Reflections.

Several hours ago , the Malaysian Prime Minister announced that MH370 was presumed lost in the South Indian Ocean. I don’t know how often the US media has covered the story, but it has been impossible to turn on the television and not hear about the search within 10 minutes throughout Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and India. Caleb and I have had discussions with fellow travelers about it, oftentimes admitting the tragedy felt too close for comfort. Many of us have repeatedly traveled through the Kuala Lumpur airport as it is a hub for several of the regional airlines. As the days turned into a week turned into two, it became increasingly impossible to imagine a scenario that did not end in tragedy. And as a traveler who is averaging several flights a month that was unsettling.

Several weeks prior to the disappearance of MH370, there was a terrorist attack at a Chinese train station in Kunming killing 33 people. We woke up on the morning of March 2 to the news, and I lost my appetite as I thought about our own train journey the next day.

When we decided to go on this crazy adventure, I did so pushing past my fear. I had long wanted to spend extensive time traveling, but always had an excuse. It wasn’t a good time. I didn’t have enough money. While these were often legitimate, I neglected the biggest reason. I was scared.

During the past three months, I have been pushed way out of my western comfort zone. I have ordered food by pointing to Chinese characters and hoping for the best. I have figured out what to do when you need to book a flight due to a canceled reservation and you have issues with accessing your funds. I have cried in a KFC (admittedly not my proudest moment), because I couldn’t even accurately communicate what I wanted to eat at an American restaurant with English speaking employees. I have ridden a 14 hour bus all through Cambodia. I have endured a stomach bug while flying three times in three days. I have laughed at myself when I have missed it culturally and smiled when locals have graciously corrected me. Most importantly, I have been reminded once again of my fragility. I am reminded of my lack of control, reminded part of what it means to be human.

I just finished “When Helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett and I was struck by this quote when pondering my fear over the unknown and my limited understanding regarding unexplained tragedy:

“It is important to remember that neither humans nor the systems they create are as bad as they could possibly be. Christ continues to ‘hold all things together’ and to ‘sustain all things by his powerful word’. Hence, while the good creation- including individuals and the systems they create- is deeply distorted, it retains some of its inherent goodness. Flowers are still pretty. A baby’s smile brings joy to all who see it. People are often kind to one another.”

Whether we are watching a tragedy from afar or are pushing through personal grief that we didn’t ask for nor think will ever end, it is so good for our souls to remember that there is a reality that we do not understand. In a grand mysterious way, Christ is holding all things together. We still have doubts, fears, anxieties, anger- welcome to humanity. It is messy and confusing and tragic and beautiful and through it all Christ sustains.

Advertisements

Scooters, Soreness, and SPF 50

Hey everybody, this is Caleb  posting for the first time. Jennie convinced me that I should write a post, so here we go. My original idea was to just post a bunch of pictures and write as little as possible, but we are in the airport right now, and I cant get pictures to load. Sorry you are going to have to suffer through my wiritng.

Since Jennie’s last post we have been through 3.5 countries.

We made a very short 8 hour stop in Hong Kong. We were basically just wating for our connecting flight later in the day, but we decided to go out and explore the city. Hong Kong is the 0.5 of a country that I mentioned before, because the Hong Kong/China relationship is very strange, and  I’m not really sure how to categorize it. We had major culture shock coming into HK. It really felt like being in any big US city. There were people of all nationalities everywhere, lots of western advertisements and shops, and tons of people spoke english. It was fun to do a really quick tour of the city and to avoid having to sit in the airport for that long.

We flew from Hong Kong to Vietnam and spent 2 days there. We took a boat tour down the Mekong river and got to see a lot of really cool things. We ate fresh tropical fruit, saw a place where they make coconut candy, and got to wear sweet Vietnamese hats (We’ll post pictures later.) Something else that was fun (Jennie might use the word stressfull, or terrifying) was walking around the city with all its traffic. The majority of People in Vietnam get around using small motorbikes or scooters. It was not unusual to see four people riding on a single motorbike. It was also not unusual for people to be going down the road the wrong direction, which makes crossing the street very interesting (once again terrifying could be a better word.)

After Vietnam we traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap in a small city located very close to the famous temple Ankor Wat. We loved Cambodia, the people were very laid back and friendly, and things moved slowly. We spent almost all of our time at Angkor Wat which is not just one temple, but an “Archeological Park” consisting of a series of temples spread out of a very large area. I convinced Jennie that we should ride bikes to get around to the various sights. Riding was a very fun way to see the area and we really enjoyed it. However, some of the temples are pretty far apart and we had to do a lot of riding. We rode over 40 miles in two days! Most of that was within the park, so that gives you an idea of how big it is. There is a particular soreness that comes from riding a bike, I wont mention it here, but suffice it to say we were both victims. We were very tired, but we eally enjoyed the places we saw.

Last but not least we spent 7 days in Thailand. We spent all of our time on an Island called Phi Phi Don. It was an incredibly beautiful place. We relaxed on the beach, went for boat rides, enjoyed some great food, and spent a lot of time trying not to get sunburned. We had been looking forward to this portion  of the trip because it was our first real opportunity to stop and relax. The trip up to that point was constant motion, sightseeing, moving from city to city, and flying. There was not much time to just slow down. So the island gave us a much needed time to rest. The island is really small and hardly anything was more than a ten minute walk from our hotel. Most evenings we would climb up to a cool viewpoint which overlooks most of the island and is the perfect place to see the sunset. It was a beautiful plae and really refreshed us. We also got to use our new open water licenses and went to two different dive sights near the island. Although we won’t have much opportunity to scuba dive when we get back to Midland, we love getting to do it when the opportunity arises.

So that is what we have been up to the last 2 weeks or so, we’ll try to post pictures as on as we can.

In a few hours our flight leaves for India, so the rest and relaxation is over and we are back to the fun.

China (too tired to think of a creative title)

Hello friends!

Caleb and I can hardly believe that we are half way through our trip. It is surreal that we have been gone from the US for over 2 months now. I have a lot to catch you up on, so here we go!

Sydney:

I think my last post we had just gotten to Sydney. Sydney is a beautiful city. We got to go hear the symphony in the Opera House, watch the Lion King (a fantastic play!), and go to the doctor. Caleb got an ear infection from our scuba diving adventure, but after a day or two he was feeling much better. We are thankful to not have any other health problems so far. Your continued prayers for our health would be appreciated as I am anxious about that. We knew that Sydney would be our last stop before hitting culture shock, so we took it easy the day beore traveling to China.

 

Beijing, China

We ran into some problems trying to board our flight from Sydney to Beijing. It seems that our booking company cancelled our reservation and neglected to tell us. We were able to recooperate our money and after about 8 hours in the airport we able to book another flight for the next morning. It was one of those, “This will be funny one day” experiences. When you sign up for 4 months of constant travel, things like this are just bound to happen. Once we finally arrived in Beijing, I noticed three things immediately. One, it is really cold. Two, there is a lot of pollution. Three, there is no such thing as personal space. When we left the airport, we were waiting to get on the subway. When the doors opened, I looked at the people and just froze. I did not think there was anyway to squeeze more people in. I watched in amazement as crowds of people passed me. I learned very quickly to push your way through. If you wait, you will never get on. We were in Beijing for just a few days, so we saw the typical sights: the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiamen Square, the Summer Palace and local markets. After our first day in Beijing, we went to restaurants that did not have English menus. We were lucky if they had menus with pictures, so we would just look around and point to what other people were having. What an experience. Also, I am terrible at chop sticks. Chinese people would stare and laugh and I would look up smile and laugh with them. I am sure it was a sight to see. 

Xi’an, China

From Beijing, we took a train to Xi’an, China. Xi’an is famous for the Terracotta Warriors and it was an amazing sight to see. It was defintely the most impressive thing I saw in China. We also had a crazy experience involving a water pipe.  We were staying at an apartment in the city and were the only people staying in this apartment. We came home one night and when we went into the bathroom, water was everywhere. The water pipe that connects the sink hose had busted. It wasn’t leaking too bad, so Caleb was just going to tighten it up. Unfortunately, the moment he grabbed the pipe, it completely broke and the water was gushing out like a garden hose that is on full blast. What came next was utter chaos as Caleb used kitchen pots to grab the water and dump it into the sink. We were yelling at each other about what we should do. At one point Caleb said, ” You need to find the building supervisor” And I said, “How do you suggest I do that when I can’t speak Chinese and this apartment has 20 floors?” After about 20 mintues, I finally found the valve to turn the water off. Poor Caleb was completely soaked, but it was hilarious. 

 

Guilin, China

From Xi’an, we flew to Guilin, China. We loved Guilin. It is surrounded by mountains and has three rives and two lakes that are in the middle of the city. We were able to visit the terraced rice fields, take a bamboo raft down the Li River, walk the market streets, and enjoy several beautiful parks. We also enjoying staying with a family and learning about Chinese culture from them.  We took an overnight train from Guilin to Hong Kong. It was a very fun experience! We had 8 hours in Hong Kong and now we are waiting to board a plane for Vietnam. This week we are going to Vietnam and Cambodia before our week at the beach in Thailand.

 

If you made it through this novel of a post, thanks for sticking with it 😉 I am running low on time, so I’ll have to wait on posting pictures. Hopefully I can add some in a day or two. 

Also, shout out to Bri Suitt, Megan Perea, and Grace Crall for having March birthdays. Miss yall. Wish I could celebrate with you!

Lastly, Big Al (my awesome grandfather): If you are reading this, I saw a Dairy Queen in Xi’an and ate a blizzard. It was delicious and made me think of all those blizzard stops during our road trips together.

Until next time, jennie 

 

Finding Nemo at the Great Barrier Reef!

Aside

Hello friends!

Caleb and I can hardly believe that we are already on week 6 of traveling. It seems to be speeding by so quickly! Since I last wrote we spent some time in Fiordland National Park, flew to Australia and learned to scuba dive on the great barrier reef.

Fiordland National Park

Wow! This park is truly magical. This park has been unlike any other we have seen in New Zealand, particularly in how massive the mountains are. You realize how small you are when you are in a valley surrounded by gigantic peaks. Here we hiked to Key Summit, which was thankfully an easy 3 hour hike. We enjoyed the views from the top since it was a clear day. The next morning we drove to Milford Sound where we took a 1 1/2 boat tour of Milford Sound. We debated on whether or not to do this, but I am so glad that we did. Later that afternoon we hiked up to Lake Marion, a bowl lake surrounded by mountains on three sides. We spent a couple of days at Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo on our way back to Christchurch to catch a plane to Cairns, Australia.

DSC_2487

 

DSC_2415

 

DSC_2380

 

DSC_2799

 

DSC_2685

Cairns, Australia

Cairns is home to the Great Barrier Reef and the majority of our time there was spent on a 5 day learn to scuba dive course. The first two days we were at ProDive’s training center with 12 other people from Germany, Finland, Netherlands, Australia, and Switzerland. We were the only Americans, which was pretty fun! The third day we went out on the boat for three days. Basically, we were either diving, eating, or sleeping. We did play taboo one night with 10 people, which was hilarious since English was their second language. We had 4 training dives where a instructor was with us, 1 night dive where we saw a 148 year old turtle and several reef sharks (YES, I SWAM WITH SHARKS, but they were smallish), and 4 fun dives where we could go with just our diving buddy after we were certified. We have a great time, although we were quite exhausted after it was over! From Cairns we traveled to Sydney, which is where we are now.

IMG_4519

 

IMG_4696

 

IMG_4563 IMG_4648

 

IMG_4682

 

 

Sydney, Australia

We just arrived here last night and it has been a fun change of pace. We haven’t been in a big city yet and have loved staying right in the city center. Tonight we have a special treat of getting to see the Lion King. It is in Syndey for a couple of months and we stumbled across the theatre this morning. We went to the box office to see if there were any tickets and someone had just cancelled their reservation. The next availability for tickets was Feb. 24th, so we are really thankful to get to go!

Anyway, I’ve got to cook some dinner now. Cheers!

Jennie

Hiking through the South

Well my friends, so much has happened since I last wrote! We have continued traveling South, spending the majority of our time in National Parks, hence the lack of blogging. So here’s a big update from the past two weeks.

Westland National Park: We spent three or four days here. The glaciers were not as impressive as they looked in the brochures. Since 2008, the glaciers here have been shrinking, but it was still fun to hike and see them. There were some hot pools in Franz Josef, but they were going to cost us $50– a little bit much for our budget! Instead we hiked 7 hours on the Copeland Track to Welcome Hut and there were natural hot pools we were able to relax in once we finished hiking, which was so nice!! There were about 25 people staying at Welcome Hut and there were people from Europe, New Zealand, America, Israel, etc..  The next day we hiked back out to Franz Josef.

DSC_1364

 

DSC_1378

 

DSC_1507

 

DSC_1486

 

DSC_1665

 

 

Wanaka: From Westland National Park, we traveled to a lake town called Wanaka. It was so beautiful! I love the lake and I love mountains and this place had both. The water here is a beautiful turquoise blue and it is so clear. I have never seen anything quite like it! We found a campsite right outside of town and decided to hike Roys Peak the next morning. It was a difficult hike for us. Roys Peak is 1580m and we started at about 300m. The track is exposed all the way up the moutain, so we did not have luxury of trees to shade us in the heat of the day. About 1/2 way up, we caught up with a German girl who was going about our pace. We kept on encouraging each other that we could do this. One of us would turn around with a look that said, ” I can’t keep on going!” and somehow we would. The views of the lake and the Southern Alps were impressive once we reached the top. After getting back to the car Caleb and I both commented that was the hardest hike we had ever climbed. The next day we went to the visitors center and talked to a ranger about other possible hikes in the area. When we told him we had hiked Roys Peak, he laughed and told us that was a terrible hike. He only sent people there that were rude. Apparently there was another much easier hike that had similar views! oh well! From Wanaka we also went into Mount Aspiring National Park and did some easier day hikes.

DSC_1650

 

DSC_1767

 

DSC_1790

 

DSC_1882

 

DSC_1866

 

DSC_1982

 

DSC_2068

 

Queenstown: From Wanaka we traveled to Queenstown, which is where we are now. We rolled into town a few days ago and decided to tackle another mountain. This was Mt. Ben Lomond and it was 1700m. I was mentally preparing for a really difficult hike, harder than Roys Peak. We started about 7:30 in the morning to hopefully beat the heat as we hiked to the top and the hike was incredible enjoyable. This summit had by far the best views. It is quite something to look out at such beauty. Today is a rainy day and we are in town walking around the stores and of course catching up on online life. From here we head to Fiordland National Park for a couple of days before going back to Christchurch. In a little over a week we will be flying to Australia.

DSC_2103

 

DSC_2115

 

DSC_2170

 

DSC_2253

Just in case this post leads you to believe that we haven’t had to deal with any of life’s annoyances, let me be honest. First, there are these bugs called sandflys. I had heard that they were annoying, but I did not know that they would bite you and then itch. Well, Caleb and I got many many bites and had some miserable days using an entire bottle of anti-itch cream and having to buy another before the itches stopped! Our tent flooded once and our car battery died one day in Wanaka. We haven’t had anything serious go wrong, just life things. More than anything we are grateful to explore this country.

Talk to yall soon!

Beaches and MountainsW

We have been having a fantastic time in New Zealand. The weather is simply unbelievable. The rain we have run into has been perfectly timed so that we have not been caught out hiking in it. One thing I am so aware of is God’s kindness towards us in just everyday life. We have already seen His help in finding exactly the things we need when we need it (like a gas station!). It makes me wonder how much I disregard God’s involvement in my daily life in the US.

Anyway, we left Christchurch and headed to the northernmost point of the South Island, Whararkiki Beach. We took the last road that heads north and at the end of it was our campground. We are so spoiled by campgrounds here. Many of them have fully ecquipped kitchens, hot showers, bathrooms, and washing machines! We would wake up to the sound of many sheep grazing on the mountain right beside our campsite. Also, there were peacocks roaming the campsite which was so strange. To get to the beach, we would walk through rolling hills of sheep pastures. I could go on and on about how beautiful the beach is, but I’ll hopefully share pictures soon. The internet here is too slow to upload our pictures.

From the beach, we traveled to the West coast, stopping along the way to take pictures and marvel at the beauty. One thing Caleb said as we were traveling was that the entire country feels like a National Park and I could not agree more. We stopped for a couple days at Hokitika, a small coastal town. We spent the first day walking around town and  looking for cool pebbles and shells at the beach (our free souvenior). The next day there was better weather and we decided to go to hiking up a mountain right beside our campsite. The trail was well marked, but was incredible steep. We hiked for over 3 hours straight up the mountain. Some of the “steps” were up to my chest. Caleb had to climp up them and pull me up! The end result was worth it as we got to see the ocean from the top.

Yesterday we left Hokitika and traveled further down the coast  to Westland National Park. This park is known for the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. We hope to hike several trails to get a good view of them. I have also heard that there are natural hot pools here and that sounds amazing!

Until next time,

Jennie