Worlds Collide

As I mentioned in my previous post, my parents came to visit back in August. Now, for most people, having their parents come visit is not that big of deal. Maybe if they are visiting you in a new city, or coming to see you and your new home for the first time after being married, even just hosting them overnight instead of them hosting you for the first time, or coming to visit you while studying abroad for a semester and seeing your new but only temporary life over seas.

Imagine all those scenarios combined into one.

This was a very big deal.

Although we have traveled back to visit my parents multiple times since living here, they had yet to journey across the large expanse of ocean and land to see our new lives and where we live.

So, I hosted my parents for the first time ever in my life (having them visit my apartment for the day while in college doesn’t really count). We (Colton and I) welcomed them for the first time as a married couple into our home we ‘built’ together. They came to see our new and not so temporary lives over seas for the first time…after 3 years of living abroad. We were able to share with them a large part of our lives that not only helped build our relationship when we were first dating, but has also built our marriage for the past 3 years. For the first time in 3 years we were really able to share experiences and stories with my parents that had no grounding to them before. They have always been supportive of us, but for the first time they finally understand our relationship. For the first time since being married (and living overseas) they can hear and see our stories without them being just words, pictures, and random places in the middle of Africa.

This was a big deal.

Of course, being the organized and planned person I enjoy being, I put together several itinerary options for them to chose from taking in consideration time, budget, intensity, and sanity. They chose the option I hoped they would choose. This involved literally doing everything we could possibly do from day 1 of arrival to the day they got back on the plane. It involved multiple forms of transportation from 10 hour car drives (in a little car with very loud tires), to domestic plane flights across the country, and ferry rides through the Indian Ocean.

I have no idea how I am possibly going to write about everything that we did while they were here. But there is one thing I can for sure mention about the trip…it was amazing. Completely wonderful. Not one thing went wrong (aside from finding out upon arrival after 10hrs of driving that our one hotel had no record of our reservation for some reason…not really an issue as we stayed at the place next door, which ended up being nicer and a better price)…so no issues…which for Tanzania is very impressive, especially considering the amount of traveling and cross country traversing we did.

I can also say with out a doubt that my parents are amazing.

Let me try to ‘briefly’ write everything we did…first of all, my parents arrived on the Turkish Air flight. This flight arrives once a day at 1:30am…thats 1:30 in the morning! Very early, or late. So with my heart pounding out of my chest with a mix of excitement and disbelief we picked up my parents from the airport. We arrived back at the house and went to bed around 3am. After a good nights sleep and once we all woke up, had breakfast and plenty coffee we started the journey. Keep in mind this technically is still the same day they arrived. It happened to be a Tanzanian holiday as well. Colton thought it would be a good cultural experience and ‘break-the-ice’ event to attend the local festival. This had every potential to be too much for someone who has literally just got off the plane and in a foreign, and very African country (we were the only ‘Wazungus’ (white people) at the festival),  but my parents loved it and we all had a great time!


Waiting in line at the local festival for the Tanzanian holiday Nane-Nane, meaning 8-8 (August 8)

The first day here was a full day but definitely a good one! The following days we drove around Arusha, visited the sites and did some shopping. We spent a day at Maji Moto, a beautiful natural spring in the middle of a dessert.


Maji Moto (Hot Water)

Colton had work obligations so couldn’t join us when we went on safari. We went to Tarangire National Park (about a 2hr drive from Arusha) and stayed at a beautiful tented camp that one of our good friends in Arusha organized for us.


Getting ready to head back to Arusha with our wonderful driver and guide



Mom and Dad enjoying the Safari!

We also saw lots of animals on the game drive including this amazing lion…


Photo taken on my iphone looking through the binoculars!

The following day we drove 10hrs to Dar Es Salaam, ate amazing Chinese food, stayed over night and flew to Mbeya the following morning. We arrived by 8:30 am and were welcomed by Coltons parents. We piled in the car and began the long drive to their house…about 6hrs total!


