Posted in Christian living, cross cultural living, health and wellness, Life, travel, Uncategorized

Cruising the World!

Cruising can be a nightmare or amazing! Here are some thoughts and tips we have discovered in our very short experience.

I have always had an aversion to the thought of cruising. The only one I was interested in was not far from my home in Far North Queensland in Australia. That was because it was a lovely area but also because you were mostly close to land something I liked!

My aversions were a few:

  1. I don’t  like the ocean and get sea sick easily.
  2. You lose sight of land and those waves can be fearsome.
  3. You are with a couple of thousand other people on a tin tub in the middle of ocean and can not get away from them!
  4. Germs and food poisoning stories abound.
  5. Way too much food and I didn’t want to watch people or myself make gluttons of ourself!
  6. Way too many excesses all up with too many imbibing too much alcohol.

So all up it was not what I considered a nice holiday. However, one ferry ride we took across from Finland to Sweden was such a wonderful experience that I thought it might not be too bad to go on a more defined cruise.

We were offered a two for one deal and after Paul said he really wanted to go and visit Alaska we headed off for our 40th Wedding Anniversary with three thousand other people.

We opted to spend a bit of time in Canada before the cruise and loved the amazing country.

The cruise was for 10 days so we were indeed locked up with a lot of people but it didn’t feel to constricted. We opted to do a lot of walking in the ports rather than pay loads of money on tours organized by the cruise liner. We have since discovered that there are definitely options out there rather than join up with the masses.

Things we have learned on our very limited cruise experiences:

  1. Unless you are cruising an area that has spectacular views, don’t pay extra for a balcony – You are hardly in your room and when you are it is usually to sleep or nap so dark is good! And preferably not close to a lift!
  2. Higher isn’t necessarily the best! The sway is considerably more in the event of bad weather.
  3. Washy washy! Washing hands is imperative to avoid nasties. Health issues in such close quarters are really important as is what you eat and drink on land at the various ports. Take care!
  4. Be alert! Travel always requires that we remain aware of our surroundings. There are some not so pleasant people out there and situations, so be smart.
  5. Get off the ship and shop around! There are better tours that can be found at the docs and even outside the port fences! Get a group together and negotiate a fair price for your drivers as well as yourselves. We appreciated our small intimate group and our ability to negotiate our time and sightseeing, instead of being dictated to along with 70 other people.
  6. Get away from the tours to support local artisans and retailers. Bartering isn’t fun for me but if I feel they are giving me a fair deal I will buy. If I feel I am being ripped off I walk away!
  7. Have fun and get to know other guests. There are some amazing people out there to meet. Don’t just sit with your friends and family.
  8. Don’t be the rude, whinging tourist! Treat your cruise staff with respect and patience. Treat the locals with respect as well. They are trying to make a living in some pretty hard circumstances. RESPECT!
  9. Take phone numbers of your tour guides. It can come in handy. Paul left his phone in the taxi we hired and we were able to contact him and connect to get it back – and gave him a nice tip for being honest and driving back to us!
  10. Have fun! This a great time to relax, enjoy new sights as well as be pampered!

So just a few thoughts as we embark on our third cruise – This time to Italy and the Adriatic Sea – Just a little excited about it! This is my dream cruise!

Back soon

Until next time

Blessings Narelle

 

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Posted in Christian living, communication, grief, health and wellness, Life, Love, Parenthood, Uncategorized

A Time to Move – A Time for Change

While undergoing missionary training I will never forget the comment by our lecturer who said the life of a missionary is one of good-byes. Never a truer word was spoken!

We said goodbye to elderly parents, siblings, our older children and in time our grandchildren as we moved across nations. I said goodbye to my father not knowing it would be the last time I saw him alive.

Goodbyes and change are never easy. As “third culture kids” missionary children are quite adept at change but nevertheless it is still a major grief process for them as well.

Grief is the word I use because ultimately no matter how “exciting” a new venture is whether it is leaving country, town or house, there is always going to be elements of grief associated. Here is a quick overview of what you leave behind.

