Monday, August 15, 2016

2016 European River Cruise

For our fortieth wedding anniversary we took ourselves on a river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam.  We travelled on three different rivers: the Danube, Main and Rhein.  We also passed through five countries, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.  Walt's dad always said how beautiful Germany was and how he would like to go visit again.  He was absolutely right.  The scenery was absolutely breathtaking and we took over 2200 photos.  That has been trimmed down significantly for this blog, which will just capture a small portion to get a taste of the scenery, especially in Germany.  Most impressive is that most of the German heavy industry is along these rivers and so was heavily bombed during World War II but it all has been restored beautifully  This blog will progress along the tour by day with links to photos for that day.  When the album comes up, click the first photo to get a larger photo plus to see the captions on the right under "Info".

But before showing the countryside what was intriguing was the fact that we had to climb from an altitude of 380 ft in Budapest to 1,332 ft before descending back down to sea level in Amsterdam.  To accomplish this requires passing through 68 locks.  Each lock raises or lowers a boat some amount.  The largest displacement was 82 ft.  If you think of 82 ft, that is an eight story building!  It is difficult to show the enormity of this lock in a photograph.  However, we took some interesting photos that give you a feel of traveling through locks that you can see here.  Here are two videos to give a feel of what it is like when the water drains out of a lock, video1, video 2.

The trip began in Budapest.  Photographs of our time there ares shown here.  We were two and a half days in Budapest.  Walt was there two years ago so could give a little bit of a guided tour for Nancy around the Chain Bridge areas.  The second day we visited the countryside and a horse farm and saw a horse show  The third day was ur first cruise day.

Next stop was Vienna.  Of special interest were the Hapsburg summer and winter palaces.  Totally awesome.  Photos are here.

The next day we cruised up the beautiful Wachau Valley.  Photos are here but don't have captions since the photos are just of the beautiful scenery as we cruised.   All suites have a balcony so that made taking photos easier.  A sun deck was available to take photos on either side of the boat.

The next port of call was Melk.  The feature here was an Abbey up on a mountain.  Photos are shown here.

Next on the list was Passau, which was another quaint medieval town.   The interesting feature, besides the church with the more than 17,000 pipes on a pipe organ, was a fortress across the Danube from where you could see the confluence of the three rivers surrounding Passau. Photos are shown  here.

Next stop was Regensberg, which is another of the many medieval towns along the river.  We always found the narrow streets and unique medieval architecture very fascinating.  Again, remember many of these towns were bombed out during the war.  Photos can be seen here.

This is followed by another cruise day through the beautiful river valleys,this time along the Main-Danube Canal.  Photos, because it was a cruise day, are not captioned but are shown here.

The next location is Nüremburg.  Walt was particularly interested in taking the WWII tour since he is somewhat of a WWII buff.  Nüremburg was the center of Nazi propaganda that ended in this location with the Nüremburg trials at the end of the war.  Because it had such an important place in the Nazi era, it was essentially totally destroyed by allied bombing at the end of the war.  But today you can't tell.  Photos are shown here.  Hitler definitely was an egomaniac, judging by the size of everything.

Bamberg was founded in 902 and remains a medieval-looking city known for its symphony orchestra and rauchbier.  The winding streets are filled with baroque patrician houses and are the home to the breathtaking 11th century Cathedral of Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich II.  Photos of the side streets, houses, cathedral and the palace of the prince-bishop, a rather large edifice, can be found here.

We took a one and a half hour bus ride to one of the last remaining walled medieval towns in Germany.  The towns name is Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  The trip was well worth it because this town is beautifully preserved and was absolutely gorgeous.  Because of the 30 year war, a major siege and then the plague in the 17th century the town came  to a standstill and did not grow.  This allowed the town to be preserved until it was rediscovered in 1802.   Not much was done to it so it does reflect the town as it was in the 17th. Century.  Photos are shown here.

On our return from Rothenburg ob der Tauber we toured the Bishop´s residence in Würzburg.  It is one of German´s largest and most ornate palaces.  The photos, that we were allowed to take, are shown here.

