Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tanzania Tuesday #23 : Maisha ya Familia (Family Life)

It's Thanksgiving this week, so I decided to learn some vocabulary about families.

"Freedom from Want" by Norman Rockwell. Rockwell said of the turkey in the painting: "Our cook cooked it, I painted it, and we ate it. That was one of the few times I've ever eaten the model."
Being of the Tofurkey tribe, myself, this picture isn't exactly what we have planned. I personally prefer this Rockwell:

#teamturkey !!!!
Team Wil-Sun will be going over to my brother's house for brunch in the morning, stuffing ourselves silly, and then sleeping it off in the afternoon. Perfect! My mom, my brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew, and his girlfriend will all be there.

Thanksgiving is, of course, an American holiday, but one could translate the term "thanksgiving" or "gratitude" as "shukrani". And "feast" can be translated as "sikukuu".

shukrani = gratitude
sikikuu = feast
ndugu = relative
baba = father
mama = mother
mwana = son
binti = daughter
kaka = brother
dada  = sister
mjomba = uncle
shangazi = aunt
mpwa = nephew OR niece
shemeji = brother-in-law
wifi = sister-in-law
mpenzi = boyfriend OR girlfriend, or "sweetheart"

Friday, November 18, 2016

Getting back on my feet

A few months ago, not long after I lost my job, I decided to throw myself into fitness. I needed something to keep me busy.

Since I can remember, I've always felt a little "catch" in my hip joint -- or what I always assumed was my hip flexor -- when doing certain moves, specifically bicycle crunches. Not a pain, per se... but a "twang" ... as if a rubber band was being snapped.

Add in a lot of lunches and squats, and well, there's a lot of action in my hip joint.

One day, while walking down the street with Wil, I got a sharp pain in my hip that hurt so much we had to turn around and go home. I hadn't stumbled or tripped, hadn't stepped badly off a curb -- it just suddenly hurt.

I figured I had just overdone it in boot camp or something ... and figured that I would be fine after a couple of days rest. But a few days became a week, then two. I would wake up in the night with pain in my hip. And, at the height of my pain, if I got in my car, I had to lift my left leg into the car with my arms. Something I remember seeing my dad do after he fell and broke his hip. Walking was painful; running impossible.

I broke down at that point and went to the UW Sports Medicine Clinic.

sing along if you know it!
Dr. Wilder examined me and then ordered an x-ray, just to rule out anything crazy.

Nothing obvious here, but interesting to note that, while neither hip is bad yet, the right hip has more arthritis. Something to look forward to...

Rationalizing that treatment would always start with physical therapy on the area, Dr. Wilder referred me to Therapeutic Associates in Ballard for ten sessions, asking me to check back in after 5 or 6 weeks.

That's where I met Emily Wood, my physical therapist. Over the next several weeks, Emily gave me exercises and stretches to do at home, monitoring my progress and cheering me on. We tried a few additional things, like wearing KT tape -- guaranteed to make anyone feel like a boss -- and ASTYM, a "scraping" therapy that hurts, feels great, good heavens it hurts, feels great, etc. But while I got stronger and had less pain, things still weren't back to normal.

I went back to check in with Dr. Wilder, and she recommended I have an MRI to see what was going on with the soft tissue. More specifically a MR Arthrogram, where dye is injected into the joint.

My helpful pamphlet tells me that: 
An MR Arthrogram is a form of MRI that demonstrates the joint space in even greater detail than a standard MRI by filling the joint with a specialized fluid... Because some of the joint structures appear dark on MRI, it can be difficult to assess parts of the joint on a routine MRI. When these dark structures are separated by fluid that appears bright on an MRI, the contrast dye significantly improves the ability to diagnose abnormalities of these structures.
Dr. Wilder also recommended that, while I was there, I get a cortisone shot in my hip --- reasoning that they would already have the needle in my hip joint to inject the dye, so....

A couple days later I was lying on a table, watching a technician insert a needle deep in my hip joint and trying not to flinch. You'll forgive me for not having a picture of this, k? Again, here's my helpful pamphlet's description:
First, a procedure is performed under x-ray ("fluoroscopic") guidance whereby a needle is used to access the joint. Iodine "x-ray contrast dye" is injected to confirm that the joint has been properly accessed. This is followed by gadolinium "MRI contrast dye" that makes the fluid look bright on an MRI.
The dye injected, it was time for the MRI. I lay on the table and was half swaddled, half immobilized by cushions, warm blankets. Amusingly, to keep my legs in the slightly awkward position required, my feet were masking-taped together. I must have looked AMAZING.

