Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bogota, Pt. 4: In Harm's Way

Warning: Violence is not typically depicted in Garth's Blog. That being said, the last part of this entry from Sunday night (originally posted as "The Bodyguard") references a couple of rough encounters I had in Colombia.  One part of the story could be upsetting to some readers, but there's nothing offensive here.  Everything was under control.  If I were to share the true context of my experience with Hernando, it would be apparent that the situation was not as grim or foolish as it sounds.  Had that context been specified, the facts of this story would be re-read in a different, much more positive light.

I'll post another adventure from Colombia in early March, after I fly home from a quick visit with some friends in Europe.  Enjoy the story and the pics!


Armed soldiers were stationed at random streets throughout Bogota... but only in some neighborhoods.  This recruit is guarding government buildings behind the Colombian President's house. 



The Sunday flea market in Bogota was a worthwhile diversion this morning. I returned in time to upload last night's "Big Welcome Party" blog post (link) from the Musicology Hostel. My fellow backpackers had vastly different ambitions (if any) for the day than mine, thus I set out for a solo exploration of Bogota.

Solo was the plan, anyway.



The plaza on the way to Mount Monserrate, a hike for another day


Exploring the neighborhoods of Bogota


Barely an hour into my jaunt, I ran into my volatile Colombian friend Hernando for a second time. He was having an undignified moment, one which could happen to the best of us. He excitedly accepted my invitation to come along with me on the journey.  Note: Like hitchhiking or any other risky activity I may practice in a foreign county, I do not advise engaging in this behavior nor would I EVER allow today's events to happen if traveling with my precious family.

Hernando felt greatly indebted to me after the dramatic circumstances of our first meeting (omitted here from the public version of Garth's Blog). He declared himself to be my personal bodyguard inside what he claimed was the most dangerous city in the world.

Little did I know that Hernando would later save my life. Twice.



We took turns calling the shots.  The Gold Museum had closed before we arrived.  Hernando compensated by excitedly showed me some of his favorite spots, discoveries that he had made since arriving here in Bogota.  He indulged me in a few of the touristy sites, too.



Buying fresh produce, baked goods, and sweets from Colombian street vendors



Street performers entertain spectators on the streets of Bogota






The Plaza de Boliviar, featuring a statue of Simon Bolivar surrounded by the National Capitol, Palace of the Justice, Lievano Building, the Palace of Narino, and the 19th century Catedral Primada cathedral



Hernando repeatedly resisted my intentions to hike to the top of Mount Monserrate at dusk. He rightly feared that it would be too dangerous, an objection that would soon prove to be ironic.

It was tempting to ditch Hernando and hike up Monserrate myself. My inner conflict sprang from the awareness that he was a fellow traveler who clearly needed a friend. Someone to listen.

Setting aside my plans, we sat down in the back of a 16th century cathedral to quietly talk. Hearing his troubled life story moved my heart to compassion.

**********


A scary situation soon overshadowed my good intentions. Hernando insisted on running a quick errand, which was completely legit and legal.  As we walked we suddenly found ourselves crossing a very rough neighborhood, even for a city with a reputation like Bogota.  Disclaimer: Many travelers agree that Bogota's reputation as an extremely dangerous city is outdated. I rarely felt unsafe in most areas that I visited.

Things turned ugly as we attempted to leave the district. Hernando had been warning me all day about knife wielding "stick 'em guys," who will "cut you and carve you up for no reason."

Indeed, they will.


On two separate occasions, we were approached by such people. When confronted with the threat of violence, my preferences will either be peaceful resolution or evasion. Hernando preferred a more direct approach...

The specifics of these encounters will be left up to the reader's imagination. Many of us will never understand what moves a person to attempt to harm another human being. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured today. I am still thanking God that neither of these situations further deteriorated..


Happy ending: We made it out alive!


It goes without saying that I parted ways with Hernando after that. He made his way back to his hotel room, and I returned to the Musicology Hostel.


Blogging with my new phone from one of the Musicology Hostel's outdoor common areas.  Remind me why I bother bringing along my laptop and tablet on vacations anymore?



Someday I may share Hernando's story on Garth's Blog. He gave me his permission.  Key details are being withheld for my own personal reasons, as well as sensitivity to his family.

If granted a do-over, would I have persuaded Hernando to not cross through that neighborhood? That would have been wise. Would I take back the time spent demonstrating to Hernando that he is a valuable person, loved by God?  Not a chance

After all, Mount Monserrate will still be here tomorrow!



Coming next on BlogSpot...

Hiking Monserrate and Saying Goodbye!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bogota, Pt. 3: The Big Welcome Party

2/28/13 A clarification to my readers:
Since posting this from Colombia on Sunday, I've been taken aback by the controversy that this post generated (publicly and privately).  Specifically, my sparse description of what I jokingly referred to as the "Big Welcome Party" in the title led many readers to speculate about the drugs, drunkenness, debauchery, and careless behavior that could have been involved.

