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Mentors and The Trip Out West

It’s almost a cliché now to say that one or several people can change the trajectory of your entire life. I came back from my visit to Oregon earlier this month with a renewed sense of how important these people have been to me. Three years ago, a single scholarship application and acceptance through the Asian American Government Executives Network (AAGEN) enabled me to meet who I now consider to be one of my closest confidants and friends. A chance meeting before my scholarship reception at AAGEN’s annual conference blossomed into a relationship that has blunted the trauma of graduate school in New York and other experiences new and old. Teiko is an extraordinary woman. Born in a Japanese internment camp, she rose to become the first Asian American woman to and to serve as the Assistant Director of International Affairs in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hers is a story of a lifetime of resilience.

Having moved to a retirement community in Medford, Oregon from Alexandria, Virginia this past summer, Teiko and Don invited me to their new place to spend a week in the Rogue Valley region. It had been almost a year since I last saw Teiko in person at graduation. The trip was much too short given the amount of time we were apart but we still had time to add two more national parks to my list.

Traveling to the redwood forests of Redwood National Park in northern California, Don, Teiko, and me caught up on the local controversy involving the proposed construction of a pipeline meant to export oil and gas from Canada to an export terminal with ships bound for Asia. A former Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Don has been working diligently as a political operator to find out who and what needs to be done to stop this project. This is the type of retirement, one of continued civic activism that I aspire to. On our drive through the forest, it really takes you by surprise how immense these trees are.

Prior to coming to Oregon, Teiko was concerned that we may not be able to make it to Crater Lake National Park due to the snow and the breakdown off all three NPS snow trucks. Fortunately, we made it and I took a trip snowshoeing with one of the park rangers, Dave Grimes, on staff. I really appreciated Dave’s park interpretation where he emphasized how disruptive climate change has been to the park, including the rise of invasive species—including a beetle that is killing the whitebark pine—and the reduction in snowfall that will have an enormous impact on the local ecosystem. I was saddened to hear that even though a chemical remedy exists that deters the beetles from killing the trees, due to its expense its use has been restricted to about 50 trees that are close to scenic routes.

More to come…

I’m about 170 cm to give you some impression of how tall these trees are.
Crater Lake and Wizard Island.
Whitebark pines killed by the mountain pine beetle.

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