Lady Jayne Disappears – A novel

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When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.

Author Joanna Davidson Politano’s stunning debut set in Victorian England will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance.

I found this book so intriguing!  Aurelie Harcourt has lived all her life in debtor’s prison with her father.  On his death she wants some answers – who was her mother and whatever happened to her?  Who knows the answers?  As Aurelie goes to stay with her father’s wealthy family, she not only tries to fit in, but also to learn more about her parents – and what happened to them.  Moreover, under her father’s pseudonym, can she finish the story her father began before his death in a way that captivates the readers?  I just found this story fascinating – and kept wanting to know the answers already!  So many mysteries and misunderstandings and unknowns – so different from today when it’s all available with a click on the computer!  I so enjoyed reading this story – as well as learning more about life in 1861 England!  I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

The Author:A1J9Qn6GETL._UX250_Joanna Davidson Politano freelances for a small nonfiction publisher but spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives. Her debut novel, Lady Jayne Disappears, releases October 3 from Revell. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods and shares stories that move her at http://www.jdpstories.com.

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Isaiah’s Daughter

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In this epic Biblical narrative, ideal for fans of The Bible miniseries, a young woman taken into the prophet Isaiah’s household rises to capture the heart of the future king.

Isaiah adopts Ishma, giving her a new name–Zibah, delight of the Lord–thereby ensuring her royal pedigree. Ishma came to the prophet’s home, devastated after watching her family destroyed and living as a captive. But as the years pass, Zibah’s lively spirit wins Prince Hezekiah’s favor, a boy determined to rebuild the kingdom his father has nearly destroyed. But loving this man will awake in her all the fears and pain of her past and she must turn to the only One who can give life, calm her fears, and deliver a nation.

This book was amazing!  I’ve read the Biblical book of Isaiah before and know about some of his prophecies, but I never stopped to think about them in the context of Isaiah’s life.  This book weaves together the Biblical prophecies, the known facts about those days, the cultural nuances, and a beautiful (fictional) love story.  I found myself rereading passages from scripture (and I love it when a book points me back to the Bible!), yet at no time did I feel like I was reading a history book.

Mesu Andrews does a fabulous job of bringing the characters to life!   Ishma got my pity when I “met” her as a small, pitiful, captive child.  But my admiration for her grew as she matured and learned not just to face her fears, but instead to turn and face Yahweh for her courage.  But other characters also have their stories woven in – and some are good, and some aren’t!

I really loved this story and just cannot praise it enough!  Mesu Andrews is a master story teller and weaves in with the story so much rich cultural background as well as Biblical truth – it truly brings the Bible alive.  I highly recommend this book.  I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t release until January 16, 2018 so you’ll have to wait until then to read it!

 

The Author:187189   Mesu Andrews is the award-winning author of Love Amid the Ashes and numerous other novels including The Pharaoh’s Daughter and Miriam. Her deep understanding of–and love for– God’s Word brings the biblical world alive for readers. Mesu lives in North Carolina with her husband Roy and enjoys spending time with her growing tribe of grandchildren.

Hurt Road by Mark Lee of Third Day

Hurt Road

Third Day guitarist Mark Lee is no stranger to heartache and hopes deferred; the road to success is never traveled without missteps along the way. Life is messy and uncertain and full of surprises. And one of the best things he’s ever done is let go of his expectations about how life shouldbe in order to embrace life as it is: a moment-by-moment walk with God.

Hurt Road is the engaging true story of a man who, as a teen, found in music a refuge from the uncertainties of life. Who set out to discover a better way to live than constantly struggling to make sure life turned out the way he planned it. Who stopped substituting what’s next for what’s now and learned the truth–that coming or going, God’s got us.

Poignant, funny, and thoughtful, Hurt Road dares anyone feeling knocked down or run over by their circumstances to give up control to the One who already has the road all mapped out. Includes black and white photos.

I find myself drawn to the music of Third Day so it was so interesting to read Mark’s book – about his childhood and its hurts, the loss of his father, how the band began and more.  But what I wasn’t expecting was his very candid thoughts about marriage and the wisdom he has!  Honestly, the chapter on marriage should be a chapter every engaged couple reads!

Hurt Road is not just Mark Lee’s story – it’s also his words to encourage others – to respond to God and reach those around you, wherever you might be.  “God has given us all a platform, and … it’s all for God’s glory, not ours.”  I really enjoyed reading Mark’s story and highly recommend it!  I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Step by Step – Cusco Peru Extreme

22687828_284811848694155_445272327911988148_n (2)One foot after the other – just keep walking – step by step – for 9 hours, up and down the mountains, through the eucalyptus trees, avoid the cactus, move over for those moving faster.  Would the hike ever end?

This day actually began several months ago when Rachel and I signed up with MMI (Medical Missions International, Canada) to go on a medical mission trip – Cusco EXTREME, where we would fly to Cusco, Peru and then go to a number of remote sites to give medical treatment.  We not only needed to raise support, we also each had to bring a suitcase filled with medicines.  It was so amazing to see God provide ALL that we needed!  I signed up as a “general helper”, not really knowing exactly what I would be doing.  Our team was comprised of a doctor (Mike), a dentist (Cal), 3 nurses (Rachel, Trudy and Corinna), me and a number of Peruvians to be translators, helpers and a cook.  Not only would we need English to Spanish translation, but also to Quechua, which is nothing like Spanish!

