December 30, 2010


Congratulations to Linnea and William.
And Kenyan proposals, just like Prince William.

And now, my family is off to go camping for two nights at Lake Naivasha. I'm sure this is going to be quite the adventure, especially as my family has not all camped together since about 1993. And now, adding in the factor that it will be my parents, an engaged couple and me....let the fun begin!

From our campsite at Naivasha, we'll be going out to other places, such as Langonat (an extinct(?) volcano you can hike the rim of) and Hell's Gate (...I actually don't know what this is. But I will find out, and I will let you know!)

I'll be back on Saturday for a 36 hour breather before we take off on another overnight camping adventure at Amboseli National Park. Assuming we survive this first one...

December 29, 2010

Betty Ann

This is Betty Ann. She is five years old.

This is her brother, David. He’s three.

Their dad, Kennedy, is one of my parents’ theology students, and they had us to their house for chai today. They live about forty-five minutes away, out of Nairobi and through the little towns of Ngong and Kiserian until the last stretch where we clunked down the red-dirt, rutted road to their small shamba (farm) and house. Chai means tea, but Tea in the British sense in that it’s an event – we had soda, milky Kenyan chai, bananas, muffins, good conversation and two kids to play with for entertainment. This family might not be very wealthy, but they absolutely overflow with hospitality. Plus, Kennedy is super funny.

Before we went to their house, this was my lunch:

and before that, we got to see some baby elephants:

Basically, it’s been a full day. 
But a good one. :]

P.S. 2010 version! Thoughts?

December 28, 2010

One Day in Nairobi...

The days surrounding Christmas were a blur of guests and jetlag, so today was the first day we made it out and about in Nairobi. Linnea’s boyfriend, William, got in last night, so this gave us an excuse to introduce him to the city.

We started off touristy with a visit to the Karen Giraffe Center:

        (please note the uncomfortably long, black tongues. 
Now imagine that thing all over your hands. Mmmm, giraffe slobber!)

Then we stopped for a coffee break at Java House, at Adam’s Arcade Shopping Center:

(My favorite drink at Java House – a Malindi Macchiato. SO GOOD.)


And then we ran some errands (groceries, phone cards, picking up a bedspread from the cleaners…) and drove back out of the busy city center into the (traditionally White Kenyan, somewhat nicer) area of Karen in the outskirts that’s our home!

(driving on the opposite side)

 (amazing what a rural-looking shot I can get even in the middle of a bustling capital city!)

Then for dinner, some Eritrean neighbors invited us over for injera b’wet, the national food of Eritrea and Ethiopia. This is how injera makes me feel:

 (Taken on the last time I had injera: Thanksgiving in Lancaster, PA. Picture by Danielle Hale)

We had doro wet, shiro wet, atkilt wet, and then some freshly roasted coffee. And, full and happy, I am now retiring to an evening of watching Bones.

More adventures to come tomorrow!

December 26, 2010

Is it too late to post Christmas-related things?

Can we talk about Dave Barnes for a second? Not only because his music is wonderful ('Little Lies' and 'God Gave Me You' are my faves, obvi...not to mention this Christmas loveliness) but because this may or may not be Dave himself....

You are too much, Dave Barnes.

[via Big Mama]

December 25, 2010

O Come Let Us Adore Him.

Lyric love: It's still a mystery to me / That the hands of God could be so small, / How tiny fingers reaching in the night / Were the very hands that measured the sky... (Joy Williams, 'Here With Us')

An Ethiopian Orthodox painting of Mary and Jesus

In America, the celebration of Christ’s birth falls against a backdrop of colored lights, overcrowded malls, and dreams of snow. The story of baby Jesus is something to smile at in familiarity, maybe pausing for a moment of obligatory reverence. Even in Kenya, with the sun shining hotly through the open windows, I still find myself surrounded by a mountain of crumpled wrapping paper, a pile of shiny new things, and the birth of the Savior of the world relegated to mere afterthought.

I reread the first few chapters of Luke in my quiet time in the past few weeks (or tried to. Travel and plans falling through destroyed this a little, sadly. Which is no excuse, really.). I was struck by two things. First, that the story of Christmas is the story of God Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of the Heavens and the Earth, breaking into humanity. It begins with angels breaching the gap between heaven and earth, as they announce the Lord’s plans to Zechariah and Mary. Then – impossibly – the Word became flesh. Divinity bound itself in humanity, with all the tangibility of a heart pumping blood and lungs pumping air; with skin and fingerprints and emotions and hunger and need. God became part of humanity, and he was infancy and vulnerability. But at the same time, he came with the power to send darkness scurrying away and give life to the fullest. The great paradox of the Incarnation.

The second thing I realized was what a cataclysmic event this was. Four hundred years of silence, and then this: the tangible fulfillment of God’s promises to Adam, Abraham, the prophets, the Israelites. What a frenzy heaven must have been in as final preparations were made! Redemption was in the works, and how all the angels must not have been able to stop pouring out adoration to the Lord for his goodness! Luke 2:13-14 says “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest!’” And yet, on earth, there was hardly a commotion. Just a young, frightened girl, a husband who trusted in spite of appearances, a fieldful of shepherds, and later a few foreign magi there to welcome him. Is this still the way it is? God has come to earth, but no one pays attention?

