23 September 2007

Last stop, Naples: Sorrento and Pompeii

Well, Pompeii sucked. No, not Pompeii itself – just our experience. But I’ll get to that.

We got up bright and early to catch our tour to Sorrento peninsula and Pompeii. First, we went to a cameo factory in Herculaneum. Then, we drove on to the peninsula, to a farm where they grow olives and press olive oil, grow lemons, and make mozzarella. We tasted some of the mozzarella made on their farm after a tour of the grounds. Then we drove into Sorrento town and had an hour and a half of free time – which was the highlight of the day. Ryan and I just wandered around the town, stopped for a couple of cappuccinos, watched the ocean for a bit.

Then we drove to Pompeii. And that’s when it really got lame. To begin with, our tour group consisted of one tour guide and forty lemmings. Pompeii was insanely busy – our guide said a typical September day would bring 12,000 to 15,000 visitors. So there were people all over, and we didn’t have the headsets that many tours have in busy places like that, so there were forty of us cramming around this one guy who didn’t talk loud enough (how could he with that many people?) and didn’t have much interesting to say anyway. And to top it all off, we only had about 90 minutes there. Which was just not enough time for us to really see anything. However, it was cool to be there, and see it in person.

Tonight we are packing ourselves up to leave our cruise. It has been an interesting experience, and we’ve had a good time. It will be hard to get back to real life on Wednesday, though. Tomorrow morning, we’ll catch a train back to Rome to stay until our plane leaves on Tuesday morning. After this post, we will “go dark” so we won’t be posting again before we get home. At some point in the week after we get back, we’d like to get a few more pictures online, so check back again. And in the meantime, thanks for joining us on our travels!

sunset over naples, italy

22 September 2007


Amy in Santorini

A bar in Fira, Santorini

Santorini. Wow. Santorini was definitely a highlight of the trip for both of us. We started the day with a boat ride to the volcano, where we hiked to the top. It was quite a hike, but the views made it so worth it. All around us, the rock was dark lava grey, with red where there is iron, and yellow where there is copper. And it smelled like sulfur. There wasn’t a big crater at the top, where we could look in and see molten lava or chuck in a beautiful maiden or anything, but there were multiple faults/craters along the way where the stinky steam escaped. From the top of the volcano, we saw the next island over, where we would be swimming in the hot springs!

We hopped back into the boat for a few minutes, then they stopped outside a little inlet and told us to jump in. They said to wear life jackets if we couldn’t swim, but my doggie-paddling worked just fine, thank you. And the cute Greek boy in the wetsuit was our lifeguard. We swam 50 meters or so into the inlet, as the water got progressively warmer and greener. The rocks nearby the water were red (from the sulfur?) and there were bubbles where the springs came in. The water wasn’t really hot, from mixing with the cold ocean water, I suppose, but the guide told us there was about a 10 degree difference. Anyway, it was a fun experience, to swim in volcanic hot springs, in the Mediterranean Sea!

After changing into not-wet, not-sulfury clothes, we took a tender boat to the port, where we caught a cable car up the side of the cliff, to Fira. Fira is absolutely gorgeous – the city and the views. We just wandered around, through the touristy shopping areas and the residential areas, and found a little café with a view, away from the crowds. We had a very Santorini lunch that was wonderful. After wandering around for a few hours, we paused behind an outdoor bar that was set into the cliff, everything white with ocean blue accents, and contrasting orange flowers. I said to Ryan, “They really know how to do beautiful here, don’t they?” which is, of course, exactly what he had been thinking. We were already talking about how we’d love to come back and stay just in Santorini for a week! (Stephie – we found the perfect place to finish your senior pictures!)

Well, it may be bedtime. Tomorrow we have a nine hour tour of Sorrento and Pompeii, so we should get some rest. Hope you are all well, thanks for the comments, looking forward to seeing you!

Stephie, hope this life jacket picture will suffice.

21 September 2007

Kusadasi & Rhodes: welcome to paradise

What an incredible last two days! We woke up at 6am on Wednesday to make our 7:30 excursion time after very little sleep. We’re pretty sure that we were served regular coffee on Tuesday night, after we ordered decaf. Amy rolled over at about 1am and asked me in a very normal volume voice whether I was still awake. I was. Not very quality preparation for 3 miles of walking and ninety degree heat. However, it ended up being an amazing day.

