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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.

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