32 and counting…

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I am five days away from my 32nd birthday. I know a lot of people who down play their birthdays and say its just another day. I am not one of them. I think I’ve tried the low key birthday before and just was not a fan. I’m pretty sure it all stems from the year that I threw myself a hawaiian theme birthday party with colorful plastic leis and little umbrellas in the drinks. I was 12 and it was awesome, just asked the lucky girls that were in attendance.

Actually I think I have my Mom to thank for special birthdays. When my sister and I were little my Mom started a tradition of serving us breakfast in bed on our birthdays. It started the day off on a special tone. I can remember getting up early to help prepare breakfast for my sister as her birthday is a month before mine. It was exciting to take the tray up to her room and walk in with a silly smile on my face to be the first to wish her a happy birthday. The tradition was that the siblings of the birthday child would sit on the edge of the bed and watch the birthday child open cards and eat breakfast and help celebrate the start of their special day. I love every bit of this tradition.

There were a few rough birthdays years. Years where I expected the day to be special but was disappointed by how un-special it turned out. (There was even a year where the entire day fell apart and I ended up crying myself to sleep, we don’t speak so often of that birthday) After a few of these less special birthdays I learned that it was up to me to make the day great. So for the last few years I took work off on my birthday and would create a special day for myself. I have gone out to breakfast, gone hiking, kayaking, shopping downtown Seattle, and got my butt kicked in a family game of croquet. (I think my Dad secretly practices so that he can bet us)

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Two years ago when I was turning 30 and feeling a bit unsure about it, some of my very good friends threw me a very glamours backyard party. My Mom made me a dress. (There isn’t anything this woman can’t do) It was magical. As friends were arriving and enjoying a cocktail before we sat down to a beautiful dinner outside under the stars I kept thinking to myself this is what birthdays are all about. Its a chance to bring friends together and celebrate.

This year my birthday magically felt on our R&R. So keeping with my tradition I will not be working and I will be in place where going out to breakfast is possible and perhaps even some fun shopping, good cheese and nice bread, and a movie in a movie theater. (Its the small things guys) My brilliant husband even orchestrated a trip to the spa the day after my birthday. (So perhaps we are celebrating for two days this year) Its going to be a special day. I will miss the gathering of friends and family and would prefer being with everyone over a day at the spa, but knowing that K and I are on vacation without a responsibility in the world sounds pretty magical as well. Perhaps, I will convince K to have a hula contest with me, it was a real hit when I turned 12. Twenty years later I think hula is still a great way to celebrate a birthday.

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a billion reasons…

This last week in Harare the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) has been in full swing. K and I have been extremely fortunate to be able to attend the opening evening show as well as hang out during the day on Saturday listening to some great local musicians, eat great food, and check out some really beautiful crafts. (We all know I’m a sucker for a good craft market)

Its been a really great time to experience the culture and art of Zimbabwe in a way that we don’t normally see in the rural locations that we work in. I have found myself falling in love with Zimbabwe and it’s people. Zimbabwe is just coming back from economic collapse and many are still struggling to support their families. I often see the hardships and struggles in people’s lives here. And let me just say that I feel its important not to be naive to those hardships and struggles. That’s why K and I are working with Medair. It’s why we are in Zimbabwe. We aren’t blind to the struggle for basic needs in Africa and around the world. We are passionate about bridging the gap between those who have and those who do not.

However, just because there is a large gap does not mean that there are not things to be joyful about or that life here isn’t at all beautiful. This week at HIFA I was reminded that there are a billion reasons to be believe in Africa. “A billion reasons to believe in Africa” is actually the slogan of Coke a Cola in Africa. The slogan was on signs and posters everywhere on the grounds of the festival. I read it over and over through out our time at the festival, and something really clicked within me. This slogan really resounded within me as I watched the dancing groups, and listened to musical groups. I”ve always had a place in my heart for Africa, even before I first visited. I remember standing on the beach in southern Spain, looking across the water and knowing that I was looking in the direction of Africa. I was only 18 years old but some how then I knew I would visit and maybe even live there.

