vacationing in a scottish castle

Posted by pamela on Apr. 14, 14 | 0 COMMENTS

Sometimes a girl dreams up something crazy like spending her 33rd birthday in a castle in Scotland. And then, sometimes, dreams come true and the whole family decides it sounds like a good vacation as well. They day after my birthday, I jumped on a plane, hopped over the pond, and made my way to what remains of Rosslyn Castle, just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland.

What, you wonder, do you do in a castle for a week? You ignore the world and revel in the history that took place where you are living and eating and sleeping. You take your nephew on adventures with mud and rain and ruins. You drink cups of tea (and coffee) while eating crumpets with jam and scones with clotted cream. You explore Rosslyn chapel (where the Da Vinci Code was filmed), have drinks at the exclusive Scottish Malt Whiskey Society, and walk to the local pub for fish & chips, vegetarian haggis and pints of cider. You discover what ‘castle cold’ really means and learn to close shutters and doors to keep the heat in. You eat meals and laugh and play games with your family. All while living in a castle.

It was a lovely week and I am grateful for these shared memories. As I sit writing this, it seems to me that stories like these are beautiful and precious reminders to keep dreaming. To be audacious in our dreaming. If we do not dream, our dreams can never come true. This is not a fairy tale—I think we normally have to work for our dreams and that they rarely happen on their own. But, if we do not dream, a dream can never come true. May we all choose to keep dreaming audacious and crazy dreams. Sometimes they come true.

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private castle

Private: our very own castle.great room

The ‘great room,’ now a courtyard.

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Our living room for the week. rosslyn chapel

Rossyln Chapelthumper

Adventuring with Thumper.

a surfing weekend

Posted by pamela on Mar. 16, 14 | 0 COMMENTS

 

pam surfing

Moving to the Central Coast of California means that surfing, a sport I had never considered doing, has suddenly been an easy and obvious hobby. I have not been on the water for months. In the fall the waves were mostly just beating me up and, when combined with cooler air temperatures, I lacked the motivation to make it happen. Then yesterday was a surfing day with friends, and it was absolutely perfect. Not only did I get to surf and play in the water for a couple of hours (where the waves were perfect for a beginner), I got to help a special friend, Silas, surf. What a perfect way to kick off a birthday weekend. And now I am off to Scotland for a week in a castle with my family. Hard to beat this. I hope your spring is filled with fun and laughter.silas surfing

people are not objects to be won.

Posted by pamela on Mar. 03, 14 | 0 COMMENTS

It is raining outside. Not a little drizzle, but a real rain. Living in the California desert in the middle of a drought makes this precious and wonderful. I have spent hours these rainy days sitting by windows watching the rain fall and listening to its soft patter on the ground. The land has been parched and is in need of this soft but steady rain to soften the soil, feed the plants, and fill the reservoirs. No drop is unappreciated. The hills are becoming green and full of life.

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As I sit watching the rain come down, giving life to this region, my mind wanders back to just a couple weeks ago when I was in a very different land experiencing beauty and life in a different way. My body was sick – in need of meds and rehydration. My night had been restless and painful, and the morning found me unsure if it was wise to leave the guesthouse. (I talk about this run-in with disease HERE.) But I had only one day to go to the field with this specific team, and so I did what I could and prepared to go into the field, hoping it would be worth my time, but also hoping we could make it a short day.

As we set out across town and headed into the hills, I began to gather that it would be anything but a short day. The little van we were in had seats that faced each other, and so I was face to face with my host, Vikash, when what I really wanted was to close my eyes and get some sleep. It was a little bit like being in the desert – I was tired and dry, but in this case, I did not know what it was that would fill me up that day.

I asked what I thought was a simple question, “How does your organization work? And are the home churches growing?” What followed was a lesson on culture and loving people that was food and water for my soul.

“People are not objects to be won. They need to know we love them.”

