Autumn

As I sit outside at Caribou, it’s hard to imagine we are already in October. Time is certainly flying by!

However, one thing has changed…(besides that Mel is in the UK for a couple weeks, to ensure Geert does not get lonely, and the cats don’t forget about her)… autumn is here!

I don’t know what it is about that season. I am more of a summer, beach kind of person. But something about this period in the year grabs me. Maybe it’s the last swan song of nature, showing their abundance of colour. Maybe it’s the promise of Christmas being around the corner, and all the coziness that goes with that. 

Or maybe it’s just that this season each time reminds me of Gods promise to us. No matter how rotten we feel, there will be new life.

For many this season brings despair, loneliness, falling leaves, depression. I sometimes get caught up in that too. I am a true worrier, and this season of the year I worry more. 

A day like today however, blue sky, too warm for jogging pants, beautiful autumn colours… I think I want to keep the Godly reminder in the forefront of my mind!
What about you?


Boston

These last days have been an eye opener, in regards to America history. Someone commented ‘what history’ and to be honest…so did I… after all, the country is young if you compare it to some of our European countries… how wrong I was…

I already mentioned a few things in the previous blog.. this blog I will share some more things I have learned…

We walked part of the ‘freedom trail’ with guidance from a knowledgable guide. A phrase often repeated was ‘Taxation without representation is tyranny’. This phrase was to be the beginnings of America’s independence. Characters like John Hancock, Samual Adams, James Otis and Paul Revere are the most well known names from that period. We visited their tombs, and saw some of the landmark buildings in the history of Boston. We visited the 2 ships involved in the ‘Boston Tea’ incident. We went to the North Church, where peers of them had pews. We saw the house of Paul Revere. All names and buildings I had not even previously heard of!

We went to Salem and heard how the fear for the unknown, the devil and the invaders caused mass hysteria and 19 people died by hanging, accused of being a witch. This was the only incident in America… we know many more died in Europe accused of the same. All names were exonerated, but you can’t bring people back to live!

We visited Plymouth rock, the rock where the pilgrims allegedly stepped on land. We saw the plimoth plantation, where characters from the 1600’s were keen to share their way of live…

I am saturated…. I had no idea… I feel I need to read up more… but most of all, I am now really looking forward to Thanksgiving in a couple of months. I know it’s not really a Dutch celebration.. although I have always liked the thought of acknowledging all that we can be thankful for to the One, I will celebrate this thanksgiving with a lot more knowledge of how the feast of ‘Thanksgiving’ came about!

Some other tidbits I picked up these last days:

Malcom X served in the kitchen of the Omnipark Hotel

Dunkin Donuts started in Massachusetts, there are 106 stores in Boston

The Italian district in Boston has 100 restaurants

Liberty and Freedom are 2 core American values

Boston was Home to the first US chocolate factory

The first US underground (Subway) was built here

For now: I had a blast!!!! Time to go home to St Paul.

Disguise so no one knew we were going to throw the tea overboard

History

History is a funny thing. Each story has 2 sides, and depending on whose side you hear, it’s the perspective you get….

Let me start at the beginning…..

After having spend last week in Taiwan for work, this week Melody and I were looking forward to a trip we have been planning for months (close to a year). Yes, the timing was off, with work very busy, but plane tickets were booked, hotel and car arranged. Friends connected with….we were going to Boston! 

So Tuesday evening Mel and I drove to Chicago to catch a plane from there to Boston – saved a lot of money, even if we lost a night of sleep… I am still jet lagged anyways! This morning we set off for Boston. So excited! Our friends Kim and Marty met us at the airport, and then it was full steam ahead! A full intinery planned around…. yep… historical sides! One of my favourite activities, learning about how the American nation was established, build up, and the impacts on the original population.

Driving into Boston is like being back home in England… which I miss. It’s strange to see all these English place names, sometimes pronounced a little different than back home. Woburn, Worcester, Gloucester, Essex, Cambridge etc. We were off to the presidential library of JFK. Learning about his political rise and his election to president. He had made various trips to Europe, his father was at one time the US ambassador to Great Britain. However, some of the statements he made I could not recognise from the history taught to me in school or university. “Japan has surrendered, the end of the Second World War”…. wait… what happened to the European countries and the part of the war there? It was interesting to hear the lead up to the first bill of equality signed in 1963/4, were all people should be treated equal. Maybe that’s something to go back to when we discriminate each other due to differences in thinking, sexual orientation, religion etc! It was awesome to see and hear the inauguration speech, with the famous line ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’. It reminds me a little of church…. don’t ask what the church can do for you, but what you can do for other people… don’t go to church, but be the church.

