SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Mike Lawson and Mark Borja learned to never say never when a competitor's "ama" smacked Lawson upside the head, despite the length of their "iakos." That may have been their biggest wakeup call since their first "huli."
The two credit union technology veterans are used to technical terms, but they had to learn a whole new lexicon when they took up the traditional Hawaiian sport of outrigger canoe racing.
Borja, vice president of operations and consulting for CUTEK, had been racing for a while when he recruited his friend Lawson, a self-employed marketing and public relations consultant for technology vendors, to join in on the fun.
The two, both surfing Southern Californians, had met while Lawson worked in marketing for Symitar, where Borja was a design analyst, among other stints. (He also had been a loan officer at the former Kearny Mesa FCU, now First Future CU.)
The old friends began racing together in the traditional Hawaiian fashion about a year and a half ago. Now the two are avid outrigger canoeists, putting in an average of three days a week in practices and open-water races that can stretch from 10 to 32 miles and has taken them as far afield as Las Vegas and Hawaii itself.
While not exactly uncharted waters, it takes a certain amount of confidence and faith in your teammates to paddle an outrigger canoe well out into the Pacific.
"The meat of a long race is when the margins between boats get so great that you lose sight of the other boats," Borja said. "You just hope your steersman knows where's going."
And at least they're not alone. Lawson said seals enjoy accompanying the paddle and both men cite the camaraderie they enjoy with the other humans aboard, too, along with the physical intensity.
"Only when the waves are big do you feel a bit exposed and vulnerable," Lawson said. "But you just have faith that everything's going to be alright, and just keep on paddling."
And for those who might doubt their sanity, Lawson commented, "Quite the opposite. This sport keeps me sane. It's such an amazing experience being out on the ocean, getting knocked around by the waves, checking out the sea life, paddling, and trading stories with your teammates."
Those stories now can include the time Lawson was struck in the head by the "ama." That's the boat's pontoon. Lawson said he and Borja had just commented the week before that they were safe from such an occurrence because of the length of the outriggers (the "iakos") that connect the pontoon to the boat itself.
That observation was made when a competitor's boat flipped over (had a "huli") right next to them. The next week, on a tight turn, another competitor's boat ran over theirs on a tight turn.
"Its ama bounced off the back of our boat, over my paddling teammates behind me and knocked me in the back of my head," Lawson said. "So much for that theory."
CUNA VP Johnson's 20-Year Wellesian Collection Includes Contracts, Letters but Not 'Rosebud'
WASHINGTON -- There's just something about Orson Welles. About 20 years ago longtime film fan and book collector CUNA Vice President of State Legislative Affairs Chris Johnson was struck by Orson Welles' films and has been expanding the Welles portion of his collection ever since.
"I fell into collecting Orson Welles documents quite by accident, as a result of looking for books about him. I started to see Welles documents for sale at auctions, and before I knew it, I owned about a dozen."
A few standouts in his collection include the original signed contract for Welles' role in "The Long, Hot Summer," memoranda signed by Welles that were written on stationery for Mercury Theater, his production company, that date to the time when he was directing "Citizen Kane" and Johnson's personal favorite--a handwritten letter Welles sent to Marlene Dietrich to persuade her to take a role in the movie, "Touch of Evil," that was put up for sale by Dietrich's estate.
"It is interesting because she didn't want the part so Welles had to court her to play the small but pivotal role," said Johnson. "So here is this handwritten letter that starts out "Dearest Marlene" and goes on to promise her a great role "something entirely new and really worthwhile." He kept his word. "Touch of Evil," the last he directed for a studio in the U.S., is considered the last noire film, and Dietrich played a small part in screen time but was a pivotal character in the film."
Johnson says right now his Welles document collection is kept in a box but he has plans to showcase them.
"I want to do it right," said Johnson. "For now, I pull them out from time to time when friends come over to watch a movie and somehow Orson Welles comes up and they want to see it."
Johnson, who enjoys collecting books signed by their authors, also has over 100 about the Beatles and through his hobby has personally met such authors as Margaret Thatcher, Colin Powell, Martha Stewart (he was the only male present at her book signing), William F. Buckley, Charlton Heston, Peter Bogdanovich, George Jones, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens.
Challen Takes to Mount Kilimanjaro To Help Youth Refocus
NAIROBI, Kenya -- Obstacles come in all shapes but Timothy Challen, who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest free standing mountain in the world several times, is doing his part to prove that one has the will to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.
Challen, a business development associate with the $2.6 billion United Nations Federal Credit Union, was motivated to trek up the 19,336-foot mountain in Tanzania after being shot in an armed robbery in Nairobi, Kenya five years ago. He returned home to Switzerland for surgery and after a long recovery, chose to see the unfortunate experience from another perspective rather than becoming bitter and fearful.
"I wanted to find out why young people get sucked into criminal activity," Challen explained. "I felt if I did the climb, I could raise some issues about crime. It wasn't about me being a victim."
In 2005, Challen founded the Kilimanjaro Initiative (www.kilimanjaroinitiative.org), an organization that coordinates annual climbs up the highest mountain in Africa. Young people from the area are encouraged, along with representatives from the public and private sector, to participate in the five-day ascent (three and a half days to go up and another day and a half day back down). Funds are raised for a number of projects that promote community development, peace missions and other efforts through the Safer Cities programs in Kenya and Tanzania.
Challen said the organization has raised funds to renovate a sports field in what is considered to be the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa. The aim is to bring in a number of sports activities to engage the kids and channel their energies into different, positive ways. A youth group in Tanzania received funds to start their own micro business. They used the money to buy chairs and tents and rent them out when there are events in the area. Others have organized crime watch patrols to deter illegal activity.
A diverse group of 24 participated in the first climb in 2006. A representative from UNICEF, CEOs and youth from some of the area's most disadvantaged communities dropped all social, economic and religious differences and scaled the mountain together, Challen said. Thirty-two people climbed in 2007 and another 30 recently ascended Kilimanjaro at the end of February. Ten days before the climb, young men and women enroll in a 10-day training and leadership course. From there they meet up with nationals and foreigners to make the climb together.
In his calm, Swiss accent, Challen conveyed his belief that we are linked to one another regardless of our backgrounds.
"If you're going to solve a problem in the community, everyone needs to participate. That's what we try to reflect on the climb. We're all working together to overcome adversity."
So far the Kilimanjaro Initiative has garnered support from a number of organizations including the United Nations Human Settlements Program, United Nations Environment Program, United Nations Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, International Crime Tribunal for Rwanda, Kenyan and Tanzanian authorities and United Nations FCU.
"One of the satisfying things I get from the climb is when I hear young people say if they can get to the summit, they can get anywhere," Challen said. "They feel that there is no problem that they couldn't overcome."