October 30, 2004

Hawaii, Yosemite, Colorado and Washington DC


guam coastline from the air
Greetings from Oregon!

I am writing this update from my grandparents house in Hillsboro, Oregon where I am spending some time with family. Unfortunately the reason for my visit is not a good one as my grandfather passed away recently. We had burial and memorial services for him this past weekend and now we are resting and spending more time with my grandmother. I plan to return to Tennessee on Monday.

Well, my last update was about my trip to Palau so I'll pick up where I left off. My flight back to Guam from Palau had one short stopover in Yap, but I didn't even get off the plane there. I arrived in Guam early in the morning, got a ride back to my apartment, slept a few hours, finished packing and headed to an Italian restaurant for lunch. I enjoyed visiting with friends over lunch and then some more at the airport before I finally said my goodbyes and boarded my flight to Tokyo. In Tokyo I had a short layover before boarding an
a beach in hawaii
overnight flight to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Since I crossed the International Date Line on the way to Hawaii, the time change was rather drastic at about minus 20 hours. This meant that I got to spend Sunday in Guam and then arrived in Hawaii bright and early Sunday morning. A friend from college who is living and working in Honolulu met me at the airport and she took me directly to Pearl Harbor to get some tour tickets for later in the morning. After a quick stop at her apartment we returned to Pearl Harbor and enjoyed a ferry ride out to the USS Arizona ship wreck and memorial. From Pearl Harbor we drove north to the Dole Pineapple plantation for a quick stop before continuing on to the north shore of the island. We got some lunch along the north shore and then drove along the coast, stopping at several beaches to walk around and take pictures. Eventually we headed back
view from glacier point
towards Honolulu through a winding road that cut through the interior of the island. At the top of Pali Pass we enjoyed a beautiful view of the ocean, mountains and city far below. Our next stop was another scenic overlook where we enjoyed a panoramic view of Honolulu. Finally we drove down to Waikiki where we got smoothies, caught the tail end of the sunset on the beach and watched a traditional Hawaiian dance performance. By the time we left Waikiki we had just enough time for another quick stop at my friend's apartment before she dropped me off at the airport so I could catch my flight to Los Angeles. It was a very short visit to Hawaii, but thanks to my friend I got to see a lot of the sights and thoroughly enjoyed my layover there.

After spending my third night in a row on an airplane I arrived in Los Angeles very early Monday morning on Labor Day. I was met at the airport by my grandparents from Tennessee and another relative who lives in California. From the airport we went to a restaurant and had a nice breakfast before walking down to the beach where we watched the surfers for a bit. Our next stop was at a cemetery to visit the graves of my great grandparents before we headed back to Calimesa. My grandparents from Tennessee had already planned a road
colorado aspen
trip to California before I made my travel plans, but the dates lined up nicely so that I was able to meet them in California and travel back to Tennessee with them. We first spent a few days in southern California visiting friends and relatives and collecting my belongings that were stored in the area. We also shopped for and eventually bought a trailer which we towed all the way back to Tennessee.

Our first stop after leaving southern California was at Wawona youth camp in Yosemite. We went to the camp to attend a weekend celebration of the camp's 75th anniversary. My great grandfather found the land and started the camp 75 years ago so the weekend was especially memorable. We arrived at the camp Thursday night then spent Friday enjoying Yosemite. We first went to see the Giant Sequoia trees in Grant Grove and then enjoyed the fantastic view of Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point. After a picnic lunch at Glacier Point we drove down to the valley floor and watched some rock climbers before we headed back to the camp for supper.

Friday night and Saturday we enjoyed several meetings and then finished up with a late night ice cream feed. Sunday morning we drove through Yosemite, over Tioga Pass and out of the park. For the rest of the day and most of the following day we drove east towards Colorado with an overnight stop along the
cottonwood lake near buena vista
way. We also had a few sightseeing stops in Utah to enjoy some of the desert vistas.

In Colorado we traveled through the town of Aspen and made it to the top of Independence Pass just after sunset. All along the way we enjoyed the golden Aspen trees which were at their prime just in time for our visit. Not long after going over Independence Pass we arrived at our relatives house in Buena Vista where we enjoyed a good supper and comfortable night's sleep. Over the course of our two days in Buena Vista we took a couple of trips to see the Aspen colors and even took along a picnic lunch on one of them. On Wednesday we loaded the trailer with some additional furniture items and then on Thursday we continued our trip to Tennessee. The first day back on the road was a bit slower than we had expected as we had to stop a couple
cloudland state park in Georgia
times to make adjustments to the trailer load, but we finally got everything secured after which we made better time. After spending a night in a hotel we then traveled the rest of the way to my grandparents house in Tennessee.

After my arrival in Tennessee I got settled into my apartment, registered my car and got acquainted with the area around Collegedale and Chattanooga a bit better. I've enjoyed visiting downtown Chattanooga as well as a couple of parks in the area. I also enjoyed camping on Lookout Mountain in Georgia a few weeks ago and briefly visited Fall Creek Falls another weekend.

A couple of weeks ago Melissa and I drove up to Maryland for a long weekend to visit my dad who was in town for some meetings. We also got to see lots of my family and friends and even spent Sunday doing touristy things in downtown Washington, DC. We visited several of the museums, most of the monuments, Union
the capitol
Station, and even went inside the capitol building to watch the Senate in session for a while. I especially enjoyed visiting the new World War II memorial which I hadn't seen before. After having supper with friends we visited several more memorials after dark and concluded the evening with some rollerblading.

A few days after getting back from Maryland I got the news about my grandfather so started making plans to travel out here to Oregon for the services. As it turned out I was able to make last minute reservations using miles that I earned on my trip back to the US from Guam and arrived here in Oregon last week.

Well, I think that is pretty much all that has been going on with me lately so I'll go ahead and get this posted.

Until next time,

Andrew

More pictures in my gallery.

January 13, 2005

Christmas in Cyprus


melissa bundled up for the amsterdam weather
Greetings from Tennessee!

Well, it's been quite a while since my last update and I just got back from a fun trip to Cyprus. Before going to Cyprus I visited my girlfriend's family in Arizona for Thanksgiving and then again for a couple of days on our way to Cyprus. I enjoyed getting to know them and had fun playing miniature golf, tennis and basketball there.

In between the two Arizona visits I took a quick trip up to Ohio where I spent the weekend at a state park with some family from Maryland and Michigan. We chose a location that is roughly in the middle for all of us to meet up and enjoy a weekend together.

On the way to Cyprus we had a stopover in Amsterdam for a few hours. After getting boarding passes for our flight to Cyprus we still had plenty of time so caught a train to downtown Amsterdam. The weather was cold and rainy but that didn't stop us from walking around for a couple of hours. We arrived quite early in the morning so most of the businesses
rainbow and view at st. hilarion castle
weren't open yet but we enjoyed watching schoolchildren hurrying to class and other early morning sights. Eventually we found a bakery that was open and sampled several items for breakfast. After eating we walked to the Ann Frank house which has been turned into a museum. We enjoyed going through the house and seeing the famous Hiding Place where Ann Frank and her family were hidden during the war. It was my second visit to the museum but they have done some remodeling and expanded it since the last time I was there. From the museum we headed back to the train station and then back to the airport to catch our flight to Cyprus.

In Cyprus we were met at the airport by my parents and sister. My parents have lived in Nicosia, Cyprus for about 3 years now and this was my 4th visit to the island. This visit was unique though because we had several other extended family members visiting for the
cloudy weather at the top of st. hilarion castle
holidays as well. It was really fun to spend time together with everyone (we had a maximum of 13 people in our group). When we got to my parents apartment from the airport we had supper, visited some and then headed to bed to catch up on our sleep.

