Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Weekend with the Boys

This last weekend, Ben and Nathan had a "long weekend" break and so we brought them home for 4 days. This picture is after we picked them up at the airport and then took them straight over to our new hangar. David definitely looks pleased to have them home.

We took the boys out to Pulau Weh for 2 days of diving and snorkeling. This island is just a 45 minute ferry ride from Banda Aceh and is so peaceful and absolutely beautiful.
The day we got back to Banda, we got cleaned up and then headed out again to our swim hole that we found at the base of a mountain cliff. We definitely had a great time having them home for this brief time and are looking forward to their coming home for Christmas.

Some Catching Up

Oh dear! It has been over a month since I've updated all of you on our lives here in Aceh. So many things have been going on and it only got busier for us; however, my main reason for not being able to update our blog is that we've had quite a bit of problems with our Internet service. It has been almost impossible to do anything other than do email and check Facebook. To do any uploading or downloading has been difficult. However, we think we have fixed the problem now and I will be posting like crazy now to get you up to date!

In my previous post you can
see we began our hangar renovations and now I have some pictures to show you of the most recent "happenings" with the hangar.

These are the doors that Stan and Chris Uganecz made after tearing out the old, and too narrow of doors. Each door is 5 meters by 9 meters. It took 30 guys to pick up each one and place it into its track. They work "slick"!

About 2/3rds of the way back, we are building offices, part's room, maintenance room, break room, etc. Behind this, we still have plenty of room for storage AND there are still 3 badminton courts back there.

Another look at the office space going up.

The Caravan's first major inspection UNDER a roof! Thank you, Lord!

Keith Parker and Stan working on the engine of the Caravan in our new hangar.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hangar Happenings!

Since landing here in Banda Aceh, life has been CRAZY!! However, I can honestly say that it has been good. The Lord has truly been doing wonderful things here and it is great to be a part of His plan. Our biggest goal after arriving here was to get a hangar contract signed with the Indonesian Air Force out at the airport. This has now happened and I would like to share those pictures with you; from the signing of the contract, parking the Caravan on the apron for the first time, renovating the door to the hangar and to finally being able to park the Caravan inside our newly acquired hangar. Thank you God!

Stan with the Komandant, his legal attache, our attorney AND a signed contract!

Here is a picture of our hangar and the Caravan pulling in to park on the apron for the first time. We are still unable to put the airplane inside due to the doors being too small. However, that will be "fixed" soon.

The Komandant was there for the plane's arrival. Martyn Den Os flew the plane up from Meulaboh.

This is Amber Desist, another one of our pilots, standing quite proudly with her "girl" in front of the hangar.

Not sure if you can really tell how HUGE this facility is but it has a tennis court, volleyball court, and 3 badmitton courts on the inside. Not sure what God's plan is with this facility but we are sure excited to find out.

We hired a team to come in and take out the doors and knock out the walls on the front so that we can park the airplanes on the inside.
And there she is; on the inside, out of the elements, for the first time since she came to Aceh!

Sitting comfortable now. :-)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Finally, I have a picture of our house. This was taken from the outside of our gate (before we could move in) looking towards the front door. It is a very nice looking house and has a nice layout inside. That is actually quite unusual for houses here. Most of the homes that we looked in before deciding on this one, had quite the "odd" set-up inside.

Even though we are very happy with our new house and feel completely blessed by God; there are still a few things that need some "tweeking". As you can see above, this is a very typical Indonesian bathroom. Well, actually, this one has been "westernized" a little bit, thanks to the prior US Aid tenant (tsunami days). Normally, there would be a squat pot where the toilet is sitting. What I wanted you to see here is what we call a "bak" (said like - bawk). This is NOT a tub and you do NOT crawl inside. All you do is fill it up with water and then stand on the outside and use that little scoop bucket to throw water on yourself...freezing cold water on yourself!! You will also notice that there is no sink in the bathroom. This is a very common thing here in Aceh. We never noticed that so much in Kalimantan. So, as you can see, we will be making a dry shower area where the bak is sitting and probably adding a sink somewhere. We have 2 other bathrooms that will need the same treatment if we would like to have a hot shower and not have to brush our teeth over the toilet.

