Posts Tagged ‘travel’

My Daughter, the SuperStar

August 20th, 2011 1 comment

We are at about the one month point since our big move (depending on how you count it).  And while in general things have gone very smoothly, there is one area that has been especially impressive: Mikayla’s reaction to the transition.

We have known since early on in our daughter’s life that she was pretty special; she is incredibly good natured, adjusts well to change, and is always happy.  But, we knew this move of 9,000 miles, 7 time zones, and two hemispheres might be a bit much.  However, Mikayla has never waivered.  She has been happy, and spunky, and open to change, and has taken everything in stride.

Just think all that she has been through in the last 2-3 month.  She has:

  • Seen all of the furniture in her house slowly dismantled and given away.
  • Had nearly all of her toys given away or sold.
  • Moved out of the only house she has ever known into a borrowed room.
  • Had the few possessions she still owns packed, unpacked, and repacked countless times.
  • Put up with parents who were stressed, sad, anxious and excited.
  • Endured trips all over as we tried to cram in last minute visits.
  • Had her sleep routine totally disrupted.
  • Said to goodbye to all her family and friends.
  • Taken 72 hours to move across the world.
  • Flown on three planes for over 25 hours of flight time.
  • Been drug through more airport terminals than we can count.
  • Had to sleep in front of a ticket counter because we missed our flight.
  • Put up with her parents as they stressed about their travel plans.
  • Moved into a third home in less than two months.
  • Gone from a crib to a toddler bed to a mattress on the floor to a couch to a twin bed and back to a mattress on the floor.
  • Had to travel over an hour for any "quick trips into town."
  • Lost access to things like parks and play areas.
  • Been mobbed by kids twice her size because they are so interested in her.
  • Tried to figure out why everyone speaks funny.
  • Been kicked out of church (twice) and Sunday School.
  • Had to get used to her Dad working again and her Mom being home.
  • Traded the family dog for two new mission dogs.
  • Had two new family members introduced (the twins).
  • Been forced to share attention, food, and toys with these new kids.
  • Been kicked out of her room again.
  • Had to get used to taking showers instead baths.
  • And, has made all new  friends.

Yet, in spite of all these changes and struggles, Mikayla is still the same resilient, cheerful child she has always been.  She has not skipped a beat, has barely shown any jealousy and hasn’t even been cranky.  All of that is a lot for anyone to go through, let alone a two-year old.  Forget the "Terrible Twos," Mikayla has demonstrated the "Terrific Twos"… and did I mention she was a SuperStar.  I am pretty sure she has handled the transition better than we have!

Categories: Family Tags: , , ,

The Rest of the Story

July 24th, 2011 4 comments

My last blog post was from my kindle and was typed in the middle of night stuck in Newark airport due to a missed flight.  At the time, things were still pretty up in the air, so I figured you would probably like to hear the rest of the story.  If you follow my twitter feed (@kickert) you will least know we arrived in Africa, but getting there was interesting.

After missing our connection in Newark, I ended up staying up the entire night so Beth and Mikayla could catch some sleep while I watched our stuff.  We basically took over a corner of the ticketing area and made a fort:

airport 002 airport 003

Part of the reason we stayed at the airport instead of getting a hotel (besides the fact Continental refused to help us cover the costs) is because our bags were at some indeterminate location: they came in on Continental, were supposed to go to Lufthansa on the connection, our rebooking was for an earlier Lufthansa flight, but it was being handled by United.  With so many transitions we wanted to be able to physically see our bags to make sure they made it with us.  That meant bugging the baggage agents every hour until they found our stuff. (On a side note, I have never encountered customer service employees as rude and unconcerned as the people at Continental in Newark.  I could write a whole blog on that!)

Eventually they found our bags (actually I saw them rolling past on a luggage cart and recognized them and made them give them to me) so we  could recheck in on our next flight.  It was nice to have our luggage with us because we could get extra clothes out and have the peace of mind that it would probably make it on the plane with us, but it also meant we had to move it all around by ourselves on undersized baggage carts.

I felt pretty confident in my packing ability…


…until we found the cart couldn’t fit through the elevator door.

