Thursday, July 26, 2007

Revisiting Prague for Fun

As I was downloading hundreds of pic's to Shutterfly, I realized I took more fun pic's in Prague than I ever posted. I take way to many pic's, I have a problem. But, as I've said, It's my problem and I enjoy it. Here is the family entering Check-in 1 at Zurich Int'l Airport. We've spent a lot of time here - it's a lovely place. It has one of the best Customs entry/exits we've experienced:
  1. France - Charles de Gaulle (Paris) - Prize for most chaotic line (think - no line) in Customs
  2. USA - Chicago O'Hare - Prize for rudest treatment in Customs - I LOVE getting yelled at when coming back into my home country (and so do all the visitors)
  3. USA - Chicago O'Hare - Prize for Worst re-check of baggage on re-entry - Mountains of luggage waiting for a home (which is so nice for all the foreign visitors who must then go navigate the purchase of necessities in a foreign place - I know I would relish that experience)
  4. USA - JFK/New York - Prize for Impersonal but efficient
  5. USA - Dallas - Prize for Friendly
  6. USA - Wash DC/Dulles - Prize for most confusing place to fly in/out of due to the construction that's been going on (forever) - You never go the same way twice!
  7. UK - London/Heathrow - Prize for graciousness and courtesy when sitting in tents waiting to enter airport - Terrorist plots really put a snag into travel schedules

And you have to love local airports such as Des Moines, Sacto and yes, even Fresno - they are small, easy to navigate and you can go anywhere (maybe not directly :) ).

In Prague, like much of Europe, even the main streets are pressed for space. Thus, your local towing company lifts the impounded cars vs the whole back-up and pull onto the ramp process. It was fun to watch and glad it wasn't us!
The Czech Republic is the beer consumption capital of the world. Where else would you expect to find a giant beer bottle floating down the river?The Renaissance man in the 21st Century.
At the foot of the Prague Castle Complex, was this gentleman playing a beautiful old instrument. The girls love giving change to musician/performers on the street. And there are those who are simply in need and the girls have developed a heart for them as well. It is sometimes hard in the different countries explaining why we are comfortable giving money to some and not to others. We've had gypsies approach our table and literally try to take the food we just purchased away. The understanding of need and giving is an important one. I hope Bart and I do a good job with the responsibility we've been given in teaching our children. Parenting is the hardest job I've ever had! Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Alpen Blumen aka Alpine Flowers & Praise

A few of "die Blumen" pic's I took. And apparently I missed a bunch more by not taking the last hike down the Maennlichen peak with Mom, John and Bart back into Wengen (may I add, their knees really felt the switchbacks when they were done - 3 hrs later!). But the girls were done with the hiking and we enjoyed a FREE, YES FREE ride down down the mountain in the aerial cable. Transportation in der Schweiz is NEVER free - although it is extremely clean, efficient, economical (for here) and on time - so maybe the gentleman thought I was cute or maybe the girls were cute or we looked tired - doesn't matter, I GOT A FREE RIDE!!! This is vs a FREI ride.

Little Deutsch lesson for you: Frei in Deutsch (D) is translated 'free' in Engl. (E). BUT, they use it a little differently. I learned real quick that 'frei' means 'available' not 'free of charge/cost.' When you see 'frei' on the parking garages (including my local supermarket), it means there are available or 'free' spaces to be had - they are still going to charge you for parking there! It catches you off guard sometimes. Translations cannot always be taken literally - Like the other day - we are walking up the path to one of the Lauterbrunnen Falls and I tell the girls "We'd better get moving or Daddy's going to beat us." The Italian lady nearby whipped her head around and stared! I realized she probably had enough E to understand what I said but took the 'beat' literally. And like when I told our Swiss neighbor "Kendra is in the toilet (word for bathroom here)" - confused her 3 year old son who thought Kendra was literally in the toilet vs on.

Enough of that - PRAISES - Thanks to those of you who have prayed for Bart's Mom, Barb. She is recovering well and feeling good aside from normal surgery healing. They will determine later whether any radiation is needed but from what we know now, prognosis is good.
And I just got an email from my Mom at the hotel in Muerren and she said they got back safely from their climb - Yeah! Makes me feel a whole lot better.
And for those of you who are willing - Pray for my sister Kris and husb. Jason as they finish out their last 2 weeks in Australia, return to the States via Deb's in HI and continue to seek out the next place they are called to serve. Kris has been sick and is recovering and they will be guiding the Outreach team from So Cal on their own (another story) so they could use some lifting up. You can check up on them via the handy link on this blogpage.

You can check Deb's too (Tafisi's) BUT there have been no new pic's of my adorable nephews and neice for AGES so I don't know that it's worth it :). Maybe when Kris gets there we'll get new pic's!!!!! I shouldn't try to guilt her this way - after all, she has 3 kiddos, 3 yrs and under, 1 full time job, 2 flexible, part-time, money making hobbies, a husband and OH YES, is completing her Bachelors this Fall (CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!) so that she can start her MBA in Jan. So I guess I'll give her a pass on posting new pic's to the blog, gracious big sister that I am.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Boot Camp!

Should you be out of shape or wish to get your children in shape? Invite my mom and her husband for a visit when they are trying to do some altitude hiking to get ready to "climb" the Alps!

