Thursday, December 31, 2009

Meeting with Bekah!!

Last night after Nick got off of work, we drove down to Tacoma, where we dropped Kiara (our niece) off and met with a girl named Bekah. She has been working at COTP for the past year as the nurse and was home for Christmas. She still lives at COTP but is now working at a local clinic. It was so nice to meet her and be able to ask her a bunch of questions. She showed us a lot of pictures of the facility, kids, etc. Also, Bekah showed us the compound off of Google maps, so we now know exactly where we are going!

We learned that, Lagosette is a tiny village with around 20 huts. We are so excited to be somewhere rural. It is only about 10 miles from the airport in Cap Haiten, but it takes 45 mins to get there because all of the roads are dirt! Bekah was able to tell us more in depth about the different duties we will have. It is nice to have a better idea of what we will be doing!

After talking with her for 2 hours (we didn't get home til midnight), the only things we found out about COTP that we don't like is that one, there are Tarantulas there (but she has only seen a few) and two, which is the big one for us, they only have powdered milk to drink. Between the two of us we go through about 3 gallons of milk a week, it's all we drink. We are going to have a hard time getting used to this. We have started joking that we will probably have to buy a cow so that we can have real milk! I am also a little worried about the food, but then I remind myself that at least it's not Banana soup, so hopefully it'll be ok!

I really didn't think it was possible, but now Nick and I are even more excited to move to Haiti then we are before!! Approximately 186 more days until we leave!!! This may change though as our departure date is not set in stone!!


PS. I am beginning to create links on the side bar of my blog, and the only way to do this is to create posts, therefore, I will have several posts after this that might seen kind of weird, but this is how I have to get around it!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Questions and Answers

Here are a few common questions that we have been asked.

How do you know that your being "called" to Haiti?

For the past few years, Nick and I have been trying to do many different things and none of them have ever worked out. Nick tried to join the Coast Guard and the Army Reserves but couldn't get in because of his shoulder. Then we tried to buy a house in Pheonix. We tried to join the Peace Corp, but that didn't work out either. Nick had an interview for a job in Omak Wa, but didn't receive it. Every thing we tried to do didn't work out.

Then, we found COTP. We emailed the volunteer coordinator almost everyday for a month, and every question we had was answered with the response we were hoping for. God really opened up this door for us and helped us know that this is where he wants us to be.

Isn't Haiti Dangerous? Aren't you afraid of being kidnapped, raped, or killed?
Haiti has the reputation of being a very dangerous country. If you read the US Embassies website, they specifically say not to go there. They warn of kidnapping, rape, and death. We are very aware of these dangers, however, if we waited for the US Embassy to say it was safe, we would never be able to travel anywhere.

Last summer when Nikki went to Africa by herself, she was very worried as she had read the warnings about Kenya. She found however, that the citizens there were actually very helpful. Since she was the only white person for miles around, the locals knew that she was there to help, and therefore, where ever she went, she constantly had someone who would take care of her and make sure that she was always safe. It's experiences like this that let us know that people are truly there to look out for you. The organization that we are going with has a great relationship with the community that they are located in as well as surrounding areas.
Having said that, we will definitely take precautions to limit the chance of an attack on ourselves. Nikki will not wear any jewelry or clothes that would suggest our wealth. We will not be out at night and when we are out during the day, we will only go to areas that we know are safe.

How long will you be there for?
Currently we have committed to a year, but we are depending on God to lead us where he wants us to go next. His plans might be for us to stay in Haiti longer, go to Africa, Ridgefield, Bellingham, or somewhere else. We really aren't sure, and will take it one day at a time!

Where will you live?
There is a volunteer house on the compound and we will have our own room there to stay in!

What will you be doing?
We wont know exactly what we will be doing until we get there, but as of now, it looks like Nick will be the maintenance man while Nikki will be working with the children to reach age appropriate developmental and intellectual stages. This may include working with the children one-on-one or in the preschool. Nikki might also help facilitate the Prenatal program for pregnant women in the community. This will give her a great chance to do some out reach.

Nick has been studying growing crops in the Caribbean and would like to start a community garden if he has time. This would teach the people he works with how to grow crops which they can use to feed their family a balanced diet. They then would pass these skills on to their children as well. We both want to work in the community as much as possible. When there are sick babies, they will sleep in our room at night until they begin to get better. We also have discussed making a promotional video for COTP. This is something we will discuss with other staff once we are there.

Haiti has suffered for many years. You can't save the world and even after you leave babies will still die and people will suffer. What is the point?
You are 100% correct. We know that the world has many problems, trust us, Nikki is constantly reading about poverty, genocide, sex slaves, honor killings, and female genital mutilation among others issues. We could spend our lives in this village, donating every spare second and penny, and these things will still continue. People will die of preventable disease, women will be killed in the name of God, and episodes like the holocaust will continue just as they are today.

However, if we are able to save, or even slightly improve the life of even one person, then we will consider our efforts a success. The bible tells us that we are suppose to care for the sick, fatherless, and uneducated. This is what we are planning on doing. We are going to be his hands and feet, and we can only pray that he will use us to create a difference in this place that we will soon call home. We both strongly believe that by simply living a life that we believe in, people will see our actions and try to mirror those in their own lives. Maybe through our time spent in Haiti, a person who other wise wouldn't have, will come to know Christ. How can you put a price tag on that? You have to agree, that that thought would make it worth the risks. As we said, we wont make a dent in the troubles that the world sees. After we leave, our village, and Haiti will continue to suffer, but we pray that hopefully we can start a small spark in someone that will help make a sustainable difference in this village.

