2015 in Pictures

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As per the holiday letter, here are 28 more images from our 2015. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas 2014

Per our Christmas letter, here are some pictures from our 2014. Thanks for viewing!

Nicaragua Trip. Playing footies with the local boys. Oh, I mean "futbol."
Nicaragua Trip. Playing footies with the local boys. Oh, I mean “futbol.”
Sitting pretty in the cockpit of the jet.
Sitting pretty in the cockpit of the jet.
This is Delta Bravo Zebra 652 ready for takeoff (or something like that)
This is Delta Bravo Zebra 652 ready for takeoff (or something like that)
Chaise tells Santa he wants to become a Mine Craft character for Christmas
Chaise tells Santa he wants to become a Mine Craft character for Christmas
Digging for diamonds in Murfreesboro, Ark., for Chaise's birthday.
Digging for diamonds in Murfreesboro, Ark., for Chaise’s birthday.
Ahhhhhh-some! Gotta go to Chuck E Cheeze on the birthday too!
Ahhhhhh-some! Gotta go to Chuck E Cheeze on the birthday too!
Cool Dude for the Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree for Rogers Parade. Our float won first place!
Cool Dude for the Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree for Rogers Parade. Our float won first place!
Plaza in Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico. Belleza.
Plaza in Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico. Belleza.
Fitting a cutie with glasses in the eye glass clinic.
Fitting a cutie with glasses in the eye glass clinic.
Vicuna in the Andes. It wasn't all work on the mission trip!
Vicuna in the Andes. It wasn’t all work on the mission trip!
Working with the kids in Cajamarca, Peru
Working with the kids in Cajamarca, Peru
Last day of work. Wore down in Cajamarca, Peru!
Last day of work. Wore down in Cajamarca, Peru!
Off she goes to college. Gwen says, "Yay!" Mom says, "Waaaa!"
Off she goes to college. Gwen says, “Yay!” Mom says, “Waaaa!”
Gwen gets funky with her college roomie, Anna.
Gwen gets funky with her college roomie, Anna.
Daddy is pack leader and Chaise is a model scout!
Daddy is pack leader and Chaise is a model scout!
Gwen helped a lot of people see better this year. Another eye glass clinic in Nicaragua.
Gwen helped a lot of people see better this year. Another eye glass clinic in Nicaragua.

If you’d like to see some of Gwen’s really neat photos from her first photography class at JBU, visit her Flickr Page.

Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina, or My Country, Tis of Thee I Sing

Old World Bakeries or Why I Haven’t Lost Weight

Assortment of cakes

post by Donna
To be honest, I was not sad to say farewell to the cuisine of Brazil, but there is one thing I’m gonna miss: the bakeries. Fortunately, Uruguay and Argentina also have these wonderful European baking traditions with delicious fresh bread and pastries galore. And you can find one every few blocks.
The cakes are works of art, and have a lot going on by comparison to our cakes at home. They are packed full of surprises and ingredients – fruits, nuts, creams – but they really don’t taste all that great. You can buy them by the slice! This is great but I almost feel guilty for asking the baker to cut into a beautiful complete cake.
Here in Argentina, dulce de leche, a caramel-like cream, is (in my opinion) just overused – as icing on cakes – and most notably spread between cookies to create the national obsession: alfajores. I guess if there were a US- equivalent, it would be the black and white sandwich cookie (Oreo).
Enjoy these pictures and I’ll be sure to eat a pastry for you!

