West Coast.

#15 Solo walking at night and opportunities

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Patrícia Mota
Patrícia Mota

We picked the Mercedes up from the bus on the way back from the OSS (Outdoor Science School) camp and when we saw her with a smile on her facSh, it was heaven.

She hugged us and the first thing she said was: "Mommy, I did a solo hike in the night"...

We didn't understand immediately, and she kept repeating the same thing. I'd loved the experience, but clearly one of the highlights was the "solo hike in the night".

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When we came home, she devoured her soup and a lot of food, which still puzzles me as to how these three lickspittles manage to stuff everything they eat.

She calmly explained to us in the details that can transport us to the moments she experienced, everything that marked her in this experience.

What she learned. The amount of fauna and flora she met on the mountain.

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What she loved, and what she didn't. And finally, the solo hike in the night:

"On the last day, we learned to orientate ourselves with the compass, the sun, and the stars, and the final test was the solo hike.

We had a starting point, a middle point where we had to arrive, which was one of the teachers who turned a light on and off at the top of the mountain like a lighthouse, and the finishing point, which was where my friends who had already arrived were.

I said straight away that I wasn't going to do it and was relieved that it wasn't mandatory...

But then, at the same time, I really wanted to try, and I was so scared, but I wanted to see if I could do it or not. And I didn't think I could do it, but then if the others tried and succeeded, I wanted to know if I could do it or not... So, I don't know why, so I told the teacher that I would take the test too.

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We went two by two to the starting point and arranged the emergency signals.

We left the teacher with the instructions, and we had to climb up on our own in the snow and then go down. But it was so dark, and there were lots of noises, and after entering the woods, I couldn't tell where I was going to put my feet or where the snow ended and the ground began. I buried my feet without knowing how far I was going to get in the snow, and you don't even know; the snow is really cold.

And then the more I walked, the more afraid I became... and I couldn't see where the footprints were to follow them, you know?... and I just wanted to get to my friends and my teacher, and I wasn't sure I was in the right place! or on the right path!

And I walked and walked, and in the snow there are no lights and hardly any noises! But then there were these little noises and I was so scared, I was shivering, and I'm not sure if it was the cold or the fear...! But I didn't want to go back either, so I tried to calm down and remember what we'd learned, and that my friends and the teacher should be waiting for me... and then I thought I was on the right track, and I walked a little further, and deep down I thought it was the light of arrival, and I started running and shouting that it was me, and my friends started shouting and calling me MARCEIDIZ! MARCEIDIZ! and I was so happy! And I ran to them and they hugged me and said YOU DID IT! and I said: I DID IT, and it was so good that I cried! But nothing sad, I was really happy, you know REALLY HAPPY, don't worry..."

How wonderful, my crazy Cuca! Why did you think you wouldn't make it?!

"Porque mamã, não estás bem a perceber... mas o medo, sabes, o medo é mesmo uma coisa que te vem cá de dentro, e que é muito forte e difícil de controlar!"

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Little do you know what we know about fears!

And then the whole afternoon was spent describing the most hilarious episodes, culminating in the departure for the return trip, when I had some friends who wanted to stuff everything into their suitcases and close them, but to no avail... and there went our Cuca, to pack the luggage of one of them and close her suitcase.

When she succeeded, the girl asked how she knew how to pack so well, to which Cuca said she replied, "my friend, I travel a lot!..." Rodrigo and I melted and burst out laughing at the comical and empowered look on our Cuca's face, who was like a little shell ready to close at the slightest discomfort, and who was now sending out packing notes and the like.

That afternoon we picked up Matias, and also Maria, who was returning from the amusement park, Knott Berry Farm, where she had performed with the choir. Although, unlike Sis Cuca, we had to find out what happened to the corkscrew, she assured us that she loved the experience and would like to go back with her brothers. Brothers together and all happy...

Meanwhile Luis and Gerry with Gabi (better known as the Tugo-Bulgarian family) challenged us to spend the weekend with them in the Desert, and although we've only been together twice, the good energy and easy conversation in a country different from everyone's origins promotes intimacy and the desire to share more experiences together.

We packed our bags (Mercedes is right!) and headed to Joshua Tree, where we arranged a pick-up at a point in the park.

I never found the desert funny.

I had always visited deserts in the summer, against my parents' wishes, and what I remembered, apart from the stifling air and the wind that burned my skin even in the (scant!) shade, was an arid and overly monochromatic, lunar-like surface. At the time, I only liked the desert at night, with the most incredible sky I've ever seen, so my expectations were focused on socializing and conversation, rather than on being dazzled by such a strange landscape.

Well, I've bitten my tongue and I take back everything I said.

The desert in February is stunning and exotic, and it was the wildest experience we've ever had as a family.

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We entered the immensity of the park in the direction of the valley where we had agreed to picnic. There was no network, no GPS or anything else we were used to.

The car was running, full of luck!

We looked for our friends in the valley where we had agreed, but the immensity of the valley itself exceeded our expectations, and without a network it was inglorious. We realized that only outside the park could we communicate, and so it was.

