Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No more 'stache!

Dear friends and family,

We are in Nairobi, Kenya and preparing to embark on a safari tomorrow! We're pumped and wanted to update a few things before we leave.

For your entertainment, here are a few videos and a photo of our Christmas bounty:

1. Bungee jumping:
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2. The lost chicken/our Christmas tree:
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3. Michelle being tickled by many children at the Chifubu compound in Ndola:
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In other news, here is the last picture taken of the 'stache:

...she's gone home now, and maybe for good. I must say that I feel a bit insecure as I now look rather pre-pubescent. So it goes with my facial hair or lack thereof.

We spent all of today exploring Nairobi, and had a really cool experience in Kibera (the largest slum in the world). We saw some soccer matches, explored a few markets, and we were even welcomed into a home right in the middle of the slum (pictured below). The children all called us "muzungu" (white person) and laughed whenever we looked their way. It's quite funny and really cute to be walking/in a bus/anywhere in Africa, and be called muzungu by a chorus of kids.





Well, that is all for now! Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Years!

Love from your muzungus

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all you wonderful people from Ndola, Zambia!

We have had quite the eventful/funny day here. The morning started with some stockings (filled with candy, avocados, and oreos), gifts (including a wildebeast mug, bright orange sunglasses, and an old shirt), and a makeshift tree, made of a broom stick, a green towel, and a flashlight "star". It was lovely.

The funniest/most enjoyable part of the day just happened. While playing Settlers of Cataan (greatest game ever), we heard a chicken yelping. Long story short, a chicken had wandered into our yard and was being mauled by some dogs. Michelle being the animal lover she is, ran outside, shooed the dogs away and ran back to the house. Lo and behold, the chicken followed her right in. For a good 10 minutes, we had a chicken running around the living room and kitchen. Our good friend here, David Bramlett, put a towel around the chicken and carried it around to the neighbor's house and dropped it over the fence, into their yard. Chicken saved! Michelle happy. We have a funny video documenting the whole saga, but it is too long to post.

To recap...

Livingstone:
After arriving in Lusaka, Bram picked us up from the airport and we all made the trip down to LIvingstone, the home of Victoria Falls. This began a rather fun, somewhat un-nerving 3 day adventure.

Day 1:
We arrived at Victoria Falls and were immediately harassed by two baboons. Michelle was the first victim. She noticed the baboons creeping up behind her, and quickly offered them some bread (my lunch). She then put the apples in my camera bag, leaving me quite vulnerable to the baboons. The lead baboon tried taking my bag from me, but I resisted and held that baboon off with all of my might. Little did we know, the baboons would follow us. Minutes later, hundred of feet in the air, and on a narrow bridge, the baboons cornered me. I panicked, took out the apples and chucked them. Unbeknownst to me, in Michelle's direction (not to mention around 20 other Zambians). Baboons 2. Humans 0.



We then hiked around to the other side of the falls and met a Zambian named, Elvis. Elvis proceed to lead us through the Zambezi river (usually waist deep), hopping from rock to rock, to the very edge of the falls. It was a little close for comfort, but it was an amazing view and experience. He then showed us a natural pool that flowed into Victoria Falls. We jumped off of a small waterfall into the pool and enjoyed a nice little swim.





Later that night, we went on a sunset dinner cruise. We saw some hippos, we talked to a South African man about polygamy, and had some good ol' Wheaton fellowship.



Day 2:
We rose early in the morn and made our way back to the mighty Zambezi River for an all day white-water rafting trip. The Zambezi is known for some of the best rafting in the world and dons the world's largest commercial rapid. 25 rapids, mostly all class 4 or 5. The raft behind us tipped twice (no one was hurt) though they did tell us later that there are crocodiles in the water. At times they let us jump in the water and ride the current/rapids for long stretches of time. It felt like a combination of Huck Finn and Bear Grylls. That night we crashed and slept like a new born child.





Day 3:
We went bungee jumping off of the falls! Michelle and I went tandem which was hysterical. My ears were ringing for days. The workers at the bridge don't even give you time to get too scared... they put on your harness, tie up your feet and gently push you on your way. Enjoy the photos of us, and note how ill Michelle looks ill in most of the photos.








Earlier this week, we went to a couple of slums (compounds) with a ministry called Jubliee Center. They help build schools, churches, wells, etc. and also sponsor feedings for at risk children. We spent two days with the children and helped photograph a feeding as well as their new constructions. It was a really moving time.





Well, that's all for now. We're off to Kenya on Monday and we'll be on a safari this time next week!

We miss you all and keep us updated.

Merry Christmas and much love.

Here's a link to our friend Dave's blog:
http://www.braminzam-bia.blogspot.com

and a link Jubliee Centre:
http://www.jubileecentre.org/

Monday, December 14, 2009

Brazil Recap + Africa!

