30 September 2008

Up on the ridge

Here's the place I was talking about in my last post... I was up on the ridge to the right.
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29 September 2008

The High Countries

Sitting here, on a ridge that forms the side of a canyon, I can't hear a thing.

Not a single thing. Not a car, not another person, not even the wind.

I'm up around 11,000 feet, and I can see over the other side of the canyon, down onto the plain, and across the plain to the mountains on the other side, their tops swathed in golden aspens.

Soon, a bird lands on a nearby pine, and I can hear him touch the branch. The breeze picks up; I hear it blowing past my ears.

I praise God for this moment: so pure, so clear. Sitting here, I can't help but feel His presence, His peace. 

Why can't it always be like this?


25 September 2008

It's late, but I want to write this

Left after class today to head into the Springs, to the apartment of a refugee family from Burundi. First, we met up with Kelly, a staff member who coordinates the volunteer teams with refugee families, and followed her to the apartment after changing out of my uniform and into some civies.

The apartment complex remined me of Guatemala: cleaner, but the homey smell and the kids running around barefoot brought back memories. My mind, of course, switched to Spanish, and I had to force myself to speak in English.

Not that English helped much: The family, dad and mom and eight boys, speaks little English. The oldest boy, Laurent, speaks enough to get by, and he kind of translated for us. He also speaks French - which the Jehovah's Witnesses also knew, and used to conduct a "Bible study" with him and some other teens that came by. I'll have to do some research on Jehovah's Witnesses - they were in Tijuana, too.

Later, I helped Albert, the fourth youngest at seven years, with some English homework, teaching him the letters and their sounds as he spelled words like "cat" and "fish." He knew which words the pictures represented, but he didn't know how to spell them. English is a hard language to spell in - there are so many different sounds each letter can have.

Anyway, Albert knew very well the letters A, L, B, E, R, and T. He picked up on C pretty quick, too; most of the others I had to demonstrate. Took me back to Kindergarten with Mrs. Mick.

I can't believe how much joy these kids seem to have - they'd probably never seen anything outside the refugee camp before they came here. That has got to be some serious culture shock. Yet they show a desire to learn, a vigor for life.

This is going to be a lot of fun.


VECTOR

Vital Effective Character Development Through Observation & Reflection.

That's what it stands for, anyway. I did learn more than I expected.

A retired chief (the highest enlisted rank) ran the seminar - pretty cool guy, makes a lot of puns, but brings out the meaning in a lot fo things. We talked a lot about values and purpose - which I already had, but it's always a good talk. And a chance to bring up faith, since that is what I value most.

But what I'll remember most from today didn't come from the chief. It came from a Technical Sergeant, a "facilitator" at my table. Towards the end, he told us he always likes to come and see the cadets - to see the purpose and the dedication we have at such a young age. He thanked us, and wrapped up with this: 

"And you guys will be leading us in a few years." His eyes were misty.

23 September 2008

Just another day in paradise

After class this morning, I shuffled back to the squad and changed into bike gear: I had three hours before lunch, plenty of time for a ride.

So I rolled down out of USAFA, out into the foothills. I felt like a fugitive, rolling out of the gate during the school day. But I had plenty of time and nothing to do, so why not ride up and down hills for an hour and a half?

Off base, I climbed into the foothills for a good seven miles, rolling through suburbs and forests, past ranches and ranch houses. I saw an old man trek up the hill to his mailbox, carefully place a letter in, and carefully make his way back down to the house.

As I rolled past, I caught his smell: that familiar and comforting smell that grandparents seem to acquire. As I rode on, I wondered: who are this man's grandchildren? Who was his letter to? And what was he like when he could run up the hill to the mailbox? Maybe I'll see him again.

When I topped out on the climb, I turned back towards the mountains and flew down into the valley. Rolling at forty or so, I looked up at Pikes, topped with snow, and at the pines that lined the road. Our God is an awesome God.

And then I rode back up onto the hill, showered, and called minutes for lunch, refreshed and sore, calmed and excited.

When can I do it again?