Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks Week Five: Tibet

Happy Friday! Welcome to the fifth week of my fictional story, Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks. This one is a bit different from the other ones as you’ll soon see. I hope y’all enjoy “traveling” around with Annie, I know I have been having fun with her.

Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks
Week Five: Tibet 
I woke up Monday morning with a rhythmically thumping headache and the sensation of a giant, unseen hand squeezing my stomach. I sat up, then flopped back down on my sweat-drenched pillow. It took me a couple of minutes of lying there panting before I felt enough energy seep into my body and I was able to get up and get ready for the day. I had just finished doing my hair when Sophie Skyped me so she could see where the destination for the week was.
“Wow, girl, you don’t look like you’re feeling the best.”
Her greeting made me roll my eyes, “You think?” 
“What happened?” 
“I’m not sure if I got food poisoning or picked up a bug somewhere; either idea is quite plausible.” I grimaced. 
“Let’s hope your next country is nearby so you don’t need to travel far.” Sophie’s face showed her sympathy. 
“Yeah, no kidding.” I took several deep breaths. “Okay, let’s get this show on the road.” I put on my perkiest smile then started filming so we could upload the video of me choosing the country onto the blog. I gave the normal intro, hoping I didn’t look as terrible as I felt, then closed my eyes and spun the globe around a couple of times. When I put my finger down and then opened my eyes, I almost started crying. Tibet. I so did not have the energy to travel around the world again. After barely pulling off what looked like an excited good-bye to the camera I threw my hands up at Sophie. 
“Um, before you start freaking out on me…” Sophie held up a hand to stop my teary monologue that was about to start, “Let me see what I can do. I’ll hook you up with first class or something.”
“Okay.” Our planes didn’t have first class, but I understood what she was trying to do. She would find someway to make the trip more comfortable for me.
“Now get something to eat and the rest in bed and research what you want to do when you’re on top of the world, sound good?”
“Yeah, yeah, thanks.” I heaved a huge sigh, everything was in Sophie’s capable hands. Life would be fine and keep going even though I felt like I’d been attacked by a derailed train. 
A few minutes later I got a notification from Jake who helped edit the vlogs I made. He said that the video of me choosing Tibet was live on the website, so I clicked over to watch it and see if I looked as horrible as I felt. The video hadn’t had much editing done on it, but to my surprise I didn’t look too shabby. I should become an actress. 
I found some the food I had bought the day before for the trip and then climbed back into bed and nibbled on the corn tortillas. My plan had been to study about Tibet, but next thing I knew I was awakened by the sound of Sophie skyping me again. I ran my hand across my face and yawned. The sun was pouring through the sheer curtain at the window, proclaiming that the morning was well on it’s way to becoming afternoon. 
“Soph?” I answered the Skype call.
“Good news. For you. Not such great news for us on this end.” 
“Okay?” My brain couldn’t keeping up with what my co-worker was saying.  
“So, to get into Tibet you have to get special permission and all that kind of stuff.”
“Which means you’re not going anywhere today. Just hang on tight and try to get better. I’m exploring our different options here and I’ll keep you posted.”
Relief washed over me. I did not want to travel in the condition I was in. After signing off the call I was able to summon enough strength to head down to the hotel lobby and then across the street to a little cafe. I ordered hot tea and chicken soup that sounded good to my still hurting stomach. The smell made my insides feel like they were churning, though, so I asked for the food to go and slowly made my way back to my hotel room. 
After resting for a few minutes I pulled up the internet on my computer and began my research. Tibet was gorgeous. It reminded me of Mongolia. As the day progressed I got lost in the history and culture of the people who lived in what is sometimes called the”Water Tower” of Asia. 
It’s called that because several very major rivers have their source up in the Tibetan Plateau. The beautiful Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, along the Yarlung Tsangpo River, is among the deepest and longest canyons in the world. After spending a few minutes looking at pictures of the canyon I wished I could visit it; it looked so different from our Grand Canyon. I made a note to see if we could somehow fit a visit into the schedule once I arrived in Tibet.

