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Monday, December 21, 2009

I Did It!


I made a goal earlier this year to read 50 books by December 31, and I finally finished my goal today! (Whoo-oo!) However, instead of finishing one of the books on my list (the classic Ben Hur), I read a different one (a book I highly recommend called Crazy Love). But whatever; they're still 50 books, even if they're not the exact same 50 books. (I'll finish Ben Hur next year. :D)

Stay tuned! A blog post is coming soon... one I'm excited about called: Why Tell a Story?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

How Puritans are Portrayed in the Scarlet Letter: And Why It's Important Today


What if you had a secret that could kill you if you shared it? In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlet Letter, such a secret tortures one of the main characters. His guilty conscience puts him through agony while he keeps the secret to himself; but his fear of shame and possible death prevents him from telling it to anyone. Why does his secret cause him so much pain? It is because he lives in a Puritan society, in seventeenth-century Boston where the punishment of sin is strict and severe. Hawthorne's portrayal of Puritans puts them in a bad light, making them look cruel, judgmental, narrow-minded, and altogether unlikable.

Hawthorne first portrays Puritans in a bad light in the lengthy introductory, where he speaks of one of his Puritan ancestors. He describes him as having “all the Puritanic traits, both good and evil.” Because the author uses the word “evil” to describe them, we automatically think of them as bad guys in the story; although, since he does say they have “good” traits as well, we don't go as far as despising them – at least not yet. He continues to describe his ancestor as “a bitter persecutor” that is remember by the Quakers as having “hard severity towards a woman of their sect, which will last longer, it is to be feared, than any record of his better deeds, although these were many.” Clearly Hawthorne wanted to stress that the Puritans were not altogether evil; however, they were certainly the last people with whom anyone would want to hang around!

In the next sentence, Hawthorne speaks of his ancestor's son, who “made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him.” The author's use of the word martyrdom is interesting. It almost elevates the witches as heroes, and the Puritan judges who condemned them as the cruel, merciless enemies. In fact, this is not the last time in this book where Hawthorn portrays a sinner positively, and the person who condemns the sinner negatively.

Later Hawthorne writes, “I know not whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties...” He then prays that “any curse incurred by them... may be now and henceforth removed.” If he took the time to actually pray against any curse that might have passed down from his Puritan ancestors, than we can conclude that Hawthorne truly believed they were not good people!

We see more of the Puritans' cruelty represented in Chapter 2, where a group of women are disappointed that Hester, an adulterer, is not receiving a harsh enough punishment for her sin. Hester is forced to wear the letter “A” on the chest, and to stand on the town scaffold for hours as the whole town stares at her in judgment. However, these women say it is not enough. One insists that she should be branded on the forehead with a hot iron; another says she should be put to death! The story blatantly portrays Puritans as pitiless and cold-hearted, but that's not the only bad quality it gives them.

Later in the story, Puritans are revealed as being narrow-minded, and basically closed to all views and lifestyles other than their own. Also in Chapter 2, the author refers to Hester's letter “A” as being “a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony.” From this quote, we learn that even the most fashionable styles in the world were frowned upon by Puritans. Chapter 21 mentions a sailor who wore an elaborate attire of ribbons on his clothing, and a hat with gold-lace, a gold chain, and a feather; then goes on to say that if any of the citizens of Boston were to dress like him, they would have undergone “stern question before a magistrate, and probably incurring fine or imprisonment, or perhaps an exhibition in the stocks.” Hawthorne wants to make it clear that the Puritans in Boston were an isolated society who thought all worldly ideas – even the latest fashions – were sinful. This gives us a hint at what their hearts may have been like; because if they judged people for simply dressing the wrong way, than how much more judgmental and narrow-minded might they have been toward people who committed more serious sins?

Another example of the Puritans' narrow-mindedness is in Chapter 24. After the character mentioned at the beginning of this paper finally reveals his secret, many people refuse to believe him – simply because they had reverenced him as sinless, and they couldn't accept that he would ever commit a crime. Even though he presents them with obvious proof, they stubbornly hold on to what they think. Unfortunately, he dies on the spot after admitting his secret, so he never gets a chance to set the unbelievers straight.

