Christmas is coming!

Christmas…… I have these dreams of cozy family time, roaring fires, love for all, peace on Earth, home cooked meals etc. Am sure you get what I mean…

Instead, I find myself still on another business trip at the end of this year, wondering how I will manage all I want to accomplish before I fly home to spend a couple weeks in the UK. I have not bought any Christmas presents, although my emails are bombarded with ads, promises of cheap and cheerful presents. I have not decorated my apartment, other than the below Christmas trees in the window. No roaring fire, I don’t even have a fire place! Today in the news I saw a New York bomb attack, California wild fires.. peace on Earth is still far away.

What is Christmas really about? Why is there so much pressure on this season? Should we not be celebrating the fact that Jesus came to this Earth as a little babe, to reconcile us with our Heavenly Father? Would it not be sufficient to just be grateful for that, and let the rest pass by?

Maybe that’s what I will do this year.. just be… a little Mary, sitting at His feet, rather that Martha..always busy… I still have a couple weeks to ponder that some more…. what about you?

Memphis

Memphis has a couple of interesting memorials…. Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley and Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King lost his life. 2 Icons, 2 very different reasons.
Our day started out with finding Elvis Presley Boulevard… the Boulevard which has the museum and the home of Elvis. Something we only heard about and seen in documentaries and movies. His house was quite small, although the grounds were large. Not at all as I had imagined it. Some rooms a little extravagant but certainly homely and inviting. Not very wheelchair friendly, but mum was parked outside in the carport while we could look in the basement rooms. Below a few pictures, a little impression.

After the Graceland tour and an ice cream we drove to downtown Memphis. Another icon was here in Memphis, but lost his life… others decided he needed to die. Martin Luther King was standing on the balcony in front of his room talking when someone shot him from the opposite building. Suddenly you look with very different eyes to the city. It’s a beautiful museum, dedicated to freedom. You can stand almost immediately below the balcony, see the firehouse and boarding house.. a moment of quiet contemplation. 

2 very different people, but both shaped the world as we know it today. 

A strange day as such… but definitely one to remember and to know I want to come back to Memphis… there is more to explore and see!



Road Trip

And so we are on our way… as soon as I knew my parents were coming I had booked up the road trip to visit my dads brother. A long way away, in Chattanooga. 

We set off about 3 Friday afternoon with destination a hotel in Independence Missouri. About an hour south of St Paul we saw a massive Cabellas. If you have never been inside you probably don’t know what pulling power that store has for Europeans, who never really see shops where you can buy positively everything to kill and cook animals. My mother had seen a coat in that shop, and our mission was to check if they had her seize on a good colour.

We were admiring the stuffed animals, when my dad realised he was naked…. no phone!!!! I don’t know about you, but without phone these days we feel lost, drowning in a feeling of emptiness without something to hold in your hands… so back we went to retrieve it…

We arrived in Missouri at 1.30am… a little later than anticipated… but on our way!!!! Today the destination is Memphis..therefore… to be continued….

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!!!!

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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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