Introducing Au Pairs to a Favorite Pastime
I'm originally from Boulder, Colorado and love river rafting. When I learned that our Denver and Boulder clusters were meeting high up in the Rocky Mountains to take on the rapids, I did not hesitate to join the au pairs from Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Italy, and many other countries who wanted to try my favorite sport for the first time!
Our experienced guides provided us with a safety training, teaching us the different commands we would hear during the excursion, showing us how to row in unison, and demonstrating what to do if anyone got bumped out of the raft - making everyone laugh nervously. Everyone was given helmets and large, plastic-like body suits to wear beneath their life jackets. The body suits were not the most comfortable out in the blazing Colorado sun. However, the suits did provide protection from the frigid mountain river, and dried quickly in between rapids.
The Adventure Begins
We boarded the bus and drove to the launch site, where we set up our rafts. Then, one by one, we carried our big blue rafts to the river and climbed in to begin our Arkansas River adventure. The hour-long ride began leisurely, and we enjoyed the beautiful landscape around us and the wonderful summer weather. The initial rapids brought about rounds of excited laughter and exchanges over who got soaked the most.
The distance between the rapids began to shorten and the intensity of the rapids grew. We eagerly anticipated each bowl, dip, and drop in the river's elevation. Our guide kept us focused on working together as a team to manage each rapid and navigate the shallow, winding river. As we neared the end of our rafting excursion, our guide reviewed the final two rapids and how we would manage them.
The first rapid we would tackle involved following an alley of submerged boulders, known as a sieve, leading to a five foot drop into an area of pressure waves, also called a pillow, where water flows over a large object and builds up on itself, occasionally flowing backwards.
Au Pairs Overboard!
We began rowing in unison, picking up speed so as not to get trapped in the bowl. The whitewater boiled and churned beneath our raft as we closed the distance. Our raft flowed with the water through the sieve and dropped into the pillow, only to be greeted with a large wave on one side. The wave washed over the raft, carrying our group with it. The raft continued on, and the river carried us back to it.
Our guide helped everyone who had fallen out to re-enter the raft, and we joined the other rafts who had navigated the rapid and were pulled to the side, ready to offer assistance. Our group was full of energy and excitement as we barreled towards the final rapid, which we handled without the need for swimming. After we climbed out of our rafts and out of the river, the other rafting guides announced that we were all now members of an exclusive "Rocky Mountain Swimmer's Club," and our group cheered.
A Cultural Exchange Win for Everyone
River rafting is one of the many wonderful activities typical to Colorado, and I am so excited that our au pairs were able to experience it. It was also really wonderful to see au pairs enjoying my home state of Colorado!
This was a great opportunity to share my culture with these au pairs, and also to have a great time! Not only was this an exciting time for the au pairs to learn about an American pastime, but also to specifically do something that you can only do on a raging river like the ones here in Colorado.
Originally from Colorado's Front Range, Michael studied and worked abroad in Austria, Germany, and France before settling in New York in 2007. When he isn't talking about his two beloved cats, Michael can be found at the gym, playing video games, or reading about geopolitics and history. He currently oversees au pair recruitment and placement for the Au Pair USA program.