Monday, February 23, 2009

"Mr. Lucky" and Some Close Calls

I apologize for taking so long to write this post! My goal is to post a couple times a week and unfortunately that hasn't been the case... But know that I am working on it!

Not this past Thursday, but the one before I found myself at a tennis "mixer", which is basically an event to allow different players to alternate partners and opponents and possibly make new tennis contacts along the way. I was here simply to meet people and network in order to play tennis while on Guam. I was by no means seeking any sort of enlightenment... I guess though it tends to work that way. It never comes when you're looking for it.

During the event, I got paired up with the "luckiest man in the world." He was certainly not a professional tennis player by any means, but this clearly was not the first time he stepped on a court. He was an average player. He could comfortably hit the ball in the court and move reasonably well. As we played through our match, any shots that he hit to win points, although very basic much of the time, he would profess his luck to me and anyone near by. As this went on, I realized that it was not simply a one time thing, it was going to be every time any success happened for our team. This Korean man, we can call him "Mr. Lucky" would say, "I'm so lucky, wow that was so lucky, so lucky, man I am lucky." Even if I hit the winning shot, I would hear," You are good, I'm lucky, but you are good, I am so lucky to have you on my team." He would say such things with a smile and such humility I could not help but smile and laugh even in just anticipating what was about to be said. It never failed; he was so consistent with his claim of luck all through out the match that he had me saying it with him. I found myself wanting him to win the point for us, just to hear his joyous luck proclamation with his laugh of disbelief. His happy and humble chant was contagious. "Mr. Lucky" had definitely made an impression on me. It was not until later that I realized the gift that I had been given. I heard but did not yet understand.

Fast forward a bit to Saturday. This boonie stomp happened to be very similar to the last one. It took place on the north eastern part of the island. We traded hiking a long distance for a lot more climbing, however. While on the trip, I found myself feeling lucky, so lucky.

As we made our way along the ocean shore, the lack of reef around this particular part of the island and the large waves allowed for natural "water rides."(Disney World, keep your lines and your safety) Although we were 20 feet above the water level, the waves were large and forceful enough to send water splashing up and over the edge of the rocky coast. I always liked "water rides" so I had to take this opportunity! I traveled slightly out from the group to where I saw the water splashing on to the rocky coast. It did not take long until a decent size wave sent enough water to leave me soaked. I had not yet been enlightened though.

From here we moved on, hiking along the coast as we had the week before. We came upon a resting point where I found a great new water spot! I watched in awe as certain waves sent water splashing up to 15 feet inland. (remember we are 20 ft above sea level) I had to try this new ride out! I gathered Akashi and Jadon( a freshman boonie stomper--we're recruiting from the dorms) and we set out to take a picture with the wave. Typically in these situations once the camera is out and ready there are of course no decent waves in order to take a good photo. However, soon after we got in position the ocean decided to be a little too cooperative. It had been saving this wave for just the right time. The right time was now. As the water splashed over us, I felt a rush of fear through my body as I unexpectedly got knocked forward. I found myself with chills trying to keep my balance and stay on my feet for fear of the jagged rocky bed that begged to catch me. After the water rushed for a moment of 2-3 seconds, I found myself about 6 feet in front of where I was standing at the start. I maintained my balance and a sigh of relief came. I started to understand a little more about being lucky.

We made our way to our final destination. After scaling a rocky cliff a lot of the way there, we finally were rewarded with a place to repel down and explore some cave space at sea level. Unfortunately though, because of the difficulty of the climb and the abundance of salt water in the air the cameras and packs did not come with us on our climb down. I did though still have with me the exictement of the experiencing the rushing water despite the close call before.

After passing through some narrow spaces, we found a larger opening that allowed us to enjoy the waves. There was a bed of large boulders (ranging from 10-20 feet in diameter) including one that was centered which gave us protection from the crashing waves. On the right of the boulder, we found a place to enjoy the rushing water. Because of the angle the water traveled and the center rock, this side was much more calm than the other. However, I found myself unable to resist. I eventually made my way to the left side with Mike, Jadon, and Akashi, providing some words of advice from a safe place above. (a mix of daring me and remarks about how it looks really rough) I finally made my way in to the danger zone and sat on a boulder gripping tightly. The ocean smelled my fear and decided to make an example out of me to the other guys. If waves could talk, this one would say, "goodbye little man!" In a split second, unable to hold on, I got pushed off the boulder I was gripping. I got washed a bit backward and had a large boulder under me with the water flowing over me and forcing me in to a jagged boulder to my right. Immediately I began to think about the sharp rocks and feared they were gashing my head. The water finally released me after a few seconds. I felt my head get hit on the rocks and asked frantically if I was cut or bleeding on the side of my head. My onlooking friends spoke to me telling me my head looked okay. I could hear a change in their breathing and the laughter that comes from nervousness during a close call. I rushed to climb out of harms way trying to avoid getting hit by other oncoming waves. For a second I think we were all a little shakey. I remained rattled for another 30 minutes after. At this point I started to understand what it is to be lucky. I decided it was time to go and we made our way back to the start of the hike.

