Africa, America and Asia…

(Caregivers at Karabo Asara Orphanage)

Once again, many months has managed to slip by without a single blog update. As such, I have way too much to say as I’ve traversed across three continents. However, in an effort to get anything down in writing, I will attempt to gloss over the major highlights.

(Russell and Amy @ MTN Bushfire Music Festival)

(Traditional Swazi Culture)

(Amazing music)

In May, Russell and I drove across the border to attend Swaziland’s internationally acclaimed three-day music & arts festival, MTN Bushfire. The House on Fire venue is set against a breath-taking rural landscape in the heart of the Ezulwini valley.

(Shawn and her family)

(Swazi Handicrafts)

And within five minutes of crossing over into the festival, I heard someone hollering out my name! Turns out, my dear friend Shawn – who lives in Mozambique, also traipsed across the country to attend this iconic event. We hadn’t seen one another since our days together in Lilongwe, Malawi…so a wonderful reunion to say the least.

(Karabo Asara Orphanage)


(Such lovely girls)

At its core, the MTN Bushfire Festival serves as a practical commitment to inspiring and developing the Swazi arts and cultural scene. And in that spirit, Russell and I fell in love with Swaziland’s traditional handicrafts and went a little overboard with purchasing hand-blown Ngwenya glass, vibrant baskets, and stunningly beautiful woven rugs. I am officially running out of room to put any more artwork…

(Heidi and Marie, the founders of the Karabo Asara Orphan Center)



Back in Pretoria, I went with my friend, Heidi, to Karabo Asara Orphan Center, a facility that she opened years ago! What started out as a simple plea to friends and family to donate money now provides services for 90+ orphans and vulnerable children each and every day!

(Beautiful boy)

(Loved spending time with the children)

(The caregivers cooking up a meal)

I’m so incredibly proud of Heidi and all that she’s accomplished, proof of what one dedicated person can achieve…her commitment, tenacity, and heart serves as a role model for us all!


(Russell and Chico)

(Russell’s boys, Kyle and Ryan – with Dan)

(South African Friends)

I was fortunate enough to accompany Heidi on one of her visits to the orphanage where she brought food, clothing, toys and other supplies to distribute. And I must say, to this day this visit remains my most cherished experience since moving to South Africa. I loved spending time with the children and caregivers, hearing them sing, watching them dance, and immersing myself in their energy and spirit. Simply magnificent…

(Back in Austin with my family!!!)

(Greeting Uncle Steve)

(Stand-up Paddle Boards)

(Maia and Jazzy)

Even though that experience stands out, I love my time in South Africa and delight in its natural beauty. In fact, I often go out in the bush to hike while Russell and his boys ride off-road motorbikes.

(Extended Family)

(Nieces and nephews)

(Electric Bikes on the capitol)


I also feel fortunate in that I’m dating a South African and have been able to experience this culture from an insider’s perspective. His insights, knowledge of the country, its history and its people truly enriches my daily life.

(Siham on the 4th of July)

(Marshelle and Hannah)

Plus it’s nice to be part of his extended family, especially when mine is so far away. But nothing is more comforting then spending time with your own family!

(Shopping on South Congress)



(County Line after a full day on Segways)

As such, I flew back to Austin, TX for two glorious weeks in June/July and relished every moment with my family and friends. It was quite the family reunion as my sister and her two kids flew in from Geneva, my mom and Steve came in from Kansas City, Uncle Steve, Arlene and Marshelle flew in from Maine, my dad drove from Houston, and Hannah flew in from New York. Quite the crew!

(Matt, Amy and Greyson)

(Megan and her beautiful kids)

(The littlest Chula)

My brother and Siham went all out with planning the itinerary! We rented electric bikes and toured around the State Capitol and the University of Texas’ campus, chartered a pontoon boat for riding up and down Lake Austin, and even hired Segways to explore Town Lake!

(Greyson and Amy)

(Matt and Lily)

(Eric and Laurel)

Each meal was a culinary delight, and usually entailed some version of Tex-Mex along with a Margarita. And we hit up all the boutique shops on South Congress. My favorite purchase, hand-made cowboy boots from Mexico (Thanks again, Uncle Steve)!

