Category Archives: Travel

A Visit to Milwaukee and Chicago

Oh how I love thee, America!  Last week I was back in the US for a couple of conferences in Milwaukee and Chicago.  I presented a paper, met up with tons of old friends and mentors, had a few interviews, made some new friends, and ate copious amounts of unhealthy but delicious American fast food! (I forgot how much I love Panda Express!)

Among the highlights of the trip:  (1) The weather was way better than I had anticipated.  You grow up hearing horror stories about how bad the weather is in Chicago, but for the time I was there it was warmer than it has been in Cambridge this Fall.

(2) My first forays into Wisconsin were a smashing success.  My friend Chris and I took a bus from the Chicago airport to Milwaukee, and it’s hard to explain how great it is to listen to a friendly bus driver with a deep Wisconsin accent shoot the breeze about cheese crackers, beer, and the Christmas lights in Milwaukee.  On my second night in Milwaukee, I went with a couple friends to a great German restaurant and ate a Pork Shank.  That’s right, a pork shank.  If it was good enough for Ronald Reagan – and the menu assured me that it was – then it’s good enough for me!

(3) Of course, food and weather are not as important as people, and I was truly blessed by many great interactions with dear friends over the course of the week.  It was so nice to catch up about life, talk theology, and laugh about shared experiences with friends I miss here in England.

(4) My paper went well.  It was on discipleship and the death of Jesus in Luke’s gospel, and I was very happy with the interaction and input that followed the paper.  I feel like I was able to take some good ideas from the discussion and will be able to develop the essay a bit more and submit it for publication.

(5) I didn’t get lost while travelling around Chicago on the subway.  I took a little trip out to Oak Park, and since I had no phone, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to figure out where I was and I would be stranded.  Thankfully it was very easy to navigate the subway system.

Downsides were:  (1) Rachael was not there.  (2) The conference in Chicago was inconveniently located, so I didn’t really get to see as much of the city as I had hoped.  (3) No good sleep the whole time.  The latest I was able to sleep without waking up was 5:30am one morning.  (4) I foolishly went on a pizza-making binge in the weeks leading up to the trip, so when I was in Chicago I didn’t really have much of an appetite for the amazing pizza.  I guess there’s always next time.

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Another Roman Holiday

At the end of my parents’ visit in June, we took a weekend trip to Rome.  My parents had never been there before, and Rachael and I were happy to see the eternal city once again.  We saw too many places to mention, including many of the same sights as our first trip.  One spot that was new for us, however, was Ostia Antica and the beach at Ostia Lido, about an hour outside of Rome.  We had a blast.  Lots of memories, and lots of laughs.  Thanks Mom and Dad!  Here are some pictures from the trip:


A Visit to Brighton

On the first weekend my parents were in England, they kindly took us on a little trip to Brighton, on the south coast.  Rachael had always wanted to visit Brighton because of its prominence in Jane Austen stories.  Needless to say, the city has changed quite a bit since Austen’s time, but it remains just as popular a place for Londoners to spend a weekend.

We stayed at an excellent bed and breakfast right across from the seaside.  Strangely, you can’t smell the ocean in Brighton, even when you’re on the pier.  Plus the beach is made of rocks.  In other respects, the boardwalk is similar to a lot of the coastal cities in the US.  There’s an amusement park at the end of the pier and a big ferris wheel on the beach.  The place is packed with people.  It’s a very fun atmosphere, and the city as a whole has a whimsical atmosphere that’s reminiscent of a small-scale San Francisco.

We happened to get very lucky with the weather.  It was in the high 70’s and sunny the whole weekend.  Apparently, many Brits haven’t learned about skin cancer yet, because we saw a shocking number of people who were sunburnt to a reddish purple from head to toe, just laying out in the sun even after it was clear that they probably ought to seek medical attention.

Speaking of sunburns, the best moment of the trip was when the host at our B&B walked in to greet us as we ate breakfast one morning.  Upon seeing my father’s rosy cheeks, she cringed in surprise and asked whether he was in pain.  My dad matter-of-factly replied in his cordial southern drawl, ‘My face is always this red.’  My mom, Rachael, and I couldn’t stop laughing.  Thanks for the trip Mom and Dad!

