Friday, January 13, 2017

HNY


Hope 2017 has already been great for all of you.

Thought it would be nice for the first post of the year to involve a story.  








Friday, December 16, 2016

Oh Boy, It Was Hard

But what a way to end the year. 







Estimated depth of debris field is 30 m of rock and ice.

A memorial remembering those who lost their lives in the earthquake
and subsequent avalanche and landslide -- Langtang, Nepal.















Here are links to some short videos worth watching. 






Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Bug Has Bitten

D had a phenomenal time at his first volunteer placement.  So much so, he has already committed to going back next year.  The dates have been set and unfortunately will not work for me.  So he will again be representing us.  I'm super proud of him.

D didn't grow up in a family that is very giving.  So they don't really know what to make of it nor why he would even choose something like this.  Come to think of it, neither would mine.

This build was not a typical one, meaning there was a definite completion point for the volunteers.  In a Habitat build for example, you do what you can, and the monies contributed by team members ensure that local tradespeople will continue and finish the project when your time there was over.

There was difficulty getting tradespeople to work as most younger villagers (especially ones who can speak English) have moved to the city to find work and are away most of the year.

And the ones who may have been previously interested had been used to being paid incredible amounts of money by one of the "big name" charities that walzed into the area, had one structure built to specs that wasn't right for the region and subsequently, it has sat empty and rotting since.

That one action has had a long and negative influence on so many levels.  Whereas for a very small fraction of the money spent above, some real long term good has come out of the small locally run NGOs.

In addition to basic living (tent, no hot water), the work was physically hard with long and early days in order to escape the heat.  It cooled down to single digits (Celsius) at night so the team had to be equipped with enough layers for warmth.

I got to meet most of D's team during our overlap days.  The roster consisted of mostly outdoor adventurer types with impressive personal achievements.  Pretty inspiring company.  I can see why he enjoyed being around them so much.

A big question mark was whether D's back would hold up with all the hard labour.  It did and we are both very thankful for that.  He hasn't worked physically hard like that for years and it felt good.  Understandably, everyone pretty much just crawled into their tents at night and fell right asleep.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Random 2

  • I never thought there was much difference in automobile glass until we got our Subaru.  On a sunny summer day, you could fry an egg on of your head if you were inside the car, under the sunroof.  It was so hot, that we had to keep it closed.  Plus you could feel the amount of heat that was coming through the inside of the rest of the roof. 
  • Still no estimate on my car repair yet.  They aren't the quickest but are willing to do a repair when the dealership would have just replaced.  So I will wait for it.  What I have going on isn't a safety issue.  It will just get noisier over time and I caught it early, so I doubt anyone outside would really notice yet.  Since D has been away, I've been driving his car as it is conveniently in the driveway.
  • Had a great chat with my travel Dr before I left about how I have been feeling this year.  She is so fantastic and eased my worries about having contracted yellow fever or malaria or Japanese encephalitis or schistosomiasis or dengue... 
  • She agreed that my system deserves a break and we went over my list of potential travel places to rule out any that would need special meds as I will be avoiding those next year and maybe even the year after.  I could sit and talk to her all day.  
  • What is still confusing to me is that I am physically stronger than I was even at the beginning of this year.  Which makes the mental emotional lag even more frustrating.  However I am noticing some gradual improvement.  I just need more time.  Even my nurse who administered the shots I needed mentioned that it is time to take care of myself so I can re-enter stronger.
  • My preparation for this final big journey of the year has never been more organized and calm.  I've learned a thing or 2 since Uganda -- Thank goodness.      
  • Had an arborist come out to the house to discuss what to do about a few of our large trees.  Ended up that the largest one is fine and the other 2 needed to be thinned out properly -- Something that ought to be done every 5 years or so.  He even removed a couple of dying cedars and trimmed a couple of things for us free of charge.  It's a great thing to be connected with someone good.  Total price was $450.  
  • We have a dead maple at the cottage that will need to taken down.  Got a quote for $550 and the work will be done in the spring.  He will cut the pieces down to manageable sizes so that our neighbours can take it for burning.  Otherwise for him to take the wood away, it would cost $200 more. We border forest at the back and side, so paying him to take it away wasn't even an option. 
  • We are now both home.  Here are a couple of photos D first took on his arrival to the city and to his work site. 




