Travel Buddies…Pt.2

On the flight to Mbeya with my sisters we decided to just battle straight to our house after landing (instead of staying the night and resting before driving 6hrs), as Colton had to get back for work. We landed, picked up our car, and hit the road. 6hrs later and we made it to our house in the middle of nowhere, Africa. Dinner was made and ready for us when we arrived (so thankful!).

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Flying over Dar

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Mbeya

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Taking in the view of Mbeya before driving for 6hrs

The rest of that week was spent exploring the area with my sisters, going on hikes/walks, having ‘spa days’, and making fun recipes. Of course there was lots of good conversations and experiencing a little bit of our life here in Africa.

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Our home

We had a farewell party for one of our staff. The girls helped me make a cake for him on which we wrote ‘Asante Sana, Yuda!’ (thank you so much, Yuda!). He was speechless when we surprised him with it after dinner. Quite a special night for everyone.

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Afternoon walk

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Cooking breakfast for the crew

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Walks around our ‘neighborhood’

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Thanks to my sisters for helping me decorate my home with beautiful flowers!

Colton’s Dad came up for a few nights. The girls and I went back to the valley with him. Colton followed on his motorbike as he had some work there. He joined us that evening for dinner and left the next morning. The girls and I hung out at his dad’s house, explored the area a bit and spent some time by the pool. Colton’s parents were at the end stages of packing up their home to move. Very emotional time.

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Mkukwe – Mountain behind Colton’s parent’s house – Rukwa Valley

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Colton’s Dad explaining some of his work

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River hike with Colton – River behind Colton’s childhood home where he spent his time exploring the wilds of Africa

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Pool time

That evening Colton’s dad had his last honey-harvest and my sisters and I were able to join. This was an experience that doesn’t happen often and was so special the girls were able to experience it. When Colton and I were dating, I was able to join a honey-harvest with his Dad as well. It was so amazing. That was the last and only time I had been apart of the experience until this last trip with my sisters.

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Suiting up for the honey harvest

I was the designated (iphone) photographer for the harvest. We all got suited up and headed out with his team to harvest honey. We brought a small bowl of honeycomb back to the house to eat ourselves.

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My sisters with the Beekeeper King of East Africa – Colton’s Dad

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Honey honey honey

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Freshest honey ever!

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Literally the best honey in the world

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Succesfull honey harvest

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These girls were such champs! Battling the heat, sweat, and swarms of bee’s for a few hours was all worth it!

That evening we had a pizza party. Colton’s Dad made them in his pizza oven. Just as he brought in the last pizza his guard came to the door. I could tell from the tone in their voices that something kind of ‘bad’ was going on. He calmly said he had to go check on something real quick. I watched as he got his shotgun and walked out the house. I thought maybe there was a mamba or python somewhere. Meanwhile, my sisters and I continued to eat our pizza. After a few minutes he called for me to open the front door for him. He told me there was a leopard by his pig pen and the dogs were flipping out. The dogs were still puppies so the leopard was probably stalking them. He had to scare it away by the sound of his gun and asked me to let the girls know so they weren’t worried.

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Evening wine time

Colton’s dad returned and we finished our meal with a bit of fresh honey comb for dessert. Quite an exciting evening!

The next morning my sisters and I got up early to watch the sunrise by the pool. It was probably the best sunrise I’ve seen, and the last one I would ever see from that pool and Colton’s childhood home. Colton’s dad joined us for a bit before making us a nice breakfast of eggs, toast and honeycomb. We were driven back up the mountain to our house.

* These next series of photos are of the sunrise from the pool-overlooking the valley. No captions necessary.

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The rest of the week was hanging out, chilling by the fire, star-gazing in the freezing cold, early morning deep conversations with each of my sisters, and packing for our trip back to the States. We went to town one day and did some shopping in the market. The girls loved it and even got a few marriage proposals (not too uncommon out here!).

