Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Engagement

Tah dah da dunt da DA!!!! Yes! It’s true, I am now engaged. :-D Eiko, my fiancée, :-) is such a wonderful woman. For those of you who have met her, I know you agree. For those of you who have yet to meet her, well, a meal and an invitation should do the trick. ;-P lol Sadly, we are living in the Chicago area so it makes it a little harder to get out and see all of you most incredibly wonderful friends of mine. Some of you are saying, pictures, we want pictures. Yes yes, I understand, and soon. (shhhooooossssshhhhh it will be soon!) As advertised though, this post is the telling of how I proposed to Eiko. :-)

When I began working on finding that one special ring, I quickly realized that if I was going to buy her that special ring that she would absolutely love, I needed her input. Not a bad idea to carry with me into marriage I’d say, the getting her input thingy. ;-) So I had to give up on the idea of making it a complete surprise.

Just to give you a little background information, we had long been talking about getting married. We both agreed that there was no point in being in a relationship if you weren’t working towards marriage. I love her. :-) So, I decided that we should start looking for rings. I spent hours and hours on the internet and went to different stores but couldn’t really find that one special ring that we both really loved. We found about a dozen rings that would kind of fit what she really liked, but it wasn’t the one.

One of her co-workers suggested a place that he and his wife have been going to for several years and have been very happy with. The owner custom designs jewelry and has many unique pieces on display. The very first ring that we looked at was the one. I saw it in the case and asked if we could look at it, and immediately Eiko loved it. So we spent the next 1 ½ hours looking at the other rings and talking about details. :-P lol Nothing else really even came close to this ring though and the more we looked at it the more we loved it. I really felt like God had brought us to this place and had the ring just waiting for us. :-)

So now I had the ring that I was going to buy. Now I just had to figure out how to give it to her and still be a bit of a surprise. I’m happy to say, I did just that. :-) I picked the ring up a few days before our anniversary and kept it quiet and hidden. ;-)

For our anniversary we had decided to go to the shores of Lake Michigan and have a picnic. After some searching and conversations with a friend, we settled on a beach. I was really hoping that with it being still a bit early in the year that there wouldn’t be too many people down on the beach.

When we finally got there, the traffic was unbelievable, :-P we quickly set up our picnic blanket, beach chairs, and food. I had hoped to have already eaten and be sitting cozy and close when I gave her card as we watched the sun set which would then lead to the surprise discovery of her ring. Sadly though, the sun was already setting (yes, the lake is to the east, but this beach curls around so that we could actually sit parallel next to the water and watch the sun set through the tall and beautiful buildings) and we had to eat yet.

To make things even more non romantic, another couple had walked up from behind us and stopped about 25 feet in front of us with their dog. There was a good 200 yards of beach behind us and another 300 yards of beach in front of us. But noooooo, they had to stop 25 feet in front of us and play fetch with their big wet black lab in the water throwing the ball towards us! Shhheeeesssssssssssshhhhhhhhh!!!!! (for those of you who struggle with English, a yard is about the same length as a meter ;-P lol)

Of course, as Eiko busily opened the food, I was helping and all the while praying that the couple would move to another spot. The sun was disappearing and with it the light necessary for the reading of the card and notes. Uhg! Well, it got down to the wire and I decided people or no people, I have to do it now. So, I gave Eiko her anniversary card and as I did the wonderful dog ran over to our picnic area. :-P lol The dog was very friendly but this made the other couple decide it was time to move on. Thank you Jesus and thank you nosey little dog. :-)

Eiko then started to read her card. In preparation for this moment (the idea of which I have to say came to me while in prayer thank you Jesus :-) I had bought a little stuffed monkey (Eiko loves monkeys ;-) and tied the ring onto the monkey with a sparkly white ribbon and a red ribbon. I then hid the monkey and ring in my cameral case and under the monkey I had a piece of paper which said, “Will You Marry Me?” :-) After she finished reading her card, I then gave her a little note that I had written, and on it, after some very lovely words, ;-) I asked her if she would open my camera case and give me my camera so that I could take her picture and remember this moment for the rest of our lives. (I had purposely placed the camera beside her and away from me as we were sitting down.) She opened the camera case and much to her surprise, took the monkey and ring out. I asked her on my knee if she would marry me. She said yes (can you believe it!!!) and I put the ring on her finger. We were now engaged.

We spent the remainder of that evening joyfully talking and eating and watched the sun disappear, soon to be replaced by the dozen or so starts that are bright enough to be seen in a Chicago sky. lol It was quite a romantic and memorable evening. I never did take a picture, didn’t need to, it’s burned in my memory forever. :-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cuba Anyone? Excellente!

This blog comes to you from our good friend Darren Brocklehurst. It’s a great story and a great read. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did. Thanks Darren. :-) He begins by writing...

