usa trips

visiting virginia

Our last two nights in Virginia were spent with some friends. We stayed up late talking on our first evening there. As we regaled them with funny stories from our travels so far, they suggested we write a book about it all. They figured that people would pay to hear the sometimes-bizarre happenings in our lives. The next day, they flew out of town.

Niel and I spent our unexpected free night on a date. We ate at a Mexican restaurant, and shared some tasty fajitas and sopapias. (Since we were going to miss our annual staff Cinco de Mayo party, we had our very own Uno de Mayo party.)

We got back to our friends' house around 10:00 and decided to throw in a load of laundry while we watched a movie. They had mentioned that something is wrong with their dryer and that it takes longer than normal to dry the clothes. We figured we could easily run the dryer twice and it should still finish up before the end of our movie.

Two dryer cycles later and our clothes were still just as wet as when we first put them in!

I worked hard to keep from going into panic mode, considering it was 12:30 at night and we had a mound of sopping wet clothes. We draped them over every chair, table, and surface we could find and hoped for the best. We figured---worst case scenario---if it was all still wet, we'd put them into plastic garbage bags before packing them into our suitcase, and figure out a Plan B when we arrived in Colorado.

The living room, dining room, and kitchen were a sight to behold, with our pants, shirts, and unmentionables covering everything in sight. I wish I'd taken a picture.

Niel got up early in the morning and flipped all our still-damp clothes. I tried not to think about it as I showered, spent time making my hair look messy, and finished the rest of the packing.

Thankfully when we went to check the clothes again, everything was dry. Phew!

We laughed as we recalled our friends' suggestion that we write a book about our crazy experiences while traveling. Little did they know that they'd win themselves their very own chapter!

our "vacation"

We've slept in 10 different places in the past 20 days. That's a lot of packing and repacking. And it gets old pretty fast. The other night we had dinner with someone we'd never met before.

"So where all have you been and where else are you going on this trip?"

"Well, we've already been in New York, Detroit, Orlando, Tampa, Virginia, and now here. After this, we're headed to Maryland, Denver, California, Seattle, and back to New York."

"Oh wow," she replied with a huge smile. "So exciting that you can take such an extensive vacation and just tour through the States!"

Our eyes got wide and we stifled a laugh as we very quickly explained that what we are doing is the farthest thing from a vacation.

"So you're traveling to raise funds and raise awareness about what you're doing?"


"Oh... That's nice," she said curtly as she stood up. "I'll be right back."

Some people don't get it.

And that's ok.

hangin with the boys

We saw the Big Man when we were in Washington, DC. It would be awesome if "Big Man" referred to the President or anyone actually alive, but really it's just Niel's endearing term for the Lincoln Memorial. That is my all-time favorite memorial in DC, and I think it's just glorious all lit-up at night.

So at 10:00, after we spoke at an evening meeting, some friends took us downtown DC to see the Big Man. Awe-inspiring, to say the least.

And we took some fantastic pictures.

We also visited Albert Einstein, which was a first for both of us. I really liked the wrinkly old guy.

We ended the night at our friends' local hang-out spot, just talking and lovin' Jesus together.

surprise visit

My Grandma turned 95 today. Niel and I surprised her with a visit for a few days this past week. With my hair cut, it took her a few extra seconds to figure out who I was and what was going on when she answered the door. But then her big smile said it all. Even though we had to leave before her actual birthday, we had a great visit with Gram. Some highlights:

  • We strolled through the grocery store together and sampled deli meats while we were waiting for our order, just like when I was a kid.
  • Gram, as always, was flabbergasted by the price of tomatoes and pasta. I got the rundown on how cheap they used to be.
  • I love watching Gram make espresso the old-fashioned way---in a little percolator pot on the stovetop. She made Niel very happy with her "black coffee" (as she calls it).
  • Gram dug out some old pictures (like this one). I loved hearing her stories---including a few that I'd never heard before. Like more about what it was like on the boat when she emigrated from Italy at 12 years old. (She remembers that the trip was exactly 28 days long!) I also learned that back in 1958, when my Grandpa worked for the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he won a prize of $353 for making a suggestion that saved the company over $11,000. I asked Gram what he bought with his award money. "An electric train set for your Dad." (Who was only 5 years old at the time.) I love that story.
  • With my Grandma being Italian and Niel being South African, they each have an accent. (Although I don't even notice either anymore.) In the past, they've struggled to understand each other, but this time they had no problems! That made me smile a lot.
  • Gram mentioned a few times that when I was very young, my mom would drop me off at her place each Saturday and we'd go to the movies together. When we were hugging goodbye, Gram asked, "Wanna come over on Saturday and we'll go to the movies?" That made me cry.

