Wednesday, November 16, 2016

One Week Later

I've spent the last week digesting the news, trying to sort out all the layers of what the election results mean to me, how they've affected me, and how they will impact this country. It has been hard. It has been really hard. 

I can see how Donald Trump appeals to those who have grown tired of being asked to empathize with immigrants, with people of color, with LGBTQ people, with women, with people whom they do not consider "real" Americans. I can see how Donald Trump represents dreams of money and power and freedom. 

I wish there were a way to sum it up so that those who voted for Trump might be able to hear me, to be in conversation with me, to empathize with the hurt that so many of us are feeling right now. That will explain the rage that so many of us are feeling right now. I want so badly for that to be possible.
I woke this morning with my composure cracked because the implications of Trump's win have become more clearly articulated in my mind.
  • I am the child of refugees. The inherited trauma of what my parents and grandparents and older family members have been through has been triggered in a way that I have never felt before. We have talked at length and often about the difficulties, the terror, of their years in Cambodia during Khmer Rouge rule. I consider how things were in Cambodia before April 17, 1975. How there were those who could see what was coming and fled to the US, France, Australia, before tanks began traveling down the streets. And there were those who perhaps could see it but could not leave, those who had some sense of dread, but could only go about their lives affecting normalcy. I have a suspicion that "normal" changed by slow, small degrees, much as Trump's presidency and cabinet appointments are being normalized now.

    And I recognize how I have been grieving and angry but for the most part still living life as normal, going to the ceramics studio, working, cooking, seeing friends. How news fatigue settles in. How this is what many of us are doing. And there is a feeling in the pit of my stomach that hunkering down is not and has never been enough. That perhaps it would help me survive, but that the cost might be higher than I can stand.
  • I am an outdoor educator. On expeditions, it is imperative that groups build trust and respect. We emphasize valuing diversity and inclusion, and I work hard to hold my students to high standards in their behavior and language toward one another. Our safety depends on being able to work together and take care of one another.

    Trump's win is an affront to everything I've been trying to teach. It tells us divisive, rude, sexist, Islamophobic, and racist behavior will not keep a person from winning the top office in this country. That so many in this country do not hold him to anything near the standards that I have asked of my students. 
Many people want to argue in abstract terms, many request not to be lumped in with white nationalists, racists, misogynists, Islamophobes, homophobes. I don't have the energy to provide that kind of reassurance right now. There is fear and dread, there are echoes of horrific histories, and there is an enormous grief. 

There is a part of me that still does not believe that Trump's administration will actually take power in January. And I know that I have to fight against that disbelief because what we need now is to strategize against that event. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

My DIY Pottery Trimming Tools

When I began studying ceramics in 2014, I became enamored with the precision techniques and guidance provided by Hsin-Chuen Lin on his YouTube channel. At the time of this writing, he has 250+ videos showing and sharing his techniques, his tools, and demonstrating his extensive pottery skill.

One of the most harrowing parts of making wheel-thrown pottery is the trimming process, which entails getting to the clay when it's dried enough but not too much, centering the piece once again on the wheel, and holding the tools correctly. Mr. Lin's videos helped me learn how to tap-center (practice) and how to have contact between my hands and the pot at all times when possible.

Because I love DIY-everything, I particularly enjoyed his video on how to make tools out of hacksaw blades:

I contacted Mr. Lin and he allowed me to visit him in his studio and watch him work. My friend Ash took some gorgeous photos that day.

I was inspired by the video and the presence of a blowtorch in my house to make my own tools from some old knives.

Blowtorch, a bastard-cut file, two pairs of pliers, a bowl of water, an old knife.

Got rid of the pointy bit.

Dulled the part of the blade that I wouldn't be using, and sharpened the square edges. In hindsight, I should have sharpened a bit farther down the blade, to have a better corner for trimming. 

The plastic handle melted a bit because I kept the knife in the flame too long. Oops.

This tool has treated me relatively well, but it has to be sharpened quite frequently if I want to avoid unintentional chattering. Perhaps it's so hard to avoid because the tool is so thick? 

Of course, I couldn't stop with that one. More bent metal things:

My favorite and most effective one is the one in the center-- perhaps because it's thinner, it holds the edge better? The one on the left is very sharp, but it is a bit too pointy for most of my trimming needs. 

A video of me trimming a bottle using that favorite tool:

A video posted by narinda heng (@narindaism) on 

Friday, September 30, 2016

10 Days at Indian Creek // The scabbiest climbing trip

I had my first visit to Indian Creek, splitter crack climbing paradise, back in April. During those 10 days, I scraped myself up more than during any other climbing trip. I sustained a giant scab on my ankle that took about two months to heal and fall off.

I loved it.

The struggle, the athleticism, the 100+ foot pitches, the campground that felt like a neighborhood by the time I left. I can't wait to get back. I don't know if Creeksgiving is in my future, but next April, perhaps? 

When I got my windows tinted, the "Justice for Oscar Grant" sticker was removed-- accidentally? Somehow my Black & Pink and NOLS Wilderness Medicine stickers remained intact. Odd.  I replaced it with this intersectional Black Lives Matter sticker (designed by Matice Moore) I got at Queer Magic Makers last year. 

Gorgeous crags, gorgeous high desert skies.


I questioned the wisdom of having my manual typewriter with me while living out of my car for the summer, but it was worth it to sit and tap with this view. I finished this page right as rain began falling. I'm grateful that afternoon thunderstorms forced me to take rest days, otherwise I would probably have wrecked my body even worse.

Hammocks are wonderful. 

The 10a warm up pitch was not too bad at all. I led it after this couple climbed. 

These two gearing up for Pente (5.11) on Reservoir Wall. I toproped this in an incredibly ugly and painful fashion. I'd like to think that next time it will go better now that I sort of know how to jam. Note to self: probably not a good first-day-at-the-creek climb. 

Gloomy skies, bloomy cacti.

I brought my poetry and pottery with me, and left some copies of my chapbook on the message board with a note looking for climbing partners. I wasn't sure it would work, if anyone would read it, and then one morning Emmanuelle (far left) came up to my campsite and invited me to join her, Cylvie (far right) and Peter (the photo-taker) in their climbing. They were a wonderful crew to hang out with. To my right in the photo is Anh from Denmark, another solo traveler we met at the campground. In their hands are pieces of my pottery that they bought/bartered from me.

I was nervous about sharing my poetry, but I'm so glad I did. And I can't wait 'til the next time I get out to Indian Creek.

Location: Creek Pasture Campground, Indian Creek, Utah
Cost: At the time it was free, but as of September 2016, it's $5/night
Amenities: Pit toilets, fire rings.
Note: Must bring in all water and firewood. No wood collecting!!