Winter in Iceland

Iceland Slider

Something that has always been on our bucket lists is seeing the northern lights. So when we learned from a friend that Wow Airlines had $200 round-trip tickets to Iceland out of Baltimore in January, we didn’t have to think too hard about booking our trip. Within a few days, we had everything booked and at the same time, nothing planned. And this excited us most of all.

Our trip to the country known as the land of fire and ice was of the adventurer type, as we are in fact big adventurers (though I think most of you know this already). We wanted to make the most of our 10 days there while also not breaking the bank, so we opted to book a campervan. This was the best decision of our whole trip. We went with a fun and crazy branded campervan rental company called Kuku Campers and booked one of their cheapest rental options for two people (but not the cheapest option, as we splurged for one with a heater — a great idea for winter travelers!).

Traveling in a campervan had countless benefits. The most obvious benefit is that we got to see Iceland on our own terms. We got to spend our time where we wanted to spend it, whenever we wanted to. It also allowed us to be flexible so that we could check the weather each day and head in the direction of the sunny spots and camp in the areas where there was the best chances of seeing the aurora at night. This helped tremendously, as the forecast seemed to change every 4 hours! We weren’t tied down to hotel reservations that would determine our schedule each day — and it paid off. We were able to see aurora four different nights! We also drove the entire Ring Road route around the whole country, plus the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and into the West Fjords.

Another benefit to the campervan was the amount of money we saved by bringing our own food to cook in the fully equipped van. Our meals were pretty varied, from ramen noodles and just-add-water (and powdered milk) pasta meals with summer sausage to “fancy” dehydrated meals. Breakfasts were a bit more monotonous — instant coffee and tea or hot chocolate and oatmeal. Hot meals in the back of the campervan were always soothing and hit the spot, and with the heater in the back that ran off its own battery, we always were warm and cozy. We knew we’d save a lot of money, which is why we pretty much only packed food in our free tiny carry-on baggage allowance with Wow Air, but we didn’t realize how much money we had saved until we got to Iceland and scanned the menus outside restaurants a few different times. Iceland doesn’t really have cheap restaurants, and the ones that were on the bottom of the cost list averaged about $15 for one entrée. Imagine paying $15 for a Chipotle burrito, when in fact it’s about half the size of a Chipotle burrito, and does not come from Chipotle, but from a small shop in the middle of nowhere, Iceland, about as far from Mexico as you can get. So, unless you’re willing to drop $40-$100+ per meal for two, your camp stove will become your best friend in Iceland. We did treat ourselves to a few meals though, as you can’t go to a country and not try any of the local cuisine. Since we’d heard rave reviews about the gas station hot dogs, this was our first meal experience in Iceland.

Let me go on a tangent here — gas stations are actually pretty nice places in Iceland. They’re more like cultural centers, where people get together over a cup of coffee and hang out. We became loyal to one gas station in particular: Olí’s. Olí’s never let us down, as they always had free coffee every time you fill up along with having the cheapest gas prices with their discount card (which Kuku Campers kindly gives you when you rent from them).

Now back to the delicious Icelandic hot dogs… They look pretty unremarkable; however, when topped with raw onion, French fried onion and some sort of amazing dark gold mustard, you’ll forgive yourself from just having paid $5 for one gas station hotdog. Another item to splurge on while in Iceland, which can also be purchased at Olís, is Skyr, a brand of yogurt. This is something that you’ll wish you could get back home — it’s that good. Skyr is the thickest, creamiest yogurt packed with 16 grams of protein that will have you tossing your dry and frozen solid Clif bars out the window (not literally, obviously). The one-serving container is close to $3, but is a delicious breakfast to have on the road while enjoying the most amazing landscapes from the passenger seat with each creamy bite.

Our 10 days in Iceland were pure bliss. This trip was a time to refresh and refocus our mission and vision for 2017. We realized that we hadn’t taken a vacation to a place of our complete choosing since our honeymoon in 2014. We always get to travel to beautiful places (in the past two years we’ve worked in 17 different countries), and we even take trips to places we want to go, but it’s always based on the proximity of our project locations. This trip’s destination, however, was totally of our own choosing. After two years of traveling nonstop and producing more than 140 video projects in that timeframe, we felt the need to disconnect from the world and rest in God and creation. During our trip, we spent a lot of time in the Bible, doing devotions and praying. Being so far removed from planning a year’s worth of projects, we were able to concentrate on the breathtaking landscapes surrounding us, showcasing just a fraction of God’s glory — and what we saw is just the tip of the iceberg (and we saw those too).

