Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Research: Customs

I've been doing my research on Kilimanjaro for ~15 years. But not until this trip became a reality that I have begun researching customs and traditions in the country itself.

I've been reading Tanzania - Culture Smart!: The Ultimate Guide to Customs and Culture and have found it VERY useful. Especially for the $.99 it cost me for the Kindle.

I'm probably more paranoid than the 'average' traveler about knowing customs, but this is my first venture (and I'm solo) into a country with a large Muslim population. My number one goal is to not offend anyone. I am not going to 'fit in' - I may as well wear a sign that says American!!

I've been using a Swahili computer program to learn a few words. I want to be able to at least greet people and ask where the restrooms are. When I was in Spain a few years ago, those were really the only useful phrases I used. The problem when learning to ask just a few things -- if the person doesn't choose to answer you in English, then they speak WAY too fast and with words that you don't understand. But those that do speak English seemed to appreciate the attempt at using their language.

Can I tell you how much I wish I had taken a language different than French? And as someone who was always linguistics-focused, I believe the theory that it is MUCH harder to learn a language as you get older!

Happy New Year! I cannot wait to kick off 2014 with all of the exciting things we have planned this year - not just this trip. And it's kind of neat to think of turning 41 in 14.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lessons Learned (Part 1)

I'm going to have several of these, over the course of my journey. So here is the first one.

1. If you need ANY kind of prescription meds and that script might/maybe expire while you are traveling - start the process at LEAST one month in advance. It will take that long, or more, to get insurance overrides and stupid pharmacies to play nice with filling a prescription early.

2. Compression sacks? While useful (especially if waterproof), do not compress much. Right now, I would guess maybe 10-15%? 

3. I absolutely love the "Small" sized dry sacks (non-compression). I've been using them to pack a full day's change of clothes in and stick in a larger bag - that way, I'll always have at least one fresh change of clothing.

4. I am absolutely certain that I am overpacking. I have no idea how to remedy that -- I mean, I could take less clothing (even right now, I'm at <1 outfit per day)... but if I get the *chance* to change and have fresh clothing... who wouldn't take it? 

5.  If anyone knows of a good way to pack trekking poles, please let me know -- I haven't figured it out yet!!

T - 12 Days: Every time I think I have everything....

Last night, we went shopping for the 'final' final things: snacks, power bars, socks.

Every time I think I've got everything, I think of 4 or 5 more things I need.

Yesterday, I started putting things into dry sacks, to organize clothing by days, and to also just organize my bag. Being able to leave one bag at the hotel will be a HUGE help. I'm taking one of my brother's old Army duffel bags (which has been recommended to me by several bloggers), and that's somehow comforting to me.

I am still trying to figure out how I will get everything into my bags. And still be able to find things. Despite being a regular business traveler, packing has never been my strong suit -- I do have the business travel piece of it down finally. That only took 10 years or so.

Watching YouTube videos and reading blogs has been the most useful packing information I could have had -- several women have blogs out there about what to take, what you don't need, and what you cannot live without. For example, some things I've learned: pack candy for summit day, you'll need the sugar to get through the day. Sock liners? Yay or nay? So far, I'm going with nay. I expect that I will need to do some laundry at least once while I'm gone. "laundry" might be a little water and beating clothes on rocks!

How long can you stand the smell of your own self? Can you go multiple days without showers? How many days? My current, tested, limit is 3 days. And I can do that just fine. Now, while on a mountain trek? May be a completely different story.

Later today, I'm going to start actually putting all of my stuff into my backpacks. I'm going to take pics and document as much as I can with my shaky hands. :)

It's sleety and gross here today, and probably only around 30 degrees.

I'll be baking near the equator in 12 days. Got my SPF 85 yesterday!

Friday, December 27, 2013

T - 13 Days. The Morbid Conversations

Today, I told my wife of 67 days that we need to sit down at some point before I leave and have *that* conversation. Where all the documents and things are, and where all of my passwords are, and ... you get the idea.

I'm not sure that we'll get through that conversation, for sure, but at least it's been said. She will be well taken care of... if I don't come back. Which my mother is convinced is actually going to happen.

I'm 100% confident I will make it back just fine. I'm 95% certain I will make it all the way to the top. And if I make it that far, well, I am one stubborn, determined woman -- I *WILL* make it to the top! I will!! I will stand on top of the world! Parkinson's Disease be damned!

I've been trying to stock up on my meds (esp PD ones) that I will need while I'm gone... OH BOY, that has not been any easy process. I'm still working to get one antibiotic, and ironically - my PD meds. One, my Mirapex ER is new (I was on the standard version before) , my doc is actually using because it's only once a day. I still have a lot of pills to take with me.

ExOfficio underwear? Pass with FLYING colors. They are great. And it takes about 6-7 hours to dry indoors at 66 degrees. Something tells me at the equator they dry LOTS faster.

