Sometimes this job is glamorous and sometimes.....

When I run into friends back home and in Seattle I usually hear, "wow, you've really got the dream job!" And sometimes, it is a dream. Like today, sleeping in, designing my own curriculum for an hour, and then surfing push button wave under grey skies for the rest of the day. But there are many aspects of the job that are not so dream like. Here are a few examples of the slightly aggravating, sometimes strange, sometimes bizarre, extremely un-glamorous moments:

1. Waking up in the middle of the night to the dog struggling to get out of the sleeping bag and throwing up all over the bed. Falling back to sleep. In the morning, strip the bed of the sheets, and sleep the rest of nights on a piece of foam because there are no more sheets and no washing machine.

2.Spending endless hours sitting in a waiting room reading Canadian parenting magazines, while the kids are in doctor's appointments and the ER because it's really easy to get sick away from home.

3. Scrubbing a medley of puke off the floor because in Chile, EVERYONE gets sick at the same time, except for you.

4. Driving yourself to the ER in Tennessee for giardia. Getting lost, because, well, you're not FROM Tennessee and it's 3 in the morning, having to pull over on the side of the road to explode, curl up, and want to die. Making it to the ER and being yelled at by the nurses and then admitted while everyone else gets to paddle the Ocoee, because everyone else already got sick and you waited till you could be the only one.

5. Having five classes to prepare for and little time, and whatever time you have you can't CONCENTRATE because certain boys age 15-17 want to play loud FOOS BALL TOURNAMENTS.

6. Eating a lot of budget Chilean mystery meat and 'goulash surprise' meal after meal.

7. Having to squander away SO many quippy one liners because they could be inappropriate and the last time you did that you got in trouble.

8. 17 hour road trips with cranky teenagers who want to hear "pop it rock it" by Hannah Montana played on repeat.

9. "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall." "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall." "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall." "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall." "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall." "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall."

10. I know we're sitting above the coolest surfing wave in the world and we're going to be on it very soon, I promise, but right now....can I interest you in....SAT VOCAB WORDS?? Anybody? Anybody?

11. Who in H did this to the bathroom? If you don't clean this now, you're not going on the water!? Hey, did you hear what I was-- okay, fine, I'll just leave it. (Then, clean it up anyway.)

12. 7 weeks abroad, 6 pairs of underwear, no washing machines.

13. All those friends back home who live in tidy little houses and get out of work at 5pm...that are your age....that you so desperately miss....

Up all night, sleep all day, just another strange day at NRA

I started to fade a little yesterday at the end of class. I was exhausted. I was reading aloud from The Last American Man and had been reading for about an hour when all of a sudden I felt like I was about to keel over. But the water was warm, the sun was out and the wave was in, so I decided to get in my boat and I'd probably start to feel better. I strapped on my wet booties, put on my shorts and my still damp poly-pro top, then headed over to my cabin to get my PFD. Then I saw the bed, my sleeping bag, so inviting, so soft....and decided to just have a quick lie down. Just for a moment. So, wearing my cold, damp river gear I fell straight forward onto my pillow, like a tree falling, or a dead person. And I realized I couldn't get up. I couldn't even move. No worries, I figured, the kids will be paddling for hours out there, no harm in just....

.....3 1/2 hours later I woke up. The early evening sunlight was softer, and most of the kids had already paddled home, showered, and were lying around in their pajamas staring at You-tube videos.

Waking up in the middle of the day, particularly when you had not planned to sleep in the first place, is disorienting. I spent a few hours running my eyes over The Grapes of Wrath and fiddling with the aperture on my camera to prepare for the next day's classes, but I couldn't concentrate. Then I taught an SAT prep-class, then I read aloud for another half an hour to my English II boys, who were half asleep themselves on the couch. At 10 o'clock I staggered across the banks of the Ottawa to my cabin and fell hard asleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night. I hardly ever do this. For a minute I felt nothing, and I wondered why I was awake. Did I have to pee? No. Hmm. Puzzle. And then, I felt it. A stab of pain through my stomach unlike anything I had felt before. It was like a bolt of lightning, like someone had hooked me up to a telephone and was running shocks through me. Then another. Then a blinding storm of pain that lasted the entire night. I was up, wide eyed, trying not to move, and nothing (NOTHING) I did made the pain abate. Nothing gave me so much as a moment's relief. I could barely breathe. Hours went by like this, until I saw dawn creep up over the Ottawa valley and the mist begin to rise off the grass outside my windows.

Finally, when I heard everyone else waking up and head off to workout, I got up long enough to tell the first person I saw to cancel my classes, and then I lay back down. Finally I sifted back to sleep and slept and woke up and slept and woke up feverishly for hours. Finally, at 3pm, as the final class period was ending, I woke up for good. My dog had slept next to me the entire time, 17 hours since we had initially lay down for the night.

I felt a little better but still off kilter. The dog and I went inside and I read aloud for half an hour to my class. Yes, it would make a lot more sense for the kids to read to themselves, but we don't have enough books, somehow. So I read to them. They say they like better that way, anyway. Of course they do. All they have to do is curl up on a couch and shut their eyes and pet the dog. I like it too, though, it's a nice change of pace. They don't dread English class, that's for sure.

