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August 31, 2011

Airdropping food to a tiny drop zone in South Sudan; A message to girls who want to be married; Honesty in marriage

Watch this video of the precision of air dropping food aid to refugees in a remote, inaccessible part of South Sudan.

Samaritan's Purse is providing food and other aid to thousands of refugees escaping from the ongoing fighting in the Nuba Mountains region of Sudan.

More than 5,000 people have sought refuge in upper Unity State in South Sudan, and there are reports that at least 20,000 more are making their way to the area. Some have walked for 13 days. They have no other source of food or clean water, and are living amid swampy, black mud.
Samaritan’s Purse has a disaster assistance team in Unity State, working in a remote area that is very difficult to reach because of rain that has washed out roads and left up to four feet of standing water in some places. 

“The people have reached the end of their rope,” said David Phillips, the emergency response manager. “They have exhausted all of their food supplies that they had carried with them fleeing the fighting in the Nuba Mountains. They have resorted to collecting grass and leaves to boil, and then are drinking the green water just to get some nutrients.”

There was no way to transport the large amounts of food and other items needed by land, so we mobilized our Kenya-based DC-3 to airdrop emergency supplies to the area.

Also, two very interesting articles with some good questions in them:

A Personal Note to Any Girl Who Wants to Get Married, by counselor Rick Thomas, who has counseled "more miserable married women than [he] can possibly remember."


How Honest Should I be With my Spouse? by the same counselor. Very thought-provoking. It starts:
"Let’s go ahead and put the goal in the stratosphere:

Think about how you talk to God.

I’m talking about your prayer time.

Think about how He talks to you.

I’m talking about through His Word.

How do y’all talk to each other? How do y’all interact and engage each other?

I suspect you are completely open, honest, transparent, and there are no holds barred in your relationship with God.

At least this is how things ought to be and this is the goal that you should strive for in your relationship with your spouse."

Read on.

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August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2011

Beautiful and Insightful Parenting Poems

Two poems by my college friend Paige, mother of six and dairy farmer in upstate New York:

For mothers of young teens: I am not a cartographer, but I have travelled some.

For mothers of two-year-olds: The Good Young Days.

(she's the mother of both right now)

She also writes incredible prose:
"Somewhere along the range I have lost my good humor, or let it slide down the steep places to languish in ravines."
(from an essay about a family hike and moving mountains or being moved by them)

Still along the lines of parenting, love this touching prose about his son by adoptive dad Shaun Groves: The Puzzle I Love.

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August 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 11, 2011

Einsiedeln Abbey - kids' first visit

And since the Seilpark/Ropes Course was only 14 minutes from Einsiedeln Abbey, directly on the way home, we stopped there for a few minutes since the kids had never been. We peeked inside to goggle at the extreme ornation. No pictures allowed inside, unfortunately. You'll just have to visit to see the most ornate church I've ever seen (maybe in the world?). If you've seen the inside of Einsiedeln Abbey in person, and you've seen another church interior you find more gaudily ornate, I'd like to hear about it. They have EVERY color on the ceiling - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, peach, gold, silver, brown, gray... really. It looks like there were 43 designers and they all got their way.

Jason pointed out the 3D carvings on the main door. I hadn't noticed the other two times I visited. Neat!

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Seilpark am Mythen - A New High Ropes Course for us

Today the kids and I visited Seilpark am Mythen, a high ropes course in the canton of Schwyz, 45 minutes' drive from our house. A new one for us. We'd only done the ropes course on Pilatus before. This was quite different and wonderful, too. Much more rural and quiet and wooded, with several streams running through it, over which we zip-lined again and again. TONS of long zip lines through the trees, touching branches...

For the free drop feature on the "sehr schwierig" trail ("very difficult"), since my brother wasn't there to push me off this time (I couldn't bring myself to let go of the platform on Pilatus' version of this either), my son Jason was kind enough to do it. Otherwise I'd still be stuck up there. I was literally heart-poundingly terrified. I am fine with the zip lines across streams, just can't get myself to do the drop where you don't feel the rope catching you until two seconds after you let go into nothingness. Emily went before me, and she can testify I was trembling when I got down. Thanks, Jason, for your very necessary help!

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August 09, 2011

Kiel, Germany

Last stop before returning Copenhagen to fly home to Zurich: Kiel, Germany. 


