David and Ryan go everywhere!

Monday, January 10, 2011

by the way

To all of those who still haunt this blog in hopes of updates-- sorry to disappoint you! David and I have both been quite busy settling back into the states, searching for jobs and pursuing our artistic interests.
David has requested that I direct you guys to his new website (it's different from the blog):

Also, if you have Twitter accounts, you can follow us both at the follow usernames:



We appreciate your continued interest in our lives and pursuits!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

home sweet home

I know my updates here have been, erm, sparse in the past few weeks and that is because--- drumroll--- WE'RE HOME!!
That's right, ladies and gentlemen, David and I are back in the US of A. Our final flight from Nairobi back to the States was, for the most part, uneventful. We got into Charlotte, NC, spent the night at a friends house and then drove down to Charleston SC to surprise my family! It was so good to get home and be with them! We picked up my brother at college and then drove to my parents house. We surprised them all pretty well. :)
Now that we're back, we're settling into normal life. David is working on his photography business and internship while I'm seeking out a big-girl job. Slowly and surely things are falling into place. We've gotten an apartment in downtown Charleston, I've had several job interviews, David found a photographer to follow.
Soon I hope to post a blog on Charleston and its beauty. In the meantime, I've been working on establishing a writing blog to help build my platform and audience as an author. You can visit it here. Also don't forget to visit David's photo blog.
Thanks for being such a faithful follower of our travels. The adventures can only continue as we attempt to settle into "real life." At least for a while. :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010


As a last hurrah in our trip to Kenya, David and I went on a three-day safari. If you have never been on a safari and you have the time and the money, I have two words for you. Do it.
It was pretty phenomenal.
Starting out, my expectations weren’t very high. On the five hour drive up to Masai Mara, I joke with David.
“I expect it to be just like a National Geographic nature show,” I teased. “With lions taking down gazelles left and right.”

Our guide: Bonnie.

Our tent.
While we didn’t see any kills in action while we were there, we saw so much more than I ever thought we would. On our very first game drive, we glimpsed a pride of thirteen lions, saw some cheetahs (which are incredibly rare in the wild) and rode alongside a wild bull elephant for a few meters. More commonplace were the herds of zebras, gazelles, wildebeests and buffalo that covered the plains. The cats were my favorite though. They’re so graceful and powerful and aware of themselves. It’s hard to get bored watching them because they’re just so gorgeous.

On the second day we got to watch lions to our heart’s content. In the morning there was a single male lion with a fresh kill. We sat and watched as he ripped the meat off of a wildebeest’s carcass. Such sharp teeth and powerful muscles. There were times when the lions walked right next to the van. I could have reached out and touched them. They’re massive. I would be utterly terrified if one of them decided to come after me—even if I was in a car.
That evening, it was pouring down rain on our safari drive, and there wasn’t too much going on on the savannah. The pride of thirteen lions that we saw the day before came out into the open and frolicked in the field in front of our van for two whole hours. They were literally within spitting distance the entire time. We had a front row seat to the antics of the playful cubs, the regal males and the disdainful lionesses. David took about 1500 pictures of these cats.

The animals weren’t just in the game park either. We stayed in a “campsite” where we had super nice tents. In the afternoon, just after lunch, David and I heard a commotion outside. We peeked out to see a whole colony of monkeys overrunning the camp. They were unzipping people’s tent flaps and going into their tents to get food. We watched as they continually raided one of the tents for a loaf of bread they found in it. One of the monkeys was super bold and kept coming toward me. I was a little freaked out, since I wasn’t sure if it had rabies or not. Whenever I turned around to walk away it would run up really quickly behind me. Later the camp manager told me that the monkeys aren’t scared of women for some reason. Sexist animals.

Actually, I’ve gathered that in the animal kingdom, males are pretty much useless except for mating. The female lions do all of the hunting. The male elephants are on their own for every time except mating season. Think of how well that would go over in humanity!
Anyway. I was blown away by the variety and sheer volume of animals we saw. Elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, zebras, hippos, gazelles, wildebeests, all sorts of birds… pretty much the only species we didn’t spot were leopards and rhinos (both of which are incredibly rare.) It truly was an experience of a lifetime.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mothers of H.O.P.E.