Once we changed terminals to check in, we found that Lufthansa did not open their ticketing counters until much later in the day.  We were hoping to check in early so we could get rid of our luggage and then go back into the secure area, but no such luck.  We were fortunate enough for Mikayla to find another small child to play with.  That helped pass the time.  I was also able to grab a 45 minute nap which was nice.

Eventually Lufthansa opened their counter and things seemed to be going well until they tried to charge us for our "extra" baggage.  If you will remember, I was already upset because Lufthansa had promised 2 free bags, but Continental had charged us b/c they were the airline of origination.  I flatly refused.  Fortunately, we had a great agent who was very patient and realized the fee was a mistake due to the rebooking.  In fact, she even went out of her way to let us pick our seats.  We got seats right behind first class so we had extra legroom and no seats in front of us for Mikayla to kick.  She even promised to try her best to improve our tickets on our final leg.

20 hours after we landed in Newark we were finally on our way to Germany (we were supposed to have a 2 hour layover).  We were able to talk with the sisters and they were able to extend their stay in South Africa.  I was also able to get in touch with my friend Ben in Frankfurt and he was able to rearrange his schedule to still meet us at the airport.  Overall the flight across the Atlantic was uneventful and even a bit relaxing after what we had been through so far.

Upon landing, I decided to go ahead and get our boarding passes for our next flight before we left customs.  That is when things started getting interesting again.  It turns out that when we were rebooked, they had us listed as standby, but neither the rebooking agent, nor the Lufthansa agent mentioned that to us.  Not only were we on standby, but the flight itself was overbooked.  Frustrated, we walked away to try and figure out what we should do.  I couldn’t imagine the sisters being excited about staying two days extra.

After thinking about things for a bit, I decided to go back to the Lufthansa agents to figure out my chances of getting off standby and actually on the flight.  At least we could try and plan better if we knew how things might turn out.  The agent told us that we had a slightly better than 50% chance of getting a seat.  We took what we could get and headed through customs into Germany.  Mikayla played at a playground in the terminal and we grabbed a quick snack to wait for Ben.

It was very cool to be able to catch up with him when he finally did arrive.  It had been 13 years since I was in Germany visiting him, and almost 7 years since Beth was in the country visiting.  At this point we were all in great need of a shower.  Ben took us back to his apartment where we were able to freshen up and grab a bite of real food.  Mikayla took a quick nap, but eventually we had to wake her up.  She was so tired she fell asleep in the shower.

We then went back to Ben’s parents’ house.  It was pretty cool to revisit the place I stayed for 3 weeks back when I was 16.  Lots of memories came back that I had forgotten.  The Dornhoffs are incredible hosts.  We had coffee and cake and Ben’s mother played with Mikayla for quite a while.

We headed back to the airport to try and figure things out.  We said bye to Ben and head through customs.  We were told our best bet to get off standby was to be at the gate as early as possible, so we made sure we were there over 3 hours before the flight left.  While that was probably good advice, it didn’t do us any good because the flight actually left an hour after we thought and the agents didn’t get to the gate until an hour and half before that.

By far, this was the most stressful part of the trip because we were in limbo not knowing if we were going to make it out of the country that day.  You could say that the worst part was knowing that it could be worse.  This was the only point of our entire journey where I was so anxious I needed to take a Xanax.

Once we did talk to an agent, we were told that even though we were first on standby, things were still not looking good.  They didn’t tell us our chances, but by the way they were talking to us, I have a feeling we were below the 50% mark.  The one comforting thing was knowing that if we did have to stay another night, at least we had people in the area who could pick us up and give us a place to stay.

Once people started loading the plane, we got more stressed out.  Beth and I talked about our options and decided that if we could only get one ticket we all would stay, but if we could get two tickets only, Beth and Mikayla would fly out and I would follow the next day with the rest of our stuff and rent a car.  We divided our stuff up so that could work if it needed to.

With about 10 minutes left before the plane was scheduled to leave the gate, the agents began looking to see if any of the standbyers could get on.  With great relief, I heard my name called.  We all got three tickets, but they were all separate.  I told them there was no way Mikayla could be in a seat apart from us.  They took our tickets and tried to work something out.  The best they could do was get us all in the same section of the plane and hope something could work out.  We took what we could and board the plane with all our stuff.