We arrived at Ephesus (Efes) early enough in the morning that the heat was not too much of an issue. The crowds weren’t terrible yet either. We had a great tour guide from Turkey who explained to us that Ephesus was the oldest and best preserved archaeological city site in the world – or something like that. Oz also told us later that he received his masters degree in American studies at university near Ankar, Turkey. However, he has never been to America, so we gave him our contact information is case he ever made it to the United States, which he is planning to do. Back to Efes. It was interesting to see the conglomeration of Roman and Greek architecture, indicating periods of occupation. Some carvings were in Greek and some were in Latin. We had fun reading some of the Latin stuff. We had a brief hour and a half tour of the main points of Efes, but the information and ruin remains were priceless. The lowlight of Efes had to have been the painfully cheesy interactive “day in the life of Ephesus” performance, a special treat put on especially for cruise tour groups. “Roman aristocrats” walking out to men “playing trumpets.” A juggler. A “gladiatorial exhibition.” And a fire eater. At the end of the tour we filled out a survey; the “performance” received a very low score from both of us.

After Ephesus, we drove out into the middle of nowhere to see Miletus, a contemporary of Ephesus. We saw a Roman theatre which, as always, is amazing. There’s not much that makes you feel…smaller, more temporary, than walking under an arch that has been standing through 2000+ years on an active faultline, with no cement.

In regards to both Ephesus and Miletus, archaeologists are still unearthing more ruins: the stadium in Ephesus, the gladiatorial burial ground in Ephesus (which the government is still in the stages of buying the land from a farmer whose land contains the ruins), and portions of the ancient port in Miletus. Maybe when we go back in 30 years, we will be able to see some of these ruins!

Then we had a traditional Turkish lunch at a restaurant in Didymus, which means twins, named for Apollo, god of light and music, and Artemis, goddess of fertility. It was a buffet, including many salads and hot dishes, including something that felt like it was biting my tongue when I ate it. It was fun to get to try such a variety of fare. After that we visited a temple of Artemis. This stuff is so old.

At the end of our tour, we went to a carpet store and saw a demonstration of how Turkish rugs are made. It’s amazing. We saw a 4x6 rug that took one girl, working five hours a day, 28 months to complete, and another rug, 10x13 feet, that took two girls working side by side 40 months to complete. In spite of the convincing the salesmen, we did not max out our credit cards to purchase one, although they were very tempting and extremely beautiful. From there we walked through the shops of Kusadasi, and got annoyed with the ravenous sales pitches of the shop owners. When we walked right past one shop, politely ignoring the shopkeeper’s pleas for us to look at his “cheap gifts for cheap friends” and he called after us, “you are stingy man,” we decided we were done looking at their wares, and made our way back to the ship. Except for this insult, we thought Turkey was quite beautiful, and would love to visit again, soon.

Yesterday, Thursday, we left early to see the island of Rhodes after our smallest, shortest breakfast: a caramel roll and yogurt. We brought coffee and a muffin on the bus. Real coffee this time, from the coffee shop, not the fake, see-through stuff from the free coffee and juice corners.

We drove up a mountain to a medieval church that was the strategic lookout for Ottomans during a period of their occupation pre-world war one and for the Germans in world war two. Rhodes was also an important port during Roman times. For us, the medieval church and its surrounding views were great for pictures!

Our descent from the mountain brought us through some housing developments in Rhodes. Houses are about half as expensive to build as they are to buy. So said our Rhodian tour guide. Greeks still use a dowry system for their children. Before a girl gets married, her parents build her a home to live in and the couple move into it after they get married. The husband has no claim to the home in case the marriage does not work out. Thus, the wife is not left out on the street. And the girl’s parents live with them when they are old.

Then we made a stop at a jewelry store/museum filled with copies of replicas of original jewelry. We’re pretty sure it was just a souvenir stop.

Our last stop before lunch was at Kalithea, which literally means great view. It’s true. Kalithea boasts 7 kilometers of beaches and was the site of movie shoots in the 50s and 60s. Our specific stop was at a spectacular swimming hole, which was, again, great for pictures! The water is so blue and transparent. Truly gorgeous scenery.

The tour bus dropped us off near the boat, but we were excited to explore the streets of Rhodes before we sailed away to Santorini. Rhodes was truly a highlight for both of us as we spent the next three hours walking the streets, taking pictures, and perusing the quaint little shops. It was quiet and Mediterranean beautiful.

Today we’re headed off to the volcanic island, Nea Kameni, and then to the thermal springs of Palea Kameni where we will be swimming during the morning. Should be another amazing day.

Please feel free to comment. We’d love to hear from you!

Dad, hope your back feels much better. We're thinking of you and praying for you.

