Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Are you gonna write about creepy pizza man?"

Today we woke up at the crack...3:30 AM to go to the airport in Athens. We boarded a 6:55 flight to Paris, our first flight out of three on our way home. After about three hours, and feeling like the plane was definitely crashing (ok, well maybe that was just me...but it did freak Ash out, too, so it was a pretty legit fear!), we made it to the Paris airport.

We spent about half of our life savings on a one hour taxi ride to our hotel (which is super cute!), and sat in the room resting for a bit, before deciding to head out to lunch. We decided to go to a little pizza cafe place, that looked good. The pizza was great, the service? Creepy.

Our waiter was definitely what you would call overly friendly. At first, he started out trying to teach us some French words, and looked at us kind of surprised when we accidentally ordered two humongous pizzas (oops!).  Then, he started to get progressively creepier... He commented on our eye color, rubbed my lower back, petted Ashley's head, tried to get us to kiss him (NOT happening!), asked if we would go to dinner with him, and would NEVER bring us our bill!! Finally, his coworker brought us our bill; I guess he felt sorry for us! While we waited on our change, the waiter approached us again (and keep in mind, he was definitely about 50 years old...), and told us that it was about to rain anyway, so we should just stay and enjoy a bottle of whiskey with him. We decided to brave the rain.

We finally got out of there  (!!!) and went to a small shop to buy some food for breakfast. We went back to the hotel to wait out the rain. Later, we ventured out to try to see the sunset from the eiffel tower. The rain seemed to have stopped, until we got about two blocks away! We went anyway, but decided not to go up until tomorrow night, on the off chance that it might be better weather. We did get some cool pictures, though, and then headed to McDonald's for dinner (We didn't want to chance another creepo waiter just yet). All in all our forst day was successful, and we can't wait till tomorrow, when we go to the Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel tower, and of course, do a little bit of shopping! 

We'll be home soon!!

Yes, we are still alive!

We haven't updated in a LOOONG time, but we are still alive!

We had an amazing time in Turkey and cruising around Greece with our extended family (although several of our most favorite people were missing!).

Since we missed abouuutt...two weeks of blogging, we will do a photo update, courtesy of our Uncle Steve, who took some amazing pictures of the trip! Enjoy!

They are basically in reverse order, and some of them are microscopic because I am dumb... and too lazy to fix them!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who moves a flight UP THREE HOURS>!?

Sunday morning we all gathered in the lobby, dressed up in the best clothes we brought (Shout out to Blake Ellingham looking spiffy in his dress clothes, shoes and tie!).
We spit up and went to several different churches. The one I went to was interesting because it was in both French and English, which was nice! I also liked the part of the service where one of the leaders of the church asked anyone who had not attended in several weeks to please stand! I though this would be a great idea to start implementing at Community of Faith...don't you???
Church surprisingly didnt last too long, and afterwards, we headed to a restaurant called Belvedere, which has one of the best views of the city of Bujumbura. 

After a yummy lunch we headed back to the hotel, and the group split up once again to decide what they were going to do during their free time.  Some decided to swim and hang out at the hotel, others went to visit the Batwa village of Matara, where Community of Faith has helped secure some land for the people. And the fun people decided to go to the ZOO!

Now, the Burundian zoo is not quite like an American zoo...

It cost about five dollars to get in, and immediately on my right was a cage of guinea pigs.  While the rest of the group marveled at how cute they were, the guide took one out of the cage.  Now, I had been to the Burundian zoo last summer, so I knew better than to watch what was coming next. The group followed the guide over to a crocodile pit, where he proceeded to dangle the rodent by one leg, squeeling and screeching.  At this point i turned around so I wouldn't have to see...but i did hear the poor things cries for help, the sharp snap of a strong jaw, and the crunch of tiny innocent bones! :(

After not watching this terrible incident, we went to see the chimps.  They are like very naughty children, and always want to take things from you: hair ties, necklaces, cameras (almost got one of those!).  But they are very sweet, and had sad eyes. One reached out and held my hadn just like a little person for a very long time. We storked each other's hands, and she looked at me with her sad, wise eyes.  The other chimp, of course needed attention, too and I was shocked when i reached out my hand and he grabbed it and gave me a handshake!! They are so smart! then we played "patty cake" for a while, too!

