Category Archives: Africa

A bit about my relationship with my favorite continent. (You didn’t think people could have favorite continents, did you?)

Come on in!

Nelson Mandela Fellowship dinner

This weekend, we hosted a handful of women from Africa for dinner. They are here studying with the Nelson Mandela fellowship at ASU for the summer. Hawanatu is a doctor from Sierra Leone. Sia is an accountant, also from Sierra Leone. Theresa works in human rights in Ghana. Tsige is a civil engineer from Ethiopia. They were learning as much about each other, and the 30-plus others in their group, as they were about America.

Nelson Mandela Scholar Dinners

I am thankful to have sat with them and listened as they talked about their country’s university systems, healthcare and what they expect as they return. I wish the program worked in reverse and I could go for six weeks to learn from them!



Praying for peace


Africa is hurting. The people of Central African Republic are under siege. The folks of South Sudan are involved in a brutal, new civil war. For Zimbabwe, falling again into man-made, infuriating famine. The Second Congo war rages on, killing more people than any other conflict since WWII.

My prayers are for these people. The women who huddle under plastic tarps as the humid equatorial rain pours at night, unable to comfort their children. There is no comfort when hiding from violence. For the health care workers who may be able to stop wounds from bleeding, but cannot keep the malarial mosquitoes or dirty water away from the thousands and thousands who huddle in makeshift refugee camps. For those coordinating food and medical supply drops — may there be fewer hungry bellies on the great continent.

For the leaders — to be strong, courageous, peaceful and just.

My prayers and heart are with you, great Africa.




Garden apron for Duda

Garden apron for Duda

Garden apron for Duda

My friend Duda had a birthday this month. To celebrate, I sewed her a gardening apron. Among other gardening projects, she is leading group of high school students. Together they are transforming a bramble of forgotten earth into its former glory. You can follow her story here.

Garden apron for Duda

Duda is one of those friends who feels like we’ve known each other since childhood. It is easy, accepting and engaging. Plus, she’s African.



When I moved to Denver, I started fresh with charities and organizations I wanted to support. Africa, children, and hunger are my passions. Give me a chance to volunteer, donate money or raise supplies for causes that provide smart, effective solutions to on-going public health issues concerning these three areas and I’m all in.

Food for the week1

Locally, I support Metro CareRing. I believe in their mission of providing food support for those in need. I appreciate their manner of having clients select their own produce and grains to both minimize waste and make the process of coming to a food bank as kind and respectful as possible. This is especially important when the families have children. Watching kids pick out their own fruit and vegetables they are excited to take home  — whether that is a trailer, a foreclosed suburban brick house or the city park — makes me happy. They are doing great things in Denver with people who truly need a bit of nourishment during a rough patch of life.

Volunteering here has been eye opening to the growing hunger in our country. The folks who come through the pantry are a slice of any city — they are all races, ages and of many educational backgrounds. It is humbling to shake their hands and help them fill a bag.

Praying for peace

Inter/Nationally, I support Project Hopeful. Their mission of advocating for HIV-positive kids living in a handful of international orphanages is meaningful, life-saving work. They have classes for HIV-positive mothers in Ethiopia, providing prevention education information to limit the spread of the infection to others, and to encourage the women to become change advocates in their villages. They host educational seminars in the United States for families considering adoption. What would it be like to have an HIV-positive child in your home? How are these adoptions processed? What are the fees associated? What are the long-term psychological issues with cross-cultural adoption?

Praying for her Child

Hundreds of families have attended these seminars. As a result, hundreds of kids have been adopted from the most abismal conditions you can imagine.

as cute as Moz orphans come

They match HIV-positive orphans with American families interested in saving a child’s life. With antiretrovirals and adoption, the chances of an orphan going on to live a normal, happy healthy adulthood with a chronic disease is likely. If they remain in their home country, the chance of a life cut dramatically short by the disease is all but guaranteed.

Sweet girl in the village

Project Hopeful has helped advocate for more than 200 children who have been adopted in the United States. They have a 0% overhead, meaning their entire “staff” is actually a crew of dedicated volunteers. All of the money they raise, which at this point has been limited, goes directly to helping advocate and educated for such adoptions.

A view from the Shire River

I’ve long talked about my interest in adopting a daughter from Ethiopia. I’ve attended playgroups for children adopted from the Horn of Africa, spoken with parents who have gone through this process, and started saving my pennies. While I am not yet to this stage of life, I am ready to commit to a child in need of advocacy and prayer with Project Hopeful’s FIG program.