Here are some pictures:


My Newest Addiction…

While we were in Zambia, we were persuaded not only to do a safari, but to visit Victoria Falls.  We decided that we would make this an early anniversary trip.  We only went for four days, but they were the best four days we have had in a very long time.  We spent the first two nights at a very budget motel and then splurged the last two nights on a hotel that was out of this world.  Well, let me be more accurate, we stayed at a luxury chalet.  Oh baby!!!  We would normally never be able to afford a place like this, but one of our dear friends at Northrise University helped us to get a massive discount.  It was one of the best gifts we have ever been given.

Our first night we enjoyed the splendor of Victoria Falls and got sufficiently soaked.  Seriously, we had two rain coats on and we were still soaking wet!  Then the next day we went on our day safari.  The next morning we left for our luxury chalet.  We had no idea what to expect, but we were not disappointed.  We spent an hour driving to the most remote hotel I have ever stayed in.  Then we turned off the main road and basically went four wheeling for about thirty minutes.  Eventually, we pulled up to the front gate of the Islands of Siankaba where we were greeted by our hosts.  Our bags were taken away and we signed in at the front desk.  We were then led out to the docks where we boarded a boat that speed upstream.

We eventually came to an island in the middle of the Zambezi River and my breath was completely taken away.  There was a large sweeping veranda with plush sofas and large cushy chairs.  There were fire pits everywhere, and off to the right were swinging rope bridges that lead from one island to the next.  On the next island you could see the chalets peeking out of the tree tops.  It was like a luxury Swiss Family Robinson.  I was in awe.

Our room was this amazing tent that had a heated bed, a beautiful claw-foot tub, and a porch that over-looked the river where hippos came in at night. We woke up each morning to tea being delivered to our room and we would sit and watch the sun come up as monkeys played on our porch.  It was surreal.  We took walks around the island, got massages, and were able to go out to the village of Siankaba where we met the most amazing people.  The hotel staff were all a apart of the Siankaba tribe and they take great pride in their village.  My favorite part of the whole trip was meeting all the children who attend the local primary school.  The sang and danced for me and Ben and my heart completely melted.  I wanted to take all of them home with me!  Those two days were filled with fun as we adventured around our tiny island.  I felt like a kid chasing monkeys and searching for hippos.

There was no TV, internet access, or phone signal so it was just me and Ben and nature.  It was two of the best days we have ever had together.  Since it was an all-inclusive hotel, we were able to enjoy all sorts of activities for no extra charge.  We ate the most amazing food, went on sunset river cruises each night, and just enjoyed the company of the other guests on the island.  The most amazing part of the whole trip was our last night when Ben and I happened to be the only guests staying on the island!  The staff went out of their way to make it a special night for us.  They set up an enclosed gazebo for us so we could have an intimate dinner together.  They lit lots of candles and served us the most delicious dinner.  We even tried crocodile tail (a bit on the chewy side, but pretty tasty)!  After dinner we crossed over the rope bridges and headed off to our what was our private island for the night.  Talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I could have stayed there forever, but alas, we had to return to Cambridge.  I have never stayed anywhere with better service, more delectable food, or a more peaceful environment.  It was the best early anniversary gift we could have given each other.  I don’t know if we will ever be able to return, but I know I always remember those two days at Siankaba as two of the most relaxing, most romantic days we have shared together.  What can I say, luxury suits us well!

Here are some pictures from our trip, but please take a look at the webiste as I couldn’t even capture how beautiful this place was! http://www.siankaba.net/


Up Close and Personal

I have fed large animals out of the palm of my hand and seen prowling cats just a few feet away, but all of this was with large fences and glass enclosures separating us.  Though the experience is fun and admittedly cheaper, it can’t compare to the uniqueness of a safari.  I like animals just fine, but I am not what you would call an animal lover. So you can imagine how surprised I was at how much I loved a day spent just driving around looking at animals.  I have never experienced anything like it.

We hadn’t planned on going on a safari while we were in Zambia, but everyone there was adamant that this was not to be missed.  And really, how could we pass that up?  We crossed the border of Zambia and entered Botswana where we headed to Chobe National Park.  We were only able to do a day safari, but it was one of the most memorable parts of our trip.

