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!

Costa Rica Part 2

So I know this is waaaaaaay overdue. But the second we got back from Costa Rica, it has just been full speed ahead with my masters and before you know it, it is several weeks later!

Anyway, I honestly didn’t think it could get any better after the first week in Costa Rica (Read my other blog post if you don’t know what happened!!!) . But after another full working week of masters and watching the various storms roll past, it was time for the next part of the adventure to begin.

Friday evening, some of mums colleagues took us out for dinner in downtown San Jose followed by the most amazing dessert, hazelnut brownie!!! The food was incredible and the company was even better!!! Saturday was a chilled day for us, just relaxing by the pool and just taking a day to recover from a hectic week, and getting us ready for the big adventure that would occur the next day! Sunday was going to be epic!!

The alarm went off at 4:30am, and reluctantly we got out of bed! We got dressed and made our way to the hotel entrance, of course all the hallways were deserted! We were picked up again by mums colleagues (who organised the whole trip for us!!) and we were on our way! About 30 minutes later, we swapped cars and I met another one of mums colleagues and her partner (their car was bigger) and then we were off again. I was convinced I was going to nap in the car until we got to the destination. Boy I was wrong! Conversation flowed from one topic to the next, and before we knew it we were facing Arenal Volcano. Little did we know that the sight that was before us was extremely rare, we were able to see the full volcano in all its glory! And the view did not disappoint!!!

After a quick stop over for breakfast in the village (3 hours in car later!) we finally made it to the destination! Mistico Hanging Bridges!!!!! Now a lot of you will know that I am PETRIFIED of heights!! But this has been on my bucket list since I knew what bucket lists were! So no backing out for me!! The walk to the first bridge was one of the longest walks of my life!!! Each step took me closer to one of my fears! And all of a sudden, there we were….a hanging bridge 45m above the forest floor and 75m long!! I reluctantly took one step onto the bridge, and then another…not looking down and holding on for dear life on anything I could grab. But when I got to the other side I realised that it actually wasn’t that bad….the same, however, cannot be said for my mum. I have NEVER seen her so scared before in my life!!! The next 5 hanging bridges were a breeze for me and I loved every second of it, looking down to the forest floor and up to the tree tops was incredible!! The longest and highest bridge was the waterfall bridge which was 45m heigh and 92m (only the last bridge was longer by 5m but a lot lower!). This was definitely an experience that I want to repeat though!!! The views were just too incredible and the wildlife too spectacular, not to go again!!!

Once the hanging bridges were done (to mums relief!!) we then went on to the second part of the adventure. We first tried some of the local delicacies that can be found everywhere in Costa Rica…Pipa…You will hear that being shouted everywhere! It means Coconut water…now I’m not a fan of coconut water that you can buy in the supermarkets, but this was incredible!!! Did not taste like coconut at all!!! Once you have finished the water, they can break it open for you and then you can eat the flesh, again did not taste like the coconut we know in Europe! Once our taste adventure was done, we then went on a boat ride, and we literally had the boat to ourselves (there were only 6 of us!) and we had a relaxing cruise on Lake Arenal. By this time, the volcano had completely disappeared in the clouds, but the views of the landscapes surrounding us were still amazing! Along with the wildlife that we spotted, like egrets and kingfishers! Before we knew it though, it was time to head back and we had to say goodbye to Arenal. On the way back we stopped off in Zarcero and looked at all the cool shaped hedges before getting some ice cream to cool down before arriving back in the hotel!

The week was the same as the previous week, lots of masters work on the balcony with more storms passing by and before I knew it it was one of our last evenings in Costa Rica 😦 but to make it special, mums colleagues took us out for traditional Costa Rican food (lots of plantain) and it was AMAZING!! Sweet plantain baked with cheese is just amazing!!

