Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Wasted Opportunities (or How I learned to stop raging and be patient)

I suppose one of the things I find most annoying about my personality is that I'm too quickly jaded and cynical. Its certainly not something I'm proud of, although I sometimes feel superior to others when I'm not surprised by the absolute poverty and destitution I sometimes work in. Its not that I'm numb or immune to it, but perhaps I expected to see the worst, whereas others didn't? A recent example is when my partner Elisabeth and I accompanied some International Honors Program (IHP) students to a relocation site for the evicted peoples of the Sabermati River Project.

The camp itself is a travesty. Entire families have been given simple plots of land that is most likely smaller than the room that you're sitting in. 10 by 12 feet. No building materials were given, so most people have scavenged bamboo and tarp to create roofs that stand about 4 or 5 feet off the dirt floors. The sanitation systems in the camp are misnomers. Hardly a working toilet and a handful of taps spewing dirty water for the thousands in the camp.

There is a “school” in the camp that has been set up by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), the government body responsible for the Sabermati project. This is less a school than a thinly disguised farce. It consists of three teepee structures in a clearing with 3 undertrained teachers teaching upwards of 30 students per tent. It is understaffed, underfunded, undereverythinged.

The IHP kids are mostly sophomores and juniors in college, and were rightly outraged by what they saw. Elisabeth and I, having been subjected to the disappointments and frustrations of development before, took it in silence. We moved past the outright indignation and were analyzing what the next step was, while these kids (its hard to call them anything else) were railing against the injustice, questioning the teachers why there weren't supplies, better facilities, etc.

About this time, two shiny new vehicles rolled up. Out stepped a number of journalists and photographers from the Ahmedabad Mirror. They were there to distribute kites to the school children, as Uttrayan, the major kite festival, was later that weekend. The school children - having been evicted from their homes, forced to live in shanties, forced into a mockery of a school - these kites represented normalcy. These kites were a reminder that life wasn't one shitkicking after another. That maybe, despite everything that had gone wrong in the past year, there is still hope and joy in the world.

All of that sailed well over the IHP kid's heads. Immediately upon seeing the kites, having only learned about the school supply shortage minutes earlier, they set upon the Ahmedabad Mirror people with fervent indignation. Their first question to the Mirror surprised me with its brashness: “How can you give these kids kites when they don't have pens and pencils for school?” Gut-punch for the Mirror folks. The Mirror folks were happy to distribute the kites (and take some pictures), knowing the immense cultural implications of kites on Uttrayan. Now they were rudely subjected to the American Inquisition, courtesy of three suburbanite White American 20 year olds.

I could only shake my head. The IHP kids had a point that the school children had a dire need for supplies, but holy hell did the IHP kids go about advocating for them in the wrong manner, and to the wrong people. The supplies for the school, as well as the eventual homes for the families, are supposed to come from the AMC, not the Ahmedabad Mirror. Surely, had they thanked the Mirror for supplying the kites and made a polite request to them to maybe supply the kids with pencils and paper. They could have easily made the connection between educating the kids to read and the Mirror's basic economic neccessity: readers. What a pitch! It would be hard for the Mirror to pass on that logic. Instead, the Mirror folks left visibly dejected, having their good deed tarnished by arrogant tourists.

Perhaps its because they're young, naïve, and idealistic. Perhaps its because they haven't been jaded by experience. Perhaps its a lot of things. I was probably the same way when I was 20. I've seen a lot in the four years since, and I've learned quite a few lessons. One of the most important lessons I've learned is that the ability to use tact, diplomacy, and cultural awareness is paramount in getting things done. For me, that translates into digesting the offense, suppressing the outrage, and understanding all of the angles. The IHP kids, in their haste and fury, failed to capitalize on an opportunity to get the school children their supplies.

I suppose that was the saddest part of the day for me.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Holy Sh... I'm in India

I was just chatting with a friend back home about everything and nothing at the same time, when he asks: “So how is it living in India?” A routine and usually inane question, and my instant response was equally mundane. “Its good, settling in, things are normal.” A second later, the ridiculousness of my statement stopped me in my tracks. I had forgotten the uniqueness of my situation – I'm in India.