The experience of the MRI was jarring -- the machine makes a lot of loud clunks and whines and whirrs ... each one different. It all felt very mechanical. My job was to just lie absolutely still. One of the "imaging passes" sounded almost exactly like an old fashioned klaxon / evacuation alarm. I just lay still, wondering if the building was on fire and everyone else had fled. I started counting to 120, having been told that each pass took about two minutes, and figuring that if it didn't end, I'd just get up and run. When I mentioned it to the technician afterwards, he said, "Don't worry, I would't have left you."

A few days later, we had the results. The good news was no labral tear. The bad news is that we're still not 100% sure what's up, other than a "mild chondrolabral separation/degeneration". Which means, my hip has some tissue generation, but nothing that can be repaired. 

side view of my hip

straight on cross-section
That said, the cortisone definitely helped -- and not just because I felt like a badass for having STEROIDS injected in my HIP JOINT. NFL, here I come!

Emily says that the cortisone helped me get ahead of the inflammation -- to heal faster. While in Britain I was able to ramble along the Welsh Coast and through the Yorkshire Dales, so clearly I'm feeling better. And this week Emily put me through my pass on a "return to run" program. I passed all 8 tests, so I am cleared to run again!

(Which is good because, well, I'm on week 2 of the NHS Couch to 5K program...) 

A confession that will surprise very few people: I don't run very often at the best of times. I mean, if someone isn't going to hand me a medal at the end, why run? So getting back to running -- even these tiny baby steps -- has been great. And, as of today, I have run FIVE times in ELEVEN days. Despite not being given a medal. I'm proud of sticking with it ... but, obviously, I have so far to go. I hope that my hip holds up -- so far, so good -- and I can stay on track. Here's hoping that 2017 is the year of the runner again!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

UK Adventure part 4: Bonfire Night, and A Farewell to Blighty

One of the reasons we decided to stay the second night in Otley was that they were holding a bonfire.

I'm not sure I can convey how excited I was by this -- I mean, I love a small town celebration, I love festivals, and the only other time I was in the UK on Bonfire Night we went to Lewes for their SPECTACULAR fire parade. Don't get me wrong -- Lewes is THE place to go for Bonfire Night ... but I wanted to see a more traditional celebration. And Otley did not disappoint!

We had spotted the beginnings of the bonfire the day before while we wandered around town:

On the night of the 5th, all bundled up against the bitter cold, we made our way to the Otley RUFC grounds to find a crowd of happy people, a food stall selling pies and peas (traditional bonfire fare) as well as soups. And three bars -- two inside, one outside. And the bonfire had grown:

We wandered around a little, taking in the scene, getting a pint, and then staking out a good position to watch the bonfire. Finally, just before 6:15, after a walk-through by the fire department and a hosing down of the nearby buildings, the bonfire was lit.

It started pretty slowly, and the bonfire crew moved around the edges of the pile lighting the interior wood.

And then, whoosh ... it really took.

And before long, this:

A few minutes later, the entire pile was blazing away, and the staff switched from "lighting" to "spraying down all the neighboring buildings so that they didn't catch on fire". It was pretty astounding to feel the heat, even back at the barricades -- and to watch the buildings hiss with steam when hosed down.

We stood by the fire for about half an hour, then moved along with the crowd to the rugby pitch, where the fireworks had been set up.

waiting in the dark for the fireworks
I wasn't sure what to expect -- I mean, this is a pretty small town, right? Well, we were pleasantly surprised and impressed. A solid 25 minutes of big, booming fireworks. Well done, Otley RUFC.

Fireworks over, we filed out with the happy crowd. Obviously, our next step was the pub ... but which pub??? Since we were feeling a little tired, we decided on "our" pub -- the Black Horse. We had a nightcap, a snack, and then bed. 

After another great breakfast, thanks to the staff at the Black Horse Hotel, we headed south. Not much to tell here -- all was simple and calm until we had to make our way into greater London to drop off our things and the hotel and then drop the car off at the airport. Again, we survived unscathed. 