We then cruised from Würaburg to Wertheim.  Since this was just a cruise, we again just snapped pictures of the beautiful countryside.  Photos without captions are shone here.  Of interest was the wall built on my birthday except 79 years before I was born

The next stop was Wertheim.  It is at the confluence of the Main and Tauber rivers.  Noteworthy is Wertheim Castle that sits on top of a hill overlooking the town.  Photos are shown here

Next was an all day cruise along the Rhein narrated by the cruise director.  What was striking was that every town has a church unique to that town and almost every hill along the river had a castle, some of which have become hotels or hostels and others are simply ruins.  But most significant is the Lorelei that inspired Heinrich Heine to write the Lorelei.  There is a photo of the Lorelei.  Walt memorized the words and the tune some 50 years ago and remembered them all.  The photos, without captions, can be found here.

The next day we were at Koblenz where we had a tour of the Marksburg Castle.  We really enjoyed the castle tour as it took you back to medieval times.  The photos are shown here.

We then arrived at Cologne.  Of particular note was the city's 14th century cathedral, a stunning example of Gothic artistry.  It was spared allied bombing during WWII.  Photos are shown here and the captions give more details on the cathedral.

Our final stop was in the Netherlands in a town called Kinderdijk.  The main features here were windmills.  Photos of this port of call are shown here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

GMP trip in Quito, Ecuador 2016

We just came back from a very interesting GMP music missions trip to Quito, Ecuador.  It was a little different than the usual in that typically we have about a dozen worship services on our itinerary, this time we only had four because our time was spent every afternoon with music camp for kids and masters classes that were open to all.  We did get to see a lot of Quito, and at 9,500 ft, it was very picturesque and interesting.  The photos are all captioned so, again, it is like a travel log.  The intent is that after our last GMP trip in 25 years, we can look back and be reminded of what we saw.

The Team

It is always good to see who the team members are.  Here are photos of the team.

Worship Services

Photos of the services can be found here.

There are also some videos that were made available, taken with a smartphone.  The first full service was televised and the plan was to have it streaming.  However, until then, here is a link to one interesting feature we observed..

          Videos of panderistas, or worship dancers, here.
          Worship team at Verbo is here.
          Full orchestra on Joyful, Joyful is here.
          Orchestra playing Majesty is here.
          Leading and singing Te Alabare is here.
          Trumpeter extraordinaire on Amazing Grace is here.
          Wild trombone solo on Jericho is here.

Music Camp

Photos of the music camp can be seen here.  There were some videos made so you can get the flavor of the music camp.

          Video of trumpet demonstration at music camp is found here,
          Video of kids singing "I Believe" is here.
          Video of kids singing "My God is So Strong" is here.
          Orchestra playing Ecuadorian National Anthem is here.

Ecuadorian Food

An important element of any GMP trip is food.  We had breakfast at the places we stayed every day and lunch and dinner were typically served at Alliance Academy International (AAI), the location of the music camp.  However, there were several special dinners we had but ending with a banquet at AAI.  Here are photos of various food venues.

Scenes Around Quito

Even though we were kept quite busy, we did get to see a little around Quito.  Of course, being at 9,500 feet and in the mountains, it is very picturesque.  Here are photos of various locations.

Basílica del voto Nacional

One of the special places we visited was the Basílica del voto Nacional.  Construction of the Basilica was launched in 1884 and finally consecrated and inaugurated in 1988.  The Basilica remains technically "unfinished."  Local legend says that when the Basilica is completed, the end of the world will come  Here are photos of the Basilica.

Excellent Public Transportation Concept

The first time I saw this concept was in Curitiba, Brazil and doing research on it, apparently other cities were using this as a model.  The concept is providing busses total use of the center lanes of main streets.  Guadalajara in the last two or three years has begun construction of this nature.  The concept can be seen in Quito in the photos presented here.


There always is time for shopping, especially when there are deals to be had at a market.  The trip to Quito is no different.  Here are photos of the market that we visited.

