Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Impressions of Home : )

Family hike at Sabino Canyon.

So I know that I have been terrible about blogging during our time at home. Pole sana! (Very sorry) My resloution of doing one post a week has completely gone out the window while we have been here. In all fairness though, we have been SUPER busy and I really hate to spend time on the computer when I could be spending more time with my family, friends and puppies!

Thus far our trip has been AMAZING, INCREDIBLE and oh so REFRESHING! Our three weeks is almost up, but it is really overwhelming to think about how many people we have spent time with and all that we have done!

In the coming posts I will share more about our experiences here but for now I will simply give my first impressions of being home after being away for 8 months:

I LOVE FAMILY! There is really nothing better than spending time with the ones you love!.

Osa and Charlie are the best dogs ever. For the first week, Osa did not eat, and would not leave my side. It was almost as if she remembered that she had forgotten about me and then got depressed about it. So cute. I miss her so much and I am so sad to leave her again.

Eegee’s is delcious. I don’t even like Peach and Berry usually but it tasted great to me after my long hiatus from the tasty frozen beverage.

I miss Mexican food. Although I was surprised to see that I could not eat it as much as before due to its RICH flavors. Tamles and corn tortillas really do taste like heaven in my mouth though.

Nothing tastes better at midnight than a midnight Mexican California Burrito form Zane’s.

The Sonoran Desert is beautiful! Of all deserts in the world, seriously this one is the best! I love being able to run, walk, hike, cilmb and to whatever else outdoors!

The weatther here is perfect! I have not been sweating at all, except for when I run and even then it is very little, for THREE WEEKS STRAIGHT! AMAZING!

Milk from a jug is superior to milk in a box.

Sauce Macaroni is possibly one of the most delightful foods I have and will ever eat in my lifetime.

Friends and Community are so important and we are so very thankful for ours here in Tucson (and in Dar es Salaam too).

That is it for now. I plan on not blogging until we get back so that we can maximize our last 3 days here. I will however have plently to blog about whe we are back. Thank you to everyone who has spent time with us, loved us and supported us in our time in Tucson!

Doesn’t get better than an Arizona Sunset.


After many hours of traveling, Austin and I are HOME! We will be here for a few, all to short weeks, for my best friend’s wedding.

Keep you posted!

Weekend Getaway

In Tucson, every year, we have what they call, RODEO BREAK. It is a known fact that no one else in the world gets this holiday and Tucsonans like to seize the day during this four day weekend, the last weekend in February.

Coming to Africa, I was fully aware of the fact that Rodeo Break does not exist here. Come to think of it I don’t think I have seen a horse in Tanzania the entire time I have been here.

However, I was very excited to find out that we actually do get the last week in February off. It was not Rodeo Break, it was some Muslim National holiday and Mid Term Break however, in my mind I could think it was Rodeo.

Austin and I took no time in planning a nice getaway for ourselves.

First thing Thursday morning, we flew to Arusha which is about an hour and a half long flight and about a 10 hour drive north of Dar es Salaam. We have some friends that are living their right now. We were picked up by our friends Jackie and Alexis. Alexis is one of the Senior African Leaders in Africa for Young Life. We actually met him and Jackie at Lost Canyon in the summer of 2008, so we always love getting to see them again. We had a nice lunch, with delicious green lettuce that is next to impossible to find in Dar. We then went to a local country club like facility. This was so refreshing to me, because the closest thing we have to a country club is our school campus. They had a gym, a beautiful pool, rugby fields, and a track for walking/running that is completely fenced. So nice. These kind of things make us wish we were called to Arusha, for moments of time anyways.

Jacque and Alexis : )

We then went to a friend of Jackie and Alexi’s, Heath’s house for dinner. The dinner was great and we had a great time hanging out with Heath’s adopted daughter Neema. She is a bundle of energy and cute as a button.

The next morning we went to the second hand store. Here you can find lots of old backpacks, shoes, clothes and much more that are in good repair. Most of the items are priced fairly but they will try to rip you off. The only problem is that you do not really know what you are getting. I found an awesome Northface backpack which I am very content with. Austin found some hiking shoes that fit him perfectly. Unfortunately, on his first hike with them on, we found out they had only used a cheap glue to glue the bottom tracking back on. Poor Austin! Thankfully I got our shoe fundi to fix them right up when we got back home.

Anyways, then we hung out with our friends Zac, Hannah and Fluffy for a bit. We had lunch and helped them out with Seek the Sneak for their YL Club which was fun.