So after my strange day of dreaming and pain, I geared up and slid into the water in a new boat, a Pyranah 420 I borrowed from Nicole Mansfield, who is up visiting with Dave Fusili. The water, I noticed for the first time, was the same color as the beef aspic in the movie Julie and Julia, and warm as bath water. With no one else on the river besides Nicole, Dave, Andy and Matt, we had complete reign of the waves. For the first time I hit babyface dead on and got three long surf sessions in.

And now I can barely keep my eyes open, the rats seem to be tromping back into my stomach for another all-night chew session, and I wonder when I'll start to feel better. I took the whole summer off and had a team of natureopathic doctors working with me, I took pills and oils and gells and medicinal teas and had all sorts of things donw, but I never got any answers, and I didn't get much better. I can't just wait around forever and hope I start to feel better, so life goes on and I'm back at work, which coincidentally is the worst place to be when you're sick. Life goes on....but it would be so much easier if I could just feel better.

big water Beat down & Babyface

We live in a handful of cabins on the banks of the Ottawa river, it's a full moon, and so far school has been mellow. Only seven kids so far. We'll get one more in a few days. On the staff it's me and three men, one plays the fiddle, on plays the guitar, on was an Abercrombie model, one's got a beard, one has sideburns. They drink strong coffee all the live-long day. I had a cup and spent the rest of the evening hiding from light, hiding from sound, even the light of tepid light of a glow stick erupted throbs of pain in my temple. I have had a migraine since landing on the Ottawa, which I pray will abate as the moon gets smaller and less obtrusive in the sky.

There are six boys and one tiny girl who clips her hair to the side with huge hair bows.

Paddle just a minute or two across the flat water over to a natural playground of rapids and waves: the daunting McCoy's rapid with a line that snakes between Phil's hole and Sattler's hole, both massive. In the middle of the rapid is Corner Wave, directly adjacent to an eddy, and below that is the u-shaped Horshoe hole that stretches across the whole river, with one tiny little tongue greening out through the middle. Below horshoe is babyface, the kind little wave, perfect to learn on, that leads only into a friendly little wave train and then a lake.

Each Thursday is "big-water beat-down day" where the kids plunge happily head first into the meat of Phil's hole and get punched in the face a bunch by the wave before surfing out or being spit out. The point is to gain confidence in big thrashy spots. The only thing it does for me is make me want to blarg all over the rocks. I would describe this as one of my worst nightmares. For the kids, it's just another Thursday.

After much coaxing by Stephen, I consented to follow him down the tongue of McCoy's, a line that kissed the edge of both holes but avoided the worst. "It's a big tongue, just a little bump, and then you're out." Was how he described it. Turned out, it was a big drop into a giant pile of foam. I braced, hit it, got flipped, rolled up, was flipped again, and, while upside down, came to grips with the idea that I was most certainly going to die, in front of everyone, in the gnashing teeth of Phil. I felt oddly calm about this.

Then I rolled up, turned around and realized I had threaded the needle and avoided the worse. Stephen was grinning. "Uhm...I was going into that hole, and I realized, woah that's a lot bigger than I remembered's usually a lot easier at higher levels....sorry about that." Stephen and I travelled to Chile last semester, he taught me a lot about kayaking, he was in my creative writing class. He was enthusiastic, talkative, friendly, and eager to patiently lead me on the river. Once, during a post-Ottawa City wave workout at a burger restaurant called "the Works" he talked non-stop for 2 1/2 hours straight. I don't know how he managed to eat his burger and drink his mocha-oreo shake. It's one of my best memories from 4th quarter, which is good, because that quarter was, for me, totally shit. Stephen is also the moodiest student I've ever had. On a bad day, he can sever off your head with just one searing glance.
Well as usual, I can't go on, because there is never enough time here, and always too much to write about. I feel like I'm just lightly glossing over everything, not really explaining anything the way it ought to be explained. But right now, I have to read aloud from The Last American men to three young American boys, because somehow even after all my emailing and bitching and threatening, we still manage to have only ONE copy of the book between the FOUR of us. And so, read aloud it is. Today during class as I read aloud, Alex fell asleep on the couch and Matt hit him so hard his entire body jerked and lifted off the couch cushion. It was....entertaining.

....and we're back

I took a few weeks off from The Wilder Coast. First I helped my sister walk down the aisle in Seattle. Then I packed up and moved from Seattle to Vermont. Then I helped my cousin walk down the aisle. Then I packed up and drove North to the Ottawa River. Somehow, summer eluded me as it always does, and I am back with the circus of New River Academy. A new year, a new group of kids, a new group of staff. This year we're smaller: 8 kids and 5 staff: me and 4 guys.

And this time, I brought a hair-dryer, and I will defend with my life my right to use it.

The last time I was on the Ottawa was last spring, and the river was at a record 22 feet. The rapids were either flushed out or deadly-huge. Now the river is 21 feet lower and a whole lot more fun. I ran the middle channel yesterday and am happy to report that I lived.

I find that when I'm at New River, the content of my writing goes way up and the quality goes way down. I'm always running off to get on my paddling gear or teach a class or clean up somebody else's dishes. I'll try not to write too terribly, however. But no promises.

One last note: we're starting off this semester with a full moon, which can't be a bad sign: