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This summer has been an intense learning experience for me. I expected to learn how to be a rafting guide, and I sure have learned some hard lessons. But more than that, I have learned other awesome hobbies and life experiences. What I am discovering is if you are interested in learning, the opportunities are out there.

YOGA
One thing I have been wanting to get into lately, due to some old roommates, is yoga. I had two friends that lived in a two apartment house with me, both were heavy into yoga, one was even a yoga instructor. Our time together in the apartment was limited, and after they moved I rarely saw them. I had a few times I meant to attend a free class in my home town, but ran out of time when I began this rafting job.

When I got down here I met a lot of people, one of the first people I met turned out to be a yoga instructor also. We hit it off well, and decided to start doing yoga for beginners.  The space on property is limited because of the highway and the river, so we had to be imaginative when deciding where to go with a yoga class of six.

Our rafting buses proved perfect. The buses are normal school buses, only with a large flat service built out of wood on top of the buses, much like a patio. The reason the boats are constructed this way is so that we can load anywhere between three and nine (150-200 lbs) inflatable rafts to the top, and strap them down on the sides and drive on the highway.

This flat surface was great for my friend to face us (the class of four or so) and run through his usual yoga routine. I knew you had to be flexible to successfully complete most of the yoga moves, but I never realized it would kick my butt! My first yoga class was intense. I was sweating and nearly out of breath when the instructor informed us we were ready to move out of streatching and into the routine!

Since then I have been more intentive with streatching before work, and working my core to help relieve the strain on my lower back. Let me tell you what a difference it has made in my life!

JU JITSU

When I was a 14 or 15 my younger sjblings and I were enrolled in a 13 week Kung Fu class. My sister and I excelled. We both had great lower body strength as well as balance. Once that class was over I wanted more, but life got in the way and it got pushed into the background, a longing never to be fulfilled.

As it turned out one of my co-workers (who was raised in the Virgin Islands) had been a long time practing Ju Jitsu martial arts student. He had never done any teaching, but was up to the challange.

A female friend and I took him up on his offer, and meeting him on a tarp laid down on a small patch of grass available, started to run through the basics and simple drills. My friend is only a 5’5″ or 5’7″ 23 year old female, 98 lbs in soaking clothing, but what we learned in the first class made our male co-workers have more respect for her and I both.

WHITTLING

While sitting around the camp fire, or sitting in a circle of friends I find my hands are constantly looking for something to do. Now, I know how to knit, but I’m not about to sit in a circle of friends and knit, instead I want to take up whittling. This is the only one I haven’t really started yet. My co-workers and I are involved in a summer long whittling contest, but I still have yet to sit down and figure out what to make.

HIKING

Living in the Smoky Mountians there are lots of opportunities to hike. I haven’t done as much as I would like (I already live outdoors, I don’t really have to go anywhere to be in nature), but there are a few climbs I plan on doing, including some hiking on the Appalachian Trail (a mere seven minute drive from my summer home).

COOKING

Working a high intensity, very active, often stressful, and always unique job (in several ways, including the changing water levels and thus the rocks that are exposed or hidden, as well as new strangers in your boat every trip), doesn’t leave much time, or energy, to want to cook.  However I made a commitment to myself that I would eat right and exercise often (I’m running a couple times a week to prepare for my 5k in New Hamphsire in September). Because of this commitment I am trying to cut way down on microwave dinners, of any kind, and use of the microwaves at all. Not only does it expose you to harmful radiation, but microwaves also saps the meal of its nutrion and vitamines.

All of this is easier said then done, especially while living in storage barns in the woods, but if you’re creative, you’ll never starve.

One trick I learned in Boy Scouts was the use of tin foil.  We called them tin foil dinners, others know them as hobo dinners, either way all you do is chop up a bunch of vegatables you want to eat (ex. Potatoes, onions, carrots, corn, zuccinni) you add in meat (usually beef, but suasage works too), add all the seasonings you like, and about half an hour later over hot camp fire coals you have a meal!

The summer heat and humidity is on us (only to get worse in August) so campfires are slim, so I started cooking more pastas and salads. People often remark that I have great food all the time (as they eat over there bowl of microwavable Mac ‘n Cheese).

CARPENTRY

The one thing I am most proud about accomplishing so far this summer is reuniting with carpentry.  When I was younger I would always help my grandfather while he worked in his woodshop and around his house doing yard work. When I was younger I didn’t necessarily know any better, but I do remember times I didn’t want to be doing wood work.

Oh how I wish my grandfather was still alive and he could teach me all the things I didn’t realize I was missing out on learning!

My home this summer is, as I said, a storage barn. My room (which is shared with a roommate) is an 8×10 foot room. When my roommate and I first moved in the room was set up in a frustratingly small way.

After training was over and I had a free day, armed with a hammer, a handful of nails, and a hand saw I attacked my room rearranging and rebuilding it to better fit my roommate and me (who was there to help, but I was in charge and really getting into it, and barely used my roommates help).