After seeing several more crocs and a leopard (who was in such a TINY cage, it was awful!), I followed the guide into the snake house.  Having been here before I knew it boasted a mix of poisonous and non poisonous snakes, everything from pythons, to cobras, to black mambas!!I looked behind me and realized that I was the first one there.  Immediately on the left by the entrance, there was a glass cage that housed two skinny green snakes, whose french name i couldnt read.  The guide begins to open the cage and says to me, "You can hold this one, I think it doesn't bite." 
"Wait a minute" I said as he was pulling a slithery green snake out of the cage, "You think  or you know it doesnt bite?!"  The man laughed at me, and said he knew, placing the snake on my hands!! When the others came, we also got to hold a muscly python and poke at the cage of a viper to make him flare up! Ok well, I left the disturbing the vipers game to the guide, not gonna lie.

That was the majority of what we did at the zoo, and it was definitely a unique experience!

That night, we all gathered around the pool to eat what else, but pizza! There was an especially terrible band up singing and playing by the pool.  however, for one song they did bust out "I feel good!" To everyones surprise, none other than JOHNNIE JONES (you have to yell it when you say it..) Went sprinting up to the stage and busted out some of the most amazing dance moves any of us had ever seen! Tables full of people we didnt know were clapping and cheering, and the kitchen staff even came out to watch!!

That night, Ashley adn I were supposed to be leaving at 340 AM to Nairobi, Kenya. We packed up and left for the airport. We pulled into the airport parking lot around 1 AM, only to see a plane taking off.... worried, Claude ran inside, only to find out that that had indeed been our plane that we had watched fly away.  Apparently, they moved the flight up THREE HOURS and didnt bother to email or call us, or update their website...only in Africa I suppose.

After much arguing and rescheduling, we got tickets for a flight the next morning, and a rescheduled connection flight to Amsterdam. We got to the airport the next mornign extra early to make sure we would make our flight! 

We took a flight that made a brief stop in Rwanda (Now ashley can say she's been there!) and then landed in nairobi.  The one good thing about our new connection flight to amsterdam is that the only available seats were in business class (dang it! I wanted to sit in economy....)! Those seats even had in chair massagers! After an EIGHT HOUR layover in Kanya, we finally boarded the flight to Amsterdam. I watched one movie, then slept the whole way! We are now in Amsterdam, at the sheraton to shower, eat and rest, and leave for Paris at 450 PM and then to Istanbul! 

I don't know when we will be able to update next, but we will try to as soon as possible!

Love you all and wish you were here!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A long awaited update...

This might be short, because we just got back from sleeping in a Batwa village and I am very tired!


Ashley woke up Thursday morning with her eye swollen shut! We still aren't sure what it was from, but Claude told us it was because "an ant walked over her eye"! Not quite sure if this was the right answer or not, but either way, it had gone down by that night. We spent the morning listening to presentations by Parliament members Ettienne and Liberate about Batwa spirituality and health. There was also a presentation by Evariste about education. There are 75,000 Batwa, and only 500 of them are in secondary school. Of those 500, only 100 are girls!

After the presentations, we had lunch, which included lots of conversation and eating fish heads and tails! (They were actually pretty good though!). Robin taught several members of the Batwa group Texan words like "Howdy!" and "y'all." Not to be outdone, Blake taught a man  to greet people with "Wasssuuup!" Then, we all headed down to teh shores of Lake tanganyika for volleyball and swimming (where Derek and Tom thought it was hilarious to pretend to be crocs and grab people's ankles!). 

Then, we got cleaned up and headed over to the student house to meet our students! This was a super-fun time of getting to know each other and exchanging gifts! We didn't get to stay long enough!!

After meeting our students, we went back to the hotel for dinner! This was our last dinner with our new Batwa friends.

Friday: Tyler and Sarah's 1 year anniversary! :)

Friday morning we went to breakfast, and then had a break to pack up our stuff and check out by eleven.  We moved all of our luggage into Derek's room, except for a small bag with a change of clothes.  

Claude and Kelley had the group over to their house for lunch, which was SO delicious! We then learned which village we would be heading to for the night!

Ashley and I went to the same village, which begins with a "B" but I can't pronounce it!

We drove about an hour and a half through the mountains of Burundi, and were greeted at the village with dancing and singing! We took a short tour of the village, dropped off our stuff, and hiked down to the nearby soccer field! It was a game of "muzungos" vs. Batwa, and the Batwa definitely won! After arriving back at the village, we sat around a campfire and sang and danced some more. After a while, we were invited into the main building for dinner.  We ate rice, beans, plantains, and goat kabobs! Some were wary of the kabobs, but overall, they tasted pretty good! Some of the group also had their first pee-in-a-hole experience tonight, too!