still smiling

I don't often have the luxury of saying to my friends in America, "See you tomorrow!" But tonight I did. And I'm still smiling about it.

Danielle put together a wonderful jamboree for us. OK, we didn't really call it a jamboree. Only Yeller and I did in emails and chats. In real life we called it "An Evening with Thrive Africa". But "jamboree" is certainly more fun to say.

There were about 30 people there, almost all of whom we've never met before. They seemed excited to hear what God is doing in South Africa. (Which is always encouraging!) I even got to meet some friends-of-a-wonderful-friend. And I ate strawberry shortcake.

It was a great night indeed.

And ending it by giving Danielle a hug and saying "See you tomorrow" just about made me squeal with giddiness. I never never never get that luxury. (Still smiling.)

We are hanging with her and her family for a few hours tomorrow, and I know it's going to be great. The bit of time we had to connect tonight was already wonderful. (She even invited us to do laundry at her house... What a friend!)

AND... I don't have to set my alarm for the morning. The thought of sleeping in is just...Wow! The perfect ending to a great night.

Yep. Still smiling...


I walked into Panera and caught Natalie's eye. She'd arrived before us and ingeniously snagged a table near an outlet. (Outlet = plug for laptop = internet.) We both smiled so big our eyes scrunched shut. Those are the best kinds of smiles. I hurried over to her corner and gave her a big hug. "Your shirt looks so familiar to me," she said after the initial how-are-yous and you-look-so-fantastics.


"Yeah. Maybe---" Before she could suggest that maybe she's seen me wearing it before, something catches her eye. She stops mid-sentence, leans over, and points to my boob. (Yes, I just said "boob" on my blog.)

My eyes follow her finger.

And I see a size sticker, clear as day, announcing to the world what size my boob shirt is.

"Nope. Obviously the shirt is new," she remarked. We burst out laughing as I hastily yanked off the sticker.

Now that's what friends are for!

my day

  • Woke up a few minutes before my alarm went off, which is always a good thing in my book. (If I can avoid hearing that obnoxious beep-beep-beep-beep, my day is already off to a much better start.)
  • Ate a toasted bagel for breakfast. (Not a huge deal to most of you, but since I live in a bagel-less nation, it's a massive deal to me!)
  • Left on-time for the airport (a little early even) and discovered a new Starbucks in the terminal once we checked in. (Yay for chai bliss.)
  • On our layover in Philly, I somehow managed to spill an enormous beverage all over myself. (How do I do these sorts of things???)
  • After a "plane maintenance delay", we finally made it into Detroit and got to our host home around 10 PM. (I slept through the majority of both flights, by the way.)
  • Answered urgent work emails, caught up on blogs, wrote a few personal emails. (Now I'm off to bed. Long day tomorrow!)

Good night John Boy!

four-minute friday: home

Go. My friend half-jokingly refers to America as "God's country", and her words were on my mind as we touched down in JFK at 6:30 this morning. It feels good to be home.

This is where it gets hard to explain, but I'll my remaining 3.5 minutes.

Africa is home. I've lived there long enough, put roots down deep enough, feel totally comfortable there that I have no qualms about calling it home. I often do. Especially when I'm in America. The phrase "Back home..." seasons my conversations.

But America will also always be home for me. No amount of years living overseas will ever take that away. There's something about being here---something about that instant when the airplane wheels hit the tarmac---that makes me feel like I'm being hugged.