Excited to be seeing Colton’s family! First time since our wedding 3 years ago that our parents were able to be together again


The whole crew in the car driving to Ted & Kim’s house! 6hrs of stories, laughter, snacks & a few bad roads

We made it down to their house without any issues and spent just a couple of days there. Everyone had such a great time together. I cant even explain how amazing this occasion was; my parents being hosted in Colton’s family’s home, in the middle of the bush of Africa, and having an incredible time. I had to take a step back and just take it all in. It was a strange overwhelming mix of emotions for me and a very humbling occasion of God’s blessings.


Our parents all together at the top of the waterfall behind the Rabenold’s house!

We hiked the river behind the Rabenold’s house and had a picnic, Dad road with Ted on his motorcycle to visit some local farmers, Colton took my parents and I to the piece of land we own and ate fresh papayas, we visited with friends, and my parents for the first time got a glimpse of Colton’s childhood.


Walking through Ted’s land in the Rukwa Valley

Time with Colton’s family went by so fast. They drove us back to Mbeya where we all stayed the night with some missionary friends after all going out for Indian food. The following morning we were on a plane flying back to Dar. We went straight from the airport to the ferry and went on our way to Zanzibar.


Mom and Dad on the ferry to Zanzibar

Zanzibar of course was amazing. We spent 2 nights there and 1 full day walking around Stonetown.


Love this picture! Mom and I outside our hotel in Zanzibar


Dad on the tower of the old fort in Zanzibar overlooking the harbor and Indian Ocean


A little dark but this is where we ate delicious seafood dinner our last night in Zbar! Beautiful view of the ocean, the old temple, the fort, and the most amazing moon rise I have ever seen!

We left on the early morning ferry and arrived back to our hotel in dar. After dropping off our stuff we went for the day to Mbudya Island (about a 20 min boat ride off the coast of Dar).


Mom and Dad enjoying their well deserved vacation on Mbudya Island! 

That night we went to dinner at an authentic Ethiopian restaurant in Dar. This was my first time there. It was so good and had such a cool atmosphere. The following day we were up early to start our drive back to Arusha.


Watching the sunset on our last night in Dar before going to Ethiopian food


‘Addis in Dar’ Ethiopian restaurant was so good!

We had about 2 full days in Arusha to finish shopping, visiting, and meeting friends before my parents left.


Dad and Colton enjoying some coffee at the Arusha Coffee Lodge


Coming to Africa for the first time can  be very intimidating and even scary to most Americans. It can be very difficult and challenging culturally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Driving through villages of Masai living in mud huts and herding cows, having to use squatty toilets with no toilet paper and only a bucket of water to clean yourself, seeing children playing along the side of the highway in the middle of no where, (at times) having no power or water, being selflessly invited into a families house and offered chai while sitting on their more than worn-down couch and watching the children play on their dirt floor, swatting flies off the large pot of Ugali cooking over the fire. Seeing all these things for the first time after arriving from a place where everything is in the grasp of your hand, really messes with some people. They have mental breakdowns from not knowing how to process such a different world they never knew existed. This is what they call ‘culture shock’.

I never doubted my parents ability to handle this new world, although I was curious to see exactly how they would handle it. My dad has been to third-world countries multiple times so I knew he would have some familiarity with it. My mom, however, had never been to a developing, and in some areas under-developed, country. They both were champs at it. No culture shock. Full of questions and open minds to learn about the culture and life instead of trying to block it out and deny it, as so often is the case.


My parents truly are amazing and I am overwhelmed by the blessings in life that we are so undeserving of every day. The fact that my parents were able to come visit and share part of our lives with us really is a miracle and I couldn’t be more thankful. This trip is something I will cherish forever.


At the airport saying goodbye to my parents

There are so many great pictures from my parents trip out here and I wish I could share them all! Here are a few more from the trip.

A Few Months of Living Life

Arriving back from the US to Africa I flew into Nairobi, Kenya (instead of Kilimanjaro, TZ). There were several reasons for this: 1. The plane tickets are literally hundreds of dollars less to fly into Nairobi as opposed to Kili. 2. We were attending a wedding just North of Nairobi a few days after my arrival.


In Naivasha, Kenya  (venue/Lodge for wedding guests) the day after arriving from the US…just a bit tired, but happy to be back with my man.

Colton drove the 6 hours up to Nairobi to pick me up. We stayed the night in town then headed up to the wedding the next day. It was a beautiful wedding with a lot of tradition as it was a marriage between a Kenyan and a Congolese. Lots of singing, dancing, toasts, and laughter.