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Our team! American, Canadian, Peruvian!

Rachel and I left home on a sunny October Friday, flying first to Miami before getting a 2am flight to Lima, Peru.  From Lima we caught another flight to Cusco, which would our base for the mission.  The first person we met from the team was Vicente, our Peruvian leader who greeted us at the airport and took us to the hotel.  After an hour nap and a quick shower, we met the rest of the team – 3 Canadians, another American and us!  This, our first day in country would be a day to acclimate to the high altitude, see a little of the city of Cusco and get to know one another for on our second day, after church, we would drive several hours out into the countryside and begin.

Observations –

  • Watching Wonder Woman and reading the Spanish subtitles before arriving in a Spanish speaking country does help improve your Spanish.
  • Drink bottled water only – even for brushing your teeth!
  • No salads – cooked or peeled fruits and veggies only!
  • Toilet paper doesn’t get put in the toilet but in the trash bin.
  • There’s no heat or air conditioning in Cusco – all buildings are open air somewhere so they stay “refreshingly” cool.
  • Stop signs are a suggestion and any road can have more lanes then marked (and I never want to drive there!)
  • Diomox makes the fingers and toes tingle (it’s a medicine to prevent altitude sickness) – but take it anyway!

Day 2 -In Peru! Began with a typical breakfast – bread, cheese, olives, fruit juices, tea and coffee.  Following breakfast, we went to church – it was fun/amazing to sing songs I knew from home – but in Spanish!  20171015_110127 (2)However, in Peruvian style, the service officially started at 10 – which really meant at 10:40 or thereabouts!  At 12 we had to leave as we needed lunch and then to get on the road.  We drove for several hours with each town along the way having its own character. One was known for its earthen bricks, another for its breads and another raised guinea pigs, which is a delicacy here in Peru. At one point we got to the altitude of 14,200’.  At last the van stopped and we were told that the road was not passable because of the rain, so we would need to cart everything down into the canyon, cross the creek and then carry it back up again.  I was amazed at how breathless and huffy/puffy that little exertion made me, but we were at 12,000’ or so and not used to it at all!  After getting everything unloaded, we unpacked the medicines and sorted them into different duffels by type and explored our new home – the old 2 room school house – men in one room, the dental/optical/dining room, and women in the other room, the medical/pharmacy room.

Observations –

  • There were 3 types of toilets there – the squatty potty (no flush), a child sized toilet (with seat) or a regular size toilet (no seat). Regardless of which you picked, for all you need to bring a flashlight (no electricity or windows) and toilet paper.
  • Wood floors are hard and cold even with a sleeping pad. Dirty sheepskins provide extra padding and warmth, especially in a room that’s 54 degrees.
  • We are at Comunidad Quisinsaya – don’t try to GoogleMap it – it is too small to show up!

Day 3 – The dentist asked for a volunteer to help him and I accepted the challenge – or I drew the short straw!  After breakfast, Cal showed me the instruments and how to set up.  We got some tubs for sterilizing the instruments – soapy water, clear water, sterilizing solution, and clear water again.  And then the patients came!  Pull a tooth here, pull a tooth there, fill this tooth, and wonder at the deplorable conditions of their mouths!  20171016_135302Emotionally it was hard pulling the teeth from little ones – especially knowing that for some it was a permanent tooth and they would always have that gap.  At times I had to hold their heads still as tears poured from their eyes as Cal injected anesthetic into their gums.  Fortunately, I had brought a grocery bag of small stuffed animals and dolls that I gave to them to hold and then keep during their painful procedures.  And, although Cal could and did do fillings, few of the children had teeth that fillings would fix.   Patient after patient – pull teeth, clean the instruments, get ready for the next – they kept coming all day!  One patient had to have 3 molars removed (lots of blood and pus) and then have the hole sewn up – I helped hold the thread and later cut it – I’m glad that’s not my future occupation!  We had a few laughs – like when the lamb wandered in to watch Cal at work.  Or the when the kids came too close and Cal squirted them with water.  Our work day ended at dusk and then, after dinner, the town president addressed us and thanked us for coming to their almost forgotten community.  One of the teachers also thanked us and told us about their school system – how they teach the youngest children in the Quechua language and then they learn Spanish.  But the nearest high school is 3 hours away.

Observations –

  • Most women are wearing traditional skirts, sweaters and hats (the hats are different in each community).
  • When you are wearing 5 sweaters and 4 skirts, it really doesn’t make a difference if you take your sandals off before you step on the scale.
  • Don’t drink too much after 6pm if you don’t want to put your boots and coat on and take a walk to the toilet at 3 in the morning – but drink enough so you don’t get a headache or altitude sickness.
  • A room stays warmer at night if you cover the broken window pane with plastic & duct tape.

Day 4 – I began my day with a mountain fresh, Styrofoam cup, hair washing experience – cold but clean!  Then, with all our gear loaded into the two vans, we had a quick devotional time, sang a song in English and then Spanish and then most of the team set off hiking to our next location.  Since I had a hurt Achilles tendon, I rode in the van with some of the Peruvian helpers.  20171017_090747The roads were dirt roads, often with streams crossing them, but after a few hours we made it to our next location (the team would take many more hours to get there – 8 hours total) and began to get the rooms set up.  This community had us climb a ladder to our sleeping/cooking rooms with the dental and medical rooms below.  20171017_133112.jpgOur only toilets were 2 squatty potties and you needed to take a bucket of water from the outside tap in with you to flush them.  Eventually the rest of the team arrived – hot and tired.  Rachel had gotten so badly burned that she had blisters on her arm and ears – even though she had applied SPF 50 sunscreen several times.