  1. Family and friends – You are almost certainly leaving behind many you love, in some cases never to see them again or perhaps with an interlude of many years.
  2. Familiar places – Familiarity breeds contempt but mostly it breeds a sense of comfort. We like to know what the packaging says on what we eat. We like to go to our favourite hairdresser, car mechanic, business operator, or any of the many other connections we make when settling in to a place.
  3. Church family – We know these people. We have journeyed with them for perhaps many years. We know what to expect in a worship service or at least be able to understand what is being said and sung!
  4. Our precious things – Sadly we all are attached to the “Things” in our lives. When they are packed away and we don’t know when or if we will ever see them again there is an element of grief attached to that also.
  5. Work and school – Leaving behind familiar work and school situations, friends and colleagues. Also leaving again the comfort of familiarity as we move on to the unknown.  Encourage them to stay in touch with old friends as I do myself. You will of course drift away from certain friendships but I do try to stay connected with friends and families as well as old work mates.
  6. Memories – We accumulate just as many memories as we do “stuff”. To leave these behind can be heart wrenching.

Allowing ourselves to walk through the process of grief is imperative and to each of us this will look different.

I remember one of my little girls I taught, going about the classroom just before she and her family were due to leave the country. She was touching each book, special place, saying out loud this would be the last time for…  She also talked frequently about her last experiences; sleep over, concert here, etc etc. It went on for a few weeks and towards the end of the school year she wanted to have a farewell party for her little friends. Her mother eventually came in very concerned.

I asked why?

“Because when I leave a place I don’t say goodbye. I just leave without looking back or really having a farewell anything.”

To me, her daughter had the better coping mechanism! She was finalizing her memories, and giving healthy closure to her relationships! You must give yourself and your family time to grieve and process. We each do that differently!

Grief comes in many shapes and forms but if not dealt with well, can leave lasting negative impacts, particularly on children. Here are some practical helps I have learned over the past 30 years of traveling and change.

  1. Family and friends – Set them up for the farewells. Give them time to process and also try to be as cheerful as possible. I remember crying myself to sleep each night before we left country as I faced the prospect I might never see my parents again. I had a tape that I was playing and after the tears it brought peace to my soul. “Because He lives I can face tomorrow!” None of us knows what tomorrow will hold whether we stay or leave but we know that He does know and we can trust in Him. He will take care of those we leave behind. Grieve certainly, but then find your peace in Him.
  2. Familiar places – When we go overseas it is always a challenge to establish new connections but we face it positively and with anticipation of finding new friends. Someone said to me just the other day about Paul, “He doesn’t know a stranger does he.” I think that is a key. We embrace the challenges of finding the new! If you complain and whine and harp back to the “old place” you will definitely feel the negative affects of change. Embrace positively. Talk to new friends about their best people they have found for tasks until you set up your own network of the familiar.
  3. Church Family – I thank God I am part of an amazing world wide family! It is not just one denomination or people group. It is “church” the body of Christ and in our many years of travels we have been blessed by many different church family. It is good to get rooted in one family but not always possible. Keep your arms and heart open to the family.
  4. Our precious things – We always take just a couple of precious things with us, including photos (now more easily transported with digital photos). This is really important for children and I don’t recommend leaving behind their favourite toy. I remember one woman who said each time they moved as a Navy brat, she had to leave her toys behind! They don’t need to take it all but the really precious ones for sure. I also made sure we took a couple of familiar Christmas decorations, to make it feel like home. Naomi has one donkey made from a wooden peg in first grade that has traveled the world and is still placed on her tree each Christmas!
  5. Work and school – For adults it will require time to adjust to new work place routines and colleagues, and so it is with children – but on steroids! They are already facing daily challenges, particularly teenagers, but to uproot them at that age creates a whole different set of emotions and issues. I remember in my 5th or 6th grade Janice left town! I couldn’t believe how it made me feel to think I would never see her again! Encourage your children regularly! Naomi found her strength and peace as she left school, family and even country with two scriptures. Psalm 91 and Joshua 1. Be strong and of good courage. You can encourage them to grow through the time rather then succumb to the pain of grief.
  6. Memories – These you will always have. But you are pressing on, moving forward into new memories. Take the time to talk with children and encourage them to start to believe for new memories.

