Thursday, October 29, 2015

Trips While I'm in Guyana

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

So while I'm in Guyana, I plan on trying to see all(or most) of what Guyana has to offer but also plan to go explore the surrounding countries a bit. I already have planned an excursion to an Amerindian village, a flight to Kaiteur Falls, and am trying to visit Suriname.

 I already have two Caribbean island trips planned with Kenny which will be nice to be somewhere where you have this never ending heat, but actually water you can swim in. She and I went to Aruba last year and I think this will be a nice tradition to go somewhere tropical every year. I think in the future though, it would be great to do a week of volunteering in the local hospital and community and then do a week on the beach. A nice balance I'd say.

Additionally, I am planning on hiking Mt. Roraima. This one is non-negotiable. In addition, to that obvious sign from Kevin, just as an extra reminder he's looking over me. Every year, all my cousins do a secret santa where you draw a name and buy a gift for that person. They are always on these small slips of paper. Why am I telling you this? Well, after finishing the book on stress, I picked up the next in my pile which happened to be The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay which I have to say, 400 pages into it, really is amazing. But anyway, it was a book that my mom bought for me 4-5 years ago but I never got a chance to read it. But what do I find when I open up the page? A little slip of paper with Kevin's name on it. So not only am I definitely doing this hike, but it looks like I'll be alright all along the way.

Okay so that leaves me with about 2 weeks that I can use by August 2016. What to do with it?

Well that's the big question. Here's my plan, and I'd love to hear alternative options(remember: I am on a very tight budget so flying to Cusco to do Machu Pichu is out of the question as is the Galapagos).

The Epic South American Trip
Background: Flights out of Guyana are prohibitively expensive, unless you are flying to a Caribbean Island(flying to Trinidad to see Kenny will be around $200 RT). So that means I need to somehow have to get out of the country to fly. How to do this? Take a mini-bus to Georgetown(2 hours, $7,50) then take an 18 hour pot hole, bone jarring, nerve wracking ride to the Guyana-Brazilian border(18 hours, $50).

From Lethem, Guyana it's about 4 hours to Boa Vista, Brazil and there are regularly running bus(supposedly with a/c!) so I plan to hope on one and get to Boa Vista. From Boa Vista the plan is to fly(once in Brazil, flights are CHEAP) to Porto Alegre.

From Porto Alegre, I plan on taking a bus first to Montevideo, Uruguay and then, after exploring, a ferry to Buenos Aires, Argentina. And I will be VERY DISAPPOINTED, if people aren't always singing Evita songs because I know I will be.

Side note: It's not publicized well but Argentina(while they don't mandate a visa) charge an equivalently expensive fee for US citizens to fly into their airports. But if you go overland, you can avoid this charge. Plus, if I flew directly there, I'd miss Uruguay and from everything I've read, I want to go there.

Now while Buenos Aires is supposedly very nice, I only plan to spend a day or two there before flying to Santiago Chile where the hiking of the Andes can commence.
Santiago Chile
 I am so excited about this. Ever since reading Alive  I have wanted to hike in the Andes. I'm not sure why a story about cannabalistic rugby player makes me want to hike those mountains, but hey... this is my blog-back off.

So that's the plan. Then take the cheapest flights home... I'm going to try to do this end of June/early July and link it up with a few holidays so I miss less time from the hospital.

Suggestions/concerns? (not you mom, you will be worried no matter where I go?

Okay, until next time,


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sweat Don't Fret; or Don't let stress destroy your fitness

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

I'm reading Robert Sapolsky's Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers and it has a lot of interesting information on how long-term and repeated stress can impact our lives. He uses a lot of references to animals throughout the book some of which is pretty interesting(for example, did you know that a female hyena's clitoris is larger than her counterpart's penis? Well, for better or worse, now you know;) ). Anyway the book does a great job of presented some pretty research and data density studies in a funny and insightful manner making it easy to read and apply.

