The Friday Five

The Friday Five: Comfort Foods

image I have to admit it. I've been needing a break from the basic Kenyan staples of ugali, fried greens, rice, chapati and soda. I will always have gratitude for the hospitality and kindness that comes in the form of these foods, but every now and then I need an escape. Luckily, our guesthouse kitchen is equipped with the equivalent of an easy-bake oven and a Coleman camping stove, which is sufficient for making some American comfort foods while still living in the village.

Here are five comfort foods I have enjoyed making and eating while in Lwala:

1. Pam's Pancakes

image copy

My colleague, Pamela Crane, made these for me in Rwanda last summer, and they are A-MAZING. Whole wheat flour, oats, bananas, sugar, vanilla, and eggs. They've been a guesthouse hit on Sunday mornings.

2. Breakfast Potatoes

image copy 2

Potatoes and onions from the market. Green peppers from the community garden. Scramble some eggs on the side from the chicken coop outside our door. Yes please.

3. Mango Banana Oat Muffins


These muffins required extra patience due to the rainstorm that knocked the power out, but they were worth the wait. I mixed flour, oats, puréed mango, mashed bananas, baking powder, vanilla, sugar, eggs, oil and milk. And voila - sweet, fluffy muffins.

4. Carrot Cake

image copy 4

Last week, the garden was producing more carrots than we knew what to do with, so I experimented with making carrot cake. It's basically flour, sugar, eggs, sugar, some shredded carrots, and then, well, more sugar. And that's why it tastes so good.

5. Popcorn


My reputation precedes me here, and everywhere I turn, someone has made sure that my popcorn stash is full. Thank goodness! This is Teresa, our head nurse by day and popcorn supplier by night. She made four bins of popcorn for my birthday. It took a couple of days to eat through it, but don't worry - mission accomplished.

I'm curious, what are your favorite comfort foods?

The Friday Five: How to Pack for Travel to Africa

photo 2 James and I are headed to Lwala (by way of Paris!) and will be there for almost a full month. This is the last leg of my Sabbatical, and I am so looking forward to spending time with our friends in a place that has become our second home!

Of course, the downside to travel is all the packing and prep that goes into it. Since the beginning of Blood:Water over eight years ago, I've traveled to Africa more times than I can count - and over the years, I'm proud to say, I have perfected the art of packing. I even have a famous "Packing for Africa" tutorial and demonstration that has helped many first-time travelers pack everything they need for two weeks of travel in rural Africa - all in carry-on luggage only! I can say with full confidence that it is better to travel to Africa with less, than with baggage! James and I have learned he hard way: it's just better to bring what will fit in a rolling carry-on and backpack than checking.

Don't forget that Africa's climate varies, depending on region. So this is a general guide, but make sure you are aware of the specific climate and season to which your traveling.

Without further ado, here are my top five tips for packing:

1. Clothes to Pack

pic name pic name
pic name pic name
  • 5-6 short-sleeved t-shirts (Ladies, remember to keep it classy and modest! Gentlemen, button up shirts with a collar are preferred)
  • 2 long-sleeved t-shirts
  • For Women: 3-4 lightweight knee or ankle-length skirts (most women wear skirts, but be sure that your knees are always covered, as anything higher is considered immodest in rural Africa) plus 2 pairs of lightweight pants or capris (comfortable for the long plane ride )
  • For Men: 3-4 light weight khakis (WITHOUT zip off shorts or cargo pockets) or semi-dress trousers with a belt (most men dress formally even in rural settings
  • 1 t-shirt and 1 pair of shorts/boxers for sleeping
  • 1 pair of jeans for days in transit or in a city
  • 1 fleece or zip-up outer layer
  • 1 lightweight rain jacket
  • 2 bandanas
  • 10 pairs of underwear
  • For Women: 3-4 pairs of socks For Men: 7-8 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes
  • 1 pair of semi-dress shoes (flats for ladies, loafers for men)
  • 1 pair of sandals or flip-flops
  • Sunglasses and/or hat

2. Gear & Documents to Pack

pic name pic name
    • Quick-dry towel (you can find this at any camping store like REI or LL Bean)
    • Headlamp with extra batteries
    • Nalgene (or other) water bottle
    • Alarm clock (or watch with an alarm)

iPod or smart phone (remember that you likely will not use your cell phone; you can plan to purchase an inexpensive cell phone in country rather than deal with international roaming charges - but it's nice to have music)