The next morning (Thursday) we split into two groups for the day. The first group went shopping while the second group (which I was in) headed down to Larnaka for some sailing on my parents sailboat. The wind wasn't very strong but we still enjoyed getting out on the water for the day.

Friday we drove to the northern part of Cyprus. The island of Cyprus has been divided since the Turkish army occupied the northern part in the 1970s. Currently relations between the two sides are better than they have been in a long time so the border is much more open now. This means that it's easy to visit the northern part of the island for the day, or even for a few days. In the past it has been much more difficult so this was my first time to visit the north.
this dome with mosaics was part of the ruins at salamis
Our first stop of the day was at St. Hilarion Castle. When we arrived the weather was cloudy but dry for the most part so we started exploring the castle ruins. We enjoyed some panoramic views of the ocean far below in the distance and even spotted a rainbow before it started to rain. Unfortunately we were nearly to the top of the castle and as far as possible from the cars when the rain hit so by the time we got back we were all quite wet. We still enjoyed seeing the castle though and decided to continue to our next destination in spite of being wet. The harbor town of Kyrennia was our next stop
ancient roman toilets
where we walked around a bit before retreating to the cars for a picnic lunch. We decided to cut the afternoon activities a little short on account of the rain but still enjoyed a drive along the northern coast before returning to Nicosia.

On Friday night we enjoyed a nice Christmas Eve service at our local church and then on Sabbath morning we had a Christmas church service as well. After church we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the car on our way to see some more sights in northern Cyprus. Along the way we took a few secondary roads which took us through some small rural villages.
this cathedral has been converted into a functioning mosque
It was fun to get off the main drag. Our first major stop was at the ancient coastal city of Salamis. Salamis is the town where Paul landed in Cyprus during his first missionary journey and its ruins are quite extensive. We enjoyed exploring the ancient baths, gymnasium, amphitheater and other ruins. From Salamis we drove further south to Famagusta. This has a large collection of beach front hotels which have been abandoned since the 1970s when the UN buffer zone
avakas gorge
was set up. Unfortunately this stretch of beach and hotels fell within the buffer zone so they now sit empty. In Famagusta we also visited the harbor and climbed the old city wall before ending our tour for the day at an old cathedral that has been converted into a functioning mosque. It isn't very often that you see a mosque with this sort of architecture!

Sunday we headed to the Akamas Peninsula in the eastern part of the island. Along the way we stopped in Paphos for a picnic lunch before visiting Avakas Gorge. The gorge is a very narrow canyon with a stream in the bottom of it so we were glad to have sunny weather without any rain to swell the stream. From the parking area we hiked up the river and into the gorge where we enjoyed some breathtaking views of the towering canyon walls. After we finished exploring the gorge we drove further along the peninsula to a small restaurant which was closed by the time we got there. The area was full of cats, which were fun to play with. We enjoyed the view of the beach and stayed long enough to watch the sun sink into the
sunset on the akamas peninsula
Mediterranean Sea. On the way back we stopped in Pafos for supper and planned to get our first taste of the very good PAHIT ice cream. Unfortunately the ice cream shop closed while we were eating our supper next door so we had to wait another day to get our PAHIT ice cream.

On Monday we had planned to go sailing but since the wind wasn't very good we ended up doing some shopping in Nicosia instead. For lunch we enjoyed sandwiches made from fried Haloumi cheese which are a specialty in Cyprus, followed by some PAHIT ice cream for dessert.

Tuesday we visited Cape Greco in the eastern part of the island. Our first stop was at some sea caves where we posed for pictures with the aqua blue water in the background. A few of us also wound up jumping off the cliffs into the water which was about 63 degrees
tom jumping off the cliff
Fahrenheit. The air temperature was probably in the low 70s so it was a bit cool for swimming but not too bad. Our next stop was at the top of a bluff where we enjoyed a short walk and more spectacular views. Before stopping for a picnic lunch we also visited a natural arch, a small church and a cave. After lunch we spent some time on the beach at Fig Tree Bay and then headed to Larnaca where we visited the Greek Orthodox church of St. Lazarus. According to tradition this church was founded by Lazarus after he was resurrected by Jesus and had to flee from persecution. They say he was originally buried there before his remains were later moved to another location.
In the basement of the church they have discovered several burial sites including one which they believe was the site where Lazarus used to be. After visiting the church we went to an ice cream shop where we got some more of the excellent PAHIT ice cream before heading back to my parents' apartment.

Our first tour stop on Wednesday was at Kolossi Castle near the town of Limassol where we enjoyed exploring the castle keep. This was our first day
gladiator mosaic at kourion
with the full group of 13 people so we also enjoyed visiting with each other along the way. Our next stop was at a large complex of ruins called Kourion. These ruins include elaborate mosaics from bathhouses where the remains of the plumbing and water heating systems are still intact. There is also an amphitheater and the ruins of several other buildings in this area, all of which are overlooking a gorgeous view of the coast. Some of these ruins date back to around 500 BC. From Kourion we headed into the Troodos mountains of Cyprus where we visited a waterfall for a picnic. After lunch we drove up Mount Olympus which is the highest point in Cyprus at 6,401 feet. The very top of the mountain is fenced off with a couple of communications installations, but we got pretty close to the summit. Near Mt. Olympus we spotted a few skiers and snowboarders using the local ski lifts which were open for business. Next we stopped at the burial site of the first leader of modern day independent Cyprus. The site is located on top of a mountain with some very good views. Our last stop in the Troodos area was
we used creative picnic tables for several of our lunches
at Kykkos Monastery. The monastery was founded around the end of the 11th century and is home to an icon of Mary which according to tradition was painted by the apostle Luke. The monastery is situated in a scenic mountain location and is a popular tourist attraction.

On Wednesday evening we finally had the whole group together so we celebrated Christmas by opening presents. Since we were busy with sightseeing during the day we postponed our traditional Christmas meal until Saturday night. This year we didn't necessarily celebrate everything at the 'right' times,
scenic overlook above aphrodite's birthplace
but we still had a lot of fun and enjoyed having lots of family together for the holidays.

Thursday morning we headed towards the coastal city of Paphos for some more sightseeing. On the way we stopped to admire the view along the coast and then spent some time on a pebble beach at the traditional birthplace of Aphrodite. The sun was shining and the water was the typical bright aqua blue of the Mediterranean so it was hard to leave the beach to continue the day's activities. Our next stop was at the Tombs of the Kings which is an archeological site where no kings were buried. As it turns out the burial chambers actually belonged to wealthy citizens of Paphos who were buried between 3 BC and 3 AD, but no real kings were buried there. The tombs are carved out of solid rock and are very elaborate. They often contain several rooms with ornate carvings, pillars and other decorations. After exploring the tombs we headed into Paphos where our first stop was at a pillar at which Paul was flogged by Romans, according to tradition. In the same area we visited an old church and spotted a wedding party posing for a photo shoot. Next we drove down to the waterfront
walking on the beach at fig tree bay
area of Paphos where we visited another large archeological complex. The ruins there are primarily of villas from the 3rd to 5th century AD, most of which have remarkably well preserved mosaic floors depicting scenes from Greek mythology. From the ruins we walked along the Paphos waterfront area which is lined with cafes and shops. We arrived at the end of the pier just in time to watch the sun sink slowly into the ocean. On our way back to the car several of us found another place to get some PAHIT ice cream which tided us over until supper.

