Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Poa Kichizi Kama Ndizi!"

         Our first morning in Tanzania we awoke to the sound of a rooster cock-a-doodle-dooing at sun-up. The odd thing about it was that it wasn't daybreak at all, it was about 1:30 a.m. and about 20 minutes after we had finally gotten settled and gone to bed. Constant crowing is one of the many things that we had to get used to in Tanzania. Our lazy 5-minute per day clockin' North American Cocks got nothing on an African Rooster. Those guys work 24-7. In fact, before long it felt eerie if we didn't hear a rooster every 30 seconds, like a canary in a coalmine.
          Day one we were oriented around the bustling town of Moshi by CIDA-sponsored interns. Moshi can be found on the lower slopes of the towering Mt. Kilimanjaro and population-wise is only a little bigger than Kingston. It is home to a number of schools, a little industry and plays as home base for climbers from all over the world who come hoping to bag Africa's highest peak.

Jill contemplating baby theft 
          Something we noticed instantly was the warmth and welcome of the Tanzanian people. Without a doubt, the most memorable part of our time in Tanzania wasn't so much the events as the people we met along the way. Many people on the streets greet you with a warm smile and a kind hello. Some of the Swahili words that actually stuck with us were the many greetings for many situations. The first we learned was “Jambo” which is “Hi!” The response is, as you probably guessed is another "Jambo!" This is a pretty safe greeting for those new to Swahili (i.e. recommended for those who know only "Jambo!") The next step is "Habari (za Asabuhi)!" meaning "How are you (this morning)?" The response would then be “Nzuri!!”... I'm good!! Now, one must be careful asking this as it can often result in a beautiful barrage of smiling Swahili so it is recommended that you either know Swahili or be extremely good at nodding and/or smiling.
          On the job site though, Duncan had better access to Swahili lessons then the Lonely Planet guidebook. The guys taught him all the most important words…whazzup?”…. “Mambo?!” with the response “Poa!” Or if you were feeling particularly good the response would be "Poa Kichizi Kama Ndizi!" Which, as you probably guessed, means "Crazy cool like a banana!" (Just kidding, who would guess that? If you did guess correctly then you were probably East African in another life. Just a heads up.)
          We also learned about “Shikamoo” which is a greeting reserved for those whom you respect or hold a high regard. By “Shikamoo” you are conveying an admiration and esteem for that person. When we were in the communities, "Shikamooing" the elders, won you a huge toothy (or toothless) smile and the response "Marahaba". After greeting with a stranger and after learning the various ways to say it in Swahili, it opened the doors to learning so much from the wonderful people of this country.
Woman and her child waiting for the doctor
          Our first stop was the local hardware store as we were hoping to get some information about the availability and prices of building materials. The first thing I (Duncan) noticed was a machine-gun armed guard next to the rebar, something that's tough to picture outside of Kingston's Home Depot. We were relieved to find that a lot of the stuff we needed for the build was readily available, something that would become crucial in the first few days of the build. This, thankfully, settled some of our concerns about acquiring materials and hardware for the build.
         As some of our group were buying cell phones I noticed a merchant selling just about everything you could imagine, noticeably some decent looking sunglasses. I had left my better pair at home knowing full well that I tend to lose my glasses more than Waldo and they'd only have a one way ticket on this mission. It had been sometime since I had been in a country where you could barter for merchandise and I was intrigued to get back into it. I asked our intern what he thought was a reasonable price for sunglasses, about 3000 Tanzanian shillings or $2, and headed across the street. The dialogue went something like this:

"Hello my Rafiki!" - Merchant
"Habari za Asabuhi! Can I try your sunglasses?
"Of course Rafiki, which ones do you like?"
"This pair looks pretty good, how much for these?"
"For you... 25,000 Shillings!"
"For me? A bad price for me? How about a good price?"
"How much you wanna pay?"
"500 Shillings"
"Rafiki! These are the best! Okay, today special price... 20,000"
"That's the Mzungo price! Okay, 1000 Shilling seems fair."
"Alright, alright. 15,000 Shillings! Good price for me, good price for you!"

       You can imagine how it went from there and eventually we settled on a price of 5000 shillings or $3.50 CDN. I guarantee we were both walking away from that thinking "hahaha, sucker...", though I soon realized who would get the last laugh. About 3 days later I started to noticed little cracks in the frames in a few locations. Throughout that day, which was the first time that I had worn them consistently in the sun, I noticed they were getting larger and more frequent. Finally, I took them off to look at them as they, almost literally, disintegrating in my hands. "What the hell are these made of?" I thought. As they disintegrating in my hands we were visiting a Maasai village as part of our weekend Safari and as I looked at the dung houses they'd built I wondered... 'Are they made of Clay? Dirt? Worse? These sunglasses were, maybe literally, made of shit.' I had to laugh. Had I known that they had restrictions I may have been a little less surprised. A heads-up maybe? A simple "Warning: Do not subject sunglasses to direct or reflected sunlight at any time or disintegration/vaporization may occur" would have sufficed. Hey, we've all spent a few bucks on much worse, I'm just glad I didn't pay 20.
         After our orientation the whole group met at the current PTE Women's Centre where the medical caravan was getting oriented for the next two weeks or Caravans. Meanwhile, the builders were anxious to get the first glimpse of the site and find out what we were in for. A rough plan sketch and a few pictures had given us some idea of the tasks ahead though you never really know until you get there. These are the first shots we got of the site and we knew we had our work cut out for us.

