Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Rather Alarming Tale

To My Most Amiable Readers,

As I type this my fingers sting with the pain of new blisters, but I'm far from complaining.

Yesterday I arrived at rowing just in time to avoid a major deluge. Felipe, the trainer, and I stood under the shelter of the boathouse watching the rain pound down mercilessly. He turns slightly and says simply, "Zapatos de agua" (water shoes). This means we're going out on the water rather than working weights. I raise my eyebrows. "In this?" Considering, he says that we'll wait a bit to see if it passes.

Meanwhile he explains to me that I'll be learning "dos sin" (sweeping) today, a form of doubles rowing where each rower has one gigantic oar each. It's notoriously difficult to do as it's very hard to maintain balance in the boat. Plus one arm and isolated muscles in your back get double work; I'd compare it to a skier learning snowboarding (ie. lots of ouchies).

The rain stopped and we carried the boat down to the water and carefully boarded. This was the first time I've had to lace-in my feet to a boat. It had large shoes mounted on the foot board which I managed to squeeze my water shoes inside and laced them up semi-tightly. My thoughts were very much occupied on that point; I wanted them to be firm, but I wanted to know I could get out of them if something went wrong.

It was awkward going at first. I was in front, setting pace, and Felipe was in back, doing navigation and coaching me through technique. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I got a feel for it; arcing the heavy oar through the air and flipping it out of the water with a snap of my hands at my belly. We did 6 km. of slow rowing and then returned to the boathouse so that another of the experienced rowers could observe from dockside how I was doing.

We did a slow motion race for him and to my great delight he pronounced that I was doing it very well and only needed to snap the oar out of the water with a more pronounced movement. I was basically happy as a clam with this praise, as often it seems to take me a long time to learn new things.

Felipe told me we'd take one more 6 km. loop and go in for the day. In the last turn in the canal, we were making good progress when all of a sudden Felipe starting yelling "ROW! ROW! FASTER FASTER!" I obeyed, though I feared we risked tipping if we pushed the velocity too much on my first day sweeping.

Odd, we were suddenly in a shadow. Sneaking in a glance over my shoulder, all I saw was blue. The huge blue underbelly of a fishing vessel bearing down on us. My mind was confused, "Why aren't they stopping?". I could have slapped the boat with my oar, we were so close. Situated as we were, they were like to split our boat in half. Felipe continued to shout and I rowed with as much velocity and accuracy as I could, as did he.

At the last possible moment we pulled free from the nose of the ship, and it glided by us, rocking us in its wake. A man on the back deck looked perplexed to see us there, so close to the ship. Boatmen up and down the harbor were gawking at this near fatal accident. It is likely that it would have been. Our boats are not strong in the least. If you stepped hard on the bottom of one you'd break through it. We'd likely have been pulled under, and depending on whether we could escape our shoes, drowned.

Our reaction as we rocked in the wake was surely triggered by adrenaline and nerves. In short, we laughed ourselves silly. We laughed so hard we couldn't row. We just sat there and laughed and repeated several phrases over and over: "that was close" "I can't believe that just happened" "they never saw us" "that's never happened before". Shakily we rowed back to the boathouse and reported to the others what had happened.

Rowing in general is not a dangerous sport; but like any sport, strange things can happen which can endanger life. This situation was very unusual in that the pilot was never aware of our presence (even though our boat is painted bright yellow and is super long), and that Felipe never heard the boat approaching, nor saw it in his habitual navigational glances. The only thing we can think of is that the ship was taking care to avoid the small vessel that was crossing the canal at the same time.

I've received a lot of flak from loving family about this; "You've got to be more careful! Don't ever do that again!", and such. But imagine how silly that sounds; it's like if you got smashed into by another driver and people started lecturing you even though all you were doing was driving, safely and normally like anyone else, when some yo-yo decided to plow into you.

The redemptive note in all of this was the opportunity to have a good talk with one of the rowing moms; talking about death and fears and heaven. I truly have very little fear of death, and much anticipation about Heaven, and that's what I got to share.

Anyways, I give thanks to God for deliverance from death for me and Felipe. Apparently God still has work for this little rower to do ; ).

Your Most Devoted,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Shooting From the Hip

It seems I've two main writing styles. One would be methodical; bubble diagrams and echoes of the Jane Schaffer writing method weaving coherently together my thoughts. The other is like words burst forth from a mouth without any attempt at order or loveliness, truth as I see it, unfiltered. Shooting from the hip, so to speak.

I can imagine I'd be a fairly terrible pastor. I'd do okay maybe with methodical sermons, though I always have a knack for being fascinated by and passionate about things which, on the whole, are not those which fascinate or provoke passion in others. If I shot from the hip I'd likely alienate/offend half the congregation each Sunday morning. If the board wanted to build an addition I'd probably declare something impertinent about giving the money instead to world hunger relief.

So, anyways, my blog hasn't been as frequently updated as of late; there's a few reasons for this. One, I sometimes sink in the black hole which is called facebook. Wordtwist games and tantalizing voyeurism beckon in those free moments which used to find me forming profitable thoughts or simply shooting from the hip. Or napping. The other is that I am extraordinarily occupied by my three wonderful kids. I'm homeschooling Sophia and Edison, and Reuben is in training to be the world's fastest cabinet emptier.
Then there's parks to go to on these lovely spring days, flower beds to weed and mulch, rowing two days a week, ballet classes, clothes to hang on the line, food to cook, book to write, emails to respond to, ad nauseum.

Which brings me back to writing. There's so many things going on that I despair of writing out carefully composed blogs about them. And shooting from the hip on a continual basis gives me the odd sensation that I've forgotten how to communicate and am a mere barbarian barking out "ME FOUND DEAD BUFFALO. ME EAT IT. MEAT BAD. ME SICK NOW".

All said, I wish to convey that though the posts may be fewer and farrer between, don't despair, one of my two modes will bring the news from Chile and the life we love here.
Blessings, Sarah