I'm a midwest white boy in India. I spent my first 22 years rarely leaving the midwest, with only the occasional vacation to break things up. I'm in India – the home of my favorite foods, of saris, of Siddhartha, of the Taj Mahal (WHICH I'VE SEEN!), and of Gandhi (WHICH I'VE SEEN HIS OLD ROOM!)... Its easy to get lost in the routine, even if you don't have a 9-5 job. I'm in India.

One of the things I'm usually most proud of myself is my ability adapt to new situations. The novelty usually wears off pretty quickly and I'm able to focus on what I'm there for. Here in India, its my heritage map deliverable. I've been cruising through my time here, and I need to catch myself from time to time and really understand the opportunities that surround me. How many people live their whole lives wanting to go to India? To New Zealand? To Australia, South Africa, Eastern Africa? To the olde country of England? I've been to all of these places, and in each one, I've shrugged off the uniqueness of my situation. Perhaps my ability to adapt should be tempered with a true appreciation for how lucky I am. Being cynical or too easily adaptable isn't anything to be proud of.

I'm listening to KiD CuDi on the balcony of my apartment, surrounded by the sounds of India as I write this. The blaring horns of cars, motorcycles, and rickshaws. The chattering of Gujarati, Hindi, with random English words thrown in. The lowing of the cattle in the streets, the barking of the dogs, and the chirping of the birds.
How could I forget where I am?

I'm in India.
How cool is that?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Resurrection and Wakeup Call

Its been almost a year since I last posted. Too much has occurred in that year, so I'll just use this to host my new adventures. I'll start with my most recent experience in India.

I've written before of my uplifting experience in Uganda: playing with the children in the slums and on the rugby field as we've practiced; working with small entrepreneurs; and farming and tilling on our sustainable farm. I've written about my experience in the slums of South Africa, how ingenuity and a vibrant informal economy allow people to exist in a relative comfort. I've written about my time in the poor neighborhoods in the Dominican Republic, how a sense of community can overcome most anything. Its now time to write about my time in India.

The past few days we have been spoiled by my advisor. He has taken us to his beautiful home (which qualifies as a full-scale mansion), taken us up to the terrace of his restored haveli in old-city Ahmedabad, flown kites, and drank chai. Today, we did more of the same, and then we (the four of us and Preeti) cooked a meal at our place, had him over and had a wonderful time. A friend of his, who professionally climbs mountains, joined us, and we had fascinating conversations about adventure, the human spirit, and development.

After dinner, my advisor, who is a renowned philanthropist, asked us to join him on a trip. In Ahmedabad, there are hundreds (probably thousands) of people who sleep on the sidewalks every night. Unlike DC, there is nearly one every 10 meters. Our trip was to hand out blankets to these people, as they often sleep with only burlap, and it has been an unusually cold winter. My advisor has done this before, albeit at 2AM when everyone is asleep. Tonight we did this at 11:30, so most of the people we would hand these out to were still awake.

This was our mistake.

At our first stop, as soon as the car had come to a stop, there were swarms of people outside of the car. We cracked the window to be able to hand out the blankets, and instantly there were two dozen hands clamoring for something, anything. We started handing out blankets as fast as we could, but we had caused a frenzy. There was pushing, pulling, wrestling, and all manner of struggle over the subjectively precious commodities that we were parcelling out. To us, these blankets cost 20 rupees, roughly 40 cents. To them, it meant a better chance at survival, either through warmth or selling.

I saw the human condition at its worst. I saw mothers clubbing children to get their blankets. I saw infants set on the side of the road, abandoned by their caretakers in favor of a better chance at a blanket or two. I saw the stronger women and men hoarding up to five blankets, having taken them from smaller and weaker people. I saw children bawling, women shrieking, and men pushing and shoving. What I saw, was pure desperation.

I saw the most base human instinct, survival, in all its grotesque power. Its most base and naked form, pitting those with the very least, against those with impossibly less. Those who exist with nothing but a dirty set of clothes, a burlap sack, and if they're lucky, a ragged pair of shoes. I saw pain, fear, anxiety, greed, and desperation. Tonight I witnessed what is on the other side of need. Well beyond want and further past need is Desperation.

Desperation is ugly, it is scary, it is incomprehensible.

It is why I'm here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cambridge is old.

Due to my not feeling particularly verbose and the fact that I now have access to quality, cheap internet, I have decided to post a photo essay instead of stories.

Cambridge is fun.

