I had worked at the Grand Canyon in 2000, I was fired after a month because of drinking on the job. I had always felt like it was a failure in my life, even though, no one else in my life considered it a failure, in my heart I did. When I returned from a year of teaching in South Korea, and didn’t want to live in Ohio, I decided to apply for the Grand Canyon, they hired me.
Even though it was very beautiful at the Grand Canyon, I would wake up every morning, put my headphones on, and listen to Willie Nelson while walking the rim, looking at all the Japanese, Australian and German tourists taking endless pictures of the canyon. I hiked 89 miles of the Grand Canyon, I walked to the bottom a total of three times, and did the hardest trail on the South Rim called The New Hance Trail. But the most valuable experience I had at the park was meeting new people and learning about different cultures. The Grand Canyon has a program where they bring in international students from countries from all over the world. I had to work in the employee cafe as a cashier, which led me to meeting basically everyone that worked at the park.
Filipinos: I made good friends with two female Filipinos, we would hang out in their cabin and eat chicken adobo. They had drawers and drawers of Filipino food and ramen stashed away. They would feed me durian candy, durian candy is really sweet, mushy, and almost meat like, think very tender steak. They had an altar to Mother Mary and several saints in their room. They took each picture of a saint and then described who they were and what each saint did.
I also hiked with a 45-year-old Filipino, she wasn’t a student, she was actually a mail-order-bride who came over in the early 90s. She had divorced the “pen-pale-husband” as she called him, then met a man, dated him for ten years, then he died of cancer, she said the only way she could deal with reality was by hiking the southwest.
Romanian: I worked with several Romanians and they all minded their own business, they went to work and that was about it. But one Romanian girl got a weird crush on me, and wouldn’t stop following me around, and knocking on my dorm room door all the time. I didn’t feel that I had anything in common with her, and she didn’t make me laugh, so I didn’t want to date her. She didn’t care about what I felt, and kept following me around anyway. She worked in the tourist cafeteria where I ate dinner, one day in August I was there getting food and she yelled in an awesome vampire sounding voice, “Noah you ruined my summer, I want to kill you!”
Jamaicans: The Jamaicans and the Americans living there got along really well, we were both New World people that didn’t consider virginity and Jesus super relevant to our lives. I made friends with a large Jamaican male named Q. We watched the sunset one day, the setting over the Grand Canyon looks like a bomb exploding in the distance. While the sun disappeared, he told me his brother was killed when he was 13-years-old, his brother was chopped into many pieces by a gang. They chopped his body up with a saw.
Taiwanese: The Taiwanese predominantly spent their time on the internet, they were forced to work cleaning hotel rooms because they couldn’t speak English well, the hardest job in the park. I asked them if they had any hobbies, and they responded, “Internet.” I made friends with the two Taiwanese that left the internet sometimes, one was named A., A. played guitar but had no guitar at the canyon. I had a Martin guitar, so I let her play mine. We would sit at night outside the tourist cafeteria called Maswick, she would play songs and sing in Chinese. She told me she belonged to a guitar club at her college. She never played with a pick, only with her fingers.
I become close friends with a Taiwanese girl named Bear, Bear and I both loved hiking. She would only wear hiking clothes everyday, she never wore make-up and always had on a baseball cap. Her only concern in life was hiking and seeing wildlife. She didn’t smoke, didn’t drink and didn’t eat candy. I would call her a Buddhist nun, and she would yell back, “I am not nun, I am hiker.” She would refer to her hiking backpack, as, “My baby.”
We hiked several trails together, we went down New Hance trail and spent the night next to the river, no one ever goes on New Hance trail because there is no water, and you have to scramble for a lot of it, according to the National Park Rangers, when we got our permit, no one had even been on the trail in two weeks. We gathered water from the river and from a four inch stream to drink. At night Bear spotted a rattlesnake, instead of running from the snake, she stood there in amazement, yelled for me to come over, I walked over, she said, “Look snake.” She took out her camera and took pictures of the snake, smiling the whole time.
