Saturday, September 5, 2009

Texas Roadtrip

We are a little more than half-way through our roadtrip through the South. We started off driving to Denver and staying with a friend and his brothers from Ethiopia. It was good to spend time with an old friend, and I was able to see an 'auntie' who also lives there. From there we drove to Oklahoma City to spend the night with one of Charlie's cousins, Terry. Finally we arrived in Arkansas, our first major destination, to visit and go camping with Clare, Charlie's sister. Chuck Koelling and his wife came over and together with Clare, her boyfriend Kyle and a few other of their friends we drove two hours north of Conway, AR to the Buffalo River. The water was cool and green and the whole experience was peaceful and beautiful. From there we spent some time in Tyler, East Texas, then on to Longview to see Adam, Charlie's brother, and his new baby Abbott Clare Koelling, born on July 23. Now we are in Dallas, and have been hanging out in Chucks nicely landscaped backyard drinking beer, eating good food and enjoying the misters and swamp cooler that made it more-than bearable to sit outdoors. Today we head down to Austin, to listen to some live music and see some more of Charlie's lifelong friends. After all this, we head west to Las Vegas to see some friends perform in Cirque de Soleil and then on to Oregon for a while. Much love to everyone.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Life in Missoula

As we live our days in Missoula, we are always trying to find ways to grow and progress in our own lives.
I have been working more and more on the river, teaching kayaking almost five days a week and enjoying every minute. The Women's Paddling Club that I created has taken off beyond my expectation and I am so excited to have so much support for the program. The group of women that attend the weekly lessons are just the type I was hoping for. Each is determined to learn how to kayak and plow through the many challenges that are inherent to the sport.
Everyone is so supportive of each other and openly thankful to me for my presence on the river. This is as much success as I could hope for. I am realizing more and more that I truly enjoy teaching in general, and am continuing to think about attending an Adventure Education graduate program- something I have researched and thought about since I finished my undergrad last year.
I am also taking a grant-writing class online and am looking forward to exploring the world of nonprofit work and service. I would like to travel again, but this time with a service-oriented goal in mind. Grant writing will be allow me to fund service projects that I come up with myself, for example helping our new friends in Cambodia, or to join up with international organizations already in place and doing some good. Who knows where this will bring me, but I find it an inspiring field.
Our house is still lovely and our 'flower-pot garden', in our backyard, is growing into healthy plants of tomatoes, basil, peppers and strawberries.
Charlie is working hard in his new shop making new wall pieces, many of which were dreamed up in Asia, and doing metal work on the side to earn some extra money. He is moving forward with the startup up of his business and we are slowly working out the kinks of building a website. When it gets up and running, we will certainly fill you all in on the details. Since this is new territory for both of us, it is taking a little longer than we had hoped to work out the logistics of starting a business and getting over those first hurdles. Thankfully, Charlie has many friends who are Craftsmen and many own their own small businesses, so he is receiving a lot of advice and encouragement.
Nonetheless I am glad to say he is plugging away at both making art and creating a business through which to sell it. I am very proud of him for sticking to his dream despite challenges that can sometimes be discouraging.
Thankfully Montana has provided us with a situation where we can live simply and plug away at our goals and dreams.
We are living, and happily so.
Much Love.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Elements Tour

Since we have been back in Montana the white-water scene has been in full throttle. Our friend Seth Warren and his nature propelled fire engine, "Baby" have been touring around helping headline many events in Missoula and elsewhere in Montana during this time. Oriana and I amongst a few others hopped in "Baby" and joined the Elements Tour for a long weekend. We headed north through the Flathead Valley and continued the slow journey around the magnificent Flathead Lake until we reached Big Fork, MT for the annual White-Water Festival (pretty big deal in these parts). Big Fork is a place we often drive through or past on alternate routes, but this was our first time making it a destination. Each year the dam is released and the "Wild Mile" flows rapidly along the Swan Rio, furthermore giving all us redneck, river rats another excuse to camp out and run the rio. When we weren't held up at "Baby" relaxing, we were embarking in many other adventures such as hiking up stream to get photos or just watch the carnage. It was just a few days, but like many events of this stature we were able to see many old friends and make new ones as well. Along with many other things happening on the Elements Tour, Seth and Kavu brought in a couple of Japanese artists from Tokyo to do some live murals at a few recent events. We got a chance to hang out with these guys and take them for a booze cruise float down the Clark Fork in Zootown. Later Oriana, Ashley and I invited all Seth and his friends from the Tour over for dinner and drinks. Here are some pics!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Back in Missoula

