December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Never again will you see two posts from me in one day, but because it is New Year's Eve and because this is adorable, here are Zoey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to sing to you:

Lake Magadi

Yesterday, we took a day trip to Lake Magadi, about three hours’ drive down into the Rift Valley.

The lake was a funny one, filled with soda ash with a company town grown around the factories and machinery used to extract it. From high up, it looked like an ocean: shades of blue, gray, green, even pinkish, with white streaked across like cresting waves – but still, like a painting. From closer, you realized that in some parts the water was shallow enough for sandpipers to run across it, and all the colors (even the white) were just mineral deposits. We pressed on until we found ourselves with a flat tire in the middle of a dry lakebed:

After fixing it, we drove 2 more kilometers in pursuit of the “hot springs” only to realize it all looked the same, so we stopped for our picnic (but stayed in the car because there were people around who we didn’t want to eat in front of). But this meant that when my parents went walking out further into the lakebed, all the kids appeared and pressed themselves into my open car door, so I talked to them instead of eating lunch. (“Where are you from? Did you come to bathe? Are there many Maasais in Nairobi?”)

Thankfully, Magadi had a (small) Total station with a “Tyre Mending” (where they didn’t actually mend our tyre) and lots of local color.

On our way home, we stopped at Olorgesailie, a site where a ton of prehistoric handaxes (aka piles of rocks?) and one prehistoric human brow bone have been discovered. So we got a tour of the rocks and elephant bones:

We finally made it home to Nairobi by dinnertime and were rewarded with Java House. Yay!

December 30, 2011

This Makes My Heart So Happy.

Currently Watching: BBC's Human Planet with my father (and no, this is not the first evening spent this way.)
Quote Love: "Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack." - Virginia Woolf

Two of my very favorite things coming together:
Brooke Fraser and Ethiopia.

Read more about Brooke's adventures on her blog!

[and all images are via her blog, too]

December 29, 2011


Today I tagged along with my dad to the grocery store. First, we went to KPS, which is where the white Kenyans typically shop (and there are a lot of white Kenyans in Karen, our area of Nairobi), because my dad likes their baguettes better.

After there were no baguettes at KPS (TIA), we went to our usual grocery store, Nakumatt.

(I was obviously really helpful in the whole shopping endeavor, because I just wandered around and took pictures. But, hey, I had to document for you guys...)

December 28, 2011

Slow Days

Currently Watching: Jorge and Alexa at it again. So presh. (Thanks, Hope!)
Line Love: “The airport officials wave their guns at me, casually hostile, as we climb off the stale-breath, flooding-toilet-smelling plane into Africa’s hot embrace, and I grin happily...The incongruous, lawless, joyful, violent, upside-down, illogical certainty of Africa comes at me like a rolling rainstorm, until I am drenched with relief.” (from Let's Don't Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller)

I don’t know if I have every fully explained it to you all, but I think you probably have gathered that even though it is Kenya that I return to now, Ethiopia is my home. After I graduated from high school, we all dispersed – me to America for college (where my sister already was), and my parents to here, to Nairobi. Anyone who’s family has ever moved after they left home will understand that it is a strange thing, going to the new place, because even though you may like it well enough and even though it is where your family is, it is not a familiar place, and it is not a chance to see all your old friends and return to your old way of life; it is all new. Of course, I’ve been to Kenya several times now, and I like it. I’m grateful to be able to return to the familiar grit of Africa. But the thing is I don’t have friends here, or old high school haunts to visit, or people to do that with. Especially this year, I don’t have a sister to matatu and adventure with. So it’s a slow break, with slow days.

It’s a strange balance: grateful to be in Kenya, that this is the place I get to come for Christmas break, but a little sad at the same time about just how far I am from places and people (apart from my parents) I consider home.

All that being said, it does make you appreciate the simple things that make up a good day here (ie. a day where I am not sitting in the house by myself). And today was like that: I went shopping with my mom, our neighbor Mrs. Mercer, and her friend Allison to a shop with a collection of handcrafted goods from various NGOs (where I bought things for myself and things for others), then lunch at Java House (home of my favorite Malindi Macchiato). Of course, with Nairobi’s expanse and maniacal traffic, the whole outing was a few hours. Then home for a little bit of Modern Family, internet browsing (sitting outside where the connection is best, but wearing sweatpants and a fleece thanks to the oddly prolonged rains…where am I again? Oh yes, a country through which the equator runs. Obviously.), reading and whatnot. And then our neighbors, the Gibsons, came for a cookout dinner and stayed to chat long afterwards. And it was all quite lovely.

