Hello! Sorry for the delay on this one! It's been difficult to keep to my schedule this week & I simply didn't have a chance to jump online for long enough. I'm now sitting up in a small town called Leduc, only 32km south of Edmonton. I have to be honest, the thought of being within 1day of a 2week rest is more than just exciting. I'm nearly jumping out of my skin anticipating a regular sleep pattern, regular meals, warmth & friends to chat with. This week gone has been a quiet one with my brother Chris exiting the walk back in Calgary after a 'failed' physiotherapy appointment. He was hurting badly & so checked in a for some physio but they discovered that he'd pushed his legs to the point of possibly having done nerve damage. The basic prognosis was "STOP WALKING!" So he did. He caught the bus to Edmonton & the Quist family (friends living in Edmonton) organised accomodation for him until my arrival. Thankyou! Before Chris departed though, we had the oppurtunity to attend a Ukranian Orthodox service (vespers) in the evening. The orthodox church was incredibly beautiful with the most inspiring art work & craftmanship throughout. Not long into evening prayers an elderly woman leaned over to us & asked if we could hold the candles for the priest. I leaned forward & replied that I wasn't Ukranian Orthodox & had no idea what to do. She simply smiled & told us that we'd be fine & in fact we may even enjoy it! I guess we didn't have a say in the matter. So up we went, one massive candle each, standing off to the side of the priest with two women holding candles on the other side. We had no idea what we were doing. And we were cooking! We hadn't at that stage taken our snow gear off & so fully clad it didn't take too long before we were sweating it out. With both hands firmly clasping the candle & standing right up the front there was no oppurtune moment to put it down & take off a few layers. It was the toughest candle hold either of us have ever had. We loved being there though & meeting everyone afterwards. It was such a beautiful place of prayer. The next day Chris's bus drove past me on the highway about 10km out of Calgary & I was once again by myself for the few hundred kilometres north. On the 2nd day out I stopped in a town called Carstairs & ducked into the town library to quickly send off some important emails. By the time I'd finished I'd been invited to have dinner with the Librarian, her assistant & her husbund. They picked me up from my motel later in the evening & we sat down to a fantastic meal. It was real, authentic hospitality that has typified this part of the world. Mind you, the next day I was steering away from the 'hospitality'! It's a little awkward, but the next day I walked into a small town after sunset & walked straight into a motel to grab a bed for the night. The woman at the front counter was a little over-welcoming in that she even shook my hand as she welcomed me. I thought it was a little odd but I really didn't question it. It was by far the cheapest place I'd stayed in for a long time. There was a bar & cafe attached to the motel so I shuffled into the cafe, ordered some dinner & sat in there all by myself eating dinner. The waitress offered to take my meal into the bar for me but I declined, sighting that the silence was nice. She then proceeded to flirt with me quite severly (can you flirt severly? For now you can, ok) & I was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable. Behind me were two pokie machines (lottery machines) that would beep every now & then. The waitress apologised for them & said, "Sorry about that. We don't want them in here but we can't have them in the bar because the government won't let us have both the machines & the strippers in the same room." I nearly choked on my meal. *long pause* I think I eventually replied with something inteligent like, "Oh, ok." I now knew why it was so dirt cheap to get a room!!! I ate, I left for my room, I locked the door well, laughed, said my prayers & went to bed. Other than dodgy accomodation I had a difficult week with issues requiring my attention back home in Australia (& Panama) that I just didn't have the time to deal with. I'm still working through the insurence claim for the mugging in Costa Rica, sorting out my income tax back home in Australia, trying to get my boots that arrived in Panama 4months after I left mailed to Edmonton, sorting out a problem with the Belarus visa I forked out $200 for last month & then trying to find the time to put a blog up. The walking & mission are time consuming enough but with the extra duties it was beginning to weigh on me. I was going to bed tired & waking up a few hours after I'd started walking again. In the end I handed it all over to Lord (as I should have done from the outset) & kept walking & doing what I could in between (phone calls at lunch time, emails at the end of the day). I've slept well the last 2nights & it's starting to sort itself out thankfully. I had a huge day on the road two days ago though that caught me by suprise. I thought I was undertaking a 35km day but it was in fact 50km. I'd organised to meet with a newspaper reporter during the middle of the day (thinking that I only had a small day) & the interview went for 2hours, which made it very difficult to even get close to the destination by sunset. The sunrises here at around 8:30am & has set by 4:15pm so they are very short, cold days. I was walking through the chilly night for the final 20km & the road twisted it's way through forests of snow covered pines & rolling snow covered farming land lit up by the half-moon. I'd been praying for a while before I decided to sing my way down along the road. I was (as is normal) belting out "Where the streets have no name" by U2 when a pack of Coyotes, deep within the forest of pines, began to chime in with a chorus of howls & yelps. I stopped singing for a moment to offer them some advice (they were badly out of tune, really) & continued singing with a smile from ear to ear. They continued howling as well. It was a great little moment. Speaking of k-9's, I had another dog follow me down the road yesterday. A few dogs have followed so far on the trip & most have ended up underneath a semi-trailer & I wasn't keen for this fellow, a mallamute, to have the same ending. I took him back to his house but I couldn't get him to stay & no manner of scolding, throwing of snow or idol threats could make him stay so in the end I simply kept myself in between him & the road. He almost ended up under a car a few times but he was at least responding to my voice & I was able to call him out of harms way just in time. In the end we made it around 10km together until I came across a highway store where the owners were kind enough to take care of him until I'd left. They let him into the store (it was a furniture & gifts store) & were very happy to take care of him for the time being. I let them know where he'd come from & then said my farewells. I was relieved to have left him behind at last & that he'd made the distance without getting toppled. The funniest moment this week happened at a level train crossing as a farmer waited for a train to pass by. The trains here sit on the horn for miles & they just keep tooting! I've heard a lot of locals complain about the 'unnecessary' noise they make but this farmer took matters into his own hands. Everytime the train tooted he tooted back & so began a ruckess of noise, back & forth between the two drivers. His american pick-up had quite a horn on it so he wasn't being outdown by much at all. It was a simple moment but it captured me! I thought it was brilliant, I wish I'd thought of it & done it... Now, on a serious note, there's a great little comment from Alistair in the comments section for this week that I'd like to invite everyone to check out if you have the time. It's in regards to uniting the dates for Easter. It's a simple step towards unity but perhaps one of the most precious for us to tend to, so please check it out! Thanks for that Alistair. Tomorrow I'll be skipping my way into Edmonton as I scrape the ice off my beard on the last day of the America's leg of this trip. It's been a long time coming! Oh, & this week just gone was also the 1yr anniversary since I started walking in Brazil. It feels like 5yrs ago. God bless & peace be with you! Sam.
"I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me." Ps 13:6