Featured Image

Bad Lighting, Crappy Mirrors and Having No Idea What You Look Like


Some say girls like mirrors. It’s nice to be able to look into a mirror and see if you have mud or food on your face. Or a boogger in your nose. Or some weird growth. It’s nice to have a full length mirror: to see how your outfit’s looking, to check if you sat in dirt and to check if you’re gaining or losing weight.

Many places I’ve been in Africa have not had mirrors! In America, it seems that they are everywhere. Certainly everyone has at least one decent one in their home, and I’ve always had several. read more

Featured Image

2 Weeks of Poverty – Completed…

Well. I finished my 14 days of poverty: living on 2$ a day. I originally thought I would/could blog during that time, but it just didn’t work out. But here I am. And here’s the update. (When I say 1$, I’m also saying 100 Kenyan Shillings, usually that’s pretty close to the exchange rate.) Read the intro to this experiment here.

Two Dollars a Day for 2 Weeks

Things I learned about while living on 2 dollars a day:

  • You don’t get to have your comforting foods
  • You’ll be staying home more because you can’t afford the transport
  • It’s hard to have a social life because you can’t pay for a motorcycle, you can’t go out to eat/drink and you don’t have enough food at home to entertain
  • Keep the lights out when you can: because you can’t afford all that much electricity
  • You better not have to go to the doctor, because that will definitely put you over budget
  • I finally get why people don’t buy the larger supply and save the money per weight: because they just don’t have the money. Period.
  • read more

    Featured Image

    Two Weeks of Poverty

    In a way I feel like a pretentious, privleged fool for doing this. In another way, I feel like I have to.

    Featured Image

    Patiently Waiting Hours or Days (or Longer) for Something You Want…

    I’m Coming…

    In 2016 my friend Joelle and I were to go hiking up Wanale Hill in Mbale Uganda and camp for the night at the top with two local guides (read that story here), who I was also friends with. We were to meet at 1 pm at a local cafe/bar and we’d start the hike. Joelle and I got there around 1 pm. I called one of the guys around 1:10 pm telling him “we’re here and ready”, he said he’d be there soon. The gentlemen finally arrived at 4 pm. 3 hours after we were to meet, and all the while, the guy was telling me he was “coming”.

    Boy was I angry and impatient during those 3 hours. My expectations were certainly not met. Around 2 and a half hours of waiting I asked Joelle if we should cancel. I felt so out of control just WAITING for people who are clearly not “coming”. But, to cancel would be to pass on the chance to camp over night at the top of this beautiful cliff next to waterfall.

    “Nakuja”, translates directly in English to “I’m coming”, but beware. If you hear either “nakuja” or “I’m coming” in Kenya or Uganda, it doesn’t actually mean that they are on their way, as we would interpret in America. It means “it’s on my mind that my intention is to eventually get to where you are”. If someone says their coming, you should ask “how many minutes or hours until you come?” But then realize, that is probably less than accurate but it’s still better than an undefined “I’m coming”. read more

    Featured Image

    Why I Haven’t Been Blogging or Posting Much

    First, What I’ve Been Up To:

    Teaching Reading to Struggling Readers at an Elementary School

    I’ve been teaching reading to some struggling readers at an elementary school, grades 4-7. I did this for one week before they had a 3 week break. This last week it started up again. I’m excited to get it going again. There’s a boy in 7th grade who doesn’t know the alphabet. I’m working with him one on one. He is making progress and I’m hopeful for him.

    Another interesting thing is Grades 4 and 5 don’t speak English well enough for me to teach them in English. So… I’m trying to do the class mostly in Swahili! So that has been interesting and fun.

    Featured Image

    Fear and Courage

    I learned a whole lot about courage and fear in 2016. In 2016 I was in my early 30s and for the first time really pushing myself past fear.

    Why does that matter? Why push past fear? Why not just live a simple life and do simple things? It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that I really started to do courageous things. Sure I had moved around and got far from home and moved to Boston with no job, but none of that scared me. I once had a friend who told me he loved doing scary stuff. He loved the feeling in his stomach when he was nervous. I didn’t get that at the time. I’m still not sure I get that.

    Everybody struggles with fear of some type, to some degree. Completely normal and human. I have a friend who struggles with fear in class. She’s afraid to speak up. She’s afraid to raise her hand to answer questions in class. She’s afraid to ask questions in class. She says she’s afraid of failure, or saying the wrong thing and being seen as stupid or dumb. She doesn’t even want to risk it. She’s paralyzed by the social anxiety. The fear of rejection I suppose.

    But when we push ourselves through a fear, even when small, when we’re courageous even in everyday things, we become more brave. Brave people aren’t born, they’re formed by the courageous choices they make. Courage starts with raising your hand in class.

