July 29, 2011By: PR Comm
Hola me llamo Mathijs y yo estoy en la Republica Dominicana!
For the past six weeks, I have been in the Dominican Republic with a team of five others. I am allowed to take part in this amazing experience through The Salvation Army’s ‘Service Corps’ program, which sends 5 missionary teams around the world to volunteer in their respective countries. I have been to many parts of the “D.R.” since arriving in June. I have eaten delicious foods, seen beautiful mountains and beaches, and made many friends. This experience has also been an adventure; driving on winding dirt roads with the car doors open, past motorists who don’t have speed limits has made me feel more like Indiana Jones than I ever want to be.
What has really amazed me about the Dominican Republic is the willingness of the locals to talk to complete strangers. Early on in the summer, I was taken aback by the friendliness of the people, compared to the coldness I have felt from some Americans. Thanks to this openness I have seen, I have been able to work with many people. We have worked with kids, painted a school/church, worked with more kids, volunteered at a summer camp and…um did I mention kids? Mainly what my team and I have been doing is leading “Joy Hours” which are times when we lead kids in songs and games and teach a story from the Bible. In my short time being here, I have worked with over 500 children who get very excited when the team comes to visit. Additionally, I have visited hospitals to comfort the sick and elderly, and I’ve gotten to deliver food to people who aren’t able to get meals on their own.
It truly is more of a blessing to serve than to be served. Though my reason for coming to the Dominican was to serve others, I often find myself feeling the most blessed. There have been moments where I have wished to be back at home, curled up in a blanket with a Wii controller tied around my wrist, but seeing a child’s face light up as we sing a song, or having conversations with strangers on the street has given me such a joy about serving in a foreign country that I can’t wait to do it again next year.
The friendships I have made in addition to the beauty of the country has made this experience life changing. I can’t wait to return to school and band with a fresh perspective on life.
Until then, Go bears.
July 27, 2011By: PR Comm
Greetings fellow bandsmen and fans. I’m writing this post from my barracks room in the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia. In 3 weeks I will complete a 12 week training school that teaches the fundamentals of boat handling, marine navigation, seamanship and leadership. Upon graduation from this school, I will advance to the enlisted rank of Petty Officer 3rd Class and I will earn the specialty title of boatswains mate. Last year I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve which sent me to a 2-month boot camp last summer and this school for this summer. During the school year I report to Station San Francisco for one weekend per month and practice basic search and rescue fundamentals.
My class is composed of a combination of active duty, reservists and even an international student from the Gambian Navy. This has been the first time I have interacted with so many active duty members and it has been great learning from their experiences. For example, a few weeks ago we went to a simulator to practice piloting a large ship through a narrow channel. This task required a team of about 8 people all working together. The instructors wanted the day to be about learning by doing, so there was virtually no instruction on how to carry out this exercise. Luckily, there were a number of people in my group who had been on such a team on the ships they were previously stationed on. They knew the proper format and terminology for commands and knew exactly how to manage the workflow. Then, the instructors threw a curve ball at us. They set a vessel on fire in the simulator. So now we had to conduct a search and rescue case, while trying to stay in this small channel, and while other vessels were trying to pass, as well. Another student in the group had been a Coast Guard dispatcher at her previous unit and knew exactly how to manage such missions. She grabbed the radio and instinctively asked all the questions off the checklist she had memorized. Then she requested to launch a helicopter to assist in recovering people in the water. We saved the simulated people and managed to keep our ship safe as we transited the channel.
Last week, after 8 weeks of classroom instruction, we finally got the chance to get out onto the river on boats. We practiced driving them around and docking them in all sorts of different wind and current conditions. I’ve found that docking a 38’ boat is kind of like parallel parking a car, except that the thing doesn’t stop moving just because you’re in neutral, and since the propellers are in the rear, you have almost no control over where the front goes. Needless to say, I bumped the boat on against the dock a time or two, but I’m starting to get the idea. This week we have been practicing towing other boats which is something the Coast Guard does to aid mariners in distress, and next week we’ll get to combine our weeks of navigation training with boat-handling training and practice taking long predetermined routes along the river and bay.
I love the time we spend on the boats because it’s a small focused crew of four students and two instructors and we’re out there doing what I wanted to do when I joined the Coast Guard—we celebrate our camaraderie by relentlessly poking fun at each other, while learning skills that will come in handy whenever I get deployed somewhere in the world for some kind of national or humanitarian emergency.
July 24, 2011By: PR Comm
The opportunity to travel, live and study in Spain has been on my bucket list for some years now, therefore, when the chance arose for me to actually fulfill that dream-I jumped on the chance as soon as possible.
I have been living as a “madriderño” for about a month and a half now, and can safely say that I have truly fallen in love with the Spanish culture, history and lifestyle. With my (unfortunate) short time here in Spain, I have tried to take full advantage of what is available to me and have therefore traveled all around to explore all the culturally rich cities (though that means I have had to sit through more bus rides than I care to count). My favorite city outside of Madrid, by far has been Barcelona; where Catalán culture and the architecture of Gaudí reign. Seeing famous sites such as the Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, and the beaches there made me realize why Barcelona is such a loved city in Spain. However, the smaller more intimate towns such as Toledo and Segovia where old ancient city walls still exist and where cobblestone streets so narrow barely two people can walk through, has its own beautiful and unforgettable charm.
