26 June 2007

My Kenai Lake

"The ultra-fine silt that gives the Kenai its chalky blue-green color - which defies accurate description because it changes with the seasons and the amount and angle of sunlight - stretches from it's glacial river beginnings to its river finale where it meets the saltwater of Cook Inlet. While the color may remain throughout the river and lake's length, the Kenai is by no means a homogeneous ribbon of water from start to finish. In fact, major portions of the river are so completely different that, from an angling standpoint, they can almost be treated as entirely different rivers."

Funnily enough, my Kenai Lake doesn't actually involve that much fishing.
My Kenai Lake has a cabin, a pebble beach, cottonwood trees, and tall tall mountains. It has cold grey coffee mornings and warm hammock afternoons. It has moose that stop by for breakfast and mountain sheep that are always there but only spotted through the binoculars. My Kenai Lake is always too cold to swim in.

My Kenai Lake has grampa, my brother, my cousins and sometimes "just one friend" who could be invited to join us for the weekend. My Kenai Lake has Applets and Cotlets from Agnes, flowers from Mrs. Thomas, and warnings from mom to stay off of the other "weird" neighbor's property.

My Kenai Lake has gold in Shackleford Creek, cotton to be picked at the top of Snug Harbour Road, and a Fairy Trail that only my family can find. It has dogs that stop by to visit, that steal socks, and prefer outside to in which is good when their feet are too muddy to be let in the cabin anyway.

My Kenai Lake has old yellowed Archie comic books, races to the climbing wall and rocks that skip on the lake. It has fishing at midnight in the twilight and getting to drive for the first time on a dusty back road. It has hours filled with playing Sorry, Rubick's Race and books that make Lauri and I laugh until we cried by Patrick F. McManus.

"My Kenai Lake defies accurate description because it changes with the seasons and the people and the amount and angle of sunlight - it stretches from almost my memory's beginning and will likely reach until my final resting place. My Kenai Lake is completely different from anyone else's Kenai Lake, so much so that it can almost be treated as an entirely different lake."

24 June 2007

Just A Little Hike

Never believe someone who is in good Alaskan hiking shape when they say "It's just a little hike, really it's like a walk."

They are not to be trusted. As my friend Emily says, "Fit people ALWAYS say that."

But on Saturday, 13 brave souls and one fabulous dog, took a "little walk" to the top of an Alaskan hill and there before the lake, the mountains, and the great gray sky that my mom and all our family has known for our whole lives, we watched as mom married her friend and her sweetheart, Nick. There, surrounded by people I had known for as long as I could remember (and had probably all known me a lot longer than that), I gave my blessing and basked in the glow of a happy new couple. Weddings are like a drug - they can get you so high. I swear, love is contagious.

The bride wore new hiking pants and the groom was rumored to be wearing his "Beer or Bait?" T-shirt underneath his hiking gear (later confirmed when he changed for the party). There was laughter, happy tears, heart felt words and only one moment of "is that a bear or squirrel?"

All in all, a perfect Alaskan wedding. Congratulations Mom and Nick!

22 June 2007

Friday's Top Five: Ways to Tell You are in Alaska

Lots of ideas for posts in my head but none of them wanting to come out just yet so instead, I give you my top 5 ways I know I am in Alaska:
  1. Phone numbers only have 7 digits.
  2. Directions like this are common: Drive down to Cooper Landing (a 2 hour drive), turn left after Summit Lodge, go over the bridge, past the campground, you'll see a fake road, don't take that, keep driving to the real road, go past the broken tree...
  3. It's light out when you go to bed at 11.30 pm, it's light out when you wake up with jet lag at 5.30 am.
  4. You HAVE TO take your shoes off when you enter the house. Any house.
  5. My favorite restaurants are called: Moose's Tooth, Snow Goose and Glacier Brewhouse.

And with that, I have to go float the Kenai river and fish now. We're floating to avoid the crowds. As mom says, "The reds are running and they're combat fishing!"

16 June 2007

From One Extreme to Another

I had a blogging friend once who described my blog as "she travels a lot." I always thought that was funny. My whole existence summed up in one honest little phrase. It's a true phrase, I don't argue that, and this month, I am working hard to prove it again - not just in frequency but also in distance.

Tomorrow, I'll be back in Anchoarge, Alaska for the first time in a year and half. It's my first time in Alaska in the summer in AGES. I think it must be over 4 years...and I CAN'T WAIT...there will be cabin time, time with friends and family, and time spent breathing clean air, drinking clean water, and contemplating one of the most amazing natural landscapes I've ever encountered (and I should know, I travel a lot!)

It's crazy to think that last week I was in West Africa and now, less than a week later I am going to be in Alaska - literally half a world away. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when this journey would have taken weeks. Now, it takes hours. The world is definitely getting smaller.

So now, in honour of all my plane travel, I offer up a Friday's Top 5: Movies I Have Seen in the Last Week and Would Recommend. Not the most imaginitive list, but hey, I have jet lag. Cut me a break wouldya?
  1. The Painted Veil - Ed Norton (love him) and Naomi Watts. Gorgeous cinematography. I want to go to China.
  2. The Pursuit of Happyness - Will Smith and Thandi Newton. Depressing but rewarding.
  3. Blood Diamond - Leo DiCaprio. SUPER Depressing and only slightly rewarding.
  4. Zodiac - Jake Gyllenhal, I missed the ending because the plane was landing, which really annoyed me, but it was still good.
  5. Arthur and the Invisibles - I know what you're thinking but after all the serious films above, this girl needed a break. Good clean kid fun.
Next blog from the last frontier!

13 June 2007

I Bless The Rains Down in Africa

I can't even begin to describe it. It was truly amazing. Here's a small sliver.