Tomorrow we will visit the spot where the English tea was thrown overboard, as the American colony no longer wanted to pay taxes to the English without getting any benefits in return. Another side of history, the American side, will be revealed these next coming days. Am looking forward to it already!

Being Thankful

So the last week has been an interesting one for me…

After mum got sick on our camping trip, we came back home and I already started feeling a bit funny but thought nothing of it and pushed through. A couple days of doing my masters later, and it came to the time that mum had to leave for Taiwan for work for a couple days.

So dad and I made the most of it and went to the Renaissance Festival here in Minnesota. It is an interesting place to go to if you ever get the chance!! It was a true immersive experience with all different types of people…mermaids…knights…wizards…fairies…just about everything! Dad enjoyed his turkey leg for close to an hour…it was that big! But the longer the day went on, the worse I was feeling. That evening when we came home I suddenly felt really dizzy…and yep you guessed it…I managed to get whatever mum had…fever…lightheaded…nausea…the lot! Not great when your dad is about to leave too and you’d be alone.

The next day we had planned to go to church, but due to me not being well, we had to settle with watching it online. It was a blessing to watch and still be able to worship with dad before he left. When it came to the time for dad to leave, I had to fight back tears! I wouldn’t see my dad again for around 3 weeks (when I head back to the UK for a little bit) and even though he does my head in sometimes (a lot!) I still love him to bits! But God really does know how to make a situation better. Whilst in the lift going back up to the apartment after dad had left and I was on the verge of tears…a lovely couple with their dog joined me in the lift and they were super chatty and friendly and managed to cheer me up!

So fast forward 4 days and I am finally feeling a bit better but this week has just been focusing on my health and my masters. The end is in sight!!!! So last night I celebrated by relaxing and watching the Convoy of Hope concert. It featured so many christian artists that I have always wanted to see live! I enjoyed it so much and it really brought my spirits back up! They managed to raise over $500,000 in one evening for hurricane Harvey victims.

Watching that concert and hearing stories of people who had lost everything, made me feel awful. 2 weeks prior when we came back from Costa Rica I had just been the worst. My camera (and for those who know me…my camera is my life!) had completely died! After being caught in that rainstorm it had been apparently damaged so badly that the power board had been fried. In all honesty, I felt like my life had stopped. My camera was my all…And here I was hearing the stories of people who had even lost loved ones. It was safe to say that I vowed to myself to stop being a spoilt brat and to be thankful for something every day! I did get a new camera though! Thank goodness for amazon!!

Today I am thankful for my health…that is not always a given and there are still plenty of things wrong with me…but right now my health is improving and I can get on with my day to day things.

On to the next adventure!!!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The Kindness of Strangers

Sometimes strangers touch your heart and leave a warm fuzziness inside…

Let me start from the beginning. After we flew back to the US from Costa Rica I already started to feel a little funny. Worn out maybe? I put it down to the hot sun, and ignored it, but suggested to the family we would start our camping trip a day later. We got everything unpacked and repacked and on Friday set off to Bear Head Lake state park in Northern Minnesota. The state park had very good reviews and the trip to it went smooth. As we got closer I started to feel more unsettled but thought that a few days of no outside contact, cooking on fire, family time, fishing etc would do the trick. 

We arrived and got the tent nicely set up. We cooked over a hot fire and yep… that which I had been fighting came back with a vengeance in the evening. What a shame of the lovely salmon, corn and mashed potatoes! Each one of those would make my meal normally! Off to bed I went, and the other 2 followed out of sympathy (after clearing everything away… bear aware!) 

It was a bitter cold night, although Geert said I was like an oven… I did not sleep…. the first day of our holiday started well!

The next day I could do nothing much but stay in bed, trying to sleep it off. Geert and Mel went off exploring around the campsite and met the wonderful host from the side. God always sends lovely people to lift the spirit! An uneventful evening, (we won’t mention the soup….) and another night to pass.

On Sunday I woke up feeling more like myself… so off to Ely we went. We wanted to visit the famous mukluks shoe shop we had read so much about! We walked over a lovely little village market before going down a hill to the shoe shop. Shoes always make me feel better! Except… this time it did not and I realised I had already done too much. We decided to have a quick drink, mostly because I needed to rest… no sooner did I sit at the bar seats or I passed out… Mel sweetly held my hand… Geert ran off to get the car. The bar tender came over to ask if he could do something… a glass of coke, no ice…. I asked… I needed sugar in my blood fast! I felt a little better and could go to the toilet…. and God sent another little angel. ‘Minnesota nice’ the bartender called it…. don’t need to pay…

Sometimes it’s just the little things that make us smile… it takes little to be kind!