We spent a nice evening in Richmond -- pubs, river, books, rain -- and then somehow managed to cram all of our purchases into our borrowed suitcase (yes, we bought that much food...) and ate our final order of proper fish and chips while wearing crowns from the Christmas crackers we discovered we would not be allowed to fly home.

I'm not sure when we'll be able to visit the UK again; hopefully it won't take another 6 years to get back. This was an unconventional trip for us -- I am an inveterate planner, so keeping things loose was challenging for me. And many things we thought we'd try to do, such as a Parkrun, or visiting Ironbridge, or visiting National Trust properties, were superseded by better plans. We certainly didn't expect to spend a night in Manchester or see DJ Shadow. We didn't expect to see Miles & Erica, or fall in love with Otley. Our only real plan was to walk in to wherever Sue and Tony were on their anniversary and help celebrate. And we did! 

Several times during our visit -- and, frankly, since we've been home -- we stopped and said, "I can't believe it worked!" Another successful adventure with Team Wil-Sun. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tanzania Tuesday #22 : Furaha maadhimisho ya miaka na sisi! (Happy anniversary to us!)

A few words, in English and Swahili, about weddings, anniversaries, and LOVE.

On November 15, 2005, Wil and I got married in Gretna, Scotland.

So to commemorate that -- and our eleven years of marriage, here are some Swahili vocabulary words.

maadhimisho ya miaka ya harusi = wedding anniversary
kumi na moja harusi maadhimisho ya miaja = eleventh wedding anniversary
ndoa = marriage
harusi = wedding
mume = husband
mke = wife
nakupenda = I love you
mpendwa = beloved

Monday, November 14, 2016

UK Adventure part 3: Otley!

We had originally planned to spend the weekend in London, visiting a few friends and some old haunts. But then we heard that Miles Hunt and Erika Nockalls were playing in a small town in Yorkshire on the Friday night, we decided we should go there and make our way south on Saturday.

Otley is, in a word, lovely. It's a market town that dates back to Saxon times and ... unlike a lot of small towns, doesn't appear to be dying. The thrice-weekly market continues to do well, despite the presence of three national supermarket chains in the town. With a central core that dates mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries, its architecture handsome -- and the surrounding countryside is beautiful, too. And did I mention that Otley is famous for its pubs?

Otley is also known for cycling, having been on the route of the Tour de France in 2014 (which does make me giggle, a little, because those cyclists must have been VERY LOST...). It's also a "Walkers are Welcome" town -- one of 100 in the UK -- and hosts an annual walking festival every summer. Oh, and there's even a nice independent running store there, Yorkshire Runner. Essentially, Otley is heaven.

We dropped off the car at the Black Horse Hotel, a former coaching inn housed in a 17th-century building at the corner of Kirkgate and Westgate, just steps from the market square. With a handsome pub below and spic-and-span rooms upstairs, it was the perfect place to stay.

We went into town for a little walk, mainly to spot the that night's venue. As we walked, we passed the market, the running store, saw flyers for the local bonfire, and saw ALL THE PUBS and decided to stay another night. Yes, it meant changing plans, and a long drive on Sunday, but it seemed to be -- and, indeed, was -- the perfect thing to do. That, my friends, is the power of Otley.

That settled, we went back to exploring the town, poking around in charity shops (there's a CAT charity shop!!!), visiting a few pubs, wandering through the market and the narrow lanes, and falling a little more in love with Otley with every step. Why? I'm not really sure. But here's one reason.

When was asked at the hotel about the bonfire, and whether we could walk there from the hotel, they said, "Oh, yes, it's just down that road past the maypole." So we walked along, spotting a cafe called the Maypole. Okay, that makes sense then. Got it. And then, across the street and a little farther along... there's a maypole in the square. An actual maypole.

This is a replacement maypole -- the previous one was quickly chopped down in 2014, amid concerns that the base was rotting and it was on the route of the Tour de France. Cue public outcry! A replacement pole was made by yacht mast makers in Portsmouth and, luckily, was installed in March 2015 -- in plenty of time for May Day. The pole stands at 75 feet high and is believed to be the tallest permanent maypole in Britain. And, yes, they dance around it.