Change is inevitable no matter where you are or what stage of life you are at. Paul gives the analogy of a boxer. If you resist a punch it will hurt but if you move with it, it won’t hurt as much. The more resistant you are to change the more it will hurt. A positive, respectful attitude towards each other will help you all move through the process and enjoy the journey.

You have a choice on how you handle change – Choose life or death. Choose to live in a positive, embracing mode or resist and fight with a negative attitude. It is up to you. There are so many wonderful new adventures you can enjoy.

Until next time

Blessings Narelle

Walking the Camino – How to Prepare

The Camino de Santiago is an 800 km or 500 mile walk through France and Spain. It is a pilgrimage walk that has been around for thousands of years that has many trails originating around Europe. It was said that you could step outside your door and begin the pilgrimage from anywhere in Europe. During the time of occupation by the Ottomans in Jerusalem the Way of St James became a safer pilgrimage and acceptable in the eyes of the church for pilgrimage absolution.

St James was supposedly buried there after having floated there from Jerusalem on a ruder-less boat. I don’t know about that. There are many beliefs surrounding the pilgrimage that many believe or don’t believe but there is one binding factor with nearly all pilgrims who we encountered or spoke to had one thing in common: the sense of being called to walk The Way!

Many including myself when they find out about the Camino Way have a strong sense that not only would they like to do the long walk but there is a strong feeling of “having” to do the walk.

For me it started after I watched the movie, “The Way”, written and directed by Emilio Esteves and starring his father Martin Sheen.  It is the story of a father who completes the trek after his son dies on the Way getting caught in bad weather: something that is a common occurrence as seen by the memorial headstones dotted along the pathways.

Once I saw the film I knew I had to do it. But at the time I was pretty much chair bound with illness and pain. However, within a couple of years I set the date to make the journey.

It was 2 years down the track, the year we celebrated 40 years of marriage and Paul turned 60. Also, it would give me time to gain my health back, while starting to train for the walk.

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In training in the Philippines. Early hours of the morning because past sun rise, the heat was too much.

One of the first thing I did was buy a pair of comfy training shoes. They were light, a size larger then I needed (to help with blisters), and didn’t confine my feet and cause pain. The first pair of shoes that didn’t cause me pain!

I walked in rain, in the cold, the heat, the day, the dark, by myself, and with others. The time rolled by as the miles did.

So here are some of the preparations myself and Paul underwent to prepare for the Camino.

  1. Set a date – Setting a date  brings the goal into focus and plans will begin to take shape.
  2. Train – Set up a training program and stick to it. I tried to do at least 6-8 kilometers a day more on others in any kind of weather, wet, cold, hot, everything except for thunderstorms – They were a no go!  I would also recommend stretches to build strength. The one I didn’t do enough of was to door more hill climbs.
  3. Carry a pack – The more I started to walk I would add weights to a pack to increase my ability to carry a pack. I even used coral rock in the Philippines to get used to the added weight.
  4. Study – Increase your knowledge of the paths you will follow. Understanding the terrain and what is ahead in terms of weather, and accommodation. Also understanding how diet and water affects walking.
  5. Purchase the correct equipment –

       –  Pack – We changed Paul’s pack right at the end. It has to have a waist band to                 take the weight and not pull on the shoulders.

–  Rainwear  – A good rain coat is important. We will probably go with the Atalaa next time. Our ponchos were ok but not great. They needed to be longer although they were light weight – always a consideration. The Atalaa people seemed to just cruise by unscathed by the weather on themselves or their packs.

Footwear – Of course it goes without saying – correct footwear is a must. I was told to go a size bigger and it worked. Two pairs of socks fill the gaps. Duct tape is a must. Prevents blistering!

