Aug 21, 2013

Life goes on... and a new "to us" car)

We have been back from Zambia for 2 weeks now and I feel like life is settling back into a normal routine.

The day after I got back from Zambia Justin sold his car. It was a piece of well loved 2000 Nissan Sentra that had been with us since the beginning. It drove us on our first dates, got us safely to and from Chicago and kept us going here in Waco.  With 240,000 miles, dents from someone hitting it while it was parked on our street, dents/scratches from a neighbors tree falling on it, and chipping clear coat from the tough winters it endured in Chicago, it had seen better days by the time we parted ways.
Chicago Winters     
(If you look really closely, you might be able to see a little bit of marker on the windshield from where the Chicago DMV wrote our ID number when the car was towed... (Yes, it has been 5 years and it is still there) I will have to blog about that weekend sometime, it was a doosey...

Large scratch from the tree

Another dent from the neighbors tree
I had been trying to talk Justin into selling it for a few months. He was determined to drive it until the wheels fell off or it reached 300,000 miles, depending on which came first. (I preferred that he not be in the vehicle when the former happened...). He finally decided to post it online, and off she went. We had some great memories in that red lady.

But out with the old and in with the new...

We got a great deal on a 2012 Ford Focus from our car dealer in OKC. It already had 57,000 miles, and has some pretty extensive hail damage, but that made it affordable!

This is really her best angle, as the hail damage is mainly on the drivers side.
 It is really fun to have such a new vehicle to drive, though it feels like it is a bit too nice for us in our current stage of life as 2 grad students! Hopefully it will last us a long time!


Aug 14, 2013


Wow, it is hard to believe that we have been back home for just over a week now. This summer has just flown by. 

As I get back into my daily routine, I am seeing small ways in which my perspective has been changed from my time in Africa. 

- I am not running home to turn on the TV. I was (and still am)  a bit of a TV junkie. I enjoy sitting at home with Justin and cuddling with my pups on the couch and watching shows. While in Africa, we did not turn on a TV once. I really did not miss it, I appreciated the time we had in the evenings as a group to talk about our day and share other stories together. Some of my favorite times from the trip were spent at that apartment at Northrise just talking. 

- I have another lens through which to see Waco.  Some of you may know that our transition from Chicago to Waco was a difficult one. Though we expected it to be smooth sailing since were were both from what we considered similar towns, we had a tough time settling in after being in such a big city for 2 years. I can now appreciate Waco in a different way. No, it is not Chicago, but Waco has its own beauty. I can appreciate the fresh cut grass and flower beds outside of the buildings downtown. 

- I appreciate the amenities we have here in the states that I have always taken for granted. We have the ability to run to the store at any hour to pick something up. We have easy internet access available just about everywhere we go. Most importantly our paved roads.

I am so very grateful for this incredible experience I was allowed to participate in. Going to Africa has certainly changed my perspective on a number of things, and I hope future trips will continue to help mold me as a person.

Until next time! 


Aug 8, 2013

Back in the USA

Sorry for my radio silence over the last few days. We made it back to the states safe and sound, with no issues. I was pretty worthless right after we got back and am just now getting back to normal. 

I hope to have some more reflections about the trip up soon. 

This trip was an incredible time, and I would go back in a heart beat. 


Aug 3, 2013

Day 15 - Buses/Ndola

Today was another long travel day. We started this morning at 4:30 so that we could leave the resort by 5:00 and catch our 5:30 bus from Livingstone to Lusaka. The bus ended up leaving shortly after 6:00 and we got to Lusaka around 1:30. The bus was better this time, with only 4 seats per row, rather than the 5 seats per row we had on the last Lusaka/Livingstone trip. The bus had entertainment with movies playing. Apparently, Africa has a character that seems to be a mix of 3 Stooges/Mr. Bean/Get Smart named Mr. Bones. We ended up watching (or being forced to watch, depending on how you look at it) 2 or 3 Mr.Bones movies. The first one was a bit of a novelty for the first few minutes, but it got quite old watching the same schtick (someone falling into dung, running from wild animals, etc.) over and over again. 

Once we got to Lusaka, we left the bus station and went to the local mall for lunch. It seems as though the mall food courts actually offer decent food, compared to the states. I was really surprised at this mall, it look like something you could find anywhere in the states. We did not have much time to look around, because we had to catch our flight from Lusaka to Ndola. I am so grateful that were able to fly from Lusaka to Ndola, another 6 or 7 hour bus ride would have been really tough. 

Once we landed in Ndola we spent the evening at the Northrise apartment. I must say, there have been a ton of wonderful things about this trip, but I have really enjoyed the time we have had with our Baylor group just sitting around and talking. 

After dinner, An and I came back to the hotel to repack and get ready to leave tomorrow. We will be going to brunch in the morning around 10 and heading to the airport shortly after that. Our flight toJohannesburg  leaves at 1:00 and lands around 4:30 or so. We will have about a 4 hour layover in Jburg before catching our flight to London.  We will have another 4 hour layover in London before catching the final long leg to Dallas. After another 2 hour layover our final flight to Waco leaves around 3:30. 

I cannot believe the trip has come to an end. It feels like we were just leaving Waco to come here.  

Thanks for reading!


Aug 2, 2013

Day 14 - Livingstone/Botswana

What an incredible day! 