So today's application is that of stress on the endurance athlete. I've already written about the sustainability of an endurance athlete, but this book does a nice job talking about how our bodies' desire to maintain homeostasis can start putting stress on the body that actually is detrimental. Decalcified bones, loss of bone mass and increased risk of stress fractures all come with increased training loads(this however needs to be taken, somewhat with a grain of salt because oftentimes it is the runner who increases total running mileage rather than the one who is consistently maintaining it who actually gets the stress fractures). It's not just your skeletal that takes a beating though.

As exercise becomes excessive you have less luteinizing hormone release hormone(LHRH) which through a series of cascading events results in decreased testosterone. Also, due to the increased time training there is higher time spent with your sympathetic nervous system(the 4 F's-fright, fight, flight, and sex) running on high which results in higher levels of glucocorticosteroids running around which actually diminishes your immune system's efficacy as well as a can contribute to vasoconstriction of your heart's vessels and lead to cardiac issues.

What can be done? 

Well before you throw away your running sneakers and buy all 30 seasons of the Simpsons, take note that most of us aren't getting anywhere near the mileage needed to actually have negative impact on our bodies. Even in my highest mileage weeks I was barely hitting the low range(50 miles) that he discusses as when the problem can start.

But if you are in that range, I would definitely make these few suggestions:

  • Try to elimination stress from other areas of your life- It's all about total amount of time spent in that fight or flight mode so if you can diminish some of it elsewhere, you may be better off. 
  • Engage the parasympathetic system. Mindfulness meditation, self-talk, yoga can all be ways to help engage that other nervous system(rest and digest).
  • Allow for sufficient recovery from workouts. This is probably the biggest one. Sorry to bury the lead but what's the difference between professional athletes and amateurs? After a pro finishes her workout, she puts her feet up on the couch and takes a nap (After eating a 4:1 carb:protein recovery snack of course). The exception to this is Amber who as far as I know is the only successful triathlete who works a full-time job. Meanwhile the harried amateur rushes off to work where there is probably even more stress thrown his way. If you can take even just a few minutes of calming time to yourself after your big workouts, you probably will be helping yourself out.

In general, while acute stress, like when a Zebra is running away from a lion is good because it mobilizing energy stores and preps your heart, long-term high levels of stress is not. Find out those areas of your life that are highly stressful and do what you can to help reduce or eliminate them. Easier said than done. Although a big part of stress is your reaction to it. Made to wait in line for two hours(which is typical of anytime you need to go to the ATM in Guyana)? Bring a book. Now you're not waiting but reading. Remember it's all about mindset and management of your expectations. Well, almost all that.

Anyway, you don't have to take my word for it, find out for yourself! It's worth the read.

Is Running A Sport?

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

Since I've been in Guyana, I have come across about 15 runners, all of which were in Georgetown. I have yet to see someone run since I moved to New Amsterdam. I thought I did once but the guy was just catching a taxi.

In addition to the always clever "white boy" thrown out about every 1/4 of a mile, I've noticed that a lot of people hear go "oh exercising, huh?" Like they've seen running somewhere before and now only connecting with that vague and elusive term. That is not to say that people here don't exercise but almost always it occurs in a team-sport setting. Cricket, soccer and even basketball (which I saw for the first time the other day and I am going to see if there's a set time for pick-up) and other team sports are ubiquitous down here just not ever running. Or cycling for that matter. Cyclists are EVERYWHERE but I have yet to see one sweating or breathing heavily while doing so. The one hill in town, a bridge over the Canje, often has cyclists walking their bikes up it rather than exert themselves. I, myself, have taken to the slow spin as I have started using my beat up bike purely for commuting purposes.

It's as if endurance sports don't exist down here. But that's not true either because there are competitive cycling and running races but it's limited to internationally competitive racers and there just doesn't seem to be a middle ground. Either you're competing at an elite level or you view running purely as exercise. It doesn't seem to be any notion of running as a recreational sport.

Which begs the question: is it? This age-old question goes, at least, as far back as my high-school sports career in which I would have said definitively  no it is not. Running is for training or as a punishment when preparing for real sports. I obviously shifted my mindset when I started running myself noting that clearly it was a sport. 
Since I would have no one trust MY definition, I refer to to answer it. They say a sport is "an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment". Well there you have it. Running is not a sport. Nobody finds running entertaining to watch. haha I'm just kidding. So it seems running can be a sport or punishment or, as the Guyanese say, just exercise. Maybe if the Guyana marathon takes off, that mindset may change. 

