Friday, December 11, 2015

Parky in Pyongyang

     In choosing to attempt to travel to every nation in the world, I realize that visiting some countries will involve some difficult decisions due to safety issues, isolated locations, transportation/lodging expenses or, as in the case of North Korea, political controversy.
      Although there are legitimate concerns regarding economic support for the DPRK government being provided by the few who travel there as tourists, there's also a difficult to quantify impact on those living within North Korea that can be contributed to these highly censored interactions.
     There is no way to put into written words the experience of observing North Korea society, architecture and geography - even from a guarded distance. Here I've included a few photos of Parky and a short, poor quality, hastily edited video to give you a small glimpse of the images that I saw, but only in person could I ever begin to try to explain this experience.

Parky in the DPRK
           Parky in Pyongyang International Airport                   Parky in the Pyongyang Metro
           Parky in Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery                                      Parky in the DMZ
             Parky in Pyongyang by day                                          Parky in Pyongyang by night

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Marshaling on through the Marshall Islands

     My arrival in the Marshall Islands was much different than my arrival in Pohnpei, where I had prearranged an airport transfer. Flights to Kwajalein Atoll land on Kwajalein Island, which is controlled by the US military. Security on Kwajalein is tight with measures including prohibiting photos during landing and not allowing onward passengers from deplaning. Immigration and military inspections are carried out immediately on arrival and those without orders to stay on Kwajalein then board a shuttle bus to another building to wait for the ferry to the island of Ebeye. This process is confusing for new arrivals, of which I appeared to be the only one.  It is even more confusing for officials and other persons faced with someone who appears to be obviously going to the military base, but is actually trying to get to Ebeye. The officials repeated asked for my orders. The shuttle bus drive asked "What's your address?", assuming I needed a ride to my house on the military base. A friendly lady, who had been living on Kwajalein for 4 months asked, “Why are you going to Ebeye?” and then tried to answer her own question with the only reasonable answer she could imagine..."are you a missionary?” Eventually I made it to the pier, waited over an hour for the ferry and arrived on Ebeye after dark - happy to find that it was indeed a simple walk from the dock to the only hotel on the island, as I had been reassured by everyone I had asked.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Taking the Plunge in Pohnpei

     I'm always amused by the little ridiculous moments associated with travel. After saying good-bye to my family in Honolulu, I dropped off the rental car and went to check in. I was particularly proud of myself for finding a one-way frequent flyer ticket from Hawaii to Kwajalein, Marshall Islands with a 13-hour stopover that allowed me to visit Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. However, it wasn’t until I printed my boarding pass that I fully realized the extent of travel planned for the next couple days. When I clicked on "print", the boarding passes just kept coming…FIVE in total!
     My first transit was in Guam and there I had one mission…find cookies. I was determined to get Chamorro chip cookies for the people from Guam that I work with and despite a short late-night stop, I was successful. The next stop was Chuuk (a little more exotic, or maybe rustic). It was a short 40-minute stop for the "island-hopper" and only two of us chose to deplane and join 3 others in the departure hall. When time to reboard, the airport agent proceeded with a very formal announcement, pausing and waiting after calling out each boarding zone - even though none of the five of us were disabled, traveling with children, military in uniform, business class or in zones 1, 2 or 3.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Parky's Pacific Postcards

     Once again I've had the honor of sharing my travel experiences with, and having the support of, my fellow Parkies...including "Parky".



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Power Through Project – The Effects of Exercise on the (your) Brain

Parky and I after 12+ hr flight to Beijing
  For November, PTP diary writers are exploring the effects of exercise on the brain – a topic that has stimulated much research in recent years. It is also a question that I’m frequently asked during my Parkinson’s awareness activities and my standard response is based on my experiences as both, a patient and a physician.
     Fatigue is among the most prominent symptoms of Parkinson’s that I have experienced, although it is often difficult to determine what is truly due to Parkinson’s, a medication side effect or part of everyday life activities (such as the 12+ hour flight to Beijing I am on while writing this post). Regardless, I have found exercise to be a very effective way to combat fatigue.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Power Through Project – Beginning a New Exercise

      The October PTP diary topic was “Beginning to Exercise”. I’ve revised this slightly to discuss a new exercise. In the coming weeks I begin my challenge to complete 11 one mile swims in 11 Pacific islands. I feel confident that I can slowly complete a one mile ocean swim, but it wasn’t always that way.
     As we face every changing physical challenges related to Parkinson’s, it can be difficult to maintain exercise schedules. Fortunately, many exercise options have been adapted to the needs of those with Parkinson’s, such as dance, tai chi, and boxing. However, even with specialized activities it can be intimidating to try a new exercise. This was my experience with swimming…even before I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Power Through Project – Team 444

     As I join the Parkinson Power Through Project as a diary writer, I’d like to take a minute to introduce myself to those I’ve yet to meet and reintroduce myself to the many wonderful people that I have met through my journeys to raise Parkinson’s awareness. I’d also like to introduce everyone to the Parkinson Power Through Project. I invite everyone to participate in this wonderful event and also follow me as I take on the challenge with a unique twist.

