"C'est dificile exprimer..."

I love the river that flows through our town, and I have been trying to wait patiently for today. Today was the 49th annual Traversee de la Meuse- a day when people actually swim across the river's frigid waters. Last night a group of us went to O'Malley's and discussed the pros and cons of actually partaking in such an event. We broke for the night planning to meet eachother on the banks the following morning, towels in hand.

We greeted eachother alongside the Meuse this morning, all smiling quite sheepishly. We had chickened out. Every last one of us.

Clay had to run sound at church, Kevin was "never really into it anyways" (we found out later he had his bathing suit on under his clothes), and Matt now thought it was a lame idea (providing even lamer excuses such as: "If this was in Italy, I would so totally do it...").

I myself woke up this morning, and my head cold had progressed to the point that it just didn't seem wise to embrace the cold, the exertion, or the murky river-filth that swimming across a river in Belgian February involves. I know. Just as big a cop-out as the rest of them.

So, the big-talkers enjoyed being bundled-up spectators for the big event.

The swimmers were warming up long before they dove in. Lots of stretching and jazz-hands.

Jumping-jacks in wooden shoes. I love this place.

I think my favorite part was watching those on the other side of the barriers all bundled up in their coats, sipping coffee, wondering why anyone in their ever-loving right minds would be diving into that freezing river on a quiet Sunday morning. And certainly why they themselves had to get out of bed to watch it.

A chartered bus took the group of swimmers to the other side. Such suspense. I think I may have been jumping up and down at this point.

To the rails, gentlemen!

There were dives, canon balls, a few pencils, and a couple of flat-out duds, but, heat by heat, the swimmers swam the mighty Meuse!

Here is Matt doing the classic uninterested-but-really-very-interested lurking to decide if he really did want to take the plunge afterall.

He didn't. (Weenie.)

Which worked out well, because we found out that you actually had to have signed up with some swim club and get a physical before swimming. In fact, we talked to a veteran of the event who filled us in on the details. Today was this man's 46th year to make the passage at the age of 72. He said that even after 45 years, every Meuse crossing makes him nervous. In his words, "The cold, the current... it's difficult to explain." Precious, sweet, river-swimming man. I wanted to kiss his cheek and tell him that I think he's wonderful, but out of respect for his pre-game focus we left him in peace as he awaited his heat.

We weren't the only spectators.

Our little town shined today. The wind even showed up, creating quite the river current, and took out the stop light on main street in the process.

It's a wild windy, rainy day here in Huy. Certainly a day to remember.


Meet Mazen :)

We finally got to visit Ali and Nada and meet their new little one. I have to tell you, it feels really good to actually be around when a loved one has a baby :)

We brought presents, including chocolate chip cookies (Nada's favorite), some Robeez I scored at a Huy second-hand shop (so he can have some hip American baby footwear), and some warm sleepers my mom had sent. Oh, we had fun!

I am in love.

I am thanking God today for precious friends and their precious little ones.


I was missing my baby brother today and decided to do something about it.

Quinn, you are now enshrined on the shelf above my toilet ;)


I'm proud of my wife.

As some of you know, Megan has been running for the past few months. A while back she wanted to give running a go, and approach it with some dedication and discipline.

Well, tonight it was in the low 30s and raining (which is much worse than the snow in my opinion) but that didn't stop her. In fact, we set out to run 5 miles - a new personal record for her. Not only did she agree to take the hilly route, but about half way through she said "if we go this way, we'll be able to work in a few more miles and hills." What an attitude.

Not only did she finish the 5 miles, but finished it in a great attitude, still able to talk and breathe, and even said she could have done more.

Tonight Megan set a new record. It was awesome and I'm proud of her.


Things are looking up today, folks. There's been a cloud hanging over me lately, but I think today might just be an awesome day!

Last night was just the most encouraging relaxing time that I have had in Huy in a long time. Nathalie and Sam invited us Americans over for dinner. They make us feel so welcome! We had a great Belgian meal (soup, pork tenderloin, salad, and croquettes- doesn't get more Belge than that), which was such a treat after being gone so long. We watched this ridiculously funny "Laurel and Hardy-esque" French movie that had us all laughing hysterically. I didn't understand all the words, but it didn't seem to matter. Nathalie and I talked for a really long time about our trip to Asia, and I was able to explain more about what we do on our trips. It's such a relief to be able to relay in French a little more about we do. It is so isolating when you can't talk to people! I am so thankful for Nathalie and her patient heart.

Today we are celebrating Josh's birthday, and I am so excited because while we were in Vietnam I found Campbell's cream of chicken soup!! Sweet America in a can! I am making chicken roll-ups for lunch today. I feel so Tomball and I love it. Becky Young made this dish once years ago at a TBC staff dinner, and the recipe spread like wild-fire. I can't wait to share it with our friends. As it's not every day we enjoy such comfort food, I decided to go all the way and make mashed potatoes AND Pioneer Woman's Dump Cake. Yes, I found yellow cake mix in Vietnam, too! We may never recover from this meal.


And if it never happened to blow your way, here's the famous Tomball recipe.

Chicken Roll-Ups

1 chicken, cooked and diced (a rotisserie chicken would work if you don't want to boil one)
2 cans crescent rolls
1 C milk
3 C grated cheese
2 cans cream of chicken soup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine soup, milk and 1 cup of cheese in a saucepan. Heat to melt the cheese. Spray 9X13 baking dish with Pam.
Pour a small amount of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Unroll crescents and separate into triangles. At the base of each triangle, place some chicken and cheese. Roll each triangle and place in pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly brown. Sprinkle with a little grated cheese the last 5 minutes. Serve with the remainder of the sauce as a gravy. Makes 16 roll ups.


For those of you who saw the Belgian train wreck this morning on the news, just wanted to let you know that Clay and I weren't involved. So sad and horrible.


Home, home, home again. I am sitting on my couch, looking out at a snowy, blustery Huy, listening to some old Caedmon's and thankful to be known by our God. It is good to be home.

Getting home from our trips is always bittersweet. It is nice to hear the bells again, walk the cobblestones again, see our friends again. At the same time it is also hard to get going again. It's like I forget what my life is like here. How do I "do life" here? What do I do everyday, anyways? It makes me realize that culture shock and and all the other little treats that come as a part of living in a different country are still very much affecting me. If I moved back to Tomball today, even after being gone a year, I know I would slip back into life there. It would be a challenge to get used to some things, but on the whole I know I would remember it well, slipping back into it like a song you haven't heard for ages but somehow you can still sing every word.

Not so with my life here. I don't dread it, and it's not that I don't like it, it's just that it takes getting used to again. It usually takes a week or 2 before I get settled in again. Before I find my routine. Before I can live in French again. Oh, heavens.

Oh and guess what. My purse is gone. Somewhere between the Brussels-Noord station and my front door, my purse somehow disappeared from my backpack on the way home yesterday. It either leapt out of its own accord, or it was helped from its safe perch by a clever sneak on the train. Either way it is gone. My phone. My camera (no!). Credit cards and Belgian ID card. My Burt's Bees lip gloss.

We reported it missing with the train people. We've also called my phone a couple of times, but it keeps going to voice mail which either means it doesn't have reception or that whoever has it stripped it of its SIM card (how truly violating). One upside is the chance that whoever has my purse will try my Burt's Bees lip gloss. Maybe they could talk Belgium into importing it.

This stinks. It's ok. But it also stinks. Sigh.

Moving on (for now). Our trip in Asia ended well. There was a gap in between the flights into Bangkok from Ho Chi Minh and our flight from Bangkok to Belgium so we were able to spend a few nights in the city and reconnect with our friends there.

We found the cutest hotel to stay in!! I found it on TripAdvisor a while ago, and was really looking forward to it. I was not disappointed. Remember how I said that Thailand was the cutest country ever? This still appears to be true.

Here are a few pics from our stay.

A sitting room off the little gift shop.

The computer/chill area across the open air courtyard.

Our bedroom.

Yeah, it doesn't get more precious.

The bathroom.

Seriously, it was the cutest, most unique and creative place I have ever stayed at. The whole thing was handpainted from top to bottom. There were whimsically patterned fabrics and tiling all over the place. It was precious in its entirety. I even wore my fun Thailand pants to breakfast one morning- they just seemed to fit :)

I had some other great shots of the rooftop organic garden and the incredible view of the city, but alas, some sneaky sneak is enjoying those pictures along with the other contents of my purse.

... again, moving on...

If you ever go to Bangkok and you like funky, interesting places, stay at the Phranakorn-Nornlen Hotel :)

When we got home there was a package waiting from my mom. She sent a Valentine's Day box complete with a pink Snuggie. Is that not awesome??! We laughed until we cried when we opened it. Thanks, Mom. I am still laughing.

More good news is that Nada had her baby boy 2 days ago!! Hopefully we will get to see them this week. I am so excited!!

Happy weekend, all!


The fruit tasting was a huge success. Wow. The speckle-y one in the picture is a dragon-fruit. U.S. customs doesn't let this one in the country for some reason, but it sure was good.

The winner was the mangosteen. We ate ours before I could take a picture, but here is one I found online. Incredible and weird and wonderful.


For those of you interested (humor me here, people), here is the kitty I am loving. Doesn't he look like Zebo?

Do you see the resemblance?

The Chacos that have traveled the world.

If WWAC did Ho Chi Minh City, this is what it would look like :)

We bought a big bag of fruit today, all of it things we have never seen before. There is one fruit here that is so stinky that it is banned in most hotels and buses!

We motor-biked home today. It was my first ride on a motorcycle and it was F-U-N. My knuckles are still white.

This morning on the way to town I sat by the window in the hot sun. It wasn't long before the lady next to me offered me her extra hat to shade my head and face. So precious. I sat there watching the city fly by outside the window, eyes welling up with gratitude, thinking about all the places we have visited lately, the cultures we have experienced, and the people we have met along the way. It's pretty overwhelming.

I'll never forget that moment.


So-long to Thailand for now!

Before leaving, we had a few things to take care of. Clay's haircut was way less eventful than mine, but he did get a surprise eyebrow trim which was pretty fun to watch. He makes me laugh so hard!

It was also interesting to note how "American" the streets were. Tourism is HUGE here, and they know what we like :)

This morning we awoke in colorful Vietnam. I did a little dance when I opened our curtains this morning. How do we, these 2 Tomball kids, end up in all these places??

We, along with our friends here, decided a river boat ride was just the ticket for seeing some pretty city sites. Here we are boarding...

And here we are leaving before the boat even set sail. Yeah, the music was SO loud. And it was going to be a 2-hour tour.... we slurped down our drinks and hopped back onto the dock just before we set sail. It was a close one.

We thought a stroll through Ho Chi Minh was more our style, and the decorations out for Vietnamese New Year (Tết) made the walk so beautiful.

Even the money here is pretty. I just want to spread it all out and look at it for awhile.

P.S. There is a cat in the house we are staying in that actually climbed into my lap today and took a nap! Surely it's a sign. This may be the best week ever.