Sunday, August 2, 2009

How the time Flies!

Hello! We're not too sure how it all happened, but all of a sudden we've been home for nearly 15 months, and haven't updated a single picture nor blog in that entire time. Obviously we had our fill while traveling! Now that it's Summer and we supposedly have time to do these things, we are going to endeavour to catch you up on our year that was with a few photo albums. The link to our albums can be found on the right hand side of this blog under 'Family and Friends'. We've started with our one-month stay in South Korea in April 2008, and will soon have our Canadian pictures of Summer 2008 and Winter 2008-2009 up. Also, we'll have photos of our new house up in the coming weeks!

As a quick update, Emily and I have bought a house (on June 6th) just outside of Salmon Arm, B.C. It has 5 acres of forest and meadow around it, with plenty of wildlife, birds and bugs to keep us happy. We both taught for the whole year, Emily teaching Grades 3, 4 and Kindergarten in the French Immersion school in Salmon Arm and me in a Grade 4 class in Enderby. Things for the Fall are locked up for Emily, and she just landed a permanent teaching job at that French Immersion school (Bastion Elementary) teaching French Kindergarten!!! We are pumped:) As for me over in the English camp, it will be a wait-and-see up to early September I'm guessing.

We've loved being back in Canada, and were blasted with a heavy winter - tons of snow and really cold temperatures - to remind us that we really do have 4 seasons here. And they all count. Currently we're looking forward to heading back to those low temperatures as it's been 30 degrees or more for the past 2 weeks with no end in sight. We have enjoyed getting your emails and photos of what you're all up to, and it's been really great to see those of you who we haven't seen for, um, over 4 years!

We're not too sure how we're going to use this blog (or if we're going to use it) now that we're back, but we will be posting photos and stories from our hiking trip into Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park in the Rocky Mountains, which we're heading to on July 30th. Hope to hear from you soon, and in the meantime enjoy your summer (or winter) months!

Lake O'Hara Hiking Trip

Melanie and Sean joined us from Calgary, and with my parents the six of us headed off into the countless peaks of Yoho National Park in the Rocky Mountains. Among all the park's jewels, Lake O'Hara must shine the brightest. Adorned with thick forests, breathtaking peaks and valleys, and the turquoise waters of the lake itself almost always within view, hiking here is sheer pleasure!

Lake O'Hara seen through the trees from the jumping off point to all the day hikes, and us six at the campground where we spent our nights.

Another great advantage to this area is that the number of hikers actually hiking around and in the campground are limited, as everyone has to bus in to the area and book 3 months ahead. It works, as on our first day, we encountered 3 people on our 8-hour hike! From the campground, there are a myriad of day-hikes that you can take leading up hillsides and above the treeline to 'saddles' from where you can look into new valleys below. The camp sits at 2000 feet, while our highest height we hiked to was at Wiwaxy Gap, just over 2500 feet. We had excellent weather, though the mornings were a bit cool at 4 degrees!

The majestic 'hanging gardens' of Opabin plateau and a lunch-spot view into another valley from Wiwaxy Gap.

Although Sean and I wanted to see bears (both Grizzly and Black around the area), we didn't get the chance, although close looks at 10 Mountain Goats made us feel very fortunate. It is amazing how much ground you can cover in one day up here, traversing ledges, valleys and mountain sides, all the while having the splendour of Lake O'Hara below you. Some patches are extremely steep, as seen below on the left, and the best advice is to just not look back, as there isn't much to stop you from tumbling all the way back down to the bottom. Other places, however, are a leisurely stroll.

Emily and Sean navigate the steepest part of our 2 days' hiking, while Sean joins Melanie taking in the view during a short rest on our first day.

It was fantastic to spend these 3 days all together, as living 6 hours apart doesn't lend itself well to joint visits! Melanie and Sean now look forward to moving into their new house on August 19th in Calgary, while my parents and us are heading south to Oliver to join Emily's parents, brother and aunt and uncle in some biking and wine-tasting! More photos of our trip, including some of the local wildlife, can be seen in our web albums, the link to which you'll find on the right side of this page under 'Family and Friends'.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

China Part 3

View of the Hong Kong harbour; wine at the Intercontinental Hotel - courtesy of M&D Styles!

After our month of driving around the New Zealand countryside (and successfully selling our car - Hi Shoki!), we went back China. First stop: Hong Kong. We stayed with friends Chris Lonsdale and Sheryl Climo who were wonderfully hospitable and easy-going, even when I decided last-minute to get a wisdom tooth taken out and was laying wan on their couch for much longer than our intended visit! It was so great to have a home away from home. Thanks for everything, Chris and Sheryl! We'll be thinking about you on your 'special day':)

Once I'd recovered, we headed to Yangshuo - where the mountains go straight up and straight down, meeting flooded rice paddies and swollen rivers. It was satisfying to finally see what we'd always imagined southern China to be. It was rainy and misty the whole time we were there, which suited us just fine as it fit our image of the place and also gave us a chance to take it easy.

Next we headed to Emei Shan (Emei Mountain) near Chengdu. This is one of the five most holy mountains for Buddhism in China, but of course we went for the birds. Unfortunately it continued to be rainy and misty and we hardly saw any birds, but we did see some massive monkeys (maybe snub-nosed macaques?) emerging spookily out of the mist, for which this mountain is also famous. We took the bus up the mountain and then hiked the 20km or so down the stairs. About half way down we stayed one night at a monastery where it was so damp that there was mist in the room and everything was wet - thank goodness for electric blankets!

Hellen and Justin with their new baby boy, and Justin's mom who is living with them for a year to help out. Samantha, our old boss at Western Language Center, who once again hosted us warmly - even with a broken foot! The gang at Western Language Center: our last goodbye for a long time.

Then we went to Xi'an to see Hellen and Justin's new baby and to say one last goodbye to our old friends who introduced us to Asia. The next time we get to Xi'an will probably be at least 10 or 15 years later, with kids, so it really felt like goodbye this time. It was neat for us to see them so near to the end of our journey seeing as how they were the ones to welcome us to China, and because of our wonderfully positive experience there, we ended up staying much longer! We hope we get the chance to host them in our home country in the future:)

With Armstrong (and his friend Ho Lin, taking the picture), flying kites in Zhengzhou.
Geoff squeezing through the 'Gleam of Sky' path at the Red Canal site.
Zhihwa and I looking down from the Red Canal site.

Then to Zhengzhou to see our 'lucky fortune friend' Armstrong who is studying a masters in English translation there. We met his friend Ho Lin who took us kite flying, and spent a couple of days with Zhihwa (whom we've met before): one day we drove out to the Red Canal project (a 10+year project in the 1960s hewing out a canal through a mountain - by hand - so allow the water from a river on one side of the mountain to pass through to the other side for irrigation), and one day eating and visiting Zhihwa's family. 

"So we took a boat to Soooouth Korea."

It's neat to re-visit a foreign place, and we were glad to have a chance to fill in some gaps in our Chinese experience - Hong Kong, Yangshuo - and to be able to see our friends one last time. Around this time we also made the decision to come home a little early (early May instead of late June) so all this revisiting and goodbying seemed just right. 

We boarded a big boat for the 16-hour crossing into South Korea a little apprehensive about seasickness but we had a most wonderful trip! We had our own little room, there was hardly any rocking, and we both had a good quiet sleep:) 

The month of April we'll be back in our old home of Iksan, helping BirdsKorea in their last year of the Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program (SSMP). We'll tell you all about that in the next blog:)