We drove back to Arusha the day after the wedding and immediately started work the next day. Not much time to get over jet lag!

What is normally considered ‘summer time’ is actually our ‘winter’. Now we don’t get snow or below freezing temperatures, but living below a mountain during winter time does keep the air damp, cool & overcast. Houses out here are built out of cinderblocks and cement so although the actual temperature outside might be high 60’s the houses trap in the cool air. I end up spending most my morning wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket and wearing socks so I don’t freeze!


Project I worked on during those ‘freezing’ days at home!

May through June were busy with work. Not too much excitement. Colton’s birthday was the 27th of June. I made him his favorite meals and dessert and (finally) was able to give him all the fun goodies I bought in the US for his birthday.

Colton’s parents and youngest sister arrived the beginning of July. They were moving back to TZ after being in Kenya for 2 years, then the US for 2 years. We had them for a couple of weeks before they went back to their home in the south.


Not the best quality pic but only one I had of all of us!

At the end of July Colton had to make a last minute business trip to the South. I was able to go with him and meet up with his family. I stayed with the family while Colton visited work sites. We were gone for about a week. On our return we stopped and stayed a couple of nights in Mbeya to celebrate our (few days late) 3rd wedding anniversary.


Utengule Coffee Plantation & Lodge – Mbeya, Tanzania. We stayed here to celebrate our anniversary 

Upon returning to Arusha I had one day to plan and organize my friends bridal shower. I held it in our yard and despite the party starting a couple hours late (due to transportation issues) it went great.


Chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream and fresh raspberries & cake pops made from crumbs of cake and leftover raspberry buttercream. Yum!

The day after the bridal shower was spent getting nails done, picking up last minute printing (menus, placemats, programs), helping set up the venue and the rehearsal.

The following day was the wedding. I arrived early to help finish setting up the venue along with the other bridesmaids and friends. The bridal party retreated to a beautiful house to get ready, eat lunch, and take pictures.


The bridal party’s dresses & shoes


The bride & groom’s ‘first look’ before the wedding ceremony

The ceremony itself was short but very sweet. The rest of the evening was full of food, drinks, laughter, speeches, dancing, and special memories.

We left ‘early’ so we could get some sleep and prep for the arrival of my parents the following night…but more on that in a later post!

Here are just a few more pics from the last couple of months.


Date hike with my husband


Lake Duluti. We spent an afternoon here one day with some our friends in a little motor boat. You would never know a huge mountain is looming over us behind those clouds.

Goodbye’s, Hello’s & I love You So’s

Traveling from East Africa to the US is a long haul, and somewhat expensive. Fortunately, we have been able to make this an annual trip since moving out here 3 years ago. A few months back ( April to be precise) the annual trip home was at our doorstep. The past few times home have been for our siblings weddings and time has had to be split between States and families. This year things were a little different..


Love looking out the window and seeing the world below me…there is so much to see and explore!

Due to work obligations Colton was not able to make the trip this year. There were no weddings to attend and no splitting time between families. Although I was bummed Colton couldn’t be with me, it was a great trip. For the first time in 3 years I was able to spend more than 1 week with my family. I had a whole month with just my family (and a few friends). It was so nice being back in Tulsa and seeing how much the city is developing and changing. A place that wasn’t quite the ‘cool place to be’ is now looking more and more urban, hip, and fun to live in.


Tulsa 🙂 Not pictured: a million cool and awesome coffee shops, tea houses, food trucks, art galleries, beautiful Oklahoma spring weather 😉

My flight home first landed in New York. Since there are a limited amount of flights to Tulsa each day I stayed the night in a near by hotel and flew to Tulsa the next day. I arrived mid afternoon and was welcomed by the whole family, including my grandma and Aunt. We left the airport and went straight to my sisters soccer game. It was senior night- which means after the game all the seniors gather on the field with their parents and are recognized for their accomplishments. They all receive flowers and have their pictures taken. Its a very special night and I was so happy I was able to be there for my sister (especially since I wasn’t going to be able to attend her graduation in May).


