Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I just realized that most if the pictures I have downloaded onto this blog cannot be seen. So frustrating as it takes much time to do it. So for lots of very cool pictures, we welcome you to go to OUR FAMILY TRAVELS FACEBOOK PAGE.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Donating blood in Siem Reap

Donating blood in siem reap

So many times when we travel to countries that have poverty, we ask ourselves, what can we do to help!
Right now Cambodia is coming upon their rainy season. During their rainy season thousands of children develop dengue fever. Untreated these children will die. There are many young children falling gravely ill to this horrible mosquito born disease. With many dying from complications of the fever due to the extremely high temperature the body will reach if not treated accordingly. The local hospital was running critically low on their blood donations and were in dire need of topping them up to help fight the increasing onslaught of the outbreak (blood transfusions are required for severe cases of the disease).
One small thing tourists can do to help is donate blood. When we first saw the signs about this need. We thought, hmm needles in a foreign country?? Risky!!

But after doing a bunch of research (big breath mom) we found this to be a safe easy way to help. We talked to some nz people just returning from donating and they reassured us that everything was sterile and top notch. So tomorrow we will go do something that we aren't allowed to do in Canada. Because of where we travel to (countries that have a risk of malaria) we are not allowed to donate. But they are less concerned here because of the great need. 
Cambodians have not been raised in a culture of giving blood. Because of some religious differences and other reasons, they do not usually donate unless a loved one needs it. Yet the need is so great. Our tuk tuk driver had no idea that people should donate blood.

So off we went this morning. We told our driver the name of the hospital and when we pulled up my heart started pumping a little harder. It looked a bit scary with lots of local people sitting outside looking sick. Little babies lying limp in their mothers arms. We passed a baby getting iv fluids outside while its mother held him in her arms. I tried to remind myself that where we were going was going to look a little different. A guard led us into the old hospital. Down empty hallways, past empty siting room. I was still a little nervous. In my mind after talking to the NZ family I imagined a new sterile clinic type building. Not an old public hospital type building. But there was no turning back now. We needed to meet this dr that was trying to change things for the babies in Cambodia and we had to make sure. I was absolutely ready to turn and walk away if things in the blood donation ward didn't look good. But now was not the time.

The guard led us into another part of the hospital. The room looked more modern and even had A/C. Ok I started feeling more at ease. There was an American lying on a stretcher when we walked in. His bag of blood almost full. The dr greeted us and asked us to take a seat while he finished up. Everything was looking better. We watched carefully as he finished up. He offered a pop and gave him a bag with a box of crackers, multivitamins and a t-shirt. 

When the dr was finished with the other guy. We asked some questions. We Watched very carefully as he pulled a new needle/bag and other equipment out. We told him we were a bit nervous about donating blood in a foreign country. He assured us that they have hundreds of tourists come every month and are very careful to do things to North American standards. 

Unfortunately, because of my arm surgery, I could not donate. He recommended that I wait at least 6 months ):  so Dean was our hero today and gave his blood to help the babies in Cambodia. We are very proud of him!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Making a difference

Jimmy's dream
Today as we were walking down a street  we passed a school called Jimmy's Village School. It is a school run by a 25 year old teacher who does this on a volunteer basis every single day.

Jimmy and his family who he supports live on approx $50 US per month, he teaches in his moms front courtyard. the school makes it possible for children who cannot afford to go to school to learn to speak English. English is an important way for them to earn a living in this country other than being a rice farmer. 

It is obvious these kids love to learn. 
The kids who come to this school are from families that can't afford to send their kids to school. Cambodia does not have school for all children. You have to be able to afford school to go. So some kids will never have the opportunity to learn to read or do math. Most of these kids only have one set of clothing. So jimmy tries to make sure to help those kids with clothing, food and learning. Every week he feeds 150 kids a meal of traditional food and we will have the opportunity to help. How fortunate we feel to learn about what jimmy is doing for these kids. 

Jimmy believes every child deserves the right to learn, whether it be a childs song, or something as simple as being able to write their own name.
Jimmy's wish is to build a school (which consists of only one room), one where children can learn, be safe and make a future for themselves. He also is committed to helping these kids with some of their other needs like food and clothing. 

