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One week from today I will probably be losing sleep thinking about one week from tomorrow. Heck, I am already losing sleep!

One week from tomorrow, I will swim from Kilroy Bay to Garfield Bay in Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille, a distance of about 5.3 miles. That distance is short enough to accomplish but long enough to have plenty of time to ask myself, over and over, “Now, why am I doing this again?”

My friend Kate will be swimming with me on this adventure although, in open water, you don’t really swim together. You just happen to both be attempting the swim at the same time.

The Green Monarchs of Idaho and Kilroy Bay

SWIM DETAILS

  • First “go date” is Tuesday Aug 2.
  • Planned time of departure from Kilroy is sometime between 2 pm and 3 pm depending on the weather. Afternoons have been smoother and warmer on the lake here this summer unless we have a storm coming in.
  • We will be supported by two kayaks (one each) and at least one support boat.
  • We will be wearing wetsuits.
  • Anticipated completion time is somewhere around 7 pm.
  • For locals in the bay, we would love to hear you cheering us on. You can either hang on your deck or join us in the water by boat (from a safe distance…nothing worse than tasting boat fuel or experiencing boat chop while swimming) or on the shore at the public beach. We are going to aim for coming right down the middle of Garfield Bay.
  • For those in Idaho, check the Daily Bee on July 31 for a story (thanks, Dave Gunter!). Here is a follow-up with summary of the swim.
  • For those in Phoenix, check the Arizona Republic in Aug 18 for a story.

TRAINING

Both Kate and I have been training hard for this event and we have each done 4+ mile training swims in the last few weeks. Barring extremely weird weather or illness, we should both be prepared for the distance.

FUND RAISING DETAILS

I want to take this space for a huge, huge, THANK YOU to those who have donated money, time, or supplies to the efforts of the Aogaah Foundation. Raising money for this charity is the primary focus of this swim. Your contributions will directly impact the lives of over 200 impoverished Cambodian schoolchildren.

Children of Aogaah - Photo by Sian Proctor, 2011

If you want to donate, there is still time to do so. We have currently raised $3200 of the $5000 needed for next school year so we still have $1800 left to go. Even small amounts go a long way and $60 will fund one child for an entire school year. Visit the Aogaah site for donation information and remember that all your funds are a) tax deductible and b) go directly to support the education of the Aogaah children.

Video about the swim event/Aogaah

Aogaah School, May, 2011 - Photo by Sian Proctor

Getting from Koh Chang Island in Thailand to Siem Reap Cambodia is no easy task. Well, I shouldn’t say it’s not easy. There are many ways to do it. The trick is to pick the way that fits your preferred style of travel AND results in the least amount of $ leaving your pocket unwillingly along the way. Your options include any and all of the following individually or in combination with each other:

  • Minivan
  • Bus
  • Private Taxi
  • Plane

Minivan and bus options can include lots of scams along the way. Most of these involve trying to get the foreign tourists to pay hefty visa fees at the border or sell them things they don’t need. Given all that we had heard and how far we had to travel (around 280 km total), we opted for the private taxi option. We also had very good help per navigating the border in Aranyaprathet (Thailand)/Poipet (Cambodia) and a driver meeting us there. So, all we had to do was to safely navigate the 150ish kilometers from our bungalow in Koh Chang to the Thai border.

I knew we were in for a time when we walked out of our lodge and our taxi was there with its hood up. Record disconcerting item #1. But, we felt (no choice really) that we were in good hands so proceeded to the car. The driver’s door opened and out spilled a spiky-haired, earphone trailing kid of about 20 (or less) that did not speak a word of English. Record disconcerting item #2. Luckily, our lodge host spoke Thai and could facilitate the placement of our bags in the back and our butts in the seats of the small car. Close the hood, close the doors, and we were off.

