Merry Christmas 2008 from Joe and Marlex Memmel!

As the snow falls and our winter wonderland scenes unfold outside, we thankfully wish all of our treasured family and friends a memorable and blessed holiday season and a terrific year in 2009.  Upon reflection, the past year’s events and experiences were especially rich with joyful memories.  We pray that the same is true for you as the year 2008 ends.  You may recall, 2007 had ended with a month long visit from son Chad, and his wife, Ana.  While here Chad studied for and received his commercial (ATP) pilot’s license and Ana practiced Spanish with a vengeance.  During Chad’s check-ride, Joe and Ana had the opportunity to ride in the plane as Chad flew over Puget Sound. The two left Seattle on Dec. 10th, picked up Mango (their 1977 refurbished orange/crème VW Westphalia mini-bus camper), and began the Mexico, Central America, South America phase of their two years of World travel. They enjoyed visiting Rob’s parents (Lanette’s in-laws) and brother in Mesa, Arizona before departing for Mexico.

The arrival of spring found us back in our Whistler condo at mountainside Lodge in B.C. Canada over Marlex’s school vacation.  Lanette, Rob and their two very cute canines (the grand doggies), joined us for half the week, while Michelle took a full week from her extensive responsibilities as e-commerce marketing manager at AT&T.  The snow was great and we all had a super fun time on the upper slopes of Blackcomb and Whistler Mts., as well as visiting Whistler’s many art galleries, walking the Lost Lake Trails, singing Karaoke and dancing at Buffalo Bills, the popular village night spot. Shortly after our return, Lanette and Rob left for Ft. Lauderdale to begin their 6 day cruise to Belize, Cozumel and other western Caribbean ports.  It was a trip that Lanette had won by making President’s Club, a top sales award in her company, Parts Now.  The trip was capped off with a visit to Rob’s oldest brother and his family in Richmond, Virginia.  While there they enjoyed touring historic Jamestown and Williamsburg.  Meanwhile Marlex “baby sat” the grand doggies, daily leaving her school at lunch time to drive the 10 minutes north to take them for a walk. When May arrived we were especially happy to welcome Marlex’s mom and sister, Gail, from Wisconsin.  Gail’s daughter, husband and four children came from Vancouver, WA and the thirteen of us together with eight furry friends (4 cats, 3 dogs, and 1 white rabbit), celebrated Mom’s 90th birthday on Monday, May 5th.  While here we enjoyed dinners out at Lanette and Michelle’s homes, mall shopping, lunches out, and a tour of the Tacoma Glass Museum and its nearby installation of famous glass artist Dale Chilhuly’s exquisite works.  The following weekend Linda and the kids rejoined us, and we had a great Mother’s Day celebration for the three generations of mother’s present.

When school was out in late June, Marlex started summer by once again moving all the contents of her fifth grade classroom (including 40 gallon fish tank with 6 fish and 7 computer stations) to a larger classroom in another building.  Although a second move in two years, the added space in the larger classroom and a return to the fourth grade team was well worth the time and effort spent.  Several other significant events occurred during the summer months.  We happily watched the World Gymnastics finals on television as Joe’s second cousin, Chellsie Memmel, became the fourth qualifier for the US Olympics Gymnastic team.  Unfortunately practice injuries while there didn’t enable her to compete, but she was present to encourage team members to a win.  Another memorable event involved assisting at the Seattle Center, Fourth of July Naturalization ceremony for over 200 proud new U.S. citizens.  Immediately following the ceremony, we joined Rob’s parents and brother visiting from Arizona, together with his aunt and uncle at his cousin’s house in Tacoma. It was a very special Fourth for us, topped off with a delicious barbecue and evening hill-top viewing of several area fireworks displays. Meanwhile daughter Michelle was celebrating with several hundred Peace Corps volunteers in Antigua, Guatemala.  She had flown to Belize earlier to join Chad and Ana to scuba dive at Caye Caulker, enjoy the beaches, camp, and explore Tikal’s ancient Maya ruins and other area features. Shortly after returning to Seattle, Michelle joined Joe and Marlex at the Arlington Experimental Air Show.  They all agreed that Chad would have enjoyed viewing the loops, dips and acrobatics of the show’s flying ace’s.  Somehow Marlex managed to put 88 miles on her pedometer in July (450 miles since February), thanks to trail, track, and park walks with two neighbors and Lanette.   It helped prepare her for the rigors of traveling thru much of Central America with Chad and Ana in August.

Arriving in Guatemala City less than a month after Michelle left, she could write a book on her August experience but will attempt to keep it brief by listing some special remembrances by country.

GUATEMALA:  Camping in a VW Auto Repair Center with a guard dog, armed guard and 15 foot chain link fence providing security while Mango’s stalling problem was awaiting repair. (A gas can cap was found in the drained fuel tank the next day after all other possibilities had been exhausted.)  Bargaining in Antigua’s massive outdoor market; walking among rows of “chicken” buses (old U.S. school buses outlandishly decorated by their owners and used for public transportation, even taking chickens to and from markets); Crazy drivers honking horns incessantly, weaving in and out of traffic; Armed guards with sawed-off shot guns in all banking and shopping areas; hot, humid weather.