Friday morning we visited the village of Lefkara which is famous for ornately carved silver and intricately woven lace. We were able to see how these things are made by hand and of course there were many shopping opportunities. For lunch we had a picnic on a hill overlooking the village and then we headed back to Nicosia. Our first stop in Nicosia was at a handicraft center where more purchases were made. Next we visited some of the main tourist sights in town including a freedom monument and the ruins of an ancient aqueduct. Finally, our last tour stop was at Ledra Street which is a pedestrian only shopping street inside the old city walls of Nicosia. Besides shopping we also visited the end of
sunset at the ruins in paphos
the street where you can climb some stairs and look across the border into the UN buffer zone and beyond to northern Cyprus. According to the onsite information Nicosia is the last remaining divided capital city. The wall is similar to the one that used to separate East and West Berlin. The empty, run down buildings of the buffer zone stand in stark contrast to bustling Ledra Street with it's many shops and cafes. On the way back from Ledra Street several of us stopped at a couple of grocery stores to pick up some supplies for the weekend. With so many people to feed the refrigerator seemed to go from full to empty in no time. In the evening we had a New Years Eve program at the church. The program was organized and put on by our family members and included a quartet, special readings and a singing group.


fort on the waterfront in paphos
On Sabbath after church most of the group went sailing for a couple of hours. It was fun to get out on the boat again. In the evening we had our big Christmas dinner and then opened some presents in a white elephant style gift exchange. After the gift swap we also celebrated several anniversaries and birthdays before finishing up our packing and heading to bed.

On Sunday Melissa and I traveled back to Tennessee where we have been getting back into the routine here. Unfortunately we both got sick towards the end of our trip, but we are on the mend and feeling much better now.

Well, I think that's about it for now so I'll end this and start looking for some pictures to include.

Until next time,

Andrew

Many more pictures here.

April 11, 2005

Changes and a Roadtrip


boston skyline from the river
Greetings from Tennessee!

It has been several months now since my last update and a lot has happened since then. Spring is in full swing here so I'm enjoying excellent weather, the colorful tree blossoms, and the flowers that are starting to come up. I was in the tropics for the last 3 springs so I guess I had kind of forgotten how nice spring is!

Since my last update there have been a couple of significant changes in my life. The two biggest ones are that Melissa and I are no longer dating and that I got a
grave of benjamin franklin
new job working at EPB Telecom. I have been enjoying my job which has kept me busy learning lots of new things. EPB Telecom provides Internet and phone services to businesses in the Chattanooga area and I am working primarily on the Internet side of things.

Over the last couple of months I have enjoyed several weekends at my Grandparents house since I live so close to them. On one weekend I drove down to Alabama to visit my Uncle and Aunt and have spent others here in Collegedale.

I also enjoyed a long visit from my friend Jonathan who is from Germany. He and I worked together in Cambodia and he had some time off from school so decided to come to the US for a visit. The timing of his visit worked out well so that we were able to go on a road trip before I started at my new job. In fact, the road trip got under way a day earlier then planned when Jonathan's flights were cancelled due to snow at the Paris airport. The airline rerouted him
skiing in new hampshire
through Washington, DC so rather than having him continue to Atlanta as scheduled, I drove up to DC and met him at Dulles airport instead. This last minute change in plans ended up working out for the best since we had planned to drive up to DC the following day anyway.

After spending the night with friends in Maryland we spent the next day driving up to Boston where we stayed with some of my relatives. We arrived in Boston on a Thursday night and then spent Friday seeing the historic sights of downtown Boston. We visited the grave of Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere's house, Boston
temporary world trade center memorial
Common, the USS Constitution, several old churches and many other historic buildings and places along the Freedom Trail. On the weekend we enjoyed spending time with my friends and relatives and got to do some snow tubing and skiing with them before we traveled further north to Maine. In Maine we stayed with some more friends and enjoyed another day of snow skiing. The day after we went skiing we had around 6 inches of new snow so we waited until afternoon when the roads were mostly plowed to head back down to Boston. I enjoyed playing in the snow and even strapped on some cross country skis for a few laps around the back yard in the snow storm.

After getting a good night's sleep in Boston we drove down to New York. Jonathan was very excited about his first visit to Manhattan where we spent the day walking from Central Park all the way down to the southern tip of Manhattan. Along the way we visited many famous landmarks including Times Square, Wall Street and of course the site of the World Trade Center. We also
arlington cemetery & washington dc
visited a temporary September 11 memorial consisting of a mangled sculpture which used to be in the WTC lobby. At the end of the day we rode the subway back to where we had managed to find a free parking spot about a block away from Central Park. From New York we continued south to Maryland where we collapsed into bed at my friends' house.

After sleeping in due to our late arrival in Maryland we spent Thursday afternoon visiting the General Conference (SDA Church headquarters), Columbia Union College and the ABC (Christian book store). In the evening we drove up to Baltimore for a quick visit to the Inner Harbor before returning to my friends' house for the night.

On Friday we spent the day exploring downtown DC with quick visits to the Holocaust Museum, the FBI (unfortunately the tours weren't running though so we just saw the outside of the building), the Natural History Museum, the Air &
little river canyon
Space Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Capitol, the Whitehouse, the Lincoln, Jefferson, World War 2, Korean, Vietnam and Roosevelt memorials, the Washington Monument and JFK's grave in Arlington National Cemetery. It was a full day and we had definitely had enough walking by the time we headed back to my friends' house.

On Sabbath we enjoyed visiting a couple of churches and then spent the rest of the day catching up with friends and relatives before loading the car for our drive back to Tennessee. We had a smooth trip back on Sunday and then on Monday I started my new job while Jonathan finally got a chance to relax.


this picture was taken in my backyard
The following weekend we stayed around Chattanooga for church and then drove down to Little River Canyon in Alabama in the afternoon. It was a beautiful spring day so we enjoyed visiting the waterfall there.

The next weekend we went to my grandparents house where we spent time visiting, played dominos and of course found time for several games of Croquet.

Now Jonathan is back in Germany and I am starting to get caught up with things that I haven't had time for lately, including writing this update.

Well, I think that's about all the news from here for now.

Until next time,

Andrew

September 9, 2005

Pacific, Atlantic, St. Louis, Washington Mountains and Ohio


we got to fly my stunt kite on ocracoke island
Greetings from Tennessee!

It's been several months since my last update and I've been busy. I'm still enjoying my new job where I have been learning a lot about a wide variety of things, most of them computer related. I've spent time working on network monitoring tools, router configuration, email/web server administration, troubleshooting various Internet problems and many other things during the past months. I enjoy the variety and certainly don't have to worry about getting bored at work since there are so many things going on.

On the weekends I've been keeping busy with fun activities and events, many of which are organized by the active young adults group at the church I have been attending. I've especially enjoyed playing sand court volleyball on Sundays and going hiking and/or exploring on Sabbath afternoons. I've also enjoyed several weekend visits to my Grandparents house which is less than 2 hours
debbie, devaunt, me and brenda at the beach
from where I live. Other fun weekend activities have included back packing, bonfires, water fights and potlucks. I have also enjoyed getting to know one Sabbath school member in particular. Her name is Brenda and we have been dating now for more than 3 months. Brenda recently graduated with her Masters degree in counseling and she works in a public middle school as a guidance counselor.

In May I took an extra day off from work over Memorial Day weekend and we drove to North Carolina to visit Devaunt & Debbie who I went to college with. Devaunt is stationed in North Carolina where he is learning to fly Harrier jets in the Marine Corps. In addition to just relaxing and visiting together we also enjoyed some time at the beach. One of our days there we took a ferry to the outer banks where we got to drive on the beach, swim in the ocean and fly kites. The car ferry took over 2 hours each way but it was a relaxing way to spend the day.

