Beyond Thunderdome

img_2714Upon first appearances, Coober Pedy, South Australia, feels like a post-apocalyptic scene out of a Mad Max* movie. And, rightly so, it was the backdrop for the film, Beyond Thunderdome. It’s eery and vast with mounds of sand and rock piles as far at the eye can see. Coober Pedy is one of the most unusual places in Australia and perhaps the world. It’s also one of the hottest places in Australia, with summer temperatures often reaching 45°C, and ground temperatures reaching as high as 65°C.

Before white fella came into the territory, Aboriginal nomadic hunters and gatherers travelled the rugged terrain constantly in search of food and water supplies as well as to attend traditional ceremonies. In fact, the name “Coober Pedy” comes from the local Aboriginal term kupa-piti, which means “boys’ waterhole.”

img_2703The first European explorer to pass near the site of Coober Pedy was Scottish-born John McDouall Stuart in 1858, but the town was not established until after 1915, when the first opal was discovered by Wille Hutchison. Miners followed in 1916 and by 1999, there were more than 250,000 mine shaft entrances in the area. With laws in place discouraging large-scale mining  any novice with equipment and fortitude can test their luck mining for an opals. Once a license is acquired, each prospector has 165-square-foot to claim their lot.

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img_2708Coober Pedy has a modest local population of about 3,500 and attracts folks from over 45 different countries. Most of them come to Coober Pedy for one thing; Opals.

Coober Pedy is renowned for its below-ground residences, called “dugouts”, which are basically mine shafts, built into homes. Some of them with elaborate interiors, large ballrooms and underground pools.

One of our favorite dugouts was the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Serbian’s came in droves to Coober Pedy to try their hand at Opal mining in the early 90’s and the church was built-in 1993. It is the town’s largest and most impressive underground church, with intricate rock-wall carvings and a gorgeous vaulted ceiling. The stained glass window provide a celestial atmosphere in the standing room only sanctuary.

 

img_2952Another interesting area in Coober Pedy is “the Breakaways.” The Breakaway Reserve gets its name from the massive rocks and plateaus that from a distance look like they have “broken away” from the main range.

Our favorite was the formation known by non-aboriginal people as “salt and pepper” or the “castle”. To the Aboriginal people, they are known as the “Two Dogs (Pupa)” sitting down, one yellow dog and one white dog. To the south-west of Two Dogs is a peaked hill, known as Man (Wati) who is the owner of the dogs.

Practically speaking, the town had all the amenities that one might need when traveling through. There is a local grocery store with a decent organic section, a backpackers, camping, plenty of Air BnB’s and a few nice hotels (most of which are underground), gas to refuel, and one of the best Pizza joints in South Australia, John’s Pizza. There is even a golf course, which you have to play at night with glow in the dark golf balls. And, of course there are Opals.

Whether you are heading north to Alice Springs or south to Adelaide, Coober Pedy is the place to stop.

*Other major movies, filmed here on location include, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Ground Zero, and Pitch Black.

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When Worlds Collide

The plan had been in place for months. Craig Greenfield and his Alongsiders in Phnom Penh, Cambodia had been in conversation with a group from Singapore about hosting a round table discussion about the heart of God for justice and how that translates to our worship. It would be a sort of meeting of minds, an opportunity to gain perspective, learn and have eyes opened and hearts reshaped. At the same time, we wrote Craig about a potential visit to Cambodia. We met Craig two years prior at a social justice conference in Australia called Surrender. We were taken by his story and stayed in touch with him. When our vision shifted from bus life to backpacks, South East Asia came on our radar and we reached out to Craig. He responded to our request stating that our dates lined up with the gathering he would be hosting and invited us to participate. He asked us to put together a few ideas for workshops and began preparations around the subject at hand. He painted a picture of what to expect when we arrived explaining that we, along with a handful of kinfolk from Singapore, would be staying in Phnom Penh for a few nights and then taking a van south to a small village for a weekend homestay, learning about local life and faith. It would be during this time that we would be sharing our workshops with the local villagers. He explained it all, however no words could have really prepared our hearts for what we would experience. We had no idea that we were about to experience the ministry of reconciliation.

imageWe arrived on a Sunday evening and were welcomed by one of the Alongsiders staff, Darath. It was late and dark, our least favorite time to arrive in a new land. But Darath was very helpful in getting us acclimated to our new surroundings. The next morning we rose and met the Alongsiders staff, as well as, the Singapore team (KCC) at the office for our first of many Khmer meals. The meeting was surreal. It was pure joy to be in the same room with so many saints from this side of the globe.