EL SALVADOR: Three day stay getting to know the owners of La Perdida hotel on a Pacific beach while Chad tried to solve oil filter damage created by washed-out hotel road entrance.  Wild “chicken bus” ride for 60 miles to get a new oil filter attachment “tooled” (as designed by Chad); Mission accomplished!! Mechanic and Chad are geniuses!  Curving, two lane mountain roads, concrete and gravel pot-holed roads,  beautiful views, evening down pours; eating at hillside compesinos overlooking Santa Ana Volcano’s water filled crater and further south the vast dammed reservoir of Lake Suchitlan; beaches with black volcanic sand; meals served with tortillas for breakfast, lunch & dinner.

HONDURAS: Local village children vying for a fee to guide us safely through areas with fissured, steaming, and bubbling volcano vents in ground; Staying with Peace Corp friend during her first night in her house with no water; touring the Mayan ruins of Copan, the fabulous recreated temple and museum with amazing artifacts; Mango’s stall while crossing a dusty river bed at 100 degree temp.; Boat ride to Roatan with West End stay at Jenny’s beautiful condo next to Lands End hotel (where fellow third grade teacher had stayed just 3 weeks earlier – Small World); Chad & Ana’s scuba dives while Marlex walked, shopped and snorkled for the first time; walking below Pulhapanzak Falls and solitary camping there; least expensive, friendliest border crossing.

NICARAGUA: Visiting Esteli cathedral built in 1548 and every church and surrounding plaza along the way; Having our flat tire with a nail in it expertly fixed by a 16 year old at a roadside tire stand for $1.00; Viewing of the somber “Heroes of the Sandinista Revolution Museum”; Leone belfry climb in the largest cathedral in Central America; Old Leone ruins and guided walking tour; Camping and terrific interpretive center at Volcan Masaya National Parque and climbing 177 steps to peek into its steaming crater; Narrow streets of Managua and Masaya with its plaza pool’s many large turtles (Tortuga) and beautiful yellow cathedral; Picturesque red roof tops in colonial Granada; Ferry ride to the volcanic Island of Ometepe, enshrouded in steam; Walking a gangplank (board) to another boat to reach the dock.

COSTA RICA: Two hour border crossing, fumigation of vehicle with us in it, and armed check points every 5 miles; Thirteen miles of gravel roads to camp and hike in Rincon del Viejo National Parque; Hiked among massive tree roots and boulders, bubbling mud pots, smoking fumerals, muddy stream beds and waterfalls and saw a cute pizote (long tailed, furry creature); Fred’s  hospitality at his lovely Coffee plantation and the flight out of San Jose airport. Marlex is very thankful to Chad and Ana for the almost thousand miles of safe passage and hundreds of shared experiences, while driving to within 8 degrees of the equator. You can follow their journey via www.chanatrek.com  Perhaps Joe, who had bunion surgery while Marlex was traveling, will be able to join them next summer.

In November, Marlex joined Lanette on a business trip to Wisconsin.  After visiting her mom and sister in Milwaukee, the three joined Lanette in Middleton.  The three stowaways enjoyed shopping, touring Wisconsin’s marvelous state capitol in Madison, and relaxing at the Marriot while Lanette worked.  Upon their return to Milwaukee, the four were enraptured with the NY Radio City Rockette’s live production, “A Salute to Christmas”. Joe once again held down the fort and tended to their furry friends while continuing his event work at the Seattle Center. This year’s ballet highlights included the Twila Thorpe Dance Troupe, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Nutcracker, and a Director’s Choice Production.  They both were enlightened by the opera offerings of “Aita”, “Tosca”, “I Trivoloti”, and “My Morning Jacket”. Key Arena events included most Sonics and WNBA Storm games, Thunderbird Ice Hockey games, appearances by the Dahli Lama and Barak O’Bama, and numerous concerts (they enjoyed some more than others) including George Michaels, Kanye West, Dave Mathews, Neil Diamond, the Wheezers, Metallica, and Blue Man Group.  They were also busy with Stars on Ice, the Action Sports World Championships, Gem Shows, and Bumbershoot.  Joe was busy with many more venues too numerous to mention, but both agreed their favorite movie was Mama Mia, due to Abba’s lively music. Marlex was also able to set a personal record by reading 20 books this year.  She’s hooked on Sue Grafton’s mysteries and will soon finish “Q is for Quarry”.  In closing we hope that your past year has been one of numerous blessings, and that your holidays and 2009 will be healthy, prosperous and filled with joyous events.

JOE, MARLEX AND THE FURRY FIVE

Snow outside the house a few days before Christmas Merry Christmas 2008 from Joe and Marlex Memmel!