    I know another guy that has been working a low paying job with bad managers for decades. He doesn’t like the job but he’s afraid of finding another job. It’s easier for him to put up with the job than to get past the fear of trying something new.

    I wasn’t afraid of going to Africa. People expected me to be, and other people were afraid for me but I had no fear of the general idea. But I sure did have some moments of fear later on.

    Journey to the “Scary” City

    When I was in Uganda, I wanted to go to Kampala, the capital city. I had been in Uganda for about 3 weeks and it seemed very safe and comfortable. But I was in a small town. Kampala was a big city. I’d have to take a bus or a 18 passenger van/taxi (called matatu in Swahili). I’d have to go alone. I asked a couple of friends if they wanted to go but they were both tired of travelling. I got lots of encouragement from them though, saying it’s very safe, lots of people do it and they’ve done it in the past too. I sure wasn’t going to stay in the small town all weekend when I wanted to see this city.
    kampala intersection
    I took a matatu. I got dropped off in the busiest taxi park in East Africa, right in downtown Kampala, City Centre. Turns out no one in my taxi could really speak English but it all turned out and I got to where I wanted to go. I was going to walk to the Pacific Hotel, which I HIGHLY recommend if you’re a budget traveler type. (Read about my time there here.) I drew a map on a little piece of paper, from my travel guide, on how to get from the taxi park to my hotel. I was going to have to walk through a little bit of madness to get there. Lots of people. People selling stuff, people buying stuff, people walking, people loitering. I never have been a crowd person. I like it when strangers are at least 3 feet away. That’s not Kampala. I’m a muzungu girl alone, I got lots of hollers, but I kept marching on to the hotel. I had my huge backpack and I was scared. I had no idea what might happen.

    Someone grabbed my arm. I flung it off and kept walking without even looking what they were doing. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I wasn’t too worried about how I got grabbed. Not necessarily a violent criminal, could have just been a fool with no sense of manners. Potential crisis or potential bad manners averted with a quick flick of the arm. Thanks Krav Maga! (I did take about 8 classes in Krav Maga.) In this downtown Kampala area, City Centre, I probably walked through and past 3,000 people to get to the hotel. I’m also really bad at estimating numbers like that. It was noisy. It was scary. Here I was in a big African city, something that people in America told me to BE VERY AFRAID of. I was scared! But I was determined. My porcupine needles were out. Well I got to the hotel and it was SOOOO peaceful as soon as I walked in. It was like heaven. Once I was in the hotel, I could drop my big bag and use a much more manageable messenger bag. I bought a cold beer (yay!!!) from the bar, opened my balcony door, laid on my bed and figured out what I was going to do in Kampala! Craft shopping, walking to the mall, checking out makeup stores, eating amazing Indian food on a rooftop and seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the theater. What a fabulous day. What a fabulous weekend. I love Kampala, I love that downtown area that I was afraid of at first. I love riding buses and matatus. I never would have known that if I hadn’t pushed myself past the fear.

    Avoiding Death and Avoiding Life on a Motorcycle

    Motorcycle deaths are the number one cause of death for westerners in the third world. For this reason, I refused to ride a motorcycle. I thought and even told people “that’s not how I want to die!” I felt that I was making the safe and wise decision and preventing some tragedy. Well I sure changed my tune! I LOVE riding motorcycles!!! What an amazing joy to ride on the back of a motorcycle with your hair whipping around and beautiful, Africa, not just 360 degrees around you, but a whole SPHERE of beauty, how many ever degrees that is. Mwwaaah!! (Huge blowing a kiss sound). My first ride was with a very nice teacher that I already knew that just happened to be passing me in the evening. If I hadn’t taken the ride I probably wouldn’t have reached home (on foot) until it was already dark. (There are many reasons why you shouldn’t be out after dark in Africa. Will you die the second the sun goes down? No, but you might trip on a rock or stump that you didn’t see!) Well, I told him to go slow and safe and that I was very scared. He did a great job. But, I definitely didn’t really enjoy that ride because I was completely wrapped up in my fear and constantly was thinking about DYING!

    Later on, thanks to lots of young Westerners riding bodas (boda boda is the name for a motorcycle taxi in Uganda), I had some good peer pressure. It must have took about 10 or 15 boda rides for me to finally lighten up and enjoy the ride, rather than watching every bump in the road, every passing car and imagining what could go wrong. So glad I finally got to that point, where I could just sit and enjoy the beauty and breeze.