Sunday, October 30, 2016

Random

  • My favourite to eat item on the menu at Shake Shack is their Chick'n Shake.  Sadly, I won't be flying through JFK until next spring...
  • Trying to stop my brain hasn't been easy but necessary.  It doesn't like to sit idle for very long but I do recognize that it may have been revved too high for too long.  
  • D has left for his volunteer placement.  I too will get to leave in a short while.  We'll have one day overlap in the same city before I start my last big adventure for the year.  The prep for this hasn't helped with my quest to "stop thinking" so much! 
  • Watching D go about his packing stresses me out.  Our approaches differ greatly and his scurrying around last minute gets me going despite strong efforts to ignore.  I just cannot not see and find it even more difficult not to want to engage!
  • Came very close to cancelling this last big trip.  It is going to require all the skills I've learned this year and more.  But I question my mental emotional fitness going in.  
  • Am making the above sound like such a huge ordeal.  It isn't in the big scheme of things but things tend to loom larger than they really are when you are seeing and feeling with tired eyes and frayed nerves.  Once I get going, things tend to sort themselves out, especially when I will have hours and hours of transit time to settle into it.
  • At my yearly vehicle oil change, it was discovered that the noise I had started to notice was attributed to a bearing issue in the front differential.  They actually had 3 guys listening underneath with stethoscopes to figure it out, along with a couple of test drives.  I use an independent mechanic shop vs. the dealership.
  • It will be taken care of in the spring along with a few other types of fluid changes.  If I have to leave her there for the day, I might as well get everything I can done.  This is the first large size maintenance/repair job I've needed to do.  Am waiting for the estimate to arrive.  My guess is 3K for the lot.
  • I've closed 3 of my regular savings accounts in my efforts to simplify my banking.  No longer need to subdivide things so much.  They have served their purpose.
  • After 13 years with my current financial advisor, I will be moving my registered savings to a self directed account.  The direction that has been recommended to me doesn't feel right.  I don't want to have increased layers of management.  Goes against how I wish to structure things.  She understood that my decision was in no way a reflection of dissatisfaction with the results and management leading up to this.
  • Back to Quito -- The hike from the top of the Teleferico, depending on the route, can bring you to some rough parts where the there are deep ruts in the ground that resembled earthquake fractures.  When there are long grasses obscuring the ruts, it is easy to step off the at times, only 6 inch path and sink a good foot+ down.  Perfect set up for ankle sprains.  
  • Also, had I not been lucky and had a group whose leader led the way, I would have gotten lost.  The trail that I was on split enough times to make it difficult to remember.  Especially when you look back and all you see is long grass.  Don't expect any signage other than a few arrows sometimes showing km markings that didn't quite make sense.  Just wait until you see someone who looks like they know where they are going and follow them.  
  • I definitely would not attempt this hike solo again and can totally understand how it would take the police 3 days to find someone who got lost.  It happened to a couple of solo hikers a month or so before my arrival.  Definitely bring a safety whistle.  Cell phone service is hit or miss up there.
  • Had my first experience of attempted pick pocketing occur in Quito.  A young man tried to unzip my front right pocket zipper by reaching around me as I was holding an umbrella on that side.  I felt it and zipped it up promptly as he darted off my left and pretended to become intensely interested in a jewelry store window.  I gave him the stink eye, shook my head and kept going.  He knew that I knew.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Neurological Break

I experienced mild flu like symptoms on my last day in Quito and brought it home with me.  It turned into a week's worth of floating in and out of small fevers.  Nothing that totally stopped me, but enough to irritate and delay workouts.

So, I took advantage of the slower days at home by catching up on some continuing education webinars.  Learned some great stuff.

One point in particular really hit home -- While learning about sport psychology training with elite athletes, it was mentioned how important the aspect of taking a neurological break is.  You just cannot maintain a super high focus on "the macro of everything" over the course of an entire year without consequences...May be super obvious to all of you, but wow, did it ever hit home for me.