We did a river safari in the morning and a game drive in the afternoon.  Never in my life have I seen so many animals.  The river especially, was teeming with life.  We saw crocodiles, hippos, water buffalo, warthogs, huge iguanas (which we mistaked for a snake swimming next to our boat and Ben nearly jumped out of his seat!), antelope, elephants and so much more.  Both of us thought that you would spend most of the time driving around and occasionally see animals, but we would barely go two or three minutes and there would be another group of animals.  It was astonishing.

The river safari was Ben’s favorite, but mine was without a doubt the game drive.  We saw hundreds and hundreds of monkeys and I have to say that they were probably some of the cutest animals I have ever seen.  I could have fit some of them in the palm of my hand.  It seemed that around every turn there were fifty more monkeys and to my surprise 20-30 elephants.  The elephants were my favorite part.  We saw well over 200 and it was just incredible.  We saw little baby elephants lying in the road and huge male elephants that towered above our jeep.

At one point we turned a corner and the jeep came to an abrupt stop.  The road was blocked by elephants and to our right there was a massive female elephant.  She kept inching closer until she was only an arm’s length away.  I am normally a pretty fearful person, but I had to resist the urge to reach out and touch her trunk.  She got so close that the Japanese man behind me actually cried out!  He scooted across the seat until he was practically sitting on the lap of the girl sitting next to him.  Ben and I along with the girl got a pretty good laugh at that.

The day was filled with the most amazing discoveries.  Seeing God’s creation literally EVERYWHERE was incredible.  I don’t know quite how to explain it, but it just left you speechless.  Up close like that you just see how everything works together.  The elephants, giraffes, monkeys, antelope, and warthogs all stick together and watch out for each other.   It was like watching the live production of Lion King…well, minus the lions!  The shere number of animals we saw was amazing, but we didn’t see any cats which was a bit disappointing.  I guess that just gives us an excuse to go on another one!  Seriously though, this was one of the most memorable days of my life.  I am now completely addicted to safaris.  So who is going to be joining me and Ben on our next one?!!


Back to Life as Normal – Reflections on Zambia

The last few months have been an absolute whirlwind.  The fact that tomorrow is the first of July is bewildering to me since inwardly I feel like it is only March.  Where have the last three months gone?  Here is a quick run down of what all has gone on in our lives the last few months: a youth girls sleepover, the Cocksworth wedding, a three-week trip to Zambia, a girls weekend away, Ben’s parents arrived and we went to Brighton one weekend, I worked a few days and then we headed off to Rome for the Jubilee weekend, Ben’s parents left, Ben’s sister and her husband arrived a week later, the May ball took place, we attended another May ball two nights later, I worked a few days and then went to San Sebastian Spain with Ben’s sister and hubby, and then they left for the states on Tuesday.  It has been four days of calm and quiet.  My mind and body are only just beginning to take a deep breath and realise that the craziness is over.  Back to life as normal.

Now that I am starting to unwind, I would like to share some of my own thoughts on our adventure to Zambia.  This was our first trip to Africa and it was amazing.  Not in the “everything went perfectly” kind of way, but in the “I LOVE these people” kind of way.  It seems like a lot of people go to Africa and their lives are completely changed.  I think I experienced more of a gradual shift in my thinking and awareness of African culture.

Every day I learned something new.  I learned about courting and marriage customs. I learned that there are 73 tribes and numerous languages in just this one country.  I learned that nshima (pronounced cheema) is the staple food and they eat it every day and it is eaten with their hands.  I learned that fruits apart from mangos, are a luxury.  I learned that Zambians are extremely proud to be Zambians and take great pride in being a peaceful country.  I learned about generosity and kindness nearly every day.  I learned that Zambians take great pride in being a Christian country and I was blown away by how this actually plays out in so many aspects of their day-to-day lives. More than anything, I learned that the Zambian people are full of love and laughter.  You have not known hospitality until you have been to Zambia.

The experiences we had were wonderful, but as Ben said in our first post, it was the people who made our trip.  In just three weeks we made some amazing friends.  It was difficult to leave such loving people.  They filled me with joy and I am so grateful for the chance to have met them.  I can’t wait to tell you more about our trip…I get excited now just thinking about it again!


Livingstone, Victoria Falls, and Chobe National Park

At the end of our trip to Zambia, the university arranged for us to travel down to Livingstone to see Victoria Falls and go on a safari at Chobe National Park in Botswana.  It was absolutely amazing!  Here are just a few photos: