Becoming a Homeowner, Pt 2

Note: This part of the series was written in mid-August. Again, if long and rambly posts on home buying/life updates are not your deal, feel free to skim or skip!


So this has been one fairly eventful week. It all culminates in an update on the home buying front, but there are some other life details thrown in there, because buying a home isn’t supposed to be straightforward, is it?

At the start of this week, I was thinking it would be business as usual in our disgustingly hot apartment in New West. I figured it would be lots of working from Starbucks (I need their AC), wee pup walks and absolutely no travel or home updates. Clearly, I was wrong.

We actually decided to leave New West for a bit and headed out to Kelowna to visit Colin’s brother Kyle, his girlfriend, Corbie, and their brand new baby, Jordan.

I hadn’t been to Kelowna since 2012 when I went up for Residence Advisor Orientation at the UBC-Okanagan campus. To be fair, this should barely count as visiting Kelowna since we never left campus. I’ve been up to Kelowna three times before this and every single time I only saw UBCO. So this trip was a nice change.

It was a bit of a trek up to Kelowna, but we had our awesome road trip playlist, wee pup snuggles and a really good chat about life and money. I read somewhere that the best time to have serious conversations with a guy is when he’s driving. He’s in his element, he’s able to focus on the road, he doesn’t have to look directly at you and you’re not distracted by anything since it’s just the two of you. Turns out, that advice held true. Colin and I were able to have some really good talks about our money issues/goals, mental health, plans for the future, potential wedding ideas, etc.

Once up in Kelowna, we spent some awesome time visiting with Kyle, Corbie, Jordan and Kyle’s first son, Jaxon. Their house was awesome, as was the pool and the cute little cabin we got to stay in. Even without air conditioning and in Kelowna’s heat, that cabin was way cooler than our apartment. We got to try some great restaurants and visit Kelowna’s downtown.

Colin and baby Jordan!

We were super excited to meet Jordan and spend some time with Kyle and Corbie. I’m glad we got to go up and see them since they won’t be down in Vancouver until late September. At that point, Jordy will be almost 2 months old. However, we did feel like we were in the way sometimes. I really wanted to help out with the baby but it seemed like often, the best thing for us to do was just to give them some space.

All in all, it was a great trip. While in Kelowna, we also came across an awesome flight deal. And by “we” I mean that I saw the deal on Facebook and clicked through to the booking website, confirming with Colin once I had it all loaded up.

Colin and I have been wanting to get back to Europe for a while now. He visited in high school and I was there on exchange in 2014. We had talked about doing a big Europe trip in 2018. However, with all the talk of home buying, we assumed we’d have to postpone it.

But then, this amazing flight deal fell into our laps. Colin was a bit hesitant, but even he couldn’t argue with savings like this. Plus, it’s nine months away so we have lots of time to save and plan. So we officially booked flights to Ireland! We’ll be flying roundtrip from Vancouver to Dublin, April 9-19 for only $344 per person! How insane is that?

We’re stoked on the trip. Neither of us has been to Ireland before and we both have a bit of Irish in our bloodline. I would’ve wanted to stay for 2-3 weeks to see more of Europe, but I know Colin is worried about the cost. To be fair, I should be more worried about the cost so 10 days is probably the right move. We’ll spend all of it in Ireland and have an amazing time drinking beer, driving through the Irish cliffs and praying for sun.

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Can’t wait to see this in Ireland next April!

So we got Kelowna and Ireland – what more could we want out of a week? Oh, that’s right – something related to home ownership (the title of this post!).

Just before we left for Kelowna, Colin and I booked an appointment with a mortgage professional in Vancouver. I was excited about it because this is the first step we’ve taken in actually getting this househunt off of our internet browsers and into the real world. But it was also super scary. Colin remarked that we could be packing for Ireland from a new house that we OWN. Ahhhhh!

Another scary part of the mortgage meeting was filling out the online form and getting real about our finances. I’ve recently written about talking money with your SO and realize it’s something Colin and I are going to need to do if we are planning a future together. It was eye opening to see where we both were and what concerns we had.