For the past few years, I've been piling on all sorts of different experiences, much outside of my comfort zone, that required a number of new skills with high (for me) levels of adaptation.  However, the diversity and sheer density of them did not allow me to get better or comfortable with any one thing long enough.  Which consequently has been highly stressful neurologically and physically.

The excitement of those projects overshadowed the after side effects.  Add to it my continued delusional belief/expectation that I would be totally prepared and strong when the time came around to go.  My not-yet-willing to concede to the concept of hard limits gets me into trouble time and time again.

Getting back to the above webinar, it takes a season or 2 of solid repetition (training/competition) to learn the psychological skills required to adapt to the level you are working on.

Applying that to regular life, I had not allowed myself that courtesy the past few years.  By continuing to amp things up, I have drained instead of built, undermining the growth I have been seeking.  And having just too many decisions to make and too many details to sort out all the time is exhausting mentally.  My brain has finally flown its white flag.

By allowing myself to get swept away in the excitement of being constantly challenged by new things, I find myself today, feeling quite burnt out, not yet done for this year and seriously considering pulling the plug on the remainder.  This isn't the first time I've been in this head space but am kinda shocked to find myself back here again...delusional, remember?

Finally coming to terms with it all has been immensely helpful, relieving and confirming.  The way next year has shaped up is already consistent with helping me heal and become better without the hyper stress that comes with too much new stuff.  Cool to know I had been moving in that direction naturally -- Albeit, out of desperation and forced honesty!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Catch up Thoughts

I'm definitely behind in my posting this year.  Perhaps I've just been needing all my energy to "hang on for dear life"!

Rio was so inspiring to me on many levels.  I had expected to find a culture where "everyone" was super conscious about their looks.  Instead I found one that emphasized personal fitness. 

People were doing their own thing and not looking at you or looking around to see if anyone was looking at them.  What a surprise.

I really love the Brazilian's beauty style.  No heavy make up or make up at all (they don't need it!).  Gorgeous skin.  Long dark natural hair (highlights or colouring was not popular that I could see).  Fit and slim.  Relief to see a culture where women don't all strive to be blond.

It didn't take long before I started to consider upping my workout by running in that deep sand like everyone else.  Or want to join in on one of the numerous training classes on the beach.  Or use the Under Armour racks that lined the boardwalk to stretch or pump out some reps.  




And favela living didn't hold the negative stigma I thought I would find either.  I found people to be polite (Outside of the kid who grabbed my behind the first day -- Got reprimanded later.), hardworking and family network to be deep.  

Don't know what they do to their meat, but it tasted so good!  I got to know a beach vendor after spotting another vendor eat a meal one afternoon.  After much gesturing (at first, I think he thought I was asking him for a taste...), he pointed me to the direction of where he bought it.  And I bought from her everyday after.  

Her and her husband would push this small cart along the boardwalk and sell homemade meals to the beach vendors.  At first they were taken back when I approached them (never saw any other tourist go for it -- they are missing out...) but after 5 days, they came to expect that I would be at the same section of walk on the lookout for them.  They finally asked my name and not surprising, also asked which part of Brazil I was from despite my pathetic attempts at the language!  I found Brazilians to be so diverse in looks, that you could be any nationality and live there.

I added this trip to my year when I found out about the visa waiver in place for Canadians etc. being an Olympic year.  Previously I had found the travel visa application for Brazil to be too taxing to bother with.  However, the process has been streamlined for the better.  Enough that I will consider applying for a 5 year visa because I really want to return.  