The family at Abby’s senior soccer game! (Just missing Colton, my brother and his wife)

The rest of my trip was full of different activities from spending the day with mom and helping her with a student pizza fund raiser at her school to hanging out, going to a concert, running the Color Run, and watching movies with my younger sisters and their highschool friends. I spent some good time with my other sister who is in college and starting her own baking/wedding cake business. She is very impressive and makes the most amazing cakes! I was also able to spend time with my brother and his wife, my sister-in-law and her husband (who drove up from Houston to see me), and my older brother. Of course quality time was spent with my parents, grandparents and a few close friends. We celebrated my birthday and of course, it wouldn’t be Oklahoma without some sever weather! Overall the whole trip was amazing and the only thing missing was Colton. He was missed by everyone but especially by me!


All the sisters! (plus their friend creep’n in the corner). They surprised me with a ticket to the concert so I could go with them…best sisters in the world! 🙂

There were so many great photos from my trip home that it will be hard to share all of them. Here are my favorites. Enjoy!

Old Friends, New Ventures

March was a pretty full month for us. We moved houses, became first-time pet owners since being married, and my first college room mate and good friend came out to visit for a few days.

Moving houses was pretty straight forward. We love the new place, and although it has been several months since moving in, I think I will always be moving, arranging or decorating to make it feel more like home.


The new house and yard. We love all the trees and space!

The dogs were bought from a vet in town. Since the new house has such a big yard, Colton wanted a German Shepherd for a guard dog . After being persuaded by friends that having only one dog is not a good idea because he will get lonely, we bought the 2nd dog..a little white fluffy Japanese Spitzer. He’s pretty cute.

My friend who came to visit works at a boarding school in Germany and since its not too far (compared to flying from the U.S.) she and one her co-teacher decided to pop down to Tanzania on their spring break.

Random fact…her co-teacher’s family (who are American) happened to know a mutual acquaintance of my family back home in Tulsa. But they only know this mutual acquaintance from meeting him while in South America on missions. What a small world!

The girls arrived on the KLM flight and we were so excited to pick them up! The last time I saw my friend was at our wedding, which doesn’t really count because we were hardly able to visit during all the festivities.

Since it was their spring break they only had a few days to spend with us before heading back to Germany. We made the most of it by taking them to the Masai Market for souvenir shopping, my friends bridal shower plus dinner out, a safari/game drive and a day trip out of town to Maji Moto.

‘Maji Moto’ means ‘hot water’. This is a natural spring in the middle of the dessert that is considered ‘hot’. The truth is the water really isn’t hot, or warm for that matter. But its not ice cold. Every now and then there is a current of warmish water that comes out of the underground cave/volcanic vent.

This is one of the most beautiful and natural places Ive seen here in Tanzania.

The safari was quite eventful. We were able to see several lions, including two female lions climbing a tree right next to the road. Tree-climbing lions (a rarity) have been rumored to exist in this park, but we, along with most people, had never seen them…until that day. It was very exciting for us all!

It was so great having old and new friends come out to visit. We love being able to share our lives with friends and family.

Crossing the Finish Line

At the beginning of this year we ran into some friends at the gym. After the casual chit-chat they asked if we were running the Kilimanjaro Marathon. Colton and I laughed and said no. I knew quite a few people participating in this event but since we are not runners there was no reason to entertain the idea….until our friends started explaining how fun it is and that really its more of a social event than a race. There is a 5k, a half marathon (21k, or around 13 miles – which most people run), and then the full marathon.

We left the gym feeling stoked up and confident about running the half marathon…which was in just over a month.

The training began.

To clarify ‘training’, what I really mean is of the 4 treadmills at the gym, the only 2 that actually work started seeing a lot more action. Unfortunately, running outside here is a bit culturally awkward. If I really wanted to run along the road it would be fine, but not being able to wear shorts...only long leggings (out of respect for the culture) is enough to make me stick with the treadmill indoors.

Since the treadmills have a 30 min limit, and there always seems to be a line waiting for the 2 treadmills that work, the most I was able to run was 3 miles/5k. This was my training for the race. Never mind that it was taking place at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro with a higher altitude than where we live.

My goal for the half marathon was never to run the whole thing. Knowing my own ability I thought if I make it half of the half marathon I would be proud of my accomplishment.