There was also the controversy of meeting with a mortgage professional. In my research (articles I’ve found online and podcasts I’ve listened to), it seems that mortgage professionals are the way to go. They specialize in mortgages, have relationships with multiple lenders and can usually get you a better interest rate than you could get at your bank. Plus, like a realtor, they are free for buyers to work with. So what could be wrong?

Well, turns out not everyone is into that strategy. My mom immediately nixed the idea when I told her over text. She touted a friend of hers who had gone the same route and got screwed. After I explained my research findings, she softened to the idea a bit. She still wanted me to work with someone based on a personal recommendation. I get where she is coming from – it would be awesome to have a friend recommend a mortgage broker to us. But it might not be possible. We just don’t have that many friends buying homes. And personally, I prefer to go with the stats and research I am finding online over an anecdotal story from a friend who had a good or bad experience.

Colin’s mom also pushed back against the mortgage professional idea. She wants us to get a mortgage through a bank – specifically, her bank. Colin explained the research we had done but she still thinks her bank is best. And, seeing as she just bought and sold a home with them, I can see why. She has a great relationship with her bank and believes that she can use that to help us get a great deal. I’m less sure.

So all that to say, we are still meeting with our mortgage professional on Monday. But we haven’t signed anything yet and we’re not committed to her. We’ll likely take a meeting at Colin’s mom’s bank as well. It won’t hurt to try out a few avenues and see what is what.

And lastly, another big whopper on the house front: our down payment number changed. So all along, we have been counting on Margie (Colin’s mom) to help us out with our down payment. At first, we thought the money was a gift but now we understand it’s an investment. We still have to figure out all of the paperwork on that front. Our plan was to use her investment, possibly a bit of money from my parents, some of our savings and then the first time home buyers program to put together a pretty good sized down payment. 

Well, Margie just informed Colin on the phone that her contribution to our down payment was going to be more. Significantly more. So much more that we ran the numbers on some of our potential mortgage payments and they were laughable. I’m talking less than $600 for a monthly mortgage payment!

So obviously, this is a game changer. It’s way more money than we were expecting and it really could shake things up for us. Now, more than ever, do I want all of us to sit down and put this stuff in writing. Often, it’s Colin talking to his mom on the phone and then trying to relay as much of the information as he can back to me once they hang up. So it’s time to get things in writing once we meet in person. Of course, I want Margie’s investment to be protected. And I also want to make sure Colin and I are being fair to ourselves and our future. And I think it would be good to chat and get everything out in the open. It seems like the information we glean from her changes all the time – so it’s about time for us to be direct, sit down and talk like adults doing business.

We’re not quite sure what that sum of money means. Would she be signing the mortgage with us? Because if she does, we don’t qualify for the first time home buyers program. Is that bad? Or are we taking out a second mortgage with her? Colin said she mentioned something about a 0% mortgage we could do. How does this impact our other mortgage? How do we determine her investment pay off once we sell? Can we now start looking at higher priced properties because we have a larger down payment? Or should we continue looking at our current price range and just drive down our monthly payments/pay off the mortgage sooner?

So many questions! Basically, all of this new home ownership stuff has just resulted in a ton of questions. I’m hoping we can get most of them answered soon. I have phone calls planned with my parents for this weekend. I want to share all of this with them and get their opinion. Plus, if they were planning to contribute, as a gift or a loan or an investment, I’d love to know the number going into our meeting with the mortgage professional. Colin is also trying to get a ballpark figure from his mom so we have that information. He’s going to the bank with her on Tuesday but our meeting is on Monday.

And then I’m hoping everything else will get answered soon after that. I’m hoping our mortgage professional can answer a lot of questions at our meeting. And I’m hoping we can book a meeting with Margie’s bank this week and sit down with her to figure out all of the details. It’s scary! Things are really starting to move. The process is happening and the puzzle pieces are starting to fit together. Wish us luck!

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Five Days in Frisco

Colin and I just got back from “frolicking in Frannie” – our trip to San Francisco!

We’ve been looking forward to SF for a while now. I bought Colin tickets to the SF production of Hamilton (our musical obsession) way back in December when they went on sale. I gave him the tickets for his birthday in March and we’ve been planning our trip ever since. Even though this was my third time to San Francisco, I discovered there was still so much to see and do. I love the city by the bay and if I had to move to an American city, it would probably be this one!