         Here is a video to give a feel of the market

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bulgaria GMP Trip, October 2015

We generally post our GMP trips within a week after returning.  However, the more we are retired the less time we seem to have.  We like to put the blog out in the form of a travelogue because then when we are old and gray and in our rocking chairs we can reminisce without having to think about it. The travelogue is on a day-to-day basis.  We essentially covered all of Bulgaria so we spent a lot of timing viewing the countryside from the bus. Included is a map showing which cities we were in on which days.  To cover all of this, we stayed in a different hotel each night amounting to eight motels.  We did perform seven concerts with smaller groups going to a children's home and other places.  Captioned photos associated with each of the days are linked to the following:

Map of Bulgaria and our itinerary

Flight from Guadalajara, Mexico to Sofia, Bulgaria

First Friday evening - first time meeting other orchestra members at one and only rehearsal

Saturday in Sandanski - Concert at Sandanski Baptist Church

Sunday in Plovdiv - Concert in Sandanski Church

Monday in Kazanluk - Concert in theater near Old Town

Tuesday in Varna on the Black Sea - Concert at Second Baptist Church in Varna

Wednesday visit to Veliko Turnovo and ending in Vratsa - travel day, no concert

Thursday at Learning Center in Borovtsi with a concert and hotel in Montana - Concert om City of Montana

Friday, our last day - concert in Roma (Gypsy) community and then short program for Bulgarian Baptist Congress

We also took videos of some interesting sounds.

This video is of a shepherd playing his sheep stomach bagpipe.  We thought this was an instrumented needed for the orchestra.

This video is of a Bulgarian serenading us after our final dinner in Sofia, Bulgaria.  This guy can play!!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Upcoming trip for Nancy

This is Nancy writing.  This April I am going with an orchestra group to Cuba.  The country is very poor, but as the US starts relaxing travel restrictions we hope that money that tourism brings into the country will actually benefit the people. As things currently stand, we will be traveling on educational visas.  They allow us no more than 25 visas per trip, and we are still waiting for approval. We will be working with local musicians, teaching workshops, continuing to build relationships started on other trips, and giving concerts.  I am going as the sound tech, and will also be doing training sessions.  Sometimes groups bring sound or musical equipment and donate it here, and as happens in our own little church here in Mexico, there is often good equipment that is not being used or maintained properly, because someone has just figured out the basics on their own, and doesn’t really know how to get the best out of what they have.  I also bring a unique perspective of service and worship to being a sound tech, which is hard to find among the personalities that are generally drawn to technical ministries.

I ask for your prayer support for my trip. This is the first time I will have gone on a music trip without Walt. I ask for prayer for good Spanish, for love for the people I will be working with, for health, and for physical strength (sound equipment is heavy!)  Walt and I try to budget for at least one music ministry trip each year, and are joining a group to Curitiba, Brazil in the fall. While I feel that the Lord is telling me that I am supposed to go, this particular trip is not in our budget.  If you would consider helping me with the cost of the Cuba trip, which is about $2,000, not including the cost to get to Miami (the meeting place for the charter flight), and the cost of the visa, you can click this link , enter GMP-238 (Cuba) under Project, and my name under Participant.  Thanks, so much, for being one of our blog readers!  We try to share our lives a little bit with you, and hope you enjoy knowing what we are doing in retirement.  We sometimes think that God hears the word “retirement” and says, “Oh, you have new tires?  Let’s go for another 50,000 miles!”





Monday, November 24, 2014

GMP Israel Trip October 2014

We just returned from a splendid 17 day trip to Israel.  Part was to visit with our friends, Climmy and Mollie, and work with them to get the right equipment and then return it.  Eight of those days was with a group of excellent musicians providing musical concerts and training in Israel.  This blog consists primarily of a pictorial travelogue.  All the photos are captioned.  There are two accompanying videos.  In the pictorial travelogue are photos of a Bar Mitzvah and a cruise on the Sea of Galilee.  One of the accompanying videos, found here, is of the Bar Mitzvah and the music that goes along with it, and the other is of some of our team dancing to Hebrew music on the Sea of Galilee boat ride. This video is found here.  Here is a link to a compilation of song excerpts at various venues of our orchestra that you can listen to as you view the pictorial travelogue.  The travelogue can be found here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Uncle Walt's Hungary Traveblog