We started this morning at 6:30 with breakfast and then headed out for our safari. Which started before we even left the hotel grounds with a few zebras. We drove about an hour to the border for Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia.  We exited Zambia and got on a boat to cross the river over to Botswana (about a 2 minute boat ride, as the river is no wider than a mile). Once we were in Botswana, we got in a safari vehicle (an open air SUV that holds a 10 or so people) to take us to the Botswana immigration office. We had an issue with the other female student on the trip who is from China. Apparently she needed a visa to get into Botswana. Though we thought everything had been checked out before the trip, apparently the organizers were told incorrectly that she did not need any additional approval to get into Botswana. In the end, she was not able to go into the country with us. Thankfully, there is a wonderful couple with us from Northrise, and the wife stayed with An and they came back to Zambia and spent the day in Livingstone. 

Once we made it through immigration, we were taken to a house where there was tea and coffee ready for us before we left on the safari. The first part of our safari was on land in one of the safari vehicles. On the way to the game park, we saw some elephants on the side of the road. Once we got into the game park we saw tons of elephants and giraffes. We also saw sables, impalas, kudu, and 2 lionesses. The one thing I thought we would see but did not was zebras. I think I got some good pictures, so hopefully I will get some on here after I get back home. 

After the ride, we grabbed lunch at a local lodge. The lodge was beautiful and the food wasn't to shabby either. After we finished lunch we went out for the second part of our safari by boat. Man. That was an incredible boat ride. The Chobe river has an island out in the middle, and during the dry season (which is now in Africa) elephants and other animals are forced to go to this island to find food. We saw 6 elephants swimming across the river to the island. That was an incredible site. They came out right next to our boat. I got some great pictures, but they really do not do experience justice. We also saw water buffalo, impala, water bucks, hippos, and tons of birds. 

Once we completed the safari went made the trek back to Zambia, and the hotel. One the way back we found out that Bill Clinton is staying at the hotel right next to ours, and the two guys on our trip saw him by Victoria Falls. 

I cannot believe that we begin our journey home tomorrow by returning to Ndola, before we leave for the US on Sunday. 

This has truly been an incredible experience. I certainly hope this is not my last time in Africa, or Zambia. 

Thanks for reading!


Day 13 - Livingstone/Zimbabwe

What an incredible day this has been. We started off the morning with breakfast around 8:30. Some monkeys caused a commotion during breakfast by knocking over another resort guests drink and stealing his food. It was rather cute and comical, though those who work here find the monkeys a nuisance.   

After breakfast we walked the 2 minutes to the Victoria Falls. WOW. I could not imagine a more spectacular and breathtaking sight. The falls run for nearly a mile and no picture or descriptions can do them justice, it is just something you have to see to believe. The river that feeds the falls is also the dividing line between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Wn the Zambia side where our resort is, there is a national park that our resort allows us free access to. This park was fantastic with walkways along the top of the falls, and another walk way that takes you to the bottom where the "boiling pot"  (or bottom of the falls joins together) is located. Another student and I walked down to the boiling pot and it was spectacular. There was a steam that we followed down to the point. I just wanted to jump in the water by the time we reached the bottom. 

After going to the boiling point, we came back to the resort for a bout 30 minutes or so  before heading out again. This time, the other student and I went over to Zimbabwe. We got through customer easily and spent a few hours roaming around Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. It was a really neat area with a lot of local shops. That trip was one of the things I will remember most about our time here in Livingstone. We literally walked to another country and back during the course of 4 hours. 

By the time we made it back to our hotel (which is about a 10 minute walk from the boarder), it was well past dark. I never in a million years would have thought that I would be walking down an interstate at night in Africa, but it was a great time. 

I cannot wait for our time on the safari tomorrow! We will be going into Botswana and at one point, I am told we will be able to see 4 different countries at once (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia).


Day 12 - Buses

 Today was quite a long day. We started the day at 4:30 by getting ready to head to Livingstone. We met outside the apartment at 5:00 to catch the 5:30 bus to Lusaka. On the bus, right after we stared off, a preacher who was traveling on the same bus got up and preached a mini sermon on the bus and rayed for safe travels. It was a little uncomfortable, but apparently it is common practice here for pastors to do this. Sometimes the pastors get on the bus for that specific purpose, and are dropped off a little ways down the road to catch another bus going back. I think I might have accepted his message a little more readily if it had been closer to 8:00!  

On the bus to Lusaka, we sat behind a guy names Beverly and a girl named Tracy. Beverly was very friendly and we talked about a number of topics. The one that sticks out most in my mind is the engagement process here. The culture here still uses dowries, where the groom "purchases" the bride from her family. I found it rather funny that in the states it is the exact opposite, in a way, with the brides family paying for the groom to take the bride (i.e. paying for the wedding). 

We got to Lusaka around 10:30 and waited at the bus stop for our bus to Livingstone. Getting off the bus in Lusaka was an experience. Before the bus had even stopped, there were taxi drivers pointing at me (the white girl by the window) trying to get my attention to use their taxi. We had to walk through the throng of taxi drivers to exit the bus and then waited near a market area for our next bus to arrive. The first bus was a typical 4 seat per row "grayhound", but the second bus somehow managed to squeeze 5 people per row into the bus. It was a tight fit, and the person on the isle (which for half of the ride was me) got a lot of butts in their face. The bus was supposed to leave at 11:30, but due to delays and traffic, we did not leave until after 12:00

This second bus provided in-transit entertainment and played a few episodes of  24 and an African sketch comedy show. We seemed to hit a bunch of police check points, where police monitor the vehicles for valid registration and licenses as well as some construction which slowed our progress. We finally got to the bus stop in Livingstone around 7:45 and made it to the hotel around 8:15 or so. 

The hotel is FANTASTIC! We got here after dark so I have only seen it at night but it is awesome. The amenities are wonderful and the night sky is so clear. You can even see the Milky Way! 

Tomorrow we have a rather lazy day and will be hanging out around the hotel and walking over to Victoria Falls (which is a few minutes away). 

Thanks for reading!