     I grew up in a small Montana town, attended college and medical school in Oregon, and then spent over 21 years as an Air Force physician. In 2010, at the age of 44, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. The disease that threatened to take away my two favorite hobbies, sports and travel, has given me a cause toward which to apply my experience and interest in medicine and humanitarian relief.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Swim-the-Pacific 4 Parkinson’s Disease

     When I made a personal commitment to take on a travel/exercise challenge for Parkinson’s awareness each year, I imagined selecting sites based on my goal of visiting all the world’s sovereign nations and I envisioned the exercise activities would be a variety of running tasks.

     This summer when I looked at my world map – the natural destination for my next journey seemed to be Africa.  In addition, I had thoughts of incorporating an element of speed into my running, rather than solely focusing on endurance. However, my wife’s legitimate concern of having two family members in Africa for extended periods this year (my daughter is currently studying in Tanzania) and a knee injury that made my immediate running future uncertain, led me to look for a plan B. Thus was born...“Swim-the-Pacific 4 Parkinson’s Disease”. The plan for this venture combines my personal travel/exercise goals with my desire to contribute to Parkinson’s awareness, especially in areas where those affected by Parkinson’s currently have the least opportunities for support.

    The swimming challenge is the most straight forward aspect of the plan.  I will attempt to swim 1 mile in each country. A few years ago when a knee injury forced me to limit my running, I took up swimming to allow me to compete in triathlons.  Although, I’m far from mastering the sport, I’ve developed a slow, steady stoke and I’ve already started training to be able to complete a 1 mile ocean swim. I’ve also begun the task of identifying locals at each stop to guide me to safe swimming spots in order to avoid headlines like…“Parkinson’s advocate attacked by shark” or “Man with Parkinson who spent 4 years on deserted island after being swept away by current during Parkinson’s awareness swim, set to attend World Parkinson Congress 2020”.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Eagleman gets Blue Ribbon with Tour de Fox

     This week my daughters returned to school and since I haven't written a post all summer, I feel the need to answer the infamous back-to-school writing prompt, "What did you do for summer vacation?" It turns out my activities this summer have been riddled with many of those "it's a small world", unlikely connections.

    Two years ago, when I was planning Run-the-World 4 Parkinson's, I contacted Team Fox to find out how to use my project to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Everyone I spoke with said, "You need to talk to Sam". Sam is Sam Fox, the Michael J Foundation's Outreach and Engagement Officer. Motivated by a mother with Parkinson's, in 2011 he ran from Canada to Mexico raising $300,000 for Parkinson's research. At that time, Sam was planning an ambitious challenge to climb the highest peak in each state, while biking much of the distance between mountains. Since then Tour de Fox has become a reality. A journey that began in June and will end in September, brought him to Las Vegas on August between running across the Grand Canyon and cycling through Death Valley. In Vegas, Sam and a support crew of three, met up with about 20 locals to walk, run or bike and then eat breakfast at Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Parky of the Caribbean

     Last week, Parky and I made it to 6 Caribbean nations.  For those of us counting countries, that's 11 for Parky and 118 for me. Don't forget to start making your plans to join Parky in Portland, Oregon for the World Parkinson Congress in September 2016!!


St. Vincent

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Running Across Antigua...searching for the finish line

      Given that I had missed my flight to Antigua, my run there started later than planned and I finished after sunset.  However, the added challenge made the satisfaction even greater when I completed my run across the fifth island in five days.  The next morning I was able to walk around the town of St. Johns, before catching my flight back to the States.  Here are a few of the images:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Driving Across search of a soccer game