We finally got together in the late afternoon for one of the most comfortable evenings we've experienced in these parts.

Making new friends as an adult doesn't seem to be that easy, but perhaps because of the circumstances, perhaps because there are so many things in common, perhaps because they are such interesting people, and perhaps because we really are so lucky in who we meet, we have found in this family a wonderful embrace.

I'll try to keep my hug open to keep making friends like this.

Next day, first stop: present the Junior Rangers' booklets, take the oath to protect nature and collect the badges.

Ready for a day's excursion, with a fresh picnic on the glacier, paper maps in hand, and without ever losing sight of each other, we headed back into the vastness of the desert, hoping to find the cactus garden.

I realized that not having a network or GPS, not knowing where we are on a screen, not having countless signs with street names, arrows and directions, not knowing how far our exit is or where we have to turn in the immensity of the landscape, is something our children didn't know at all. And that we no longer remembered.

After being almost certain that we had lost our way, we found the cactus garden (impossible to miss, there were millions of cacti as far as the eye could see) and had a picnic amongst them.

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It was a wild and beautiful experience in equal measure. And it's to be thanked...

We passed through the most iconic points of this desert, which has clearly become my favorite desert (although, given my background, it doesn't seem that incredible, it really is) and watched a sunset that will also live long in the memory.

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We said goodbye to our friends at the end of the day and returned to Seal Beach with our hearts full.

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The following days were challenging... Snow week for the boys playing hooky at home, with their parents working. Fortunately, we managed to organize ourselves and headed for the mountains at the end of the week. It sounds bizarre after the desert, but I swear the itinerary is as follows... We left the house with our backs to the sea, but with the smell of the sea. Straight ahead towards the desert, but first we turned left and headed for the snow.

Both the desert and the snow are 2 hours away from our beach. If that's not a privilege, I don't know what is. Friends of the children equipping the whole family for this experience and off we go!

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The children have figured it out, and our Mel, who had been pining away in hot lands a few days earlier, came with us for another experience. She's got plenty of world in her little body, and she's learned how to travel with her owners...

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Our Matias is the family PR man, and thanks to him, we were joined by his best friend's parents and their four children. We anticipated a fun weekend, but it was just spectacular! More openness to embrace more friends and create beautiful memories.

Our cabin was cute and very warm. Although we had more beds than people, we found the children's dormitory in the sauce, and that was fine!

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Mountain Bear is really beautiful. And since the last time I went to the mountains, I fractured my elbow; I had the kind of fears that give you insomnia, so we decided to approach just on our sleds to see what it was like...

I then discovered that the middle names of my three children are the same: Kamikaze.

I shouted until I was hoarse WATCH OUT so many times, so that everyone would turn around and not run anyone over. But there were so many good laughs that we were (very!) crushed, but our hearts were full. We promised the ninja to return to the bumpy sides of the slopes on their next trip, as it seems they've lived with snow all their lives.

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Apart from the fun, we're looking forward to returning here in the summer. The landscape is promising...

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The boys have returned to school with more to assure us that what they really enjoy is being on vacation. No judgement! And so it was. The week opened with the news that Matias had been called up simultaneously for the two types of soccer we now know.

The first training session was with the LA Chargers team (I controlled myself so as not to fall out with their coach, who apparently takes the U-6 level very seriously), and I explained that not only did Matias have no idea about the rules of this game, but he also came from a country where football is obviously played with the feet. He laughed and put a hand to his forehead. I could smell a certain panic about the game scheduled for two days from now.

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However, the outlook improved when Matias threw out the first pitch and Coach was apparently delighted and told me about the Quarterback position. I replied that I had no idea what he was saying, but that we were open-minded about positions in unfamiliar games, and he put his hand to his head again...

The only problem... You have to run in this game...

And my rich little son is running very fast, but with open arms towards his rich little mother.

This explains the fuss we and other parents made when Matias and co. ran in the right direction at the game that same week (after a training session).

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They lost their opening game like a flap, but they bumped the 5s off each other as if they'd won. And they had a great time.

The next day he made his soccer debut. Anyone who knows Matias knows that his pupils dilate when he sees a ball, so in this case we're more optimistic, and the coaches didn't take their hands to their heads.

The sisters at home, who are always singing these days, were particularly active in unison preparing for the Destrital Choir Festival.


I can't remember if I've already said it, but in this district, the Choir is really the coolest thing to belong to, and the sisters joined and they love it.

They opened the festival with the music they had rehearsed echoing from one bathroom to the next with the hot bath water running... Several times I asked a little delicately...

shut up!!!! and get on with it!!!

In the end I gave in and asked them for the lyrics.

If this message wasn't delivered to us on purpose, it seems.

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That in all the walks that seem to be solo and at night, you manage to organize yourself to focus on the people who accompany you and who cry out for you...

That in every stranger you can see opportunities to meet friends...

May you have fun in all the challenges.

And always remember that the possibilities are endless.

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