Looking East

Looking Northeast

Looking, uh, East, East-South-East, South-East, South-South-East and South


Supposedly the female Vervet Monkeys are really big teases.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro - Our Arrival

            "All I know is that every time I go to Africa, I'm shaken to my core."

-   Stephen Lewis, former Canadian UN Ambassador and UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa 

Mount Kilimanjaro - The view on the commute to work for the Building Crew
           We were watching TV today and Mike Holmes came on in a charity commercial asking us to sponsor African children and I had to rethink my typical thought process on these commercials. These commercials are always different people saying the same thing... "For a dollar a day...". Every day, we hear about places that need our help or money. Earthquakes in Haiti, Aids in Africa, Floods in Pakistan, Tsunamis in Indonesia, there's always somewhere to donate. It's tough to watch, we feel helpless, we can't afford to donate to everything so often we bury it and we carry on. At least I often do. I encourage anyone who's ever thought about going on a mission like this for a couple of weeks or months, to do so. I'm fairly certain we're not the first to say that everything we put into this we got out times fifteen hundred. I know because our dollar is worth about 1500 Tanzanian shillings. If there's one thing I miss it's getting a bank statement showing a balance in the millions. It was worth it even for that.

                                                 "Mambo!" ~ What's up!
                                                 "Poa!"       ~ I'm cool!

           We arrived from Amsterdam at about 9:30 at night on Sunday January 9th and were ready to get rolling. We both had the same feeling coming into our project though for different reasons. Jill was anxious to get started and didn't know entirely what to expect while I was concerned with the schedule and how little we knew going in. Though we had sent a number of emails asking about the project to learn about local materials, site conditions, labour, tools, building practices and standards, we knew only the dimensions and rough layout of the structure we would be building before our arrival. To be honest, I was concerned that with all the fundraising we'd done, we wouldn't be able to accomplish enough with the time frame we had. We were carrying not only our personal sacrifices, but the contributions of over a hundred people who had donated to our cause and we put the pressure on ourselves to everything we could while we were there.
           The Pamoja Tunaweza (Together We Can) Women's Centre provides support for women in the Kilimanjaro region who suffer from poverty, gender based violence and often are affected by HIV/AIDS. (See top right for more info).
          They're currently operating out of a place that they're renting for a reduced but not insignificant rate and anyone who, like ourselves, is or has ever paid rent on someone's elses mortgage can understand the reason for the new self-owned and operated Women's Centre. Especially in a situation like this when every dollar counts. So CACHA made a good business decision and bought some property in Moshi with a smaller structure but area to expand in hopes to smoothly transition over in April. Our goal was to being this expansion by building a Pavilion-style daycare area with a polished concrete floor and an A-framed roof. Here's what we knew going in:

- 22 feet x 24 feet are
- Open air structure with a roof
- Polished concrete floor 
- 2 foot high wall to prevent baby-escapes
- That's it.

         Arriving in Africa for the first time at night-time is like going to the Superbowl with a blindfold on. Our anticipation had been building for the trip since this had become a reality, thanks to many of you, and we were ready to dive in. The 45 minute bus ride took us to the Guest House where we would be staying in a room with my folks, summer camp bunk-bed style. We had mosquito nets and a manual fan (i.e. works if you spin it) as a power surge had blown it out. Jill and I graciously accepted the top bunk as after all those Grinds climbing up didn't seem that bad.  Also, we had a bathroom I liked to call the 'Double-Tasker'; a result of the toilet being located directly over the shower. We knew we'd gotten ourselves into something a little deeper than the usual. We loved it and were ready to jump in.

              "Shake it up baby" - The Beatles

 Next Chapter: Hard Barders, Disintegrating Sunglasses, Hundred Greeting Days, Shovel Ceremony and the first Caravan!

Dunc checks to see if it's break time yet.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Asante Sana!!

To Our Supporters: ASANTE SANA!!

No Jill, you can't keep them.
           Asante Sana (Thank you so much). We're back in Vancouver and it's if nothing has changed; this couldn't be further from the truth. For many people in Tanzania, thanks to you, everything has changed. We're talking about real people with real issues, who with your help have less to worry about today than they did yesterday. The work crew, including Duncan, Monty and even Jill one day, has (mostly) assembled a new daycare area for the Prevention through Empowerment Women's centre which they'll move into come April. The Medical Caravan saw close to 2000 patients which wouldn't have been possible had they been without Jill, Monty, Connie and all the logistics personnel to keep everything moving in the controlled chaos. The Tanzanian patients range from those who are there for a routine check-up to those who may not have lived another week without the care and treatment that the Caravan provided. People of all ages who have never had the opportunity to have their eyes tested get to put on a pair of glasses and walk away in awe with the ability to see clearly for the first time in their lives. Women who come in with their children to get HIV tests for either the reassurance that they're healthy or for the crucial counseling and Antiretroviral medication that can allow them to lead a long and healthy life. Doctors diagnose, Pharmacists distribute medicine and at that moment their lives change for the better. Thanks to you. So.... Asante Sana!