In actuality, the nature of this birthday party (or any of my exuberant social activities in Bogota this week, for that matter) would fail to raise an eyebrow from most people who know me.  I apologize that my intention to depict a fun, innocent, and festive arrival in Bogota was interpreted otherwise.


As always, thanks for keeping up with Garth's Blog!


From this morning:


Bogota, Colombia- Nearly every street in my neighborhood of La Candelaria has views like this one that I captured of Monserrate, looming above the city.


Within minutes of arriving at Algeria's Hostel in Bogota, Colombia last night, I got invited to a neighborhood birthday party. My American friend Josh found out about the fiesta from a girl whom he had been shamelessly hitting on in the common lounge. He had to insist, and I couldn't resist.

Hubo un problema. Charles and I were out so late (see my "Colombia, At Last" post from last night) that the guy from Algeria's Hostel had given away my bed. That's right, the bed that I had paid a deposit for. The bed that I was assured could be claimed no matter how late I checked in.

My Spanish speaking skills were sufficient enough to get me this far, but I could not translate this guy's lengthy justification to save my gringo life. At least he seemed apologetic, and he's probably a nice guy when he's not busy overbooking South American hostels.


Long story short, I ended up at the nearby Musicology Hostel with plenty of time to make an appearance at the party down the street.  Back at the hostel, Diego, Ellie, Jenny, and whomever else wandered inside made me feel welcome in the common area until we eventually retired to our bunks. Good times can be found in the midst of some bad circumstances!

**********



Sipping Colombian coffee with breakfast on the patio of Bogota's Musicology Hostel, before heading out with some friends



This morning, I may walk down to the Sunday flea market with some students from Philly. The rest of the day will be reserved for exploring Bogota and doing touristy stuff. Tonight, the Musicology Hostel is hosting a barbecue followed by a "party bus."  Don't plan on me catching that bus.

It could be late by the time I get back from my moonlight hike up to the hillside of Monserrate.  The view looking down at Bogota is said to be gorgeous!

Bogota, Pt. 2: Colombia, At Last

From last night...

It took a few days to get here from Portland, but Bogota finally let me in!


Tonight was my first night in the city, and I made up for lost time.  Prior to takeoff in Atlanta, I had booked a bed at Algeria's Hostel from my new Galaxy Note 2 (as the preflight refreshments were being served).  With that peace of mind, I've been making some detours before checking in at my 24-hour/day hostel in Bogota.  My original seat mate and I went out for some food and fun together after we landed in Colombia this evening.

Note: Charles is specified as the "original" so as to avoid confusing him with Jason, the [insert descriptive personal noun] who kicked my deadlock-headed friend out of his seat.  Jason, to his credit, took top honors for being the most unpleasant Business Class passenger I've ever sat next to.  He sported some very creative body art, though. 


Now that Charles, I, and company have had our fun, I'm blogging my way across town via taxi to check in at Algeria's Hostel. Bogota is a beautiful city at night!
**********

By the way, loyal "Garth's Blog" readers may have noticed that an additional day was wasted to reach South America since my last blog post from Minneapolis (link). A Midwest snowstorm ransacked the Delta system yesterday, cancelling flights and overbooking my connecting flight to Atlanta. Naturally, I got bumped.

On the plus side, missing that flight allowed me to catch up with an old buddy in MSP whom was also flying to Atlanta. The negative? My only connection to Bogota yesterday was blown.


Losing yet another travel day, I was stranded when I landed in Atlanta. Various friends attempted to help me out, but everything bombed. My overnight layover in Atlanta was too miserable to describe here. It didn't help that I was shivering through temps in the upper 30s while dressed for the equatorial region of South America.

Atlanta, 2.am: Cold, grumpy, and still living off Wednesday night's sleep. I fell asleep instantly that night.


On second thought, any night in Atlanta that includes a run in with yet another old friend and a successful 2 a.m. hunt for maple-pecan waffles can't be all bad. Right?



Post Script from Bogota:  Bad ideas come easily to me.  Heading out with Charles and co. before checking into Alegria's Hostel was one of them.  Be watching for my next post to find out why!

Friday, February 22, 2013

No Sleep 'Til Bogota!

En route to Colombia:

My apologies to the Beastie Boys for hijacking their party rock anthem for this blog post title, sent from Economy Class.


My Delta MD-88 lands in snowy Minneapolis for my connection to Atlanta.  After Atlanta, it's on to Bogota, Colombia!

