Archive for July, 2006

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 17-07-2006

If you’re American and you love root beer, then please don’t be offended. I tried some just the other day and found it thoroughly disgusting!! In fact, it reminded me of the mouth wash the dentist gives you (except for the colour, ie not bright pink!!) I must be missing something with this drink, as there are plenty of folk here who love it!!

Mall of America

This weekend, I got to visit the famous Mall of America, which is HUGE! I probably saw about 5% of the whole place. Mall means ‘shopping centre’ in American English. What’s amazing is that there is an enormous central area with a small theme park in it, including roller coaster, log flume and other rides – crazy!!!

The best shop I saw there was called the ‘Rainforest Cafe’ – an amazing jungle-like shop with vines and snakes (not real!) hanging from the ceiling and enormous aquariums (aquaria?) with tropical fish in. Quite an experience. Apparently, there’s one in Piccadilly Circus, so I’m eager to take the family there. As someone who normally lives in Africa, I did feel quite at home in there (not that Cotonou has any rain forest, mind!)

On the way back, I was astounded to see house numbers like 4580, when in the UK they rarely exceed 200 !! Also saw a ‘Wendys’ and ‘Taco Bell’ but it looks like I’m not going to make it to the IHOP (International House of Pancakes) which is a shame.

So, tomorrow I leave the USA after just a week. It’s been one of the most amazing weeks of my life, meeting so many interesting folk and learning about what God is doing across the world through music. If you’re one of those folks I met, thanks for visiting the blog and keep in touch!

Bye for now.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 13-07-2006

Howdy folks! And greetings from the U S of A! Gee wizz, it’s mighty fine here!

Actually, I’ve hardly seen any of the USA yet, as I’m at the GCoMM conference at Bethel University. It’s a great gathering, with some wonderful presentations (pronounced pree-zen-tations) from all around the world. The worship is amazing, with songs and instruments from so many countries. African drums, South American flutes, didgeridoo, charango and …trombone!! Learning tonnes and meeting loads of interesting people. More sleep would be nice, but how can an outgoing chap like me sleep when there are folk to chat to???

The weather has been warm, but the university has good air conditioning – almost too good as I’m chilly half the time (but as least it stops me nodding off – see ‘jet lag’ comments below!)

Jet Lag

Here in Minnesota, the time is six hours later than in the UK. That means that I get up at 1:00pm British time and go to bed around 6:00am. Mmmm…sounds interesting! On the first night, there were a load of meetings and I was shattered. They finished around 9:00pm, but that’s 3:00am in Britain!! I had also been up since 6:30am British time (or 12:30am central time!) Still, recovering now and getting used to it.

Trans-Atlantic Communication issues…

I fell for the most obvious of these, when a guy (=bloke) said ‘There’s a drinks machine on the second floor.’ So up I went, to what they call the 3rd floor! Oops! Mind you, if I take the elevator I just press the number (and there is, of course, no ‘G’ to press).

‘Rest Rooms’ means loos and they are labelled ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ rather than ‘Gents’ and ‘Ladies.’

On the door into my accomodation is a sign which says:

“Do not prop open the door for security reasons.”

Okay, fine. So if I want to prop it open for ventilation reasons would that be okay?!? Could be an ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ issue!

American things

Most things are the same as in the UK, but there are the usual things which differ from country to country (ie light switches, loo flushes, plug sockets).

The food is as copious as I’d expected, but it’s the drinks dispensers that really amaze me! Six different fizzy drinks (sodas) in one machine, with an ice cube dispenser in the middle. Then there are two of these machines and a third machine for juices! Breakfast is potatoes, pancakes and scrambled egg (with a choice of ‘regular’ or ‘cheesy’ scrambled egg!) Then there’s the icecream dispenser, where you can help your self to a ‘Mr Whippy’ style icecream in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry.

I shall endeavour not to put on weight during this course! In fact, I only had ‘fries’ and ketchup for lunch as I was still stuffed from breakfast!

High points

Seeing Minneapolis from the plane was interesting as everything is organized in perfect squares on a north-south, east-west set up. I found this surprising but interesting. Flying over one of the ‘Great Lakes’ was fascinating too, but narrowly missing a view of the Statue of Liberty in New York was disappointing (I was on the wrong side of the plane, so will look out for it on the way back!)

National Symbols

It was fascinating to drive past a real ‘diner’ complete with the rotating ‘Joe’s Diner’ sign!!

Another thrill (for want of a somewhat milder term) was seeing a depot full of those yellow school busses you see on all the films!

Then today my heart missed a beat when I saw a real american police car drive by (no sign of the Dukes of Hazard though!!! Yeee ha!)

Right, must go. Thanks for reading my drivel above. Any comments? Do leave one if you have time.

Also, if we’ve not seen you yet we are around during August, so hope to catch up with you then.

So long dudes!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 09-07-2006

Hi folks!

We’re having a marvellous but non-stop crazy time so far here in the UK. We’ve seen so many friends and been so many places, it’s been a mind-blowing week!

Here’s a brief low-down:

On Thursday, 29th June, we arrived in Heathrow – a couple of hours later that scheduled as we missed our connection in Paris, then got picked up by Lois’ parents and our brother-in-law Jeremy. Lunch at the in-laws, then my parents came in the afternoon and we came over to the house where we’re staying, not far from Ampthill. In the evening (just after my folks had left) the Woods turned up, and we had a good chat with them. Also, our three enjoyed playing with their cousins. Here they are, having fun by the stream in the back garden:

Stream and cousins!.jpgclick to enlarge.

On Friday, 30th June, we were invited on a canal boat with the children’s cousins. We took the barge from Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, through the Blisworth Tunnel then north as far as Bugbrook.
Blisworth Tunnel

Great pub lunch there, then back. What a fab way to begin our time back home! Here are the kids and some cousins on our boat – the ‘Mudlark’:

Canal trip.jpgclick to enlarge.

On Saturday, we went to visit some friends and then went to Tescos!

Sunday, we were at Ampthill Baptist where Rob was delighted to play the piano for both services. We also had a walk in Ampthill Park which was lovely.
Ampthill Park

Monday, we had our dental appointments – no treatment needed, then attended our core ‘support group’ from ABC.

Tuesday we had a surprise birthday meal for Lois’ mum at the local Italian restaurant. It was during the Italy-Portugal match and the manager (being Italian) was so pleased with the match result he gave us all free drinks!

Wednesday we travelled into London and visited the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. Good fun but tiring and London was WET!!!

Thursday we had lunch with Rob’s folks in Rushden, then on to Rob’s old home town of Boston, Lincolnshire, to stay with friends.

Friday we climbed Boston Stump, the tallest parish church tower in England. (Remember going up there with Clive and me, Reggie??)
Boston Stump

Here are some pics with the kids:

Kids and stump.jpg

Kids up stump.jpg

Great view from up there (but you can only climb up as high as the balcony just below the large arched window). To the left of Madelaine’s right ear (on the photo above) you can see the Sam Newsom Music Centre, where Rob did all his A Level Music studies. Great place! Another perculiarity of the Stump is that is chimes on the hour but has no visible clock!

On Saturday it was time for a family get-together with Rob’s brother, Ian, and his family. He also has two girls and a boy, but a few years older.

Sunday and we took a service and an afternoon session at Rutland Road Church, Bedford, which went really well (I think they all understand what ‘ethnomusicology’ is now!) Then on to Lois’ sister’s house for a birthday party for Jeremy. Finally back home to get packed for Rob’s USA trip and to update this blog!

We’re shattered but having fun. The Wales holiday is soon, which will be wonderful!

Bye for now,

Drop us a line!

Rob, Lois et al