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Colton showing the girls some of his work

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Market shopping – where we buy our produce

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Market shopping

The day came for us to leave. Colton was joining us back in the States a few weeks later so goodbyes were said (somewhat tearfully …for me at least!). One of Colton’s friends was driving us girls to Mbeya for our flight to Dar. Goodbyes are never easy and always seem to be a bit emotional. So I said goodbye to the love of my life for whole month.

After a few hours at the airport, a quick lunch, and a short flight to Dar we made it to our (same) hotel safely. We walked next door for pizza that night. The following day I took the girls to the beach one last time. So nice and enjoyable (aside from a bit of rain). Pizza again for dinner (it is so good out here!).

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Last morning at the beach before flying HOME. Fresh coffee and homemade trail mix for breakfast. YUM!

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Indian Ocean swim before flying for a million hours

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Calm before the storm

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Hiding from the rain with fresh juice and cocktails!

The next morning we did all our last minute souvenir shopping. We had a nice lunch out and bought all the gifts and souvenirs we needed. Went back to the hotel to freshen up and change from our hot tropical clothes into our travel clothes (although it was still so hot and sweaty – there was no way around not being sweaty before our 24hr trip to the States). We made it to the airport with more than enough time.

We boarded our SwissAir flight and took off. This was my first time flying with SwissAir and it was so nice….very impressed! We were all in the middle isle, which, if I’m being honest, I was a bit bummed about at first (It’s always hard to sleep on a plane without a window to lean against…and this was an overnight flight). Surprisingly, our flight was not full. It was just the three of us in our 4-seat row. I was able to lay down and actually slept for the majority of the flight. So nice!

Our layover in Switzerland was only about 2hrs. It was early morning when we landed so shops and restaurants were still opening in the airport. We logged onto the free wifi so I could update Colton and my mom about our trip. Starbucks was one of the only ‘restaurants’ open at that hour. We grabbed some breakfast and coffee before our next 10hr flight.

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Switzerland (My only ever view of the Swiss Alps…barely noticeable but beautiful!)

From Switzerland we flew to Newark, NJ where we went through all our customs. Hopped on our last 3hr flight to Dallas (it was significantly cheaper to fly to Dallas than it was to fly to Tulsa). That last 3hr flight felt like the longest flight of the whole trip. We made it to Dallas and were met by my Mom, other sister, and our brother and his wife. Was so nice seeing everyone!

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My sisters in Rukwa Valley

I just need to make a shout out (in case it was evident from my post) that I couldn’t be more proud of my sisters! We pushed them hard and on minimal sleep most of the time and they were complete champs about everything. Not everyone can handle this kind of trip. My sisters (all of them) are so hardcore, tough, adventurous, easy-going, sweet, caring, beautiful and smart. It was such a proud time and honor for them to want to spend their time and money, travel half way across the world to a remote place in Africa (with limited hot water, showers, & comforts). 

Here are the rest of the pictures from the trip!

Travel Buddies…. Pt.1

Back in March, my youngest sister wrote me about visiting us in Tanzania. We had talked about it before but more along the lines of ‘I really want to come visit! That would be so much fun‘. This time, however, she was serious. She had a job. Had the money. And was going to make the time. So we started brain storming and planning the best time for her to come visit.

Now during this time of figuring out dates, we were also trying to figure out travel dates for ourselves to go back to the States for my other sister’s wedding. We couldn’t do this until she settled on a wedding date. So quite a few little things going on that played into our planning.

She set her wedding for the 1st of July. Now to figure out the best time for my youngest sister to come to TZ. Since she is still in highschool we were limited with our options. We finally agreed that it would make the most sense for her to come out before the wedding. I would travel back to the States with her so I could be apart of the wedding planning and sister-family time the month leading up to the wedding. Colton would join us later on for the wedding. Sounds simple enough.

After hours of research and a failed attempt at a travel agent I finally found the ‘perfect’ tickets for everyone. During all this it was decided that my (other) youngest sister was going to join the Tanzania trip. Super exciting! The tickets were rather complicated (at least for a newbie like me at being a travel agent!). Anyways, we sorted it all out and my two sisters were all set to arrive in Dar in early May.