The Crew: Roman, Paul, Brian, Jeff, Yasini, Daudi, Dunc, Kassim, Monty, Naiman and Peter
         As you can probably imagine, we have some amazing stories to tell; disintegrating sunglasses, Cheetah-Wildebeest takedowns, toothless smiles, Swahili lessons, dust soccer, Tanzanian construction practices, wormbutts, heart-warming, bone-chilling, hard-bardering, dust-eating, warm-beer drinking stories... so stay tuned. We decided that the best way to do that is to write a few blog entries over the next little while to share with you our challenges, successes, lessons and laughs from our experience as there's no way we could have done any of it without the strong support we had from all of you. Whether you contributed to our cause, wished us well or are just reading our entries we thank you for supporting us and know that you've made a difference in thousands of real lives in Tanzania.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tanzania Update from a Winter Wonderland

      As we countdown the days to Tanzania we thought we would check in with all our followers. We've booked the flights, been each jabbed 4 times with the shots...not fun and now our thoughts turn to how we can make the days fly by faster.

The view from our kitchen window
      While we've been focused on getting things sorted for our January mission, we seem to have missed the memo that the world has shifted off it's axis...Vancouver is now Ontario as evident from the strange, cold, white stuff that has covered the entire city. It is actually a gorgeous winter wonderland and I (Jill) am squealing with Christmas excitement! However, as we mentioned in a previous blog, some Vancouver drivers are, well..below par to put it nicely, and horrible to put it accurately, and imagine what they are like when you add slippery white snow to the get DISASTROUS!!!!  I learned this on my morning commute this morning. Before I describe the series of events, I must pass some of the blame off on the city of Vancouver for owning only 2 snowploughs...and not purchasing salt or sand (the salt they do buy is like this weird bally stuff that they leave in large piles sporadically along the sidewalks...not effective either).

       I began my drive, dropping Duncan off and heading out 4th avenue. I turned up Oak street as always, then quickly realized that this hill was NOT a good idea given it had not been cleared yet this morning. So I just tucked into a little parking garage entrance to turn around when.... Down comes the little silver Yaris spinning and sliding straight into a large parked truck. She smashes into the back of it, breaking her window and squishing her driverside door in and her dashboard gets warped, luckily she is alright. A french bicyclist (that's how hardcore the Vancouver bikers are, they have the same motto as the postman, "neither rain nor snow..") and I come over and help her. All these people are standing on the road...taking photos, watching other cars as they one seemed to think that they might be the next target. We called up the tow truck, which on a side note, I think this is the business to invest in since when they aren't towing parked cars, they are towing from accidents and snow induced crashes, and we get her all sorted out. The best part though was what happened while I was with her:
- 2 SUVs turn and begin to rev all the way up the hill, spinning their tires, but they make it.
- 3 cars turn realize like me that this isn't a good idea, control slip turn their cars around and slide into the busy street below, luckily everyone slips in without any more crashes. Probably thanks to the well broken in horns.
- the icing on the cake was the massive SUV that turned up Oak street, starts to rev and spin the wheels, gets a 1/4 of the way up before slide/turning into the lane way and then...oops right into the telephone pole he goes!

Some call it a disaster, I call it Vancouver on a snowy day.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Final Grinds!! #24 and #25 - Wrapping it UP!

Hey Everyone!! Apologies for the delay for our Final Post as we've had family visiting and been getting things ready for Tanzania! This is our last Grind post although check it every once in a while as we plan on keeping you updated on Tanzania. We'll also be sure to fill you all in upon our return and let you know how the mission you made possible came together! Thanks for following and being some of 1700 visits to our blog page so far!!

Sponsorship Shoutout!

               The final sponsorship shoutout goes to out to Duncan’s family. Firstly, my parents: Connie Corbett and Monty Bourke. Many of you who know them know that they’re great people with big hearts and a love for traveling, helping people and working/volunteering in their community (and soon abroad). They’ve always been incredibly supportive of everything that we’ve done and I don’t know what we’d do without them. Now, I’ve hinted at my rascalness as a kid but to really give you an idea of what they put up with I have to tell you that for the first five years of my life I thought my name was “DUNCAN!!”. That’s just what people called me. At daycare: “DUNCAN! Stop licking the metal railing, it’s January!”. At home: “DUNCAN! Don’t wake your brother up by jumping on his head!”. At school: “DUNCAN! How did you get on the roof?” At the cottage: “DUNCAN!!! Go unlock your grandmother from the barn, there’re wasps in there!!”  (All true). I was sitting in my grade 2 class on the first day and my name was called by my teacher Ms. Henry: “Duncan?” (no response)… “Duncan Bourke?!” (nothing)… “DUNCAN!!”, “HEEEEEEEEEEERE!” I’d reply.

