Archive for August, 2011

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Settling in, riding the bus and summer camp at Google

August 29, 2011

Seattle has been my home for little over a week now, even though I have already left it again for another trip.  I recently added up all the one-way airplane trips I have taken since January (and that includes the time I flew to Seattle via Kansas City and Albuquerque) and by the time I fly back from San Francisco to Seattle on Friday that number will be 17 (gained through 5 round trip trips and the triangle trip of moving (Chicago – Florida – Seattle)).  I don’t want to even think what my carbon footprint will be for this year…  But yes all that to say settling in has been high on my priority list, but of course in typical fashion I only really got around to a serious bout of unpacking Saturday night when I discovered that it was the perfect procrastination tool to avoid packing for my current trip.  But enough about all that you are probably more interested in hearing what I think about Seattle, how things are going at work, have I made any new friends, etc.
View from the parking lot next to my new office.
Well the answer to those questions are essentially – I like it – good, but still a bit vague – and yes (my two fellow VISTAs are quite fun and I think we get along swell so far)!.  Seattle is a pretty gorgeous city, especially in these few golden months of summer.  For example, during my week there, it has only rained one day.  The rest have been warm (almost hot even!) full of blue sky and essentially showing off how awesome it is to be surrounded by water and mountains.
Sunset over the hill at Gasworks park
This past week I figured out my bus commute and learned lots of little things like 1) the buses are  better timed and much faster during the morning rush hour than the afternoon one 2) podcasts really are quite wonderful – my current rotation include This American life (especially one I listened to this week called First Contact, which included the wonderful story of a young American man and his girlfriend who befriended a trio of Iraqi brothers and have had 4 hour weekly conversations with them since 2003), StoryCorp, FreshAir and RadioLab.  Which if you draw the conclusion from that, that I am a bit of a NPR junkie, you would be correct and 3) bus routes that involve only 1 transfer and drop me off literally 10 ft from my office door (they can’t get any closer due to a little thing called the sidewalk) are pretty awesome.
Walking through downtown Seattle to an afternoon meeting
But right now I am not actually in the fair city of Seattle, but sitting on my hotel bed waiting to head downstairs to catch the shuttle that will take us to our first day of TechCamp at Google Headquarters.  While I don’t think we will get any crazy cool swag like keys to the Google Private Jet or our own Segways (I just really rooting for the awesome Google Sharpies I have heard about), we will get to meet with folks from the tech industry, learn about non-profit needs and opportunities and also get training on various technologies.  Other highlights of the upcoming week include eating in Google’s famous cafes around campus, a rumored bowling event and outside dinner and movie on Thursday evening.

I made it to California!

Well I need to get packed up so I can be on time for the shuttle, but I wanted to give you all a brief update on my life on the West Coast.  Overall I think I am still in a bit of denial about Seattle actually being my new residence – seeing as I have only been there for a week, it still seems quite feasible that I will be returning to my “normal” life at any time.  Also I think after the demands of moving and adjusting start to wear off I think I will also probably start to focus on the all important “meeting and connecting with new folks” part, which if memory from previous transitions serve is always one of the harder parts for me.  So I am sure there will still be many ups and downs ahead of me on this transition time, but at least for now I am just excited to be here and about to discover the Disneyworld for techies – Google Headquarters.

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What I would have tweeted during my 4 hour “lay-over” at Chicago O’Hare Airport if I had wanted to buy wi-fi access

August 20, 2011

6:45am Board flight to Fort Lauderdale, and finally allow myself to look through beautiful photo/journal book that Becca and Jess made for me

6:50am Get rather sentimental, although I cheer up after reading the hilarious note written by my cat Lina (translated by my housemate Anne)

7:45am After relaxing 60 minute wait at the gate, the flight is officially canceled due to fuel imbalance mechanical issues

8:30am Good: Lovely re-booking woman gets me the only available flight to Fort Lauderdale still leaving today Bad: Flight doesn’t leave till 12:55pm and takes me through Dallas

8:31am Pretty sure I will never truly understand flight re-routing, previous trip involved Chicago-Kansas City-Albuquerque-Seattle, so Chicago-Dallas-Fort Lauderdale = not too bad

8:45am Call lots of people, get airport shuttle arranged, so far customer service is 4 for 4 in the pleasant and helpful category

9:15am Decide to take the coffee route, despite only 5 hours of sleep, due to inherently uncomfortable airplane seating

9:27am Find new gate and pull out iPod, listen to the awesome mix Becca made for me, am reminded how much I love Peter Paul and Mary

9:41am Play mix still great, however I discover that I am pretty horrible at most non-crossword related puzzles

9:45am Decide to get pictures from the weekend off my card and edit on my laptop.