On 3 July I flew to Hungary for another Global Missions Project Orchestra (GMP) missions trip.  I returned on 12 July.  As far as flights go, it was perfect.  Landed 15 to 20 minutes early at 3 stops on the way out and 2 on the return.  Planes were full but the flights uneventful.  The purpose of this blog is to summarize the trip with photos.  I took over a thousand photos but only selected the most interested for this blog.  All the photos are captioned with information as a help to understand our time in Hungary.  The "traveblog" will be on a day-by-day basis.  The following is a map of the area of Hungary that we were in.  The cities we visited are in red and will be referred to in the blog.  All in all, Hungary is a very beautiful and interesting country.
First of all let me begin by explaining the "Uncle Walt".  As usual I made my presence known pretty quickly, I have a strange habit of doing that.  Allyson, who we have been with on other GMP trips, and our concert mistress, Ardis, soon asked if I minded being called Uncle Walt because of either my goofiness or my wisdom, as manifest by my white hair, or both or neither.  A few days into the trip Camp, our director, happened to join the lunch group that we were in and said, "Uncle Walt, since you are in the middle, why don't you say the blessing?"  So he had heard - thanks Ardis.   Then, when taking role call on the bus, when he came to strings he asked "violins - all present, violas - all present, celli - all present", and then, instead of the usual "string bass" he said, "I guess its official now, Uncle Walt, are you here?"  And so it became official and stuck.  

Since I was one of the first to get to Budapest, 10 am Friday morning, there was a waiting period as others came in with the largest group arriving at 4 pm.  This gave me a chance to meet some of the others that arrived at 12 and at 2 as well as our sponsors who were there to meet us.  When everyone arrived we drove to the hotel in Bicske and checked in.  Then we had our first Hungarian meal, spaetzle and pork.  After dinner we walked to the church and had our one and only real rehearsal.  This can be intimidating as most of the 45 members of the orchestra met for the first time and then ran through 16 songs.  Having been on a number of GMP trips before, this was my tenth, I have to say I was impressed with the professionalism of this group.  Actually, to begin rehearsal we all stated our name, where we are from and what church we go to.  Now to remember 45 names.  Fortunately I knew almost half of the orchestra members from the previous trips.  Photos of our first day can be seen here.

On Saturday morning we returned to the church and ran through some more of the songs.  We then went for lunch in a local shopping center.  We did have a little free time that afternoon so I walked to a village that had a stork's nest on top of the power line poles.  There was a mama, papa and two baby storks.  This is the first time I had seen something like this.  Later that afternoon we had a musicians call at the church in order to get ready for our first concert.  Then after the concert, we ate home made goulash.  Someone provided us all with the recipe.  It was delicious.  Photos for this day can be seen here.

On Sunday we drove back to Budapest to attend morning service at the International Church of Budapest.  The service was all in English but translation was still provided for any Hungarians that may have been in the audience.  After service we drove to downtown Budapest and walked around.  This was the first real closeup we had of the Danube River.  I didn't realize it was this wide.  The first thing I noticed was all the Viking River Cruise boats docked up.  One of these days we plan to do that.  Downtown Budapest looked like any large city with Gucci type stores all over the place.  What is impressive is the transformation that must have occurred in the last 25 years.  After spending time in Budapest we drove to Nagykanizsa.  The closest pronunciation is Nagee-kah-nidja.  Photos of this day are given here.

The plan for Monday was to begin with music classes for anyone who signed up.  We had one boy on trumpet, some recorders and a guitar.  This meant that only a small subset of our orchestra was required for the classes.  Camp brought out some arrangements and we had a flute ensemble play for a while, then woodwinds, then strings and finally brass.  So those of us not involved were treated to some good music and those involved had the fun of playing in ensembles.  We then went to lunch and toured Nagykanizsa.  It is a beautiful town and we enjoyed it immensely.  Then, after eating again at dinner, we held an outdoor concert in the park.  Photos for Monday can be found here.