                                                      -------------------------------------------












Some points about Quito:
  • Most vendors will find it difficult to break a 5 USD bill.  Forget anything larger.  1 USD bills are your friend and if you have exact change, you will receive a big smile and thank you.  And if you produce brand new bills, you'll be the talk of the whole row of vendors!
  • Food is quite simple but filling.  I did get a bit tired of the large servings of rice after a few days.  Their rice is starchier and less tasty than the type found in Asia.  
  • People love spending time outside in their parks.  We are spoilt for nature here in Canada and will drive hours to get to something more "significant" than a neighbourhood park.  It's just a different mindset.  We tend to congregate in our own backyards -- Something that isn't too common there.  
  • I loved how people would just hang out outside.  No need to have to go to a cafe and spend money.  No desire to be seen.  Just be.  Totally normal.  No complex.  Not glued to phones.  Just lying down on the grass quietly.  How simple and wonderful is that?  It got so that I was at a couple of different parks everyday.  It was great.
  • In the historic part of the city, you'll see young people standing in the doorway of shops holding a soft serve ice cream cone (always a mix of vanilla and raspberry sorbet -- yummy!), chocolate covered frozen banana etc.  straight out into the sidewalk to tempt passersby to buy it.  They always manage to get a sale before the cone started dripping!  Impressive!  
  • Being that Quito sits at around 9000 ft altitude, the climate was a welcome relief to the heat of Thailand.  Beware that there is no heat at night, and the build quality isn't so great (visible gaps underneath and around windows and doors...), so bring extra layers or sleeping bag.  Otherwise stay at less local places.
  • There is a cable car (Teleferico) you can take up to 14000 ft (2nd highest in the world) with hiking trails up to a volcano at mid 15K ft range.  I didn't quite believe how much dryer it would be the higher up you are and didn't bring enough water.  So, didn't make it all the way, just 3/4.  
  • Fortunately, I did not experience any real negative issues with the altitude (my heart and lungs did have to work extra hard).  But did hear and see people not looking too well along the way, even down in Quito.  One of the pictures above show an oxygen station up at the top of the cable car. 
  • As I had found in Bogota, vehicle pollution, especially from buses is ridiculous.  Black smoke bellowing out of the exhausts.  Horrible air quality if you have to walk alongside a traffic jam.  What a shame.  I am still negatively sensitized about this after Uganda.  
  • Got scammed by 2 taxi drivers.  One who turned off his meter (later reported to company) and one whose meter ran way too fast.  It took a while before I recognized where I was to ask him to stop (had just arrived the day before).  He did so without any drama.  I actually liked his gentle personality (the first driver came across as a bit psychotic).  We were having a good conversation too.  I am so grateful that I don't have to live a life where I have to resort to taking advantage of people in order to survive. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Some Good Answers

Adding those 2 extra events to my already busy schedule, to help me better prepare for my last adventure of the year was a great move.  It was on one hand, a sobering experience, but provided enough of a confirmation that put my mind somewhat at ease.

I still have much work to do but my mind doesn't have all that cloud and fog and worry floating around and obscuring things anymore.  Those experiences were well worth the extra time and money spent.

That's not so say both additions were easy or comfortable, as they were neither.  But they were chosen to point out deficiencies so that I could learn how to respond now, rather than find out when it is too late to do anything about it.

Continuing on the theme of super human inspiration, I urge you to look for a copy of this.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Aug / Sept

  • Am officially sick and tired of hot climates.  Maxed out on it during our 3rd annual end of summer return to Thailand.  Missing the cold right now.  Next year, sticking with locales with temps of 25 C and less.
  • The food was superb as expected.  Even did some climbing on Railay.  Plenty of scrapes and bruises to show for it too.  And oh so sore for days afterwards.  I don't deal with physical pain with a lot of grace, so it has felt torturous.  It was D's first time and he did awesome.  The lines we did were definitely not beginner level (was supposed to be).  I can tell you for sure that I did not make it look easy!
  • Next year's travel schedule has shaped up nicely.  Much easier. Taking a year off from the heavy stuff.  Not committing to any ventures in the developing world.  Shouldn't require any form of specialty meds as a result.  My kidneys and liver will be happy for the break. 
  • Am still feeling the necessity for more recovery time.  There's a lot of stuff swimming around inside that needs to be arranged, made sense of, and ordered.  It is both surprising and annoying that it is now Sept and I am feeling this way but it isn't something I can will away.  I'm looking forward to eventually moving past this.  
  • We've been out west for 6 days as well.  Courtesy of a ridiculous flight deal.  First time seeing what our ski area looks like in the summer.  Neat to be able to hike up to the top.  I really struggled with the uphills but found the downhill running to be super fun.  D was the reverse.  
  • Didn't particular love our time spent down in the city there.  Found the people to be generally stressed and downright angry.  Why we never noticed the near rage during the winter, could be because the many visiting skiers out number the locals?  This experience has definitely impacted our ideas of living out there full time.  Very glad we went out.
  • We knew that there has been an increasing spread between the numbers of lifestyle retirees who have migrated into the interior and the numbers of long time residents who are being squeezed out of the city due to escalating real estate prices and cost of living.  
  • Historically, this area was not a wealthy one.  Nowadays, it is known for its vineyards, orchards, golf courses and retirement communities, drawing many from across Canada as well as the pacific north west of the US with its year round attractions. 
  • We are planning to return again next summer.  I want to see what it's like at the beginning of July and have another opportunity to do some more hiking and organizing at the condo.  