(So. I guess this turned into a rather long explanation as to why I don’t have constant Kenyan adventures to share with you, but really I just wanted to show a little more about the realities of having a family overseas, the way it’s not always glamorous and exciting but with the same ordinariness of any other home. If that makes sense. Does that make sense?)

[both pictures above are of our house here -- the garden and table where I sit and go online (although this picture was taken at a less dreary time), and then the gate to our house that we have to jump out of the car and open by hand each time we drive up.]

December 26, 2011

Sick Sick Sick

I have been horizontal all day, drinking fluids and dozing and trying not to throw up anymore. So to distract you from the fact that I have nothing exciting to say to you today, I'm going to leave you with this lovely song. Taylor Swift + The Civil Wars? For The Hunger Games movie? Let's just say that I am quite proud of Taylor right now.

P.S. How was everyone's Christmas??

December 24, 2011

O Come, O Come

Today I Made: Pecan pie and deviled eggs (for Christmas dinner tomorrow!)
Currently Reading: Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

I have spent a good bit of the past few months in the Old Testament. Isaiah, especially, is what I keep coming back to (the hopeful bits, at least). And, recently, listening more closely to carols, I have been struck by the words of one in particular: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” It is haunting and mournful and it is the cry of Isaiah, the prophets, the Israelites, all wrapped up into verses that we somehow now sing without thinking. The waiting, the longing, the people far from home and enslaved, crying out: “Come, Emmanuel! And ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here…” It is not festive or merry, but a reminder of our need, our longing, and calling out to the Rod of Jesse, the Desire of Nations, the only one who can do something about it.

But then the refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Because (can it be?) EmmanuelGod with us. God with us! shall come to thee, O Israel.

Another thing I’ve been reminded of a lot this semester: ‘“My thoughts are not like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you can imagine.”’ (Isaiah 55:8) Well, obviously. Because how can the God who created the universe, time, each of us, be somehow bound up into skin, lungs and veins, fingernails? How can a glorious God make his entrance into earth so small, at first only interrupting the lives of just a few ordinary, scared people? How can he be made so lowly – becoming a baby, laid in a manger, greeted only by shepherds?

All I am left with is that, incomprehensible as it might be to me, God responds. He is faithful, to the Israelites mourning in lonely exile, to the very same captive cries of our own souls today.

So haste, haste, to bring him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

December 23, 2011

Through The Years

Lyric Love: "A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn..." - O Holy Night (Raise your hand if this is your favorite Christmas carol...)

Part of my mom's Christmas decorations involve pictures of Linnea and I at Christmas throughout the years. These pictures are taken out with the Christmas decorations and then put away with them, so it is only during the yuletide season that we have the pleasure of seeing pictures of ourselves in various stages of increasing awkwardness dressed in something Christmassy. So, for your viewing pleasure, here are the Black sisters doing Christmas: the early years. (Because, weirdly, the pictures stop after about 2001. Who knows why.)




 [1994, aka the year Caroline got glasses]


[1997, skipping a year + a move to England]

...And that is as far as I'm going to show you. I am too ashamed of the rest. Also, on a sad note, this will be our first Christmas without Linnea, who is celebrating Stateside with her husband's fam. (Which might explain why I woke up to a Linnea-shrine of sorts this morning, with her newly-framed wedding picture sitting on the kitchen table with a lit candle by it. Or maybe that was just accidental. Point being, we miss you!)

 Can you believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve??

P.S. 14738294 bonus points to anyone who notices that this is a post repeat from last year...I am so sneaky.

December 22, 2011

Three Days Til Christmas!

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..." - "Here With Us," Joy Williams


Today we had our mother-daughter Christmas cookie exchange, one of our yearly(ish) traditions. It involved tables spread throughout the garden, crafts, story time, everyone telling their favorite Christmas traditions (mine: going out for pizza on Christmas Eve), and swapping cookies, of course. And now there are presents under the tree*, we are watching It’s A Wonderful Life, I’m drinking hot chocolate, there is a tin of assorted Christmas cookies dangerously close to me, and earlier I cut a bajillion paper snowflakes with my neighbor Elaina to convert their porch into a winter wonderland for a faculty Christmas party tomorrow. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, sunshine and sleeveless shirts and all.