We are back in the lovely town of Missoula, MT after our many adventures. This last month has been full fledged Missoula style settling in. I have been on the river almost everyday training for work, having fun and running new rivers and creeks every week. Charlie has been setting up his shop, expanding his network in Missoula and getting jobs set up around town. This Friday he has a wall piece in a downtown art show for First Friday in Missoula, which is an event every month that promotes and shows the work of local artists.
Our new house is in the northern part of town and has access within two blocks to a creek, a wildland park and a trail system that can take us the mile upstream to the Rattlesnake Wilderness that sprawls just north of town. We have been fortunate to have beautiful weather, and have been enjoying the wilderness by running, hiking and biking. One of our goals this summer is to explore the Rattlesnake Wilderness as much as possible.
We live with our friend Ashley that we met on Tonsai Beach in Thailand, she is originally from San Francisco, and two river-guide friends of ours that are mostly on the river but their addition to the household makes our bills incredibly affordable. In Missoula we have many family-style friendships and often get together with our friends to cook meals, drink local beer and play sand volleyball by the river in Kiwanis Park.
At the beginning of May we were able to go on a seven day trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River just southwest of Missoula. It is a world class section of river through one of the largest wilderness areas in the United States, the Frank Church Wilderness. We went with a group of 15 close friends, both rafters and kayakers. It was completely self-supported, and because we had so many professional river guides on the trip, we had a full kitchen and gourmet food every meal. We paddled a few hours a day through some of the most rugged country I have ever seen. This part of Idaho is an alpine forest, with many pine trees clinging to rocky mountains. We had one day, about half way through the trip, where we didn't pack up camp, but stayed another night and explored the meadows, mountains and hot springs that surrounded our Loon Creek campsite.
On this day we made friends with Tyrel, an authentic mountain man who worked one of the few remote ranches that were grandfathered in when the area was made a wilderness. Tyrel ended up offering to take us all on a trail ride back into the mountains, an offer that we immediately took him up on. So we saddled up the draft horses and took of for a three hour ride through the amazing sights of Northern Idaho.
We can't help but feel blessed to live surrounded by beautiful country and amazing friends. We are so happy to be back in Montana, and look forward to a healthy, productive summer.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Koh Tao

After spending a little over two glorious weeks on Tonsai Beach, Charlie and I made the plunge back into the outside world. It was sad to leave all of our new friends back in Tonsai, but some came with us on our adventure that took us from the Andaman Sea over to the Gulf of Thailand, to Koh Tao, aka Turtle Island. Our friend Justin, from Australia, that we met in Vietnam and have traveled with on and off for a while has joined us as well as a new friend from Tonsai (a San Francisco girl named Ashley) for some excellent snorkeling, sea kayaking and overall beach time. The beaches on Koh Tao are much more developed that our dear little Reggae Rasta Tonsai experience, but the waters around the island- which is the farthest from land in the Gulf- are crystal clear and full of beautiful creatures. There are tourist shops and Scuba Diving courses every few feet, something that we aren't used to because we have made such an effort to stay off the beaten track. The party's are insane, so much wild electronic music pulsing down the beach, people drinking and smoking to excess, swimming in the ocean, and socializing with people from all over the world. It is quite the spectacle to see. Charlie and I often make some friends and observe the chaos with ameusment. Today we head to Koh Phagnan for an international half moon party in the jungle. We are meeting up with some friends and putting together a crew to head out for one last big night on the beach before heading back to Bangkok on Friday. Then, we shop, dine and prepare for our journey home.
We will keep it updated.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thailand therapy