 

Observations –

  • Wear a hat and longs sleeves when hiking at high elevation.
  • We are at Comunidad Ausaray – again, won’t show up on GoogleMaps.

Day 5 – Once again, a clinic day – now I’m getting the hang of the instruments used, how to prepare a filling and even how to take a tooth out of the mouth using cotton pliers!  After spending the previous day with only Spanish speakers even my Spanish is improving!  But what a long day – we began at 8 and ended at 6:15pm.  At the end of the day, we get treated to a bonfire with the town president thanking us for coming and having people from his church sing for us.

Observations –

  • Small toilets are better than squatty potties – especially when your GI tract is feeling “off”.
  • Tuck your pant legs into your shoes or roll them up before going to a squatty potty or when you squat, they may go down to the floor and get wet, just saying.
  • If the shower doubles as the toilet, you have to be really stinky and sweaty to want to use it, especially as the temperature drops and you only have lukewarm or cold water.
  • If you chose to not use the toilet/shower, wet wipes work great for the creases and crevices!

Day 6 – No shower since Sunday morning but another mountain fresh cold-water Styrofoam cup hair washing!  Once again, we pack up to leave – this time as Rachel isn’t feeling well, she rides in the van with me as the others hike.  Along the way we stop in a town and Domi goes shopping for some meat for our lunch.  The shop owner shoves the dog out of the way, opens the cooler and pulls out half a lamb.  She and Domi discuss the price and decide on only half the piece.  So, she puts the meat on a log stump and whacks it in half with the knife.  That doesn’t quite work so she gets the hatchet off the floor and whacks it good.  She then throws the part we aren’t getting back into the cooler and puts our part in a plastic grocery bag with the bone sticking out.  Domi pays and we then go to the pharmacy to get some paper towels.  They’ve only got 1 roll – so we buy just it and then finish our journey.  (I have to confess – a few hours later when lunch is ready, I really don’t have an appetite for that piece of lamb, so I eat some of the vegetables cooked with it).20171019_095353

As soon as we arrive people start lining up to get their turn to be seen – even if it will be a few more hours before we start.  Rachel, our head pharmacist, still isn’t feeling well so she takes a nap.  I explore – we have just 1 squatty potty at this location and the floors in the rooms aren’t stable – you can go through the floor if you step wrong!  Later, we discover that the water gets turned off around noon and doesn’t come back on until the next morning – so we don’t have water to even pour down the toilet – NOT a good thing!

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After the team arrives, and we have lunch, we open the clinic and start seeing patients!  I take care of where I step and manage to not fall through the floor!  Rachel is now sunburned, blistered, feeling poorly and running a temperature.  After dinner, David, the missionary from Cusco, offers to drive her back to the city and his wife so she can spend the night and following day recovering.  She agrees and leaves, while the rest of us get a presentation from the community.20171019_194945.jpg

Observations –

  • Water is really important – for drinking (after it is purified) and to flush toilets – otherwise even squatty potties get full and VERY gross!!!
  • We are at Comunidad Umuto – yeah, not on the map either!

Day 7 – The plan is for clinic in the morning and then return to Cusco in the afternoon! The dentist and I finish early and, as we have a bunch of kids hanging around I suggest giving some toothbrushes to them. Cal decides to turn it into a toothbrushing lesson and has them all take out the brush we have just given them and then follow him as he brushes his teeth.  20171020_135816.jpgThey do it and then are delighted to also spit into a hole!

What a fun moment after soo many tears!  After packing up, we return to Cusco and rejoice to get hot showers at the hotel.  We then go out for dinner and get an interesting surprise – Cuy, or guinea pig!  I do take a bite (and pictures!!) and it tastes like chicken. Bed never felt so good that night!20171020_190907.jpg

Day 8 – Today we get to be tourists!  It’s the weekend and we are off duty and on our own dime!  We get picked up at our hotel at 8am and driven just over an hour to the Sacred Valley to the Via Ferrata.  The Via Ferrata is a path used to climb a mountain with a safety system permanently installed, in this case we had what looked like large steel staples sticking out of the mountain and steel cables next to it.  We first got fitted with safety harnesses, helmets and gloves – after a brief lesson on safety and how to use the carabiners we began.  Every few feet as we climbed we had to unhook one carabiner, put it on the next line and then repeat with the 2nd one.  It was hard, climbing up, up, up but so neat.

Then we crossed a cable bridge, which was definitely out of my comfort zone!

Fortunately, our guide took my phone from me and took pictures to prove our craziness!  20171021_115138When we had made it to the top of the mountain ((and after stopping for quick pictures at the “pod” hotel (see in the upper right background) – someday I want to come back and stay there!)) we then got to zip line down!

It was great!  One line was so long that we had to go tandem – and even then Rachel and I didn’t make it all the way to the end and had to be pulled in!

Upon our completion of the zipline we were driven to the train station at Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (1.5-hour ride).  There we found our hotel, got some dinner (I had alpaca steak!), bought our bus tickets and of course, did a little souvenir shopping before going to sleep – we planned on an early morning to get to Machu Picchu!

