Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Friday in Norway was a spectacular day, of relaxation, discovery and casual celebration. First relaxation- Severina's father and step-mom graciously invited 5 of us to come with them to a national park, where there are boulders beside the ocean. We had a picnic there, and soaked in the (last rays?) of summer sun.

We only discovered later, that the TONS of rocks piled up there were not caused by some glacier or similar natural cause. It shows where people buried their dead! Doesn't this rock formation look like a slice of bread?

Next on the agenda was a brief trip to Stavern, a small artist village on another harbor. The red paint is a very traditional color produced in Norway, and used also frequently on barns.

This Roman numeral -faced sun dial is amazing-- carved into a huge granite rock. If you put your feet where the correct month "footprint" is carved, it accurately tells the time!

We capped off the day with a celebrative and fun cook-out, mostly attended by out-of-town guests, beside the ocean inlet. Even I turned a few burgers on the grill! This was at the Christian retreat center where we were spending the night while there, and also where the wedding reception would be the next day.

Full steam ahead...

I wanted to share more photos with you of my long-weekend trip to Norway! This gentleman just looked so darling and sea-worthy! He is a sailor on a whale catcher's ship, the "H/B Southern Actor," with a steam engine (3 cylinder) which was built in the 1950's and is still running, but used for tourism now. Steam engines were preferred by Norwegians because the quieter engine did not scare away the whales, as a diesel engine might.

The retired sailors on the boat told us that the whale catcher ships used to be attached to a much larger "factory ship." The factory ship would have up to 15 boats surrounding it, bringing in whales to be processed. It could bring back the processed flubber and oil, etc. from a total of up to 300 whales! These boats would travel in the fall from Norway ALL the way --for 30 days-- down to the South Pole, and then stay and hunt for up to 6 months.

Norway and the wedding were exciting enough, but an added aspect for me was that it was my 25th country to visit. Ok, let's get technical-- I have not traveled extensively in all these places. But why not also include a lunch-time visit into tiny Luxembourg a few years ago, with my friend Jen? And I counted Scotland and England as 1 together (under the UK) but the island of Nevis a separate entity, although all 3 are actually part of 1 country, the United Kingdom. Therefore they're not, by definition, a "country"; (for details on what defines a country, click on this).
On the same harbor in Sandefjord (see map above), where we visited the whale catcher boat, a huge ferry from the Color Line company rounded the bend. Cars later poured out of its hull. Apparently, since the prices in Norway as SO high (highest in Europe!), some people go on shopping trips to Sweden, buying groceries and loading up their vehicles. Then they drive back over the land border, because these customs officers are more lenient (auf Deutsch, nachsichtig).

I was fascinated by this old dial (do you know what it's officially called?) in the boiler and engine room. It was down in the hull, and since we were not in America (where everyone is afraid that you might sue if you slipped!), or in Germany (where one would have more rules), we were allowed to freely wander and take in the atmosphere. Cool!

The engine room was hot (from fire in the boilers!), and the floor was totally oily and smelled. I asked how this dial worked: 1) the captain gives the orders from above; 2) the crew responds, and adjusts the steam accordingly to slow or go "full" steam --ahead or astern (auf Deutsch, achteraus), and then 3) responds back with the dial, to show that the command has been registered. Isn't that a great spiritual lesson? We must be aware of and register the signals that God gives us from above, choose to adjust our course (or speed) in life, and then in prayer tell Him how we feel about these new directions, keeping in constant communication!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Norway -- whaling, vikings, & inspiration

Ok... so Christiane and I are a bit "touristy" -- but, well, you gotta get with the Scandinavian, Norwegian spirit and we did, on our first day! On the first stop in the town of Sandefjord was a statue fountain commemorating the whaling industry so famous along the coasts of this beautiful nation, and started during the viking days.

Pictured here are my travel buddies, Lukas, Steffi, me, Christiane. Far right is Julie, the maid of honor, who used to work with Connexxion for 2 years in Jena-- she & her mom arrived a few days before us.