Underwear. We opted mainly for bamboo socks and jocks. I would hope for a better fitting pair next time that dried quicker. Also undergarments that wick moisture away from your body too.

 – Poles – this is not last for any reason but they definitely were our definite bring along. Some did walk without them – good luck to them. I would never think of it! They were invaluable. Spring loaded were good but not particularly necessary. We didn’t go very expensive due to financial constraints and it really didn’t seem to make a difference, except the tips do wear out after 40 days of pounding. They can be purchased along the way.

6. Stay the course – There may be  road blocks or at least detours so persevere. Keep focused. Don’t give up!

 

 

 

Posted in cross cultural living, Life, travel, Uncategorized

Panama Canal

Years ago I bought Paul a DVD collection on the 7 greatest engineering feats of the 20th Century. One of those recognized was the Panama Canal. It was an inspiring story of persistence, ingenuity, and ultimate sacrifice.

Now living in the United States we had a cruise to use and decided on a cruise through the Panama Canal visiting Central America on the way. For Paul it was an amazing life dream to go through it and I have to say I was also a little excited to witness the spectacle.

I won’t go in to the history of the Canal but as I said it was a story of persistence, intrigue, ultimate sacrifice of many who gave their lives not only in the building and landslides etc but also from yellow fever. Gorgas, the chief sanitary officer, eventually led the way in creating a healthy environment which helped stem the tide of deaths from this mosquito borne disease.

We stood on the deck and watched the sun rise around 5.30 am along with a few gathering observers. Taking the best position we could we watched as the ship sailed skillfully into the harbour amid the rolling tropical mountains on either side.

There are now 2 canals the latest one built to accommodate wider, larger vessels including aircraft carriers. The cost to traverse the canal is phenomenal to the ship owners, and requires years for advance bookings!

I have always found locks confusing but we had a wonderful narrator and position to watch as we waited and then were led up into the first lock by the “mules”, little electric carts that act as guides pulling their cables like cotton connections, relative to the size of the monoliths passing through.

The bravest most daring thing we saw all day though was two men in the smallest of row boats collecting the lines from the ship to hook up to the mules. We all held our breaths as we watched them disappear out of view under the decks only to reappear victorious rowing for their lives as the bow of the ship surged passed,  her lines now connected to the mules. We could only wonder why in this day and age a safer method could not be developed! I wanted to know how much they got paid!

All day we stood transfixed with the ever growing numbers on the bow, only stopping finally to have food and drink, (and toilet break) around lunch time and get some extra sun protection from the now tropical sun bearing down on any exposed skin.

The most profound section for me was where the landslides occurred, persisting to this day . The area swallowed thousands of lives as they carved their way through mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

Ghosts seem to wave from the hillsides as we glided through. These men and their families suffered yet persevered. I considered the leaders who led and succeeded, or failed along the incredible journey for the sake of posterity: an inspiration to aspire to.

It wasn’t just a day of watching but also of reflection on how any task no matter the size requires all of the above criteria – ingenuity, persistence, and sacrifice.

Paul finally had his fill of our crossing about 6 pm that night as we watched and waited for the city lights of Panama City to light up the surrounding hills, showing us the modern life built on the blood, sweat and tears of many before them.

We left the deck, in awe of the dedication of those before and those now who continue to build and work for the generations to come. 20171024_08430120171024_084333

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Heading in to the first loch. The row boat getting ready to head out.

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Heading towards the lines of the ship
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The Row boat has disappeared!

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They’re out! The cheers and claps went up!

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The Panama Champions hooked the lines so that the “mules” can guide the ship into the lochs.

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Until next time!

Blessings Narelle

Posted in cross cultural living, health and wellness, travel, Uncategorized

Silence of the Blog!

Travels, bomb cyclone, new store – VOIAJER, bees, gardening – Wow! No wonder I have not written a blog since September last year! Life really got the better of me in lots of ways – mostly good ways!