Here’s an overview of our five days full of Frisco!

Day 1:

We arrived on Friday after what felt like a full day of skytrains, getting through customs, flying and finally taking an Uber to our hotel. We don’t have Uber in Vancouver so we were psyched to use it in SF. Once we arrived at the Fisherman’s Wharf Marriott (we scored an awesome deal on Priceline), we headed right down to the wharf for a famous bread bowl of clam chowder. Colin LOVED the Boudin Bakery sourdough!

If you squint, you can see apx 6 sea lions behind us

After dinner, we walked over to Pier 39 to see the sea lions and the shops. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many sea lions in the summer. And then it was back to our hotel for a change of clothes – I still can’t believe how chilly it gets in SF! We were in California in July and I was freezing in long pants and a sweater. We put on our warmest and headed out for ice cream sundaes at Ghiradelli’s. We both forgot that we are pretty lactose intolerant so those sundaes didn’t sit too well.

Day 2:

Started our next day with brunch at a nearby diner. After that we headed to Pier 41 where the Alcatraz cruises depart. Unfortunately, we had not booked ahead and were informed that the next available tour wasn’t until August 20th (this was July 15). Whoops! So instead we headed for Coit Tower. Google Maps said it was a 12 minute walk. They neglected to mention that it was also 450 steps up to the base of the tower. My legs were DEAD! Luckily, to get up Coit Tower itself you take an elevator, so my legs got a break. The views were awesome! It’s a San Francisco landmark I’ve always known about but this was the first trip I actually went to visit it.

View from the top! With a foggy Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

Coit Tower!

After taking in the view we walked back down the hill and hung out in Washington Square admiring a beautiful church while we waited on a table at Tony’s. 30 minutes later we were enjoying a delicious wood-fire pizza and a giant meatball. YUM!

We didn’t go for a ride but we did pose next to a cable car – that counts, right?

From there we decided to walk through Chinatown to Union Square, taking in lots of SF sights. We took a break at the Starbucks in Macy’s after doing some window shopping. Next was an impromptu wardrobe change when we went to Target and bought new outfits. And then we took an Uber over to West Portal where my friend, Robert, is a chef at a little diner. We had a delicious dinner there and then visited crooked Lombard Street before getting back to our hotel. It was a busy day!

Hello, Lombard!

Day 3:

Day 3 was our Golden Gate day! We started our visit on Baker Beach with awesome views of the Golden Gate Bridge. I wish we had thought to bring a blanket and a picnic so we could have enjoyed it more. Then we moved on to Sutro Baths, another SF first for me. These are the ruins of old public baths that existed in SF before the 1906 earthquake. There were also awesome lookout points, caves and Seal Rock (with sadly, no seals).

From there we drove over to Golden Gate Park (which is actually nowhere close to the bridge). We walked around Stow Lake and saw waterfalls, gardens and the California Academy of Sciences. We had lunch in the park and then walked out on the other end into The Haight. I love this unique neighbourhood of San Francisco. Colin and I both admitted that it was probably a little too cool for us, but we appreciated walking through nonetheless.

Back at the hotel, we got changed and then went out for dinner. We headed to Surisan, a Korean fusion place by our hotel. And it was DELICIOUS! Probably the best meal we had all trip. The atmosphere and decor were really cool and all of the dishes were so tasty. With full bellies (and light wallets), we headed back to our room for the season premiere of Game of Thrones! Yes, the Marriott had HBO!

SO YUM!

Day 4:

Day 4 was my birthday! I turned the big 2-5! Unfortunately, it was also the day that I woke up with an awful head cold. I had a runny nose and watery eyes all day – it was the worst! But despite my gross-ness, we trekked out to enjoy the day. We started with breakfast at IHOP and then took the ferry across the bay to Sausalito.

Sausalito is a super cute little waterfront town with lots of great shops. I’m sure if I was feeling better I would’ve enjoyed it more. We shopped around a little and then went into a fancy restaurant for drinks and an appetizer. We took the ferry back, picked up a late lunch at the San Francisco Ferry Building (awesome food options!) and then returned to the hotel so I could have a Nyquil-induced nap.