Our driver (never did get his name) drove very carefully down the 1-mile off-road section from Baan Rim Nam Guesthouse to the main road. Our first task was to stop at an ATM and procure the requisite payment for our trip as we had run out of Baht (Thai cash) the day before. Don’t let the commercials fool you…Visa is NOT everywhere you want it to be…at least not in Thailand! But, I digress. Back to the drive. Given that our driver did not speak English and I was not convinced he understood we needed to stop and I could not simply say to him, “please pull over at the nearest teller machine”, I resorted to shouting over and over the letters “ATM, ATM” and gesticulating wildly at every one that we passed. He did get the message, we stopped, withdrew, and proceeded onward.

As we made our way around the island, I noticed that our driver (ok, I’ll call him Thim which is kind of Thai for Tim since I don’t know his name) was driving very slowly. Koh Chang has a lot of steep hills and I was wondering if we would make it up some of them. Near the top of the first hill and as he made a slight left, a decent amount of water disgorged itself onto my feet in the front seat of the car. “Ohhh”, I heard from Thim. “It’s ok!” I replied shaking off my shoes. “No problem”.

Thim had picked us up early to make the earlier ferry but I knew at this speed we would not make it. Sure enough, as we pulled into the ferry station, the boat was just leaving. Thim pulled the car into line and we waited for the next boat.

It was about this time that I really began to look at the car. I could not see the odometer, but I could see that every single indicator was on…the check engine light, the gas light, the oil light…everything. The dashboard was a veritable control panel of bright and flashing lights none of which seemed to phase Thim in the least. As we sat there with our engine running and the gas gauge moving closer to empty, I mistakenly tried to initiate a conversation. “It’s ok to turn off the car and save gas”, I said. He looked at me and I repeated myself. He looked at me again and said, “Where you go?” Thinking he was asking where we would end up, I said, “Siem Reap”. Oh, I had said wayyy too much and now had called into question not just my sanity but the location of our destination with him. He quickly pulled out his phone, dialed a number, and handed to me.

I proceeded to engage in a conversation, even though it was in English,  in which neither I nor the person on the other end knew why we were talking to each other. After returning the phone to Thim, he called someone else and again handed me the phone. This time, the person asked if we were going to Aranyaprathet to which I responded yes. He laughed and I gave the phone back to Thim.

Now that our destination was understood by all parties, I stopped trying to talk to Thim and we waited patiently for the ferry. I might mention that during this whole exchange my wing-man, Sian, was happily ensconced in the back seat listening to her book on tape…oblivious to the scene that had unfolded before her.

The ferry ride proceeded without a hitch. We disembarked and headed on our way…BUT, we made a quick stop just on the mainland to interact with an English speaking guy who instructed me to pay our driver the arranged amount. Hesitant to pay before arrival, I reluctantly withdrew the 2800 Baht from my pocket. We had paid a 700 Baht deposit already in advance for a total of 3500 Baht.

Money in hand, I thought that Thim would proceed directly to the first gas station. Alas, this was not the case. As we headed out onto the road I realized we were headed for Chantiburi (the next town) and would probably not stop for gas until we got there (30 Km). Seemed like a “fur piece” as we used to say in Arkansas as I was sure our gas would be gone way before then.

Once on the two lane road, Thim’s Indy 500 driving ambitions came roaring to front and center. Gone was the gentle boy that drove carefully up and down hills and around corners on Koh Chang. In his place…some Thai version of Mario Andretti headed toward the finish line. As his speed zoomed up toward 140 kilometers per hour, I could only hang on for dear life as my body swayed back and forth and the air conditioner spewed water all over my feet at every turn. I was actually afraid to go to sleep but I might mention that my wing-man, Sian, slept soundly through the entire race and when she wasn’t laying down snoring she was up looking around sleepily and listening to her book on tape.

I must say that given an average speed of nearly 100 kph, the distance we had to cover passed very quickly. We made a few stops…gas (thank goodness) …toilet …coffee…and one vendor selling little flower wreaths to hang on the rearview mirror. Thim bought one of these in a town we passed through then proceeded to fold his hands in front of his chest and say a little chant and prayer. Hopefully he was praying for long life and no traffic accidents given his driving behavior.

