Thursday, October 29, 2015

When Life Gives You Bananas

I've been home this week and was feeling warm and gushy towards my office mates, and I had some old bananas so - I made breakfast cookies!

I always think of and pray for Julie when I make these!  

And tomorrow is Friday again - yay!

IOANA!!!!! Last Day And I Miss You!

So we hit the road at 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning to head back to Budapest.  We decided no more backroad, perilous mountain, war zone, land mine sign driving for us!  We took the long way through Croatia to Hungary!

It should have actually been shorter but dog gone it if the Croatians didn't call our bluff and make constructions detours two times!  And these weren't turn off the highway for a few miles!  It was full off roading!  We didn't even have detour signs most of the way so we were guessing and then we hit heavy duty starihr up mountains and tons of cars... And needless to say - it took us almost 12 hours again:(. But it would have been 10 if the M highways were in tact!:)

It was such an interesting drive!  Croatia is definitely a beautiful country!  The shore line along the Adriatic Sea is gorgeous!  And then you get in country and its monstrous mountains that look somewhat like Utah or Wyoming but with these red tile roofed houses dotted all over.  One section we drove through I was looking in the distance and thinking how crazy the clouds looked - and then I realized it was clouds and mountains underneath!

The inside going towards Zagreb was just massive Rocky Mountains and windy roads.

We got to the Hungarian border about 4 pm, again after going through the Craotian and Bosnian borders 3 or 4 times.  We're driving up to the border and its on the other side of a bridge that's high up from a rushing river.  As we drive up we see police cars parked along the sides of the bridge and police looking down at the water and then we realize there's huge amounts of sharp barbed wire bunched up between the opening of the bridge.  We couldn't help being disgusted at the sight.  These poor people are trying to escape death in their country and now they have to at some point go through a country that is trying everything possible to make their crossing hellish.  So sad!  And at the border the border guard here (it was a large border crossing) was anything but pleasant and wanted to go through the back of our car .... Crazy - it was an open station wagon so he could see everything - no hidden refugees.

Ioana was not impressed with Hungarians at the crossing:). But - we stopped at a gas station not long after and you have to have them fill it up so the attendant came out and we told him to fil it up, and when we were going to pay for our gas - ok it sounds weird but it was actually sweet - he gave us all ice cream cones from the gas station ice cream freezer and basically told us welcome to Hungary!  He made up for that not nice border guard...:)

We drove the the city - during rush hour night I add - dropped our car off and then caught a taxi to the Marriott hotel for our last night together!

Dinner by the windows overlooking the Danube - then a stop up at the concierge club for a coffee!  My favorite view in the city is out on the balcony there!

Carlene and I finished packing up our suitcases while Ioana went to the gym to work out.  We got everything in the bags and then we all fell into the fluffy, comfy Marriott beds and slept like we had taken sleeping pills!!!  But we hadn't because Carlene and I had to get up and be on he road to the aiport by 4 a.m.  

What a great two weeks!  I got to come and love on people who are working for Jesus in Hungary and Romania!  Give them some of the love and attention that they give the students and the wormen they work with!  It was exhausting for a good portion of the trip, but at the end of the day I sank into bed knowing that I was where I was supposed to be and that God was using me to just be there for people that he's using in awesome ways!  I couldn't be happier!

Bye countries I love!  Bye friends that are family!  Bye students that I've known and loved for 8 years now!  So much to be thankful for as I land back in Chicago on this Friday afternoon!  Can't wait to be back in Eastern Europe again though!

Mostar Finally! - Day?... Lost Count!!!

I've had spotty internet and even less time so my apologies for procrastinating on the update!  I'm on a 747 from Brussels winging my way home right now so this is my down time to finish up with the trip.

So one place that I've wanted to go for a while is Mostar, Bosnia.  Rick Steves put it as one of his top ten places to visit and if Rick says visit - then visit I must!

We got up earlier on Wednesday morning.   We piled back in the car and headed down the hill and turned left to enter in Bosnia.  Pointing our car to Bosnia took us back through Montenegro and Serbia - neither of these countries hang border controls, just big signs saying "thank Allah someone is coming to visit!" ... Landscape didn't look much different but whereas Bosnia had the peeing men scattered along the side of the road next to the land mine signs for sporadic disgusting entertainment, Serbia and Montenegro didn't even have people that we could see so we could relax and enjoy the rocky hills and scrubby bushes before we reentered the land of the incontinent men.