After these events, I began to think about what I feel lucky to have in my life. It took a little uncertainty to make me certain of just how lucky I am. I am surrounded by great people. They are among my friends and family. I am so lucky to share life's waves with them.


I am sure you can think of at least one person in your life that you feel lucky or blessed to have. Sometimes we need to keep reminding ourselves of the blessings in our lives as "Mr. Lucky" did. Maybe even take some time to write them out and post them on your wall. Take time to remind the special people in your life that you are lucky to have them. If you keep reminding yourself of these things, who knows, you just might wake up one day and feel like the "luckiest person in the world."

"In the laughing times we know we are lucky. In the quiet times we know we are blessed. And we will not be alone." ~Dar Williams

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ocean View for 4

When it comes to taking walks along side the ocean, I would say that I have had my fair share. I don’t know if it’s the sights or the sounds, but there has always been something therapeutic about such a trip for me. It may be the feeling of bare feet on the sand, the rhythm of the waves, or the vastness of the ocean leaving me with a needed perspective. It has never failed me as an experience of disconnection from the minimal here and now worries to contemplate something bigger. This past Saturday I took a walk along the ocean. I must have taken a left at jagged, rocky, uneven, make your own trail through a mix of vines and thick brush with climbing necessary at drop offs when I should have gone right at carefree, flat, soft, sandy beach. Although it was not the therapeutic ocean walk that I am used to (before when I said an ocean side walk was therapeutic I was thinking mentally not physically, so maybe this last walk was also therapeutic if shock therapy counts), it did leave me with some valuable perspective.

The trip began in usual “Boonie Stomp” fashion (which may or may not be true because I have only experienced one other “Boonie Stomp”, but it was the same as last Saturday so we’ll stick with it). Michael, Akashi, Wilson, and I left the dorms in the morning right around 8:30 a.m. heading to our pre-hike ritual, McDonald’s. From there we made it to the briefing, and then after were making the trip to the start of the stomp which was a located at the north eastern part of the island.

This hike started in different fashion from last weeks in that we went right in to the jungle foliage, and I didn’t feel like the trail was hugging me (but don’t worry the trail ahead makes up for it, or should I say the lack of trail). We made our way descending through the rocky jungle landscape. Using vines, trees, and the occasional stationery rope to help maintain our balance, we moved on a constant decline on our way to the Pacific. We moved at a slow pace especially with a new enemy entering the game. Last week we had to watch our feet for puncture root (large patches of black thorns, think nature’s barbed wire, seemed to be randomly dispersed through the area, they are said to penetrate all shoe soles an exception being army boots). This week we had to watch our hands and what we used as a railing (think about watching for gum or such things on hand railings). We weren’t watching for gum but for the two inch thorns that a number of trees wore (now, I’d definitely take the gum). Every one was very careful though to not have to learn this lesson the hard way. Despite the lingering dangers we made it safe and sound to the ocean.

After reaching the ocean, it was time to take our nice, relaxing, ocean walk. As I said before, we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. We traveled out to what seemed like an ideal rocky ocean side photo locale. Its amenities included a couple of blow holes (the movement of the waves below the holes caused air to be forced up through). This obviously led to a lot of inappropriate innuendos (even when I didn’t try they just kept coming out). We hung out there for a bit and then decided to continue the opposite direction a long side the ocean with some of the more experienced stompers as some returned up the trail away from the ocean. Much of the way (as opposed to trail which is usually cleared and marked) had us stepping on jagged rock beds much of the time covered in coarse vegetation. Ahead we encountered the aforementioned drop offs and the mix of vines and thick brush. It was here that we had no choice but to be “one with the earth.” Although the good thing about it was there was definitely no confusion as to which was the right trail. It was very simple. Follow where it looks like somebody just tore their way through the bushes.

We finally arrived at the furthest point from the start about two and half hours in to the hike. Many got out their snacks during the pit stops. After some time here, we made our way back towards the trail leading to our truck. On the way back, we stopped and climbed down to take a much deserved swim. The climb down to the pool was a little unnerving with a jump down on to a boulder below. The pool was basically an indention in the rock face with large boulders in place to form somewhat of a horseshoe shape. The pool really sucked (literally). I guess that’s what happens when your pool has ocean currents running right through it. We went through a constant cycle of relax, “uh oh here comes a big one, GRAB SOMETHING!”, to relax again, etc. After cooling off at the pool, it was time to leave the ocean behind (as much as you can on a small island surrounded by a big ocean). We made our way back to the original trail towards the start. Before we got off the trail about midway up, one of our guides, who owned part of the land we were on, was serving up some grapefruit and tangerines found in the surrounding area. The fruits were welcomed, especially by the many who had extinguished their water supplies. From there, our citrus high carried us to the finish. We had our complimentary lemonade (seemingly a staple of the finish, prepared by one of our guides in a large 5 gallon cooler), took one last photo, got in the truck and were on our way. Stomp # 2 is in the books.