On Tuesday, since the numbers of students was small, plans were made for small ensembles to visit an orphanage and a home for mentally disabled.  The rest of the orchestra not involved got to see more of Nagykanizsa and do some shopping.  After lunch we traveled to Zalaegerszeg for another outdoor concert in the evening.  The photos for Tuesday can be seen here.

Wednesday began for small ensembles to visit an old people's home.  Others had the opportunity to visit a museum in Nagykanizsa.  After lunch we drove towards Lenti for another outdoor concert.  On the way to Lenti we stopped by the Zalaerdo Arboretum.  It was very picturesque.  Some of us went to the top of a hill that had a large tower where we had a beautiful of the surrounding area.  Others went to a lake.  I chose the tower on the hill.  After the Arboretum we ended in Lenti for dinner and the evening concert.  During the day the sky was threatening rain and lightening.  Sure enough, about two songs short of the end of the concert we had to quickly pack up all the equipment and instruments to protect them from the rain.  However, a rather large crowd hung in there until we packed up.  Photos can be seen here.

We checked out of the hotel in Nagykanizsa on Thursday and departed to Velence to meet up with the missionaries in Budapest.  These are different from the ones that helped us throughout our stay in Nagykanizsa.  When we got to Velence and ate lunch I saw a sign for Langos.  Knowing how good that was, I had to have some and now wish I had seen more places that served this, it was that good.  After lunch and with our missionaries on board, we drove for a more extensive tour of Budapest.  The missionaries arrived in Hungary 24 years ago when there were still Soviet soldiers around.  I sat beside the missionary wife and she was able to tell me how much Hungary has changed in those years.  It is quite phenomenal.  We had an excellent tour of Budapest and is fascinating how a city that was essentially bombed out in World War 2 could be restored to its previous glory in only 70 years.  The Hungarians have done an incredible job, you really can't tell that there was any damage.  After our tour we checked into our hotel in Budapest and then went to the Kispest Baptist Church for dinner and our evening concert.  Pictures of Thursday can be seen here.  The folks at the church recorded the entire concert.  It is in two parts.  Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 here.  This will give you a taste of what the orchestra sounded like.  It is best to use good speakers or earphones.

The last song of the program was the Hungarian National Anthem.  When we began playing they would all stand up and sing with full voice.  This was always very moving, you don't see too much of that any more.  After ending the song they remained standing and it became totally silent to the point you could hear a pin drop.

After breakfast on Friday morning, we were suppose to go tour the Shoes on the Danube promenade.  However it was still raining pretty hard so we went to the very large Budapest market.  On our way there, we passed the square where the Soviets held there military parades.  Our pianist's mother, both of who are Hungarian, sat beside me and told me what she saw in this square during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.  The stories she told me of what she saw here and in other areas of Budapest during the Hungarian Revolution were mind boggling - very difficult to believe.  But, she was an eye witness.  At the Budapest market we were able to purchase all sorts of stuff.  After the market we went on a tour of the Dohany Street Synagogue, the second largest to one in New York City.  They had a holocaust museum on the side and going through that and realizing this was Hungary were Hungarians actually experienced it, I broke down.  It is difficult to imagine humans doing this to fellow humans.  But it reaffirmed in my mind that satan is alive and well.  We then went to Castle Hill and toured the Fisherman's Bastion, a very large castle.  Again, the reconstruction after World War 2 is amazing to behold.  After our tour of Castle Hill we went to Budarok Baptist Church for our final concert, of course, preceded by dinner.  The photos of our last day in Hungary can be seen here.  The interesting thing of this concert is after the program they would clap in unison, which meant they wanted encores.  We usually did the Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms.  At this concert they asked for more so we played one more.  But then they asked for another encore.  At this point Camp said, "this has to be the last one, we have no more music".