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rot Gut; or the pitfalls of processed foods

Danny Running's photo.

Well, it's been a little over a month since I've been in Guyana and I finally succumbed to my cravings and made myself a pizza last night. It was delicious! 
But my stomach rebelled. I slept not a wink last night with this awful fullness feeling that didn't resolve until about an hour ago. 

Up until yesterday, I had been making myself mostly soups and stir fried meals as well trying every thing, including some pretty shady street food, while I'm out without any issue. I then eat a "typical" meal and I end up feeling awful. Why? Well it could just be coincidence(is there such a thing?) or it could be that my body has decided that it doesn't need nor want processed foods. I believe most people know that just the process of refining food destroys most of its nutrients. With the most nutritious part of the grain removed, white flour essentially becomes a form of sugar. Here's what's lost: 
  • Half of the beneficial unsaturated fatty acids
  • Virtually all of the vitamin E
  • 50%  of the calcium
  • 70% of the phosphorus
  • 80% of the iron
  • 98% of the magnesium
  • 50-80%t of the B vitamins
What I didn't know, until I looked it up this morning, is that flour used to be aged with time, improving the gluten and thus improving the baking quality. Now, it is treated  with chlorine  to instantly produce similar qualities in the flour! Plus the bleaching process results in a byproduct that has been shown to be toxic to rats. No thank you! And this is by no means is this brief blog a comprehensive discussion of why processed foods aren't optimal. I'd suggest doing some research online and see for yourself why you may want to stay away! 

If I have a cravings for pizza again, I think I am going to try using whole-wheat, barley flour or maybe even cauliflower. Not even kidding about that last one. When Matt and I were in Colorado this winter, we were sitting and watching a talk show and someone came on who made a cauliflower pizza. I'll have to try it and then let you know if it's any good;)

Until then,


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Serendipity; or the possibility of more than coincidence

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

Have you ever experienced a coincidence? Some people would argue that there is no such thing as a coincidence or rather that all coincidences have meaning and nothing happens by chance.

The probability of a certain set of circumstances coming together in a meaningful (or tragic) way is so low that it simply cannot be considered mere coincidence. 

In April of this past year, I experienced a coincidence, randomly happening about the site where my cousin Kevin's ashes were scattered in Ireland. There was no reason for me to have stopped alongside the road, nor to encourage others to follow me, but I did and they did. It certainly could have been mere coincidence. Unlikely with the hundreds of miles of possible turnoffs that we did not take but possible. 

So likewise, it COULD be coincidence that when I arrived in Guyana last month and to the hospital, I found that the patients had nothing to read. Reading and staying abreast with what is happening in this world is paramount to being a socially appropriate and responsible individual. So I was provided with National Geographic magazines. 

From the 1980's. Actually from late 70 to late 80's. As I reading through each one(because you don't want to provide patients with drug-induced psychosis articles on drugs), I came across one about the highest peak in Guyana: Mt Roraima. The article was pretty amazing and inspired me to want to climb this peak. As I closed the cover, the reality hit me. This edition of National Geographic was published May 1989. The month and year that Kevin was born. Again, could have been a coincidence, but I'm taking it as a sign that I should pursue this peak and see what exactly it has in store for me. 

Image result for highest peak in guyana
Mt Roraima

What's in store for me in the direction I don't take?

 It doesn't much matter if I am guided in the path I should follow. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Prophet's View On Love

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

I just picked up The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. I had never heard of him but the fact that he was an author and an artist was intriguing. I haven't yet finished it but I thought I'd share a little from it which I felt was fitting especially since I'm so far from my loved ones but the distance has not diminished my love.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.  

Give your hearts, but not into each other's each.
For only the hand of life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and cypress grow not in each other's shadow. 

And since this was supposedly his masterpiece and most prized writing, I don't think I need to add anything to it so I'll leave you with that.

Until Next Time,


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Is this the end of Peace Corps?