FIG stands for Families in the Gap. This program allows donors to give a bit of money each month for the adoption of a specific child. Additionally, donors are requested to pray for the child and for the family waiting to adopt him/her, and to advocate for the process.

Serena was born in 1998 with HIV in Ethiopia. The 12 year old came to live at an orphanage in February when her extended family could no longer provide a “stable environment.” This could mean a variety of things. In Ethiopia, like many areas of the world, the HIV-positive are shunned and pushed to the outskirts of life. Serena’s health was failing because she wasn’t getting enough to eat, or the proper medication, while living with her aunt. She’s now living in a foster care home with specialized care and waiting for adoption by an American family. The money I give will help in the tiniest bit toward the adoptive family’s $20,000+ expense of bringing Serena home.

Kelli, Orphanage in Mozambique

I think of this sweet little girl and the challenges she’s already faced in her brief life — the loss of her parents, the shuffling of homes. This program doesn’t allow photos of the children from Ethiopia. And so, I’m using photos from my orphanage work in Mozambique with this post. I have no idea what Serena looks like, but I do remember what it was like to be a 12 year old girl — full of mixed emotion. And through other travel, I am all to familiar with the plight of young, African children who’ve been left in orphanages by well intentioned family who simply cannot feed another mouth.

Today, I pray for Serena and the lucky American family who she’ll join with time. My happiest day will be when I am able to meet Serena and her new family. Can’t you just picture a sweet, shy teenage girl in a American suburban home whose hopes have shifted from survival to high school graduation? What a merciful scene that scene will be. And how thankful I am to be a part of this work, even in the smallest way!

There are 130 children waiting for advocates in the FIG program. Please consider supporting this work. Your donation will save lives of those most in need — sick children.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18


Mugabe + The White African

Burst of Happiness

Do you have Netflix streaming? If so, can I bother you to watch this movie soon? I watched it this weekend after Matt hassled me for weeks. It is heartbreaking. For a thousand reasons, it makes me so very angry and disgusted with world politics, racism, power and the state of African leadership. It is a must see film for those who think about international issues and want the world to be a more peaceful place.

Burst of Happiness

I don’t believe in injustice. In any form. Anywhere. And I’m unwilling to live in a world where it is so blindly accepted.

Please keep in mind, I am not unbiased. I live with a man whose family was evicted from their land in Zimbabwe, much like the family in the film. Matt’s family are just one of thousands who overnight lost all of their possessions simply because of the color of their skin. Zimbabwe has long been led by a genocidal maniac named Robert Mugabe who will stop at nothing to eradicate European blood from “his land.”

At first glance, this seems like a simple black vs. white issue. It isn’t. It is about justice. It is about the betterment of Zimbabwe. It’s about the millions who are starving in the breadbasket of Africa because the white farmers are living on the periphery (like Malawi), working other land where they are temporarily welcome. The farms they once ran, which fed Zim and many countries in the region, remain in tattered, burned pyres. Imagine the American midwest being a vast wasteland and all the farmers who had generations of experience coaxing the land to feed our giant nation living in Canada. Because they were green. And we no longer welcomed Green people.

I’m oversimplifying to make a point, but it isn’t far off.

Robert Mugabe prides himself in being the next Hitler. He is killing his own, ruining the country and we are doing nothing. In fact, we’ve done nothing for more than two decades.

Please watch the film. There are so many thoughtful, creative, dedicated folk who read this site. Surely we can come up with some way to bring more attention to the generation of misfits (Matt’s term) — those children of Zimbabweans who have no citizenship anywhere in the world, like the man living in my guest room.

Burst of Happiness

In the meantime, I’m going to beg Matt to let me publish an essay I wrote about his family’s experience fleeing Zimbabwe. It is important to share. As the typical American, I had no idea what hardship and heartbreak this group of people have survived.

“If good men do nothing, evil will prevail.” — from the opening scene




Sunflower seed harvest

“Hey! Maybe you’ll wake up with a bit of bravery tucked in your pocket tomorrow.”

Before brushing away to find the seeds

I spoke those words this week. Bravery doesn’t come easily.

