Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lake Powell - A Little Bit of Paradise

On July 11 we headed out for our annual Lake Powell trip. Since we had to pick the houseboat up at 11 am the next day, we decided to stay the night in Green River so we wouldn't have to wake up so early.

Of course, it's not Lake Powell without the dads gathered around fixing something. This time it was an easy fix, just swapping out a dinged prop, on solid ground. Well, we got to the beach where we were supposed to meet the houseboat and it wasn't there. No big deal . . . we decided to launch the boats while we waited.

One hour late . . .

Mom and I decided to go check Halls Marina for the houseboat. Not there.

Two hours late . . .

Mom and I pick up the Steve Hansen family and head back to Bullfrog Marina. Since there was still no sign of the houseboat we decided to go get some lunch. Over lunch there was talk of getting a hotel room or renting another houseboat. Ahhh!!!

Three hours late . . .

After lunch Dad finally got a hold of the guy on the houseboat. His excuse? "Oh, I thought we were meeting you tomorrow at 11 . . ." Ya, I'm sure that's why they decided to come back today and empty the poop and refill the gas tanks, etc.

Five hours late . . .

We were all very excited to see the houseboat, even though it was late and not cleaned . . . at least we had one. It was time for the real fun to begin! Because of our late start we camped in Slick Rock Canyon for the night and then continued on to the San Juan on Sunday, which was fine because we didn't have much else to do on Sunday. As we took the boat and jet skis out to find a camp spot we found the Carabine's sitting in their boat which wouldn't start, so we dragged them back to the houseboat to be towed.

Monday morning the Carabine's boat was still out of service, the dads once again huddled up and decided that it was the fuel pump which had gone out, so we played without the Master Craft. Luckily, the Cowley's were coming down on Tuesday and they were able to round up another fuel pump to bring down. Meanwhile we played, and played hard like we always do at Lake Powell.

Dad carvin' it up.

A little cliff jumpin'.

A little hike to a wind-cave for the kids.

The trip was going great. We were skiing and playing and just having a ball . . . plus the Master Craft was working again so we could all get our surfing fix. Thursday morning the morning ski crew got up as usual to find the kind of glass you dream about, perfect. We all crawled into the boat and checked the ski locker for water, we found a little but the fuel pump had been fixed the day before so there was nothing unusual there. It was unusual, however, for the bilge pump to be pumping out so much water after Steve Carabine barefooted out of the canyon. We checked the ski locker again as Russ got ready to ski, and it was a little fuller than it had been.

Hmm . . . that's odd.

Oh, well, let's ski!

It was amazing that Russ even got up because the boat couldn't go more than 20 mph. When water started seeping onto Dad's feet, who was driving, we decided we had better stop and figure out what the problem was. Dad began idling back to camp while Russ and the other dads gathered for yet another huddle. But the bow of the boat was getting so low to the water that something had to be done . . . and fast. As we searched for any type of bailing bucket the only thing we found was plastic water bottles so we cut the tops off and started bailing by hand. When we finally made it back to camp we tied to the houseboat and some continued bailing while others jumped off to find some wet/dry vacuums.

Mary bailing with her water bottles.

Once we had enough of the water out that we could stop for a minute, the dads huddled up once more to figure out what the problem was. When everything had stopped and we were quiet we could actually HEAR water pouring into the boat.

"Um, I think there's water gushing in around this general area . . ."

The problem was finally located. The seal around the outdrive shaft that goes through the bottom of the boat had burst when we started the engine that morning and the boat had been filling up ever since. Unfortunately for the dads, the work was not over. They stopped the water flow, but then they had to actually get to the hose to fix it . . . which of course had to be under the engine at the hardest to reach place possible.

The dads in their huddle . . . dad and Russ playing in the engine compartment.

Once our fabulous bailing work wasn't needed anymore we went off to eat breakfast and then took another boat out to ski . . . without the dads, I know, what selfish children we are. The water wasn't as good as before but it was still pretty good. The Master Craft was fixed by late morning and we were off and playing once again.

Our time in the San Juan was coming to an end and we had to get some more playing in. The boys were gracious enough to let me join them for a little cliff jumping and on the way back to camp we pulled a "Panama." Now, if you don't know what a "Panama" is just think back to the movie Sahara, where they jump off the back of a moving yacht just before it blows up. Luckily, we didn't need to worry about the blowing up part but Nate, Kyle, Matt, and I stood on the back of the boat until we reached 20-25 mph and then jumped off backwards. It was a ton of fun! (Though it did give us all a headache that night).