Over the next two days we would all ride tuk tuk’s (local form of taxis) to the Killing Fields and to S-21 Prison where we would take a tour and learn about the recent Cambodian history and genocide. Our first stop was the Killing Fields  and the mood was sober as we all donned the headsets and began our way through the horrifically descriptive and heartbreaking tour. The emotion felt after learning about the Khmer Rouge left us all dumbfounded, angry and sad.

imageFor those who haven’t learned about the Cambodian Genocide in school, the basic gist (and, this is very basic, and in no way is meant to minimize or justify, it’s juswhat we gleaned from our visit. So please investigate more if you feel led) as I was saying, the basic gist involves a rebel party of farmers and men from the countryside who felt city folks were exploiting them and had esteemed goals of transforming their country under a communist ideology. They fought the existing Government for five years, simultaneously during the Vietnam war. In 1973 the Vietcong tried coming down through Cambodia to attack South Vietnam and to stop them the US launched bombs on Cambodian soil, killing thousands of Cambodians. This strengthened and fueled the rebels as they believed the US was in bed with their oppressive government. In 1975, the US pulled out of Vietnam and subsequently out of Cambodia, leaving a hole in the armor and the Capitol city for Slaughter. At that point, one of the rebel leaders, Saloth Sar emerged as sole leader (killing off some of his inner circle), renamed himself Pol Pot and declared himself Prime Minister and leader of newly named Democratic Kampuchea. He renamed his rebel forces Khmer Rouge and set out to systemically purge his country of anyone he felt opposed his views, really anyone he felt like killing. Most of those murdered by Pol Pots Khmer Rouge were educated city dwellers but many country folk were killed as well. Over time, the KR soldiers began to doubt the sanity of their leader as they saw their own family members, who were meant to be protected, murdered. And in 1979, the Vietnamese had had enough of the Khmer Rouge threatening their borders and in the name of liberating the Cambodians they initiated an assault and swiftly defeated the Khmer Rouge. They were ruthless in their “liberation” and for a period conditions did not improve but eventually, the Cambodian people pulled themselves up out of the ashes and began a slow, even to this day, rebuild. In the end, the Khmer Rouge murdered 2.2 million of its own citizens. Pol Pot was never brought to justice, in fact from 1979 till his death in 1998 he and a remnant of the old Khmer Rouge operated near the border of Cambodia and Thailand, where they clung to power, with nominal United Nations recognition as the rightful government of Cambodia.

Sounds like a nightmare right?! Like something from another dimension, another time. But it was only 40 years ago. Only 40. And, although we were horrified to see the evil man can fabricate, it is really nothing new. It happened to the Jews and many more in Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Guatemala, East Timor, in the US and Australia to its First Nation peoples, and even today in places like Tibet, Iraq, Syria and Ethiopia.

It’s more than heartbreaking, it’s paralyzingly. It’s one thing to engage and learn, but something wholly other to awaken awareness and empathy for those oppressed. So, what do we do with the emotions evoked by such evil? For starters, our family, had to sit down over dinner and talk about the feelings we had. They ranged the gamut from sadness, fright, paralysis and when we heard that no justice had come for Pol Pot we had to admit feelings of rage and thoughts of murder in our own hearts, our own depravity staring us in the face. Which then, forced us to remember the aged old story since the fall of man and seek something more, something beyond ourselves. We turned our focus to Love and read the ancient text that promises justice, promises that death will be swallowed forever. We read texts that declare that God is Sovereign and will wipe away the tears from all faces and remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. And then, we had to dig deeper and find more of the story.