And here is our kitchen area. It is in much better shape than most of the other homes we looked at. All the others would have to be torn out immediately and rebuilt before we could even move in. We wanted to find a house that we could move in and renovate when time allowed. This is a perfect kitchen for this time. You can't really see it in this picture but the wooden doors are rotting out under the sink. And if you were to stand next to the countertops, they would come to just below your hips (if you are my height). So washing dishes and preparing food can really be hard on the back. The lower area in the counter is for a countertop, 2 burner, propane stove. That is what most Indonesians cook with. We will eventually tear all of these out and rebuild them so that they are at a height where I won't break my back and can use my stove/oven and still have counter space.

If anyone is wondering what to do this fall, you would be welcome to come and help us with these minor, little "tweeks" to our house. I do want to say though, that the Lord has truly blessed us with this house. We could move in immediately and not have to worry about "fixing" things up right away. There are so many other things that have a much higher priority right now and God knew that we needed this house. We are very grateful to Him and very grateful to all of you who have prayed for us these past few months as we have had to make several transitions.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Visiting the Boys at Dalat Int'l School

This past weekend, Stan, David and I had to do a visa run out of the country. We asked that our visa be sent to Penang, Malaysia rather than to Singapore so that we could visit with Ben and Nathan too. We arrived on Thursday and stayed until Sunday morning. It was a wonderful time with the boys and we were successful in getting our visas.

David, Ben, and Nathan all together again.

Nathan running laps around the school for soccer practice. PS: That is the ocean in the background.
I have no idea what Stan and Ben are doing here!

This is more like reality with all 3 of them together. :-)
The following picture is of the three of them watching one of Nathan's roommates play a computer game in the dorm.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Something New for MAF

So when you want to fly with MAF in Banda Aceh, you will now be able to check in at our own counter within the airport!! For those of you who have ever flown with us anywhere else in the world, this is something that you will NOT see. We were so shocked and humored by this, I just had to laugh and then I quickly grabbed my camera so that I could share it with you.

This is Max, one of our national staff members, at our check-in counter in Banda Aceh. Next to us are the check-in counters for AirAsia, Firefly, Garuda Airlines and others. MAF has made it to the "big leagues" now. :-)
A picture of the airport here in Banda Aceh.
PK-MAN, MAF's Caravan in Aceh. This is the plane we flew in when we went to visit the Meulaboh base.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Look What I Found Today

As I was reading through my email this morning, I came across one that I have newly subscribed to and was truly blessed by the author and what she had to share. It has to do with meeting expectations that we put on ourselves. This is something that I struggle with a lot. I wake up in the morning and plan out my day knowing what I love to do and I knowing what I need to do. Trying to find a balance between those two things and not burning myself out is a daily struggle for me. What seems to exacerbate it for me, is looking at my "neighbor" and seeing how he or she seems to have it all together and can accomplish it all and still be able to smile at the end of the day.

I know that many of us face this everyday and so I thought I would share this link with you. Enjoy!

A New Look and A New Life

Welcome to our new blog! After much thinking about it, I decided to keep the name "The Unruh Trek" but to change our main photo so that it is appropriate to the area we are serving in. The picture I have chosen (for now) is a photo taken above the coastline of Banda Aceh. This is a beautiful part of Indonesia and I love that the mountains run right into the coastline of the ocean. Just a few kilometers off of the northern coast, there is an island where everyone goes to for vacations and there is world-class diving and snorkeling. We are looking forward to heading out there when the boys come home for Christmas break.

