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Monday, September 13, 2010

Erika's Six Months and Beyond letter

Dear Friends,

"All roads lead home to Colorado" a favorite band of mine sings and I'm here to testify. I'm well and firmly home. A little more than 2 weeks after we got home, our sister, Kara, got married. This means that besides the odd day or two of work, most of my time was spent wrapped up in wedding preparations. We painted wall hangings, made pies, worked on the veil, made food for the many people who stayed at or around our house and built a gazebo near our new fire bowl (not strictly necessary but nice for the 20+ people camping on our land). Then we started the partying. We spent the whole of Labor Day weekend having one get-together or another--including a marriage ceremony. Although this resulted in some sleep deprivation, it was also incredibly fun for all involved. Some recovery was obviously needed after this much celebration but I worked some and squeezed in more friend catching up time while also spending time with the family and going over finances and pictures from the trip. Saturday the 11th was Jewel's and my birthday so we had a great shindig--complete with slip and slide, pinata and fireworks. Now things are settling down a little. All visitors are gone from the house, most traces of parties are cleaned up, I'm doing constructive things like washing my horse and canning zucchini soup and I've started job hunting. Ick.

When I last wrote, we were finishing up our time on a cattle station in Queensland. Working on stations and farms was deeply satisfying for me. It surprised me how much I enjoyed the experiences. I love being surrounded by people, innovative and exciting food, live music, coffee shops, art and history museums, convenient shopping and movie theaters, in that order. I didn't think that I would be so very happy with a few people, cows, dogs and vast open stretches, at least not for very long. To be fair, I was never as isolated as it is possible to be--even at Melinda Downs, our most isolated post, we went to a rodeo in the middle of our stay and met lots of people. Still, I loved riding or driving or walking after a mob of cows or sheep.

Our last month was really a beach vacation. We camped within a few minutes of the coast and swam, snorkeled and sunbathed. We didn't dive. There was just not enough money. Someday, we'll get back and dive in Australia. Beach bumming was a good substitute. We stayed with old and new friends along the coast and made many more among our fellow campers.

As a summary for this trip, I thought I'd share some of the themes of our trip.

Theme song: "Alright" by Ryanhood. Kristen and I chose this before we even left. We loved its reassurances. We also adopted "I Want to Be a Billionaire" We have a theme song for each trip. In case you were interested, Florida/Bahamas was "Here and Now" by Great Big Sea (it's about seizing the day), Thailand was "Banana Pancakes" by Jack Johnson (because we ate them every weekend) and the whole Ryanhood Forward album (because it's awesome), etc.

Motto: Say "Yes!" This was also decided in the planning stages. We agreed (and/or I convinced Kristen to agree with me) to go with every opportunity (that appeared decently safe) presented to us. This was definitely one of the defining factors of the trip. When people asked us home for lunch or to visit something with them or suggested a sight worth seeing, we tried to say yes as much as we could. It brought us so many amazing experiences we would otherwise not have had.

Secondary motto: "It's fine. Not ideal...but FINE" This one developed as we ran out of money and our clothes wore out and our ipod dock died and it rained a lot. We mostly kept positive attitudes.

Food staples: boiled potatoes, rice, porridge. Camping stoves like mine really only do one speed and that's boil. We had to come up with recipes to cook that fit this parameter! "less than ideal...but fine!"

Most re-hashed conversation: health care in the US. We were not bringing this up but lots of people have questions about what's going on here. Also, why our economy is still wallowing. The US is struggling a lot more than NZ and AU are.

Most prevalent name: Andrew and Hamish. We met tons of Andrews, in particular. Our new favorite comedians (AU) are even named Hamish and Andy.

Most consistent realization: How generous most people are. At every point, people offered us help, beds, food, drinks, rides, stoves, friendship and kindness. Perfect strangers took us into their homes and fed and sheltered us. One of our WWOOF hosts offered us his mother's beach house, another set us up with a night at a wonderful new friend's place in Sydney, our camping neighbors offered us a night at their place when we came through their town, grey nomads were always feeding us, members of churches we visited frequently offered us a meal or advice...all of this reminded us of the grace that is in the world. Without meaning to sound trite, one can become quite gloomy about the world in view of the horrible events that make the news but so much of the world is peopled by individuals who genuinely care about their neighbor in the broadest sense that Jesus taught us.

Number of pictures taken: 6,000. Give or take.

Videos that show how crazy we are: 15 or so. Depends on what you call crazy!

I can't even tell you how fun this trip was. I've only got 2 continents left but I don't know how anything can live up to all of this. Of course, I won't be able to afford anything else while the memories are anywhere near fresh!

