How does a person leave the closest place to paradise that they’ve ever experienced? This is the question I have been pondering. One of my most useful discoveries has been that if you want to find a great place to live, listen to how the people who live there talk about it. There’s a reason why people love to live in certain areas of the country. Sure, there are contented people everywhere who appreciate their community because it is home. When an area gains a widespread reputation as an exceptional place to live, it is the acclaim of the locals, not their contentment, that spreads the word.
I heard about how wonderful San Diego was long before I had traveled west of Colorado. In the Summer of 2004, I packed up my red Toyota Celica convertible and told my sister, who I brought along for the journey, that I was looking for a place out west near the mountains and the ocean. I had grown restless in Minneapolis and realized that there was no reason for me to limit my possibilities to the midwest.
It has been nine long months since I last posted to my blog. Pondering this duration, I’m not sure if I should be more embarrassed by my own consistency or excited about how life has progressed. The gestation and birth of so much love in my life over the past nine months has been almost too beautiful to describe.
My last post was on January 22nd, right around the time I was building the photo book that I would present to the love of my life while asking her to marry me. This creative project consumed my attention because I wanted the proposal to speak love as a lasting memory to the most creative person I’d ever met. Scheduling challenges with family and work forced our wedding into the last week of June and it took every bit of effort that we had available to make a beautiful wedding happen with so little time. After traveling to Santorini and Rhodes for a lovely honeymoon, we settled into a home in San Diego’s South Park neighborhood.
Since our return in early July I’ve struggled to resume blogging. While considering why it has been hard to begin writing again as well as why I tend to start and stop with blogging, I’ve made a few discoveries. I’ll share them here in case you can relate to them in your own creative efforts and also for my own processing.
A few months back we discovered the Coffee & Tea Collective in North Park and it instantly became my favorite coffee shop in San Diego. As I walked through the door it reminded me of the artisan coffee houses in the Pacific Northwest and made me wonder how it had taken me so long to find it.
The Coffee & Tea Collective is where I fell in love with the pour-over. Although I usually take cream and a little bit of sugar with my coffee, these pour-overs have such a clean taste that they don’t need any help. The minimalist atmosphere has become my favorite place to reflect, plan and write.
The Coffee & Tea Collective was recently ranked by Eater.com as one of “The 21 Hottest Coffee Shops Across the US” and for good reason. Here’s a collection of photos to celebrate a pleasant environment and some of San Diego’s finest coffee.
It was a simple enough question. Under ordinary circumstances this interaction between strangers might have produced a simple “no” and a polite but brief discussion.
These were not ordinary circumstances. I had arrived in Kenya only a few days earlier as part of a team attempting to do documentary work on good causes in East Africa. Learning that the World Social Forum was taking place in Nairobi, I stayed behind to network while most of my team went on to Uganda. With my camera draped over my shoulder, I wandered around the stadium looking for interesting people and causes to engage. This is when I received a life changing question.
“Excuse me, are you a journalist?” a man asked. “No” I answered. “I do some documentary work with photography and video but I am not a journalist.” Undaunted, he asked “Can I tell you about a project I am working on for my hometown village?” It is not uncommon to be approached by strangers in East Africa with requests for help. This question intrigued me, however, so I stopped to listen to the man’s story.
There are a few moments in life where you make profound discoveries that change your life forever. Although long in the making, these defining moments are what we remember when looking back. One of moments occurred to me six years ago at the 1000 Cups Coffee House in Kampala, Uganda. This discovery for me was not of deep spiritual importance but it did help to refine what became one of my most enduring interests, enjoying a good cup of coffee.
Attracted by a flyer offering a coffee safari, I figured that a place that could introduce you to the coffee process probably makes some pretty good coffee. My boda boda driver (motorcycle taxi) struggled to find the place from my vague description. Stepping through the door I liked the place instantly. It looked like what an artisan coffee shop in Africa should look like, complete with a rustic wooden setting and well arranged sacks of fresh roasted coffee beans.
On the way to my most recent trip to East Africa I found an article on safari in an issue of Conde Nast Traveler. The classic look of the images that they displayed inspired me to capture my own series of vintage safari pictures. Using our tented camp just outside of Maassai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, my sister and I captured a collection I have entitled Vintage Safari. Click here to see the rest of the images from this collection.
Rebekah and I on safari at Kenya’s Maassai Mara.
One of the great joys of my life has been sharing my love of travel with my younger sister, Rebekah
. Our shared adventures include a three week road trip through the American West visiting 13 states and 7 national parks. We once drove from Ohio to Homer, Alaska, spending a spontaneous summer together in the Last Frontier. We’ve traveled along Lake Superior’s scenic North Shore and camped at Southern California’s San Onofre State Beach. We learned to surf together in the Pacific Ocean and kayaked for the first time during one of our journeys to Colorado.
When I told her that I was heading back to East Africa she decided that she wanted to join me this time. I welcomed the idea of taking our initial trip together overseas, especially since this was our first chance to travel since she has given birth to two beautiful little boys.
We were young, energetic and ready to change the world. Combining our love for photography, video, travel and serving causes that matter we set out to find worthy projects in East Africa needing support. We aimed to tell their stories through well-designed visual communications. As aspiring creative professionals we wanted to use our skills for projects that would make a difference in the world.
This upcoming series of posts transitions from my time in South Sudan into discussing our ongoing projects elsewhere in East Africa. Sharing the background story here will reveal the context behind these projects. “Yadumu” is the Swahili word for “long life” identifying with our desire to support life-saving causes in East Africa.
On a bright Sunday afternoon in Nimule, South Sudan, a group decided to set out on a walking trip to the Nile River. Following Elizabeth, a volunteer at the Cornerstone Children’s Home from Colorado, visitors and children alike set made this trek. The next few hours yielded rich cultural and natural experiences.
I walked alongside Jimmy, a sixteen year old orphan who speaks great English and always carries a sheepish grin on his face as though he is planning some kind of mischief. Jimmy is a fun to joke around with and behind his jovial manner is a kind heart. Enjoying this opportunity to get to know him, we spent most of the way there and back in conversation.
You can learn much about a society by watching children play. The games and activities that they embrace can be instructive about the society in which they are raised. The children at Cornerstone Children’s Home in South Sudan played a that game that seemed impossible for us visitors to figure out. Aside from football (what we call soccer) it seemed to be their favorite game to play.
After trying in vain to figure out how the game worked I decided one evening to join in. Ohwilo, one of the boys from the children’s home, saw that I didn’t know what I was doing and grabbed my hand to try to walk me through it.