The video above is a song that was done for the Coke a Cola ad campaign in Africa. Yes,  the video is trying to sell Coke, but honestly it really shows the unity and pride Africans feel for their home.  At HIFA K and I were able to see the man who sings this song live. He sang this very song at the festival and it impacted me more than I can say. I had never heard the song before the festival but I’ll be honest to say I was singing along with the whole crowd at the end of the song. People were up from their seats dancing and everyone was singing “I love you Africa”. It was a moment where I felt like I belonged here because I share the same love for Africa. I love the bright colors, I love the passion and inhibition that allows for people to begin to dance at any time. I love that people hold hands to show that they are friends, I love the culture of calling the older generation mother or father as a sign of respect. There are a billion reasons to believe in Africa… and a billion more for loving Africa. I feel extremely grateful for the chance to experience each reason.

I love you Africa. (I think in my heart I’m becoming a Zimbo)

paper chains, tug of war, and cake…

Last Wednesday marked our end of the project party. We have been working desperately long hours for the last few weeks to complete our project on time. Some days it seemed that the world was against us with rain and more mud than I’ve ever imagined to hold us back from finishing. But we made it to the end and fortunately we only have some finishing touches to do this next week. But Wednesday we partied. We celebrated the completion of 45 new hand dug wells, 22 rehabilitated wells, and 33 rain water harvesting tanks installed. That’s no small feat! There were several hiccups in this project along the way but the outcome is something to be very proud of. And without the national staff here in Gokwe it would have never been completed. I am extremely thankful for their hard work and dedication to completing this project.

Party time... look at that mess of paper chains!

We came together as a team for an afternoon of celebration. I was the decorating committee, therefore our party had paper chains. I am famous for making paper chain for long periods of waiting to mark of the days but I thought hey what the heck we can decorate with them too!

The local grocery store called Spar has a pretty decent bakery. The weird thing was it was a chocolate cake but every so often you found a raisin… like a special surprise or someone knocked over the leftover raisins in the cake. I’ll never know.

We had one very friendly game of tug of war and then we got serious. I think we played tug of war for all most an hour and let me tell you there was some fierce completion.

Overall it was a really great time to spend with our staff and really let them know how much we appreciated them and the work they have been doing on this project for the last year.

We had quite the spread of food… we would call it a BBQ but here they call it a Braai. (sounds like bry) It was a beautiful afternoon with really great people. There was even a little dancing at the end of the evening. Its a good thing that it was getting dark and pictures were not able to be taken. 🙂

I’m going to miss seeing these faces everyday. We are still waiting to find out if the funding on the next project has been approved, but honestly I’m enjoying my time in Gokwe and finishing up the project here still keeps me busy. I have been extremely blessed and impacted by the work that was done here in Gokwe and am so very happy to have a small part in it.

 

catching up…

When last we spoke K and my adventure had led us to Switzerland for a training with Medair. But before we get into that I need to share about our weekend on Safari. K and I celebrated our 5th anniversary while we were in Kenya and we thought it would be pretty amazing to go on Safari to celebrate. And it was pretty amazing.

We drove about 5 hours south of Nairobi to the Masai Mara National Game Reserve. We stayed in what looked like a canvas tent, but when you unzipped the door you discover beautiful hardwood flooring, a four poster bed and a lovely western bathroom. I was incredible.

Safari Tent

We spent three days chasing the most amazing animals. We were 6 feet away from a female lion, had an elephant trumpet at us for being too close to it’s baby, and were attacked by thousands of flies while driving through an amazingly huge herd of wildebeests.

Elephant

Zebra

It was such an amazing experience. Just looking through the pictures to post brought back all the feelings of excitement and adventure of being so close to such incredible creatures.

African Tree

She Lion

Wildebeest

The shear size of the elephants and giraffes, the number of the zebra and wildebeest, and the incredible ugliness of the hyena was overwhelming to see in person. I know I’ve used this word too much in this post but it was an amazing experience.

African Sky

Voltures

Lions Sleeping Again

More Elephants

Hyenas

On our way back to Nairobi we stopped at a look out point to view the Rift Valley. The Rift Valley runs from Israel to Mozambique, and funny thing is K has actually been in the Rift Valley in Israel. The view was beautiful.

Rift Valley

Rift Valley and Us

We also were able to hit up the Giraffe Preserve in Nairobi, which included feeding and kissing the Giraffes. Even though I think these animals are the most awkward when they run they are still fantastic. It was the perfect way to wrap up our time in Kenya.

Giraffe and Me

Kris Kissing the Giraffe

The Medair training update to come!