GCD Wilderness Engagement – Diving into the Unknown

I have a love-hate relationship with the ocean.

Seeing the ocean, whether in person or in picture, has always given me a sense of calmness. Standing on the beach, feeling the salty wind brush against me, touching that cold seawater, it has made me feel free and relaxed. But the moment I imagine myself at sea, swimming in that dark blue, murky water, I take a step back and say, no thanks.

Well, that’s not completely true. Though I’ve never been a fan of swimming, compare me to a cat if you will, I have gone snorkeling in the past and loved it. So perhaps my fear of the ocean is better explained as a fear of drowning, the fear that my whole body is so far below the surface and I have to struggle for a breathe of air. And being out at sea creates a very possible risk of that.

So imagine my complete and utter horror when all of my friends decided to go on a scuba diving trip for our school’s expedition week and I agreed to go with them. It wasn’t an easy decision to make and I did change my mind from going a camping trip instead, but ultimately, I decided that it would be an incredible experience and opportunity where I could finally try to face my fear head-on. In retrospect, I am thankful I was able to think that way, since it allowed me not to forget my fear, but to challenge myself in spite of that fear. In this way, this was the first obstacle I overcame, well before the actual trip.

The trip was relatively straightforward, composed of 5 days, 2 of which would be dedicated to traveling out to sea and scuba diving. We, a group of 30 students and a couple of teachers, travelled to Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, where we trained with PADI, a professional scuba diving instructing company. We were given a textbook, from which we were told to study and learn about scuba diving, its risks, and the safety procedures. At the end of the trip, after demonstrating our scuba diving skills at sea and passing the textbook-based test, we would receive our Open Water Diver Certification.

The first night, I was extremely nervous for the upcoming day, when I would finally scuba dive out in the open sea, submerging myself several meters underwater and somehow survive. We had previously practiced using our equipment in a pool, but I knew that would be nothing like diving out at sea, especially comparing the shallow pool and the seemingly endless depths of the sea.

While anxiously awaiting the morning, I also had to study the textbook, where I read about the sea and the mechanics of scuba diving, learning about decompression sickness, non-verbal signals, how to breathe underwater. I found that understanding the sea, how I could keep myself safe and how to respond to potential risks left me feeling more in control and prepared. Which, I attribute to the science-lover part of me, as understanding new things about the unknown has always excited and interested me, so my nerves was forgotten in that moment.

Nevertheless, when morning came and a boat took us to where we would be diving, I was extremely scared to jump into the water. I was never a strong swimmer, so questions like, What if my equipment malfunctions and I’m unable to swim to the surface? What if the current sweeps me away? raced through me. Even as our instructor guided us through putting on our equipment, led us into the water, and prepared us to begin descending, my heart was beating incredibly fast and I had to remind myself of all the things I had been learnt, knowing that I really didn’t have to be so scared.

When I finally descended and touched the ocean floor (we went around 5-7m deep), incredulity hit me. I was breathing underwater. Touching the ocean floor. It was surreal, knowing that I did it! I really had sunk to the bottom of the ocean, even if it wasn’t that deep, and was breathing (did I mention underwater?). I was filled with a sense of triumph, knowing that I conquered my fear as I kneeled on the ocean floor touching the sand and seeing so many little fishes flit around me.

Later came the harder parts, we had to complete drills underwater to mimic what we would do if our equipment malfunctioned or detached. The most difficult one for me was taking my mask off, putting it back on, and clearing the water out of the mask. Although we still had our mouthpiece so we could breathe, I had to shut my eyes (since I had contacts), which was terrifying. There is something completely different between being underwater and seeing what’s around you, and being underwater and not being able to see. The moment I took off my mask, panic took over. I was 5 meters under the surface, seeing only darkness. I struggled to put my mask back on as I momentarily almost forgot to keep breathing. Although not knowing what was around me was petrifying, training kicked in from when we practiced in the pool, and the knowledge that I had done the same drill before calmed me. During that dive, I practiced the same drill a few times more. Though in each time I experienced the same terror of not being able to see, every little practice gave me more confidence and dissolved my anxiety.

In the second day of diving, we continued the drills and also did some free diving, where we swam around the reef, looking at the beautiful coral and the many sea creatures that lived amongst it. It was an amazing feeling, swimming with the coral on my left, using my equipment to navigate through the water smoothly and steadily; I felt as if I was one of the creatures that lived there! That free dive, looking at the beauty of the underwater world, reminded me of why I loved the ocean so much. While the ocean can definitely seem dangerous, it also has the serene, beautiful, and calm side to it, and I am grateful I was able to see that side.

Looking back now, I can still understand my apprehensiveness of scuba diving – it’s not as if diving took away my fear of drowning – but I am thankful that I pushed past that fear and went out of my comfort zone to allow myself to take part in that unbelievable journey, and truly see the natural beauty of the sea.

Terrorist Attack on Charlie Hebdo – Is limiting freedom of expression the right response?