Robin, Monty, Connie and Duncan in front of one of Duncan's projects

          My mother Connie had a long career as a social worker in Kingston and encouraged me to volunteer at St Mary’s of the Lake Hospital when I was in high school. I was an exercise instructor for people in wheelchairs which I wholeheartedly enjoyed as much as anyone in the group. This was my first real volunteering experience and watching the patients smile and laugh gave me a feeling of accomplishment I remember to this today and look forward to again in Tanzania. Her selflessness throughout her life has inspired me, and for that I thank you Mom. This almost rivals her unreal ability to bake incredibly perfect cookies and muffins as well as addictive lemonade that some people love so much they even drink the syrup straight (ahem… Hamish).
                My father Monty had a long and at times very challenging career in Corrections and has always had a strong sense of community and civil service. A public servant of over 35 years he built a successful career based on ethics and encountered endless high-stress situations which he navigated astonishingly well. Perhaps though, his true calling has come in retirement where his fondness for fireworks has created the nickname “Rocketman” around the cottage.
Duncan and Robin in YK
                A massive thanks to my brother Robin, who’s always been good to us and supported us all the way. Growing up he was the best older brother you could ask for and a great role model although he still managed to help pave the way (a little) for “DUNCAN!!”. Many of his friends have become good friends of mine over the years and they’ve been incredibly supportive to us and for that we thank you all! His latest pet project is a HD video that he shot while on a 1700km canoe trip down the Mackenzie River from Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean with his our good friend Adam Woogh this past summer. Get ready for a screening in Ktown over the holidays the footage we’ve seen so far is unreal! 
                My cousins Hamish, Nikki, Casey, Emma and Cleo thanks for all of your support you’ve been awesome! As of the past few weeks we’ve officially tipped the balance scales of cousins to the West Coast. Jamie, Vaughan, Cathi, Tom, Linda, Beth, Phileen and Dan you guys all rock, we’re thinking about you and we’re so fortunate to call you all family.
                 Bill and Nancy, Jane and Don, you’ve been great to us since we moved out here and it makes a huge difference to have people like you here so thanks for everything you’ve done. Bill and Nancy, please try and invite someone else to the Christmas caroling party that was born in July… I always end up being the lone “seven swans a swimming”, which we all agree isn’t good for anyone. This is coming from the (short-lived) choirboy who at age 8 his parents were asked by the choirmaster “to have a doctor check out his throat”. Apparently you can’t technically be asked to leave the voluntary choir. Anne and ‘Richard’ we truly appreciate the donation as well as the feasts you lay out for us when invited over! Are either of you born in July? Shelagh and Michael, thank you so much and it was fantastic seeing you at the wedding and we hope to see David, Tim and Sarah before too long.
                Thank you to David and Laura Tripp, who traveled to Sudan in 2008 to volunteer there and have experienced firsthand the ability to make a difference in the lives of those in need.
                My family has been very supportive throughout this and we’re lucky to have you all… Thank you.

Grind #24 - Friday October 29th - The calm before the storm
Grind time: 48:48
         Friday night we had Monty and Connie in town so the goal was get there quickly, get up quickly and get home for a yummy late night dinner (quickly). So that’s exactly what we did. Up in 48:48 we held a brisk pace knowing we’d be doing it the next morning again. We spent maybe a minute on the top before coming down, running to the car and racing home! It was a good grind, fairly uneventful as there seems to be fewer and fewer people with each assent. Likely due to the risk of snow on the top these days... Great news for us skiers and boarders! After a delicious meal with the folks, we all crashed in preparation for tomorrow’s final push...

Grind #25 - Saturday October 30th - WRAPPING IT UP!!
Celebrity Guests: Monty, Connie, Jane and Don

7 Grinds!! Wait, no... 25 Grinds!!!
The day of our last Grind was perfect weatherwise. It was a cool, crisp, sunny day and we were pumped to wrap it up. Duncan’s folks were out and Dad decided to join us for the final ascent while Mom was going to save herself for their trip to Peru and take the Tram up. Dad, a previous Grinder, knew what he was getting himself into and, according to Mom, declared as he woke up that “he’d agreed to do the Granville Island Blue Parrot Coffee House Grind then Grouse Grind”. Though he attempted to claim senility we reminded him of his commitment and by the time he and Mom reached our place he was "enthusiastic". In fact, we were all enthusiastic (everyone being Dad, Jill and I). Well everyone except for Jill. If you’re one of the millions of consistent followers of our blog you would know that Jill missed a Grind this week and needed to make it up. So, naturally, we figured Jill would just do 2 on the last day (no big deal). This was the obvious source of Jill’s lack of enthusiasm. Mom’s cousin Jane Jardine and her husband Don (an experienced Grinder and North Shore Search and Rescue Volunteer) were glad to come along though the Grind to them is similar to a walk from the couch to the refrigerator. I always thought that was a funny stat that health units would release to the public about how the average Canadian walks about ten miles between their couch and refrigerator every year. I feel as though the only thing that ended up doing was cause people to move their refrigerator to next to their couch. 

