Saturday, May 31, 2008


She did it. Fair and square! Danette sold ice to an Eskimo. There's a group of pastor's wives at the lodge this weekend, and three of them are Eskimos. I was joking with Danette earlier today that she should get one of them to just pose with a bag of ice to pretend she had sold it to them. But trust Danette... She was visiting with Sandra at dinner when suddenly she asked, "Hey, do you want some ice?"

"Sure!" Sandra said without thinking twice.

"How many cubes?"

"Oh. Ten!"

"How much money do you have?"

"... a quarter..."

"Great! I'll take that!"

As Danette walked off to get the ice, Sandra looked at her neighbor and said, "I just paid her to get me ice cubes!"

I got a quick shot as Danette delivered the ice. Sold. Ten cubes for a quarter. We laughed so hard, I still have a headache! The Yup'ik ladies asked that I clarify that Sandra is a Chup'ik (two different sub-groups of the Eskimo peoples). They say neither of them would've fallen for it. :)

Salesperson par excellence!

And that after my friend and I had just walked around on a glacier. No kidding. We were told we might be able to go along with Paul and Chris (a glaciologist) when Chris had to go and measure some glaciers today. That didn't pan out due to foul weather. But Paul took us across the river and into the Wrangell Mountains. We saw glacier after glacier, even saw some mountain goats (no bears or moose today), and then Paul asked, "Have you ever stood on a glacier?"

"What?! We've never seen glaciers this close!" Danette replied.

Before we knew it, we were down on the ice! This is NOT something the average pilot can do. Paul's flown more than 23,000 hours, and this is his valley, so he touched down without as much as a bump.

We hopped out to take some photos and walk on the crunchy ice. It's crunchy because of the glacier dust which makes it like a bread crust, kind of. It's the most incredible sound when you walk on the ice! And it is c-c-c-cold!

After playing on the ice a little and drinking a bit of the glacier water, we took off again. To our right (north?) was Bagley ice valley (an ice field), which combines with Bering Glacier to form the longest mountain glacier in the world!

We flew across more glaciers and were mesmerized by the colors...

One of the many incredible scenes was the ogives. This is simply another side of the glaciers. They look like ice terraces. Each line, Chris tells me, represents one year in the life of the glacier. This ogive would be almost as old as I am!

Quite honestly, I was ready to be on solid ground for a bit by the time we landed. But this is an adventure I'd never forget. And the cherry on the top? My friend's sales deal!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Flightseeing (Wednesday)

Ready to fly.jpg, originally uploaded by Boyznberry.

Click on the photo to see more pictures from Alaska

This morning, we were about to set out for a hike with Ellie when George offered to take us for a flightseeing trip instead. (George and his wife Dorothea are in their 80s, perhaps, and live in a town not too far away. They had decided to stop by for a day or two. They often just fly around and camp at different places, explore, hunt, you name it!)

After making some adjustments to his plane (i.e. putting a sleeping bag and a mattress in the back for me to sit on since the back seat had been taken out for their golden retriever, Fellar), George, Danette and I took off, simply to see the area. George has been flying for 42 years (15,000-some flight hours) so it was no big deal putting our lives in his hands. But at times, when the little plane his a bit of an air pocket and you feel your intestines shifting, I was thankful not to be afraid of dying... :) Not that I thought we would, though.

We flew over a bald eagle, past the most magnificent waterfalls with frozen stalagmites at the foot of the falls, past the glaciers and then landed at a little air strip called Peavine Bar. It used to be a cabin for explorers who'd come panning for copper in these rivers! We saw some wild rabbits (huge ones! OK, not like deer-sized, but bigger than what I'm used to seeing) and putzed around the cabin. Many of the journal entries were from campers who had been hiking in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, some even in the winter! Some talked of seeing bears.

After walking around the area, we decided to take a last shot at the plane.

As we're standing there, waiting for George to take the picture, both Danette and I heard a loud sound, almost like a short roar. Well, George hadn't heard a thing. He's hard of hearing. As we looked over our shoulder, one of the rabbits had come back out of the bush onto the trail and stood frozen, staring into the direction from where the sound came.

Rrrrraf! We heard it again. At this time, the rabbit made a beeline, and George thought he'd go check it out. He didn't see anything. But we heard it a third time!

I was trying to rack my brain making sure I remember what frequency Ellie said they're on, just in case we had to radio them. We were very happy when George came back to the plane and we took off.

