Friday, December 31, 2010

Bye 2010!

Happy New Years!

Christmas in Africa was awesome - It’s strange not to spend it with our families but we had an awesome host family that made us feel right at home, let us eat dinner with them, and even gave us gifts. Sharon, our host mom, is an awesome chef and we definitely did our American duty by stuffing ourselves silly.

We survived a very “African” bus ride from Mossel Bay to Jeffrey’s Bay and will be here for a couple more weeks. Jeffrey’s Bay is famous for its surfing, so it’s been fun to see a totally different type of beach here, and watch the surfers rough the cold water to ride the waves. Since it’s still “holiday season,” the town is packed with tourists but it’s nice that we’re not the only ones asking for directions and looking lost all the time. I’m looking forward to seeing all the NYE celebrations tonight and am hoping for major fireworks on the beach!

We haven’t had a chance to “do” much yet, but David and I spent some time talking with a really cool old man during lunch at the base yesterday. Dennis was in prison at some point, and then his wife left him earlier this year and he was homeless and sleeping on the beach. He came by the base to ask for food one day, started talking with them, and has since become the base gardener – talking with him was really encouraging and he is evidence of the possibilities for life change going on in this city, which has been really divided since apartheid. We also had a short devotional with the city police this morning, so there is lots to be done here and we’re looking forward to jumping in and being a part of everything going on here.

Please keep our team, Dennis, and the city of Jeffrey’s Bay in your prayers, especially tonight as we’ve heard NYE is crazy here! Happy 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

"...Down by the Bay..."

There are no watermelons growing here, but we are definitely "down by the bay." It is hard to upload pictures here because of the internet but the view is gorgeous and it is great to be back at the beach again. I stole these pictures from Google Images but they are all views I've actually seen, so I think they're legit enough.

We've been staying with host families for the past few days, which has been a great experience. David and I have been with a super sweet family who has adorable little boys (3 and 5), so we've had fun playing with them and getting to know the family. 

We celebrated Billy's birthday with a "potjiekos," which are pots filled with chicken and vegetables slow-cooked over a fire and served with rice, which was delicious. Seriously, I think we each had like 3 plates full but we've been doing a ton of walking and there are a lot of hills around here. Plus, it's Christmas-time and I think it is our duty, as Americans, to gain insane amounts of weight during the holidays, regardless of where we are in the world!

Our host mom, Sharon, recommended that we spend an afternoon at Jukani, and we happened to get there at 3:45, not knowing that they would be feeding all of the animals dinner at 4. We got some awesome pictures of the animals and learned some interesting facts. Everything was in cages, and the animals seemed pretty tame (for wild animals) but we're in Africa, so we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see lions and tigers!

We also took a boat out to Seal Island (not the famous one but same idea), where I saw my first wild seals. Again, this picture is from Google but it is exactly what the island looked like - covered in seals. You can go cage diving out here with Great White Sharks (because they come feed on the seals when they get in the water) but it is only a couple miles from a public beach, so they are limiting it right now, since it's summer and the beach is so crowded.

Last night, we went back to the Pentecostal church that we visited last Sunday and led a fun service. Billy did a great job singing, Florence gave her testimony (with Melissa translating), Sam gave a little talk about YWAM, I was the emcee and David did an awesome job as the "preacher," with a message about perseverance. We're all really proud of him, and the church loved it.

We will be attending the Christmas Eve service at the Anglican church tonight (it's Christmas Eve! I'm wearing a sundress and flip flops. Love it!) and moving back into another house as a team. We've had lots of invitations for Christmas dinner tomorrow and all the food here has been wonderful, so we're planning to wear pants with elastic, and get our Christmas on, African-style. Sharon and I even made eggnog yesterday - I'm a little embarrassed to bring one of America's worst recipes/traditions to Africa but I tried to warn her :) 

So do something especially American for us, and we'll have some meat, Mrs. Ball's chutney and a glass of African eggnog for you. Merry Christmas and Gese├źnde Kersfees (Afrikaans) to you and yours, from halfway around the world.

David and Nicole

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Motherland

Internet here in the Motherland is tricky, but we have officially made it to South Africa! We are staying in Mossel Bay until the 28th, and then heading to Jeffrey's Bay.

The country is beautiful, the people have incredible accents, everyone has been extremely friendly and we're enjoying the warm weather!