In two short sentences, Vikash had changed the foundation of a discussion that would last the day. He comes from the highest caste, the caste of priests. One day he found a book on his uncle’s shelves – a book of Bible stories that would forever impact his life. Both he and his uncle loved to read, but Vikash knew the stories to be true, and this launched his life into a new direction.

As we drove the countryside, Vikash pointed to a building, “That’s a church. I know because it is a different building, using western style windows. Why did they do that?” I could hear his heart become heavy as he talked about Christians being different – not because of their love, but because of how they lost their culture. Of buildings that looked like western churches, songs with tunes and chords from distant lands, of greetings foreign to the villages. When he found a church, Vikash too followed these practices as it was all he knew.

But now, he teaches something different. God is the God of the universe. He is outside of culture and he is in culture. He loved so much as to give His son, His life. No big church buildings and foreign songs. No greetings that separate you and leave others estranged. Instead, he encourages people to keep their cultural heritage — gatherings that meet in homes, use local music with new words, and greetings that include others. Every year these home churches come together and share and celebrate new life together, encouraging one another. Vikash points to the home churches found in the Bible, of Jews and gentiles who both held their own traditions while becoming new.

No, people are not objects to be won. We truly must let them know we love them. Period.

On this day when my body was sick and tired, my soul was fed with rich and fragrant food. Vikash, a man from the line of Hindu priests, provided hours of teaching on how to truly love, on how to worship, and how to live. His words were strong, and his actions as we visited homes and walked through communities even stronger. We are to love.

Some days it is the rain that feeds, and some days it is the words that feed. Both have the ability to bring life and fill reservoirs. Today, I am thankful for both.

let’s go fly a kite

Posted by pamela on Feb. 24, 14 | 0 COMMENTS

On Saturday I hiked one of the peaks along the coast here in California. For my mountain climbing friends, let me put this in perspective: 4 miles round trip, peak at 1,347 feet, a beautiful ocean view waiting for you at the top. A perfect hike for a late afternoon, and if you time it right, you can watch the sunset over the ocean on the hike down. This is one of the joys of the area – beautiful hikes not far from home that are easily indulged in with friends.

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To add to the fun, I have a little kite I bought a number of years ago on a day when I needed a smile and thought surely this little kite would bring a smile to my face. Well, it has brought a smile many times since, and Saturday was no exception. The winds were a little too strong and swirling for my little kite, and so it dove around like a drunken sailor. Oh the laughter as it pitched and rolled and danced above my head with a mind completely of its own.

My nephew, Thumper, has recently fallen in love with some of my favorite childhood musicals, including Mary Poppins. And so as I think about a kite and a carefree afternoon over the weekend, I could not help but think of a song from the Mary Poppins:

With tuppence for paper and strings
You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You’re a bird in a flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh!
Let’s go fly a kite 
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

Afternoons like this bring such joy and sunshine to everyday life.

warm welcomes in south asia

Posted by pamela on Feb. 11, 14 | 0 COMMENTS

In the last two and a half weeks, I have visited communities in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and India. South Asia is a new discovery for me, and it has been rich with flavors, smells, textures, colors, and all-around beauty.

I have been welcomed so warmly in each location, and I wish I could have spent longer to share stories, particularly with the women I met. These warm welcomes have included flowers, drinks, and food. One of the new things for me has been being greeted with flowers – single flowers, small bouquets, garlands, and flower petals (tossed both on and at my head). I love the beauty. In homes, I was regularly greeted with sugary tea made fresh when we showed up at their door, and a few times, with fresh coconut water. At my last stop of the trip, Jyotshna decided to not only make tea, but suddenly sweet dough was being fried up as well for a warm and yummy treat.

It has been fun to be welcomed so openly and with such warmth. It has made me think about how I choose to welcome visitors who show up at my door – both the expected and unexpected. I hope I exhibit some of the warmth that I felt on this trip.

Here is a little photo journey of some of those welcomes.

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My first flower garland… in Sri Lanka.

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These flowers were on a table, but similar ones were tossed at me as well.