YL Arusha kids playing Seek the Sneak

We also got some great deals on some sweet jewlery at the Masai Market. (I find that prices are cheaper for these things in Arusha, however, other things are much more expensive). Afterward we had some coffee at a new coffee shop in town, and began planning for  our Lushoto camp. So exciting to be working together it really felt like our Young Life Family here in Africa.

Zac and Alexis playing at the Blue Heron

Next we headed to dinner, at the Blue Heron. Our friend Zac plays drums their every Friday. It is quite a nice spot and their were many people there because they were celebrating a birthday. We just sat back and enjoyed the relaxing evening, good food and great company.

Then we headed off to bed at Zac and Hannah’s house because we were off to climb up to hut one on Mt. Kilimanjaro the next day.

Kili Here We Come

We got a bit of a late start, but it did not really matter in the end. The drive up was beautiful. The small town of Kilimanjaro is quaint but serene and very green.  We were greeted at the gate by many men hoping to be our guide for the day.

It took a bit to get us all registered and legit, but the boys did it for us and we were off. Biatus, was our guide. He was very experienced and said that he has climbed to the top and back in 2 days, one day up and one day back. I don’t doubt the validity of this, these men were made for the mountains.

Hiking is so life giving for me here. I never realized how much I love it, until I moved somewhere you cannot do it. The path was very nicely laid out and the scenery was lush and green. About 30minutes in it began to pour. Of course Austin and I did not bring our rain coats and the ponchos I lugged all the way from the US were sitting in our closet back in Dar. Needless to say I was soaked. I did have a grocery bag to cover my back pack and a change for the way back down. About three quarters of the way up the trees completely changed and there was a fog in the air. It was so beautiful. Then after just three hours up we made it to hut 1, Mandara Hut, elevation 9,000ft, Kilimanjaro is 19,000ft at the top so we were about half way up. The route we took is known as the coca-cola route because you can get a cola all they way up to the top, or so they say. Hopefully one day I will be able to find out for sure.

We did it! Mandara Hut 9,000ft

We ate a quick lunch and I changed out of my soaking wet shirt. I am sure the other hikers thought we were crazy because we had no rain gear or serious backpacks, just a shirt and shorts and a small day pack.

The way back down took about 2 hours. As we walked, we passed many of the Kilimanjaro workers who have to hike in all of the gear for all of the hikers. Men were carrying two or three full backpacks, food of all kinds, charcoal for cooking, enormous gas tanks for cooking, large coolers, and even 2 by 4’s not sure what they were for. All I could do was say, Pole Sana ( Translation-I am very sorry for you) , to each of them as they slowly trekked along.  Some of them were really hurting. I would not want that job for sure.

Kilimanjaro workers carrying up heavy loads of gear.

The best part of the whole thing was spending quality time with our friends Zac and Hannah. I love hiking because you can spend so much time hanging out while getting in a good workout. Overall it was so worth it and only motivated me more to want to conquer the whole thing.

We finished the weekend with a bang. First, a dinner at Dusty and Marlena’s with everyone. Then a sleepover at our friend Fluffy’s, who does YL in Moshi town (the town at the base of Kilimanjaro). Followed by an early wake up call to run the 5km fun run for the Annual Kilimanjaro Marathon. I am bummed I did not do the 1/2 marathon but I will do another one soon.

The 5km Crew.

And we're off...

It was so great to see so many people out, and about and doing athletic activity. Besides the people who do manual labor in Dar, there are very few people who work out for fun. Actually they usually tell me, pole sana when I run. I always want to tell them, don’t be sorry for me. I want to run, in fact I love to run! They just don’t understand. Anyways, we ran and it was great. Dusty and Marlena lost the wheel of their son Imani’s,  Baby Jogger going over a speed bump and caught it all on tape. It was priceless.

We got to see the half marathon winners and marathon winners cross the finish line as well. The minister of Tanzania was even there to celebrate the occasion. Unfortunately a Kenyan won the race so the Tanzanian’s were not happy but, I would say in the end, fun was had by all.

After the race and a delicious breakfast made by Fluffy, we just chilled out and played some cards with our friends until it was time to head to the airport.

As you can see having 4 days in a weekend really can make a difference. We got to do so much, and even felt relaxed and rested while doing it all. Thank the Lord for Rodeo Weekend!

Mt. Kilimanjaro through the phone lines.

Amani Rainforest

From this 35km sign it took us 2 HOURS to get there!

