Happy Valentine’s Day


I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day as an adult. I loved it when I was a kid, though. Eating cupcakes and exchanging Valentine’s Day cards at school was so much fun. Now, it’s just another day, but I wanted to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day if you do celebrate and revel in this sweet holiday!

At Project Mercy in Yetebon, Ethiopia.

At Project Mercy in Yetebon, Ethiopia.

 

My Best Coffee Moments While Traveling


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Coffee is a huge part of my life! I drink at least one cup every day even when I am traveling. And, since I am keen on photo themes lately I decided to go through my photos and find all of the (well, most of) the photos I have taken of coffee photo moments during my travels. Coffee represents serenity to me. It gives me a moment or two to just relax and think, especially when I travel and I am having my morning or evening coffee alone.

In these collages I have photos of coffee from London, Bahrain, Rio, Johannesburg, New York City, Washington, DC, and Addis Ababa and Hawassa, Ethiopia. And, even though I have been to Seattle, Belgium, and Kenya I don’t have coffee photos from those trips even though the coffee was stellar.

Coffe Collage 4 Coffee Collage 1

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Photo: Shadowed


Today is my very first post for the Weekly Photo Challenge. Since I’ve been on WordPress for so long I figured I might as well become a part of the photography community as much as I post photos anyway. I thought today’s prompt was especially fitting since I posted a Shadowed photo just yesterday on Instagram.

This photo is from the very first time I visited Ethiopia in December 2012. We were driving over 100 mph through the Great Rift Valley. It was one of my most exhilarating moments in Africa.

So, here’s my contribution to this week’s photo challenge.

Driving through the Great Rift Valley. #Ethiopia #Africa #travel #latergram #photography

A photo posted by Jennifer James (@jenniferjames_) on

Photos: Babywearing in Africa


BABYWEARING
It’s no secret I love spending time with mothers and their babies while traveling. That, no doubt, is why I have a running theme of babywearing photos from Africa. I took these photos of moms and their little ones while I was in Tanzania and Zambia these past two years.

I always love seeing how snug the babies are to their mothers and how colorful and pretty the fabrics are.

I used to wear my girls when they were babies, but never this effortlessly!

Babywearing in Africa

Babywearing in Africa

Babywearing in Africa

Babywearing in Africa

Babywearing in Africa

My Favorite Photo of 2014


Last year I started my own annual tradition where I go through all of my photos from my travels and choose my absolute favorite. It’s always a hard task because I have so many to choose from, but there are always a few that really stand out to me. They may have special meaning because of where I was when I took the photo or I really love the subject!

Last year’s pick was my hands-down favorite photo of the year. I still love it to this day. I took this photo when I spent time with the Maasai outside of Arusha, Tanzania who live at the base of Mt. Meru.

2013

And my favorite photo of the year is one I also took in Tanzania right outside of Dar es Salaam. I saw this mother’s little one and couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He looked so peaceful and comfortable I wanted to be snuggled up just like that.

2014

Now that I look at both of my favorites from this year and last, they look very similar. I do love babies!

7 Must-Visit Hotels in Africa


Bahir Dar, Etthiopia
Two of the biggest misconceptions about Africa is that the entire continent is pitifully and irreparably mired in poverty and overrun by sick  people who are ill and dying from a host of infectious diseases.  And also that Africa is full of violent extremist groups and unscrupulous, corrupt leaders. Articles like the recently published Africa for the pessimists: 2014 in review does the continent no favors. Yes, Africa is facing its challenges this year, but what continent isn’t?

Perhaps I am hyper-sensitive about western media’s perpetual, unfavorable depictions of  Africa, but to me there always seems to be laundry list articles painting a Monet about how miserable Africa is. It’s maddening to me. While those articles, especially the aforementioned one, isn’t wrong per se, it also is not balanced. We know this off the bat from the title. At least the author told us off the top what his perspective would be and for that I cannot fault him.  But, in the entire scope of media about Africa can we get a little balance and little nuanced perspective? Can more people write about the beautiful aspects of the continent – its people, its food, its landscapes, its burgeoning economies, its technological advances, its glorious music, its varied cultures, and even Africans’ resilience after an era of colonialism?

In my own way I like to show the Africa I know; the Africa that draws me back year after year. If Africa were indeed a cesspool of disease and poverty no one would visit, but that just isn’t the case. And no, I don’t have some sort of twisted affection for Africa. If you just read the news you’ll never want to visit if you haven’t been before. There is so much more to the continent besides what you’ll read in the dailies.

I want to show some of the hotels where I have stayed over the years. Yes, Africa has hotels…very nice hotels.

Sheraton Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The seat of the African Union, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has many great hotels. One of the best where dignitaries, heads of state, and just everyday people stay is the Sheraton Addis. The grounds of this luxury hotel are gorgeous and it’s where you can get the best view of the city. You can also find everything you need here – rental cars,  book flight tickets and Ethiopian tours. Some say the rooms aren’t up to par with the quality of this hotel. Right across the street from the Presidential Palace, it’s the most high-end hotel in Addis.

Radisson BLU Lusaka

When I travel overseas I love staying at Radisson BLU hotels. It’s my favorite chain when I travel. They are quite nice and the service is always impeccable. The Raddison BLU In Lusaka, Zambia has a great restaurant, free Internet, and is located right across the street from a bustling strip mall with a bookstore, grocery store with money exchange, and many nice restaurants.