I'm really starting to get excited. SO excited. Like OMG OMG OMG it's less than two weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you're a praying person, or would even like to send some good thoughts to my wife - she's got a LOT to deal with while I'm completely incognito. And she's going to worry - and I'm going to miss her. A lot.

But I feel like my mantra for this trip is - this is MY journey. Not yours. Stop telling me what YOU would be doing or how YOU would never think of doing this... I don't care, honestly.

And to quote my favorite artist -- It's my life. It's now or never.

T - 14 days. NOW, it's for real!!

I spent a good bit of yesterday laying out all of my gear, and trying to figure out how to smush all the things that I need into two small bags neither weighing more than 40lbs. Compression sacks and dry sacks are my best friends! I'm using compression sacks for the big things and dry sacks to put one full day of clothes in each -- that way, I can be certain I can pull out one full day's clothing and have it be dry, clean, together all at once. (I've been backpacking before, obviously, but I've always been pretty carefree about how I organized things other than the sleeping bag and mat).

I found out that I can leave a bag of traveling clothes to/from and other things with the hotel, so that's great news. I can pack a little differently now.

Now, it's crunch time. I'm having to count out and set up medications for the trip, knowing that it's within a time frame where if I need something refilled/ordered I better do it NOW!!

Oh, and did I mention I start a new job, in a new city, the Monday before I leave?!?
So I'm packing for that, too! and uh, I leave on that Friday?! 

The next month of my life is going to change my life forever. I'm ready -- I know I am -- but just thinking of where I'll be and what I'll be doing is a bit nerve-wrecking!!

I promise to keep this blog updated daily -- I just may not be able to post all the entries until I land back down in the world of wi-fi. But I am definitely going to write every day, read, and really take in and savor every second of this trip. It's the kind of trip that even those blessed enough to be able to do, probably only get the opportunity to do once in a lifetime.

And I want my friends, loved ones, wife and kids to be able to witness just a glimpse of what I see.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

T - 15 Days. Holidays, Packing, Packing, Packing

January is almost upon us. 2014 is going to be a monumental year for me.

I turned 40 this past March, and so much has happened since then -- a PD diagnosis/confirmation, I got married, and I'm going on this trip.

As New Year's comes around, I'm approaching life with the "get out there and live." I have friends who have faced/are facing much scarier diagnoses than I am, and I am thankful to have the opportunities, friends, family (bio and chosen) that are here cheering me on.  

Thank you, to all of you. You know who you are. 
Happy Holidays, and happy new year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

T - 17 Days. And the blessings of Tamiflu.

If there's a shot to prevent something, I'll jump on the bandwagon and get it. I had my nasal flu 'shot' in September. I woke up this morning with what I imagine traveler's diarrhea feels like.

By noon, I had the chills so badly I couldn't get up. And I had an important meeting with a realtor (did I mention we're moving right after I get back?!?)

Merry Christmas to me, my doc called in a tamiflu script with no issues.

Maybe I'll be better by the 25?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

T - 18 Days

The next month is going to be the craziest, most intense, and possibly the happiest of my life.

I'm starting a new job in ADDITION to going to Africa.

I've been told to bring a lot of reading material, as we do have a lot of downtime. I expect I will do a lot of writing, too, but not able to post until I'm back in town.

I cannot wait. I am finally getting really, really excited. 

That said, I have to be completely packed by January 6th. Anyone want to come compress things so that they will magically fit in my bag? I'm concerned about getting my trekking poles there intact - how do I pack those in a checked bag that has to be small? I doubt the airline will let me attach them to the outside of my carry-on.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

T - 19 Days. How did that happen??

19 days. How is that even possible?!? With the holidays coming - I *know* that January 10th is going to be here before I know it.  Yikes!!!!

Packing, packing, packing. I think I finally have all of my gear. I don't know what I would do without Amazon and REI. Amazon has been VERY useful because of the free shipping I enjoy with my Prime membership.

I also spent $49 and invested in a Samsung Galaxy tablet. Heck of a deal, has a cellular connection, and somehow - seems safer. Taking my iPad is riskier (they are SO much more expensive!), and this has a dirt/dust proof case that should stand up to the volcanic ash on Kili. I hope.

Today I was finally able to notice all of the little work that I've been doing to get in better shape. I've been running around Cleveland all day - walking everywhere - and not once did I get winded or whiny about walking. That's RARE for me. Very rare. I'm proud of myself.

And you know, I might just be insufferable after my trip. Because pride will ooze from every bit of me. And I am OK with that. I will revel in my success. 

I found another female blogger who climbed Kili last year (at climbkiliforacure.blogspot.com)  and found her advice useful. I wonder - will I be the first person to climb Kili who *knows* they have PD? I wonder. That would be pretty darned cool.

I love my life. PD and all.

Friday, December 20, 2013

T - 20 days: Dresses

It's 90 degrees today in Zanzibar. Which is the closest big city that my Weather app will pull up.

That's hot, given that it's 25 or so here in Ohio right now.