Stephie, congrats and good luck!

18 September 2007

Athens and Mykonos

We are getting ready to go to dinner, but thought we’d write quick first. We’re in a lounge listening to a woman with a gravelly voice singing… well, I guess it would be called lounge singing.

Yesterday. Athens was very fun. We started with a tour of the Acropolis – the Parthenon. It was amazing to see The Parthenon in real life. It was hot and the crowds were awful (Ryan wanted to be sure that I said that there were one billion people on the top of the hill), but I think we got some good pictures. Speaking of pictures: We apologize for not posting more pictures. The internet onboard is very slow – slower than dial-up. And at a lot of cents per minute, we haven’t wanted to take the time to upload them.

After the Acropolis, the bus drove us around the city to see some more sights. Athens is really just a huge city – 5 million people, in fact. But at the end of the tour, we had an option to ride back to port or to spend a couple more hours in Athens. We wanted to stay, so they dropped us off at Constitution Square, which is near an area called the Plaka. The Plaka is the old part of town, once we got past the jewelry stores and souvenir shops, we found some amazingly charming, winding pedestrian streets. It was beautiful and terribly romantic. The only unfortunate thing was that we realized after we got there that we hadn’t brought a credit or debit card, and didn’t have much cash. We were told that the way back to the port was to take a taxi for 15-20 euro. We decided to try the metro – with a short train ride and a little extra walking, we found our way back to the ship for 1,40 euro. We felt proud. So we had enough to buy a couple gyros!

We were exhausted last night, after a long day of walking in the sun. Since we don’t eat dinner until nine, we get done each evening at almost midnight. So we decided to get room service last night. Hey, it’s all included!

Today we anchored at the island of Mykonos. Right away, we got on a boat for the island of Ancient Delos. Delos was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, and is now an amazing site of ruins. We saw houses and temples and a theatre. It reminded us of Ostia Antica near Rome, where we went last year. It was beautiful and sunny and I think we got some good pictures. We took the 30 minute boat ride back to the port, while Ryan talked to a man we had met who is on his one-year sabbatical from the University of British Columbia where he teaches art history. He is spending the year on cruises – seeing the sights, doing research, and giving art lectures on the At Sea days.

When we got back to Mykonos town, we had about an hour to walk around through the town. You know the pictures of Greece that you see in travel brochures and magazines? That’s actually what it looks like. Beautiful, white-washed walls with brightly painted doors and shutters. They built the city with winding narrow streets as to confuse invaders, so it’s easy to get wonderfully lost. I can’t imagine living in a place that beautiful.

Well, it’s almost 9pm, so we’re going to sign off. We are really having a blast – we’re even enjoying this cruise business! Dad, happy birthday tomorrow! I love you and hope you are enjoying your dvds. :)

We miss you all, and hope you are enjoying low-80s temps like us!

16 September 2007

Sicily and a day at sea

Happy birthday to Kimberly! I wanted to call you last night, and was planning on it, but then I found out that it’s $8/minute. And I love you and it would be fun to talk to you, but I’d rather take you out for dinner or something when I get home. Know, however, that we were thinking of you yesterday, and praying for a lovely birthday day.

After writing yesterday morning, we got off the boat in Messina, Sicily, at about 12.30. We hopped on a bus, which took us up toward the volcano, Mt Etna. An hour and a half of driving brought us to a baron and baroness’s summer mansion and winery. There, we were greeted in the garden with appetizers of bruschetta, olives, meat and cheese, as well as a white wine from their vineyard. Then we proceeded into “the stable” for a traditional lunch of their rustic recipes, as well as tastes of a few more wines. The food was amazing. Macaroni with zucchini, a tomato salad, semolina bread, roasted potatoes, a romaine salad, sausages, and some other things I’m forgetting, all pretty much drenched in the best olive oil ever. We finished the meal with caffe and almond cookies with a name that translates to something like “sheet of paper.”

After, we looked around the winery and took some pictures of the beautiful vineyard where they grow, according to our tour guide, “special” grapes that are black because of the volcanic ash-soil they grow in. Our tour guide was funny – she was Sicilian and she kept saying things like, “I have to tell you something” and “I will tell you” and “I’m not joking” and her only adjectives were “terrible” and “wonderful.” We also drove past the village where the wedding scene in The Godfather was filmed.