We arrived and went our separate ways as we sent Mom up the Tram, Jill ran ahead for her double espresso grind and Dad, Jane and Don and I began my final ascent. Here’s a riddle for you: who made it up the mountain first? If you answered “c”, you’d be wrong, that’s not even an option. The correct answer is Jill! As we ascended we started noticing more and more people coming down the Grind, which was not only rare but prohibited as the technical nature of the descent often results in injuries. Finally someone informed us that the Tram was broken and there was a two-and-a-half-hour wait! We wondered if Mom had made it on to the Tram and how far she'd gotten.

Duncan and Monty at the top
               Between the ½ and ¾ mark we saw a recognizable pink blur running down the mountain that, in Jill’s cute voice, told us that she had decided to run down as there was no way she was going to get on the tram. So, on her final Grind the only way we could reach our goal would be if she ran up, down and back up again! For me, it was great hanging out with Dad, an avid trekker and traveler and we reached the peak in impressive time! Don and Jane headed back down knowing full well they didn’t want to wait for the Tram and we said goodbye and thanked them for their support and company. We found Mom who informed us that she had been stuck in the Gondola for 45 minutes a painful 10 metres from the top! With Jill still Grinding we thought “Well what do we do now? I guess we’ll have to go have a beer and lunch at the restaurant…shucks”  I did the math and as I spent time with Mom and Dad catching up and talking about our trails (yes, trails) and tribulations over the last six weeks I attempted to do the math as to when Jill would be done.  I thought about when we last saw her, figured out when I thought she’d summit and then subtracted 15 minutes knowing full well that I would, understandably, be resting my sore muscles on the couch tonight if I wasn’t there to meet her when she finished her second Grind of the Day. Third if you count the fact that she descended too, which I do as it’s way more painful (though for you supporters it’s on the house! Buy 25 ascents get one descent free!). As I made my way down to the finish point she had, luckily for me and my non-couch friendly physique, just arrived! She did two Grinds (not including her descent) in one hour and twenty four minutes!
To put that in perspective that’s what many people of average fitness do it in once. I gave her a huge hug and she almost collapsed as we walked up to the restaurant to meet my folks. We had a great meal overlooking Vancouver, English Bay and Vancouver Island and couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up such an incredible adventure. By the time we were finished they had fired up the post-second world war constructed Tram and the line had died down considerably. We headed down and decided it was time to celebrate.

Now that the easy part is done... we'll keep you posted as the mission comes together and our time in Tanzania with Prevention Through Empowerment. We're incredibly excited and hope to make a difference providing those in need with the resources to become self-reliant and sustainable.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Grinds 22 and 23 - Murphy's Law and Shattered Records!!

Sponsorship Shoutout!

        Though technically we've completed our Grinding we've got a bunch more to write about and lots of people to thank! Soooo we're going to post 22 and 23 and then wrap up the blog in the next few days with a look back at what we've done as well as a preview to what's in store in January. We really want to make sure everyone who's supported us gets recognized so here go some more shoutouts!!
        Brendan and Karin, thanks again for your support you guys are amazing. Also, have you guys thought about having another wedding? What a party! Just go for it, Karin you can wear your poofy dress and we'll generously feed both your and Brendan's Dad Scotch (from their own open bar). Karin, hope you don't mind but I'm going to share an excerpt from your Dad's father of the bride speech (picture this in a Mike Myers like Scottish accent, apologies if it's a little different I pieced it together): "When Karin was a lass and she started bringing boys around as a father I was pretty judgmental as no one was ever good enough for our girl. Then she brought this lad around who was smart, funny, well-mannered, good-looking and great all around.... then they split-up! And then we met Brendan...". Amazing. Looking forward to seeing you guys next month!
Jill, Dunc, Will, Brendan and Karin!

        Cat Fuller! Fellow KICer, KCVIer, DALer and amazing girl in general. We always love to see you and it's not enough seeing you a couple of times a year though we always make the most of it. Can't wait for another one at Christmas.

           Pam Armstrong, the pretty face of StructureCraft Builders! Thanks for your support and positive attitude all around it's nice to see someone smiling around the SCB Office! It's been great getting to know you, see you Wednesday!

          Carly Yealland! It was great to hear from you and you were one of the one's who got on to our blog through facebook and generously offered to sponsor us. We're lucky to have you as a friend and can't wait to see you again soon!

         Mike and Megan, aka Paper Bag Princess and Roberto Alomar. It's been a blast getting to know you guys over the last little while and we look forward to many more adventures ahead! 

     Golder Yellowknife office!! A few of my brother's coworkers were generous enough to donate which was a wonderful surprise. We were really impressed and overjoyed with your support. Thanks to Dawn, Joel, Hilary, Craig, Jamison, and of course Megan and Kevin. Thanks to Robin for being our Yellowknife promoter! Look forward to hanging out with you all when we're up next Easter!

        Jane, another fellow celebrator on that Golden day at the end of the Olympics and another Brad Johner diehard fan! Thanks a ton for thinking of us and helping us out!