Observations – 20171021_183646

  • Make sure there is enough room next to the toilet for the door to shut when planning out a bathroom.
  • Get not only the name of the hotel, but also its address – makes finding it a little easier.

 

 

 

 

Day 9 – The tourists lining up for the buses to Machu Picchu woke us up around 5am (remember, all buildings are somewhat open air!) so we got up, had breakfast and went to stand in the line too!  By 6:45 we had arrived and walked briskly over to the entrance to Huayna (or Wayna) Picchu, as we had tickets for 7am entry.  We signed in, and then began the long, arduous climb up the mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu!  20171022_081726What a journey – it was step, rugged and by American standards, so dangerous that no one would be allowed to climb it!   But it was amazing to make it to the top, even if it was only 8,924’– and would have been even more amazing had the cloud cover lifted so we could actually see Machu Picchu from there!

After resting and enjoying the experience, we safely descended and then explored Machu Picchu – ruins from the Incas which are believed to have been built in the 1500’s and only used for less than 100 years before being abandoned.  Little is actually known about them but there are lots of theories!  (That mountain in the back right is WaynaPicchu – we had climbed to the very top!)

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But we were tired and ready to leave so we caught the bus back to the Pueblo and then it was time to catch the train back to Ollantaytambo and prepare for the next week.

Day 10 – REALLY HARD DAY!!  After breakfast we loaded up into the vans for a very short ride.  We started our trek at 9:20, mostly following a road (why they couldn’t have driven us further down the road I REALLY don’t know).  We had a quick break at 11.  The altitude wasn’t bad – just 9600’.  We walked through a Eucalyptus forest and by some cacti – one person stumbled into a plant and had to get the thorns taken out of his leg.  Hand sanitizer doesn’t feel great on an open wound like that!  Our Peruvian leader makes arrangements for our cook to get a short motorbike ride to give her knees a rest – when he returns I get a ride too.  Unfortunately, that means when he lets me off, I have no one with me and really don’t know where I am going.  But the people tell me to go up the mountain.  I follow a horse pack and go up – then down – then up again.  I still haven’t caught up with Domi, our cook but I stop at the Inca ruins for a few minutes and see her down on the other side.  I shout down to her and she waits for me to catch up.  Now it’s two of us walking slowly, and not really knowing where we are going.

 

But we press on!  Inca trail porters pass us regularly, all carrying heavy packs for the tourists!  Eventually some of the fast ones from our group catch up with us – and then they pass us.  We are spread out on the Inca trail for probably more than a mile – I felt so alone as I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, or anyone behind me and I just hoped I was still on the right path.  For 8 hours I put one foot in front of the other, up and down the mountains.  It was physically challenging as my Achilles tendon screamed stop.  It was physically challenging as my feet felt like they were on fire (lots of large blisters).  It was physically challenging when my walking stick didn’t catch the ground but sank a foot because there was no ground next to me – just a steep drop-off to the river a couple hundred feet below.  And it was mentally challenging because I just didn’t want to go on – after hyperventilating a few minutes I managed to keep on going.  And finally, I arrived at some grass thatched roof yurts and the team is sitting on some rocks.  Another team member said it like this “I have run two marathons and those are the only times I have been out of energy more than at the present. It hurts just to sit. A lot of the team have blisters on their feet and joints are screaming at us. It’s the steep inclines with big steps over boulders which wear on you. This village is~10,500’.

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Our stuff was waiting for us – gear was hauled in by horses.  20171026_112355 (2)But the sun, and temperature, is dropping quickly so we changed into dry clothes.  It turns out the guys have to sleep in the huts and the gals get to sleep in what looks like a mud floored shed.  Gratefully, we go to sleep – and sleep well because during the weekend Vicente, our leader, managed to purchase some blankets for us so now I have one to put on the floor under me to help keep me warm as well as padded (the 20-degree sleeping bag with liner doesn’t keep the cold away enough!)!

Observations –

  • Check to make sure your walking sticks didn’t break in the suitcase.
  • You need more than a liter of water for a rough, 8-hour hike.
  • But, if you only have a liter, you won’t need to pee all day!!

 

Day 11 – Not only are the huts for sleeping – they are also for the clinic.  We set up in one and, after killing a large spider, soon have patients.  20171024_102734.jpgWe build a fire in the back of the hut to get rid of the bugs and mosquitos – but the smoke is hard on us.  Trying to keep the instruments clean is also hard as straw falls down on them.  One dog likes to keep us company in the hut and we stay busy all day, mostly removing teeth. Occasionally when the dentist didn’t need help, I would go over to the pharmacy and help count pills there!  Every prescription had the pills put first in small plastic baggies with direction labels, which were then put in a sewn cloth bag.  These bags were delivered to the pastors who gave them to the people.  But, before giving the bags, they did health education, preached the gospel and counseled! Around 4, as the sun and temperature went down, we closed shop.  After our early dinner, we had time for a bonfire and the marshmallows came out.  We had one wise guy who found some cow poop about the size of a marshmallow and was roasting it before being discovered.  But it was good to laugh!

Observations-

  • Cow poop, when roasted, stinks!
  • Beanie weenie on rice is not my favorite dish for lunch – or any meal
  • Neither is soupy oatmeal

Day 12 – We are not moving on – we couldn’t get the horses for the day to move our gear.  We have a lot of gear – medical/dental equipment, pharmacy pills etc., a scale, and then the personal gear.  So the decision was made to have us stay another day at this spot and have the villagers hike to us, and not have us hike 4 hours.  Unfortunately, the bugs are worse and the smoky fire in the back of the hut only smoked us out, so Cal decided to move operations to under a big shady eucalyptus tree – after he shoveled all the horse manure out of the way.  20171025_103113_001.jpgTwo weeks ago I never would have believed that I would be in an open field with dogs and lambs wandering around, surrounded by majestic mountains, helping a dentist extract teeth!  One three-year-old wailed for a long time after we pulled 2 of her little teeth yet a 20-year-old stoically laid there as we used the hammer and chisel to break up her molar to extract it.  This day a lot of our patients were the porters who carry the food and belongings for the tourists hiking the Inca trail.

20171025_104910.jpgDuring one of the lulls, Rachel and I with 2 others from the team went up to the Inca ruins right above our little site.  What a beautiful view from there – high, snowcapped mountains towering over us!  We finished our day by packing up all the equipment and getting ready for the hike out the following morning.  We went to bed early as a heavy rain storm swept into the area.  (Is it too early to go to bed if it is only 7pm?)20171025_185103 (2)

Day 13 – Early start this day – up and packed up before breakfast at 6, ready to go by 7 – except the horses don’t arrive so we wait.  While moving the bags we discovered a baby scorpion sitting on the bags but fortunately no one got stung, although we are all covered in bites on the arms!  But, even though we have a hike before us we are looking forward to the hot showers, real toilets and beds!  Finally, we start walking – and walking!  At the Inca ruins we stop and wait for everyone to catch up, take a team picture, and continue hiking.  20171026_083339.jpgWe encountered lots of tourist groups hiking, as well as the porters carrying their stuff.  Just as we are saying “Buenas dias” to another set of porters, one tripped on a rock and face planted himself on the Inca trail.  Immediately blood gushed everywhere but the doctor and nurses were on it – applying pressure, getting gauze, putting on steri strips and stopping the bleeding by putting a tampon up his nose! 20171026_110358 He had broken his nose and cut open his nose and forehead.  He was in no condition to continue.  His fellow porters took the team gear he had and repacked it into their already full bags before we loaded him up on a horse to have it carry him off the trail.  An hour or so later we crossed a most rickety bridge and were off the trail,20171026_121728.jpg ready to load the stuff into the waiting van and truck.  Driving to the nearest medical clinic, we sought some local help for him – but they had nothing for him!  Yes, Peruvian medicine at its finest!  They did not think it was an emergency.  We couldn’t just leave him so some of the team went to the pharmacy, bought supplies needed to sew him up, and did so.  Meanwhile, a race around the nearby square was happening which caused more injuries.  Soon, in the triage room of the clinic, they had tourist with a broken nose and cut arm and a racer with a broken leg with the bone sticking through the skin.  Obviously, it was time to leave and get our Quechua porter to a hospital.  However, at the hospital in the bigger town they were having a party so they couldn’t see him either.  One of the pastors lived not far from there so we went to his house and in the back yard the doctor was finally able to staunch the bleeding using silver nitrate in the poor man’s nose (back yard to keep the blood from getting on the floor and to keep the man from getting the virus (or maybe typhoid) from the sick child!)  20171026_171000.jpgWith the bleeding stopped, we got back in the van and returned to Cusco, dropping our poor man off with his hiring agency – and we returned to the hotel, exhausted but glad we had been at the right place at the right time!

Observation –

  • Don’t fall on the Inca trail.
  • Be thankful for American medicine!!

 

 

Day 14 – We get a tour of the Presbyterian Clinic in Cusco before having a closing lunch with the team –  everyone will be leaving either this evening or in the morning.  Afterwards though we have time to go to the animal sanctuary for native animals – we see speckled bears, pumas, llamas and alpacas,

condors, a hairless Peruvian (ugly) dog, parrots and guinea pigs.

We stop at the White Jesus who overlooks Cusco and then have time to shop at an artesian market before packing up for our return home. 20171027_164303

Day 15 & 16– We have a little bit of time to buy some tea and to explore the Plaza del Armas in Cusco again before we going to the airport – so we make the most of our time.  We make it to Lima and then, since we have a 22-hour layover we stay at a hotel in the Miraflores section, and sign up for a city fountain tour with a dinner/dancing show afterwards.  The fountains are amazing and fun to see20171028_190850 – the dinner good and the show long for us tired travelers!  Our final morning in Peru we take a quick walk along the Pacific Ocean and watch the surfers before returning to the airport and flying home. 20171029_083614

 

Observation –

  • Lima is a HUGE city with richer and poorer areas – but all of it seems to be richer than Cusco.
  • Even after going through security, before boarding the plane you may have to have your bags searched again and dump out the water you just bought.

What a long, adventurous, rewarding, amazing, challenging trip!  Not next week, but I can’t wait to do it again!

