Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Big 2-6!

Celebrated the big 2-6 yesterday with amazing friends...I feel so blessed! After getting a pedicure with Mary, we ran (literally) to meet up with all these lovely ladies for some incredible Thai deliciousness!

Jen and I

All the girls at the restaurant...

Then we went back to our apartment and ate this amazing cake that Mary made! I had a really great day and am just so thankful that God always provides me with such great, loving, fun friends (and a fabulous family too!)! It was a great birthday...besides the fact that I would've really liked to freeze that whole age thing about 3 or 4 years ago! :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Farewell Wisconsin

It's amazing how quickly you can get to the other side of the world... just a few naps, movies, and meals away! I'm currently in the Korean airport waiting for my last flight to Hong Kong so I can make it to work bright and early tomorrow! :) I wouldn't want to give myself too much time to get settled in...that would just be uncharacteristic of me! :)

It was a wonderful summer with family and friends and it was tough to say goodbye. No matter where I am in the world, I think a piece of my heart will always be in WI! Yesterday morning before I left my dad and I woke up at around 5, so I could fit in one last bike ride...it was well worth it! Here's a few glimpses of what I'll soon be yearning for when I'm back in the concrete jungle of HK:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Big Race/Reunion

Every time I get together with my college friends I'm reminded of how blessed I am by their friendships. And then I, of course, wish we didn't all live so far away. However, I love that we've made a point to get together every summer so far. This year we met up in Okoboji, IA and rented a little cabin for a couple of nights.
What better thing to eat in Iowa than corn? Yum...having a picnic in the park.

Playing games in the park...

The inspiration for meeting in Okoboji was the half marathon race taking place that weekend. I tried to coerce more people into running, but was successful with two! :) Here we are eating pasta the night before the race!

"Pasta to make us run fasta!" as Ellen says. :)

Here we go! No turning back now! :)

You can tell by our energy levels that this is about 5 seconds into the race... it was a hot day, so the water stations, sprinklers, and home owners who dumped water on us were life savers! :)
...and we're almost there! I've never been happier to see that finish line. :) Overall, it went really well. I met my goal, and it was a fun accomplishment to check off the list! :)
With our awesome cheerleaders at the finish line!

Chelsey was able to come up and hang out with us at the park for a few hours after the race. :)
After a few days in Okoboji we went to Sioux Falls and hung out at Erin and Tracy's houses. We got to meet Tracy's sweet little girl Anah! :)

Until next time...

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I'll have to blame my lack of posting on having a fantastically fun summer! I've been so tired by the end of the day that I have no energy left to blog. :) But alas, it's time... on July 5th I set off on a jet plane yet again to visit my dear friend Tawnee, who served with me at Haven of Hope in Ghana. It was such a wonderful reunion filled with good conversations, plenty of laughs, lots of reminiscing, and enjoying God's beautiful creation. We spent 3 nights camping outside of Yosemite National Park, and that was amazing. We slept under the stars all wrapped up in our sleeping bags. The days were warm, but the temperature really dropped at night-time. Here are some pictures of our time together:We went on a hike one day and that waterfall in the background is our final destination. (Warning: Objects in picture are farther than they appear!) :)
Lovin' the campfire food! We felt like such good girl scouts with our campfire skills! ;)
The first full day we decided to be adventurous and go whitewater rafting. Here are our feelings after the safety briefing before heading out on the river. I consider myself a pretty brave and adventurous person, but I was so scared! However, I jumped that hurdle of fear and went for it, and boy, was I glad I did. After the first intense set of rapids, my adrenaline was pumping and I was able to relax a bit more. (We did have one guy fall out in the raft ahead of us and one whole raft behind us flipped on some big rapids, but thankfully everyone was okay.) It was not only extremely fun, but we were surrounding by amazing scenery and I really couldn't think of a better way to spend a morning! :) Definitely a highlight of the trip!