We did some brainstorming on the fly and thought there may be some people that we know that would also love to make a difference. Manitobans are the most generous people around! 
In Cambodia a small thing like $1 can go very far. The minimum wage for adults is $80 per month. 
If you would like to help, let  us know. We have extended our stay in Siem Reap for one more day and are going to spend some time hanging out with kids tomorrow. 
If you are interested in contributing $1  or more to this school and the kids. Send us a message. We will take your pledge, give it directly to the school and collect from you when we return to mb in June. Tomorrow we plan on doing some school supply  shopping and help with supper!!

They asked us if there was anything we wanted to share with the kids. Miranda stood up in front of the room full of kids and told them to follow their dreams. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kidnapped in Bangkok

Thailand kidnapping

After a long 3 1/2 hr long flight from Bali. We were happy to finally arrive in Thailand. We were in the 9th row on the plane, so immigration and customs went really quickly. We only have one day in Thailand before leaving tomorrow morning for Cambodia. So all we needed to do was hop a taxi to our hostel and eat some yummy street food and back to the airport in the morning. Easy peasy!

Nothing in Asia is easy peasy!

We have heard and read horror stories about Thai taxis. Sometimes they will tell you they know where it is you want to go. But as soon as you get away from the airport, they tell you an assortment of potential stories such as the hotel you booked isn't good. He would bring you to a better one. Or he may say he will phone for directions and after a fake call will say the hotel you booked does not have room. Or the usual trick of not turning on the meter and coming up with a much better price. Ya right! We thought we knew enough tricks to be ok. 

So we went to the "good" "reputable" taxi stand that is supposed to have reliable drivers. We told the ticket stand official person where we wanted to go. I had the address and a map also written in Thai so we would not have a problem. I also knew the trip with tolls should be no more than about $400 batt. 

We jumped in the taxi after squishing only 1/2 our packs into the truck because it was filled with stereo equipment. The other packs came into the taxi and we had them on our laps. Nice!
As we drove out of the airport. I asked dean from the back seat if the meter was on. Nope! ?

So he asked the driver why the meter was not on.? Driver says, no problem. Ride only $600 batt. No, dean tells him. Turn on the meter. We want meter price. The driver argues for a while. We say, no meter, no pay! So he very grudgingly while bickering in Thai presses the button to turn it on. We go through a till booth. He says to dean, you pay. So we do. 
Then continues his mumbling and complaining about something in Thai. We say, if you don't like the meter on, pull over and we will get a different cab. He starts driving slowly. Cars are passing us. We start getting that he's complaining the car is making noises. As if we and our bags are to heavy or something. He has a constant mumbling bickering thing going on and we hear words like airport, tire, heavy. Them he pulls over. He gets out and looks at the wheel. Gets back into car and says tire is not good. We also hear the word airport. We say, if car broken. Stop here and we get different taxi. No, he says. Airport and mumble, mumble in Thai. 
Then he makes a turn on the freeway and we start heading back towards the airport. What??
Colton says, I think he said we are going back to the airport!!??
Dean asks, where we go?!
 Airport, he says !!
No! No airport! Stop car. 
The driver ignores Dean. 
No, stop car! We do not go back to airport!!
The driver says more in Thai about airport and more Thai words. 
Stop car now. We say again. Right here or we will not pay you. 
We do not want to drive 25 minutes back to the airport. Just to start again. The driver keeps complaining, keeps driving and will not stop. 
Dean puts stick shift into neutral and says in a loud scary mad voice. Stop car now. Let us out! 
Nope. He won't. 
At this point we decide we will have to go back to the airport and find someone who speaks English and find out what the heck is wrong with this driver. 
We sit back and wait. I wasn't scared or worried for our safety at all. Just ticked at the situation. I knew there must have been a reason this guy thought he needed to bring us back. 
Finally we arrived at the airport. We decided that whatever this guy said. We would quickly remove our bags from the car, find an authoritative  English speaking person and report this guy. Dean and the kids started removing the bags. Taxi man tried to say we should leave our bags. Ya, whatever. 
I walked to the ticket stand and asked to speak to someone in English. The driver went right to someone who looked important and I followed. I told the boss guy what had just happened. The driver told his side. The boss raised his eyebrows and shook his head. Apologized. Found us another taxi and driver. We shook our finger at bad driver and off we went, making sure this driver had the meter on like he was supposed to and understood that this was not our first rodeo. 

So yes. After an hour long taxi kidnapping, we are safely in our hostel. Dean and I went for some burn your lips off Tom Yum spicy street food soup and takeout McDonald's for the kids. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Farewell indonesia

Today we are leaving Indonesia. We have experienced some very different faces of this country. From the serene rice fields in Ubud, the quiet tiny island of Gili Air and finally the touristy beach town of Kuta. All have their individual charm and all have their place.