Towers and Bridges and Steps- It’s Prague

20170912_220324Towers and Bridges and steps, we’re off again!  Honestly, I’m starting to not get nervous before going through security – although did you know that they don’t know what a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread looks like on their screens and they’ll have to search your bag to figure out what that lump is?  This adventure we decided would be a little longer – 8 days from start to finish beginning on a Tuesday night in September.  We met up at Washington Dulles, and, even though we were flying standby, instead of wondering if we would make the flight, got assigned seats before we even arrived at the gate, a whole row for the 2 of us – not that it meant I got a moment more of sleep than usual but I didn’t have to worry my head would flop on the man next to me.

In the previous blogs I gave a description of our days but since this was a longer trip I’m going to change the format and give the good, the bad and then funny!

Arriving in Frankfurt on Wednesday morning, a-whole-lot of sleep deprived, we picked up our itty, bitty, teeny, tiny rental car.  It was no joke that it was a 1 suitcase trunk because that’s all that fit there!  With little delay, we got on the autobahn to drive 3 hours.  Kate is an excellent navigator – with the help of google maps.  But – when we got 10 minutes from our destination – the home of Kate’s friend Kay – it completely and totally failed us as there was a closed road!  Remember, it’s 10am our time, we haven’t slept in over 24 hours and we have no “real” map!  Fortunately, Kate could call her friend and she pieced together where we were, drove to us and had us follow her to her house!  We made it to our first destination!

That evening we had dinner in a nearby city at Brawirt, located in a 600-year-old building.  (I’ve discovered I love being in a really old building – as long as the bathroom isn’t just as old!)  There we had some amazing food – Schwabian pork and cheese spaetzle (and yes, since I’ve gotten home I’ve found some recipes on Pinterest that look pretty good so I want to try them soon!)

On Thursday, we headed for Prague.  It’s amazing what some years with capitalism can do for a country.  Instead of driving twisty, tiny, country roads, we had a smooth trip on highway – all the way to the city limits.  Fortunately, Kay had told us that we needed a vignette – a sticker to show that we had paid to drive on the highways.  It was about $15, good for 10 days, and we purchased it at a rest stop as soon as we crossed the border – cash only!

Our AirBnB in Prague was great!  Our host opened the double wood doors and we drove through a narrow passageway (good thing it was a tiny car!) into a courtyard, 20170917_150800where we could park and leave the car for our stay (we used the small pedestrian door each time we came and went and opened the wider doors when we drove the car in and out).  We then climbed 75 stairs in a very old building, walked though our host’s apartment and into our own.

The view from there was great, the bed comfortable, and the bathroom “difficult” as the shower was really a tub under the very sloped roof!  (it was 1” from the ceiling at one end and made for some creative “showering”.)

Food in Prague was fun!  We purchased cheese, bread and pastries in the supermarkets each evening for breakfast and lunch the next day (Yup, bread and cheese sandwiches every day!).  We ate our dinners in different restaurants – one in the cellar of a very old building, one outside on a river patio with a water wheel turning near us, and then our favorite, one on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Old Town Square!  What a treat and so worth it!22343686_10155936709263291_289048764_o

During our stay, we managed to eat great Italian pizza, Czech goulash with dumplings, both pumpkin and mushroom risottos, ice cream, delicious pastries, lemon crepes, golem cookies, and trdelnik (a piece of dough wrapped around a wooden roller, baked as it spins over coals, sprinkled with sugar on the outside, and then coated with chocolate on the inside).

But, what sights did we see?  Lots and lots and lots!!!  I had gotten off the internet a list of the 25 best things to do in Prague – some were great and some we wondered why they were on the list!!!  Here are our top 10, in no particular order!

#1 – Museum of Historic Chamber Pots and Toilets – As we wandered down some quaint streets in the old town, we came across this unusual museum.  As the name and topic intrigued us, we entered.  What a fun and unusual museum!  They had so many chamber pots and unusual toilets, all with little placards to tell a little about each.  One that caught our eye was a chamber pot with a frog in it (to indicate the sounds that might come in the pot) as well as the rhyme, “Keep me clean and use me well and what I see I will not tell.”

Another one was French – given to newlyweds to end the “night of love” and filled with Nutella, bananas, chocolates and other foods which are then eaten by all present (umm, really???).  There were portable toilets, elaborately painted ones and then those disguised as normal looking chairs.  We also used their real toilets (a plus since it was free and everywhere else – even McDonald’s – we had to pay 50 cents to make our wee deposits) and the walls were covered with interesting bathroom art.

#2 – The towers of Charles Bridge, best climbed just before sunset – There are 2, one at each end of the bridge.  We climbed one at night and the other we climbed just before sunset so we got both daylight and nighttime for that one.  The town looks magical from these old (think 1300’s) towers.  It’s 138 steps to the top and it was just neat to emerge from the interior and lean back against the roof of the top of the tower and view the town on one side and the bridge and castle on the other.

#3 – Charles Bridge – or Karluv most –  Morning, noon, and night is a great time for this bridge!  Pedestrians only, it has lots of entertainment to enjoy while crossing – puppet shows and artists and statues to see (and touch).  Begun in 1357 and finished in 1402, it is Prague and it is free!20170915_141006

#4 – Old Town Square – A bustling area with lots of merchants, entertainers and tourists here as well as a beloved statue to Jan Huss, a church reformer, 100 years before Martin Luther.