One very unexpected thing that happened on this cruise is that our very first port of call was CANCELLED the morning we were supposed to land there, in Warnemünde, Germany. Fortunately for those who were determined to visit Germany, there was this other stop ten days later, the last one, also in Germany. For us it was no big deal, because we live an hour from Germany, and didn't even have any plans really to get off the ship at the first stop - maybe a ten-minute walk around or something. So we were fine with just getting another day at sea (as rocky as it was, since the cancellation was due to high winds and high seas, prohibiting safe docking). But for those planning on a train trip in to Berlin, I'm sure it was very disappointing.


From Kiel, they were offering train trips into Hamburg, but David and I were content to take a little walk around the edge of Kiel. You can see two spires in the photo below. The left one is an "open" church, St. Nikolaus, whose aim is to be a "warming room for a cold soul." (click on "Konzept" and scroll down, but it's in German). I like that!


The right hand one is the Rathaus (city hall). We walked to both. Circling the Rathaus trying to find a way inside (we had heard it was pretty), we discovered a catholic church, which is a bit confusingly named St. Nikolai. This one offers meetings for those who are sad, or unemployed ("Who cares? We do" the sign says). What a good idea. Encouraging to visit.



Left: window in St. Nikolaus Open Church (Moses crossing the Red Sea).
Right: from St. Nikolai Catholic Church, interesting abstract (?) stained glass.

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Our ship.



Last night of cruising. We saw so many beautiful sunrises and sunsets.



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August 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stockholm, Sweden

Dawn in the Stockholm Archipelago as we approached the capital of Sweden.


 Inside the Stockholm Cathedral, interesting red brick columns and ribbing.




They had this neat suspended prayer candle globe at the back.



More nice ceilings - every church we visited on this Baltic tour had a totally different style/color palette; it was amazing.



At the front, above the silver and ebony altar:



On the Stockholm waterfront, this hotel was flying seven flags. From left to right: USA, Finland, Norway, Sweden (in the middle), Denmark, Germany and the UK. Of these, we visited the 2nd, 4th, 5th, & 6th on this cruise, and we come from the first, we lived two years in the last, and that leaves only the 3rd as the odd one out - we need to get to Norway sometime. Haven't been there yet.



And evening falls around 10pm as we sail away from Sweden towards Germany.



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Helsinki, Finland

Next new country: Finland! (for all four of us; David had already been to Russia, but Estonia was new to all of us as well)


Here are some serious berries at Market Square: bilberries, currants, and blueberries (I think). Notice the lovely Finnish signs. I find it a lot of fun to see new languages written.



Uspenski Cathedral (Eastern Orthodox, not far from Market Square)



Inside, it's this wonderfully relaxing, gentle mushroom color! Never seen anything quite like it.



Just outside Uspenski Cathedral, there is this little bridge, where newlyweds place a lock on their wedding day, and throw the key into the water, to symbolize their togetherness forever, a sealed deal. I like it! Apparently this happens in a lot of cities, though I'd never heard of it before (we were told about it in St. Petersburg as well, though we didn't see the bridge there).



Next we were off to the Lutheran Cathedral on Senate Square - entirely different style. For this one, the outside is more impressive and lovely than the inside. Senate Square is enormous and topped by this stately white building.



Here Jason photographs David and Emily climbing the steps outside. But the inside is just plain white, hardly any decorations. A few statues of people like Martin Luther (makes sense in a Lutheran meeting place), and one painting at the front, of Jesus being taken down from the cross.



Final sight of Helsinki, the Church of the Rock (another Lutheran church). That's Jason standing on top. A good view from up there, into the church, and of the massive rock it's built into (can't see much of it from below or in this photo). I climbed up, too. I like climbing.




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August 08, 2011

St. Petersburg, Russia, Part 8 (and final!): The Hermitage Museum 3/3 - Paintings

I also enjoyed the impressionist paintings, as I always do. Here are some favorites:

Renoir 1885, Child with a whip



Monet, Lady in the Garden, 1867



Monet, Poppy Field, 1887



Signac, Port of Marseilles, 1906-7



Van Gogh, 1889, "Bush"



Matisse, Vase of Irises, 1912



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St. Petersburg, Russia, Part 7: The Hermitage Museum 2/3 - Ceilings

The ceilings at the Hermitage were serious contenders for my favorite part of the collection.




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St. Petersburg, Russia, Part 6: The Hermitage Museum 1/3 - Gold, Jasper and Mosaics

The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is full of wonderfully ornate things...


Like golden fluted Corinthian columns...




Thought of my sweet nephew Jasper when we saw this huge vase entirely made out of jasper.



This bouquet is beautiful enough as a painting, but actually it's an incredibly minute mosaic, which is only a part of a table filled with other mosaics.




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