In June/July last year Naomi our youngest daughter wanted to open a store selling her cereal box jewellery and other fair trade products in her store called “VOIAJER”  the phonetic spelling of the word “VOYAGER”.

For around 8-9 years Naomi and I and some others have been selling the beautiful jewellery crafted by her “Kado”  girls, keeping them employed, building houses and looking after around 100 children through the profits.

Last year was time to develop it further. She now has a shop front where we are enabling support of more groups through sales and profits. It is very exciting but not without its challenges.

Between setting up the store, travelling back to Australia for business and family and cruising through the Panama Canal, then a very hectic Christmas time for VOIAJER; writing took a firm back seat! But now I am back on track and will be posting more regularly as winter keeps my life stationary.

We started our year with an incredibly cold “bomb cyclone” which caused blizzard conditions! We were snowed in for a few days but welcomed the rest! We didn’t even go out for our “bread and milk” – the crazy things people buy when they think they will be unable to get to the store for a few days!

Kids loved the snow days but are a bit bummed because now they have to make those days up – going to school on some public holidays!

These are some of our fun pictures from the bomb cyclone! Even the Chesapeake bay froze! So it was a refreshing,  freezing, fun-filled few days!

So the year began slowly for us and we didn’t set goals or even wonder what the new year held. Eventually we did and I will start sharing some of those to encourage others to consider and plan their year – considering we are nearly into February already!

So the Silence of the Blog is broken and I am back!!!!

See you again soon!

Blessings Narelle

 

 

Posted in Christian living, communication, cross cultural living, Life, Parenthood, Philippines, Uncategorized

Philippines Journey – Whose Your Daddy?

Philippines Journey – Whose Your Daddy?!!

Again this post was written in 2014 after a nice trip up to Manila having a hot shower and sleeping on a comfortable bed (actually a bed and not a piece of foam on the floor) as well as putting on some glad rags for an amazing evening of celebration of the work accomplished in East Samar.

2014 reflections continue….

This week we had the privilege to meet some amazing world changers. The Alverez Foundation set up Pinoy Relief as their disaster relief foundation.  They have affected change using their influence to raise dollars towards amazing projects including, rebuilding schools, homes, and boats to re-establish the fishing fleets lost to the typhoon.

Appl.D.App was there cheering the family foundation on. Who is Appl.D.App I hear you over 50’s ask? Oh…Oh…(hand raised) I know……A singer from the Black Eyed Peas! You know the ones who sing, “Tonight’s going to be a good night!” I have to admit I didn’t have a clue. I know the song and had heard of Black Eyed Peas but didn’t know who Appl.D.App was. But what a nice guy! His story is amazing. He is a Filipino boy who was sponsored by an American and grew up to see his dreams fulfilled.  It’s a great story and he is now giving back to his homeland through promotions and support.

He was just one of the rich and famous at the “Thank You Gala” we attended on behalf of Pinoy Relief and Operation Blessing. So many influential people and for the two of us from the land down under it could have been just a little intimidating!

Paul and I arrived early (actually the first to arrive) which we didn’t mind. We had met the Alverez family the day before as they came for a tour of the work their support had made possible in the Guiuan area. We met the sons and daughter and other family members from New York- A world away from our “place.”  They were lovely people and keen to make a difference in their worlds.

As we sat on the open roof top of the building, only knowing a few people, everyone rocked up and we were feeling a lot like fish out of water – Then we looked up..

We saw the moon and the stars and the reality hit both of us at the same time! We may not be famous or have worldly wealthy but our Daddy made the heavens and earth that we are all sitting under and on: He measures the UNIVERSE in the palm of His hand!

Is 40:12 asks the question, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, marked off the heavens with a (nine-inch) span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance..?”

Whose my Daddy? The one who does that! How big is He? He marks off the heavens with His hand width. That’s pretty cool!

God really doesn’t have a problem with people being rich. His problem is when they forget who enabled them to get wealth and also warns us not to be consumed with riches. He instructs those with wealth to use it well and not wastefully. But we must all realize how infinitesimal in the scheme of the universe we all are!

