Sunday, November 25, 2007

day four in hanoi

Today was my fourth and final day in Hanoi. I got an evening flight back to HK and am back home now. I hope the title of this post isn't too misleading -- I won't be giving a play-by-play of day four (or day two, or three, for that matter), mainly because it's late and tomorrow is a work day. My apologies to anyone who was hoping for more regular updates from Vietnam... I realize that I probably shouldn't have titled that first post "day one" if I wasn't planning to follow up with subsequent days... :) But, dear disappointed readers, I am envisioning a number of Hanoi-themed posts appearing within the next few days. Though I wasn't very consistent with the blog, I did keep a journal and took lots of photos, so there's lots to share! Stay tuned...

Friday, November 23, 2007

day one in hanoi

I'm in Hanoi for four days, staying with friends Sherman and Becky. This is my first time in Vietnam, and my first time to be out of Hong Kong in close to a year. It's nice to be somewhere new. Granted, I've felt more helpless and generally stupid in the last day than I have in a long time, but I'm enjoying the risks, the learning... everything!

Some of yesterday's memorable moments... in list form (no pictures yet -- I'll have to insert some when I get home):

  • making it to the gate in time (I left my house about half an hour later than planned, then waited for the airport bus longer than planned... thankfully HK has one of the most efficient airports in the world... I even had time to pick something up at Starbucks). We had to take a ground-transport bus to our plane (my first time to do this in HK), and I had what we might call a very small panic attack when I suddenly considered the fact that I didn't know even one word of Vietnamese. It's been such a last minute trip -- so much so that I hadn't done any research whatsoever, or even learned how to say "thank you." That's been remedied now, thanks to Sherman and Becky and their Lonely Planet phrase book.
  • sitting on the airplane, relieved to have made the flight, and then gradually noticing that the easy-listening jazz being pumped through the plane was a cover of Nirvana's "Smells like Teen Spirit." Interesting.
  • making a conscious effort to put on my "I know what I'm doing" face while wandering through the Hanoi airport, looking for a taxi to take me to Sherman and Becky's. It turned out to be a very easy experience, but once again, I was mildly tempted to fall into I'm-in-a-new-country-and-can't-speak-the-language hysterics.
  • drawing and coloring a life-sized Princess Dora [the Explorer] for Hannah's fourth birthday party. The kids played "pin the tassel on the princess's hat. :)
  • wandering around some of the streets in the old part of town and drinking in the cool mix of architecture -- modern, traditional Vietnamese, French colonial, Chinese.
  • crossing streets. "Just keep walking and assume that the motorcycle-drivers see you and will go around you." That's what I kept telling myself. I think my time in China was good preparation for this visit...
  • trying to figure out the street food, but ultimately deciding to eat at a very non-adventurous restaurant. But it's probably a good thing I did. Not only would I have had no idea what I was ordering (besides being able to see and point to ingredients), but also, Becky informed me that Hanoi's in the middle of a small cholera outbreak at the moment, so I'm glad I stayed on the safe side...
  • hiring a motorcycle to take me back to Sherman and Becky's place. What a thrill! It made my afternoon of carrying around the extra helmet very much worth it. So yes, I wasn't completely unsafe -- I wore a helmet. But then I burned my leg on the tailpipe getting off, and have a nice big blister to prove it.
Well, I guess I'll get started enjoying day two!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