It then came to our last full day in Costa Rica and what better than to go into the rainforest and go on the aerial tram. The drive through Braulio Carrillo National Park was just breathtaking, with mountains appearing from the mist. The aerial tram was also amazing, going from the forest floor, to mid tree level, to pretty much the tree tops, gave us a whole new perspective on the fauna and flora of Costa Rica. Our guide was super friendly and informed us of all kinds of features that we would never have known! After a super relaxing hour and fifteen minutes, it was time to go for the walking tour. Not long after getting off the tram, the guide saw a super venomous snake (it was tiny!!!). He showed us all kinds of wildlife that inhabited Costa Rica. However no sloths and no tapirs! 😦

Arriving back at the car we were determined to keep driving till we saw a sloth!! But that idea stopped very quickly when we realised that the battery of the car was dead!!! (Lights were left on with no warning…) So after some batting of the eyelashes, two of the gentleman that worked there were able to charge our car battery and off we went in search for sloths.

Our driving adventure took us all over! Dirt roads to driving next to a huge banana plantation to driving in little villages. In one of those villages I happened to look up into a tree in on of the gardens and saw something light coloured and scraggly, at first I thought no way is that a sloth, but the closer we got the more excited I got! I screamed at the top of my lungs to stop the car and that there was a sloth right above our heads!!! We quickly jumped out the car and took pictures (much to the locals entertainment) and the smile on my face was beaming! So with task completed, it was back to the hotel we go!

The next morning it was up again at a very early hour before heading to the airport, and to my disappointment, away from Costa Rica! Back to Minnesota we went and on to our next adventure!!!!

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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!

 

East, West, Home is Best

After a great business trip, sprinkled with some beautiful friendships and great sightseeing, it is time to go home…. and actually, I am ok with that…. after all, being in America for a year is a real privilege also and so far am loving it!

Costa Rica has a great phrase, used in all sorts of circumstances: Pura Vida! It’s used as greeting, as response to questions, almost like a life mantra… and it shines through the whole culture as an upbeat, happy go lucky and friendly mantra. It translates literally as pure life… but actually it does not have a real translation as such. It’s definitely a thought I want to keep holding on to.

My actual house is in the UK, my husband is there too, as are my cats, friends, car..all that is dear to me.. and yet, home is now also here in the US, where lots of adventures are still waiting for me… a bit like that phrase… Pura Vida…

 

so.. happy to be in my US home… and enjoying life!

What Costa Rica Has Taught Me…

So here I am, writing on the balcony of our hotel room, surrounded by palm trees, birds singing and cocoa trees! Who can complain??

Let me backtrack a bit…getting here was an adventure on its own! My mum flew out a couple hours before me…so here I was sitting in our apartment waiting till it was time for me to head to the airport too. However, suddenly my phone lights up with a notification. My plane was delayed…by 30 minutes!!! Now I know that doesn’t sound like much, but when your layover is only 50 minutes, suddenly the layover is only 20 minutes, which is fine if you are transferring in a small airport. I, however wasn’t! My layover was in Houston international airport. So I quickly call the airline and ask whether I will make my transfer. Of course they say no! So here I sit all on my own stressing!! Anyways…I somehow made it!!!

My first impression of Costa Rica was the airport at 1am! What a crazy airport! So many people calling out names and signs everywhere! I managed to find my taxi pretty quickly and before I knew it I was in the hotel and reunited with my mum! So stress over!!!

So the next day we decided to drive to a nearby volcano…however, mum hadn’t checked to see if we could get there…luckily I did! Poas volcano was the initial volcano we wanted to visit. And we could have if it hadn’t been so active the last couple weeks!!! So for anyone traveling to Costa Rica, Poas volcano is closed indefinitely!!!! So change of plan and we ended up driving to Irazu volcano.

