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!

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!

Musings

This morning I was watching the livestream at our church, where my husband just got up to share a life story with the kids there. It’s too much detail to retell it, you can watch online via this link (http://stanboroughpark.adventistchurch.org.uk/)

The point of the story is worth retelling though. You are valuable!!! No matter what happened to you, crumpled, dirty, alone… you matter!!!

You matter to me, and you are valuable to me.

Happy day!

Selah

A word often used in the Bible to indicate rest… although a quick google shows that the translation is not really known. It often occurs at the end of a verse in the Psalms… 

I like that interpretation… at the end of a verse, rest… at the end of a week, rest…. and that is what Mel and I did. While Geert is away in Spain drumming his heart out at the Youth conference (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mrCJLA9W_xA&list=PLOGSrwS5xR71GO1ZoQOZdvVri-XSOkqan&feature=youtu.be) we went on a Friday evening sunset cruise on the St Croix river.

We had a moment to pause and take in the beautiful rock formations, against a beautiful sky which had just cleared after a down pour. The paddle boat pushed us gently down the river, quite a novel experience! We saw a couple of bald eagles, such majestic birds. The family sitting next to us asked what we were looking at and so enthusiastically taking pictures of. They may not understand how lucky they are to have bald eagles in their state. Their white head and tail sticking out against the green of the trees.. it never ceases to amaze me. And it always reminds me of 2 things: the eagle story in the Bible as told by Moses in the last phase of his life.. when Israel is once more reminded that God is watching over us, but at the same time teaches us to fly… and of my husband who so beautifully can recount that story…

We also so beavers, just as the sun was setting and we were munching on tacos with salad. At least, that is what we think they were. Big animals sitting at the side of the river, taking occasional dips in the water. All so peaceful.

Even though the family next to us on the table had probably had a little too much to drink and were quite noisy, for us this was a Selah. A rest point in the week and the beginning of a beautiful Sabbath.

Below some pictures, although these never do any justice to the scenery… maybe you need to come and enjoy this yourself?

Lonely

IMG_4676Yesterday and today are turning out to be me feeling a little lonely, and emphasise the fact I am all the way in America and my loved ones are in Europe. It goes a little like this:

For weeks there has been a buzz going through the Adventist church, particularly the younger ones (read teens and young adults, typically classified as youth). The International youth congress is taking place in Valencia, Spain and 1000s of young ones are gathering for a week of friendship, worship, good times etc… my husband and the band he drums in have been practicing and gearing up to go…. the church community I belong to (Stanborough Park Church) has teens going, my niece is going… and I am far far away…

My husbands flight was early this morning, Sunday… we have a six hour time difference… so we called him at 9pm Minnesota time to ensure he got out of bed, before the taxi would arrive to take him to the airport…. it took a few rings, but he answered… and got ready to go…without me..

In the mean time, my phone started buzzing… the family Knopper chat…. my niece is on her way to the airport also… ready to go to Valencia… my brother and the other 2 in his family started driving to go on holiday…. without me (we like going on holiday together)

What about me? I am a little sad…. am far away, different time zone, not travelling either on holiday or to participate in the congress (am feeling youthful). These are the moments my year away feel lonely, I have to work….

Well, gotta pull myself together… so here is the plan… the theme of the congress is ‘Journey’. There will be plenty of opportunity to follow along via Facebook, instagram and the webpage: http://www.aycongress.org/

This way, I won’t have to feel so lonely… hope to get a glimpse of my husband on stage also!