We had made dinner reservations at Korks. The food was excellent -- I had a fish pie that, if anything, was too rich and too large. What did Wil have? I don't know -- I was seriously obsessed with my dinner.

Miles and Erica were playing in the back room, a good-sized venue with a low stage, a few tables, and a bunch of chairs. When the doors opened, Wil grabbed a table up front while I settled the bill, and then we were joined by Nomis and Liz.

It was nice to see Miles and Erica again -- for the first time in 8 years, I think. The crowd was mainly seated, but we did eventually get up and dance for the last few numbers.

After the show we chatted with old friends, made new friends, visited briefly with Miles and Erica, and closed the venue down. It was a good f*ckin' night, though!

The next morning we had a HUGE breakfast at the hotel -- full English with veggie sausages! -- and then set off on a ramble.

We had picked up this pamphlet the day before -- and decided on "Walk 4", a "strenuous" 6.5-mile walk through fields, then up to the Chevin, along the ridge, and back down through the woods to town.

Given that we struggled, a bit, with our Anglesey ramble ... I was happy to have a more detailed map for this walk. (Note: the picture below is not the map we followed, but it shows the basic route.)

We set off past the maypole, but then quickly turned down some small streets and, suddenly, were in the countryside.

Walk 4 overview map

Things started off well -- we saw ponies (PONIES!), were on obvious paths, and there were plenty of fingerposts.

We traveled alongside fields through autumnal splendor ...

We crossed a field with an old "bull in field" sign ... a slight cause for alarm, but the field looked deserted.

Then we came to another field... with a "bull in field" sign ... and a small gaggle of ... gulp ... bulls.

photo credit: Bj√∂rn Olsson/Flickr

They seemed to be "teenage" bulls ... sweet shaggy highland cattle teenage bulls. Bulls who, as a group, swiveled their heads around to look at us when we got near the fence. Sure, maybe they were just interested... but ... we didn't want to cross that field.

This was problematic ... if we couldn't cross that field, where would we be able to rejoin the route? We followed the lane next to the field, turning at the top as best we could. And while we could see the path, we were on the other side of a wall... and a large mechanical fence...

I didn't want to give up on our walk so early on ... so, as we stood at a low rock wall, looking at the path running through a farm ... on the other side of the wall... we determined to hop over the wall and hustle through the farmyard. Some quick, quiet walking and we were back on track!

We passed under the old railway line, through more fields, and up a steep climb to the Chevin.

The Chevin Forest Park was particularly pretty -- though as you can see by now the weather had turned, a cold wind had sprung up, and drizzle started. And we weren't even half way done!

The Chevin is the ridge that towers above the town. Turner came up here to draw when he used to visit the town. From the top there are some pretty spectacular views.

As we reached the "top", and a spot called Surprise View, we met this paved path:


And then, this: Surprise View!

We took a teensy detour to the Royalty, a handsome old pub at the top of the ridge. I had a half of cider, Wil had a half of Hobgoblin Ale ... "the unofficial beer of Halloween". An excellent mid-ramble break!

Then back into the woods for the trip back to town:

Back in town, and hungry, we tried to decide where to eat. All we knew was that our guilty pleasure, fish and chips, seemed to be what we wanted... and that it was too cold to consider getting a takeaway and sitting outside. We decided upon Maypole Fisheries, a family-run business near, you guessed it, the maypole. They claim to be the best fish and chips in Otley and, though we don't have anything to compare it with, we could happily agree.

We split their "Special" haddock fillet and chips ... and when it arrived, there was almost too much to eat. Thank goodness we didn't attempt the "Monster" ... it's nearly twice as big. Nice chips, really nice batter, and a rainbow of available sauce sachets:

(and, no, I didn't manage to take a picture of the actual food ... when it arrived I was solely focused on putting it in my belly....)

Next up: UK Adventure part 4: Bonfire Night, and A Farewell to Blighty

Sunday, November 13, 2016

UK Adventure part 2: Anglesey Excursion

One day we decided to go on a day trip to Anglesey. Our only real plans were to go for a walk along the coast, take a peek at the Menai Bridges, and get some lunch, somewhere.