It’s one thing to look at the history, read and visit museums but to meet those who have lived through the travesty and find out from them how God was proving faithful is an important part of the process. So when we met Rev Chea, who pastors a little church in the slums of Phnom Penh, and heard his story of losing his family and fleeing the Khmer Rouge, then life as a refugee. To hear the story of a victim finally finding grace and forgiveness was a significant piece of the puzzle.

imageThen we met Pastor Kong, we actually stayed in his home in the little village south of Phnom Penh. He and his family welcomed us to their home, village, and parish for three nights. It was here that we were meant to lead our creative workshops, which we did gladly. But something else was going on in our hearts and souls during our time in the village, specially after hearing Pastors story. This time we heard from a man who was once a soldier with the Khmer Rouge. We heard how he was seduced by the ideology of a better life for he and his family. We heard about his disillusionment after finding the leadership riddled with lies and corruption. We heard about his families decision to flee and life as a refuge in Thailand. We heard about his families decision to return to their village to reestablish a broken but new life. He told us about a man, who was also a refugee and sent to Canada. It was there this man was introduced to Jesus and the redemption story. The man spent the next years in seminary and finally in 1990 this man came back to Cambodia to tell his people about the God of all gods. In fact, during this time thousands of refugees who had had encounters with God in their host countries, returned to Cambodia to testify of Gods grace. And so it was with the man who walked into Pastors village and shared this good news. Pastor, his wife and six children were one of three families that turned their hearts toward God. They experienced forgiveness and mercy for the first time in theirs lives and made radical decisions to become beacons of light in their village.

We were absolutely wrapped in his story but honestly really had to grapple with the fact that he was originally the enemy, yet standing before us was a man genuinely transformed. Pastor Kong was once lost but now found. The words of Jesus rang in our ears, “love your enemies.” And, here standing with pastor, hearing his story, it all made sense. Love your enemies for they may one day become your brother! We glimpsed another piece of the puzzle. It’s true, we can’t see the whole puzzle yet, emotions are still high but we do know God is faithful, even during the darkest hours.

I don’t think either pastor would wish to go back to those dark days of genocide again but I do know that through it all they both found God and in finding God, they found each other, and in finding each other they found us. And, we are one. And, that is a miracle!

New York On A Nickel

IMG_3147Oh my goodness, if we had it our way we would not have gone to New York City, one of the country’s most expensive cities, on a Nickel (not even a dime) but that’s what we had and that was where we were rolling. And, we rolled in with a bang, taking our rig right down into the heart of the city. Not even sure if we were allowed to but we couldn’t help ourselves.

At one point, Craig said, “Jana! Jump out and get a picture of our bus!” Still in my house clothes and shoeless, I squealed and jumped out, allowing the bus to pass just far enough to capture the shot! Then I raced up the Manhattan street, catching up with our bus and hopped on board. I have to say that running down that street, barefoot, through the massive crowds of people, was one of the more exhilarating things I’ve ever done.

IMG_3180After our jaunt through the city we made our way east to Huntington, Long Island where we would neighbor for a week with our friend Kevin. We met Kevin a few months prior in North Carolina and he invited us to come and see his part of the world. We pulled into his cul du sac and found a beautiful refuge of gardens, pool and picnic settings awaiting us. He welcomed us with a wonderful breakfast including one of our favorites, fresh peppermint and ginger tea. We planned out our week and decided that we would take the hour and a half trip into the city four or five times that week. The other days would be spent at the Robert Moses State Park, as well as, relaxing at Kevin’s house, enjoying the pool and catching up on laundry and enjoying an evening making dinner for Kevin and his friends/family, sharing meals, song and story.