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Coconut water: sometimes in the coconut, sometimes poured into a glass.

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May the sugary tea commence, sometimes in beautiful tea cups.

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Green papaya fresh from the garden, served with salt. (One of many fruits I was served, most were not documented.)

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Making fresh fried dough… oh so yummy.

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A wonderful little feast at my last visit for this trip in Assam, India.

 

 

 

 

redeeming missiles

Posted by pamela on Feb. 03, 14 | 2 COMMENTS

redeem: compensate for the faults or bad aspects of something (The New Oxford American Dictionary)

missile plantar

I do not know where bullets end and missiles begin, but as I crossed the compound, it seemed to me that what I was seeing would fall into the (small?) missile category. Except that instead of looking threatening and telling stories of trauma, this missile was disguised as a planter. The end of the missile was cut off and plants tumbled out of its top. It was beautiful. Had I not known where I was, I probably never would have taken a second look as it was beside a tree in a large courtyard, and I never would have realized what I was seeing. But I did, and it made me smile to see how this home in northern Sri Lanka had redeemed this weapon of war. Intentional or not, a symbol of war became a symbol of beauty, violence replaced with peace. A stunning act, a beautiful moment.

I am so thankful when I notice  ‘little’ things when I am traveling.

books of 2013: from biographies to beach trash

Posted by pamela on Jan. 19, 14 | 1 COMMENT

From biographies to beach trash…. my annual book list. I am afraid that in the midst of life this year, I forgot to keep a list of the books I read. The year started out with  lighthearted reading and ended with management and fundraising books – good in their own right, but not what I would categorize as lighthearted fun. So, instead of a full list, this year I leave you with a few that you might consider adding to your reading list. Because I think these are fun and you are great, I am providing you links to each of these on Amazon in paper and kindle (when available) form. Happy reading.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

Here is where I admit that I never would have picked up this ‘young adult’ / children’s science-fiction book on my own. But, a friend gifted it to me, and so it was sitting on my kindle just waiting for an opportune time. I got the flu, and I feel in love with this little book.

 Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes  by Jonathan Auxier; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

Another children’s book, but this time written by the good friend of a good friend. It reminds me of a Roald Dahl book, and I highly recommend picking up a copy. It would be a great read-aloud with your children.

Boy by Roald Dahl; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

Following on the above book, I love Roald Dahl. The BFG was a favorite for us kids and my Dad read it to us over and over. Boy is Dahl’s autobiography of his childhood–some of which was spent in Tanzania in places I know. It is Dahl’s familiar writing style with bits and pieces of familiar places tossed in. A lovely, quick read.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story  by Donald Miller; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

I have a place in my heart for Don Miller, and this book is no exception. Our lives our stories, and we make a lot of choices along the way about where those stories take us. Through his own story, Don reminds us that we have choices and we can choose to live a great story.

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World  by Bob Goff; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

In the above book, Don mentions Bob Goff. So, when Bob’s book came out, of course I was a little bit curious. I laughed my way through this book as I was reminded that God loves in extravagant and whimsical ways. A friend read this book and felt like maybe her life was too small, a sense of guilt seeping in. If you read this book, don’t let yourself feel that for a moment. It is an invitation to live life to its fullness, to recognize the extraordinary in the daily, to experience the whimsical life. It is beautiful.

The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

I read this book when I spent several weeks writing and living in community with dear friends. It provides freedom and encouragement as I dove into the art of writing. I highly recommend picking this book up if writing is part of your journey.

Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

Marin provides no answers, and certainly no easy ones. It is the first book written from the Christian perspective on this issue that I have appreciated and honestly recommend reading it. Regardless of what you believe, Marin provides valuable thoughts to help you understand the impact of your words and actions, as well as much food for thought.