Once again we were taken through winding two lane roads where sometimes we could speed and sometimes a tractor with an old men and babubshkaed ladies puttering along slowly.

We finally got to Mostar around 11 a.m. and found the town center and an empty parking space right under a painting of Chicago on the side of an empty building.

Walking about 20 feet beyond our parking space, we found the parking box where we had to insert Bosnian money to get a ticket.  Unfortunately we didn't have any Bosnian money so we stood looking around for an ATM and then back at the meter with blank looks trying to figure out what to do when all of a sudden this little old man came shuffling downy he hill with a bag in his hand.  He stopped, looked at us and then started ratting off worlds that we couldn't even begin to understand (and Ioana knows 5 languages!).  He finally just putt his hand in his pocket and pulled out several coins, inserting them into the meter and then waited for a ticket to print out while we profusely thanked him!  That was our first encounter with Bosnians and we were quite impressed!

We walked along a street filled with empty, destroyed buildings.

We then went down into the start of the little village in search of a map and what we should see.  Needless to say here were tons of tourists and the majority of the street was lined with shops selling copper trays and metal works and cheap silk scarves and knock off bags.

The highlight of the old town area is the bridge that connect both sides of the city.  Its a high arch over smooth flowing water that suddenly turns fierce and bubbling just past the bridge.

One of the Rick Steves highlights that I wanted to see was... They have a "Mostar Dive Club" with these guys who don wet suits and then dive from the top of the bridge.  Unfortunately - by the time we got back to the bridge apparently the diving had taken place and one of the guys was taking a break at the top of the bridge so - no diving - but we saw them on break!

We walked around the old town for a little bit and then decided to have some lunch in a traditional little Bosnian restaurant on the main old town street.

We got a platter to share of all these meat dishes - there were Bosnian cookies that were nothing like cookies at all but a bunch of ground up  meats fried into a cookie shape.  There were stuffed peppers, stuffed grape leaves, these little sausages and some chunks of meat all with rice, potatoes and a kind of laffa bread.

And then we ended with baklava and Bosnian coffee which was very much just Turkish coffee.

The whole old town actually was very middle eastern.  The food, the architecture, the things they sold.  There were minarets all over the city that lent to that feel.

We didn't stay for a long time and didn't explore too far.  Too many tourists and not enough time.  So we slowly walked back to the car and found a mosque right near our car that gave a sad story as to the history of Mostar and all the destroyed buildings.

All men.  All 1993 around the same day.  Such a sad picture of how hateful and destructive human being can be.  
And if you're at all interested in the history of Mostar and Bosnia... Theres this video that shows the before and after and after the after.  Everything that we walked around in and saw that was pretty and touristy was gone only 22 short years ago.  People dead, history from the 1500s destroyed.  Sad and senseless and reminds you that life can be pretty bleak when you're looking to things or people or fun to fill it up.  Life is temporal.  So sad and I'm now praying for these people to know true peace!

We ended up driving back a different way so we went through the most gorgeous scenery even though it was sporadically raining.  We needed up back in Croatia (after going through border controls four time because the landscape is divided up so differently) and in the most beautiful place called the Dubrovnik Riviera.  We were driven quite speedily down and up windy mountains so we didn't tie the time to stop but Ioana did grab a few pictures to give a feel!

There were these giant bouts all over the water attached to nets that were laid for miles.  On the way back to Budapest the next day we saw boats out checking the nets.

Since we went through Dubrovnik, we stopped in the old town again for dinner.  We found a place right on the Adriatic Sea and sat watching the sun set and enjoying each others company and amazing food!

Such a beautiful day and I'm so glad that Carlene and I were able to give Ioana a little time and adventure!   She deserves a break and some encouragement and could use prayers for her ministry in Romania!  I's so glad that we could enjoy this time together and so glad that I finally got to experience Croatia and Mostar after several year of it being right down the road from my fall home away from home in Budapest!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

AMAZING Dubrovnik! - Day Ten

Quick day review...

This was the amazing house we rented for next to nothing on Airbnb... If you've not tried Airbnb yet -- DO IT!

The house was oddly situated between the border controls of Bosnia and Croatia.  This was no mans land up the mountain!

But once we went through the Croatian border and got into Dubrovnik - it quickly became one of my favorite cities anywhere!  The old town was amazingly gorgeous!

We walked the city walls - amazing views!

I'd stay forever if I could!  It reminded me so much of Italy.  But tomorrow we're headed to Mostar!  One of Rick Steves Top ten places to visit!

Until then - goodnight from Dubrovnik!