I am sure the people who had already boarded were not excited to see us come on dragging all our stuff and obviously holding up their departure.  The flight attendants were able to get Mikayala and Beth together, but I was a couple seats over in a different row.  That was fine by me… at least we were on the plane.  But then, something really cool happened.  The guy in the row with Beth and Mikayla heard what was happening and about our journey so far and offered to switch me seats.  He traded a window seat for a center seat in the center section for an 11 hour flight.  Let me tell you… that guy should be nominated for sainthood!  It made the whole flight much easier with all three of us next to each other.

This last leg of our journey was great.  The service was astounding, the food was great, and it was long enough that all of us could get some decent rest.

We landed in Jo-burg and made it through customs without any problem.  Our luggage all arrived and the only problem we had was some of Beth’s mouthwash leaked.  We met the sisters at the gate and were ready to leave.

The whole way to the vehicle you could tell the sisters were a bit nervous.  They had been in South Africa long enough that they had their own luggage with them and they were afraid our stuff wouldn’t all fit.  There was even talk of one of them catching a bus back to Swaziland.  On any other trip, this would have been a concern to me, but after our journey so far, this seemed like a minor issue.  I had actually already thought about this possible problem and thus had packed parachute cord so we could strap things to the roof.  We packed what we could into the SUV and strapped one bag to the top.  No worries at all.

The drive back to St. Phillips took about 6 hours, but was thankfully relatively uneventful.  Sister Barbara was pulled over twice for speeding, but was able to sweet talk her way out of a ticket both times.  The border crossing was easy and they didn’t even want to check our bags.  Excellent!

We grabbed pizza on the way home, got back to the mission, unloaded our stuff and were finally able to breath easy.

From the time we left Bowling Green to the time we arrived at St. Phillips, our entire journey took 72 hours.  By contrast, if our original flight had landed 15 minutes sooner, we would have only had a 48 hour trip, and if we had flown South African Air, it would have been a 35 hour trip.

I must say, in all of this, Mikayla was a super star.  This trip could have been much worse if our toddler had chosen to be a brat, but the worst she got was the last 15 minutes of our flight when she decided to kick the seat of the guy in front of her.  If that is all we have to deal with, I am super happy.

Our first night we headed to bed early.  Mikayla got 15 hours of sleep and Beth and I got 12.  Normally I would think jetlag would be an issue, but our trip was so crazy our bodies had no idea what time it was.

I will end this post with a touching note.  Once we had everything unpacked and all our stuff figured out, I asked Mikayla where we were.  I was hoping she would say "Africa" or "Swaziland" to show she understood that we had just made the transition we had been talking about, but what she said was even more significant. 

"Mikayla, where are we?" I asked.

"Home" she said…. and she was right.  After a month of being displaced and in crazy transition, we have found our new home… and things are great here.

Categories: Family, Swaziland Tags: , , ,

Swaziland Update

March 11th, 2011 3 comments

It is early Friday morning here in Swaziland.  I am still a bit jetlagged from the trip over here and figured rather than fighting sleep, I would get up and be productive by writing a quick update.

Being back in Swaziland is a unique feeling because even though it is very foreign compared in my daily life in the US (especially here in the bush), it feels very familiar.

My travels over here were thankfully uneventful.  My plane got delayed in Nashville, but I had a long layover in DC and it didn’t cause a problem.  The flight from DC to Johannesburg (via Dakar) seemed to go by quicker this time, even though we had a backup plane without all the in-flight entertainment systems.  I had a reserved a seat with extra leg room, but because of the plane change, it didn’t work out.  Luckily, the seat next to me was vacant so I could spread out a bit more.

Once I got to Jo-burg I spent the evening in a guesthouse right near the airport and it worked out great.  Unfortunately, even though I had a 13 hour layover, I still was only able to catch a few hours of sleep because of the jetlag and an early morning flight.  I was surprised how easy it was to get through customs and airport security in Africa compared to the states.  One of the security agents actually got frustrated with me because I was taking off my belt and watch – he insisted I just go on through.  The flight from Jo-burg to Manzini was incredibly short (35 minutes in the air) and has me rethinking whether its worth it to drive that last leg when we come in July or if we should just bite the bullet and fly.