The Aceh province is located on the northern tip of Sumatra. In earlier days, it was a perfectly situated spot in the middle of the Malacca Straights where East met West and vice versa. This area has been heavily influenced by India, the middle east, Malaysia, and Holland. This has also been an area that has a long history of conflict.

Since the tsunami happened (end of 2004), it dramatically changed not only the physical appearance of this province but also brought much healing to this land. It was at a great price but many of the people will tell you that things are much better now. The tsunami opened up this province to the world, something that would never have happened before. So many people and international organizations have invested a lot of money and much time and effort to help rebuild this area and the people's lives here.

MAF arrived here a few days after the tsunami hit. As you may recall, Stan and his chief pilot, Peter Spahr, were the first pilots to come. A base was established down on the coast in Meulaboh and eventually permanent staff were assigned there. Now that the region has been rebuilt and the Acehnese are back on their own feet, most of the foreigners have left and we have seen the need to make a change ourselves.

Our first main job is to move the team and all assets up here to Banda Aceh from Meulaboh. We are also in the process of contracting the use of a large storage facility out at the airport to be used as a hangar/office for us. We are discussing with the governor's office several possibilities of flying to certain villages through out this province that do not have other good transportation options. We have finally found a house for ourselves but cannot move in until the first of September. So as you can see, we have been quite busy since arriving here but we are very happy and can see so much potential for ministry in this area.

Please pray for us as we work with our team members in making this huge transition. Pray that all the different things we are presently working on will come together and that the Lord will bless our efforts. We are excited about being here and pray for the success of this program.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A New Trek For Us

Well, you've probably heard by now that MAF's Nepal project has not worked out. Due to various reasons, it was decided to close down the Nepal program. This means that our "trek" in Nepal has come to an end; however, God has another one planned for us.

After much prayer and weighing through our options, we have decided to move back to Indonesia but this time to a different island. We spent almost 11 years serving in Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. We will be moving to a town called Banda Aceh; located on the northern most tip of the island of Sumatra. As you may recall, this is one of the places that the tsunamis hit the worst.

Stan will take the position of Program Manager. Ben and Nathan will return to Dalat International School in Penang, Malaysia; however, this time it is only a 30 minute "hop" over to visit them. David will remain at home with Stan and I and I will homeschool him.

We are all very excited about this new "trek" that the Lord has planned for us. It is disappointing for us to have to leave Nepal; especially when we see that the need here is so great. However, we don't question God; after all, he sees a much bigger picture than we can even imagine. Please pray with us as we begin packing AGAIN and make our way back to Indonesia. We depart Nepal exactly one year from when we arrived; August 1st. We will take a vacation in Thailand and then head over to Penang to drop off the two older boys. We should arrive in Aceh on August 12th.

Please keep checking back in with us here for more updates and pictures as we begin a new "trek".

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What Is A "Bandh" (bunda)?

In the past, I have spoken about "bandhs" here in Nepal; however, as I was thinking about it today, I got to thinking that you may not completely understand what that really means.

Basically, a bandh is a protest. It is when a group of people, who are dissatisfied with something, come together (and many times will hire other people to come and rally with them) to protest. There are many types of bandhs that occur here. I will share 5 types of them with you. By the way, a friend of mine here was reading an article that said in the past 6 months, there have been 500 bandhs in this country!

The first type would be a simple protest on a street. This is when the police will barricade a portion of the road so that these people can "vent" their frustrations. This could be by burning tires, screaming and yelling, and throwing bricks or rocks at anyone on a bike or in a car who dares cross over that barricade. This usually will last anywhere from an hour to half a day. With this type of bandh, you can walk by and not get into trouble...usually.

The second type of closure would be a particular section of town. An announcement will go out that "tomorrow" there will be a bandh for the city of Patan (a suburb of Kathmandu that we live in). That means that all businesses will be shut down and closed up until whoever called it says it is over. This will also stop all traffic throughout that section of town. The people who are responsible for this, and their hired "helpers", will then proceed to walk through this portion of town and holler and yell, brandishing sticks and stones. Woe to anyone who has an open shop door or to the person who tries to sneak by them on a motorbike. There have been shops set on fire, looted, and ransacked during these bandhs. It is the same with cars that are parked on the side of the road.

