Jan 20, 2009

In Which I Learn to Snowboard

I'd never snowboarded before last weekend. Never skied, either. Despite being from Portland and within driving distance from Mt. Hood, I'd never once strapped things to my feet and slid down a mountain. I'd simply never had the money to do so.

On Sunday, though, I found myself in Nagano with a bunch of students and a coworker, surrounded by awesome looking snow, and with a board strapped to my feet. I tried not to go in with very many expectations. To be honest, I didn't really think that I was going to be able to do it. One of my more annoying demons is that I persistently underestimate my physical self. I often think of my body as a carrying case for my brain, and an awkward one at that. (This is all despite the fact that I actually enjoy a number of sports and exercise on a regular basis.) Snowboarding, I thought, is something that athletically able sexy people do. Not me.

Anyway, I often have to put a fair amount of concious effort into kicking my bullshit hangups in the teeth, and was able to do precisely that while I was attempting to stand up on the damn board. When I first strapped it on to my feet, I couldn't stand up at all. I fell onto my ass multiple times, and heard the annoying voice of personally produced bullshit ringing in my brain, telling me that I didn't have the innate ability or the prerequisite physical training to do it. I told the voice to go fuck a weasle, and kept trying, bucking my body forward and then attempting to balance on the top of the board. Besides, I was with students. There was no way I was going to crap out on anything in front of my students.

I got it eventually. I fell on my ass a bunch more, but I was able to stand up without too much of a problem. I was also able to slide about on a small slope, and when I got the hang of the basics of control I climbed onto the lift.

The lift was quite a show in and of itself. Nagano was white and tree-studded all around. The slopes were abuzz with sliders and I wafted quietly above them. When I got to the top, I slid down, fell, slid down, fell, slid some more, fell, and eventually slid for a long stretch where I felt, for the first time that day, speed and adrenaline. I felt the pleasure of a newly acquired skill, the excitement of it, and understood why the sport was popular in that instant. I fell again soon, but laughed and smiled after my back hit the snow.

I loved it. I loved it even though my skill was incomplete. I went down the same run a few times, and a larger one as well. I slid and tried to turn, I feel again and again and got sore because of it. I got snow in my gloves and my goggles fogged, I marvelled at Nagano's snowy awesomeness from the lift and tried different ways to shift my weight and change direction. I enjoyed futzing with and experimenting with my weight and the board, even though most of my attempts ended with me on my back. It was great, and I'll gladly go again.

I also had a great time with the students. I've too often seen them simply through an academic lens, and it was fun to do something that had nothingwhatsoever to do with English learning. They were as green as me, though, and we had a great time falling about on our asses together. By the end of the day we were a tired and bedraggled lot, but happy for it. In a bar back in Tokyo we got to talking about how I'm leaving, and my last day at work is Feb. 14th.

"What will you do," said one, "if we give you chocolates on Valentine's Day?"

I smiled. "I'll eat the chocolates," I said. They laughed at my mock callousness.

She punched me in the arm like my little sister sometimes does. "No," she said, "you'll stay! If we give you chocolates, that means you have to stay!" I was touched. The whole group of us got on a train back to Narita, and exhausted we fell asleep in our seats.

1 comment:

Anthony said...

I would hope that getting yo' ass beat by a smaller person has not contributed to your bullshit hangups, because I would feel terrible about that.

Heh heh.