"I do" - Sven and Sevi

Sven and Severina -- 2 students from Jena-- said "I will" in Larvik, Norway, in the Lutheran Church, on Saturday! Yea! I am so excited for them, and will post more photos soon, of my trip and, of course, the BIG DAY! His parents are to his left, and hers to her right.

Polter Abend

Sven and Severina are 2 special friends who got married this weekend in Norway. I was privileged to be able to attend the wedding (pictures soon to come of this weekend trip!). But BEFORE the wedding, here in Jena some friends wanted to throw them a surprise "Polter Abend" which is when you smash up china, as good luck (but you never break glass or mirrors). It is quite a freeing feeling, I must say! The bride and groom must then clean up the mess.

In Germany, people really like to play funny games connected with weddings, and this evening was no different. The guys had to prove that they could do "womanly" tasks, such as peel a potato in one peel or sew on a button. The gals had to tie a man's tie, hammer a nail into a board, and open a bottle of beer without using a bottle opener (just using leverage of their fingers, and a lighter). Here Sven and Severina's wrists were tied, and they had to prove they could be a "team" by spooning the soup out of the bowl together and eating it all, taking turns (and it was "wedding soup")!!

Good-bye, Karl Marx!

Two friends of mine have said good-bye to Chemnitz in the past few weeks. One is Sarah, (on the left) who has lived in Germany since she was a baby. She will have her 12th grade year in Tennessee. She came over last summer to help me out for a few days, she plays guitar, has a wonderfully fun personality, and is creative! Her parents are starting a church in what was once called "Karl-Marx-Stadt" (see the huge bust of him behind the girls!!).
Another friend is Janine, who served in ministry there the last year, getting her support from church friends back home. She is scientific, was a top athlete at Univ. of Tenn., laughs easily, is humble, and enjoys people. Janine has come to several events here in Jena from our Connexxion group. They will both be missed!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

To your health

Maria is traveling to Oklahoma today, where she begins an internship with a BSU with which our group has a partnership. We are SO excited for her. She threw a little party at her apartment last week-- here are a few scenes from it!

Different countries apparently have different customs about how one should pose for a photo. So we swapped around and did 2 intercultural "takes" -- guess which one of us is acting American and which is German, for each shot!? Here we sometimes ask before taking a picture, "German face or American face!?"

Her parents Andreas and Ute are pictured here. A common idea about the USA is that we (you guys, i mean! uh-hum!) only eat fast food, and are not healthy in your eating habits. Have you ever seen the movie "Super- size me!"? I saw it in Germany on video. Therefore, Conny and Petra gave Maria a healthy present: a container of sauerkraut juice (I had NO idea that such a thing exists!!!). The whole group made a toast to Maria, and drank a glass-- "to your health!"

Mac and Cheese

Well, it doesn't "pay" to try to get American grocery products overseas, at least not unless you serve with the military.

This is a selection of a few things I can get at Wal-Mart from the States (yes, i have Wal-Mart here... but they do NOT stock American products, like you may think, and they are now moving out of Germany-- sigh!). Anyway, if you want Macaroni & Cheese or Campbell's Tomato soup for the Euro equivalent of $2 dollars & 77 cents (US), then go right ahead! :-) I can also get brownie mix, pancake syrup or Bisquick, but for a much higher price.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

the "Fam"

Here is my delightful family in Florida, shown in the March sunshine. Even in the brisker temps of spring, Indian Rocks Beach was a "must" visit on one afternoon!

I came for 7 days of vacation after our Vision Trip with our Connexxion group to New Mexico & California. I'm really looking forward to being back there for awhile starting in November-- wheee! I'll visit several states, so I can share with folks and churches like you about my work, & also get some R&R.

Besides the joy of renewing friendships (and seeing the beach), other highlights will be random & simple things like shopping for vegetables at the farmer's market with Mom, eating steak and Mexican burritos, and visiting the Christian bookstore. I also hope to get back to Vancouver, where I haven't seen my friends in over 7 years.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Party Hardy!