I learned an important lesson at this last concert.  A single string bass in an orchestra of this size, you might not think it can be heard and I could ask the question "why am I here?".  But after the concert a young guy in his thirties came up to me and thanked me profusely, in broken English, for coming to play.  He said he just loved to hear the string bass, his favorite instrument.  I asked if he could really hear it.  His comment, "Yes I could hear every note.  I just sat back, closed my eyes and enjoyed every note you played".  Lesson learned is that on a tour like this, you never know what kind of an impact you might have.   I was reminded of Hebrews 11:8 where it talks about Abraham "He went, not knowing where his was going".  The important thing is Abraham's responsibility was to obey and go, the rest was God's problem.  So not knowing where we were going, what we were doing or what impact we had - not our problem, that is God's because He simply called us and we are to obey - that is the lesson.

Finally on Saturday morning some of us got up at 3 am to go to the airport.  Some others decided to stay up.  I had long flights back to Guadalajara so I decided, and I think wisely so, to catch a few hours sleep prior to leaving.  The hotel gave us monster sack breakfasts and we left for the airport, said our goodbyes and returned to our homes.  Was it a successful trip?  God called us to it so the answer is a resounding "YES".

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thailand 2014

We took our yearly January trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand to visit our kids and grandkids there. All but the two youngest girls are in school now so the days are quite quiet around the house. The oldest, Pan, is in her third year of college and is doing well. We had lunch at her apartment the first Sunday we were there. Walt also had the privilege of playing bass at Adam and Cindy's church that Sunday so now he can add Thailand to the list of countries in which he has played his bass. Cindy is very busy teaching at the school that the kids attend, plus teaching a large number of dance classes. Next month she has her school's dance recital - we just wish we could be there to help out on that as well as see it. This blog will again be mostly photos with captions.

But before we went to Thailand we had Christmas with two of our boys, Andrew and Eric.  We didn't get up to see Jason, Caryn, Alexa and Cassandra but we did get to see Kirsty and Brian in October for the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival.  We posted in our blog on that event and it can be found here.  The photos of our Christmas in Mexico with Andrew and Eric can be found here.

Now for our trip to Thailand, let us first of all introduce you to our family there. Photos of all of them, but one, plus some of their activities can be seen here. The "but one" is a teenage girl who doesn't like her pictures taken. Sounds familiar.

We had the privilege of attending Cindy's classes one morning.  It was an English class so we helped with group activities.  Because almost all of the students are Thai, the level of English understanding varies so her class is made up of students from first to sixth grade.  Not only does the level of English proficiency but of course the learning abilities and maturity levels vary.  Here are photos of her class that we helped out in. By the way, we had a blast working with these students.

One special item we wanted to share was our little miracle girl, Asia. Some of you may remember that she was born early and placed in oxygen which is believed to have damaged her brain as well as her eyesight. She is essentially legally blind but can tell light from dark objects. She will come and caress your cheek and, for example, say "Opa?". She came to Adam and Cindy four years ago this summer. At that point she was two but couldn't walk or talk and was very picky on what she ate and had to be fed. After three and a half years in a loving, caring and safe home her progress has been absolutely amazing. Here is a video showing her four years ago and some of her accomplishments now. 

While we were there a friend of ours began a photography class that included a tour of interesting places in Chiang Mai, as well as teaching how to use a camera properly and how to take quality photos. Walt had received a DSLR last year so wanted to take advantage of this opportunity so that he might add photography to his bag of tricks. Turns out Walt was the first paying student and for this class, was the only student. He had excellent one-on-one time and learned a lot. He learned a significant amount of composition and lighting plus getting to see more of Chiang Mai. He ended up taking close to 500 photos, a sampling of which is here

While we were with Adam and Cindy, someone began construction on a house right across the fence from where they live. Since living in Mexico we have been interested in the way construction takes place in different countries. So we took photos as the construction took place over the four week period that we were there. They do apply very interesting techniques and are not squelched by OSHA as you can see no hardhats and, in some cases, workers wearing flip flops. A glimpse of construction can be seen here

And as we say goodbye to Thailand we include a few absolutely gorgeous sunset shots. These can be seen here.