Love from Colorado,

Here's some links to pictures. Caution: there are a lot of these pictures! Roughly 10% of the total.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Leaving Oz

Our great hostess Karla Knight and her cute puppy Pip on the day we left.

Hyperventilating about going home and leaving a six month vacation behind.

Enjoying the culinary delights of Sydney

They did eventually get in the water

Our last weeks

Learning to surf

They looked awesome

You might not be able to see it but there is a Koala in this tree!

Washing the Duck to return him in a little bit better condition

In the rainforest on the east coast

AU east coast

Our last night camping in Australia!
Jewel with our 'Sydney or Bust' sign on the Ducky

My birthday cheesecake!

Erika tackeling the 33' crocodile statue- the real size of a croc they killed in the north of Australia

The croc gets the better of Kristen

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sydney and Home

Kristen writes;

We're back in the States!
But let me back up.

Erika and Jewel took an afternoon and took a surfing lesson, a fun and thrilling event to be sure. Just not as 'successful' as you might hope. They had a great time and did get up on the board a couple of times. I decided not to participate in this as we had been swimming a couple of days before and it was freezing! Not to mention the idea of being slapped in the face by the ocean isn't always my favorite. I acted as paparazzi instead and enjoyed watching the two of them attempting something that requires a lot of coordination.

We camped our last two nights, once at a loud and obnoxious rest stop on the side of the road. Free camping on the coast is not the same as free camping in the center where people stop driving at about sun down and there aren't many of them anyway. Our very last night we were at a beautiful lake front spot in the national park and had a very relaxing goodbye to life in the tent.
Of course, one of our motto's through all this 'cheap living' is to never eat a meal that made us lose the will to live. Our last night camping we came very close, using up all the remains of our food items. Thankfully after a soup that had us groaning we had chocolate to wash it down, topping up our desire to live.

Getting back to our friend Karla's place in the northern beaches of Sydney was great! It was so good to catch up with her and tell her all about our trip and talk about our trips coming up. (She left the day after we did to visit her family in New York so we all had a long trip coming up.)
We spent our last few days eating our way through Sydney. Enjoying the culinary delights that have been brought in by the immigrants; Thai, Chinese, and Greek. And the chocolate of the country that made a very big impression on us, Haigh's- a local, free trade organization that we toured in Adelaide, and an awesome chocolate bar that served up pudding as though it were hot chocolate.
We visited the water front, taking in the opera house and street fairs, went to the Art Gallery of NSW and enjoyed the speakers corner set up in the park outside the museum, attended service at the Anglican Cathedral and enjoyed their choir and visited almost every op shop (thrift store) that we passed in an effort to find Erika a dress to wear in our sisters wedding coming up soon.

Leaving each other in the airport to go to different destinations was one of the harder things we've had to do. We've become accustomed to having all three of us less than an arms length away at almost all times. Erika and I left at about two p.m. Wednesday afternoon, she got on the plane, ate, took her sleeping pills, put on her eye mask and went to sleep. I got on, ate, watched a couple of movies and proceeded to throw up the rest of the trip. We got in to Los Angeles at ten a.m. Wednesday morning. Hello international dateline! Wacky!
The good news about being ridiculously sick is that you get through customs quickly and easily.
Our next flight went well and we got in to Denver at about four.
Jewel threw through San Francisco and spent her eight hour lay over sick as well, but we weren't there to comfort her which was hard.

Now we're back with the family, working in the garden, hearing all about the wedding plans, unpacking and all the rest that comes with coming home.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Erika writes--

Yep, the beach is good. The thing about the beach, of course, is that there is not a lot to say. We swim (swam, this is past tense because we've come far enough south that it is pretty chilly now), sunbathe, read a lot, walk, watch sunsets and sunrises, camp and generally relax.

Right now, we're with an old friend (we knew each other as kids in Roanoke, Virginia) in Caloundra in the Sunshine Coast. We're enjoying catching up with each other and reminiscing about old times. We're doing a little shopping, walking around town, eating what Sarah cooks for us(!) and enjoying the hot tub (!!!). Today, we drove up to Noosa Heads to see KOALAS. We walked out to a headland along the coast (in the rain, it's pouring today) and peered into a certain kind of eucalyptus trees and eventually found a lump on a branch. A couple of little koalas were huddled up together and were adorable. We thought we'd do a scenic drive but it's hard to see very far when the rain is pelting down on you so that plan was nixed. Still, you can't hope to accomplish much more than koala sighting in just one day.

We're visiting some new friends in Brisbane tomorrow and flying out in a week. How could that be possible? We'll fly for 40 hours and arrive around the same time that we left Australia. Oh, int'l dateline, you are so strange. And a six month trip being over after all of what's happened is even stranger. So we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This is how we camp. It's a pretty good life.

The video is of life in a Hyundai Getz.