Colin woke me around 6pm and we made our way to the Giants baseball game we had gotten tickets for. I’m not a huge baseball fan but it was the only day the Giants were playing while we were in town and live sports games are always a good time. It was a fun evening, even though I was still sniffly and the Giants lost. Back at the hotel, Colin held up a video of a candle behind a mini cheesecake for me to make a birthday wish before passing out.

Day 5:

Our last full day in San Francisco was the reason we had come in the first place: Hamilton! We started off our day by going for brunch at Mama’s in North Beach. Mama’s is a famous brunch place that, according to the lady in line in front of us, is always lined up no matter what time of day and is Michelin rated! We waited 90 mins from the time we got in line until the time food arrived on our table. Colin even went to get us pastries to tide us over while we stood in line. The food was great but, if I’m being honest, not worth the wait.

Worth the wait?

After Mama’s, we had to lie down in the park for a little while to aid in our digestion. Then it was off to walk through some neighbourhoods and explore some more. We started in the Castro where we got to see the home and camera shop of Harvey Milk. Then we walked through the Mission and Delores Park. And then we took an Uber to San Francisco City Hall – the most beautiful building! It was so gorgeous and we got to see a few couples taking their wedding photos there.

How gorgeous is this building? The inside is even prettier!

We grabbed a beer and then a quick bite before it was Hamilton time! Colin and I (and everyone else in the theatre) were so excited to be there. Even though our tickets were for the very back row, the show was amazing. Everyone was on the edge of their seats – the energy was so electric. It’s the kind of musical where you cheer, laugh, cry and dance in your seat the whole time. It was 100% the best part of our trip and I would give my right arm to go see Hamilton again.

HAMILTON!!!!!

Leaving Day:

On our last morning in SF, we thought it would save time to get room service breakfast delivered to our room. Sadly, we didn’t read the fine print about service charges and delivery charges and ended up paying $81 USD for breakfast! Not a great note for our last morning. We checked out and then headed down to Anchor Brewing Company where we had booked a brewery tour. It was fun to learn about America’s oldest craft brewery and see how they make their products. But I’m not a huge beer fan to begin with, so I think all of the free samples were probably wasted on me.

After the brewery tour and one too many sample beers, we went across the street for sushi lunch. And then it was time to Uber to the airport and head home! We got through security with little trouble and were back in Vancouver before 7:00pm. And by 9:00pm we were reunited with Ellie and at home on our couch watching Parks n’ Rec!


An awesome trip to San Francisco for sure! We had a great time and were so psyched to finally see Hamilton after singing along to the soundtrack for the last year and a bit. And we’ll be back in SF for a day in September with my mom when we visit Portland and Napa Valley! But I think that’s it for summer trips for us – save maybe a couple days in Kelowna when Colin’s sister in law has her baby.

A Family Weekend At Pender Harbour

2017 marked my third year of going up to Pender Harbour with Colin and his family for their annual vacation. Every year, Colin, his parents and a bunch of other relatives spend the July long weekend at cousin Larry and Marnie’s property in Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast.

On one of our early dates, Colin told me about Pender and how he has spent every July long weekend of his entire life camping with his family there on the coast. I was blown away. I’ve gone on lots of trips and family vacations but never anything this consistent. We talked with family this weekend who have been coming up to Pender for 20, 30, 40 years! One cousin, Carl, who is probably in his 40’s has been coming up since he was in his mom’s womb!

On my third year up at Pender, I’m starting to feel like part of the tradition. I love the idea of this being an annual trip that Colin and I continue for the rest of our lives, bringing our own big tent (I don’t think we’ll ever be trailer or RV people) and kids one day. One thing I’ve done for the last three years at Pender is keep my phone off (save for a few photos!). They do have WiFi up there but I really love being able to disconnect for a long weekend.

Ellie loves belly rubs no matter where we are!

Firewood for our nightly campfires

This year was amazing! We had great weather: sunny but with a cool breeze. There was tons of delicious food – Marnie makes an incredible seafood chowder and Jackie brought out so many great snacks. And we got to bring Ellie, which was so much fun! There were almost a dozen dogs up there (and between 20-50 people depending on the day) so she had a great time running around and playing. We hiked through Francis Point Peninsula Park, swam in the chilly water, got warm by the campfire and read in the shade. And I didn’t have to participate in the horseshoe tournament, which I think everyone appreciated!