So, we begin the grueling journey back to the states in three weeks. We have been bad about keeping this updated recently and know it. We are in Tonsai, a small bay outside Krabi town on the southwest side of the peninsula. It has been about 10 days since we arrived and we have not made it far beyond our hammocks. It's pretty nice! Thailand is so easy and there are no worries - everyone is so chilled out. Tonsai is apparently a top destination for rock climbers which brings many many people, but not too many. And they are always climbing. The bay is a small area consisting of a plethora of Thai rastas (I'm writing this in a glass Internet joint overlooking the sea and a big storm is occurring. The sky let out an enormous burst of thunder and the night lit up - at the same time my computer shut down. It was electric...So now I continue)and little bar/shacks to compliment. Oriana and I are quite enjoying ourselves. A couple days ago we did motivate and make our way several bays down, through the jungle and up a steep hike to an overlook where we could see for out over the landscape below us. Our next mission was to find a heard of lagoon. We did. The hike down into the lagoon was ridiculously vertical with three different levels. Nonetheless we made it and just lay around in our hammocks eating fresh pineapple. Today we rented kayaks and set out to sea. We explored some beautiful surrounding islands with perfect white sand beaches. We got extremely sunburned, but luckily, made it home to Tonsai before the evening, intense, thunderstorms rolled in from all directions- right on time.
For now we will make the dash home to our little bamboo hut in the jungle. The rain has let up a bit, so this is our chance.
Much Love.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's been awhile...

Sorry for the lack of posting, friends. Charlie and I have been on the move up Vietnam. From Dalat we took a 15 hour bus up to Hoi An, which is famous for the 500 Tailoring shops that don the quiet streets of this town. Charlie and I were only there a few hours before picking out fabrics and styles for our new attire. I got a beautiful wool pea coat made, and Charlie got a silk-line pinstriped suit- all for a total of $170. To say the least we are very happy with our purchases.
From Hoi An we decided to high-tail it up to Hanoi, the northern capital, so we could spend our last two weeks in, what has turned out to be, the most beautiful part of Vietnam. We have run into our Canadian buddies in many random places, met new friends to travel with, and spent some whiskey-ridden days kayaking through the grotto's and limestone peaks that loom in and above Halong Bay. Famous for its Islands of sheer cliffs and lush jungle, this National Heritage site was one of the most impressive sights yet on this trip. We took an organized tour, one of the few we have done on the trip, through The Hanoi Backpackers Hostel. The trip took us, and eighteen other young travelers, on a cruise through the Bay on an old fashioned, pirate ship. This mahogany boat was our home for 36 hours of drinking, fine dining and socializing as we cruised through the massive limestone islands. Our accommodation on-board was beautiful and romantic, some of the nicest rooms on our trip. The second night of the three day tour was spent in a three star hotel on the largest island in the bay- Cat Ba Island. This island, which is also a national park, had many quaint villages and one seaside town with many hotels and little Vietnamese restaurants. A group of five of us decided to stay on the island a few extra days to enjoy more scenery and the slower pace of the place. Another detail is that it is quite cold in Northern Vietnam. Coats are necessary and it has been raining on and off for about a week. This has made the scenery even for mysterious, with fog blanketing areas around the island reinforcing the local myths that the islands were once sea dragons that protected the villagers from harm. They settled on their stationary spots to provide protection from the sea and any enemies in might bring. We drank beer at the local climbing bar and stayed in immaculate $6 sea view rooms, only going back to the first hotel to utilize the top floor Spa. For $12 we got one hour massages and full use of steam bath, jacuzzi and sauna for two hours. We ordered beer, sat in the jacuzzi, and enjoyed luxury that we haven't had once on our trip- or perhaps ever.
After hopping on our ship, that comes every day for those staying longer on the island, we made our way back to the mainland, and eventually back to Hanoi. So now Charlie, Justin (our Australian friend whom we have been traveling with since Hoi An), and I are just enjoying the local Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup) before Charlie and I fly back to Bangkok the day after tomorrow.
Oh, and on a family note- MY SISTER HAD HER BABY!
Golden and her husband Sean welcomed in their son, Zayden Clark Rogers, into the world yesterday. He is a healthy 9 lbs 2 ounces and a pretty good looking baby (as far as newborns go). My family is so happy and proud, and I am very excited to get home to meet my new nephew.
Much Love.
Oriana and Charlie

p.s. We will post pictures soon.