump worthy, let me tell you! A must see for anyone visiting New York! Watching it was like, well, being in my own backyard! :D We spent the next day in the city exploring tons of fun places. We went to Canal street to do some cheap shopping… I think I’m a little too used to bargaining in Kenya because I got kicked out of a perfume store for bartering too much…whoops!

After NYC, we headed to my Grandparents house. It was SO great to spend time with them. They have been so supportive of my trip and it was so good to just see them and give them hugs and to share with them about my journey this past year. I can’t wait to see them again when I get home.

The rest of my time was filled with family and friends all over Virginia and the D.C. area. I got to spend New Years Eve with 4 amazing woman of God. They are great and we shared TONS of laughs that night! My dad always says “When you all are together, there is always a story when you come home.” I like that that has never changed.

As my time at home came to an end, my stomach began to turn in knots. Not because I didn’t want to go to Kenya, no, I know that is God’s plan for me right now…but because I knew I’d have to leave the ones I love again. The Sunday before I left, the two sibs kids returned to college. The Monday, my older brother left for his adventures overseas. Wow, all fun must come to and end!

My mom and I spent the next few days having lots of fun together. Pedicures, shopping, talking, and drinking coffee together in the mornings. I cherish those moments! And then it was my turn. My parents brought me to the airport for another difficult goodbye. Saying goodbye is easiest when you know the “hello” you will say soon is just around the corner, but its still painful!

My flights back were less adventuresome, which I guess is a blessing. Not going to lie though… a few nights in Amsterdam due to weather would have been great. Back in Nairobi, I’ve finally battled a long journey of jet lag only to get right back on a plane and head for another adventure. I’ll update when I get back! Until then, before you fall asleep at night, please say a little prayer for me that I can fall asleep too! ;)