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


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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!

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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.

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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.

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Lake Hawassa

 

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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!

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

Holly

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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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My Most Recent Trip to Tanzania


When I look back on 2014 a few years from now I want to remember that I went to Tanzania in October because, friends, I will forget!

I always need to write about my trips because remembering back to the things I’ve done and trips I’ve taken is sometimes quite difficult for me because I am so busy! Days merge into weeks; weeks merge into months. Then, the next thing I know I look up and it’s an entirely new year.

In October I traveled to Tanzania with PSI along with singer, actress, and humanitarian Mandy Moore and IntraHealth to report on health workers. It was a whirlwind trip – not even an entire week. And although it was quite quick, we packed a lot into the time we had.

When I was in Tanzania last year I took a lot of overland trips from Dar to Morogoro to Iringa with a final stop in Arusha. It was gorgeous around the time I went. The Jacaranda and Flame trees were in full bloom. It was beautiful. This time we flew from Dar to Mwanza and then drove a few hours to Shinyanga and then back to Dar. Dar was just like I remember her – crowded with a ridiculous amount of traffic! I still haven’t spent enough time in Dar. The next time I am in Tanzania I am going to give myself at least a day to just wander around the city. And, of course, I will go shopping at my favorite place in Dar, The Slipway. And, I am not going to miss another chance to visit Zanzibar. I’m always so close, but find myself just being way too busy to get to the islands!

As you know I love to travel. Most importantly, I love seeing the smaller cities and getting outside of the capitals and major urban metropolises. Getting out into the other parts of the country is what makes traveling worthwhile.

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Here are some of the posts I wrote about health workers for both PSI and Intrahealth.

Here are some of my photos from Instagram. You can follow me at instagram.com/jenniferjames_

I've missed you #KLM! #travel #DaresSalaam #Tanzania

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I can spend all day in the field with babies. All day!! #Tanzania

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Flying from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam this afternoon. #travel #Tanzania #love

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I loved meeting Lucy, a family planning health worker who receives training from @PSIImpact

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Dar es Salaam #OysterBay #Tanzania

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Beautiful young girl in Dar es Salaam. #Tanzania #travel #photography #latergram

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A bajaj driver in Dar es Salaam #Tanzania #Africa

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You know how much I love moms and #babies. #travel #photography #Africa #Tanzania

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I could be with the babies all day! #Tanzania #latergram #Africa #travel #cute #babies

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