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What It's Like To....

December 21, 2006

Tulanian Staff and Alumni
Michael DeMocker

Fess up. The first thing you did was turn to the class notes section, circa your graduation year. We figured as much. It's fun to discover fmiliar names and catch up on who's doing what. And some of you are doing pretty itneresting things. We asked a few Tulanians to share in their own words their experiences and to tell us -- WHAT IT'S LIKE TO......

What it's like to adopt a child from another country..... by Julie Horst, B '97

A whirlwind trip to instant parenthood In July 2004, my husband and I traveled to Korea to adopt our son, Jackson YooBin Schoer. We had been told in mid-May that it would take two to four months before he would be ready to travel from Korea, and so we were surprised, excited and bit stunned when the call came on July 5 that we should buy our plane tickets and get to Korea. We traveled to Seoul, South Korea, on July 21 and met Jackson for the first time the next day.

tulanianfall2006_travelers_1That first meeting was less than auspicious. In fact, it was a little traumatic for all of us. Jackson had been living with a foster family for about seven months and was understandably attached to his foster mother and father. At 10 months, he was approaching the age of heightened anxiety about new people. So, when two strange-looking Americans came to see him, he was pretty unhappy about us holding him or even being in the room alone with him.

This was tough for us, too, and we wondered how we would ever get through a 20-hour flight back to the States, much less become a family unit.

Before our trip back home to Madison, Wis., we spent a number of days in Seoul while arrangements were being finalized -- plenty of time to worry about whether we had made a big mistake and shouldn't have ventured down the road of adoption.

Despite our apprehensions, we did enjoy our stay in the sprawling city that is Seoul, and saw a number of sights that we hope to tell Jackson about when he is older.

Finally, the big day arrived and we met Jackson and his foster parents at the adoption agency. I won't deny that the six hours or so after Jackson's foster parents left were wrenching for all of us.

Later that evening, however, as my husband and Jackson were watching the lights of Seoul come up from the balcony of the adoption agency's guest house, Jackson began to warm up to Darren and eventually to me. We were all exhausted as we fell asleep later that night. Our crash course in parenting continued for the rest of the trip, through and beyond our journey home.

Two years later, we look back at the blur of those first six months together as a family. For his part, Jackson adapted easily to new parents, a new home, new food, and a new language. Darren and I simply had to adjust to being first-time parents of an active, curious 10-month-old. He has grown into a happy, healthy guy who loves almost anything to do with balls and is a big fan of buses and diggers.

We were happy to have the opportunity to travel to Korea to see his country of origin, and meet his foster family and the adoption agency staff who helped nurture him during his early months.

While "instant parenthood" (and parenthood in general) has its fair share of challenges, we'd strongly recommend it.

Julie is the campaign director for Community Shares of Wisconsin and says she can be reached by e-mail at

What's it like to cook curry in combat.... by Ian Stone A&S '91

Dining with devil dogs After college, I joined the Marines and entered the flight program, completing flight school in 1994. It was there that I earned my "callsign" or aviation nickname of "Niles" -- you know, the foodie and erudite brother from the TV show "Frasier." Buddies would pass me in the hallway of the ship and mutter, "I said Madagascar cinnamon, dammit!" I suppose that's what I get for sneaking onboard my cappuccino machine. After my active duty tour was complete, I served with an infantry unit (2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines) in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a forward air controller, guiding aircraft to targets.

We were very much running around in the mud and dust, but of course that was tempered with the fact that I had brought with me basic cooking supplies. Anyway, me and my team of Marines stormed and secured the United Nations building in Baghdad on the morning of April 9 to find a huge commercial kitchen in the UN cafeteria! Not to let an opportunity slip by, the next day when things quieted down, I took several of my Devil Dogs (as sous-chefs) with me to the kitchen and cooked up some awesome noodles for everyone. This is an easy recipe, especially if you don't have to worry about someone shooting at you while you stir.

Combat Curry Noodles

- fettucini
- butter
- garlic
- sweet yellow curry
- salt and pepper to taste
- M-16 and three clips of 5.56 ammo

In a pot of water, boil some fettucini noodles till al dente. Heat about one-third to one-half cup butter per pound of noodles. When melted, add about a tablespoon of fresh minced garlic per one-half cup butter. Lightly add some sweet yellow curry. Salt and pepper to taste. Check your light discipline (red lens only) and have posted sentries check for security. Strain noodles and add heated sauce. A light application of sauce is plenty if you don't want to add too much butter in your diet.