What makes it feel like Christmas for you? Do you find that all of December is Christmassy, or does it sneak up on you sometimes? (I’ll admit that with finals then traveling, it’s the latter for me…)

*All of which are for my parents and wrapped by me, even though only some of them are actually from me. Part of my Santa duties, I suppose.

[images via Pinterest]

December 21, 2011

Repeat The Sounding Joy

Love this.
(I mean, obviously. We all know how I feel about maps.)

[source: Angela Hardison, via Una Bella Vita]

December 20, 2011


Currently Reading: The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler
Quote Love: “The first time her laughter unfurled its wings in the wind, we knew that the world would never be the same." - Brian Andreas

Yesterday we went to the home Wanjiru, of one my parents’ students, about four hours on traffic-y, bumpy roads out of Nairobi. Wanjiru’s father is 94 years old, and welcomed us graciously. The family grows coffee, so after tea to revive us from the trip (tea in the British sense, meaning food as well – in this case, we had mandazis, hard-boiled eggs, mango, papaya and bananas), we tramped through the coffee bushes to see how it’s grown:

The beans grow inside the red berries. You kind of have to bite the berry to get them out. 
(I mean, that’s how we were doing it. It might not be how professional coffee-pickers do it.)

They produce about 20,000 kilos of coffee a year…all handpicked.

And speaking of coffee, I have had two Malindi Macchiatos in the past 24 hours so I am feeling quite good about life. They really are delicious

I seriously think some Java House employee needs to come to America and infiltrate the upper levels of Starbucks until Malindi Macchiatos have taken the nation by storm. Or, we could start at the bottom and work our way up, introducing them to the local coffee shops first? It could start in Charlottesville, and from there, who knows. Maybe a revolution. (Yes, they are that good.)

[source for last image]

December 18, 2011

Settling Back In

Quote Love: "Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see." - C.S. Lewis

Not quite forty-eight hours in Kenya is enough to remind me of the way things are here -- the way it’s so different from America, but normal and familiar nonetheless.

Like the way traffic is a crazy mess sprawled over potholed, unlined roads, with cars that drive on the left, swerving and cutting mere inches away from each other.

Or the way I’m always surprised by how coarse and brown the sugar here is (and how I forget that every time I then go back to the States, I confuse sugar for salt).

Or the way neighbors pop in for a visit and stay to chat over a cup of tea.

Or the way people crowd the edges of streets, and such a mixture of them, too: families in Sunday best passing the boy peddling sticks of sugarcane out of a wheelbarrow; those talking on cell phones hurrying by the outstretched hand of the beggar…
Or the way there is actually good Ethiopian food in Kenya (thank goodness for that). And Coke out of a glass bottle to go along with it.

Or, finally, the way that this is all ordinary life – just my other one.

P.S. We’re taking an overnight trip tomorrow to a place called Kirinyaga. And leaving at 7am. (Ughh.) So see you after that!

December 17, 2011

Karibu Kenya

1. I made it to Kenya! I am now sitting in my parents’ garden, in shorts, in the sunshine, drinking tea, and occasionally it is thundering. And as you can see, there are dogs trying to be in my lap. I have also already finished a book and been to Nakumatt*, so things are right on schedule. 

2. Long travel times are the worst. I left my house at 10am on Thursday, and made it to my parents’ house at about 11:30pm on Friday. (Subtract eight hours for time difference). The journey consisted of several parts: a drive from Charlottesville to Rockville, MD, another drive back to Dulles, flying to Heathrow, wandering around alone at Heathrow pre-dawn, flying into Nairobi, then driving back to the house. Quite a journey, fueled only by plane food by bits and pieces of sleep pieced together on planes and Heathrow couch-thingies, which might explain why my mother had to wake me up at noon today?

3. Happy first birthday to my little blog!! I can’t believe you’ve put up with a year of ramblings. (Or less than a year, because at the beginning I had a readership of about 3.) We’ve come pretty far, and I’m grateful for all of you!

*the grocery store.