When I arrived in Swaziland the customs agent gave me a hard time for bringing in 50 pounds of children’s underwear.  They wanted to charge me duty on it, but luckily after I filled out the forms they just waived me through and forgot about the whole thing.  I was then met by a nurse who is currently volunteering at Cabrini.  Besides just coming into town to pick me up (its a 1.5 hour drive to Manzini and 2 hours to Mbabane), she also had to get her visa renewed.  So, we went to one of the government building to see an immigration agent.  All I can say is that if you think there is crazy bureaucracy and inefficiencies in American government… you haven’t seen anything.  After waiting nearly an hour, the nurse I was with was told she couldn’t have her visa renewed in town, and instead would have to cross the border and return to get it updated. 

Because I didn’t want to risk having my luggage go through customs again and because I didn’t want to have more pages in my passport taken up, I asked to be dropped off.  Luckily I was able to reconnect with Jon Skinner, one of the guys we met with last trip, and he went out of his way to give me a place to hang out while the nurse crossed the border.

On the way back to St. Phillips we picked up one of the ladies who works in the office and took care of a few errands.  Then, on the last stretch of dirt road we ran into Sister Barbara who was heading into town.  She is one of the nuns in charge of Cabrini Ministries, and I had actually yet to meet her.  Unfortunately she was in a hurry and needed the vehicle we were driving.  So, after a few quick greetings, we exchanged the plush SUV we were in for a small truck.  Because of space limitations, I ended up riding in the back.

The whole journey from Bowling Green to Cabrini encompassed about 48 hours of travel!  Thankfully we had a pretty open schedule when I arrived because jetlag hit me hard.  I ended up going about 56 hours straight on less than 4 hours of sleep.  The only major thing we had besides a quick orientation was a 2 hour discussion with one of the community elders about the history of Cabrini, Swaziland and local customs.  It was very fascinating, but I felt horrible because it was all I could do to not nod off.  That night we ate an excellent curry meal and I retired to bed early.

Thursday was my first full day at Cabrini and up until that point I still didn’t have a great idea of what exactly I was doing in Swaziland.  It is not because things are disorganized, instead it is that so much is going on, there isn’t always time to explain everything.  Turns out my big task here this week is to figure out how we are going to handle the finances of Cabrini once our accountant leaves.  Looks like we will have two office workers handling the day-to-day transactions and another professional accountant in Australia who will handle the technical stuff.  I will probably end up serving as  the liaison and keeping an eye on the big picture – but, we won’t know the specifics until later in the week.

Most of my day on Thursday was actually spent working on an upcoming grant application through Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control.  Basically we have less than a week to turn around this application for $50,000.  The rest of the office staff had a board meeting to attend to, so they left me and the accountant from Australlia to figure out the grant on our own.  It was certainly a "baptism by fire" sort of thing as we wrote up a narrative and budget for a program that neither of us fully understand.  We will find out today how far off we were.  Either was helpful because it forced us to work through many old proposals that gave us a good feel for what was currently going on and for the direction we are trying to expand into.

Today we will heading into the two largest cities (Mbabane and Manzini) to meet with some of our supporters.  Should be a good trip.  I am looking forward to meeting up with Todd Malone from PACT again.  Todd is actually the guy who convinced us to go visit Cabrini and had lots of solid advice on working through our move.  Saturday is set aside as more of relaxing day and I am not sure what Sunday has for us.  Starting Monday, we will really hit the finances hard and work on a transition plan.

As I am wrapping up this post, I wanted to give you a quick note about communication.  Right now I have my swazi cell phone (268 7683 3330), but service has been intermitted.  Beth has only been able to reach me on my phone once out of probably 20 attempts and text messages are not going through.  I can call out, but it costs me about $1.00 a minute.  Also, my plans to limited access to internet have fallen through.  The 3G USB modem I have works fine, but I have not been able to get my SIM card approved for data usage.  Hopefully that will get worked out soon, but for now I don’t have access to internet.  (I am writing this post in advance hoping we find some wireless that I can use and post it).

I will try and keep you posted as things unfold, but realistically, my communication abilities are much more limited than I expected. 



Where did the month go?

October 26th, 2010 No comments

…I guess the real question should be "Where have I been?"

The month of October has been a blur for the Kickerts. 