(Standing in unity at the state capitol)

(Republicans can’t defetus)

(Come and Get It)

And the timing of my stay in Austin coincided with Wendy Davis’ ten hour long filibuster to block Senate Bill 5, legislation that would create new abortion regulations in Texas. More importantly, this bill rolled back constitutional rights and would reduce the number of women’s health clinics from 42 to 5, thereby threatening the health and safety of thousands of Texas women.



(Roe, Roe, Roe the Vote)

We couldn’t sit idly by while this was taking place, so we marched down to the State Capitol to stand in unity with Texas women. I felt proud to be a part of this movement, an expression of mainstream Texans standing up against partisan power-mongers who no longer act on behalf of women’s best interests.

(Chula – Famous designer dresses)

(One of many dresses that I purchased)


The majority of my time was spent catching up with family! I loved the quiet hours in the evening, sipping wine by the pool while bonding with my Dad, running around Town Lake with Sami, and just hanging out at my brother’s beautiful downtown condo, talking to all of my nieces and nephews.

(Mona and Mary)

(Great friends in Hanoi)

And in between moments with my family, I was able to catch up with a few friends (not nearly as many as I’d like, but that’s to be expected).

(Tea Break)

(typical scene)

Greyson, one of my dearest friends going back twenty years to our Hula Hut days, made an enormous effort to spend as much time with me as possible, for which I am grateful!

(Watching you)


Seeing him, along with some of my other dear friends, made me realize just how much I miss Austin…and how much I love and adore my friends back in the states. This year marks my seventh year with PEPFAR…hard to believe that I’ve been living overseas for that long…

(Meat for sale)

(Market vendor)

A special thanks to Amy Pancake, Merland, Matt & Brandy, and Eric & Laurel for always making time for me whenever I return. I love you all dearly!

(Produce for sale)


After many tearful goodbyes, I returned to South Africa for a whopping four days before flying to Thailand for a two-week training! I loved being back in SE Asia….the food, the smells, the people, the architecture, the crowds…so different from my current life in Pretoria!



And since the training was for two weeks, I was able to fly to Hanoi for a short visit the weekend in-between.



My first stop, literally directly from the airport, was to Chula – where I buy all my hand-made silk dresses! I simply can’t get enough of Chula’s gorgeous designs…

(Amazing cat)

(Cat’s Eyes)

I stayed with my friend, Mona, who I absolutely adore! So lovely just to sit in her gorgeous home and gab over a bottle of wine.



I met up with my old photography club for an outing in Old Quarter. The familiarity of the maze of streets was actually comforting! I reveled in walking up and down the alleys, taking photos and interacting with locals. It’s the one thing I’ve missed since moving to South Africa – the ability to openly and freely walk around with your camera, taking pictures of people!



I totally felt in my element wandering through Hanoi…and truly appreciated being back in Vietnam – even with all the chaos, crowds, and congestion. My visit was way too short! But it was nice to reminisce with good friends!



Speaking of which, I finally had an opportunity to reconnect with Miss Kelly – a good friend of mine from Peace Corps Jamaica days, who is currently living in Bangkok. Miss Kelly and I reconnected as if we had just seen one another yesterday, a sign of true friendship!



This trip to Asia was incredibly meaningful for me – not for sightseeing, but to reconnect with friends who I hold dear to my heart! Nothing invigorates the soul more than surrounding yourself with people who truly love and care about you…


(Looking for snails)

(In my element – photo by KIRIBANE)

(And I love this shot by KIRIBANE)

(Miss Kelly – taken from my iPhone in Bangkok)

And now I’m back in South Africa, also surrounded by people who truly love and care about me. I’m at a stage in my life where I’m incredibly happy and content…what more could anyone ask for?!?

(Amy and Russell at Hartebeesport Dam)

Sending much love to all,

1 comment to Africa, America and Asia…

  • Pat Black

    Hi,Amy~Wow, woman, you just keep expanding your world–and mine thru your blog. Thanks for letting me share your adventures. Wish we’d have connected during your Austin visit, but know you were busy with family.

    Hard time of late. After a 4 & a half year journey upward, my Mom finally “got her wings” Aug. 6th. Since then, we’ve been possessed by her possessions, finally having an estate sale last weekend. Hard to see your childhood home bare of everything, but the memories live on.

    Sending love and light to you as you continue to explore and serve our world. Shall share the South Africa blog with Blaise Matabela who is a Zulu from Jo’berg (I think). Austin hugs to you, dear person, Pat Black

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>