Heat Wave  and  Naked Heat by Richard Castle; where to find it: In Paper/Kindle

Beach trash. If you watch the television show Castle, there is probably a spot in your heart for these books. They read like an episode of the show, mirroring when the books are released in the show. Lovely beach trash. But, if you don’t watch the show, skip the books.

split pea soup & welcoming 2014

Posted by pamela on Jan. 02, 14 | 2 COMMENTS

soup

When I was a child, and really, well into my 20’s, lentils tasted like dirt. It was not that I did not like them and was trying to find an excuse to not eat them, but they honestly tasted like dirt – like the earth beneath our feet. Make a 20 bean soup and I could tell you that it contained lentils because it would taste as if a spoonful of dirt was tossed into the pot to cook alongside the beans and spices. My taste buds were simply wired a little incorrectly when it came to this bean.

This was more than a little tragic given that I spent much of my childhood in the Middle East where lentils were a normal part of the local diet. Thankfully, it was not the most common food and I could generally avoid them and instead eat the wide array of food that I found to be truly fantastic. Every few years I would try (by choice or necessity) lentils again, each time disappointed.

Then, one day in my mid-20’s, I was served lentils by an unknowing friend. I could not imagine being rude and rejecting the home cooked meal, and so prepared to eat a meal I assumed would taste like earth. But it did not. For the first time, I tasted a lentil without dirt, a bean that was actually quite good. It was as if my taste buds had been rewired. Unfortunately, I found out (not that much later) that this did not apply to split peas. In the same moment I tasted them for the first time, I found out that I was wired to find them a little too earth-like to be enjoyable. Oh body, really, what is the point?

I see no reason to go out of my way to eat (or cook) things that taste like dirt. So, no split pea soup was being prepared or ordered by me. Then, on Sunday, I was served split pea soup by another unknowing friend. It was wonderful! I had a second bowl and then was given some to take home, which I promptly had for lunch the next day. Once again, my taste buds had been rewired.

As I say hello to 2014, I wonder how many other things in life are like this? I was content in my lentil and split pea free existence, and never would have gone out of my way to try them. But over time our tastes do change and develop; intentionally or unintentionally, they change. I would like to say that I always curate my tastes in life to be for good things, the things that are rich and fill the soul, but that is not always true. And I would like to say that I am always up for trying new things, but that is also not always true.

When I turned 30, I was coming out of a hard season of life, and as I was picking myself up and looking around, I decided that there was only one way to go: forward. Life did not look like what I thought it would, and so I declared it that my 30’s would be a decade of adventure. What better way was there to welcome the unknown and take a step forward then to declare the unknown to be good, life yet to be discovered full of fun? Adventures are grand but they are also often small, created by finding joy in life. They are found in the adrenaline of rappelling off of cliffs and the freedom of skinny dipping in a lake under the stars. They are found in books read on the beach and conversations with new friends by a fire. Adventures are found by choosing to find magic in the everyday.

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I am just shy of three years into this decade of adventure, and I love looking forward and wondering what the rest of this decade will hold. I have an inkling it will be rich. And I as I look forward, I am thankful for the reminder found in my split pea soup that tastes really do change, and I have a choice to help them along and keep trying, or to sit in what ‘I know to be true.’ I am thankful that I have friends who are on this journey with me, ones who share a sense of adventure, a deep-seeded joy, and a love of laughter. Thank you dear friends for making my life rich. Here is to a 2014 filled with adventures, magic in the everyday.

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Getting ready to do a polar bear swim today, January 1, 2014 (in costume, of course).

belovedness: a foundation for my work

Posted by pamela on Dec. 24, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

I wrote this for staff at Lifewater who I am honored to serve alongside of, and I thought you might enjoy this as well.

Quite often out of an intimate encounter with God encounters with other human beings become possible…If you are the beloved of God, if you start thinking about other people’s lives, you start realizing that they are as beloved as you are. One of the profound experiences of the spiritual life is that when you discover yourself as being the beloved son or daughter of God, you suddenly have new eyes to see the belovedness of other people. 