My favourites would have to be the countryside and the island. I loved waking up to the silence of  country life in Ubud. We really enjoyed the slow starts to our days. Waking up and walking out onto our balcony overlooking lush green rice fields  is something that can not be compared to anything I've known. This is a very special place, where time has seemed to slow down and the hustle and bustle of modern life has passed these  people by. Their days are filled with their family, their crops and their religious ceremonies. Every morning as I drank my tea, I watched the men and women tending their fields, walking back from the market with big baskets balanced on their heads, brimming with the fresh food from the market to feed their families for the day. Every day they shop for fresh food. Every day is the same routine. Every morning and night the families would prepare little baskets filled with flowers, rice and other small tokens and place them in front of their homes, in their house temple, in front of their kitchens and various other strategic locations. It was always a trick to remember to look down as we walked in and out of homes and businesses. Because the little baskets were on the ground in front of every door into a building.  We accidentally stepped on a few of them in our first days.  Oops. 

As we walked along the narrow path between the tiny villages ever day. We got smiles where ever we turned. The local people here rarely had outsiders coming through the villages. Tourists didn't come here to often. We were something to be looked at, as they were. We had wrinkled old lady, crouching in her rice field smiling at us and talking fast in a language that was impossible for us to decider. I wish I knew what she said. Maybe it was, hi, welcome to our village. Thanks for coming. That's what it felt like she was saying. We also had lots of kids testing out the little English they knew. Throwing out a quick, hello. Then giggling to their friends as we said hello back. Sometimes we would find someone that knew a little English that would ask us to sit with them. They wanted to know where we were staying. Where we were from.
 Oh, Canada! They'd say.
 Very cold there?  
Yes, we'd answer back. Right now winter. Very cold. 
Your name? They'd want to know.
Short,  small interactions that I cherish. 
I feel like I learnt so much about my faith from the people here. Funny, them being Hindu and me learning from them about Christianity. But the biggest thing I learnt is how unashamed they are about their faith. How it is a part of everything they do in their day. How they spend so much time and energy on what they believe. If I'd  spend that much time on my own beliefs, my life would be more enriched. 

Gili Air was so great. I love islands without vehicles (or dogs). The lack of vehicles changes things. What a relief to not have to worry about narrow roads and honking and pollution. So great.
We spent a lot of our time on Gili relaxing. After six weeks of travel, it was a great time to soak up the sun, play in the water and read books. We snorkelled, fished, ate lots of food, walked, ran, swam and talked. We had such great conversations over food. It was a time to connect together every day. Breakfast was usually dean and I earlier and Colton and Miranda later. Lunch time started with trying to figure out where we wanted to go this time. Miranda ate a lot of nasi goreng.
Island life has always been our favourite. There is just a different type of people who live on islands. Wherever we go, we always try to find the quietest island to stay. 

The last two days we spent in a touristy town called Kuta that is near the airport. Luckily we found a home stay that was down a very quiet back street. It was a bit rainy during our time in Kuta. So we spent lots of time dashing here and there between showers, watching movies on the laptop, laundry, eating and getting cheap $5 massages. Because we were staying down a quite street. The people very quickly learnt our walking habits and didn't hassle us to much to come and look in their store or get their never ending massage deals. I read all sorts of stories about how crazy Kuta was and how it was crazy busy. But, I thought it was fine. Our worst issue was the barking dogs at 5am. 

We are now headed to Cambodia via Thailand. Two days of travel into another very different culture. May our eyes to opened to what we need to see and learn. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why budget travel can be hot and cold

Hot and cold

Traveling on a budget can be hot or cold. 

Some of the people we have travelled with in the past know that when we travel we usually are on a pretty tight budget. Most trip we aim for about $100/day for our family. This covers our food, lodging, travel within the country, visas, country entry fees, tours, fun stuff and souvenirs. So every move we make has to be thought out.  This can be tough, but we find that if we are willing to give up stuff, we can make it happen! 

While we were in NZ, I was COLD! The homes in NZ are mostly not heated. So while we traveled later in the year it became their fall and the nights became much cooler. Most people on the north island don't have heat in their homes. This may be hard to understand coming from manitoba where we all have to have a way to heat our homes in winter or we will freeze. But it usually doesn't freeze much on the north island. So they can do without heat. This doesn't mean that it's not cold in their homes though. Some mornings when we got out of bed it was 14 degrees in the house. I was so cold. 