David Livingstone Safari Lodge, Livingstone, Zambia

The David Livingstone Safari Lodge is everything you’d expect from a safari lodge…the decor, the food, the views, the animals. It’s one of the only places in Africa where I saw you can order impala and crocodile on its dinner menu.  There are monkeys everywhere so you have to be vigilant about keeping your deck doors closed. Elephants come right up to the property. And don’t even think about swimming in the Zambezi. Its full of crocs and hippos! The greatest thing about the David Livingston Safari Lodge is it is about a 15 minute drive from Victoria Falls.

Mkuru Training Camp, Arusha, Tanzania

The best place I have ever stayed in Africa is Mkuru Training Camp right outside of Arusa, Tanzania and at the base of Mt. Meru. Mkuru Training Camp is run by Oikos, an Italian NGO that believes in conservation and sustainable development . Jointly owned by the Maasai communities in Mkuru and Meru, Mkuru Training Camp is a peaceful place to lay your head for a night or a week in one of its tents. Even though the camp seems rather rustic, there are immaculate bush toilets, showers, great food, and the chance to just sit out at night and look at the stars across the sky.

Mapungubwe Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

Most people who visit Johannesburg for business and even for travel stay in Sandton, an upscale suburb of Johannesburg. There are fantastic hotels and restaurants there. I’ve stayed there and enjoyed many of its luxury restaurants. Plus, the big convention center is there as well. But, if you’d like to stay in the heart of Joburg, I recommend Mapungubwe Hotel. It has 98 apartment-style rooms. Its restaurant has really delicious fare and, of course, the wine is impeccable. The breakfast buffet is also surprisingly good with many options, not just pastries and juice. You can also hire a car to take you anywhere you’d like to go. The service is stellar. Everyone was eager to help me in any way they could. While I wouldn’t recommend walking around the area at night, during the day you can walk to local stores and restaurants. 

Haile Resort, Hawassa, Ethiopia

In my travels to Africa I have spent the most time in Ethiopia. I have seen a lot of the country, but not nearly all of it. Ethiopia is one of my favorite countries in Africa. It’s not a surprise then that I go every chance I get.

Ethiopia has many big lakes including Lake Tana and Lake Hawassa. I love traveling to Hawassa, Ethiopia because it’s a thriving city with a scenic backdrop. The Haile Resort right on the lake is one of the most-recommended places to stay in Hawassa. The grounds are delightful with a gorgeous view of the lake. The rooms are also quite clean with every amenity you need. The only thing the rooms don’t have (at least when I was there) was wifi in the rooms. Wifi was only available in the lobby which can be very limiting when you have a lot of work to do. Check with the hotel. They may have put wifi in the rooms by now.

Radisson BLU, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I lost count long ago how many nights I stayed at the Radisson BLU Addis. I stayed here so long this year that I knew the entire staff and their shifts. Everyone I met made my stay enjoyable. I loved everything about the Radisson BLU Addis including the immaculate rooms and bathrooms.  They had a delightful buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but each was extremely expensive even by USD standards. I recommend going to a nearby restaurant for lunches and dinners.

The Radisson BLU Addis also as an exceptional spa and even a patio for outdoor dining. In my experience, the concierge is happy to help arrange taxis and private cars and will also make reservations at Addis’ top restaurants. Ask for recommendations for Ethiopian tours and some of the best places to visit in the city. The only downside of hotel is it does not have a store where you can buy the things you forgot like toothpaste and aspirin. Instead they chose to put in a coffee shop, which isn’t bad. It’s just nice to be able to get what you need instead of having to go into the city and find a store. In all, though, the Radisson BLU Addis is an amazing property.

It’s important to me to be able to tell another side of Africa’s story.  And if you’ve never been I hope you plan a trip to Africa soon. It’s well worth it!

34 Photos Honoring the Women and Girls I Met During My Travels This Year


This year I traveled to four countries – Ethiopia (I spent nearly two months there this year), South Africa, Tanzania, and the Philippines. It was a great year of learning and traveling and meeting women and girls I greatly admire. Since it’s the end of the year and I have no immediate plans to jump on a plane overseas — at least that I know of because you just never know — I wanted to share some of the photos I took this year that stood out to me.

When the new year rolls around I am definitely going to be ready to travel again, but for now I am content looking back at all of the traveling I did this year and relishing how grateful I am to have seen these amazing countries and have met so many exceptional people.

Did you travel this year? Leave your posts in the comments. I’d love to see where you visited.

Ethiopia

Basketweavers for Project Mercy in Butajiri, Ethiopia

Basket weavers for Project Mercy in Butajiri, Ethiopia

Young expectant mother in Butajira, Ethiopia.

Young expectant mother in Butajira, Ethiopia. She was married at 13 and will deliver her first child at 15. She came to this lie and wait house because of excessive bleeding.

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Basket weavers for Project Mercy in Butajira, Ethiopia

Frontline Health Worker in Hawassa, Ethiopia

Frontline health worker pays a visit to a new mother with her newborn in Hawassa, Ethiopia. She washes her hand before tending to the baby.

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