Sunday, August 21, 2016

Super Human Inspiration


If you were as captured as I was with the film, you can follow
the team race this year's UTMB in 5 days. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Recent

  • To the young woman working the food truck who deliberately wore a low cut top, knowing she would have to lean over constantly to talk to customers... I would love for her to believe one day that cleavage will only get you so far.  That having depth of character and is far more alluring, attractive and sexy than a temporary carnal fix.  That leaving something to mystery is a more powerful aphrodisiac then letting everything hang out. 
  • Along the same lines, great to see current actresses like Gal Gadot, Alicia Vikander be and portray intelligent, strong women on and off the screen, without the need to bare it all to attract attention.  They continue the lineage of other talented actresses like Rachel McAdams and Natalie Portman.  
  • Current "retirement" definition for D involves another 4 years and change worth of full time work.  Afterwards, transitioning to 6 month contracts with the rest of the year off.  He foresees ample time to pursue his burgeoning bikepacking interest as well as having the funds to go on some pretty cool expeditions around the world.  If this plan works for him, this will be his definition of "retirement".  He is looking forward to the time where he has the option of spending all of his net take home pay.   His plan is golden as long as his back stays stable and strong.
  • Now that he is fairly comfortable in his new role at work (almost exactly the one he was offered out west, minus the travel, when we went through the relocation exercise a couple of years back), I can see his energy, sense of humour and enthusiasm come back.  He tells me that the work load and stress level is far far less than before.  So much so, we are open to starting our art classes again this fall -- Something we've both missed.  
  • I've been living my version of "retirement" life for a few years now.  It's going well, with some small fine tuning of my office procedures each year.  Sure I do get those days where I want to totally pack it in, but those are caused more from my extra curricular activities than work itself.  When I get tired, I tend to want to retreat from everything.
  • By far my biggest challenges in recent years has come from the type of travelling I do.  My mind signs up for things that my body doesn't always recover quickly from.  The disaster relief placement in Asia (mental/emotional) and visit to Uganda (physical) were the toughest on my system.  It took months for me to feel like myself again.  I thought I had things spaced out well this year but completely underestimated the amount of recovery time.  Know to do things differently now.  
  • Something good has come out of those challenges though.  When I was in Rio, and was surrounded by the many noises and sounds that go with living in a favela, I slept like a baby the entire week. Without the need of ear plugs (impossible in Uganda) despite lack of sound insulation and music being played from 4:30 pm through to 6:30 am from Thursdays onwards. Would never have guessed that my time there would help me catch up so much.
  • When I am ready to fully stop working, we envision a 2 home solution whereby we spend most of our year out west while summer and fall would be spent at our cottage with a cross country drive in between.  We are not sure if it will work and for how long.  Selling the main house will free up some dollars that will get socked away in investments.  The running costs of the other 2 places are quite minimal.  It's the driving that I'm not sure of.  The intention is to camp along the way, with no rush.  I know of a couple who drove down to Texas to spend 4 months each year and continued to do so until their early 70's.  Maybe we'll have what it takes too.
  • The reasoning for the above is to be able to take advantage of the best that the 2 provinces have to offer.  The west may have mountains but it doesn't have the scope of fresh water that Ontario has.  If this 2 home arrangement doesn't work, then we will pull out of Ontario for good and upgrade our place out west.  There is a chance we might just do that anyways.  An extra 100K spent will buy the bigger space we'd want.  
  • Both of our living size requirements have changed in the last couple of years.  For me, spurred on by travel experiences existing with less and less and for D, his fascination with tiny homes and bikepacking.  Travel at that point in our lives will involve fewer flights and longer stays, which will be quite a bit less pricey than my yearly travel budget.  And with both of us willingly continuing to work part time will mean no touching of principal but know it is there to work for us when we are ready. However illogical it may be, neither of us (mainly me) are ready to place financial limits on dreams, old, current or undiscovered.  
  • I've toyed with the idea of using next year to re-visit favourite places instead of diving in head first to mostly new locales.  It's tough to fight against yourself and your leanings.  Can you believe that I have no actual purchased flights for 2017 yet?  There are 2 points flights booked ages ago on the schedule that can be removed anytime.  
  • My annual travel doctor appointment is in 3 months and I usually show up with a list of places for the following year so we can discuss medical needs.  If I continue on my current course, there will be nothing new to add to my current medical kit outside of updating my typhoid shot. That's not a negative thing.  An "easy" travel year for me can still be seen as a heavy one for many others.
  • I have one last challenge slated for the end of the year to prepare for.  As counter-intuitive as it may sound, I've actually added 2 more things to my schedule to help me reach that goal with less stress.  It isn't my way to ask for help often so I see this move as a sign of maturity.  Fear does motivate!
  • I bought a new laptop -- My old one is still functioning but has started to get really hot and that got me concerned it is close to burning itself out soon.  Welcome to the family my Asus Zenbook.  Impressed so far with how light and silent it is.  Jury is still out on Windows 10...
  • I cannot end this post without a comment on the horrors that have occurred around the world recently, affecting a number of beloved countries.  Understanding how spreading terror works wasn't really what I expected my brain to want to sense out.   
  • The owners of the various apartments we have rented in Istanbul, Nice, Munich and their loved ones were not directly affected.  Understandably they are feeling shock and outrage but all are determined to continue to live their lives freely and not to let that seed of disruption grow and overtake their minds and lives.   