There are lots of open air restaurants here but I recommend the roof top terrace restaurant U Prince – located across from the Old Clock Tower.  Here’s the view from the restaurant looking at the clock tower on the right and the square is just behind it.20170915_174635.jpg

#5 – Astronomical Clock – Located at the Old Town Square, this clock has been operating since about 1490.  But it is really neat when it strikes the hour and the Apostles pass by the open windows and bow.20170915_165957

#6 – Old Jewish Ghetto – the section of the town known also as Josefov.  Here you need a ticket to get into any part and the expensive ticket does get you into everything – the old cemetery and the 5 synagogues – so we visited it all.  It seems there was always a love/hate relationship with the Jewish population of Prague – at times they were depended on and at other times they were either expelled from the city or forced into a very small area.  In the 1600’s Prague had the largest Jewish community in the Diaspora.  But at turn of the 19th century, Prague was “revitalized”, to become more like Paris and the Jewish area was “sanitized”, turning the “malodorous” backstreets into blocks of luxurious five-story Art Nouveau mansions.  When the Nazi’s invaded there were about 55,000 Jews in Prague, but less than 1000 remained in 1989.  As our guidebook said, “In any other European city occupied by the Nazis in WWII, what little that was left of the old ghetto would have been demolished.  But, although thousands of Jews were transported to the new ghetto in Terezin and eventually to Auschwitz, the Prague ghetto was preserved under the Nazis in order to provide a record of the communities they had destroyed.  20170915_154855By this grotesque twist of fate, Jewish artifacts from Czechoslovakia and beyond were gathered here, and now make up one of the richest collections of Judaica in Europe.”          The cemetery struck us as crowded and old – just like the ghetto would have been.

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The Pinkasova synagogue filled our hearts with sadness as we saw written on the walls the names of the 77,297 Czech Jews killed during the holocaust.  Every wall in the entire building has just names and dates on them (the name followed by the date of birth and the date of death or transportation to the death camps).

 

 

#7 – Prague Castle – One of the most popular sites in Prague as it is the largest castle complex in the world!  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been there since the 9th century (it’s old!!) although it has changed a lot over the years.  Since it houses the president of the Czech Republic, you do have to go through security to get in.  And lots of brides get their pictures taken here!

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In the middle of the complex is the Cathedral of St. Vitus, which, although it was begun in 1344, did not get finished until 1929.  Inside it there is the Tomb of Saint Jan of Nepomuk, which is sculpted in solid silver – it is huge!  Then there is the Chapel of St. Vaclav (or Wenceslas in English), the walls of which are inlaid with 1372 semiprecious stones!  It is stunning!  We also visited the Golden Lane, which has above the shops a museum of sorts of knight armor.

There is also a crossbow shooting lane and we both got to fire a crossbow!

#8 – Infant Jesus of Prague located in the church of Panna Maria Vitezna – Infant Jesus or Prazske Jezulatko is a 45cm tall wax sculpture of a 3-year-old Jesus.  He has over 100 items of clothing in his wardrobe and is changed 10 times a year by the nuns.

Make sure you visit the museum where some of his clothing is displayed (It’s a little awkward getting to the museum because it’s at the front of the church on the right side – we had to walk through a service to get to it!)  We found this more interesting after visiting Brussels and seeing all the clothing for the mannequin pis (the peeing boy).

#9 – Petrin Hill Observation tower – or Prague’s little Eiffel tower (it’s 1/5 the size of the Paris one).  Just 299 steps to the top, you get a great view of the city!  The tower was built in 1891 for the Prague Exhibition.

#10 The hanging Sigmund Freud –

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this isn’t really that great but so unusual that I have to mention it!  It was interesting to look up in the old town and see high above the streets a 7’ tall statue of Freud hanging by a hand and “pondering whether to hold on or let go.”  It is in the old town at the intersection of Husova and Betlemske.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two places outside of Prague and worth going to are Karlstejn and Terezin.  We did them as ½ day trips.  Karlstejn was the summer castle of Charles IV and it served as a getaway place for him as well as a place to store his crown jewels and relics.  To see the magnificent chapel, you have to book a tour in advance – we did so the day before going and were able to get an English tour, which you will want and we did!  You are not allowed to take pictures inside the castle which is why we don’t have very many here!

 

Terezin, or Theresienstadt in German, is the town the Nazi’s turned into a Jewish Ghetto by displacing the 3,500 Czech residents and forcing 60,000 Jews to live there before transporting them to Auschwitz.  The Nazis used Terezin also as propaganda, showing how nice it was to live there, with cultural events, playgrounds and more – this 12-minute film can still be seen there. There is a museum, a memorial and several other buildings as well as the fortress here.  One building has recreated the woman’s dormitory.

Another building (hard to find, by the way) has a recently discovered tiny hidden synagogue in it.  The fortress on the outside of town, built in the 1780’s, (it’s most famous inmate was the young man who assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914) was also a SS prison that mostly housed inmates who had been active in the resistance.  Although the town now has residents, it also seems very ghost like.

And what things should you avoid while in Prague?  I can’t speak for them all but I would stay away from the KGB museum!  Trip Advisor made this out to be one of the must sees – what a dud!  The owner/guide was probably a former KGB agent who waxed on about the glories of the KGB and how they killed – with highly theatrical sound effects!  Boris was entertaining but not for the amount he charged to get into the museum!  And you had to listen to him because there was no information about the artifacts in the room, except what he told or made up?

Trip Advisor also said that the Lennon wall (think Beatles) was a place to go – as Kate said it was just a wall covered in graffiti and not worth the time it took to find!