trailwalker moments

Some memorable Trailwalker moments:
  • cheering on the Gurkhas (and other super (sub 18-hr) teams) as they ran past us (reminder: we started 2.5 hours before the first official start time).
  • being offered gummy candies by Mike Harrison at the bottom of Rooster Hill on Stage 3.
  • getting a call from Ikea about a shelf I'd ordered while we were stopped at our first support stop. Bizarre...
  • having my fill of carb gels (don't even want to look at them for a while...).
  • drifting off to sleep while walking... a few times.
  • receiving applause from the high school volunteers whose job it was to cheer on hikers entering check point 4.
  • getting to the half-way mark and knowing that the hardest climbs were behind us.
  • being so tired and unreasonable that I hoped my teammates would actually suggest taking a nap in the middle of the trail. Thankfully Dave was willing to give me some of his Red Bull, which helped get me through...
  • getting to the top of Needle Hill (with the help of U2 on my iPod, and super-hiker Cindy walking behind me) on Stage 7.
  • wanting to quit in the middle of the night on Stage 8, but then realizing it would be more work to try to find my way home than to continue and finish.
  • seeing the sun come up from Tai Mo Shan (Stage 8). What a welcomed dawn!
  • looking forward to cinnamon rolls (made and served by my mom) at the bottom of Tai Mo Shan.
  • being "towed" by super-hiker Cindy, and then later by my dad (he'd had only 3 hours of sleep the night before, so ended up dropping out after Stage 3, but joined us again for Stages 9 & 10).

Monday, November 12, 2007

trailwalker pics

At the start. Did I mention that we started 2.5 hours before the first start time? It was 6:30 and the sun was just coming up.
My team (L-R): Dave, Jacelyn, Dad, me.
Here we are posing with a poster that looks like it's meant to deter people from entering the Trailwalker...
Even though we weren't official entrants in the 2007 Oxfam Trailwalker, we made it into the photo gallery TWICE! The photo below is even the album cover for the album "On the Trail." (Link)
Another photo taken by one of the Trailwalker photographers. Here we are running to cross the finish line. Not sure what was going on with my leg in this photo...
And here's a poster I saw about a week before the hike that almost put me off the whole thing. Once again, were they trying to deter people?
I'm grateful that I came out of the whole thing pretty well. Besides the knee (which I'm hoping to get looked at soon), two blisters were all I got... a little better off than the guy above.

I'm planning to do one more Trailwalker-themed post, on some memorable TW moments. If you're getting tired of hearing about the hike -- only one more post to bear! If you're enjoying reading about the experience -- stay tuned!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

trailwalker stats

Some Trailwalker info, courtesy of the Oxfam Trailwalker site.

I think this one is the most insightful -- elevation!!

And according to Mike and Helen, friends and fellow Trailwalkers (official ones at that!), the total elevation gained during the Trailwalker is equivalent to climbing Everest TWICE!! (link) No wonder I'm sore...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

trailwalker update

I'm about to head to bed, to get some much needed sleep, but thought I would first give an update on the Trailwalker. We finished it! My team was able to hike the 100 km in 29 hours and 40 minutes, which met our goal of 30 hours. I'm still in a state of disbelief that I actually did it. My problematic left knee was hurting even before we started hiking yesterday, so I really didn't expect to finish. Once I realized that the pain wasn't going to go away, I decided that I would just try to deal with it, but would quit if it got any worse. And it didn't! Granted, the pain killers that I took were partly responsible, but I was very thankful to get through it without any serious injury. Thanks must go to my very patient teammates -- my knee and then later some sickness on the trail held me up quite a few times -- and all the folks that helped us with support. Also, I thank God for his grace in protecting my knee, and for giving me the strength to do something that I didn't think I could do.
Well, it's time to say goodnight. I'll post more about the hike (along with a few photos) when I have a little more energy...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

trailwalker eats

This is just some of the food that I'm planning to eat on the Trailwalker. I think I will be breaking a personal record...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

ecolips and other purchases

The Trailwalker is on Friday. Though I've been training for it for some months now, it's hard to believe that the day is almost here. I've had a harder time than expected getting excited about the hike, and I think that's mainly because there were some moments over the weekend when I thought that I wouldn't/shouldn't do it. At some point during my packing at school, I did something to my left knee. I bought a really heavy-duty brace though (one that makes me feel like Robocop when I wear it), and I think it has helped. Knee still hurts a little when I go down stairs, but it's bearable.

Though it would be disappointing not to be able to finish the Trailwalker, I think that facing the reality of injury has made me see that there are worse things than not finishing. Like leg amputations, permanent knee damage, or never walking normally again (OK, I'll try to refrain from the melodrama from here on out). Anyway, I'm glad that quitting now seems an acceptable option.