On the way home, we passed the glaciers again, and three herds of mountain sheep. From a distance, they simply look like specks of show on the mountains. We landed back at the lodge just in time for a wonderful lunch, followed by an afternoon and evening of reading, relaxing, visiting, listening to Glacier Scientist Chris tell about his explorations of the day, and looking at photos.

(Thursday) Not sure what's up for today, but I do believe Ellie will be taking her new gun along to ward off any uninvited friends. :)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Flying into the Rainbow

I'm sitting in the main lodge at Ultima Thule Lodge, and this is the view I'm seeing right now...

This place is incredible! Donna - matriarch - commented yesterday that this is God's most beautiful creation. I believe it's true. This place is remarkably remote. The nearest people from here are 50 air miles away - over 2 mountains and 3 major rivers, a 1-month hike, if you dare.

We drove the 5 hours from Anchorage to Chitina yesterday afternoon with a huge trailer in tow, filled with some of the supplies for the lodge for the summer. The season opens soon, and everything they need out here has to be flown in. Hence all the boxes with us in the Otter. With us are Amy and Kevin. Amy's a friend of the family, and Kevin's one of the staff at the lodge.

Paul, Ellie's dad, has the reputation for being the best bush pilot in Alaska. I believe that! It's been interesting listening to some of his stories. He's been a captain of a commercial fishing boat, climbed Mt. Everest, and the list goes on.

Flying to the lodge...
As we flew, mesmerized by the views on all sides, Ellie turned around from her seat next to her dad, and over the humming of the engine, shouted, "Have you ever seen a complete rainbow?"

At 7,000 ft above the valley, the rainbow had no end. We flew right into it!

About 45 minutes after take-off, the lodge was visible on our left. This will be our home for about a week. The river is low right now, but as the snow and glaciers continues to melt throughout the summer, it will fill up.

Danette and my cabin is the one to the far left. In that same cluster of buildings, the smallest building is called "Ultima Stoolie." It's a loo with a view. Though our cabins have restrooms, the water hasn't been connected for the season yet. (It will be connected today.) The door on the restroom is a split door, in other words, you can leave the top half open for the most magnificent view of the mountains while you do what you've got to do. :)

The other small building to the left in the same cluster of buildings is the sauna. We'll indulge later in the day.

Not sure what all is lying ahead this week. Whatever we do, I know it will be unforgettable!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Oh. My. Word!

We just got back from Jon van Zyle's studio. He and his wife are neighbors to the Claus family. Wonderful people. Jon and Jona showed us their huskies. The dogs are all work dogs. Sled dogs. Incredible animals. Right now, they have 16. I neglected to take my camera. Can't believe it! We hope to go back next Sunday to take photos before we head back to the lower 48.

The Van Zyles are an amazing couple. We had a delightful time visiting, were at their place from perhaps 8 till 10:30! Jon even blessed us with some of his prints, signed by him. I'm still blown away by it! Jona's art is equally amazing, but she does mostly beading and leather work, not as many paintings as Jon. If ever you're around Anchorage, plan to visit their kennel and art studio. You will not only love their dogs and their art; you'll love the couple, too.

The visit to the kennels and studio was the cherry on top of an already-wonderful day. Grandpa and Grandma were assigned to show us around a bit, and boy, did we have fun! They took us to all kinds of interesting towns and places in the area--even a wildlife park--while entertaining us with stories of adventures. Then we stopped at their other daughter's house to visit with that family. Seriously, it was simply great visiting all day long.

Right now, it's almost midnight here, and the sun as just setting a bit. It's dusk, really. I should go to bed. Danette and I will most likely both be out on the deck by 5:30 again for coffee and quiet time, and by 8, we're supposed to run around town to pick up the last supplies. After that, Ellie is driving us 5 hours to something like "Chitna," the last town toward their place. From there, Paul will fly us in the Otter to the lodge. I think. Who knows.

The journey continues.

What fun.

If you don't see an update for a while, it's because there's no Internet access out in the boonies.

Greetings from Anchorage

We're heading out with "Pops" and "Granny" to see Anchorage while the other Clauses run errands in town. Tomorrow, we're heading to the lodge, so there're lots of things that need to be picked up for the season.

Alaska is breathtakingly beautiful! Below are just a few photos. More will follow.

Flying in over the mountains. You can't help but keep staring!

After picking us up from the airport, grabbing some lunch and chatting with the family, Ellie and her mom Donna took us up to where Anchorage's water comes from, high in the mountains.