I planned out an itinerary for their trip to ensure we could do everything possible while they were here.

The time finally came. Colton and I drove the 6 hrs to ‘our’ airport, parked our car next door, and flew to Dar. We spent the next day at the beach while we waited for my sisters plane to arrive that night.

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Waiting at the tiny airport before flying to Dar to get my sisters! (this room is literally the entire airport haha)

When we got to the airport I was so anxious about my sisters arrival and making it through customs without any issues that I couldn’t sit still. I probably checked the screen every 2 minutes to make sure their flight had arrived and landed safely. Finally, we saw their beautiful faces come through the doors! We embraced each other with disbelief they were actually here in Africa. Amazing.

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Fresh off the plane in Dar after 30+ hours of traveling! What champs! So excited to have my sisters!

Colton and I had gone to the grocery store before the girls arrived to buy coffee, tea and a few breakfast items so we could have something to crunch the next morning.

One of the things about living in Africa is you become very close with family and pretty easy going about certain situations. The hotel we stayed at (we always stay here) only had one room available. This room only had 3 twin beds…a bunkbed and a single bed. All crammed one a small room. So the four of us packed into this room for a few nights. My sisters got the bunkbeds and Colton and I snuggled close on the single bed. We somehow managed to fit all our suitcases in the room as well.

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How we recover from jet-lag in Tanzania 😉

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Beach in Dar with my sisters…couldn’t be happier!

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Beach time – Dar

The day after the girls arrived we took it easy and spent the day at the beach relaxing, soaking up the sun, and getting over jet-lag. For dinner we went to our usual restaurant – Chinese food. So good. As always.

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Can’t get more fresh than a coconut picked from the tree you are laying under, chopped open, and served with a straw!

Bright and early the next day we hopped on the ferry and cruised through the Indian Ocean to Zanzibar. We checked into our hotel and immediately set out to explore. We had one day to do all the site seeing and shopping. We went to the outdoor market that evening and satisfied our hunger with the local Zanzibari pizzas, shwarmas, sugarcane juice, and spiced tea.

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Arriving in Zanzibar!

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Our favorite Zanzibar spiced tea in Stone town!

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Zanzibar Doors

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Walking the streets of Stone Town, Zanzibar – we were welcomed to dinner by a beautiful rainbow!

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Dinner and a show… 😉

Our hotel organized breakfast to-go the next morning since we were leaving too early to enjoy the roof-top breakfast the hotel prepares.

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Lunch time/ break from the heat of Zanzibar at a delicious Tapas restaurant

Zanzibar was great. I think we were able to see and experience everything we needed to plus did quite a bit of shopping. We also managed to get henna, all in one day.

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Lunch time/ break from the heat of Zanzibar at a delicious Tapas restaurant

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Fresh drinks to cool us down from the heat of Zanzibar…so refreshing!

The ferry ride back to Dar was a little more wavy than normal…none of us got sick, but my sisters and I had to step to the back to get a bit of fresh air.

Before heading to Zanzibar we left the majority of our luggage at our hotel in Dar. Anything more than a backpack on the ferry is forced to be checked into the cargo of the ferry. The nightmare is waiting for them to wheel off each cart of luggage after you arrive. Its a tricky combination of trying to eye and grab your luggage while everyone else is trying to grab their luggage, all while making sure not get run-over by another heavy-metal cart full of luggage being rolled onto the platform. Very chaotic. We try to avoid this at all costs.

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Fishermen arriving to the fish market after all night of fishing – Dar port

We arrived back in Dar without any issue (always an accomplishment to be noted) and snagged a taxi to our hotel. We had just enough time to grab all our luggage and freshen up a bit before heading to the airport for the next part of our African Adventure with my sisters.

A few more pictures from ‘part 1′ of my sisters trip!

 

 

Life Down South

Since our move down south life has been pretty busy. Its been non-stop of guests (mostly family), small traveling (mostly with family), and of course work. We live about 45min outside of Sumbawanga town, where Colton’s office is located. He makes the commute everyday and still finds time and energy to go on a run or long walk with me, workout, and help me with dinner…he really is the best!

