Chamonix II

here are some excerts from emails i’ve written to people recently to give you a feel for life here this week:

i had my first day of skiing today (mon 28th). i went to les grand montes which is supposedly the
hardest ski area here, but also i heard it had the best snow right now. they haven’t
gotten snow in a while and aren’t expected to have more, so to avoid the ice i went to
where i was told it was best. oh the very crowded bus on the way there, i was standing
next to a guy that had a “us forest service” key chain on his backpack and when i heard
him talk i knew for sure he was from the states. so i asked where from and he and his
wife were from oregon! WHOO!! they worked for the forest service and were on they’re
delayed honeymoon. anyway i saw them again at the top of the tram and he asked where i
was going to ski (keep in mind i had heard a lot of horror stories about glacier skiing
and crevasses, etc. so i was a little nervous). i told him i didn’t know but said bye and
to have a good day. so i went to check out the map and it looked… overwhelming. so i
walked back over to them and asked if maybe i could just start out the day skiing a
couple runs with them. they said no problem and actually it worked out great. they were
so nice and appreciated being able to have someone to talk to also. we ended up skiing
together into the afternoon. and i even went up to the top of this ski area (where the
scary stuff is supposed to be), but we checked out the guide book and stayed where we were
supposed to. anyway, the skiing was really good and i was surprised how good my legs felt,
even with the altitude (4000m at least). anyway, they’re going to be on the same ski tour
of vallee blanche tomorrow which is very cool. they headed down a little after one and i
just skied around on some different stuff. very good, i took lots of pictures and as soon
as i’m in london and have my computer i’ll get them online. the alps are truly amazing!!

so that was today, which went great. after i sent my email yesterday, i hopped back on
the bus thinking i would go back to the hostel… but oh no. i got on the right bus, but
it was also headed to the ski area at the end of the valley, les hoches, which is where the
world cup was held this weekend. so by the time we got to my stop there was NO WAY to
get off. so i thought “ok, i’ll just ride it to the end and catch it back” but then… i
was like “huh… why don’t i go to the world cup?” so yes… i did. and it was
ridiculous, i got there like 20 minutes before it started, i could not have planned it
better. I SAW BODE MILLER WIN!!!!!!!!! he skied a flawless run. i was right down at the
bottom near the finish line. i could see the big screen and scoreboard perfectly and
probably 10 -15 of the turns at the bottom of the hill. it was the men’s combined event.
bode led after the morning downhill and then he just dominated on the GS. unbelievable!!
anyway it was like a giant party (of course i didn’t talk to anyone so it was just great
people watching for me) it was so cool. so then i headed back (with the masses) to the
bus stop, and was literally the LAST person to get on the bus back to where i wanted. i
was standing on my tip toes the whole time and luckily a woman right next to me wanted to
get off where i did and yelled across everyone to the bus driver to open the door. haha,
also could not have planned that!! just got very lucky! so i headed back to the hostel to
drop some stuff off and then walked down the road again (it’s about a 5 min walk to the
bus station) to find the rental place phil the hostel owner suggested. i arrived again…
in perfect time. the guy had just opened and it wasn’t busy and he spoke english! WHOO!
so i got some skis, they’re not great, but they’re getting the job done and actually i
felt like i skied really well today, so i’m satisfied.

so, feeling pretty accomplished for the day, i headed back to the hostel to read (what i
really wanted to do was sleep, still kind of adjusting to the time) but i heard some
people come in so i opened my door and two australian brothers were in the room next to
mine. ha, they were super nice and i was so grateful to have someone to talk to in
english. we hung out for a good part of last night, one of them had been living in london
recently and had also skied all over the U.S. so we didn’t really run out of conversation
topics. anyway, that’s how the last day and a half have gone. pretty good!! it’s been
very successful so far! tomorrow morning is vallee blanche, but after warming up skiing
today and knowing that the couple from oregon will be there, it is reassuring. i’ve heard the
terrain isn’t too intense, so i might have even skied harder stuff today-who knows.