Then again, if you have been on one MRE a day for a couple weeks, go ahead and gorge yourself. Serve immediately and review defensive fire plan sketches. Of course, this is a much more comfortable meal in your own home when you aren't armed to the teeth. When I came back to the States, I asked myself what I wanted to do. Since I love cooking and have always been the go-to guy for what kitchen gear to buy, it seemed that I could sell my knowledge about essential kitchen tools and equipment.

And that's the idea for my online venture, "The Bachelor's Kitchen," which makes things easy for a guy whose kitchen tools consist of plastic forks and paper plates . The site's success has opened other opportunities such as the "What's Cookin' With Steve and Ian" radio show on KWSS 106.7 FM aired in Scottsdale, Ariz.

What it's like to circumnavigate the globe.... by George Latham M '65

An 18-year odyssey How does a practicing pediatrician get the idea he wants to build an ocean-going sailboat and sail around the world? It does not happen suddenly; it is more like a gradual ember of desire slowly building into a flame that could not be denied. The building of Wind Dancer was a labor of love. No one can begin the process of building a boat without keeping the vision of circumnavigation firmly in view through the sawdust and the roar of the saw.

tulanianfall2006_boat_1Eventually, forms begin to rise from the clouds of chaos. The greatest day of boat building is the day of launching, providing the boat does not leak, of course. The champagne sprays over the bow and everyone cheers as the keel slips beneath the water for the first time.

Leaving the home dock for distant ports is, of course, the next milestone for any sailor. From the Oregon coast, my wife, Ellen, and I traveled south to California and Mexico. My first experience of checking into a foreign country was in Ensenada, Mexico.

After stifling my fears of interrogation by foreign officials determined to find something wrong with my papers, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by kind, gentle people intending only to make my stay enjoyable. From Mexico we turned the bow west across the Pacific Ocean and to the delights of Polynesia, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia. Being at sea for me is a calming process that allows me to be in tune with nature and strips me of dependence on others and the chaos of modern life.

As the lights of cities fade from the horizon, the sky yields billions of stars as well as meteors, comets, aircraft and even the occasional satellite. Boredom at sea is never a problem. We've watched the antics of booby birds or dolphins on their way to feeding grounds, talked to friends on the radio, and discussed which foods we most desired when we reach our next port! After days at sea, landfall with the faint scents of vegetation and flowers mixed with the dark image of a high volcanic island rising from the horizon in the distance is an emotional time for us.

Traveling from port to port we have spent time in nearly 40 countries and have sailed 66,000 nautical miles, most of them fun and easy to manage but with a few storms that taxed all our abilities to keep the boat safe and moving in the right direction. The lessons we have learned are many. We have learned that in most all places we have visited people are usually just trying to love and enjoy their families, and provide shelter and education and a good life for their children. We also have lived in and worked in different cultures where people have developed in ways unlike our own.

At the end of the day, however, most people want the same things: to be fed, a place to live, a chance to be productive and a chance to seek spirituality in a way that is meaningful to them. We are looking forward to continuing our circumnavigation and learning more about the people we will meet and what they hold dear to their lives.

What it's like to travel to India to study yoga.... by Becky Lloyd N '90

Don't fly away, but do fly I traveled to India to go to the source of yoga. I went as a seeker looking for what I was meant to do. My destiny, I discovered, is to teach and practice yoga. Travel in India is an overwhelming, sensual experience, from the pressing crowds of people to the chaotic vehicular traffic. Yet in the seeming confusion, there is apparent order. I went eight years ago to the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune.

tulanianfall2006_yoga_1B.K.S. Iyengar is the powerful, exciting yogi and author of Light on Yoga -- the contemporary bible of hatha yoga. At the institute, he does his yoga practice -- quiet forward bends, rock-steady headstands, precise backbends -- in full view of the students. I've glimpsed his legs, motionless, flat against a window.

When he enters the studio, some students bow and touch his feet; others do not interrupt their own practice. Occasionally Iyengar pops into classes and gives instruction.

Once we were doing Virabhadrasana II, the Proud Warrior pose in which one leg is bent at a 90-degree angle, the other leg is fully stretched, the torso is erect and both arms extended out to the sides. Iyengar urged the class -- "Extend! Extend your arms." Then he looked at me. My arms lifted up like the wings of a plane or bird about to take off. Iyengar said, "Don't fly away." That was it. I would not fly away from yoga as I had from piano and photography.

But I would fly. In the discipline of doing Iyengar yoga with its emphasis on correct alignment of body limbs and parts, I experience a paradoxical freedom -- emotional, mental, physical and spiritual freedom. I started doing yoga when I was a music major at Tulane, taking a yoga course to fulfill the physical education requirement. Lucky for me, the teacher taught Iyengar yoga.