At the beginning of the month we took a quick trip to Colorado and Utah as a family.  It was the first real vacation Beth and I have taken since we went to DC back in 2005.  It was also Mikayla’s first flight (we used it as a bit of a test run for the 22 hour plane ride coming up for us in July).

We flew into Denver and spent the day at the Children’s Museum.  Later that day we walked around downtown and tracked down some ice cream.  The next day we visited a cool place called the Butterfly Pavilion and headed up to Fort Collins.  Once our "city trips" were done we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park and then the next day traveled to Moab Utah and hiked around Arches National Park.

Right after returning to Kentucky I got back in the car and took a "quick" trip up to Northern Wisconsin / Upper Peninsula of Michigan to visit with my parents who just moved there.  While we didn’t have much planned, we did visit the "mysterious" Paulding Lights and did quite a bit of paddling on the small lakes up there.

On top of all the travelling, we have been making some big personnel adjustments at work and I have been prepping for our annual charge conference at church.

It seems the month just started, but it is already over.  On Friday we will have our annual Halloween Bash and then we will moving into November.

It is crazy to think how quick months go by, especially since we only have 9 more until we leave the states for a decade or so.  C’est la vie.

Colorado 034
Mikayla at the Children’s Museum

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Beth and Mikayla at the Butterfly Pavilion

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Foggy day at Dream lake in ROMO

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Along the Trail Ridge Road in ROMO

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At Delicate Arch in Arches NP

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Paddling in the Sylvania Wilderness Area


10 Things to do before Swaziland

August 23rd, 2010 5 comments

With our move to Swaziland probably only 10 months away, Beth and I have been talking through how we should spend our remaining time stateside.  Here is a list of 10 things I want to accomplish before we leave.  If you can help me out with any of them, please give me a shout.

  1. Learn to weld – Let’s start with an easy one.  I wouldn’t consider myself a handy man, but I am willing to try and figure stuff out.  This is one skill I don’t have and would love to pick up just in case the need ever presents itself.
  2. Improve my siSwati – I learned more siSwati in the 10 days we were in the country than I did in the months before trying to teach myself.  That being said, I have yet to cross beyond the typical greetings and pleasantries.  I would love to be able to have a basic conversation before arriving in the country nest summer.
  3. Take a course on AIDS – Swaziland is a beautiful country, but it holds several dubious titles.  It has the highest AIDS rate at nearly 40%!  It also has the highest death rate and fastest declining life expectancy.  Every issue in Swaziland is impacted by the AIDS epidemic (from employment to poverty to orphan care).  I want to take the time to familiarize myself with the disease, its treatment, and its impact on society.
  4. Brush up on my Southern African history – Swaziland has a rich history.  It was largely able to avoid the strife caused by colonialism that negatively affected so much of Southern Africa.  However, much of the current climate in the area is still impacted by this chapter of history.  I want to know more about the Boers and English and tribal conflicts that shaped the area.
  5. Learn to drive a split shift – Another seemingly random skill set I would like to acquire.  I have no desire to drive a large truck, but I want to be able to do it if the need ever arises. 
  6. Become competent in PHP development – Several months ago, a good friend of mine and I began (re)teaching ourselves HTML and CSS.  I know just enough to get myself into trouble.  I would like to build on this skill set by adding PHP development so I can design websites and databases for the organizations I will work with and also as a possible secondary income stream.
  7. Sell / Give away / Downsize our stuff – We have been in this process for several years now, but still have so far to go.  I still have books to get rid of, a house to sell and plenty of household items to deal with. Most of our stuff is not going with us nor will it be saved.
  8. Visit with friends and family – This past weekend I had my 10 year reunion and also visited with college friends at a wedding.  It reminded me how many people I want to see before we leave.  If you are in the area, please take the time to give me a ring and I will treat you to a meal or coffee.
  9. Travel – This is obviously related to the prior.  I foresee many mini-road trips in the near future to visit people, but also I want to explore our own country a bit more before we leave.  I have been fortunate enough travel through most of the country, but Beth has not.  I want to be intentional about visiting places, especially in the American West.
  10.   Have a game plan for the next 10 years – This move to Swaziland has been over two years in the planning.  Beth and I have slowly, but deliberately made decisions about our future and have been willing to change them as needed.  Now that things are beginning to solidify, we need to be thinking about where we want to be in the next decade or longer.  This means working through things like expanding our family, saving for college, setting long term goals, etc.  I don’t expect to have it all figured out, but I want us to be intentional about the direction we are moving. (That is actually the key idea behind the title of my blog.)