The third type is a city-wide bandh. We have had 2 of these since we've been here. The whole of Kathmandu is completely shut down. It is actually a great time to go bike riding or to take a walk because there is absolutely no traffic ANYWHERE.

The fourth kind of bandh is when a particular group of people are upset with the government and their policies, etc. So they will go to Parliament and to other government offices and barricade the entrances. They will even padlock the doors so that no political figure can get in (or out).

The fifth kind is a district bandh. This is VERY common down in southern Nepal. A whole district will be shut down and the only way in or out is to fly. However, once you arrive in a striking district, you can almost count on having to walk from the airport to wherever you need to go. Most businesses will be shut down. These have gone on for days and even weeks at a time.

This is a very sad reality that the people of Nepal live with daily. Their faith in the justice system is completely diminished and so resort to this kind of violence. A whole generation has grown up with this, and sadly, it is the only way they know to get their way.

Please continue to pray for the people of Nepal. They are in desperate need of hope and grace!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

End of the Year Events

The school year has finally come to an end for us. All of the boys had a very successful year and we are very proud of them. Of course, there were many "end of the year" events. I have shown just a few here.

David participated in a Reader Theater. He was a narrator for the famous story, "The Emperor's New Clothes". He did a great job!

Look in the very center of this "sea" of children and you will see David's blond head poking out. This was his "end of the year" assembly. They sang for us, quoted scripture, and were given awards.

Does anyone recognize this handsome, young man? This is the first tie that Ben has ever owned. Stan taught him how to tie it and he spent a LOT of time practicing for this special evening. It was the Secondary's End of the Year Celebration and Graduation at the Radisson Hotel. Ben successfully finished 9th grade and he can be very proud at how he finished!

Here is a picture of Ben and Nathan together for the special evening. Nathan really wanted a tie too but I wasn't sure where to find one that would fit him right. It turned out to be just fine because most of the middle school boys didn't wear one anyways.
Congratulations boys!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

What Would You Have Done?

Life Is Made Of Choices
Life Is Made Of Choices

Ok, so this plaque is really not what my blog is about today, but I will be giving you some choices to look through in regards to a real live incident that Stan just experienced this past week. Here is the "set-up"...

As you know, about 2 weeks ago, there was a bombing in the local Catholic Church here. Since then, security has been pretty tight. Today, there was a city-wide bandh (closure/protest) put on by a majority people group who are demanding certain rights. Everything was shut down; no taxis, buses, cars, and most businesses were closed. Nothing major has come of it; however, it does mean you stick close to home.

Now that you have a better picture of what "life" has been like here lately, you will understand Stan's dilemma a little better. While riding his bike back from language school one day, he turned off of the main road onto a back residential road just in time to be the recipient of a flying butcher knife! This knife came flying over the cement wall and hit his bike, alarming Stan, and causing him to stop suddenly. Now, what would you have done?...

a) Get back on your bike and ride away as fast as possible, pretending that nothing had happened?

b) Throw the knife back over the wall and ride away?

c) Take the knife as evidence and contact the local authorities?

d) Confront whoever it is that is behind that wall?

I probably would've done (a) but I would forever be very wary when passing by that house again. Which one did you choose? Stan chose (d)! He is a very brave man; however, it was a bit humorous because when he went into the gate, he saw a woman cowering in the shadows looking a bit frightened. Stan called on the person to come out and talk to him. A younger man came out and was super apologetic. He said that somehow his mother had managed to fling the knife over the fence and that it was totally an accident. Hmmm, makes you wonder what was going on behind that wall???!!! Anyways, Stan decided to let it go but it did shake him up a little bit especially because this happened only 2 days after the bombing. Yikes!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nepal News

Golden Retriever with Newspaper in Its Mouth by Jim McGuire
Golden Retriever with Newspaper in Its Mouth

This month has been full of “exciting” events here in Nepal. I've had several people ask about some of these happenings and so I will try to update you here.