Now that we are in Indonesia, I am hot. Don't get me wrong, I love hot! My favourite temp is 28-30 degrees. But that's during the day. during the night it feels best to be a bit cooler. So far during the days here it has gotten up to 34 degrees with 100% + humidity. I didn't know that it can get above 100% humidity, but our thermometer/humidex reader said the humidity was high once it became higher than 100%.  During the night the temp goes down to about 27-28 degrees. Not to worry though, because we have the ocean right out our doorstep. Which is perfect to cool down during the days. The hard part is during the night. The fan helps. But oh we all dream of A/C. We even stayed a bit longer in the interact machine building the other day because I think it's the only public building with A/C. 

That's where being on a budget plays into being hot. Because we are on a budget, we sometimes have to choose the more inexpensive hotels (that don't have A/C), cheaper meals and not get a regular massage ( even if the massage is only $8). Because we have to always be aware of our budget. It's not a big deal to go over a budget a bit if the trip is short, but in the case of a 4 month trip, consistently going over the budget may mean running out of money early. Then what?.

So as perfect as Gili Air is, and it is amazing! I am still hot from the lack of A/C at night and sometimes cold, brrr, because of the lack of hot water in the shower. 
You got it, the shower is only cold sea water!     

Looking forward to Cambodia with its fancy A/C rooms with pool for $30/ night!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A good time hanging out on Gili Air, Indonesia

Some days during travel are good some are hard and some days are amazing. Today was one of those amazing days. Mostly because of how it ended. We went for a long walk along the island path. Past lots of different restaurants  that had different types of foods. Some serving Italian. Some with Indonesian food. But what we were looking for was the perfect shish kabob place and we found it! 
As we ate we talked and laughed and had such a great time. We talked of movies we've watched, future spouses to marry, things we've seen so far on this trip and people we love at home. We talked about grandpa Walt and how it was just his birthday and it was so nice to talk to him and hear him laugh out loud! We talked about the fun emails we've gotten from friends and future relatives!! 
We talked about how much we miss our friends and hugs from grandmas. We talked about all the crazy snow back home. Colton keeps saying he's sorry to miss the snow. I'm not. 
 So many things to say. I love days like that. 
Tomorrow will be about fishing, snorkeling and hanging out together enjoying life. This is what I hoped and prayed for. A time for us to be together. To spend a chunk of time without the distractions of tv, school, work and to enjoy each other. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Till we meet again

Farewell New Zealand
Till we meet again. 
I have not been keeping up a very good journal of our time away so far and my goal is to try to start to blog again more frequently now that we are in Asia and our internet should be better.  Not only is it a journal for us to look back on. But it is also a way for family and friends to feel like we are not so far away. 

Some of my last memories of NZ are of the ywam people we met and very quickly became friends with. It made us realize that this would not be our last trip to NZ. But rather may be another home away from home that we will come back to time and time again. We met friends whom we expect that we will also have the privilege of one day hosting at our home. We met people with whom Colton may come back to work and live with one day. To leave NZ was not as sad as I thought it would be, because it is not farewell forever. But Farewell till the  next time we meet.  

The other place that will forever leave a lasting impression on me is the Land family from Opononi. They are a family like no other. When we first found their profile on the couch surfing web site, we immediately thought this was a family that we had to meet. They were the family that we have been talking about since probably August 2012 when we first read about their family and where they live. 

They are a family that live together on the same mountain side that much of their extended family share. They each have their own parcel of land that they divide as the families grow and need their own homes. The family that we stayed with have 9 children, 4 still at home. While we were there we met most of them I think. All very lovely friendly people. 

We loved how our first few hours where spent totally in an unexpected way. After some emails back and forth the last couple of months, we got the directions to their home and told them an approximate time that we would be arriving. We had to drive up from the ywam base about 3 hours, so we knew it would be mid afternoon before we would arrive in Opononi. Which is a beautiful area in northland. 
The directions we got were pretty good. The last part of the directions told us to drive 4 1/2  km up the narrow gravel road of the mountain and they were the last house. The sign at the base of the gravel said that vehicles beyond this point drive at their own risk. I'm not sure if they were referring to the road or the families up the hill. Haha just kidding. The road was a bit precarious. But nothing more than the roads we drove when we were out at the batch hunting. 

