August 10, 2008
Today is the first day of my journey to Europe for the World Cup of Freestyle Kayaking. Traveling from Idaho is a little bit harder than from many other places. This morning I flew from Boise (BOI) to Los Angeles (LAX) to Vancouver, BC and then I will fly to London, England, then on to my final destination of Prague, Czech Republic. Right now, I’m in Vancouver with a five-hour layover.
|I went to Tim Horton’s, the Canadian equivalent of Starbucks and got coffee and two donuts. So, I’m doing a little bit of internet work before I go out for lunch to pass the time. When I get on the plane at 5 pm it will already be 1 am in Prague. When I arrive there, they will serve us a quick dinner and we will go to sleep to try and acclimate to the new time zone. I will be eight hours ahead of you the whole time I am in Europe.
Devon and Lenka Novonta posing before some spectacular Prague architecture.
The last time I was in Prague was in 2005 when I traveled with Lenka Novonta for three freestyle competitions. Lenka is on the Czech Team and lives just outside of Prague. I met her on the Payette River in 2001 while she was in Idaho working as river guide for the summer with Cascade Raft and Kayak. We will travel together to Augsburg, Germany and then Thun, Switzerland, eight hours from Prague, for the rest of the World Cup tour. Then, back to Prague, where I will spend one last night before flying home. My return trip is a little better: I fly Prague, London, Vancouver, Portland and then Boise. To my students, I will see you on September 4th! Study hard and learn lots about Europe. I will be bringing back pictures and video to share with you!
You can follow the world cup tour at http://www.kayaksession.com/intro-WC2008.php
and at www.jacksonkayak.com
August 13, 2008
Kayaking as Gateway to the World
I just finished my first training session at the Prague Whitewater Canoe and Kayak Center. This course was built in 1985 during the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia was under communist rule for a long time; the Russians occupied it from 1948-1989. The country split into two countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in 1991.
Prague Whitewater Canoe and Kayak Center course.
© Devon Barker
|This course was built as a training center for slalom kayakers, so they could dominate the world in paddling. A man named Dufeck trained very hard and won the first round in the 1953 World Championships in Italy but then threw the race so the limelight would not be on him. He could have won but without the attention on him he was able to escape by paddling to another country; he paddled away from communism to freedom. It is so striking to me that he chose to not be a World Champion Gold Medalist because it was more important to choose freedom. It is stories like this that help me realize how lucky we are to be Americans our whole lives. I know not the struggle for freedom.
This year I was homesick before I even left Idaho. I’m usually homesick a few weeks after being abroad but, then I’m okay, as I know I will be coming home soon. I was welcomed here by many of my friends from around the world and that helped me to feel a little more at home.
|During my training session I was reunited with: Marsha from St. Petersburg, Russia, who I met while paddling on the Nile in Uganda; Valrie and Erik from Canada/Norway (she is a citizen of both countries), we paddled together in Spain eight months ago; Jessie Stone is from New York, but spends most of her time in Uganda running Soft Power Health. Also, Ruth Gordon from Canada and many of my Czech friends I have not seen in three years.
View of the city center of Prague, Czech Republic.
© Devon Barker
The international atmosphere here is amazing. Meeting my friends from around the world helps me to be a little less homesick and knowing that I have the freedom to travel to anywhere in the world to see them is exciting. I think my next stop might be to St. Petersburg to paddle. I will leave you with a few Czech words and another website to check for video of Prague and the kayaking at the course.
Thank You - (Dekuji)
Toast - (Nazdravi)
Hello - (Ahoj, Dobry den)
To Play - (Hrat si)
Check out www.southmainkayakteam.wordpress.com for a map link, (World Cup Map), video, write-ups, and pictures for the World Cup Tour 2008.
Bye (Cau) for now, Bless you all for your support.