We step foot in the car and maps.me starts navigating us to Irazu. What we didn’t know is that it decided to take us through the scenic route…lots of small tiny villages, very steep hills (in an automatic, not so easy!!!) with no barriers between the road and the sheer cliff edge!! and who could forget the VERY big potholes!!!! But our scenic drive was cut short after a gorgeous viewpoint. My mum had forgotten at what height we were and opened a sports bottle full of watermelon juice. Safe to say there was a watermelon juice volcano! And due to her surprise she forgot to close it! So there we were, drenched in watermelon juice 11 miles away from the volcano. So close yet so far. Hotel here we come!

The following day we went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens (which I can HIGHLY recommend!!!). A Beautiful drive to get there (again steep hills!) and watching cyclists go up there!!!! Rather them than me!!! But the views you get are just amazing, right in the cloud forest!!! When we got there, we were straight away greeted by a hummingbird and then toucans…Now some of you may know that I am in LOVE with toucans and have been since a little child. Well my dream came true! I got to hold a toucan!!!!!!!!!!! It was the most amazing feeling! Ticked another major thing off my bucket list!!! The rest of the day was spent looking at all the rescued animals they have there (including sloths, macaws, leopards and various frogs and snakes) and hiking to the waterfalls!!

Then it was time for mum to go to work and for me to work on my masters. I can’t complain, sitting on the balcony in the sun with all the birds flying around (including parakeets, great kiskadees and bananaquits) is paradise!! This is pretty much how I spent my whole week (whilst indulging in some Wimbledon in the mornings and Netflix in the afternoons!). There are worse ways to spend it!!

Now on to the title of this blog. I really can’t recommend Costa Rica enough, and thats mainly due to their slogan ‘Pure Vida’. The lifestyle here is so relaxed and all about enjoying life to the full! When you visit here you really can’t help but relax…the nature, the people, everything here is just friendly! (they don’t even have an army!!). And the food… INCREDIBLE!!! Did you know there is such a thing as manga here, and their Gallo pinto is so good! Along with all the plantain, mangos and papayas!

So this is it for week 1!! What an incredible week and I am already looking forward to coming back here in a months time!!!

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Costa Rica explorations

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What we recommend? Well, the La  Paz Waterfall gardens!!!! In one word: breathtaking…

From rescued animals (toucans) to lovely food to beautiful waterfalls. It was a journey worth taking.

 

Who cares we did not take the same route there and back in a rental car, which I was scared to crash (or be crashed into). Or that we could not find that big supermarket where we wanted to buy some provisions.

We loved it and can really recommend it!!!

Lessons Learned

Well, we not only survived camping, we actually loved it. Northern Minnesota is very pretty, with lots of nothings… we did not see the bears we thought we might, or the moose, but we saw plenty of deer, mosquitos and bald eagles.

we ventured into Canada also, being only a half hour from the border. The lady at the border was extremely friendly, even if I was terrified to even cross the border and leave safe America. She not only stamped our passports on our request, she also gave us a Canada pin each. How sweet!!!!

And..they let us back into the US also..

So what lessons did we learn?

we can set up a tent without fighting, even if we did not know what the tent was supposed to look like.

we can build a fire and cook food on it… and roast marshmallows…

we can survive with a ‘vault’ toilet. If you gotta go and don’t want to walk 10 minutes, it certainly will do.

mosquitos love me more than Melody…

we saw no bears, but loved being outside and slept perfectly well…

we want to repeat the experience as often as we can

And now we are packed again…Costa Rica is the destination… not a bad location for work…

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See you on the other side!!

Women Leaders

Its been a couple days since we shared another blog… today is my turn again.

We are a day away from going on a new adventure… it’s the long holiday weekend (celebrating kicking out the Brits…. feels a little odd.. huray!! Free days!!) and Melody and I have decided to try out ‘going up north’. Camping…. bears.. do we say more?

We will faithfully report back IF we return..