In June we attended a wedding in Collegedale and enjoyed an outdoor Newsboys concert in downtown Chattanooga. The concert was part of a week long festival called Riverbend. They had all kinds of booths, activities and performances throughout the week but we just went to the Family Faith night. The main stage was on a river barge so the audience sat along the riverfront to watch the various performers.

Also during June we enjoyed seeing Braden & Johanna who I first got to know in Cambodia where I had a couple of fun visits
on the rafting bus
to their home in one of the more remote provinces. Since Braden also happens to be Brenda's brother, we got to see him and Johanna quite a bit during their time in the US this summer. I enjoyed catching up on news from Cambodia and getting to know Braden & Johanna better.

The first weekend in July we stayed around Collegedale but managed to stay quite busy. On Friday evening we went on a hike to a waterfall where we enjoyed a picnic supper before watching the sunset from an overlook above Chattanooga. On Sabbath we had a relaxing afternoon and evening after church and then on Sunday went whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River. The rafting area is about an hour from Collegedale and they have some very good rapids. In fact, the 1996 Olympic whitewater events were held on this river. I think the most unique thing about rafting on the Ocoee is that there are very few calm sections of the river. Nearly the entire trip is spent in rapids and that makes for a very fun ride.
st. louis arch
On the way back from rafting we stopped and got a few bottle rockets, sparklers and other fireworks which we had fun lighting off with the neighbor kids. Later that night we drove in to Collegedale just in time to watch the fireworks show which was very good. On Monday the 4th we enjoyed a day at the Six Flags water park in Atlanta. The park was not very crowded, probably because most people were having a traditional 4th of July picnic or barbecue. We decided to have our lunch at a picnic table by the parking lot and had a good meal complete with grilled big frank hot dogs, potato salad, chips and cookies. We ended up staying until the park closed at 8pm and enjoyed going down all of the bigger waterslides at least once. Needless to say, by the time I crawled into bed Monday night I was definitely ready for some rest.

The following Thursday Brenda and I left directly from my office to drive up to St. Louis for the last weekend of the GC Session. Since my parents were attending the session we were able to stay with them for the weekend. On Friday we joined my Grandma from Oregon and my mom's sister for a trip to the top of the St. Louis Arch. It was fun to ride the unique elevator that keeps passengers level as they ride all the way to the top of the arch and the view from the top was superb. One of my favorite things about going to a GC Session is seeing so many friends from all over the world. I enjoyed reconnecting with friends from Guam, Sri Lanka, Russia, Cambodia, Cyprus, Maryland and many other places over the weekend.
mt. rainier from the plane
It was also fun to wander through the various booths in the exhibit hall. There were booths sponsored by a wide variety of organizations ranging from health food companies to musical groups to universities to television and radio ministries. On Sabbath it was an amazing experience to attend church with somewhere around 50,000 other Adventists in a full sized football stadium and on Sabbath evening the same number of people gathered again for the parade of nations. During the parade of nations representatives from every country of the world took turns marching across the platform and then around the stadium dressed in their national costumes and carrying their country's flag. It was quite a sight to see people from all over the world united together in their beliefs. Finally, to close the session Wintley Phipps gave a powerful rendition of Amazing Grace. On Sunday morning we drove back down to my grandparents house in Tennessee where we enjoyed some
lake above leavenworth in washington state
family time with my parents before going back to work on Tuesday.

The following Sunday we attended a wedding shower and helped my neighbors Bryan, Penny & family move down to their new home in Georgia which is about 3 hours from here. It has been nice having them next door, especially since I knew them already from when I was in Cambodia. I'll miss having them next door but the time was right for them to move on.

After work on Friday, July 22 we flew out to Seattle, Washington to spend ten days with Brenda's family. We had a very full trip with lots of fun activities and plenty of visiting with Brenda's friends and relatives. Since we got in late on Friday we spent the night with some of Brenda's relatives who live near Seattle. Incidentally, I already knew one of Brenda's cousins who we stayed with since he is a school teacher in Guam and had arrived there a few weeks before I left. On Sabbath we enjoyed church and lunch together and then headed into the mountains for a hike. It was really nice to hike in real mountains and we especially enjoyed the excellent view of Mt. Rainier from the fire spotting station on Red Top Mountain. After our hike we drove on to Wenatchee where Brenda's parents live.

On Sunday we ran some errands and visited several fruit stands where we loaded up on the wonderful local peaches, nectarines, cherries and apricots. We even got to pick several pounds of cherries ourselves, which was especially fun.


rainier cherries that we picked
Monday afternoon we drove down to Walla Walla where we met Braden & Johanna and spent the night at Braden & Brenda's grandma's house. In between spending time with Brenda's family we also got to visit with my relatives Gary & Tami over lunch on Tuesday. It was fun to catch up with everyone and it was hard to get on the road again Tuesday night for the drive back to Wenatchee.

On Wednesday we spent some time in Leavenworth, Washington which is a picturesque mountain town with lots of touristy shops and restaurants. In the evening we visited with some of Brenda's relatives.

Thursday we got together with Matthew and Kathryn who I know very well from Guam. It was especially fun to meet the newest member of their family who is named Micah. On the way back we stopped at a fruit stand and replenished our fruit supply with more excellent cherries, plums and watermelons. In the evening we got together for supper with more of Brenda's relatives.

On Friday morning we got up bright and early and started our weekend trip to the Olympic Peninsula. The route we took involved two car ferries and the wait to get on the ferries was rather long. By the time we made it to our hotel in Forks, Washington it was pretty late but we enjoyed a
blackberry pie for my birthday / olympic national park rain forest
clear day and some very nice views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier along the way.

Sabbath morning we visited the Hoh rainforest which gets an average of at least 140 inches of rain per year. Luckily for us we were there during the driest time of the year and were blessed with blue skies. After exploring one of the trails that winds its way through the forest we headed back to our hotel for lunch. We spent the evening walking and relaxing on the nearby beach. Since the Pacific is quite cold on the Washington coast, we opted to stay out of the water on this trip but it was still fun to spend time at the beach.

Sunday we loaded up the cars and headed back to Seattle with several stops along the way to walk on the beach. We also
washington coast
enjoyed a picnic lunch by a scenic mountain lake before returning to civilization. We spent the night at an airport hotel and then caught our early morning flight back to Chattanooga.

After a short week at work I loaded up my car and drove down to Hilton Head, SC. Brenda wasn't able to come since she had a work conflict, but I met up with some of my friends at their house on the Atlantic coast. On Sabbath after church we enjoyed a good meal together and then spent some time at the beach. In the evening we went on a bike ride and then went out to eat at a Greek restaurant. Sunday morning we enjoyed the beach and pool some more before driving back to Tennessee. On the way back there was a bad accident that closed the interstate so I got in a bit later than expected but still got some sleep before going to work Monday morning.

During the next week we enjoyed some peaches which I picked up in Georgia on the way back from South
check out this ohio fungus (mushroom?) / picnic in olympic national park
Carolina. We were even able to put a couple gallons of peaches in the freezer to enjoy during the winter months. The next weekend we took a short trip up to my grandparents' house to pick blueberries and eat blueberry pie. We were able to freeze some of the blueberries and earlier in the summer we picked and
waiting for the fireworks to start
froze strawberries so now my freezer is well stocked with fruit.