IMG_3360Honestly, four days was about all we could handle in the city. We arrived with just enough to purchase our 7 day metro passes at $32 a piece and had a few coins to spare. What that meant was dining out or special activities were limited but rather we explored by foot, subway, train and ferry. We walked and walked, taking in all of the free opportunities available. We walked the Brooklyn Bridge, rode the Staten Island Ferry to catch a glimpse of Lady Liberty, strolled through Battery Park and visited the 911 Memorial. We made a modest donation and wandered around the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We met up with old friends for dinner at their place on the upper east side, we spent time in community with fellow muso’s, Dylan Sneed, Katie Lee and Craig Greenberg and performed our music in Greenwich Village at Caffe’ Vivaldi. We snuck into the Iridium (Les Pauls famous club) to see our Bus Rider, Chris, perform with his band, The Frotations. We met a friend for breakfast and then went to the Robert Moses State Park on Long Island, the most populated beach we have ever been to. We took a hike down to the lighthouse where we ran across a few nudist fishing on the beach. And, that was something.

IMG_3359And then, we met Amanda and Christian Neill, owners of Roots Cafe in Brooklyn and were inspired by their epic story of coming to NYC from Nashville with extreme debt. They found jobs but it was seeking a deeper purpose there that led to miracles and finally becoming debt free. But that wasn’t even the coolest part of their story, the part that was mind-blowing was how they eventually found themselves as the owners of Roots Cafe, this awesome little coffee shop that we met them in. Their’s was an intricately woven story involving faith and community and that story continues to set a tone of openness at Roots Cafe as Amanda and Christian, seek to share the space with musicians, artists, and vendors living and working in Brooklyn. And share they did, as we partnered alongside them on a Tuesday night after hours, sharing sacred space, story and encouragement.

Our time in New York City pulled all sorts of emotions out of us, from being overwhelmed and frustrated to pure joy, self-pity to total contentment. That city took us for a ride and we went along with it, and for better or for worse, we’d do it all over again.

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The Kinfolk Road To Philly

Road to Philly JPGOver the course of a few weeks we rolled our way through the northern tip of West Virginia, Harrisburg, PA, through Amish Country finally arriving in Philadelphia. Every stop we reveled in community, seeing old friends and making new friends, learning and experiencing history, culture and the inspiring ways folks do life.

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Our first stop was with the Bannister family. Craig’s old music mate from Australia, Keith, and his family, welcomed us to their storybook town of Shepherdstown, WV.

They invited us to explore around their area, visiting the historical Civil War battlefields, Harpers Ferry where we learned about abolitionist, John Brown. We enjoyed an afternoon walk in the downtown district, shopping and getting a flavor of the local tea and coffee vendors. A favorite was the little ice-cream shop, Nutters Ice-cream, where they served up two huge scoops of homemade ice-cream for $2.00! Best of all, we were able to catch up on all the amazing life stories that had come our way, and theirs, over the past seven years since our last visit. Our last two days with them sickness came our way and it was in that moment that were so grateful to neighbor with kinfolk, able to find a comfort and hospitality.

IMG_2882Our next stop was in Harrisburg, PA  Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, sits near the middle of the large state. Once a thriving city, but was recently bankrupted by a former mayor. None the less, we found there was a sense of pride and community effort that seemed to keep the city alive. A few of our favorite things we noticed about this city, specially near the downtown area, was the community gardens and Broad Street Farmers Market. We also found the amount of children playing in the streets and folks sitting on their porches, neighbor to neighbor, enjoying the warm breeze and the company of each other, to be invigorating and most encouraging.

Our host in Harrisburg was the Compton family. We met Jake Compton a few weeks prior in Frostburg, MD when we played a show with Jon Felton and his Soulmobile. Jake played in Jon’s band that night and after the performance he invited us to his hometown.

He, his wife Sommers and their darling children, live inner city and are engaged community builders, encouraging their neighborhood by actively caring and connecting, as well as, impacting their greater community through the arts. They invited us to share meals, story and song at their performing space called the Harrisburg Improv Theatre. They use this space for concerts, performances and to teach improv classes. They are a  creative and innovative family, always looking for ways to invite other into life. This young couple expressed a desire for a story like ours and shared their uncertainty about their purpose, feeling like maybe they were missing out, wondering if travel might be the key. But what we saw, was that their life was already full and they were already living the dream. Travel would just be the icing on the cake.