So last Tuesday I headed to Cambridge to meet up with my friend Danae from Creighton. She's currently on a two year scholarship studying a combination of Political Thought and Journalism.

The bridge of sighs, St. John's College.
Arch, St. John's College.
Courtyard, Trinity College.
Courtyard, Trinity College.
New Court, St. John's College.

St. John's Chapel
Old Door, Trinity College.
King's College Chapel.
The view from the top of St. John's Chapel.
On top of Cambridge. St John's Chapel.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Oh, this thing...

Well, its has been ages since I last logged on. A tremendous amount has happened although I've lacked even the smallest inclination to update this blog. Maybe I have commitment issues, or maybe I just never really had the motivation to update. Part of the problem, especially with the latter half of my Uganda trip, is that I could never figure out how to put my experiences into words. Quite a bit has happened in the last month and a half: I'm no longer in Uganda, I was home for about three week, and now I'm in Rugby, England (Yes, there is a Rugby England).

- Set up the foundation for two savings circles.
- Played in a 15s game and 10s tournament (the only white player in 250)
- Participated in a rural MP campaign for my friend Julius Nkwasibwe.
- Attended a Ugandan wedding which had to cost more than my wedding will.

- Parents flew me home as a Christmas present.
- Surprised my friends in various ways.
- New Years was a successful repeat of the Mannix Family Kegger of years past.
- Dentist appointment.

My first day in England was less than awesome. Those of you who are familiar with my misadventures will appreciate this:

Landed at Heathrow and was hassled at customs. Apparently you need printed proof that you're leaving the country, or else they think you're trying to immigrate. Like anyone would choose England over AMERICA!! (emphasis added). So after 15 minutes of trying to validate my oneworld ticket with the very cute customs official, she smiles and says, I have to get my supervisor. True panic sets in: there is a show in Australia called Borders and they show people getting rejected entry through customs all the time, though its usually for trying to bring drugs or actually immigrate. The supervisor listened to the cute customs agent explain my situation, took one look at me, and waived me through. Crisis #1 averted.

I tried to call the number of the contact that I was given.
I soon realize that the number is illegitimate, as in, I was contactless.
I manage to use my terrestrial navigation skills (map-reading and direction asking) to find my way to the tube station,
take that to the Euston station,
wander around for 20 minutes trying to find the right train to take me to Rugby,
find an automated ticket machine,
pay 17 pounds,
realize that I bought a ticket from another train company,
try the ticket at the right company's stall,
it worked,
relief (Crisis #2 averted),
missed the train,
wait 30 minutes,
board next train,
check with conductor to ensure that this is the correct train,
find that this is an express train,
my ticket is for off-peak travel not express travel,
conductor informs me the price difference between the tickets is something like 30 pounds,
conductor pity's the poor American (Crisis #3 averted),
ride train,
fellow passengers give evil eye for my large bags which take up 3 seats,
too tired to care,
depart train,
try calling contact again,
ponder options,
remember OLs are practicing,
hail cab,
tell driver to go to Old Laurentians clubhouse,
driver starts driving,
10 minutes later realizes he doesnt know where he is going,
calls friend,
driver went to wrong side of town,
arrive at OLs clubhouse,
the fare reads 18 pounds,
driver says a fiver will cover it (Crisis #4 managed?),
kit up and practice with the OLs.

This was my Thursday, on Saturday, I was kitting up with the Thirds on our away game. We played Kenilworth, which is about a 20 minute drive, which I'm told is an average length for an away game. Naturally I'm upset, as an average away game means at least 5 hours one way playing with Metropolis. When we arrive at Kenilworth, I notice that the average age on the opposing team is 40+. That said, we do have a few older guys on our team in the Thirds, including Sharpie who is 57. Seeing as I just arrived in country, I as on the bench, and got in the second half at outside center. Played pretty well, although the field was soggy and sloppy, which translated into a slow and sloppy game. The lack of fitness for about 95% of the participants added to the molasses slow gameplay. We ended up winning comfortably 32-15.