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

Is there a need for Peace Corps in today's world of technology? While there a several sectors in Peace Corps the two major ones comprising well over 50% of all volunteers are health and education. In the age of Khan academy and e-health technology is sending young Americans to these countries worth it? In this era where colleges are going online, our meetings are often involving telecommunication and with so much of our days spent interacting, not with each other, but with our virtual selves, can it be said that there is no longer a need for the government to send Peace Corps Volunteers to other countries to help? Would it not be more effective to provide good telecommunication options and have skilled and well trained professionals give the instruction needed?

I don't really have an answer but I have come up with some pro's and con's for this argument.

Full disclosure: I am probably writing this blog  because this morning I was hit by a motorbike on my way to work. Luckily I saw him coming and anticipated it so while he messed up my bike, I'm only a bruised butt worse for wear. But it put me in a foul mood for the rest of the day. Soooo. Probably shouldn't be writing this blog today but sometimes it's cathartic to write down your thoughts. Whether this ever gets published is another thing. If it does though, take it with a grain of salt;)

Okay so I am going to pose this as Pro's for eliminating the Peace Corps and con's as reasons against it. There's probably been some study that looks at how you frame a question and label pro and cons- I bet it skews the results to some degree. Anyway, here goes:

Safety Concerns: Peace Corps volunteers go to parts of the world where crime, poor infrastructure and political turmoil can, and often does, lead to safety issues. Wouldn't it be better to have a person in DC tele-communicate with said countries and provide constructive ways to fix the problems?

Being a Global Citizen: As I mentioned before, it is easy to be a tourist but far harder to live in a land where we may otherwise exploit. To not know the countries and peoples of the world, how can we possibly develop empathy and better understanding of each other?

Health Issues: In addition to motor vehicle accidents, crime, infectious diseases, wildlife attacks, a far higher(and more socially acceptable)level of alcohol consumption, pollution(in my case from trash burning nearly constantly) and above mentioned safety concerns, is the health risks our citizens face worth the arguably minimal effect we provide?

Accountability and Credibility: If we don't send volunteers into these countries and model good behavior and provide a constant and consistent presence, is there any chance of having these communities hold themselves accountable? And I'd imagine, telling someone what to do via Skype does not lend itself the same credibility as if you are in the Psych Ward with the patients as they are having a tantrum.

Easy Transfer from Physical Presence to Electronic Presence: Very few Peace Corps positions require hands-on skills. Usually it is didactic in nature where the intent is to provide the community or organization with better skills to the implement their own programs. The key is sustainability and being able to continue once we have left. Is there really a difference if this instruction comes via in-person instruction or telecommunication?

A Physical Presence is Sometimes Needed: Some skills require a physical presence and to demonstrate and model behavior techniques before we expect others to then be able to implement them in a consistent and effective manner.

Cost: Even though I am living off a meager living allowance, Peace Corps does also have to pay for my rent as well as get me to and fro from the country. And because of the Fly America Act, that can be prohibitively expensive. Wouldn't the money be better used to help create better infrastructure?

Less Opportunity for Positive Social Interactions: While we may not  need to be there, if we don't go are we missing opportunities to make long-lasting friendships as well as promoting a better image of the US society? It's amazing how few people in Guyana realize that Queens is not ALL of New York, no less all of the US. I've shown some people a map of the US and where NYC is and then where Queens is and they are amazed to realize that there is quite a bit of the US they have never heard of.

[Probably due to the direct flights from Georgetown to NYC there is a huge portion of Guyanese immigrants who have settled in Queens, so when their relatives go to visit, that's pretty much the only place they go. It's amazing how many Yankee baseball caps are in Guyana. Although my original hypothesis for this is that every year the Yankees are over-confident that they are going to be successful and when they eventually flop they have many unsold caps which they then export to Guyana as a tax write-off;)]

Sorry for that long side-bar but I know that by the end of my time I will have some friendships that will probably last for a long-time and that I would otherwise not have been exposed.

Telecommunication is More Far-Reaching: Just look at the number of people participating in Coursera or Khan Academy and they are exceeding the numbers of the world's biggest university. If we send a Peace Corps volunteer to a village to teach 25 children, we have taught 25 children. But if we can extend that reach with telecommunication to even 100 children, we've increased our reach by 4 times!