Had THE BEST sushi ever at about 9 pm. That'll be midnight Iowa time... Danette and I were both a bit out of it thanks to the time difference, but the food was amazing. All the fish comes straight from Anchorage's waters, so it's the freshest fresh you can imagine! Front right (next to Danette) is Logan, Ellie's little sister. Ellie's in the front left. If you've been watching "The Alaskan Experiment" on Discovery Channel, you'll recognize Paul, Ellie's dad, to Danette's right.

OK, off to see Anchorage!

Oh, before I forget: By the time we went to bed (around 11), the sun was still up! And when we woke up at 5, the sun was already shining beautifully. In fact, we had quiet time out on the porch at 5:30 while Granny was in the kitchen baking choc chip cookies and making the most amazing sourdough waffles. I know, everything's "the best" so far, but honestly, it is.

Good times. Great people. Incredible place. And it's supposed to just get better...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Very quick update

Amidst sitting and reading, working on computer-related projects and digging in the yard, I put a rib out of place yesterday. I headed to the chiropractor who did magic, but the ultimate was when I got a phone call today, "Doug has an opening at 11:00. Can you go see him?"

Doug belongs to a friend of mine. As in, he's Gina's husband. But he's also the most incredible massage therapist. No foo-foo massage there! He must've spent 80% of the time only working on the problem area in my back. He's very professional, and though I first thought it would be odd to go for a professional massage from a friend's husband, I didn't feel uncomfortable for a moment.

All of this to say that if you live in the greater Cedar Rapids area and you need some muscles worked on, Doug's the man!

You can find him at Avalon (behind the Spring House) on Center Point Road. Ask for Doug Merrill.

Apparently he does chair massages at a number of schools in the area, too.

I head out tomorrow morning for ... Alaska! I am visiting friends who live close to Denali. I thought I'd stop by briefly on my way to class in Seattle, but they explained they're way out of the way, that I'd have to come longer. And I can bring a friend. So tomorrow morning, Danette and I are heading out for vacation in the Thules. That's the mountains where they are. We'll be at their place for 10 days, then I head to Seattle for 2 weeks' class. Then 2 more weeks in the Midwest, and then I head back to Kenya. My time here is running out...

If I have access to the Internet, I'll upload photos from our trip. If you don't hear from me till June, I don't have Internet access. :)

Ah, can't wait to go and enjoy the beauty of Alaska!! It's way late. Got to sleep. Till later. :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Carbon monoxide poisoning

In some ways, it sounds worse than it is. But then again, you've got to remember that it literally can kill you. Carbon monoxide poisoning. Apparantly, Danette and I have both had it recently. Since her room's on the second floor of her home, she probably has had it worse than I. (My room's on the first floor, plus I've only visited here for a short while!)

Though Danette has CO-detectors in her home, they didn't get triggered. Problem is, they're mounted close to the floor, plugged in at outlets. (Where are yours??) CO travels upward. The problem with the incorrect placement of detectors has since been fixed. As has the furnace that was the culprit.

We praise God that a bird got stuck in the furnace this week, causing it to quit working. In the process of solving the furnace problem, the CO-problem was detected. It's pretty crazy seeing the chimney guys walking into the basement wearing gas masks, though...

We're OK now. Though I joke around and blame all kinds of things on CO-poisoning (Forgot to pick up something at the store? Gained a couple of pounds? Mixed whites and colors?), I know it could've been fatal. And hence, I'm infinitely thankful for the events that led to detecting the problem.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


The very first movie I remember seeing, is Fiddler on the Roof. We lived in Messina, close to the border to Zimbabwe. It would've been 1971 or early '72. I was three.* If my memory serves me right, we saw the movie in Messina's drive-in theather. What I remember best is Tevye singing in his deep voice, "If I were a rich man..."

I've watched the DVD many time since then. In fact, it's one of my all-time favorite movies due to the themes of culture and change.

Tonight, I saw it on stage for the first time. Theater Cedar Rapids did an incredible job! Some of the lines that get lost in the movie were even funnier on stage. The guy who played Tevye did almost as good a job as Topol in the original musical. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable event.

As was this morning's. I got to go to a women's event at a local church and hear Lenchen Raeside speak. I've heard Lenchen speak many times. I'm always inspired by her passion and the way God speaks through her. And amazed that she can bounce around the stage so elegantly in stilettos. That's Lenchen for you. Very chic. Yet a very powerful speaker. I love that!

Tomorrow, I get to share at several classes at church. I'm looking forward to that. But since I'll be on all day, I'd better get some sleep. The songs from tonight's musical are still playing in my mind, though. Not a bad thing. It's a blessing to get to catch up on some cultural events.

