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.