a photo a day… in 2013

2013 is going to be a year of transition. Even if you were to ask, I do not have answers on what is next, but I promise there are things brewing and that I am filled with wonderful anticipation. As I begin another season of life, I am excited to remember the original tagline of this blog, “A piece of where I am.” This has been a place for me to write about the journey and to find beauty in where I am. As this year of transition begins, I want to record it and share it.

In addition to writing about “where I am,” I am launching a fun little photo project. In 2013, I will be posting a photo a day through Instagram (tagged with #365), and will share those photos in a weekly blog post with some thoughts to wrap up the week. I will collect these photos in a little book to share with you at the end of the year. This blog has often helped me to find the beauty that surrounds me, and I believe this project will do that as well. My hope is that, as I search for beauty in where I am, that you too will be blessed.

Just to fill you with anticipation, here are some instagram photos from 2012.


Chilling in my hammock (Kigali, Rwanda).


Flying places: sometimes in small planes (Uganda).


Old land (Northern Kenya).


Making coffee on the road (Ndola, Zambia).


Handwashing station in the desert (Northern Kenya).


Big flower, little bee (Northern Uganda).


Village scenes (Lira, Uganda).


House projects Africa style (Kigali, Rwanda).


Sunset and lake (Michigan, USA).


Hiking Ben Nevis (Scotland).


Coffee (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).


Ancient buildings (Rome, Italy).


Old art (Rome, Italy).


Water and islands (Hydra, Greece)


Interesting signs (Marsabit, Kenya).


Beautiful and yummy food (Atlanta, USA).


City sunset (Atlanta, USA).

I hope that you too are filled with anticipation as we prepare to ring in the new year!

All my love,

~pam (the nomad)

italian in nairobi

In the midst of turning towards fun, I want to share some of the places that have become old friends as well as the new discoveries made here and on my travels. And so today, I introduce you to my blog category called ‘places’ and Osteria, an Italian restaurant in Nairobi.


A friend and I arrived at Osteria for Saturday lunch, and it could not have been more perfect. The tables outside made it seem we were in a courtyard, possibly a thousand miles away. Bruschetta, mozzarella, basil, mushrooms, pasta, and wine. I am convinced that the lack of good cheese in Kigali has not completely lowered my standards and that it was indeed good food. I would go on and on about each dish we had if I did not think you would immediately begin to think of ways to ship me cheese. But, just one comment: capris salad – fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil leaves, balsamic vinegar. Perfection. Add to that smiling staff that were there when needed, but melted away and were happy to let us talk for hours, stretching the meal long so that our tummies could find space for a few bites more.


Yes, Osteria has officially been added to my list of places to frequent when I am in Nairobi. In case you need a bit more convincing, they have an ice cream shop as well that looked like it was filled with homemade gelato. The family sitting outside looked like they were in a small piece of heaven. Unfortunately we were too stuffed for even a small scoop, so should you stop by, please let me know how it is.

no room in the inn

On my last trip to Northern Kenya, I spent one night out in the desert and it changed my understanding of a story I have heard since I was a young child. We arrived at a small village not too far south of the Ethiopian border in the afternoon. In the local language, the town’s name means ‘windy’, and it could not have been more accurate. It was flat in all directions, volcanic rocks and thorny shrubs littered the landscape, and the wind was a constant presence.

After our meetings were done, we checked in at our hotel – one of two in this town on the main (though still dirt) road from the south to the north. The hotel was six simple rooms in a line, a latrine, and a shower room, all surrounded by a wire fence beyond the generous rock yard. Each room had two simple twin beds, each with a pillow, a towel, a bar of soap, and a portion of toilet paper. Simple, but clean and thoughtfully laid out. That night a feast of goat (100% free range and organic) was roasted over the open fire, which we shared from common plates with our hands. And then I turned in for the night, placing the stone behind my door to keep it closed since there was no latch.

Half of my hotel room. And this is with the wide-angle lens.

At 3:15 am, I suddenly awoke to the sound of voices and a rock scrapping on concrete. My door was being opened. Groggy but suddenly wide-eyed, I called out to the person pushing my door open.

“We heard there was a bed available in a room with a woman. There are two women who have just arrived and both hotels are full.”

Well, yes, there was a bed available. Not knowing quite what to do, I said as much and promptly cleared the bed of my things (I had been using as a make-shift dresser), and crawled back into my bed to await the arrival of my new roommates.

My groggy mind was filled with random thoughts. Did I not pay for this room? They must have come in on one of the cars that travels through the night – much cooler than during the day. Where had they come from and where were they going? Does the whole village know that there is exactly one mzungu (white person) woman and the exact room where she is staying?  If it was me, I would be so grateful to share a room with a stranger too. And, mostly, I was just stunned.

Twenty minutes later the two women arrived, closed the little window, curled up in the twin bed, and promptly fell asleep. The next morning I left before they woke, so I never actually met the women that were my roommates for four hours, but I doubt I will ever forget them.