* I know this isn't a memory that I have because of stories being told. In fact, I can't remember talking about this movie as a family, or about us having seen it or any other movies in Messina. So my folks will have to let me know if it actually is a true memory.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Today, I hit a point where I simply needed to crash. I usually describe myself as an outgoing introvert. That basically means I enjoy being with people, but get re energized by being alone. And having had lots and lots and lots of meetings with many people in the past month has been amazing, and hard. I absolutely love telling the stories of what's happening in Kenya. I cannot tell those stories without getting emotionally involved. And so it takes a bit more of me.

So, if I've been running into any individuals during recharge-needed moments (point in case: this morning at church, or Jeremiah's graduation party this afternoon), pole sana. (That is, sorry!)

I realized I wasn't able to engage in conversation the way I wanted and needed to, and was very thankful for the fact that I was at the Clarks' home where I feel comfortable enough to withdraw. And while the party started winding down, I headed out the door to go and share at a dinner in Alta Loma.

What a neat event that was! The hostess is someone who's been in contact with me through e-mail and my blog for some years now. She and her husband have even been to our villages, but always at times when I've not been around. Tonight, I finally got to meet their family . . . plus about 15 friends!

What an honor to sit and share with a room full of people - none of whom I actually know - about the work God is doing in Kenya.

Tomorrow, I get to do it again. At 2 pm, I'll be sharing at the Upland Library, followed by a reception at our office, then three meetings in the evening. Tuesday morning, I'll share at ORTV and have some down time to work on a newsletter before three more meetings. On Wednesday, I leave for the Midwest again.

It has been really, really good to see old friends, to make new friends, and to boast about the work God is doing and we get to be a part of in Kenya.

In between things, though, as I drive down beautiful roads like Sierra Madre in Azusa and look at the incredible homes, or when I simply drive down the highway or walk in a store and look at the abundance by which we're surrounded in this culture, I am stunned, sometimes plain overwhelmed by it all.

And I think of Jesus' words in Luke 12, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

I could never, ever out-give God. Not even of my time or of my energy. But as this introvert is beginning to feel the pain of pouring into this culture and its people, I need Him to fill me up.

Mother Teresa once said, "How sad would it be if you spent time with your neighbor and gave him only of yourself." If I am to give people more than just me, I desperately need to sit at God's feet so he can fill me up to overflowing.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

"You should learn kung fu!"

This morning, I visited the ORTV office in Arcadia. (ORTV is the ministry I worked with in Taiwan. They have an office in Arcadia.) I'll be going back there next Tuesday to show photos, but I was briefly telling the staff about some of the craziness of the first few months of 2008 in Kenya... "Aah-teh!" (some Chinese friends just can't say my name. There are various interesting ways they make my name fit into the sounds with which they're familiar.) "You should learn kung-fu!"
So, other than (not) learning kung-fu, what have I been up to in the past few weeks?

For one, having tons of meetings with friends and supporters in California. Visiting with a variety of friends is one of the things I miss most in Kenya, so my bucket is being filled, believe me! Last weekend, I even had a fun time going to SeaWorld. My friend Danette was in California for a trade show, so we escaped to go see Shamu. (In chatting with a staff member later, though, we learned that none of the orcas in SeaWorld is actually Shamu. The real Shamu died 20-some years ago. We were devastated. OK, not really, but it's an interesting little fact to know that SeaWorld doesn't really have a Shamu... Sorry to burst anyone's bubble.)

One of the orcas showing off. Watch how the people in the front are hiding behind their blue ponchos since they know a BIG splash is to follow!
Danette and I enjoying California's sunshine. It was actually a bit chilly in San Diego, though.

Other than having amazing food with amazing people, talking at a variety of places about what God is doing in Kenya, and traversing the California freeways--you know you've adjusted to life in the boonies when you can't help but count the number of lanes on the freeway: I-5 has seven lanes in ONE direction in one place!--I've been working on projects at our office in Upland and finishing a very long paper for my first class.

Hence the silence. I was not only enjoying face-to-face time with people, I was also trying to get my paper done. It's in, praise God! So this weekend, I'll start the reading for the next class so I don't find myself up against a (deadline) wall again.

Other than the photos I took in San Diego last weekend, I have not been carrying my camera with me at all. Sorry. But not really. I needed a photo break. And a blogging break, really. Breaks are good.

Oh, I wanted to get the word out: If anyone who's reading this would like to come see photos and hear stories about Kenya, I'll be doing a presentation at the Upland Library this Monday afternoon at 2 pm. If you'd like to come and need more information, just let me know.

It's time to sleep... My brain's not functioning well after the lack of sleep this week.

Lala salama. Sleep in peace.