Tuesday morning found me still in Guatemala and feeling slightly better in body, but a little ruffled in spirit. Much to our chagrin Sophie and I had discovered the day before that some people didn’t even consider Tibet to be it’s own country and our supervisor at Exploration Airlines wasn’t too thrilled with our faux pas. They worked at making sure we didn’t reap any ill effects from China (who we needed to have a good business relationship with) and continued to see if we could somehow work out a visit to tibet. Meanwhile, I rested, researched, and answered several written interviews from various travel blogs and one travel magazine. The news was beginning to get slightly interested in the year of traveling I’d been doing and it felt rewarding to see the page views on the blog and likes on Facebook growing.
When Wednesday morning rolled around I knew I would be spending the rest of the week resting in Guatemala. It would have been pointless to travel to Tibet for only a couple of days. Instead of being disappointed, I enjoyed getting to rest and catch up with comments, emails, and other day-to-day things I’d been putting off. Mom texted multiple times a day to see how I was feeling. There is nothing like being sick to make me wish I was still a little girl and could have Mom there making me chicken noodle soup and soothing me with her graceful and perfect bedside manners. Being sick made me homesick and miss my family. I thought about seeing if I could go home for a few days, but then decided it would be too much of a hassle.
Thursday I complied a list of some of the facts about Tibet that I found especially interesting. Each fact I wrote down made me wish I could visit the country and meet the people who lived there and had such a unique way of life. One day I would go there on my own, if possible.
Tibet Facts:
* Tibetan traditional houses are painted in three colors: white and brown & blue. Each color symbolizes intelligence, courage, and compassion.
* Sherpa people never sleep with there feet facing the mountain.
* Tesmba is the daily food of traditional Tibetan people. It’s made up from barley and water. The barley is ground down in water in a mill and once this process is complete it take a paste form or a dough form (like white bread). It’s not cooked in any way and is eaten like this in the raw form along with hot black tea. If you aren’t brought up on this type of bread, you’re stomach will hurt if you try it.
* Most of the population of Tibetan people are vegetarian “don’t eat meat”& those that do never eat meat on a Wednesday.
* Tibetans practice a wide range of traditional trades, including flour milling, canvas painting, paper making, rope braiding, wool and fiber processing, weaving and textile production, tanning, metalwork, carpentry, and wood carving. 
* Tibet has some of the world’s tallest mountains, with several of them making the top ten list. Mount Everest is the highest mountain on earth. 
* Tibet is home to a wide range of animal life, including 142 species of mammals, 473 species of birds, 49 species of reptiles, 44 species of amphibians, 64 species of fish and more than 2,300 species of insects.
It made me sad that the people of Tibet didn’t have freedom, but because of the contract I was under with my job I wasn’t able to say anything about it. Instead I decided to pray for them and see if there was any physical way I could help them.

By the time Saturday rolled around I was over my gross sickness and felt my energy return to almost normal. I was thankful for my week of rest and paperwork, but was eager to start off week number six of my exciting travels.

Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks Week Two: Mongolia

Who would have ever guessed this would be so much fun? It was great being in Mongolia this week, although I must admit, it was cold! There were several times that I pulled up the weather app on my phone and confused my real weather with my virtual weather. 

The flight itinerary Annie took. 

And now, I’m excited to present you with week two of Noveltea’s series, Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks

Around the World in 52 Weeks 
Week Two: Mongolia 
I laughed as I awkwardly struggled into two extra layers of clothing in the Ulaanbaatar airports public restroom. Studying my mound of clothes in front of the mirror I shook my head, “What in the world have you gotten yourself into this time, Annie?” 
Exiting the restroom I joined up with Sarnai, the smiling and red-cheeked Mongolian lady who would be hosting me during my stay in Mongolia. She reminded me of my mother and I was happy I had a chance to get to know her better.
“Are you ready?” 
“Yes, thank you.” 
“Come then, my husband has your luggage loaded into the van.” Sarnai led me outside and the cold air and pollution filled my senses in a swirling, car-sick sort of way. 
  “The air here is bad,” Sarnai shook her head, “At our ger the world is fresh.” 
I climbed into the van and promptly fell asleep. The last twenty-five hours had been spent flying from Lisbon to Budapest, from Budapest to Moscow, and finally from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar. 
The only thing I knew about Mongolia when my finger landed on the country sandwiched between Russia and China was that it was the homeland of Genghis Khan, a warrior I had been amazed by in sixth grade. The first thing I had done was to look up the weather. I’d gasped in dismay when I saw that most days fell into the range of -20 to -40; yikes. 
Sophie had worked pretty much non-stop back in the states getting everything set up for me and when I arrived in Mongolia I not only had a family to stay with, but transportation to get there, and the right kind of clothes to wear. 
“We have arrived.” Sarnai’s words awoke me.  
Embarrassed, I apologized for falling asleep, but Sarnai and her husband, Batbayar, grinned and waved my words away. 
“It is a long trip. Of course you were tired.” Batbayar frowned at me when I reached back to gather up my lugguage. “I’ll get that. Now go into our ger and we can have breakfast.” 
I climbed out of the van and then stopped. “Woah.” Turning in a full circle I felt a smile transforming my sleepy and almost frozen face. “This is gorgeous.” The hills were golden and reminded me of sand dunes as they rose and fell in smooth ripples. There was a light dusting of snow that reminded me of powdered sugar on a donut and the cattle wandering about had thick, furry, reddish hair and looked like they should be cuddled in a big hug. 
“We don’t have close neighbors as you can see.” Sarnai led me to their ger. “Mongolia is the most sparsely populated nation in the world.” Her words were spoken with pride. “We have much beautiful wilderness.” 
“I’m amazed.” I shook my head. “Do you know how many people there are per square mile?” 
Sarnai’s face twisted in confusion, “I’m not sure what that means. We will have to ask my husband.” She opened the brightly colored door to their ger and allowed me to enter first. 
“Thank you.” I stepped inside and looked around. A ger is a round, moveable house that is kinda like a sturdy tent. It only takes about an hour to set up and is very useful to the Mongolian’s – many of whom are nomadic. 
Sarnai’s ger was cozy inside with thick rugs on the floor, a wood burning stove in the middle, beds at one side and across from that, table and chairs. “Your home is lovely.” The furnishings were brightly colored and had so many painted and carved designs I wanted to go around and examine each piece. 
Batbayar came in just then, bringing my luggage and a woossh of cold air with him. Sarnai talked to him rapidly for a moment in Mongolian and then I heard the words square mile
“Ah, you tourist always ask the same questions.” Batbayar’s eyes twinkled as he took off his big, warm-looking hat and then stoked the fire. “There are only 4.3 people per square mile. Perhaps you’ll like it here enough that you’ll stay?” His smile told me he was teasing, “Then we’d have to raise our average.” 
Sarnai began working on cutting up some sort of meat. I offered to help her, but she shook her head, “No, no, no. You watch this time and learn.” 
I nodded. 
“Now animals?” Batbayar rubbed his hands together over the stove. “There are many of those. Here in our country we have thirteen times more horses and thirty-five times more sheep than humans.” 
“So many?” I shook my head. I could easily imagine what they did with the sheep, but… “What do you do with all of the horses?”
“Many people use them for transportation. We also eat them and drink their milk.” 
I looked at the food his wife was prepping and willed myself not to get sick to my stomach. When in Rome do as the Romans do… 
“Horses are very useful. See, our land is so vast that the Netherlands could fit inside it thirty-seven times.” Batbayar spoke with enthusiasm, as if he often shared this information with guests and never grew tired of talking about his beloved country.
“That is impressive.” I wasn’t quite sure what that had to do with horses being important, though. 
“Ah yes, but what is really impressive is that the Mongolian roads could fit into the Dutch road system sixty-seven times.” 
It took a moment for his words to sink in, “So, that’s why horses are so useful?” 
“Right, right. Also our camels. We use them for transportation too.” 
“Camels? Wow.” I rubbed my forehead. I obviously knew basically nothing about other cultures and countries. “I thought camels only lived in hot areas.” 
“No, no, that’s a common mistake people make. Our camels can live in very cold weather. They have long hair and keep warm.” 
“Breakfast is ready,” Sarnai informed us, waving us over to the table. 
The next four days were more cozy than I could have ever imagined. Batbayar and Sarnai were the perfect hosts and I felt like we became good friends. I learned how to help take care of their sheep, goats, yaks, horses, and camels. I gathered firewood, cooked with Sarnai, watched Batbayar repair his tools, getting them ready for spring planting, and even tried my hand at sewing for Sarnai (that didn’t work out too well, though). 
In the evenings we would sit around the wood stove sipping burning hot milk tea and talking. I asked hundreds of questions about their land and culture and they answered with such enthusiasm that at times I forgot to take notes because it was so intriguing. 
I was especially interested to learn that some of the people kept eagles as pets, and some  even went hunting with them. Growing up I had read a handful of medieval books where the nobility went hunting with birds of prey, but I hadn’t realized people still did that nowadays. 
“Yes, there is even a festival that is called the Golden Eagle festival.” Sarnai stood up to refill my mug of milk tea. “You should come back and visit again for the festival, no?” 
“Thank you for the tea.” I blew on the steam that floated into the air, “And that sounds like fun. What do they do at the festival?” 
“It begins with a colorful parade of all the eagle hunters riding through on horseback. They have very special hunting costumes and it is beautiful to look at.” Sarnai sighed in delight, “No Mongolian child has truly lived until they have seen the sight for themselves. My papa used to tell me about it when I was just a wee girl.” 
“The do competitions and the eagles are judged on how fast they are. The men also take part in traditional games and show off their horsemanship skills,” Batbayar added, “It is grand.” 
Batbayar was also eager to inform me that Mongolia had a Pony Express style postal service long before the USA ever thought of it. 
“Kublai Khan established our mail service about a thousand years ago and they could be carried hundreds of miles a day on nonstop horseback,” his words were spoken with pride. “See, you Americans learned from us, no?” 
“Indeed.” I laughed. “I’m sure we could learn from you in many more ways, as well.” 
“Such as in eating horse meat?” 
I cringed slightly, “Well… I’m not sure how well that would go over with my friends.” 
Batbayar’s deep chuckle made me smile, “But you tried it, you make a good Mongolian.” 
I beamed at the praise, “Thank you, Batbayar.” 
All too soon it was Saturday and time for me to head back to Ulaanbaatar so I could get caught up on my blogging and upload my vlogs, talk to my family, and fly out to my next destination on Monday. I was sad to leave. 