First of all, on May 4th, the Maoist Prime Minister suddenly stepped down from office; upset with how negotiations had been going about integrating his former rebel fighters into the Nepali army. This brought a lot of tension and uncertainty as to what this would trigger. As you may know, Nepal has gone through a long period of civil war and political upheavals. They have enjoyed only a year of peace and now it seemed as if that was going to end quickly. We are praising the Lord though that things have remained relatively calm and businesses have resumed as usual.

Just this week a new Prime Minister was elected into office and he is from the Marxist-Lenin Communist party. This sounds pretty extreme but they are actually a more benign group than the former. We are not sure what this means but they are pretty set on getting the new constitution written with a year’s time, which is a very important step for this country.

This past Saturday, at 9:30am, a bomb went off at a local Catholic church while they were having services. A 15 year old school girl from India and a 30 year old Nepali woman were killed and dozens others injured. This church is not too far from where we live and because of that, it was decided that our church would move the congregation to another location for services the next day. We met on the lawn of our pastor’s house and it was quite pleasant. We really didn’t expect too many people to show up, but we still had around 200 people there. It has been said that a Hindu extremist group is responsible for the bombing.

So as you can see, there are quite a number of ways that you can pray for us and for our family.

  • Pray for Nepal and the political situation. So far things have been peaceful but we live in a constant “just wait and see” mode.
  • Pray for our safety. We are unsure if this extremist group was just trying to make a point or were angered by this particular church or if they are going to continue with their bombings.
  • Pray also as we live in and maneuver around in this city. This is a daily prayer that we lift up to the Lord as the roads can be very dangerous here. I’ve been knicked by motorcyclists twice while walking and Ben has been pushed off the road by a car while riding his bike back from the store. Just minor incidents but frequent occurrences that could become serious.
  • Pray for our licensing process. It has been a long haul for us, but God has been good. We've not come up against any "walls" per say, but it has just been dragged on for a long time. In the meantime, we continue to learn the language and Stan and Tim continue to visit the various offices making relationships.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brighten Your Day!

Cupboard Garden
Cupboard Garden

So today I'm faced with a can I brighten up our days, while living in a temporary and very small apartment (of which I basically own nothing)? What little things can I do to help my family feel more at home here and basically help myself to "relax" a little more?

If you notice on the side bar of my blog, I have a button for the Christian Women magazine. While mulling over this question this afternoon and evening, I decided to read some of the articles and that is when I found "30 Days of Elegance". I am going to try to do some of these things and I challenge each of you to try some also. I'd love to hear about which ones you tried and ...did it work...did it brighten up your day?

Sensibly Chic . . . Thirty Days of Elegance

Surrounding your life with beauty is not just about makeup or the latest trends in style. You can create and discover the essence of elegance in everyday life. The definition of elegance is “tastefully luxurious.” I invite you to create little pockets of pleasure for one month. Whether you are helping a friend out or treating your mom to lunch, it’s the little things in life that make a difference in our attitudes and outlook. Nothing is more “extravagant” than a positive, giving approach to life.