9:55am After repeatedly wrestling with new but quite cheap carry-on I am successful – photos!

10:15am Editing and reviewing – I have a lot of gorgeous friends and Chicago is a beautiful city

10:40am Out of coffee

11:23am Done editing photos, kind of want a nap, but instead will go wander the terminal for a while

12:05am Finally I get to board a plane and hopefully this time take off!

I did indeed finally make it to Fort Lauderdale and only 12 hours after I boarded that original plane at O’Hare.  Plus in additional American Airlines fun, my new co-workers and I missed our return connection out of Dallas yesterday due to a delayed flight out of Fort Lauderdale.  Fortunately we were able to catch another flight only 2 hours later and they only lost one of my pieces of luggage along the way (which they just delivered to my new address(!!!) this morning).

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I’m leavin on a jet plane

August 15, 2011

Well the time for departure has finally come, I am actually heading out on my big adventure called moving to Seattle. My flight leaves at 6:45am tomorrow morning so the last few days (and weeks) have been filled with packing, shipping boxes, goodbyes, final one night trips with the girls, ice cream and more goodbyes. Up until this past Sunday I had been doing a pretty good job of keeping my emotions under wraps, but finally in church (in front of everyone! (which actually considering how much I hate to cry in public, is a good indication of how much these people and this community have become my home)) and a few times since then I have found tears catching up with me.

But there is excitement too, seeing Alex again, getting to spend time with David, making jam with Katie, finally UNPACKING!!!!!!!!!! It is just hard right now to face goodbye after goodbye, all while reminding myself that life is both changing a lot and not changing at all. I will still have all these relationships with me, but it will just be longer till I get to see them all in person.

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Paddle-a-thon wrap-up

August 12, 2011

So folks, Steph and I did it!  On Saturday we paddled a total of 31 miles in two different countries and in that 31 miles is included 3 miles worth of portaging (which means that for those three miles the canoe was balanced on one of our shoulders while the other carried our shared day pack and assorted gear of paddles, lifejackets, etc).  As several other repeat paddle-a-thoners have said, it is amazing how quickly one’s body and mind forget pain and since it only took until around Tuesday for the soreness to leave my shoulders, the crazy thought is already entering my head of “Man, that would be fun to do again!”  But we will leave that for another time, but for now here is a breakdown of the day.

5:15am Moose Lake

There were 6 groups of paddlers and 1 kayaker heading out on the water on Saturday and 4 groups headed out at 4am, while my canoe and our buddy canoe waited to the luxurious hour of 5am (the different between waking at 3:30am and 4:30am can’t be underestimated).  Despite all my anxieties (ask Steph, sometimes around big events like this I can get just a little nutso) about the “60% chance of thunderstorms” forecast, we had a great day for paddling.  It started off clear and allowed me to get to see that beautiful sunrise over the water that I had been looking forward, but then clouded over and kept us nice and cool during the long paddle home that late afternoon.

6 miles and 2 hours later

Our route took us north out of Moose Lake, for about 6 miles, until we reached our first portage of the day over into the Quetico.  Only 20 rods long (1 rod equals 16 feet) this also marked our last chance to use a real toilet for the day (the Quetico is even more primitive than the Boundary Waters and doesn’t even have latrines).  From there it was another 3 mile paddle up into Sunday Bay where we had our first of our three serious portages of the day, 134 rods.  Then another 3 miles of paddling where we faced down the big one 190 rods (approximately 1/2 a mile) and I was proud that I managed to carry the canoe both ways for this one.  However I will say that type of thing leaves you shaky, slightly floating and incapable of raising ones’ hands above ones’ head.  After that it was a quick paddle around a corner of a lake and then another 140 rod portage to get us into our final destination Agnes Lake and the lovely waterfall where we rested for lunch.