Our God is big but also cares for the smallest sparrow that dies and knows the numbers of hairs on our head or lack thereof in some cases.  How can we ever feel intimidated by anyone in this world knowing who we belong to?

Today look up see the sun, see the moon, see the stars, smell the air, watch the waves, and know that Your Daddy is the one who made all that and you are His Heir!

Until next time

Look up and remember He’s your Daddy!

Blessings Narelle

A fun video for a fun night – Appl.D.App working the disco for the night!

 

 

 

Posted in Christian living, health and wellness, Life, Philippines, travel, Uncategorized, walking

Philippines Journey – Every day struggles – Perspective

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The ship that washed ashore..This took and saved lives. It crushed others while saving others as they crawled aboard as it was swept across the bay! 

 

November 2014

Over the past few days we had to do some business in Tacloban a larger city a hundred or so miles from where we are staying. It was the largest city hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda or Hyan.  This mammoth storm devastated so many lives. They will “celebrate” the anniversary in a few days’ time.

Over the past few days I got angry. We had so many issues with our telecommunications system here. The phone chewed through the internet and had no ‘load’ left after only a couple of days. I don’t want to go over it all again but just to say two days of phone calls and visits to the office resulted in us having a lot less money and more grey hairs. It made both of us so angry that we both let slip a couple of little words that aren’t full of grace. For Paul that is only the 2nd time in nearly 40 years I have heard him use a word like that..Mine was tame.. Told the girls on him! He was going to call to let them know about mine..but I wouldn’t give him the phone!

ANYWAY! You get the picture that we were a little close to boiling point. I have had to repent since. I was surprised at how angry I was over this small challenge. Then last night as we were finalizing our shopping for the center here in Pagnimitan village, I got caught up in the shopping center along with quite a few other people. We were glued to the huge television screen as they replayed some of the horrors of the Typhoon last year.

The devastation was unimaginable: Bodies lying uncovered or sparsely covered in the streets and under buildings. Demolished cities, towns, villages; Ships washed ashore (still there till now); no food, water or shelter.  Surges that took ships, large trees, buildings, people in its wake some never to be found again. It is hard to comprehend what they endured.

Recently I took a walk with a friend along the beach near the village around change of tide. Her fear was palpable as we watched and heard the waves crashing and the tide turning, rapidly pushing water through the narrow opening that passes by their village. The storm had surged and pushed the sea through their tiny village demolishing everything in its wake. She stopped walking on her way to the nearby “pool” – a coral swimming pool near the edge of the reef.

“Mam. I’m sorry mam. But I can’t go any further.” She couldn’t move any closer to where the waves were large and loud.

Fear is still real to these people with the memory of the roaring wind and water that wreaked havoc on their lives. That is why I repent of my anger over the trivial trials of daily living when so many around this globe face overwhelming circumstances and can still manage a smile. Perspective..you can never lose sight of just what the important issues of life are. Small daily challenges are the little foxes in our lives that try to disturb and destroy. Don’t let them steal your joy and peace. Keep a balanced perspective in life.

The Bible tells us not to be anxious over anything……..anything…… yet every day we allow our anxieties over what are really trivial matters control our thoughts, our mouths, our emotions. It is tiring and ultimately futile.

Don’t be anxious over anything; commit it to God and see Him do miracles and signs and wonders in your life.

I loved talking with my walking buddies the other day. We were walking our 12k walk again. As we walked one relived some of the more humourous stories that came out of the storm. One woman was stripped of her underwear during the surge and wasn’t aware or as was anyone else either, until her husband blabbed it out to everyone as they gathered together after the storm. Or the man who came running to tell of the church collapse that killed 18 people – for the news to be overshadowed by the fact he was standing in front of about 20 people naked and not realizing it.

It has become my saying when I am tempted to slip into first world frustrations – At least I have my underwear!

So stay the course with joy! You still have your underwear!

Until next time

Blessings Narelle