Back on the ship, our dinner was again amazing. They have assigned seating for dinner, and we are at a table for four with a couple from Canada. I was not excited at first, because I didn’t feel like spending my dinners for 10 days making small talk with the same two people. But we’ve actually had a lot of fun with them. They’re from Quebec and speak French, but both of them speak great English, too. Last night they explained to Ryan what gazpacho was, and we discussed all the American TV shows they watch. It’s interesting to meet so many people who only speak English as a second language, and then to spend all of our time talking to them in English – because it’s the only language we can communicate in! It’s rather humbling… and makes me feel kind of ignorant.

I have decided this: If I am ever offered a movie role for which I need to gain a bunch of weight, I will just go on a cruise. Here’s the secret: multiple courses. You see, when you sit down for a meal (when you’re not really that hungry to begin with because you just had an amazing grilled onion cheeseburger and French fries 45 minutes ago), and you look at the menu of all the fancy foods, everything looks good. Plus, you figure, “I don’t really need to order something from each of the five courses, but I’ve already paid for it.” So you order an appetizer, a salad, a soup, an entrée, and a dessert. You tell yourself, “I don’t have to clean my plate each course.” But the reality is, you do. Because it’s there. And even when the appetizer and the soup have made you feel full, the salad still comes. And you figure, “Salads are healthy.” So you eat it. And then when the entrée comes, you don’t feel like you can just not eat this big entrée you already ordered. And then there’s dessert. Do I need to explain that? When someone offers you tiramisu, you don’t just turn it down. I don’t know – I guess I’m hedonist at heart.

We have been at sea all day today. Which was fun, because Ryan and I stayed up way late last night, wandering around the ship and talking about how much it would suck to fall in (I’ve been obsessing about this). Plus, we had an hour-ahead time change over night. So we got up this morning, went to breakfast (omelet for him, eggie benedict for me), then went back to bed until noon! We literally have done nothing all day. We lay by the pool and baked ourselves – stupid. Tonight is “formal night,” which should be interesting. We will definitely be less dressed up than some of these other people. In fact, a couple just walked by me, in a floor-length gown and tuxedo.

Tomorrow we’re in Athens, and we’re super-excited to see some of Greece. Although we realized that we don’t even know how to say hello and thank you in Greek. Hope everything is well at home, we miss you!

15 September 2007

thoughts on cruising

We are on our cruise! To back up… after writing on Thursday, we walked to downtown Rome to meet my friend Matt and his fiancée Valentina for lunch at a vegetarian Indian restaurant, called Bibliothe. It was decent food – rice with a curried-ish sort of veggie dish that tasted sort of like buttered popcorn. Hmm. We were with them for a couple of hours, and then Ryan and I went to the Pantheon to see if we liked it any better this time, and I stopped for a cone of gelato with three flavors: blueberry, melon, and something with marsala. Then we went to Trevi, because we hadn’t seen it during the day. It was packed, as were the Spanish Steps. I guess there are more tourists here in September than in October. For dinner on Thursday night, we went back to Trattoria der Pallara, where we ate on our last trip – the place where you eat whatever they serve you for the four courses. We got back to the hotel around 1am.

When we arrived in Civitavecchia Friday morning, we had no idea where we were going, so we just followed all the other people dragging luggage. We stopped for lunch at Pizzeria de Bafone and split a grilled veggie antipasto and a peperoni  pizza (which is roasted peppers). After a few wrong turns lugging all of our bags, we found the shuttle to our ship. Checking into the ship felt a bit like herded cattle.

We found our room, which really is pretty nice. Very clean, and a comfy bed with nice soft, crisp sheets. It’s amazing how dark it is in here in the morning without any sunlight – we could have slept all day! Haha: in compliance with international regulations, we had a “muster drill” at 5.15 last night. It was bizarre. We all put on our life jackets and gathered in a lounge before pretending to get on a life boat. While we were sitting in the lounge in our bright orange vests, and I was trying not to feel claustrophobic, I said to Ryan, “ah, yes, this is the luxury they talk about with cruises, no?” It was also then that we realized that every single other person on the ship is 2-3 times our age. Which made us wonder how strenuous our “strenuous” shore excursions will really be.

At 6.00, we went up on deck to watch ourselves depart. There was a band playing and everyone was excited. We took some pictures and watched the sun set. We went back to our room and unpacked, which was very exciting, and got ready for dinner – it was casual night. Dinner was amazing. We got the executive chef’s suggested menu, including, in order: a mushroom pastry appetizer; a bowl of fancy tomato soup; a fancy, yummy salad; some kind of fish (South African cape hake or something like that) with spinach, potatoes, a tomato and a citrus-y hollandaise-y sauce; and amazing crème brule for dessert. With coffee. Yes. My very own crème brule that I didn’t have to share with anyone. We started the meal with about nine forks and sundry other silverware, and actually used it all! We walked around outside for a little while and came back to our cabin feeling sick from all the rich food. Since we don’t eat dinner until 9pm, it was pretty much time for bed anyway.