The next game was another away, this time one of the furthest drives in the Thirds league schedule, 40 minutes! This time we traveled to play the Spartans which have their pitch right next to the Belfry golf course, which is supposedly a big deal for golf enthusiasts. The ground we played on was half as dry as the week before, leading to more than a little trouble with staying upright or reaching anything higher than second gear. This game was even slower and sloppier than the previous week. This week however I started and played the full 80 at openside flanker. In a game as sloppy as this one was, expecting clean attacking ball as a back would be futile, so I stayed in close to the rucks and had a hand in just about everything. I came within inches of scoring my first try but was held up. Set up another two tries, and had a blast at flanker. We won again, this time 26-7.

Heading to Cambridge later this week to see my friend Danae.

Monday, December 6, 2010

What I Miss:

Saturday marked 9 months away. Thats a full human gestation period. Its weird to think that I've been gone for so long.

A hodgepodge list of things that I miss:

- Chipotle (far and away the top of the list)
- Sesame Chicken (Great Wall and Rice Bowl)
- Five Guys burgers
- Buffalo Wings/anything buffalo
- Good beer (Ugandan beer is average, and most Australian beers were buckets of yuck)
----- Fat Tire, Sam Adams, Blue Moon, etc.
- Mexican food. Enchiladas, spanish rice, refried beans.
- Chips and Salsa.
- A nice steak.
----- A1 and Montreal Steak Seasoning.
- Gatorade
- Video games
----- Modern Warfare 2, Halo 3, and anxious to play Black Ops and Reach
- Driving on the RIGHT side of the road.
- Fast internet (YOUTUBE! How I've missed thee)
- House, Office, Community, Glee, Daily Show, Colbert Report, etc
- Friends
- Family
- Legends Bar & Grill
- The Tavern on France
- Pepperjax
- The Crescent Moon
- Hot showers (we don't have hot water in Uganda, which is fine 75% of the time)
- Snowboarding
- My blackberry.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Impis 10s slideshow

9 months in and we're getting fancy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The semis and waxing poetic

So we didn't quite do as well as we'd have hoped. We ended up making it to the semi's, although we were summarily dismissed by our opponents. Our quarterfinal match was against another fairly rag-tag group who posed little to no threat to our defense at all. Upon recollection, I don't believe they were ever in our half for more than 15 seconds, and never passed into our 22. The score was a lot (forty something) to a little, another blowout for the Makerere Impis! But the joke was on us in the end. Having played 3 powderpuff teams in our run up to the Semi's, we were woefully unprepared to play against an actual team, which is what we ran into. As I mentioned in the previous post, we were probably the 4th or 5th best team there, and the gap between ourselves and the top 3 was made frustratingly obvious.

Our semi final match was against the UTL Kobs (Boks spelled backwards, aha!) and they were the 3rd best team in the tournament. I was playing scrumhalf again. We were amply mentally ready for the game, and started off well: scoring the first try a little over a minute into the match. A solid tackle by our prop allowed me to poach the ball, offload to our flyhalf and send the ball to the wing, a quick phase later Romano, our big lock, was able to brush off a tackle and break away for a 40m score under the posts. Spirits were high and we were ready to keep the pressure on. Unfortunately on the ensuing kickoff, we lost the ball at the breakdown and they spun the ball to their wing who beat two defenders to score. Conversion missed, but we were a bit deflated. Never-the-less, the game was young, and we were still ahead on the scoreboard. That is, until they took two phases off the restart to get the ball to the wing again who simply rounded our defense to score again. Two tries down in a matter of seconds.

This is where our lack of testing in the previous matches came to hurt us. We hadn't been tested or tried in any form by the previous teams. We weren't prepared mentally to come back from such a blow. We tried to regather, huddling and reaffirming ourselves to getting serious, but the Kobs kept piling on the pressure. We were able to stop their forwards, but they were all to happy to spin the ball out to their danger-man winger, to whom we had no answer. I'm pretty sure he scored 4 tries in the match, and set up another. Our schedule guaranteed us the 1 million shillings afforded to those who made the semifinals, but it also ensured that we didn't go further.

All that aside, I've been extremely blessed to have found Impis. In addition to having been able to keep playing rugby throughout my travels and notching another continent on my rugby belt, I've had the privilege to play alongside and befriend a good number of people. As with America and Australia, all rugby players are essentially similar. They are fast mates and its a hard bond to separate. I don't know exactly what creates that inseparable and near universal attraction amongst rugby players.