Hey there Loved One,

The Meesh and I are officially in Africa! We arrived on Wednesday and have been having a blast. But first, a quick Brazilian recap.

Ilha Grande:
This place is pretty ridiculous. It is about 3 hours away from Rio, and is only accessibly by ferry. The main walkway is the beach. Our first few days were a bit rainy, but all things considered, it was still awesome. We hiked many hours through the jungle, over the mountains, and through the woods, to a beach called Lopes Mendes; one of the top rated beaches in Brazil. We also found a natural pool where many of the local islanders were playing. We joined in the fun and jumped off of many a rock. Some other highlights including snorkeling, where we saw lots of huge starfish, and building an incredible sand structure which you'll see below. All in all, it was a really relaxing, enjoyable week.

Sao Paulo:
We arrived in Sao Paulo late Sunday night and were greeted by Rev. Jonas (a connection of a connection of a connection). He and his family graciously welcomed us into their home and for the two days we were there, completely humbled us with their generosity and hospitality. On Monday, we visited an orphanage named Lar Boa Semente. They house, feed, and clothe 11 children under the age of 3. When they are ready for school, they are educated and mentored holistically. The government in Brazil takes these abandoned children and sends them to this orphanage, but provides zero funding. They rely solely on donations. We took some photos to help with promotional purposes to hopefully draw more donors and potential parents. It was a very moving, beautiful experience to hear about their ministry and to be able to interact with the volunteers and children.

Here's a link to a photo album (you may need to copy and paste it):
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2043296&id=187700907&l=fa72720d2f

We also had the opportunity to tour a good deal of Sao Paulo with a family from their church. It was so nice to be in a car and not in a rickety bus/train/plane/etc. It's hard to describe how humbling it is for a family who doesn't even know us to take us into their home, feed us, and go out of their way to show us their city.

After Sao Paulo, it was onto Africa!

We've been thoroughly enjoying ourselves thus far and will provide a proper update soon. Today:
-I had my lunch stolen from monkeys (the first time my bread, the second time, my apple)
-We hiked through the Zambezi River to the edge of Victoria Falls (more on this later)

Tomorrow we are rafting down the Zambezi (class 5 rapids), and will be bungee jumping off of Victoria Falls on Sunday. Booyakasha. Michelle gets nauseous when talking about bungee jumping, but we'll be going tandem, which should make it especially entertaining.

We love you all much and thank you for your thoughts/prayers/updates!

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

WE LOVE RIO

To backtrack a bit:

Iguazu Falls
So after Buenos Aires (which we thought was the best city in South America), we hopped on a 20 hour bus up to Iguazu Falls to see the beautiful waterfalls. We walked around for hours and saw as many of the 250 waterfalls that comprise Iguazu as we could see. There were boardwalks and bridges everywhere that allow you to stand above the falls as they plummet below you. Throughout the jungle, there were also hundreds of butterflies that surrounded us and even landed on us. After a day of waterfalls, we were Rio bound. In an effort to save some money, we took a bus that stopped in Paraguay. The bus company assured us that no visa or money would be needed to enter or exit Paraguay. Lo and behold, our friends at the border patrol, stopped us, confiscated our passports, and demanded $50 from each of us... Of course, we didn't have any cash on us, and even if we did, we would not have given it to them for spending ONE hour in their country... So, I put on some tears, and Jonny kept saying "no entiendo". Eventually our bus driver came to our rescue. He fought for us, got us our passports back, and we were on our way!






RIO
WE LOVE RIO! After around 25 hours on a bus, we arrived in Rio, and stayed in Copacabana at a hostel called "Stone of a Beach"...it was pretty great. The first day there, it rained...poured, so Jonny and I spent the day up on the rooftop terrace, watching the office and laughing out loud. It felt nice to have a down day after all of the traveling.
The next couple of days were spent playing in 12-15 foot waves..SO BIG...visiting the Cristo Redentor statue (which is truly unbelievable and quite powerful), hanging out with some awesome people we met at our hostel, and drum roll please....going to the Brazilian championship futbol (soccer) game! Our hostel took a bus down to the stadium, handed out free beer (which people can drink on the beach, on the street, in a car..wherever you want...see pic below), and let us loose. The stadium is the largest in the world and used to hold 180,000 people. They have since cut it back to 110,000 due to safety regulations. We didn't have official seats, so we made our way through the crowd, all the way down to the second row of people, right next to the field. It was complete madness. I'm really happy the favored team (Flamengo) won, because there would have been riots afterward had they not. Apparently, when they lose, people tear up the chairs and throw them at each other, on the field, etc. Instead, everyone sang, jumped, chanted, and celebrated their first league championship in 17 years. Jonny and I were welcomed into the celebration with the help of several sweaty Brazilian men, who lifted us up and threw some high fives. It was such an amazing experience.