Personally, I have not been quite as busy as Colton has with work. But that’s ok. I have my ups and downs regarding my work. The truth is, where we are located is relatively behind compared to the rest of the country (which is saying a lot), especially when it comes to companies or small businesses needing design work.

Despite sounding like life is boring and there is nothing for me do….that’s quite far from the truth! I spent the first 2-3 months of living down here getting the house organized, unpacked, set-up, rearranged, etc. There was a period where every weekend we were either down with Colton’s parents or they were up visiting us during the weeks. In between visits with family I have gone with Colton to some of his village meetings, looked at farms, and done some serious exploring on bikes and motorbikes.

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Over looking the Rukwa Valley and Lake Rukwa

A few months back Colton’s mom, sister, and I decided we needed a ‘girls trip’ to get back to some kind of civilization. Colton escorted me through the villages and muddy, slippery roads to the top of his parents road where we met his mom and sister. The three of us continued in my car to Mbeya while Colton returned to work. We stopped at a very cute and delicious coffee shop after the 6 hrs journey to Mbeya. The funny thing is this shop would be nothing special in the States – still very cute with delicious coffees and treats, but to us, walking into the shop was like walking into a luxurious cafe with specialty drinks and treats you can’t find anywhere else. It was so refreshing!

We stayed the night in Mbeya then continued for another 4hrs to Lake Malawi (or ‘Lake Nyasa’ as known by Tanzanians). Here we stayed for 5 days at a simple yet comfortable lodge on the beach shores of the lake.

Most people probably dont know much about Lake Malawi. It is a clear fresh water lake with beautiful sand beaches. The lake has a noticeable tide and is also one of the deepest lakes in the world. Scuba diving and snorkeling are main activities on the lake.

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Lake Malawi/Nyasa

The lake is also known for a special type of fly that hatches on the water, swarms up hundreds of feet in the air while mating and laying eggs, then dying, and repeating the cycle with the next round of newly hatched flies. When this phenomenon occurs it appears as dark clouds or smoke plumes rising up out of the water – when in fact its just millions of flies. I know, it sounds gross, but they usually stay on the lake. Its not super common to witness such a phenomenon. We did not see them while there, however a few weeks later Colton and I took a trip there and while in a canoe on the lake I noticed what looked like brown smoke rising out of the water farther out on the lake. It was the flies. Quite amazing to witness. As we were so far away when we saw them they don’t appear in any pictures we tried to take….so you’ll just have it imagine it.

So our girls trip was great. We relaxed, tanned, ate delicious food, watched chick-flicks, ate chocolate, and just enjoyed the time together.

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River inlet to Lake Malawi/Nyasa. Apparently there are load of Crocs and Hippos in this area…thankfully we did not encounter any!

A few weeks later Colton and I took a trip there for Easter weekend and time to ourselves. We realized as we were planning the trip that we have not had a vacation together, just the two of us, in over 2 years!

We met Colton’s parents in Mbeya for dinner. They were on their way to Arusha for a few days. We ate breakfast with them the following morning before we went our separate ways. We were at the beach just around lunch time. It was very enjoyable, relaxing and much needed.

Lake Malawi/Nyasa

A few more weeks at home, working on the house, planning my sisters trip out here (oh yea, my two youngest sisters came out to visit…There will definitely be a post about their trip later!), and other random projects around the house.

For my birthday Colton surprised me by taking us away for the night to Lake Tanganyika. We left early enough to be there by lunch time, and returned the following day after lunch. It was amazing.

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Snorkeling – Lake Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika, like Lake Malawi, is a clear, fresh water lake known for its amazing scuba diving and snorkeling. It is the second oldest freshwater lake in the world, second largest by volume, and the second deepest. It is also the world’s longest freshwater lake with Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Congo on its shores. From our location we stared across the lake at the large mountains and rainforests of The Congo. Quite spectacular.