Polish: I was most intertwined with the Polish, they drank a lot, I drink a lot, so we became friends. Polish women are beautiful, athletic and intelligent. Half the Polish men were built like linebackers, big shoulders, tall and ripped. They all knew three to four languages and were very interested in education and learning. They were very diverse in personalities, one guy was obsessed with Robert Kurzweil and nanobots bringing mankind to a new singularity, one Polish guy liked asking me if I had masturbated today, by saying the phrase, “creamworks” and making a jerking motion while laughing. I made friends with two Polish girls, one loved Katy Perry and wearing Leopard print clothing, the other had lived in Spain and been to 10 other countries in Europe and North Africa.
Navajos and Hopis: The Grand Canyon is located next to the Navajo and Hopi reservation, a large portion of the employees come from the reservation. I worked with a 73-year-old Navajo woman named E. E. grew up on the reservation, she had a tattoo on her hand of her name. I asked her how she got it, she told me she did it when she was 13 with a cactus prick and some pen ink. She said when she was little a bus came and took her to Cleveland, Ohio where she had to go to school, because the reservation didn’t have schools. (Why they took her to all the way to Cleveland instead of just Phoenix, I don’t know.) She would call me “belagana” which means white people. The tourist shops offered a lot of books on Native-Americans, I read “The Fourth World of the Hopis,” “Dine Bahane” (Creation story of the Navajos, Navajos call themselves Dine and not Navajo) and other Native-American mythology and historical books. I would tell her what I read, and she would retell the stories as she knew them. But she always added, “The belagana always screw up our stories.” I made friends with a young Navajo man in his early 20s, he told about a certain type of spirit a person could become if they were evil in heart, I won’t repeat the name of it, because I could not find it online or anywhere, and can’t verify it. I asked the old woman about it, and she said, she had never heard of it. I told the young man that, and he said, “Oh no, don’t mention that to her, that is secret, there are things we’ve never told the white man, and that’s one of them.” I don’t know if what he said is true, but that was my experience.
The Navajos told me to go to Tuba City, the capital of the Navajo Reservation to the flea market. Before I left to go to Las Vegas, my friend who picked me up and I went to the Tuba City flea market. We were the only belagana there, it was out in the desert, the ground was sand and the sun was intense. We ate Navajo burgers and mutton and dumplings soup. We bought a CD of Native music, there is a song on there in Native-Style about Facebook, it is really cool.
White and black Americans: Most of the Americans that were there were fucked in life, they were drunks and had a lot of baggage. One night an American guy who got really drunk and high, went into the mule pen, and started slapping the mules’ asses screaming like a maniac. The National Park Rangers had to escort him out of the park. There was a woman from the Bronx, who said to us one day during a smoke break, “I have been poor all my life, then my mother got shot to death on the street, the only way I can deal with reality, is by seeing that canyon everyday.” I heard a variation of that statement many times at the canyon.
The strangest thing, was that after a person, of any nationality lived at the canyon for over a month, they became to slightly feel that the canyon was conscious, and perhaps it brought people there, like the island in Lost. I remember the 45-year-old Filipino woman saying during a hike, “You bring your pain here, and give it to the canyon, just give it to the canyon, it’ll take it.” This might come from the fact of the Sipapu, a mound in the eastern part of the Grand Canyon is said to be where mankind emerged from a third world to the fourth World, where we live now. The Sipapu is basically the Garden of Eden for the Hopis. It is believed that the Sipapu is a place where the dead can come back from the other world. In 1956 two planes crashed into each other above the Sipapu, killing everyone in the planes. People when going there have reported seeing ghosts, hearing voices, and having very vivid dreams. Helicopter pilots won’t look down when flying over the Sipapu, and often when white people try to find it, they become sick and have to stop before they get to it. How cool is that?