Tuesday – last night the three crazy norwegians who showed up late on sunday night came
back and had skied vallee blanche twice. unbelievable, they are out of control. as far as
i can tell chamonix redefines what it means to be “outdoorsy.” literally every picture for
rei advertising could be taken here. all you have to do is sit at the base of the tram
that you take to the top to ski vallee blanche (i would butcher the name, so i won’t even
try) and watch all the people show up between 8-9 with their backpacks, harnesses on, ice
picks, climbing gear, ropes, transceivers, helmets… it’s just ridiculous. i got
there a little early because of the bus schedule and just watched people for a while. any
“outdoorsy-ness” i claim became inadequate after seeing that, ha! on the bus to town today
there’s a huge rock and people were just climbing up it, and then i looked up and there
are about 10 paragliders above me just circling like a flock of birds. wow.

anyway i was so glad that the oregon couple were on my same ski tour today. they were
nice and actually helped me figure out where to go to meet with the guide. we ended up in
the same group which was great, along with a very nice couple from spain. our guide, denis
(pronounced “denny” of course), had a good sense of humor and was very nice to us. he
has been a guide here for 21 years and it sounds like he has been all over the world
doing ridiculous skiing/mountaineering things!  i was definitely nervous about the “trek”
that you have to do on the ridge down to the glacier, but it actually was much better
than i thought. they harness you together, i was the group leader, i had crampons on and
they have a permanent rope railing, so actually it was better than i expected.
unbelievable views from the top. i can’t wait to show you pictures. some of the skiing
was harder than i expected, but i think it was mostly because i was nervous about how
uncomfortably close i was to HUGE crevasses. the terrain wasn’t anything harder than what
i have skied before, but the thought of falling made it a little scary. not sure i’ll be
a regular glacier skier. i was also moving around in my boots a lot today, and didn’t
want to cramp them down tight because my legs would cramp. so i didn’t do my best skiing
today, but i did ski vallee blanche, so i can’t be too frustrated 🙂 also, they failed
to mention in the explanation of the ski tour that you have to climb about a bizillion
steps to the gondola to take you out of the valley. after trekking down the ridge (at
12,000 feet you can definitely feel the altitude) and skiing the glacier, it’s kinda the
last thing you want to do. also it’s been really warm here the last two days so with all
the layers, we were all sweating!! it actually feels a bit like a spring day here right
now. really nice out, if it were like this at home, i’d be reading on the porch.

WED – just as i was leaving town to catch the bus back to the hostel last night, the 3 Aussies i met the night before were at the bus stop trying to figure out how to get back. i was able to help them out and we ended up hanging out the rest of the night, playing cards and laughing about the differences in the way we say things. went skiing with two of them today, weather wasn’t great, low clouds and they’re in need of snow, but it isn’t supposed to come until tomorrow. maybe it’s snowing up there now, but the valley is mostly just wet from the melting snow recently. we didn’t ski too hard today since visibility was bad and there’s a lot of ice around, but still good to be up. we’re in town tonight going to get dinner and split the price of a taxi back so we can enjoy the town in the evening (which we can’t do otherwise because of the bus service). anyway the aussies are off tomorrow so i’ll ski tomorrow and really haven’t done much skiing by myself, so i’ll go check out another of the ski areas and have a good last night in chamonix before i catch the bus back to geneva on friday where i’m staying with a family that used to live on queen anne and meeting up with lisbee to hang out on saturday. should be good times!