This morning, Saturday, we got up and went to the breakfast buffet. Then we hit up the “waffles made to order”. We’re really starting to feel like hobbits. Meal after meal after meal. And we haven’t even been here for 24 hours. And we certainly haven’t taken advantage of every meal offering we’ve had the opportunity to eat.

Cruises are funny. Not only do they make you eat a whole lot, but you can’t sit in the same spot for more than five minutes without at least three people stopping to ask if you want something from the bar. It’s amazing to me that we don’ t have to turn around once an hour to pick up someone who fell overboard. And if someone did fall overboard, you know they’d get a cramp because of all the food they just ate. That is, if they could even hold their head above water. There are also a lot of stairs – that combined with the intermittent moving of the ship seems like another major hazard after you’ve had a few pina coladas. I’m just saying.

But all in all, we’re having a lot of fun! We’re going to be spending five hours in Messina today – it’s supposed to be around 85 degrees. And we’re excited to see another part of Italy. We realize we won’t probably take advantage of many of the evening offerings – a 70s and 80s dance party just isn’t really our cup of tea. But a cup of tea on the panorama deck sounds lovely, thank you.


14 September 2007

we're here!

yes, we made it. and all in one piece, with the exception of our suitcase (which apparently found itself in the middle of a airline-sponsored tug-o-war match, which clearly ended in a tie, with a leg of ryan's pajama pants waving in defeat through a seam.)
we just checked out of kennedy hotel and are on our way to termini to catch our train to civitavecchia to catch our boat! yay!
hope all is well at home; we'll write again as soon as we can.

11 September 2007

Our Mediterranean Itinerary

**In Rome, we will be 7 hours ahead of MN time; in Greece, we will be 8 hours ahead.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Northwest Airlines (KLM) 46
Depart Minneapolis: 7:00pm
Arrive Amsterdam, Netherlands: 10:15am

Wednesday, September 12
Change planes. Time between flights: 3hr 20min
Northwest Airlines (KLM) 8389
Depart: 1:35pm
Arrive Rome, Italy: 3:55pm
Check into Kennedy Hotel, Rome

Thursday, September 13 – Reacquainting ourselves with Rome!
Friday, September 14 – Board cruise ship by 6pm
Saturday, September 15 – Sicily (Messina), Italy
Sunday, September 16 – At sea
Monday, September 17 – Athens (Piraeus), Greece
Tuesday, September 18 – Mykonos, Greece
Wednesday, September 19 – Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey
Thursday, September 20 – Rhodes, Greece
Friday, September 21 – Santorini, Greece
Saturday, September 22 – At Sea
Sunday, September 23 – Naples, Italy (Pompeii)
Monday, September 24 – Arrive in Rome, check into Milo Hotel

Tuesday, September 25
Depart Rome: 10:20am

Northwest Airlines (KLM) 8389
Arrive Amsterdam: 1:00pm

Change planes. Time between flights: 2hr 35min
Northwest Airlines (KLM) 55
Depart: 3:35pm
Arrive Minneapolis: 5:40pm

03 June 2007

home sweet home

our flight from miami to msp got delayed over an hour and a half - after we'd already gotten on the plane, they told us there was something wrong with the brakes and we deplaned. i was annoyed, because i was so ready to be home, but i guess i'd rather land in minneapolis with brakes that work. maybe it's just me.

i finally got to bed at around 3 this morning, after a middle-of-the-night snack of peanut butter toast and cold skim milk - AMAZING. boy, was it good to be in my own bed, with my own pillow and my own sheets and my husband. and to use my own shower. and to drink my own coffee this morning, and sit on my couch and snuggle with my kitty.

our house seems so big and clean and cozy. and we have so many beautiful things. our hardwood floors looked shinier than i remembered, and sammy was bigger and fluffier than i remembered, and ryan was even cuter than i remembered, and my car was cleaner than i remembered (although that's probably because ryan has been driving it, and he vacuumed it for me. ha!)

thanks to all of you for your prayers. i really sensed God's protective hand on me in haiti, in spite of the potential dangers. and a huge thank you to those of you who supported me financially - your generous gifts are what afforded me the privilege of briefly joining God's work in haiti. it was an incredible experience, for which i am eternally grateful. thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you, and for walking with me on this part of my journey.

i'll write more - and post pictures! - at a later point; i'm now off to unpack further ... love.