In addition to making the Puritans look like people of bad character, Hawthorne portrays them as visually unlikable people. He describes them in the introductory as “stern and black-browed”, and in Chapter 2 uses words to describe them like “grim” and “iron-visage”. The only person that is associated with beauty is the adulterer, Hester. Hawthorne says of her: “The young woman was tall, with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. She had dark and abundant hair, so glossy that it threw off the sunshine with a gleam, and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, had the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes.” We can judge by Hawthorne's diction in describing the Puritans and Hester that he wanted us to think lowly of the former, and highly of the latter.

Hawthorne repeats again and again throughout The Scarlet Letter the cruelty, judgmental attitude, narrow-mindedness, and numerous unlikable features of the Puritans. He shows them as condemning sinners mercilessly, refusing to accept ideas that are foreign to their ways of living or thinking, and being physically – and inwardly – ugly. However, his portrayal of Puritans is probably inaccurate, or at least exaggerated. The real Puritans had many of the wholesome traits and values that went into the founding of this nation. Sometimes Hawthorne's representation of Puritans is used as a stereotype for all Christians today. Unbelievers often assume that Christians are self-righteous and unforgiving, but we know this stereotype goes against what the Bible teaches. Leviticus 19:18 says to “love your neighbor as yourself”, and Jesus commands us in John 15:12 to “love one another as I have loved you”. Also, Romans 12:17 says to “repay no one evil for evil”. In order to fit the Puritan/Christian stereotype, one would have to behave as if he were not a Christian! While Hawthorne's image of church-goers may work in fiction, it doesn't match reality.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Just Stop and Think

This video will make your day - maybe even your life. Watch it by clicking here: http://crazylovebook.com/videos_stop.html.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

MyLife His

I would like to point you in the direction of my best friend's new blog, kbgnewlife.blog.com. She lives in Namibia, Africa, as a missionary, and I stayed with her family for two weeks this summer (read about my trip by clicking here). She is a talented writer, and her work is an enjoyment to read. Since her blog is new, she doesn't have many readers yet; so go ahead and check out her blog! :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Senate Votes on Health Care Bill TONIGHT!

Tonight at 8:00 the Senate is voting on the Health Care Bill. This is the final state in getting the bill passed; if 60 people vote for it, the bill will be permanently passed. There will be no turning back once this bill is activated. Please pray that our Senators will remember that the American people do not want this bill (see my recent post), and they will do the right thing and vote NO. But most importantly, let us pray that whatever happens, it will be according to God's will, not man's will.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Will Our Sovereignty Be Signed Away Next Month?

In Copenhagen this December, the members of the United Nations are meeting to possibly sign a treaty, which would satisfy a "climate debt" that the wealthy countries - who have been "harming" the climate - owe to third-world countries, who have not been harming it. Most countries plan to sign this treaty, including the United States. However, this treaty will give the United Nations new power that will override that of our own government.

In this short video, a British expert on Climate Change, Lord Christopher Monckton, explains the dangers of the treaty. Watch the video to hear the shocking facts...


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Video: Is Obama a Muslim?

I'm not sure that everything in this video is true, but it sure does raise some interesting questions. If Obama really is a Muslim, does that explain why he hesitates to send more troops to Afghanistan? If he believes in Islam, does his religion conflict with his duty as a president - just as the killer at Fort Hood had a conflicting religion with his duty as a soldier? If Obama is a Muslim, does it matter? Should we be concerned, or will it not affect his job as President of the United States? This video may prove that Obama is a Muslim... or it may not. You watch, and decide for yourself. If anything, it raises important questions that the White House needs to answer.



Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Bill Narrowly Passes... But the Battle Isn't Over Yet!

I learned from AOL news this morning that the Representatives passed the Health Care Bill last night - NARROWLY. The final vote was 220 to 215! It is encouraging to know that at least some members of Congress hear our voices, and understand that a HUGE number of Americans do not want this bill! The battle isn't over yet, though. The bill still has to pass with the Senate. I pray that the Senators hear our voices, too, and decided to vote NO to this un-American, socialist bill!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Health Care Rally: From an Eyewitness

On Thursday I had the privilege of joining the rally on Capitol Hill, Washington DC, that protested Obama's new Health Care Bill. Congress is actually debating the bill as I write, and may be voting on it today or tomorrow. Twenty to forty-five thousand "tea-partiers" arrived on Thursday and peacefully demanded that congress vote NO on the bill. Here are some pictures from the event...