O I forgot to mention...Men in Brazil wear speedos. Everywhere you look, speedos! On the beach, no the street corner. It doesn't matter. So my husband, wanting to blend in with the locals (as if the stache is not enough) bought one and has been rocking it. Watch out Minneapolis:) He also tried to skimboard in it, and well, the picture below says it all.






Ilha Grande
Now we are sitting on the porch of our hostel looking out at the ocean on an island a couple hours southwest of Rio. Its pretty much paradise here. It has been raining quite a bit today, but Jonny and I walked around, got soaking wet, and stumbled upon a pretty secluded beach, where we swam and played in the sand. Sun or no sun, Ilha Grande is where its at!

One more week in South America and then.....off to AFRICA! video video

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Valpo to B.A.

Hello blog people,

Michelle and I are currently in the beautiful, beautiful city of Buenos Aires! It is pretty easily our favorite city thus far.

And now for a brief update on the last few days:

1. After spending a couple of days back in Santiago, we made our way to two small coast towns, Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. We stayed at a nice little hostel in Vina del Mar and spent most of our first day there recovering from a long, long, long walk from the bus station. We were totally lost after arriving, and ended up stopping at the police station to ask for directions to our hostel. A sweet little government worker ended up walking with us for well over an hour to our hostel. We tried to give her some pesos for a cab, but she shook her head, gave us a hug, and was off for an hour long trek back across town. There's been no shortage of blessings thus far. That night, we met up with a lady from Australia that we met in La Serena, as well as two of the Minnesota folk. It was great to re-connect with them and fun to see a bit of the nightlife in Vina.

2. The next day, (Thanksgiving) we took a short train to Valparaiso. Valpo (as the locals and informed travelers refer to it as), is a colorful, hilly, kind of run down city. It's a bit like a Chilean San Francisco. We spent all of the afternoon walking around, and taking old elevators lifts up to different parts of the town. We celebrated Thanksgiving by eating a delicious completo. What is a completo you ask? Let us tell you. It is a hot dog, smothered in guacamole, mayo, and tomatoes. Don't knock it unless you've tried it.

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3. On Friday we flew over to Buenos Aires, and immediately fell in love with its boutiquey self. Picture a european style city with cobblestone streets and bookstores, cafes, galleries, and beautifulness everywhere. It's really amazing and is easily our favorite city thus far. We spent all of yesterday in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood. Michelle was immediately overwhelmed by all of the beautiful design and boutique shops. She at numerous points said that she was on, "sensory overload", and even at one point apologized in advance for providing bad conversation due to her constant boutique distraction. Last night we met up with an Australian couple that we met at the Brazilian consulate in Santiago. They were a lot of fun, though the club we went to was playing '80's/'90's pop music. Think Jock Jams. Michelle and I danced like we've never danced before. We also stayed at a sweet hostel pictured below.



4. Today we wandered about the San Telmo neighborhood which features one of the largest markets in Buenos Aires. Let's say it together, "sensory overload for Michelle". Little vendors, opera singers, puppet people, orange juicers, leather swindlers, and an occasional gringo, lined the streets for miles. And if that wasn't enough, there was an antique market at the end which sported lots of really expensive pocket watches, grammaphones, and other old goodies. I've had an absolute hay day with photography and Michelle has been incredibly patient throughout.




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5. As if Buenos Aires couldn't be any greater, when returning to our hostel today, we were graced with the Vikings/Bears game. My did seeing Favre live make me giddy with glee. And then for him to dismantle yet another team. It was beautiful.

We are soon off to Uruguay (maybe) and then Iguazu Falls before venturing into Brazil.

We love you all and miss you much. It's really difficult being away from home for Thanksgiving and soon Christmas too, but we're starting to get into the swing of things and have been having a blast thus far. Please email us and keep us updated about life back home as well.

And now, I leave you with a picture of Michelle and her new bag, as well as a photo of the sushi place where we had dinner.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Raspberry Farm:
After arriving in Santiago, we soon made our way down to Southern Chile to an organic farm called Brita's. Eva (the owner)
makes all kinds of delicious jams, spreads, and pie. The first day, it was quite rainy, so we spent a lot of time labeling jars
and taking photos of the different parts of the farm. The second day, we did our best to construct a giant raspberry out of
plastic red balls to help with the roadside signage, but sadly to no avail. The task proved too difficult. Later in the day,
we explored the property and explored a beautiful river that flowed through the back of the farm. We also found a giant bug.
With Michelle hiding in the house, I garnered up the courage to swipe it with a broom handle. Upon hitting it's crunchy body,
I screamed, causing a neighbor to run over and make sure everything was ok. I was just a little embarrassed, but rest assured
the bug escaped just fine and was placed gently into the grass, out of harms way.