Day 1: Write a note to someone you know in an assisted-living center.
Day 2: Begin a “grateful journal” and write something you are thankful for once a day (keep it at your bedside). When you’re feeling down, be sure to read it.
Day 3: Collect some flowers and place them in your kitchen.
Day 4: Drink your coffee or tea from an antique cup.
Day 5: Learn a French or Italian word for the next thirty days.
Day 6: Read a Jane Austin novel or any classic author.
Day 7: Watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s or GiGi.
Day 8: Use a beaded or silver cup to hold your Q-tips or cotton balls.
Day 9: Donate books or magazines to your local women’s resource center or nursing home.
Day 10: Read some poetry.
Day 11: Write a poem or a song (I used to do this in high school and now have started again).
Day 12: Practice standing up straight; you’ll appear taller and confident.
Day 13: Listen to classical music or an opera. Maybe do a bit of research about the person who wrote the piece.
Day 14: Take out the good china, light some candles, and eat in the dining room tonight.
Day 15: Tame your tongue—no gossiping (we should do this every day, all the time).
Day 16: Book a nail or hair appointment at your local cosmetology school (half the cost if not more than your local salon.
Day 17: Visit your local garden club. Take a book to read while surrounded by the beauty God created. We have Leu Gardens here in Florida; I have a membership and love going there.
Day 18: I love biographies—read about someone that inspires you.
Day 19: Go to a tea room with a friend, mother, sister, or daughter.
Day 20: A museum may be the answer to get away from it all—observe.
Day 21: Frame a scripture or quote that captivates you.
Day 22: Wear your expensive perfume today or make your own.
Day 23: Go to a park and sketch some nature (you don’t have to be a great artist).
Day 24: Book a massage at a salon, or at a massage school for half the price.
Day 25: Wear a cashmere cardigan or scarf. Can’t afford one? Pashmere is wonderful and I bought one for $5.
Day 26: Watch a sunset or sunrise.
Day 27: Name your house. Why should the Biltmore have a name and not yours? Okay, so it has five hundred rooms where some of us have only five. Name it anyway; it is your history. How does the Ballestero Cottage sound?
Day 28: Drink your water from a goblet or enjoy a smoothie in a crystal glass.
Day 29: Draw a bath with essential oils, then soak to the sounds of soothing music and relax by candlelight.
Day 30: Wear your pearls!

True confidence, just like true beauty—comes from knowing that God created you as a uniquely beautiful woman with much more than your face to offer the world!

Excerpted from Beauty by God.

©2009, Shelly Ballestero

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Losing Control & Liking It"

I have been reading through a book lately called "Losing Control & Liking It" by Tim Sanford, M.A. It has to do with parenting your teenager and what that should mean. Many of us (including myself) believe that we need to make sure that our children turn out OK because if they don't...well, let's just say, we are very concerned about what other people think of us (or our children) if we can't control them. Never mind the fact that it hurts us to see our children "go astray" or to fall down some path that could possibly lead to disaster. On the back of the book it says, "You can turn your home from a battleground to a birthplace of freedom for you and your teen. You're about to lose control--and we think you'll like it."

I have always been a "control-freak"...I like things done a certain way and done on schedule (you should see the lists that I can create AND they are all over the house). I like to know that my children are doing well in school, making friends, not embarrassing themselves (or me), and being polite and well-mannered. If you are like me and have a teenager yourself, you must know how frustrating this time can be for both yourself and your teen, who is now trying to become more independent of your "control". This is natural and eventually a desirable goal; however, it can be quite painful if you are both vying for "control" of his/her life. This is a great book for you to read.

In keeping with the theme, not only are my sons growing up and seeking independence from my control, but it seems that lately I can't even control things in my own life. There are many people leaving this summer and the whole dynamics of what I have gotten used to are going to change once again. We really thought that we would be in Pokhara by now, with a plane, and building a hangar. And I really thought that I would be able to speak the Nepali language by now. So, this morning, after a few days of feeling "out of control", and after telling God that He really needed to take control of things because it was just too hard for me,
I opened my Bible and here is what I read...
Psalms 81:6, 7

He says, "I removed the burden from their shoulders;
their hands were set free from the basket.
In your distress you called and I rescued you,
I answered you out of a thundercloud;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah." - Selah

A few weeks ago, I shared with you about how I felt like the Israelites who were wandering in the desert. And now, again, God has used another passage about the Israelites to show me that He is in control and all I need to do is to "lose control" and let Him release those burdens from my shoulders; to "set free my hands from the basket"...and you know what?...I just might "like it".