    My best ride was around Otaro and Lake Victoria in Homa Bay County in Kenya. My pikipiki (the name for motorcycle taxis in Kenya) driver, Bonvencha, was great. Bonvencha took me out on several adventures. To a hot spring (not the kind you can swim in!) in the hills. For “my best ride”, we went to a crater lake. Legend has it there is a whole village down there, that was drowned due to the wrath of a witch who was mistreated by the village. That’s where I saw flamingos in the wild for the first and so far last time. We also just drove all around the countryside and it was just stunning. And the dirt road was real nice and smooth too, so that helped! (Bad roads are much less fun.)

    Crazy Ladder to Beauty

    There was this crazy ladder. CRAZY. This is National Geographic type stuff and it sure looks like it could collapse and someone could get seriously injured. When I first saw the ladder, I said, “Guys, if I knew about this ladder, I probably wouldn’t have come.”

    But everyone’s climbing up. If all your friends tell you to climb up a crazy ladder, are you going to? Well, it’s not just my friends though. The community does use this ladder. The people living on Wanale Hill are much more traditional than the city of Mbale, Uganda below. I don’t know how many people live on the hill, but it’s estimated (by my Mbale friends and I) that at least 100 people a day climb up the ladder. Everyday. So, the odds of it collapsing when I, in particular, am on it, is low.

    But on the other side of that ladder was the top of the mountain, (yes, I’m using mountain and hill interchangeably, I come from flat lands). Past the ladder was the waterfall. Past the ladder is where my friends were going. Past the ladder was where you can see for miles and miles and miles. My friends helped me and encouraged me. I climbed the ladder. It was thrilling. The other side was SPECTACULAR. I ended up going up the ladder 3 times. It was scary every time, but it was SOOOO worth it.

    My life has been so much more fulfilling and I enjoy it so much more when I’m brave. I’m still not brave 100% of the time, but when I am there sure are a lot of rewards. I’m choosing to live a more courageous life and I think you should too!!
    uganda wanale

    At the end of it all…

    Some of the stuff I mentioned, really does have a risk of dying. But in LIFE, there is a risk of dying. And not just a RISK but it is an INEVITABILITY. I still believe in being safe and being smart and wise. But I also think that life really gets beautiful and full when we take risks and try new things.

    I do want to give a disclaimer: if you have a bad feeling about something or your gut tells you that something isn’t right. Listen to that. It’s not easy to discern the difference between your gut and fear, but try to listen.

    What are your thoughts on fear? Do you have some stories about being brave or maybe about passing up an opportunity due to fear? I’d love to hear your guys’ thoughts on fear and courage! Tell me about them in the comments below.

    Featured Image

    What My Messy Hair Means to Me

    Lately, I’ve been getting some slack about my messy hair. After 6 months adventuring around the world, doing and experiencing things you never could have imagined, your priorities and beliefs change! How I feel about my physical appearance and how to present it has been one of those things. I don’t want to look like a slob, I want to look pretty (I’m still single!) but I’m choosing an unconventional hairstyle. I actually feel prettier when my hair is messy. When my hair is brushed, blow dried and polished, I feel like I’m pretending to be someone I’m not.

    Here’s some of the reasons I like my messy hair:

    Happy, Pretty Girl with Messy Hair
    Messy hair means I’m having to much fun enjoying life to care about my hair or look in the mirror.
    It means I’m not overly concerned with my appearance.
    It makes me feel like I’ve been at the beach or on the farm.
    It makes me feel like an adventurous hippy (or hippie).
    Reminds me of days riding around on motorcycles with no helmet.
    The tangles give my hair more volume.
    Sometimes I can obsess about my looks. Forgetting about my hair seems like a step in the right direction.
    After teaching swimming lessons my hair is often a mess. Sometimes I forget to bring a comb. Messy hair and messy hair is a sign that I’ve been improving lives by teaching the safe, beautiful and fun skill of swimming!
    I don’t know, it just makes me happy!!

    For the record, I usually do run a comb through it at least once or twice a day! But I usually say no to blow drying, heated straightening or curling.

    This is from a girl who used to straighten her hair and was in distress when a cowlick wouldn’t lay down or a kink wouldn’t straighten. A girl who used to think her hair was her best chance at being beautiful.

    Messy hair makes me feel more beautiful and happy so that’s how it’s going to be!
    Happy, Pretty Girl with Messy Hair
    This post is dedicated to my grandma Portia and my cousin Aubrey and anybody else who thinks I need to comb my hair. 🙂 Also to anyone who also wants to embrace the messy hair life and the naysayers they may encounter!