I crave a reminder of the wonder and miracle of Christmas, because I, too, have made it commonplace, caught up, instead, in my own obsessions and failures. But what I want is to recognize these realities. I want to praise God with the angels because He became one of us, because He fulfils promises, and because He is just the same today. But – another paradox – I don’t think I can do this without His help.

Merry Christmas :]

December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve!

And to celebrate, enjoy Christmas through the years with Linnea and Caroline... (yes, all of these are proudly displayed in our home. But only at Christmastime, actually.)






Aaand skipping a year plus a move to England, 1997 (I think):

Now I'm off to get ready for a Christmas Eve service at the Anglican Cathedral, then our traditional Christmas Eve pizza for dinner!

December 23, 2010


Being back in Africa is sunshine and walking in flip-flops in the dust and frangipanis in my hair.

Driving in Nairobi is tangled traffic and rickety matatus and the wrong side of the road and twisted back roads flanked by fancy houses behind barbed wire.

Being home is reading on the couch and tea seven times a day and focacia and decorating the Christmas tree.

And now, jetlag is taking over. So good night. P.S. 2 days til Christmas!

December 22, 2010

Attempt #2

And we’re off to Dulles to try again to fly to Kenya!

Our new flights are Ethiopian Air, first flying to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, via Rome (where we will probably sit on the ground to refuel and not get off the plane. WORST PART OF FLYING EVER. Just give me motion!), then another flight onto Nairobi. And in an effort to not contemplate the fact that I’m driving an hour through DC rush hour traffic to check in (hopefully. We all know how well that went last time…) and sit 3 hours in the airport to get on an airplane that I will be on for approximately 12 hours (yes, you read that right), have a 3 hours layover, and another 4 hour flight, I’ve made a list of all the happy aspects of this trip:

1.    1. We’re avoiding Heathrow. And being stranded. And snow. (Assuming there’s no snow in Rome. Hmmm.)

2. I’m going to get a peppermint mocha from Starbucks at Dulles. I love peppermint mochas.

3.  Ethiopian Air = layover in Addis, aka my home city. AND, on the way back, we’re throwing in 24 hours in actual Addis. SO EXCITING. Even though Ethi is what I consider my home, we don’t have opportunity to go back there because my parents moved to Kenya. UNTIL NOW. RANDOMLY. SO GREAT.

4. Bole Airport in Addis. It will be such a tease, only being able to look out the windows and not be there (yet). And not gonna lie. Bole Airport is LAME. But it’s familiar. I can even go visit the bathroom where my friend Ana Lena hid a secret note for me because she was flying out about 6 hours earlier than me one night. And the last time I was at this airport was with my best friend Abby. Oh, the memories.

5.      5. Ethiopian Air also = I can speak Amharic to the people at the check-in desk and they will be so impressed with me.

6.      6. Reading my January Real Simple magazine. I have a subscription, and this one came a few days before (attempted) leaving, so I saved it. AND NOW IS THE TIME TO READ IT.

7.      7. Quality time with the sister….

8.      8. You never know what movies will be shown on the plane. And there’s even the possibility of seatback screens where you can choose your own movie. And given the whole 12 hour thing, I won’t even have to choose which movie – I will have the time to watch them all!

9.      9. Finally getting to Kenya. I’m anticipating bear hugs from the parentals and possibly a stop at Java House for a Malindi Macchiato (aka the most delicious hot beverage ever).

        Fingers crossed...

December 21, 2010

In Limbo

Today is just a day to get through so that we can leave for Kenya tomorrow. (Wow, once I wrote that I realized how depressing that sounds…but, I mean…it is.) Seeing as I’m at my cousins’ house and carless, today has mostly consisted of watching some Say Yes to the Dress, some What Not to Wear, Honey, Parks & Recreation…basically, a LOT of TV. I don’t have cable at school, so this doesn’t really ever happen in my life, which makes it a leeeetle better (ok not really, but humor me), but still. The biggest thing I did today was get dressed. At about 3:45. This is just pathetic, especially 4 days before Christmas.

Because I’m not home yet, though, I feel like I’m a little in limbo, especially in the Christmas department. Finals have a tendency to suck the Christmas spirit right out of you, so you usually have to wait til you get home to fully relax and start feeling Christmassy. But I’m not there yet. SOO I’m living vicariously through others’ right now. For example, look at this Christmas-video-in-lieu-of-cards that this one family made. Isn’t that wonderful??

(also, you can check out some behind the scenes of this video here.)

Basically, when I grow up, my family is going to do stuff like this all. the. time. 

December 20, 2010

LHR is no longer my friend.

This morning, I fully intended to write a post waxing nostalgic about London Heathrow. About how it's my home sweet airport and where we always fly through, and about how the first thing we used to do on our layovers coming back from Ethiopia was run to the McDonald's (because when you're 12 you think McDonalds is the epitome of what you're missing in America), and how that McDonald's later was turned into a Pret a Manger, which was sweet because by that time we had matured and realized that Pret > MickyDs. But I digress.