In front of Yosemite Falls...
We thought we were ready for a dip-- until we felt the frigid mountain water! :) This was as far as we made it!
Tunnel View
As we were grocery shopping, we began to see a pattern. Our cart was being filled with many items strikingly similar to our grocery lists in Ghana! I guess that just reaffirms my idea that Ghana living was a lot like camping. We just had to get a picture with our Velveeta-- a staple (delicacy) while in Ghana! :)
Here we are on the Mist Trail on the way up to the waterfall you saw in the first picture. We were soaked by the time we got to the top, but it was so refreshing!

After our Yosemite adventures we checked out Balboa Beach on Sunday. The waves were so strong, so we had a lot of fun playing around in the water...another adrenaline-pumping activity!

What a great week! :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Korean Finale & Fourth of July

Now that summer has finally come to WI (Translation: The average high is above 60 degrees.), it's more difficult to motivate myself to blog. I'm loving being outside and enjoying the weather and relaxation. However, today being the 4th of July seemed to perfect day to conclude my Korean entries. So, here goes: The last day I was in Korea, Brent and I took a two hour train ride to Seoul (sweating every minute as we thought we might be late for our tour) where we caught a bus to begin our tour of the DMZ (de-militarized zone), which is an area of land about 2.5 miles wide and stretching across the whole Korean peninsula, splitting North and South Korea, that was created as a peace zone following the Korean war. On the bus ride there was a lady who'd recently defected from North Korea (2009). She answered questions about life there and about her escape...what a sad, sad story...

South Korea has built a train station that is ready to be connected to North Korea in hopes that the two countries will one day be reunited. Knowing the pain, suffering, and persecution that happens in North Korea, that would be a beautiful sight to see and I hope I'm alive to witness it. It was strange being next to the tracks at a beautiful station that has never been used.
We were able to visit the Joint Security Area (where N and S Korean officials meet in peace) but there were very strict rules on picture taking, clothing, and gestures. We even saw one of the North Korean soldiers checking us out with binoculars! Although it was really interesting to see, it was also really sad to see the division and the paranoia and hatred that results.

Upon returning home I've been reading a book put out by Voice of the Martyrs called "North Korea". The persecution that Christians face there is unbelievable, yet their faith is unwavering and inspiring, as they give up comforts, safeties, and securities of this temporary world and trust in full expectation that their abandonment of earthly pleasures will be well worth it in eternity. What a great mindset and a lesson I too must take to heart daily as I feel the pull of the world vs. the calls of God on my life.

John gives me a good reminder of where my priorities should be in 1 John 2:15-17:
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

So as we celebrated Independence Day today I was especially mindful and thankful of the freedoms we enjoy in this country. I'm so thankful for the ability to worship, speak, and live freely. Please join me in praying for Christians around the world who do not have the same luxuries.
Enjoying fireworks at "Rhythm & Booms" in Madison with friends...
In attempt to be festive I decided to make these cake pops...take a good look, these will never be made by me again! haha....okay, perhaps that's a bit strong, but they were not easy for me to make!
We had some family over swimming today...and my mom was getting festive...check out the impressive ice cubes! Way to go Mom! :)

Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Korea, part 2-- "The Hike"

After experiencing the amazing Korean cuisine, Brent and I decided that next up on the agenda was to spend my first full day in Korea hiking-- a decision I paid for throughout the next four days! Don’t get me wrong…I love hiking and it was well worth it, but here’s the story:

The night before we did a little bit of research as to what trail we wanted to take. We thought a 2 hour hike sounded good; then we could catch a bite to eat and wander around Seoul checking out some of the markets and shopping areas. However, our plans quickly changed when we met our “Korean Daddy” (the name he gave himself when he found out he was the same age as our parents) on the train on the way to Bukhansan National Park. He asked where we were going and when we told him and found out we were both headed to the park to hike, he told us to follow him.