After thirty years in Kenya, Art and Mariellen have accomplished a lot. They’re involved in many missions projects, not just in the Pokot region, but also in nearby cities and towns. David and I got to witness first hand the power and effectiveness of one of these ministries in the city of Nakuru. About seven years ago, the Davises started a ministry with the single mothers of the city. Being a single mother in Kenya is lightyears more difficult than in the states. David and I got to sit in on a meeting with the Mothers of H.O.P.E. and hear some stories of their journeys as single moms. There were six women at the meeting who shared with us.
The stories were all different. Some were widows, others had left their husbands out of desperation. Men in Kenya, the women told us, generally do not care about their families. Even women who have husbands with jobs struggle to provide for their children. It isn’t uncommon for the man of the house to go and blow his paycheck on booze, leaving nothing for his wife and children to live on. Mothers, the women told us, are desperate to provide for their kids. Those who have no skills-set or outside support often turn to prostitution as a means of feeding their families.
So we sat and listened to the women’s stories. Janet, the most fluent English speaker of the women, told us how she supports her three children by going door-to-door to sell insurance in a country that doesn’t believe in the concept. Josephine lamented on her inability to find stead work. She also goes door to door, looking for what little work she can do everyday to earn a few shillings.
The room we met in was small. There was hardly any space for the ten people packed into it, much less the three or four people who used it as a bedroom, a kitchen and a sitting room all in one.
Sitting in such cramped corridors, listening to the hardships of these women’s lives, I was struck by a single, resonating feeling. Joy. These women were all filled with joy. It didn’t make sense. Most of them lived on such a basic, day-to-day method of survival. They should be filled with worry, dread, despair. Why would they feel such joy when their lives were, by any means of measure, miserable?
“We know,” Janet tells me. “That God has not abandoned us. He loves us and provides for us, even when others will not.”
I encountered these women’s faith and I was humbled. They had nothing. They worked hard. They suffered. And yet they still had faith. A faith that costs much more than I’ve ever had to pay.
The women sat and prayed for each other, offering each other encouragement and fellowship. Each woman also offered 200 shillings (about $2.50) into the community pot, which was left with a different woman at each meeting. It was like a sisterhood—bound together by extreme hardship and intense faith.
They expressed how glad they were that David and I had come to fellowship with them. They were so grateful just for the fact that we’d come to listen to their stories, that we’d set aside time to spend with them. I felt unworthy of their gratitude. After all, I have so much and they have so little. Was sitting and listening to them really worth that much?
“Please tell our stories,” they said once I got up to leave. “Pray for us.”
And that’s what I decided to do.

Pokot-the middle of nowhere

Kenya. The name of this country invokes many images in the mind of every American. Land Cruisers, beige safari hats, prides of lions lounging in waves of golden grass. I was actually surprised, when I stepped out of the Nairobi airport, to find that Kenya is a lush land. Compared to its neighbor, Ethiopia, Kenya looked like a garden of Eden. Bright vines of magenta bougainvillea weave over buildings of stone and through trees heavy with green. Other flowers, crimson and violet, add splashes of color to the rutted roadsides.
Overall, Kenya is much more developed that Ethiopia. The buildings (at least in appearance) are sturdier. There’s more cars. There’s more western products available for consumption. I’ve seen very few donkey carts and many more mzungus (white people). The travel experience is much more comfortable here. Tasty drinks like Bitter lemon soda and Stoney (a heavily spiced ginger soda) line the roadside stands. If you ever get tired of driving through the pot-hole-riddled roads, you can stop at a roadside cafĂ© for chai. The chai here isn’t quite as spiceful as the Starbucks version, but it’s delicious nonetheless. The Kenyans drink it at least three or four times a day, so I’ve had quite a fill of the stuff.
Our first week in Kenya was spent in the middle of nowhere. David and I drove up to the Pokot region in the north with Art and Mariellen Davis, a couple who have lived and worked in the region for over thirty years!! They’re house, which they lived in a tent while they built it, is about seventy miles from the nearest developed town. That distance is tied together by a road of rocks and brush. Along this road, every few miles, you might encounter a cluster of mud huts or a herd of sheep tended by a single young boy. Pedestrians are few and far between—but when you do pass, you see women decked out in elaborate colored beads, lugging huge burdens on their backs. These are the Pokot. A tribespeople who have existed in the region for hundreds if not thousands of years. Their lifestyle has changed very little in that time. Their main industry is herding cattle and goats. There’s no electricity in their mud huts. They sleep on benches constructed out of sticks.
It’s a whole different world.

While Art and Mariellen went around reconnecting and talking with their neighbors, David and I took some time to soak in the wilderness we were in. The Pokot region of Kenya is much more like Ethiopia in that it’s arid and dusty. The lushness of Nairobi doesn’t translate to the lower part of the Great Rift Valley. The only vegetation is acacia trees and shrubs covered in fierce, snagging thorns. We hiked up a nearby hill, (not always effectively) dodging the whipping, thorny branches and loose piles of rocks, to a spectacularly grand view. When we got to the top, we could see absolutely no signs of civilization, as far as the eye could see. Only miles and miles of African bushland. In the distance were mountains of cindercone and beyond those, more bush. We sat on top of the mountain just admiring the remoteness of the place.