Iceland was incredible — so incredible that we hope to go back to see it in the summer when everything is green!

Here is our list of the top 10 highlights in Iceland!

#1) Seeing the northern lights

#2) Hot Pot Hopping

#3) The West Fjords & Hellulaug (unfortunately we don’t have any pics from Hellulaug, our favorite natural hot pot!)

#4) Snæfellsnes Peninsula & Hellnar to Arnarstapi Coastal Hike

#5) Fontana geothermal springs (soaking in a variety of temperatures of hot natural pools, listening to the bubbling hot springs below while sweating in the +100 degree Fahrenheit steam rooms, and jumping into the freezing cold lake— four times!)

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#6) All of the waterfalls! Including walking BEHIND Seljalandsfoss waterfall!

#7) The super friendly Icelandic horses

#8) Driving through pristine snowy landscapes

#9) Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach

#10) Vik & its basalt columns

Seeing reindeer didn’t make the list, but we felt it deserved an honorable mention.

To close, here are just a few more pictures, mainly of cities and towns  that we passed through (including Reykjavik).

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on 2016

We are happy to be spending time with our families for the first time in 10 months as we celebrate Christmas (and both of our birthdays, along with many other family members’ December birthdays)! We have officially finished all of our work with Silent Images and it’s amazing to look back on all that we’ve accomplished by the grace of God in serving Him and organizations throughout Latin America.

We thought you might enjoy a look back at our 2016 by the numbers:

132 people trained at our storytelling workshops

80 videos completed

56 flights taken

48 different beds slept in

43 buses taken

41 organizations served

15 nights spent in a tent

14 boats ridden

10 countries visited

10 books read

9 German Shepherds petted

4 parades attended

2 trains taken

2 blenders broken

2 camera lenses broken

2 passports filled

1 18-wheeler ride hitched
1 foot broken
1 water bottle lost
1 country’s Independence Day celebrated (Colombia)

0 regrets

countless blessings

Thank you so much for following along! It’s been a lot of fun and we still feel we’re being called to continue our mission to serve God and others with our cameras next year. So, we will be working independently to set up projects for 2017 and we look forward to seeing what God has planned for us! We will be continuing to fundraise for our salary to subsidize the cost of our services for ministries, and if you would like to support us financially or continue to support us monthly, you can do so by making a tax-deductible gift through our home church, Transit Church. You can give three ways: 

  1. Give online monthly: Visit https://transitchurch.com/give and create an account on the Transit Church’s internal giving page. When you gain access, the process is intuitive. Just should choose “one time” or “repeating gift” and under “choose designation” select “Missionary Team (Timpy’s)”
  2.  Make a one-time donation online via PayPal: Visit https://transitchurch.com/give, scroll down and click on “Make a One-Time Donation” on the bottom right-hand side. In the PayPal popup window, click “special designation” and type our names (Jordan and Cassie Timpy) as the recipients.
  3. Give by mail: Mail a check payable to Transit Church and mail to PO Box 150115 Alexandria, VA 22315. In the memo line write “Jordan and Cassie Timpy”.

As you can see, from our two years of doing this, your donation’s impact is huge — by supporting us, you are blessing the MANY organizations we serve with our cameras around the world with the opportunity to have compelling visual stories. These stories are powerful tools. The impact of our work goes beyond a one-time donation to a nonprofit’s mission — our videos continue to give back, they never expire, they’re reused, they bolster support and empower people to get involved. Together, we can make a big difference in the world!

As a special treat, we want to share one of our favorite videos that we’ve produced this year. So, check out the video below about the worldwide ministry, World Villages for Children, which provides food, care and education for the country’s most impoverished children. We had the privilege of documenting their work in Mexico. Check out the video below!

 
It’s so amazing to reflect back on what God’s done in and through us this year. We’ve learned so much, but I think the most important thing we’ve learned is that experiences are so much greater than possessions and material things. During this season of our lives where we don’t have children, a house, or responsibilities tying us down, we’ve been able to see and experience things, and those memories we now have will last a lifetime. Living out of a suitcase reminds us what really matters in life — it’s not the clothes you wear or how much money you make, it’s what you do and how you make each day count. We get so much joy from living to serve others and seeing them blessed by our gifts. We’ve had the chance to document so many stories of transformation. We’ve seen firsthand the impact of so many organizations around the world like how one blind woman was one day contemplating suicide and the next day regaining her vision from cataract surgery and praising the Lord for it!  We’ve seen such natural beauty that words can’t describe and photos can’t capture — from the sun’s first golden light moving over rock towers in Patagonia to swimming on Colombia’s north coast in crystal blue waters. The joy that we have each day doing what we love with the one we love the most keeps us going, and we feel so blessed to continue this mission as long as we can!