In Uruguay and Argentina, they are called Confiterias - this one was in Montevideo, Uruguay



Buenos Aires – Gwen

Hola from Buenos Aries! We’ve been here about a week and a half now, relaxing and seeing the city. It’s a really gorgeous place, very picturesque (hence the thousands of pictures on my camera). We’ve had some pretty great experiences so far. We’ve gone to the capital building, the Pink House, like our White House, but pink! Dad and I toured it, it wasn’t too interesting to us, but it was nice looking on the inside. We visited the only matte museum in the world; a little whole in the wall with hundreds of matte cups behind glass. They sold matte cake, which was surprisingly delicious. We bought some, scared that it might taste like the actual matte, which in my opinion is GROSS. Made with the same plant as chimarrão from Brazil, which I thought wasn’t all that great, until I tried matte. Chimarrão is great. Another place we saw was Recoleta, I guess it’s called. It’s a huge graveyard that looks like a little city, full of mausoleums. It’s famous not only because of all the mausoleums, but because Eva Peron is buried there; I’m not really sure who she is, but she is very famous and important in Argentine history. But, I thought it was very creepy, looking into the windows of the above-ground graves and seeing bunches of coffins. Not exactly my cup of tea. We’ve done a lot more interesting things, but what I really wanted to write about was my tango class today! 😀
On the weekends, and some weeknights, you can walk through street markets and see couples dancing tango. It’s very exciting to see, and really makes you want to learn to tango! So, that’s what I did. The class took place above a fancy little café, in a huge upstairs ballroom. When we first got there, there was nobody except older people. I was terrified that either I’d be in the class by myself, or have to dance with some old man. Thankfully, a few minutes later, a big group of kids from Los Angeles showed up and accompanied me. The class was very fun, and not nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. Tango looks like a very fast, complicated dance, but it’s really pretty slow and the steps are very easy, once you get into the basic posture and balance. You definitely have to be light on your feet. I never really relaxed through the whole class, but things got easier for me. I enjoyed it a lot! Hopefully I’ll be going back for another class on Sunday night at 9! Pretty late, but that’s when everything starts here! I’m very excited to expand my tango knowledge. It’s a beautiful dance! If you’re ever in Argentina or Uruguay (it’s big there, too), take a tango class!!!!! It’s a must.
Gotta go now, Mom’s making chicken curry with the coconut milk from Chinatown, haha. (:

From Brazil to Argentina

Post by Donna
Well, we left Joaçaba almost a month ago and have been steadily moving southward until May 6 when we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina. So this is just a recap of the last few weeks with some highlights to get us caught up.
The last days in Joaçaba were full of food – lots of good-bye meals! Moving out was complicated by John springing a hernia on the second item he moved. So Fabiano from church (poor guy) and I moved all the rest. John spent that afternoon and evening in the ER just confirming the diagnosis – pain meds are the only remedy short of surgery, which they recommended for when he returned home.
The move was one load off our plate, but 10 heavy suitcases and LOTS of transitions meant a lot more moving for Gwen and me. We just shipped the heaviest of those suitcases off to the States last night and I was sooo happy to see those huge bags go I didn’t even mind when the airlines said it would cost $200 in extra baggage fees! Good riddance! (What was in those anyway???)
Our first stop after Joaçaba was to spend a few days in Panabi, Rio Grande do Sul, the southern-most state of Brazil, visiting Eli, Cris and Vanessa in their new home. However, their home was too small to add anyone else, so they set us up with the pastors of their church, the Heep family. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them and when we left, we said good-bye to two sets of friends in Panabi, the Zamoras and the Heeps.

Chocolate tree in Swiss, chocolate-making town, Gramado, Brazil

Next stop was Porto Alegre, the southern-most large city in Brazil. We stayed there several days and used it as a base to visit famed Swiss, chocolate-making town, Gramado. We got there right after Easter, which was a great time to visit – lots of leftover bunnies and eggs for cheap. We also visited the zoo in Porto Alegre, among other things of interest.
Rainbow over Cabo Polonio

On April 29, we took an overnight bus – our most comfortable ever! –to Uruguay. We got off 3 hours shy of Montevideo and made our way backwards to the coastal national park of Cabo Polonio – probably the funkiest little place I’ve ever seen. It was like a work of art on the beach – just amazing. The settlement is accessed only by these large 4-wheel drive converted trucks, and it has no electricity, except for generators. So it was two days of “roughing it,” but it felt like anything but. Cold weather and rain cut our outside time down and we didn’t get to explore the dunes like we wanted to, but we did enjoy the sea lions and lighthouse.
Beautiful Montevideo, Uruguay