The next day we got to experience just how vast that remoteness was. Art was going to drive thirty-five miles out further into the bush to check on a well he’d helped drill a while back. David and I got to ride the whole distance on top of his Land Cruiser. The experience was so exhilarating. Zooming through miles and miles of dusty acacia trees, dodging dangerously thorny branches and hanging on for dear life in the more rocky areas of the “road.” Unfortunately we did get stuck with thorns a few times. My Rainbow sandals have more than a few acacia thorns stuck in them from my feeble attempts to shield myself. Overall we got to ride about sixty miles on top of the Land Cruiser. In the end we were filthy, covered head to toe in red dust. But it was totally worth it.

Pokot stars. It’s funny how you can just sit for hours and hours staring at the stars, especially when there are so many of them. At night, a few hours after the sun went down, we would take cups of hot chai outside and sit back to watch the celestial show. Since there was no electricity for miles, the view was unhindered by pollution. The Milky Way was a clear white band streaking across the sky. The only signs of civilization were the satellites and airplanes which occasionally streaked across the horizon. Even more frequent were the shooting stars that plummeted from the black every few minutes. It really was a sight. We soaked in as much as we could.
Now we’re back in Nairobi, in the land of diesel-spewing cars and frequent gunshots, waiting out the few days until we go on our safari to Masai Mara. To tell the truth, I'm a little nervous in Kenya's capital city. When our taxi driver picked us up from the airport he launched straight into a story about how he'd been robbed at gunpoint the week before. The robbers took him to an ATM and told him that if he gave them the wrong PIN they would shoot him. They emptied his account for all it was worth, stole his cell phone and his laptop. The taxi driver was happy that they didn't kill him. Not a great story to open up our Kenyan experience with! I'm not too worried, I know that our lives and possessions are in God's hands. Still, I'll breathe a nice sigh of relief once I'm on that airplane back to the states!

Crossing the equator!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Africa's Spiritual Fire

We spent the past few days at Longano—a lake about an hour and a half north of Awasa. The first night we spent at Sebana, one of the nicest resorts in all of Ethiopia. It was quite relaxing, with a black sand beach and well-kempt bungalows with squishy beds (soft beds are incredibly hard to find overseas!). We spent the day relaxing there, sunning on the beach and collecting pumice stones that were floating just off shore. We also spent a good amount of time eating at the restaurant there… they had oven baked pizzas, soups, pastas… all sorts of delicious foods.
The second day we packed our stuff into the back of Ben and Kelly’s truck and took a rather rattling road to the other side of the lake to Camp Longano. This is a place David used to come to as a child. It’s for SIM missionaries to come and retreat to. The site has had several improvements since David’s day. They just got electricity to the site four months ago and there are several new buildings for campers to sleep in. We met up with a missions team there and spent the night with them. While we were there we got to hear some testimonies from Ethiopians native to the area. One thing that really impacted me was how many of them came to Christ through visions and dreams. Much of the population in this particular part of Ethiopia is Muslim. There are mosques everywhere and colorful graves emblazoned with the star and crescent dotting the roadsides.
One story I heard that stuck out to me was the testimony of a former sheik. This man was the head of seven mosques and he also happened to be married to seven wives. One day he was sitting outside of his house on a stool when he had a vision. He saw a helicopter approaching from the horizon. It was going to land on his compound. He tried to wave it away, since his compound was quite small. The helicopter landed anyway and a man came out. He was a ferengie (a white man) and he was dressed in a white garment. He came over to the sheik and offered him a key.
“What is this for?” the sheik asked, looking at the key.
“With this key, you will open one door and lock another,” the pilot replied.
The sheik took the key and stared at the man. “Who are you?”
“I am Jesus,” the man said.
With that the vision vanished, and the man was back in his compound, alone. When he realized what had happened, he ran down the road to the closest church. At first the ushers would not let him in, since the sheik was known to disturb many services before. Once the sheik told them what he’d seen, they allowed him in and he shared his story with the Christians there. He converted and brought a Bible back to his house. When he tried to share his story with his wives and children, they thought he was crazy. One of his older sons tried to kill him with a gun—but ultimately his family ended up accepting Christ as well. His seven mosques were converted into churches.
There are countless stories like this. Men and women who encountered Christ through dreams and visions. I love this testimony for the fact that Jesus used a helicopter. Who would have thought?
On Sunday morning I got to have a brief taste of a backcountry church service. It was totally in Amharic, and the church itself was a larger version of the mud huts you see all across the country. Unlike the services in the West (and in Korea I suppose), this one seemed very unstructured. The first half hour we were there, the congregation was in prayer and meditating the scriptures. Every individual was meditating on their own. Then, slowly, a song began to rise out of the congregation. It wasn’t like a hymn or a Hillsong anthem. It was a love song from their hearts. I really got the sense that these Christians were wholly and simply admiring God through their prayers and songs. This is something you just don’t get or see in the structured services of the States. It was very touching to watch—as well as very striking for me. These people, who own very little, the clothes on their backs and the huts they curl in at night, praise and adore God with a singularity and fervor I have yet to reach. I have so much physically—and yet it seems that they are spiritually rich in a way I can’t comprehend. There is a passion here in Africa, among the poorest of the poor, that goes beyond the physical realm. They could possibly be the richest people I know.
We’re back in Addis now, to spend one more day in the city before we jet off to Kenya—the last leg of our journey! It’s a bit surreal to think that we’ve been traveling for two months now. I’m excited for Kenya—but I’m also excited for the States afterward. To see family and friends will be a blessing I’m quite ready for.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Water is Life