      This morning I woke to find that my rental car battery was dead. I left the car in Roseau, took an hour-plus taxi ride across the island to the airport and still ended up missing my flight and radio interview.  On the bright side I had plenty of time to put up a post while waiting for the next flight from Dominica to Antigua.
     My wife has long accused me of planning all our travel around soccer games.  This is not actually true...sometimes I plan the travel first and then look for the soccer later.  That was the case with Run-the-Caribbean. After I selected the countries that I planned to run across - I became aware that regional qualifying for the 2018 World Cup would occur while I was in the islands. When I scanned the list of fixtures, I found the perfect one - Canada vs. Dominica.  This was ideal because Dominica didn't have a reasonable running route across the island, it had a number of natural sites that I wanted to visit and Canada featured a player from my favorite club, Portland Timbers.  So my schedule was set to ensure I would be in Roseau on June 11th.
      My travel from St. Kitts, started with another ridiculous exchange with airport security. I arrived at the modern, comfortable St. Kitts airport only an hour and half before departure, but was happy to find that I was the only person in the check-in line for Liat Airlines, the only person in line to have their boarding documents reviewed, the only person in line for emigration, and most importantly - the only person in the security line. As the four security staff members stood up from their chairs I placed my laptop and cellphone in a bin and then asked if they wanted me to take out liquids. When the answer was "yes", I place my bag containing 3 packets of laundry soap, a nearly empty sunscreen bottle and a small shaving cream can in a second bin. That's when the security staff asked me if I had a smaller bag. I was puzzled. She gestured to a "smaller bag" with some items inside hanging from the wall, and stated, "You should use a quart bag.  You have a gallon bag".  Thinking this was a suggestion, I thanked her for the information.  She then asked me, "So do you want to go back out and see if you can get a bag?"  Now in most places in the world this strict enforcement of "the rules" meant one of two things. Either we were about to have a stand-off to see if I would flinch and pay a bribe or there was a near-by shop/stand in which the owner sells nothing but quart-sized zip-lock bags at an astronomical mark-up. In this case, the official seemed not to be looking to profit, but just requiring strict adherence with "the rules". I surveyed the situation. The cost of the items in my bag was approximately $4US. Even if I could find a quart bag, I didn't know what the cost would be. Without laundry soap, I could wash my clothes with shampoo (which is what I usually do anyway), sunscreen could be purchased anywhere in the Caribbean, without shaving cream I would have one more excuse for not shaving, and getting rid of the bag of liquids would simplify procedures during my connection in Antigua.  Realizing the clear benefits, I let the security staff know - "thanks, I'll just leave this stuff for you".  Thus allowing me to clear security and allowing the staff to sit down and plan their next "shake-down".
     Once in Dominica, it was immediately evident why this island is known as the undeveloped, natural gem of the Caribbean.  I was only a few miles down the road in my rental car, when I felt the need to pull over and snap a few pictures of a beautiful, deserted beach.  After driving across the island, I had one place to visit before checking into the hotel. Trafalgar Falls was on all the lists of top sites in Dominica and it was definitely worth the trip.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Running across St. Lucia and St. Kitts

     Fortunately, my runs across St. Lucia and St Kitts did not bring me any misfortune.  After about 20 more miles of running, I just had more soreness in my muscles, more great images of the islands and one proud moment.  As I completed immigration in St. Lucia, the official found that my passport was too thick to squeeze through the little slit in the window typically used for this exchange. He looked perplexed for a moment, then defeated - got out of his seat and walked around to the other side of the glass to hand me my passport.  I'll have to added this to the, "You know you are obsessed with travel when _______" list.

Running and Recovering in St. Lucia


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Running Across St. Vincent...taking selfies

      As I stated in my last post, my plan for blogging this trip was to post a series on photos from each island...I had not planned for those photos to be limited to selfies.  In St. Vincent, that's what happened - here are the images and the explanation.
The West Coast and the new airport under contrustion
Climbing the mountains...again

Monday, June 8, 2015

Running Across search of food

      My brief stop  in Grenada found me wandering historic St. Georges on a sleepy weekend, struggling to run-hike 15 miles over the island's central mountain range and enjoying the quiet, beautiful beach near my hotel...and hunting for food. Here are some the images from my time in Grenada...
On top of St. Georges
My travel buddy - Parky

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Solo Running

      This afternoon I arrived in Grenada for the start of my short, but intense, run through the Caribbean. Since I planned my Run-the Caribbean 2.0 itinerary, the goals for this journey haven't changed. Over the next week, I will be traveling to six island nations that I have not visited in the past. During five of the days, I have runs planned to cross islands from shore to shore.
      From my prior travels through smaller countries and my earlier contacts in the Caribbean, I was aware that it would be a long shot to identify Parkinson's support groups on any of the islands. This has proven to be the case. Whether hidden from me or, more likely, not yet established - it's clear I won't have any such groups to partner with over the next week. On the other hand, I have been fortunate to become acquainted with a few journalists and have tentative plans for some broadcast interviews. Over the past year, I have had a number of chance connections facilitated by media spots that have led to fruitful relationships to help further Parkinson's awareness - so I'm hopeful this will also be the case in the islands that I visit.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Run-the-Caribbean 4 Parkinson's, version 2.0