Arrival in Swaziland

July 14th, 2010 1 comment

After nearly 2 years in the planning and 27 hours of traveling, we have arrived in Swaziland.  Let me tell you: it is beautiful!!

Africa 060 [Technically just over the Swazi border in South Africa, but you get the picture]

Today’s 4.5 hour drive was much easier than yesterday’s short trip from Jo-burg to our hostel (thoughts on all our lodging accommodations will be shared when we return).  Mostly highway and I seemed to catch on to the rules of the road pretty quickly.  Early on I felt like I was in Western Kansas, then the terrain felt like South Dakota and then Eastern Oregon.  When we finally made the transition from South African into Swaziland, I kept thinking I was driving trough north central Idaho where I spent my summers 5 years ago.

Here the locals are all bundled up in scarves and wool hats, but I sported short-sleeves enjoying the crisp air.

Crazy coincidence happened today.  I would bet that of all the millions of people in Southern Africa, I could only actually identify and be able to start a conversation with 4-5 of them.  When we stopped at a rest area in South Africa, I pulled in and happened to look up and see Jumbo Gerber, a gentleman who works with Adventures in Missions and with whom I have been trying to solidify a meeting during our trip.  Totally crazy to be able to talk with him briefly and hopefully set something up.  Very cool.

At about 3:00 we were able to cross the border into Swaziland and into Bulembu.  It was kind of a surreal experience because I have been looking at ariel photos and snapshots for so long, it was weird to see things in real life.  We are very excited about our time here.  So far we have spent the evening enjoying the company of Jamie and Rose (Jamie is the Director of Operations and Rose is a manager working with Volunteers) as the graciously opened their home to us and prepared an amazing meal.  I personally have appreciated the candor of our conversations as we all have been honest about the joys and tribulations of ministry/development as well our own strengths and weaknesses. 

Tomorrow the whole day is dedicated to seeing what is going on in the community and meeting with a few of the key leaders in the operation.  It should be good to put some faces with  names (I have been helping with a few small grant projects over the last few months).  We are also excited about enjoying the incredible mountain scenery before we descend into lower elevations where it hotter and flatter.

So far no real issues to speak of.  We had to stop off at a branch location of the rental car company to pick up a letter of authorization, but that was pretty painless.  We also had to pick up an adaptor for our power converter since the one we had did not fit.  Here is our OSHA UN-approved electrical set up:

Africa 064

I am not sure our internet situation the next couple days so interaction may be sparse.  If you need me (or Beth, who by the way is posting her updates here.) you can always shoot us an email and we will get it eventually.  Looking forward to continuing to share this story as it unfolds.

Arriving in Africa

July 13th, 2010 4 comments

After nearly 24 hours of travel, we have arrived in Africa.  For the most part things went smoothly without incident, but we did have a few close calls.

Our flight from Nashville to DC was held on the tarmac for about 30 minutes for “weight and balance” issues.  Basically were told we could not depart until 4 people voluntarily removed themselves from the flight.  Eventually two people did so and that was enough to get us going.  Sitting in the cramped cabin that extra time didn’t help my claustrophobia, but I managed to make it without having to resort to taking Xanax.

The flight from DC to Jo-burg via Dakar, Senegal was long, but uneventful.  The crew was great, the food was decent, and even though 18 hours is a long time to sit on a plane, it wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting.

When we deboarded the airplane, we were quickly reminded that it is winter here in the southern hemisphere.  It wasn’t freezing, but definitely pretty chilly for a short-sleeved shirt.

Customs and baggage claims were a breeze as was exchanging money and renting the car.  It was easier to navigate the international section of Jo-burg airport than it was Dulles.

Once we picked up the car, the real fun began.  In planning for this trip, I have not been nervous about the standard things.  I am not worried about the plane crashing, or our luggage getting lost, or carjackers, or lions (or tigers and bears), or black mambas.  But, I have fretted over learning to drive on the other side of the road.