A Physical Presence, while not always needed, Is Sometimes More Effective:  Having a real teacher or health educator that lives in your community may afford more credibility and compliance than if it's a person that you've only met on line.

Peace Corps Is Not An Adventure: I think too often Peace Corps is viewed as an adventure and an opportunity for(and this is a broad based categorization, but yet has held up so far) young naive liberal arts college graduates to see the world and "give back". Well I can tell you that for the people who live in the country, it's not an adventure, it's a way of life. And a good number of volunteers that I've spoken with, once they get here, are disillusioned and disappointed with the little impact that they are actually able to elicit. And my real question is: is sending new grads to areas of extreme poverty and need the best way to serve these peoples' needs? Why not send more professionals?

Peace Corps Can Be An Adventure: While once you get here you may realize that the work is mundane and you are educating people on things that you presume EVERYONE knows, it is also a once-in a lifetime experience. And this is where I think the Peace Corps marketing staff is amazing. They really do an excellent job making it seem like this experience is life-changing. And it is. But you have to realize that what Nietzsche said was accurate. You're not getting an improved life by having no difficulties but by taking you to the brink of it and then allowing you to chose whether you want to live or not. And it seems that some of the  challenges that Peace Corps presents may be contrived from the bureaucracy which is inevitable in any government run program. But others are the very things that are listed as Pro's for discontinuing Peace Corps. In addition, the people you meet and the places you go when you're at your site can certainly be an adventure. As is battling with your first 6 inch spider.

Who Cares if You Teach a Man to Fish, if There is No Water? I think the biggest problem is that we are putting the horse before the cart). Is it really a good idea to educate people when there is no work available for them to pursue? Educate them on healthy lifestyles when it means exercising on poorly lit or crime-ridden neighborhoods? Educating them on eating healthy when there is no potable water? The biggest pro here for discontinuing Peace Corps is that this money used(or arguably wasted) in sending volunteers to these countries is not inappropriate, just premature. We need to first help establish better infrastructure(namely, safe and well-lit roads, clean water sources, better trash removal, etc) before we try to promote intellectual and personal growth. Otherwise what will happen is that the well-educated and -off will just leave the country for higher paying jobs elsewhere.

The Actual People: No matter how many or few people you are working with, you are at least, conceivably making a difference in those people's lives. While I hold no notions that anything I have done(ranging from starting a community garden, yoga and walking programs as well as other projects just in their infancy) will continue when I am gone, I do know that in this time that I am here, I will have made difference in these people's lives. And that is why, despite all the negatives, I plan to stay and fulfill my goals and project.We will see if my determination lasts.

And as I was spell-checking the blog before posting, I realized that I become more loquacious as I went. Sorry for that. Lots of words and no pictures. So, here's a picture.

Image result for gorilla flipping you off
That's the kinda day I have been having. haha!

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

If you can't tie a knot, tie a lot; or what to do when you have plenty of time on your hands:)

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

Partially due to crime and partially due to risk of getting bitten by an malaria(or chikungunya) infected mosquito, it is Peace Corps' policy for me not to be out past dark. Which means 6pm. Which means I have plenty of time on my hands. Having internet does slow down my progress towards doing things that are actually productive but I have a list of things that I want to accomplish while here. Learn Portuguese(well enough to read it when I go to Brazil), read the 20 books I've brought with me that I was putting off at home, learn a little bit about everything with Khan Academy(right now I'm learning about the empires leading up to the first world war), and tie knots. 

Okay quick side-bar: Did you know that the Chinese town of Tsingtao was German colony? Well did you also know that the beer, Tsingtao, was created by German settlers there? I didn't. Pretty interesting to think that the best selling Chinese beer actually had its roots with German beer makers.