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Lake Tanganyika – Congo Mountains in the distance

Since we were there for such a short amount of time we only snorkeled just in front of our room. We saw some small fish in the clear water, but all the larger fish worth seeing are all out deeper in the lake around rock formations. It was a wonderful birthday shared with my best friend.

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Our cute room on the shores of Lake Tanganyika

Snorkeling at Lake Tanganyika

Lots more exciting updates from the last few months to come!

Onwards & Upwards (or South-wards)!

We moved!

Actually, we moved back in January. We are still in Tanzania, we’ve just relocated to the Southern part of the country. To put in perspective from where we lived in Arusha…it takes no less than 2 days of traveling, either by car or plane (after landing there is still 6hrs of driving) to get to our new home. So basically, we are in the middle of nowhere.

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Area near where we live – Southern highlands, TZ

Ironically, our ‘new’ home is actually a home Colton’s Dad built back in the 90’s when they first moved to Africa. Colton spent the first half of his childhood in this house. The house has since been lived in and modified in the past decades by other missionaries. The family that was in this house before us were moving back to the States, and so it was available for us to live in. This was actually a huge blessing for us for a number of reasons, but I will try to briefly explain the story.

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Colton with his Dad – Africa 1990

First of all, the relocation was for Colton’s job. The opportunity first came up last summer. Having been to the area a few times (its near by Colton’s parents), I was well aware of the fact the location is less than desirable for anyone, even Tanzanians.

Although the town has a few nice shops and a produce market, the nearest place to get ‘luxury’ items such as butter, cheese, yogurt, canned chickpeas and ‘western’ produce like broccoli, cauliflower, squash, apples, green beans, is 6 hours away.

The area, Sumbawanga, is known throughout the whole country for its strong and effective witchcraft. That’s not to say everyone down here is involved in witchcraft, but rather some of the most powerful witch doctors have lived here for generations.

Since Colton grew up down here, and his company already had a presence here, Colton was the obvious choice to move to Sumbawanga.

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Colton with his Dad and younger sister – Africa 1990’s

So when Colton presented me with this opportunity, my first thought was ‘we have to go’. My response might be surprising given the location and my knowledge of it, but I knew in my heart that this was our next step. It was too ironic to be a coincidence – that Colton would be asked to move back to where he grew up – for work. Not to mention we would be only 2.5hrs from his parents as appose to 2-3days. In his later life of boarding school and college this would be the closest Colton has lived to his parents since he was 15.

I’ve always believed that if an opportunity is presented to you, take it. I also believe that we were not given this life to make decisions based on friends and comfort. Over the past 4 years we have made a lot of good friends in Arusha. Im not saying I don’t care about them or miss them. But what is life if we never take opportunities only because we are scared to leave our friends, comfortable home, and start over?

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Good friends in Arusha

To make a long story short, there were a lot of ups and downs after the initial decision of moving. Around October last year the decision was final, but no final moving date. There was a lot of moving pieces that needed to come into place first before we packed up our home and moved across country where communications are not reliable.

We went on our Christmas vacation still not quite knowing when the move would be, but expecting it to be ASAP.

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Christmas Vacay

When we returned from holiday it was finally decided that middle-end of January we would move…that was in like 2-3 weeks! We were able to get a home lined up to live in only to have it fall through the week before we moved. Colton’s parents generously spent 2 full days looking for houses for us to rent in Sumbawanga. Nothing. So only a few days until we moved and we did not have a place to live.

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Clearing out the house and packing the moving truck – Arusha

The house was basically packed. We were moving no matter what. House or no house. We knew this was what we had to do and believed it would all work out. We just had to have faith. Literally 2 days before we moved this house opened up for us to live in. We could not be more thankful or blessed.

We had a few more ‘last’ get-togethers with friends before making the long drive. We sent the moving truck on its way then stayed the night with two of our good friends. We are so thankful for friends like them.

