Saturday, September 1, 2007

"Skiing" in the Andes...

Let me tell you a little story. It's the story of a girl who's never skied before, making her first attempt in the Andes mountains. For argument's sake, let's just say that girl was me. (Note: All the details of this story are true, but the mood may be exaggerated for dramatic effect.)
Once upon an August, I was coming down with a cold. Not a bad cold, but a cold nonetheless. I fought the cold hard, because I knew that I had a ski trip coming up. But germs don't really care if you go skiing, and I caught the cold anyway (why do you say you catch a cold? As if it's something you actively try to do? But I digress...). So already I'm not quite myself.
The day before the ski trip was a long afternoon of parent/teacher conferences, so I stayed overnight with another teacher who lives in one of the apartments above the school offices. She's a very nice and hospitable girl, but she snores. A lot. And I'm not used to snoring, so I heard every labored breath. My one course of action was to cough really hard repeatedly to try to awaken her enough to roll over. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. Needless to say, I snoozed a few times.
I was getting ready in the morning, and she left to go make some copies. She left her hairdryer with me, saying she wasn't sure if it works. I had not packed mine, mostly because I didn't have the space, but also because in the 5 apartments, I figured someone had to have a hairdryer. I plugged hers in. Nothing. I tried another outlet. Nothing. Being completely ready besides my wet hair, I walk to the apartment next door. Nothing. I walk to the next one. Nothing. The next apartment houses another teacher who I knew had already gone down to the school grounds. So traipsed back and forth across the campus, wet hair flopping in the breeze, passing rowdy students who were excited for their upcoming ski adventure. I finally found who I was looking for, and she informed me she does not have a hairdryer. Apparently everyone's hair is more cooperative than mine.
So, I had one option left. The fifth, and last, apartment. I had not met the people who lived there yet, since they just moved in a week ago. So I knocked on their door, introduced myself, and asked if they had a hairdryer I could borrow. Jackpot! They did! So as they went to get it I had a charming conversation with their daughter about her first day of school. She was very excited. And she giggled at my shiverings about my wet hair. (Really though, it was a pretty warm day...but in the mountains, who knows.)
Crisis averted. Time to go down with the students. One of the guys came over, anxious to get going, and asked if my hair was dry enough, or did they have to wait some more? So cheeky!
It was just under a 2 hour ride up to the ski lodge, and it was not a fun one. Because part way up the mountain I started to be carsick. I haven't had this problem in quite awhile. And just as I started to really have to fight the gag reflex, the guy in front of me (the same guy who made the hair comment, actually) turned around and said, "Now we come to the really fun part! The countdown! The 41 switchbacks to get to the top!" Forty-one? you say. Yes, forty-one hairpin turns on a bus filled with teenagers. Fun. I came dangerously, and I mean dangerously close to really embarrassing myself. But the two boys near me noticed me in my distress and did all they could to help me....offering to get me a bag...turning to tell me we were halfway through the switchbacks....keeping a window open even when one guy obnoxiously complained about a draft. Who said chivalry is dead? It just looks a little different. :o)
I made it to the top with my breakfast in tact, and we began our loooong wait to get our gear. This was good for my stomach. The kids were all excited about the fact that I was actually going to ski. I was the only teacher doing this. I'm so cool. :o) We finally got in to get our gear, and of course I was in the last group. The guy comes and asks my shoe size, I tell him, and he comes back. He can't close the boot, so he goes and gets another one. It closes after some coaxing from him. And after about 30 seconds I realize that it's cutting off the circulation to my foot. I think it was pinching my tibia, actually. But he couldn't loosen it. I got the rest of my gear, and the guy preparing my skis said the first time is the best time. I think I laughed in response. Then a few guys watched me struggle to figure out how to put on my other boot, until one finally came to help me.
I stood up, got almost to the door, and almost fell over. My ski poles saved me. This was not starting well.
I go out, and all the kids who knew what they were doing, who offered to teach me, were long gone. So it was me, 2 10th graders who didn't know what they were doing, 3 7th graders who didn't know what they were doing, and one dad who did. He taught us all. We went down a teeny tiny hill to get to the bunny slope. I got half way down, stopped, and thought, "This isn't too bad!" I looked like an idiot, but I was doing it. Then I started to go the rest of the way down, spun out of control, and fell. It took me about an hour to get back up. Ok, not really. But it felt like it. I started down a slightly bigger hill we had to go down to get to the bunny hill. And I fell about 3 more times. And once again, it was nearly impossible to get back up.