Okay one more side-bar: I am currently reading Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund which is pretty darn amazing. I've never read Moby Dick but now I definitely want to. It's tragic, and hilarious at the same time. Here's a quick excerpt: 

[she]seated herself in the windowsill, hundreds of pounds of her silken backside hanging over the edge into the out-of-doors. What a sight, should a passerby look up! It would seem that someone was trying to stuff a feather bed out the window. A woman who used a house as her chair! 
Alas, she so completely filled the sole window that very little of the hot air could escape and none of the cool breeze bypassed the mighty cork of her being.

Hilarious. And then a few chapters later(spoiler alert!), a sperm whale destroys a whaling fleet and makes the surviving crew resort to cannibalism to stay alive. And I'm not even half-way done the book!

Okay back to my goals and knots. I did the most camping this summer that I have in quite some time and while it was fun, it made me realize how limited my knot tying capabilities were. I'm pretty much limited to the overhand and figure 8 knots. So I've decided to learn hone my knot tying skills. 

First thing to know. Anytime you tie a knot in a rope, you weaken the rope's strength. When doing strength and drop testing, the rope will break at the knot. The strongest knots you can use are the figure-eight follow-through, fisherman's bend or clove hitch all of which, when pull-tested, breaks at around 75 to 80 percent of the rope’s full strength. However clover hitches have been known to both slip and bind and usually requires an extra half hitch for safety. The bowline, timber hitch and two half hitches are all slightly weaker knots, at 60-70%. Now to put this in perspective, the normal overhand knot breaks at 40% of the strength of the rope.  In reality most modern climbing ropes have a tensile strength of upwards of 6,000 pounds, so even an overhand knot would fail at something like 2,400 pounds. That type of force is arguably difficult to produce in real-life situations, but why risk it? Why not just learn these knots and have an array of good knots at your disposable if you go climbing or just want to tie your hammock without if falling down. 

Figure-8 Follow Through

Fisherman's Bend
Round Turn and Two Half Hitches(a good alternative to the clove hitch with similar holding power)


Timber Hitch

Two Half Hitches
Or if you don't want to watch each of these videos separately. This video(below) incorporates bowline, 2 half hitches, clove hitch and figure 8. As well as the square knot, taut line and sheet bend.

Or better still just watch this video:

Okay, so I haven't perfected these knots yet but I'm working on it. I've still got plenty of time:)

I have perfected this joke though(ready for it?):
A rope walks into a bar and orders and drink. The bartender says,"We don't serve ropes here." So the rope goes outside, frays his ends, and ties himself into a knot. 

He comes back in and once again orders a drink. The bartender says,"Aren't you that rope I kicked out?" The rope replies, "Nope, I'm a' frayed knot."
haha and that is how I will end this blog:) Good night! I will be here all week!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Trip to the Zoo; or Happy Mental Health Day!

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

Happy Mental Health Day!

 If you were unaware, this week has been the International Mental Health Week and today is officially Mental Health Day. All week long at the Psychiatric Hospital we have been doing events helping draw attention to mental illness as well as working to promote mental health and wellness. People often think of mental health in regards to the illnesses that require medication and sometimes institutionalization. But mental health is something that each and every one of us are affected by and oftentimes can be prevented or mitigated with things like aerobic exercise, positive socialization, sleep hygiene, abstinence from drug and alcohol use and positive coping strategies. Hopefully, we all have ways to keep our "sanity" in this ever stressful world we live in. Topic for another day though:)

So anyway, yesterday we took many of our long-term residents to Georgetown to go to the zoo. The zoo is pretty much a rehabilitation, animal shelter for animals endemic to Guyana and the tropics.

We started boarding the bus a little behind schedule and then the loading took a little longer than expected but we finally were on our way! The trip from New Amsterdam to Georgetown, although only being about 60 miles, takes about 2 hours. So even with the delayed start, we should have gotten to the zoo by 11am.
We're off!
However, about 30 minutes into the ride we hear a loud explosion as the rear tire blows out! The bus swerves left then right finally skidding to a stop. Phew! That was close. We were lucky that for once on the road there were no oncoming cars, pedestrians or roadside animals.
Lucky spot to have had the accident. Nice little trail and plenty of places to sit. Not much sun though
 After disembarking and unloading all of our packed lunches and water, we proceed to attempt to fix the flat. Unfortunately, the other rear tire must have blown too so we now had two flats and only one spare. So our driver hitch-hikes back to get another tire as we all sit on the side of the road in the ever-hotter sun.
The blow-out