I believe it was the first day of school that I got the question, ” When are we going to Amani?” My students have been excited to go to Amani since the very beginning of the school year. I must have answered hundreds of questions about this 4 day trip. For example, “Are their going to be real toilets or squatty potties there?” “Do we have to bring hiking boots or can we wear trainers?” “Why can’t I bring my cell phone?”  “Is it okay if I have already packed my bag?” (3 weeks early) and the list goes on. I made them hold off until the week before or else I am sure there would have been more.

Each year the fifth grade class at HOPAC, has the awesome opportunity to go to the Amani Rain forest. For the entire second term we study the Rain forest, so it is quite convenient that we have a rain forest not too far away from our school. By the time we left for Amani the students had been studying the rain forest for 6 weeks and had a pretty good basis of information about where we were about to go.

They were loving it!

The adventure began with an 8 hour drive along the unpredictable Tanzanian roads. After two bathroom breaks, two break downs, and 2 hours up a winding dirt road, we finally arrived. It was incredible getting out of the car and seeing the beautiful rain forest trees towering over you, with the craziness of the city left behind. The kids were so excited from the moment we stepped off the bus.

Our first "hike" more like a bit of a leg strech but beautiful none the less!

We began with a short tour around the building with our guide Lucy. We saw some monkeys right away which was super fun! We had a homemade dinner and then got to play some night time capture the flag. It was so fun but brutal to say the least. So maybe some kids were bleeding and crying at certain points in the game, but I think it is fair to say that all had fun.Then it was off to bed.

Glo-stick fun during capture the flag

The second morning we woke up early and had a great devotion about God’s creation. Then we headed up the Mbole Trail hike.  We had the kids do a scavenger hunt in hopes to slow them down on the trail, apparently classes in the past needed it. My class however, took this very seriously and only went about half a km in about an hour. After some poking and prodding, we got them to move along a bit faster. The last bit of the hike was a bit steep, but I was not complaining. I do not get to go hiking anymore so this was a major treat! Then we got to the top of the big hill, where there was an incredible view of the Rainforest valley. It was breathtaking. What was most exciting was hearing my student’s reactions to it all. One student even said, “It is like what you see on TV, but right there in front of you!” Many of my students have not done much traveling or spent a lot of time in nature so this was a big deal for them.

The Lookout after our big hike.

After the hike we had a nice lunch and then headed straight to the WATERFALL! Yup that’s right we got to play in a waterfall. Once again my kids were in heaven! Although the short drive and hike were a bit precarious, it was so worth it all. After lots of fun in the falls we  headed back for dinner.


Once it got dark our guides took us on a night hike, where we saw many different types of chameleons. So cool! Lights out.

3 Horned Chameleon on the Night Hike.

In the morning we woke up and headed out to see the Tea Factory and Butterfly Farm. Short bus ride and we were there. The tea fields were very pretty but unfortunately they were cleaning everything out everything was shut down for the day. My poor students had to sit through a long detailed, non-kid friendly, explanation of the tea making process. It would have been much more interesting had the machines been up and running.  Then we went to the butterfly farm. This too was a bit of a flop but the kids did get to see some butterfly eggs, pupa and a few actual butterflies. We also some some huge Jack fruit which looked great but did not taste as good as they looked.

Rolling hills of tea.

We headed back for lunch. In the afternoon we played some field games. The kids had a great time running around and just being kids. We were supposed to play in a near by stream but there was not enough water. So what did we decide to do…. go back to the WATERFALL of course! The kids were all for this. Once again we splashed, and played.

Then we ate our last dinner and prepared for the first ever “Amani’s Got Talent.” The kids cooked up some dance routines, shadow puppet plays, singing songs, and of course the choreographed chaperon Boom Boom Pow Dance. We ended it all with a dance to all of the classics; YMCA, Electric Slide, Chicken Dance, and much much more.

Boom Boom Pow Routine for the kids.

After the talent show we headed outside for a campfire. We laid by the fire and told funny jokes and stories and then sat back in awe of the wonder of the stars. So peaceful. So filled with the presence of the Lord.

Afterward, we headed back to our cabins. The boys told some scary stories and Austin and Shaun scared the boys by sneaking up on them. The girls and I, painted nails and talked girl talk. It was so great to play less of a teacher role and more of a friend and older mentor role.

Of course, it would have been much to easy to just stay up late and have fun. Around 11pm two kids just started throwing up. An hour later a few more kids started puking. We knew instantly it was food poisoning. I was in mom mode, cleaning up after the kids all night. However, the kids were champs and didn’t complain at all. Needless to say the bus ride home was a bit longer with kids puking until about half way home and the heat and being a bus for eight hours. Thankfully, we made it home safe. Really overall it was AMAZING! No complaints. It was so fun hanging out with my kids in the rain forest!

