Thursday, October 26, 2017

All Who Dare Los Angeles Premiere // Free Screening

My trip to the Lost Creek Wilderness with Eagle Rock School students last year is captured in this one-hour documentary:
All Who Dare follows nine incoming Eagle Rock students who leave behind their families, friends, and familiar environments as they surpass their limits in the Lost Creek Wilderness of Colorado. 
Guided by experienced wilderness educators, the students are challenged physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially during this once-in-a-lifetime journey of personal growth. They quickly learn that there are no excuses in the wilderness, and that completing the trip is only the first step in taking responsibility for their lives. 
All Who Dare – also the school’s motto – provides a compelling look at the unconventional approach of a nationally acclaimed innovative high school that provides hope for young people who are striving to turn their lives around.
The film is showing in Burbank on November 2nd. I wish that I could be there for the LA premiere, but I'm firing a soda kiln on November 1st, and have to stick around until the 6th to unpack and clean the kiln.

You can register for the free screening at AMC 16 Burbank here:

At the Stanley Hotel with Jack (L) & Jordan (R)
I drove from Oakland to Estes Park last month in order to attend the premiere, and sat on the post-film panel. It was so wonderful to be among the students, faculty, and staff of the ERS community, and to be reunited with my awesome co-instructors on the trip, Jack and Jordan.

It's been over a year since I worked for ERS due to various scheduling conflicts, but I hope that changes in the coming seasons. Over the last three years, I've grown more and more comfortable working with young people, ever more in awe of what they understand, what they are capable of when they are supported, and how much we can learn from one another when given the time and space abundant in extended wilderness expeditions.

(Along the way to Colorado, I lost my necklace-- keep an eye out, world, it could be anywhere by now. It added a bittersweet tinge to the journey. With all that has happened in the last few weeks, to individuals in my life as well as to entire communities around the world, I'm keeping perspective on the loss as best I can. And, I'm still posting on Craigslist and messaging pawn shops around the US. Because why not.)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Angel's Fright on Tahquitz Rock

Oops, it's the end of July. Here is another installment in A june that dreams were made of.

I'd known of the Tahquitz since early in my climbing career when I still lived in Los Angeles, but as a beginning climber with only sport climbing gear and experience, I was intimidated by this classic granite multipitch crag. After having led on gear in Red Rocks, Joshua Tree, Indian Creek, Donner Pass, and even at Owens River Gorge, it felt silly that I had not yet climbed at this "local" crag.

I met Leslie of Dynamite Starfish in Bishop during the Women's Climbing Festival in 2016. In a recent interview, Leslie reminded me that we met for the first time when I walked up alone and crashed her and her friends' bouldering session in the Buttermilks.

We met again at the WCF in Bishop this year (though I didn't have a ticket because my clicking fingers weren't fast enough), and further bonded over Los Angeles, making stuff, and the desire to trad climb. I knew that I would be in Los Angeles for writing workshops, so I contacted Leslie about climbing together in Tahquitz.

We met for a session at Hollywood Boulders, our only indoor-climbing experience together, and she told me she was interested in Angel's Fright, a 400-foot route on the West Face. Not too hard, not too long, good belay ledges. Yes, yes, yes, yes.

While I'm wary of making long drives for day trips, and especially ones with what seem like small objectives in the age of 3,000-foot long free solos, it's all a matter of scale.

In the days before the climb, the carbon-footprint conscious (also: anxious) part of me wondered whether it was silly to drive from Garden Grove to Riverside and then on to the San Jacinto Mountains for just a day trip. Leslie assured me that "daytrips to Tahquitz happen!" And in fact, that is how most climbers do it. So, on a Thursday morning, I woke at 5:30am, made coffee, and got myself on the road.

Getting to the base of Tahquitz climbs requires a 45-minute uphill hike, known in climbing terms as an "approach." I felt prepared to haul our rack and food and water up the hill after my recent years working as a backpacking instructor, but I tend toward the slow-and-steady. Thankfully, Leslie did not rush us.

A party of three got there before we did and so there was a bit of waiting as they got on their way. Leslie linked the first two pitches, which my 70-meter rope did not quite give comfortably. I had to simul-climb about 15 feet off the ground in order to get her to the belay ledge. Others had said that a 70-meter rope could make it; perhaps I just wasn't heavy enough to create the necessary rope stretch?
Racking up at the top of the second pitch. Taken by Leslie.
I had a difficult time sorting out the next pitch; I found myself crawling through spiky, gnarled trees unnecessarily and having to backtrack to get back on-route. Route-reading is one of the main parts of multi-pitch climbing that intimidate me, much more than the exposure or height. I found a shadier belay just 50 feet or so from where I began, so Leslie encouraged me to lead the final section, which included a slabby finger crack that I had a great time on.