Over the next two hours we wait, have lunch and finish our lunches. At 12:30p we finally are ready to go. I just assumed that we'd call it a day and head back to New Amsterdam, but in fact we truck on. We get to the zoo a little after 2p.
Palm trees are everywhere along the ride
The zoo closes at 3:30 so I thought it would be a little rushed but in fact that was plenty to see everything. As I said it wasn't set up much like a normal zoo but it was pretty cool to think that these animals are all seen in the wild. Several of which I'm not sure I'd want to encounter.

3 toed sloth

 If the Jagarondi, which is only about 2x the size of a housecat wasn't scary enough. There were also Puma's(also known as Mountain Lions) which were SUBSTANTIALLY bigger. I couldn't get a picture but they were big. And Guyana has even bigger cats as they also have the Jaguar which is only smaller than Lions and Tigers.


A Paca
That last one is anaconda. Terrifying. Especially after getting an email from the race director of the trail marathon I'm doing in a month. This is taken directly from the email:
"I have yet to see any wild cats like Jaguars or tigers  and most likely will not come out, but if they do, please don't blame us for not warning that they are there.  There are the large rats native to the trails and often some snakes. There are approximately 4 swamps to cross.  The last 2 are crossing a small creek, but it's more like another swamp over log bridges."

This race is going to be epic! I'm just going to make sure that I run with some other people:)

Okay back to the day. So after we wrap up at the zoo head over to the Seawall which is nice and was relaxing.
The seawall
But it was getting late and as the residents had to get back for dinner we headed back around 5ish so we could be back by 7p. However, on our way home we ran into(luckily not literally) and herd of over 200 cows walking in the middle of the road. We eventually got home but now it was almost 8 and it was a looong day! But fun and glad we could celebrate in an interesting fashion guaranteed to be a topic of discussion at the hospital for the next few weeks at least. 

Okay that's it for me. Good luck to everyone racing KONA! I cannot wait to see how it turns out.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Danny's Top Five Hikes/Trail Runs of 2015

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

Today was a good day. Kenny ran a half marathon in preparation for her marathon in three weeks. I had told her to take it out steady and really focus on just running her 5-10 seconds faster than marathon goal pace. She finished averaging 8:01s which is exactly 10 seconds faster than Boston qualifying and 5 seconds faster than what I think she will do for the marathon. All told a very good and evenly paced run for her. She has one more high volume week than is starting her taper. 

Meanwhile in Guyana, I awoke early and got in my longest run to date in here(60 minutes), went to the hospital for a 2 1/2 hour church service for the residents, spent some time practicing Portuguese with Duolingo and reading, and then went for bike ride and trail run. The bike ride was better than yesterday because of the copious amounts of duct tape that now envelops my bike. It may not look pretty but it held up. On my ride yesterday, I spotted some cool trails so I rode to one, locked up my bike and went for a short but relaxing run. In addition to being in nice trails and shaded and away from cars, riding home allowed me to cool off somewhat so I didn't need to stand in my shower for 30 minutes until I stopped sweating profusely.  

So was this trail run one of the best of 2015? Not even close but it got me thinking about all the awesome trails that I've been on this year and I decided to compile a list of the top five. I truly have been blessed with the spectacular and diverse So without further ado, here's my 2015 list:

#1 Fimmvoroudhals Trail-Iceland
Hands down the best trail that I went on this year. Not only did it have 22 amazing waterfalls, but it's terrain was so varied there was no way you could get bored. And if you were really ambitious, you could make it an overnight and camp on the far end(20+ miles later).   

#2 The Otter Trail- South Africa
Another trail that you could turn into a overnight. The Otter Trail actually is designed as a hut-hut 5 day excursion. As we didn't have that kind of time while we were there. We did just the first day. The hike to the waterfall. The whole first day parallels that ocean, except if you take a wrong turn, as we did and get up climbing 1000 feet of elevation while being stalked by a troop of baboons. Beautiful and very enjoyable.
The waterfall

#3 Dipsea Trail-North of San Francisco
There is a reason why this trail is host to the oldest trail race in the United States. Lined with Redwoods, it is spectacular and awe-inspiring. Plus if you time it right you still have plenty of time to either head to San Fran for a micro-brew or head over to Sonoma for some wine tasting. 
Can you spot Kenny running? 