It is very interesting because it is the opposite of what happens in the world when they say you are very special, that means you are not the same as the rest. If you win an award and they say you are different than others, then that award is valuable because not everybody gets that award. The world is saying that you are only the best when not everybody else is the best. 

~Henri J.M. Nouwen, “Discovering our gift through service to others,” a speech given to members of Fadica, 1994 as quoted in Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen. Liguori: Liguori Publications, 2004. pg 42

I love these words by Nouwen and they make me pause to think about the work that we are called to. At times I am caught up by the urgency of our work and of the demands of the many different things that we balance. There are partner needs, fundraising needs, field trainer needs. There are the needs in the office and outside of the office. The industry is changing and growing. We want to be innovating and improving both the industry and our work — we want our voices to be heard. There are budgets and numbers and proposals and reports. We put in hours to make better programs and find more dollars to fund the programs. Each and every thing is important in its own right.

But, in the moment I pause, I am reminded that not one of these things is as important as our foundation and the perspective that we bring to our work. Our foundation is in Christ and His view of both us and all of humankind. He calls us His beloved. We are truly loved by God — not because of anything that we have done, simply because we are. As I pause to take that in, my heart lets out a sigh as it is filled with goodness. I am the beloved of Christ. When I sit in this, it truly fills me and I want to invite other people into this goodness and I want this to be the foundation of my relationship with others. I want this deep love to flow from me to others, that others would know of Christ’s goodness through my interaction with them.

Yes, I want us to do great work, build great systems, and I want our work to be known. But, at the foundation of everything, I want everyone to know that God loves them because of how we choose to care for them and express this through our actions. Yes, I want the young girl in a village to have water. But, what I really want, is for her to know that she is the beloved of Christ – that she is worthy of that love and the dignity that comes with it. I want us to be known by this deep love wherever we go — in our offices and in the field. Let’s do great things, but may it always be on this foundation. In this season and always, may our hearts know that we are the beloved of Christ that we may, in turn, see everyone from our officemates to the village mamas to the new born children as the beloved of Christ. May this be the foundation of our work.

Merry Christmas.

memories of roses

Posted by pamela on Dec. 06, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

I love roses, and I love that I can get beautiful single stems at the farmer’s market here in San Luis Obispo. I love them for their beauty, and I love them for the memories they hold.

When we first moved to Jordan, we moved into a new building and the garden beds were empty. We had moved from the tropics where everything grew fast and large, but this was the desert. The little, scraggly rose bushes we planted looked like little sticks in comparison to the veritable jungle we had left behind. I remember doubting that they would ever becoming something grand.

In the coming years, those little sticks became rose bushes that looked me in the eye with branches heavy with flowers. Pink and white flowers that were so incredibly fragrant. From the gate to our door I walked by these bushes every day, and I would stop to smell the roses. It would just take a moment, but what a lovely moment.

rose

Now my flowers are more ‘perfect’ and less fragrant, but I love them all the same. Maybe some day I will again have rose bushes. Until then, I am content and thankful for the farmer’s market.

 

a few thoughts on gratitude

Posted by pamela on Dec. 02, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

Gratitude is a choice. You cannot be both grateful and resentful, both grateful and judgement, both grateful and fearful. Gratitude is the response to grace. 

These were the thoughts that welcomed the start of my Thanksgiving holiday at an ecumenical service. I am so grateful that was how these last few days began. Gratitude is a response and a choice, and it is truly amazing how it changes one’s perspective. Do you know what you are truly grateful for today? As I sit by my fire with Christmas music playing in the background, I thought I would share a few things that I am grateful for today.

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I am grateful when churches put aside their preferences and choose to worship together.

I am grateful for getting to know extended family, sharing meals, and making memories.

I am grateful for new friends and for rich laughter.

I am grateful to be welcoming the advent season with others in great anticipation of celebrations to come.

I am grateful for hot apple cider and full tables.

I am grateful for this house, how it is becoming a home and welcoming others.

I am grateful for time to be creative and time to be in nature; both food for my soul.