Because it was pitch black after dinner, we all went to bed (even though it was only about 930!)
I went into my straw hut and laid on my little bed of straw and sticks.  It wasn't too uncomfortable, but it was COLD! In the middle of the night, Ashley crawled into my bed with me so that we could be warmer!


We woke up at 5:30 this morning!!! Some of the village members lead us on a hike through the forrest in search of animals.  After almost TWO HOURS of walking steeply uphill, Derek finally told the guides that we were tired and wanted to turn back around. The only animal we saw was a squirrel!!!!! Instead of going back the way we came, the guides said they could take us on a short cut.  It was definitely shorter, but it was also definitely VERY uphill! We arrived back at the village tired and thirsty, but we did get to see a gorgeous sunset! I will definitely be sore tomorrow! 

After our hike, we ate a breakfast consisting of honey, bread, and peanuts.  It was during this time that we learned that a woman had given birth the night before!  We gathered up loaves of bread, bags of peanuts, oranges, and bottles of coca-cola, and went to visit the newborn and her mother.  

Afterwards, we were put to work! Saturdays are community service days in Burundi.  So, we helped the Villagers make mud bricks. We made an assembly line, passing blobs of mud to each other, eventually placing it into a wooden mold.

After the brick making, we taught the children of the village how to play frisbee!! We sadi goodbye and left the village around 11.

We arrived back at the hotel, where we washed up before heading over to Claude and Kelly's for lunch.  A muslim family that is friends with Claude and Kelley prepared the meal and it was very delicious! We sat outside on a large mat, eating and listening to traditional Burundian music played by a band whose leader is also friends with Claude.  We of course had to get up and dance (you should see Claude's Kick-back dance!)

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel, and now it's NAP TIME! We are going to Bora Bora tonight to have pizza for dinner! I will try to update more tomorrow!


Wednesday, June 17, 2009


We haven't updated in a while, but we did make it to Africa!! We left Amsterdam around 10 am on Monday, arrived in Nairobi, Kenya at 730, ready to take our 1030 flight to Bujumbura, Burundi. HOWEVER, Kenya Airways has been consolidating flights lately to save money, so we got pushed onto a 130 AM FLIGHT! We spent our extra long layover eating our complimentary meal (Spaghetti, that was more like noodles with salsa!) and meeting Judo champions and treating them to American foods like cherry sours and wasabi peas (courtesy of Derek's "Snack pack."  
We finallllly boarded the plane, and it was DELAYED due to technical difficulties. We did make it to Burundi, eventually, and got to our beautiful hotel around 4 AM!

The next day, most everyone slept in until almost one, and then we went to lunch with our Batwa friends! We also had a celebration of our partnership with the Twa, with Burundian drummers, traditional Batwa dancers, and a dance presented by our students. 

We also got to meet our students, and they are AWESOME!

Then, in traditional Burundian style, we had a dance party! We danced and danced in the sand, jumping and singing, until we all felt like we were going to barf up our lunch!

Then we had some presentations and then dinner! After dinner, we all sat around a bonfire, singing and dancing with our new Batwa friends.

This morning, Ashley went to breakfast, while Sarah stayed in bed (because she was sick form her malaria medicine!!! So she's definitely not going to take it any more, just rely on deet.)  

Then we had a short service, followed by free time on the beach playing volleyball and swimming in lake Tanganyika. Sarah, Ashley, and Chaco took a ride on a small fishing boat. It was fun, but a little frightening.  The boat rocked a lot, and you had to scoop water out of the bottom with a cup! The fishemen also told us they were going to take us to the Democratic Republic of the Congo! 

After we made it back to shore, we cleaned up for lunch and then headed out to the Batwa village of Bubanza.  This was the most exciting part of the day! The people of Bubanza greeted us with dancing and singing. We took a tour of their village and met many of the awesome people that live in terrible poverty in Bubanza. Before we left, the women presented us with traditional Batwa pots! Everyone was so excited and nearly everyone had tears in their eyes. After an emotional goodbye, we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up for dinner!

more to come laterrrr.....

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Packfest Part 2

At least this time it's easier to pack, because there is only a limited amount of things we have to pack! But, we do have a massive amount of souvenirs! 

Today was fun, we slept in, ate breakfast and headed out to the Anne Frank Huis (House).  We knew there would be a long line, but decided sleeping in would be worth the wait in line, since we wouldn't get to sleep in much for the rest of our travels.  I mean, if you have ever traveled with Granddad Dunham, which we will in Greece and Turkey, there is no rest. And 7 am is sleeping in...So, we took advantage of the time to sleep.

The line was definitely really long, but the museum was way cool.  They actually had Anne's original diary on display! No photos were allowed of it, so I tried to take a sneaky video. Unfortunately, I only ended up filming the people around me..!

Afterwards, we finally found that tower from yesterday! It was right by Anne Frank's house all this time! So we took a lot of pictures of it to prove that we had found it! There was also a memorial outside of the tower (which was actually part of a church) for the homosexuals who were persecuted and killed during the war.  A statue commemorating Anne Frank was also in the plaza outside of the church.

Later that day, we went out to dinner. We decided to go to Wagamama's in honor of Molly Gibbs. And it was REALLY good!!  Then we wandered around Amsterdam.  The sun started to set, and this is when we started meeting some interesting people...

Oh, and apparently, Spanish guys really like us, because they kept saying "hola" to us everywhere we went.  We also met an interesting character while sitting by one of the canals who offered us a swig out of his beer can and when we declined and told him we had to go back to our hotel, he said he would be in that same spot...waiting. We told him we would be right back. I don't know how convincing we sounded. Then we met David and Malcolm.  They stopped us on the street, telling us they liked our freckles and "twin eyes."  I guess we looked nervous because they told us not to be afraid (always comforting!).  We made polite small talk, and they actually were pretty friendly, and much less creepy that the canal guy, although probably equally as drunk, carrying their packs of Heineken along the road with them.

Anyway, after meeting many new friends, we decided to head back to the hotel to pack.
And that's what we're doing now: Packfest Part 2. We leave at 10am tomorrow morning for Nairobi and then to Burundi!

-Sarah and Ash

Ooops! We forgot to update last night!

We definitely forgot to update the blog last night, sorry!

Yesterday we woke up fairly early (9am, that's fairly early, right??) and went down for breakfast.  Our plan for the day was to travel in a big circle hitting most of the major sites around town, starting with the "Westerwick" tower, near Anne Frank's house.

There was only one hitch in our master plan....neither of us can read a map.

In a moment of directional brilliance, I decided that instead of following the map, we could simply look at the tower in the distance and head that way. Unfortunately, as soon as we crossed the street, the tower was no longer in view!

So, we didn't quite make a big circle around town; it was more of a series of zigzags, paths and random wanderings around town.  Ashley did start to get the hang of the map, though, and we ended up seeing most of the sites we intended to. We never got to that tower, though!!!

We saw the Dam Square (Amsterdam's main square with lots of street perfomers), a church adjacent to the Dam square (not sure which one!), the Old Kerk (Amsterdam's oldest church), the New Kerk (the newer one, I guess?), historic Jordaan, the red light district, countless canals, what we assumed to be the Asian district of town, and many, many "coffee shops." We also stumbled upon the Waterloopein, a massive outdoor flea market (although not as big as the one in Mauritius, nothing can top that one!).  They had everything from vintage clothes, to hash lollipops, to jewelry, to bike parts. 

After exploring the city for a few hours, we came back to the hotel to rest our feet and take a nap.

Later that evening we went back to the floating flower market to pick up a couple extra souvenirs, and to see it with all the shops open, since many of them were closed when we first went. We also went out in search of dinner. After weighing our options, we stopped at Margarita's Mexican cafe (got to be good, right!?).  Our verdict on Dutch Mexican food is that it was.....interesting. But not bad. Definitely not an Alicia's or Ted's, though.  Ashley had empanadas, or as I like to call them, "Dutch-Mexican eggrolls."  I had the vegetarian taco combo, which consisted of a corn taco, a bean taco, and an avocado taco, but which should have been called a cheesy corn thing, a giant nacho, and grass-flavored guacamole taco.  The first two items were actually pretty good, though!

Anyway, that pretty much sums up our second day in Amsterdam! We'll post about today later on tonight.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"It looks a lot like Texas.."

I'm tired.


We survived the nine hour flight to Amsterdam, and really, it didn't seem too long!
We did have kind of a rough start to our trip, though.