The Capitol Building

Before joining the rest of the gathering, my mom, brother and I stood around this tree and interceded for our government leaders and for our nation. We realized that no matter what we did to get involved, praying was the most powerful action we could take. (Leaning against the tree is the sign I carried during the protest.)

Angry "mobsters"... actually, the worst they did was chant and yell a little. Oh, and they HELD SIGNS! (I know, so violent...)

Most of the crowd consisted of elderly people, and families with kids and strollers. A dangerous bunch, indeed! We all came because we're scared about what is happening to our country; not because we're violent extremists.

I liked this sign. The government works for us, not vise versa... and when our leaders cease to represent what we believe, WE THE PEOPLE will vote them out!
The Capitol Building, and the flag commonly found at tea party rallies: a snake with the words "DON'T TREAD ON ME".
Leaving the rally. (Actually, it was technically a press conference... but it ended up being more like a rally!)
Another sign I liked.
As I left, I saw the Star-Spangled Banner waving in the breeze. (God bless America!)
So, some of you may be wondering... Why protest against the Health Care Bill? The answer is that this bill is a huge leap toward socialism in our country, and, well, some of us kind of LIKE having democracy instead of socialism! This 2,000-page bill will activate a complete government take-over of health care. It is estimated to cost over a trillion dollars (and the government's estimates are always low). It will include rationing of patients (e.g., if a 60-year-old Grandma needs surgery, and a 20-year-old needs the same surgery, the 20-year-old is more likely to get it and the Grandma might miss out). The bill will also pay for illegal aliens to have health care just like American citizens; even though Obama promised us it wouldn't, those who have read the bill say otherwise.

However, what I think is the worst part of Obama's health plan is that tax dollars will now fund abortion. This bill is un-American, unconstitutional, undemocratic; and 47% of doctors say they'll QUIT if it passes! It doesn't matter if we don't like the new health care - EVERYONE will be forced to use it. (Except maybe the government leaders who passed it on us. :-D)

As Congress prepares to vote on this bill, would you join me in praying for our country - especially praying that this bill doesn't pass? But no matter what, let us pray that God's will happens, and whatever happens will be for His glory.

I will conclude with two quotes from Thomas Jefferson:

"When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."

God Bless,
-Brianna

(Read my other post about tea parties and the biased media by clicking here: "Angry Mob": What the Media's Telling You, and What's Actually True.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is Your Character Two-Dimensional?

My brother, in his own comical way, once commented on how annoying it was when he ran into people he knew at public places. He might see someone from church or school at the store and think, "Why are you here? I thought you didn't have a life. You just go to church or school; you're not supposed to do anything else!" Of course, he was joking. Everyone has a life beyond whatever simple title we may know them by... "classmate", "store clerk", "church attender", etc. Even if we can't see the rest of their life, we know it exists. Why? Because no real human is "two-dimensional"! God has gifted each of us with individual traits, talents, personalities, and life situations that are unique from anyone else. Guess what? Your characters shouldn't be two-dimensional, either - or else your readers will have trouble seeing them as real people.

According to changingminds.org, a two-dimensional character is "simple and unexplained". It goes on to say that two-dimensional characters are sometimes okay if they're minor characters (the waiter at a restaurant, someone we pass in the street), but if major characters are 2D, the story will fall flat. Instead, major characters need to be three-dimensional. The website continues to say that three-dimensional characters are "... believable. They appear as credible people who you might know. Like humans, they have flaws and failings. They are individual and also seek to relate to others."

So, how do you make your characters three-dimensional? My personal suggestion is to ask yourself a series of questions about them; comparing them to real people and seeing how they contrast. Here are some examples:

* What does my character fear?

* What are his hopes?

* Does he have a childhood memory that shapes who he is today?

* Does he have any secret talents?

* What is the most important thing in the world to him?

* Who is he closest to?

* Who is his worst enemy?

Do you have any other useful questions that could be added to this list, or other hints for making three-dimensional characters? Please comment your thoughts!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tim Hawkins Video: The Government Can

This is the newest from the hilarious Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Flame Shall Not Scorch You...