I recently failed at being courageous when I woke up in the middle of the night in Malawi to an animal being attacked nearby. My heart raced as I lay under the mosquito net, the piercing cries of the house cat echoing in the otherwise quiet night. Was it a snake? A rabid dog? I thought the noise was coming from the veranda — pitch black in the African night. I threw back the net, and raced in my pajamas to help. Adrenaline fueled, I threw open the bedroom door to alert someone — Matt, his family, anyone asleep on the other side of the house — when I realized, in fact, the attack was not happening outside, but in the room I just entered.

The dark room.

The dark room with a very peculiar smell and an eeriness that made every inch of my body lurch. I spun back into my bedroom, slamming the door behind me. As soon as I was safely back within the light, with the door closed, the fight continued. The poor cat was fighting for her life in the adjoining dining room — but I didn’t know where the light switch was or how to get anyone’s attention on the other side of the house.

How did the attacker get into the dining room? Could it get in my bedroom?

And I knew one thing for certain — I was not brave enough to go into that dark room and save the cat.

Gorgeous blooms

I tucked my yellow belly back into bed,  shaking with fear and nerves — my terror of snakes running rampant. By the time the sun rose, I’d fallen back to sleep. I’d meant to stay awake until the moment I could rush to the other side of the house for help, but I crashed. By the time I got up and found Matt’s mom — she was entirely confused at my worry. She’d woken to an open kitchen window and a couple animal “accidents” on the dining room floor, but no blood.

And no cat.

It took a while for the house kitty to return, but she did. With tufts of her fur matted, she sauntered back into the living room one afternoon. I nearly cried with relief. I was convinced she’d gone into the jungle to die after I’d failed to save her from the mysterious boogieman. The little warrior had survived again, more than likely an attack from a village cat that had climbed in the kitchen window looking for a snack. Once I realized she was fine, it was me who left the room with my tail between my legs.

I always eye dare devils with suspicion, wondering if they actually like life. It must be easier to take sweeping risks when what you have isn’t so precious. My move to Colorado in April is about as brave as I’ve been in the last 10 years. It isn’t like moving to Cameroon to live in a village hut, but it is fully challenging my routine and comfort. I hope becoming a bit braver is just the first of many great changes.


So You Want to Safari?


I’ve been asked a hundred times what the best part of my African travels is. Well, without an hour of your time, I’ll simply say safari. In Africa, I love the people,  work,  food, hiking, sights, smells, etc. But safari brings all of these together (minus the working, but hey! you are on vacation!)

On my most recent trip, I got to know a friend of Matt’s named Michael, or “Skeg.” Skeg is one of the funniest men I’ve ever met. Truly, his ability to make others laugh rivals few. He is laid back, knowledgeable and a simply a lot of fun. He recently started Malawian Style — a safari and tour company of the beautiful country.

The cottage

His website says it so much better than I can, but if you are ever interested in seeing the very best of Malawi — consider Skeg. His tours hit the most gorgeous spots and his ability to tell a good story, find a great restaurant and find the best spot to snorkel in Lake Malawi make the trip alone worthwhile.

And if you need sold on Malawi, well. May I suggest a quick tour of these photos? Or this quick film.


P.S. Also? I receive no kickback for such accolades. I simply love Skeg and the work he is doing. And Africa. And the thought of more friends and family falling head over heels for this spectacular place.

Like the zoo. Without cages. Or popcorn.


I took these photos! Which just goes to show you, even a complete fool with a good camera and far too much courage can get some fun shots traveling Africa.


Lone dude


Baby Giraffe





Hello, gorgeous

Big boy

Giraffe are not native to Malawi. They were imported to one of the parks I visited. They are the most majestic animals I’ve ever been near. The zebra were skittish, but curious too. The hippo were like fat mobsters just waiting for me to make one rude comment about their Italian grandmothers so they could storm the beach and have a snack. The wildebeest, cape buffalo, warthogs and monkeys all looked at the camera with complete boredom. I was interrupting their spring feast and they couldn’t be bothered.

But the elephants! Well, the elephants were huge and terrifying. Their size and power is something you cannot imagine until you are within sight. The elephant I photographed is a teenage male in musk. Testosterone is pouring out of the glands on his face. The poor thing desperately needed some loving. (His “fifth leg” was abundantly clear, as Matt so eloquently put it.) Typically when male elephants have this surge of hormone, they return to the herd to make babies. But for whatever reason, this teenager was babysitting several young ellies. I could only imagine a pimply faced kid, sulking at a park watching his younger brothers.

The night we spent in tents at Majete National Park was particularly noisy when this angry teen came trumpeting through the camp. They say elephants trumpet. Really, it sounded like he was snorting, crying and screaming for relief. The rest of the jungle fell immediately silent.

I truly wish I’d studied forestry and was working as a ranger in Africa. To be in that setting daily would be a dream.


Even their butts are perfect! God, I love Africa.


Garden Glory

It’s the craziest thing, being tucked in to bed in my tiny home in the middle of a 3 million person city. The silence is making me sad. In contrast to the chorus of tree frogs that sang me to sleep each night and the staccato of bird song to which I woke to each morning — I’m so surprised how very quiet this American life of mine is.

Garage tree

This tree shaded my bedroom windows. It is the perfect tree — large limbs reaching toward the sky in a dozen directions, home to a handful of bird nests.

I miss this tree. And the giant hardwoods down by the river. And the flamboyant trees in full fiery orange glow. And even the dumb, non-native eucalyptus trees that line the roads on the tea estates.

That tree was everything, but now that it has gone, I really need to try and look at the positives. I feel that since the tree has gone, it has made my garden look bigger. It’s probably because it is not stuck in the shade anymore so you can actually see the full length of my garden. I’ve always wanted to have my own shed. But not just any shed. A prefab shed.

I’ve heard a lot about them recently. My friend was talking for ages about these prefabricated she sheds that she found online. You see, her house is small but her garden is big and all the rooms in her house are occupied and she just wanted her own space. And this is where the she shed has proven so useful. It is big enough to store her equipment in, yet small enough that it fits nicely in her garden. I want that for myself now. Somewhere I can go to to have my own peace. The same sort of peace the tree used to provide me. Yes, I think I shall make this my mission next. It will give me something to focus on at least.

And this time, I’m going to keep it up. I might also opt for tree pruning services to ensure that the tree grows perfectly and that its branches have a fanciful shape. Actually, I believe I recently learned that removing diseased, dead, pest-ridden, or rubbing together branches helps trees and shrubs stay healthier. Let’s hope everything goes as planned.

Anyway, I’m in a bit of a post-vacation funk, one that can only be described as self-absorbed and pathetic. All the same, I’m looking at my holiday photos with such desire to return! Take more! Feel that African sun warm my face and the rain cool my flip flopped toes. Alas, this is as close as we are coming today to those glorious gardens, where I spent days reading, day dreaming and watching the butterflies and dragonflies compete in one triumphant pageant of biology.

Garden glory

Garden Glory

Garden Glory

Garden Glory

Garden Glory

Garden Glory

Garden Glory

Garden Glory

Garden Glory

Garden Glory

Garden Glory



I spent an afternoon walking the Limbe Golf Course in Blantyre with the Pink Golfer last week.

On lookers

I love the caddies looking on from the club house in this shot. Everyone knows Matt. He’s likely the only boy from Blantyre playing professional golf in the States.


His caddy Lucky — in the background — walked the course barefoot while he carried Matt’s bag. Lucky was a trouper, to say the least. He made US$15 in kwacha that day. Considering the daily minimum wage in Malawi is US$1, it was quite the day. That said, carrying Matt’s bag for 18 holes of golf in humid, sticky Blantyre would be torture for most. Lucky took it all in stride and smiled with a wide grin full of bright white teeth. He was a good guy but quickly tired from also burdening my constant questions. He soon figured out the best way to shake me was to stay ahead. By the 16th hole, I’d given up on his life story and was clanking the ice in my gin and tonic back in the club house.

(What? I’m not a groupie. I was there for the walk. And I was sweaty. And gin and tonic helps prevent malaria.)

Nice Up keep

The course maintenance left quite a bit to be desired. Granted, the rainy season in any tropical country must cause havoc on golf courses. Unlike the course in Mozambique I’ve seen, the groundskeepers here had lawn mowers. In Beira, they use shears.

With unemployment rates in the 80-90% range, someone is willing to cut a golf course by hand. Can you imagine? FOR ONE DOLLAR A DAY?

Next time my latte is served cold, someone cuts me off in traffic or forgets to send a thank you card — I’m going to remember this. Oh selfish self, your life is so damn charmed. Don’t let the tedium of the first world ever make you think your life is anything less than fortunate. The day you pick up a pair of scissors and set off to cut six miles worth of Bermuda by hand for the grand reward of $1, you may cry a little pitiful tear for your existence. Until then, please keep the complaints to a minimum.


Probably. Ha! Dear Carlsberg, you need a new marketing team — for certain.

Gin + Tonic

You’re welcome.