Merry Christmas folks! How was your day? I had a fun day experiencing a very different Canadian Christmas with the Quist, Lefsurd & Landers families on a mild, snow-covered day. Chris & I began by teaching a few willing participants the traditional Autralian past-time of playing back-yard cricket on Christmas day but the game came to a sudden holt when Paul Quist lost control of the bat (a plank of wood) and cracked his brother in law on the head, splitting the bat in two. Jeff's head was fine, but the bat was stuffed. Time to play by Canadian rules. We sang carols around the piano as grandma played & later played a fast paced game that pretty much involved a lot of shouting & not much else. Late in the evening the younger ones (me included) made our way down to a small hill with a large sled & spent a few hours sliding on our butts. We could fit 4 people on the sled at a time so we were able to pick up some decent momentum on the way down. We crashed regularly. I'd like to thank Jon & Will who broke my fall on the two occaisions I got air-born. They made for great landing pads while still slidding down hill. That evening I had my first oppurtunity to drive a car in over 12months. It was a 30min drive at night with snow on the road, the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car & all the drivers driving on the wrong side of the road. Somehow we all made it back home in one piece. A few days later I was back in the car as Jon, Chris & I took a 4hour drive out to Jasper National Park for 2 days of skiing. It was such an amazingly beautiful place with mountains soaring sharply around us & rivers rushing between sheets of ice down every valley. Coyotes, elk & big-horn sheep lined the road & the snow cover was just under 70cm. We skied at Marmot Basin & after a 2hr brush-up lesson, hit the mountain. On second thoughts, I should've had 4hrs of brush-up lessons. On my very first run I took off from the chair lift, missed my first turn as I hooked my inside ski in & corrected in a direct line down a rather steep slope that I would have preffered not to have attempted for at least another couple of hours. Chris reckons I topped around 50km/hr but I think it may have been a little quicker than that. With most people skiing in nice carving motions I whooshed straight down through everyone in a straight line for around 800m before finally gaining control again & managing to slow myself down with a sweeping carve. My heart was in my mouth as I finally pulled to a stop & looked back up at the mountain. Chris & Jon were still standing at the top, apparently with mouths wide open as they prepared my eulogy. With my little 'Sam moment' out of the way my guardian angels were able to relax a little over the rest of the two days as we all enjoyed the beautiful slopes. On the first night I somehow ended up with the very last run on the mountain. The slopes were completely empty as I hopped off the lift & it slowed to a stop. The view was incredible across the valley below & as the sun set behind me the only sound on the entire slope was that of my skis carving through the snow. It was a beautiful change from walking. It was priceless. Of course, when it was all over I still had to drive home again on the wrong side of the road. I was thankful to have an oppurtunity to get some physical exercise in as the resting has been irritating me a little. One night I was heading off to bed but instead rugged up & went for an 11pm jog out along the country road here. Then the next morning I roled out of bed into the push-up position & after a few minutes decided that I really needed to get out a little more. Skiing was a great antidote. I'm leaving for Vladivostok on Wednesday afternoon & it would appear that it will be without new boots. I'll be heading into Russia with my very worn Scarpas that I've been wearing since Nicaragua. The new pair didn't arrive & with no size 16 Scarpa boots in stock anywhere within a 40,000km radius I'm just going to have to push on with what I have. There is one pair of Scarpas in the world that I've been able to find & I happen to own them. Unfortunately they are sitting in Panama & not looking like moving for some time yet. I'm not too bothered by this & I'm kind of interested to see exactly how far these boots can carry me before they dismantle. I'm very ready to hit the road again & feeling rejuevenated & healthy after my time here with the Quists & all their friends & family. They are all exceptionally inspiring people! I'll miss driving around with Paul (Jon's dad) when his alarm flicks on at 4:01pm & he decalres, "Time to pray for Christian unity!" He'd then pull the car off to the side of the road & we'd pray. Now, as for next weeks blog entry, next Sunday I should be somewhere in central Siberia so there is a good chance that I may not be able to find interent access. I arrive in Moscow on the 15th of January so there should be an entry by then but it's most likely going to be hit & miss until that point. Let the black-out begin. God bless & I'll hopefully see you sometime again next week! Peace be with you, Sam.
"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." Ps 91:11-12 (or break your neck on a mountain while skiing...)