In the dusty plains of Ethiopia—dotted with teff fields and acacia trees—faucets are hard to come by. Clean, drinkable water is a luxury even those in the capital city of Addis Ababa don’t always have access to. Many days their faucets are dry.
So you can imagine how poor rural communities fare in such an environment. Pure, life-sustaining water lies meters under the earth. Layers upon layers of sediment come between families and water. Most of these mud-hut neighborhoods have only hand drawn wells. The type of wells you see in illustrated childrens’ books about medieval times. Wells with stone walls and a bucket attached to a rope. Water from such wells is often putrid with the decaying bodies of rats and moles which burrow their way in. Trash and other waste finds its way into the well’s opening. The result? Illness and death in the water.
Faced with fetid, spoiled water in their community wells and rivers, many women and children must go elsewhere for water. Yellow jerry cans strapped to their backs, these Ethiopians must walk miles to fill their burdens. The more fortunate ones travel by donkey cart. This chore sometime consumes half or more of their day. Even after such a long and arduous journey, the water they collect isn’t always safe to drink.
This is the reality for 58% of Ethiopians.
That’s where Water is Life comes in. Since 2006, this foundation has worked together with Selam Awassa Water Drilling Works and Sanitation PLC to drill over 158 wells all across rural Ethiopia. One well at a time—they’re drastically changing the lives of those in the surrounding communities.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
This quote, in rising silver letters, graces the pump just outside the Mother Teresa school. At times it is barely visible through the clusters of schoolchildren who swarm around its stainless steel frame. About 300 rural children attend this school. Most of them can attribute this opportunity (in part) to the well itself. Instead of spending their day trudging into town and back, the girls and boys come to school for water. Girls pump water out for laundry and cooking after classes. They don’t have to make the agonizing choice between water and education.
Early morning at the river is a chaos of life and color. Dirty t-shirts strew the bank in piles of ruby and sapphire cloth, waiting to be washed. Battered, yellow jerry cans grace the backs of wearied donkeys, calling out a song of hallow plastic as they are trotted down to the water. Children half a donkey’s height wade in the swollen brown river, scooping water into the buckets with their hands. This water will be carried back over a kilometer to their homes, where it will be used for cooking and laundry.
The river is dark, colored with mud, filth and animal feces. This was the water they had to drink. This water brought disease and death, but it was all they had.
Now, just a few meters up the red-dirt road is a well.
The settlement is small, just a few mud huts placed under the shelter of the surrounding trees. Farming is the trade of most of these villagers. So far away from the main road, life here is especially hard for unmarried women.
“There is no one to help me,” one older woman says. “Not even my brother will help me.”
With no husband and no children, this woman has turned to the well for help. She beams with pride as she leads visitors through her garden. It’s only a few feet away from the well, capitalizing on the water runoff with ditches and culverts she dug by herself. Lush, green papaya trees tower out of the soil, the promising buds of fruit swelling at the base of their branches. Other, less dramatic vegetables pepper the ground, waiting for harvest. Once they are ripe, the woman will gather them and sell them, eking out a living that would have been impossible before the well.

It’s hard to believe that such a simple tool can change lives in such drastic ways. Yet that is exactly what these wells are doing. Water is education. Water is opportunity. Water is life.

While in Ethiopia we worked for Water is Life and Salaam, a company set on providing education and training for poorer Ethiopians. David made a brochure for them and took pictures of their work as well: