Friday, December 30, 2011

Robben Island

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As an admitted history nerd I really wanted to visit Robben Island before we left Cape Town. I studied race relations in college and remember reading a lot about South Africa. As we saw everywhere there are many reminders of the inequality and scars that apartheid has left on this beautiful but troubled nation. Jason and I visited this place that Nelson Mandela and many others spent year imprisoned because of their beliefs and actions against the government.
It was time well spent in learning and in remembrance.
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our tour guide was imprisoned here for 7 years because he was accused of terrorism against the apartheid government.
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room that once held up to 60 men
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18 of his 27 years in prison in this room. Tragic and amazing that a human spirit can survive and even live to thrive and lead after such challenges.
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We were the last tour of the day and as we walked back to the ferry a man was lowering the flag. That felt like the perfect ending to our time in South Africa.

I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.

~ Nelson Mandela. Speech on the day of his release, Cape Town (11 February 1990)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

time with my man...more on SA

So now that I am back and sweating (did I mention that already?) and have already visited all the neighbors as required, attended one funeral, and taken a friend to the hospital I am reimescining about our time of relaxing and eating and being cool in South Africa. So you will just have to tolerate my ramblings and gushing and posting billions of photos of our time there for a couple more posts....I promise.

Our friends graciously offered to add our girls to their troop of watoto for a few days so we could venture out as a couple- I know they are awesome!! And as anyone who has small kids knows those moments, hours, days without kiddos in tow are a gift to your marriage- just to focus on us. I love my husband I tell you.....
Tim and Chloe graciously booked us 2 nights at a Westin hotel in Cape Town using their points. We so felt like complete out of place posers but we did not let that stop us from enjoying every minute. And check me out wearing jeans..holla!! The view of the city was awesome and the breakfast food was so yummy ( a bit of blue cheese may or may not have made its way inside my purse for later). Being complete urban-ites we loved every minute of wandering around the city. The first day we got up early and decided to climb Table Mountain.
except no one told us (nor are we smart enough to read up on it) that that hike is NO JOKE!! Straight up StairMaster for a few hours but it was amazing to enjoy being outside.
We hiked most of it with a man that kept yelling in Xhosa, shared his water with us since we ran out an hour in, and remarked about 2 hours in "only baboons should climb this!" South Africans are so friendly and funny in our experience...maybe it was the thin mountain air but we were feeling such camaraderie climbing with everyone.
we made it to the top!! it was freezin' up there especially to us island dwellers!
amazing views of Cape Town
we opted for the tram down and we met some Kiswahili speakers working there!
That night we even met a couple from...wait for it...Chicago in the pool! He also went to U of I and works for Jason's old company- I know right!
my first blow dry in over 6 months!! appreciating the small stuff y'all!
our view from our corner room over the city
We took the advice of 3 couples who all lived in Cape Town and ate at Blue's restaurant on this adorable ocean side strip.
Ask J if it was worth it? First steak in months!! We seriously had some of the best food of our lives in Cape Town!!
We also ventured to a small town about an hour outside the city called Franschhoek. It had lots of cute shops, restaurants, coffee shops, vineyards, orchards, and amazing views of the mountains.
Jason indulged me by going on a horseback tour of the countryside. I grew up riding horses and miss it so much.
J with Peter- our trail guide who in addition to spending a good twenty minutes railing against the dangers of eating garlic gave us many memorable quotes during our two hours togther...
upon meeting us he gasped and said completely shocked "you are one of the lucky ones" and then he went onto explain that all Americans are horribly fat and he was glad we made it out unscathed.
on wedding planning....."girls are so bloody stupid with their weddings"
on parenting....."children mostly cry for no reason and they need a good hiding that's all!" He also gave us the history of South Africa according to Peter.. interesting!
We met some characters I am telling of the many reasons I love traveling.
gotta love Africa..rules are more of guidelines really
we stopped at one winery and the views were amazing....
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the vino was pretty good too!
after our trail ride I asked if I could gallop a bit in their pastures because I miss riding so much....
it was a surreal kind of awesome with the thudding of the horses hooves and mountains as a backdrop....still have the bruises on my shins to prove it.
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These few days of just us were a gift.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

more Christmas island style

We spent Christmas sweating profusely, eating tacos with friends, unwrapping a few gifts (some sent from far away-thanks!), sharing sweets with friends, and celebrating with some other Wazungu we know here. We love Jesus and we are grateful God saw fit to send Him to this broken world to restore, offer joy and hope, and to show us what love is.

Here is some of our Christmas this year...
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revealing the last door
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new dress made by a friend & angel face paint because why not?
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it is more blessed to give than to receive...sharing zawadi
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Christmas tree & friends
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and this year's pinata....Anni was a bit excited to show off her dirty hands..sorry Asya!
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dry & decorated we were ready to go!
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Evy was VERY into whacking it...and I love that a diaper and new shoes are acceptable Christmas attire here
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sharing the fruits of our labor
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and singing "Happy Birthday" with friends to our dear Jesus.
Hope your Christmas was blessed and filled with Joy!

Monday, December 26, 2011

our family

While in South Africa we roped Chloe into taking some family pictures of us looking like "our own selves" as Anni called it (ie. without island garb) and by unanimous vote this was the winner....
but I gotta say I loved some of the out takes too.....
my girls
but most of all I love these watoto and my amazing husband. God is good to me.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas is here!! We are missing family tons right now especially since my grandmother is very sick and I am not there. Talked to her yesterday and prayed with my mom but the distance feels far...really far today. We love you all and miss you all so much!
We went to a local church today, opened some pressies, baked some cookies and a birthday cake for Jesus, and shared treats with our neighbors. After we finished our Advent celebration Annikah wanted to perform a dance for Jesus and I was keenly aware these are the moments I want to always remember.....

Krismasi njema sana!

Friday, December 23, 2011

advent in the heart & home guest post

Today I am a guest blogger over at my fabulous friend (since high school) Annalea's creative and inspiring blog...check it out! Cool right? Here is my post:

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When Annie asked me to be a part of this series I was pumped but initially thought that our celebration here on a small island that most people cannot locate on a map was too “small” and lacking in so many “Christmas-y” norms like twinkling lights, hot cocoa, and candlelight carols.

But as always the Lord spoke to me and reminded me that He is what it is about. That preparing our hearts during Advent can look different and yet still retain the anticipation of our coming Savior. It will look different as people of all tribes and tongues know and follow Him across the world and praise Him for diversity. We are all only called to follow after Jesus with everything in our being and allow His spirit to give us peace as we travel along as families. That was freeing.

Be you and be sold out, crazy in love with Jesus! It also occurred to me that our Christmas now is actually much more similar to the first Christmas simply because we have chickens and goats outside our windows, we live with people that are mostly farmers and fishermen who have never heard what the angel proclaimed that night. Grateful for new perspective.

And the consumerism and the materialism can get in the way for me of what we are really anticipating (although for reals I would love me some cold day peppermint mocha drinking, fuzzy sock wearing snuggling on the couch to Christmas music right about now). Although we miss our family and friends and all things known to us we are grateful God brought us here. God took our family to this place to learn to simplify, to learn to ask why and what we celebrate and how we can prepare for His coming when no one around us is and how that can be meaningful for our family and focus our eyes on Jesus. The process of asking and seeking has been a blessing. God is doing a work in us to change us and to help us learn to rely more and more everyday on His promises.

I love seeing how others celebrate and anticipate His coming so thanks everyone for sharing! Here is a bit of what we do as a family to prepare our hearts and our home for the birth that changed the world and is still changing us today…

We read a devotion and open a little kanga bag with an ornament for our advent tree each day. I am not a crafty mama but I sewed these simple ornaments with help from various women in my neighborhood and we hang them on a banana leaf baobab tree we found in town. We started this last year in the absence of other advent calendars and it has become a family favorite. Amazing to see our kid's understanding of the devotions grow each year.

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This year we received an always-fabulous-and-glee inducing package from dear friends (thanks Emily and Scott and fam!) with an amazingly beautiful book: The Advent Book by Jack and Kathy Stockman. Opening the ornate doors and reading along will definitely stay as a family tradition.

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We also started a family tradition of making a pinata with kids from our neighborhood and telling about the angel's message to Mary. It takes a couple days to dry in this humidity before we can decorate but it is oh-so-worth-the-wait to some little watoto. I love using our resourcefulness and creativity as a family to celebrate and share the experience and blessing with others.(these photos are from last year as tomorrow is the day for this year's angel)

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We have learned so much from the people we are privileged to live among and they have taught us to celebrate in ways meaningful here. In the culture on our island giving and receiving blessing is of the utmost importance and it is especially meaningful to visit people and share food. On Christmas each year we always bake or buy some kind of special treat and visit everyone around us sharing that we are celebrating the birth of the Messiah.

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This year a guest from Canada brought us some candy canes that we too fabulous not to share. The special "spicy" (as our friends here called it) candies were shepherd staffs, the first to hear about the news. More info on the meaning here.

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We will then read the story of the first Christmas from His Word in English and Kiswahili: of the miracles, of the fear, of the danger, of the fulfillment, of the rejoicing, of the worship, and of the joy. And usually this involves some breaking up of sister smack-downs or some unexpected visitors but those too are moments that belong to Him.

christmas post for ann 016.jpgeditMoments that are common where we live and in a stage of life we now enjoy. And we will rejoice in it and be grateful we have feisty girls and many friends and ask God for more grace and love and joy in everything. And then we will open the bag to reveal baby Jesus.

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And that changes everything. Krismasi Njema from Africa.