Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Moving on...

Well, my dear friends, since we are really struggling to keep up TWO blogs...we are making one.
SOOOooooooo come visit us at: ahalbrooks.wordpress.com

ALSO...there is a link at the very top of our new blog post that will allow you to get an email every time we post!

Looking forward to catching you there!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Back to America...for six months

Well folks, we have left Papua New Guinea and are heading your way. We left on July 1st and have spent a few days in Hawaii for vacation. I have never been here before so it's really a treat! Alan came to Hawaii as a teenager with his family but spent most of his time on the Big Island.

We decided to rent a condo in the Makaha Valley, West Oahu, for the seven days we are here. It was a GREAT idea! We highly recommend it. Coming from Ukarumpa where we have one store and have to create our own entertainment (which is fine with us), living in the middle of the city would have been too overwhelming.

In the past few days we have seen the sights and museums at Pearl Harbor. We've gone to the North Shore to a place called Wiamea Valley Gardens and Waterfall. There we saw beautiful flowers and plants and were able to swim under a waterfall. Last night we sat on the beach at night (yeah, AT NIGHT) and watched  a few firework to celebrate the Fourth of July. And today we swam at the beach and went to Buzz's Original Steak House to celebrating our 1st anniversary (which is today!).

Our vacation to Hawaii, I am sure, looks much different from that of an American tourist. We have missed many pleasures someone who lives in a first world country enjoy on a daily basis such as: large containers of delicious milk, real orange juice, yogurt (that I didn't have to make myself), sandwiches and sandwich meat, BACON, crunchy wheat thins, hot, plentiful, and powerful showers, dryers, dish wasters, foamy dish soap, clean feet, carpeted floors, air-con, 24 hour pharmacy, to list a few. :)

Here are some pictures of our travel and time here. I will do my best to update a little more.

We also want to let you know our PLAN while we are in the states.
                          Most of the time: Between Alabama and North Carolina
                          We will be traveling to:  Virginia, Texas and possible other places

We would love to visit with you! Once we get back to Alabama we will get our phone up and running. The month of July is CRAZY. We'll be spending lots of time with both of our families as well as traveling to Florida for a week of Wycliffe Courses.  Our main job for the six months in the states is to:
                          Reconnect with family
                          Reconnect with prayer and financial supporters
                          Attain additional prayer and financial supporters
                          Rest and regroup
                          Encourage others to join us on the mission field

Looking forward to seeing and hearing from you!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Making of a Marshmallow

One day Alan had the idea of making our own marshmallows. Since we had nothing else to do that day I said I would help. We found a recipe online and began to collect all the needed ingredients:
corn syrup
gelatin packets
Our neighbors would laugh at the word "collect" since that often means we come over begging. Once we had found what we needed we began mixing it all together. First we mixed the gelatin with the water. It made these interesting crystals as it sat there.

Then we heated the sugar, corn syrup and vanilla to like 240 degrees. We had to borrow the candy timer as well....thanks Ellis family! :) (Don't worry folks, they got to taste the final product!)

We mixed all that together and put it in a greased pan to cool. Since we didn't have enough gelatin packets it turned out sticker than it should have been but they tasted good! It was almost like marshmallow fluff! Everyone who tasted them said they were denser but still very good. I do believe my nieces and nephew would have eaten the whole pan if I would have let them!

Pretty simple process actually. Hats off to your creativity Alan!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Banquet Invitation

Here in Ukarumpa we have many traditions, one of which being the Junior/Senior Banquet. Instead of doing a Prom for the teens we have created Banquet. On the day of Banquet the teens dress up in suits and fancy dresses and walk in to banquet, with the community watching (I'll show you more pictures when that happens in a few weeks)....but first, they have to be invited. I am still not quite sure why since everyone knows the 11th and 12th graders are the only ones attending, but it's tradition.

This year it was up to Jeff and Kristin Brewer to organize the delivering of the invitations. The actual day of delivery is a secret as well as the theme of Banquet. If you know, you are sworn to secrecy! Seriously, parents go ALL OUT to keep it from their teens.