The culture here is also really fun. So far, we've had a traditional South African braai, sampled ostrich billtong, covered everything in Mrs. Ball's chutney, and watched lots of cricket. We also attended a traditional local church service this morning and were given giant rams' horns as gifts.

This is Africa.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Base-ics

As our time staying at YWAM Burtigny is coming to a close, we thought it might be a good idea to give you a tour of where we've been living for the past three months. Living at a YWAM base is certainly interesting - the good news is there is always something going on; the bad news is...there is ALWAYS something going on. It's been an adjustment for us to live with so many people and share so much of the space, but it's also been fun and taken us back to what it was like to live in a dorm.
The Base - We're pretty sure it's the biggest property in Burtigny and our base is half the town's population.

The Garden - Many people do a great job of making sure there are beautiful flowers in front of the base and they also have a delicious vegetable garden across the street.

Reception - This is what you see when you walk in the front door of the base. Quite stylish and welcoming - especially for YWAM.

 Our Classroom - This is the classroom we've used for our lectures over the past 3 months. The giant world map seems to be a requirement for all YWAM classrooms and the projection screen in the corner has been great for watching college football on Saturday nights.

The Dining Room - People don't play about food here. If you're late and you didn't ask someone to save you some food, tough luck.  

The Sunroom/Movie Room - This room can be a good hideout to do some reading, journaling, or other reflective activities. It's also a popular spot to watch movies or sports on the weekend. And it's one of the best spots to watch the snow fall. 

 The Pool Room/Lounge - Where issues are settled. You can almost always find people playing pool, and some of us get quite serious. There's not much to do in town so many hours are spent at the pool table. Aside from our room, we probably spend more time hanging out in this room than anywhere else.

 Our Room - Home Sweet Home. It's tiny, messy, and quite toasty. It's been an adjustment to share a room like this, but it's helped us keep things pretty simple. We've tried to give it some life by putting up pictures and we have a plant growing in the window. It's weird that we've started to feel like we're settling in, and now it's time to pack everything up and move out.

Our Team - There are nine students and six staff. We have people from the U.S., England, South Africa, Belgium, India, & Switzerland. A very international experience!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Not Just Another Day

Today is World AIDS Day, and as we prepare to leave for South Africa on the 15th (happy birthday to me!), the issue of HIV/AIDS has become increasingly important to us. The nation of South Africa has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, with over 6,600,000 currently infected and 1,400,000 children orphaned by the disease. Worldwide, there are over 36,000,000 people infected, with a new infection occurring every every 12 seconds.

Please support the fight against HIV/AIDS and its ravaging impact on the world by spreading the word and learning how you can get involved.

For more information, check out the AIDS Clock or World AIDS Day Website

You can also join us in committing to pray for the nation of South Africa, those who have been effected by HIV/AIDS and the time we will spend there.

Thanks for your support!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Very Merry Christmas

How much cuter would this card be with
 me and David's faces? :)
Although Skype, e-mail and googletalk have all been invaluable in helping us to stay in touch with friends and family while we've been hopping around the world, there is nothing quite like getting a real card in the mail. Even when we were just down the road from our friends and family, Christmas was always a time I looked forward to because of the sheer abundance of snail mail. In fact, I'm pretty sure I like getting Christmas cards more than presents. 

Since we'll be leaving for South Africa before Christmas, we are working hard to get our cards out early this year (and you should send them early to us too...hint, hint), which is great because Shutterfly is giving away 50 free Christmas cards to bloggers! Shutterfly has a huge selection of photo Christmas cards (my favorite!) and we have a ton of great pictures from all our travels this year so this is going to be a major decision! If you're not into photo Christmas cards, they also have a huge selection of holiday invitations and even fun gifts, like photo calendars or photo coffee mugs.

If you are looking for a great way to share your cute mug on a mug and support a worthy cause, pair up a Shutterfly photo coffee mug with a bag of Veronica's Cup Coffee. The coffee is a certified Fair-Trade Peruvian blend and proceeds go to support Veronica's House, an immediate safehouse in Peru that provides shelter, food, clothing, counseling and healthcare referrals for women and children at risk of being forced into sex or drug trafficking.

If you are on top of things and already have your Christmas cards done for the year, check out Shutterfly's fun selection of photo birthday cards. I think this one is adorable (probably not with this random kid's face though) and would be cute with any of the great products from the Not For Sale store, like this fun bracelet (which I have and love) handmade by women in Ugandan refugee camps. 

So go order your Christmas cards and send them to us soon! Or save them and celebrate in the United States with us when we have our very own Christmas in March!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

This was Friday but we're up to a solid 7 inches today and it's still coming down!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks a Lot!

Although we're spending the day in a country where people don't celebrate Thanksgiving, we're still going to celebrate today! There are so many things in our lives we are thankful for, but here are just a few:
 Technology: Thank you to Skype, Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, etc. Because of technology, we're able to keep in touch with our friends and family back home and keep up with exciting things that are happening.
Health: We take this for granted way too often. Neither of us have ever had any major medical issues and we continue to be blessed with good health.
Alps: We live in Switzerland and have some of the most amazing views in the world. It's impossible to describe the beauty of standing on top of a hill and looking out over Lake Geneva at the foot of the French Alps.
Nicole: I realize what a blessing she is more and more each day. She's my best friend and I'm so thankful I'm able to share my life with her.
Knowledge: We're so thankful we come from families where education and knowledge are important and we have always been given opportunities to learn and experience things. 
Supporters: We could not be where we are right now without our supporters. Whether it's been through financial or prayer support - you make it possible for us to be here. Your encouragement and partnership means so much to us and we can't thank you enough.
Georgia: It's always on our mind and in many ways, it's home. It's where we met each other, where we graduated, where we got married, and where Nicole's family lives. Go Dawgs!
Improvement: We can't help but laugh at how different we are now than we were two years ago. We have grown in so many areas and learned so much about the world, and we've learned there is so much we don't know. We're thankful for the areas where we've improved and excited about the ways we can still grow.
Virginia: When the leaves are changing colors in the Fall, that's enough to be thankful for the beauty of Virginia. I'm also thankful for many great friends and family that live in Virginia.
Indoor Plumbing: When you go to a place where this isn't available, you really learn how thankful you are for it. There are so many blessings we have in our life that we take for granted all the time and most of the world would consider it an enormous luxury. 
Nations: There are so many wonderful and exciting things about the world and people from around the world. We have had the opportunity to get to know people from many different nations over the past two months, and it's been incredible to hear their stories and perspectives about how they view the world. See the world and hang out with people from other cultures.
God: He's our creator, our provider, and so much more. He formed us. He brought us together. He brought us here. And he has a plan for our future. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I see London, I see France...

One of the many things we wanted to try to do while in Europe was travel and Annecy, France came highly recommended to us by a few people before we even got to Switzerland. Lucky for us, it is just over the French border and is known for having one of the best street markets in France, so we took a little Sunday trip to check it out. We got up and took the train from Gland to Geneva where we found out (surprise!) that we had to take the bus to Annecy - oops. It was only a 90 minute trip (through the gorgeous Alps) and well worth it for the incredible day we had. If we can squeeze in another day before we head to Africa, we'll definitely be back!

Our first European train ride. Big day!

The market

This taffy stuff was incredible and they had every single flavor you could ever image. I think I ate my weight in free samples...

Olives and tapenade. I love you, Europe.

Some man offered me a free oyster. I watched him open it and kill it. And then I ate it.

Donkey sausage - of course we had to try it...

Affordable sushi! ....because we needed a mid-morning snack...?

GIANT meringues in a billion flavors

I got chocolate :) 

David went with the baguette

Hello Alps

Pizza for lunch

The couple next to us left and didn't eat all of their I took it, and David took a picture. It was delicious and he thanked me later.

The old prison

Lac d'Annecy

Pont des Amours

We obviously hadn't eaten enough at this point, so we had to try real "chestnuts roasted on an open fire." So Christmasy!

The city from the other side of the lake

And we finished off the evening with a "gaufre" (French for giant, amazing, delicious waffle covered in powdered sugar) and hot, fresh crepes - we had one Nutella and Grand Marnier crepe. And then went back for another Nutella.

Sunday really may have been the best day I've had since we've been here. Our weeks are full of class, deep discussions and lots of community time, so it was great to be able to get away and relax by ourselves for the day. And France uses the Euro, so everything is so much cheaper than in Switzerland!