My journey to Central America should have begun either Wednesday night or last night. Had I bothered to read my own "Overbooked" (link) post, it would have dawned on me that squeezing in a red eye flight on Wednesday would be pushing it. Then yesterday, my Delta seniority (read: boarding priority) was no match for the paying passengers on any of the Atlanta flights. The late hour of the last flight set me up for an all-nighter to join today's early morning standby list.  No sleep 'til...yeah.



Since then, the destination has changed three times. Trekking in Ecuador (link) is still near the top of my list, and hanging out with my wandering friends in Nicaragua or Costa Rica would have been a nice chillaxing time. Even Guatemala was ruled out at the last minute. It's funny how losing two entire travel days can make even the most reckless of guys reel it in a bit.

Most importantly, I'm hoping to briefly swing back by Portland next week to sweep away Kathy and Lena for the European leg of the trip!  Granted, it's going to take a LOT of charm and persuasion to break them loose from the nest.  I'm up for the challenge.

In the meantime, I'm so grateful for the friends and family who are watching our adorable little 17 month old Lena in my absence. Kathy appreciates the undisturbed study time, and we both miss that sweet little baby!


Two more flights to go! I just landed here in wintry Minneapolis to catch my next flight to Atlanta. From there, it's South America all the way.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Overbooked


Don't feel duped if you expected this to be a post about getting bumped off of an another overbooked international flight.  All new overseas adventures are coming to "Garth's Blog" very soon!  In 2013, I'll try not to make the same blogging mistake I make each and every year:  waiting so long to blog about my trips that some of my best international blog posts get left out.


The thing that is overbooked is me.  I've been booked to speak three times today... twice at Faith Bible school and again tonight at church.  Gone are the days of getting stressed out about preparing a "Big Church" sermon, youth talk, and commencement speech in the span of an entire bi-vocational week.  Yet, I am grateful (and baffled, frankly, that I was asked) for these opportunities to give inspirational messages.

But delivering three full-length messages in the same day?  In addition to brainstorming for tomorrow's blank slate international trip?  My brain is full.  Clearly, I'll need some extra grace today.  It doesn't help that this has been a heavy week for me... I hurt when those whom I love are hurting, and especially when they attempt to harm themselves.

**********


A post like this would be normally be banished to my other, personal blog site.  However, it felt right to send this out to a wider audience this morning.  The non-spiritual, lighthearted fun will return to "Garth's Blog" next time.

In the meantime, I'm asking that any of you who pray would remember me in prayer today.  And if you're not praying... wait, why aren't you praying?!

Love you all!  Thanks for letting me be real.



P.S. For no reason whatsoever, here is a video clip of Lena trying to act innocent after keeping us awake through most of the night:  


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What a cutie!

Monday, February 18, 2013

E.P.I.C. Student Ministry Update- Feb 2013

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Opening night of "The Hobbit" with students, after the E.P.I.C. Christmas party at our house!

Parents & students- It’s been a few months since November’s “Backpacking Elk Meadows- High School Guys” post.  An E.P.I.C. student ministry BlogSpot update is WAY overdue!


Family time, WPC Homecoming weekend, prep for my sermon/lessons, and speaking twice at Faith Bible School this week have all kept me fairly busy.  While I don’t currently have time to compose a thoughtful, inspirational post about our student ministry at Aloha Church of God, be assured that God is doing great things!

To tide us all over until our next ministry update proper, here are some photos from a few of our Fall 2012 youth events:



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Kenny and Derek play with Lena, 13 1/2 months old, after an E.P.I.C. ministry session.





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Patricia, Eleanor, Wendy, and Allen serve Halloween refreshments with Lena, our little 13 1/2 month old ladybug, at Aloha Church of God's Trunk or Treat.





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Cameron, Derek, Garth, and Lyle rock out to Red's pyrotechnic-filled performance at Winter Jam 2012 @ the Rose Garden, also feauring TobyMac, Red, Group1Crew, Capital Kings, Newsong, Chris August, Jamie Grace, Jason Castro, Dara Maclean, and speaker Nick Hall.

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TobyMac and the Diverse City Band headline Winter Jam 2012





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Our AChoG Christmas Extravaganza audience gets competitively loud for the shout-along song "Grandma's House."












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Dirty tactics: Daddy uses baby Lena to force a smile out of Derek in "Honey, if you love me."







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Dirty payback: The gang pulls out the ultimate weapon (Kenny) against Garth to coax a smile in "Honey, if you love me."  Not fair!












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Kenny and Garth bust out the PS3 Move guns during an E.P.I.C. Playstation 3 gaming night at our house.  Blessed are the peacemakers?



Coming on the next E.P.I.C. ministry update… 

News about our upcoming Mexico missions trip!


And coming later this week on BlogSpot… 

A Wild Wedding in Sunriver, featuring guest blogger Kathy!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fever for Lena, Pt. 2

2/8/13 Note: This blog post is from last night.  A ton of additional pictures were added today!