       When I returned home from the Caribbean last month, my hope was to make a quick return to continue my travels, running and efforts to raise Parkinson’s Awareness throughout the region. Although I could not coordinate to resume my itinerary where I left off, I am happy to say that I now have a plan to return in June.
        While I was only in the Caribbean for a week in March, I was very fortunate to make some special contacts in Barbados and witness what felt like the birth of Parkinson’s Awareness in the country with the Barbados Parkinson’s Awareness Walk and the establishment of a Parkinson’s support group. This experience gave me a new perspective on the needs of those affected by Parkinson’s in the Caribbean and an inner circle of people to help guide my endeavor to do a small part to advance their cause.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Promoting The Global Parkinson's Pledge

“We, the undersigned members of the global Parkinson’s community”

          This is the introductory line of the Global Parkinson's Pledge.  My hope is that no matter what your connection to Parkinson's Disease - you will take a minute to join "the global Parkinson's community" and add your name to the list of those who have signed the Global Parkinson's Pledge.
          In 1997, the first meeting of the World Health Organization Working Group on Parkinson’s Disease was held in Geneva, Switzerland.  The summary report included five recommendations that you can read here:     Parkinson's Disease and Public Health
          The working group also produced the Global Declaration on Parkinson’s Disease, which was signed by representatives of the WHO’s six regions.  The actions of the working group and the documents they produced became the basis for the Global Parkinson's Pledge, which "was launched at the second World Parkinson Congress in Glasgow, Scotland on September 28, 2010." The Pledge continues to be promoted by the World Parkinson Coalition and I first became aware of the Pledge at the World Parkinson Congress in Montreal in 2013.

 “We therefore call upon governments, health agencies of the United Nations system, and patient-oriented non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout the world to:"

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Suriname: Alone in the Amazon

             After a quite hectic first 36 hours of traveling, I was looking forward to a chance to recover during my first of two nights in Suriname and then this happened…

    Getting from the 5K race finish line in Speightstown, Barbados to my hotel in Paramaribo, Suriname actually went well. The taxi ride, covering nearly the entire north-to-south length of Barbados at sunset, was beautiful - and the slow, friendly pace of driving was a pleasant contrast to the mean streets of my home, Las Vegas.  My flights from Barbados to Port-of-Spain to Paramaribo, both had welcomed early departures and early arrivals.  My time in the airports was only remarkable for a single proud moment.  As I went through security re-screening while in transit in Trinidad, I quickly and efficiently went through the typical process of partial undressing/unpacking prior to passing myself and my bag through x-ray scanners.  But as I approached the metal detector, one of the four persons on the security detail, flashed me an unapproving look, pointed to my pocket and asked, “What is in there?"  I replied, “Just my passport”.  While the others looked as if they were about to break into applause to reward her for her attention to the detail  of my bulging pants pocket, she came back with a skeptical, “That is all?”  All of their faces turned to the puzzled expressions of children who has just seen a magician  pull a rabbit out his hat for the first time when I reached into my pocket and pulled out nothing, but my prized possession - a blue passport that has so many added pages that it acts as if it is held together my a spring-loaded hinge.  I somewhat triumphantly replied, “Yep, just my passport.”

          Once in Suriname (arriving at 1 AM), I was one of only two passengers, who needed to purchase a visa.  This wasn’t a particularly difficult process, but it did involve handing over $25 USD – of which three bills were rejected for folds, writing and/or  tears - and meant that I reached the immigration line well after everyone else had left.  This was fortunate because for some reason, it took the involvement of all three immigration officials on-duty and over 10 minutes before my passport was stamped and I was waived through with a smile, but no explanation for the delay.

     After a 45 minute taxi ride to the city, I climbed out of the cab and was relieved to see a beautiful hotel façade in a quiet residential area.  That was followed by an immediate sinking feeling that my luck was about to turn when I noted that the building was particularly dark and there was a padlock on the front gate.  As the taxi driver started to drive off there was a short pause, and you could tell he was thinking - “I should probably help, but if I stop now who knows when I’ll get home and it’s already 2:30 AM”... and he drove off.