Sustainable Living

Do you know where your food comes from? Not something I really think much about when I quickly go and do my grocery shopping. It’s a chore I don’t particularly enjoy,  but as we have to eat it’s one of those things that just needs to be done. I try to eat as organic and fair trade as possible and do my bit for the environment and human kind.

Yet, I have been made aware that I may not actually be doing my bit very much at all. Does organic really mean it’s better? Or does fair trade really mean the farmers get a fair share of the profit for all the hard work they are doing?

We had the awesome privilege to visit a coffee farm. Not one of the commercial tours, but El Toledo, a working farm who like to share the coffee process with those who want to learn. And learning we did! The tour started out with a little syrup like drink made with the fruit of the coffee plant. Who would have thought the fruit can be used for other things than just getting to the coffee beans for coffee! The farmer explained to us the difference between the different types of farming, organic versus the old way (using more chemicals than in the organic tradition), traditional versus monoculture. He said that one cup of coffeee uses 100 litre water in the process! He explained how their farm was now a traditional farm, much how God intended it to be. Not just coffee but also bananas, beans, mangos etc. Not depleting the soil to get as much profit as possible, but farming for the long run. Sustainable. He explained how it had transformed their thinking, and with it, hoped ours would too, they don’t export, but sell all their coffee and produce locally. He explained that that would produce the most profits for the farmer. The farmer does not need to pay for shipping and export costs. 

After sampling the different roasts of coffee, where light has the most caffeine and flavour, and dark the least coffee and more specific flavour, he showed us how the roaster works. Lots of things influence the roasting process. I had no idea coffee has such an art to it. After this tour I now know I like dark roast, and Geert likes light/medium roast. Opposite to what we thought! 

I now know that buying local produce outweighs the fairTrade products I buy to support our local farmers. I will pay a little more attention when I do my weekly grocery shopping tour. It’s no secret I like farm shops. I will visit those more! I also know that no matter what coffee I buy, the one straight from the roaster in Costa Rica is best.

It was not just fun, it was educational!

Coffee roaster (15 kilos)
Light, medium, dark roast
Testing the stages of roasting the beans
Traditional farming
10 months from flower to picking
Square bananas!

Feels like Holiday

There are some of those days that just lift you up and fill you with peace. It does not necessarily need to be associated with church. Fellowship can happen in many different forms and shapes.

Yesterday truly was one of those days. Melody and I got up at 4.45am to leave the hotel at 5am (luckily they served coffee that early in the morning!). We drove to a little place in the mountains where we had a cup of coffee (brewed the Costa Rica way with a sock) before heading out for a day of fun and adventures. The Costa Rica roads are a little different than in the US and a 140km journey will take 3 hours. Our destination was the National park Manuel Antonio. We had heard so much about it and were very eager to go there! Those that know me know I don’t really like driving in either the rain or the dark, so I was very grateful Melissa and Tomasz where coming with us and they drove.

After about an hour we stopped at an alligator bridge… we assumed so called because you could occasionally see alligators there… how wrong we were! Mel counted 31 beasts in the wild.. huge! Quite different from what we saw last year in a park in Florida. These were just hanging out under the bridge….

The next stop: the park. Foreigners pay a lot more than Ticos, but still, we got in and looked forward to it. By now the sun was shining brightly on us, at about 10am in the morning. Hard to breath, but sunblock was quite needed. We decided to not use a guide, but trust Mel’s eyesight. She usually does not disappoint spotting things we struggle to see.

Dozens of howler monkeys and capuchin monkeys playing over our heads. Red colourful crabs below the walkway. 2 sloths in typical sloth position hugging the tree. Deer, raccoon, coati.. we really were blessed to be able to see all that… but it was super hot and we were drenched in sweat!

A quick drive and walk to a secret beach promised a dip in the water to cool off. Unfortunately the water was a little murky, so not quite as refreshing.. but still a pleasant couple hours were spent there, with the thunder rolling in over the sea.

After a lovely meal in a restaurant overlooking the vista we were ready to go back. 
It truly felt like a one day holiday! A super pleasant Sabbath day!

Being English…

   So I know I’m not really English but my accent really is! This has made for some very entertaining conversations over the last year!

   For those of you who don’t know me, I have a very British accent (or so I’ve been told) and this has led to me being misunderstood on more than one occasion here in America. Some of these situations my mum has been in too and she really doesn’t have that strong an accent! Anyways let me just get in to the scenarios that have led to many fits of laughter! 

