Saturday, March 30, 2013


Grace has been accepted by CIEE (Counsel for International Education Exchange) to study in France next year.  She has worked incredibly hard to get to this point and we are proud of her.  She has been placed with a host family that seems wonderful and meets many of the 'wants' that Grace had: they have three girls younger than her (she wanted little sisters), a dog (golden retriever), and they live in a cold region of France (near Calais in the north).  The picture that they sent was of the three girls and the dog in several inches of snow! 

However, she is far from finished.  She still has to obtain a visa, which is proving to be a significant challenge.  We are 'out of the box' in that we are US citizens living abroad on a ship. 

Also there is a still a significant financial commitment involved.  If you would like to contribute to this amazing opportunity for Grace, please give through our family donation page and just leave a note saying 'For Grace'. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Different Kind of Normal

A few weekends ago, just before I left for two weeks in Texas, we took a family overnight trip to Mamadou, a rural region about two hours from the ship. 

We had a bit of a time of just getting on the road.  The driver that had agreed to take us inland delegated the job to a 'friend' of his who argued about the price that had already been agreed on.  At any rate, we finally got underway and arrived just before lunch on a Saturday.

We stayed in a round 'hut' with two rooms that were fairly well appointed by local standards.  Each room had two beds, a flushing toilet (the girls found a frog in theirs), and a ceiling fan. 

We mostly just hung out.  We played tag, threw rocks in the stream, and walked about a bit.  We also had dinner on Saturday night and breakfast Sunday morning at the 'restaurant' on the premises.  It was actually quite nice; chicken and fries for dinner and omelets with baguettes for breakfast.

On Saturday evening we had a campfire and Smores (thanks to Dara for her logistical prowess which included packing graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars).  It was awesome to sit by the fire and look up at a night sky filled with brilliant stars, especially since there was no moon and no city lights.

At one point Saturday afternoon Elijah, Malachi, and I were sitting on a large rock with our legs hanging over the stream, whittling sticks.  I took note of our environment and realized that this had become 'normal' for us.  I said to them, "do you guys realize that for most kids from the US what we are doing now would be considered a huge adventure?  We are whittling sticks on the side of a stream surrounded by an African jungle".  They both just shrugged.  This is the normal they know.