While we were in Cuba we rented a taxi and drove into the city of Camaguay to see what the real Cuba looks like. (It’s very crowded with narrow streets and a very weird juxtaposition of Capitalism based stores and Communism based stores. Ones filled with North American type products and other filled with odd bits and pieces of random items… weird).

While we were there we walked past a corner that had an open sewer grate and the smell was a little overwhelming, and unfortunately there was a pizza store right on that corner too. We were hungry, so we decided to give it a try, but the culture barrier made it awkward, so the bravest of us went in and one of us put the $3 on the counter and took away a piece of dough about an inch thick and six inches across. The locals were eating them folded taco-style. We quickly discovered that the stench at the corner was not caused by the sewer, but by the cheese on the pizzas. The little pizza that we were now holding smelled a lot like baby poo. One bite later we discovered that the cheese tasted pretty much the way you would expect baby poo to taste. Yuck.

Cuban food: 1 Hungry tourist: 0.

We took a tour of some of the downtown cultural sites (the Theatre, the Monument to Che, the Creepy Frozen Old People statues, etc) and we saw the market. Pretty much all vegetables (Tomatoes were selling for about 16 cents each, coconuts for 25 cents). I told our guide that I’d like a coconut and he said that he knew where there were fresh ones on the street. Whohoo. Fresh coconut straight from the tree.

Later in the tour we pulled over at a street vendor who had a cart full of coconuts with the husk still covering the shell. He took a machete the size of my arm and whacked off the end in two or three skillful swipes (I counted, and he still had all ten fingers – amazing!) Then he poked a hole in the end for me to drink the laxative inside. I passed on the coconut milk laxative (Bernie had a terrible experience the last time he was in Cuba with the coconut milk and scared me enough that there was no way that I was going to drink any of it!). Then I asked about eating the inside. He whacked the whole thing in half with his sword and passed me the coconut. The only trouble was that there was no meat inside. Where I had expected the meat to be there was just a congealed white paste that reminded me of sour milk. I shrugged and the machete guy whacked off part of the next husk and handed me a “spoon” and motioned that I should scoop the curdled milk slime into my mouth and enjoy. “When in Rome” has always been my motto (I’m going to change that soon!) so I scooped the white paste into my mouth and smiled for the camera. Once I had turned the corner I took a photo of my second try at Cuba street food, swallowed what felt like warm snot in my mouth and threw the rest of the coconut away.

Cuban food: 2 Hungry tourist: 0.

I didn’t have it in me to try again.

Our last day at the resort we walked into the little town where I had seen a local eating the coconut meat that I so desperately desired now and the stand that he had just the day before was gone. Oh dear. We didn’t find any coconut meat (I asked a local and he told me to start asking for coco-fruit – which turned out to be genius!) and when we returned to the entrance to the resort I asked the concierge where I might get some coco-fruit and he whistled for the gardener to come to the desk. I went with the guy and brought out a 247 foot long stick with a hook on the end (ok, maybe it was 15 feet, but it was a long skinny stick). He poked the coconut tree until it gave up two of its fruit. Then he took his dull rusty knife and sawed at the husk until he had poked a hole in the top of the coconut exposing a tiny hole just big enough to get the laxative out of the nut. I smiled, tipped him generously and left to dispose of my second nut full of Exlax.

Cuban food: 3 Hungry tourist: 0.

I refused to be beaten by this, so I trodded off to the beach where I knew of a guy with a machete. The guy as not there, but the sword was. How hard could it be? I’ve used an ax and I’m a master at Jedi Knights, so I took the machete in one hand and laying the coconut on the sand I thought better of the whole idea and decided it was better to be hungry than amputated.

Then I remembered Gilbert (the guide who took us to the reef). He wears a nasty Shark Knife strapped to his calf muscle all the time. Maybe he could crack this nut for me. I took it to him and he said “no problem!” and then took my coconut behind the screen and I heard “THUMP, wuble wuble wuble” “THUMP, wuble wuble wuble” “THUMP, wuble wuble wuble” (this part is better in person – imagine me with a curious face and the cool sound effects that I make…) I peeked behind the screen and Gilbert was THROWING the coconut at the concrete floor of his hut and then jumping out of the way as it bounced off random things in his office. I tried to call him off, but he had already broken the coconut for me.

I then realized how hard it was going to be to separate the meat from the shell.

Cuban food: 4 Hungry tourist: 0.

Bernie and I had one more coconut that still had it’s husk on, so we took his coconut to the basketball court (which was basically a run down concrete pad with a pole at either end) and “THUMP, wuble wuble wuble” “THUMP, wuble wuble wuble” we were dodging Bernie’s coconut trying to get it to break

Cuban food: 5 Hungry tourist: 0.

Anyway, just to finish the story I did get some of the meat from the shell before supper and packed the rest for the plane ride home the next day. It took me the full three hours to get all the meat off the shell, but I ate the entire coconut before we landed at YYZ.