Baton Rouge hits African Soil

Africa and my travel photography adventure. 

Most certainly a place so dearly close to my heart I could call it for a cup of sugar. It's a huge pot of your mama's best gumbo; filled with every kind of delicious thing. I have gone once in 2004, 2006, 2007 and spent the year there in 2008 and then topped off 2009 with not one but two trips within the same year. It was a blessing of a year that 2009. Oh, and I can't forget about my time there in 2012 to help with the Christmas parties when I almost got arrested for smuggling drugs aka Calcium. That's another story entirely but the moral is don't put your 8 different vitamins in little ziploc baggies and then run your bag through customs security in a foreign country. 

But back to 2008 which was specifically associated with the church I belong to, Healing Place Church. I always had a love of travel and exploring but upon finishing my internship there in 2007, the team asked if I was willing to head abroad to help start a Healing Place campus and LIVE in Swaziland, Africa for most of the year. 

(Hands down one of the best years of my life btws)

You hear Swaziland and you're like, "that can't be a real place or is that like DisneyWorld but with Swazi in the front" ... it just sounds funny.... But it's far from any sort of idea you might have in your head. I bet all of Africa is in fact; because most people think of the National Geographic channel with loads of chocolate people with rings in their ears the size of silver dollars and tiny pieces of cloth covering the private parts of their bodies. And that is true for some parts of Africa but it's not for most of the parts. Swazi, as I tend to call is, is a place uniquely it's own and upon visiting it bestows a certain something special for everyone differently. For me, it was bliss. 

So my time there this year was trifold: John Robert needed to see what makes this little girl's heart beat, I needed to hug some necks that I have been missing and we needed to visit some of our family who moved out there earlier this year, Leah and Patrick aka the most fantastic hosts you could possibly think of. Everyone should go visit them just so you can see how impeccable their "taking care of people" skills are. 

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As a friend of mine said, "we burnt a lot of calories with them"... our first full day with them ended with a hike not far from where they live in Nelspruit, South Africa. Day three we headed to the land of Swazi land and were fortunate enough to meet with friends along the way. When we took pictures with Basil, the boy below, all the guys wanted to make guy faces so this was the result. 

The next visit was with a dear friend and sister, Bella. That girl's heart is a big as that bright, white smile. She can't help but to light up a room. I was teaching her my dance moves here which she was not terribly interested in. As a sort of mentor to her when I lived there, she got used to my shennigans. 

This one below is so special. It has my African mama, Make (pronounced Ma Ga) Nuxmalo. When I met this gal she was actually working at the very center we are standing in front of. It's called the Golden Mile and it's one makeshift stall after another with the finest, hand-crafted African goodies your heart could desire. This woman made my stay in Swaziland brighter than the noonday. She is endlessly happy and filled with a natural joy that jumps right off of her and onto you. She became one of the pillars of our Healing Place there because of her insanely perfect personality and unique care of the children's ministry. 

We were super fortunate to be able to connect with the Children's Cup projects that Leah and Pat and the whole Cup team are apart of that side. Cup is a NGO that aids orphaned and vulnerable children in Africa by providing food, education and medical attention to little ones in desperate situations. Cup's goal is to partner with the local church to transform the communities they work within. Pat and Leah are two of a 30 something plus team over there. 

The Carepoints are where all the connection happens for Cup within the community. These small hubs facilitate the items I listed above to serving the children in need within the area. Our time was spent at Manghadadhfjain (made up that spelling but it's pretty close to the real thing). We were visiting Jessie Bo, one of the Cup team members and nurses on the field. Her work there is coming up to year seven soon and she couldn't be more passionate about it. Below is Jessie with one of the girl's from her Carepoint. 

Lots of kiddos come to play at the Carepoint. This is their one place to get one meal a day- most don't get much to eat- education and medical attention. 

Aside from the awesome breaded man to the right, those ladies to the left are the heartbeat of the Carepoints, the cooks. These women spend hours a day preparing "pap and beans" for the children for when they get out of school (essentially grits and beans). 

This was too adorable not to post?! 

We ended that day at Leah and Pat's house, our divine hosts. They planned a little soirée in honor of John and I with new friends and old ones. It was grand. It's times like those that make your world go round- being with loved ones, making new memories. It was the icing on the already perfect cake of our time in Africa. 

The pic above has the Cup team all apart with Pat and Leah in the middle, Blache to the right of them (also on the Cup team and South African herself) and Chris Ladd to the very far right whom is also on Cup's team that side. 

So as a wise friend of mine said, "we burned a lot of calories together". Ha!! But trust me, hiking in Africa is like these Baton Rouge people feel about Tiger football for me. It was less that 70 degrees most days and way too many mountains to venture upon.

Little tid bit of info, I actually hiked this one barefoot because I forgot my teeny shoes and only had flip flops which were not working terribly well. Both flop and flopless made for an even more authentic hike about. Other side note, all the Afrikaners let their kiddos run around without shoes. They say it doesn't bridle their childlikeness. I say ouch.  

So that was the gist of our time in South Africa. It was terribly too fast but filled with all sorts of richness and the greatest of friends.