ah, Christmas...what an adventure! the past week has probably been the busiest time i've spent in india so far, but also the best! i'll let the pictures give you somewhat of an idea about all our adventures this holiday season:

right after camp, we celebrated sophy's birthday, which was a lot of fun.

then the next day i had lunch with a friend, did some shopping, and that evening we had a big gift exchange/dessert party with the families we're friends with here. our awesome christmas volunteer, Jeff, also arrived that night just in time for the party. this is me and some of my favorite girls at the gift exchange.

one of my favorite presents this year was the abby actually let me hold her! she usually cries whenever she sees me!

some of the kids acted out the Christmas story--soooo cute, esp the little shepherd on the left!

we even had some carolers stop by, which was a special treat.

and of course, the sweets were one one of the highlights of the evening.

we spent the next few days helping Jeff get oriented to life in our city. i also got quite sick for about 2 days, which was not fun. then friday night we spent the evening caroling to some of our neighbors and friends houses. saturday we did last minute shopping (and let me tell you the malls here are as bad as the US this time of year!!!). then we met for our weekly discussion group that afternoon and went out for a friend's birthday that evening.

then came christmas eve--we had some of our close friends and team members over for dinner and another goofy gift exchange.

the food was AWESOME, as well as being a fun mix of indian (mutton biryani and rajma) and american (sweet potato casserole, rolls, green bean casserole, etc).

here's everybody just hanging out

Alisha was very excited about her gag gift, esp the colors! go gators! haha

sophy, me and ruth

then the next morning we all got up to open presents and stockings!

i was very excited about all my gifts, esp this horse statue from one of my friends!

preeti was also very excited about one of her gifts, a cool fish statue!

sophy was also quite excited about the tea strainer she got in her stocking

then that afternoon, we invited all of our friends over for a christmas party! we had lots of sweets, fun, games, and talked about the real story of Chrismtas.

jenga was quite a popular game at the party

as was uno, or oh-no as one of our friends calls it!

overall, the past week was busy, but a lot of fun. tonight i'm packing for a few weeks of travel--tomorrow i leave bright and early for my friends' wedding in south india, then i head to thailand for a conference, malaysia for vacation, and then to Delhi and finally back to Pune. whew! happy new year!

monday night, as i nearly collapsed from exhaustion, all i could think was, wow, it's over. camp finally happened, and it's already over! we'd talked and dreamed and planned for this camp for months, and once it finally came, everything happened so much faster than i could have imagined.

the idea came from wanting to do something really fun with students, to get away for the weekend and really build relationships with them. we decided on christmas because, well, it's a good excuse to have a camp and share the true story of christmas, as well as some fun traditions. but for a while, it seemed like camp might just be a dream. a lot of plans changed with all the craziness and transition of the past few months, but we worked hard, and by God's grace, all the details fell into place (some at the VERY last minute!). it was a truly amazing weekend, and well, i'll let the pictures tell you the rest...

no, we don't travel light...we had a TON of stuff that we'd worked on all week, from decorations to gifts and cookies and so on

packed in the bus and finally on the road

playing some group games after arriving at camp

Deepali, Preeti, Sophy, Ruth and Alisha putting up decorations in the meeting hall

the guys were totally into the basketball court during free time...

...while some of the rest of us played around with the volleyball!

enjoying chai and coffee with Shabnam and Sharareh from Iran

saturday afternoon we went on a trek/hike. the camp director took us out to the trail in his truck and it was quite a crazy ride

it was a long trek, but we enjoyed a nice sunset near the top

i'm kind of clumsy though, and i totally busted it on the way down the trail. fortunately it was more funny than painful, so me and Lulu took a picture

after the trek, we spent the evening talking about the Christmas story and the gift of Christmas. we also played some fun games and had a really great evening.

then later that night, we had a bonfire, which was fun, but a little out of control because of the wind

we also sang Christmas carols in the candle light (well, while we could keep the candles lit in the crazy wind)

and of course, we had lots of goodies, like candy canes, or shepard's stick candy as Kenneth dubbed them!

supposedly it's a tradition in Iran to jump over a bonfire on new year's eve, so Zia showed us all how it's done...

Alisha was next, and as you can see, she totally pulled off the fire jumping with style. kind of reminds me of playing super mario brothers back in the day...

then Zia and Alisha decided to join forces and show off their skills

Preeti couldn't be left out of the fun, so she jumped too and just barely made it over the fire...

Sunday morning we got to do the climbing wall and go kayaking in the lake. this is Deepali and Ruchi waiting for their turns on the wall

Preeti attempting to make it up the wall...

is she going to make it?

Kambale reaching for the bell at the top

Ladan climbing the wall

Ruth and Sahil enjoying the kayaks

Lulu had a little trouble getting out of the kayak...

me and Preeti hanging out by the lake, watching people kayak

Zia chasing after Deepali!

some of the guys playing around in the lake

me and some of the guys after they went swimming

group photo--here we have 28 people, from at least 8 countries!

poor little preeti, always getting picked on :) this is one of the last pics we took, right before we hopped in the bus and headed home. it was an incredible weekend, and i hope you've enjoyed these pics. i'm out!

so this post is mainly just a shout out to my "little" bro on his 16th birthday. i say little only because he's 10 years younger than me--he is not little by any means! although it's been over a year since i've seen Miles, or Milo as i like to call him, from what i've seen in pictures, he is getting SUPER tall and turning for a kid into a man, which is NUTS! i can still remember Dec 17, 1990, when my sister and i went tearing through the hospital parking lot, so eager to finally see our new baby brother. and now he's 16! insane...anyway, because we both share a love of pictures (esp funny ones of ourselves), i'm going to post some fun ones of him.

so this is what miles looked like just before i left in 2005. he still had braces, was shorter than me, and had a little kid voice...

...and this is what he looks like now! this is from thanksgiving, with 2 of our cousins who are both over 6 ft tall. i'm afraid he's changed so much that i'll hardly recognize miles when i get home.

this is my absolute favorite pic of miles! i love it! he is also a huge animal lover, and has a fabulous little cat named Tootsie.

and he also loves snakes (this snake is real, but stuffed. however, he is not afraid to have snakes bite him). my brother is seriously destined to be the next croc hunter. ever since he was a kid, he's caught any reptile he could get his hands on, and has had more pet snake than i can count. i'm still trying to convince him to come to india so he can catch a cobra

as you can see, he likes to take crazy pictures (and also has some pretty sweet photo shop skills). i think that in a lot of ways we have a pretty similar goofy/ghetto sense of humor, and both love photography, which is definitely a family thing.

this is a favorite of dad and miles, out fishing and having fun in the gulf of mexico earlier this year. i love that my brother is growing up into such a great guy!

miles is a freshman in high school and he just started playing football this fall (he's number 77). i am SO proud of him and i can't wait to see him play when i'm home next fall!

mando and milo at the monster truck show...we can fight like any typical brother and sister, but we also have a lot of fun together :) i love you little bro! i hope your birthday is AWESOME!!!