Happy Canada Day from Ellie!

And Happy Canada Day from Margie’s dog, Doodle!

One thing that made this year’s trip incredibly special was a boat ride we took on Saturday. We went out on Larry’s big boat, which I haven’t gotten to do in the years previous. He took almost 30 of us out and we got to see some amazing views of the bay. But the really special part was the tribute that Colin’s mom Margie had planned. Randy, Colin’s dad, loved Pender Harbour. It was definitely his happy place. And he loved nothing more than being out on the water with the guys, catching fish on Larry’s boat.

Living the luxurious boat life!

Colin and his friend, Connor, enjoying the yacht life

So to honour him, Margie brought some of his ashes up to Pender Harbour so we could lay him to rest in his favourite spot. Once we had boated out to a calm area in the open water, the ashes were distributed into little cups so everyone could get one. Dave said a quick toast and we all raised our cups to Randy while his favourite Adele song played in the background. We tossed his ashes into the water and threw some beautiful flower petals in afterwards. It was a really beautiful moment to be with so many of Randy’s favourite people in his favourite spot. You could definitely feel his spirit there.

Flower petals floating on the water

Pender Harbour was amazing! It was a trip both Colin and I have been looking forward to for months. We had a great five days on the coast and I’m already looking forward to going back next year. I usually hate repeating destinations because there is so much more in the world that I want to see and explore. But there’s something different about Pender Harbour. It’s a special place and I would be so happy to visit it every year for as long as I can!

Colin and Ellie at Francis Point Peninsula

View of the house from the dock

We ❤ Pender!

A new adventure: Vietnam!

I have been chomping at the bit to reveal this on my blog. So now that all of my ducks are in a row, I can officially announce:

I am going to Vietnam for the first time ever for 3 weeks this November! 

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Yeah, I guess you could say I’m pretty excited 🙂 I have never been to Vietnam, which will make this country #31 that I have visited. And it feels like it has been a while since I’ve been on a big trip. Sure, I’ve done a bit of travelling this year to LA, Montreal and home to Toronto for weddings. Last year there was San Francisco, New York and a very short stint in China. But it’s been a couple of years, since my time studying abroad in Europe and working in Japan, that I have really done a big international adventure. I have been itching to get on another long haul plane ride, take out a currency I have never seen before and try to navigate my way around a new city, new language and new cuisine.

That’s not to say my life here in Vancouver hasn’t been adventurous, because it certainly has been a ride. Since finishing up my UBC degree at the end of 2014 I’ve had a number of major life changes such as switching careers (a few times), switching rental leases (a few times) and finding a new partner and adoptive BC family (thankfully, just the one time!). But there’s a part of me that is still so desperate to get on the road. Poor Colin has had to listen to me whine and shove travel deals in his face for the last 18 months until I finally bit the bullet and did it.

So how did I settle on Vietnam? And why now?

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Well, for starters, how could I say no to this picture?

The whole Vietnam thing came about kind of serendipitously. I’ve been going through some career confusion for the better part of the last year. To be honest, I definitely don’t have it all straightened out yet but I know I want to be a writer, in some capacity, and that I don’t want to be doing admin work that hurts my soul at 24 years old. And after everything that happened with Colin’s dad, I realized that life is short and it was time for me to start loving mine again. So, for me, that meant making a change and going on a trip.

Luckily, my awesome girlfriend Emilie was also looking to do a little vacationing so I get to do Vietnam with a travel buddy. I floated the idea by Emilie when an awesome flight deal came my way (if you aren’t signed up to YVR Deals yet, do it now). About a day later, Emilie and I were booking our round trip flights from Vancouver to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for $505 per person! That’s $505 Canadian for round trip international flights – unheard of!

And with that one credit card purchase, everything kind of changed. I didn’t have enough vacation days at work and was honestly looking for an excuse to leave anyway so booking the trip meant giving my notice. Which in turn meant needing to figure a new income source. For that I’ve got someone subletting my place while I’m gone, a couple new exciting freelance writing projects, leads for opportunities to pursue once I return from Vietnam, and enough in savings to get me by for a little bit. It’s definitely not as settled as it could be but I’m confident everything is going to be okay.