December 14, 2011

R.I.P. Passport

Currently Listening To: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors' Christmas Album
Quote Love: "If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how man would marvel and stare." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the past few weeks, I had a pretty major crisis: I lost my passport. But not to worry, everyone, after a lot of stressing, several roadblocks (who knew you needed your birth certificate to replace a lost passport? And who bring their birth certificate with them to their grandparents' house for Thanksgiving? Not me, that's for sure.), kind of a lot of money, and even more prayer (because even expedited, it still takes 2-3 weeks. And we were within the 3 week mark when the forms finally got sent in), I have my new passport. YAY! I can go to Kenya tomorrow!

However, I'm feeling a little bit nostalgic for my old passport. It was a travel log of sorts, a documentation of journeys, full of good stamps that were all tied up with good memories: my senior trip, the time I got to back to Ethiopia for just 36 hours, the Christmas break I spent freezing in Beijing. It was memento from all the hours spent on a plane, from the standing forever in a visa line in those final moments of a trip when you are just ready to be there, from that official stamp that welcomes you home or to a new adventure. Its pages were marked in Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, and scrawled across with signatures of various travel authorities, stamped with the dates of several significant days. I had carried it with me through so many journeys, hated the picture in it for so long, filled out that number on so many entry forms... 

And now, I just have a blank slate. And the people who check it along the way tomorrow won't know that my life is characterized by travel or that this is my fifth Kenyan visa. 

But it doesn't expire until December of 2021. So maybe I'll be able to fill it with some good memories by then.

[Image via We Heart It]

December 12, 2011

La Bamba (Loves Of My Life)

This is just a sampling of the pictures my housemates and I took this weekend. 
Gosh, I love them.

(Pictures taken by Micah MacDonald, Allie's 14-year-old brother. What a trooper.)

December 10, 2011

I Am Santa Claus

Currently Listening To: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), Michael Buble
Countdown: 3 days til done with finals, 5 days til I leave for Kenya, 15 days til Christmas 

I think I might have alluded to this before, but this is the way things work for missionary families who are trying to celebrate Christmas: you order all your presents online, have them mailed to your child in college in the States, and have her bring them with her in her suitcase when she comes home for Christmas. (Don't ask me what you do if you don't have a child in college in the States. I don't remember back that far. I think there were some nasty incidents involving Amazon and orders getting lost and opening fake presents on Christmas morning with notes attached to them saying things like "You're getting this CD! It's coming soon!" ...but I think mostly I've blocked these incidents from my memory.)

In the Black family, this is in full swing. My housemates don't even bat an eye anymore when three boxes at a time roll in, all addressed to me.* And I've amassed quite the collection. See?

The thing is, all of these are going to have to fit in my suitcase. Along with the two Wal-Mart bags full of things I bought today per my mother's request to bring to her (items ranging from cranberry sauce to hair color to dishtowels, if you were wondering). So the real question is, where do all my clothes fit? Good. Question.

So there you have it. Santa Claus will be delivering presents a little non-traditionally this year, using a suitcase for a sack and an airplane for a sleigh. There better be a lot of cookies in return for this.

*Thankfully, I live with another missionary kid, whose mom is doing the same thing to her. She's getting a lot of  packages these days, too.

December 9, 2011

Hanging With Joy and John Paul

So, the Civil Wars concert.

We all know it's been a long time coming, so expectations were high. But the night started out right with margaritas with my housemates and then, when I was waiting outside the Jefferson Theater for Hope so we could go in, a random woman was trying to get rid of two extra tickets and I was able to score them for two of my other housemates, Margaret and Allie. Nothing like spreading a little Civil Wars cheer to those I live with, right?

And, y'all, they did not disappoint. Obviously their music is beautiful, and it was just as beautiful and impressive live. Not to mention the chemistry between Joy and John Paul -- they just interacted so well with each other, and you could tell they were enjoying being up there. Joy was smiling for about 80% of the time. And they were funny when they talked. And I was with a good group of people who appreciated them just as much as I did -- all of us were having a good time. And, (maybe I shouldn't tell you this, but...) for their encore, they did a cover of "Billie Jean." I don't even like Michael Jackson, but this version? Maybe you just have to see it for yourselves:

All in all, if you ever have the chance to see the Civil Wars live, do it. Their harmonies, their amazing talent in general, the way they play with the music that is already so wonderful in a way that makes it even more stunning, their personalities....just go see them. (And bonus points if you get to see them in a venue decked out in Christmas lights.)

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