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!