Last summer I spent an extended time in Minnesota and have learnt that NOONE understands when my mum and I say water. Drive throughs and ordering water or a bottle of water has always ended in disaster! We have gotten chicken salad sandwiches, 2 cokes and many confused people who ask us to repeat what we want about 10 times before we gave up! We also went for a drive to some Amish communities to visit their shops. At one of the stops the Amish lady asks us “where are you from as I don’t think you are from here”. Mum responded that we were English…her response was priceless “your English is very good for not being from here”. Yep… that happened. 

Another situation that I had only a week ago made me feel quite insecure and not sure what to think. I’m on the plane from Minneapolis to Atlanta on the way to Costa Rica and the two flight attendants asked what I would like to drink. My response was water, of course! They looked confused and asked me again. And again. Then the couple sitting next to me told them that I wanted water (otherwise who knows what I would have gotten!!) and the gentleman looked at me and asks me “where are you from” so of course I say England. The next question baffled me even more though. “What language are you speaking”. The last time I checked I was speaking English. The same language that they were speaking!!! He then turned to the other gentleman and said “have you ever been to England? Do they really speak like that?”  Safe to say I kept quiet the rest of the flight!

   So it’s safe to say. If you are English and have an accent, good luck ordering water!!! 

   On to the next adventure!!!

Home is where….

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Just the other day came across this sign: “If home is where the heart is, then my home is where you are”. I love that sentiment, which uses that well known saying “home is where the heart is”.

These days it is so much easier to experience “home”, even when, due to work and study, one is not always to be found under that same roof. My ladies right now are crossing the skies between St Paul MN. and Costa Rica, and yet they manage to follow a children story shared in Stanborough Park Church in Watford UK. How small this world has become….and yet….

Yes, George Washington, about 200 years ago, would travel from Virginia to Washington DC. on horseback, taking him 10 days. His travelling speed was 25 miles per day. Astronauts today travel in the Space Shuttle with speeds over 25000 miles an hour! In this Shuttle Washington today would have taken approximately 40 seconds to get to the capital… Distance seems relative….and yet….

Googling the saying this is what I found….                                                                       “What is the meaning of ‘home is where the heart is’? People long to be at home. Your home is whatever place you long to be. Your home will always be the place for which you feel the deepest affection, no matter where you are.”

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit my parents who live in the Netherlands. For most of their lives they have lived in Enschede, my place of birth. Many of my childhood memories, often food for thought in my sermons, saw the light of day in that town. At previous visits I had wanted to visit some of the places that still linger in my memories… My primary school… Secondary school…. The high rise building we lived in…. My father’s football club…. My grandparents’ home while they were alive, and where I was born… The rail tracks… Each visit proved too short to see this happen.

But two weeks ago I finally got the chance to make it happen. As my father recovered from a hip replacement surgery, I found time to drive around my old childhood neighbourhood. In my memories everything looked big and wide. But as I looked upon my early childhood schools they seemed tiny..

Yet it was here where I “invented” the skateboard long before it became fashion in California.. Crashing through windows, ending up in the sandpit of our playground. Where police found me (and the more wisely hidden rest of the troops) on top of the school roof, not ratting on them but taking the stern talk on my own. The main play ground still there, and the tree…which did not give as I “practised” my Judo skills on a bully…and resulted in my expulsion from the club… The high rise building, in the Meteoren Straat (Meteor Street), where I learned what it means to discriminate people from other cultures. The steps down to the storage cubicles, which really “tested” my skills with matches… It was all there…and for a moment, as I sat there in the sun, it almost felt “home” again…. For a moment my mind, and with that my heart, travelled back in time…

Over the years my/our home has seen different places… Enschede (NL), Hengelo (NL), Zeist (Oud-Zandbergen NL), Binfield (UK), Helmond (NL), Eindhoven (NL), Binfield again (UK), Wooburn Green (UK)….and for some part now also St Paul MN (USA)… And it is there that in a couple of days I will truly experience “home” again as I think it was meant to be…the place where I feel the deepest affection! Not so much for the apartment, even though it is beautiful and spacious…. Not so much for the rich culture of native Americans and the beautiful vistas, even though I enjoy them very much…. Not so much for the awe inspiring American trucks you see everywhere, even though in my mind I still dream of becoming a truck driver… But simply for the fact that it is there that my heart fits in perfectly because it is home! Home is where I am with my wife and daughter…can’t wait 🙂

DaddyGeert