We left before the sun was up. Colton drove his company car and I followed in our ‘new’ car. Both packed to the brim. 12 hrs to Iringa, where we stayed the night, and another 12 to our new home. We made it without any problems.

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The move – Day 2

Colton’s parents arrived at the house a few days before us to clean and do some touch up work. When we arrived the truck was just unloading its last item. It arrived half an hour before despite leaving an entire day before us! I don’t know what we would have done without the help of Colton’s parents. They stayed with us a few days to help get things settled, sew curtains, make dinner while we unpacked, etc.

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The new bathroom all set up – very important!

It has been non-stop since we moved. Colton’s work has picked up in full force and we have been able to spend some great quality time with Colton’s parents and youngest sister. Life has been so crazy these past few months but we have had no doubt we made the right decision to take the opportunity and move here.

Christmas – The New ‘Normal’

I realize I only post about the bigger events in my life. One day I hope to make a few random posts about everyday life here, or maybe do ‘A Day in the Life of Us’ post every now and then, but that might be reaching a bit too far for me at the moment! So until then, you will just keep getting one big post about a big event in my life every few months or so.

With that being said this post is about Christmas 2016 – Yes its a few months late, and yes, I feel like I recently just wrote about last Christmas with my sister here. But regardless, here is Christmas 2016…

As Americans, and Westerners, when most of us think of Christmas the thoughts of cold weather and snow, twinkling Christmas lights, gingerbread houses, Christmas music, hot chocolate, warm fires, cozy blankets, family gatherings and decorating of trees, the smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and other ‘comfort’ scents all come rushing into our minds in reminiscence.

Every year since moving to Africa (for 4 Christmas’s now) I have dreamed in slight hope that we will experience a Western-world festive Christmas season with my family. Every year I think ‘maybe this year we will have a ‘real’ Christmas again’, and every year the thought gets put aside until the next year.

Although there will always be a small part of me that wishes to spend the Christmas season back home with my family, and in a country that thrives from the holiday madness and festivities, I am so thankful and blessed for the life I have been given with my husband and his wonderful family.

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Stonetown, Zanzibar

The truth is, for most our holidays we are privileged to spend them in a tropical paradise, which has become ‘normal’ for our holidays. Thats just what you do. In fact, there aren’t many other options here! For Christmas our go-to holiday vacation is Zanzibar…and this is ‘normal’.  Who would ever have imagined?

Its easy to think of it as ‘just another trip to Z-bar’ and forget about how incredibly blessed we are that this is ‘normal’ for us. We realize this is a privilege that a lot of people will never experience in their life, and we hope to never take that for granted.

This last Christmas, we met up with Colton’s parents (who also live in Tanzania) in Dar es Salaam and spent a few days enjoying nice ‘Western’ restaurants that we don’t have down where we live, and laying on the beach.

On Christmas Eve day took a ferry through the Indian Ocean to Zanzibar where we stayed across the island at a simple Japanese-owned bungalow. The Bungalows were situated overlooking the white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The food was home-cooked and fresh (fish, sushi, pasta). Special ‘family’ dinners were prepared for all guests on Christmas day and New Years Eve. We all enjoyed a home-cooked buffet, explanations of the traditional Japanese foods, live traditional Tanzanian entertainment, and personal greetings by the owner.

From there we spent a few days wondering the narrow, winding and historical streets of Stonetown. Each doorway has a story – most probably heartbreaking as they looked upon the beginning, middle and end of the Arabic slave trade and its after effects.

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Streets of Stonetown

The highlight of Stonetown, for us at least, is dinner at the open-air food market located on the ocean front. This is a perfect place to watch the sun sink down into the Indian Ocean while getting a taste of Zanzibar flavor.

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Sunset in Stonetown

We took far too many pictures on our Christmas holiday….no surprise there! Enjoy some of the highlights from our ‘normal’ Christmas holiday.

 

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!

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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.

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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.

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

 

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Mom and Dad enjoying the Safari!

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

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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).

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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.

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

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‘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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The bridal party’s dresses & shoes

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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.

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Date hike with my husband

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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.