Chamonix- getting acquainted

just an email i sent to a few people just now. not very nicely written, just a brief update if you’re interested.

hello!
i made it to chamonix last night. the geneva airport was insane! so many people, huge ski
groups and a lot of people trying to get organized meeting their ski group coordinators.
anyway i managed to call phil the owner of the hostel to let me him know when i would be
in. he was meeting a friend for a drink so he gave me the code to the ski room so i could
get it. i had to take a 23 euro taxi ride to get from the bus station to the hostel since
the buses had stopped running, which was kind of unfortunate, but that’s how it had to be.
so i got to my very quiet room at around 9pm and it was a nice relief to make it! this
morning i woke up, met phil and a couple from spain that had stayed for the weekend and
was leaving today. i talked to the woman in some broken english. on the bus on the way to
chamonix there was couple from san franciso who i talked with. the guy had lived here for
a year so he was able to tell me about it. they were very nice.

the view from my room is unbelievable. i think the picture on the website actually is my
room with the double doors out to the deck. so nice! very simple, but i think it’s a good
place for me to stay minus the fact that it’s out of town a ways and the last bus leaves
town around 7:30. so this morning i got dressed and took the bus into town. wondered
around for about 30 mins before finally asking someone where the tourist information was.
i had seen signs but wasn’t able to spot it without some help. went there got some info
on ski places and the tickets. i’m glad i’m taking a day just to get oriented. after i
left the tourist info i have just been walking all over town and found this very american
like internet cafe which is a nice relief. i’ll probably grab a sandwich here for lunch
and then head back closer to where i’m staying to get my skis. phil said there was a shop
that was convenient. hopefully still open when i get there. i’ve master hello, please and
thank you in french but that’s really about it. very glad that phil is english, i plan on
asking him several questions tonight, to make sure i make it skiing in the right place
tomorrow.

i’ve decided i’m somewhere in between all the people here. i’m not the most lost, but
definitely not totally aware of where i am all the time. there are plenty of people
wandering around the town today as lost tourists, so that’s nice to just wander with them.
i’m not even trying to pretend like i completely fit in. haha. also so many of the skiers
look incredibly hardcore, wearing harnesses over their ski pants and such. i think i
found the place where i’m supposed to meet the guides, but i’ll have to double check with
phil tonight. anyway, that’s about it, i won’t be living the night life for sure since
where i’m staying is out of the way and i’m kinda hoping to meet some more people (preferably
if they speak more english) from where i’m staying so we might be able to get a meal or
something in town sometime. we’ll see how it turns out. there are only 5 rooms where i’m
staying and i think only 3, including mine, were occupied last night. anyway i’ll keep you
updated as much as i can, but this place is a little expensive, so we’ll see. ok, well, i
guess i’m off to find some food, skis and maybe go back to the hostel/b&b to read all the
info i got. things are coming together, i’m just taking my time. love you a lot. talk to
you soon!

