Mary Jayne Cassidy » Travel, Development, Spiritual Growth

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On this last day of 2014, I am reflecting on the year coming to a close and preparing for the start of a new year. I had fun creating a photo collage for the year and being reminded how blessed I am to have amazing friends and family with whom I do life. There are so many not in the collage (for that, I am sorry) but I feel immeasurable gratitude for each person.

Scattered throughout the collage is, of course, my guy Dionisio …… I am so blessed to have him (and his family) in my life. He makes life sweeter.

Here are some highlights from the year:

the addition of an all-white kitty cat named Simba …… sunny days at the pool/beach and home-cooked dinner nights with our girls Thandie, Kaeoli, and Nyah …… my first rugby match with Callum and Jeyran …… the birth of my much-prayed-for niece, Emilia …… watching my oldest nephew turn 13 and enter the teenage season …… one week vacation in Cape Town (my new favorite city!) …… great white shark diving with Becky for her 40th birthday …… long weekends in Maputo with Peace Corps Ghana buddies Anthony and Stephen …… my first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner …… Blake and Alishia’s wedding in Buffalo, NY (not pictured) …… one day in Niagara Falls with Granddad, Ferris, and Marli …… an amazing vacation in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe with Dad and Jason …… and to complete the year, Christmas in Joburg with Becky and D.

Can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store. Happy New Year …… Feliz Ano Novo!




My dad and oldest brother Jason visited last month. It was Jason’s first time to Africa and Dad’s fourth (he’s such a good sport for letting me drag him around every country in which I live). Here are some of the highlights of the trip:

  • First experience with “take advantage of the tourists” at the Johannesburg airport
  • My first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner with a little assistance from Dad to prepare the turkey
  • Shopping …. lots of shopping. No one leaves Africa without some super cool gifts
  • Safaris …. so many safaris. Lots of animals. The Big 5 and half of the Little 5 (can you name the Little 5 in the comments section?)
  • And that one safari where Jason got drenched. He’s laughing about it now but at the time …..
  • The fascinating lives of dung beetles and weaver birds …. the ladies rule in those households!
  • Taking photos of animal poop. Thanks, Max, for the suggestion
  • The GoPro. Best selfie photo taker ever.
  • The 24 hour bug … a trip to Africa is never complete without someone getting violently ill for 24 hours
  • Extreme 19th golf shot from the top of a mountain. Dad double-bogied with a score of 5. Lucky shot?
  • The guys meet my guy, Dionisio
  • Near-hijack situation in Johannesburg. Kudos to Jason for his quick reflexes in the driver’s seat
  • Food …. so much food. South Africans are known for the hospitality industry. These lodges and hotels serve delicious food. 24/7.
  • Weird food too …. pizza, McDonald’s, kudu, warthog, worms
  • The Magnificent Victoria Falls … no wonder its one of the 7 Wonders
  • Riding an elephant
  • Walking with lions (who would do that?)

It was the trip of a lifetime. Many many thanks to my Dad for such an amazing opportunity.

Instead of posting photos to the blog, I’m sharing the digital version of the super cool coffee table book we made with all of our photos. Between the 3 of us, we had more than 3,000 photos and videos. I widdled it down to a couple hundred (no easy task). Obviously, this book is way better if you’re holding it in your hands. There are only 3 editions in print. You know where to find them ….













I will insert a plug here for MyPublisher where we printed the book. They are awesome! High quality books, easy to use software, and great customer service.


MJ - 18 December 2014 - 11:37 am

Oh Damas, you can’t answer!!! Of course you know. Haha :)

damas - 17 December 2014 - 10:14 pm



I started attending Northpoint Community Church after I graduated from college and moved to Atlanta. Thirteen years, two moves across the ocean, and the adoption of a new home (U.S.) state ….. I still call Northpoint my home church. Yes, its a ”mega-church” reaching like 30,000 every Sunday. Yes, Andy Stanley is like a celebrity now. Yes, the worship part of the service is a mini-rock concert. And I love every minute.

In 2004, I did a mission trip to Merida, Mexico through GlobalX. That trip initiated a passion for what would eventually become my career and life direction … international development. One year after returning from that trip, I moved to Ghana to join the Peace Corps. And the rest is history so they say.

Obviously, I don’t go to services anymore. I moved away from Atlanta 10 years ago. But I watch one of the five real-time services online on Sundays. If I miss one, I can still go back and watch the message online or listen to the podcast (which I’ve been doing recently on my long car rides across the border to South Africa). I’ve never felt too far away believe it or not. I definitely miss the fellowship and community of going to church every Sunday. And I especially miss being in a small group with 5 or 6 ladies doing life together. But I think this church is doing great things. It’s not traditional. It’s high-tech. How else could I stay connected from 10,000 miles away?