Never to be one to turn down someone else asking for help, my next free day went to war with my friends storage barns, and built shelves from scratch, sawed the bunk beds to better fit, and added several nooks and crannies for their use.

I now have my name out there as a carpenter, and I hope that my grandfather would be proud.

There are many other hobbies I also enjoy, running, writing, reading, photography, and newly discovered, paddle tricks!  With so much vying for my time it is sometimes hard to focus on any in particular. But I am learning that you make time for the things that are important to you.

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Every trip, every journey has its own experiences, memories, and scars, the good along with the bad.
I have scars on my left arm and face from accidentally burning myself while in the kitchen as a camp counselor. I have scars on both feet from my sandles last summer working as a life guard. I have a tattoo on my left ankle from while I was in Macedonia traveling with my little sister. And now I have a scar just above my tattoo from where I had a break out of poison ivy.
Many people are ashamed of scars, try to hide them, but they are what makes us, us. Each scar has a story, whether you remember them or not. Each scar came from a certain experience and with its own memories. Scars should be embraced, they shouldn’t be repressed.
Regret and guilt are useful emotions, when used correctly. But regret keeps us from moving forward, and guilt clouds our vision. In my past I used to regret a lot, but it wasn’t till recently I came to understand, life is short. Cliche, I know, but so true. Life is dammed short, and we get but one chance at it. No one is perfect, no one makes all the right choices. Why kill yourself over something that you realize now, in hind sight, was wrong. That regret won’t change anything, just remember the experience, and change things next time.

Working as a raft guide this summer has really broadened my view of life. Everyone is from a different place, we all have different up-bringings, and differnet outlooks on the world. But we all connect, we all know we are different, but we accept and even expect that.
This summer will be a summer that will forever be remembered. In a coming post I will be writing about “A Raft Guides Philosophy on Life,” and will try to sum up all the awesome qualities that make this community not only work, but last.

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote, “A mistake is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.” Moral of the story? Let go of regret and guilt, and learn, after all, that is what life is about.

The easy going South

While being down here in the South, I realized up North we are a very hurried folk. We walk quickly, talk fast, and expect results, now. But down here in the South, things move slower. Maybe its the heat and humidity (which in itself is something foreign to my warm dry summers in Maine), or maybe down here in “The Dirty” people want to take time to really appreciate life.

Not to say that up North people don’t appreciate life, the lazy going South isn’t for everyone, just as the rush of the North isn’t meant for all. I just appreciate the differences.

I am constantly writing about how it hasn’t felt that long that I’ve been here, 22 days, but already our small summer family of 80 or so are close and friendly. We all have similar outlooks on life, to the point its almost eerie, which I believe is the reason why we all fit so well. We are also all knowledgeable in so many different ways, we will sit and just talk for hours!

To some, the front porch living of the slow moving south is underwhelming, but this is a high energy and demanding job, yet it feels like vacation at the same time, with plenty of down time and chill people to hang out with. In other words, its a perfect job.  But I will say, its not for everyone!

Week One, Done!

Its crazy to me how, no matter where I travel, when people are all thrust into the same situations (ex. Being far from home, not knowing anyone else, and having never done this kind of thing before), how quickly and seamlessly strangers can come together.

I started my summer Saturday (The 11th) when I set out on Greyhound, arrived here Sunday night, and started training Monday morning at eight. Monday through Friday we all (18 total), worked from eight to five, learning completely new skills, learned new things, and really got to know one another. I have technically only been here for six days, but already the other potential guides and I have become good friends. White water rafting isn’t as dangerous as somethings out there, but my fellow trainees and I have a new and humble respect for the water, and what a truly powerful entity that it is. Because of this going down the river has been unifying.

Together, all of us previous strangers, have to work together to get effectively and safely from Put-In to the Out-Post, while learning to be the best that any of us can. We learn from each other, help one another, and all around just bond.

There are people from all over the country working here, and even one Scottish born European. There are several people from Colorado, California, a guy from Washington, a gal from Michigan, a collection from the South, and despite the fact that we are all similar and work well together, we are each unique and offer something special to the table. Our collective skills include Yoga instructor, boulder enthusiasts, photographers, traveling experts, wilderness emergency responders, rafting veterans, nurses, one guy makes and sells hammocks, and mine personally, amateur massage therapist.

As one, we are an amazing group. Most of us have Bachelors if not Masters, and for the ones that don’t, they are still currently in school. If something needs to be done, or someone has an issue with something, we just need to ask around and one or more of us have the equipment or know how to help out. And the best part? We are ALL more than willing to help out!

Training is officially over now, but this next week we will all be doing Turkey Runs (a group of just us potential guides and no senior guide) and Ride Alongs (a potential guide, a senior guide, and actual customers) down the river. We keep this up until we have been “Checked Out” twice (do enough ride alongs and can confidentially maneuver the river with no added help) and then we will be official guides.

