Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Le Grand Tour du Vélo!

7 weeks till Madagascar! 

Before we share about our weekend, a quick fundraising update, we're now almost 3/4 of the way there!!!  We are so thankful for the outpouring of generosity and partnership!

Last week was the final week of school, not for us, but for the students who started in September.  
We had a long weekend so that the staff could have a much deserved break.  We threw around a few ideas for inexpensive travel options, and decided to do bicycle adventure!  Here's where we went:

Day 1:  Gerard dropped us off at a mountain pass called Col du Frêne.
 We biked down the pass, through the valley, and up a backbreaking pass called Col de Leschaux.

The first part of our bike trip was many kilometers of beautiful downhill road leading through pastures and mountain villages:

Nick found an off the beaten track swimming spot. The water was so clear, and cold!

Then we started climbing...

 And we continued climbing for several hours...lots of cyclists passed us...it took us a long time to get to the top of the mountain with all our camping gear, but the views were incredible!

We met a farmer on the road, and he gave us permission to camp in his hay field for the night.

The town of Saint Maurice happened to have a festival that evening- they had some great food, dancing, friendly locals, and a really huge bonfire!

Day 2: Down from the mountains to Annecy and biking along the lake

Day 2 we got to enjoy the downhill side of the mountain we worked so hard to climb.  There also happened to be a triathlon on the very same route we rode up the day before.

Seeing the cyclists working so hard made us feel better about ourselves- we made it up that hill with all our camping gear! :) 

There were some beautiful views of Annecy Lake on the way down the mountain!

 Campground near the lake for the night...

Day 3: Biking down the lake and back home to Albertville

 We found our favorite picnic spot ever! :)

One last jump in the lake before heading back towards Albertville

If you look closely, you can see the paragliders.  Annecy is one of the most popular/well known places in the world for paragliding.  

    On the bike path back to Albertville!

The bike path between Albertville and Annecy used to be train tracks, so it's nice and flat.

We made it back to Albertville!

3 days and 46 euros later, our first trip by bicycle was a success! 

Just two more weeks of class left before our final exams- things are wrapping up quickly here in France.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

9 weeks till Madagascar!

Hello from Albertville!  Just wanted to share a few updates from the last two weeks...

Fundraising update:

Still right around 33% of our funding for Madagascar- 
Thank you to all the people who are praying for us and supporting us in this!

This week Mercy Ships added a photo on Facebook of Hôpital Be, the location where we will be teaching! They will be doing some there renovations before we arrive and start the program.  Here's what they said:

It might not look like much now, but we can't wait to show you the finished project. Mercy Ships is not just about changing lives, but about transforming nations. During our second year in Madagascar, Mercy Ships Capacity Building Programs will transform the country’s healthcare system by renovating this building into an orthopedic clinic, which will treat club feet in children for years to come.

We can't wait to get started teaching here, and partner with the local healthcare providers to correct clubfeet together!

Some Malagasy culture...

 I (Suzanne) found this video recently- it's a Malagasy singing group out of the capitol, called the Tana Gospel Choir.  Can't wait to experience more music and culture in Madagascar!  I especially love the song starting around 2:00 in the video...so joyful!

This week for us...

In class:  One of our in class assignments was to write a TV ad.  This is Nick and one of our classmates presenting their advertisement for the worlds best soccer ball...theirs was the most entertaining :)

Outside class...

Lots of studying...which is always better with coffee with whipped cream. Some of what we are studying at the moment is the subjonctif and gérondif and how to use lots of pronouns.  
If you want to know more about why we are going to so much effort to become French speakers, click here for a quick visual on how much of Africa uses French.  (As you will see in the photos below, we do love the cheese and the beautiful mountains here in France, but that's not actually why we are here) :)

Taking exams...in the English language...

I (Suzanne) took the train to Grenoble last Friday to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam.
Long story as to why I needed to do that, but it's related to visas/working as a nurse in Australia.  I need to prove that my English is "superior"- and as easy as it sounds to take an exam on how well you speak your mother tongue...it was a really long and draining academic test (was sort of like taking the SAT or ACT in the states), and I wouldn't be too surprised if I had to do it again. Oh the irony. :) But, I need a close to perfect score.  
Anyway, it gave me some good perspective on what international students go through in order to study in America!

Sunday afternoon, our friend Gerard took us along with his family up into the mountains to visit the town of Beaufort.  Beaufort is known for its amazing cheese, and we got to see a bit of how the cheese is made.  We also said hi to some cows who help make it :)

Gerard grew up here in Albertville, and he's shown us some amazing places we never would have found on our own.  He also understands my love of taking photos, and stops his jeep so I can get out and capture the beautiful surroundings :)

We're going to miss the cheese when we leave here.  :)

Prayer requests remain the same:

- That we would make the most of remaining class time.  

- The groundwork is being laid for the Ponseti (Clubfoot) Program in Madagascar!  Please pray that God would prepare the hearts and minds of the local healthcare workers who we will work side by side with all year.  

- That we would continue to make progress towards our goal of being fully funded for the Madagascar outreach

- That we would find an opportunity for Nick to finish his continuing education (for keeping up his USA physio license) in the midst of all of our travel

- That Suzanne's nursing license would be approved in Australia! (this is a really long process, which we started last June, and we're waiting for a final decision) 

Thanks for the prayers!!!