To conclude this year and this blog post, here’s a few pictures from the past month. It’s been an awesome year, and it was so special to end it by spending time and making memories with family!

And, we couldn’t close this blog post and year without sharing another video for you to watch about the missionaries we served deep in the jungle of Peru. Happy watching and Happy New Year!

Two-Month Catch-Up (Guatemala, Mexico, Bolivia & Patagonia)

We’ve been so busy between filming, editing and traveling that we’ve got TWO months to catch you up on! In these last two months, we’ve traveled to four countries and have a lot to share with you as we wrap up our one-year contract with Silent Images.

October

The month of October we spent in the Northern Hemisphere for the first time this year, between Guatemala and Mexico. Neither of us had been to Guatemala before, but we’d heard that it was a beautiful country, so we were looking forward to seeing what all the hype was about. As for Mexico, we’re both huge fans and were really looking forward to going back to see our friends and to eat Mexican food — our most-missed cuisine. Believe it or not, you cannot find Mexican food in South America!

Guatemala

Lemonade International is the organization that brought us to Guatemala, specifically, to one barrio called La Limonada in Guatemala City. La Limonada, which means “lemonade” in Spanish, sounds like a sweet place to live, but it’s actually one of the most dangerous and largest slums in the heart of its capital city. More than 60,000 people live here, and rival gangs rule different sections of the neighborhood, instilling a deep sense of fear in the residents.

Over many years, a sub-culture of extreme poverty has taken root in La Limonada, leading to a lack of education and job opportunities. Because having a La Limonada address often prevents residents from securing employment elsewhere in the city, many feel forced to lie about their address, while others succumb to illegal activity.

To tackle the problems in La Limonada, Lemonade International operates four free afterschool academies for children where more than 500 students are enrolled. There, students can get help on their homework and can learn about God through Bible studies. They are also provided with a nutritional meal and are given vitamins. Professional psychologists offer counseling and a nurse gives medical care to the students and their families. These academies are like a second home to the kids, where they can dream of being a teacher or a doctor. As the children grow older, Lemonade offers scholarships so they can finish their education. All of this is made possible through Lemonade’s sponsorship program. One or two people can sponsor a child to help provide them with these valuable resources that will help the kids to build themselves a better future. If you’re interested in sponsoring a child and building a relationship with them through letters, click here.

Our time in Guatemala serving Lemonade was great, but we wanted to see a bit more to the country than this one barrio, or even its capital city. So, we decided to take a weekend trip to explore some more beautiful parts.

Antigua

Just outside of Guatemala City lies Antigua, a small city surrounded by volcanoes made famous by its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture and colonial church ruins. Tourists flock here to walk the cobblestone streets in search of great Guatemalan coffee (and coffee shops), shopping and restaurants. The town was truly charming, and it was nice to take a breather outside of the everyday hustle-bustle of Guate, its traffic and dirty streets.

Lake Atitlán

After a few hours in Antigua, we hopped on a chicken bus (actually several chicken buses) to head to Lake Atitlán.  Atitlan is a Nahuatl/Aztecan word meaning “at the water.” Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America (with an average depth of 720 feet) and is often referred to one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. We would have to agree. This lake is surrounded by not one, not two, but THREE volcanoes! It was incredible.

Once we got to the lake’s landing point, the town of Panajachel, we were met with more coffee shops, shopping, and restaurants. We found a cute inn and went out for pizza where two incredibly talented Guatemalan musicians serenaded us. We couldn’t help but get tears in our eyes as we thought of how blessed we are to do what we love together and to explore and experience this beautiful world. Then we had deep conversation about Guatemala, and Latin America in general, being so rich in culture and trying to think about the equivalent culture in the US. After too much profound conversation, we eventually held hands in silence, listening to the music and watching the candle on our table melt down. It was a great night followed by a great morning.

Before heading to the next lakefront town by small boat, we followed the smell of coffee beans roasting and let ourselves into Crossroads Cafe.  Apparently, the coffee shop wasn’t quite open, and the owner asked if Jordan could brew the coffee while he ran around completing other tasks! Turns out, the owner knew Jordan’s former employer at Larry Bean’s in Raleigh, and we had great conversation with him in hearing how he drove from California to Guatemala to start this coffee company. He was a Christian too, and really was drawn to our story as missionary storytellers. It’s amazing how relaxed you can feel with a total stranger, knowing that you’re actually family in Christ. Though our shared time was short, we felt a deep connection and hope to cross paths again one day, either in this life or in Heaven.

