Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hey there!

We have managed to find an unprotected wireless network and so we thought we'd post a sneaky blog to let you all know that we have moved in to our gorgeous new home... nothing was lost or broken during shipping (a mini-miracle!) and I (Nicci) am having fun 'making house'...

We feel very blessed to be here...

I will take some photos (once it no longer looks like a bomb-site!) and will be in touch again properly soon... we get our own Internet connection on Weds (hopefully!)...

Thanks for your prayers... HEAPS of love...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I WAS out of range! I promise!

I missed my husband very much - but it was a GREAT time... fantastic teaching from God's word, a chance to spend time getting to know other Christian sisters AND an opportunity for FUN!!!

On the Saturday afternoon off I was 'bullied' into signing up for the zip-wire course... 7 x 200 - 400ft wires suspended about 150 - 200ft above the ground in a Redwood forest... I thought I was going to be sick on the 1st platform - but then, against my better judgement, I actually REALLY enjoyed it!

A group of us then went to Capitola (a BEAUTIFUL seaside town) for some time on the beach, a spot of wine-tasting and some Mexican food! Yum!

3 girls in particular are DEFINITE close-friends-in-the-making... Claire, Natalie and Amanda... what a blessing to have found such lovely ladies with real hearts for Jesus so soon!
I did a slightly longer run this morning (5.5 miles) - see map below. That, and yesterdays hike up Mission Point have combined to make me somewhat stiff in the joints. (Don't tell the CPC Twenties group, or I might get kicked out). I went to church solo, as Nicci is still away at the Womens Retreat. She gets back in about half an hour... It was good: we've started a series on "The Living Church" and today's focus was on Worship, from Isaiah 6. Good stuff - and then I joined some folks for a Burrito at Chipotle. For those who don't know what a Burrito is, it's big: about 4 times the size of a normal tortilla wrap sandwich. I think I need a lie down.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

So, Nicci is off on the women's retreat and I'm fending for myself. I guess they're in the middle of nowhere with no mobile phone coverage, as I haven't been able to make contact yet - either that or she's having such a good time with the girls she's forgotten all about me! Last night I went into the city to an Irish bar to meet Toby and Gene who are some folks I met when I came out here in January. Toby is about to lead a new church plant in San Francisco city, which is pretty exciting. I was able to find a enclosed car park for only $5. Good to know, since last time we came in on a Friday night (to meet Nicci's old Speech Therapy boss who was out here on holiday), we paid $20. Gene told me afterwards that after 6pm, you can park for free on the street by the meters, so that's a good note for later.

Nicci mentioned in her post below that, finally, we were able to pick up our car yesterday. It was worth the wait. Although it doesn't have all the possible features, it is our first ever car with air conditioning (non-negotiable out here), and cruise control. That's a pretty cool ability - and it helps you keep to the speed limits! What Nicci didn't tell you about us picking up the car was this: After collecting it from the dealership in San Jose (yes, we know the way there) we had to drive in convoy to return our rental car to the hire car place at the airport. Nicci had the SatNav and so I was to follow her. Bear in mind we had only an hour before passed our written driving exams. Nicci's first manoeuvre on leaving the Audio place was an illegal left turn across three lanes of traffic. Then at the first set of lights, right at the last moment, Nicci pulled into the only turn-left lane leaving me no option but to continue on. Typical. She didn't have her phone with her, so it was a case of 'see you at home, maybe(?)'. Thankfully we both made it back and were able to return the hire car to the airport. Now we have just the one car between us, so hopefully we won't find ourselves in a similar predicament again!
With the girls off at the retreat, today I met up with some of the other bereft husbands and single guys from the church 'Twenties' group and we went to hike up a mountain (one step at a time). We drove over to Fremont on the east side of the Bay and climbed Mission Peak. It was a good hike, and nice to get away with a group of Christian blokes (none of whom questioned my right to be there as a 31-yr old). The guy on the left in both pictures is Florent, a Frenchman from Brittany, who is out here for a couple of months doing some work experience and looking to improve his English. He isn't really able to follow much of the conversation, so it's been great for me to be able to translate and talk to him in French. After coming back down the hill we stopped into In and Out. This is a really good burger place. I actually saw one of the guys in the kitchen peeling potatoes and putting them into a machine that cut them into chip shapes. And, it must have some sort of Christian ethos or heritage as, hidden under the bottom of the drink cups is "John 3 v 16", and on the paper wrapper of the burger I had (the double-double!) was written "Rev 3 v20". Someone else got a reference to "Nahum 1 v 7".

I'm now back at home and in need of a siesta. I'm meeting up with another guy from CPC later this evening. The temptation for me to watch the final episode of Prison Break is huge, but I think I'd better wait for Nicci to come back.

Friday, April 24, 2009

You'll all be glad to hear that... WE PASSED!!!

We are now both the proud possessors of provisional Californian driving licences - we have to now book in for the practical driving test (yikes!) - and then, we can get the real thing!

Ed and I were both pretty confident before we went in, but then there were quite a few tricky questions, such that we were both VERY nervous as we stood in line to get our tests marked... but to our HUGE relief we both nailed it - each getting only 2 errors! Phew!

