storm brewing

Today was a beautiful day in the field – got to see some places where there will be water projects and places that I have been in the past that now have safe water. At the end of our day, as the rain clouds were threatening serious rain, I was snapping a last few photos before we raced the storm home. Beautiful.

And no, I have not forgotten about my brother’s wedding. It was beautiful and I hope to sort through my photos and put a few up with a few thoughts about the wedding. For now, check out Lar & Cath’s blog (Matt’s bride and her twin sister) and the photographer’s blog for a few pictures of the wonderful day. Since I was in the wedding, they probably (slow internet here in Northern Uganda) have much better photo documentation than I will anyway.

headed to Africa with almost light enough luggage

For the last four days I have been surrounded by family and some of my closest friends. Together we prepared for, and then celebrated my brother’s marriage. It was beautiful, wonderful, and whimsically perfect. Over the weekend I gained another sister-in-law and another extended family. Then I drove the 4.5 hours home with some leftover wedding cake and home-made wedding beer so that I could prepare to leave today.

Most of the time I talk about the fun of travel, about the amazing places I get to see and the people I am blessed to know. And through all of this, the exotic became my normal. What I normally talk about is that beautiful, seemingly exotic image because I want to make other places and people real for those who are not there. Yet, as I talk with people about my life, I realize there is a big piece that is missing from this online conversation: the hard, mundane, and often frustrating part this life of travel. And so today, I am going to start that conversation. Not in an effort to drown out the rest of the conversation, but to add to it, to fill it out, and to make it more real.

This morning’s struggle was for a couple of pounds. Not on my body – in my luggage. To get to Northern Uganda on Wednesday morning, I am taking four flights – the last of which is on a small plane on a small airstrip. My luggage is limited to 15 kg, or slightly over 33 pounds. Total. Should be doable (I normally travel carry-on only anyway)- just remember these things: there is necessary gear because of the work I do (including photos you enjoy) and I will be hitting rainy season in three different countries. Some starting weights: rolling suitcase is 7.5 lbs, backpack is 1.5 lbs, purse is 0.5 pounds,  computer is 3 lbs, stripping the work camera down to the basics brings it down to 4.5 lbs. So… before we have talked about necessary chords, batteries, first-aid kit, toiletries, clothes, or shoes, I have used about half of my allotted weight. (And yes – it remains oddly helpful that I retrain these random pieces of knowledge.)

At the end of the day, it essentially worked out and I am crossing my fingers they ignore the 2 extra pounds. I am pretty sure that 2 oz of shampoo will be enough, that my professional folder was an unnecessary luxury, and that my feet will survive without close-toed shoes. Once I get to Northern Uganda, I will buy a local wrap to replace the 2 yards of fabric that I normally carry. Yoga pants and journal are luxury items to not be excluded, so are packed. I am beyond thankful for my Kindle.

24 hours ago I was relaxing with my family as we had a late brunch. Now I am sitting in an airport having carefully negotiated the packing, picked up my house, filled out insurance forms, finished my finances for the month, and enjoyed one last night of sleep in my own bed. It will be a good trip and I look forward to the memories that will be created.


celebrating with family and friends

As I mentioned in my last post, I celebrated my 30th. Not just one night, but, well… the celebrations continued for a couple of weeks. All because I have amazing family and friends who helped me celebrate and are always up for some fun. Here are a couple of highlights.

Four friends + one lake-side cabin = hours of relaxed fun.

We had amazing food – including this apple pie in the deep dish apple pie plate that was made for me. More about it another time. And the games. Oh the games we played.

Boys will be boys. Apparently this rock needed to be pushed, hauled, and otherwise shoved into the lake. It made a big splash. And they gave each other a high five.

Then Joel and I went rappelling off a 120 foot cliff. Stunning and awesome.

Right before we got to the Stone Door to go rappelling, we had care problems. So, while rappelling (and here playing with the ascender), we talked to more than a couple friends to be rescued. A rural Tennessee adventure (really not that different than an African adventure) later we got home that night.

Then I celebrated with my siblings. Happy moments being around the same table and playing together. Next time I will be sure and get our (most awesome) sibling additions into the photo. I am so thankful I love my brothers’ wife and wife-to-be!

We went rock climbing at the nation’s largest climbing gym, Stone Summit, which just happens to be in Atlanta. We adults had fun, but the cutest thing by far was my nephew, Liam (aka Thumper), who did his best to copy us.

And then there were the “Happy Birthday’s” by text, phone, email and card as well as packages in the mail. Thank you everyone for helping me celebrate the beginning of my 30’s!

hello 30. let’s be friends.

