Thursday, July 24, 2008

Don't call cuz I won't answer...

If anyone is looking for me in the next 10 days or so I may be at any of the beautiful places pictured here or any other number of exotic locations. I have wanted to go to Costa Rica for a long time so I am very excited to finally fulfill this travel wish. I'll come back with some beautiful pictures of my own and good stories to go along with them. Until August, my friends!

The Dark Knight

I decided that I really didn't want to leave for my trip before seeing the new Batman movie. I'm glad that I had the day off and that our plane doesn't leave until tonight. This morning Heidi and I headed down to the IMAX theater at Jordan Commons...we had heard it was the way to go for this movie.

This movie is amazing!! If you haven't seen it yet, get out of your bat cave and get to the theater! Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker is soooo disturbingly brilliant! I've been a Heath Ledger fan since the good ol' "10 Things I Hate About You" days but this truly is his capstone performance. It's a tragedy that we have lost his talent. I would whole-heartedly endorse an Oscar nomination and win for him.

And of course, who doesn't love Christian Bale? By far the best Batman in my book. Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) is great, as is Michael Caine (Alfred) and Gary Oldman (Lt. Gordon) but he was great too. Maggie Gyllenhaal is not my favorite but definitely a big improvement over Katie Holmes.

I loved Batman Begins and I dare say the Dark Knight is even better. So a definite 2 thumbs up and 4 stars from me. I'm really glad I saw it before leaving!

Monday, July 7, 2008

River Rat part 2

I almost spent one third of the month of June living on the Green River...and LOVED it!! I've been home from my last adventure for almost a week so I figured I'd better get something posted before life carries me elsewhere.

From June 26-30th I had the privilege of participating in the Un-limb-ited Amputee Whitewater Rafting Camp. We took 10 teenage amputees from 4 different states on the Lodore Canyon stretch of the Green River. We had 8 counselors on the Shriners side as well as 7 staff from the National Ability Center. I had never been on a multi-day whitewater trip before but let me tell was awesome!

We put a lot of preparation into the camp and it came off pretty much without a hitch. As the resident social worker, my main job was to run the nightly group discussion around the campfire. I was in cahoots with our resident rec therapist of the trip, Andrea, and I have to say we pretty much kicked butt!! We did a Native American (NA) theme for the trip and tied the daily crafts/activities into the nightly topic for group discussion.

After a very long bus ride to the remote put in location in Moffat County, CO we loaded up the boats and took off. The first day was pretty chill...all flat water but we still managed to get wet with some massive water fights (a pervasive theme throughout the trip!) We got to camp and got set up and then had the campers make our tribe flag incorporating NA symbols and other things they wanted to use. I was pretty impressed with their flag and thought the tribe name was hilarious. They named us "Those Who Use the Groover." Click here if you don't know what a groover is. Anyway, our first night's discussion centered around group guidelines as well as personal goals. Everyone was given a medicine bag and introduced to the idea of earning a different bead each day as they worked towards their goals.

Day 2 was good. We had a few little rapids but still mostly flat water. It didn't take us all too long to get to our next camp. This camp had a nice long wide beach but it was hot out so we threw up a shade canopy and some umbrellas to chill. I was able to wash my hair and take a river bath...go Camp Suds! It was luxurious. Once the sun went behind the canyon wall we started our dream catcher activity. Let's just say there's a reason I don't often do crafts. It took me like 500 hours to do mine and I couldn't even follow the real pattern for the weaving. Oh well, at least I finished it! That night at group we talked about hopes and dreams and everyone was able to share what their dreamcatchers represent about them. It was an awesome group discussion and I was impressed with how people were able to express themselves through the craft. Maybe there is something to this rec therapy stuff after all!

Day 3 started our big rapids. We hit Upper and Lower Disaster Falls kind of without knowing it. Then unfortunately one of the NAC river guides totally sliced his finger down to the bone so we had to make a stop for our camp nurses to bandage him up. It was really bad! Then we hit our biggest rapid of the trip (Hell's Half Mile). It was awesome!

Our campsite that night was near some reported mountain lion sightings so we were on high alert. The river guide had to be taken further down river to be evacuated by a ranger because of his finger injury. The day's craft was tribal masks...painted/decorated on the outside to represent how others see us or their perceptions and the inside to represent how we see ourselves or our true selves. This was a big hit with everyone that participated. The group discussion was about fears and limitations (those others put upon us and those we put upon ourselves.) Everyone shared the tribal mask they had made and again, I was so impressed with the expression and openness and honesty.

Then during a lull in the discussion one of the counselors yelled "There's a SKUNK!" and a little creature scurried through the campfire. Well, pandemonium ensued and it was hysterical!! I had heard word of a prank happening that night so I didn't freak out. Instead I got to sit back and watch everybody else's reactions. It was probably the funniest thing I had seen in a long, long time. I was laughing so hard I was crying and couldn't catch my breath. People screamed and ran away...or for the kids that couldn't get up fast enough...rolled away! I later learned that Angie (the camp nurse) actually pushed one of the more fragile campers out of the way in her hurry to escape. HI--LA--RI--OUS!!!!

After the group was composed again, we finished up the night sharing the story of the great explorer John Wesley Powell...himself an amputee. It is an inspiring story of perserverance in the face of challenge after challenge. The kids really related and dug it. I think it was our best group discussion of the trip.

Day 4 was fun...most of the Shriners counselors ended up in the same boat so it was fun to get to know my coworkers better. We hit the confluence with the Yampa River and saw chances in the geology as well as water flow. This was the hottest day of our trip but also fun because we ran into more rapids...not as wild but longer and just fun overall. Unfortunately our boat missed the campsite for the night and long story short we all had to go to a different campsite a bit further downstream.

There was little shade there and LOTS of mosquitoes (we had been plagued a few other nights as well) so things were kind of miserable all around. The craft of the day was hemp necklaces incorporating the beads everyone had earned each represent the cumulative experience and achieved goals of the trip. We had a super late dinner followed by group without a campfire. Everyone was able to share what the experience meant to them. Each camper and then counselor was able to cut a piece of the flag to take with them which was kind of cool. Overall I think we exceeded expectations for the crafts and the group discussion. We got good feedback.

Day 5 was fun...lots of rapids one right after another. We had a bit of a scare flying over this huge rock, which almost flipped the boat. Then we got stuck in this wicked eddy right behind the rock and it was crazy trying to get out. We had to high side twice to avoid flipping but it was pretty cool.

I was sad and glad to see the trip end. It was such a great experience for so many reasons. Some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen, wicked rapids, big horn sheep butting heads, neverending stars, yummy dutch oven food, new and/or strengthened friendships, LOTS of laughs, and some of the most amazing and inspiring teens I have ever met. What a blessing...and to think I got paid for it. I hope I am lucky enough to be involved again next year. In the meanwhile, enjoy a few pics from the scrapbook:

Sunday, July 6, 2008