IMG_2920Later that week, we took a day drive out of the city and enjoyed a taste of Amish Country. We stumbled upon a little town called Intercourse and couldn’t help ourselves but to stop and have a photo taken by the town sign. Yes, we were those tourists. Ha! Really though, who names a town Intercourse, unless they were referring to the dictionaries first definition of the word which is “communication or dealings between individuals or groups.” Even so, we had a good laugh.

Once we got over the name, we sat back and enjoyed taking in the Amish way of life. The neatest thing about this area is the opportunity to see from a birds eye view how they farm and live. It was absolutely mind-boggling how hard they must work and so close to the earth, with the whole family involved. We admire and respect this culture and are thankful for the opportunity to see it unfold, even if from afar.

IMG_3017Our final destination on the “Kinfolk Road to Philly,” was Philadelphia, where we connected with kinfolk, Tevyn and Jay. We’ve had many mutual friends for years, and had run in similar circles but this was the first time we connected and shared story with Jay and Tevyn.

We met them at  Fanny Lou’s Porch for coffee and immediately felt like we were with family. We learned about their community, Circle of Hope, and their circles of ten that meet weekly, encouraging one another in faith and love. We visited the communities thrift store, coffee shop and were invited into one of their gatherings.

 

We also learned about Tevyn and Jay’s creative dreams and endeavor with the Carnival de Resistance, a traveling arts carnival and ceremonial theater company, a village demonstration project exploring ecological practices, and an education and social outreach project; all focusing on ecological justice and radical theology. We enjoyed meals, and conversation about traveling and shared stories about mutual friends whom we all love. Yes, we were talking about you, Joby, Seth and Jon. 🙂

IMG_2972We did a little sight-seeing, exploring the cities historical sites, including the Liberty Bell, the remains of the home of George Washington and we saw the statue of William Penn, all of which was just like the text books described but our most exciting day was spent at a local African heritage event on the South side of Philly, called the ODUNDE Festival.

The festival boasts the largest African-American street festival in the US with over 500,000 attendees.  The festival, whose concept originated from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa, celebrates the coming of another year for African-Americans and Africanized people around the world.

Our day was filled with amazing dance, music, and fool. We’d highly recommend this festival to anyone visiting Philly in June and looking for a fantastic educational and cultural experience.

 

 

D. C. On a Dime

Nomadic life is not the same as being a tourist on vacation. Nomadic life contains all the same mundane qualities of stationary life, just in motion. We have to do laundry, grocery shop, make meals, clean our bus, do school work, book musical gigs, find communities and host families to neighbor alongside, negotiate the road ways in a 40 ft rig, take care of maintenance on our bus and van and sleep, yes, sleep is good. And then, depending on our host and how we are all feeling, we might venture out to see the main attractions but usually our preference is to actively engage with the local culture through the eyes of our host. Once in a while, however, we get to go explore like a tourist. The difficulty for us, is the most of those moments, we’re broke. Ha! So, it was with our visit to DC.

We did find, though, that there were plenty of things to do on a dime. In fact, there were a number of free things DC had to offer. We visited the White House, the Capitol building, most of the Memorials and Monuments, the Smithsonian museums, including the Natural History, Air & Space, US History, the Zoo and Botanical gardens. We had a few spare dollars for parking and for meals. Our first dinner was at an authentic Ethiopian restaurant called Dukem Restaurant and our second meal was at District Taco.

 

And, then as a special treat, Craig took our son, Banjo, to his first major league baseball game. They saw the Washington Nationals vs. Craig’s favorite Chicago Cubs. Sadly the Cubs lost, but they had a great time and Banjo fell in love with the game. Being his first experience in the big leagues, he had a funny little moment while walking in to the stadium, pointing out the Nationals logo on everyone shirts with confusion and asking Craig if there was a Walgreens convention going on at the game that night. Craig laughed and quickly explained that it was the team logo. Banjo, was embarrassed but still found it silly that they would have such similar logos.