The rest of our weekend was spent hopping on short boat rides to go from lake town to lake town. Each town had their own unique vibe and rightly earned stereotypes. These are the ones we visited and what they’re known for— Panajachel, the tourist town; Santa Cruz La Laguna, the often-missed vertical town; Jaibalito, the non-touristy indigenous town; San Marcos, the hippy town; San Pedro La Laguna, the backpacker town.

Enjoy the pics from this beautiful place!

Mexico

Two projects brought us to Mexico for the second half of October. The first was a project with World Villages for Children. World Villages for Children was founded by a Catholic priest (on his way to becoming a saint) named Father Aloysius Schwartz (“Father Al”), and the organization provides financial support to the charity programs of the Sisters of Mary in the Philippines, Korea, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil and Honduras. We had the opportunity to capture video and photos from the two sites they have in Mexico, one school for boys, Villa de Niños, in Guadalajara and one school for girls outside of Mexico City in Chalco.

These schools are essentially free boarding schools for very poor families’ children. The sisters go on recruitment trips all over Mexico to find the children who are most impoverished but have completed their primary education. These schools allow the children to continue their education free of cost and prepare them to go into the workforce upon receiving their diplomas. The boy’s school in Guadalajara houses 2,000 children while the girl’s school in Chalco houses 3,000 girls. We were so impressed by these schools, which are offered at no cost to the families despite feeding them three meals a day, offering them very high quality education and technical career training, teaching them high morals and values by the sisters and giving them clothes for every activity.

As the children get older, they choose which career path they wish to take, whether it be accounting, computer, fashion design, jewelry making, auto mechanics and body repair, gastronomy, etc. They also offer lots of sports options for the kids to stay fit — soccer, basketball, track and field, volleyball, field hockey, karate, etc.— and they do a daily run with the sisters! The kids were so well behaved and talented in a wide variety of skills, but we were also impressed by how kind and easy going the sisters were! The Sisters of Mary we met in Mexico were from all over the world, and were well traveled! Many of them are graduates from the Villas themselves, and decided to dedicate their lives to the mission that helped them so much. Not only were many of the sisters graduates, but there were many teachers who were graduates from the program as well! It was really cool to see so many alumni who decided to give back in this way to help change more children’s lives for the better! We can’t wait to share the video we produce for them, but for now, enjoy some of the pictures we took!

The second organization we served while in Mexico was Urban Mosaic, or Conexión Mosaico in Spanish. Urban Mosaic is building a multi-faceted and scalable change model that addresses urban poverty holistically, allowing urban slum communities to experience lasting transformation. They are responding to the frightening reality of the urban slum explosion, which we have personally seen all over the world. They believe that the injustice, poverty and spiritual emptiness in urban slums have reached such enormous dimensions so they are intentionally seeking to integrate their efforts into citywide strategies for renewal. They live and work alongside slum dwellers, empowering them and helping them to leverage local resources to come out of poverty. In the past 10 years, they have so many success stories, like in just one year, they connected more than 15,000 people to the public water and drainage system, reducing six-fold the out-of-pocket costs that before went to a mafia-related water truck company! We are excited to be producing their 10-year anniversary video, to help spread the word about the incredible change they have been a part of in Mexico and as they look forward to the future of replicating their model in other cities around the world.

While we were working in Mexico City, we of course had to visit our second-home— Doxa Iglesia Cristiana! Last year, we had the chance to do several video projects for this Acts 29 church plant, and we befriended many of its core church members. To us, Doxa is like our second home, and we were so blessed by having the chance to see them all again! We made it to church twice, really enjoying the pastor, Jesús’ (a.k.a. “Chuy”} sermon series on the book of Ruth. After church, we mingled with many familiar faces as well as many new faces that have started attending the church since we were last there! It was like being in our own home church at Transit, and seeing how the face of the church changes with its members, but how each and every one is fully committed to living out the gospel. We enjoyed time spent with the pastor’s family and their sweet kids, including their latest addition to the family, a baby boy, since we were last there! They even let us spend a few nights at their house so we could hang out over the weekend, which made it possible for us to experience the ruins and pyramids of Teotihuacan, the Day of the Dead parade downtown Mexico City, a boat-ride-tour through the Venice-like canals of Xochilmilco, the Coyoacan Bread and Chocolate Festival, and many Café El Jarocho hot (and cold) chocolate drinks! By the end of our time with the Doxa family and in the cute walkable neighborhood of Coyoacan, we had deeply fallen in love with Mexico, again!