    Featured Image

    Update and Reflections

    Well I felt that my blog needed a little update. A little something to tie people over for several more months until something exciting happens. I’d love to write more about life lessons that I’m learning from the whole career change, but I’m still learning them. And…. I’m not digging writing at the moment and I’m not liking my writing as well. Another thing is, I’m kind of a private person so I debate what I should say or not say and then the articles are just half finished for months.

    laurie scharp apple lgta

    Me and an amazingly delicious apple.

    So for the past several months I’ve been in Lincoln, Nebraska, teaching swimming (to kids and adults), doing odd jobs, making new crafts and digging my old artwork out. I’m prepping to join some local craft fairs to sell African art/crafts that I got over yonder and my own art and crafts. I’m also doing a lot of web work, some for clients, some for a new store that I’m going to be opening on the Laurie Goes to Africa website! I’m hanging out with the family and…. trying to not die of boredom and heart longing for Africa. Trying to not gain 100 pounds, trying to fight aging.

    LGtA Crafts.

    LGtA Crafts.

    The truth is I’m madly, madly in love with Africa. I specifically am having day dreams of Kenya (Kilifi and Kisii to be exact) right now. I think a lot about Uganda and Liberia too. I’d even say that 70% of my day I’m thinking about Africa. I suppose I should be a little more present. There’s just no question that I was a million times happier in Africa. I long for it so much.

    I loved so many things about Africa. The people I met, the way the air felt, the smells, the foods, the music, the architecture, the trees, the fruit, riding motorcycles with strangers and no helmets. I miss my smile. I have an African smile that’s better than all my other smiles. That was actually one of the most surprising things during my time there. When I looked at pictures of myself, my smile was just so different than it usually was in pictures. It wasn’t a “smile because we’re taking a picture” it was a real smile of a picture taken when I’m actually smiling. Now not every moment was great, I had some bad times here and there. But overall, it just felt SO GOOD.


    Nebraska Highway. The corn’s been harvested.

    I remember the emotions were so high when I was coming home. My last week in Africa was in Kisii, it was amazing and comfortable and happy. I went to Nairobi less than 24 hours before my flight. Stayed in a dirt cheap but good reviews on Trip Advisor hotel. I cared more about safety and saving money rather than cleanliness and that’s what I got. Not too bad, nice guys, central location, bed bugs. Bed bugs suck but at that point I was an expert and it was only one night. My goal was to get some crafts in downtown Nairobi. I hate wasting money on cabs so I walked it. Wasn’t too bad walking actually. I had my awesome hand drawn map that I copied out my Lonely Planet travel guide. I was scared of Nairobi at first, then realized I totally had it, walked all around the very downtown center of Nairobi for about 4 hours. Tried to get my last dawa (an amazing alcoholic beverage) but it was not as good as I had hoped for. I enjoyed my last mandazis (a cross between a roll and a donut) and went to this amazing craft market and got tons of awesome African crafts which I’m a SUCKER for. I was just thinking “these are my last days”. My last hours. I soaked it in. I soaked everything in. I’m sure I cried a bit but I don’t recall. I knew I had to come back. No question about it. I have to go back and I want to stay for as long as possible!!!!!

    There are many less adventures in Nebraska. I’m driving around a lot. Watching Netflix and other tv shows while making crafts and organizing. I found that the Lincoln Nebraska Police Officers are super attractive. I’m learning Swahili using online tools and books. Ninasoma Kiswahli sasa. If anyone wants to be my tutor, contact me!

    kisii kids

    The kids of Kisii.

    I don’t really know where I’ll go back to. I’m open to many places really, there’s still at least 5 more African countries I’d be super excited to see. But I do have some feelings for Kenya. I do for Uganda too but they don’t have an ocean. I also want to see the Kisii orphanage kids again in Kenya. There’s a lot of talk right now that it’s not good for Westerner’s to visit/volunteer at orphanages (that’s a whole other conversation). I can see the concern, but I’m SO glad for my time there and I’m going to do my damnedest to visit again!

    So right now it’s 43 deg F, 6 deg C. That’s too cold! But it’s just the start of it. We will probably experience temperatures down to -10 deg F, -23 C. That’s just wrong. I don’t want do winter! My hands get so cold even in the fall. Thats’s another reason I love sub-Saharan Africa – doesn’t get too cold. I can’t want to experience a full dry and full rainy season in one place. I experienced a little bit of both but not enough to say I really “went through it”. I look forward to it. 🙂 I will be probably be buying mud boots and I’ll definitely be taking a good umbrella and rain coat. I experienced enough of the rainy season to know that.

    Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for other thrilling (or less than thrilling) adventures. And keep your eyes open for my shop! I highly suggest you like me on Facebook at Laurie Goes to Africa to see cool posts about my adventures, the lessons I’m learning and Afircan related coolness.