The Must-Haves for Africa: What Made the Cut and What Didn't

I am not a fan of packing. Especially when it involves boxing up my entire life and moving halfway around the world.  Fortunately, I can leave some of my belongings at my very generous and kind parents' house, however I am already to the point of ruthlessly tossing or donating a large majority of my things.  Unless it was purchased while traveling or has some sentimental value it probably did not make the cut and now sits sadly in a plastic bin destined for Goodwill. 

Deciding what to take with me is even more difficult.  Since I am still not certain where I will be living or what the dress code is at my new office it is rather difficult to pare down my closet.  I do know however, that the weather ranges between 50-80 degrees year-round which, in my book, is kinda awesome.  What is not awesome is sending away all my "dry clean only" clothes to hang longingly in my childhood closet.  And then there is the jewelry.  Just because I will be in Africa I see no reason not to accessorize.  Of course I will leave all of my nice jewelry here, but I have a pleathora of fabulous costume jewelry begging to make the rotation. 

Books are next on the list.  I have three large bookshelves packed full of books and I love skimming through my collection and randomly picking one to re-read.  Unfortunately, now it's all about space.  With all of the new luggage regulations I imagine I will only be taking 2 (maybe 3, if I fly BA) checked bags with me which will not leave a lot of room for the written word.  That is why the global Kindle has made an appearance on my Amazon Wish List.  I know it's a long shot, but I'm holding out hope that my loving parents will see the need to keep my brain from atrophying and decide to provide me with adequate reading material for the next year.  I imagine I will need to take a few books and articles to complete my studies this semester.  (None of which have been researched much less purchased at this time, I might point out.  I should get on that I suppose.)  However, the following few texts will get a free ride to Africa regardless: Candide by Voltaire, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies, A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, all of David Sedaris' books, a travel guide of East Africa, and my Bible. 

Music lucked out; it is all going on my external hard drive.  The not-so-easy part is tracking down all of my cds and ripping them into my itunes.  My DVD collection was not so fortunate. There are a lot of movies I'd like to take, but am restraining myself to two small cd cases. What finally made the cut  was lots of TV on DVD: How I Met Your Mother: Seasons 1-3, Burn Notice: Season 1, Firefly: The Complete Series, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Importance of Being Earnest, Love Actually, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (made it in solely because I only own the first Bridget Jones Diary on VHS and I will need to watch a good man fight between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant at some point), The Special Edition of Pride and Prejudice (A&E version), and, of course, Clueless.  I might have to give in and get another case exclusively for The Office though....

Next comes the packing of the entirety of my medicine cabinet while trying to appear not to be a drug trafficker.  I learned the hard way the importance of having plenty of American over the counter drugs while in Zambia and Rwanda last summer. Their pharmacies are sadly lacking in products and what you find may or may not be the same quality that we are used to.  Therefore I will be stocking up on Pepto and straws, in case Harvey decides to come visit, lots of Tylenol and Aleve, and tons of multi-vitamins to keep my immune system up.

And if there is any room left after packing all of these other necessities I plan to sneak in some tortillas and salsa.


Updated 12.28.2010 (and again 12/26/11)
So I didn't make it through the complete list since what I thought would be two years in Kenya/Sudan ended up being a five month experience, but below is an updated version with pictures of each completion.  Most fun I've had trying to accomplish resolutions.

Kenya 2010: The List

I don't do New Year's resolutions, but I decided recently that I needed to make myself a must-do list of activities for my time in Africa. Feel free to offer suggestions or, even better, come visit and join in the fun!

. Complete my Masters degree
I should probably sign up for lessons but have picked up enough phrases and words to communicate with a 3 year old or have a very short conversation with a waiter.

. Feed a giraffe
 Giraffe Center 9.12.10

. Explore the National Museum in Nairobi 
 Nairobi National Museum 3.14.10

. Visit the Serengeti in Tanzania

. Ride a camel
 Cairo: May 2010
Mary Anne on a camel on the beach in Mombasa.  Sadly the pics of me on the camel disappeared along with my friend's camera :(

. Walk like an Egyptian
Cairo: May 2010

. Wander the pyramids at Giza
Cairo: May 2010

. Shop the Village Market in Nairobi
Check and check.  Mini-golfing and bowling fun at Village Market.

