Today, I am back in Shanghai. It's hot and humid, with deep blue skies - a rare treat. I'm sitting at my desk, hearing the hum of hundreds of cicadas in the trees, an enjoying a few minutes with the joy of an air conditioner.
Two weeks ago, I was in the driest place I can remember - rafting the Green River through Desolation Canyon and Grey Canyon.
The trip did not go terribly well, and the not-going-terribly-well part started well before I even got to the river.
My flight from Shanghai was on a Monday. On Friday night, walking home after dinner with friends, I tripped over a grate. What would normally be an awkward moment and maybe a stubbed toe turned into a ridiculous three-second prat fall: I was wearing wobbly mary jane clogs with over-stretched straps, and just couldn't get my feet back under me.
The duration of my fall was long enough time for one dining companion to see what was happening and yell: 'No! No! Cate! No! No!' before I hit the ground. Pretty it was not.
The crown jewel in the whole situation was that I managed to fall into a low wrought-iron fence, which caught and ripped open the top of my left ear. I lost a chunk of ear cartilage before hitting my head on the ledge and finally landing on my knee and hand.
So here's a no-fun thing about China: No cabbie will pick you up if you're bleeding. If you want to go to the ER, you need to bind up your own wounds in order to get transportation. We maintain a fairly serious home first aid kit for this very reason.
Once I had my Vincent Van Gogh look all set, we went to the hospital. 12 stitches later, my ear was back in once piece. After a no fun weekend, I got on the plane to Portland.
My Dad met me at the airport, and three days of shopping and packing and loading the van started. The shopping and prep and two of my three favorite parts of river rafting. I love cooking while camping, and river dinners are super fun since weight isn't a huge issue, and you have some ability to keep things cool. Coleslaw in the desert on day four? Yep, you can do that!
This is just some of what we loaded into the van for the two-day drive to Duchesne, Utah to start the trip.
Next week, I'll be back with a postcard about why on earth my family does this, the boats and gear that make it possible, and why you shouldn't forget your lip balm.