What will you get out of this?
While in Haiti, we will gain a whole new meaning for life and will learn a lot about a culture that is very different form our own. We hope to bring this back to the states to share with our family, friends, community, and most importantly our children. We believe that it is everyone's responsibility to do what they can to help others out. Many people in the US have no idea of what is happening abroad. Through our pictures, videos, stories, and our lives, we hope we can help tell the story of some of these people to create a country, even one as advanced as the US, to be truly educated. The US chooses to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others because they believe they can't make a difference. I am here to tell you that we can. For instance Polio used to infect millions, but it is now is gone, even in the poorest of countries.

What goals do you have to make a sustainable difference in this village?
Poverty is viscous cycle that is passed from one generation to the next. The parents are too poor to go to school, and can't afford to put their children in school either. Without the ability to learn new skills, or even learn about preventable disease, these children are bound to raise their children in poverty as well.

Research has shown that education, especially for women and girls can help reduce this cycle. For every year that a women spends in school, her children are likely to spend an ADDITIONAL 1 and 3/4ths years in school. Also, children with educated mothers are likely to spend an additional 2-3 hours per day studying. Educated women marry later in life which results in them having children at an age where their bodies are more prepared to deliver the child. Because of this, the women are more likely to survive child birth and the children are born healthier, leaving less orphans in the world. Education of women has also resulted in women having fewer children, which allows them to have more finances to feed and educate them. Women who have received an education provide for the nutritional needs of themselves and their children at a much greater rate than uneducated moms. Educated moms are more likely to have their children immunized. These two things result in much healthier children as well as a community.

Studies have shown that when a man receives an education, he often will leave the village/city and move to a more urban setting to earn a living. This may better his life, but doesn't affect the community. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to get a job in the community and help others out as well. Often, when men are in charge of the finances, they will use a large portion of their funds for alcohol, cigarettes, and prostitutes. When women are in charge, they will give money to other women/girls in the community to receive an education or start a business, creating a cycle of giving within the community.

We want to do what we can to educate those who we come into contact with. We both believe that this is the best way to make a sustainable difference in Haiti as well as our local community here in Washington. Education helps reduce poverty, create more jobs, and results in a healthier community. While in Haiti education will be our main goal. 52% of the population in Haiti is illiterate. To us, this is unacceptable and we will do what we can to lower this number.

You both have great jobs. With this economy aren't you afraid you wont be able to find a new one when you come back?
We have both been blessed with great jobs that we both enjoy and that allows us to pay our bills. We thank God daily for blessing us in this way. We are very aware of the current economic downturn and the fact that there are thousands with out jobs who are struggling to pay for the basic needs of their families. Trust us, this was a very important topic that we discussed in much length while making this decision. After much prayer and discussion however, we still feel like this is what we are being called to do. We are very prepared to live with one of our families for however long it takes once we return until we have found jobs and are able to save up enough money to move out. We know very well that this could take several months to years to happen, but I'm sure our parents would love to have the time to spend with us!!!

We are trusting that God will provide us with the right jobs when we return. We see this as a great way to gain experience that will help us greatly in our future careers. Many employers want to know that they are hiring someone who is aware of other cultures. Through living abroad, we can gain skills in this area which will be invaluable. We both strongly believe that education is life long and see this as a way for us to continue learning and developing ourselves.

There are so many people suffering here in the States. Why not work with youth here locally?
Nikki currently works with at risk youth here on an everyday bases. Her job is to help foster youth get into and pay for college. Nikki plans of making a career out of working with at risk youth. When we return, we are going to become licensed foster parents and hope to take in teenage girls that are either pregnant or who all ready have children. We will encourage these youth to complete high school, continue on with higher education, and go into a career that they love and will provide for their family. We plan on helping instill life skills in these youth including money management and parenting skills.

Nikki would love to start a non profit taking at risk youth abroad to volunteer in third world countries. This will provide enormous opportunities for these youth that they otherwise wouldn't have. However, in order to do this, Nikki needs to know the local culture of where she will be taking youth and also have connections there of where to house the youth and projects for them to work on. We will be gathering these while in Haiti.

We plan on adopting children from a different country and believe that it is extremely important for these children to be aware of the culture of their home country. By living in the place that we will be adopting from, we will learn their local language, holidays, and beliefs that we can then pass on to our children.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pizza and Glowsticks

So the past two weekends Nick and I have tried to do a few fundraiser to pay for Haiti. The first one we did was selling glow sticks at Lyndens Lighted Christmas Parade. Nick bought 500 glow sticks, hoping that we would profit nearly $900. From the beginning I wasn't to sure about this, but Nick was convinced it was a good idea. So last weekend, we both bundled up, drove to Lynden and waved our glow sticks in the air. Nick spent most of the time taping our poster to the car, as the wind was blowing so hard that about every 30 seconds it would fall down. By the end of the parade, we sold 30. This was the second time that we have tried selling these, and we are still negative money. Apparently this was NOT a good investment. We now have them listed on Craigslist, hoping someone else might try to use them for their own fundraiser. Honestly, we just want to get back what we paid for them as we are still negative about $100.

So, if you know any one who would like to purchase between 1-450 glow sticks, we can hook you up!!!

Today we stood outside Cost Cutter in the 30 degree weather and sold Papa Murpheys Coupon Cards. Before we left we made a deal that if Nick sold more than me I would watch Star Trek with him. The count at the end of the day was 20- Nikki 0-Nick, so therefore I will not be watching that ridiculous movie!! We decided that Nick is like the guy who drives the armored truck, he just stands there holding the money while the other guy does all the work!!! He was also very good at letting me know what time it was, "6 mins til we get to go, 5 mins til we can leave, 4 more mins, still 4 more mins... etc." This went on the entire time we were there. I do have to give him credit though, he made both of the signs for these fundraisers, and I think they turned out great!!! It was so cold out that there were occasional snow flakes falling. The only thing that kept us out there as long as we were was knowing that this time next year we will be living in the Caribbean where it'll be in the 80-90's!