We finished off our time in the San Juan without any more incidents and began the sad journey back to the marina. The girls enjoyed their annual moonlit bath, skinny dip, on Friday night and then it was Saturday and time to turn the houseboat in to the next group. While the houseboat was making its last leg of the journey a few of us decided to go out and get one last play in. Little Tyler Cowley had been begging me all morning for a wakeboard ride so we found a quiet spot in the main channel and got him out there. He got up, boarded for a while, then fell. Then he got up, boarded for a while and had a nice face plant. I asked him if that one hurt and he said yes but he wanted to go one more time. The third time he didn't get up, I think it was because of the blood that he started to see. His head was bleeding. We pulled him in and got some pressure on his head, you know how much head wounds bleed, as we headed out to find Steve Carabine, who is a surgeon. All the while Tyler kept repeating, "I don't want stitches, I don't want stitches . . ." We found Steve at the gas dock and when he heard that we had an injury he grabbed his handy-dandy medical kit and jumped onto our boat to have a look. By that time the bleeding had mostly stopped and we knew it wasn't a very big cut. He looked at it and said it would heal faster if he put one stitch in it. Tyler wasn't very happy but we headed back to the houseboat and he was very brave.

We turned the houseboat over, cleaned up and headed home. You know it's been a good vacation when you have worked hard, played hard, had a couple bumps and bruises, a few technical difficulties, and are extremely sore by the end. Ah, the adventures of Lake Powell! That is my kind of vacation.

The Ranch

So, it's been a while since I posted . . . I've been busy enjoying summer! I returned home from Ghana late the night of June 25 and the next morning Mom and I headed up to meet the Hansen family at the Baucom's Ranch. I've been lucky so far with travelling and haven't really been bothered by jet lag, so I was off and running. After the whole group made it up there we saddled up 17 horses and went for a long and beautiful ride.

We had such a long and cool spring that there were still TONS of gorgeous wildflowers still blooming (as you can see in the background)!

Miss Paige and her long legs prepping for a group photo.

We even got Papa Mac out on a horse!

And what a better way to spend the evening than . . .

Playing with the toys! Here's Jessica with her dad's Hungarian military bayonet riffle-thingy . . . I would hate to have this gun pointed at me, especially after seeing it blow logs to shreds . . .

Amy at the ready.

Ready aim Fire!
The crew shooting into the river bottoms.
Ah! I love vacations!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


After months of planning, my Ghana trip has come and gone! It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. With so many experiences and adventures over a months time, I will not be able to talk about it all at once. But hopefully I can add things in here and there.

We arrived in Ghana on June 1, after 48 hours of travelling (12 of which were spent in the Dubai airport). It was a relief to finally be on the ground and running. Luckily jet lag didn't seem to bother me much (I'm crossing my fingers that this doesn't change when it's time for London)! After another day of travelling, this time by van, we reached Cape Coast where we would spend most of our time while in Ghana.

Kandis in front of School for Classes 1, 2, and 3.

Once we got settled in we began working with a school/orphanage called Sankofa Mbofra Fie, which means "return to your roots." Although the school has over 250 children, our group of volunteers decided to focus on classes 1, 2, and 3, which are roughly equivalent to 1st through 3rd grades. Since we were only going to be in Ghana for a short time we also made the decision to focus on two things which we could really help these children with: English and self discovery. When we first began many of the children could recite their ABCs as well as write them, however, they could not identify a letter by itself. It was a big project but we began working on letter recognition and phonics as soon as we were able. By the time we left most of the children could identify their letters and tell us what sounds each letter made, some were even able to sound out words!

Along with English we worked on self discovery with the children. Sankofa is located in a small village about an hour outside of Cape Coast, so for the most part the children are unfamiliar with the ability to take an active role in their lives. The program director, David, explained to us that if these children end up doing anything other than subsistence farming in their lives, which we are hoping for with the education they are receiving, it is often the parents who will tell them what to do. I remember the first day that we began this self discovery class we passed out crayons and paper and asked each student to draw: 1) a picture of themselves, 2) their family, 3) their home, and 4) what they wanted to be in the future. It was difficult enough to get the children to understand the concept behind drawing the tangible things they had, like a self portrait, but it was even more difficult for them to understand the concept of the future and that they had a choice. We began listing things to help them out, a shop keeper, a driver, a footballer, etc. I just remember watching one little boy as the light bulb went on over his head and he bent over his paper and began drawing furiously. I wandered over to his little desk and asked him what he was drawing and he pointed to a picture of an airplane, he wanted to be a pilot! As the weeks went by the children really flourished creatively, they loved drawing and telling us about who they were, which they had never done before. It was great!

My Class 1 group coloring (from left to right): Mohammad, Ruth, Linda, Patience, Deborah, and Ivy.

When we weren't teaching the children we were working with David and the teachers to set up a sustainable program at Sankofa. We helped purchase good English and Math books, with teacher manuals to guide lessons, we set up a schedule, which was rather difficult for the teachers to stick to because they were used to doing what they wanted when they wanted, and we also made it possible for volunteers to come to the school and be able to jump right in and help without disrupting the school every time. Like everything else good in life, it was a lot of work but we feel like we accomplished a lot in the time that we had!