The short journey it has been so far has been absolutely mind blowing, and I can only eagerly await what I know will be more adventure to come!

First Day

Having officially finished my first day of white water rafting guide training, I feel confident in saying, I LOVE IT.  I have had my fair share of jobs, several seasonal summer jobs In multiple places, but never has one so struck me. Everything about the job, the rafting, the other guides, the local mountains, have thus far been amazing.
It is still Day One, but I am looking forward to what’s to come.

The first thing that I noticed is that everyone else here is like me. We are all mostly twenty-something year olds, most of us have a degree in something, and about everyone I have talked to has done a little, if not extensive traveling.  In short, we aren’t ready to “grow up”.   That term, “growing up” sure has been changing lately, but that’s a post for another time.
Another thing i realized is that I have SO many opportunities to do things down here. White water rafting, zip lining, cave exploring, mountain hiking, hiking, camping, traveling (Nashville, North Carolina, Georgia), and more exploring thank could wish for!!!

We will see what happens.

As for my first day, I was timid at first. Last night, after having ridden on Greyhound for 25 hours, I arrived in Tennessee and it was colder than I expected. Last night the temperature dropped to 40 degrees or less (tonight is expected to be colder). And I am not complaining about my housing, but I will say they are not made for cold weather… at all.
This morning when I got up, the temperature was not much better. The water was bone chilling. At that point the only good thing I can say is that my body got numb faster, cutting off much of the feelings in my legs.

The first run down the river we were considered guests, I was nervous, my body hadn’t numbed yet, and I was still timid.

The second time down we were expected to do some guiding. I was nervous, but found my years as a child doing canoeing really helped me to “read the water”, and without much incident, we all made it down having done fairly well.

The third time down the river we knew what to expect, our bodies had thankfully lost all feeling, and we knew most of what was expected.  However, we had more incidents than the first two times (but in my opinion it made it more adventurous!!!). One guy fell out of the boat (the first and only for the day, poor guy), all three rafts got stuck on rocks at one point or another, and having feared for loosing my contacts all day, in the last half hour or so, the inevitable happened.
I lost my left contact, but not to waves or water, but because of a branch…
The current dragged us to the left side of the Pigeon River, but as we did, we were dragged through a bunch of twigs and branches. Seeing a potentially hazardous branch sticking tight towards the raft, from my third seat back, I used my paddle to knock the branch out of the way, but because I was watching four feet ahead, I didn’t notice the branch hanging in front of my face.
With eyes wide open the branch expertly knocked me in the face, ripped my contact off my eyeball, and laid me flat against the raft.

Just another lesson learned, another memory for the keeping.
Ill call my day a win.

But before I go, words of advice, DON’T FORGET TO TIP YOUR RIVER GUIDE! 😉

Bound For Tennessee

This past week I have been preparing for leaving this coming Saturday, and as usual I have been busy with last minute inevitable errands.  No matter how far ahead you plan and get ready, no matter what, towards the end, things will be busy; complete packing, saying farewell to friends, and finishing books.  I love to read, but traveling with books is heavy and takes up a lot of space, and I refuse to leave with stories unfinished.

Per usual I know very little about my coming summer plans.  I found my white water river rafting guide by searching “cool summer jobs,” applied, and within the month secured the job.   I will be in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee guiding rafts down the river.  The first week I will be training, and the first couple weeks I will be learning the ropes.  From Memorial Day to Labor Day the river is open four days a week, offering me plenty of time to explore and travel around to the local area, and hopefully as far as Nashville.

I spend many months out of the year away from my home in Maine, and because of such, I end up leaving, a lot.  One would think that it would make it easier the next time it came to saying good-bye, but I have found that it has the opposite effect.  Saying good-bye only gets harder and harder each time.

However, I am a committed explorer, and I take the good with the bad.  And traveling offers too many pro’s to really concern yourself with the con’s.  I live for the thrill of trying something new for the first time.  I enjoy exploring new places and different territories.   And I love tasting new food.  Variety is the spice of life, and I embrace this view of life to the fullest!

Rafting on the Arkansas River, Colorado, USA

Rafting on the Arkansas River, Colorado, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

First Post; New Blog

Recently I was encouraged to start blogging, it is a great way to hone my writing skills, as well as working on making my flow of thoughts more coherent, in a non-aggressive manner.  Some of you will remember my old blog, http://kyung-gun.blogspot.com/, and though I liked my old blog, 2 years have passed since my last blog, a lot has changed, and I am ready for a new direction.

I plan on using this blog as my public journal.  A way for many people to stay up to date with my travels, reviews on movies, thoughts on controversial issues, etc.  Basically this is a blog where I will write about anything that seems pertinent at the time.

As a viewer/reader feedback is welcome and appreciated.  As I said I want to work on my writing skills, critique will help me to become a better writer, and more coherent in my flow of thoughts.