By they way, I would've loved to have posted the front cover of this book here in this post for you, but I don't know how to do that or know if it is even possible. Can anyone help me with this?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mugu, Northwestern Nepal

A village in the Mugu District of Nepal

We are now going to "trek" on over to the next district east of Humla where we just learned a little bit about Simikot (see previous blog entry). Ground transportation to the Mugu District of Nepal is relatively simple. From Surkhet ( the nearest, sizable town), head north up the Karnali Highway. If it’s the dry season it should take you about 52 hours to cover the 57 miles to Jumla, which lies just south of the Mugu District and is the end of the road. The trail head to Mugu starts from Jumla. You can then trek 4-5 hours a day and within another three to four days you should arrive in Mugu.

Mugu airstrip, named after the Mugu district, lies within the boundary of Rara National Park, and is located near to the district headquarters of Gamgadi. Mugu district was the site of intense combat during the 10 year civil war. Since the country is no longer at war, the 31,000 residents of this district have other struggles. Education, health care and communications are daily challenges. Mugu often faces a food production deficit which has been compounded in recent years due to drought. Literacy rates in the district are among the lowest in Nepal, particularly among women.

Since the government built an airstrip at Mugu, most travelers opt for the 45 minute flight rather than endure the five days of travel by land. While there is another operator that operates aircraft to Mugu, flights are often irregular and passengers, all too often, are bumped. MAF plans to collaborate with like-minded organizations in the Mugu district to improve the lives of the villagers here, aiding in community development projects, health projects, medical emergency flights, and affordable transportation for the local population.

Please pray with us that as we move through the approval process, we would be sensitive to the Lord’s leading and that we would be faithful to take advantage of every opportunity.

This is a Youtube link for another operator landing at Mugu:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Simikot, Northwest Nepal

Before we departed on our trek, I shared with you, that after I returned, I would begin a series on the different areas of Nepal that we would like to begin serving in with the airplane. Here is the first of that series. I hope that you enjoy this and that it helps you envision the need that is so great here in Nepal. Ok, let's go "trekking" to:

Simikot, Nepal

Simikot, located in the far northwestern region of Nepal, is the district headquarters for the Humla district of Nepal. Simikot is cut off from the rest of Nepal due to the rugged terrain that separates it from the rest of the country.

Within the Humla district there is a population of around 65,000 people, but in the town of Simikot, there is roughly 1500 people.

The people of Simikot are of Tibetan decent and follow the traditions and religious practices of Tibet. Most would consider themselves Buddhist.

Daily existence in Simikot presents many challenges for the villagers. This is an agricultural region, but the land often does not provide enough food to support the population. Food shortages are a common theme in Simikot.

Medical care in Simikot is limited, any major medical issue requires a flight out to the nearest hospital in Surkhet or Nepalgunj, in southern Nepal. Often villagers cannot afford the travel or a flight is not available.

MAF intends to provide a reliable air service that meets the needs of the people in this region of Nepal. We will prioritize humanitarian/development flights of other like-minded NGOs. Here is a link to YouTube that will give you a good picture of life in and around Simikot. It has been posted by a "hospital" that is working out of Simikot. I just want to make a disclaimer here that we do not have any special links to this hospital as of yet and are therefore not promoting it. This is just a video that will give you a good look at this area.

Simikot YouTube link

For those of you who have Google Earth, you can do a search for Simikot, Nepal and it will take you straight there.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, Part 2

Nepal is one of those countries that continually amazes me. It is such a small country, relatively speaking, and yet, there is so much vastness here. Vast differences in language groups, people groups, weather extremes, the highest mountains in the world and yet such low valleys and jungles, vast amounts of wealth and yet it is hidden in all despair and poverty that is visible everywhere. And this is why our family loves to explore it while we have the opportunity to do so.

On this trek, there were some pretty spectacular and jaw-dropping moments. We hiked through some very rough terrain and had a lot of "ups and downs" (quite literally) every day. Our legs felt like they were going to fall off some days and waking up and taking that first step each morning about killed me. However, it was all worth it! We saw more of that "vastness" that Nepal has to offer. On our way up, we came across a little bit of snow, not much. However, as we reached the top, it began to snow and by the time we started hiking back down, 2 days later, we had to trek through about a foot and a half of the stuff. We heard and even saw several smaller was enough to scare us but it was also very exciting!

I am just going to post pictures here and let you enjoy a bit of what we saw and experienced. Please enjoy!Hiun Chuli Mtn. This lies just about straight west from Machapuchhre Mtn (or better known as Fishtail Mtn.). We trekked through the valley that lies between these two mountains.

This is a good old fashioned water mill that was set up on one of the rivers we crossed. They are grinding corn here.

Jhinu - one of the villages we stayed at on our way up. You can see the valley below where we just climbed up out of.Nathan and friend, Matthew. This was taken during a break after a very steep climb that took quite a bit of time.
Here is Ben showing you how steep the climb was for us. The boys did amazing on this trek!

Fishtail Mtn...we're getting closer!

Stan found a "friend" at one of our rest stops.

This was no joke! On our way up, there was hardly any snow. Two days later, though, it was a very different story.

We made it! We are now at Machapuchhre Base Camp. Not a lot of snow when I took this picture of our group. However, just a mere 2 hours later, we were wondering if it would stop.

Compare this picture with the picture below...

The weather sure changes fast up here!

This is the table everyone was sitting at just a few hours earlier. The boys loved it!!

The next morning, we had plans to hike up this "saddle" to Annapurna Base Camp but the weather wasn't looking too good. I was beginning to feel the feeling that "real" mountain climbers have when they finally realize they may not summit afterall. What looks like the sky in this picture should be full of mountains!

Here is a picture looking back at the valley we climbed through the day before.

Looking down the wall from our lodging...there is a small stone cabin down there. Can you see it?

Later in the morning, the weather seemed to be good enough for us to make an attempt at ABC. This is us hiking up the saddle and beyond...if you look closely, you can see MBC, the place where we were staying.

We made it!!! It took quite a bit of effort on my part, but I did it. Because of the altitude I kept getting dizzy and had to stop frequently to find my eyeballs (it seemed). I also now know how easy it could be to get snow-blindness. We only stayed up there briefly because the weather was turning bad again and we didn't want to get stuck up there.

It snowed the rest of the day (after summiting) and by morning time, this is what we woke up to. A stunning view of Fishtail Mtn. and crystal clear skies! It dropped well below freezing that night!

Now look at the saddle heading towards ABC...I told you there were mountains up there. Some of our group "ran" back up to the saddle to take some pictures while the rest of us packed up camp and began the trip back down.

David and I heading back down the mountains. I really had mixed feelings about that but we really didn't have enough cold-weather gear to stay up there any longer either.

Ben, David, and I

A rest stop on the way down. How'd you like to wake up to that view every morning?

Stan and Ben

We arrived in the village of Chhomrong early in the day and spent the rest of the day doing laundry and sitting outside just staring at this gorgeous view. We trekked through all of!

Easter morning!!! I woke early and watched the sun rise over the mountains and it was worth it. God sure was rejoicing in the day too.

Another rest stop, much further down now. This is a local can see how they store their corn and in the forefront, what looks like grass, is all garlic growing.

A very ancient (almost medieval looking) Gurung village, Gandruk. We stayed here one night.

A Gurung child in front of her house.

A field outside of Gandruk.

This newborn goat was very curious!

And here we all are!! I am in the backrow, blue shirt. Stan is next to me. Ben is in the red shirt in the back. Nathan is on the very bottom left-hand side, and David in the yellow shirt. We were a very international group; Swiss, English, Australian, and Americans.