My Experience With My Neighborhood Pool

When I was a kid my parents moved from Jacksonville, Florida where my younger brother was born to Charlotte, North Carolina. I have no idea how old I was at the time. I was fairly young. I loved our new house and our new neighborhood. I loved Charlotte even though the city was very, very different then. That was the early eighties. It was considered a small city — backwoods. Charlotte is hardly small now. In fact, I still love it.

As our family settled into a new state and a new house we began to gradually join other families at our neighborhood pool. Mind you, at the time you could probably count on one hand how many black families were in the neighborhood  and now that I think back on it when we showed up in general and specifically at the pool, it was a problem.

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Counting Down the Days When I’m Back in Africa

Africa Dreaming - Again!

Sunset at Lake Hawassa, Ethiopia

I miss Africa! Quelle surprise. I say it all of the time, but it’s patently true.

I cannot wait to get back.

I have written this many times before, but Africa truly is my special place. It is so different and special and awe-inspiring with wonderful people and landscapes and sunsets even though most of it is still in need of a lot of help. Africa is evolving and it keeps drawing me back every year. I was just thinking about this the other day: I have been to Africa every year since 2011 for which I am immensely grateful. My trips to Africa have been relegated to mostly east Africa  and South Africa (not southern Africa, mind you).

Sunset - Zambia

Sunset in Zambia

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Initial Impressions of Haiti

This morning I am waking up to roosters in Hôpital Albert Schweitzer’s lovely guest house on its campus about two hours north of Port-au-Prince. The others who are here are medical volunteers. I’m the only writer.

Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS) is a 24/7 nonprofit hospital serving 350,000 people in central Haiti. This morning I will visit the hospital as well as vaccine programs, then it’s back to Port-au-Prince I go!

Since there is no way for me to upload photos right now I will describe what I saw yesterday. Haiti, for all intents and purposes reminds me greatly of Africa — hot and sunny! The sun-baked, beautiful faces are the same. The way enterprising people set up stalls of foods and goods along the roads is the same. The splashing of Haiti’s primary cell provider is everywhere on road signs, stalls, and painted on concrete. It is the same. Here it is called Digicel. It’s like seeing Airtel everywhere in Africa. Everyone has a mobile phone just like Africa, maybe two!

There are also the ways that the children play in the streets and come up to your SUV looking for something, anything as soon as you stop. Some people were moving fast on the go and others were laying under mango trees with seemingly nowhere to go and nothing to do. And boys sell water to buses of people as they stop in between towns.

As we drove north I saw too much trash everywhere! Too much! But, where are people going to put it but down the mountain or outside of their home or in the trenches? The amount of standing water and sewage you can see in the alleyways where people live is the same, and, of course, all of the motorbikes with two and three people on them…it’s the same.

There are many similarities between Haiti and say, Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia. Many! But, of course, I have been here less than 24 hours and I have only seen the surface of Haiti. I have spoken to a few people in the little bit of French I know. I definitely don’t know Creole.

I cannot describe Haiti without sharing how beautiful the scenery was coming up the mountain. Around certain bends of the highways the sun shimmered on the ocean just so. It made me feel like I was on vacation in Jamaica, not coming for work in Haiti. The banana tree groves are thick, the mountains very steep, and mango trees are everywhere!

Last night when I went to bed the heat was sweltering. But just like Africa it gets cool at night and everything seems right in the world again.

More when I get to Port-au-Prince! I also will be tweeting today at @jenniferjames.

My New Year’s Goals Because I Don’t Believe in Resolutions


I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because I think there are just too many ways in which to break them. So I don’t even bother.

Instead I simply set clear and concise goals before the new year hits. Goals and resolutions are pretty much the same, but I am happy to work with goals because I can work towards them, tweak them in the middle of my journey, and then revel in the success when I have accomplished them. Or, even revisit them if I don’t reach one of my goals.

My goals this year are varied. I plan to travel more than last year even though I always vow to travel less. I also plan to read and write even more. Reading and writing go together. You can’t write well unless you read well. I wholeheartedly believe that. Always have. I already read an impressive amount (I really do!), but I want to start turning pages again instead of scrolling through endless Internet content.

One of the things I like about myself is I set fairly overarching goals for my life and then I leave ample room for new, short-term goals because you just never know what will come up or pique my interest in the months to come.

More than anything this year I look forward to spending more and more time with my family. My girls aren’t getting any younger and will be in college before I know it! I also look forward to traveling more and reporting more as I mentioned. Traveling keeps me on my toes and makes me work harder for the stories and the people I cover. I love it.

