A New Rhythm


This was a juvenile male of the family who I called my handsome boy

As cliche as it might sound, pretty much as soon as we landed in Kigali the popular 80’s song, (you all know it), “Africa” by the band Toto was on repeat in my head. There was even a day I jokingly played it on my phone while we were on safari in the Akagera Game Reserve.

It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you.

There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do.

I bless the rains down in Africa…

Don’t you lie to me, I know you’re all now singing it either in your head or out loud. It’s okay, this is a safe space; I am a huge fan of this song myself. It’s interesting that an almost comical song has become such a classic. For me, it really inspires me. It’s also one of those songs that when it comes on the radio, you turn it up and sing along! It’s really hard to be in a bad mood while this song is on.  More than anything, this song makes me want to go back to Africa very badly.

Good Vibrations

The trip to and from Rwanda was about 40 hours one way. This sounds long, which it was, but I was too excited to be tired on the way there. As I stepped off the plane in Kigali and my boots met the ground, my entire body was buzzing, almost like the energy from the Earth itself was transferring to me through my shoes. This was my first trip to the African continent, and I’m determined that it will be the first of many to come. I swear, the magic of it’s energy hummed through me on our whole trip.

The Rwandan people, greatly added to this good energy. I liked them immediately; it was hard not to! They are such friendly and warm people, and my friend Anne, who I met on this trip, perfectly described their smiles as their entire face smiling. You cannot help but smile back, and feel the good vibes from these incredible people. They work hard, love hard, and have bravely endured some of the most harrowing events before, during, and after the Rwandan Genocide.


We met Iman on the street and he gave us a tour of a local market in this small village we stopped at for gas

It inspired me to be a much better version of myself after meeting the Rwandan people. I have been through my own traumatic events and trials in life, but can never compare to the things they struggle with on a daily basis. I want to be a much more positive person and help spread that love and good energy to others. Keep those good vibrations going.

I Bless the Rains

Water. It’s essential for all life. Yet, it’s something that I take for granted here in the United States. I am so privileged to have clean, drinkable water available to me always. It’s not like I have never known how lucky we are here, but going to Rwanda my eyes were quickly opened when I realized I needed to have a bottle of water on me at all times so I could drink.

The kids would always wave and yell at us through our open windows of our green Land Cruiser we traveled in with our guide, Mr. Kirenga. We learned fast that “mzungu” means “white person” in Swahili. It was often squealed by the adorable masses of kiddos in the streets who saw us. When they weren’t immediately asking for money, they would be asking for our empty water bottles so they could go fill them with water from the public wells. It soon became our mission to seek out a lone kid on the side of the road that we could toss an empty bottle to. If there was more than one kid, a fight would break out, so one child was preferred. The roads were a popular hangout, so it would never take us long to see one. They always quickly dashed and grabbed that bottle, often holding it up and jumping around triumphantly. It made my heart ache a little when I thought of the things my kids say they “need” like toys, when these kids only worry about collecting water.


These darling kids greeted us by the bamboo forest on our way to see the gorillas.

I have always loved the line in the song Africa “I bless the rains”. We often prayed and thanked God for rain (or snow) growing up in my home, but like I have said before, I grew up priveledged to never have to worry about drinkable water, and we did not live on a farm where water is needed to sustain crops.

Once I was in Rwanda, and saw with my own eyes the daily struggles many people go through to attain water for their family, it made me feel guilty for never having to worry about water where I live. Just tonight, my four-year-old son came out of his bedroom demanding his third cold drink before bed. I couldn’t help but think what some kids in Rwanda would give for even one cold drink before bed. I’m not saying I will deprive my kids of water. But I will continue to educate them and make them aware of how privileged they truly are, so that they do not take it for granted.

Music and Magic for the Soul

The magic of Africa cannot properly be described to someone who hasn’t been there. It may only be described as just that: magic. It’s a continent where many believe life first began. And today, it remains a place of majestic landscapes, people, and creatures unrivaled in most other places in the world.

I was charmed the moment I arrived. Even as I sat on a plane traveling across the Atlantic Ocean, the idea that I was going to be in a place that had long been a dream of mine to see, it didn’t feel real.

I can attest that the magic of Africa – Rwanda specifically, is in fact real. That buzzing I talked about earlier? That’s it. It comes from the earth itself, almost as if it is absorbed through your feet as they meet the ground. It is radiated by the beautiful people and their kind hearts and bright smiles. The breathtaking landscapes never ceased to amaze me, with high rolling terraced hills, and seemingly endless vibrant green tea fields. The streets lined with women and men in brightly colored native fabrics with unbelievable amounts of different items piled on their heads. I witnessed some of the world’s most incredible animals in the wild that let me tell you, is in fact NOT the same as seeing them in a zoo! I also had the extreme privilege to hike up the volcanoes and sit feet from a silverback gorilla and his family of 15 females, juvenile males, and infants. Watching them, and being so close took the literal breath from my body and is by far one of the coolest things I will ever have done. Magic.