That being said, once I'd decided to attempt the hike, I knew that I needed to get myself psyched up, at least a little bit, about Friday. Even if I don't end up finishing, I need to go into it expecting the best. So what better way to get excited about hiking than a shopping trip to my favorite outdoor supply store, Protrek?!

I got a new dry fit shirt and a whole carton of carb gels. I probably won't use all 24 of them this weekend, but buying in bulk turned out to be a good deal. These gels will probably get their own post at some point... I find them quite fascinating.

And now for my more frivolous purchase (though, in my defense, I did need some new chapstick...): Ecolips. Or is it "Eco Lips"? Anyway, it was a pretty pricey tube of chapstick that I'll admit, I bought mainly because it comes with an Ecolips carribeener/hook thingy with the Ecolips brand name on it. But not to fear, dear reader -- those are HK dollars.

I'm sure there will be more Trailwalker posts to come, regardless of what happens with my knee.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

saturday evening wanderings part II

Besides the book and the hot chocolate, there were a couple of other benefits of yesterday's wanderings.

1. I found a cheap little fabric store, and bought two yards of this bright floral fabric. It was originally going to just be one yard, but I liked it so much...

2. I stumbled across a little CD store (that I have vague recollections of going to before... but will I ever be able to find it again?) that had some good stuff. I found the new Jose Gonzales album (In Our Nature) there and quickly bought it. The process seemed so easy and pain-free, as his last album that I bought, Veneer, had to be special ordered from HK Records because it didn't seem to be available anywhere...
And I'm feeling optimistic that I'll find some way of listening to the talk I missed last night... I'm sure there's a recording of it somewhere. Maybe I can special order it...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

saturday evening wanderings

I'm feeling more than a little ridiculous right now. I planned to go hear a lecture tonight ("Amusing Ourselves to Death: Freedom for Youth from a Culture of Narcissism" by Marva Dawn of Regent College), and would be there now if I wasn't so very locationally-challenged. I found myself walking back and forth all over Wanchai, wondering "Have I really lived here most of my life?" Somehow I still managed to make it to my destination about 10 minutes early. But that's when I noticed locked doors and dark windows, quite the contrast to the busy church facility that I was picturing. See, I had walked myself over to the English-speaking Methodist church, when the actual locale of the talk was the [plain old] Methodist church. Both are in Wanchai, and the irony of the whole thing is that in my wanderings, I came in very close proximity to the correct church. I guess I could have walked myself back over to the right place -- being late wouldn't have been such a horrible thing --but I decided that I'd had my fill of walking for the day. So instead, I determined that I'd head in the direction of the home-bound bus, but was secretly hoping that I'd come across a coffee shop first. Consequently, I now find myself sitting in a Pacific Coffee, sipping a hot-chocolate (I already had a coffee this evening, and don't trust myself to have another).

I don't share this story in the hopes that you, dear reader, will feel pity for me. There are much worse things than coffee shops and warm chocolate beverages. And what makes me even less pitiable is that I have a book with me that I happen to be quite engrossed in at the moment: Bury the Chains: The British Stuggle to Abolish Slavery (if you click on that you'll find that for some reason the sub-heading is different on the American version). It's nice to be reading again -- for some reason it's been some months since I've been able to really get into a book. And this one is amazing (there's a reason it was a National Book Award finalist!). Very inspirational. I'd been interested in learning more about William Wilberforce, the British abolitionist, for while. And then on Thursday, after watching Amazing Grace , decided that I had to go to Page One immediately to find a book about him. I guess this book isn't exactly the Wilberforce biography I was looking for -- it's actually much better! It tells the stories of all of the key abolition figures, how they influenced each other and were finally able to bring about change. Anyway, I've still got a lot to read, so I'll save any further discussion of the book for a later post. Oh, and I guess I've been on this public computer for quite a while and should probably give someone else a turn...