‘Freedom of expression’ should not be limited. Otherwise, it would no longer be ‘freedom’, a fundamental human right, but rather, ‘censorship’. The attack on Charlie Hebdo occurred in protest of their cartoons, which – however satirical – express opinion, not hate speech, because they attack ideas of a religion rather than attack people, as pointed out by The New York Times. Considering this, to limit speech as a response would be to enforce censorship, which is harmful to the development of the country as it attacks the foundation of democracy and of a progressive society.

At the same time, to not limit freedom of expression invites offending those whose strong beliefs are challenged, consequently provoking them to commit violent acts in retaliation. Therefore, limiting speech to prevent offending beliefs would also prevent attacks like the one on Charlie Hebdo. However, if the law were to prohibit Charlie Hebdo from expressing their opinions on the basis that they could provoke people, it would subsequently have to prohibit any speech that offends anyone, which is all of it, as all opinions offend someone in some way. Therefore, limiting freedom of expression is not only detrimental to the country but also illogical in theory.

Spanish Reflection

2. Use a metaphor and a simile to describe the subjunctive and/or the imperative.

The imperative uses are confusing like a riddle, the subjunctive uses is a 500 page book, long and windy.

3. How is what you have learned relevant to other classes/material you are learning?

Learning about new and different verb tenses made me a lot more aware of the tenses I use when writing in English, and so I always made sure the tense makes sense and is grammatically correct. Also, we’re currently starting a unit on gender stereotypes and standards within society in art class, and looking at jewelery. This is similar to our appearances unit as both revolve around the idea of society’s standards on fashion.

4. Write a headline of no more than 10 words to summarize your learning this unit.

Class learns about the truth around beauty in society!

9. Make a wordle or mind map of your learning.

Spanish – Unit 1 Reflection

In the past unit, I think my strongest language skill was my writing; I really understood the format of each type of text (critique, news article, etc) as well as its purpose, so I was able to successfully communicate my message in each piece of writing. My next strongest point was reading, where I able to comprehend the text and identify different elements of it. One thing to improve here would be to constantly review the unit grammar and vocabulary so I can avoid not knowing words that are crucial to understanding the meaning.

Areas I need to work on are my speaking and listening. While words come easily on paper, I still find it a little difficult to come up with words to speak fluently on the spot. This is because I don’t practice speaking enough, and thus I get nervous and forget the correct words. Next unit, when I review vocabulary and grammar, such as on quizlet, I will try to say the words aloud as I go, so I can familiarize myself with speaking those words. In addition, I can also practice listening to words on quizlet, so that I recognize the sounds and such.

My goals for the rest of the semester is to continue expanding my vocabulary and working on speaking and listening. I also want to try to use more complex sentence structures, so that I can express my ideas more clearly.

Spanish – Goals for This Year

This year, I want to focus on the following goals as to help me become a better Spanish speaker. I’ve written them in English so I explain them in more depth.

Firstly, I need to review old conjugations we’ve learnt and practice the new ones. I will do this by using Conjuguemos and their games on different verb tenses. Ideally, I will practice this 2-3 a week, but at least once when I have other work.

Secondly, I feel that my range of vocabulary is still rather limited, especially compared to how I would normally express myself in English and how I would like to be able to write and speak in Spanish. Therefore, I want to practice transitions/expressions and other vocabulary (e.g. verbs, adjectives, nouns, etc). I will do this by using Quizlet and create different stacks of flashcards to help me learn new words and put old ones into my long-term memory.

Thirdly, I want to continue to use my previous assessments to help me make my next ones better. I remember that during the second semester in 9th grade, I began using the feedback from my previous work to target areas of weakness in my current work, which really helped me improve the quality. I want to continue to do this, and perhaps use a page to jot down notes on what I need to work on.

I look to a great year of learning Spanish! (with the fabulously dressed Señora Hill, of course 😉 )

Exclusive: Mercutio’s Unveiled Secrets

Mercutio casually leaning on the side of wall.

Mercutio casually leaning on the side of wall. (Source)

Scandalous! Rumors have been going around about 3 Montagues slipping off into the night and into a party hosted by Capulet himself. Does this have something to do with the constant conflict between these two houses? We’ve asked one of those 3 young men, Mercutio, hoping he’ll give us the scoop not only on the fighting but also about his love life.

You obviously know about the feuding between Montague and Capulet, what do you think about it?

It’s entirely irrational and foolish. The houses fight simply because they have different names, but take that away and you’re left with meaningless bickering. What comes from this fighting doesn’t matter in a big city like Verona.

On whose side of the feud would you put yourself, Capulet or Montague?

Why should I pick a side? That would be as useless as the ‘feud’ itself. Why should I raise my sword at one but not the other? I consider myself on the side of Romeo and Benvolio, not because they are Montague, but because they are my friends.

Speaking of the feud, have you been involved in fights recently?

Are you suggesting that I’m a coward? What good is a man if he won’t – or worse, can’t defend his own honor? Fights, so much as simple brawls, shows a man’s courage and strength. If I can’t answer a duel, what kind of a man am I? I’ll cross swords with anyone should they dare to cross me.

Well, do you know Tybalt?