I don’t know if it was self-fulfilling prophecy, or if it really is that big of a transition, but the 20 minutes from the airport to our lodging was by far the most stressful part of the trip so far:  Every time I tried to use my turn signal I turned on the windshield wipers; Beth has to remind me every time I turned to not go straight into the path of incoming traffic; I am constantly hugging the left side of the road, and; it still freaks me out to see cars coming at me on the right. 

It didn’t help that the highway we traveled on was under construction and had concrete rails on either side.  Nor did it help my confidence to witness the car next to be get rear-ended as a semi tried to merge into my lane.

I am hoping the worst of jt is over (knock on wood) and am looking forward to driving on the more open country roads instead of the city.

Tomorrow  (technically “today” since I am writing this at 3:00am due to jet lag keeping me awake) we will drive the 5-6 hours to Swaziland and enter in through the Bulembu border crossing.  We have a brief tour of Bulembu then we are staying with the Director of Operations at his home.  On Thursday is when the real fun begins with all of our meetings scheduled.

Can’t wait to get the traveling out of the way so we can get to the heart of our trip.

So far we have been lucky with internet, and hope to be able to post updates along the way, but there are no guarantees.  Even if we can’t post, we will keep some notes so we can update you on the details of our trip as it progresses. 


Categories: Swaziland Tags: , , ,

New Passport

February 18th, 2010 No comments

In preparation for our move to Swaziland, Beth and I have had to get new passports.  My ragged blue book (which survived the washing machine while in Germany) has now been retired.  Gone are my stamps from Frankfurt A.M. and San Jose Costa Rica.

Here is a look at old and new:

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No passport photos are ever good.  I think I traded a "really bad" for a "moderately bad" one:

passport photos

Categories: Random, Swaziland Tags: , ,

Swaziland Update

January 25th, 2010 3 comments

It has been a little while since I have written about our Swaziland plans.  Lucky for you we have some news to share.

Malolotja Nature Reserve in Northwest Swaziland

We just renewed our passports and purchased our tickets for our summer exploration trip (let’s hope that is $3,600 well spent).  We will be flying out of Nashville on July 12 and returning on July 26.  Since the flight is over 20 hours (with a stop off in the west African country of Senegal) that will shave a day off our trip each way giving us 11 or so days to explore the country.

Our goal for this trip to get a good feel for the country, and meet with as many people/groups/organizations as possible in preparation for a move to the Kingdom in 2011 (You can read more details about our plans to move to Swaziland here, here and here.)  Right now we are hoping to find an organization we can work with for our first six months.  That way we can have some stability when we move, but are not having to commit ourselves for multiple years without being very familiar with the specifics.

So far we have made contact with 4-5 people on the ground.  We are hoping to follow up on several leads with strong potential and then leave enough time open during our trip so that we can discover other connections we had not planned on.  I have a feeling we will be playing a lot of this trip by ear.

One thing we have found is that it is much easier to get a hold of the Western Christian organizations than it is to contact the local and secular organizations.  Unfortunately we are also finding most of the Christian groups are a bit too evangelical and charismatic for our comfort.  We are open to working with Christian groups, but we want our focus to be on indigenous solutions and community development, not proselytizing.  In many ways Beth and I feel like we would do better with a “regular” job where we can live out our faith a part of it.  Our main focus in moving to Swaziland is to expose Mikayla (and ourselves) to life outside the United States so our worldview can be informed and shaped in a global context.  Of course we want to be apart of something good and make an impact where ever we are, but that is not our primary goal.

Of other Swazi news, Beth and I have been working on our siSwati, but I must admit we are not as dedicated as we should be–we are still working on the standard greetings and responses.  Hopefully by July we will have the basics down and then can spend the next year mastering it.

That’s the update for now.  I will let you know more as it develops.

Categories: Family, Swaziland Tags: ,

10 Activities

July 23rd, 2009 No comments

So far Beth and I have discussed what we like, what we want to accomplish, and a bit about who we are.  Today our list of 10 will look at what we like to do.  Here are my top 10 favorite activities:

  1. Disc Golfing – I was introduced to disc golfing while I was in college.  I love it because it offers an easy escape outdoors, even if only for an hour or two.  You can play by yourself or in groups.  Best yet… is relatively cheap.  You could play ’til your heart was content for $2 if you buy a used disc.  For $20-30 you would be well on your way.  Compared to my other outdoor activities, this one is by far the cheapest.