Not to forget about Madrid, which is literally located at the heart of the country, it is unlike any city I have ever traveled to: tapas bars located everywhere, people walking the streets at all hours of the day, and where nightlife which really can be called nightlife. It is not uncommon at all for the madrideño’s to begin their night around 12:00- 1:00am, head to the discotecas (dance clubs) around 2 am, then leave around 6am for the first metro ride home; just in time for class the next morning at 9am. It’s this active and constant movement of the city is one of the reasons why I love it so much- people live their lives to enjoy themselves and are not one to live to work; rather, work to live. Some may consider this Spanish way of life to be lazy and the daily siestas (where stores shut down in the afternoon for a couple of hours for lunch) to be unnecessary; however I find it to be admirable. The Spanish people realize that work is not everything and rather the life of the family is; a lesson that I think we as Americans forget to realize at times.
Though I am excited to return back to Cal where marching season will soon begin, I know that my inner madrideña will not yet be satisfied and will be yearning to speak Castellano (Spanish) and drink my cafécito con leche as soon as I arrive in the states. ¿Vale?
July 21, 2011By: PR Comm
Hey Cal Band and Alumni! Aside from being the Head Photo Historian and Tellefsen Hall House Manager, I’m also employed in a wildfire lab here on campus as a Lab Assistant. With most lab positions, an assistant gets a very measly task of focusing on one or two aspects of an experiment. With this position however, I’ll be a part of 6 or 7 different studies all related by wildfire!
I began the summer with data entry of a Timber Survey conducted by the US Forest Service in 1911. While it was not the most involved work, it was certainly interesting to compare it to data collected 90 or so years later from similar plots in a place where fire suppression has been especially prevalent.
Recently, I just completed a study of the Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest wherein I completed Fuel Transects of a 10 Acre Forest. For those of you that don’t know, a fuel transect involves laying out a 30 meter tape and counting the fuel (dead trees, sticks) in 10 meter intervals. Now this work does seem a little bit monotonous, but every once in a while my partner and I came up on something like this. In the lower left portion of this picture is my coworker. Keep in mind that she is just over 5 ft. tall. We estimated this tree to be just over 7 ft. in diameter and probably over 200 ft. tall. When you’re in the presence of something like that, it’s breathtaking and it doesn’t matter how monotonous the work is.
The real exciting project though begins next week down on the Farm. With this lab, I’ll be a part of a prescribed fire down on a forest owned by Stanford. Ipso facto, I’ll be burning Stanford Trees for science. While I cannot say it’ll be the googly-eyed tree that’ll burn, I’m still really looking forward to being a part of a prescribed burn and hopefully learning a little bit more about wildfires. Aside from the burn, I’ll also be working in Pt. Reyes on the lingering problem of Sudden Oak Death and analyzing burn plots in Yosemite by the end of summer. All in all, it has been a very exciting summer in the lab and things are just starting to heat up!
July 11, 2011By: PR Comm
Hello Cal Band! This summer, I am on a Travel Study program to the Low Countries: The Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium. I am here taking a class through the Dutch Studies program, and while I’ve only been here a week so far, I’ve loved every minute of being here.
My parents were a little apprehensive sending me here, of course. I mean, they already had their doubts about sending me to Cal because they thought it leaned a little too close to liberal for comfort. Imagine their surprise when I said that I wanted to go to a place they deemed “the most liberal city in the world”! It took some convincing, but they eventually decided that I shouldn’t miss an opportunity to experience a new culture. I’m really glad I fought for this, because I would have missed so much if I hadn’t gone.
While I cannot say that I’m here saving lives or interning, I can say I’m learning a lot more than most of us ever learn in high school history (because let’s face it: unless you’re majoring in a historical field, your history classes pretty much stop there). The Netherlands has such a fascinating history, and what better way to cement this newfound knowledge in one’s head than by walking through the streets of the city and witnessing some of these things firsthand through the many art and historical museums offered? The answer is none.
I have to say that the itinerary is pretty intense. In the first week alone, I’ve had the privilege to view the artwork of many Dutch painters in person (Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Gogh), walked through Amsterdam’s red light district, had a lecture in Utrecht University, visited the Dutch Resistance museum, and toured the entirety of the Anne Frank house. Through these activities, I’ve been able to see the effects of the events in Dutch history firsthand, as well as rewrite my own mental history of Europe from the 17th century onward. I’ve been able to see the political actions the United States is too afraid to take in effect here in Amsterdam, a contributing factor to the overall progressive nature of the Netherlands. And I’m here for a few more weeks! I’m having unforgettable experiences, and I’ve made many friends here. I’m overall having a great time.
If you want to follow my trip, my homework consists of a blog documenting each day I’m here.