For Labor Day we drove up to Dayton, OH where we enjoyed spending time with some of my cousins and friends from college. On Sabbath we went on a hike by a river and then visited a dairy farm where we pet the goats and cows before eating some fresh ice cream. On Sunday we played a couple rounds of miniature golf and then headed into Cincinnati to watch the Labor Day fireworks. Before the fireworks show they had a couple of military jets fly over the river. The best part was that a Harrier jet flew by a couple of times at high speed but then it came in more slowly and gradually slowed down and finally hovered over the water near one of the bridges a few hundred feet from where we were sitting. While hovering the pilot gradually rotated the jet around in a circle and then stopped completely for a few seconds before turning and
fireworks in cincinnati
flying up and away at about a 45 degree angle. We thought the show might be over but the pilot then brought his jet back once more and repeated the same maneuvers a second time before flying back to his base. It was very loud and impressive to watch such an amazing airplane perform at such close range. The fireworks show lasted about 30 minutes and they had six barges loaded with fireworks. They also launched some fireworks including two waterfalls of fire from two bridges. The grand finale was very impressive with an almost constant barrage of light and noise. After the fireworks show we got some ice cream to help pass the time before traffic thinned out a bit so we could more easily drive back to Dayton. Monday morning we slept in some and then got together with my cousins to eat breakfast and play games before we headed back home.

Well, I think I've covered the highlights of what I've been up to for the last several months now. As you can see I've been keeping busy since I last
wrote. I've been having fun though making new friends and getting settled into my job. I'm looking forward to more fun trips and activities in the coming months including a quick trip to Maryland in a couple of weeks.

Until next time,

Andrew

As usual there are more pictures in the gallery.

March 6, 2006

Maryland, Moving, Christmas & Boston


smoky mountain stream
Greetings,

Yet again several busy months have passed since my last update. Spring is in the air here in Tennessee, especially this week as the temperature climbed to 70 degrees and many trees and even some flowers have started blooming. It's hard to believe that it has already been a year since I started my current job at EPB Telecom. I am still enjoying my work where I've been learning more new things and keeping busy with plenty of interesting projects. Outside of work I've still been spending time with Brenda and enjoying lots of fun activities with our young adults group from church.

A couple of weeks after I last wrote Brenda and I traveled up to Maryland to attend Jesse & Tara's wedding in West Virginia. We enjoyed a nice weekend of visiting with family and friends including a mini family reunion after the wedding ceremony.

At the end of September both Brenda and I moved out of our old apartments. Brenda moved into a duplex with a new room mate and I moved into an apartment just down the road from her new place.
fall in the smokies
We had a busy moving day getting everything loaded and unloaded for Brenda, her roommate and I. Thankfully we had lots of help from our young adults group and from my grandparents who brought their trailer down for the day. Brenda and I are each enjoying more space in our new places and we are both closer to our jobs now too. It's nice to be able to leave 15-20 minutes later and still make it to work on time.

In October we enjoyed some fun weekends including a visit to my grandparents house and a young adults camping trip to Fall Creek Falls. While camping we also took a couple of hikes including one boulder hopping hike up a stream to a waterfall. Two of us swam in the large pool at the base of the waterfall but the cool water convinced the rest of our group to stay dry. We especially enjoyed seeing some nice fall colors but
harrier
unfortunately I forgot my camera so didn't get any pictures that weekend.

The last Sunday in October we went to the Chattanooga Air Show. At the air show we had fun checking out a pair of Harriers and many other planes up close before the show started. For the main show they had biplanes, helicopters, a jet engine powered truck, various historic and military aircraft and finally the blue angels for the grand finale. It was really fun to see such a wide variety of planes and watch their acrobatic performances.

November started out with Trudy & Wesley's wedding and then Brenda's birthday. For Brenda's birthday I took her to the Melting Pot in Knoxville
stunt plane in a dive
where we had cheese & chocolate fondues. It was the first time for both of us to eat at the Melting Pot and we really enjoyed it. Later in the month we went to Gatlinburg with some friends from church. We all stayed in a nice log cabin and went hiking, played miniature golf, rode go carts and visited some outlet shops. On the way back Brenda & I took the long way through Smoky Mountain National Park where we saw some fall colors. We also stopped in Cherokee for supper on our way back. For Thanksgiving I went down to my uncle & aunt's house in Birmingham while Brenda flew out to Washington State to spend time with her family.

To help get into the Christmas spirit we first attended a Christmas concert in Collegedale on the first of December. On the first weekend in December we went to an EPB open house Christmas party at the downtown office building on Saturday night. Later the same evening we met up with some friends and watched Polar Express 3D at our local IMAX theater. The next weekend on Saturday night we attended a formal EPB Telecom Christmas dinner which was held at a very nice ball room perched on the edge of Lookout Mountain. We enjoyed great food and excellent views of Chattanooga and the
blue angels
surrounding area from big picture windows. On Sunday we went to a free Michael Card Christmas concert and then visited Rock City's Garden of Lights the following Wednesday. I had never been to Rock City before so it was fun to follow the garden trail through the crevices and over various bridges. We also enjoyed seeing the waterfall and the views of Chattanooga from the overlook. The weather was pretty cold so we definitely got our money's worth with the free refills of hot chocolate. For those of you who aren't familiar with Rock City, it is a tourist trap that is advertised on "See Rock City" signs, bird houses and most famously barn roofs near highways across the US. Although it really is quite touristy it was fun to see all the pretty Christmas lights.


gingerbread house at rock city
At the start of our Christmas vacation Brenda and I drove up to my grandparent's house where we had supper with my grandparents, sister, aunt and my other grandmother before heading to the airport to pick up my parents. The next day we all drove down to Birmingham, Alabama where we spent Christmas weekend with my aunt and uncle and a family of five who are living with them right now. The family is from New Orleans and they lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. After Christmas in Alabama we drove back to my grandparent's house just in time to meet more family arriving from Ohio. We then spent the week and New Year's weekend at my grandparent's house where we celebrated Christmas a second time. In between visiting and eating excellent food we got in several games of croquet, ping pong and dominoes.

In January my parents, sister and Oregon grandma were still around for a while so they all came down and stayed with me in my new apartment for a few days. It was really
frozen white cedar swamp
nice to have enough extra space for company. My parents were still around on and off for most of January so we got to see them a couple more times before they headed back to Cyprus to start packing up their stuff. They are moving to southern California where they will be starting new jobs in April. The last week of January I went to Atlanta for some work related training and then on the weekend we got together with some friends to cook and play games.

We took two main trips in February, the first of which was to visit my former neighbors Bryan, Penny & kids near Athens, Georgia. It was a short trip but it was fun to catch up with them a little bit and to play with the kids some. Our second February trip was to visit Graham & Amber in Boston. The original plan was to go snow skiing, but the weather didn't cooperate. For several days before we arrived and on the day we had planned to ski temperatures at the slopes were well above freezing. After much deliberation we ended up driving out to Cape Cod instead of skiing. Although the weather had been too warm for skiing, the temperature dropped rapidly while we were exploring the Cape and the wind was blowing at 30+ mph. We didn't take any long
cold picnic
walks on the beach, and it started snowing while we were there. We had a great time though exploring the Cape by car and braving the cold weather to briefly visit several beaches. It was interesting to watch the snow accumulate and paint the sand dunes white. Instead of taking an extended walk on the beach we took a hike along a boardwalk in a White Cedar swamp. Thanks to the trees the trail was sheltered from the wind and the frozen, snow covered swamp was very peaceful and white. On our way back to Boston we stopped at a nice picnic area which of course we had to ourselves due to the cold weather. We sat close together as we ate our sandwiches and we were all glad to get back in the warm car at the end of our meal. It was below freezing and still very windy for our picnic and some of the veggies actually froze while we were preparing and eating our lunch. For the rest of the weekend we spent some time exploring Boston and visiting with Graham & Amber. In Boston we went on a tour of the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") which is the oldest commissioned warship afloat, walked part of the Freedom Trail, watched ice skaters on the Boston Commons and
old ironsides
enjoyed a panoramic view of the city from the observation deck on the 50th floor of the Prudential Tower. Unfortunately our flight was delayed Sunday evening so we didn't get back to Chattanooga until after 3am. We both had to go to work on just a few hours of sleep and it took several days to feel rested again. Overall it was a great trip though and we really enjoyed spending time with Graham & Amber.