* * * 
Extra: watch this two minute video of a ger being assembled. 

Reminiscing about Africa and Friday Series Destination Announced

A year ago yesterday I left for a two week trip in Ghana, West Africa. I’m in a reminiscing mood, so I decided to post some photos of my time there. There are so many memories wrapped up in each one of these snapshots. 
The landscape was so colorless and the people so colorful and together it made a beautiful picture. I was privileged to attend a wedding out in one of the small villages and even though it felt unmercifully hot to my winter-accustomed body, I am so glad I could go. It was unlike any wedding I had been at before then and probably unlike any wedding I’ll ever go to again. 
The people in Ghana are so friendly and welcoming and enthusiastic. These are all friends of the family I went to visit and they thought it was great when I flipped my iPhone camera around so they could see themselves in it. 
This girl (below) lived with the family I was staying with and she cooked us very delicious Ghanian meals. There were times when the food didn’t quite mesh with my tastebuds, but I was still happy to get to experience eating their authentic foods and was thankful for her cooking skills. She was quite friendly and took us around the marketplace and explained the culture to us. 

Another picture from the wedding I attended. Behind the men (they are the groom, his dad, best man, friends, and drummers), you can see their compound. Each family has a circle of huts that are inclosed with a wall going from hut to hut. The huts, and all the enclosed area, make up their house. It’s pretty cool. 

