Update from Chile – Olivia's perspective

Alzar School | 01.01.10

As I am writing this, it is our fourth day in Chile and already I have achieved great things. Among sewing clothes by hand for every orphanage, planting forests in barren areas of the country, discovering a way to power cars without the use of fossil fuels, and basically just saving the world before bed time, I have managed to roll a kayak! I wish I could say I did it in the snarling, pissed-off waters of a class seven rapid, but that would be a lie. Since I am dead set against any form of lying, I will admit that I rolled in a pool. Rolling is one of the first kayaking techniques our instructors teach beginners, such as me. This surprised me because I had always assumed that rolling was an advanced kayaking skill, a novelty I would learn much later in my kayaking career. However, knowing how to right your boat is important for sustaining one’s life when paddling, especially when you are just beginning. Therefore, it is important to know how to do at any level. Sorry if this explanation is boring any experts. This is solely for the benefit of my biggest fans (my family) who don’t know diddly about kayaking.

The pool we beginners (which include the two Chilean natives, Titi and Valeska, and myself) were learning in was actually just a large hole lined with river rocks and filled with river water. I cannot emphasize enough how cold the water was. It was frigid and resembled the color of scum. Cotton drifted from the trees creating a summer blizzard and dusting the surface. It looked a little questionable, but we had no fear. The first few times I was tipped under while still attached to my boat, I panicked a little and sucked great amounts of green glacial water up my shocked sinuses. Once I started wearing nose plugs, everything went much more smoothly, even though I looked ridiculous.

Being flipped upside down with the knowledge that my entire bottom half is attached to a giant banana can be disorienting at times. A few times I flailed around underwater still attached to my kayak looking like a chicken without a head, and eventually whoever was instructing me at the time would save me. They swear I was only under for five seconds, but I know it was closer to five minutes. As soon as I regained my composure, everything went swimmingly. I have been able to roll at least once by myself during each session. After the sessions, I am tired and shivering, but filled with a great sense of accomplishment. So far I love kayaking, Chile, and all of the people I’m sharing this fantastic experience with. I can’t wait to paddle in an actual river, but you’ll have to wait until next time I’m afraid. I better wrap this up. Try to keep living your mundane lives until I return. Hasta luego.

– Olivia