Reflections: What were my top 5 travel adventures of 2014 – 2015?

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Masai Mara

My favorite place on earth. Majestic landscapes, interesting animals, fresh air, peace. Something spiritual happens to me when I enter the Mara. It’s hard to explain. I have now been on safari in three other places (Ol Pejeta in Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa) and while each safari is unique and amazing in its own way, nothing compares to the vistas of the Mara. Savannas for days. Open. Wide open. It’s really the most remarkable place in the world to me.

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Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda

This would be my most remarkable experience in the world. Trekking through the Virunga Mountains to find a family of 16 mountain gorillas and watching them from just a few feet away for an hour. Gentle. Beautiful. Unassuming.

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South Africa

South Africa is a beautiful country and offers distinct experiences throughout its land. Two of my best friends flew there to meet me at the end of my time on the continent. We enjoyed Cape Town for a week then flew east to Johannesburg on the way to safari in Sabi Sand Game Reserve. It’s not only a beautiful place, the people are friendly and the infrastructure makes you feel like you are in Europe. It offers the comforts of Europe yet the exoticness of the African continent. We all agreed we would return one day.

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Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco

This was a bucket list item for my Dad and I was just lucky enough to tag along. For years, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, the TV in our living room blasted the sounds of open wheeled racecars zooming through the streets of Monte Carlo. It’s one of those nostalgic sounds for me that will forever remind me of my Dad. He loves Formula One racing. Since I’ve been an adult, I’ve said, “Dad, we have to do that one day. Go to the Monaco Grand Prix.” 2015 was the year. I was living in East Africa, and we could meet half way in France for vacation and check that item off the bucket list. It was all you can imagine and more. We attended the practice rounds on Saturday and the main event on Sunday, watching from a suite on the famous hairpin turn. In addition, to the race, we explored Cote d’Azur, enjoyed amazing weather, food and wine and had one of the best vacations of our lives.

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Uhuru Peak on Mt Kilimanjaro

Saved the best for last. Watching the sunrise at 19,341 feet is by far my best travel adventure of 2015, maybe of a lifetime. Of course getting to the summit was the highlight, but the entire experience of climbing the mountain, camping under the star-lit skies and laughing hysterically with two amazing friends will forever be seared into my mind.

Life Givers

There are just those people in your life that give you life. You know who yours are. I tend to have quite a few. It would take me a while to name them all. Unfortunately, they are now scattered across the globe. I guess that’s what happens when you live in one of the most transient cities in the US (Washington, DC) and like to travel. I have been blessed to know some really incredible people and build deep friendships with them.

This past weekend, I got to spend some time with a few of those people. Some of those DC friends have moved to Houston and Dallas, and NHI’s founders live in Houston. I flew in for the weekend from Atlanta. So, what else to do than have a dinner party at the Monsivaizs?!? Gerard spend all day preparing brisket and Krisi made an abundance of tasty side dishes then sat us around the best dining room table for fellowship. We laughed. We ate. A lot. We talk about God. We talked about the challenges the world faces. We talked about the challenges we face in our individual lives. The only problem is that it ended too early. Well not that early – we were there past midnight. But, it was still not enough time.

It was a good lesson for me to take advantage of those special moments when worlds collide and everyone is in one place at one time. Such a sweet time. Such sweet people. My heart is refreshed and full.

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Also, as an update to all my supporters out there, I’ve been spending most of my time in Georgia visiting family, getting to know my new baby niece and helping out with the older niece and nephew. I’ve also been living out of a suitcase (well, let’s be honest, 6 suitcases) for about 7 weeks now. Today, I’m moving into an apartment in Midtown Atlanta. As I get settled, I’m looking forward to finding a church in Atlanta, connecting with old friends and meeting new ones and also continuing my work with NHI stateside. I’ll stay on with NHI until the end of the year and keep you updated on what’s next for me. Thank you for your care and support of me over the last year and a half. It’s been a true blessing.

ATL skyline from my apartment

ATL skyline from my apartment

 

DC Friendships

Ugh…it’s the first time I’ve missed my Wednesday blog post since January. I was doing so good. So, here’s this week’s post…two days late!

I’m hosting a team from the Wesley Foundation at the University of Georgia, and I’ve gotten behind on my usual postings, photography and, generally, life. The team has been great, and it’s been nice to have people from my sister’s ministry visiting. And, of course, it’s always nice to have Bulldawgs around!

In all the busyness this week, I was reminded of God’s careful hand in our lives and how He ordains everything, even our relationships. Yesterday, Susan Sweat stopped by our project in Kibera for a visit. I met Susan almost 15 years ago when I first moved to DC. We both worked on Capitol Hill right out of college and had mutual friends. We share a southern heritage. Over the years, we haven’t been close friends, but we’ve stayed updated on each other’s lives through our mutual friends and attended the same church. And, we were often involved in similar ministries and social circles.

Well, she and her husband, Scott, have been supporting a ministry in Kenya for the past several years. She was here to visit that ministry, David’s Hope, and contacted me to stop by New Hope. As we chatted yesterday, we realized how similar our ministries are and identified some areas we can partner and share best practices. The Director of David’s Hope was with her, and we got a chance to connect him to New Hope’s local leader, Festus Muendo.

It was encouraging to me to chat with her, catch up on our mutual friends and common interests and dream and plan about how we can work together in the future. I’m excited to see how God may use this friendship that He began years ago. You just never know who God will keep in your life and how he will use those people for His glory.

Check out David’s Hope and the wonderful ministry they are doing for the people of Eburru, Kenya.

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Top of the World

I made it to the top with Jordyn and Robert. Could not have asked for better hiking buddies!

Made it to the top with these two amazing people, Jordyn and Robert. Could not have asked for better hiking buddies!

It’s hard to even begin describing last week. Hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro for 7 days was beyond my wildest imaginations. First of all, the idea of living on a mountain for a week had me apprehensive to say the least. I knew we would sleep on the ground in tents and go without a shower. That in and of itself was scary for me. I love my sleep and showers. But, on top of that, we would be climbing to 19,341 feet and hiking over 40 miles.
It was absolutely amazing. Something about living in a tent and minimizing your needs for a week is freeing and calming. I felt more myself. No cell phones, no internet, no distractions. Just me, the mountain and two amazing friends that had me laughing the entire week. Just thinking about the week brings a huge smile to my face, because so many jokes and memories come rushing to my mind that make me laugh.
The sight at the top brought pure joy. We made it. Our guide had timed our ascent to the summit perfectly, so we arrived just as the sun was rising. My body held up and handled the altitude – well, maybe with the help of some meds – but all I felt was pure joy. A sense that we made it and it was a glorious sight.
I think that’s all I can say at this point – except I must give huge props to our tour company. If you think you may be interested, Zara Tours is the way to go. They are owned by a Tanzanian woman, have been in business for over 27 years and have very experienced guides from the local community. They were professional, fun, and supportive the entire journey.
Here are a few of my favorite photos, but I’m sure I’ll share more in the weeks to come.
View of the top from our hotel in Moshi.

View of Kili from our hotel in Moshi.

Day 2

Day 2

One of our camps on the mountain. We woke up to the most gorgeous views!

One of our camps on the mountain. We woke up to the most gorgeous views!

Getting closer.

Getting closer.

The crew. Two sisters from Sweden were part of our group. They made it to the top as well. Our tour company was very proud!

The crew. Two sisters from Sweden were part of our group. We had a great time with them! They made it to the top as well, so our tour company was very proud!

Clouds and Mt Meru in the distance.

Clouds and Mt Meru in the distance.

Who needs a dining tent when the sun is this bright and warm!?!

Who needs a dining tent when the sun is this bright and warm!?!

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This was one of our favorite spots on the route.

I think we could do an ad for the "Buff".

I think we could do an ad for the “Buff”.

Just past Stella Point, we left to our left and saw the orange tint of the sun coming up...

Just past Stella Point, we looked to our left and saw the orange tint of the sun coming up…

Most amazing sunrise.

Most amazing sunrise from the summit.

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Pure joy.

Glacier at the top. Absolutely beautiful.

Glacier at the top. Absolutely beautiful.

In all honesty, the trip would not have happened if it weren't for this gal. Jordyn organized us and made it happen. I love this sweet friend and this experience has bonded us for life!

In all honesty, the trip would not have happened if it weren’t for this gal. Jordyn organized us and made it happen. I love this sweet friend. This experience has bonded us for life!

Hmmmm...Yes, it took this many people to get 5 of us to the top!

Hmmmm…Yes, it took this many people to get 5 of us to the top!

Our guides, Mndeme and Salim, were with us every step of the way. They are the best!

Our guides, Mndeme and Salim, were with us every step of the way. They are the best!

Looking back on our accomplishment.

Looking back on our accomplishment.