Last week I responded to the elliptical’s demand, “Enter your age,” with, “30.” It was the first time I had to ‘own’ my age, and it somehow made it official. Parties and adventures are glorious and herald the changing of times, but this was the mundane and that made it real.

If I am honest, I will say that a few months ago, I was not too happy about “30” becoming part of my foundation. Welcoming a new decade meant saying goodbye to the last. And as I thought about it, I was not sure if I was ready to say goodbye. I was not sure if I had done what I wanted to do in my 20’s in such a way that I was ready for that next period of life.

Of course, as my father is quick to remind me, it is really just another day, and celebrating is so much better than the alternative – not being here to turn the pages of time. In proclaiming my academic achievements, a friend said, “You have done so much more than many in your 20‘s.” Both are true, but there was something deeper inside of me that this change stirred up.

2010  was a year of a lot of whiplash. Of heading in one direction and then changing mid-stride as I whipped around a corner I did not know existed. Some of this I have written about, much of it I have not. It made me exhausted in every sense of the word and demanded I take a step back to breathe. And so I have been breathing.

Amongst that breathing has been the anticipation of welcoming a new decade, of turning 30. I have thought about who I am and what I am proud of, and what the future holds. Mostly, I have been reminded that I am more myself than I have ever been. I remain passionate about learning, teaching, and seeing people be their best. I love life dearly, and know that it is the people interwoven into life that make it real. I strive to live life to its fullest and fill it with fun and adventure – through nature, food, art, and daily living. Through it is a theme of water – a substance that almost always makes me smile. Through these remembrances, I have continued to breathe.

That breathing and those remembrances meant that this month I could truly celebrate with friends and family. I ate good food, spent time in nature, played games, and, most of all, was with people I love. It was a perfect, beautiful reminder of who I am and who I love.

I love adventures. Sometimes they are big and cause grand adrenaline rushes, and sometimes they are small and make the eyes smiles. Each one speaks of living life to it’s fullest. I have declared my 30th year to be a year of adventures. It might just spill into the whole decade. And so, I as continue to simply breathe, letting life get more and more full, I say, “Hello 30. Let’s be friends.”


Pictures and stories of the birthday adventures coming this week….


somedays the to-do list grows

Today was one of those days when America felt a little bit like Africa. I’m not talking about the weather, the people, or the culture. Instead, I’m talking about having to go to multiple locations to get one set of related tasks done. I’m talking about machines malfunctioning in annoying ways. And then you do something to make you smile – to help you take that deep breath as you go about the rest of your errands. At the end of the day you try to only remember the things that did get done and try and forget the rest even as they have caused tomorrow’d to-do list to grow longer. Somedays it simply does not matter what continent I am on.


beach vacation: wataumu village

When our plans began, we were going to meet up in Port Sudan for some diving. But yours truly was unable to get a visa to Sudan. Thankfully, I have flexible parents and our little diving trip was moved to Kenya. And that is why, after two weeks of work in Rwanda I met my parents on the Kenyan coast.

It was a classic Crane vacation. A small resort/guesthouse, narrow streets,  testing little restaurants, books for everyone, plenty of ocean time, and smiles all around. Here are few photos that tell some of the story of our time in Watamu.

Marijani Holiday Resort is where we stayed. Simple, clean rooms. Beautiful garden. Excellent breakfast. Located in town a block from the beach.

This is the road that goes in front of where we stayed. A beautifully horribly failed project to have drainage below the sand road. Now there is no road. The best part of this picture is the sign on the gate:

Tuk tuk taxis. Need I say more? Definitely increased the fun quality of our time there.

Dive buddies. We have been diving together since I learned when I was 12 years old. (Before that I would watch dad dive and think about when I would be old enough to dive.) We dove with the dive center at Ocean Sports. I highly recommend the operation – definitely the best that I have experienced in Africa. And there is plenty of great wildlife in the marine reserve to make it worth the effort to go diving.

Mother and daughter enjoying a walk on the beach. (Mom is the source of my love of water – we spent some good times bobbing in the water in the afternoons.)

My beautiful parents.

Traditional dhows sailing in after a day of fishing.

The young boy was playing in the surf and then swam out to meet a dhow coming in. Then he grabbed onto his older brother who was holding quite the nice catch. It was such a joy to witness the fun of these brothers.

This little cafe is run by an Italian couple and has outstanding gelato. Their sandwich was also good (which is really important because, although they had a dozen flavors of gelato, there was only one sandwich). They also serve coffee and croissants if you need a caffeine jolt.

This is the lovely mama that my mom bought mangoes from. Mangoes that were absolutely divine and no bargaining required.

All of that to say: Watamu Village is a great place for a chill vacation. Highly recommended.