Maybe its the affinity for putting oneself on the line for another; the penchant for good humor and strong backbones; chasing the sublime satisfaction of victory through mutual exhaustion; the respect earned by both friend and foe; the reconciling of on-field disagreements over a shared round of beer; or maybe its the accumulation of the intangible aspects of all of these. There is truth on the rugby pitch. Imposters and selfish players strike discord with this truth. There is an unspoken virtue to playing rugby. Valor, honor, courage, sacrifice, all words associated with warfare and combat, are found in lesser functions on the rugby pitch. They are less severe than in war, but no less noble. It is the respect earned through picking yourself off the ground, when your muscles scream of fatigue. It is the camaraderie of throwing your arm over a teammate as you walk off the pitch, regardless of result. Its the mutual attraction to the thrill, the risk, the danger inherent in each tackle, ruck, scrum, and maul. Its the shiver of nerves when the whistle blows, the moment pre-game shifts to the real thing. Its the rush of dotting down a try, the torment of conceding one, the innate pleasure of executing a set play, the pain of a crunching tackle, the ecstasy of a hard fought victory, and the agony of any defeat. Its all of these things and the sum of their combination.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Makerere Impis 10s

Today was the first round of the Makerere Impis 10s tournament. Impis is the team that I play on, so we we're hosting the tournament. Its mainly a Ugandan tourny, although there are 3 teams from Kenya (more on that later). We've been practicing for this tournament for the better part of 5 weeks and since we're the hosts, we have been working hard to keep from being embarrassed at home. Luckily the draw was very kind to us and we cruised through the first day.

It was an early morning, as we had to assemble at 7:00AM and it takes me roughly an hour to get to the field from Nansana. That meant a 5:30AM wakeup call. Sibulungi (Luganda for bad). We were the first match of the day at 8:30, so we started warming up around 7:45. Then something occurred that I've never experienced at a rugby tournament: bomb-sniffer dogs came and swept the field. In addition to the dogs, all 200+ people in the complex were evacuated and forced to re-enter single file past the dogs, being wanded, and frisked. All of this is due to the Al-Shabab terrorists who set off two bombs during the soccer World Cup final at the other rugby complex across the city. This meant that there was a contingent of roughly 40 armed guards stationed around all day. I was reminded that I actually made it more likely that they would attack, because if there is one thing that Al Shabab hates more than Ugandans, its Americans. Luckily, today was free from terrorism. Here's to hoping tomorrow goes safely as well.

Our first game (8:30) was the epitome of intimidation: the other team didn't even show up. A forfeit win. Not the best way to start the day, but it counted as a tick in the Win column. At most tournaments I've been to, that would be all that there was to say about this game, but as you can imagine from the auspicious start, this tournament was filled with a ton of surprises and twists. Instead of the referee calling the game, and giving us the win, we actually had to play the game. That is, we kicked off, recovered, scored, and kicked the conversion... all sans opponent. I asked the referee “what happens if we knock it on, with it being their put in?” He simply shrugged and suggested that we not. Still curious as to what would have happened... maybe the ref puts the ball in an unopposed scrum? This opened a whole new world of hypothetical rugby (quite literally).

Our second game (11:30) was, to my relief, an actual match against actual opponents. We were eager to prove ourselves in front of our fans. The team we were playing wasn't a professional looking outfit as none of them were wearing the same color shirt, let alone jerseys. Their playing style matched their kit, and we were able to dominate the set pieces which set our backs free to run around. I was playing scrumhalf, and the domination of our scrum and line-out allowed me all the time in the world to deliver clean ball. Katso, Tamale, and Davis (flyhalf, center, fullback respectively) were able to dutifully get the ball out wide to Bronco, our lightning fast wing who packs a potent shoulder charge as well. Using Bronco to gain no less than 30 meters every time, we were able to implement our expansive gameplan and rack up quite a few tries. In the second half, we had an attacking scrum about 35 meters from the line with a large blindside. A quick wink to Katso let him know to exploit this as soon as I fed the scrum. The ball went in, I went to the back of the scrum, picked it up, saw the opposing flyhalf scrambling around the scrum, threw the most effective dummy I think I've ever seen, the opposing flyhalf jumped, stumbled, and fell down, I headed towards the posts, stepped inside both the center and fullback, with 5 meters to go, felt myself being tackled, tucked the ball, and with the generous assistance of our center, was pushed over the line for a try. Glorious day. Unfortunately, the new boots that I bought the day before had created quarter sized blisters on both heels, and coupled with the rolled ankle I sustained on my awe-inspiring try, I subsequently substituted myself.

