i flew (fell) through the sky

This past Saturday I celebrated Joel’s birthday by jumping/stepping/being pushed out of an airplane, free falling for nearly 10,000 feet, floating for 4,000 feet, and, finally, sliding to a stop (gracefully) on my backside. All while attached to a tall, handsome man who took care of the details (like making sure the parachute opened) so that I could enjoy every windblown moment without (generally) a care in the world.

I have been a SCUBA diver since I turned 12, and somehow this seemed like the other extreme. And I love birthdays. So,when Joel said, “I want to celebrate my 30th birthday by jumping out of a perfectly good plane,” of course I said, “Let’s go.” Only this time last November, when he actually turned 30, it was pretty darn cold. Both of us love warm/hot climates, and so the adventure was put off. October rolled around, we thought of the adventure again, and sighed up. The hour we were to leave for the airfield we got the call, “The plane has a maintenance problem.” Really? My travel schedule has been hard to work around these days, winter was coming, and I wanted to be a part of this adventure. But, it all worked out. On November 20, a perfect, 70 degree day with blue skies and scattered clouds,10 days shy of his 31st birthday, Joel and I jumped.

I thought the adrenaline would slow time down. Kind of like how time seems to stand still long enough to get out of the way of danger. Only it did not. The free fall was around 60 seconds, parachuting around 5 minutes. Really? I still do not believe it. I thought I would feel like I was dropping on a roller coaster or in an elevator. But no, at over 100 mph, the wind blowing against your body prevents that feeling? Really? Every part of it a fantastic new experience

The panoramic view was unbelievable. Land stretched as far as I could see. Small, light, fluffy clouds danced below, then around, then above me. A pair of eagles below me, then they soared with the wind to a place to which I could not return. It was kind of like a drift dive with a high current – the view was amazing, but once you passed a spot, there was no returning to it. The difference is that with this, the grandness of the land slowly eased away as the end, the landing, came into focus.

Laughter. Smiles. The glow of new adventure. Was it worth it? Definitely? Would I do it agin? Most assuredly, though I would hope for a new piece of land to see from on high. Is it my next hobby? Probably not; I like the ocean too much for that.

Here are a few quotes that Joel so graciously recorded from our adventure. Pictures taken by dear friend Elizabeth – another friend who loves adventure and celebration, and was willing to stay on land to document this grand occasion. (Joel is the orange parachute, I am the blue. First picture is of him, the second him landing, me flying in for the landing.)

“So you are going to channel your inner Peregrine?” -Elizabeth

Originally we’d paid for a 10k ft. tandem skydive.  “For $10 more we’ll take you to 14K and your 30 second free fall will be about a minute free fall.”Did she even have to ask?!

“As the plane began to climb and the two solo jumpers fell out at 4000k, I began to second guess the choice.  Not that there’s a significant impact difference from a fall from 4k or 14k.  But if FEELS higher.” -Joel

“The last time I was in a little plane like this, we buzzed the runway to clear the zebras off.” -Pam

“If I only had a nickel for every time I took off in a plane facing backwards…”  -Joel

“Put your hair in a bun.  Otherwise it’ll whip me in the face the whole way down.”-  Jump Guide to Pam

“Pam, maybe your jump guide will be hot”-  Elizabeth

“I’m going to my happy place”  “Centering my Chi”  “Confessing all sins” -joel

Door! “Scoot to the back of the plane.  Kneel at the door.  Grab your shoulder straps and don’t let go.  Tilt your head to the right so you don’t smack me in the face.  Arch your back and I’ll push us out.” -Jump Guide


Joel – thanks for choosing to celebrate your birthday in a grand way!

women and water

The water crisis is often told through the eyes of women – women who walk many hours and long miles to gather water, often dirty, for their families. The HIV/AIDS crisis is often told through the eyes of women – grandmothers carrying for their orphaned grandchildren and mothers unable to care for children. No, these are not crises that exclusively impact one gender, but the burden of both is high for women and their stories, faces, and images are compelling.

This short, three day trip that brought me to both the eastern and western side of Kenya and on the road with four local organizations and one international business, brought these women and their stories front and center. Normally my trips are filled with organizations and strategies and plans, but this time I was along to just see, experience, and learn. As I sit back and flip through my memories of this trip, it is the women that come to my mind. Their smiles, laughter, strength, and depth of story. Everywhere we went the women filled the space with life.