And that’s why it’s the third ad I’m adding at the bottom of my blog.



I just added another ad to the bottom of my blog. This one is for David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an organization located in Nairobi, Kenya that rescues and rehabilitates orphan elephants and rhinos in East Africa. I can spend hours on their website reading about the elephant’s stories and looking at their photo album. They keep diaries online about each of the elephants which are really fun to read.

I had the opportunity to visit the elephant orphanage in 2011 when I was in Kenya for a work trip.  I wrote a blog post about the visit. What I admired the most were the men (yes, I only saw men unfortunately) who cared for the animals. Their relationship with each of the elephants is so special. They are clearly passionate about their work.

Last year for Christmas, I fostered an elephant for my neice. She loves animals and especially elephants. My mom since then has fostered an elephant. And I foster Orok myself. I chose him because we share the same birthday (his being a few years after mine).


MJ - 14 November 2014 - 11:02 am

What an awesome gift idea for a child. Maddie used to tell her friends she has an elephant. Lol

Maggie - 14 November 2014 - 10:05 am

We had a friend (Nicole) adopt an elephant for Alden! It was the best gift! He has the watercolor print the shelter sent hanging in his room. We get monthly updates too. Such a great org!

MJ - 14 November 2014 - 8:15 am

Thanks for the comment. I’ve never met anyone who has visited who has said anything different. They are doing good work!!

Becky - 14 November 2014 - 7:18 am

I went to visit when I was in Kenya and fell in love with both the elephants and the organization. They do amazing work even for the animals that just need a vet who have been injured from poachers. Very cool of you to promote them!


I have a few guilty pleasures … magazines are one of them.

I love that magazines come in a variety of topics … art, photography, fashion, healthy living, cooking, celebrity gossip, world news, etc… The magazine section is my favorite at the book store (it’s the most colorful!). Reading a magazine is a shorter commitment than reading a book. Don’t get me wrong. I love reading books also. But magazines have current information that is relevant and tailored to a topic that interests me. I appreciate how they are designed and the layout of each page. I skip the stories I’m not interested in … and I don’t feel guilty about it. Unlike TV advertisements, I actually enjoy magazine advertisements. I recently read this article about 10 reasons marketers love magazines. Makes sense.

Here’s the thing, though …. I don’t subscribe to magazines. I’ve subscribed to magazines in the past. But it stresses me out when I receive a new issue and I haven’t read the previous one. I never know what to do with them after I’ve finished reading them. I tear out recipes that I want to try, but that’s about all I can think to do with a magazine. If I had kids, I would do some kind of paper collage project or something. In the US, I recycle old magazines, of course. But even that makes me feel environmentally conscience. I’m the person who takes the time to call every store that sends me a catalog to take me off the list. I know it might not reduce the number of catalogs they print, but at least I’m not getting one in the mail that I don’t have to throw out. We don’t have a recycling system in Moz, so the magazines just pile up under my coffee table. Such a waste!

I bought a mini iPad last Christmas. I honestly haven’t found too many uses for the thing. And then I discovered Zinio.

Now I can subscribe to magazines without my tree-hugger self feeling guilty. I can read them when I have time. For some reason I don’t feel guilty when I receive a new issue before reading the previous one because I know I will eventually read it when I have time (most likely my next 24 hour flight to the US).

I haven’t gone overboard (yet). I’ve only subscribed to 5 magazines so far. If all of those were coming to me in the mail, however, I would be stressed. I’ve even subscribed to the one magazine that I’ve never allowed myself to pay for (except at the airport about to board an airplane) … People!

What magazines do you read?

MJ - 10 November 2014 - 9:55 pm

I will check out those magazines, Buddy. It was great to see you also. Thanks for helping me out with the luggage logistics. :)

Buddy McElhannon - 10 November 2014 - 9:53 pm

Frankly the answer is far too many. I too struggle with the guilt of receiving the current month’s magazine having yet to read the previous month…or two.

My favorites include a variety: Southern Living, SALVO, WORLD, Plugged In, First Things. Most have online versions and I keep up with many that way.

it was good to see you this past visit!

MJ - 10 November 2014 - 8:31 am

Amelia, that is exactly what I was thinking!! I haven’t tried it yet but I think it will perfectly.

Amelia - 10 November 2014 - 8:02 am

I like this idea. I could pin straight to Pinterest, rather than have any pages laying around – on my desk, my nightstand, my cookbook holder, etc.