At one point, I recognized that Thim was falling asleep. Even if you don’t speak the same language, the signs of sleepy driving are impossible to miss. Funny…here I was afraid to sleep and the crazy driver was falling asleep! Not a good thing when you are traveling at break neck speeds, tailgating, and passing on blind corners.

We eventually made it to the Thai border. Unfortunately, Thim felt obligated to drop us at an office of his friends that sold those fake, expensive Visas we were warned about. They met us at the car and tried to explain that we had to go inside this office and buy special visas. Luckily, we were aware of this scam and proceeded to ignore them and be on our way. No tip for a driver that delivers us into the hands of visa fakers!!

At any rate, we made it and hooked up with our connection on the Cambodia side with no trouble. A nice, pleasant, slow taxi ride from Poipet (the Cambodia side of the border) to Siem Reap was followed by a long nap at the hotel. Glad to make it in one piece, we began to plan our time in Siem Reap.

Cambodia Bound…2011

Cambodia…the Land of Amazement…home to 14 million people most of whom are under thirty years of age..country whose people can expect to live 62 years and whose infant mortality rate is 5.5%.  Some other things you may not know about Cambodia? See answers at the end of this post…

  • How many monks are in Cambodia?
  • How many psychiatrists make their home in Cambodia?
  • How many bombs were dropped on Cambodia in the Vietnam War?

Today, with my friend Sian, I make another trek to this most interesting locale. It is hard to describe in words a place that is so different from what one is used to, however I will try. Last year I blogged about the Aogaah Foundation school and about Pol Pot and the Killing Fields. You may have read my stories about eating bugs (my friends did this, I did not) and about Angkor Wat and about a family in Phnom Pen that I adopted.

This year, some of the themes will continue and some will be new. With a traveling companion along like Dr. Proctor, you never know what kind of stories and images will emerge.

We will start in Phnom Penh then head west to the Cardamom Mountains and then to Thailand. From there we reenter Cambodia and head for Angkor Wat then back to Phnom Penh. Three weeks with a busy schedule will fly by and we have scheduled many adventures along the way.

Our bags are packed and they are huge. Mine weighs in at about 60 pounds and Sian’s at about 50. Filled to the rim with donated school supplies for Aogaah and gifts for the teachers and for my adopted family there, we are crossing our fingers that both bags arrive safely with all items in one piece.

Our travel itinerary is not bad. We fly out of LAX at 1 am tomorrow morning and make our way to Taipei, Taiwan. Our choice to upgrade to Business class will make this leg of the trip more enjoyable. From Taiwan, we fly directly to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and arrive on their Saturday around noon.

Answers to the questions above:

  • 60,000 monks
  • 26 psychiatrists (maybe because of all the monks?)
  • 539,000 tons (Funny…since we weren’t at war with Cambodia)

Stats gleaned from Lonely Planet Guide to Cambodia, 2010, pg. 12.

Swimming 5+ miles, when one has not had a lifetime of training as a swimmer, is a major undertaking. Swimming 5+ miles in a lake the size and temperament of Lake Pend Oreille in North Idaho is another type of undertaking entirely. Yet, on Aug 2, 2011 making that trek across the lake with my friend Kate is what I propose to do. Kilroy Bay to Garfield Bay…right across the lake…one long, straight shot.

The swim is not part of a large, organized event. Rather, it is two swimmers with a plan. The plan emerged from years of Garfield Bay happy hours spent dreamily gazing across the lake at the faraway town of Kilroy. Conversations that started as “We should swim from here to Kilroy Bay” eventually evolved to “When should we swim from here to Kilroy Bay?” and then made the final transformation to, “THIS year we swim to Kilroy Bay.”

