Monday, July 24, 2017

Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta - Product Review

This past spring I upgraded my hydration pack to the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta.  I chose it since it had the same functionality as my SLS3 but higher end. I had purchased the SLS3 for the Rough Trail with the idea of having my hands fee during the race. Now my hydration pack has become so essential to every trail run that I have to remind myself that it’s not always necessary if its a short distance.

Some differences between this pack and my old one are soft water bottles that are easier against the body. They collapse as the liquid is drained. I usually use fill both bottles. One contains an electrolyte water and regular water. The water bottles are higher on the front of the vest and don’t need to be removed to take a drink. There are pockets underneath that contain my phone and snacks.  

There are 3 pockets in the back. The main compartment is separated and can house a bladder. The outside of the pack has two smaller pockets for my paraphernalia. It also has a draw string, which was good during Ragnar Kentuckiana since I was shedding layers during my run. My hoodie didn’t fit in the pack itself but was attached via that bungee cord. I usually carry a first aid kit, inhaler, phone, knee brace if needed, nutrition, hand sanitizer, tissues, wipes and ID. It’s probably paranoia but I like to be ready for anything in the woods.

This product is specific to women so there aren’t any straps hanging down that flap around during a run.  Also worth noting that in this Kentucky heat and humidity, this product hasn’t chaffed me.  I feel ready for adventures on the trail! 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Book Review - Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer, Undocumented Vignettes from a Pre-American Life by Alberto Ledesma

Dr. Ledesma’s graphic novel was an easy read yet cut to the core of my pre American life. It was also timely. I recently removed “the undocumented American experience” from the title of my blog. The reason is that my work, running, family and writing selves were starting to merge in the online space. I changed the title so that this part of my life would be slightly obscured. After all these years, I am still afraid.

This book is a reminder that our stories about having lived an undocumented life need to be told.  
I identified with the author’s undocumented beginnings, being told that they were going on vacation and never leaving.

Dr. Ledesma’s family legalized in 1986 with the passing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. He then went on to get his undergraduate and graduate degrees. He worked with an organization within UC Berkeley that assisted immigrant students. The author wrote that not every student was ready to come out publicly. He recognized the pressure to confess who they were “via ever increasing gut wrenching stories” to get support from the university.  Dr. Ledesma noted that it was important to recognize many of these students were still processing the psychological repercussions of their undocumented life on their identity.  

Even fully legalized the author wrote that grappling with the emotions of being undocumented, even for someone who has now spent decades enjoying the benefits of naturalized citizenship, was no easy matter. This novel seems to be a part of his process. He told me that if he could help one or two readers embrace the complexities of undocumented life, the effort would have been worth it. I'm grateful this book insisted on creating itself, as he wrote and that it found its way to me.

The author wrote about his daughter and slowly ceasing to hide his drawings from her. He talked about an awareness building in her about her family’s history. Then he told her, maybe surprising himself, that he was once undocumented.

What I loved most about this book was the author’s recognition (and actually seeing the words on the page) that the state of undocumented-ness has a psychic cost.

He wrote that unless his work was published, the notion that undocumented immigrants are brain dead parasites incapable of intellectual and ethical reflections regarding their social, political and historical condition in American society will persist. And, unless these ideas are challenged, undocumented immigrants will continued to be regarded as machinery devoid of spiritual or intellectual worth.

I like how Ledesma’s book is both a narrative about his life an also outside of it. The narrative is his life but the sketchbook format presents the other legislative and economic factors that affect an undocumented life. The ideas are quilted so someone like me with an undocumented past can process the experience visually. Similarly, somebody with no firsthand knowledge of being undocumented can step inside to understand a different narrative of the American experience.