After I graduated, I continued studying Iyengar yoga while briefly pursuing photography in the Newcomb Art Department's master of fine arts program.

But in India, I truly found myself. I became accustomed to the daily lifestyle of intense yoga practice and remained in Pune for four months through Iyengar's 80th birthday celebration. Then I came back to New Orleans and opened Audubon Yoga, my own yoga studio that is still going strong post-Katrina. I did not fly away. I found my confidence and my way, passing on to others the wonders of yoga.

What its like to surf like a girl.... by Rebecca Heller N '96

A magic ride on the perfect wave "Surf stoke" means "unable to stop thinking about surfing," and I've got it bad. Growing up in northern California I spent a lot time with surfers. None of them girls, of course, so it never occurred to me that I, too, could zip up a wetsuit and paddle out. And while Tulane's mascot is the Green Wave, unfortunately there's not much surf in New Orleans, so I didn't learn as an undergraduate either. Five years in New York City did no more to further my surfing career and so it wasn't until the age of 27 when I called up Surf Diva in San Diego that my love of surfing truly began.

As I drove to my first lesson, I wondered if I would be the only 20-something in a sea of teenage girls. Luckily, when I showed up there were many other women just like me, eager to master the act of riding on water. Standing up on that large foam board in the white wash, I knew I was hooked. What I didn't know is that surfing would change my life completely.

But what is so great about surfing? Could it be communing with nature? Is it spending time with your friends? The exercise? The quiet meditation? The challenge? Might it be the pure childlike thrill you get from catching a great ride? Or is it all of that? Five years later, I quit my job in the film industry, traveled the world in search of the perfect wave, authored a book called Surf Like a Girl*, with the hopes of empowering other young (and not so young) women to get out there and learn to surf.

And while I teach at a surf camp each summer, it is the all-women's surf days I organize that truly inspire me. I love meeting women of all ages who, like myself, have a desire to hit the water. It's so fun to hand them a wetsuit, make sure the zipper goes up the back (never the front), show them how to "pop-up" (stand up on the surfboard), and finally take them out in the water. A couple of wipeouts later, we always get each one at least one magic ride where they stand up all the way into the beach.

Later, when we are back on shore, they all talk of their great rides and even better tumbles. The smiles on their faces say it all. I tell them to be careful -- today could change your life forever. *Out later this year is Skater Girl (Ulysses Press), the second in the series for girls on boards.

What it's like to document a disaster.... by Matthew Ogens B '95

Cinema verite Less than 10 days after Hurricane Katrina struck, I was deployed by the Red Cross of Santa Monica with three other filmmakers to document the aftermath of the disaster and relief efforts (or lack thereof). Though there were media blackouts in some areas we had full access to nearly every town we came through. While we were there as filmmakers, our first priority was to help others in need. We hit towns in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, eventually spending most of our time in and around New Orleans.

Nights were spent in shelters, sleeping on army cots or cold tile floors. We showered with a hose in a tent. I grew to look forward to those showers. I miss them in a way. I wish there was a camera on us filmmakers. That would have been a documentary. Personalities do clash in tight quarters. A funny anecdote -- at one point we passed Mr. Binky's Adult Superstore. The place was destroyed and strewn across the grounds out front were thousands of "adult toys."

A bit of comic relief amongst the sorrow we saw everywhere. Two weeks after the hurricane hit and the levees broke there were still many people who had not been evacuated. They were hungry, exhausted and living in their own makeshift shelters. Driving up Claiborne Avenue, I was flagged down by a man named Marvin. Marvin was living in a broken-down city bus since his home was destroyed. We took him to a facility for medical attention and drove him back to his bus, where he was waiting for his wife to return.

A few days later I was in a shelter in Texas when Hurricane Rita struck. That night we decided to drive back to New Orleans to get Marvin to safety. We drove through the storm in the middle of the night, the wind and water many times nearly sending us off the road. It got to a point that our own lives were in danger. Just outside New Orleans, we were stopped at a barricade and told to turn back. There was 10 feet of water in front of us on the highway. No way in or out. I don't know what happened to Marvin. I like to think he's OK, living with his wife somewhere safe, starting a new life.

It was fitting that our last night in New Orleans was spent in the French Quarter. The streets were barren and pitch black. Driving down Bourbon Street, we spotted a distant light. As we drew closer we realized the light was coming from Johnny White's Bar, an establishment that never closed during or after the hurricane. Powered by a generator, it was a refuge for many who had remained in the Quarter. I ordered an Abita Beer and a shot of Jim Beam and toasted my favorite city.


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