AND I have a happy husband! We picked up our swanky (bottom of the range - but still a significant upgrade from the fiat punto!) new car today - an Audi A4 in dark, metallic silver... very cool... let's keep everything crossed that I don't crash it!

I am off to the church women's retreat in a few hours... am looking forward to it although feeling quite nervous too... and then we move into our new apartment on Monday! We are not sure when we'll have Internet connection up and running, so apologies if you have to wait a few days for the next blog post... I'll try to include photos of our new apartment next time! Eeeeeeeek! How exciting!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

They don't get my name out here at all! Nicole is a girl's name, but they just don't get Nicola... and more people are called 'Micky' than Nicci out here... so that's confusing for them too!

I had to give my name at a cafe recently so they could call out my name when the order was ready... on the top of my receipt, they have printed: NIKLAH... Close, but no cigar...

And that's just the start... we think we speak the same language? It's similar, and we can understand each other, but there are numerous vocab differences which is a cause for great hilarity...

I have had people say 'Oh I like your pants' - triggering frantic checking that my underwear is not on show! 'Bangs' is a fringe... They have 'Faucets' in their bathrooms instead of taps and your mobile phone is your 'cell'... there are NUMEROUS examples and I am slowly learning to be my own interprtation service when I see the puzzled look in their eyes!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Currently it is 34 degrees outside... too hot to go out... and it's APRIL!!!

Oh my! I might actually end up being MORE pasty living here than I was in England because it's too hot to venture out!

...Who am I kidding?!

Disconcerting things about living in the USA No.5

Arnold Schwarzenegger is our governor!

I mean, Ed and I are currently studying our california driving manual in preparation for our written driving test on Friday (yikes!) But it is hard to take it seriously when the introdutory message is written by a man who became the youngest ever 'Mr Universe' at age 20 and who, previously whenever his name was mentioned would spark a spontanoius 'i'll be back' in a heavy accent!

HE is the one making the rules around here! Yikes! Yikes! Yikes!

And the REALLY worrying thing is that he seems to be doing a pretty good job! Yikerdy-yikes!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It is hot. HOT I tell you! 31° Celsius or more - in April! We went for another jog this morning, but it was harder work than normal. We went to church again, and were invited to join some folks to go to Chevy's Mexican restaurant, which is great and is situated right on one of the lagoons in Foster City. They were lovely: two couples, our sort of age and, predictably, each with a child. It was great to meet some people that we could really be friends with. One of the girls is going to the women's retreat next weekend with Nicci and I have arranged to meet up with her husband, Dave, and do bloke stuff together like drinking beer and playing pool. In fact I think Brian, the other guy, is going to give his wife the slip and come and join us too!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. I would love to see each of these attributes increasingly in evidence in my life, however this week has mostly been an exercise in patience! We were supposed to pick up our car on Monday. In fact, they had offered some hope that we might even have been able to pick it up in time for last weekend. But no. And the guy it all hung upon doesn't work on Mondays. And on Tuesday I didn't realise until too late that the people I was dealing with were on the East Coast with a +3hr time difference so I couldn't chase until the Wednesday... when I found out the truck that was supposed to deliver the car from San Diego to the dealership in San Jose had to wait until it was full before setting off - which wouldn't be until Thursday, but I should have the car on Friday... but now Saturday is almost over and still no car. It is unlikely we'll have it until Tuesday as, again, matey doesn't work on a Monday. My colleagues will be watching me, knowing I'm waiting on this car, so the prayer over the next few days is that the fruit of patience will be in abundance on Monday and Tuesday, and (who knows?) beyond that.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Although Ed and I have missed out on the bank holiday weekend out here, we feel that we have managed to be part of the various Easter family get-togethers via skype... it was lovely speaking with the Russells on Sunday and this morning it was a joy to be included in the big Stileman family party for Dunmar's 85th birthday... I can't believe that many other people have been passed between so many lovely people in one skype conversation! What FUN! And WHAT a blessing Skype is!

I am also grateful to all those who are sending us mail... a hand-written envelope is met with whoops of excitment and a rush back to the apartment to greedily read the words from home... I'm afraid my brother gets the prize for 'best post yet' with his California themed home-made cd which I have been LOVING listening to this morning... might just go and put some flowers in my hair!


Disconcerting things about living in the USA No.4

They put sugar in TOOTHPASTE!!!

We ran out of the toothpaste we had brought from the uk recently and bought some out here... I thought it tasted sweet, but it wasnt until yesterday that a guy I was speaking to at the Easter lunch confirmed it... they include sugar!

I will be stocking up on uk toothpaste when we come home in June and will do my best to smuggle it back into the country!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

IHOP was good. I went for the "Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N Fruity". With that you get: eggs (over-easy), bacon, sausage, hash browns and two buttermilk pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries. Mum always taught me to finish everything on my plate - but Nicci wouldn't have been impressed. And I wouldn't want all the good work done jogging and going to the gym to come to nothing, so I believe I chose the right option... Had it been curry, there would have been no choice in the matter. But with pancakes, I feel justified in leaving some of it behind.