It was a long day, with a lot more hiking than climbing, but so things go when starting out with a new skillset (and maybe also when you're in your 30s while doing so).
Summit haikus. Always check out the summit register!
It was amazing to go climbing with someone with whom I had so many shared values and relatable life experiences. I felt particularly grateful for our day together because I had just had a night of feeling, once again, great sadness and frustration from the divide between me and my immigrant parents, between what they wish for me and what I wish for myself.

I was close to canceling on Leslie, but then-- what would the day have held? Just more wallowing in negativity, guilt, frustration. Might as well make the drive, hike in the heat, climb with the sun's glare reflecting off the bright granite, stand on a summit, spend time among the pine trees. Most importantly, if I had stayed home, I would have missed some incredible conversations about all the things.

I drove back to my parents' house incredibly grateful for the experience. Kind of euphoric, actually. Connection is the best drug.


Since that day, I've made good on my promise to myself to get out and climb, with recent bouldering trips to Mt. Tamalpais, Castle Peak, and Tuolumne. Looking forward to the weather cooling down and to getting on ropes again.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A June that dreams are made of // part 1

My spirit has been nourished to near-bursting this month.

A small attempt to capture it. 

Upon beginning to write this, I realized it would take two posts to even briefly talk about each of the things. So this is part one of two.

GirlVentures Staff & Sea Kayak Training

After having worked community courses and one summer course with GirlVentures since 2014, I was finally able to attend an official summer staff training in Point Reyes. We hiked to Sky Camp and Coast Camp, built relationships as a staff, practiced curriculum, and delved into discussions of equity and inclusion. Such conversations are not easy or comfortable, but it is wonderful to work with an organization where we can step into that discomfort and find support.

Another reason I love working with GirlVentures is their commitment to developing staff skills. The weekend after staff training, a number of staff were taken on an overnight sea kayaking trip in Tomales Bay, where we participated in an ACA Level 2 Coastal Kayak Touring Workshop. It was my first overnight paddling trip, and I was so nervous about it that I contemplated not going until the very last minute.

Being out on the water seems so unpredictable, and I'd never had to pack or dress for submersion before, so for the first time in a long time I was getting ready to do something completely new to me. It was a good reminder of how difficult trying new things can be and reaffirmed to me how amazing young people are to face new situations all the time.

TNP Wellness & Solidarity Workshops at Khmer Girls in Action 

I co-facilitated a series of writing workshops with tra for Southeast Asian youth at Khmer Girls in Action in Long Beach. To witness their stories, creativity, eloquence, and their commitment to justice and community was humbling and inspiring. I don't often get to work with Khmer youth and being part of the process of them giving themselves permission to tell and to explore their stories, to tell them that it is okay to make up spellings for Khmer words, to hear echoes of my own story in theirs, to have the opportunity to learn and grow with them-- I am beyond grateful for that.

I loved being able to learn from tra's presence and creativity in facilitation. To be reminded to let go of any insecurities I may have about my abilities, because facilitation is about the participants, not about me. That the job is not to perform, but to listen and to elicit. To draw forth the story. To give authentic responses, to encourage.

Some of them will be sharing their writing at KGA's 20th Anniversary Gala tonight. I'm so excited for them and wish I could be there.

Queer Road Trip with Audrey Kuo at Tuesday Night Cafe

Audrey and I do not usually write or perform with other people, but were invited to do a set together for the June 20th Tuesday Night Cafe. A major event in our friendship was the roadtrip they agreed to take with me to Lander, Wyoming for my NOLS fellowship in 2014. For our set, we decided to make up a podcast called Queer Road Trip to tell the story of that journey and to share the great tenderness we've nourished in our friendship.

We shared "A Minute of Tenderness," during which we took turns sharing things that made us feel tender.

The weekend prior saw the murders of Charleena Lyles and Nabra Hassanen, more tragedy to add the never ending list of tragedy. In our set, we created an altar for Charleena and Nabra and invited everyone to speak the names of those lost to police brutality, to racism, to anti-blackness, to transphobia, to islamophobia.

We invited our dear friend t.k. lĂȘ to the stage to share her poetry with us. We spoke of grief, of mourning, of rage, and of possibility, of hope, of joy.

Five years after I moved out of LA, Tuesday Night Cafe still feels like home. I'm so grateful.

To be continued.