We didn't sell nearly as many cards as we had wanted, mainly because there weren't that many people at Cost Cutter today. Hopefully after Christmas we will stand in front of Haggens which is way busier. We did have one guy who thought what we are going to do is awesome that he not only bought 6 cards (he must really like pizza!!!) but is also going to talk to his Pastor and see if we can present at his church to help raise funds. Hopefully that will work out! When I told one lady what we were doing, she responded with a "poor girl." Apparently she didn't like the idea, but after I told her I was excited about it, she bought a card anyway!!

We also sent out a Newsletter this past week. If you didn't get one, then it was either lost, or more likely, we didn't have your address. If you would like one please let us know and we would love to send it to you. This discusses our upcoming plans and what has lead us to decide to move to Haiti.

Prayer Requests

James Njuguna, the direct of Fadhili Helpers which is the group I went to Kenya with this last summer, was murdered in his home earlier this week. As he was trying to get out of the car to go inside, two men approached their car demanding their cell phones. The driver handed his over right away, but James hesitated. One man then shot and killed James. Please pray for his family, he left behind a wife and young daughter. Also please pray for the organization as it helps thousands of people all over Kenya.

Also, my host family is having some financial troubles as they haven't had any volunteers since Summer. They live so far out of Nairobi that Fadhili doesn't send volunteers there unless they are out of beds closer to the city. Please pray that they are able to pay for Mama's college fees and are able to continue taking care of the children in their home as well as running the school.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Moving to Haiti

So as many of you have already heard, Nick and I have decided to move to Haiti for a year (with the option to stay longer) to work in a baby orphanage! About two weeks before we got engaged, Nick promised me that once I graduated college we would move to Africa for a year to volunteer. Nick never thought that he would actually have to follow through with this promise, but I continually brought it up and was constantly looking at different organizations and countries we could go to! When I had the opportunity to go to Kenya last summer, Nick highly encouraged me to go, hoping I would get it out of my system and that he could get out of his commitment. However, he soon realized that this just lite the fire and I wanted to go even more! After touring the UN building in NYC where we heard horrible stories and saw pictures of children dieing from preventable diseases, Nick realized that he could make a difference in someones life and finally was eager to move abroad!

At first we looked into joining the Peace Corp, but after filling out the application and going in for the 3 hour interview, we realized that this wasn't what we were looking for! This is when Nick found Children of the Promise (COTP) in Haiti, and after a month of emailing the volunteer coordinator, we decided this is where we were being called. It's not in Africa, but the Caribbean will work just fine!!

Here's our plan,I graduate June 12, and that weekend we will pack up our apartment and move in with one of our parents for 2-3 weeks. In the beginning of July (probably July 6th, but that's subject to change) we will hop on a plane to Florida, and then take a small plane from there to Cap Haitien Haiti. Our first three weeks will be in a neighboring village called Milot where we will be taking language classes at a local mission. Haiti's main language is Creole, which is French with around 10 African languages mixed in. We have already been studying and have quite a large vocab!

After this we will move on to the COTP compound and begin playing with babies!! COTP takes in sick babies who's parents have either died during child birth, abandoned them, or decided that they can't afford to feed the baby at this time. Many of these babies are malnourished and holding on to life by mere threads. A few are HIV +. COTP's first goal is to get these babies healthy and return them to their biological families, assuming they can care for them. If the families decide that they can not, then the child will be adopted to the US or Canada. COTP has an average of at least 50 babies and sometimes even 60 or more, most of which are under the age of two, but up to age 6! Some of these babies have Cabral Palsy, hydrocephalus, or other medical issues that we will work with to help them develop appropriately. I have already started researching a few of these to find the best way to interact with children who have these.

Although we won't know exactly what we will be doing until we are there, at this point it looks like Nick will be the maintenance man and I may be working in the preschool teaching the older children. Our days will also include taking care of the basic needs of these children as well as simply loving them and giving them one on one attention. If a baby is really sick and need extra care, he/she will sleep in our room with us at nights for about two weeks or until they starts to gain weight! We also hope to work with the community as much as possible!

A little info on Haiti for you: It's 600 miles south of Florida, near Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. Many citizens practice voodoo, and in fact the country has been dedicated to the Devil twice. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, 80% of the population lives in absolute poverty (under $1USD per day), and 52% is illiterate. Hundred of thousands of men, women, and children die yearly of preventable diseases, many of which come from poor drinking water and malnutrition. This is unacceptable to me. Many pregnant women and children are forced to eat dirt because they can't afford food. This causes them to have horrible chest and stomach pains and leads to many diseases and even death from parasites that are in the dirt. Watch this video to learn more...

We are extremely excited and are counting down the days until we get to go! We are accepting donations to help fund our trip which is going to cost just shy of $20,000 for the year. This includes all flights, health insurance, and room/board for the two of us. Although some of this money goes towards us, a large portion of it goes directly to the orphanage to help pay for formula, diapers, and every day expenses they need in order to survive. It cost the orphanage over $14,000 a month to provide for the needs of these children and our money will help cover part of this. All donations are tax deductible!

We have already begun doing fundraisers ourselves to help pay for this. Everything that I have make from my job will go towards our trip as well as the extra money Nick just received from his latest raise. We will also be cashing in all Nicks sick/vacation time when he quits. However, this trip will not be possible with out the help of our family, friends, and community. If you are interested in helping us help others, checks can be sent to "Children of the Promise-Box 97 Prinsburg, MN 56281 USA." Also, donations can be made at their website Our name should not be on the check any where, including the memo line because the IRS doesn't like that. Instead please attach a note saying that you are donating towards our trip! This is very important so that you can be assured the money goes to us. Donations can be made in one lump sum or over the course of the next several months.