So we followed him through the train station where we met up with his group. As we approached the group, a bit of apprehension creeped in. Every single member of the group was fully equipped from head to toe with hiking gear—we’re talking hiking shirt, vest, boots, walking sticks, visors, stools, and some even had hiking gloves! They don’t mess around! Here we wander over in our t-shirts and I suddenly felt that perhaps this hike was more than we bargained for. But…I like hiking and am always up for an adventure, so we proceeded. The apprehension grew a bit as we did group stretches and began making the climb while rarely pausing to take a breath. We made it to the top of one mountain after about one hour (Imagine doing squats and/or lunges for one hour straight and then you can imagine what my legs felt like!) and the view was beautiful.

We went down and had a great “picnic” lunch Korean style. Since we only planned to hike for 2 hours we brought some meager snacks, but thankfully our new Korean friends willingly shared their food with us and wanted us to sample everything they brought. After a short re-fueling, we were off again to conquer the second mountain. There were times during this ascent that I didn’t think my legs could make one more step, and at one point as I was plodding away, one of the men in the group looked back at me and said, “No problem?” to which I smiled, laughed and responded, “No problem!”. (What I was thinking was, “Yeah, no problem if my legs fall off! Who needs them anyways?!”)

Again we made it and admired the beautiful view for a brief time and headed back down. This time we stopped by a small stream of water to cool our feet and just relax for a bit. I got a kick out of it when our “Korean Daddy” asked us (after hiking for 4 hours) if we wanted to do a long or a short hike. Short hike? We’ve already hiked for 4 hours…how can that possibly qualify as a short hike??? Brent—being the smart man he is—said that a short one would be better because I was pretty tired. The man looked at me and said, “Yes…she DYING!” (Side note: I thought I actually held up pretty good but I was exhausted.) So we had an hour of downhill and we made it safely back to the train station with legs that dreaded every stair for the next few days! That—my friends—is the story of our 5 hour “short hike”!

All that being said, it was actually a very fun day with beautiful weather, beautiful views, and good company. I was glad we went.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Korea, part 1

My older brother, Brent, has been living and teaching English in South Korea this year, so it seemed like the perfect chance for me to stop there and visit him and explore Korea on my way back to Wisconsin for the summer.

After travelling around Asia quite a bit, I kind of thought I knew what to expect—after all, a big city is a big city, right? Wrong! I was pleasantly surprised to get off the bus in Brent’s neighborhood and feel like I was in a “small neighborhood”. (I think I’ve been in HK too long!) As Brent introduced me to his neighborhood and as we gallivanted around Seoul, I was excited to discover that Korea has a heartbeat and personality of its own.

The hustle and bustle of HK was replaced by more spacious and relaxed sidewalks.

The concrete jungle and mazes of HK life were replaced by quiet pathways lined with freshly blooming roses.

Being there was a breath of fresh air (literally AND figuratively!).

Some of the most significant differences I was able to experience came with mealtimes. The first night I was there, Brent took me to Korean BBQ which I quickly fell in love with! Upon entering the restaurant, we took our shoes off and placed them on a rack and went to our table where we sat on the floor… a new experience for me.

A grill was right on the table in front of us and we ordered samgyeopsal, which is “pork belly”. I told Brent that I prefer to not know which body part of the animal I am eating. I’ll stick with “bacon”! Anyways, I was able to hop that mental hurdle no problem, and dug right into the delicious food.

At most of the Korean restaurants you pay for the meat only and they provide a variety of side dishes that you can get refills of if necessary-- the most prominent one being "kimchi", which is spicy fermented cabbage and is served at nearly every meal. After grilling the meat, you wrap it in a leaf along with some fresh garlic (resulting in me having bad breath all week, but it was oh so worth it!), soybean paste, and rice and fold it up and eat it! It was delicious!

Let’s suffice to say I didn’t go hungry!

On Tuesday two of Brent's co-workers graciously offered to take us out for lunch, so here we are!