        Mike Tranmer, thanks for the shoutout and the support brother, we're looking forward to some riding this winter so we hope to see you out!

       Waywell, I hope you're enjoying yourself in South America my friend, if you see my folks in Peru have a beer with them, on me. Did you say 88,242 Colombian Pesos or Mexican Pesos? I can't remember, I'll just assume it's Mexican Pesos, which is about $7200 CDN. Don't worry, you'll get a tax receipt! Safe and Happy travels brother from both of us!
Kingston Boys Treeplanting '05 - Waywell, Bryn, Noah, Dunc

         Bryn and Ryah, thanks again for the thanksgiving hospitality. We hope you framed that giant prehistoric drumstick from that "Turkey" we ate. We'll be back to visit soon, your place is far too nice to avoid. Oh, and Bryn, stop practicing that behind the tree left handed wrap around shot on your basketball net, I made that up so you can't use that one in HORSE next time I'm there. Come see us in the big city anytime.

        It was great to hear from Daryl Tremain and Stephen Bonnycastle, parents of my good buddy Will Bonncastle who I've known forever. They also coached our soccer team on the Winston Wildcats when I was quite young and it's been good getting back in touch with them. This experience has been wonderful for rekindling old friendships like this.

             Ali "SuperNintendo" Chalmers! Thanks for supporting us you've been great to us including allowing both of us to crash on your floor while trying to find a place (or just living out here!). We'll see you soon I'm sure, probably the next time the Leafs annihilate the Habs!

CANADA WINS! Clockwise from Dunc: Robin, Brad, Andrew, Nat, Anthony, Danica, Jane, Morgan, Ash, Jill and Ali!

          Danica and Steph, it was awesome hanging out with you at Arcade Fire! Thanks for helping us reach our goal and Steph, don't be afraid to bring John along, we miss him. Okay, I miss him. So let us know the next time you're in town!
         Will and Heather, thanks for your help! Will, thanks a ton for joining us for one of our Grinds and for your very unmolasses-like pace!

         Mark! Another Edward St. boy and the man with the hardest Foosball shot I've ever seen, or should I say heard? It's great to hear from you man and hope you'll be able to join us in Kingston at some point over the holidays. We love you man.

Rememberton Pemberton?
         Dave, our great friend on the East Coast. From Pemberton to Whistler, good times and tough, we've all been through a ton. We love you brother and must see you soon, one way or another! Also, thanks for all the award-winning Hallowe'en costume ideas I've stolen from you over the years, I'll send you a funnel cake the next chance I get.

        Scott Tyldesley, thank you for being a great mentor and teacher. Thank you to you, Karen, Katie and Will for the support with our climbing!

       Miss Ashley, thank you for your support from the North as well! Best of luck with the singing and dancing, we're sure you're the star of the show!

Grind #22 - Wednesday October 27th - Murphy's Law
Grind time: 42:40 (Duncan only)

Look at the hikers, it's uncanny! No Duncan/Jill's permitted
          We arrived at the base of Grouse on Monday in a torrential downpour and it was bittersweet. We saw at the gate that there was a closure sign warning hikers of mudslides, loose footing, falling limbs and weather-induced squirrel psychosis (the tipping point). Even around the side where we typically have to sneak (as the grind closes early these days) had the sign up meaning they meant business. A roller coaster of emotions ran over us. The first emotion was relief as it was raining insanely hard and at such times the Grind path becomes a natural waterslide in some places and Duncan didn't bring his waterwings. The second emotion was concern for being unable to reach our goal of 25 Grinds in time which would put us within reaching distance of covering the money we wanted to raise for Tanzania. The third emotion was awesomeness as we knew that with these temperatures and this amount of precipitation you know what they say in Vancouver (all the time): "If it's raining in the city, it's snowing in the mountains!". We headed back to our place hoping that it would subside in time for us to make our final push by the end of the week!

The Lions back to their Snowy form

         Sure enough, Wednesday morning the sky was blue and the peaks were white and the lovely La Nina had made her first appearance of the season, hopefully with many more to follow. We arrived at the base and we quickly realized that in a mad dash out the door Jill had forgotten her shoes. Hey 24 out of 25 ain't bad! To be honest given the hours that we work Jill has been amazing through this, she often gets all our stuff together, picks me up from work with all the gear, full water bottles and two sets of clothes. With my record, I predict I would be batting about .500 right now and would have done the hike in my flipflops at least 5 times (wouldn't be the first time... ahem, Bear Mountain hike on Harrison Lake). We debated the options and despite insistence by Jill that her flipflops had "great ankle support" and "perfect traction", Jill ended up taking the Tram up. She tip-toed around the snowy peak as Duncan enjoyed a cool Grind up, for the first time not feeling like his head was stuck in a sauna wrapped in hot towels. He set a personal record that Jill was sure to shatter. We took some photos of Duncan enjoying the delicious freshly fallen snow... and then proceeding to get a wicked brainfreeze. It didn't go perfectly, but it went and it looked as though Murphy's Law was starting to kick in just as we were trying to make our final push.