 

All up, our favorite museum was the Air & Space and we loved the Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Our favorite monument was good ol’ Abe as it was exhilarating to sit on the steps, people watch, and look across the reflecting pool at the Washington Monument. And for our meals, Dukem was probably a bit out of our price range but we ended up sharing a platter for two and one extra main between the five of us, and it was plenty. The food was amazing! District Taco was fast, delicious and we were able to fill our bellies for about $8 a person.

Our time was well spent and we learned a ton but next time around, we’d hope to connect with a host family or community and get the other side of life in Washington DC.

Photo Journalist

545371_10150940796765376_1314888666_nIn 2010, Kara Counard started coming regularly to our local shows in Northeast Wisconsin. She would show up with her son, friends and a handful of brightly colored hula hoops. Her spirit was humble and as she engaged with our music, a joy would permeate through out the venue. If there was a show where she wasn’t present, we would all make note afterwards, stating that we missed her dancing and jovial hooping. At a certain point, I remember approaching her and declaring how much we appreciated her presence and noted her commitment as a “fan” but that we were keen to share community and story with her and wanted her to be our friend. She shyly agreed to joining us for dinner on our patio one summer evening and that was the beginning of our dear friendship.

Besides being an excellent hooper, Kara has a natural gift and honed talent as a professional photographer. In fact, her eye is prolific, capturing not only the perfect composition but seeing and embracing the light that makes life look absolutely beautiful.

At the beginning of 2015, a conversation began about her desire to ride along on the Hollands bus, as a photo journalist, documenting life on the road. This spring she flew to Asheville and rode with us for a solid week, camera in tow. She chronicled intimate family time, exploring Asheville, a house concert in Pittsboro, historical Richmond, and a beach day in Virginia Beach.

Prior to Kara’s arrival, our son, Banjo, had developed a desire to try his hand at photography. He had been researching camera’s for months and hoped to purchase one for his 14th birthday. So, while Kara was on board, he really sought her expertise on the subject, discovering even more information about brands, lenses, and the art of photography.

IMG_2500A few days into her time with us, her camera started acting up and we had to visit a camera store. Although it was unfortunate the problem was solvable and she had a rented camera within the hour. Her inconvenience ended up being a blessing in disguise for Banjo, as the forced visit to the camera store accelerated his purchase and he walked out with a used Nikon D90 and 50 millimeter lens. Immediately the photography lessons commenced and before the day’s end, with Kara’s guidance, Banjo conquered the Nikon’s components, ready to practice honing his “eye.”

It’s been a blast watching him explore his new-found love, especially with his sister, who is always looking for a photographer for her Dutchygazelle Blog. Big thanks to Kara for taking time away from family and friends, for honoring us with her amazing gifts and talents and for being our friend!

To see more of Kara’s awesome work visit www.bloomphotographybykara.com

How We Got Stuck In Wilmington

Wilmington, NC was voted the best river city in the US for 2015, and we’d have to concur. Population 112,000, this little river town has all the admeities of a city three times it’s size, including Trader Joes and Whole Foods. But, best of all it still has all of the mom and pop speciality joints, including some of the best BBQ on the Atlantic, surf shops, Brits Donut shop, the Veggie Store, funky/artsy downtown shops reminiscent of Austin’s Congress Street, awesome Thrift and Consignment Stores, and pretty great Sushi. It’s music, food, history, river ways, and beaches offered us a wonderful back drop for blue grass jams, roadschool days, parties, lazy days on the beach and a sailboat ride.

Originally we had planned one week in this region connecting with fellow travelers, The Shanks (Herd of Turtles). During that week they showed us around their former hometown, including a double date where we shared Niki’s Sushi and went to a R&B concert at a little speak easy. Later, while the fella’s talked bus conversions, us girls shopped at some of Wilmington’s fun consignment stores, we also spent an evening dining and playing music at Dukes BBQ. Along the way, they introduced us to many of their hometown friends, which lead to conversations about parking in peoples driveways, which lead to us staying longer after the Shanks had gone.