Our campus group has a reputation for enjoying parties-- I'm backblogging a bit; here are a few shots to prove it. These photos were taken in July, a few weeks ago at an end of the semester Grill Party (cook-out) at Jeff & Deanna's! :-)

Above are Hedwig, a music student, and Martin, 2 of our contest winners showing the chocolate Twix as prize. We had a group "Summer Bingo" game, to see who could mix and mingle, & find the most "matches" about who will do what for the summer (statements like: I will be playing Skat card game, I'm traveling to Spain, I'm getting married, I will eat lots of ice cream, I've crossed a border illegally, I have a job interview, I'm going canoeing, etc.).

Left above is Thomas, our fellow Connexxion staffer. He's on the balcony and improvised in a towel, eh... apron, to try to avoid grease stains on his clothes! Hmmmm... The gals are hanging out on the "porch", right (that's my Southern word, for 'balcony terrace' about 5 stories up!!)-- Steffi, me, Nadin (my old friend since my 2nd semester), Julia and Deanna, our hostess with the mostest! Yes, Mom and Dad-- that's my fun, LL Bean pink top and blouse that you sent me with Julie for my b-day-- THANK YOU!!

Here are more contest winners!... Vera is the contest leader so is pictured several times... with Dirk (who played jazz guitar on balcony later in the evening and is in my Stockwerk 5 group)....

Patrick looks like he's got something to say ("Speech, speech...")

More party game winners... Ralf and Julia-- who make a great team-- AND they're getting married in September! Hurrah!
Steffi and Stefan also enjoyed team-ing up and are boyfriend and girlfriend in "real life," too!

And with a yummy buffet, well, we're ALL "winners"-- when you hang out in the kitchen, the FAVORITE party spot, I've discovered. If you think some of these guys seem a bit older than students in other nations, you're right-- the average age when someone graduates with his/her first degree is 27! Students start college later, and take around 5-6 years (that's after a year of military, or voluntary service, and/or having done 13 grades in school, etc.).

Friday, August 04, 2006

Howdy & drop on in...

Isn't each year richer with what new & old friends add to our perspective, our joy & hug quotient, & lives?! Above, pictured with Maria in Erfurt, are Tony (from Taiwan) and Johan (from Holland). They are 2 college students whom our group met in Oklahoma on our Vision Trip. Tony was recently on a (literal) global tour (like Paul) to see friends. And especially to reconnect with former international students whom he'd helped with their adjustment to the USA (he studies architecture in Norman permanently). Tony is mentioned in a book about campus ministry, "The Fuel and the Flame." Maria is a dear friend, & will have an exchange semester/ internship at the BSU there this fall & winter.

My little "niece and nephew" (Jeffrey & Georgia, who live here but come from the state suggested by her name) came by for a "pool party" on my balcony (so what can you say about city living?)! I was impressed at how well they share a small space!! It's gotten a lot cooler since then, but we've had days in the 80's here, without air conditioning!

Little Georgia & I enjoyed the finger-lickin' good taste of KFC after church, when her family, Thomas & I were on a team retreat to Prague. I tried a new Pepsi cola, which is the color of ginger ale. By the way, in case you were wondering, this photo is also special because I don't have access to a KFC unless I travel to another city, maybe 2 hours away!!

Jennifer & Tommy came from Texas (Garland) to minister in nearby Weimar, along with a large group of their church's high schoolers. I first met Jen in 2001 (she was attending Baylor then) when she was a semester missionary in Jena working with youth. The two of them have been on about 7 trips to Germany to organize similar trips.

I drove over to Weimar one Sunday to see what their group had been up to-- actually it was a HUGE Christian musical at the convention center, written by the Baptist church folks, & composed by Rick & Nancy Dill's son-in-law, Jarrod (married to Laura, for those who know the family). 168 kids sang & danced & acted in a play on the stage (Germans & Americans). The Dills came to Weimar in 1991, to pastor a church of 11 members & help grow it, with a passion for people & a contagious vision! Now several hundred attend 2 worship services on Sundays & home groups during the week. Rick & Nancy also stood right beside me, like family, during some very tough decisions last year when I had back surgery, and we met with the neurological surgery chief of staff together. Danke sehr, liebe Freunde!