Island, Channel Islands National Park, California -- Kayaking in the open sea is far more hazardous
than paddling in a mountain lake. I flipped here, too, but at the
launching point, where I could get back into my craft and bail out the
water with a hand pump. (photo by Charles Weng)
National Park, California -- Mark and I have shared one other adventure recently: Last
May he, his girlfriend Aichee and I hiked to the snow-capped Watchtower
overlook along the famous Lake Trail. (photo by Mark Huang)
Fresh from the smoldering ruins of Kandahar and Baghdad, terror has
renewed its presence in Riyadh, Jerusalem and Casablanca. Since SARS made its deadly debut in
Asia, the surgical mask-wearing residents of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei
and (belatedly) Beijing have been
living under siege. Amongst them are my elderly parents, who
did not fly to San Diego as planned to attend the wedding of a nephew.
father, an avid traveler himself, resignedly admonished me against my
annual transoceanic flights. I did not tell him immediately of a more
recent brush with danger.
During the sunny afternoon of May 4th, cousin
Mark and I were paddling in Silverwood Lake, a large, scenic reservoir
nestled in the San Bernadino Mountains of southern California, the
westernmost link in a chain of natural and dammed tarns that includes
Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake.
Our daylong idyll ended abruptly
when we succumbed to the strong, ocean-like waves at the deepest section
of the lake. With just our heads above the cool, undulating water, we hung
onto our capsized kayaks until a family of three in their motorboat and
the local park ranger came to our rescue.
I really do not wish to
catalogue this experience as yet another one of my near-disasters (see a
final word here in this site). Aside from the initial panic of
randomly executing an underwater backward somersault, I felt no fear for
myself, but only worry -- for Mark, my immediate family, and my kayaking
gear. (Besides pulling us from the lake, our rescuers also retrieved our
when we were trying to swim in the middle of the lake, I felt an eerie
calm akin to, but not quite exactly as, a submission to a higher power. As
comfortable as I am with my unsophisticated faith, I do not presume to
interpret every intrigue in my life as a direct manifestation of divine
will. God does work in mysterious ways, and surely one of them is to let
things sort themselves out in the end, however they turn out to be.
the end of our ordeal, I detected a facetious tone in Mark as he asked me
how I felt about having almost died. "Alive" was my immediate
answer in a breath of exhaustion. Upon reflection, it would not have been
The question echoed one asked by another cousin,
Wendy, as she saw me off to the airport last November.
Isles, Norway -- Here are views from Hamn°ya
(above) and Stamsund. It would be nearly impossible to take these pictures
without the following: two days at the islands, a car, and a lot of luck
with respect to weather.
going to New Zealand! Are you
"As excited as breathing," I replied, sounding
unintentionally facetious. "It's just what I do."
her, it might sound like the petulance of a well-traveled princeling,
taking his privilege of global mobility completely for granted. For me, it
was an existential statement. World travel may not be my true career, but it is my life, be it thirty or so days of glory out of
an entire year.
I imagine Sisyphus enjoying his thirty or so days of
respite at the summit, before the boulder rolls back down the mountain yet
again. Imagine his happiness in the certainty of that repeated pleasure.
I'm off again. British Airways had just posted their best summer
fares yet for flights between Los Angeles and Heathrow, while throwing in
a free night at a four-star hotel in Kensington. Ryanair, touting
its fleeting supremacy over arch-rival Easyjet in terms of profitability,
gave away 60,000 free return flights in a day -- I caught one between
London Stansted and Sandefjord, Norway, paying only about $40 for the
taxes and airport fees. The deal from Scandinavian Airlines for flights
between Oslo and Bod° was quite reasonable, too.
circumstances were favorable towards fulfilling a promise I made to myself
two years ago: to sleep in a rorbu, or fisherman's cabin, perched
along the magnificently surreal shores of the Lofoten islands.
My father needs not worry. So long as I return safe and
sound, he is sure to expect me to go on living my life as I see fit.
Charles Weng, 17 May 2003
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