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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Unwedding Day

Last night, a dear friend of mine came over to chat and hang out.  It was supposed to be the night before her wedding, but due to some difficult circumstances, the wedding had to be postponed.  I was going to be (and still hope to be) her bridesmaid.  Mom and Dad were going to a fundraising gala, so I decided to put on my dress and celebrate for just a few moments with them.... I also wanted to show the bride my dress.
 This morning I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing.  The bride wanted me to come hang out for the day with her and her fiance and family.  I headed over to her fiance's house and soon learned that he was a pig farmer, who also raised 18 chickens and roosters.  He came in the house moments after my arrival, saying that he thought one of the hens was going to die.  I offered two suggestions - to wrap the wound, since the bird looked injured, or to end the birds life.  Option B was chosen after we took a closer look.
 Moments later, the chicken was taken out of its misery, and I hung out in the livingroom.  :)  This cool chair made me feel like royalty.  For a couple of hours, while the chicken was hanging in the shed, we went to a huge market.  We had a great time walking around, checking out all the wares and fashions.  Then back to the house to prepare the bird for the freezer.  It was a year ago since I had been a part of turkey's preparation for Thanksgiving.  I set a big pot of water on to boil and soon we were de-feathering and I was butchering.  It felt great to be helpful!  While the bride-to-be was on the phone, she said, "O ya, Karen is here, and she is from Africa!"  I had to chuckle.  The groom was impressed with my Fear Factor bravery and thanked the bride for having such a fun friend. 

For a few hours I disappeared so that I could go to a birthday party for a sweet four year old girl.  When the celebration was over, there was a lot of leftover birthday cake.  With a little creativity, I brought it back to the bride and groom-to-be's house, so we could top off our day with a piece of Happy Unwedding cake.  Loads of laughter and hugs were shared and together we knew we had pulled off an adventurous day.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hippos for Christmas

This video was created last year when I came home from Uganda.  I saw a lot of hippos while on a safari on the Nile River.  The song playing in the background of this video is for my nephew Jacob (since it is his new favourite song), but originally the video was created for two precious girls - Abby and Emma.

I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

American Thanksgiving

Four years of college in Grand Rapids, MI
6 Thanksgiving feasts with the awesome Manning family in St. Louis, MO
Loads of friends across the country
A love for holidays....
All make me want to wish a few friends a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I pray you will have a fun time feasting and fellowshipping, but also remembering to give thanks to the Creator of all life.

It never hurts to be grateful :) so here is my list for today:
  • a loving and supportive family
  • friends who care
  • a church that prays
  • the ability to travel and explore God's world
  • work
  • the changing seasons and fireplaces
  • hot showers
  • diversity in food
  • freedom and independence
  • God's Word
  • BUT most of all - FOR GOD - who continues to guide, direct, hold, comfort, and grant peace, patience, understanding, love, forgiveness, joy, and so much more.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Citizen with Boundaries

The strangest feeling has come over me the past few days.  I feel trapped without a passport.  I never knew that I depended on those papers so much.  For example, it is American Thanksgiving this week... and I would love to jet over to St. Louis and participate in a fantastic Thanksgiving tradition there... or go to Grand Rapids and visit friends and family there... or go to Africa, etc... instead I am stuck here in Canada.  I shouldn't say stuck there... I had no plans to go anywhere... and a new passport is already in the works.

I lost my passport (it must have been stolen or pick-pocketed) coming home to Toronto the other night.  Within 12 hours Passport Canada was notified and a police report was written up.  There is nothing more that I can do.  (Although I am praying that someone out there returns it to me, because all the stamps in the passport tell a part of my life's story!!)

Thinking about how blessed I am to be a citizen of Canada - where I have a wonderful family, great freedom, opportunities to work and learn, incredible creation, and so much more... lead me to thinking about also being a citizen of heaven.  Thankfully there are no passports needed to get in to heaven.  You can't lose your paperwork.  Just invite the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart and there is a place in heaven for you!

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." Eph 2:19-20.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Serving Again

Serving God in Soroti rarely escapes my mind.  Plans are back in the works for me to go back to Uganda very soon.  Here is a quick glimpse of my year in 2009.
I hope you will all join me in the mission of doing the Lord's work once again on the foreign mission field.

"More Karebear"

I really miss New Zealand and I think parts of New Zealand miss me. 
Or at least Sophia does.  :)
Here she is saying: "More Karebear"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Flying Home

November 17th - the longest day of my life.
 Board a plane in Auckland, New Zealand at 7:00 am.
 Land in Brisbane, Australia at 7:10 am... and eat a bag of kangaroo jerky while waiting for my next big flight.
 13 hours over the ocean... only to land in LA... and once again it is 6:55 am on the 17th.  :)
 At 3 pm I boarded a plane for the final stretch home to Canada... and we flew into the darkness.  We landed around 10:45 pm.  I love the night view of Toronto suburbs.
Somehow I lost my passport between LAX and Toronto.  I had it boarding the plane in LA and didn't have it by the time I got to customs in Toronto.  So strange.  I wasn't sure they would even let me in the country - but since I am Canadian, I got in with just my drivers license.  I really hope I find my passport, since I seem to use it an awful lot... and I need it again in January.  Who knows, maybe it fell out while I was taking pictures from seat 15A.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Finishing Touches in NZ

I thought I would send a fun photo gallery of my last two days in New Zealand.  I spent those days with the Scott family, enjoying some more local Auckland sights and sounds.
 Brooke and I went with the girls to One Tree Hill... a gorgeous park area surrounds the old volcano.
 Baby Zoe is fast asleep as we strolled the gardens.
 Sophia loves to play at the park.  (And the parks here are amazing. If I ever have kids, I hope they can play in parks as creative, safe, super fun as the ones here!!)
 Brooke and Sophia - tree truck treasures!
 I'm a fan of the trees too.
 The sheep were in the park too... we hung out with them in green pastures.  Cornwall Park surrounds the base of One Tree Hill.  A perfect family getaway.
 Departing Auckland after breakfast, Travis, Sophia and I drove 1.5 hours south of Auckland to Paeroa.  We stopped for snack at the Talisman Cafe before setting out for an hour long tramp.
 Karangahake Gorge was the day's destination
 Heading in to a 1070 m long train tunnel... I'm excited to see what's on the other side.
 No tracks in the old tunnel... just a few puddles and lots of courage.
 Travis, Sophia, and I loved our trek... the first nicely hot day I've had in NZ.
 Poser Perfection :)
 The famous L&P soda in Paeroa... world famous.
Back in Auckland, I decided to walk up to Western Park and view the architectural remains that are buried in the grass there.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Craving for Caving

 "Mom?! Dad?!... I love you... "  I pretended to call home before checking in for a spectacular underground adventure.  My new friend Catherine and I drove to Waitomo on Saturday morning to go caving in a way I've never caved before.
Signing up for the 1:30 pm Black Labyrinth tour with the Black Water Rafting Co, we made our way to the outfitting area where we were eyed for size and given wet suit socks, overalls, jackets, rubber boots and a helmet.  All of the equipment was wet and cold and chore to put on.
11 of us were heading out for a SWEET tour... with outfits that were extremely tight.  I felt like a moon walker as I hopped on to the tour bus to ride 10 minutes over to Ruakuri cave.  Finding a rubber tube that fit each of our bodies, we took them to the rivers edge for a little education on backward jumping over waterfalls and collecting as a group.
Having no fear of the cold water I volunteered to jump first from the pier into the water.  After we were all done our practise round, we reloaded the bus and drove another five minutes and then walked to the edge of the cave.  It was seriously a hole in the ground, covered with greenery.  Originally found because of two wild dogs hiding there.  We took our tubes in to the deep hole, turned on our headlamps and got accustomed to the darkness.
Here we are gathered as a group, getting ready to tube through the cave.  I followed one of our guides to the waters edge where a 1.5 foot long eel was awaiting.  The guide greeted him, slightly pushed it away so that I could step in to the shallow waters and plop in to my tube.  Not the easiest thought... to tube in freezing cold waters, knowing that eels are gliding below my butt.
For an hour we either tubed or slowly walked through shallow rocky waters.  We learned to trust each other and appreciate nature.  But the coolest part were the GLOWWORMS that hung from the ceiling like stars on a cloudless sky.  With out lamps turned off we slowly felt our way through narrow passages, following the light of the glowworms alone.
Glowworms are Arachnocampa Luminosa.  In other words: (the words of our tour guide)... they are cannibalistic shagging mucous maggots that glow in the dark by their own will.  :)
This adventure caving was superbly phenomenal in my opinion!!  Arriving back at the outfitters lodge, we unstripped ourselves of our caving gear, showered in our bathing togs, dried off, redressed, and headed inside for a warm cup of soup and toasted bagel.
O ya, while I was sipping my soup there was a voice behind me, asking "So, did you have a good time in the Labyrinth."  I recognized that voice as my friend Roman from the Rangitoto volcano hike.  What do you know... we caught up again, and hung out a little bit more in the evening!  It's a small world out here.
Catherine and I weren't done with our journey through creation though.  We decided to hike a trail during the day that went through a few minor tunnels, crossed bridges over major caves, and admired the trees.

              This is my new pal Catherine!
The mossy look makes me smile with delight every time.
Since I was a small girl... going on family vacations, I have loved spelunking!
The famous New Zealand Koru
Don't worry Dad, I'm only having 5 minutes of fun.
After hiking we went through another fun drive around the surrounding countryside.  In the distance you will see our hotel for the evening.  It is a very colonial building, with old rooms and victorian carpeting.
Catherine and I spent the night at the Waitomo Caves Hotel.
I felt like a hobbit when I found the doorknob to our room to be at eye level.
After munching down on our free continental breakfast, we drove a few minutes up the road to the Waitomo Caves for a completely different experience.  Huge caverns to walk through, with a different and more descript picture of the famous glowworms.  This cave tour was completely with a ten minute boat ride done in complete darkness and silence.  Our boat guide pulled on ropes to lead us through massive caverns of glowing maggots.
Still not feeling like our journey with the caves was done, Aranui Caves was also on our list of to do's.  I don't normally skip church on Sunday mornings, but spending time with God in His Creation was fulfilling for me.  His glory was proclaimed in every corner.
Stalactites and Stalagmites are a very patient form of growth.  The last cave that we went through was awesome for a completely different reason.  The patterns and stories in the stones were a lot more intricate than the massive caverns that held the glowworms.
We left Waitomo around noon... made a quick rest stop by the famous Kiwi House and headed back to Auckland for a 2 pm rest.
Sunday evening was my last opportunity to attend house church.  It was a true blessing to fellowship with God's people.  We shared a potluck meal and finished with discussing the Sermon on the Mount.  I love being with God's people, no matter where in the world I am. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mt. Eden by Day

Today was a home day... a relaxing day to spend with the children and hang out with Brooke.  In the afternoon we did break away from the house to drop by the library, get groceries, and enjoy one more sight!!
Mt. Eden by day
A Crater in the middle of Auckland city.

I'm loving my vacation!

Riding the Rails

6:15 am - the alarm clock rings
6:30 am - I'm out the door, hitting the streets of Auckland and making my way downtown to the Britomart Train Station.  I was dressed up for the day, to ride the rails.

 Destination: National Park - to and fro in 12 hours.
 With a late departure, we were all aboard to see some of the most incredible scenery... and I almost wish I didn't take pictures, because they don't do the countryside any justice.
All aboard on the Overlander!
 I spent almost 4 hours on the freshair deck, as we rolled down the tracks.  Thankfully the sun came out three hours into the trek.
What did I see:
Rains turn to sun
The largest sheep shearing town in the world, with a huge statue in the town centre to mark the festivities... I mean - work.
Cattle meadering in single file back to the parlor in time for milking.
Twin lambs suckling from their mother on steep slopes overlooking the tracks.
An elderly couple holding hands in the seats next to me, enjoying the scenic pleasures.

 My first snowy mountain peak.
And a glimpse of Mount Ruapehu, which in Maori means "Two Peaks".  It is approximately 1/2 a million years old.... this volcano is the highest point on the northern island.
 The train rattled so much it created a new caligraphy for my letter writing.  :)
 At the National Park, I was the only passenger doing a to and fro so the staff called my name and took me under their wing.  Because of our late departure, I was unable to spend much time at the National Park station.  The train conductors gave me three minutes to take a few snaps and a bit of a breather, before following them to the next train.  Before leaving the first train I was given a bright yellow emergency vest so that I could be easily spotted.  I jumped out... checked out the base of the mountains, then reboarded plane one to follow my two staff through a side door, cross two feet of track, sneak on to train two and depart a minute later.
 This is us coming out of the spiral tunnel... an engineering feat.  Please see the following explanations on my train pamphlet which describes how we climbed one steep hill.

On the way home I had the best views because I knew where to look for them.  We past the sacred mountain, where Maori kings and one queen are buried.  We made good time coming back, even though the signal light system was still malfunctioning.  We returned to Britomart at 7:30 pm.  I stepped outside of the train station and found a bus immediately that would take me close to home for 50 cents.  Yeah, for the skies were starting to darken and drizzle.  8pm... statisfied with my day!