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Lena's first jam session



As Fever for Lena, Pt. 1 (link) assured everyone, our 16 ½ month old Lena is all better now!  Tonight is another Daddy-daughter night, and Lena is lying on my lap as I type this blog.  We’re thankful that she’s back to her normal, energetic self again.  How energetic is she, you ask?

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Even after just waking up from a nap together with Daddy after work, we could barely keep the camera on her!


However, the rest of us are still burning with a fever for Lena photos from 2012.  Feed a cold and starve a fever, right?  Well, we’re flipping that old adage around tonight to make sure that fever gets fed.  Let’s pick up where we left off at the end of Tuesday's “Garth’s Blog” photo-fest:



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In November, Brent and Cheryl invited us to their house in Bend for Thanksgiving dinner...


The next day...
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...The grandparents watched Lena so we kids could have some grownup time —Hiking, skateboarding, a live music festival at 10 Barrel, and dancing!



As November came to a close…
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….Lena relished Daddy’s final moments of scruff by nestling her face against his “No Shave November” beard.




In December, we made sure to set aside some time for Daddy and Mommy to hit the town…

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… But the most exciting thing about the holidays was celebrating Lena’s second Christmas!


An early Christmas Eve with the Easons








Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at my parents’ house








...And Mommy and Lena drive to PDX Airport to visit Daddy at work on Christmas Day!



Christmastime with Lena was even better this year, with our baby girl becoming more aware of the season!  Still, we couldn’t help but wonder if emphasizing the birth of Christ while pushing Santa Claus on Lena is sending mixed messages…
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Too soon?  Lena, nearly 15 months old, isn’t quite sure what to make of our AChoG Christmas Extravaganza’s Santa Claus.

Maybe Santa will get a warmer reception next year.

**********



Aside from some recent sleeping problems, Lena seems to be feeling much better these days.  Hallelujah!  In fact, I just took a break from blogging to finish rocking that precious little girl to sleep a few hours ago.

Daddy-baby nights like these are something to be treasured…in sickness and in health!


Coming next week on BlogSpot…


I twist Kathy’s arm for her to blog about Brent and Cheryl’s fabulous wedding in Sunriver!

And then… 

...an E.P.I.C. Student Ministry Update!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fever for Lena, Pt. 1


Spoiler:  If talk about illness gets you down, feel free to skip ahead to the happy part below!


Daddy nurses a feverish, 15 month old Lena back to health.



The first 15 months of Lena’s life were so healthy and carefree!  That streak ran out during the end of December when Lena rocked her first 101 degree temperature.  So heartbreaking.

Lena was down again last week, this time with the flu.  Next, Kathy came down with a mild case of something else.  Finally, I got hit by a ferocious but puzzlingly brief bout of norovirus a week ago.  We’re all thankful to be back to our normal healthy selves, but there’s still something going around...

                                       ...It’s something in the air.  

It’s an affliction...

...An affliction that can only be cured by a collection of previously unseen Lena photos from the tail end of 2012!

It’s…
A fever for Lena!


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We've begun sharing our grown-up food with Lena at restaurants.  Note: a previous BlogSpot entry included an even cuter Lena shot from that night!




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Lena is conquering her fear of the loud, scary vacuum cleaner that Daddy pitched in one of his TV commercials.  Our weekly ritual of Daddy rushing Lena outside to preempt an Electrolux-induced baby screamfest is a thing of the past!  We have plenty of other excuses to get her outside… more on that during our upcoming hiking blog!









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At Buffalo Wild Wings with my parents













Kathy, Lena (our little 13 1/2 month old ladybug), and Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan hold down the fort at our church's Halloween Trunk or Treat...
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…And later, Lena shows off her ladybug costume at home.




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Lena plays in Grandpa and Grandma Eason’s front yard leaves, and everywhere else!



This was supposed to be one long, mega blog post.  However, it's time that I got back to studying for this Sunday's Valentine's Day sermon on "The Five Love Languages."  I'll post more photos here tomorrow on Thursday!


Coming Thursday on BlogSpot...

The adorable conclusion to "Fever for Lena!"

And coming soon...

A Wild Wedding in Sunriver!!



Friday, February 1, 2013

Lena Photo-fest: Down Again

Sorry, folks. We didn't leave tonight's wedding rehearsal party quite early enough for me to finish this (as promised in the "My Jeep, the Tank" blog post.).  It was so worth it, though... we are so excited for Brent and Cheryl!  I had to pull this blog post again, mainly so I can finish adding the rest of the photos.

The rest of this weekend is toast. But when I get a chance, this note will soon be replaced followed by my original BlogSpot entry that I drafted earlier.


Check back here soon for the rest of those adorable Lena pictures!