If you read the welcome message on my blog's sidebar, (it's rather hard to miss), you may have noticed that I'm in the process of writing a fantasy novel that I plan on publishing when I finish. It will be my first published book, so I'm excited to see how it will go!

I won't release the title yet, (partially because I'm still not entirely certain what it will be), but I will provide updates every so often on my progress. I'll let you know when my book gets closer to being finished. Right now, I'm almost 1/4 of the way to my wordcount goal: 100,000 words. The wordcount is presently 24,058. If you wish, you can watch my progress on the sidebar.

Speaking of progress, I'm almost done with my 50-book reading goal. I only have one more book to read... but it's a whopper (562 pages!), so I'll probably be working on that one for a while!

And finally, a word of encouragement from Isaiah 43:2: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned. Nor shall the flame scorch you." This is God's promise to us. Thank You, Lord!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cool Contest!

I'd like to point you in the direction of Christian author Wayne Thomas Batson's blog, www.enterthedoorwithin.blogspot.com, for a new contest about the book he coauthored with Christopher Hopper. Prizes can include autographed copies of their new book, Curse of the Spider King; free books by the authors for the rest of your life; and even meeting the authors face-to-face! Click on this link to read about the contest on Wayne Thomas Batson's blog: http://enterthedoorwithin.blogspot.com/2009/09/biggest-contest-in-history-of-men-and.html

Or, click on this link to read about it on Christopher Hopper's blog: http://www.christopherhopper.com/2009/09/tribe-building-begins/

~*~*~*~

Other books by the authors include... (click on them to see the books on Amazon)
Rise of the Dibor by Christopher Hopper
The Lion Vrie by Christopher Hopper
Athera's Dawn by Christopher Hopper (not on Amazon yet)
The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson
The Rise of the Wyrm Lord by Wayne Thomas Batson
The Final Storm by Wayne Thomas Batson
Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson
Isle of Fire by Wayne Thomas Batson


(Read my review on Wayne Thomas Batson's best-selling trilogy, The Door Within, by clicking HERE.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Review: The Binding of the Blade Series

You may remember that a few months ago, I began writing a series of book reviews on some of my favorite books. I have been distracted for a number of reasons since then, and was unable to continue; but I will now continue the series.

Recently I finished The Binding of the Blade series by L. B. Graham - which today's review will be about - and decided to rank it among my favorites. There were many things about the series that were excellently done, although there were a few things I didn't like, as well. Scroll down for my review...


"After one thousand years, Malek emerges to unleash the full force of his army..."

The Christian fantasy series, Binding of the Blade, is a story full of depth, of prophecies from long ago being fulfilled, and of allegorical themes that brilliantly parallel the Bible. Tolkien fans will love the rich history of the world ofKirthanin, and Christians will enjoy reading good fantasy that is packed with messages of our faith.

I thought the characters were great, and I became very emotionally wrapped up in the characters' stories, backgrounds, and well-developed personalities. The author is talented at creating vivid images, but I found his descriptions rather long. They were quiteelaborate and specific, and that did a lot to slow the action. However, once I got used to them, they were worth reading through.

The series had good adventure, and shocking twists to the story that I would have never expected; friends that become the worst of foes, enemies that become dearest friends, characters with stunning hidden identities, and surprising turns in the plot of events. The last three books were difficult to put down, and I devoured them in a few days each.

However, the first two books were considerably slow-paced (the first one more than all of them). Nonetheless: DO NOT skip the first book!! If you do, you'll hardly appreciate the others half as much. And believe me, they're well-worth getting to. The ending to the series was so good, I nearly cried!

If you like fantasy, adventure, or fiction with strong Biblical themes, pick up The Binding of the Blade series!

www.bindingoftheblade.com

See the series on Amazon: Book 1: Beyond the Summerland, Book 2: Bringer of Storms, Book 3: Shadow in the Deep, Book 4: Father of Dragons, and Book 5: All My Holy Mountain.

www.lbgraham.com/blog/lb.php (author's blog)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pausing to Remember...

It's been eight years, today, since the Terrorist attacks on 9/11. Flags are at half-mast to remember the three thousand lives lost on that horrific day. Read my thoughts from last year about that day by clicking here: "Recalling 9-11".