Nick and I would love to come talk to any group or church and explain more in depth what we are planning! We really appreciate every ones help and encourage you all to pray for the two of us as well as the babies, nannies, and long term volunteers who are there currently. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us and we would love to answer them for you!!

Merci (thanks)

Nick and Nikki Stolberg

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Home at Last

While we were waiting in the lobby yesterday, I read a sign that said the free shuttle came every half hour to take people to the airport, or at least I thought it did. So this morning we got up at 4:30 am once again, hoping to catch the 5 o’clock shuttle. When we went to check out, the man at the front desk informs us that the next shuttle won’t come until 5:30, and that we won’t make our flight. Apparently the sign says that it come “every hour on the half,” so you can see how one would get confused easily. My bad! Anyway, we ended up having to take a taxi from our hotel to the airport, we are starting to get used to this. I guess Nick needs to check over my work as well. At least we didn’t have nearly this much bad luck when we were in Europe this last Christmas!

Our first flight was 20 mins late, as always with US Airways. Then once we landed we had to wait nearly 30 mins before our gate opened up. Surprisingly the flight from Phoenix to Portland was on time! After 11 hours of sitting in airports and on planes, we finally landed in Portland, only to hop in our car and make the 4 hour drive up to Bellingham. We deliberated for about two days whether we should leave as soon as we landed and deal with Seattle rush hour, or if we should hang out in Ridgefield for a few hours to try and bypass it. Both options sounded pretty miserable, as we were exhausted, especially with the 3 hour time difference. We finally decided to stay until 4:30, which worked out great so Nick could see his grandpa and I could see my mom and Kiara. This put us home at 8:30, luckily we didn't hit any traffic.

We were both very glad to sleep in our own bed and to have our cats back. We missed Larry and Theo, and they are both glad to be home as well. Theo has grown so much over the past 11 days.

As of right now, we don’t have any vacations BOOKED in the near future, but we are possibly thinking of going to South or Central America over my Spring Break. We have tossed around the idea of going and volunteering there as well as just going on a vacation. Time will tell if we end up going anywhere. All I know is that our next vacation will involve a beach, and no big cities. Nick and I are kinda done touring cities for a while and want to have more of an adventure trip! Snorkeling, swimming, and renting jet skis are some of the things that we see in our future!

Finally, I have more good news! I was suppose to met up with another girl in New York to take some more of the books to Kenya, but because of mis-communication, it never worked out. However, I have still been in contact with her, and so I'm going to ship them today to her which will still be way cheaper than sending them all the way to Africa. She is taking the rest of the books (about 70), 5 jump ropes, 25 pens, 1 puzzle, and a box of chalk. When I emailed my host father to tell him, he was extremly excited!

I really want to send over some world maps for the class room, but am still pricing them out. One requirement is that they have to be laminated in order to survive. I have found some for $12 on amazon, and am thinking about getting those if I can find someone else to take them to Kenya so that I avoid shipping costs! I am planning on buying around 5 so that classes 4-8 can each have one. Many of those kids have never seen a world map (or any map for matter) before. I would like to get maps of Kenya, Africa, the solar system, etc, but haven't found any of those yet. I have found the skeleton, mucular, and nervous system posters for about $12 each as well. I think that these would be great tools for the students to learn with. If you know any cheap places to buy some, let me know!

Monday, September 21, 2009

10 hours on public transportation = 2 travelers ready to return home!!

So last night Nick was trying to figure how to get from our hotel to the airport. He figured out that our plane left at 7:00 am, so we could take the 6:15 bus that would put us at the airport around 6:30, 1.5 hours early. So we get up at 5 this morning, pack our stuff, and begin the 1 mile walk to the bus stop. All the sudden, Nick gets this worried look on his face and asks me what time our plane leaves and says he thinks we are going to miss it since it's already almost 6. We pull out our itenerary and redo the math to find that we are going to arrive about 20 mins before our plane leaves and still have to check our bags and go through security.

We start to sprint through downtown Boston with all of our luggage (I'm not really sure why we were running, it's not like the bus would decide to leave early just because we got there and told them we were late). About a block up, we saw a taxi, and luckily he took visa so we hoped a ride with him! Yet another expense we weren't planning on, but better than missing our flight. I'm not sure why I haven't started to check Nicks work or to do it myself, but I am defiantly looking over our flight schedule for tomorrow morning. As Nick puts it, at least we haven't been wasting a lot of time sitting in airports!

Today was kind of a waste, we got to our hotel before we were allowed to check in, which sucks cause we both really wanted to shower. Instead, we walked .5 mile to the bus stop, took that about 30 mins up, and then hopped on two subways which took about 30 mins. We walked through this park in Queen's, which is near where they just arrested the guy suspected of being involved in a terrorist plot. It was a long walk, but we saw a cool residential area and the "unisphere," a huge 140ft tall steel globe.

After the two hour walk through the park and side streets (park ended unexpectedly and we had to figure out how to get back with out any maps), we began our journey by subway, bus, and foot back so that we could shower before going out with Nicks friend Alexis for dinner. We unfortunately waited for nearly 20 mins for one bus, before a lady finally told us that we needed another one. When we tried to exit the bus, the doors weren't opening, so we just stood there and looked around. Then in perfect unison (almost as if they had planned it) the driver and all the passengers yelled "PUSH." We felt like dorks, but didn't grow up in a city. I take the city bus everyday to school, but have never had to push the door open before.

