Top 11 Facts of My Life from 2011

Since I pretty much abandoned this blog the last year, I’ve decided to do a quick summary of some facts from 2011. I’ll probably think of many more down the road, like the minute I hit “publish”, so might add to this later.

(Drum roll, please…)

1.  I took a job at a national park in Africa. Virunga National Park and Congo, to be specific. I’ve always wanted to work in the bush, see wild animals everyday, commune with nature…that sort of thing. I can’t say this is exactly what I imagined, but it may be the closest I ever get. I see monkeys every day. I could see gorillas every day if I made the effort. I don’t exactly commune with nature unless peeing outdoors counts.

This is the view from my office at Virunga National Park in Congo.

2.  I lived in a tent for a year (minus the month of June and part of December). Yes, dear brother Steve…a TENT. OK, OK, I also had housekeepers who made my bed, cleaned the tent, and did my laundry, but we don’t have to talk about that.

Home Sweet Home: my tent for the last year.

3.   I have peed outdoors and in a bucket more than in a toilet this year. Yes, this is scary but true. (Sorry, no photo of this my friends)

4.  I had my photos published in numerous newspapers and hundreds of websites, including the Guardian, National Geographic, MSNBC, The Times London, and NPR. I thoroughly enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame.

The full two-page spread in The Guardian on the baby gorilla rescued from poachers by Virunga National Park rangers.

5.  I slept on the rim of a volcano, and stood less than 500 meters from another erupting volcano. It was totally cool.

Nyamulagira Volcano erupts just 500 meters away.

6.  Saw critically endangered mountain gorillas in the wild for the first time. One stole and ate my scarf. I have this picture to prove it.

A gorilla eats my scarf.

7.  Raised money for the widows of rangers killed at Virunga National Park. Over 130 killed since 1996, and 11 this year.

Two rangers were killed and 7 others wounded in a serious attack on the Rumangabo-Goma road on July 29. Michel's widow, Valeri, grieves for her husband at the funeral. This was the 11th ranger killed in 2011.

8.  Finally got the chance to do some design work and love it. LOVE it. I learned a lot, and think I improved some.

9.  Stayed in Congo during their elections…one of the few expats who braved it. And Congo did well with very little violence.

10.  I passed the two year mark of the death of my sister Yvonne and although I miss her more than words can describe, it has become easier and I don’t cry much anymore.


11.  I met and worked with some amazing people (gorilla doctors, rangers, widows, humanitarian workers, some very tall Dutch men, my one-and-only female co-worker, our warden, and many more). I did not meet the man of my dreams, but am still hopeful.

Best wishes to all of you for 2012!


  1. Cathy Cadd 3 January 2012 at 2:17 am #

    You have had an amazing year and we thank you for sharing it with us. Loved all the stories you have told. Living through you cause I wont ever live in Africa like you do. Seeing all kinds of marvelous things for you in 2012. Cathy

  2. qcheryl 3 January 2012 at 4:47 am #

    LuAnne, this past year I’ve been reading your posts at What an amazing challenge you have taken on! Thank you for the intelligent comments, and the fantastic pictures. I hope 2012 is a wonderful year for you.

  3. Cindy Benson 3 January 2012 at 5:36 am #

    Hi LuAnne! Great post! No one can beat that for a reflection on 2011! Amazing life you lead and fantastic photos! Wow! May the new year be a wonderful one for you and the rest of your family. I love the picture of you and Yvonne. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years now. Blessings, Cindy

  4. Anita Keij 3 January 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Very cool, LuAnne, thank you for sharing! 2011 was good and 2012 hopefully even better! All my best, Anita

    • lcadd 3 January 2012 at 7:20 pm #

      Thanks so much Anita! See you soon.

  5. Tami 10 January 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Amazing LuAnne, Thank you for sharing your year with us!

  6. molly 18 January 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    I hardly ever use the toilet at Virunga either. Glad I’m not the only one giving the full moon on those rainy nights!

  7. Susan 31 January 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    Watch out for those very tall Dutch men – I speak from experience! Love your blog(s)!
    Susan Kalkhuis-Beam

    • lcadd 1 February 2012 at 10:28 am #

      Haha. You certainly do! It feels like the Dutch are taking over here. And man, are they arrogant! (in a funny sort of way). They have a regular comedic routine (although they will say in all seriousness that they mean every word) where they tell you that the Dutch invented everything. Everything. Right down to baseball and apple pie and Jesus.

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