Last Sabbath after church I went on a hike while Brenda rested and then on Sunday we attended Lawrence & Mildred's wedding. Yesterday after church we had a young adults potluck, went on a hike to a quarry and then spent the evening hanging out with some friends who came to visit from Virginia.

Well, I think that's about it for now. The rest of this month will be pretty busy as we are planning to go camping next weekend and then take a couple of long weekend trips after that. I will try to do better and have a new update posted before 6 months have passed again.

Until next time,

Andrew

June 29, 2006

Spring in Tennessee


air force museum in dayton
Greetings from Tennessee,

As usual I have been keeping busy since I last wrote. In the beginning of March Brenda and I joined our young adults group for a camping trip to Cades Cove in Smoky Mountain National Park. Friday night we had a good supper of chili followed by a nice vespers. On Sabbath morning several people from our group got up early to ride bikes around the 11 mile Cades Cove loop road. They were expecting the road to be closed to vehicles but it turns out that it only closes during the summer months. I don't own a bike so I decided to try the loop road on rollerblades instead while Brenda rode her bike. I had a pretty good skate although the road was rough in several places. The scenery was gorgeous and we saw plenty of deer and a large group of wild turkeys along the way. Just as we were coming back into the campground a friendly ranger informed me that skates are not allowed in the park so I agreed to skate directly back to my campsite to take them off. Back at camp we had a good church service and then some people went hiking in the afternoon while the rest of us enjoyed some lay activities involving
butterflies up close
hammocks.

On Sunday most of the group headed home early but a few of us took our time exploring a creek near our campsite before hitting the road. On the way back to Chattanooga Brenda and I stopped at the Lost Sea which is a roadside attraction promoted as "America's largest underground lake". The tour was a little pricey but we had fun following our guide through several large caverns to the underground lake. On the lake they have glass bottom boats although you can't really see anything other than an occasional fish through the glass bottom. The boat ride was fun though and it was interesting to hear about the discovery and development of the caverns and lake.

The next weekend marked the start of spring break so Brenda had a week off from work. I took a couple days off from my work at the start and end of the week so we were able to take two long weekend trips. On the first weekend we drove up to Lynchburg, VA to visit our friends Jonathan & Arianne who used to live here in Chattanooga. We had a
trees & flowers in bloom
nice time catching up and enjoyed a waterfall hike on Sabbath afternoon. On Sunday the guys played computer games while the girls went shopping and then in the evening we all got together and played some volleyball. The exercise we got playing volleyball was pretty much cancelled out though by our visit to Cold Stone Creamery after we finished playing.

On Monday morning Brenda and I got up early and drove to Snowshoe, WV for a day on the ski slopes. It took a bit longer than expected to get through the rental lines but once we did we enjoyed some decent skiing. It was rather late in the season so the only snow was on the ski runs. It just doesn't feel right to be skiing down a slope with bare ground on either side of the trail, but we still had lots of fun. After the lift lines closed and we returned the rentals we loaded up the car for the long drive back to Chattanooga. It actually snowed on the way back but not enough to cause any problems on the roads. We got back pretty late so I had a short sleep before going in to work the next morning.


fresh strawberries
Thursday after work we loaded up the car and hit the road again, this time bound for Dayton, Ohio for a visit with Brooke, Jeffrey & Elise. On Friday we visited the free Air Force museum where we rushed through all of the exhibits. The museum is very large so in some areas we were just walking without stopping to really look at anything. We did get to take the shuttle bus out to the experimental aircraft and presidential aircraft exhibits which were both fascinating. I could easily spend several days in the museum but at least we got a good overview tour. On Friday night I braved the snow flurries to pick Amber up from the airport just after Summer arrived from Maryland by car. We pretty much spent the rest of the weekend just visiting and hanging out together which was lots of fun. On Sunday we got on the road early in the afternoon so we made it back with enough time for a good nights sleep before going back to work on Monday.

In April we slowed down a little bit and spent several weekends here in Chattanooga although we did find time to visit my Grandparents in McMinnville over Easter weekend.
we went boating for Jonathan's batchelor party
My friend Matt who was in Guam with me also came for a visit in April and it was nice to spend some time catching up with him. The last weekend in April we drove up to Mt. Rogers State Park in Virginia and met Michael and Amelia for a weekend of camping. We stayed at a camp site right next to a stream so we got to drift off to sleep each night to the sound of running water. On Sabbath we explored the Grayson Highlands area where we hiked a short stretch of the Appalachian Trail and enjoyed watching the wild ponies. The pony herd was introduced years ago and is allowed to roam free in the park.

In May we spent the first weekend here in Chattanooga. The next weekend we enjoyed a camping trip closer to Chattanooga and picked our own fresh strawberries on the way back. We spent the third weekend in Lynchburg, Virginia for Jonathan & Arianne's wedding. The wedding weekend was busy but we enjoyed spending time with friends and the outdoor ceremony turned out beautifully. Over Memorial Day weekend Brenda and I flew out to Seattle, Washington where her parents picked us up from the airport
sunset over the tennessee river
Thursday night. From the airport we drove down to Portland, Oregon where we spent the weekend at my Grandmother's retirement center. My parents and my sister were there as well and we all stayed in guest rooms provided by the center. We enjoyed a good weekend of visiting, playing games, and doing puzzles. I also spent much of the time researching, buying and setting up a new computer and Internet connection for my Grandma. Her old computer and dialup ISP were both long overdo for an upgrade. On Sunday evening we got to meet up with Brenda's cousin and his family and then we were able to spend a little time with one of my good friends from high school and his family. We especially enjoyed playing with their two and half year old twins Arthur and Penelope. Bright and early Monday morning we headed back to the Seattle airport for the flight home. It was a pretty short trip, but the time with friends and family was definitely worth it.

So far things have continued to be busy in June. The first weekend of the month Brenda hosted our young adults potluck and then the following week we enjoyed a visit to the
the crowd at riverbend
Chattanooga Aquarium. We also spent time getting everything ready to go for Brenda's trip to Cambodia. A couple of days before Brenda left for Cambodia we went downtown to the family faith night of the Chattanooga Riverbend Festival. The featured artists for the night included Aaron Shust, FFH and Audio Adrenaline so it was a fun evening with a good variety of Christian music.

Since Brenda left two weeks ago I have still been keeping busy. The first weekend I stayed in town and helped with potluck at church, went hiking in the afternoon and then went to a young adults ice cream and game night. On Sunday I got up early and borrowed a bike for a 17 mile ride along the Chattanooga Riverwalk and then spent the rest of the day getting some things done around the house. This last weekend I attended Darlene & Steve's wedding on Friday after work and then had a nice visit with my grandparents in
the floating riverbend stage
McMinnville for the rest of the weekend. Brooke, Jeffrey & Elise recently moved to Nashville so they were also able to come up to McMinnville for the weekend. It's nice having them closer and I'm looking forward to seeing them more in the months to come. Sabbath after church we had some friends over including the new church school teacher Alicia and her husband Fred. Alicia was doing home study in Russia when we lived there so it was fun to catch up with her after many years. Saturday night we played volleyball with the local church group and then played dominos with my grandparents. Over the weekend we all enjoyed the fresh raspberries which are in full swing and on Sunday we made good use of them for breakfast. We had raspberry pancakes topped with fresh raspberries and raspberry syrup. Sunday afternoon I attended a welcome picnic for Alicia and Fred at the church school and played some more volleyball before driving back home.