 

We also visited Wenceslas Square but since the museum was closed and we weren’t interested in big shopping stores, all we did was take a picture and eat some (wonderful) pizza there!  And, for the record, shopping in Prague was wonderful!  They had all sorts of fun things – crystal (both Swarovski jewelry and dinnerware), Russian matryoshka dolls, chocolate, as well as normal souvenir t-shirts and bags, etc.  You could also in every store find cannabis – lollipops and chips, teas and muffins, chocolates and cookies.

With our 4 days in Prague over, we reluctantly pointed our teeny, tiny car towards Poland (we really were ready to come home at this point but still had places to go, things to buy and people to see!).  So, we bid Prague adieu – what a fun city!20170918_063325

Deadly Proof

I know – 2 reviews in 2 days but I’m a little behind and I need to get caught up before I fly away again!!  So, here’s

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Riveting New Series Offers Legal Suspense with a Romantic Twist

In the biggest case of her career, attorney Kate Sullivan is tapped as lead counsel to take on Mason Pharmaceutical because of a corporate cover-up related to its newest drug. After a whistleblower dies, Kate knows the stakes are much higher than her other lawsuits.

Former Army Ranger turned private investigator Landon James is still haunted by mistakes made while serving overseas. Trying to forget the past, he is hired by Kate to look into the whistleblower’s allegation and soon suspects that the company may be engaging in a dangerous game for profit. He also soon finds himself falling for this passionate and earnest young lawyer.

Determined not to make the same mistakes, he’s intent on keeping Kate safe, but as the case deepens, it appears someone is willing to risk everything–even murder–to keep the case from going to trial.

Packing a powerful punch, this novel had suspense, romance, and even legal drama, with the characters both seeking and questioning God.  Kate Sullivan is a lawyer who is tapped to lead a big case against a large pharmaceutical company.  But how far will the company go to keep from losing money?  And who is behind the evil Kate finds herself up against?

After being chosen lead counsel and realizing she needs to dig deep into the case as there is much more than meets the eye, Kate decides to hire a private investigator and has Landon James recommended to her.  He is former military who is “haunted by mistakes in his past” but determined to make the future different, and to protect Kate!

Both Kate and Landon have issues – will the issues keep them apart or draw them together (okay – it’s a romance novel so what do you think!).  But seeing them work through them really was great!   He feels God has abandoned him – she relies on God “…she closed her eyes for a moment and asked God to give her the strength to get through this litigation.”  I really loved some of the seeking dialogue between Kate and Landon.  Kate encourages him – “He knows your pain and struggles, Landon.  They aren’t any surprise to Him.”

This is a wonderful novel and I recommend it!  I had such a hard time putting it down! I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

The Author:71L2nNpxBSL._UX250_

Rachel Dylan writes Christian fiction including legal romantic suspense. Rachel has practiced law for over a decade and enjoys weaving together legal and suspenseful stories.  Rachel lives in Michigan with her husband and five furkids–two dogs and three cats. Rachel loves to connect with readers. You can find Rachel at http://www.racheldylan.com.

Justice Buried

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In an effort to get her security consulting business off the ground, Kelsey Allen has been spending a lot of time up in the air, rappelling down buildings and climbing through windows to show business owners their vulnerabilities to thieves. When she is hired to pose as a conservator at the Pink Palace Museum in order to test their security weaknesses after some artifacts go missing, she’s ecstatic. But when her investigative focus turns from theft to murder, Kelsey knows she’s out of her league–and possibly in the cross hairs. When blast-from-the-past Detective Brad Hollister is called in to investigate, Kelsey may find that he’s the biggest security threat yet . . . to her heart.

Crackling with romantic tension and laced with intrigue, this suspenseful story from award-winning author Patricia Bradley will keep readers guessing–and looking over their shoulders.

What a neat murder mystery – although that sounds a little strange!  I so enjoyed how a “cold case” came to life!  And honestly, my hands got clammy as I read Kelsey’s adventures climbing up walls and rappelling down great heights without a belayer!  The author is quite skilled at bringing words to life!

Kelsey is the daughter of a thief and she loves finding flaws in security systems – not for her own illegal gains but so the owners can improve their systems.  And she loves the challenge – not only with the cyber part of security but also the brick and mortar as she skillfully breaks into buildings.  But will Detective Brad Hollister believe her –  that she is not like her father?  Kelsey and Brad have a past – but will they have a future?

This novel had action through and through, yet also an underlying message that God is there.  At one-point Kelsey struggles as she reads the Bible.  “People let you down; how did she know God wouldn’t too? … She wasn’t even sure she’d know how to depend on God.”  As an aside, I loved how Kelsey was reading her Bible on her phone!

If you are looking for a suspenseful murder mystery with some romance and the seeking for God in one’s life, I highly recommend this book!  I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

The Author:pbradley-2015

Patricia Bradley is the author of Justice Delayed, as well as the Logan Point series. Honoring God through her writing is top priority for this Mississippi Writer. When she’s not writing or speaking, she throws mud on a wheel and tries to make something beautiful. Bradley won an Inspirational Readers Choice Award in Suspense, was a finalist for the Genesis Award, won a Daphne du Maurier Award, and won a Touched by Love Award. Bradley is cofounder of Aiming for Healthy Families, Inc., and she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Learn more at http://www.ptbradley.com.