I am grateful because I love a God who delights in beauty, who loves His children.

I hope that your Thanksgiving was full of richness. I hope that you are full of gratitude tonight.

 

a christmas gift alternative & homemade thank-you’s

Posted by pamela on Nov. 26, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

Everywhere I turn I am reminded that Black Friday is days away. Take a minute and think about doing something different this year – something that does not require early wake-ups, crazy crowds, or lots of decision making. For those of you that love shopping, think about the lasting impact this gift could make – these colors will never go out of style.

This year help get rid of water borne diseases in communities through water and sanitation development. It’s simple: buy a full item or a share (of something cool like a well or a latrine or a tank of fuel), a t-shirt, or simply donate a few dollars for yourself or as a gift for someone else. Go HERE on the Lifewater website to read more about the options of how you could help.

Make This Christmas Count from Lifewater International on Vimeo.

 

Here is my extra little deal for you: If you let me know that you bought an item or donated between now and Christmas (by posting a comment or sending me an email), I will send you and the person you bought the gift for a thank you note on one of my (personally) homemade Christmas cards. Just a little thank you from me — I truly know the difference this work makes, and I would love for you to join in this story with me.

how i pack

Posted by pamela on Nov. 21, 13 | 2 COMMENTS

I am often asked about how I pack for my travel — about what to bring, my favorite odds and ends, and, my favorite, how it all fits into a carry-on. For some of you this is normal, for others, shocking. But, here is the simple, practical reality: When I travel, I rarely stay near the airport for even 24 hours, so when luggage gets lost, it either causes a major kink in the schedule or I go without my luggage. The simple solution is to not check luggage. Besides, why carry more than needed through airports, stuff it into taxis, or up airport stairs? It’s not fancy, but it normally works. So, here are my thoughts and tips.

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Basic principles: 

  • Figure out what you are doing and pack minimum that you need. That is mostly what this is about, plus a few extra gadgets to keep life fun.
  • Remember that you can always do laundry – even if it’s in a sink. You just need enough time for it to air dry.
  • For clothes, pack things that are flexible and can be worn with each other. Layers are your friend.
  • In most places people wear their nice clothes. So, think about leaving your safari-worthy clothes behind. Unless of course you are actually going on a safari.
  • Remove any extra packaging you can. For example, I often put medicines in smaller plastic bags and leave the bottles behind.
  • Never forget your headlamp. More often than not, it will be a good friend: when the bedside table is missing a lamp or when the power goes out.

Some of my favorite travel gadgets and where you can find them: 

  • GoToob Travel Bottles. these are super easy to fill with your own shampoo. Made a painful task easy. I use 1.5 oz bottles, which I do not see online. This lasts me for a two week trip without problems, so think before you pack 3 oz of shampoo.
  • Sea to Summit Dry Bag. I have the 4L one – it fits my journal, Kindle and camera with room to spare. It takes up almost no space, but has saved them from the middle of a surprise rain storm.
  • Kindle. I love the feel and the smell of books. I love used books. What I love more is being able to have a bunch of books in my bag all the time without devoting a lot of my bag to books. I still love paper books when I’m home.
  • Therm-a-Rest Stuff Sack Pillow. With my fleece inside it is far from a perfect pillow but has made up for more than one horrible pillow.
  • 2XU Compression Socks: Apparently I’m getting old because I love these on my long flights. I feel so much better after a trans-Atlantic flight when using these.
  • Sleeping bag liner. I only carry this when I am going back-country. But, when needed, this is great and I love that it is mosquito repellent.
  • Reusable Gear Ties. These keep the wires orderly and keep me sane. Definitely worth a couple of bucks.
  • Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes: I use the Quarter Cubes for my first aid kit and for my electronics. I use the Half Cubes when I am traveling to two different climates or regions to keep clothes separated. They keep my packing easy and use space well.
  • GSI Collapsable Coffee Drip. In much of rural Africa the only coffee available is instant coffee. But, I can normally get hot water. This silicon collapsable coffee drip has made many a happy morning for me and my travel companions.