The weekend of the race arrived. We were excited, slightly nervous, and seriously questioning our mental reasoning for why on earth we thought this was a good idea.

The race was in Moshi, the next town over. We drove over the evening before to pick up our registration, find our little hotel, and have dinner with a group of friends that were also running the half. They were much more serious about the race than us as they were all runners in high school/college.

The morning of the half marathon we put on our running gear, covered ourselves in sunscreen, and put vaseline on all the necessary places (according to all the marathon tips I read on blogs before hand, this was a necessary step).


Colton pumped up at the beginning of the race!

Thousands of people participated in the race. The horn went off and the race began. I made sure to stay at a nice slow jog so we didn’t use all our energy in the first 15 min….especially since the entire first half (11k) were up hill. We made it to the top of the hill and the surprisingly hilly descent started. After 13k I finally needed to take a break. I had already surpassed my personal goal and was feeling quite accomplished. Colton kept the motivation up to continue running. Determined to make a decent time on the race I thought letting gravity help me run down hill would be a good idea. After several downward hills my knees were telling me this was probably not a good idea afterall. This was around the 16k mark. The rest of the race I walked 1k then ran 1k. My husband could have easily run the whole race but stayed with me and kept encouraging me to push a little further.


The final stretch

We finally made it to the finish line. Most of our friends had finished long before us and were enjoying nice cold beverages and snacks. Our official time for the half marathon was 2hrs and 40min. Thats pretty slow but I was happy and proud of ourselves for finishing in that time since the most I had ever run was 5k and this was our first half marathon. There was a pool near by so the afternoon was spent swimming and recovering before driving 2hrs back to Arusha.


So happy to be reaching the finish line!


Just after crossing the finish line we received a medal, shirt, and water and I felt like I had forgotten how to walk!

We were a bit sore for a few days after the race but nothing that some good stretching couldn’t fix. The race was very enjoyable and I think we will run it again next year, but hopefully with a little bit more training!


After the race relaxing by the pool. The water felt so nice after the 2.5hours of running/walking!

It doesn’t matter what goals you have set for yourself, whether big or small, as long as you cross that finish line and keep your head held high knowing you have done something amazing – you reached your goal!

I love setting goals and being able to look back and see where I started, where I ended, what I learned in between, and the inner pride I now have knowing I accomplished something that for me was a big goal, even if to others it might seem small.


Proudly sporting our new shirts after the Kili Half Marathon 2016!


Love What You Do

Today, there are only a handful of my class mates who actually work in the field they studied…graphic design. Some have landed the ‘big full time design job’ with some reputable companies, and others are working at coffee shops or other non-related jobs.

When moving here to Arusha I was rather skeptical about the ability to successfully do design work, despite Colton assuring me there was so much opportunity here. Well the first 6 months were more on the discouraging side in terms of my work. It was a foreign country, foreign language, foreign way of driving (manual cars and opposite side of the road), etc. There was not much initiative from me to go out and actively search/promote my design skills.


One of our many ‘offices’ in Arusha – my full-time design job

Eventually, through a friend at church, I was told of a mission organization not far from our house that was in need of a full-time graphic designer. Colton could drop me off on the way to his work and pick me up on the way home. It was perfect. After contacting this organization they ‘hired’ me almost immediately. Since it was a missions station I was only volunteering my time but knew this would open more opportunities for me.

After about 8 months of fun, challenging, and unique projects it was time to move on. During those months I had received a phone call from a ‘stranger’ who was given my number by a mutual acquaintance. This person had a marketing and events company and needed some free-lance design work. I agreed to meet her and take on a few projects here and there. The stranger who called is now my current work partner and closest friend here in Arusha.

So at the end of 8 months, when all my projects were completed at the mission, I moved to a full-time design position for my friends company. In addition to design I also learned bits of how to help, organizing and manage events. Some of our jobs took us to safari lodges, luxury tented camps, the beach, and other adventures.

Fast forward 2.5 years later and we are still working together, great friends, and I’m a bridesmaid in her upcoming wedding. Now I’ve given you all this back story to understand the main point of this post:

The FNB-RVO Cycling Event in Arusha.