Back to women leaders, the title… having travelled extensively over the last years, I have had the privilege of coming across many different leaders. Leaders who inspire, leaders who motivate you to do better, leaders who should not be leaders.. Being now stationed in the US a little longer, I have more opportunity to interact with the women leaders in our own team. Women I look up to, women inspiring me to do better, to be better… Kim, Liliana, Karen, Wendy (our awesome boss) to name just a few.. I guess this is a shout out for women..

So, Mel and I will join women leaders this weekend away… I certainly hope our tent will listen to us and the bears will be scared of us!! See you at the other side!!

USA vs UK

Here we are 3 weeks since we moved from the UK to the USA for a year. It was a big move, but one that I was ready to make! The first couple days were hard, adjusting to the time zone, the heat (more than 30 degrees every day), the humidity (50+%) and of course the food!

Moving in to the apartment was a nerve-wracking one for me, as all I had been told was that it was big, over looking the Mississippi river and that my bedroom is usually the dining area. However, stepping inside I instantly fell in love with my (not so) ‘little’ nook. The first week was pretty much spent buying things to make our apartment feel more like home, including pillows, bedding, some furniture and photo frames, plus getting a feel for the area. My highlight for the week was definitely the Joyful Noise family festival (which has been mentioned in our previous blogs and in the vlog, go check them out if you haven’t!!!). Worshipping with 18,000 people whilst listening to some of my favourite christian artists was an experience!!

However, it suddenly came time for dad to leave us and go back to his job and to the cats! Suddenly I was on my own, no taxi to drive me around. No one to pay for my food. No company, whilst mum is at work. It definitely had its benefits too though, I managed to make a nice dent into my masters project (message me or leave a comment if you want to hear more!) and was finally able to watch what I wanted to on the tv!!!

Now you must be wondering what the blog title means. Well, there have been things that I truly miss about the UK and things that I will definitely miss about the USA when I leave. These are the following:

  • Walking here in St. Paul, Minnesota is a lot nicer than where I leave in the UK. Its not every day that you can just take a walk or a cycle along the mighty Mississippi river and watch turkey vultures and bald eagles flying over your head, or watching herons wading in the water to catch their next meal.
  • It is definitely more expensive to live here than in the UK. The average that we spent on groceries in the UK was a lot less than here.
  • Chocolate here definitely does not taste the same! However, Reese’s peanut butter cups are amazing!!
  • HGTV is the best channel ever!
  • The cars and the roads are a LOT bigger! Making me feel even shorter than before! There are plenty of cars here that I would need a ladder to climb in to!
  • The shops are HUGE! I’m easily able to walk my target number of steps set out by my Garmin, whilst enjoying seeing what the country has to offer!
  • AIRCO! The best invention ever when it is close to 40 degrees celsius and 90% humidity!
  • The storms here are not taken lightly, whenever there is a thunderstorm forecasted, I straight away get a weather warning on my phone (damaging winds, large hail and tornados are all possible).
  • Trenta Cool Lime refreshers!!!!! The best thing when it is hot outside!!
  • What I can’t get my head around though is going into a store and seeing a sign saying ‘no guns allowed’. It still feels so foreign to me, and it will the whole time I’m here! Also going into any outdoor store and there along with camping stuff they also stock guns and crossbows along with fake deer and turkeys for practice! Or having displays of real stuffed animals that have been shot!
  • What the UK offers that I truly do miss though are my cats, my friends (its difficult to connect when you are 6+ hours behind them!) and church (we have yet to find one where we connect!). And I miss tea! Afternoon teas and just drinking a tea is so not normal here. When you order a tea you have to specify that it is a hot tea, otherwise you get cold, strong, unsweetened black tea!
  • And lastly I miss being able to talk and not pulling attention because of my accent. In the UK I have a pretty standard southern english accent as I was brought up in the area near Windsor. Here however, I just open my mouth and suddenly I have 20 people surrounding me wanting me to just keep talking so that they can hear more. It is pretty terrifying being the centre of attention like that!

I’m sure there are plenty more but for now this is my list! On to a new week of new experiences and adventures!