The Facts

For those of you like myself who know nothing about Addis Ababa or Ethiopia, here are a few fun facts:

Addis Population somewhere between 3.5 and 4 million.
Ethiopia is land locked bordered by Kenya, Somalia, Dijibouti, and Eritrea
Ethiopia is about twice the size of Texas.
Elevation 2,400m (the third highest capital city in the world)
Currency: Birr $1USD is roughly equivalent to 12 Birr
Ethiopian New Year is celebrated September 11th. It is currently 2002.
Ethiopian Christmas is celebrated January 7th.
There are fertile grounds in the highlands and coffee is a large export.
Addis Ababa means “new flower”
Language: Although there are many different languages all over Ethiopia, Amheric is used in the big city. It reminds me of Ariabic and is said to be very difficult to learn.
For being a big city, prices are very low here. A super nice meal out for four with drinks and all is only about $20 USD.
Tef is a grain that is grown all throughout Ethiopia which is used to make injera, a bread/tortilla like food.
Family is very important here and it seems as if everyone has a large immediate family.
In Addis there is a large celebration in honor of Bob Marley. Apparently many islanders came and made him quite popular here.
Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s oldest airline and is one of the only airlines from Africa that flies directly to the states.
Italians conquered Ethiopia for awhile, and left behind tomatoes and good pasta.
Lalibela is an unknown treasure that every tourist is supposed to visit. There you can find astonishing rock hewn churches, which many say should be one of the wonders of the world.
Religion: Mostly Christian and Islam, with many of the Christians practicing various Orthodox traditions.
Men greet by shaking hands and bumping shoulders. Women by giving three kisses on the cheek.
Taxis here look like the flying car from Harry Potter.
Basic Vocab: Hello- Salam, Thank you- Amesehganalo, Okay- isheem, Yes- Aw, No- ay, How are you? Denaneh (male) Denanesk (female), I’m fine- Dehena, Foreigner- farangie

Traditional pan for making injera, the local food.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia- First Impressions

Perfect Weather. It’s COLD here! Not blizzard, snowing cold, but you need to wear a jacket and want to cuddle with your honey cold. This is so refreshing in comparison to the heat and humidity we live in.

Well Developed. Construction is everywhere and moving fast. Most roads are paved, sidewalks exist, they even have new laws about wearing your seat-belt being enforced. The roads seem much safer.

Confusion Road. We were there when they did the dedication for the new road.

Friendly. People here are friendly. They smile and say hello. Every once in awhile you get a “farengie” (or foreigner), but with a smile and not in a demeaning tone. Children coming running up to you and want to touch you and talk to you as much as possible.

Comfortable. Things are much more Westernized here. People wear, what to me, seem like normal clothes. Men are dressed nicely and suit shops can be found everywhere. Women here are beautiful and dress nicely as well. It makes me actually want to get a bit dolled up again. They drive on the right side of the road. There is not as much bargaining to be done, you are given a fair price most of the time. You can walk places and feel safe even at night.

Third World. Although it is a large city it is very much still apparent that it is third world. Their are crippled beggars all over the city, many people living without electricity or water access, people using the streets for a restroom, and many other things that are true of many African cities.

Scenic. There are mountains around the city and hills all throughout. This creates a wonderful atmosphere in the city. Although they say no one really hikes in the mountains, if I were here long enough I sure would.

European Influences. There were many Italians that once settled here, because of this there are areas of the town that seem very European. Quaint streets with shops all about. People walking everywhere. Coffee shops for enjoying good company.

Full of History. This place is chalk full of history. Complete with a National Museum, tons of old churches, many religious traditions, historical architecture and story after story of the many influences that made Addis what it is today.

Unique. The culture here is so incredibly different from most others I have experienced. The food is delicious! Injera, dorro wat, tibs all made from spices that can only be found here in Ethiopia. Radical dancing, that almost looks as if the dancers are spasming but is somehow beautiful at the same time. The people have extremely unique features which I find most beautiful.

I know that we have only been in Addis a few days but the truth is this is much more my kind of place. These are just a few first impressions I had, and maybe I am a bit biased because I am coming from such a completely different culture in Tanzania. Either way, so far I love it and if one day I had to move here I think I would be able to handle it, rather I think I would quite enjoy it.

An image from Piassa. A large area of town that has a lot of Italian influence.

Happy New Year from Ethiopia!

Happy New Year to all!  We are currently in Ethiopia and have so much to share! However, we have very little internet! Sorry I haven’t posted anything yet. I should have them up by Monday!