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Her name is...







No, I'm not currently there right now, but I wish I was. 
What a dynamic city -- Have never seen so many fit and toned people -- Incredibly inspiring.
Stayed at a family run guesthouse high up in a favela.
Maybe saw 2 mosquitoes total...Main roads are great...
Unbelievably efficient airport.
City is beautiful and seafront super clean...
Unlike what has been portrayed on the news.
Gotta love the media...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Uganda 3

  • Despite the challenges encountered in the country, I really enjoyed the act of camping.  Felt very cocooned in my tent with all my stuff somewhat organized around me.  Didn't enjoy packing up and taking everything down frequently.  Am definitely more of a pitch a tent and stay put type of person. 
  • My back felt surprisingly good sleeping on the ground.  I had some concerns with developing back pain but fortunately nothing manifested.  Prior to my arrival, I even practiced camping in my living room -- That's just how committed (crazy...) I am! 
  • Others I met would literally just stay one night -- Arriving later in the day and then up at 5 - 6 am to pack up and go.  Some of them have been on the move for at least a month, doing jeep or motorcycle touring across an impressive amount of the continent.  Covering a ton of ground, that's for sure, but not something that would appeal to me at that pace.
  • It did feel weird being the one left behind though, being the only one not packing up and moving on.  Felt seriously let down for a while, like I was missing out on something really cool.  Something I hadn't expected to feel, considering how far I had already journeyed to get there.  Peer pressure!
  • There is definitely a certain "breed" of people who tour Africa for long periods of time.  Not scientific but there seemed to be a good number of introverts.  Because of the sheer size of the continent, you spend an inordinate amount of time on the road.  I've never done a road trip that lasted more than 3 weeks.  And certainly none under such harsh conditions.  I don't know how relaxing it would be given the pollution, noise etc. Those people are far more hard core than I think I could ever be. 
  • Wouldn't do another safari again.  The opportunity came up last minute and I made some changes to make it happen.  Once it got going, I realized how much experience I already had with respect to seeing the various animals compared to others in my group.  I couldn't believe that some had never seen a giraffe or elephant before!  
  • The amount of sitting and the long days ( 6:15 am - 6 pm for 3 days) made me glad to get back to camp each night.  I would have be totally happy just staying there, keeping an eye out for the hippos and warthogs and taking walks down to the river.  There were surprisingly few bugs at the safari camp.
  • Lots of expats in the country working for the very numerous NGOs, UN based agencies, in development, healthcare (very inventive and smart HIV/AIDS poster campaign in central Kampala), human rights.  For the majority of them, this was their first placement -- Not what I would consider a soft landing.