    Discgolfing with some of Beth's students.

    Discgolfing with some of Beth's students.

  2. Gardening – Beth and I are on our third year of gardening, and the first in our own backyard.  I just got in from harvesting okra, tomatoes, corn and peppers.  Here is link to post I wrote earlier, and some pictures of the garden from today.
    2009-07-22 Pouty Face 039

    Asparagus, corn, zucchini, okra, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, onions.

    Tomatoes, basil, okra, corn.

    Tomatoes, basil, okra, corn.

  3. Rock Climbing – My first experience climbing was in high school at an indoor gym.  I ended up buying my own equipment and then getting involved in an outdoors group my Freshman year in college where I got into real rock climbing.  In the four years fighting fire in Idaho I expanded my experience.  Now I only climb a couple times a year, but I treasure each one.  It is not just the activity, but the comradery found sitting around at the bottom of the rocks too.

    Climbing in the Bitterroots, circa 2001

    Climbing in the Bitterroots, circa 2001

  4. Backpacking – I was backpacking before I even knew what it was.  I was lucky enough to have parents that valued the outdoors and introduced them to me early.  In fact, my first camping trip was before I was a month old (at least that is what Dad says… but his memory is not what it used to be.)  I try to have one big trip every couple years, but is has been a few years since I have been out.  Just this week I went back through my pictures from a trip to Colorado.  Backpacking is one of those things that is fun to prepare for, to do, and to talk about later.

    Purifying water while backpacking in Colorado.  (The day before we found an outfitter's stash of beer).

    Purifying water while backpacking in Colorado. (The day before we found an outfitter's stash of beer).

  5. Traveling – I have been very fortunate to be able to travel quite a bit in my life.  I visited over 30 states in 18 months when I was in college and currently have visited all of the lower 48.  I have been to Mexico (kinda), Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Austria and Italy.  I enjoy traveling not only for the experiance, but also because it often forces me to reassess my own understandings of the world.
  6. Conversing with friends over beverages – I enjoy good conversations in relaxed settings.  Like the activity above, this includes lots of things.  I enjoy talking theology, philosophy, politics, and anything in between.  I enjoy good drinks and people who enjoy good drinks.
  7. Being with my family – One of my favorite activities is simply being with my family.  Not doing anything in particular… just being.  I love a lazy Sunday in a cozy bed, or a evening of talking with my extended family.  I feel very natural with my family and am comfortable just hanging out.


    Family picture at Kentucky Lake.

  8. Working with my hands – Most of my work is cerebral, whether it is grant writing, or studying, or planning.  After 20 years of schooling, and 5 years of jobs mostly made up of life behind a computer, I find great relief in working with my hands.  If I get stressed out, I will work in the garage; if I have spent too much time writing grants, I get respite from mowing the lawn.  I love my current job at Corsair Artisan Distillery because it includes science, craft, mundane tasks and grunt labor.  My time fighting fire was probably my most fulfilling job at the end of the day (but not in terms of long range impact).

    Practice Rappells at Moyer in Idaho, circa 2003.

    Practice Rappells at Moyer in Idaho, circa 2003.

  9. Driving long distances in the car alone – Everyone needs a way to relax and collect their thoughts.  Some people golf, some people go for walks, some people journal.  For me, the most calming time is driving alone in the car.  Often I do this with the windows down and the radio off.  When I was in Seminary, I would often leave at 4:30 in the morning and drive 2.5 hours.  I would have loved my sleep, but seeing the sun come up while I processed my thoughts was the most therapeutic thing I could do.
  10. Researching – In all honesty, this is probably my favorite activity because it includes so much.  I enjoy spending time in the Library combing through old journals and abstracts to find a hidden gem of information for a paper.  I love pouring over a map trying to find the best route.  I love browsing wikipedia to learn about random things like historic natural disasters, or the standard model of particle physics.  I often get into a topic and try to read everything I can about it.  I spend hours trying to understand things like PHP so I can edit a blog.  And, if I am honest, much of the time I waste tinkering around on the internet is linked to this activity.