31 May 2007

rice & beans, beans & rice

it's raining again! actually, it's storming, and i just heard one of the biggest claps of thunder i've ever heard. of course, the forecast is for rain tomorrow, too. i hope it doesn't rain much during the day, so we can spend time at the beach!

we didn't get to go to sisters of charity today. we drove there and banged on the gate and no one came. finally we caught someone's eye inside and they told us "no visitors today." marilyn thought it might be a holy day today. and steve told me i couldn't take a baby from there anyway - i'd have to be catholic. i told him i'd convert.

i woke up this morning with even MORE bites on my legs, and two on my hand. and oh! i didn't tell you: yesterday i got stung, TWICE, by the same bee! it stung my wrist and i reacted by brushing it off (before i saw what it was) and then it stung my shoulder. so now i have two more welts on my arm. i'm telling you - i'm falling apart. and my digestive system is really ready for my normal food. uff.

looking forward to being home!

30 May 2007


i gave Eliphete his Bible yesterday! he was very excited. in case you're wondering, it's pronounced something like "elephant" without the n. not like elephEEt.

yesterday i was on the roof (hanging over the edge - don't tell my mom), painting the edge of the building. it was very hot up there, and sunny. i put on lots of sunblock, though. steve was pouring water on me and making me drink a lot so i didn't get heat- or sun-stroke.

in response to one of the questions i've received: sorry - they don't have giraffes here. however, if i see another pig snuffling through a garbage pile, i'll try to take a picture.

we're hoping to finish up mephibosheth house today! we are planning on not being back there after today. we might go back to the sisters tomorrow...

depending on the weather, the plan is for us to go up to Kalico Beach on friday. it looks like it's going to rain, though. of course. it's in the upper 90s here every day, and then it rains every night, and it rained all day sunday and monday. but it would really be fun to see the caribbean, you know? and to maybe get some sun!

i woke up this morning with a sore throat and stuffy/runny nose. also, my stomach has really kinda been bothering me since last night. i'd like to be able to be FULLY present for the last few days, and not feel icky. i'd really appreciate your prayers!


28 May 2007

holding sick babies

this morning, we went to Sisters of Charity (some orphans, but mostly just very sick babies) to hold babies. it was so sad... i picked up a couple different babies that were crying in their cribs, and they stopped immediately and were happy just to be held. but they sobbed as soon as i put them back down. there were just SO MANY babies. i held a 2-year-old that weighed 12 lbs. we were there over lunch time, and i sat on the floor and fed a few of them: cooked veggies over rice, from a tin bowl. i was so sad to leave.

all: thank you SO MUCH for your comments! it's been so fun to read, from family AND friends! much love... amy

27 May 2007

i'm falling in love

yesterday, on the way back from the mephibosheth house, we stopped by pastor dio's church. (the church is located on a side-street - we'd barely call it an alley) the local kids recognized dio's truck, which we were driving, and they swarmed us. they had all sorts of things to say, and i felt bad i couldn't understand them. they all grabbed for our hands to greet us, and one little boy kept making a thumbs-up and fist-bumping me. i crouched in the back of the pickup and took pictures of them with my digital camera and showed them the pictures. they'd yell, "blanc! blanc! femme! femme!", point to themselves for me to capture their image, and then grab for the camera to see the picture i'd just taken, passing it around and laughing as they saw themselves and each other on the screen. there were about 20 kids and i think i took pictures of all of them. they spontaneously began clapping and singing "frere jacques." i videoed it, and they thought that was just great to watch. SO CUTE. they made me laugh so hard, as they kept asking me, in creole, to take more pictures and show them. this went on for at least 10 minutes... 10 of my favorite minutes here, so far. :)

after eating lunch, the past few days, we sat on the floor of one of the rooms we painted, to sing a few songs and talk. yesterday, two of the haitian workers (including eliphete, who i mentioned before and will talk about again in a few minutes) joined us. marilyn, who has been here several times and remembers an unbelievable amount of creole, began singing the song, "Jesus, i adore you. i lay my life before you. how i love you..." in creole. the two haitian boys sang with her, and those of us who didn't know the creole sang along in English. my voice cracked as i blinked back tears: there was something so incredible, so moving, about sitting with these two guys, worshiping the God we shared, in our native languages. it was amazing to know that MY God, who hears the prayers of my heart, in English, also knows the hearts of those boys just as intimately.