Grind #21- Sunday October 21st -
Grind times: Jill (40:02 - Daaaaaaaaamn!) Duncan 43:47

         Today was another pretty miserable day though we remembered all of our stuff so we had that going for us! Duncan felt pretty wiped from his record setting day yesterday (no big deal), but Jill was itching to go (and let's be Frank, wanted to pulverize Duncan's record from the day before). So off we went at a record setting pace, though Duncan quickly realized that to keep up with the determined Jill would likely result in a pulled muscle. So, like a cheesy Hollywood movie, Duncan yelled up to Jill in a dramatic fashion as the rain poured down his face, covering his tears of pain: "Jill, I can't do it, I think I pulled something... Here... take my phone (for timing). Beat my record! I believe in you! If you never see me again know that it wasn't... your... fault, and I'll always Love you." with what he thought might be his last breath. "Okay!!" Jill replied cheerily as she took the phone and ran up the mountain.

           Okay, it wasn't quite that dramatic... Jill did go ahead as we were both curious what kind of time she could post without hot-towel sauna-head slowing her down! She killed our previous time with a tragic 40:02, though Jill rightfully blames that extra two seconds on my "poor phone handover". Hey, just another record to beat for next time.

Twilight in Vancouver from Grouse Mountain

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Grinds 20 and 21 - Big Shoutouts, Olympic Spirits and our Double Everest!

 Sponsorship Shoutout!
           Well Team, here we are, nearing the end of our voyage (none too soon though we will miss it). To be honest we really didn't know what we'd be taking on when this all began, if people would respond, if we'd be able to do it and if we would actually be able to keep up with our blog or if it would get forgotten amidst the fury. By the time one week rolled around and we saw about 500 people had viewed our progress we knew we couldn't stop and we loved it. Now, we know that you don't wait by your computers just itching for another post to pop up from us but we appreciate the following and hope we bring some humour and interest to your day. In all seriousness we all live busy lives and knowing that you took your time to support us whether it be financially or simply by reading this means a lot to us. We've been trying to thank people individually throughout the Grinding though it can be tough and keeping up the writing (which we do thoroughly enjoy) has been as exhausting as the hiking itself. We apologize to those who wished us well who we may not formally thank as the support has been overwhelming. For those who didn't have a chance to donate we know that there are many other worthy causes and priorities and that's totally cool and we appreciate your support. So, over the next couple of entries we want to make sure that every sponsor gets to be thanked (in Jay-Zed style) as you all more than deserve it.We also thought we'd through in some of our favourite photos from our adventure, enjoy.

          Scotty Greenwood, you ridiculous man, we love you and as a token of that we're going to send you the running shoes from our Grouse Grinds, which I expect to see framed in your house by Christmas. As a fellow traveler, my ferocious foosball partner when Mark, Brendo and we lived on Edward St. and a fun trip leader of Jill's way back, we love you man.
The Edward St. Boys - Dunc, Scotty, Mark, Brendo!

          Sue Waywell you were the first person we heard from and you rock. Thanks for housing all the boys throughout highschool and all the drives to hockey for about ten years of my childhood and for putting up with Steve and I when we were shitdisturbers. Best to Tom and really hope to see you at Christmas.

        Pete-Pete-Pete...Pete-Pete-Pete-Pete...Pete-Pete-Pete-Pete-Pete! Do you still want Larry Fitzgerald on fantasy football? He's yours, he's a bum. Love you and Alissa like crazy and really looking forward to getting together for beers soon. Alissa, we want you and Pete to come move here... I think that apartment next to lamplighter is up for sale.
         Matty Corkum, you are my hero man and keep up the great work on Wind Energy, I'm being the Eye of the Wind for Hallowe'en so I don't have to move at all which'll be great because these Grinds are wearing me down. We can't all bike 200,000km in a summer! We Love you man, see you at New Years!

Guinness My Goodness!
        Gord Cruess, it's been too long. The Bourke and Cruess brothers need to reunite soon and fill that empty feeling I've had for years. Hope the Cruii are all good and NYC is treating you well. Really appreciative that you'd think of us and hope to see you soon.

       Wooguh, we'll be back up to Yellowknife for Easter again this year so don't finish off that tree we shot at together without us, it's a team effort. Best to Annie and thanks for being like another brother to me, which was key because there's no way Robin could have pushed me into snowbanks by himself. Love you bro.

       Andrew and Morgan, it's been great getting to know you guys the last few years and we're looking forward to many more, you guys are awesome, thank you both tons. Looking forward riding the backcountry this year though it can be dangerous out there so don't forget about our safety meetings!

         Freddy, another 'nother brother from another mother. We've had some great ones over the years though none in recent memory, let's change that. You're a hell of a guy and we looking forward to our next meeting, likely at a bar that rhymes with Forts (Sports, Ports) to watch hockey.

        Brad, from Sasquatch to Softball and Basketball to beers we can't get enough of you. The greatest gift you ever gave was to Duncan for making him feel somewhat human for being a fellow profuse sweater.