One night they called us up and asked if Alan could help them with their idea. We went over to their house for dinner to discuss the details of it all. They wanted Jeff and Alan to lip-sync to the song Classic by MKTO. Have you ever heard of it? I hadn't, until that day. Apparently the teens are obsessed with it and blasted it on the Senior Retreat, which the Brewers attended, so we were sure they'd love it.

A few days before they held a meeting and invited parents, teachers, and Bible Study leaders to attend. Instructions were given. Five eras were represented: 40's, 50's, 60's 70's, 80's, and the 90's. Thanks to our well stocked costume room, we were able to give each volunteer an outfit that will shock!
 On the day of, Friday, right at break time the music came on and out came Jeff and Alan with their microphones!

Oh yes, that's my husband with the black fro! Every time they finished their part, another "era" would join the jumble of dancers. Kristen and I were the adoring fans! My job was to come out from behind the building screaming, jumping and waving my sign around. I think I did a pretty good job too, might I add!:)
I failed to get a picture of the actual Banquet invites, but trust me, they were amazing! Well done ladies who put fifty of them together.

This is just one of the many fun things that happens in Term 4!  We have fun around here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Corelle Does Break

I grew up, like many missionary kids, using Corelle dishes. Apparently there were only a few patterns that were purchased by missionaries. :) It was said that Corelle does not break, and for the most part, it doesn't. I have dropped many of dish in the sink and onto the counter, but nothing like this. The other day...it broke. I am not talking about "pieces you can glue back together"...it shattered, as you can see in the picture.

As I was washing the dishes I pulled a plate out and began to dry it when all the sudden it slipped out of the dish towel and landed on the floor. YIKES! Alan and I were both barefoot at the time but luckily the pieces landed around us. We stood their in shock. Pieces had landed everywhere: under the refrigerator, in the corners of the kitchen, even out into the hallway close to our bathroom.

After we recovered our breath we both laughed. Corelle breaks? It sure does. We are still finding teeny-tiny pieces... usually in my feet....even after sweeping a half-dozen times.

So beware y'all, Corelle is great and can handle bonks, slips and what-nots but not a full on drop!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Easter!

Dear Friends,

Early this morning, before the sun was awake, my husband and I walked to the top of the hill to enjoy an Easter sunrise service. In addition to Easter being my favorite holiday, this tradition is definitely on to the top of my list.

Last year Alan and I, along with our friend Steve, organized the service but this year I just wanted to attend. I wanted to enjoy being in God's presence. Sometimes it's more difficult to do that when you are making sure everyone else is doing well and the program is going smoothly.

Thankfully two of the teen hostels volunteered and did a lovely job. When we arrived we placed our flowers in a container and were handed a rock. We set up our camping chairs and began to enjoy the early morning singing.

After a few minutes we were asked to bring our rock, which represented sin, and bring it to the cross. Once the rock was placed at the foot of the cross we were encouraged to take some flowers and adorn it. The cross is wooded but a chicken wire has been wrapped around it so flowers could be held in easily.

Music continued to play as people gathered but we remained. I am glad we stayed back because soon afterwards we began to sing Because He Lives by Bill Gaither. This is an older song, one I used to sing when I was a child. As we sang the words, tears filled my eyes and all I could do was listen. I was too chocked up. Here are the words:

God sent his son they called him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives

Because he lives I can face tomorrow
Because he lives all fear is gone
Because i know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because he lives

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy he gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days because he lives

And then one day I'll cross the river
I'll fight life's final war with pain
And then as death gives way to victory
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives

What a lovely song! And what a wonderful reminder that God is already present in tomorrow. No matter how awful or wonderful it may be, God is present. I began to think of all the people I know who are suffering, from a lost family member, a struggling marriage, a miscarriage, people who no friends, or struggling with depression. God is present today and tomorrow.

