Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Going Green

Happy Valentine's Day!

Please excuse my blog-disappearance. I know the suspense of what happened last year (isn't that ironic?) is a killer. While you've been biting your fingers waiting to know exactly how I spent every moment of February, 2011, I've been enjoying myself working hard at a team planning session at The Greenbrier.

I have been to my fair share of fancy schmancy resorts - The Breakers, Grand WaileaReynolds Plantation, Hotel del Coronado, Moana Surfrider, Sandals Grande Antigua....and of course, everything Disney, but The Greenbrier is another level. First of all, visiting the hotel required my first trip to the great state of West Virginia. Growing up in Alabama, I know that states are sometimes given undeserved stereotypes, but what I saw of good 'ol White Sulphar Springs pretty much lived up to the West Virginia hype. It's a small, homey town, whose inhabitants are almost soley employed by the resort.

Built in 1858, the actual resort laced with history and has spent most of its long life owned by railroad companies, but was bought by entrepreneur Jim Justice in 2009. Originally, it was famed for its Sulphar springs, thought by Native Americans to heal various ailments, but was almost entirely burned down during the Civil War. One of the coolest things about the resort is that it also served as an underground "secret emergency relocation center" (bunker) for the U.S. Government in the late 1950's. The bunker was kept stocked and a secret for 30 years, but never actually used for its intended purposes, and was leaked in 1922 by the Washington Post. Tours are available, but we didn't have time on this trip.

The real splendor of this place is the decor, done by Dorothy Draper in her famous "modern baroque" style. It has been said that, "Draper was to decorating what Chanel was to fashion. She brought color into a world which was sad and dreary. These splashy vibrant colors were used to make the public spaces represent a place for people to come again and feel elevated and where the dramatic design could absorb them in the interior." Truer words could have been been spoken - the colors at the Greenbrier are definitely splashy and vibrant and it is impossible not to be absorbed into the interior, which is kind of a problem when you just want to find your room. In my own words, I'd say that her style is more "Willy Wonka meets Vera Bradley." If you ever visited us while we lived at the condo in Jupiter, you'll understand that this seems to be Mema's style, too.

By the way, Meredith, I was standing in this giant pink room when I read your superlong, amazing email :)

I know I'm behind on Africa posts, but wanted to share my entry from last Valentine's Day. I still can't believe that was only/already a year ago! In true Aldridge fashion, we spent the day stuffing our faces. It just won't be the same without tremendous amounts of curry this year.

February 14, 2011

Being here in Kokstad and at Imbali continues to be such a blessing. It has been great to have a chance to relax and adjust to civilization again and we have really enjoyed getting to know Cobus, Riann, Warren and their families. They have absolutely spoiled us and I hope that staying here a few extra days is helpful for them – I can’t wait to get home and write rave reviews for them on every travel website I can find.

We went to church yesterday with Cobus’ family (where he introduced us as his “American friends”) and it was surprisingly similar to every other African church we’ve been to so far, except in English. Everything about their lives here seems to still be pretty segregated but church was a mix of cultures and very much on “African time” with no real order whatsoever and very basic décor and technology.

The main speaker was not the pastor, but a man from Nigeria and a lot of the service was focused on healing, which seems popular here. The man was hard to understand but talked about building all the different parts of your life on the rock of the Word instead of what the world or other people tell you. I think it was mostly referring to doctors and diagnoses but it was a message I really needed to hear as we finish up our outreach and begin to prepare for the Peace Corps or whatever is in store for us next. We’ve had such mixed reactions from friends and family about the Peace Corps and sometimes I’m not sure what I even want next, but the great news is that it doesn’t matter what anyone’s opinion is, because God has already told us how to live and all the instructions are in His Word.

Ironically, I’m at least a week behind in Bible reading, but I’m working on it. Being here with most modern luxuries/free time/distractions is good practice for being at home, though. I’ve been in a little Christian-community bubble for the past 6 months where it has been easy to make God a priority, and I want to continue at home.

So, after church we spend some more quality time at the pool enjoying the sun and then walked to Spar (after a HUGE thunderstorm complete with marble-sized hail) and went to every grocery store in town with Cobus. Ivonne’s son-in-law also finally dropped off all our bags but I guess he got stuck in a storm between Tabankulu and Kokstad because all of our stuff was absolutely soaked. This is especially frustrating since it could have all been avoided if he had put the smaller stuff (like my ruined Tempurpedic pillow and/or our box of food) inside the cab with him, since he came alone. I’m glad to have everything back though and a pillow is a small sacrifice to make if it means never going back to Tabankulu.

We have a TON of food here now, though, and ate some of it last night but now that the weekend is over, the kitchen is open again, which brings me to what we did all day today: eat.

When Cobus told us about today’s breakfast last night, I figured that I’d eat the fruit in our room because nothing sounded very great. We watched him get bread ready for the breadmaker but it was some sort of cornbread. I was wrong last night though because everything this morning was incredible. David and I suffered from Sandals Syndrom and stuffed our faces because we didn’t have to pay (extra) for it and anything that isn’t from a can is still amazing to us. We had hake filets, scrambled eggs, bacon, baked beans, chicken sausage, tomato & onion, watermelon, other fruit, homemade bread, banana bread, cereal, museli and lots of French-press coffee. And it was all amazing.

Needless to say, we skipped lunch and headed to town for some quality time at the internet café, and then back to Imbali to hang out at the pool. Then, Cobus surprised us by sending us over to the Mt.Currie Inn for Valentine’s Day dinner. Where we threw down again. The help here all speaks Xhosa but I’m pretty sure they were busy discussing how much the skinny white kids were eating. For dinner, we had salad, rice, curry chicken, lamb shanks, mac & cheese, roasted potatoes, butternut/acorn squash, creamed spinach, apple strudel, wine, chocolate cake…and lots more coffee. I’m pretty sure (okay, positive) that I ate more than David both at breakfast and dinner but I’m ready for my swimsuit to fit again, and trying to enjoy everything while it’s “free.” We are spending 500R to stay here tonight but I’m sure the food I ate at dinner alone was worth it.

It’s 12:45Am…and just a few more hours ‘till breakfast! TIA, starvin’ marvin!

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