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:
video


2. The lost chicken/our Christmas tree:
video



3. Michelle being tickled by many children at the Chifubu compound in Ndola:
video


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!

video video video





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