Sunday, July 10, 2016

Uganda 2

  • The traffic was pretty atrocious.  And when there isn't air conditioning, it meant windows were all open (mosquito nets at night) and everyone gets to breathe in the not-so-nice air and exhaust for hours.  I had to leave at 4:30 pm to catch a 11:35 pm flight, just because it was rush hour.  Only to travel 51 km!
  • The airport in Entebbe had multiple layers of security.  Stage 1 was at the entrance to the road leading into the airport where everyone gets out, car gets checked, walk through metal detector, handbags checked.  Stage 2 was outside of the airport, passport check only 2 hours before flight when the airline instructions were the usual 3 hours prior, so lots of people outside waiting.  Once allowed in, xray and metal detector again.  Stage 3 was passport control after check in.  Stage 4 was pre-boarding 2 hours before flight with yet another xray check and then they take your boarding pass and you sit in a secured room...No wonder the duty free shops and coffee shops looked so empty.  You basically have no time to wander.  
  • As much as the above may sound intense, it really wasn't -- Just tedious.  I didn't feel like their procedures made me feel that much safer. The security officers were nowhere trained to what you'd find at Ben Gurion.  
  • I was fortunate enough to have lounge access, so I was exempt from being herded into the room prematurely.  And I got even luckier on the way to Africa as I was upgraded at the gate by KLM to their world business class from Amsterdam to Entebbe (10 hrs).  A great experience and a touch of luxury before my adventure. Priority luggage did not exist, at least for my particular flight.  It was one of the last to come out.  At least it wasn't covered in shampoo, like many others were as someone checked 2 large containers of the pumped stuff, but did not think to lock the pump...
  • This was the first time I saw a separate area of the airport just for UN planes.  It was impressive.  Throughout the parts of the country I got to see, there was so much UN presence in terms of development of land and various programs.  Their plaques are everywhere -- I have an appreciate of the extent of the need but it was almost disturbing, like the country has lost its identity.  Couldn't help but think of the word "colonization".
  • Voluntarily contending with no air conditioning, hot water, erratic electricity and pervasive red dirt/dust was also new and challenging.  The strong sun was tiring.  And breathing in heavy dusty warm air takes effort.  The cool shower at the end of the day was very much a relief.
  • The heat did get to me.  Got to the point where I almost couldn't move anymore and had a lot of trouble getting my breathing and heart rate down. And even scarier were the thoughts that started to come to mind.  Thoughts like " I think I'm in trouble", "It would be a good idea to yell out for someone", "Don't sit down!".  And the scariest thing was the feeling of numbness and detachment that started to come on where I didn't feel discomfort, which made it all too easy to want to sit or lie down.  I was on an uphill trail, full sun.
  • And to think it happened 3 days after I couldn't sleep because I felt too chilled.  Just when I thought I was getting the hang of this heat thing... I do feel some weakness from that day.  As D puts it, I'm still spinning the right way, but have been knocked off my axis a bit.  Will have time this summer to heal up.
  • Tsetse flies, schistosomiasis/bilharzia, yellow fever, malaria...A sample of the tiny sized things found in Eastern Africa that can make you very ill.  Makes me super appreciate living in a 4 season climate.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Uganda