a couple of weeks before i left on this trip, i realized i was missing romans 5 - revelations from my Bible. it made me sad because i've had that Bible since high school, and it has been with me through a lot of hard and good things. but i joked about it, asking ryan, "if you see my epistles laying around, would you let me know?" anyway, i looked all over our house and never found the majority of my new testament.
the week before we left, i kept intending to grab one from the bookshare or something at church (to bring with me to haiti), but on my way home from work on friday, i realized i'd forgotten. on friday night, ryan and i went out to eat at boca chica in st paul. when we were leaving, we backed out of our parking spot and ryan laughed. he
got out of the car and grabbed something off the hood. a Bible. now, i don't know about you, but no one has ever put a Bible on the hood of my car before. i laughed so hard and told ryan, "God gave me a new Bible to bring to haiti!"

so, i was painting the window sill in a bathroom while eliphete, who does "ceramic," was tiling next to me. i was chatting with him a bit and he asked me, "did you accept Jesus as your savior?" the direct question caught me off-guard but i said yes and asked him the same question. he grinned broadly and said, "yes. for almost one year." i told him i was happy for him and he said, "yes, i am happy, too." a little while later, he asked me, "do you have english Bible?" i said i did. he asked, "for me? to have?" i smiled, thinking of The Bible God Gave Me, and said, "as a matter of fact, i do!"

so, God gave me a Bible, so i could give it to eliphete. perhaps i'll find the rest of my old one when i get home?

26 May 2007

raining again

kim and pete! congrats on the house! i can't wait to see it!

kevin, i really hope you figured something out for the bulletin - it'd be awful if you didn't have church just because of me. :) maybe you had scott proof it?

mom, i miss talking to you on my way to work every day. :)

i'm pretty sure i have bedbugs in my bed. or something. i have sizeable red bites on my feet and ankles. well, i guess it's better than my face. tonight, i'm wearing DEET to bed, just in case.

i love creole rice and beans.

we met two girls at the store who spoke really good english. we asked them why it was so good, and one girl shrugged and said, "i don't know, i guess i watch tv a lot." heh.

i lost my white visor, riding in the back of the pickup. someone just got some brand new headwear.

it still reminds me of india. only the beautiful people are darker. and now i think i need a haitian baby. i warned ryan that i'm not sure how i can come home without one. :) the best part? he would be completely amenable to that. (perfect guy, really.)

i'm obsessed with the people here. who are they? what do they do? where are they driving/walking? what are their dreams? do they want more than this? do they even know there's more out there?

they live in a place that seems, to me, devoid of hope. their government doesn't care and there aren't opportunities. but you know what gets me? they DO IT. they get out of bed every day, hop on a tap-tap, and spend the day shining shoes in the park or selling mangoes at a busy intersection, so that they can feed their kids.

whether or not they know there's more out there, they live the lives they have. they don't pout or quit trying.

they work hard for the nothing they have.

is there anything more inspiring than that?

24 May 2007

White Girl: Out in the larger world

This is taken from an email Amy sent me tonight. It has been edited for your reading pleasure (I hope!):

today we painted a bubble gum room, a circus peanut room, and a robin's egg room. when i get home, i'm so painting every room of our house a different caribbean color. i love it. the splatters on my arm looked like a baby shower. i met a haitian today named eliphete. he's very polite and he liked the blue room the best. i said, "enchante" and he smiled. i'm pretty sure that means nice to meet you.

for dinner tonight i had an omelette de la creole (or something) - an omelet with peppers, onions, tomatoes and some creole spices. and frites. we eat at the same restaurant every night - a couple blocks down the hill. stuff is really expensive where we're at. steve says it's because we're in Rich Haiti - which is still rather dumpy (to me).

i'm feeling a lot better than i was. i think i just needed to adjust to the scariness and the dirtiness of everything. you know? i probably did this in india, too, but i was so young, and it was such a different experience.

it's odd how WHITE my TAN skin looks here. i'm remembering how I stood out as a white girl in India. little kids on the street smile with their white, white teeth and wave at me as we drive by. and steve is like a celebrity. as we walk down the street, all the street vendors call, "Passa Steve! i have _____ for you! gooood price fo my friend!" he's trying to get me a deal on a beautiful hammock. the guy told him his best price was 60USD, and steve told him i'm poor, so he should think about it and we'd be back. ha.

i'm really going to go now. i'm going to go read a magazine. :)

22 May 2007

sweaty and tired

it's raining here. POURING. marilyn and i almost got washed away down the street when we were booking it back to our hotel from dinner tonight. we're staying partway up the steep road up the mountain... so all the water sweeps all the garbage down the road to the lower parts.