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Angry Mob": What the Media's Telling You, and What's Actually True

"Let's be very honest about what this is about. It's not about bashing Democrats, it's not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston tea party was about, they don't know their history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of tea-bagging rednecks."

Actress Janeane Garofalo said this on MSNBC about those who went to "tea parties" in April. It seems the media has favored labeling these people, who are also becoming known for their appearances at town hall meetings, with all sorts of titles: right-wing extremists, racists, and angry mobs. A DNC commercial says these people are organized by "desperate Republicans and their well funded allies... Their goal? Destroy President Obama and stop the change Americans voted for so overwhelmingly in November." The commercial continues, "This mob activity is straight from the playbook of high-level Republican political operatives. They have no plan for moving our country forward, so they've called out the mob."


CNN correspondent Susan Roesgen also called the tea parties "anti-government" and "not exactly family viewing".


This is what the media is telling you. But what's actually true?
First of all, we should hear from some of the people who actually attended the tea parties and town hall meetings. What are their motives? Are they being supported by the Republican party, as the media would have you believe, in order to get back at the Democrats for winning the election? Are they all white racists who hate the president?

One conservative who attended the tea parties, Glenn Beck, said on his talk show on August 5:

"I don't know about you, but I don't have much time in my day to answer a call from the GOP, get up off my couch, leave my family for a day, to stand outside in the summer heat and rain pretending to be angry.

I really am angry!"

Ask any of the protesters and you will find that they are not Republicans at war with the Democrats. Some of them are Democrats. Most of them are Independents. Many think the Republicans are just as bad, if not worse, than the Democrats. It is far from a party vs. party affair. Rather, this is a movement among the American people to stop the change in our government before we become less of a democracy, and more of a socialist nation.

The media often talks about the "violence" in town hall meetings and tea parties, but they don't have a single piece of evidence; a single story, or a second of footage, that shows any violence whatsoever. If they can produce one, (one that happened
before I wrote this article would be preferable), I'll gladly stand corrected. But it seems they are only vaguely mentioning these "violent" occasions, in order to turn the public against whoever would disagree with the presently liberal government.

In fact, these peaceful gatherings are perfectly constitutional. The first amendment gives us the right to assemble in protest of the government: "Congress shall make no law... prohibiting... the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."


Was there any violence during the tea parties? No. What they did was completely American.


I like what former President Bush once said: "I get protested all the time. The great thing about the country is it's a place that's so free that people can protest. They can protest the president and did."


Others who were on the opposite end of the political spectrum seemed to agree. Hillary Clinton said, "I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you're not patriotic. And we should stand up and say we are America, that we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration." Oh, really? What a double-standard. Now that the administration is liberal, anyone who "debates and disagrees" with it is considered the bad guy. Hillary Clinton was right; we should have the right to debate and disagree with
any administration, republican or democrat, right or left. That's what America is all about.

Now, there have also been some claims that the protesters are racists who hate President Obama. All I can say to that argument is I know many people who, although may not have attended any tea parties, do agree with them. I've also seen them talk on TV. In fact, I consider myself one of those people. I haven't come across a single one that was racist. I think that is a very unfair name to call us. Come on, we were all glad to see a black man finally in the White House; even if we disagreed with his values. We only wished the first black president had been one with our believes, so we wouldn't be labeled "racists" just for disagreeing with him.


And besides, black people attended the tea parties too. This has nothing to do with political parties,
or with race. This has to do with the government going out of control.

This is a picture of the San Antonio tea party on tax day. Fox News estimated that more than 5,000 protesters flocked to that city alone; thousands more gathered across the country.

Click HERE to see more pictures of the tea parties throughout America, and judge for yourself whether they look like angry mobs to you.

Sources:
"Glenn Beck: Are You Part of the Ring-Wing Extremist Mob?" http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/28971/ (accessed 10 September, 2009)
"Glenn Beck: Hillary gaff" http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/29237/
(accessed 10 September, 2009)
"Triumphant Tea Parties" http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,516920,00.html (accessed 10 September, 2009)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Artwork Progression

I love writing stories. I also love illustrating (or at least, attempting to illustrate) stories I see in my head. Recently, I drew a picture based on a location in the fantasy world I'm creating, although it doesn't actually appear in the first book, which I'm in the middle of writing. I tend to think ahead a lot, and this is, hopefully, for a future book in the series. Anyway, I thought I'd share with you the process of drawing the picture, step by step.