#4 Mourne Wall Challenge-Newcastle Northern Ireland
Now this is 4th on my list because I did this one solo. I bet if I had the good company I had with the other trails on this list it may have gotten a higher ranking. Despite that and the energy sapping muck, this 22 mile trail tracing a 100 year old wall traversing several of Northern Ireland tallest peaks. It's beautiful and the challenge is to complete it in a day. The drive to/from Dublin and the hike can be done in a day if you are moving. 

#5 Mount Washington-Jefferson, New Hampshire
How could a list be complete without some mention of the many New England hikes that rival anywhere in the world. I was tempted to put in the Precipice Trail in Acadia but realized that I didn't have any pictures from that hike. As I always talk about how much I love the Little Haystack-Lafayette Loop, I decided I'd be Washington some respect and give it props. We went up Jefferson which I would recommend everyone do. It's a short hike to the summit and then you have nice views the whole time over to Washington. Warning: That also means that it's exposed the whole way so be vigilant about the weather. 

Guyana has some major potential for epic hikes closer to the border of Venezuela and Brazil. Once I get my Brazilian visa I plan to make my way over there. Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Bike to the Dike or Danny's First Bike Ride in Guyana

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

So I bought a bike yesterday. I figured that although it was pretty much my entire month's living allowance it would be worth it. My walk to/from work is just long enough that I lose about an hour from my day(which is pretty short since it gets dark here at 6p). Plus I wanted to use it to ride to the ocean and explore more than I would be able to do by running. 
Sugar Cane field

Today would be my first expedition. I was planning riding the road along the Berbice River until it ended. I google mapped it and it seemed to be about 25 miles or so. So I prepared myself for a 50 mile ride. On a mountain bike. I packed plenty of water, sunscreen and sandwiches and headed out. Within three minutes, my chain snapped! I then had to walk it to the store where I just bought it yesterday, had to argue with the salesperson who was trying to charge me for "servicing the bike"(i.e. fixing the chain that apparently has a lifespan slightly shorter than a fruit fly), and wait about 40 minutes to get a new chain put on. 

Okay so I'm finally off! I was sailing smoothly for about 15 minutes or so until I hit a small pothole and my seat pivots 90 degrees so now the tip is facing vertically right into my crotch. Suffice it to say this is not a pleasant feeling. I quickly re-positioned it and continued riding. Then pothole and SMACK! This went on for about 5 more times before I got off my bike, pulled out my leatherman and tightened the nuts(on the bike-keep your mind out of the gutter). I then was able to look around and enjoy my environment.

Finally no cars!

As I rode away from New Amsterdam, the area got nice and nicer. 

The road isn't exactly right on the river but there were some times that it was pretty close and it was pretty cool to see the rapids as the water moved quickly to the ocean. Also of interest were the kokers. A koker is the gate at the end of the canal. Much of coastal Guyana is below sea level and protected by dikes. At low tide the koker can be opened and water will drain from the canal, through the dike and into the sea. But at high tide the koker needs to be closed or the land will be flooded with sea water. It was pretty cool to see these rickety things were the only things keeping Guyana from being flooded. 
The Berbice River
After a while, I turned around and was greeted with an unpleasant finding. I had been riding with a tailwind. Guyana is blessed with nearly constant wind which is the only thing that keeps the temps somewhat tolerable. Unfortunately when you have to ride directly into this wind, it becomes unpleasant. My ride home took almost twice as long. And during this time, both my saddle and handle bars came loose. Oh well, I guess you get what you pay for. 

Next purchase is going to be a bike tool to tighten them up enough that I don't get any more nut bails. If I can fix the bike, I'd like to ride into Suriname. That would be pretty cool and totally doable. I just have to get a Visa to cross the border. 
Horses, goats, and cows-more plentiful than people in this area.