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!

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!!!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!