A Cautious Adventurist

Winter, 1999. I’m sitting, or really, collapsing on the south face of Brundage Mountain, in McCall Idaho. My gloves have been haphazardly strewn several feet behind me, I’m freezing as tears flood my face-mask. I’m not hurt, not really, but by the looks of it, I warranted several worried inquires as fellow skiers and snowboarders passed by. Then again, I was in the middle of the trail-I knew I was making a scene. I unclip my board and anchored into the snow, burying my face into the sleeve of my ski-jacket. It wasn’t a bad spill, and besides, I was used to it-my fall to successful navigation ratio was near 1:1.  But I hated it, I hated the clamped feeling of anxiety knowing I might fall or lose control; speed was not my friend, it never has been. And yet here I was, headstrong and determined to be good at this despite every instinct to stay in the lodge. My Dad, ever patient stands near me, waiting for this “episode” to pass, he knows I’ll get over it, and how he stood there on more then a few occasions as I cursed at my snowboard and anything related is beyond me. But I get up, I finish, and slowly I get better. Not fly-down-the-mountain on a double black better, but easily navigate a blue, and that’s enough for me.

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A Strange Day

The sky was strange this morning. Directly above, clear skies. Yet ominous clouds threatening rain circumscribed the brilliant blue above me. The air was unusually stagnant, the soft omnipresent breeze that normally provides relief to the staggering heat-humidity was gone.  Even when I woke this morning, something felt off, yet I couldn’t place what. I wandered the 50 meters from the guesthouse to main farm office. The normal murmur of activity was missing, aside from muffled sounds of sheep running through the fields; hardly anyone seemed to be around. I sat on the bench in front of the main office waiting for the trotro to arrive, watching ants meander back and forth on the pavement in front of me. The trotro, which arrives every hour, appeared in the distance, but it wasn’t slowing down. The driver stuck out his hand waving back and forth, signaling it was full, I would have to wait. I slid back into my seat, ready to wait out yet another hour when a car pulled up with someone who worked on the farm offering to take me to the next junction, where I could grab a trotro to Madina station, and then onto the University. His timing was perfect, relieved, we set off.

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The Westerners

Alex and I sit awkwardly next to two Americans as they yell at our cab driver at the Wli National Park. From Hohoe we had found a share cab to the falls and picked up two others who happened to be from the US. The ride was filled with pleasant conversation, the usual “where are you from, why are you here.” When we arrived however, the mood dampened. The driver had told us 1 cedi a person, but when we got out, he said he actually ment 2. As in 2/person, not 2 for both. We all assumed he was trying to rip us off. After all, this happens an unfortunate amount. He came inside the guide office where our fellow cab-mates continued a yelling match. It became quite clear the problem had been language, we paid, thinking it was settled. But the other girls wouldn’t have it, out of principle, they claimed. And I have sympathy for them, I too am a bit jaded from the constant mark up for westerners, which is the norm in all developing countries. Then a woman in the office uses the argument we’ve heard before, in Peru when a tour guide almost tricked us out of $40: “You’re rich, it’s nothing to you.” Of course, this set one of the girls off, who throws her hands in the air and exclaims “fuck this country, I can’t wait to go home.” Though she did eventually pay. And the temper didn’t end, on the tricky route down, she slipped on some loose rocks-most people do, we were lucky not to have fallen, and as she hits the ground in a controlled fall, its clear she’s done. She screams more profanities about the country and lack of tourism infrastructure and cries. All of the emotions of the day, fueled by physical exhaustion, I feel for her. But I have to say, this is a bit dramatic. As we leave the park, we tip our guide well, certainly, he deserved it.

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In the Rainy Season

It is the rainy season. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when it poured all day yesterday. Normally (and especially in Accra), it just drizzles for twenty minutes then stops. Not yesterday. And of course, I was on a trotro winding my way up into the hills when the bulk of the storm hit. Trotros are notorious for breakdowns (irritating) and crashes (frightening). And as I stare out my window watching the web the rain forms in front of my eyes, I watch the median, which I’m separated from by a thin sheet of metal. Given my recent adventures with transportation, I don’t expect this to go well. But, in fact, it was uneventful, thankfully. The driver slowed down, after seeing a smattering of cars lining the ditch, and maintained that speed the remainder of the trip.

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