First I got a general feel for where I wanted everything to go, and penciled in a light outline of the volcano and city in the background. I started adding detail, beginning from the top of the page, and making my way toward the bottom. Since the smoke from the volcano was at the top, I started with that.
I added color to the sky and sun; making the sky a dark blue, which blended into purple at the horizon for the sunset.I picked out the colors for the volcano, the city walls, and the city tower; then, using those colors, made a more solid outline. I also added in the lava.Here's a zoom in on the lava and the pencils I used to draw it.
Then I began working on the city. First I penciled in the gate, streets, and buildings.Next, I used colored pencils to darken the lines.After that, I colored in the grass and streets.Finally, I added color to the buildings, walls, and everything that remained.I then began the time-consuming task of filling in the land and sea. I used one color for the land (dark green), and two colors for the sea: the same blue I used for the sky, and the same green I used for the land.

At last, it was done! The entire drawing, by the way, was done with about eight different colored pencils. It really doesn't take too many pencils to make a lot of colors, if you blend them together.
Does anyone else like to illustrate their stories? What methods and mediums do you like to use?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Are You a Good Person?

Are you a good person? If so, are you good enough to go to Heaven?

If you want to find out, take a quick quiz found on the sidebar. Or simply click here: Are you good enough to go to Heaven?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Writing Software that I Found Helpful!

One of the blogs I follow, Wordplay, (written by the published author, K.M. Weiland), recently recommended a writing software called yWriter. Because I am writing a fantasy novel myself, I decided to check it out. yWriter has proven to be a very helpful tool, and I'm enjoying it a lot. It makes the writer's work more organized, easier to plan out, and simpler to stay on track. If you're interested, click HERE to read the article about yWriter on Wordplay.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

50 Books?!

You may recall from a former post that I plan to read 40 books this year. You may also be pleased to know I'm making progress, and have just finished reading all 30 books of the Left Behind: The Kids series. This makes it a total of 33 out of 40 books finished for the year! So, over 3/4 of the way done, you say?

Uh, no.

I just found out that the Left Behind: The Kids series doesn't end at Book #30, but at Book #40! (Gasps dramatically and hits the floor.) So I have ten EXTRA books to read! If I succeed, I will have read a total of 50 books by December 31, 2009. Wish me luck!

By the way, check the sidebar for updates on my reading progress. How many books have you read so far this year?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Must-See Drama

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I say a movie is worth a thousand pictures. This video will only take up a little bit of your time, and it will be worth every second of it. This a moving portrayal of what God can do in someone's life!


Friday, July 17, 2009

My Trip to Africa

I'm back from Africa! It's been an amazing two weeks. Let me tell you all about it...

Saturday, June 27, we boarded a flight that took us to Johannesburg, South Africa. The flight was so long that we didn't arrive until the next day.

Here I'm looking out the airplane window as we still fly over the States.

When we finally landed in Johannesburg, we boarded another flight that took us north to our destination: Namibia.

Flying over South Africa.
Flying over Namibia at last!

At the airport in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, we were reunited with our good friends who had moved to Namibia as missionaries eighteen months ago. I was overjoyed to see them again. Our friends then took us on the long drive away from Windhoek to a tiny town in the desert where they live as missionaries.

The drive to the town where our friends live
The street our friends live on
The town you see in the picture above is actually one of the nicer towns of Namibia, considering it was at least partially funded by the government. Yet there is still garbage and broken glass everywhere; and the quality of the homes is low by American standards.

Pictures taken as I walked around town

My close friend (who goes by "K-dog Namibia" on this blog) and I taught two classes together at a school for orphans: a writing class, and a craft class for those who weren't so good with English. To an American, these may seem like simple things to teach with little real importance, but to the kids there we were giving them opportunities that they never would have had otherwise.

Students bend over deep in work in the writing class
Expressing creativity in the craft class

The classes were, on average, every other day; lasting for the two weeks we stayed there. On free days when we weren't teaching, our friends took us sightseeing. The first place we went to was Cape Cross; a beach inhabited by an enormous colony of seals.