Church was good - although much of it was conducted in the dark due to a power cut! 15 people were baptised afterwards including one gentleman in his 70's. We had some good conversations afterwards.

We were invited back to lunch with Manuel and Alice. They are a lovely couple from our church. Nicci is in the same Bible study group as Alice on Wednesdays, and will be going to the women's retreat with their daughter, Celine. They had the golf on, so we didn't miss that great finish! We felt very welcome and it was lovely to have some real fellowship on Easter Day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Yesterday, 4.45am. That's when the alarm went off for me to get up and go to SFO to catch a 6.15am flight to Salt Lake City, Utah. Ouch. I was pleased, when I got there, to meet my colleague, Chris, who was coming with me. It was confirmation that, despite the early hour and my foggy consciousness, I was at the right airport. It was a good day, there and back - but I was shattered yesterday evening!

Although Good Friday is not a public holiday in the US (neither is Easter Monday - I'm now kicking myself for not having delayed our trip out here until Tuesday 14th April in order to maximise the number of free days off I could have had...), it was great to be able to remember why they call it Good Friday by listening to some great songs on my iPod during the flight: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, This the Power of the Cross etc. Hallelujah! Although the disciples were probably not about to vote to call the previous day 'Good Friday' when they were in hiding on the Saturday and Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb behind a huge rock and an armed guard, knowing what we do about what happened on the Sunday, 'Good Friday' is an understatement! We're looking forward to our Easter Sunday church service where, hopefully, the same Chris who flew with me to Salt Lake yesterday will join us. We plan to meet for breakfast first at IHOP (International House of Pancakes) - sounds like it's going to be loaded with calories - but if it's for the gospel I guess we'll have to bite the bullet and tuck in.

Today started with another run, with a stop off at the gym for some light weights half way round. We feel like we've achieved, and so are trying to justify to ourselves that it's OK to slob for the rest of day and see if we can watch as much of the Masters golf as possible. So far, I haven't seen any of it - which is rather odd, since being closer to the time zone it's being played in was meant to mean it would be easier to watch!

We've put an offer in on a place to live now, (when it's confirmed, we'll send a link with a GoogleMaps satellite view) and we understand that our shipping may arrive in the next 10 days. And hopefully we'll be picking up our car and returning the rental one on Tuesday. So life is beginning to fall into place, for which we are grateful to the Lord.

A shower, and then breakfast beckons. Love to all!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Thanks to all those who helped me out with website conversion charts... the Simnel cake is made! And here they are... photographic proof of Mrs G's continued domestic godess status! AND I am preaching it in Marzipan! '...take every opportunity!'

I am going to give these two as gifts... Ed and I started our one on Saturday... Ed's comment was "it's delicious, but very dense... if you throw it at someone, it would probably kill them... like throwing a brick" ...not sure how I feel about that!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

This evening I was taken back 13 years as, for the first time since I left Pakistan, I had a true Afghan lamb kebab with 'proper' pillou rice. Truly authentic, truly delicious. Al-hamdu li-lah. When the Colonel gets here, we're going. It's all part of his education.
Our eggcups are still on a boat somewhere in the Atlantic (hopefully floating on top of...), and so for the weekend boiled egg we've had to improvise... Yes, that is our loo roll! I was a little concerned about the pepper that missed the egg...

House hunting began in earnest this week. Nicci started on Thursday and Friday, narrowing it down to the top two, which I looked at on Saturday. Both were on the Bay near 'Bird Island' (a nature reserve with loads of walking and biking trails). Although both are lovely, we have put in a provisional offer on the larger of the two, which has a private sun terrace area. We'll wait and see what happens. Nicci keeps quoting "do not fret, it leads only to evil" (Ps 37 v 8b)... easier said than done when you've set your heart on a place!

Today we went to church again, and afterwards stopped round at Rick & Sally's to drop off a plant that we got Sally for her 70th birthday! They are a lovely couple, and have a PS3 and a full on home cinema set up with reclining leather armchairs complete with drink holders in the arm rests. Awesome! Anyway, they suggested we go for a walk around Seal Point towards Coyote Point. You pass by a little marina, and at the end you get to look across the Bay to San Francisco city and Oakland across on the East Bay. Again, the weather was wonderful. We are grateful to the Lord for an older, godly couple who have shown us real love in our first few weeks.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I do love my wife. She is on a perennial hunt to procure sugar-free bread as we both prefer our Warburton's seeded batch from home - but no such product exists here. Anyway, for breakfast this morning I was offered marmite on toast, that was carved from a loaf bought over the bakery counter at our local supermarket. Now, as you know, marmite has a pretty strong flavour. But not strong enough to overpower the GARLIC that was the secret ingredient of this particular loaf. When I say secret, it did come as a surprise to Nicci that, I having suggested to her that this might be garlic bread we were having with marmite for breakfast, on closer inspection of the packet it clearly stated "Gruyere olive garlic bread". Perhaps more to be enjoyed with a dish of pasta and a glass of wine. Steer clear for breakfast. I'm off to brush my teeth.