Shortly after we returned to our hotel, we had to leave again. This trip included 3 different subway rides before we meet Alexis. We had a nice Italian dinner. Luckily she drove us back to our hotel so that we didn't have to make the 1.5 - 2 hour trip back via subways and bus.

Now we have to go to bed because we have to get up at 4 in the morning to go to the airport in order to come back to the North West!! After spending all day in airports we have the great privilege of driving 4 hours from Portland to Bellingham through Seattle rushour traffic. It is going to be a LONG day! Ahh!!

University Way

Yesterday was a walk down genius lane. We visited the MTI and Harvard Campuses. Somehow we entered MTI from the side and found ourselves in some abandoned part of campus where I'm sure we weren't suppose to be. I got really nervous when we walked by a "Laser In Use" sign. I was afraid that there were silent alarms going off and that we were going to get in trouble! At Harvard, I felt smart for a second until I remembered that I was just a visitor and not a student. All the building were very old and cool! We tried to make pb&j sandwiches while in Harvards court yard, but realized we didn't have a knife with us, so we had to starve!!

On our way back, we walked down one street with a lot of expensive shops on it. We didn't go in many, but it was still fun to see. There was one shop that sold a dress made completely out of rubber gloves.

Next we walked to the Harbor intending to go to the Boston Tea Party Museum, but it must not be there anymore because we were in the right place but didn't find it. Instead, we walked along the Harbor and looked at some of the biggest yachts I have ever seen. There was one owned by a Red Socks player that was nearly 150 feet (according to Nick). Then we sat on the a brick wall for quite a while and watched people, boats, and planes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Surprisingly, we made it all the way from our Niagara Falls hotel to our Boston hotel without any major difficulties. Our wake up call never came, but luckily Nick woke up on his own(at 5:15 am)! The only other problem was that the people in front of us were taking forever to by their bus tickets, so in the time we were waiting, our bus came and left without us, causing us to have to wait for the next bus which came 20 mins later.

Today we walked through Boston Commons, a park near our hotel where there was a hempfest going on. This means that there were thousands of college kids, and older hippies, all gathering around wearing clothes that had pot leaves on them and trying to get marijuana legalized.

We also walked the entire Freedom Trail, a two and a half mile (approx) historic walk through downtown. We saw several burial grounds where famous people were buried, old churches, the first public school built in the US, and much more. It was fascinating to see the places that our leaders met to discuss the American Revolution. We also went by Paul Reveres house, the guy who hung the lanterns on the church to warn people that the British were coming.

The trail ended at the Boston Harbor, where we saw the USS Constitution (one of the first navy ships) and USS Cassin Young (a destroyer ship used during WWII). The trail was easy to follow, as there are certain red bricks that made a line through the sidewalk. It's similar to the yellow brick road, just red! This doesn't mean however that we didn't occasionally loose the path and have to back track.

We also walked through Beacon Hill, which is a really old neighborhood with cobble stone roads. It was really pretty and it's fascinating to see where so much of our country's history took place.

I was very happy today, because I met up with a person who is going to Kenya with IVHQ who agreed to take part of the books I have with her when she goes! She took 35 chapter books, 100 pens, and 10 rulers. These books will go into the schools library where I taught. I have also emailed my host father and asked him to give the rulers and a few pens to some of the most needy children at school! I still have about 70 more chapter books that I want to send to the school, but am trying to find the cheapest way to do this as it's quite expensive. I posted a blog on IVHQ's website asking future volunteers if they would be interested in taking them for me. This is how I connected with Julia, the girl I met today. It worked out great because I originally planned on mailing them to her, but once I found out she lived in Boston, I decided to bring them with me and meet up with her! I am determined that some how or another I will get all of the rest of the books to Emmanuel Lights Academy because I know how much those children love to read!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Romantic Dates, Waterfalls, and Fireworks!

So last night I booked us tickets on the jet boat, which goes into the Natural whirlpool a few miles below Niagara Falls, or at least I thought I did. We learned after we booked the trip that the free shuttle isn't running anymore because it's the end of the season. We were told that it would cost us $15 to take a taxi there. Us being cheap, decided to take the people mover (bus which goes half way there) assuming that we might be able to reduce the cost a little bit. Then the bus driver told us that taxi's are actually $40 each way, and that we could rent bikes and ride there. She dropped us off at the rental place, where we learned we where still 12 miles away. Nick thinks we can make it even though we only have 45 mins. I strongly disagree, so we call the place to see if we can change our time to later in the afternoon. She informs us that we don't even have reservations. Guess I must not have fully finished the online reservations. Oops. We decided not to rebook because it was pretty expensive and we felt like we have spent too much as it is!

Some guy in the lobby of our hotel gave Nick a packet of coupons that they didn't use. One of them was a $20 credit to a restaurant downtown. We walked there and were told that the coupon wasn't for lunch, but for the arcade. So we spent some time playing skeet ball and other games. It was weird because instead of getting tokens, you get a card that has all of your credits on it. $20 bought us 110 credits, but most of the games were 8.9, 14.6, 9.3 credits (don't ask me why they weren't whole numbers) so they didn't last long. We won enough tickets to buy 1 large pixi stick and a bouncy ball. Actually we were 5 tickets short but they gave it to us any way.

Next we decided to do the "Journey of the Falls" which is where we walk behind the water. This turned out to be very disappointing. We were expecting to be on a path where we would get drenched and be able to reach out and touch the water. Instead, it was just a tunnel with a small window in it that we could look out of.