We arrived last Tuesday night to 40˚C (114˚F) weather and the last few hours of daylight in Burkina Faso. Some of my first impressions:
  • I don't speak enough French. Eveyone speaks French and very little English. I speak very little French but compared to the folks who came from the States I was practically fluent! If you want to travel in Africa, learn the French.
  • It was hot. Damn hot. Real hot. So hot I could drop an egg in my shorts and do a little crotch pot cooking (name that movie) and yet, somehow still manageable. You wouldn't dare lay by the pool but if you just slowed down your pace you could get by in the heat just fine.
  • The landscape was filled with red dry dirt and small green trees. It looked like I expected this part of Africa to look. Later, when we got out of the city, we saw bigger trees and green areas around lakes and rivers - but for the most part, it's a very dry place near the southern edge of the Sahara.
  • It was very civilized. There was a definite order to things. Everyone rode their bikes and motorcycles (see photos) but they had their own lane and used it and didn't really compete with cars. Everyone was working, activity levels were high.
  • Colourful. Everywhere you looked were people in colourful outfits - not a black or khaki t-shirt in the bunch. I got some great photos.
What impressed me most in Burkina Faso were the people. You can't help but watch them in a bit of wonder. It all has a very good vibe to it. I was expecting people to want hand outs when they saw a westerner. I was expecting to just pay exorbanent prices for the handicrafts as soon as they saw a white person coming. Neither of these were true. People wanted to do business. People wanted to bargain with you on prices and feel like you respected them because you were doing business with them. Accepting the first offer is an insult. Tipping for a job well done is just plain confusing. They were just doing the job they were hired to do. People were very willing to work hard (and do work hard) but what seems to be lacking is the opportunity. A story:

We hired a driver for the day after the event and for $150 (that includes petrol for the car) he drove us west for the full day to see crocodiles and tortoises and towns and villages along the way. He had a nice car. Air conditioning and all! We took some taxis that were bare bones of cars, that they couldn't turn off the engine for fear of not starting again. This man was well off with his nice car and business of driving the westerners out to see the sites.

Over lunch in our nice garden restaurant, he asked us (in French with Thor translating) if white people could marry Africans in the US. Was this allowed? It was a shocking reminder of where we were in the world. These questions still exist. He then went on to gently tease me that I would make a good African wife because I work hard. This lead to us asking about his life and he told us about his 5 children (2 boys & 3 girls) and his hopes for them and then he talked about the opportunities that Africans see in Europe and the US.

He said, there is no industry for the young people in Burkina Faso. His son, at 23 years old, well unless you are in the military, there's no real work. Those that do have work, work all day for very bad pay. He said, in his mind, the best thing about the US and Europe is that if work hard all day you get paid a fair wage. You are fairly compensated. That's why so many Africans leave he said. To find opportunity. His son was in Euopre (I'm guessing France) to make money. As a father, he saves and spends his money on sending his son away to where there was opportunity.

One word. Opportunity. That's what he really wanted for his kids.

Needless to say, I'm going to remember that story the next time my job sucks. I'm going to remember that story and not be so angry about the little things I don't have and be thankful for the things I do. I was lucky to be born into a life that is filled with opportunity. So are all of you.

12 June 2007

Back in the UK

I flew all night...and boy, are my arms tired. (bah-dum-dum!)

Photos tomorrow but I am home and I am safe (I was safe the whole time actually - you people worry too much.)

For now, here is one of my photos. No, the croc was not rabid, and yes, that's a real croc.

Now, am off to get a desperately needed nap.

07 June 2007

Ouagadougou Photos

Can't type now but if you'd like to see some photos click here and here. More later!

04 June 2007

Hi Ho Hi Ho - It's off to Africa I go

Last post from the UK for a week or so. The shots have been had, I've got my malaria pills, passport in hand, the taxi is booked for the airport at 4 am tomorrow morning (ugh). I guess I'm ready to go.

This is, by far, the most exciting and adventurous trip ReckenRoll has every taken.

If I can get connectivity, I'll update you from the road, if not, I'll chat with you all next week. The writings of a delirious rabies patient should be rather interesting...

Cherry & Mom - As promised, I will confirm my safe arrival!

02 June 2007

The Official ReckenRoll Seal of Approval

Just because I always do what Cherry tells me to - here is the official ReckenRoll Seal. We're getting t-shirts made up for the next tour.

01 June 2007

Friday's Top Five: Things I Wish I Was Doing Instead of Being Stressed

It's one of those week's kids. I am off to BF (as it's become affectionately known...haven't added an "E" to the end yet) next week and this week is preparation hell.

Top 5 Things I Wish I Was Doing Instead of Being Stressed:
  1. Laying on a beach. Any beach...as long as it was clean, sunny, and not infested with jelly fish.
  2. Reading a book and sipping some coffee in the sun. After a week of pissing down rain, the sun finally came out today in jolly old England today. I am mid-book on 3 different books. Any of them would be good right now...even the crap one.
  3. Updating my blog, photos and music. I love new music. I love that spending 99 cents on one catchy song for my iPod can make me feel like a new person. It's instant therapy.
  4. Shopping for the hybrid I am going to buy when I move back to Seattle later this summer (thinking Escape but may go for Civica - thoughts blog readers?)
  5. And speaking of shopping, I'd like to be shopping full stop. I hate every piece of clothing I own. Every single one.

I am really looking forward to watching some Saturday Kitchen on BBC tomorrow morning. It's a small respite in an otherwise uptight week.

And with that, I sign off with a quote from my favourite English teacher ever: "Be good...and if you can't be good, don't get caught!"