Although early planning focused on swimming FROM Garfield Bay TO Kilroy Bay, further discussion and thought resulted in altering the plan to swim from KILROY to GARFIELD. Given normal, daily wind and water conditions that vary from calm and placid to rough and swelling, the adjustment seemed like a good idea.  Normal winds blow into Garfield Bay and could help push us in at the end.

In addition to being a fitness challenge and certainly the most difficult thing I have ever taken on (even more difficult than 43 miles in one day in the Grand Canyon), the event is being used to spearhead fund raising for a foundation that supports schoolchildren in Cambodia.

Links for more information include:

Stay tuned to this blog for more information and updates as the event approaches.

I grew up in Arkansas and, because I am a tomboy, spent a lot of my time outdoors. Torn pants and skinned knees were the order of the day in my household as I explored every nook and cranny of the woods and parks surrounding our home. As part of this upbringing, I was exposed to the entire range of local flora and fauna, including bugs. Ants, ladybugs, beetles, spiders, butterflies, caterpillars, ticks, and even the occasional snake were all creatures to be studied, admired, and respected.

Living the last twenty years in Arizona has provided opportunities for exposure to types of bugs that did not exist in my little Arkansas world. The desert is home to several types of poisonous spiders, the ever more populate killer bee, rattlesnakes of all shapes and sizes, and stinging, biting flies. None of these joyous creatures, however, compares to the worst, most disgusting, loathsome, and hideous inhabitant on the face of the planet: the SCORPION!

Scorpions are not small by bug standards, ranging in body size from less than an inch to more than 2 inches (not including the tail!). They have eight legs and a set of pinchers, all placed evenly along a body that can flatten down to the height of a piece of paper. Their long, skinny tail stays curled over their back with a stinger that is fully locked and loaded at all times. Ewwww. Even writing this creeps me out and sends chills down my spine. I really can’t think of anything in the world that I hate more than scorpions!

Desert mountains are prime scorpion habitat and we live right next to one. For years, we had problems and some years the word “infestation” came to mind. The stories are endless and the sightings numbered in the hundreds over the years. Soon after we moved into the house, I learned not to sit on the floor (imagine…sleepily enjoying a movie while resting on the floor…then seeing a creepy, crawly scorpion heading right for you!). I also learned not to ever walk barefoot and to seal every opening in the house including outlet covers and the sides of air vents. One year, it got so bad that I carried a rubber mallet with me and turned the light on to carefully scan each room’s walls and ceilings before entering. My husband and I have each only been stung once, on the foot, although he did have a close call with one that was hovering on the ceiling and dropped onto our bed one morning.

Greg and I had gone back and forth many times about calling an extermination service but we had heard that there was no spray for scorpions so we put it off. One day, a young man from an extermination service knocked on our door. He was going door-to-door to sign up new customers. I told him I would have to ask my husband, who was just walking by.

“Honey”, I called out to his retreating form. “Do we finally want to start that scorpion pest control we have been talking about for awhile?”

“No”, he said over his shoulder. “We’re fine”.

I shrugged my shoulders and apologized to the man. Not five minutes later I heard a shriek from the back yard. Well, ok, Greg doesn’t really shriek but he did make a very strange sound then came running in the house with something squished in a towel.

“Did that pest-control guy leave yet?” he said breathlessly.

“Yeah, he did. Why?”

“I just found a scorpion in my hair!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh, scream, or cry. I did open the door and run outside hoping to catch the young bug man but he was long gone. That very day, I made some calls to friends and families to see whom they used for service. We found out about Bulwark and they now spray every month outside our home. The employees are all very friendly and helpful and the stuff they use seems to do the trick. I even go barefoot in the house now at least during the day and I sleep much better at night.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I HATE swimming. I just always feel better AFTER I do it than WHILE I am doing it. Well, most of the time the former statement is true. There are those moments, seconds really, when the breathing feels right, my suit, goggles, and cap feel right, and the water feels like my friend and not my foe. In those microseconds when all seems to be working as it should, then I feel like I can fly. As I take each stroke and turn my head to breath, I feel the wake of water indicating forward movement and I see the shapes on the shore move by.