After three years of wanting to get my nose pierced, I finally did it today! I wasn't too nervous at first, until the guy at the front desk told me the pain level was similar to getting punched in the face. Once I sat down in the chair I kind of freaked out and almost left, but then she opened the package and I didn't want to get stuck paying for it, so I stayed in my seat. She stuck a straw up my nose, and then jabbed a nail like object threw my nose. It defiantly hurt a little, but wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be! Plus it was way cheaper than the place in the mall where I almost got it done! Hopefully I am allowed to have it at my new job!

For a perfect end to our time at Niagara Falls, Nick and I had a very romantic date. We had dinner at the Keg (we received a $40 food voucher from our hotel) which overlooked the Falls. While we were there, they lite off fireworks! Niagara Falls is lite up at night, and every few mins, they change the color. It was really neat!

Now we are off to bed because we have to get up at 5 to head to Boston!


After our nap, Nick and I headed out to explore a little bit of the falls, which is absolutely amazing. We are staying on the Canadian side, which is beautiful. The town is so clean and there are a lot of parks, flowers, and green grass. We walked along the river and up towards the falls (we are at the top part of the falls). As we get closer to the place where the water actually drops, there is so much mist in the air that it feels like we are in a rain storm. Luckily we have the waterproof case for our little camera! I had to wear Nicks jacket which is water proof in order to stay dry, but Nick got soaked, isn't he a nice guy!

Next, we walked back down the river and jumped on a Maid of the Mist tour. Each visitor gets a fashionable blue poncho that they have to wear. We head out past the American Falls (which is on the US side), and up to Horseshoe Falls (which is on the Canadian side). The boat takes us so close to the water that we are drenched in water and mist. It is pretty rough and the boat rocks a lot, but it is worth it. We were able to get some really pretty pictures of the Niagara Falls, and some great ones of us in our ponchos!

That night we went to a Danny ZZZZ show, which is a guy that does magic, hypnosis, etc. The face value on these tickets were $32.50, but we got them from our hotel for FREE! It's a good thing they were free cause the show was kind of cheesy, not sure if it was just Canadian humor, or elderly humor, but we didn't think it was funny. All the elderly people on the bus ride home with us thought he was amazing and couldn't figure out how he did his tricks when Nick and I knew he had just memorized the order of the cards. There were a few cool things, but for the most part it was kind of lame! But again, at least it was free!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Travel, Travel, Travel

1:00: am: Shut lights off to go to bed
2:00: Wake up call From front desk. Get dressed, chug a small protein shake, head to hotel Lobby to get taxi.
2:30: Decide our taxi driver from the previous night (or 3 hours ago isn't coming). Call for new taxi.
2:45: Arrive at PATH train station.
3:00: Depart Newark heading towards the World Trade Center via PATH.
3:30: Arrive at WTC, carry luggage up 2 flights of stairs, walk 3 blocks to Subway, carry luggage down 1 flight of stairs. Turn wrong way once in Subway, walk to the clear other end before we realize and then have to go back.
3:40: Walk through turnstile for our subway at the exact time the train pulls away. (AKA: we miss it by 5 seconds).
3:41: Nick starts to play the "Had I only" game and feels like it's his fault we missed the train. I assure him it's not.
3:42: Nick begins to get worried that we will miss our flight. Nick starts to stress. Two rats crawl around in the subway track.
3:50: Next subway hasn't come, Nick even more worried.
4:00: Subway finally comes. Get stopped several times by work crews. Nick worries about delays. I assure him we'll make it. Nick informs me our plane leaves at 6:10 instead of 6:30 like we discussed the day before. I start to get worried.
4:08: We discuss getting off the subway and catching a taxi. Decide we are to cheap and that we will risk it. (Plus who knows if we'll be able to find a taxi this time in the morning).
4:15: Nick really worried. I do the math, figure out we have plenty of time. Nick calms down slightly.
4:45: Finally arrive at the airport. Refill our Metrocard so that we have enough money to ride the airtram. See the airtram is at the station, begin to sprint.
5:00 and 50 seconds: airtram departs station.
5:00 and 52 seconds: we arrive at station, have to wait ten mins til next train.
5:12: Board airtram. Find out our plane leaves at 6:05 not 6:10,Nick is nervous again.
5:35: depart airtram. Nick briskly walked through the very long hallway to the check in booth, I lag behind, stuck behind slow people.
5:40: Bags checked, enter security line.
5:50: Through security, 7 mins til plane boards.
5:52: Arrive at ticket counter, ask to change seats so that we can sit next to eachother. (Why don't we have seats by each other on any flighs?)
5:55: Go to Bathroom
6:00: Board plane.
6:20: Plane leaves JFK.
7:30: Plane lands in Buffalo NY.
7:40: Already have our bags, now waiting for our bus that comes at 8.
8:03: Still Waiting, Talking to some elderly travelers about Niagara Falls
8:35: Bus finally comes.
9:35: Bus drops us off at customs. We walk to Canada, and then continue on for 2 miles to our hotel, up a steep hill pulling our luggage!
10:00: Arrive at hotel (after trying to check in at the wrong one. Who knew there was a difference between Fallsview Resort and Fallsview Plaza?, Ohh wait I did, but Nick didn't Listen...). Told our room won't be ready till 12. Upset cause we wanted to nap. Decide to eat breakfast at IHOP.
10:50: I finished my first entire Belgian Waffle EVER!
11:00: Check to see if our room is ready. Luckily it is.
11:10: Enter room, take off shoes, fall in bed for a quick one hour nap before checking out the town. Total Travel time: 10 hours and 10 mins and six types of transportation, all on one hour of sleep!
1:15: I wake up and tell Nick we need to get going cause we over slept. Fall back asleep.
1:45: Wake up again. Groggy and not in good mood. Force ourselves out of bed, take showers, and finally get out to see Niagara Falls!