With Parkinson's Disease, my body doesn't regulate temperatures very well.
Or, at all. It can be 8 degrees outside and I want to sleep with the windows open. Think menopause - that never seems to end, and probably won't. It's loads of fun.

I'm packing layers, and lots of light weight clothes that I can use on the early days of the trip. Because well, I get warm. A lot. Often too warm. And Kilimanjaro is at the equator!

I've acquired some flowy maxi dresses to wear at the beginning and end of the trip. Normally I'm not girly, but I'm looking forward to wearing them around town and exploring a bit. :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

T - 21 Days. Lack of Support

My mother told me today that my dad's neurologist said that I should make my burial arrangements before I go to Africa.

Gee, thanks Mom.

I'm not in the best physical shape of my life (yet), but I'm working on it. I'm not perfect, and I'm not a star athlete. But I can tell you this: I am one of the most stubborn people you will ever meet. 

I will make it up this mountain. Even if I don't make it to the top, I will still be happy with my progress. I will still stand near the equator and on a glacier. I will still travel to the other side of the world by myself.

So for the non-supporters? Go ahead and don't support me. This is a personal journey for me. Not for you.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

T - 24 days. Sleeping

There are so many things that are signs of Parkinson's Disease that people don't know. They know the typical symptoms -- tremors, and rocking like Michael J Fox does. The rocking isn't actually caused by PD, it's a side effect of the meds.

A lot of the symptoms of early PD are misdiagnosed (often as arthritis) or just so unrelated people don't know. Constipation for no reason and bizarre sleep habits are often the first two symptoms, especially in early onset folks. Sleep issues? Oh, that's me!

I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't an insomniac. (I'm writing this at 406am!). But it's more than insomnia - acting out dreams, kicking, acting violent, talking nonsense -- those are all symptoms as well. My wife actually said "Let me talk to your doctor!" when he asked if I had ever had any "weird sleep issues." Yes, doc. Very weird sleep.

Thankfully I don't sleepwalk. If I did, I have no idea how I could do this trip without a tent mate. Could you imagine someone wandering around at 13,000 feet? That said, I'm also weaning myself off of ambien before this trip (for the same reasons -- I don't want to be nearly comatose sleeping with strangers). A lot of people have been giving me advice about sleeping on planes, how to deal with the long flights, which has been great -- but what if I wean myself off of ambien and then can't sleep on the mountain?

My doc says one of the meds that I'm on is actually far better for sleep than ambien, so I shouldn't have any issues. We shall see -- after all, it's 4am and I'm blogging, and I've taken that medication!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

T - 27 Days, Visiting the Neuro

At 27 days out, I think I have all of my gear. Now I need to focus on getting ME ready for the trip.

I've downloaded so many, many books and movies to take with me on the flight. I want to sit on top of the world and read for hours - even if it's just at the last camp. I want to soak in the amazing sun, no matter how cold it really is.

I asked my neurologist if my Parkinson's meds might be contraindicated with anti-malarials. He said he had no idea, and had to look it up. That no one had ever asked him that before. It made me realize - so many people with this disease are not *able* to make this trip.  And they would never, ever travel alone.

That prompted me to ask him - how long will I be able to work? And he said that everyone is different, and medicines are changing all the time, and that my symptoms are well-controlled by meds... but that the statistics say *no one* is working at 20 yrs after a diagnosis, and 60% are working at 10 years.

This is me. Hoping to break that record, and hoping for a cure or at least a better treatment in the next 20 years.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

T - 30 Days

In 30 days, I will arrive in Tanzania.  

I am traveling with Team Fox and Embark Adventures.

This has been a dream of mine since I was a teenager, and I didn't think that I would actually ever be able to go. Now that it's 30 days away, it seems definitely more terrifying.

Here is what I have learned so far:
- fundraising is hard. VERY hard. Even for a great cause that already gets a good bit of publicity. 
- it's even harder in the 3rd quarter of the year when everyone is holiday-focused
- even though this is MY bucket list, and my life, I've still had to justify to many, many people WHY I would ever think to do this
- prepping for a trip like this is a huge commitment: financially, emotionally, physically. so far, emotional is hitting me the hardest right now
- the 7100 mile leg of the flight seems like a LONG time to sit still, and I'm worried about boredom and lack of sleep
- even packing for the trip is an arduous process and requires a lot of research
- the trip requires MONTHS of research
- start getting your shots and your meds together months before you take on a trip like this. It takes that long, no joke.

I am making this journey alone. Not in the sense that I am making the climb alone - but that no one is going with me that I know. Not my kids (who are 18 and 20) or my wife. Something about that has hit harder now that I'm closer to making the trip.

I have early onset Parkinson's Disease. I have well controlled symptoms, but I do have 'off' days, and I am wondering what it will be like if I have an 'off' day while on the mountain.

Traveling from the equator to the top of the world in 8 days? I can't wait. They say it will change your life. I want to see how it will change mine.