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 fa├žade 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.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Parallels with 1492

Genoa 2011
Lisbon 2015
     It’s been 15 years since my wife and I walked the streets of Christopher Columbus’s hometown of Genoa and 1 year since I ran through Lisbon, his first stop after making the journey that began the written history of the Caribbean. 
     Now, on the eve of my departure to Run-the-Caribbean 4 Parkinson’s Disease,  while scrambling to finish the last minute preparations that don’t meet the threshold for something-I-can-still-do-after-I-leave-home, I am drawn to some parallels with the history of Columbus’s first voyage that I recently read.
     As Columbus struggled to find support for his endeavor, I've found it somewhat difficult to find and establish contact with others that are currently involved with Parkinson’s support and/or medical education throughout the Caribbean. However, just as Columbus finally found the backing he needed in King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, I have been fortunate to find a couple groups to partner with during my trek through the Caribbean.

      In October 2103, I attended the World Parkinson’s Congress in Montreal. As some of you know this meeting, which brings together People with Parkinson’s, clinicians and researchers, had a big impact on me. With the next WPC planned for Portland, Oregon in 2016, I am try to help promote the conference. During Run-the-World 4 Parkinson’s Disease last year, we were able to raise $6000 that will go toward travel grants for those with Parkinson's to attend the WPC in 2016. During Run-the-Caribbean you can still support this cause by donating through the following link: 444 Parkinson's Foundation.  However, this year my energy will be focused on my primary goal of raising awareness of the WPC rather than fund-raising.