Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Neraggrer" Falls

We recently returned from one of the most perfect little get-a-ways that we've ever taken. David's vacation year is centered around his date-of-hire at his company, so it rolls over in mid-October. There is a "use it or lose it" policy, and due to our adoption, we had been hoarding vacation days all year until we knew for certain that we wouldn't need them for Ethiopia. We started using them up at the end of July, but as we moved into the fall, we still had 2 days left. David came up with the brilliant idea of heading to the Niagara Falls/Buffalo area for a long weekend. We were able to use credit card points for our hotel and for restaurants, so we were also able to do this little trip on the cheap!

We left on a Friday morning and stopped for several hours at a great outlet mall in Grove City, PA, where we managed to put a big dent in our Christmas shopping. Yikealo was less than thrilled about this part, but he did pick out a keen racoon-head hat at The Children's Place, which he then refused to take off for most of the weekend. All kinds of people gravitate toward this kid should have seen what the addition of the raccoon hat did! This child has some serious magnetism.
 The drive was beautiful. We were blessed to be travelling during peak leaf season, and everything was bright, colorful and gorgeous - even in the rain!

On Saturday, we headed up to see Niagara Falls...or "Neraggrer Falls" as Yikealo called it. It's always so jarring, somehow, to be at an American landmark (read: tourist area) and to realize that almost NO ONE around speaks English! We are pretty certain that most of the continent of Asia had relocated to up-state New York for the weekend. After all, it makes perfect sense that travelers to the US would be visiting one of the beautiful natural landmarks that our country features. We walked around for awhile down by the American Falls
and then took a ride on the Maid of the Mist. That was pretty incredible! We got soaked, of course, but it was well worth it to see that pounding water so close. David remarked at one point, as we looked up at Horseshoe Falls, "I wonder if this is a tiny taste of what it looked like when God opened up the "fountains of the deep" during the Great Flood?"
Following  Maid of the Mist, we caught an Imax film about some of the people who have gone over the Falls, and then headed back toward our hotel for dinner and some swimming before bedtime.

On Sunday, we headed back up to the Falls for some more sightseeing. We checked out an aquarium and walked up to the "Cave of the Winds." The actual Cave of the Winds was buried in landslides a number of years ago, but the current attraction is a series of wooden walkways that take you up to within 10 feet of the Bridal Veil Falls. When you are standing at the top on the "Hurricane Deck" it really does feel like you are caught in a crazy tropical storm of sorts...albeit a very COLD one! The following picture is not zoomed in at all:
Yikealo absolutely LOVED the Cave of the Winds walk. He splashed and stomped and shouted and got completely drenched. I loved it is always so exhilarating to see a tiny example of God's majestic power so close! I couldn't help but sing "How Great Thou Art" as we waited in the tunnel to go back up to ground level.

That evening, we went to see the musical of Lion King. We had really hoped to keep this activity a complete surprise from Mr. Y. He adores the music from this production, and has most of the soundtrack memorized, including the African words. We had no idea how we would be able to keep it a surprise until the famous opening notes began, but things worked out perfectly! We got stuck in traffic trying to find parking, had to race through the rain to try to find the theater, and by the time we picked up our tickets and found our seats, we really only had 5 minutes to spare. In our rush through the lobby, Y completely missed all of the posters with the huge Lion's head on them. He sat there looking around expectantly, while David teased him with helpful comments like, "Did you notice that there aren't any other kids here, Yikealo? That probably means that this won't be any fun for little people." Yikealo looked around and gave a little snort, "Dad, there are LOTS of kids here!"

I wish that I could have taken a picture of his face when Rafiki sang the opening note from behind the stage curtain. He recognized it immediately, and sat riveted through the next 2 and a half hours. We couldn't have planned the whole thing any more perfectly! Needless to say, we've been hearing Y's renditions of the songs ever since!

There is one song called "Shadowlands" where Nala sings about the pain of leaving the only home that she's ever known, while promising to always remember her people. I've heard the song many times, but this time, it brought me to tears, as I thought of my two little nephews waiting for their new family in Ethiopia. They can really have no idea what is going to happening to them within the next few weeks. "The river's dry/The ground has broken/So I must go/Now I must go/And where the journey may lead me/Let your prayers be my guide/I cannot stay here, my family/But I'll remember my pride..."

On Monday morning, we packed up and then left for one more day at the Falls. Although it was windy, it was also our first sunny day there. We walked over the bridge to the Canadian side, so Mr. Y had the chance to use his passport and visit another country. It was really the perfect complement to our History lessons of late.
We spent several hours walking around and taking photos of the glorious falls. We saw several beautiful rainbows, and enjoyed our time in Canada very much.

Getting back through to the American side was another matter, however. We had to pay 50 cents apiece to move through some turnstyles, and let's just say that they were not very cooperative with me! The first time, the machine ate my money without opening, and the second time, the turnstyle slammed shut and refused to turn again with one of my legs through and one of them not...yeah...awkward! I have some fairly massive bruises from the wretched thing, but I'm sure that the French guys standing behind us were highly amused!

After going back to the American side (finally!) we spent some time walking around Goat Island and the Three Sisters Islands by the Canadian rapids. It was a lovely way to end our time there, and it was a wonderful place to just spend a few extra moments in worship of the One who created it all.

Within about 10 minutes of leaving for home, I turned around to see this in the backseat:
Yeah, I think that a certain someone was just a little exhausted after all the fun! Farewell, vacation, for another year. We HOPE that David's recently refilled vacation time will be used for a couple of trips to Ethiopia before next October!

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