At this point my left foot is starting to fall asleep.
I get to the top of the bunny hill and hear the dad worrying about if we'll be able to handle the t-bar to get back up the bunny hill. Uh oh.
After much debate and worry in my head (which I masked by "taking in the view" which was stunning) I decided to try the bunny hill. Which, by the way, was no bunny hill. It had to be a triple black diamond. Seriously. It was ridiculous. I start down and fall in the most uncomfortable and awkward looking way. And it was even harder to get up. Meanwhile pretty much everyone has started down the bunny hill. I did not want to ski alone. I get up, and decide that I will do it at least once. I mean, I spent the money and everything.
At this point my left foot is completely numb, my right foot is starting to tingle, and my pants are soaked. I get up, push off, and fall about 4.8 seconds later. It's about then that I decided I wasn't really having any fun.
I reclined on this bunny slope for awhile, gazing at the gorgeous mountains, and tried to muster up enough mental fortitude to get back up. As I was gazing and mustering, 2 skiers stopped and asked if I was ok. I replied in the affirmative.
I got up, loosened my boots, and hobbled off the slope as all the blood rushed back to my feet. Then a very kind man informed me that I had dropped a glove back in the middle of the slope. So I turned around and hobbled back.
Then I trudged back to the lodge (with the 3 7th graders who had been down the bunny hill and back by this point) and got lunch. I had been on the mountain for one hour. That's it.
Everyone asked me how I was doing. I told them frankly. They asked if was going back out. I just laughed. They all said I had to try again. And I just had to say no. Honestly, that was a heartbreaking moment for me. Most of them really tried to encourage me to try one more time. And maybe next time I go skiing I'll last a little longer. But that was all I could handle. I was a little under the weather, remember. (They did not accept this excuse.) :o)
I waited until about 3pm and turned in my skis (about 2 hours after I came off the mountain). And of course, the guy said "So early? Didn't you like it?" If only he'd known exactly what I'd been doing, or not doing, for the past 2 hours. Ha!
Ok, so we're nearing the end of the story. But first, another example of odd male chivalry. I had to use the restroom to change into dry clothes. You have to pay to go into the bathroom unless you've paid to go skiing. Since I no longer had on any gear, they didn't know, and asked if I had a ticket. As I was trying to pull my lift ticket out of my pocked (since I never used a lift, it hadn't gotten attached to my zipper yet), there was a guy there who I had noticed a couple time noticing me, and he held up his lift ticket and said I could use it to go into the restroom. Now isn't that romantic? I've never had a man offer to pay for my entrance into a bathroom. The Latin's don't have a reputation for nothing, you know!
Ok, enough joking around! :o)
A day later, and no muscles in my legs hurt, which isn't common after a ski trip. My shins are bruised from my ski boots, though. The only muscles that hurt are in my shoulders and upper back. I'm assuming this is from using my ski poles to start, try to stop, try to take off the skis, and also from struggling to get up so many times. Unique, I know....
Well, that's the end of my story. I actually had fun, all things considering. And the kids had fun. And maybe next time I ski I'll make it for an hour and a half! :o)
Congratulations for reading the whole thing! As a reward, enjoy some of the pictures I took while I was not skiing. :o) (I'm pretty sure there don't exist any of me actually attempting to ski...I'm not sad about this.) :o)

Here I am at the beginning of the day. I look so blissfully unaware, don't I?
I don't remember what we were talking about, but by the look on my face, I'd have to say it has something to do with my boots.
This is actually only about half of us who went. The rest of them were still on the mountain. They never got the memo, I guess.
When I was returning the skis. I was actually really happy when I took this picture because I had just taken my boots off. Couldn't tell, could you? I'm a really good actress. :o)
Me in front of some of the mountains...Looks photoshopped, but it's not! It was beautiful! Definitely the best part of the day for me. Can't beat it!

1 comment:

stephanie garcia said...

I enjoyed this post for two reasons: (1) my daughter's "cameo" in the hairdryer story and (2) how well I could relate to your skiing woes, since this is actually very similar to what I experienced almost every year of my 7th-12th grades at SCA! Oh, the joys!!