Mother seal nurses her baby

One day we visited the town of Swakopmund. It's located on the coast, and it made me think a lot of Florida rather than Africa. In contrast to most Namibians who live in poverty, Swakopmund is home to the wealthier minority, and is always bustling with tourists. At one of the restaurants I ate this:


It is ice cream with cherries on a waffle. Yum! Note that this is not typical Namibian food!

The beach in Swakopmund

In Swakopmund we also had the privilege of going souvenir-shopping at the "market". Sellers had laid out their handmade carved animals, beaded jewelry, African instruments, and other items. It was a lot of fun. An interesting part of shopping at the market was that the sellers always priced their items way above what they were worth, and then had to be bargained to a lower price. It was amusing to see people arguing about prices, until finally the customer would walk away saying, "Never mind, I don't need it." When the seller felt he was loosing a customer altogether, then he'd panic, call the customer back, and finally agree to a price closer to what the customer was offering. It was the best technique for getting a seller to stoop to a price you were willing to pay.

The market in Swakopmund

One of my favorite memories of Namibia was when we drove just out of Swakopmund to the dunes, and saw the view photographed by my friends in the last post. (See it by clicking here.) Before we could see the view, we had to climb to the top of a large dune, where we would see it on the other side. As I looked up at the dune rising before me, I thought, "No problem. This will be easy." But it was much, much bigger than it looked from below.

Just a little thing, right?
Finally looking down from the top

I was amazed at how long it took to get up, and how exhausted I was when we finally made it. Then I was told that was actually one of the smaller dunes of Namibia! The country is known for having some of the largest dunes in the world. We almost climbed one of those instead... the ominous "Dune 7" which is at least twice as large as the dune we climbed... but I'm glad we didn't have time for that. =)

Still, it was entirely worth the climb. Look at these views!!

I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought I was looking at something out of a magazine, only it was real! I was experiencing it firsthand!

The last thing we did in Swakopmund was visit the Snake Park.


Outside they had an enclosure with chameleons; and although we weren't allowed to touch them, I was certainly close enough to do so, had it not been against the rules.


Inside the Snake Park was where we found, of course, the snakes. They were all native to Southern Africa. It would have been creepy if the snakes weren't behind glass, but since I knew I was safe, it was a lot of fun. (By the way, we only ended up seeing two snakes in person outside of the Snake Park: a dead one on the side of the road, and a living one on the side of the road; both of which we thought were small adders.)

Some serpents at the Snake ParkBelow: two Southern African Pythons

As our time in Namibia dwindled to a close, we enjoyed one of our last free days climbing the Spitzkoppe (spits-kop-uh) Mountain Range.


We climbed two different mountains, and they were a blast. When I looked at the views below of African plains stretching to the horizon, it literally took my breath away.


The second mountain we climbed had rock paintings done by Bushmen (also known as Sans); a people group in Southern Africa. We forgot to take pictures, but you can see examples of their paintings on Wikipedia.

Our last day in our friends' town was on Thursday, July 9. Although two weeks seemed short to me, the kids at the school were torn to see us go. They hugged us like best friends and wished we would never leave. I was amazed at how little I had to pour into the life of these kids, and yet they were drawn and attached to me, as if I had been there a year. I was touched, and told them I would return. For me, it was a promise, and I intended to keep it.

The next day, a couple of our friends drove us from their hometown to Windhoek, where we would fly home Saturday morning. We made two major stops on the way.

First, we visited the memorable Okapuka Ranch, where we rode in a safari and saw lots of awesome animals up close.


Second, before spending the night in Windhoek, we ate dinner at a restaurant that served all kinds of African game meat. I had the privilege of trying kudu, (a type of antelope), zebra, and ostrich. They all had a typical steak-texture, and for a steak, the zebra especially wasn't too bad. I didn't care so much for the ostrich, though.


The next morning, we said a sad goodbye to our friends and flew home, arriving the following day on July 12. I was unable to publish this post until now, simply because it's taken so long to write it.

I took away a number of things from my trip, chief among them being this: the comfortable life I have in America is not the norm. More people in the world live in poverty than those who live like an average American. Even the poorest Americans would be considered rich in some countries. I knew these things before, but now that I've seen a very alternate lifestyle firsthand, they ring even stronger in my mind. No other experience will put your life in perspective in a more powerful way.