Don’t be afraid to step outside of what you think is your comfort zone. You may find out that you’ve sold your self short. If someone would have explained this trip to me before hand, I may have not decided to take it. I am glad I did though because I learned that when your standing in the thick of it, covered in vines, surrounded by jagged edges (waiting for your misstep), with an occasional drop off, covered in dirt and a few bleeding scrapes (battle scars), it’s really not bad (which is something I would not have guessed from the outside looking in). Don’t underestimate your ability to handle new situations. You’ll end up watching others have all the fun.

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." ~Richard P. Feynman

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Down in a Cave

When I think of caves, I think of bats, snakes, spiders, and other miscellaneous creepy crawlies. Then there are the small spaces and the cave-ins. I have spent really no time down in a cave so maybe I have taken Indiana Jones' word for it... I really have nothing else to go on. Until NOW! This past weekend I went on something called a "Boonie Stomp". A "Boonie Stomp" is pretty much just a hike on Guam. Because many of the trails are overgrown or less than grooved, it is just like it sounds, going out to the "Boonies". I experienced my first of hopefully many this past Saturday which went to a cave on Guam. There are different groups that do the hikes, but the main one meets in a central part on the island at 9 a.m. every Saturday to give a briefing and directions. From there, Akashi, Michael and I made it to the starting point of the stomp with the other 25-30 people. It's a definitely a mixed group in which we stood out. Partly because of our age, but mostly because of our questionable attire. We traded long sleeve and pant protection for shorts and t-shirts, and hiking boots for our cross trainers. The distance wasn't very long but with the mixture of thick brush, ascending and descending rock floored jungle hills, and the over/under jungle vines it took a while to go a little. Not to mention the extra care to not faceplant in a spider web. This spider that we kept seeing I was told was not poisonous, which made me feel slightly better about sharing my face's personal space with it so often(emphasis on slightly).

After finally making it to the final destination, I used my pack as a seat cushion and took a break while most of those on the stomp made it in and out of the cave. Finally, Akashi and Michael decided to go in the cave, not something I was super excited about since I had really just come for the hike and not the cave. The cave opening was about 6 feet across and 1-3 feet tall. It looked like a rough rocky mouth of the jungle floor hungry and waiting, I couldn't wait to get in(*insert sarcasm*). I convinced myself with a simple "why not" and a shoulder shrug to go in to the belly of the rocky jungle beast. To my surprise, the cave opened up a great deal once I climbed down through the initial opening, claustrophobia didn't stand a chance here. To my even greater surprise, no snakes, bats, spiders, or other creepy crawlies to be found! With each new discovery, "Enter Cave" is moving higher and higher on my list of things to do again. We decsended about 80-100 feet down in to the earth very carefully, seemingly playing an adlib game of "flashlight-no light" on the way down, since we had one flashlight for three people. I learned that down in the cave the man with the flashlight is king. We made it down to the bottom area of the cave to find one of our guides, a military man, is cooling down in a natural rain water pool. Believe it or not I am actually starting to like caves at this point. I mean if I was on the run, needed a hide out, and could get some light going in this cave maybe, just maybe I would be okay with living in here. Okay probably not, but I wouldn't mind coming back and exploring it at a later date.

We make our exit after cooling in the pool for a bit. From there we make the trip back to the starting point the way we came. After about an hour or so, we make it back to the truck. Before we get back, we are already planning our next stomp and cave adventure. It was safe to say at that point my feelings toward caves had changed. The total trip with breaks and other site detours was about 4-5 hours. The first stomp was now in the books, and who knows maybe I have even increased my rank to journeyman stomper. Score!

We left the other stompers only to run in to some of them again at a nearby barbeque stand that oddly enough serves Bratwurst, called McKraut's. We had a nice relaxed lunch in the open air and made our way back to home base, the UOG dorms. I was still wet from the cave pool, but I have become a fan of what I call "Guam Quick Dry" a.k.a the back of a small pickup truck. I have been spending a lot of time in truck beds in the past 3 weeks and I think I am actually starting to enjoy it. Needless to say we made it home safely, stomp #1 in the books, stomp #2 here we come.

*P.S. we stopped at a beach and I found some coconuts on the way home...


People make assumptions. It's something we are all proned to doing and they can many times be helpful time savers depending upon the kwoledge they are based upon. They can also prevent us from a fulfilled life. I had certain assumptions about caves because I had only hollywood images and no real experience or other prior reading/research. Don't let your own or other peoples assumptions stop you from reaching your desired destinations whether it be down in a cave or reaching for the stars or something in between. Read, research, talk to people who have done it or been there, and experiment. The chances are the life that you really want is being lived by someone else right now somewhere around the earth. They didn't get there by assuming it wasn't possible or by listening to others assume it. They believed it was possible and failed enough to learn how to get there.
"If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance." ~Orville Wright