-Liz

Arrival in the UK #1

I’m sitting at Devan’s after trying to convince the people at the front desk, who look like they are secret service agents, that I really do know Devan and that they should let me call her… didn’t work. I had to wait  in the lobby for an hour and half for her to get back from her day trip. Getting ready to go to bed so I can head back to Heathrow in the morning. Luckily I’m dropping about half my luggage with her, so the trip should be much easier this time (the three block walk from Kings Cross to her place was not too pleasant). But to give you a little taste of the journey thus far here are a few excerpts from my journal (which totally makes me sound like I’m in 5th grade writing “dear diary,” but I thought I’d give it a shot since I was traveling and so far I’ve written far more than I could have anticipated for the first day!)  Sitting at the airport in Seattle, already noting the European influences in the S terminal as I wait for my flight. Do the men really have to wear shoes that nice and pants that tight? I don’t see why that’s necessary. Although I’m anticipating that it will be harder to make fun of European things once in Europe. But the guy eating Doritos over there and wiping his hand on his shirt–yeah he’s American. Just boarded 31K ‘very good indeed’ the stewardess told me. Yes, indeed! I did have to stop myself from laughing at every British accent I heard on the way to my seat. I better get used to it. Suddenly, I find myself sounding less intellectual and sophisticated without the accent. But really I think it mostly has to do with the fact that I’m not wearing a red, white and blue scarf tied neatly around my neck. And then there’s the awkward time when everyone first encounters the people they will spend the next nine hours of their life next to–perhaps fostering an incredible new friendship, but maybe just trying to avoid their drool from landing on your hand. Either way there is the first eye contact with the approving nod or disappointed yet cordial sigh and smirk when your seat partner isn’t the attractive, young man imagined. Still two empty seats next to me–everyone else looks cozy but things are still quite roomy here on the right side of 31K. Looks like I’ll have a row to myself for the next 8 hours and 39 mins. Nice I suppose, although I’m always up for a random conversation on the plane–not for everyone though, Annie 🙂 Oh, I have just received pretzel nuggets that are salsa flavored. Apparently Britain’s answer to airline peanuts. And so the great food begins already! At least these were free–or $800 depending on how you want to view the expense of flying 🙂 Oh, it also turns out that these delightful pretzel nuggets are enjoyed best if eaten before Aug 8th at 7:59. However, it doesn’t specify whether that’s a.m. or p.m., obviously a flaw! Oh, but I was just called “madam” (twice!) and given the cutest can of ginger ale I’ve ever seen, so all is forgiven regarding the unclear expiration date of the pretzel nuggets. So the travels, well, I’m on the plane now as we have long ago determined, we took off toward the south and looped back to the north, but we were east and I saw only the south sound and the suburbs, so I wasn’t able to pinpoint my Seattle landmarks as I usually like to. So, I enjoy row 31 for about 8 more hours when I arrive in London the first time, only to explain to the immigration officer my school program and that I will be back again tomorrow to fly to Geneva, Switzerland. Switzerland, whoo!! Only then to board a bus to Chamonix, France where I will stay for six nights and ski. First, of course, I have to find the place I’m staying, find skis and hope that most of the people along the way speak some form of English that I can understand. Assuming all that is executed successfully, I will voluntarily risk my life by riding up to a ridiculously high mountain peak on a gondola probably ready to fall apart and then strap myself to my ski guide and ski 12 miles down Vallee Blanche. Huh, maybe I shouldn’t think too hard about that part quite yet 🙂 Yes, I’m very excited for it all, but thinking realistically about what the next 10 days hold, lots of uncertainty, but also lots of adventure and God-willing many blessings along the way. Thank you to all those with whom I shared great farewell chats and times of hanging out. Your love, wisdom, support and prayers didn’t keep me from crying when I walked through security, but they encouraged me to walk through and to wave excitedly back to my mom standing on the other side,  and with a smile on my face. What more could I ask for on the beginning of this journey?”

The Beginning

I enjoy waking up every morning to a text that one of my students from the junior high ministry I volunteer with sends me. It always has a random fact or quote. One typical morning at school this semester, as I groaned hearing my alarm go off for my 8am class, I woke to a message that said, “Every moment is a place you’ve never been.” I love it! With my constant state of always wanting to run around and be somewhere new and experience a different place, I had to realize that I experience it everyday, just without knowing it. I needed to change my perspective. Having a basic routine and outline for your day doesn’t have to mean being stuck or restricted by those events and allowing your life to become dull. Yeah, I sat in Spokane all last semester knowing I was going to London in the spring, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t experiencing great things while I was there. I’ve wrapped up my time in Spokane for a while, said a lot of goodbyes, bought a lot of guidebooks, and I am about to have some incredible experiences.

With many travels ahead of me this year (beginning in just a couple short weeks!) I suspect I’ll have many more moments that are enlightening, terrifying, amazing, and overall they will provide me with a greater understanding of our world and the people in it. I’m pumped to see what 2008 holds and a little nervous about this whole blog thing since I’ve never tried it before, but  I’m looking forward to sharing my adventures with you.

I’ve just returned from a couple days of skiing in Jackson Hole, WY (what a ridiculous place!), not to mention a great road trip and many hours in the car with Andrew Ferguson. Next up: London in two weeks, with a week of skiing in France at Meribel before I meet and move in with my host family in London and begin school! There’s a lot of prep to do, but it should be well worth it, and I’ll hopefully feel relaxed, excited and, appropriately, a little nervous once I board my British Airways flight! Bring it on!