Sunday, February 20, 2011

Next Stop, Kenya

My Inspiration:

One of the greatest aspects of traveling, other than the food, is being able to stand in awe of the vast and immense creation that surrounds us. From the enormous Canadian Rockies to rolling English pastures, from lush Italian vineyards to the desolate Egyptian desert, and from pounding Bolivian waterfalls to tropical Hawaiian beaches, each setting never fails to take my breath away. There is so much evidence around us that points towards the existence of a creator, THE creator, and every time I look outside, the desire I have to know the creator grows stronger inside me.

A few months ago (before coming to England) I got pulled over for speeding while driving through Saskatoon. I was rushing to get to school on time and got caught going 30 over the speed limit. Imagine if I had tried to get out of the speeding ticket by telling the cop each of the laws that I hadn't broken. Obviously, that would have been ridiculous, and the cop would have thought I was an idiot. We can't use laws that we have KEPT to balance out laws that we have BROKEN. It's the same with each of our lives, good works cannot cover up our imperfection.

The amazing thing is, there is something that actually CAN cover up our imperfections. Imagine that one day you are in court, being charged for a horrible crime that you know you ARE guilty of committing. All of the evidence proves it, and there is simply no way that the judge could think otherwise. The judge looks at you and has NO other choice than to sentence you to being hung by the neck, because it is his duty to bring justice. Now, imagine that after declaring this sentence, the judge stands up, takes off his robe and comes over to you. As he embraces you, he says "as your judge I had to sentence you to death, as your friend I am going to go to the gallows for you. Your sentence is now pardoned through me." This is exactly what Jesus has done for each of us! Romans 5:8 says that "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died for us." Jesus is the Son of God, and He died in order that our sins may be forgiven. 

But it didn't stop there: Jesus came back to life again and is alive today, ready and waiting to have a relationship with us. In the Bible, it says that "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name"(John 1:12). The suffering, death, and new life that Jesus went through was a beautiful gift, and it is meant specifically for YOU. If we choose to recognize and see our imperfection and the fact that we need saving, and if we choose to believe in him, we are promised a new life with Jesus, and the incredible bonus of spending eternity in heaven.

I am excited and proud to be a follower of Jesus. I have realized that I desperately need saving, and I have found this saving in the one true place it is available: through Jesus' gift of forgiveness and new life. He has given me purpose and has become my inspiration and backbone. He literally gave his life for us, and many of you may have heard and responded to this great news already. If you have not heard this before, I hope that this inspires you to search for and respond to the TRUTH and the saving grace that is found only in Jesus.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Ephesians

With this being my first set of major traveling, I had figured it would be wise to do the majority of it through a travel agent. For the most part things worked out great, but even the pros seem to get some things messed up. We landed in Izmir, expecting to have a hostel to flop down in after our flight, only to find that the agent had booked us a hotel in a city six hours away from where we were.

So we jumped in a taxi and gave him the address for a tourist help spot that I knew about, so that we could search for some super cheap beds somewhere, only to be driven everywhere that we did NOT want to go. No matter how many times we told him the address, no matter how many other taxis he asked, he couldn't get it right. So, we finally jumped out in anger, and I grabbed the bags out of the trunk while my friend refused to pay for his futile 'efforts'. Finally, after much brainstorming, we caught a bus to the tiny Turkish town of Selcuk - right next to the ruins of Ephesus.

Upon our arrival, we realized that the hotels were desperate for customers as it was still the low season, so we were able to get some rooms for dirt cheap.

The grand theatre, library, and extensive ruins of Ephesus - which is within walking distance of the town - were definitely a high-lite of Turkey. Also, Selcuk ended up being one of the friendliest towns, with enough fresh baklava to satisfy the most gluttonous of North Americans.

Friday, February 4, 2011

the Boss

 You cannot go to Turkey and not buy either a carpet or a pipe. I think it might be a law. So, where better to go than the Grand Bazaar? This place is a big deal. With over 4000 shops, it takes a real warrior to be able to come out alive. Thus, a good dose of baklava was of course necessary to start off the day, in order to nourish, energize and inspire us for the battle of the bazaar.

Istanbul is cut through it's heart by a boss of a river (the Bosphorus) acting as the border between Europe and Asia.

So, we thought it would be appropriate to hop on a boat and see what was up.

Dolmabahce Palace

The Han Hostel was great, but I figure I'll stay in this hotel next time..

My Turkish Lady

Arriving in Istanbul, we noticed a weird case of old school lifestyles mixed in with modern civilization. Also to our surprise, it was almost impossible to find anyone who spoke English, compared to Egypt where even the street kids were fluent. The huge city was difficult to tackle at first without having any communication with locals, but thanks to their super efficient tram/metro systems we conquered it pretty quickly.

I was so intrigued by this lady weaving away, I didn't notice her staring right back at me.

Fresh pom juice is delish

We spent some time in the courtyard of the famous Blue mosque before being even more dazzled by its interior. This is where we lost one of our travel mates, and spent a couple hours searching for him with no such luck.

a man washing before entering to pray

Hotel review: we spent our time in Istanbul sleeping at the brand new Han Hostel. It was the cleanest, most comfortable, and best decorated place we stayed throughout our travels. The staff thankfully spoke English, unlike the rest of the Turks, and they had a great chef. The only unfortunate part was that it is a significant distance from the interesting parts of Istanbul, so we had to give ourselves over an hour to get to/from the city center via the metro.

By the way, the travel mate that we lost eventually found his way back to our hotel, and is alive to this day.


Sometimes travels don't go as planned, as we had already noticed by this point in our trip. For our second day in Luxor, we planned to have a day packed full of sights such as the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, famous temples, etc. Unfortunately, a travel mate got sick, so we decided we might as well just spend the day relaxing and taking in the heat that England seems to miss out on.

So, I got some sun action as I became good friends with our hotel's rooftop pool and chef.
Hotel review: Royal House Hotel was in a very good location, right beside the Nile and nearby the towering Luxor temple. It didn't have wireless internet, but it had cheap internet in the lobby and had great staff/service. The chef even came in around 4 in the morning the day we left for the airport to cook us up a breakfast-to-go.

As the sun rose, we jumped on a little plane heading for Istanbul, Turkey.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Banana Island

Luxor is known for being swarmed with careches (horse drawn carriages). So, being in the low season, we haggled a desperate careche driver down to an ultimate price and spent a couple hours taking in the morning heat and dropping our jaws as our careche guided us around the dreamy ruins of the Luxor and Karnak Temples.

Entrance strip to the Luxor Temple

The afternoon found us leisurely rowing a felucca down the Nile, stopping at Banana Island for a delicious banana meal from the island's friendly locals.

A local on the island watering his banana fields

The return journey was of course timed to the sunset - a brilliant ending to a perfect day

Stranded in Coptic Cairo

After our camel adventure, we went off to the nearest train station to book our train beds for a twelve hour overnighter to Luxor. We were horrified to realize that there were no tickets available -with or without beds- for the next three days. This caused a problem, as our hotel was already booked for the next night in Luxor, and we were flying from the Luxor airport to Turkey in two days.

This dilemma led to numerous hours (which overlapped to the next morning) of arguing, arm swinging, prayer and bribery in the filthy third-world train station, in order for us to finally get tickets to our destination. For the full story including all of the intense action, you will have to ask me in person.

Following our triumph in the station, we had a few hours to kill before heading South.

Our driver raced us over to the old Coptic area of Cairo to wander the streets and check out a few old churches.