When we were almost to the end of the road we passed another van coming down the road. The girl in the van smiled and waved at us as we passed, but shortly there after she was following behind us and honking her horn. We pulled over and she and we go out of our vehicles to talk.she asked if we were the cs family from Canada.  She told us how she was the land families daughter and was just coming up the mountain to get some cream from home for the wedding, and we were invited! She said everyone from the house was at the wedding and they were hoping to catch us. 

We were worried that we would not be dressed for a wedding. But she assured us that we would be more dressed up than many other folks there. So we parked our car on the side of the road where there was room and jumped into her car. When we arrived at the wedding, Nicki went to find her mom and dad to let them know she had run into us. But in the meantime, got us to the end of the buffet line. We were just in time for dinner (tea in NZ)!

The most unique meal so far. Because of the huge involvement the family has with the Maori  people, they often do family things with the community, which is made up of many Maori. The food they served for the community wedding was a traditional Maori meal called a hungi (spelling ??). This is a meal that is cooked in a similar way to the Hawaiian pig roast. This meal is cooked in a similar way but with baskets of meat, seafood and vegetables that are put in metal baskets and steamed in the hot pit for hours. They also steamed a type of bread pudding that was really yummy. This food was then put out in a buffet with salads and other desserts. 

While we ate we sat at long tables in the Maori community hall with lots of the people from the community that loved and supported this family that we were now slowly getting to know through the words spoken out in the speeches. After hearing all the words, we knew that we were sitting amongst a group of people where community, family and God was very important too. 

After every speech that happened  from people in the community that loved the newly married couple, There was a song sang to affirm what the person said and to bless the words spoken. It was beautiful. There was even someone who welcomed us to the wedding. It has been a tradition that there has always been a stranger that has been at the families weddings. It started years ago I think, when someone had picked up a hitchhiker and brought them to the wedding. It was fun to be a part of tradition. 

After the meal and speeches the dancing started outside. Not the type of dancing that we are used to. The dance was a type of Gaelic dance that reminded me a bit of square dancing or river dancing. It was very fast and fun and I would have joined in if it weren't for my broken arm. There was a lot of joining arms and swinging each other around. 

After the wedding we all made the trek back up the mountain to get our car and settle into our new home. We were shown the lower level of the house and had a really unique barrel bed that was to ours for the next few nights. Colton and Miranda were bummed that we got the bed, but it was the only double. 

In the morning we met the rest of the houseguest and all the family and neighbours that frequent the family daily for a cuppa and a visit. We consumed many a cuppa ( hot beverage like tea or coffee) in the next few days. We learnt how the people on this mountain were trying to live a simple life, some choosing to live in very basic dwellings many off the grid or pioneer style. Some of the relatives even plough their land with horse drawn plough. They seemed to concentrate most of their time and energy on their family and community, less on acquiring other things. It was very interesting to meet this huge family and we will never forget them. 

We had to leave back to Auckland a couple of days earlier than we had hoped. I needed one last visit with the physiotherapist. Who was happy with the progress of my broken arm. She sent me home with a new arm brace that is lighter and gives me a bit more mobility. She also gave me instruction on hand and wrist movements that I need to work on for the next 2 months till we get back to Canada. The mobility in my wrist is at about 20% right now. Which means I can not twist my wrist so my palm is facing up. But my fingers are working really well and I have gone from not being able to hold a piece of paper between my fingers 3 weeks ago. To now being able to hold almost anything. I can not open a door handle because I can't twist my wrist yet and I don't yet have the strength I need back. But I expect that should come back soon. I can also write with my right hand again! It makes my wrist and fingers sore if I do to much. But so much better than writing with my left hand. 

We also needed to get back to Auckland to sell the car we bought when we first got to nz. We were a little nervous about selling it because it is really the end of the season in nz and everyone is now trying to get rid of their cars. We decided to drop in at the Auckland Ywam base and see if we could spend a night there and also see if anyone needed a car. 
We met a couple who is on staff there who thought they could buy the car and hopefully sell it for a profit. In the next few months. Many mission people go through that base and many are looking for a car to buy. So we are hoping they can make some extra money to find their upcoming move to Samoa to pastor a church.  They even offered us a job to come to Samoa to help them. Hmmm...

But off we went. Everything has gone as planned ( other than the broken arm). After 21 hrs of travel we are now in Bali, Indonesia. 
But that is another story!