Thursday, June 18, 2009

Climbing Half-Dome At Yosemite

I took my oldest son up with a friend and his son to climb Half-Dome at Yosemite National Park this week.  It was the first week of summer vacation for our boys and one of our neighbors, who happens to love hiking, invited my oldest son to Yosemite with his family.  He asked me to come along so that there would be one dad for each of the boys during the long hike in case anything happened.  Well I have been running all year, about 2 miles every other day and thought I was in good shape.  The Half-Dome hike is 8 miles each way starting from an elevation of 4000 feet and ending at an elevation of 8500 feet.  I was winded after the first mile, but there was more.  My son and I somehow walked, crawled, and climbed our way up to the foot of the "cables" at Half-Dome.  The final 600 feet of the ascent requires you to hang on to cables on the side of the rock to get to the top of Half-Dome.  I think of myself as a risk taker, but on this day both my son and I were happy to say - "I think we'll just rest here at the foot of the cables, while you and your son make it up to the top."  I am now more impressed than ever of anyone who has trekked the 8 miles up the mountain and had enough energy and guts to climb up the final 600 feet with only your hands and a cable between you and the Yosemite Valley floor.  My survival instinct kicked into high-gear on that ledge and I really learned something new about myself.  I'm not as big of a risk taker with my life as I would have thought.  

We started at 6:30am in the morning and made it to the Half-Dome cables at around 12:30pm.  We rested there to about 2:00pm, while our friend and his son climbed the cables up the top of Half-Dome.  Coming down was easier, but not by much as our energy and our knees were about spent by the time we reached the Yosemite valley floor at around 7:30pm.  13 hours of hiking in one day was easily the toughest thing I have done physically.  Our friends want to do it again with our younger sons when they are old enough.  At this moment, as I try to recover from the muscle pains that linger, I am happy to have the memories of making it up to the cables and happy to be back on the ground safe at home.  Now if I can just get up out of my chair....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Speaking Chinese to My Boys

My wife and I came from Taiwan when we were very young about 7 years old.  As such, we do not speak Chinese to each other, or we would sound like a couple of 7 years olds talking to each other.  Even though our conversation typically is not all that deep, English is still our means of communications.  We debated about speaking to our 4 boys English only, since Chinese is our heritage and we felt very guilty that we weren't doing more to pass on that heritage.  With our 4th and last child we decided to give it a go and speaking Mandarin to him at home.  To our surprise he has grasped it beautifully, which made both my wife and I feel even more guilty that we did not make the effort with the other boys.  Well all of that changed for me when my wife came home excited that she had found a Mandarin tutor for our 3 other boys.  At a mere $70/hour, which was noted as very reasonable, the tutor would come to your house and speak with one child at a time in Mandarin.  The rate is much higher if we wanted all three to participate simultaneously.  $70/hour!  That was enough motivation for me to start speaking Mandarin to my boys at home.  My wife is not convinced that it will be affective, so I told her that after one week, if the experiment was ineffective/non-productive, then we can reconsider the tutor.  Last night I tried to speak only Mandarin to all my boys, with a lot of empty stares by at me "huh?"  I'm not giving up that easily.  This morning the boys said "jouw", which means "good morning" to me and I am once again encouraged that little by little they will pickup the Mandarin.  Even if I have to pay them $70/hr to listen to me, it would be worth it.