This coming Thursday I will be leaving for Cambodia where I will join Brenda for a couple of weeks. For the first part of our trip we will be visiting her brother in the Mondulkiri Province and then we will do some traveling in Malaysia and Thailand for the second part. I'm looking forward to the trip and I'll be sure to post an update about it when I get back.

Until then,

Andrew

PS I finally got a new camera which I used to take the more recent pictures in this update. Also, I have upgraded my photo gallery software and moved it to a server with more disk space to make room for all the new pictures. Please let me know if there are any problems with the new gallery.

December 22, 2006

Engaged


newly engaged
Greetings from sunny California!

Well, the biggest news is that Brenda and I are now engaged! I proposed on Monday, December 18 at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle and she said yes! We are very excited and look forward to figuring out the details of when & where we'll be getting married.

Since it's been quite a while since my last update I'll write about what we've been up to since we got back from Cambodia back in July, and then fill in some more details about our engagement day at the end of this update.

In August Brenda fixed me a nice meal on my birthday and then surprised me with lots of our friends and an ice cream cake after supper. I enjoyed the evening and got a new board game called Puerto Rico as one of my presents. Since we had a bunch of friends together for my birthday I got to play the game that same night too. Later in the month we enjoyed a Chattanooga Lookouts baseball game with friends and then spent a weekend with family at a lakefront cabin near Smoky Mountain National Park. We all chipped in to rent the cabin in celebration of my cousin Amber's graduation from Harvard Law School. We had a great time swimming in the lake, eating lots of good food and just visiting together with over 20 people.


family at the lake
In September we drove up to Richmond, Virginia to spend Labor Day weekend with Brenda's cousins Michael & Amelia. We enjoyed relaxing and visiting together and on Sabbath afternoon we took a walk at Belle Island. We also made a couple of trips to a local Gelato parlor. The mint chocolate chip was very good but still came in second to my favorite brand in Cyprus. Later in September we enjoyed a number of activities with our young adults group including a baby dedication, some hiking, hosting potluck, a birthday party and a weekend camping trip. On the camping trip we went up to the Ocoee area with over 20 other young adults. On Sabbath four of us spent the afternoon floating down the Hiwassee River on
richmond
inner tubes. It was fun to relax and watch the scenery pass by and we also enjoyed going through several small rapids along the way. Saturday night it rained pretty hard while we slept but we stayed dry and the rain stopped just when we were ready to get up in the morning. The last weekend of the month we visited my uncle Steve & aunt LeAnne in Birmingham, AL. While there we enjoyed a visit to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on Sabbath. We were surprised to find quite a few flowers in bloom and had a fun time exploring the various winding trails. We also stopped at a large statue of Vulcan that overlooks the city. The statue is symbolic of the Steel industry which has been strong in the Birmingham area in the past. Saturday night we played a board game called Carcassonne which is a bit like Settlers and quite fun. On Sunday we visited a civil rights memorial and museum. It was sobering to realize that just a few short years ago segregation
camping group
was in full effect and the memorial helped show what it was like for people back then. Finally we watched Jane Goodall's Chimpanzee film at the IMAX dome theater before heading back to Chattanooga.

In October we spent the first weekend in rural northeast Georgia celebrating a friend's birthday. We stayed with her good friends in their log cabin home bordering national forest. It was a fun weekend filled with visiting, games and some hiking. My dad came for a quick visit the second week in October on his way from Maryland to California. He was driving a truck loaded with our stuff which had been stored in Maryland and he dropped some boxes off at my house. Now for the first time in about 5 years I have all of my things in one place again. Later in the month we went to a Big Daddy Weave & Mark Schultz
tubing the hiwasee river
concert with friends. We also went down to Steve & LeAnne's house again but this time my grandparents, my great uncle Elvin and his wife Pat were also there for the weekend. While there we enjoyed another visit to the Botanical Gardens in addition to lots of good food and visiting.

The first weekend in November Brenda and I flew down to Orlando, Florida. I went to attend a week long computer security conference for work but Brenda came along just for the weekend as part of her birthday celebration this year. Sabbath afternoon we enjoyed a picnic with Mike, his wife Christine and our friend Kellie and then spent the rest of the afternoon visiting & hiking with them. In the evening we went out to eat at a little French restaurant with outdoor seating which was fun. Sunday Brenda and I went to
water lily in birmingham
Cape Canaveral and toured the Kennedy Space Center. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit but found there was so much to do and see that we couldn't make it to everything. We did get to see the launch pads, hangars, Apollo exhibit and the space station exhibit. It was fun to see some of the actual modules which will be taken up to the space station on future missions. From the visitors center we drove down to Cocoa Beach for a quick stop before heading to the airport so that Brenda could catch her flight back to TN. I then spent most of the week attending the conference, although I did have an afternoon off on Wednesday to visit the two Universal theme parks. I enjoyed going on pretty much all of the roller coaster and movie rides. The weekend after my conference we got to see Rich & Melissa briefly at the Acrofest event hosted by Southern. We enjoyed watching many different gymnastics teams perform and then went out to eat together afterwards. The gymnastics teams all came together for a several days of training and workshops leading up to the night of performances. We spent Thanksgiving at my grandparents house in McMinnville, TN along with several cousins, aunts & uncles. We had a very nice
each star in the flag is 6 feet across
time together with family for the holiday. To finish off the month and bring in the Christmas season we went on a gospel music river cruise aboard the Southern Belle riverboat. We had a nice evening of music and good food and it was fun to see the lights of Chattanooga from the river.

We started December off by attending a Christmas Parade in downtown Chattanooga. After the parade we went to a Christmas open house at my work. Our company just moved into a brand new downtown building which is very nice so we enjoyed looking around and eating the supper they provided. My department didn't move though so we're still in the same older building with all of our network and telecom equipment a few miles from the downtown area. The next weekend we attended a Christmas concert at Southern and then enjoyed a young adults Christmas party Saturday night. We had a gift swap at the party and Brenda got two tickets to see a performance of It's a Wonderful Life the next day. On our way to the play we went out to eat at a Middle Eastern restaurant with another couple and then desserts were provided at the theater before the play started. We enjoyed the performance
saturn rocket engines used in apollo missions
and had a good time. The next Friday afternoon we drove up to Brooke & Jeffrey's house in Nashville, had a quick house tour and then Brooke drove us to the airport where we discovered that our flight to Chicago had been cancelled. It turned out that the earlier Chicago flight was delayed until our scheduled departure time though and they just put us on that flight instead. So, in the end we flew out at the time we had been planning on and made our connection to Seattle just fine. Since the Seattle airport had been having trouble earlier in the day most of the other flights to Seattle were delayed but thankfully ours was on time. We got into Seattle at around 1am and by the time we got to sleep it was 3am. Needless to say, we were very ready for bed. On Sabbath we spent time with Brenda's extended family and then enjoyed her cousin's wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. We spent all day Sunday preparing for and attending the wedding and then went out to eat with Brenda's cousins in the evening. I enjoyed getting better acquainted with everyone over the weekend and the wedding went very well.