The termite mounds were huge. I seriously had no clue that they would be so big and probably gasped in amazement the first time I saw one. Then, of course I wanted to climb one. (I had no clue you were able to do that, either.) I only made it part way up, because the further I climbed the less thick the mound was and I didn’t want to break though and damage the mound or break though and have the termites swarm around me. (Do they even do that? I have no clue. But goodness! If they can build a structor like that, I’m not too keen on getting on their bad side.) 

* * *
What about you? Did you know that termite mounds got so big? Have you ever climbed one? If not, would you climb one if you had the chance?

* * *
I’m so excited to have just found out where I’m going this week for my Friday Series! Drumroll, please! Our destination is: Mongolia! I can hardly wait to head on over there. 🙂 

Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks Week One: Portugal

Well folks! Welcome to the first Friday Series post. I’m still looking for a name for it, but for now I’m going to go with “Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks” thanks to a suggestion from one of Noveltea’s readers. If you have any suggestions, please let me know them! 
This post took me quite a bit longer to write than I had imagined, there’s a lot of research going on here. Hopefully next week I’ll be on time. Also: Please take note that I’m new to this, just like y’all are. If you have any ideas of how to make it more interesting, please let me know. (I’d be so delighted to hear your thoughts!) I plan on adding in a plot line in addition to exploring countries, but that’s going to take some work. Also, the rest of the posts shouldn’t be quite as long, but I had to fit so much into this first one.
I seriously had so much fun this week researching Portugal and at times really felt as if I were visiting it myself. I had the weather for Lisbon up on my phone, I looked at lots of pictures, researched the history, the best places to visit, cool facts, the foods, what they were famous for, and all that good kind of stuff. I’m quite excited about Monday now and can hardly wait to find out where we are going next. 
And now, without further ado… 


Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks 
Week One: Portugal 
7:05 a.m.
Monday, January 4th
 Columbus, Ohio, USA
The room erupted into noise as I opened my eyes. A camera flash went off and I heard someone dialing on their phone before I even looked down to see where my finger had landed. Portugal? 
“Annie! This is so exciting.” Sophie, my co-worker, squeezed my arm. “I’ve always wanted to visit Portugal.” She began rapidly typing on her smart phone. “Look at this, is that not the most beautiful scenery you’ve ever seen?” Somewhere across the room a printer whirled to life.
Looking down I found myself starring at high red cliffs with white waves crashing below them. “I’m going there?” I felt my mouth drop open. “Yikes.” 
“Alright, Annie,” my boss hurried over with a folder of papers in her hand. “It looks like the weather is going to be in the fifties and sixties the whole week with a bunch of rain. Fahrenheit, that is.” She flipped through the papers and handed me one that had a plane ticket and itinerary paper clipped to it. “Your flight leaves at 2:23 this afternoon so you have about seven and a half hours to do research, answer interviews, get a blog posted, a vlog off to your editing team, etc… Any questions?” 
A million or so of them entered my mind, but answering them was my job, not hers. “No, this is great, thank you.” 
“Alight then. Sophie will stay with you in case you need anything,” turning around her authoritative voice rang out, “Back to your stations, people!” 
The room soon became silent except for Sophie clacking away on the keyboard of the computer across from me, the printer starting up again, and the sound of airplanes taking off.  I took a deep breath and sat down. First things first. I pulled up my phone and punched in my mom’s number then pushed it onto speakerphone and started my own research while waiting for her to answer. 
It had been almost six months before when I first found out about this job. I had written a freelance article about packing effectively while traveling and next thing I knew I had an email from  Exploration Airlines. At first I thought it was spam and almost deleted it; that would have been bad. The email stated that a representative of Exploration Airlines (EA) had read my article and was interested in talking with me about undertaking a few writing projects for them. I thought they were talking about freelancing, but no, they offered me a full-time job. They needed someone to keep up their social media and after several interviews they decided I was the person for the job.
They said they wanted more publicity and to be known as the best airlines for people exploring the world so I set out to make that happen. The idea of having someone travel around for a full year, one country per week chosen at random, was originally my idea. It hadn’t occurred to me that I would be the person when I first wrote up the proposal for EA. Here I was though, after five months chocked full of planning, about ready to head off on a year-long adventure. The job didn’t pay much, but who needed money when given a chance to travel the world?
“There’s a reporter from The Times here for the interview,” my boss poked her head in the doorway. “And we have a news crew from Destination Live coming in an hour.”  
I gave her a thumbs up right as Mom answered the phone, “Annie?” 
“Hey Mom, I don’t have time to talk now, but I wanted to let you know I’m heading to Portugal.” 
“Oh, yay!” Mom was who I got my traveling-and-history-loving genes from. “They have the oldest bookstore in the world, you know.” 
“Make sure you visit it.” I could hear the glee coming through in her voice. “I’ll be praying for you, good-bye, darling.” 
“Thanks, Mom. Bye, I love you.” 
“Love you, too.” 
I hung up right as the reporter entered the room. 
6:35 a.m. 
Tuesday, January 5th
Lisbon, Portugal 
I was really here. I could hardly wrap my mind around the fact. I yawned and made my way over to the bus. It was a bit difficult figuring everything out since it was in Portuguese and I was suffering from jet lag, but eventually I got to Corinthia, the hotel where Sophie had booked a room for me. I left my luggage at the front desk since it wasn’t check-in time yet. Then I left to find some breakfast; I had eaten on the plane, but I was already hungry again. 
I ordered scrambled eggs and salmon with fresh orange juice and ate while perusing the internet and finalizing my plans for the day. There was a light rain coming down and so I decided my first stop would be the Lisbon bookshop Mom had told me about. After some quick checking I found out I could get there by bus and it would only take about twenty-two minutes. 
“Well you look American.” 
The accented greeting I received when I stepped inside Bertrand’s Bookstore made me smile, “I am.” 
“I’m Jake.” The guy shook my and then gestured toward the books, “Is this your first time here?” 
“It is.” I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply; the scent of books and a million stories, some written in pages and some lived out in real life, invaded my senses. “I heard this is the oldest bookstore in the world?” I touched the dark wood bookshelves and imagined how many generations before me had done the same thing. 
“That’s true. We were founded in 1732.” 
“And it’s been open ever since?” 
“Not quite. Unfortunately it was destroyed back in 1755 when there was a massive earthquake. It was moved to this location in 1773 and has been going ever since.” 
“Woah, that’s impressive.” The bookstore wasn’t crowded so I made my way slowly along it asking questions as I went. 
“You’re really interested in the history of Lisbon, aren’t you?” Jake raised an eyebrow as I made my toward the travel guides that were written in English. 
“I work for a travel blog.” I grinned, it felt so cool to say the words. A thought popped into my head, “Would you consider letting me interview you?” I slipped my backpack off. 
“I’d be happy to, but I will have to stop if another customer needs me.” 
“Thank you.” I pulled out a release and an information form so Jake could enter all the pertinent information that he would like to be featured on the blog {Side note: I still need a name for this blog and the story, Noveltea readers! Offer suggestions in the comments if you feel so inclined.} After explaining the details to Jake I pulled out my iPhone and started recording our conversation and got out my pen and notebook. “Oh, and by the way, my name is Indiana Anderson, but most people call me Annie.” 
“It’s good to meet you, Annie.”
I glanced at the pages of questions I had jotted down on my flight over. “Alright, first off, what would you consider to be the coolest random fact about Portugal?” 
“Only one?” Jake frowned. “There are so many it will be hard to make my choice.” His forehead creased in thought. “Perhaps that the royal House of Bragança, which ruled Portugal from 1640-1910, was so wealthy, they didn’t charge taxes on its land for 120 years.” 
“For real?” I stopped my note taking and looked up, “You’re making that up, right?” 
“Of course not.” The door opened just then and Jake looked over his shoulder. He called out rapidly in Portuguese for a minute and a petite woman with black hair came to join us. “This is my fiancée, Jen. Her English isn’t good, but she can answer the questions as well.” 
I shook her hand, then Jake said something to her in Portuguese. 
“She says the coolest fact is that Portugal once had a dead Queen.” 
“A queen that died?” I questioned, not sure how that was so cool. 
“No, no, no. See, when Pedro I was crowned King of Portugal in 1357, he proclaimed his lover, Ines de Castro, to be Queen, despite the fact that she had died in 1355.” 
I gave a half-laugh, “That is pretty cool.” I flipped through my notes, “And, on the subject of royalty, why don’t you each tell me what you think if the most interesting ruling fact about Portugal’s history?”
“That is an easy one as well.” Jake translated for Jen and then turned his attention back to me, “The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance between England and Portugal is the oldest alliance today that’s still in force.” 
“Sounds impressive.” 
“It was singed in 1373 and states that if either country enters war, then the other county will help defend them.” 
“Wait a second.” I held up my finger. “This alliance was signed in 1373? How long did it last?” 
“It’s still in force today.” 
“No way. That, that means that they’ve had this alliance going on since before Columbus discovered America!” 
Jake went off to help some customers then and I followed Jen as she showed me her favorite places in the bookstore. The ambiance was unreal and I felt amazed that I hadn’t heard of the bookstore until twenty-four hours before. 
When Jake came back he and Jen conversed for a moment then Jake asked if I was ready for Jen’s answer. I re-opened my note book and nodded. 
“She says that Lisbon is older than Rome; second in age for European capitals only to Athens. It is believed to have been settled in 1200 BC.”
I nodded, “Neat.”  
“And at one time half of the “New World” belonged to Portugal, including Brazil, and parts of Africa, and Asia.” 
“Portugal sounds like it was quite the powerful empire.” 
I asked a few more questions and then they gave me a list of popular places I should visit and experiences I should have while in their country. I thanked them and bought a couple of books and left my business card before moving on to explore the rest of the country.
During the rest of the week I visited museums, old castles, went on a ride in a wicker toboggan sled on the streets in Funchal, and ate more fish than I had ever imagined (some people say they have a thousand different ways to fix cod in Portugal!). I traveled across the Vasco da Gama Bridge, which is the longest bridge in Europe. I walked on the beaches, which hold the record for the biggest wave ever to be surfed, coming in at around 90 feet. I explored the streets of Coimbra, which is home of one of the oldest universities in Europe. And I ate massive amounts of my new favorite dish: Piri Piri Sauce which includes chilies, garlic, onion, lemon juice and paprika and is delicious.
All throughout the week I took notes and lots of short videos and then at night I would sit up in my hotel room with a view of the city stretched out below me and type up blog posts and put together vlogs. It was amazing. By the time Sunday rolled around I found a church to attend (even though it wasn’t in English) and then happily spent the rest of the day resting. Monday morning I would be off to a new country. 

Manning the Camera

Last weekend I got to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while: I helped man the camera’s at the Creation Museum during a couple of the programs. Last year they had asked if I could help but I sadly had other plans so they had to find someone else. 
I’ve been hanging out with the AiG film crew as they work with my adopted parents since back in 2010 when they were working on I Dig Dinosaurs, which is the first DVD in the Amazing Adventures with Buddy Davis series. 
Although I’m generally only around for a few days during the filming of each DVD (and I’m not really needed, I mostly just watch and do a few odd-jobs), it’s still so cool to at least be a tad bit involved. So far I’ve been a “part” of the process for six DVDs:  I Dig DinosaursSwamp ManExtreme CavingAlaska!, Ice Age (which isn’t released or titled yet), and Homemade Music
This weekend when I got to help with the camera I had tons of fun being a “part” of the process again. Having never worked a camera before, I was slightly freaked out that I was going to do something horribly wrong and mess everything up, but thankfully it didn’t take me long to settle in. 
One of the guys showed me how to pan, tilt, zoom, focus, etc… and then I wore the headsets and throughout the entire program the guys up in the control booth told me and the other camera guy what to do. 
“Lydia, zoom in on Buddy and then follow him while he’s singing.” 
“Joel, stay on Ken.” 
“Switching to Camera one.”
“Switching to Camera two.”
“Alright, Lydia, zoom out now so you can get everyone. Go a little further… A little more… There!” 
“Switching to Camera three.” 
There were actually times when it was really amusing because a few of the people on the stage walked around a lot and so it was a bit of a challenge to keep them in the center of the camera. The film crew is so much fun and are amazingly easy to work with. I appreciate them (and the work they do) a lot. They are really talented and good teachers; I’m thankful they allowed me to help them.
Overall, manning the camera was the highlight of my week and I’m incredibly grateful I got to experience yet another new thing. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to do something like that again in the future, but I hope I do. 