First stop, of course, was at Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch... Well, sorta. We used Google Maps for directions, which took us down an increasingly narrow set of roads. Now, I remember visiting Llanfair PG with Suz years and years ago -- long before GPS -- and knew we had found it with only tourist signage, so I thought things had gone a bit wrong. But it wasn't until we turned down a dirt track no wider than the car, and I realized it was a long driveway, that we KNEW we were seriously off course.

A slow, grinding, 173-point turn executed in a slightly wider spot, rear proximity alarm shrieking every time I put the car in reverse for an inch or two, lots of cranking the wheel back and forth, and eventually we escaped, even if I felt like that scene in Austin Powers:

But we arrived, bemused to find 6 coaches in the carpark and a huge shop where we dutifully did too much random shopping. Wil did, however, acquire this:

deerstalker FTW!

The name Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch dates from the mid 19th century as a stunt to attract tourists ... and, clearly, judging by the number of visitors on a chilly November morning, it works. 

We went on to the railway platform, more than slightly bemused that one can actually still catch a train here.

Oh, and that's our obligatory #llanfie ...

Tourist obligations satisfied, we headed off to the village of Rhoscolyn for a ramble. We had a pamphlet about walks on Anglesey, and the circular route near the village seemed perfect. I'll cut to the chase here: we had a nice walk, saw some lovely views, but the pamphlet unfortunately lacked a decent map and we clearly got well off track a few times. But who cares -- we still had a nice walk in the countryside!

We started with a visit to the White Eagle Inn, a very handsome gastropub.

We stopped in for a pint... and were seduced by the appetizers. We managed not to also have a sandwich -- which, seeing them served to other diners, was regrettable. Should we ever have the opportunity to return to the area, my plan is to spend a day just eating as much of the menu as I can...

Then we walked up the lane to St. Gwenfaen's church, a 19th-century church incorporating elements of the earlier 15th-century church. But even that church was a replacement:
There has been a church on the site since 630 AD, when it was dedicated to Gwenfaen, daughter of Pawl Hen of Manaw (Isle of Man), who made her cloister here. Legend has it that Gwenfaen, who was renowned for healing mental illness, was chased away from her cell by druids and escaped by climbing the rock stack off Rhoscolyn head. The tide came in and she was carried away by angels, which is how Saints Bay got its name. - stgwenfaen.org

After trying ... and failing ... to locate the correct footpath to take us to the "start" of the loop, we decided to go in the reverse direction, assuming we would be able to spot the church from a distance to come back. (spoiler alert: not exactly...) 

on the first footpath we tried ... a circular route on this little hill next to the church...
Okay, this seems like the right one...

So we walked along some lovely old footpaths until we reached the coast, and admired the views. 

Clearly, however, we had done something else wrong ... the walk was meant to be 4 or 5 miles, and we had been walking nearly two hours over not challenging terrain. It took some twists, turns, and perhaps a teensy bit of trespassing before we found our way...

We then drove to Beaumaris because neither of us had seen the castle. A slightly scary 2-lane road led to the village, but we (and our car) arrived unscathed. We paid a quick visit to the castle, enjoying the empty walls and passages, and admiring the views. (And, of course, the gift shop...)

image Crown Copyright
Beaumaris is a "proper castle" -- with a moat (a MOAT!), inner and outer walls, turrets, multiple defenses, the works. 

Wil had the opportunity to show off his superhuman strength...

... and his mad harping skills ...

... but we had to be careful, because DANGER LURKS EVERYWHERE!

Then back to Penrhyn Bay, this time crossing the lovely old Menai Suspension Bridge, completed by Thomas Telford in 1826. 

image courtesy bbc.co.uk
(Quick aside about Telford -- he also designed the spectacular Pontycsyllte Aqueduct, and the very pretty Conwy Suspension Bridge next to the castle. When the Menai Suspension Bridge was completed, it's 579-foot span was the longest in the word.)

The bridge is quite narrow, and we crept along behind a large coach. I was too white-knuckled to contemplate taking a snap, but I did find two great images others took of the roadway:

"On the Menai Suspension Bridge" image copyright Jeremy Bolwell
"Crossing Into Anglesey" image copyright Eric Jones
You can tell just how crazy narrow these archways are ... I imagine the driver telling everyone to hold their breath as they inched through.

Next up: UK Adventure part 3: Otley!