The point is, I'm a little angry at Heathrow right now. Alright, I suppose it's not Heathrow's fault, but all the daggone snow that's relentlessly beating down on the poor little United Kingdom, which caused hundreds of cancelled flights and thousands of stranded passengers. I was aware of this situation this morning, and of course a little nervous, but as our British Air flight was leaving at 8:25pm, there was nothing we could do but go for it. Throughout the day, kept telling us that despite all odds, both our flight from Dulles to Heathrow and then onto Nairobi were confirmed. Yet as we pulled off the exit towards Dulles, BA oh so kindly TEXTED ME that our flight was cancelled. 

But again, what can you do? We waited in line to be rebooked, but moved about twenty feet in an hour and a half. Luckily, my parents were hard at work in Kenya (despite it being 2am there), communicating with our travel agent in Canada, and they finally were able to rebook us on a different flight. Unfortunately, it's leaving on Wednesday -- meaning two more nights in the States, waiting pointlessly around, as Christmas draws ever closer. The other problem was...where do we go for these two nights? As my sister's boyfriend had driven us to the airport, we didn't have our own car. So we staked out a nice little spot on the floor and, surrounded by our four bags, one carry-one, 2 purses, and 1 awkwardly long, skinny box (containing a hammock swing. it's a Christmas present.), we tried to figure out who to call who could come rescue us. Thankfully, our cousin was up to the challenge. So here we are, stranded at the cousins' house, with a whole day to kill before attempt #2 at Going To Kenya For Christmas. And not going to lie, I'm a little antsy and frustrated. As my sister said, "I shake my head at this day." But you know what? It's completely out of my hands. And at least I'm sleeping in a real bed, and not an airport floor.

On a brighter note, Let it Dough :]

Five Days

Quote Love: "I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month." ~ Harlan Miller 

Exams ended on Friday, so this college town cleared out. For those of us with international flights booked back in September, however, before abstract dates became the reality of “oh, I guess this means I’m here alone for the weekend,” it was threatening to get kind of lonely. So I invited myself to spend the night at the home of one of my housemates in Lexington, Virginia. The drive meanders through mountains and farmlands and is gorgeous in an achingly homey, Americana kind of way (maybe just achingly because that was something I never experienced while I was off growing up in the sprawling, polluted, developing mess that is Addis Ababa, Ethiopia?) (p.s. I love Addis, I really do. It’s just not pretty). And this weekend, the fields and farmland running alongside the highway were scattered with snow, making them scraggly white and beautiful.

I drove this route in winter once before, and it just makes me think of this one Christmas book that we have, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston. My mom loves this book because it reminds her of where we lived when I was born: Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. (It’s the boonies, let me tell you.) I don’t remember much of Pilot Mountain, but I know the book, and to me it means home and Christmas. And let me just say its illustrations are this drive I took today.


I leave for Kenya tomorrow, and the day after I get back is our Mother-Daughter Christmas Cookie Exchange, a tradition that has come with us from Pennsylvania to Ethiopia to Kenya. This book will be read aloud there. And just like that, once more, and rather unexpectedly, America and Kenya meld.

Welcome to my life.

(image source:

December 18, 2010

Christmas Countdown: ONE WEEK!

Along with my sister's and my impending departure to Kenya comes a flurry of emails from the parentals Рlists of things to bring them (hair color and pepperoni, anyone?), last-minute Christmas present suggestions and requests, and rather blas̩ travel tips such as this:

“I hope the weather doesn't complicate your flights! Sounds like it's snowing everywhere, including London. Just do your best. If you get stuck in London and need to find a hotel overnight, that's what the credit card is for.”

Thanks, Mom. Glad you’re totally fine with the fact that your offspring might be potentially stranded in London while trying to get home for Christmas. As long as we have the credit card.

But my mom is actually a pretty cool kid. She’s the one who showed me (well, me and her however many other Facebook friends she has) this video:

Love it!

One week to Christmas! How did that happen??

December 17, 2010

Hello Blogosphere

There’s a terrifying sort of accomplishment that comes with creating a blog. For me, the accomplishment comes from the fact that I’ve been wanting to do this for a few months now –I’ve just found that the hardest part is starting. It’s terrifying, though, because here it is. My voice is out there; my words are exposed to the admiration or critique of anyone who happens to stumble upon it. And the vulnerability of it kind of scares me.

But let’s be real. It’s also a completely egocentric thing to be doing. Which, I suppose, takes at least some self-assurance… :]

And so I guess there’s nothing to do but jump right in.

P.S. This is what it looks like outside my bedroom right now:

(Thank you, webcam, for such a quality picture. But point being, SNOW!!)

And this is where I’ll be in about four days:

(This is my parents’ yard in Nairobi, Kenya. That’s my padre.)

On the one hand, I can’t wrap my mind around this. On the other hand, I’d like to be there already, please. It's a contradiction of feelings -- kind of like starting a blog...
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