I also cried thinking of all the plans I have for Alan and my life (and of course, being a planner, my future children's life...though they aren't in our conversations at the moment). God made me a planner for a reason right? He made me desire the "big picture". I need to remember that God holds the future. Even though life is unpredictable. Even though life on the mission field is changing constantly, I need to continue to remember to live for him because he died for me.

I hope you have a wonderful Easter!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Green Christmas

Christmas in Papua New Guinea, as you can imagine, is quite different than one in the United States. It is the hottest time of year and the grass is always greener in December. I have mixed feelings about being here opposed to the states during this time. Though I would much rather be with family for the holidays I do not miss the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, Christmas music playing in October, expectations for expensive gift giving or LOTS of gift giving, and so forth. I was often frustrated by all that was expected of me during this time of year in the states, especially when I was living on a teachers salary.

However, I felt myself missing Christmas music everywhere, decorative lights all over and candy canes. Although we try our best to make it look and feel like Christmas, it is just not the same. At one point I found myself getting discouraged. After telling Alan, we decided that we would do our best to make our own traditions here. It won't ever be an American Feeling Christmas but it can be a Papua New Guinean feeling Christmas.

We hung the stockings and set up the tree (a 6 foot Walmart special I shipped over here). The ornaments were put up and our tree was topped with nothing other than a Chick-fil-A cow! We played Christmas music any chance we got (Amy Grant, Sufjan Stevens, The Gettys, and She and Him) and made some oh-so-delicious gingerbread cookies (which turned into bars). Here we are putting up our first ornament as Mr and Mrs Halbrooks, a gift from Alan's mom.

I decided I needed an advent calendar, so I made one! What do you think? Pretty spiffy huh! Some Papua New Guinean ladies make these little bilums (woven bags) and sell them at market. I wanted to make one of my own so I looked online. WOW! I decided to use one idea, painting clothes pins and began that process. While I was painting I thought how cute it would be to have each clothes pin holding a tiny little bilum. The next morning we went to market, collected them, and began to fill them with all kinds of goodies: marbles, candies (wrapped in plastic to avoid ant issues), toys, etc. We decided that Alan would open the odd numbers and I, the evens. Feel free to steal my idea if you want to.

I even did a bit of table decoration! Oh yeah.

We enjoyed a Christmas choir and band concert put on by the middle and high school students, which was lovely.

Alan got into some traditions I made up such as: taking a picture while under the Christmas tree, posing while running down the stairs on Christmas morn, and having a silly string war. We pulled out some good ol' puzzles to enjoy the season (it's mango season...so we ate them each morning as well!)

On Christmas Eve my mom invited us and some friends over for a lovely dinner. We ended the evening with the watching of Charlie Brown Christmas, family classic! We have watched many movies this holiday such as Home Alone, Muppet Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life, Elf, etc. Good times!

The morning of, we woke to a wonderful display of uniquely wrapped presents. Our present selection is limited so Alan and I have decided to step up our wrapping and make that part of the fun. I created a snowman for Alan and he made me an echidna.

My echidna, once I finally got it unwrapped, was peppermint cocoa! SOOOO delicious!

 Alan's snowman was actually a new set of tennis balls.

Our Christmas was very fun with friends and family, great food, and wonderful presents! The weather was surprising cool and rainy. Below you can see my Christmas attire (of course I only wear these jeans at night with friends, not exactly "PNG appropriate")

On New Year Eve we invited some of my single gal friends. I remember being single. You would either get invited to everything or to very little. This year, I didn't want them to have to ask. The food, again, was delicious and the games were awesome. Alan set up the dart board outside and we borrowed a wii for the evening. Catch Phrase was a bit hit! A few minutes before midnight Alan rigged up a glow in the dark smiley face ball, taped it to a string and lowered it from a pull-up bar in our hallway. We may not be able to see the real ball drop but this was very special and brought lots of laughter! Confetti poppers exploded while motorbikes rode around center rolling in the New Year.

Holding to my "working backwards" theme, next up will be...Thanksgiving.