Next stop Montevideo. Gwen and I loved this town. To me, it’s the most European city outside of Europe (but I haven’t been to French Guyana…). It was a little run down, but just beautiful – like a 50-some year old woman who was a real beauty in her 20s and has just faded standing still in time. The food was awesome, the Spanish enchanting – I just loved almost everything about it! I did notice that the people in Brazil are really friendly compared to Uruguayos, but I learned not to take that personally. LOVED Montevideo , and I would go back just for the heck of it!
Lighthouse in Colonia, Uruguay

We spent our last day in Uruguay in another incredibly enchanting Portuguese colonial town just across the river from Buenos Aires – Colonia. We rented a Mule (like a golf cart) and had fun zipping around town in that.
That afternoon, we ferried over to Buenos Aires and after a maddening taxi drive through rush hour Friday afternoon traffic, we arrived at home for the next month – a very cute little apartment that we all love.
Last night, we sent John back home to look for work, but he has already found a job (we hope), so he’s going to do things like have surgery instead. Chaise, Gwen and I have six more weeks in Argentina, which you’ll be hearing more about. Yesterday just before we left for the airport, Gwen said, “Imagine if it were us leaving for home today.” I think she envied John, but we agreed that the time has just flown by, while simultaneously seeming like forever. We are determined to drink as much matte, and eat as many empanadas and rip down as many prostitute advertisements as we possibly can during the rest of our time here. Seize the day!

Flowers for My Mother

Post by Donna

In these parts, Mother’s Day falls on May 15, so I was caught off guard on May 7 when talking to my mom on the phone, I learned that it was May 8 in the States. Oops. Too late to send flowers the traditional way. So here are some special flowers for my mom to celebrate Mother’s Day. Love ya, Mom!

I wish I could tell you the name of more than one or two of these flowers, but, uh… let’s just call them exotic. We took most of these pictures just walking around our neighborhood in Joacaba. You may recognize impatients, which grow wild in Joacaba, and hybiscus and maybe bird of paradise. All the rest, just enjoy!

Post by Donna

The day before we left Argentina, I told Gwen I was going to write a blog post and entitle it “Go Ahead, Cry for Me, Argentina” based on how sad I was that our South American odyssey has come to an end. Back to normal life… But yesterday, on our first day back, I realized that normal life is simply amazing. When I say that we had lunch at Taco Bell, then stopped for ice cream at Brahms, drove home, and then got to bed early, it may not sound like much, but every moment of yesterday was magical. From the short passport control line in Miami International Airport to my head hitting the perfect pillow, I appreciated everything anew yesterday.

Clean bathrooms, strong and absorbent paper products, landscaping, foods that look as good as they taste, our car, air conditioning, a big, beautiful house, a shower curtain, key lime pie, a big, comfortable bed, no wake-up call/no check-out time, an over-sized mug of coffee with half and half, waffles with strawberries, cream and syrup, an ice maker, a tall glass of water from the tap, a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, going barefoot, views from every window, and peace and quiet of the Arkansas woods. I would have liked to put an exclamation mark after each of those things. Gwen and I agreed that yesterday seemed like opening Christmas gifts all day long. This July 4th will be really special for us as we truly appreciate, with a broadened perspective, what a blessed situation we live in.

And yet none of the greatness of home takes away from how awesome our experience was. We kept journals, as well as posting pics on Facebook and using this blog; but it would be impossible for us to convey in words all this trip was. We met so many wonderful people, saw so much of Gods creation plant, animal and mineral learned so incredibly much about culture, history, geography and language of Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina. We had a quick love affair with Uruguay that left us wanting more. Every day in South America was magical too. I thanked God daily for that experience, and still do because I know it will continue to enrich our lives.

We still have a few blog posts wed like to share–Gwen’s school experience in Brazil, our time with Cara Capps, among others hot topics–so this isnt a wrap just yet. But thanks to those who shared this most amazing adventure with us through this blog.

Signing out and settling back in,


December 2017
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