There's much I disagree with and dislike about my home country and culture, as there also is about my new country and culture. But I proudly call both home.


home again, home again, jiggity jig

After being in the States for almost 5 months, we returned home last night. The night before we left New York, my mom and I pulled an all-nighter, watching back-to-back episodes of one of our favorite shows. We didn't think we'd actually make it all night, but suddenly it was 6:45 AM! We dozed for about an hour before getting up to finish my packing and leave for the airport.

I was exhausted, but this turned out to be just what I needed to be able to sleep through almost our entire 17-hour flight. My concerns that I then wouldn't sleep last night, once I was finally back in my own bed, were unnecessary. One Melatonin later, I was sound asleep again. Although I'm pretty tired right now, my body seems to have gotten right onto SA time.

Coming home is bittersweet. There's much I was missing and am so grateful to be back for. Our own house. Our couch. Our bird. Our friends. Our staff. Our ministry.

But there's much I also miss about my American home. My family. Stores open past 5. Starbucks. Variety and convenience. TiVo. :-)

I'm learning to be content wherever I am.

Since I'll be back in the USA in about six weeks (a rare treat), the transition is a bit easier. I'm looking forward to returning, but I'm also really glad to be home!

Our Home

ringing in the new year

After a wonderful Christmas with my family, some dear friends came to visit us for a few days. It's become somewhat tradition to spend New Year's Eve with Dave and Amy whenever we can. Surprisingly, we've managed to spend 3 New Year's Eves together since 2001 (3 out of 6 isn't bad!). We crammed a lot into their short visit, including a spontaneous overnight in Manhattan.

This being my second time in NYC this year, I've grown quite adept at navigating through the foot traffic. Particularly around the holidays, the city is literally full of pedestrians. Being the impatient, speed-walking woman that I am, I quickly learned to weave in, out, and around the slow traffic. I've become an excellent weaver.

Although we left the city during the day on New Year's Eve, we did get to see the ball drop. Who cares that it was only the test run!?

We also visited the Charmin free toilets (their "holiday gift to New York"), got up close and personal with the Naked Cowboy, took in Beauty & the Beast on Broadway, enjoyed a great meal at my favorite Italian restaurant (where we were served by a South African waiter!), and visited the tree at Rockefeller Center.

What a great way to end one year and start the next! Happy 2007!

'tis better

I truly love to give. My greatest anticipation leading up to Christmas is to see others' eyes shine and faces light up when they open their gifts. I love when I find just the "perfect thing" for someone. The wait -- knowing that the recipient is going to love it -- just mounts anticipation and excitement.

This Christmas Eve, my gift-giving eagerness has me pondering. I can't help but think that God, the ultimate gift-giver Himself, felt the same way on the first Christmas Eve. Since giving is as innate in Him as love is, I can imagine God trembling with the anticipation of giving His best gift. Although He knew His gift would not initially be received with joy, He still knew that it was the perfect thing. Just what we needed.

Thank you, Father, for giving us Your best.

'Tis truly better to give than to receive...

(b)anal accusations

While I know that I'm a perfectionistic, detail-oriented person, I certainly don't expect to have this pointed out by complete strangers. Niel and I recently made a rather large purchase, which in the past month seems to have undergone more than the usual expected wear and tear. With us having paid as much as we did, I was not happy about all the scratches and discoloration. I figure if it wore this much in the first month, what will it look like a year from now?

So we took it back to the store to find out what could be done. After much discussion with the store clerk and then the manager, our options were laid before us:

  1. They could repair the item at no charge. This, to me, wasn't really a solution as the damage would continue again after the repair.
  2. We could exchange the item for something else. But after much looking, we weren't really happy about any of the other available items.
  3. We could return it for a full refund. As I love our purchase, I would have been disappointed to have to go this route.

Then the manager offered a fourth solution. She looked me right in the eye and said:

" could just not be so anal."

Niel, my knight (without the armor), rose to my defense and dealt a hand of rudeness right back at her.

Anal? You betcha!


iJust got home from a full week of travels and fun. And a little "work". After a week away, iFind it difficult to blog. Not because it was a boring time, but because it was filled with so much. iFind it hard to nail down a story or two to share.

