Why the Rivers of America Exist

April 30, 2008 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Today was another normal day at the office. The most notable things that happened were that we offered some of our clients’ children the opportunity to register for school on site (I wasn’t involved in this, but it was a cool thing to do), I learned how to send a fax, and I worked out the details of my new computer-lab responsibilities with the ESL teachers. For the rest of my time here, I will be in our computer lab from 12:45 – 1:45 P.M. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, offering help to those who need it, to the best of my abilities. It won’t be as bad as you think(, Dad). Most of the people I’ll be working with will be adults, not high-school students, and moreover, they’ll be adults who are willing to accept help from others. More importantly, what I really wanted from my internship was a role that allows me to interact directly with refugees, and I’m finally getting such a role, so I’m very happy about this development.

Yesterday, I had asked for and received permission to go home early today so that Marion could take me to a party. Today was another of the festive events surrounding the Kentucky Derby: the steamboat race. Every year, two or three traditional steamboats race from downtown a certain distance along the Ohio River, then turn around and come back. Marion’s bandmate Laurel has a house right on the river, so she had a party so everyone could watch the boat race, hang out, and have fun. It was a great party.

The house was contemporary and huge. It has three stories (though the bottom one consists solely of a garage and half-bath), and tons of balconies and windows from which to enjoy the panoramic view of the river. The river is very wide at that point, and there are trees all around, on both sides of it. You can see downtown off in the distance to the left, and you can see Six-Mile Island (which is six miles from downtown). You can walk along the river a short distance and still be on the property, and you can sit in a deck chair on a circular concrete patio down near the water’s edge. I did both of these things. I was enthralled by the beauty of the scenery, and kicking myself for failing to bring my camera with me.

While I was enjoying the scenery, I realized something. For the first time, I was seeing in real life one of the great natural environments that Walt Disney considered such an important, defining aspect of the heritage of America that they form a vital part of the Disneyland “blueprint,” the Rivers of America. I understand now why the artificial rivers are there: the real ones are ten thousand times more impressive, and deserve to be “on display” in a theme park. (I’d go into more themepark/tourism theory if it wasn’t so late, and if I didn’t know it would bore some people.) Seeing the real steamboats was extremely, cool, too, and made me realize that while the Mark Twain and her sister themepark paddlewheelers are scaled down a bit, the rivers themselves are scaled down much, much more.

At the party, there was also good, catered food, a giant inflatable play structure (which I went through, once), and an awesome rope-swing-harness contraption. I went on it, and it was a heck of a lot of fun. It works like this: The rider lies down on his/her stomach on the harness, which is resting on an inflatable cushion, and is strapped into the harness by the operators. The operators then hoist the rider ten feet into the air by pulling on a rope. The operators operate the harness through a series of ropes and pulleys, anchored to the high decks and balconies overlooking the river. There’s another rope that hangs down from the harness, which the rider has to hold on to with his/her left hand while the operator uses it to swing the rider in a circle. It’s like flying, and it was really cool.

Part of Marion’s band was there, so they performed a few songs just for fun, which added to the festivities. I had a good time there. After the party, I went to choir rehearsal again, which went well. Another member of the choir gave me a ride back home.

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