We are having a very nice visit with Mom and John and may I brag about my girls just for one second - they have been on 4 hikes in one week! And on the hardest hike of all, nary a complaint (of course, they complained on the easy ones :) ). And I have lost all the weight I gained while in the States - gain was not necessarily from all the wonderful food we were treated to, but from my back being out and not able to do much. I have had a pack on my back for half of these hikes so - back is about fully recovered as well. We were treated to an "alpenhorn" serenade by the top lift operator in Amden at the start of one hike last week. It was beautiful - had not yet heard them and was very impressed with the sound and lung power required. The alpenhorns are made of wood, can break down into 2 pieces and make a beautiful, mellow sound that really carries across the hills (we weren't the only ones he serenaded that day).
On a hike out of Braunwald - beautiful!!!! Please come and we will take you there.
We went to Wengen for the weekend which is an "auto free" town above what is becoming our favorite valley - Lauterbrunnen (near Interlaken). It is our favorite valley as it accesses these "auto free" villages which give you access to wonderful hiking and wonderful views of Central Switzerlands big 3 - the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau - as well as the rest of the High Alp peaks of lesser name but no less magnificent to look at. Unfortunately, as you can see above, by time Bart joined us on Fri. night, we were in the clouds. We still did a great hike but I took a lot of wildflower pic's (coming soon) and very little in the "view" department.
The girls have fun on all the playgrounds along the way - the Swiss do know how to put together family friendly hiking trails.
If you double click here - you will get the larger pic which shows John in the lead followed by Rachel and then Kendra and Mom together. This is at the base of the Eiger! We went on the Eigergletscher trail which follows the base of the North Face of the Eiger and the girls did great! They enjoyed the views, the wildflowers, the rock statues, crossing glacier creeks and especially the ice cream Grandma promised when we got back to town. We were about 2/3 done when the thunderheads started building. We pushed them on as we didn't want to be stuck out there if things opened up (lightning not being a good thing when you are the tallest object on the side of a big hill). We made it back to town before any rain fell and they kept up their great attitudes even thru dinner - Daddy's arrival helped.

So the Olson's have returned home to Waedenswil and sent Mom & John up the Jungfrauoch Bahn (Train) so they can walk across the glacier to the Mountain Hut and get ready for their adventures. Mom is supposed to do the Monch climb and then will wait while the men do the "easy" Eiger peak (did you know there is an "easy" approach? - anything requiring crampons and ice axes does not qualify as easy to me!). She will then go to Murren and wait while they climb the Jungfrau (weather permitting). Murren is a beautiful little village where we stayed last year - hope she loves it too.

I must get busy with regular life now - cleaning, gardening, etc.... and get ready for their return on Fri. and then the arrival of Pastor Quentin and his family from Valley Church (home church in IA). They are traveling thru on his sabbatical and will stay a night or two which we are looking forward to.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

US Trip was Great - Thank You!

Gpa Paul gets a hand from the girls on a special project - Can you guess what this is? And what it is for?
Clear day on Lake Saylorville, IA - Principal Bldg & Ruan Center in the distance
Bart with newest addition to the our friends in Fresno. Don't be fooled by this picture - Susan did all the baby holding, she just insisted on a pic with Bart holding the cute little man.
Family Get Together/Baby Shower in West Sacramento - Mike was able to get the new pool set up (lots of help from Sarah, Chris & others) for the party. Thanks Mike & Julie for hosting.

We are finally back in our own beds! It takes a little while to get over the 9hr time change but things are gradually returning to normal.
We had a great time on our "home" leave in IA and CA. I confess, I have never been on a trip quite that long (away from 'home'). I was happy to get home and wear clothes that I haven't been wearing for the past month and pull all the toiletries out of the case! But it is amazing how far a limited wardrobe can go if you have washers/dryers at your disposal - thank you Lisa, Sis and Ruthie!
The girls and I (Susan) were able to spend 6 great days in Des Moines before heading to CA. It was almost as though we had only been away for a few weeks - except for the addition of several new babies and the change in all the 6 -9 year olds. It was great to see everyone and we are reminded again why we miss all of you!
Our only hitch in arriving was the 24 hr delay of our luggage (thank you O'Hare). But, with a little help from Target and the Jordan Creek Mall - we were able to look sufficiently presentable for church our first morning in and then able to take the girls swimming as promised. The only casualty were some chocolates we had planned to give - obviously the bags sat out for a while! Grrrrr.
Once in CA, we split time between West Sac, Orangevale & Fresno. Bart arrived and we got our family shopping done - only had to ship 2 boxes back (figured the box of Bisquik cost about $25 with shipping so we are going to learn to make pancakes from scratch - we know it's not hard, we just like what we like!). There was a lot of swimming, movies, several Round Table pizza feasts, mexican food and visiting with family and friends.
It would be impossible to recount all we did and enjoyed. A big THANK YOU to those in West Sacto., Orangevale, Fresno and Des Moines for letting us stay at your homes - and THANK YOU to all who we enjoyed meals and visiting with. We are blessed to have good friends and family and thoroughly enjoyed your company. Thank you for making our trip special.
I'm sure I'll post more pic's along the way. I already have new ones from this weekend as my mom & John arrived Sat. I need to get a handle on the pic's!!!!!!!!!!!