This event was quite a big deal. The first of its kind in Tanzania. And my work partner is the one who made it all happen.

Cycling is an up and coming sport in Tanzania. We had done some work and a few small events for the Rotary Club Arusha – who sponsor and support a cycling club in Arusha (who we had also worked with).

There is a annual cycling event in Kenya that my work partner had participated in and had the dream for it coming to Tanzania. This is the RVO – Rift Valley Odyssey. She was able to get the RVO to come down and host the event in Arusha.

In order for this to happen we had to have a pretty large sponsor. FNB is a very well known bank from South Africa who do a lot of sport event sponsoring. They are trying to break into the market in Tanzania. My work partner being from Zimbabwe/South Africa reached out to the head of FNB Tanzania and pitched the proposal to them. They agreed and ended up sponsoring over 100 cycling jerseys, water bottles & bags. Hence the name FNB-RVO.

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FNB cycling jerseys and water bottles

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Signage and FNB banner at the event


This was a 2 day event at the beginning of December. We did all the signage and promotional materials as well as organizing and managing the event. There were over 50 participants…which is a lot for it being an up & coming sport and first time event in Tanzania.


FNB-RVO Cycling event 2016

Our amazing photographer and friend was able to capture the event beautifully! Check out more of her pictures from the event here:

It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. The event was a huge success and we are hoping to continue it annually. This is my job and I am so thankful that I am able to do what I enjoy.

Here are a few more pictures from the weekend of the event.

C H R I S T M A S 2016

This last year I had the best Christmas present: My sister Rachel, along with her friend, Katie, flew all the way here to spend Christmas with us. It was no surprise as it had been in the works for a few months, but still a great gift.

Colton and I picked them up from the KLM arrival (there is only one a day) at 8:50pm. The following morning we took them to our church here in Arusha so they could enjoy the experience and meet some of our friends. From there we went to a local favorite of Ted’s (Colton’s Dad), Lenana. After experiencing some local food & chai we drove about 45min out of town and up the mountain to stay with our friends Simone and Pieter.


The view driving up the farm (Simone & Pieter’s)…a little intimidating looking!

It was important that my sister met Simone since she is my work partner and closest friend here. She has been a blessing in my life since moving to Arusha. Simone and her fiance, Pieter were leaving that week for Holland so we had to cram in a visit with them before they left. No time for jet leg! Colton only stayed for the afternoon before heading back to town. The rest of us girls stayed the night. Other than one of their dogs running into a table and proceeding to have a seizure it was a very relaxing and nice visit at the farm. We returned home the following day.

Since Colton still had work that week I took the girls around Arusha to “see the sights”. This mostly consisted of visiting several coffee shops/cafes, the Masai Market, a mani/pedi session, and a short drive out of town to visit our old stomping grounds from when we first moved here.

That weekend, when Colton was finally on holiday, we packed the car and drove to Dar. The first few days were spent in Dar before taking the ferry to Zanzibar – which might have been a slightly overwhelming experience for the girls as we had to push, cram, and hustle our way through dense crowds of people in order to get on and off…but a good experience nonetheless.


Kilimanjaro – Moshi…on the way to Dar at sunrise…beautiful!

Our time in Zanzibar was spent exploring Stone Town by foot, drinking spiced chai, and snorkeling in the Indian Ocean. Upon returning from Zanzibar we spent one last night in Dar before leaving at the crack of dawn (like most of our days they were there) to drive back to Arusha. This was on Christmas Eve day.

Christmas day was filled with delicious cinnamon rolls made by Rachel, lots of fun and special gifts, and an amazing feast of ham, mashed potatoes, & veggies prepared mostly by Colton. This was my first christmas spent with anyone from my family in over 3 years so it was very special.

The following day was a Safari to Tarangire National Park. Luck was on our side as we saw lions, cheetahs, and of course elephants, zebras, buffalo, and other “usual” sitings. After stopping at the lodge for a few drinks and snacks we headed home. The last couple of days were spent laying by the pool and taking the girls to the Masai Market for souvenir shopping. They left on the 28th. It was a fast trip but so great. Colton and I were so thankful my sister was able to come visit us. She was the first of my family to come visit and see our lives in Tanzania.


See more pictures from our Christmas holiday below.