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What about you? Have you ever manned a big camera? Is that something you would like to do? If you have, isn’t it so much fun to get to listen to all the comments the control guys make? 

My Week with My Adopted Parents

I’m spending this week with my adopted parents*. The internet isn’t always the best, so I’m glad to finally have a good signal and be able to catch up on some stuff. We’ll be going to the Creation Museum tomorrow so if any of y’all will be there on Friday or Saturday I’d be delighted to see you. 
Yesterday we had some of our friends from the Museum come over (my parents live about three hours away from the Museum) and we had a great time hanging out. They had a guest visiting from Australia so I had a lot of fun asking her what life was like there. We went to Holmes County together and got to see some cool stuff like how one of the stores makes homestyle apple butter and jellies. (Sadly, I did’t take any pictures while we were there.) 

My dad has been working on carving a bear out of a log. He’s such an amazing artist. I enjoy getting to watch him work and am always blown away by his many talents. He can paint, draw, carve, sculpture, build, and do taxidermy, plus of course play about eight instruments and sing and write songs and books and… Well, the list goes on.

Cowboy and I hung out for a bit this morning. He’s a sweet horse although he didn’t like staying still for a picture. I enjoy getting to be around him. My parents are really good with animals. Mom is currently trying to tame two cats that were abandoned. Her patience is crazy. I’m the kind of person who likes to rush through everything and think I probably would have given up on the cats after the first couple of days. 

We worked on a small writing project this morning and I’m hoping to do some brainstorming for another Creation Quest book later on today. And… Speaking of books, Cave Secrets of the Pterodactyl is on sale right now! When you buy it, you also get a audio book, so it’s actually a two-for-one deal. Just click on the title and it will take you to the Answers in Genesis website if you want to check it out. 

I hope y’all are having a great week. What are you looking forward to doing this weekend? Have you ever been to the Christmas Town at the Creation Museum? Oh yes, and today is your last day to enter this giveaway.

*I’m going to drop the “adopted” part for the rest of the post. 

It’s Almost Here

My list for this morning seems to be growing every time I turn around:  
Finish laundry
Straighten library and office
Do typing work for my non-writing job
Make lunch for the family and school kids 
Read chapter and write book report for work
Make sure I have the correct writing files on my computer for this week
Decide which non-fiction books to take along so I can read and write reviews

It’s an exciting morning, though, as I prepare to leave to meet up with my adopted parents so we can go caving this weekend. *cue happy dance* Ever since I first stepped foot inside a real cave a little over two years ago I’ve been an enthusiastic caving fangirl.

So far I haven’t found anything that quite compares to the knowledge that I’m hundreds of feet underground, belly-crawling through tight passageways and relying totally on our flashlights to be able to see.

At the halfway point the guide makes everyone turn off their lights for a few seconds so people can experience what it’s like to be in utter darkness. I always wish that we could leave our lights off for a little bit longer so I can really soak it in.

This is my third year to do the caving adventure, and while I have to admit that I’m a little bit freaked out at the thought of going through those tight spots again (I can’t think about it too long or else panic starts to build), I’m mostly a little ball of happiness.

Caving is one of the events that I’ve looked forward to most this year and I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to work it out so I can go.

I hope to see some of y’all there!

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I’m still looking for suggestions for my 24 before 24 challenge. Leave a comment on this post for your chance to win a gift card!