  • Uganda was tough on my system.  Took a week for my lungs to detox all the soot and dust and pollution from my lungs.  Hadn't anticipated the amount of plastic being burnt at all hours every day of the week.  It was relentless and deeply bothersome.  It was enough that I would not consider a long term volunteer placement there despite really connecting with the people and issues.
  • Learned an awful lot about what it is like to exist with unreliable energy (think generator) and climate fluctuations that had me both near heat stroke and unable to sleep from the chill.  Who would have thought that a low of 16 C would have me wearing hats, gloves, merino and 2 pairs of socks??!!  Luckily I was able to rent a blanket for the next night.  The level of discomfort was really distressing for me.  It was my fault for deciding last minute not to bring a light sleeping bag, just a silk liner.  Did have both a foam and blow up sleeping mats though.  Never considered an emergency blanket or bivy for what I thought I was getting into, but believe me, I have pretty much everything now!  
  • Despite not having camped for decades, I think I did pretty well.  My tent and footprint did great.  Lived through rain, thunder, strong winds (super surprised as how persistent the wind was there).  Found out the North Face duffels are quite insulating.  My chocolate did not melt despite daytime highs of 27+C and even hotter in my tent.  I couldn't stay inside much after 8 am and could not re-enter until almost 4:30 pm. There was very little shade found.  Most trees are surrounded by 6+ ft termite mounds and I was not going any where close to those.
  • The ground was crazy hard.  I could not get my tent pegs even 1 cm into it.  Luckily I got some help before the winds came and ended up having to use a rock that took both hands to hold to get the pegs in.  Bent more than a few and seriously dented the rest.  Mental note to look for better pegs for different conditions to have on hand.  
  • Decided that I'm not a fan of carrying heavy gear.  I'm an ultralight packer as it is, so this will spill into future trips like this.  Don't think it will be a huge issue as the places I'm planning to go will not involve long traverses weighted down.  I really admire people who walk around with huge packs like it is nothing.  I'm small boned, so it doesn't take much to make up a significant percentage of my body weight.
  • It was no fun having to worry about not having electricity to charge devices and batteries running out prematurely.  A couple of girls in my group had battery back up and solar solutions.  Am well on my way to building my own. Am not going to be caught out like that again.  The learning continues...
  • The Sound -- I found the country to be So Loud.  Ear plugs became a norm at nights.  I found the decibel level of regular conversation too high for my comfort.  On the other hand, I love listening to the sheer amount of singing that occurs daily.  I had no idea what the words meant but it was beautiful and uplifting to witness. 
  • After 12+ years and many miles in the air, my Bose noise canceling headphones have taken their last breath.  Am quite sad about it because it has done so well for me and still look so new.  
  • I turned them in for what I had originally decided as the QC 25 but after another trial listen, I went for the ear bud version QC 20 (same price), because they simply sounded better (love them!), despite some disturbing reviews.  I just couldn't spend money on something that didn't wow me sound wise.  I'll deal with any consequences of that decision.  You receive about $111 towards the new set when you turn in your old one. Something they absolutely do not have to do.  
  • I've finally added captions to the photos in my last post.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Notion

I harboured a vague notion of how cool it would be to live my days cycling with the rising and setting of the sun.  To become one with nature's frequencies and rhythm.  To adapt to a less rushed, more organic way of living...

Reality hasn't always matched my vivid internal hopes and dreams.  Thankfully there have been many moments where it has superseded the most optimistic ideals.


You won't find as many big game animals in Uganda compared to
some of the other more popular safari areas in Africa because during 
Idi Amin's reign, members of his army and villagers alike starved 
and had to resort to killing and eating game animals to survive. 

Great strides have been made to rebuild and preserve their parks,
as well as continuing to target poachers.

The authorities realized it was smarter, in the long run to preserve.
As we were told, they stood to make more money for projects from
showing a monkey 100 times rather than killing and eating it once.

6:30 am sunrise along the banks of the Nile River,
awaiting the first ferry of the day.

I know this is very hard to see, but was trying to capture 
(understandably without flash),  one of the hippos who came up 
from the banks of the Nile to the camp to eat the grass.
A girl I met while brushing teeth (open air washrooms) were 
heading back to our tents when we almost walked into it.  
We were within 3 ft.  It was silent when moving, but a crazy loud eater!
We discovered just how effective our leaping back reflexes were...

You can kind of make out its back side.  
For scale, the height of the hippo was about 5 ft.
Absolute highlight of the trip.
That and being chased by a baby warthog at the camp also.
Those little guys come at you like bullets!
Yes, you could choose to stay at a place where a manned and 
secured perimeter is provided, but where is the fun in that?