Ashley and I got to the Houston airport, checked in, and were getting a bite to eat.  We decided that we needed to take a picture to "document" everything that was happening on our trip, so Ashley reached for her camera.  She started freaking out because she couldn't find it, so I told her not to worry, that we would use mine.  I fished around in both of my carry-ons for my camera, only to realize that I had forgotten my camera, too! We were traveling to Amsterdam, Burundi, Istanbul, Greece, and Paris, and NEITHER of us had a camera! Looking at the time and realizing that we only had twenty minutes before we were supposed to board the plane, we began to scramble around the airport looking for a camera! Five minutes before boarding time, we shelled out $120 for a camera (apparently they don't sell disposable ones in the airport!), and hurried to our gate. 

The flight was not bad at all, and didn't even feel very long. We read books, made plans for Amsterdam, watched movies, and slept for a grand total of 1 hour (Ashley didn't sleep at all!). Needless to say, when we arrived in Amsterdam, we were a little tired. 

PS- Never take a taxi in Amsterdam, they are ridiculously expensive. Seriously.

When we got to our hotel, all we could think about was taking a hot shower and a nice, long nap.  Unfortunately, we were informed upon arrival that our room wouldn't be ready until 2 pm (It was 10 am at this point!).  So, we took a canal tour, which was an interesting way to see most of the famous sites of Amsterdam. The rocking boat made it very hard to stay awake, though! After the canal tour, we went back to our hotel, and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was ready! We skipped lunch in favor of a nap, and woke up around 5:30 to go eat and explore a bit.

What did we choose for our first meal? Classic Dutch fare, McDonald's. But hey, it was close to the hotel, and fries sounded good. We'll get more adventurous tomorrow. We walked along the Blooemarket, Amsterdam's floating flower market, and looked at a few shops.  Among the different varieties of plants, mainly tulips and marijuana starter kits (do people actually think they can take these home with them??), we also found some interesting souvenirs, which we will have to post pictures of later (because the internet is too slow to upload them right now...). Also, we discovered that the magic mushroom shop and the sex cinema are close to our hotel, so that's always good news.  We wandered around Amsterdam's canal ring for a while before heading back to the hotel.  

Before we left, we had heard from several people that Amsterdam was awful, but so far, we are really enjoying it! The city is a great mix of old and new, and everything is very compact and mostly within walking distance.  The architecture is cool, too, even though neither of us knows much about it (The houses are too skinny to fit furniture in the door, so each house has a hook on the roof to lift the furniture in through the window! ).  The people have all been friendly and helpful, even offering to share their marijuana with us at one of the gift shops, which we politely declined. :) 

Anyway, we will hopefully be able to post pictures soon! We wish you all were here with us!


Thursday, June 11, 2009


We leave today for the Shook homeland (Amsterdam, Netherlands) at three this afternoon.  In typical Shook style, we have waited till the last minute to pack, deciding to go to Barnes and Nobles and Target yesterday instead.  Nothing can beat last summer's preparation, though, when Dad and Sarah had to buy luggage and go to the passport office, THE DAY they were leaving.  So maybe we are getting better at this whole being prepared and packing thing...

I once heard that the experienced traveller packs light.  We would consider ourselves fairly well travelled, having been to over 25 countries between the two of us.  However, we both agreed that the traveller who packs light is not experienced, but rather, UNDERPREPARED! I mean, you never know when you will need that baby tide stick or which of your six pairs of jeans you will want to wear on any given day.  Some call it overpacked, but we like to call it "prepared for anything."

We leave you with a glimpse of our stressful, yet glorious, PACKFEST!


Friday, June 5, 2009

Where will Sarah Go First?!?!

..............HOUSTON! WOO!

I am waiting in my Nompton house for Tyler "Slow Poke" May to arrive so that we can leave for Houston! We are both really excited! Ashley is graduating this weekend (she is so old, but I still call her baby Petrey).  She has made the WISE choice to skip out on any Texas schools and become a SOONER

Anyway, it should be very exciting, and very long! But we are also going shopping this weekend, the Shook girls' favorite sport (except maybe after Sooner football), which will also be a blasty of course!

I'm Sooner Born and Sooner Bred
And When I Die I'll Be Sooner Dead!
Rah Oklahoma!
Rah Oklahoma!
Rah Oklahomaaaaa!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Well, We Started a Blog!

Well, we are still trying to figure out this whole blogging thing...it's way complicated, what's the deal!?

Now y'all can follow our travels this summer, though! Enjoy!

SIDE NOTE:  I, Ashley Shook, am a computer super-genius.  I have figured out how to link things and put a picture of us on the blog!  I shall teach Sarah my ways, and soon the both of us will be blogging queens.