Adventure on the River Kern, part I

The grey raft returns “Cindy!” my mom exclaimed as she looked up from cleaning the campsite. She was obviously happy and a bit surprised to see me.

“Your dad has been asking for you. He says he ‘wants his Cindy’.”

Dad gave me a look. He looked tired and a little darker after swimming in the river for most of the day.

“You guys shouldn’t have gone down the river… You don’t know how worried we’ve been.”

As he continued, Danny walked up, still wearing his life jacket and holding a bright yellow inner tube.

He went on with his fatherly duty and did his best to knock some sense into his two eldest children.

“I’ve been here all day and every time I saw someone rafting or kayaking down the river, they were all wearing helmets and life jackets. Those guys are experienced, they know what they’re doing! You guys went down without life jackets, helmets, or even a clue about what you were doing. You’re very lucky you were all able to walk back in one piece.

“You don’t know how helpless I’ve felt sitting here. I had no idea whether you guys, your cousins or Heather and Lindsay were safe.”

My mom continued cleaning up. Danny and I stood silently listening to our father, something quite rare. Dad was right and we were reckless. We’d just added a half dozen more canas to his salt and pepper hair.

Dad spoke from more than just the worried father’s point of view. He also spoke from experience. When I was 8 years old, we made one of many Labor Day weekend trips out to Kern River. I remember rafting down with him, my mom, and two cousins. We all had life jackets, except for my dad who had a false sense of courage partly due to several beers.

We pulled our yellow and blue raft up the river toward a fork. The western fork was much more rough, but we tackled it anyway. We had some trouble. We got lodged between two rocks, my dad got out and tried to dislodge us, but at that moment was pushed by the current and slammed against a boulder. The alcohol numbed the pain that day, but he was out of commission for a week thereafter and could not move. His ribs were been bruised.

“It could have been worse,” dad finished after recounting the story.

I knew he was right. There was a reason the river was called Killer Kern, but I didn’t regret the decision I made earlier that afternoon when Rene asked, “we’re going to raft down the river in a little bit, do you want to come?”

Note: originally posted at my blog…


My blog has issues

Note: Originally posted at my blog

For some strange reasons, my blog is broken and it’s not my fault, at least I don’t think so. I don’t know what could have changed in the last week or so. HP thinks it might be someone who doesn’t like my ideas trying to hack in to my site. His other theory is that the increased traffic from Ask a Mexican might have done something too.

I’ve had issues since Friday. I’ve submitted a request for assistance with the tech support for my host (siteflip), and checked the status of my SQL database in cPanelx. I’ve backed everything up, but am still worried I could lose more than a year’s worth of writing. Yikes.

So, for the time being, I won’t be blogging much until I get my tech issues worked out. It’s probably a good thing, I have a lot of work to do for school, work and GSA.

Don’t miss me too much. If you do, there’s always flickr.


Venting 1.0

Note: originally posted at my blog… but I have issues. Sigh.

Every single time I check my blog, it looks different. Sometimes it is completely blank, other times it looks like it should, and ohter times it’s somewhere in between.

This is frustrating. I miss being able to publish to my colorful and personalized blog. Even without the technical difficulty, I know I had slowed down a lot. I hardly ever post over at blogging.la. I miss the sense of community of blogging, the tongue in cheek comments, the battle of wits from the Chicano corner, making fun of HP in “public” (I do it over IM all the time), and the words of wisdom from folks like Frances.

That’s all the venting for now. I really need to get back to being a student and reading Pierre Bordieu’s Distinction. It is time’s like these when I both love/hate the fact that the difficult part of my “job” as a full-time student means reading sociology classics translated from French. I’m lucky that hard is reading long sentences (what I’d call paragraphs) from a guy who loves commas and hates periods.


Leap of faith

Up, up and awayI’ve been part of half a dozen leadership teams, staffs or boards of directors. As a result, I’ve attended and planned dozens of retreats all about getting to know each other, developing our leadership skills and learning to work as a team. Sometimes the retreats worked, and other times we still had issues. Either way, I still feel I know something about working in a group and bein a leader. I’ve learned compromise, trust, creativity, delegation of tasks and division of labor, planning, communication (especially listening!) and honesty are all extremely important.

I woke up early on a Saturday morning reluctantly. I showered, dressed and picked up Oiyan and headed to the GSA Leadership Summit at UCLA’s Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. A little after arriving and getting some juice and a bite to eat, we followed two staff members Waldo and Kira, out to the challenge course. Some of our challenges were easy and others had us nearly tripping over ourselves. In the toughest challenge, Waldo split our group in two. Four people were allowed to see, but could not speak to or touch the other group. The second group of about a dozen had to have their eyes closed, but we could talk. It was the mutes leading the blinds… and it was not easy to figure out how to communicate to each other. A few bright people in the blind group started asking questions and asking “three claps for yes, one clap for no.” After maybe half an hour the blind group figured out the non-verbal instructions from the mutes and we found ourselves sitting on a log and having completed the following silly tasks:

  1. We all had one small stuff animal.
  2. We were all holding on to a rope while sitting on the log.
  3. Two people had transferred water from one bucket to another.
  4. One person had blown up an inflatable blue bunny and given it to Kira (a staff member).
  5. A couple people had hula hoop around them.
  6. We all sang a song (Happy Birthday to You).

After lunch, we went out to the course again. Rather than play games, we strapped ourselves in harnesses and helmets and did the “Leap of Faith” high ropes course. Three people each served as belayers on the yellow and blue ropes. If they suddenly let all the rope go and stopped belaying, the climber could fall and be seriously injured. Everyone else stood around and offered support for the climber. Kira made sure the climber was properly hooked on and strapped in to his/her harness. And the climber made his/her way up a short ladder propped up against a 30 foot tall telephone pole.

I don’t blame the two who sat out for doing so, since the task was definitely not easy. Climbing up a 30 foot pole is rather easy since you have a latter on the base and then have steps and grips to hold on to as you go up. The final few steps are the most difficult. Everyone stopped there for to take a few deep breaths and mentally prepare themselves to take a step on to the tiny platform at the top of the pole. Once you get two feet firmly planted on the 1-foot in diameter platform, you need to stand up straight and turn 150 degrees in diameter to face the trapeze. Everyone did the turn slowly and did their best to keep their balance.

I was one of the last to go up. I climbed up quickly without looking down and once at the last two steps, I stood with my ankles and lower legs pushed against the pole for support. I said a quick prayer as I slowly stepped on to the pole. Below me, the rest of the group watched and cheered in support. I felt my knees shaking, my heart beating very quickly and would not let myself look down for too long. I looked out at the field beyond us rather than look down as I mae the half turn to face the trapeze. It looked way too far. I didn’t want to jump and then miss it, so I asked Kira to push it closer. And then with my heart beating really quick, my knees shaky, and the rest of the group watching and cheering, I leapt toward the trapeze.

I caught it. They cheered. I let go, “okay, let me down.” Once down, Kira unhooked me and I walked away with the same adrenaline rush I got after parasailing in Mazatlán, climbing to the top of Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán, dancing for a few hours straight the Izcalli ceremony, and doing a little bit of white-water rafting in Kern River.

Afterwards in the debrief, I thanked Monica (president) for planning a rather effective day. It was great to see us work together, and support one another throughout the day. I told the group at the end that my leadership activities was one of the main reasons that initially kept me from dropping out of school. I can’t be a student leader without being a student. The group made me glad to stay.