 

IMG_1718Our first host family, April and Buck Hubbard, welcomed us to jump into life with them, learning about their work in Children’s Ministry and Film making, as well as, their love for Settlers of Catan. Their location in the city was a great fit as we were able to explore more of downtown Wilmington, as well as, catch up on much needed laundry and grocery shopping. We love it when hosts are comfortable just living life with us offering suggestions for things to do but mostly just allowing us to participate in their every day rhythm. We shared meals, watched movies, visited their friends, had a birthday party, did lawn work and Craig and Banjo were also able to get their hands dirty by helping the Hubbards finishing off their deck project for April’s birthday celebration.

IMG_1847One Sunday evening they invited us to go to Satellite Bar for a open Bluegrass Jam which turned out to be a fantastic night of community and song. The house band, Possum Creek Bluegrass Band, welcomed us like old friends. Their Band members are Jones Smith, Big Al Hall, Ben Chontos, with special guest Charlie Coulter on Violin and Bryan Humphrey on the squeeze box.  They played all the classics, and they played them well, setting a tone of support and control, so that even a beginner could sit in with them. They were gracious to us all and especially excited to have our son sit in on cajon, and the Hubbard’s 11 yr old daughter, who plays fiddle, join in the fun. They even offered us a cameo spot to share a few of our Hollands! songs, while they sat in with us. By the end of the night, we were all good friends and Bryan’s wife, Mari invited us to their home in Wrightsville Beach for a delicious meal and another bluegrass jam.

 

IMG_1732Pristine Wrightsville Beach boasts emerald green waters, and is home to a few surf/kite surfing clubs,and the inter-coastal water ways offer awesome protection for sailing and paddle boarding. Over the next week and a half, we ended up joining Mari and Bryan for more jams, beach days and even a first season sail on their sailboat. We learned about Mari’s 3 year nomadic adventure, leaving for England with a backpack and coming back from India with nothing but a little shoulder bag. She would partner with others along the way, as well as solo, traveling the world in little VW vans, having a daughter in the Netherlands and crossing the Sahara dessert in a Peugeot 505 Sedan twice. And, Bryan inspired us with his amazing furniture architecture, sailing expertise and of course teaching us about some of the North Carolina folk music culture.

IMG_2108Our second host family, the Meehan’s, invited us to come, park in their cul de sac and enjoy their Carolina Beach for a few days. Carolina Beach sits about 20 miles south of downtown Wilmington and has a laid back, festive, welcoming vibe with brightly colored beach shacks, little shops, including the infamous Brits Donuts and bars that run along the new board walk. There are benches and swings that over look the beach and a band shell, which is sure to be packed in the summer.  Our time at the Meehan’s was restful and spiritually engaging. We shared meals, hiked and worked out the deeper meanings of community and faith.

IMG_1898We also enjoyed exploring some of the historical elements and took a cloudy day trip south to Fort Fisher, later riding the ferry to Southport for lunch. While there we walked the grounds and visited the free museum, learning about the strategic placement of Fort Fisher in the Civil War and the Blockade runners (war paddle steamers that would haul supplies in from the islands off of the Atlantic to the Wilmington port.) The battle to take the fort was epic and it was said that 90 days after the fort fell, the Civil War ended. After we finished at the Fort we took the ferry to Southport. It was $5 for our carload and took about 40 minutes to cross. Once we were in Southport we made our way down to the Yacht Basin Provision Company for their shrimp and wings. The food was basic but held delicious flavors. The fella’s devoured their portion while Graciana and I shared a bowl of the homemade chowder and a crab cake. The little town was reminiscent of Baileys Harbor, WI with cute little shops and portside docks. Between the Fort, ferry ride, and lunch at YBPC, the day that started out rainy turned sunny and we finished off the evening with one last sit on Carolina Beach.

When we pulled out of Wilmington we all felt that a little piece of our heart stayed behind. Inspired not only by all that Wilmington has to offer, but by the amazing people we met along the way, the stories we heard, and the commitment to keep the culture of Wilmington full of hope, creativity and love.