Specific packing list (designed for a trip to Uganda & Ethiopia – vary based on your trip specific location and activities: 

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Clothes: 

  • Women: 2 skirts, 2 pairs trousers
  • Men: 3 pairs trousers
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 3 button down shirts or blouses
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 1-2 long sleeved shirts / 1 light cardigan
  • 1 pair pajamas
  • 5-7 pairs underwear (women: bras and slips)
  • 2-3 pairs socks
  • 1 pair compression socks
  • 1 fleece / outer layer
  • 1 rainy coat (if rainy season)
  • 1 bandana
  • 1 pair of chaos / walking shoes
  • 1 pair close-toed shoes
  • 1 pair flip flops
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat (for sun)

 Gear: 

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  • rolling, carry-on sized bag
  • day pack / shoulder bag (airlines call this a ‘personal bag’)
  • purse (that is packed inside backpack or luggage)
  • headlamp or small flashlight
  • alarm clock (or watch in addition to phone for when phone looses battery)
  • camera, charger
  • universal electricity plugs
  • passport & driver’s license (and a photocopy in different location of both)
  • journal or notebook
  • roll of electrical tape (best if you have a half roll lying around the house) – this has gotten me out of several binds
  • small sewing kit (needle, thread, safety pins)
  • thin, small tea towel – when traveling to the remote areas this has served as a bath towel, a bandage, and a wash cloth (all separate times)
  • ATM card
  • Airplane blow-up pillow: helps the long flights be manageable
  • for coffee lovers going to bad coffee locations: coffee drip, paper filters, coffee

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Toiletries: 

Remember that all liquids must be in 3 oz (100 mL) or less containers all packed in a 1 quart (1 liter) zip lock bag.

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  • 1 pack travel size hand wipes
  • 1 small hand sanitizer
  • 1 hair brush or cob
  • 1 soap / body wash
  • 1 deodorant
  • 1 lotion
  • 1 shampoo & conditioner
  • 1 toothpaste & toothbrush
  • nail clippers and file
  • 1 sunblock
  • 1 insect repellant

Medicine: 

These are the basics. Bring what you need and what your travel doctor recommends. 

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  • Malarone (anti-malarial pills)
  • Chewable Pepto Bismol
  • Imodium
  • Neosporen and bandaids
  • Ibuprofen or preferred pain killers
  • Allergy medicine as needed

How to pack: 

Some people like to roll their clothes, and I often resort to this on my way home. But, when on the road, I like to be able to see my clothes and easily work out of my suitcase. I fold my shirts and trousers so that I can see them all without unpacking. I like packing cubes (quarters) for first aid kits and wires. Also, I have a bad habit of forgetting things when I am tired and jet legged, which ends up being more often than I care to admit. So, whenever I can, I get bags and cases (iPhone cases, kindle covers, camera cases, etc.) that are bright colors, colors that do not blend in with bed spreads or disappear in airplane pockets. You can laugh, but this has saved me more than once. I hope these pictures help — all of that really can fit together. And yes, because of the specific itinerary on this trip, I packed more than normal – normally there is room to spare.

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Notes for other regions: 

As I said above, this was a packing job for Uganda / Ethiopia. It was the end of rainy season, so I needed a rain coat. I was moving frequently so had less time to wash clothes, and I needed some layers for Addis Ababa, where the weather is cooler. When I am in major cities, I pack clothes appropriate for cafes and evenings out. When I am in Asia, I pack fewer layers and more thin cottons. When I have space, I always toss in a pair of yoga pants or shorts to lounge in. When I go to a cold climate, I work with undershirts and a versatile sweater or two. Sometimes, these plans do not work and I have to check luggage, but, thankfully, it is rare. (Extra camera gear and cold climates present the biggest challenges and the most frequent checked luggage.) Most of the time, this is how I travel.

Do you have any special travel gadgets or packing tricks? I would love to hear them!

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