So, that’s what’s new with me! I’ve been so anxious about giving my notice at work, confirming everything with my subletter and trying to stay on top of my writing that I haven’t actually taken the time to get excited about Vietnam. But now that everything is settled and we’re less than a month away from our departure date, it’s starting to feel real and I’m having a hard time keeping the smile off my face.

Here’s what we have planned so far – it’s a bit of a whirlwind trip, to be honest!

We land in Ho Chi Minh (aka Saigon) and spend some time in the city. From there, we want to do an overnight tour of the Mekong Delta, famous for its floating markets. Then we fly up to Hoi An, the spot I am most excited about. This is the city where you can get clothing custom made for next to no money! There are also some great beaches nearby. Then we’ll bus/train to Hue, where we get our temple fix since we won’t be seeing the famous Angkor temples. I was hoping to add Cambodia to our itinerary but there’s just too much to see and do in Vietnam, so it will have to wait till my next SE Asia trip! From Hue we fly up north to Hanoi. After exploring Hanoi, we’ll head east and do a cruise on Halong Bay (pictured above) and then west to stay overnight in Sapa and see the iconic rice fields. That gets us to 16 days and the point in our adventure where Emilie heads back home because she actually has a job to get back to. Meanwhile, I’ll be heading to Phu Quoc Island where I intend to spend 4 blissful days by the beach sipping cocktails out of coconuts and frantically searching for a job online. I cannot wait!

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See you soon, Vietnam!

How’s Your Trip?

Author’s Note: I wrote this back in July and never got around to finishing or posting it but I wanted to share some of my thoughts as my time in Swaziland is wrapping up.

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 I get asked this question a lot.  Friends will send me messages saying things like, “Oh my god, how’s it going? How’s your trip?” whenever I leave the country and I do the same whenever someone I know sets off somewhere across the globe.  For a regular trip of sightseeing and travelling, this question is tough to answer.  Do you want me to sum up my trip in one word?  Or are you looking for a day-by-day account of what I’ve done?  Some people are interested in hearing it all while most are looking for a general summary followed by a quick little story with accompanying photos.  “Paris is amazing!  It’s like walking in a postcard.  I could live off of crepes and macarons.”  <- I’m pretty sure I gave that exact response to this question about a year ago during my first visit to Europe.  And while I stand by everything in my statement, did I really answer the question?

“How’s your trip?” is even harder to answer when you’re not chasing tourist sites, moving from hostel to hostel or getting lost in a maze of planes, trains and automobiles every other day.  When you’re spending three months living at the same place with the same family and working a regular Monday-Friday job, it’s hard to even call it a trip.  In fact, I don’t.  So far, I’ve settled on synonyms like “adventure” or “experience” but honestly, it just feels like a new life. 

There’s the day-to-day monotony of trying to get to work and back on the least reliable public transit system I’ve ever tried to navigate.  We spend the majority of our days at work in front of a computer screen.  We eat dinner at the same time while watching the same soap opera before relaxing with more computer time in our rooms.  We mix things up with meetings at work, trips into town, treats at the café and visits to the public library.  But, for the most part, our weeks are fairly routine.  Of course, this routine is a far cry from our lives back in Canada but after 6 weeks, it has become the norm. 

And I find myself apologizing and trying to make up for that.  When people ask me ”how’s your trip?” I often fall back on weekend activities that better fit the definition of “trip”.  I don’t want to bore them by recounting the 6 hours I spent researching and putting together a presentation, trip to the post office and the fact that I only waited twenty minutes for a kombi today. 

The funny thing is, because my routine here is so vastly different than my life at home, it probably would be an amusing answer to the question.  And by retelling my daily experiences, I would certainly be portraying a truer version of my “trip”.  Africa is clouded by stereotypes of tribal people, intense heat, starvation and safaris.  But everyday I am surrounded by the exact opposite: people dressed much nicer than me who live and work in cities, chilly temperatures that have my Canadian butt reaching for a scarf and jacket, more food on my plate than I know what to do with and nothing wilder than a rooster or dog to take a photo of.  That’s not to say that with my limited 6 weeks in one small part of Africa I can dispel all of the stereotypes, but I can witness to a broader understanding of Africa.