Need a travel agent... Don't get advise from Nick!!!

For our fourth day in NYC, we went to a outdoor market in Union Square where we bought fresh apple cider, banana bread, and a large cookie. Next stop, United Nations; with a minor detour to Rockefeller Plaza. Nick- "Theres a good chance that this is the right way." Nikki- "Does that mean theres a good chance this is the wrong way too?" Nick- "No I’m positive this is right." Four blocks later we pull out the map… Nick- "Oh wait, we should go up 48th instead of Lexington." 3 blocks later, Nick- "Is this Rockefeller Plaza, cause if it is we went the wrong way again." Pull out the map. Nick- "We need to go the opposite direction about 7 long blocks!" However since we were there, we decided to check out Nintendo world. They had about 20 DS’s and 6 Wii’s out, so we played some of their new games which was entertaining before we continued on to the UN.

It was really cool to go to the UN and see all 192 flags from the countries who are members. We decided to take the tour since I am all about what the UN does. We saw a bunch of displays for issues all around the world, like gender discrimination and the effects of Nuclear bombs, which were really interesting while we waited for our tour to start.

During the tour we learned about the 7 Millennium Goals, two of which I researched in great depth for my research paper last quarter. These two were Universal Education and Gender Equality. We learned really interesting statistics like how much money is spent on the Stimulus Package, the Iraq war, etc., and how if a small portion of this was spent on food, all school aged children across the globe could avoid hunger. We also saw a collection of cups coins, statues, and photos from the area where we dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. It was disturbing to see the destruction that we caused. There was a picture of a 6 legged cow that was born deformed because of the radiation. These things also happen to people. We also saw pictures of peoples melted faces.

We decided to see another show, but this time we saw a play instead of a musical. We bought tickets for 39 Steps which has 4 actors that play over 120 characters. It is based loosely on an Alfred Hitchcock production. It It had some funny parts but definitely wasn’t worth it in my opinion.

We arrived back in the hotel around 11 , and I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed when I hear Nick say “Oh crap.” I assume that he looked at our flight for the following day and it left earlier than we expected, but in fact his discovery was much worse.

Nick was looking over our itinerary for our Niagara Falls trip, and realized that he booked the hotel and car for the wrong day, 19-21 instead of 17-19. He called Expedia and was able to cancel both with only a $25 dollar charge. The bad part is that both were booked up so we had to find somewhere else to stay and some form of public transportation from the airport to our hotel which is nearly an hour away. It took us almost 1.5 hours, but we eventually booked a new hotel and decided to take the public bus to the US/Canada and then walk the 2 miles from there to our hotel. Since we canceled the car we saved a little bit of money overall (not much though because now we have to take a taxi back to the airport since buses don’t run that early) so that’s good!

We finally shut the light off at 1 am to get a tiny bit of sleep before our 2 am wake up call.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lion King on Broadway

Today was definitely a lazy day, but we deserved it after yesterday. It's crazy how much of a slower pace we have had on this trip compared to our time in Europe where we went straight all day long and fit in so much. We slept in til 9, which is rare for us, even at home.

First on the list was shopping at Century 21, a discount designer store. We heard that this was really cool and saw lots of people walking around the city with bags from there, so we thought we would check it out since we walk by it every day. Even though these things are on sale, they are still pretty expensive. Not outrageous, but more than we wanted to spend, so we walked away empty handed.

Second was exploring the Brooklyn Bridge. It took us about 30 mins to walk across this, but it had amazing views of the Manhattan skyline so we enjoyed ourselves. The bridge is really pretty. After stopping at a super market, we went to a park on the water front in Brooklyn and made and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We have spent a lot of money on food, so we went cheap today. Our first day here we bought cereal to save on breakfast costs. It cost us $6.50 for a 12 oz box of honey nut cheerios and $3.50 for .5 of milk. Even though this is expensive, we bought it anyways cause we knew it was cheaper than eating out everyday.

When we were done eating our lunch we left Brooklyn via the Manhattan Bridge. This is also a pretty cool bridge and is neat because it has a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge. It amazed me to see how many tourist walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to get pictures, but never got any of the whole thing because they didn't take the time to walk over the other bridge.

Next we went into Times Square to buy our tickets for a Musical, and decided to splurge to see Lion King even though it is one of the more expensive ones. A cruise had purchased a lot of tickets and then backed out, so we got pretty good seat for about $25 less than asking price. This Musical was absolutely AMAZING! I loved it and was thoroughly entertained the entire time. The costumes were so cool and the set was amazing with all the trap doors and spinning "Pride Rock." I can't decide if I liked this or Wicked (which we saw in London) better. They were both amazing.

After buying the tickets, but before the show, we sat in Times Square and people watched. There was a "Naked Cowboy" there who charged people to take pictures with him. He was wearing only whitey tighties, cow boy boots/hat, and a guitar. We pulled out our peanut butter, jelly and bread and made sandwiches right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. We felt like bums, but felt guilty after buying Broadway tickets and couldn't justify spending $40 on dinner which is what it would cost in that area.

When we came out of the show, I almost said "wow, it's still bright out (at 10 pm)," but then remembered that we were in times square and that we were just surrounded by a ton of huge tv screens and billboards. We sat and watched a fashion show which was being shown on a giant tv for a while before making the trek back to the good ole' hotel.

One more full day in the big city and then we are off to Niagara Falls!