. Cruise down the Nile
Ok, so no cruising has occurred yet, but here are pictures from my encounters with the Nile thus far.  
 Tributary of the Nile in Juba, Sudan: March 2010
River Nile in Cairo: May 2010

. Climb the pyramids in Sudan

. Swim in the Red Sea

. Track mountain gorillas in Uganda

. Snorkel in the Indian Ocean
(L) The boat to take us to the reef for snorkeling.
(R) Trying to get back on the boat post-snorkeling.

. Pet a cheetah

. Celebrate the big 3-0 African style
 Birthday dinner at Osteria: July 7, 2010

. Attend an African wedding

. Dip a toe in Lake Victoria
I didn't get to spend any time at the Lake but I did see Lake Victoria on my way to and from Entebbe while in Uganda for work.
Sunrise at Lake Victoria: October 2011

. View the great animal migration from the Serengeti to Masai Mara
 Masai Mara: July 2010

. Discover hidden treasures in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities
 Cairo: May 2010

. Watch the sunset over Mount Kilimanjaro
Ok so I wasn't at the right angle to watch the sun set over Kili but here's a pic of the mountain and the sun setting *near* it.   
Amboseli National Park: November 12, 2011

View of Kili at dusk from Moshi, Tanzania: July 2011

. Get over my fear of heights and take a hot air balloon safari

The long goodbye

I didn't anticipate having to give a month's notice at work. However, it does give me two more weeks to prep myself to move nine thousand miles away...or let me ruminate on all the things things I love and will miss the most.

Some of those hit home last night as I had dinner with my Junior League foodie girls. We tried a fabulous new place, Dish, on Cedar Springs (definite must) when I realized there will be no more last minute happy hours or dining out. My new life may be devoid of Mexican food, restaurant openings, and wine bars and yet I embrace it fully. If I could I would drop everything and move tomorrow. However that doesn't seem to be in the cards for me, so instead I will begin to say goodbye to the life I love in Dallas. The "Goodbye Dallas Hello Africa" tour begins immediately and runs through mid to late February. Hope you can make it!

Greetings fellow earth dwellers!

So, why blog?

Well, as of Monday, January 11, 2010 I decided to join the exciting world of expats and venture away from the safe cocoon of my hometown, Dallas, TX, to seek adventure in Nairobi, Kenya and I figured this was the best way to keep all of my stateside buddies up to date on my African escapades.

What on earth possessed you to move to Africa of all places?

I have been to Africa twice in as many years. For the past two summers I have spent a week volunteering at Camp LIFE, a camp for AIDS orphans in Lusaka, Zambia, and this past summer I also toured Rwandan genocide sites as part of a human rights course. In addition to my coursework and volunteering, I did take some time out to go on a photo safari in Botswana, discover the beauty of Victoria Falls, and do something every little girl dreams of: riding elephants in Zimbabwe. Ok, well maybe that wasn't the exact dream, but point being, I wanted to see the natural beauty of the continent as well as help those less fortunate than myself and learn about one of the worst genocides from my lifetime. After experiencing Africa from this perspective, I truly feel like there is still so much more that can be done to help the people of this struggling continent.

What's the plan?

While in Rwanda I learned more about ALARM, African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, an organization that is doing amazing things for the African people. ALARM operates in eight countries including Kenya, Sudan, Rwanda, Zambia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Uganda to bring hope and transformation to the communities of African pastors and other leaders. ALARM offers a wide array of ministries including Women's Leadership Training Institute and a Youth Advocacy Program. You can learn more at I will join ALARM staff sometime around the end of February in Kenya in a communications/resource mobilization role.

I hope you will join me in my journey as I move almost 9,000 miles from home to a new country, a new continent, and a new life.