There were young girls walking home from school hand in hand whispering stories. Teens who recited poems and performed dramas to teach others how to treat their water to make it safe for drinking. A young woman who joined the men’s acrobatic and tae-kwon-do team. Women standing with vibrant colored skirts as they talked. Young mothers and old grandmothers holding children they loved. Women of all ages washing clothes, carrying dishes, and gathering water. Pregnant mothers and grandmothers who had HIV and were fighting to live fully for their families. Weaved through all of these women was strength and character and smiles. Yes, there are hardships in each of these stories. To deny that would be to deny a significant part of each woman. But to glorify those hardships denies their strength – a much larger part of who they are.

I cannot blame anyone for using the stories and images of women to talk about the water and HIV/AIDS crises. That is what I do here today. I just hope that the telling of the story brings out the strength of the women. I hope that is what you see through these photos today.

pond water for drinking

Pond water. River water. Surface water. This was a gorgeous scene that we happened upon. A river that is no longer flowing in the dry season but still holds water for the many people who need it because there is no other source. Would you drink this water?

mother and child

I love the posture and poise I find in so many women here. And I wish I could wear a head scarf with such stunning style. Just in case you were wondering: no, I do not love that there is a huge Land Cruiser in the back of this photo or the one below, but some things simply cannot be helped.

schoolgirls singing

These schoolgirls recited a poem and performed a song about water for us yesterday. Although our time with them was brief, it was a joy to be with them as their bright uniforms and vibrant voices lit up the field

a PUR demo

It is 5:30am, and we hit the road in an hour – a few stops in Mombasa to see some projects and then flying to Kisumu this afternoon via Nairobi. I still need to pack, dress, and eat breakfast, but I wanted to share at least something with you from yesterday.

These are two photos of Christine – she was kind enough to take us to her water source (a pond) and then do a demonstration of how she uses PUR packets to purify her drinking water. It was awesome to see the PUR change dirty, cloudy, contaminated water into clear, safe water. I will explain more of how it works at a later point in time, but check out the clear water in the second photo – the particles are now clumped together to be large enough that a cloth can filter them out.

My favorite part of this demo was when Christine said, “Before using PUR I could not finish one week without a child having diarrhea.” Safe water transforms lives.

beautiful people

As I head out to Kenya, thought you might enjoy this photo – a beautiful woman attending a WASH training in Western Kenya. So looking forward to engaging with more beautiful people.

let’s provide safe water together

Remember the Blogivation competition and how you entered your email address into a widget to vote for my blog? Well, P&G has decided to step up again and enable us to come together to provide more safe water. This is not a competition amongst each other – now we get to come together as bloggers and readers to work towards 100,000 days of safe water by the end of the year. There are four ways that you can help:

  • Enter your email address into this widget every day – each vote is 1 day of safe water. (Do not forget to confirm your vote by clicking the ‘confirm link’ in the email you receive after voting.)
  • Go to Changents and sign up for a widget for your own blog. Spread the word – get people to vote here or on your blog every day.
  • If you use the ‘share’ buttons on the widget, that will provide another day of safe water.
  • Vote while at work or school and ask your colleagues, friends, and family to come over and vote each day while you have this site open.

When I last talked to Changents, they said their goal was 100,00 days of safe water – and they would be thrilled if I could rally people towards reaching most of that goal. By the end of the blog competition you had worked together provide just under 9,000 days of clean water by voting on my website alone – nearly half of what was provided by everyone voting. Do you think we could rally together? If we did, I believe through our efforts alone we could get close to that number – well before P&G is anticipating. You can check the progress here progress bar. We are entering the season of giving – let’s give our time and energy to provide safe water today. On Monday I head to Kenya for a few days to see some of the projects that will be impacted by this water. I cannot wait to share this journey with you!

caught in-between

Written in Detroit on Tuesday:

This is one of those in-between weeks – I am in America for just a week between two very different trips to Africa. My mind is both here and there. My body is not sure of the time zone. Emails are flying between the continents. I am trying to bring closure to conversations from the last trip, live here in community with friends, and prepare for the next trip. This is the part of living a traveling life that is not regularly discussed. It is the part that finds me in need of a shower, clean clothes and my bed, but instead receiving an 8 hour layover in Detroit, electricity and caffeine. I love what I do, but the in-betweens are always interesting times.

Written today:

So thankful for a few days of friends and fellowship. This weekend I will be headed to a remote area with friends driving and flying in. It is an incredible blessing to be able to do this in a season filled with busy schedules and much travel. Next week I will be back on the road with Changents and P&G as a part of my Blogivation win. Although the entire trip will be less than a week, I am excited about seeing new programs and meeting with different organization. So, be prepared to hear a lot more about this trip and the new opportunity to help provide PUR packets to purify water to people who need safe water around the world.

cape buffalo

Just over a week ago, I did a morning safari drive in Nairobi National Park. How can one ever get tired of such magnificent animals? If all goes well, I will try and put out a few more pictures and a short iphone video later.