Sunday, July 18, 2010

Swimming in Iceland

At the foot of the volcano, the hills are covered in blackish gray ash. Rivers of mud left streaks like veins on the side of the mountain. Only 3 months ago, the eruption sent ash 9 kilometers into the air and shut down air traffic in most of europe. Walking at the bottom of the mighty beast today, I thought to myself, this is like taking a stroll on an alien planet.


My friends are walking ahead of me in a rapid clip. Why did they tell me to bring my swim trunks and towel? I could not fathom there is anything left in this mountain but death and destruction. Someone must have made a colossal mistake.

After a half hour hike that crossed a stream and some broken trails, suddenly, we come to an outdoor swimming pool. Amazing! Volcanic ash has covered portions of it, and the dressing room looks like a wreak.  But incredibly, the water is still clean and warm!

There is only one thing to do now. Go swimming!


I would not have thought about doing this in a million years! I've got awesome friends and this is a delightful surprise they set up for me. This has got to be the best experience in Iceland!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mugging at Gun Point

This past Saturday night I had the interesting but unfortunate experience of getting mugged at gun point. Here's how it went down.

I was walking home from a comedy show in downtown. I've done this walk a hundred times, and usually I would walk on Geary until Polk, and then walk up Polk to get home. This route is filled with pedestrians since both Geary and Polk are both full of bars. However, this night, I was walking a friend home and she lives on Leavenworth which is much less frequented by pedestrians.

I made two mistakes that night. I left her place at around 11:40 pm, and walked north on Leavenworth. I could have cut across to Polk but being lazy, I didn't feel like climbing the hills. The second mistake, I was texting on my phone. I figured Nob Hill is probably one of the safest neighborhoods in the city, so I thought nothing of it.

I remember crossing the cable car tracks on Washington, when suddenly an African-American male (5'6" to 5'8", heavy build, 180 lb to 200 lb) appeared in front of me. It took me a second to register, and I heard a click sound and saw that he had what looked like a gun at his hip (I wasn't too curious to find out if it was a real gun or not). Another split second before I realized that a car pulled up along the sidewalk and he jumped out of the car. This is how he pulled the magic materialize-out-of-nowhere routine.

Now my first thought is, "shit, I'm gonna get shot in the stomach". And yes, I was afraid and felt it in my guts.  He said something like "hand it over", which I immediately understood to mean my phone. So this is what a mugging looks like, I thought to myself.

For the past two years, I've been training in Krav Maga, which in retrospect has prepared me well in this situation. For a fraction of a second, I thought about doing a gun defense, and fight the guy off. Then the next fraction of a second, I decided it wasn't the best idea. I had only done gun defense in one class, and I'm not comfortable enough with the technique. Also, the gunman was holding the gun in a bladed stance, with the gun at the hip. I really don't know how to takeaway the gun from this position. It was dark, and he has an accomplice driving the car. The last thing I need is a struggle for the gun on a dark sidewalk.

I threw my iphone on the ground, and it landed on the sidewalk behind him. Then he motioned to his back pocket, he may have said something, but I understood immediately he wanted my wallet. I was also mentally prepared for this. I ran through scenarios like this in my head many times before. I took my wallet out, opened it, withdrew the cash and handed him the cash. He immediately took the cash and told me to turn around and walk away. I got to keep my wallet with my drivers license and credit cards.

It was over in less than 10 seconds. He picked up my phone from the ground, and jumped in the car and the car sped off. I caught a glimpse of the license plate, thanks to my awesome lasik corrected vision, and memorized the first few letters.

I walked over to a corner store that I knew would still be open, and used the pay phone just outside of it to call 911. Multiple police cars showed up in less than a minute. I made my police report, and tried to be as helpful as I could. At the end of it, I got a ride home in the police car. And being the first time in the back of a police cruiser, I can tell you it's extremely uncomfortable.

Only when I got home, I finally felt exhausted. The adrenaline rush was over. I felt a little shaky. But all things considered, I was not hurt, and only lost an old iphone with some cash. It was, in the words of my roommate, the best outcome in the worst situation.

I must say, the martial arts training did help a lot. I didn't feel like a victim. Yes, I was mugged, but I felt I was under control for the most part. Shit happens, the rest is how you react to it.