(ryan must have recorded our brief phone conversation last night, because he wrote it so perfectly! it's amazing to have someone mirror my thoughts and emotions like that.)

one correction: Haiti is currently in the same time zone as MN - apparently they never sprang ahead.

today we cleaned and sanded and painted. very dusty. i'm still picking my nose. just kidding (not really). there isn't as much done in the house as i was expecting. like, there's no toilet. and we were there ALL DAY. use your imagination. no, don't.

it smells like india here. that may be because i haven't been to many other countries. i don't know, but i think i could fall in love. there are so many beautiful people and palm trees and flowers and fruits. but there's so many potholes and trash piles, and i'm not supposed to eat the fruit. a word on the potholes: it's a lie. there aren't potholes; the roads are one big pothole. like, i think many people would be nervous to drive their off-road vehicles here, but pastor dio
said about his compact car's tires (by way of explaining their relative longevity), "the tires know they are in haiti."

thank you for your prayers.


First Impressions

Amy phoned me last night around 10:30 ET from her hotel in Petionville, Haiti, right outside of Port-au-Prince, and gave me a little bit of information that I thought I would pass along:

She has arrived at her destination: safe and sweaty. She said that when they arrived it was about 90 degrees and utterly humid. Pastor Dio picked up Amy and the rest of her team at the chaotic airport and drove them to the hotel. Upon arrival, the concierge informed them that they did not have a reservation for them, but after a bit of a wait they were provided rooms; Amy has a second floor room with one of her teammates. They have standard electricity, which was a mild comfort because she brought a 10-inch fan with her to sleep and a battery charger for her camera.

They were able to leave the hotel to get pizza for dinner. She said that it was dirty and beautiful. So many people. Garbage everywhere. People selling mangoes and shoes and roasted corn. Children in school uniforms and pregnant women.

She is a little lonesome, but is excited to see what God has in store for them today. Pastor Dio will be picking them up this morning and taking them to the Mephibosheth Home to begin their work.

She also let me know that the hotel does have a computer, but it wasn't working on Monday, so she isn't sure when or if she'll be able to post. Although I'm not nearly as interesting to read as my eloquent wife, I'll do my best to post whenever I have some new information to relay.

Thank you for your prayers for both Amy and myself.


20 May 2007

India ruined me.

Seven years ago, I had the privilege of traveling to India. It changed my world - by expanding it. No longer could I believe that the world was made up of just places I had lived. To see real people living real lives in someplace as, well, foreign as India was mind-boggling. To see God in that place, in those people. To realize that He was not just "mine," but was known in real ways, in a completely different language.

Tomorrow, I have the privilege of traveling to Haiti. We are going to put the finishing touches on a home for special needs kids. In telling people about my trip, I have gotten various responses. Some people have been really excited, but also among these responses are ones like, "Haiti?? Why would you want to go there?!", "Did you know that the government has a travel advisory against Haiti?", and "Haiti is a hopeless place - there's nothing you can do to save it."

Yes, I know Haiti is a hopeless place. There is no saving it. I don't hope to save the world, and I know I can't even save Haiti. But in Haiti, live people. People that God created, people that I believe God loves just as much as He loves you and me. "For God so loved the world, He sent His Son..." Jesus came to a world that, at the root of it, wasn't a whole lot different from Haiti. God Himself put on dirty human flesh to BE WITH US. He loved us enough to come down to this place that we, in our selfish ambition, have stripped bare of even hope. And in loving us so recklessly, He was killed.

I'm not going to Haiti to be a martyr. That is certainly not my intention. My only intention is to touch the lives of a handful of special-needs Haitians. Jesus said, "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me." Well, if Haitians are the least of these, the special needs kids are the least of the least. I am going because I feel called to go. I want to touch people from a different world and be touched by them. I want to love as I have been loved.

In struggling with all of these thoughts - along with my fear that I can't love in that way, that I can't be selfless enough to leave my comfy home and my amazing husband for two weeks to serve people the rest of the world couldn't care less about - I heard a song (by Sanctus Real) on the radio that made me cry, because it is my prayer:

You are the face that changed the whole world
no one too lost for You to love
no one too low for You to serve

so give us the grace to change the world
no one too lost for me to love
no one too low for me to serve
let us be your face

Thank you for your support and prayers. I can't wait to see (and be!) the face of God in Haiti...

I hope to be able to write again soon!