Monday, August 28, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world 
the master calls a butterfly."

-- Richard Bach

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Asia: Singapore Wedding

It was such a treat to be invited to a wedding while we were in Singapore! I couldn't wait to experience a wedding in Asia and see how it differed from celebrations here, or how it was the same.

The wedding was held in a very large church, similar to what we would have here in America. A photo montage was played which included engagement photos and "wedding" photos taken before the wedding day.

The wedding ceremony was almost identical to the ones we attend here in the States -- music, prayers, "sermonette," Bible readings, etc. Two main differences were the signing of the marriage license as part of the ceremony and the couple's speech of thanksgiving afterward, expressing gratefulness to their parents and other members of the wedding party.

Here's a glimpse of the bridesmaids and their lovely dresses and flowers:

Wedding photos are definitely just as important, if not more so, in Asia as they are here!

 After the wedding there was a lunch reception held outside the church. We were treated to all kinds of delicious foods: sushi, appetizers, soup, entrĂ©es, and desserts.

The most popular dessert was the "burger cream" -- white bread wrapped around a block of vanilla ice-cream. This was a totally new idea for us.

Many of the families who had been at the conference with us all week were also at the wedding -- another chance to interact and deepen relationships.

Here we are with the bride and groom. They've known each other since high school and have waited a long time for this special day! They are both doctors now and looking forward to their life together.

One of the sweet little girls from the church.

The wedding car is even decorated just like we decorate ours:

After lunch it was time for all but the immediate family to say goodbye until the evening. The immediate family went off for a formal tea ceremony while we headed home for a rest and a quick stop at the mall for some groceries. While at the mall I spotted this poster:

 Apparently "burger creams" really are all the rage.

After our rest we headed out again to the evening wedding dinner. It was to be a traditional 9 course Chinese dinner. Yes, this was definitely different than our regular American wedding experiences.

Here is our table all set for the meal -- notice the lazy susan in the middle of the table, making it easy for everyone to share.
Here is the menu letting us know what would be coming our way:

Meanwhile we had a lovely time at our table with the senior pastor (also the bride's uncle), his wife, several other relatives of the bride from church, and a few other international visitors who had been with us at the conference.

The evening was directed by two emcees, just like we would have here in the State. The bride and groom cut cake at one point, and poured champagne into a tower of glasses at another. We were also treated to a dry ice show as the bride and groom made their entrance to the dinner. Best of all, there was a bubble machine that sent bubbles flying all around as the couple poured the champagne.

 And now for the food -- which was delivered to each table on one platter to be shared by all. It was amazing to be able to try all these traditional foods!

1. Sucking Pig and Lobster Cold Dish Combination
This included cuttle fish, pork, fish cakes, lobster salad, jellyfish, and a seafood pasta salad.

2. Shark fin soup -- it tasted a bit like New England Clam Chowder to me.

3. Roasted Crispy Chicken -- head included.

4. Fried scallop with asparagus -- I do love scallops!!!

5. Steamed Red Garoupa -- this fish was delicious! Must have been very fresh.

6. Fried Live Prawn with Cereal

7. Braised Whole Abalone with Spinach -- abalone is a type of snail.

8. Fried Rice in Lotus Leaf.

9. Mango with Pomelo -- oh this was so delicious! A chilled mango soup with little balls of tapioca-like substance and threads of pomelo (citrus).

The bride and groom visited each table and had a photo taken. As you may notice, half way through the evening the bride changed into a different fancy gown -- midnight blue with silver. 

The evening ended with a receiving line as we all exited the ballroom.

By that time we were all ready for bed! What a beautiful and wonderful experience it was and such a lovely bride and groom. We felt very honored to be included in their special day. May God bless their marriage!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Great American Eclipse

Monday we joined the millions of Americans celebrating the Great American Eclipse! 

Michael and a few of his friends started hatching travel plans for this adventure many weeks ago and we had emails flying this way and that trying to decide where to go for totality viewing, what route to drive, how to avoid traffic, etc.

All I had to worry about was the food! That turned out to be no small job since as the eclipse approached the chatter became more and more like Y2K preparations with rumors of traffic jams, spending the night on the side of the road, etc.

So I brought lots of food -- enough to feed 11 people for 4 meals and lots of snacks. Whoopie pies seemed appropriate.

All weekend long there was a great debate about what time to leave Monday morning. We finally pulled out of the driveway at 4:50am, accompanied by cousin John and several friends from church.

No sign of traffic that early in the morning. So far our plan was working!

Morning dawned and we found ourselves in the beautiful countryside of southern Indiana and northern Kentucky. No traffic yet.

The only sign of eclipse traffic we saw was the long line at the gas station restrooms. But this proved to be the perfect chance to strike up conversations and find out where others were coming from and (maybe) where they were going. It was still too early in the day to know if there would be massive crowds and, perhaps I imagined it, but everyone seemed a little hesitant to reveal just where they were headed to view the eclipse.

Our destination was Joy, Kentucky where one of our number had located a Nature Preserve that might work for us.

Mantle Rock -- the largest natural stone archway east of the Mississippi, and home to part of the historic Trail of Tears, turned out to be the perfect place for our eclipse viewing.

We were welcomed by Nature Conservancy staff, shown where to park, and guided to the eclipse viewing area. (We had no idea there was an actual event.)

We set up our gear on the gravel along with a handful of other people. The sun was getting HOT.

These smart friends of ours brought themselves an umbrella!

Next, a guide offered to take us on a hike to see the Mantle Rock, as well as walk on the Trail of Tears. We couldn't pass up that historic opportunity!

Off we went through tick infested woods (horrors!), all the while contemplating the Indians and their forced march west.

The stone arch was pretty amazing! Apparently, a glade covered in rare-to-Kentucky plants rests above the arch.

The kids had plenty of fun climbing on the rocks and getting themselves covered in dust.

Inside the arch we saw some 19th century graffiti!

Eventually we made it back to our viewing area and the HOT sun. John and Laura try out the glasses -- instead of remembering the passports this time it was "remember the glasses!!!!".

I couldn't stop staring at the countryside.

 Eventually some other families from church showed up and we had about 24 altogether!

The Nature Conservancy generously invited us to enjoy their lunch (and their ice cold water and soft drinks). John and Laura are trying not to wilt in the heat.

Things started to get exciting once the moon began its journey in front of the sun!

Eventually the light began to dim -- very hard to capture on a phone that always adjusts for lighting differences.

 John and Laura had a blast!

The sky continues to darken. The large clouds gave everyone a scare but they stayed away for totality!!!

A 360-degree sunset appeared during totality.

And the moment we were all waiting for: TOTALITY!!!!! Yay! It was pretty amazing, and couldn't be captured by our cameras. We all just basked in the glory of the moment and the amazing-ness of God's creation.

 Finally the air was actually cooler and more tolerable. Probably a 15 degree difference, at least.

By the time totality had finished everyone was ready to jump into the air conditioned cars and head back home. We never did find the traffic, except for a line-up of about 7 cars at a stop sign in the middle of no where, and some typical construction traffic around Bloomington.

And we didn't eat all the food. Ha ha ha! But we sure were prepared!

And that was our Great American Eclipse experience -- something we'll remember forever!