Our group with our guide, porters, and trackers when we tracked the Chimpanzees


This cute little guy hopped aboard our boat hoping for food. He was disappointed


There are 5 million fruit bats on Napoleon Island


The handmade fabrics were unbelievable


I was never a fan of giraffes but now I am a huge one!



The green Land Cruiser we traveled in


I told him he was my handsome boy and he smiled for me


A section of the Rwandan Genocide Memorial in Kigali


The bamboo forest


Canopy Walk in Nyungwe National Park

To once again quote Toto:

“It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from you”

Just like in the song, I feel it will be hard to take the things I felt in Africa from me. The moment we landed in the US, I longed to be going back. A piece of my heart was left behind, and a piece of Rwanda replaced it. My heart, and life for that matter, have forever been changed by it. The new piece has given my heart a new rythym, a drum beat if you will. It is forever beating onward leading me to the new and better person I want to be, and to what changes I hope to make in this world.



The Raw Brunette


MK Nature Center in Boise

You know what sucks? Sinus infections. Even more so in the middle of the heat of June. Thankfully, a visit to the local Urgent Care has gotten me some meds so hopefully I will be feeling back to my normal self by tomorrow.

So, while I am sick at our temporary home here in Boise it gives me some time to sit down and write about our adventures last week to the Morris Knudsen Nature Center. It’s located on Walnut street behind the Idaho Fish and Game Headquarters. It’s also situated right on the Boise river and the green belt of the city.


The littles LOVED these fish signs!


We always have a HOOT!

The best thing about the MK Nature Center is it’s FREE! I love some good free fun, and this place offers so much. It’s 4.6 acres of gorgeous forest with an enormous pond and stream in the middle that has board walks to walk and observe the fish. They had some GIANT white sturgeon which the species itself is about 200 Million years old. My kids could not even wrap their heads around the fact that they were looking at something as old as dinosaurs. The longer one was about 7 feet long and 200 lbs!

rawbrunettemknature1rawbrunettemknature2rawbrunettemknauture3rawbrunettemknature12rawbrunettemknature13I could have watched the fish swim around all day, but my littles have much shorter attention spans. So, we kept walking along the stream walk. As you go further up, there are these cool viewing windows that give you a look under the water. There were lots of charts and signs telling us what we were looking at, and the kids really enjoyed it.


As we made our way down the stream walk, I took a tremendous fall. I was attempting to take a photo, and thought that standing on a log would help me get a better view. Unfortunately for me, the log was not stable so the moment I put my weight on it, the thing rolled from under me. My legs literally went up over my head and I landed on top of the log with my back and my elbow went directly into the ground. It hurt, but thankfully other than some nasty scrapes and bruises I am alright. I am, however, grateful that no one other than my children witnessed my epic fall! After a trip back to the visitor center and some band aids, we continued on our adventures.


Once we completed the stream walk, we visited the Butterfly Gardens, and then headed back to the visitor center where there was plenty to see and do. They had the cutest little burrowing owl named Hoots, a turtle named Splashy, and a one-eyed American Kestrel named Fiona who were outside that the kids had a good time watching for a while. A very informative employee had a table set up outside with various horns and antlers that the kids could touch and pick up. She even taught us how to tell the animals ages by counting the rings on their horns!


We finished our day exploring the inside of the visitor center which had plenty to do and see. The kids looked at the different stuffed animals who are native to Idaho. My daughter particularly loved the display about bats, since bats are one of her favorite animals. They also got to say hello to a gopher snake named George, and three adorable tiger salamanders. They made rubbings of different animals and charts, guess what skulls belonged to what animals, and even got to guess how much a newborn black bear cub weighs, (spoiler: it weighs 8 oz! I was surprised too!)

rawbrunettemknature23rawbrunettemknature22rawbrunettemknature20rawbrunettemknature19So, if you want something fun and FREE to do with the kiddos in Boise definitely visit the MK Nature Center! It did not disappoint! Now, here’s praying my meds kick in quickly and this sinus infection is soon a thing of the past!



The Raw Brunette

Wild Wonders Utah

A few weeks ago our family trekked down to Genola Utah to visit Wild Wonders Utah. I had never heard of Genola before but it was a beautiful drive into southern utah county near Goshen. I had heard about this place from my cousin who volunteers there occasionally. It was amazing! They have a great variety of animals that we were able to interact with, which my kids thought was the coolest ever.


We had a great time and I definitely recommend it! If you’d like to visit them, make a reservation here

One thing I really enjoyed and made our experience so much better was the dedication and love that these people have for each and every animal that they care for. Most of these animals have been rescued or taken from people who thought they could have them as pets. A lot of them will never be able to be returned to the wild because of that.

My most favorite part was petting the foxes! They were so sweet and super soft. My daughter is OBSESSED with foxes so she was in total heaven! I also faced my fears and put that snake around my neck! I was proud of myself for doing it, and it actually felt really cool. Snakes are surprisingly heavy!  Go and check out Wild Wonders Utah! You will not regret it!