Lunch break at the falls on Agnes Lake

Of course this also meant that after our 30 minutes of rest we hoped (or more accurately slowly lowered ourselves) into our canoes to retrace our route from the morning.  I think Steph would agree that our combined low point came around 5 miles from the boat access point (or around mile 26).  At this point, you know there is absolutely no other option than to just keep paddling, but your body is pretty pissed at you for getting it into this whole mess, your arms have kind of forgotten how to paddle a J-stroke or a C-stroke, there are highly annoying black flies catching a ride in your canoe for the express purpose of driving you slowly mad by repeatedly biting your legs (it is hard to swat and paddle simultaneously), the clouds overhead are blocking any chance of seeing the sky head towards sunset and your navigator (in this case me) keeps misreading the map thinking we are only 15 minutes or so away.  This is when you fall back on the only thing that will save you and someone keep you paddling for those last miles, the thing that is always there for you during late night road trips, or mopey Saturday afternoons, by which I mean of course the complete Sound of Music soundtrack.  Steph and I had discovered earlier in the day that singing quite helps the time go by and also helps us paddle together, so we had already sung through our entire repertoire of hymns, folk songs, etc, but hadn’t yet remembered musicals.  So after we completed Sound of Music (we even attempted the puppet yodeling song, although we could only remember the first 2 lines) we ventured into Lion King and several others, before finally around 6:45pm, we reached the end!

Our gang of five

Finally, I just want to thank all of you who donated! While Steph and I didn’t quite reach our goal of raising $1,000 (we raised just under $900), we were so happy that we were able to raise as much as we did.  So thanks again to all of you who donated or at least thought positive thoughts for Steph and I on Saturday, it made such a difference!

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long silence followed by important announcement

August 3, 2011

Seeing as that is a familiar pattern with me and my half-hearted blogging (just kidding on the half-hearted part, I love you all and am just lazy about updating 🙂 ), I will cut to the chase.  This Saturday I am doing something just a little bit rash and crazy on my part and paddling 30 miles in a canoe!  Back when I joined the board of Wilderness Wind in October of 2010, I thought that I might attempt such a thing.  But see, that was back closer to my previous trip to the Boundary Waters, in which I had done all sorts of affirming things like portage an 80lb canoe all week, learned how to paddle in the back of a canoe (i.e. steer), set up a cook stove and generally keep 6 high schoolers and one other “adult” from killing themselves (and if you really want to know, it was probably the later that gave me more trouble (just kidding Zeb! 🙂 ).

Anyways that leads me to this week, long past the point where I thought that I would use this as excuse to train and get all kinds of buff and much closer to the “what the heck did I sign up for” part.  But like much of life, this too shall pass.  However this is where you come in lovely blog readers, family and friends.  The reason I am doing this crazy thing is because I really really love this organization called Wilderness Wind.  I went on my first canoe trip through this Mennonite camp back as a little recently graduated 8th grader and I went with 3 other girls my age and our marvelously forgiving fathers.  The trip was only a week long trip including the long drive to and from Ely, Minnesota, but that was all it took to get me completely hooked.  Sure part of the appeal is obvious; water, trees, rock and big blue sky, but it goes much further beyond that.

How can you not fall in love?

Where else can you experience the thrill of crossing large bodies of lake with whitecaps to finally pull yourself up and out onto a wooden pier at the end of your trip.  Memories like that stay with you and help build up connections you have not only with your friends, who willingly shared a canoe with you, but to the grand sense of your own small part in the natural world.

End of the trip photo: 2001

Where else can you experience a thunderstorm with only a thin nylon surface between you and hail the size of a dime?
Me and the incredible quarter-size hail

Where else can you cook fabulous desserts with only filtered water, a packet of instant pistachio pudding and some crushed oreos?
Asha and I demonstrate proper dessert making

Where else is this the proper and preferred dish cleaning method?
How to truly clean one's own sierra cup

Where else is playing in a capsized canoe a legitimate afternoon activity?
More fun with a capsized canoe

Where else do you leave your watch behind, spend 20 minutes a day in silence and get to see a treat like this every night before bed?
Yet another Boundary Waters sunset

Wilderness Wind continues to work to provide wilderness experiences that connect with people spiritually, ecologically and in the deep way nature can change how a person views their life. It is a small organization and as I have learned during the past year on the board, every dollar makes a difference. This year marks our 25th anniversary and so we have one of our largest paddle-a-thon teams to date. Over 20 paddlers will be participating on Saturday and each of us has a goal to raise $500. My wonderful friend Steph and I are paddling together and also fundraising together, but we could definitely still use your help. So if you love the wilderness, enjoy reading the blog from time to time, or just appreciate my willingness to post embarrassing photos of myself
Mixing up the base camp orange juice
Please, pretty please, considering donating a couple bucks to this wonderful organization.