Happy New Year!

7 of My Favorite Food Moments in Ethiopia This Year

At the end of every year I tend to write a lot of recap posts so I can easily catapult myself into the new year, be a little reflective,  and also so I can remember everything I’ve done and want to improve upon the next year. I traveled a lot this year for which I am extremely grateful!  I spent most of my time abroad in Ethiopia. Who knows where I will travel to in 2015, but April and June of this year were mostly spent in one of my favorite countries in the world. Even though I haven’t seen nearly all of Ethiopia (which I very much intend to do!) I have seen a great deal of it in Addis and its surrounding area, the south to Arba Minch through the Great Rift Valley, and even the northern part of the country on Lake Tana.

I associate a lot of my memories in Ethiopia by what I ate and drank because the coffee and beer are so very good and so is the food! I love that you can easily find vegetarian meals if you’d like because so many Ethiopians fast from meat and dairy and I even love that you can find some pretty decent Ethiopian wine if you look hard enough.

Here are a few of my photos of some of my favorite moments in Ethiopia involving food. I can’t wait to go back. I miss it already!

Washington, Dulles (IAD)

I have my own little beloved ritual every time I fly Ethiopian Airlines out of Dulles. I eat sushi at my favorite Japanese spot in the airport and drink a cold bottle of Sapporo. I love this place because none of the sushi is premade. I sit and watch the sushi chef meticulously make my food to order.  I look forward to this every time I fly to Addis!



Hotel Harmony (Addis Ababa,  Ethiopia) 

When the International Reporting Project trip I planned was over in June I took a quick trip to Johannesburg and then back to Ethiopia and spent a day and a half in Addis Ababa. After nearly two weeks spent with a team of nine journalists, two translators, one fixer, countless drivers, NGO liaisons, and IRP staff I couldn’t believe I found myself in Addis all by myself. This was my first dinner alone.



Lewi Hotel and Resort  (Hawassa, Ethiopia) 

One early morning I got up at the Lewi Hotel and Resort in Hawassa, ordered a cappuccino, and just sat quietly and looked out at the lake. It was blissful before a busy day! It’s really hard in the midst of work to stop and reflect. I did more of this in 2014.


Lake Hawassa


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Photos: My Morning Walk

This morning I resisted every temptation I had to crawl back into bed and just curl up for most of the day. I’m proud of myself, friends. I got up and started my morning even though I am forcing myself to slow down for the remainder of the year. Emails have slowed down to a trickle and most projects have nearly finished, so I figure I need to take it easy, too, while I have the chance.

I decided to take a walk on this cold, dreary Sunday morning and get an espresso at Starbucks as one does when there’s one right around the corner! That means I won’t be dozing off anytime soon. I’ve taken this Starbucks walk a million times before so I challenge myself every time to find new photos to take. I know this walk like the back of my hand so finding something different to photograph is hard to do. Mainly nature catches my eye and, of course, obligatory Starbucks photos.

As I walked this morning I thought about how I have been home a little over a month since visiting the Philippines. Now, I am really itching to go somewhere new and embark on my latest adventure, wherever that takes me. Hopefully in January I will travel again and gather new stories. That’s what I really, really love to do!

In the meantime….Happy Sunday! I’m going to find a good book to read….

Birds of a feather

Bare trees


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Photos: Flowers + Macchiatos #Ethiopia

For the past few weeks the news has been utterly insufferable. It’s just been really bad – there’s no eloquent way to say it. Bad! In fact, I needed to back away from my laptop last week because the news was a little too much to bear.

I am the type of person who reads as much as I can. I get my news from curated Twitter followers, Flipboard, Facebook (from time to time), and my daily rounds of the major US and UK newspapers and magazines.

Now that I think about it, that may be a bit much! 

So, in honor of how much I need to just get away from the 24-hour news cycle again, behold: flowers + macchiatos from Ethiopia. And a great song at the end.

Flowers  in the Southern Highlands - Ethiopia

Flowers in the Southern Highlands – Ethiopia

Double Macchiato - Addis

Double Macchiato – Addis

Flowers in Hawassa

Flowers in Hawassa

Macchiato at Radisson BLU Addis

Macchiato at Radisson BLU Addis

Flowers in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Flowers in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Traditional Cup of Ethiopian Coffee

Traditional Cup of Ethiopian Coffee

Flowers in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Flowers in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Double Macchiato at Coffee House, Addis

Double Macchiato at Coffee House, Addis

Wild Flowers - Great Rift Valley - Ethiopia

Wild Flowers – Great Rift Valley – Ethiopia