Since iArrived in the States in August, iHave been blessed to see many friends along the way. iFinally got to see my dear friend Amers Kitty while we were in Michigan. While the days went by quickly (especially with one being entirely filled with a board meeting), we enjoyed a great appetizer of conversations (and even a memorable hot tub soak!). iAm looking forward to the official Kitty Reunion here in New York -- and to continuing that conversation smörgåsbord.

Torch Lake, Michigan

After an extra night in Detroit due to canceled flights, iFlew into NYC (with Niel, of course), for a fun visit with our friend Laura. Mom and Dad even joined us for a night, which was a blast. There truly is nothing like Manhattan at Christmastime. iLove the lights, the sounds, the smells... iGot to take in two Broadway shows, which was an incredible experience that iHope to be able to partake in again down the road.

iTook a boat ride out to see the Statue of Liberty up close and personal (she really is beautiful), and to visit Ellis Island. My grandma emigrated to America from Sicily when she was 13; we were able to track down some of the records from her family's arrival into New York. iWas moved -- and thrilled -- to retrace a portion of our history.

New York City

iCame home tired; we enjoyed a slow nothing-day today to "recover". iRealize how quickly my time in the States -- at home -- is coming to a close. iWant to take in each moment. This past week was filled (overflowing) with so many memories that iWill hold in my heart forever.

iAm blessed with an unbeatable husband, an incredible family, and wonderful friends. iCouldn't ask for anything more.

merrry christmas!

We discovered today that a ministry project we just went to print on, bears a typo. I wrote the copy and did the editing, so, alas, it is my own fault. When I realized that our Christmas cards (which will soon return from the printers and be mailed to over 200 people) say "Merrry Christmas", I gasped. (For those who didn't notice what's wrong --- as I didn't all the dozens of times I looked it over --- it has one "r" too many!)

My head started to spin. How can this be?! I looked it over umpteen times. How could I have missed it?! I immediately told Niel that we need to scratch this whole shipment and reorder it all. When he reminded me of how much it cost, I knew that wasn't an option...

Niel bounced right back from this earth-shattering discovery. He said that people will just think we're being emphatic. He started proclaiming, "Merrrrrrrrry Christmas!" (Think Tony the Tiger...) He said it over and over: "Merrrrrrrrry Christmas!" Well, that got me laughing and took my mind off my mistake...for the moment.

Later, when it was just us, I told Niel that I was really upset over this. My perfectionistic tendencies couldn't bear the overwhelming weight of defeat. I was feeling upset not just for myself, but for how this misrepresents the ministry.

Me: "I feel like a failure."

Niel: "Well, this just shows that you're a human being who makes mistakes like the rest of us."

Me: Sigh...

Niel: "Now maybe you won't be so hard on me next time I make a mistake. Cause then I'll just say 'Merrrrrrry Christmas!'"

an orange county christmas

For some reason I simply cannot fathom, Niel hates Christmas music. Always has. Probably always will. (Gasp!) Yet he endured an evening of Christmas carols and cold-weather cheer with my mom and I at our town's tree-lighting ceremony. Two cups of hot chocolate made the repetitious rendition of "Here Comes Santa Claus" more bearable for him.

Christmas-carol-disdain aside, Niel seems to love Christmastime. Not quite as much as I do, but close. His favorite thing is opening his "Christmas sock" (stocking). Well, Christmas came early for Niel. Or at least one of his gifts did.

We took a trip upstate New York yesterday for a chopper unveiling at Orange County Choppers. Niel loves watching their show (as do I), mostly for their ongoing family drama but also for their unique and detailed creations. Getting to visit their store, see some of their bikes, and watch a bike unveiling was an incredible experience. Getting to do all of that with my husband? Priceless.

It was a fun and memorable trip, complete with brief conversations with Vinny and Rick, and a good glimpse of Senior as he drove up on the new bike. The whole thing was taped by Discovery for an upcoming episode (next Monday night, in fact). Be sure to watch -- maybe you'll see us!