La Serena:
We then made our way up to La Serena, about 6.5 hours North of Santiago. There, we stayed at a hostel with a number of
other gringos, 4 of whom were from Minnesota! Such a small world. The skies in La Serena are supposedly some of the
clearest in the world, and there is a large observatory in a neighboring town. So one night, we took a tour to the observatory
and were able to see the moon in all its glory (see below the picture we took through the telescope) as well as the gases around Jupiter, Magellanic (sp?) Clouds (which are really 2 other galaxies only seen in the southern hemisphere!), and other astronomical goodies. It was an amazing experience and a great reminder of how small we are.



Back to Santiago:
So now, we are back in Santiago for the day and we'll be heading West to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar tomorrow to meet some of the Minnesotans from the hostel in La Serena. Then it is off to Buenos Aires on Friday!




We're both missing home a lot, especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas being so close. We should have some access
to Skype later tonight if you are in the chatting mood. Today some Chileans even asked me for directions. I don't know if it
was the 'stache or the scarf, but I was flattered. Unfortunately, I had no idea what they were saying.




We love you and miss you all, and we leave you with this a video of our lunch today!

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Dinner in Santiago!

Friends,

We arrived in Santiago, Chile this afternoon. There was a brief moment of panic at the airport when we learned about the currency... Chilean pesos are in hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands, which doesn't bode well with our math skills.

Tonight we are staying with Viqui and Aaron. They studied in Madison, WI and have been incredibly hospitable, generous, and kind. We just finished a wonderful meal with their family and some friends. Check out the video and know someone in Chile loves you.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oh Peru.

Dear You,

We are back in Lima after many days of fun adventure.

Huanchaco:
After a couple of days in Lima, we got on a bus and traveled about 9 hours north to a small surfing town outside of Trujillo, called Huanchaco. Jonny learned to surf and we filled our bellies full of ceviche and corn (which the kernels are like 3x the size of American corn...its amazing!) After meeting some Americans at a restaurant who told us we would be crazy if we did not go to machu picchu, we decided to hop on another 9 hours bus back to Lima and then immediately onto another 23 hour bus to Cusco. As we drove through the night, the bus would stop and let randos on to try to sell us food/wine/you name it. It was definitely an experience. The next day (still on the bus) we stopped for lunch at a little restaurant. Jonny and I didn't have much money on us since the day before we had spent it all on the bus tickets, but were able to scrounge up about 7 soles ($3) to split a plate of rice and beans. A little Peruvian woman, dressed in very worn clothes, approached us and started speaking to us in Spanish. After a couple of minutes we picked up on the fact that she wanted to buy us another meal, which she did, and all we could do in return was say "muchas gracias". It was such a beautiful display of the hospitality of the Peruvian people, and also of the Lord's provision.

Cusco:
Beautiful, bustling town in the mountains. The roads are a maze of steep cobblestone alleys filled with shop after shop. We stayed a night and then took a 2 hour taxi and a 3 hour train to Aguas Calientes..the gateway city to Machu Picchu.

Aguas Calientes:
Finally some jungle and greenery! At the base of huge tree filled mountains that are usually covered with thick clouds, sits this little town that exists to bring people up and down Machu Picchu. Jonny and I pretty much jumped from restaurant to restaurant eating 4 course meals for $5 a pop....YUM:) At then end of the town are the hot springs, which we also enjoyed.

Machu Picchu:
The next morning We woke up at 4:00 am to ensure that we would be in the top 400 people to enter Machu picchu which makes you eligible to climb Waynapicchu (a huge mountain that overlooks the ruins). We took the bus up to Machu Picchu and then began our trek up Waynapicchu which was an absolutely amazing experience and the biggest work out of the decade for both of us. We climbed the steep stairs in a little under 40 minutes which i think is pretty impressive, if i do say so myself. At the top, the clouds started off below us and then began to rise up right in front of us until they were gone and the sun was shining down on Maccu Picchu. Our only response was awe. We spent some time up there journaling and looking out, and then made the trek back down to the ruins. At the ruins, we hiked up to the guard house and met some llamas..they were everywhere! Take a look at the videos:)

Lima:
After another 23 hour bus ride back to Lima, we are here staying with mission workers, Sara and Rusty, who have been the biggest blessing. They are letting us stay in their house, they let us wash our clothes, and they cooked us delicious fish and rice last night and pancakes and fruit this morning! We are here one more night and then we are off to Santiago where we will be visiting a raspberry farm a couple hours south of the city.

Until next time...Peace








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