You see…as a child I did not learn to swim. All I really learned was how not to drown…and I have been not drowning, every time I get in the water, for years.

My first real memorable experience with the water had to do with an ill-placed bet I made with my father at the tender age of about seven. I happened to be early for swim lessons the day before and, to my bewilderment, could stand in the pool and touch bottom right next to the sign that said 5’.  Now, I knew that I was not 5’ tall…not even close… but the overwhelming evidence to the contrary was right before my eyes! I could not put together the logic as to why I could stand at this depth and keep my head above the water nor could I deny that it was true.  Maybe some kind of miracle was involved? Maybe I had grown overnight? Whatever the reason I wasn’t too worried about it but I knew I had to tell someone. So, at dinner that night, I told my father.

“Dad”, I said almost breathless with excitement. “I stood up in 5’ of water today!”

I can remember the sequence of moments that followed as if they happened just yesterday.  My father, quiet and contemplative sitting on the other side of the table just letting the words sink in and, I am certain, running through the list of 1,000 possible replies. Then, with his response selected, leaning over the table with a gleam in his eyes and saying, “I bet you can’t stand up in 5 feet of water”.  Pausing, he then added, “in fact, if you can stand up in 5 feet of water, I will give you anything you want”.

If there was ever a moment in my life that I can define as the first, dumbest moment of my life, this would be it.  The overwhelming generosity of his offer coupled with the absolute certainty that I had the data to PROVE I could do it overrode the logic circuits of my brain and I blurted out, “A pony! I want a pony!” (Doesn’t every seven-year old want a pony?).

My mind went into pony overdrive! Where would we keep it? What would I name it? My friends were going to be so jealous. I just KNEW I had this one in the bag! Swimming lessons took place again the following day and my father agreed to take me. If I could stand with my head above water next to the 5’ sign, then that pony was mine. So confident was I that I all but asked if we could stop and buy a horse trailer on the way to the pool.

Next day dawned after an excited and sleepless night. We loaded into the car and headed down to the local pool. As we entered through the front gate and made our way to the kids’ area, I began to feel a gnawing sense of doubt. “Why did the water look higher than yesterday?” I said to myself.  But, armed with the vision of the single data point I had collected the day before, I headed into the pool next to the 5’ sign. As I tread water, I tried in vain to reach the tips of my toes to the bottom of the pool while keeping my mouth above the water line.  I reached and I stretched and I reached. I tried standing on my head upside down even though that was not part of the bet. Over and over again I tried to reconcile the new data I was collecting today with the information I knew was true from the day before.

Chagrined and slightly humiliated, I knew the pony was done. In fact, I should have known that the day before but had fallen victim to a really strong case of denial. I am not certain that the pony-pool incident kept me from getting into swimming more as a kid, but I sure do remember it like it was yesterday. I wonder if my father remembers it the same way that I do?

This semester, I took on the challenge of keeping up with, lurking, participating when I can with an online Digital Storytelling class offered by Jim Groom through the University of Mary Washington. The past few weeks have been a total bust per even the level of lurking, but this week I found a little time and became intrigued by one of the assignments called The Four Icon Challenge. The challenge is to find four icons that boil a movie down to its essence and then arrange them in order. Then, other people try and guess the movie title.

I find this assignment intriguing for two reasons. First, I am a visual-holic and in my secret life (is that second life?) aspire to become an artist (even though I only dream about it). So, the visual aspect of the icons has a strong pull for me. Second, I believe that to boil things down to their essence you have to study them and understand them at deep level. As Mark Twain said, “if I had more time, I would write a shorter letter”.

Without further ado, then, and too much writing…is my contribution to the assignment 4 Icon Challenge. Can you guess the movie title or even what it is about?