Now back to the engagement details. Monday morning we were up early again to take Braden, Johanna & Keenan to the Seattle airport. After dropping them off Brenda and I drove into Seattle and went to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at
thanksgiving meal
the Pacific Science Center. The exhibit was very well done and we spent over 2 hours going through it. They explained all kinds of background information about the discovery, dating and preservation of the scrolls. An audio tour was also included and several actual scroll fragments and their translations were on display at the end of the exhibit. It is truly amazing to know that some of the same verses we read in our Bibles today have been accurately preserved and passed down over the years. After we finished going through the exhibit we then got some lunch before checking out the rest of the museum. They had lots of fun exhibits including a hands on tide pool, a butterfly garden, animatronic dinosaurs, and a number of live snakes & bugs. Towards the end of the
posing after the wedding we attended
afternoon we watched the movie Happy Feet in one of the museum's IMAX theaters. I had only told Brenda that we would be going some place nice for supper but she didn't know where or what exactly we were doing. Brenda had commented earlier in the day that she had never eaten at the revolving Space Needle restaurant before and she thought it would be fun to do some day. I responded by talking about when I had eaten in a similar restaurant at the CN tower in Toronto which she says made her think that we probably weren't going to the Space Needle. After the movie let out we walked towards the Space Needle and when we turned into the entrance Brenda got really excited and got excited again when she heard that we had reservations for the restaurant. We had a very nice meal including grilled Portobello mushrooms, a spinach mushroom side dish, and a salad made with apples, leafy greens, blue cheese and huckleberry vinaigrette dressing. For dessert Brenda got blackberry, raspberry & mango sorbet which was served in a dish suspended over dry ice.
space needle
The waiter added water to the dry ice at our table which made for a very impressive smoking dessert dish. I enjoyed an apple cranberry crisp for my dessert. During our meal the restaurant revolved about 2 times and it was a clear night so we enjoyed an amazing view in all directions. After dinner we walked upstairs to the observation deck. We walked around outside some but it was pretty cold so we mostly stayed inside. After walking around for a while we stopped to admire the view and Brenda remarked that it was very romantic. I then said that I knew a way to make it more romantic, but then we walked around a bit more as I was hoping to find just the right moment without too many people around. Finally the time was right and I got down on one knee. Brenda got very excited and hurried to kneel down and join me (she says she wanted to be closer to me). After a minute she stood back up and I asked the question. She didn't say anything for a while (she says she forgot to answer) so I asked again and then she said yes. We don't have a date or place set yet but we're very excited!

From Seattle we drove down to Olympia where we spent the night with friends. On the way we missed several turns and finally just had to stop for a few minutes as we were so distracted with calling our family to share our big news. In the morning we visited for a while and then drove up to Snoqualmie Pass for some snow skiing. Since we had already had such a busy weekend we decided
sorbet over dry ice
to just ski a half day, which was fun. Unfortunately we had some freezing rain for the first part of the afternoon but we still had some good runs and enjoyed spending time in the mountains. After skiing we drove back down to the Seattle area where we spent the night with friends before flying to California early Wednesday morning. Our flight was into LAX with a commuter hop over to the Ontario airport which is closer to my parents new house in Redlands. While we were waiting for our Ontario flight they asked for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for free tickets anywhere in the US and we were first in line to get the free tickets. Instead of putting us on another flight though, they just gave us a voucher for a shuttle van which drove us the 45 minutes to the Ontario airport. We ended up getting there about 10 minutes after our original flight arrived and even saw some of the passengers who were on the flight in the baggage claim area. It definitely was the easiest time I've ever had volunteering to get bumped for free tickets.


view from the space needle
Now we are enjoying a more relaxing week at my parents house along with my sister, my mom's two sisters and my grandma. My grandma recently moved from Portland, Oregon to a home about 10 minutes away from my parents. After this week we'll fly back to Seattle to spend nearly a week in Wenatchee with Brenda's family before heading back to TN. Well, that's what we've been up to for the last several months. Brenda is still enjoying her job as a middle school counselor and I'm still enjoying my work as well. In the next few months we're looking forward to several visits from friends and a couple of trips too.

Merry Christmas!

Andrew

More pictures are in the gallery.

May 7, 2007

New House, Wedding Planning, Phoenix & Spokane


Brenda's Family
Greetings!

Things have been very busy for Brenda and I since my last update. We have of course been working on our wedding plans, but we also completed the process of buying a house during the last couple of months. The new house is just a few minutes from my old apartment and is situated at the end of a cul-de-sac on a quiet street. The house has 3 bedrooms, a vaulted ceiling in the living room, a loft and a 2 car garage. There is also a very nice backyard with a fountain and woods on 2 sides. We feel very blessed to have found such a nice place and are excited about having our own home.

After I wrote my last update we enjoyed a good holiday visit with Brenda’s family in Wenatchee. We spent the first few days with her parents and then Braden, Johanna &
Brenda & Andrew
Keenan joined us for the rest of our time together. We especially enjoyed opening Christmas presents with baby Keenan who had just had his first birthday.

Since the holidays we have stayed in Chattanooga for most of the weekends since there have been plenty of things to keep us busy here. We did however take some time to visit my grandparents in McMinnville a couple of times. We also enjoyed a fun visit from Graham & Amber and Rich & Melissa over a long weekend in February. In March we enjoyed a relaxing weekend away visiting friends in northern Georgia at their log house in the country. On Sunday, April 1 we moved my things into the new house and then Brooke and Elise come down to visit for Easter the following weekend. My grandparents also joined us from McMinnville so there were guests in both of the extra bedrooms. It
New House
was fun to entertain company and to have room for everyone. The following Wednesday the Ondap family who I knew in Guam came and spent the night. In total there were three adults and three kids in their family so I had fun entertaining again in the new house.

The third week in April I traveled to Phoenix to attend a work related training class. I made my travel arrangements to Los Angeles instead though in order to spend both weekends with my family. I spent the first weekend at my parents house in Redlands before driving to Phoenix Sunday night. During the week I mostly just attended class and then relaxed at the hotel in the evenings although I did hike up Camelback Mountain one evening. After class on Friday I drove back to California with a stop at Pine Springs Ranch. I stopped at the camp to see where my sister Sarah is now living and working at her new job. I was surprised to find an inch or two of snow covering the ground and all of the trees at the camp. The snow was very beautiful and it was an unexpected treat to enjoy a little bit of cool weather on this trip. It was still snowing a little when we headed down out of the mountains to meet my parents in Fallbrook, but fortunately it didn’t stick to the roads so the driving was fine. My parents were involved in a Quiet Hour retreat in
Easter Egg Hunt
Fallbrook so I joined them for the weekend. I enjoyed learning more about the Quiet Hour and also got to spend some time visiting with my family between meetings.

This past weekend Brenda and I flew out to Spokane, WA to attend her 10 year high school alumni weekend. Brenda’s parents also joined us for the weekend so we had a fun time visiting with her old friends, seeing her school campus and spending time with her
Camelback Mountain
parents.

In the midst of all the busyness Brenda started getting sick and was eventually diagnosed with mononucleosis. Mono is a virus which drains your energy and it typically takes a month or longer to recover from. The only real treatment for mono is to get lots of rest. As you can imagine it’s hard for Brenda to slow down and rest right now but she has been taking time off work and is gradually regaining her energy. We don’t know how long it will take for her to fully get back to normal but she is doing much better already.

Well, I think that’s about all the news for now. As usual there are more pictures online including albums of our engagement, our new house and the church where we will be getting married.

Until next time,

Andrew

August 31, 2007

Final Entry on www.andrewsupdates.com

This is the final entry on www.andrewsupdates.com. Please visit our new web site www.PorterUpdates.com to view all current and future updates.

Andrew