  • Earplugs
  • Camera
  • Universal electricity plug adaptor (REI carries an all-in-one adaptor that I prefer)
  • Granola bars or Power Bars (or any other small snack that is familiar and comfortable for you)
  • Passport and Driver's License
  • Additional copy of passport and driver's license, kept separately from your originals
  • Travel Insurance card (or make sure the person/group you are traveling with has it for you - Blood:Water provides insurance cards to everyone who travels with us)
  • Notebook and pens
  • Book (or eReader, which is a fabulous way to travel with multiple books)
  • ATM card (remember to call your bank before you leave so they know you are traveling internationally and won't hold withdrawals placed out of the U.S.)
  • U.S. cash (make sure that any $50 and $100 bills are dated AT LEAST 2009 - anything printed before 2009 may not be accepted
  • Inoculations proof (you will receive a yellow card - just keep it in your passport)


3. Toiletries to Pack


  • 2-3 packs of travel-size baby wipes
  • Toothbrush, toothbrush cover, and travel-size toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Hairbrush/comb
  • 3 packs of travel-size Kleenex
  • Mini travel mirror
  • 2 razors and travel-size shaving cream
  • 2 travel-size packs of hand sanitizer
  • Contact solution and eyeglasses (if applicable)
  • Sunscreen - at least 30 SPF
  • Insect repellant/li>
  • Deodorant
  • Travel-size hand or body lotion
  • Travel-size shampoo and conditioner
  • 1 small roll of toilet paper (you can roll your own or get Charmin’s travel-size version)
  • 3-4 travel-packets of dry laundry detergent (Tide or Shout both work great)

4. Medicines & First Aid to Pack


  • Malarone - Malaria pills (remember to take one every morning with food)
  • Sleep aid (I generally take one on my first two nights in Africa to help me settle into the new sleep schedule)
  • 1 small bottle of Pepto-Bismol pills - stomach aid (I generally take one every morning to coat my stomach)
  • 2 rolls of travel-size Tums - antacid
  • 1 broad-spectrum antibiotic (I use Cipro - you will need a prescription for this)
  • Small bag (10-15) of cough drops and/or throat lozenges
  • Travel-size tube of Cortizone - anti-itch cream
  • 3-4 packets of Emergen-C (or other)
  • Various size band-aids - 2-3 of each size
  • Neosporin

5. Packing - The Main Event!

p17total4I would highly recommend traveling with only carry-on luggage. This will practically erase the possibility lost luggage and will make traveling while in Africa infinitely easier. I know it may sound crazy, but, I promise - you CAN fit all of the above into one small/medium-size rolling duffle bag or suitcase (make sure to confirm that it matches size regulations for carry-on luggage!), one backpack, and one purse or messenger bag that you can carry with you every day in Africa. Here are some helpful tips on how to do that (hint: it all comes down to plastic bags!):

  • Gallon-size Ziplock Bags: roll up all your clothes and seal them in Ziplock bags, squeezing out all the air to create a vacuum-like pack.


  • Carry-on Liquids: Remember that (A) All carry-on liquids need to be less than 3oz and (B) they need to fit into a quart-size bag.


  • Medicine: In order to save space, I put my medicines in little pill bags that you can buy at drugstores like Walgreens. If you do this, remember to make sure each bag is labeled so you don't mix up your medicines! I like to take the label or sticker off the original packaging and include it right in the bag with the medicine. Once all your little bags of medicine are ready, just put them into one of your ziplock bags!
pic name pic name

And there you have it! Jena's famous Packing for Africa 101!

Au revoir until next time!


The Friday Five: Gratitude for 2012

The Friday Five is back with five things (and a host of pictures) I am thankful for in the past year. I hope you have also been able to pause with gratitude, as we enter into a new year. 1. Family Our parents are healthy, our family is thriving and growing, and James and I just celebrated five years of marriage.

Mom & Dad came to Africa with us in January.


My brother (with me, above) and sister-in-law are adding a new baby to the family in April.

2. Friends As leaders of international non-profits, more than a third of James and my year is spent traveling and it is often difficult to maintain close friendships at home in Nashville, let alone all over the country. But we are learning that intentionality and mutual commitment make life-giving friendships possible. We are beyond blessed.

I have been friends with these girls for over 15 years and now we all are starting to have families!

Some of these sweet friends have recently moved away from Nashville...which gives us a great reason to visit North Carolina!

And these great people have just moved TO Nashville! What a blessing.

3. Mission I continue to see Blood:Water thrive, and am humbled by the growing team of Africans and Americans working together to combat HIV/AIDS and water crises across Africa. The year, we celebrated 50,000 more people with access to safe water, as well as comprehensive HIV care for 230 men, women, and children.




4. Surprises As the history of this blog over the past year can certainly attest, 2012 brought quite a few exciting surprises! I was honored to deliver the commencement at my alma mater, shocked to be invited to pray at the Democratic National Convention, and delighted to wine and dine at the White House for a Holiday Reception. And one more fun surprise? The San Francisco 49ers had another winning season!




James and I about to walk into the White House!

5. Rest Since October 15th, I have been on a complete sabbatical from my work at Blood:Water Mission. I've needed to take time for myself to rest, reflect, and recover from eight years of unending travel and responsibilities related to a start-up nonprofit. This rest has been exactly what I needed, and I've never been a greater advocate for observing the Sabbath. However, I recommend observing it every seven days instead of waiting seven years!

James and I traveled to Costa Rica in October to kick off the sabbatical.

Exciting, right?


The Friday Five: Issues that Complicate HIV/AIDS in Western Kenya

HIV/AIDS is complex. A horrific disease that affects all parts of life, it is also specific in that in attacks a community in a multitude of ways. No region is exactly the same in how it is affected by HIV, and so our approaches to combating it require us to apply contextual approaches to each individual community.

No where is HIV/AIDS so prolific and total as in rural Africa. In the Lwala region of western Kenya, 24% of the population is HIV positive. Here is a peek into one of the places where HIV is rampant - and five issues that complicate the problem.

1. Polygamy It is still common for some tribes to observe the Old Testament practice of polygamy. If one member of the marriage is HIV positive, it passes to everyone else. Concurrent sexual relationships give flame to a fire that becomes difficult to stop.

2. Circumcision Most baby boys in western Kenya are not circumcised. However, studies show that HIV transmission is reduced up to 70% for men who are circumcised. There are significant efforts being made in the region to encourage voluntary adult male circumcision.

3. Maternal/Child Health In the region where we work in Lwala, Kenya, only 35% of women deliver their children with a skilled attendant or qualified nurse. Sufficient medical care is essential during labor and delivery in order to prevent transmission from mother to child, and unfortunately, it often comes too late or not at all.

4. Gender Inequality Women in Africa are not valued as highly as men. They are not given equal access to education and employment. They are seen more as property than as valuable citizens. Because of this vast gender inequality, most women lack the ability to say no to a man, even if he is her husband. The population at greatest risk for HIV is married African women. In Lwala, 67% of our HIV patients are women.

5. Stigma HIV/AIDS is our modern-day leprosy. It drips with shame and fear, making it extremely difficult for people to be open about their status. The fear associated with HIV/AIDS breeds ostracizing and hateful acts and so people continue to live in fear, full of guilt and shame and hiding their disease. Even more, when HIV/AIDS is kept secret by individuals, it prevents a community's ability to address the issue together - to speak about prevention and provide treatment in a safe and caring environment.

This list could go on and on. But the good news is that Lwala and other communities in Africa are not alone in their fight against HIV/AIDS. To learn more about how Blood:Water Mission partners with communities in Africa to address the HIV/AIDS crisis, click here. To learn more about our partner in Lwala, Kenya, Lwala Community Alliance, visit their website here.

*Photo Credit: Chris Pereira for Lwala Community Alliance.

The Friday Five: Confessions of an iPhone Addict

20121005-101837.jpg I have a problem. I am an iPhone addict. It creates terrible habits. Here are five confessions of an iPhone addict (aka - Me):

1. Poor Bedside Manners I get into bed and grab my iPhone to set my alarm. Oh, but wait! What's the weather supposed to be tomorrow? Oh, and my calendar for the day? Hmm, has anyone at work sent me an email tonight? Well, while I'm at it, I forgot to respond to Joe - let me do that. Oh, someone tagged me in Facebook? I must see! While I'm at it, what about Twitter? Who won Thursday Night Football? Can't. Stop!

2. Dangerous Driver Apparently my life is so over-stimulating that driving a vehicle through roads and traffic is not interesting enough to keep me occupied. My mind races and I remember something I feel I need to respond to immediately. Quick, at a red light, shoot a text to someone to ease my anxiety. Bad move.

3. Dual Screen Consumer I watch television with my iPhone in hand? If the television is uninteresting enough to demand another electronic device for entertainment, why don't I turn the tv off? I DON'T KNOW!!

4. Long Line Lingerer Standing in line at Starbucks, my iPhone comes immediately out. Really? Why?! Folks, I have a big job with a lot of responsibilities like many of you, but I'm not so important that I can't look up at the people around me while I order a latte. It's just rude.

5. Bathroom Reader Gross. Need I say more?

Lord knows I need to change my ways. Next week, I begin a four-month sabbatical from my daily work at Blood:Water Mission, and part of the process is handing over my iPhone, which I did on Monday. I want to conquer this addiction and replace it with healthier habits. I'm cutting it cold-turkey, because my sabbatical is affording me the ability to do that. But I think we can all work to minimize the unhealthy habits of being an iPhone addict.

Are you a recovering iPhone addict? I would love your advice! How have you kicked some of your worst technology habits?

The Friday Five: What You Probably Didn't Know About Touring on a Bus

I'm back on the road again this weekend with Jars of Clay. The tour bus has been like a second home for me, especially in my early years with Blood:Water Mission. Here are five things you probably didn't know about touring on a bus (unless you're from Nashville, of course).


1. The bus has three rooms. A front living room with couches, table, kitchenette, tv's and a bathroom. Then, a bunk room which is separated by automatic sliding doors. There are twelve bunks - four sets of 3 bunks high. Each bunk has a private curtain, DVD player and personal light. The final room is a lounge area with a table, couches and another tv.

2. This is the best red eye travel ever. We left Nashville at 11:30p, hopped in our bunks as the bus rolled on and woke up at the venue in Virginia. Tonight when we go to sleep, we'll wake up in Indiana. Love it!

3. No pooping allowed. There's a toilet on the bus, but it's for number one only. If you gotta go, you either have to have the driver pull over at a gas station or just wait it out. I prefer the latter.

4. It's frigid in here! Most bands like to keep their busses really cold (like 60's) to cut down on the inevitable germs that are being passed by as many as 12 adults in a crammed space. I always have to pack sweatshirts and wool socks to stay warm through the night.

5. Everyone celebrates a Junk Bunk. If the bus is not full to capacity, the top bunks are designated as Junk Bunks which allow us to put our bags and junk away. Otherwise, they get scattered around our already small space (the Jars guys call the bags left out, "shenanigans"). We have 2 Junk Bunks this time around!

The Friday Five: Must-See Documentaries

I have a deep love for documentaries, especially for the way they teach me and expand my worldview. Here are five must-see documentaries to add to your Netflix queue. 1. Urbanized


By 2050, 75% of the world's population will be living in an urban dwelling. This film takes you through several cities around the globe, exposes the challenges and opportunities in urban planning, and reminds us how geography affects how we live.

2. Food, Inc


Do you know where your food comes from? Before seeing this film in 2009, I didn't know and I didn't really care. Be forewarned: this film might change your purchasing, cooking and eating choices in your life. It certainly did in mine.

3. Mad Hot Ballroom


NYC middle-school kids + ballroom dancing lessons = Delightful

4. Buck


A man who was abused as a child spends his adult life traveling the nation with a horse training program, debunking the belief that animals must be beaten to be tamed. This is the story of the real horse whisperer who demonstrates a supernatural ability to calm even the wildest of horses.

5. Under African Skies


On the 25th anniversary of his best selling album,Graceland , Paul Simon returns to South Africa and reflects on his controversial musical collaboration during the height of apartheid. This film explores the moral and artistic collision of rhythm, race, politics and identity, woven by Simon's musical genius and vision.

Which documentaries do you recommend?