Spring Evenings + Southern Magnolias

When I was a kid we had a sprawling Southern magnolia tree in our yard. Each year I would wait for it to bloom with its magnificent white, fragrant flowers so I could try to jump and reach one and bury my nose in it. I never did reach one, but I could smell the beautiful flowers all the time. I’ve been in love with Southern magnolias ever since.

Yesterday evening near dusk we went for a walk and again I tried my best to reach a flower when we passed a Southern magnolia, and again, I couldn’t reach one. But my camera lens could reach a few. The best, most beautiful flowers are always the ones high in the trees you can never get to.

Southern Magnolia

Have you ever smelled a Southern magnolia? If you haven’t, be sure to put it on your to-do list!

Southern Magnolia

By the way, I am so honored that my Tumblr blog got featured on Tumblr’s staff blog today. They also featured one of my photos from Tanzania. I couldn’t be happier!

[Photos] Beautiful Coast

After a year of heavy travel it’s nice to use some of the points you’ve racked up for a quick getaway.

As a family we hadn’t been to the beach in over a year so we decided to drive a few hours east to the coast and see the ocean. It was our first time visiting the beach during the winter which is far different from spring and summer trips to the coast. We had to wrap up in our heavy coats and scarves to simply take a brief walk on the beach. The wind blowing from the ocean cut all of our beach walks short over the weekend, but the sheer sight of the beautiful sun, sand, and ocean from our hotel room made the trip well worth it.

Visiting the beach off-season also meant we pretty much had the beach and hotel all to ourselves, which I must admit was refreshing and will probably bring us back to the beach during the winter months more often.

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[Photos] What I Learned from Ethiopia’s Children

When children surround you – no matter where in the world you are – and clamor for their photo to be taken, how do you deny them that simple luxury?

As I traveled to village after village in Ethiopia’s southern region a mere few weeks ago I took tons of photos of children who wanted their photos taken and then when they saw their faces on my camera, they giggled and giggled and wanted more.

It was always hard to choose children to treat with a look at their beautiful faces on my camera, but I obliged until I had to climb back into the SUV and drive away.

I miss the children of Ethiopia. I do. They had such innocent, beautiful faces. Even though we couldn’t understand each other’s languages we spoke with smiles, joy, and sheer happiness.

Life for these children is vastly different than what our children know. Many of the children had no shoes and every single article of clothing I saw on the kids was ragged and worn. Two little girls were fascinated by my earrings and bracelets. I almost took them off and gave them my jewelry, but I quickly realized two little trinkets could become a  problem for them since so many of the children had so little.

Whenever I travel outside of the United States I always note the genuine spirits of the people I am visiting, especially if I am visiting a developing country. You can learn everything through the children. Time is never a pressing issue and everyone is so happy while having so little; at least little in terms of material wealth.

In the States, we are such sticklers for time. We never let up. We work for more and more things and rarely take a moment to assess and relax. These children taught me a lot in a few days: that you should always take time to smile, be joyful, and always, always be inquisitive.

Children of Ethiopia Children of Ethiopia Children of Ethiopia Children of Ethiopia

P.S. I was in Ethiopia this month with Save the Children. Don’t miss a single post about my country observations about frontline health workers.

[City Scenes] Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Most of the time I was in Ethiopia with Save the Children to observe frontline health workers was spent in Hawassa, the capital of Ethiopia’s Southern region. We did get a chance to walk around Addis and I took many pictures from the car.

When I walked around Addis I really felt as though I could live there – for a few months at least. US dollars go so far in Ethiopia plus there is just so much to explore.

The weather was glorious the entire week we were in Ethiopia. I couldn’t get enough of the pristine blue skies and the temperate weather.

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[Photos] The Beauty of Ethiopia

I will admit two years ago I didn’t want to go to Africa at all. I had been brainwashed by the constant images in the news of child soldiers riding on the back of trucks, perpetual famines, genocides, and rebel soldiers taking over entire countries. It’s hard to admit how shortsighted I was, but it’s true. Then last year I visited Africa for the first time and just last week I returned from a trip to Ethiopia. And, of course, I am clamoring to get back to Africa as soon as possible. I am connected to the continent in so many ways.

For those of you who feel the way I felt a short two years ago I want to assure you that Africa is so much more than what the news feeds us. It’s full of beauty, and beautiful people. It has magnificent restaurants and top-of-the-line hotels with access to the Internet and every other amenity you will find elsewhere in the world.

There is, of course, dire poverty in Africa, but that is not the entire story. If you ever get a chance to visit Africa – GO!

Hawassa, Ethiopia Hawassa, Ethiopia Hawassa, Ethiopia Haile Resort - Hawassa, Ethiopia
Great Rift Valley, Ethiopia

Great Rift Valley, Ethiopia

Great Rift Valley, Ethiopia

Driving from Hawassa to Addis Ababa

Headed Back to Africa – This Time to Ethiopia

Frontline healthcare workers are the indisputable backbones of global health and development. They often are the unsung heroes who, despite their dedication to helping those in need, are not nearly recognized enough. Save the Children has set out to change that through their Every Beat Matters campaign by honoring health workers who work in some of the poorest, most vulnerable communities in the developing world like Chisomo Boxer, a frontline health worker who works in Jonasi Village in Malawi or Ade Yuranish who provides maternal health services in Indonesia.

Next week I will join Save the Children and three distinguished US nurses on an observation trip to Ethiopia where we will see the work of frontline health workers at clinics, health posts, and in households in Addis Ababa and Hawassa. Traveling with US nurses will provide an interesting perspective on  health care in Ethiopia. I look forward to sharing the stories we hear.

I will document the trip and our observations on the Gates Foundation’s blog Impatient Optimists and Babble as well as on Mom Bloggers for Social Good. Admittedly I will not make many social media updates until at night Ethiopia time because as I found out while in Kenya in countries that aren’t on your cell provider’s international data plan, things can go haywire really quickly. The good news is that while it will be evening time in Ethiopia it will be early in the States so that works well.

I will also share general observations about Ethiopia here on my blog.

You can follow along at @jenniferjames and @socialgoodmoms.

Photo: Kenya, Summer 2011 | Copyright: Jennifer James

Colossal Art

For the past few evenings a luminous, sculptural art exhibit has been erected right beside our building. I have no idea who’s behind it or their purpose, but it’s been fun to see and it has been an interesting addition to the space.

I heard a few people say it will last a few more days and then it will be gone. It’s been nice to see people gather around the sculptures at night even though the temperatures have dipped into the low 40’s and also listen to the soft music that has accompanied the exhibit.

I always love to see people’s creativity become tangible. It’s a constant reminder to keep moving forward.