Since I was a child, I have heard the stories of Mary, Joseph, and the birth of baby Jesus. When Mary was pregnant, they traveled to Bethlehem and there was no room in the inn. An innkeeper made room for them in the stables. By squeezing them in where there was a bit of space, he provided for a woman who labored and gave birth to a child. Although I have shared my home with many (beds and floors), I have never been woken by strangers in a hotel room. I cannot help but wonder if this was more like the story of Christmas than I had ever before imagined.

Strangers helping. Shared spaces. Confused thoughts. Unknown roommates. Midnight awakenings. Star-filled nights. 

This year, the Christmas story came alive for me, and as I await Epiphany, I keep wondering what it would have been like if I had stayed longer in that windy town in my shared room.

dancing grandma

Earlier this week I was out in a village where people living with  HIV/AIDS and orphan caregivers were gathered. They come together to encourage one another, to learn, and to stand together. There was one particular woman, a grandma, who just loved to sing and dance her heart out. When I asked to take her photo, she smiled and laughed and made merry. Later, I caught her as she stood inside. Two sides of a woman. I love the second photo, but I wish you could have seen her dance.

a blessing of rain

Right now I am in a place that was experiencing a horrible drought. It had been dry for so long. Then the rains came and I keep hearing about blessings. Where there was loose soil, there is grass a foot high. Trees that looked like sticks in the sky are full of leaves. Tanks that were dry are full, and reservoirs that were nearly empty are full to overflowing. The sky is blue; there is not an ever-present haze from dust in the air. As we drove on Saturday, one of the staff from this region, looking out the window, quietly said, “We are so blessed.” On Sunday I visited a Game Park that is on top of the Marsabit mountain, which includes the water source for the town and a crater lake. Everywhere I looked, here were small butterflies in the thousands. They rarely stood still, but instead seemed as if they were dancing in a grand declaration of the blessing, the wonder of rain after drought.


This week it seems like the rains have stopped and everyone is holding their breath – will the rains come in April or will this year again skip the long rains? No one knows. So even as the people I am working with plan projects to help protect against future drought, we sit and marvel at today’s blessing of water. It seems perfect that the rains were here before Thanksgiving and that the land speaks of blessing as we prepare for Christmas. As I long for signs of Christmas, I think I have found it here in the green desert.

tonight’s story

Tonight was a much longer night than anticipated. Barak and I headed to the airport at 3pm to pick up a Rwandese partner arriving for the training who also happens to speak perfect French. We got some coffee and took her back to airport with us to pick up the 4 person team from the Central African Republic just in case there were problems and we needed someone to help who spoke more than bush French. After the team did not appear more than an hour after their plane landed, information contacted immigration, and found their was a problem. Here is the story as told by Barak’s tweets (I was texting him while inside):

“Friends from CAR are detained by immigration at Kenyatta Airport. The intrepid @pamthenomad and Claudette have just been swallowed by the abyss of airport bureaucracy in an effort to rescue them. Will our heroes succeed?!? Stay tuned.”

“Sweet. Now @pamthenomad is apparently being accused by immigration of being in violation of her visa. Are they doomed!?!?”

“After 2.5 hours of being chewed, digested and processed @pamthenomad, 4 central Africans and 1 Rwandese have been excreted from the bowels of the Nairobi airport – weary and worn, but thankfully legal.”

“Oh, but minus 1 bag.”

Barak did not mention the texts to Tennessee for phone numbers, the legal lecture I was given, or the follow up to happen this week. Or that this all started because one African nation stopped issuing passports, only travel papers, while another African nation has not decided to recognize said travel papers. If you did not catch that sentence, read it again, and think about it. Yes, I too am clueless as to why a country would decide to stop issuing passports. Clueless.

So glad I fueled up with good Ethiopian food at lunch. Just another day in the life of @pamthenomad.

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.

schoolyard tree

This is a photo I took in Western Kenya in a schoolyard this fall. Each time I have looked back at the photo it has grabbed me, and I cannot tell you exactly why. I think I love how the branches seem to reach to the heavens while providing shade and beauty on earth.

lwala: water at schools

October seems like so long ago, and yet it was less than two months ago that it was October and I was in Western Kenya exploring options for Blood:Water to come alongside an old partner in a new way. I talked about this ever so briefly in this post about water in schools. Things worked out well, and this partnership is going to happen. Or, I should say, is happening. Last week I wrote about this on Blood:Water’s blog -which you can read here. (Please take a minute to read the post as it will provide great context for future stories I tell about Lwala. Besides – it is an inspiring story, so perfect for this Christmas season.) I am so excited about this partnership, so keep your eyes and ears open in the coming year for more trips to Western Kenya. I am so looking forward to sharing stories from there with you.

This is a health journal from the school office of one of the schools participating in the water program.

school windows

I am in the midst of processing photos and stories for Blood:Water Mission from my time in Western Kenya in October. I love this photo taken at a primary school and had to share it with you. More stories from my time there will come out soon, and I am excited to be able to share them! For now, I hope you enjoy this photo as you work to push through the last few hours of this work week.

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?