Our third game wasn't until 4:30, and having finished our second at noon, we had plenty of time to relax and take in the rugby games. There are some pretty amazing teams here, and the level of play is generally pretty high. In terms of rankings based on history, our team – Impis – would rank about the 4-5 strongest team, although we're looking to change that on Sunday. One of the most exciting teams is one of the Kenyan teams: Mwambe. They have Collins Injera, Humprey Kayanga, and about 3 other guys from the Kenyan National 7's side which is top 6 worldwide. To say these guys are are fun to watch is like saying that the Celtics playing in your YMCA league is “just ok.” Having made the semi-finals on Sunday means that we might end up facing them, which will be “interesting.” Another interesting thing about the tournament is that there was a DJ playing music all day. I can't recall another tournament that I've been to where there was Tupac and/or Rhianna playing at all hours of the day. Because our basecamp was next to the music and the music was more than audible, it made a great atmosphere. Add to this a huge crowd by mid-day, and the air was electric. I'd wager there were almost 800 people by the late afternoon for the final matches.

Our third game was against a different Kenyan team. Due to all of the bench players starting, I found myself sitting on the bench, which is the worst place on a rugby field. I was slightly disappointed, but I wasn't the only starter who was sat, so I swallowed my pride and sat on the white plastic chair of frustration. This team was better organized than our second game opponents as they had jerseys (and infinitely more organized than our first game's), although that didn't help their defense. Our team strolled through for 4 tries in the first 4 minutes and never seemed threatened on defense at all. At half-time, we were sitting pretty with a 6 try lead, so the coach rolled in the subs, and I found myself at flyhalf. Unfortunately, nothing special happened to me, only made a couple tackles, didn't score, but was a good distributing pivot and our backs ran in another 4 tries in the second half.

Quarterfinals tomorrow, if we advance to the semi's we guarantee ourselves a 1,000,000 shilling prize. But we're hoping to win the whole thing and pocket the 4mil prize.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Trips around Uganda, floating down the Nile.

We've taken a couple trips outside of Kampala, which are for the most part checking out how other NGOs work. I've also traveled (most recently) to Kaliro to visit Pastor Ben's village (Pastor Ben is our Ugandan CEO) and Jjinjja on the Nile. There was also a sneaky little day trip to Entebbe for a rugby game thrown in as well. The trip to New Hope, which is a great place, started much as CLD was, but with 20 years experience to learn from. We saw what CLD could become with time, dedication, and a bit of luck. The trip was mostly to see how a large scale NGO works, although we were lucky enough to speak with a number of senior staff and learn about their history. Hopefully we will be able to learn from their mistakes and triumphs, to salve the growing pains of CLD.

Another trip we took was to Gayaza, in which we met with an established savings circle. This has been the major aspiration of my time here, to enact some sort of micro-finance system to allow people to better their lives. The savings circle, which I detailed in previous posts, was an amazing opportunity to learn about a true success story. These women have been together for over 5 years, have a tremendous amount of working capital, and through tweaks to the models I've studied, have built in both an accountability and insurance structure. Truly an eye-opening experience, and it gave us the ability to bring women from Katonga to witness this structure, so now we will hopefully be able to start circles in Katonga and the TOL sewing shop.

Most recently, we took a short 36 hour trip to Jinja, which is a resort town on the Nile. This was an unnecessary but welcome little vacation. Jinja is the land of mzungus. With the exception of the staff, 90% of the people I saw there were white. It was definitely a bit weird to be surrounded by so many white people. Many of them were English and South Africans, which made the evening entertainment better. There was a trio of rugby games (NZ v England, Wales v Aus, and SA v Ireland) along with a couple alcoholic drinks, a great evening, great weather, and great dessert: banana wrapped in a nutella covered chapati. Heaven. During the day, we went swimming in the Nile, certainly something I never though I'd find myself doing. Another thing I never imagined myself doing was going down class 3 rapids with nothing but my swimsuit and an empty jerry can. The only thing that tempered my feeling of bad-ass-ery was the fact that there were 10 year old African kids doing it without flotation devices. Quite the experience, and I'm looking forward to it again.