The Crown of New York

Yesterday was a very busy day, 18 hours of touring according to Nick. We woke up early and started with a tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Our taxi dropped us of at Liberty State Park where we took a ferry to Ellis Island and listened to an audio guide about what immigrants had to go through when they landed here. It was very interesting and kind of sad to hear how they were treated. They have a memorial wall for these immigrants outside. There about 5000 a day to come in to the US for 2 decades (I hope I quoted that right). Anyway, I found that there were 10 people who came in with the last name of Renner! One was even Marie Renner, which made me happy! There were even 2 Stolbergs!

From here we hopped on another ferry which took us to Liberty Island. The Statue of Liberty was really tall, but it's interesting to think that it only reaches the first floor of the Eiffle Tower. It's 300 and some feet from base to top! Nick COMPLETELY redeemed himself today for the whole hotel mess!

Since 9/11 climbing to the crown of the statue has been closed, however, it was reopened on July 4th of this year. Luckily Nick researched ahead of time and found this out, so he booked us a tour several months in advance. Only 240 people are allowed up each day and they are already book solid for over 6 months out. Since we did this early, we were able to go to the ranger station and get this fancy wrist band which allowed us to skip the long line which would have taken nearly 3 hours to stand in and only goes to the museum inside the pedestal. After going through very intense security, which includes Nick checking his bag into a locker using his finger print, we were able to climb up our own VIP, steep, 360 stair spiral staircase up the skirt to the top! It was fascinating to climb up the body of the Statue of Liberty and see the internal structure. We were very lucky because it was just us and one other guy, plus two rangers at the top! It was like having a private tour. This was also good cause the crown is quite small and hot!

After the statue we went to Battery Park. Then walked through the financial district to Wall Street. It was crazy because Obama had derived a speech here earlier in the day and so there were all shorts of video crews there filming. Watch some English news station cause I walked by and smiled at the camera! There were alot of people here.

Next we went into a Macy which is 2 million square feet and rode the wooden escalator which was the first one opened for public use in the US in 1902. Then we continued on to Rockefeller Center and went to the NBC store, Nick drooled over all "The Office" souvenirs that were outrageously priced. Next we went to the United Nations Building. Unfortunately we got there after it closed and all the flags were down and we couldn't go inside. We are going to go back today though! I think it would be awesome to give a speech here, but first I have to become an expert on some topic such as child abuse, child soldiers, or child sex slaves. I already know alot about each of these, but am far from an expert. Hopefully I'll be able to live and work in some community abroad where these are a problem and then I will know way more about it!!!

Finally, we hoped on a subway at Grand Central Station during rush hour, not a good idea, and went uptown to the Yankees game. The new stadium is huge. We left after the 8th inning to avoid large crowds on the subway. Yankees ended up winning 5 to 3. It took us 2 hours, 2 subways, a PATH, and taxi ride to get back to the hotel. We got in around 12 and were beat.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Exploring the Big Apple

Nick and I started off our day at Ground Zero. It's weird to see so many tall buildings surrounding this large bare area. When you look up, it's hard to imagine that two buildings taller than the rest which are still there used to stand in this vacant lot. Visiting Ground Zero was more emotional for me than I thought it would be. My eyes watered, goose bumps appeared on my arms, a chill went down my spine, and my stomach hurt. I can't even imagine what it must have been like on 9/11 eight years ago. We also toured St. Pauls church which is where the fire fighters and volunteers ate and slept during the 9 months that followed 9/ll. There are many plaques with information and reminders of that day. This church is also a place where George Washington prayed after he was inaugurated into office.

From there we walked North through China Town and then continued into Little Italy. Both were really cool! This week Little Italy is celebrating one of their saints and so there was a festival going on in the streets. Nick ate an Italian sausage dog and I had baked ziti for lunch, both were on the go, expensive, but really good!

After walking through here, we boarded the subway and went into Central Park. We had planned on renting bikes, but were glad we didn't cause they have to stay on the main road and can't go on the paths.

A little info on Central Park that you may not know... twenty five million people use Central Park each year; on an average spring weekend day, a quarter million children and adults flood these precincts from all over Manhattan. There are 21 playgrounds, 150 water fountains, and more than 9000 benches, which would span 7 miles if you lined them up end to end. There are more than 50 monuments and sculptures in the park. Central Park is 843 acres!

We spent a total of nearly 3 hours there, zig zagging back and forth through the park, taking pictures, watching people play cricket, beach volleyball, and baseball. We also watched people try to drive remote control sail boats in the fountain and others paddle row boats in the lake. We hiked up to the Castle which was really cool and over looked the Great Lawn. After a while we found a nice shaded area under a tree in the "Great Lawn" and laid down and rested. While we were there a little two year old boy ran by us screaming for his mom. I sat up to see if he was really lost. Another lady came over to him and once she calmed him down she called 911 to report a missing child. After about 5 mins of her giving descriptions to the dispatcher, I see a lady walking around frantically. I announce that I think I found the mom, and then she runs into our direction! Luckily this story had a happy ending!

Next on our list was a walk over to River Front Park. This was pretty cool. There was a red tail hawk in a tree eating a rat, so we got a picture of that. From there we went to Times Square. The billboards are HUGE and every where. We saw giant beer bottles, cell phones and so much more. Even though it was cool, I can't help but think that if these companies spent a tenth of the amount that they do on electricity and maintenance on these signs, how many schools they could build in Africa or how many starving people they could feed. People in the US however would prefer to have a "cool" place to visit and take pictures of then give back to those in need. We also watched some street performers who would line 5 people up in a row and and do a flip over them! In order to preform on the street, people have to audition, so you know that they are probably worth stopping to watch!

The weather today was great! The sun was out but not too hot! We decided to stay in our original hotel because it is still cheaper than switching!

We ended tonight early because I had a horrible headache all day and because we have to get up really early tomorrow which will be a long day.