Prince of Cats

Tybalt, nicknamed the “Prince of Cats” by Mercutio. (Source)

Oh, don’t even speak of his name! A Capulet most foul, he might as well be called the ‘Prince of Cats’ for he’ll go around fighting anyone. Though he’s doubtlessly fearless, he’s also brash and hateful to all Montagues with baseless animosity. He fought Benvolio just the other day even with no provocation. If I ever see Tybalt, I will willingly raise my sword against him.

On another note, got any women in your life?

A man doesn’t need to chase a woman for the simple sake of ‘love’. Women, especially those in love, need tending and caring, for which I don’t have the time to spare. And not to mention, there are the ones who taunt us [men], swearing on their purity even while showing off their fair skin.

In that case, what’s your view on love and romance?

If women are to care for the young and the newborn, why do they need affection, or even love, from me? Love is rarely found, much less desired, as marriages are fixed and not chosen. That is, if love even exists at all. You’ll more commonly find desire and pleasure, which alone is fine for me.

Romeo’s been heard to be interested in a girl named Rosaline, what do you say?

What do I say? Oh, spout me a poem or two on her goddess-like lips! Oh, write me a sonnet on her beautiful body! [jumps up] Oh, sing of her and dance in her honor! [snickers] He moans about his rejected affections, but why bother at all? Find another woman, especially one not sworn on chastity.

We’ve also heard some rumors about Romeo and a new love… Any comments?

What are rumors good for, other than to be rumors? They are simple fantasies of the mind, much like dreams, and yet you still trust them to influence your thoughts? Use your wits, man! Even if Romeo does have a new love, I haven’t heard of it and I’m wary to believe the word of a journalist.

Well, thank you for coming in and sharing this with us Mercutio!

Spanish – ¿Estoy en forma?

¡Hola! Recientemente, he estado pensando sobre de la salud. ¿Piensas que estas saludable? Pienso que estoy algo saludable. Estoy en forma, por supuesto, pero frecuentemente como comida que es poco saludable.

He estado en muchos equipos de mi escuela de deportes como voleibol o hockey sobre césped. Estes deportes son ejercicio aeróbico y son bueno para mi corazón. Cada semana, juego voleibol con mis amigas en nuestro tiempo libre. Soy muy activa y hago mucho ejercicio, así me mantengo en buena forma y tengo músculos fuertes.

Por el otro lado, me encanta comer comida basura, especialmente los dulces con mucho azúcar. Aunque sé es malo para mi salud, todavía como los. Cuando era más joven, ¡no me gustó comer verduras para nada! Ahora, intento a comer una gama de comida, incluyendo verduras. De igualmente, necesito beber más agua, mejor beber refrescos.

Estoy en forma, pero todavía necesito comer comida más saludable. ¿Y tú? ¿Qué haces para mantenerse en forma? ¿Comes comida saludable o poco saludable?



Recientemente – recently

algo – somewhat, more or less

hockey sobre césped – field hockey

comida basura – junk food

dulces – sweets (sugary foods)

azúcar – sugar

incluyendo – including

De igualmente – similarly

Unit 1 – Reflection

For our past unit in Spanish class, we have been focussing on the correct usage and application of three different past tenses (preterite, imperfect, past perfect) and cultural legends.

I now understand more about the how to use the different past tenses and especially when to use them, which allows me to express many different things such as the origin of something or a past event in my life. I also understand how stories, legends, myths and fables can have morals, lessons or explain something. Lastly, I also understand a lot more about the culture and lifestyle of many ancient civilizations, and the way they have impacted the modern world today.

I still wonder about the different ways to use past perfect in my writing about the past, other than needing to connect back to the present day.

For the majority of my assessments, I found that Quizlet was the most effective in reviewing not only vocabulary but also the past tenses. Particularly for the preterite tense, using Quizlet was helpful in learning as it let me review them using examples. However, Quizlet does not show the patterns and rules, so at times I did not review them as much.

For the next unit, I will try to work on learning vocabulary as we go and at the beginning of the unit, so I can easily keep up with the material we go though. Additionally, I will make sure to keep reviewing the different rules and patterns in the conjugation of Spanish’s many tenses.

Semester 1 – What am I most proud of?

Throughout this semester in Spanish, I’ve accomplished many things that I’m proud of.

Firstly, I’ve tried to use more advanced vocabulary and transitions whenever I write. I’ve found that using these transitions – and not just the simple, common ones – make my sentences sound much more sophisticated, and can better connect my sentences together to form more complex sentence structures, as opposed to short, boring sentences that I used to write.

Secondly, I’ve completed my assignments to the best of my abilities, particularly my writing assignments, which I’ve consistently gotten good grades in. It was worth going over my writing over and over to add new vocab, transitions and expressions, and to check over the grammar and punctuation, which I had a little trouble with in the beginning of the semester.

Lastly, I believe I’ve done well in studying and using different verb tenses, especially the preterite, which I found to be one of the easier verb tenses. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered them, as I do still make mistakes from time to time, but I definitely understand them better now and can use them in my writing, which is great.