        Nate and Mya, so happy that you're helping us along our journey. Your two boys are amazing and the third will be too having parents like you. Also Nate, you may not sleep sometimes running the StructureCraft shop (especially with Van Dusen down there) but knowing your running things definitely helps me sleep better if that's any consolation.

        Payne, you only sponsored Jill and she's not writing this entry so you'll have to wait.

       Megan and Kevin, you newlyweds you, I know we only see eachother for few weekends but that's probably for the best, people can't have that much fun all the time. I know you guys are awesome friends to my brother so there's a lot of love between us. See you in Spring when I impersonate the Snow King yet again.

        Jamie, we did it, Jill carried me on her back all the way up. We have hard evidence because here's a picture of Jill carrying me at the top. Thanks for the support you're a good man and a genius, see you before long, we'll celebrate. I know you guys aren't in it for the corporate plug but anyone who hasn't checked Gelaskins out needs to... immediately.


           Drew, another Gelaskin creative genius and a Bourke Bash legend, hope you boys are planning on coming out here a bunch over the winter, there's already snow on the peaks and we're getting pumped. We'll hand out pictures of you to the Tanzanians so they know where the good will is coming from, you'll be like Bono over there.

          More thank yous to come on our next entry! Now... approaching our second Everest!

Grind #20 - Saturday October 20th - Olympic Spirit!
Celebrity Guests: Andrew Chad and Brad Jones
Grind time: 47:13

            We were fortunate enough today to be graced with the presences of one Andrew Chad (not to be confused with my other good friend Chad Andrews) and Brad Jones (not to be confused with aged Saskatchewan Country Star Brad Johner, see right). Andrew Chad and I work together at Fast + Epp and I remember when he started at the firm almost 3 years ago now and a few of us went out to lunch. We talked about where we lived and I said I knew someone who lived up near there from Kingston and he asked who. I thought I'd humour him by playing this game though before we knew it we made about 100 connections. We shared a ton of mutual friends and we eventually discovered that my then to be girlfriend Jill was also his girlfriend Morgan's coxswain with Queen's rowing. I soon met Brad and his other friends who are great fun and it's been a blast getting to know and hang out with them out here over the last few years. This past week Brad actually asked us if we'd mind him coming along and of course we responded the more the merrier and Andrew was more than down as well. Something to do with training for the upcoming season (let's all pray to La Nina that we get a ton of snow, unlike last year).
          Remember last year? Remember the Olympics? What a couple of weeks it was. It's amazing how exhausting eating food, drinking beer and watching people play sports can be! I must say that the experience of being in Vancouver over the Olympics was incredible though for the pinnacle event you could've been anywhere on Sunday February 28th, 2010 and marveled in the wonder and celebration that was Canada's Golden Game. Brad, Andrew, Morgan, Robin, Matty, Ali, Danica, Jane, Jill and I (and others) were all together at an English pub which switched to the game right before puck drop and we nervously watched our boys in red battle it out, afraid that there would be a repeat of our loss to USA the week before. When Crosby scored that overtime goal, as ugly as it was, the pub exploded with cheering and we were dancing on tables, hugging strangers and singing O Canada as pure glee rushed through our veins. It's not about sport, not really, it's about knowing that 30 million other proud Canadians were sharing that same glorious feeling at that exact moment (half an hour later in Newfoundland).

          The group of us headed downtown with a couple of stops along the way including the Canadian tire to buy a hockey stick to wave our flag on. We gave thousands of high-fives to complete strangers and hugged anyone in a Canada jersey. It was the culmination of two weeks of national pride as we set records for gold medals at a Winter Olympics and put on one hell of a show (regardless of what the British tabloids said).
            We all trudged our way up the Grind and arrived within minutes of eachother. We were completely bagged and decided that in true Olympian style we would have a celebratory beer at the top. We talked about how we were looking forward to the upcoming skiing/snowboarding season and were hoping that the weather projections would be true as we felt like we were owed a good one after last year's balmy winter. It was a great day and we were happy to have the company and like a good Brad Johner concert (another Olympic moment we shared together - at the Saskatchewan house) we left fully satisfied.

Well Deserved Lagers

Grind #21- Sunday October 21st - Second Everest!!
Grind time: 50:12


          Today we reached our second Mt. Everest in terms of elevation gained. Since we began five weeks ago we've climbed 17,913m or 58,755ft! Trust us, it feels like it! Now if you'll look back at our original entry and the e-mails we sent out in hopes for your support this was the goal we were aiming for and we've gotten here! Now, we did threaten to push further and with a few days of Grinding left we're hoping to... though don't worry we won't put you out of house and home as we're certainly nearing the end of this exhausting but amazing experience. We're hoping to push a little further to raise as much as we can to make this mission possible! We know that some of you who've donated may have budgeted for 21 so we'll happily except a donation based on that estimate though we're determined to push on and if you chose to support us through then that's great! As you can see from our photo today was Everest like in more ways than one! It was freezing and with the precipitation on it's way we though we may be in for some snow. We made decent enough time considering this was our fourth in as many days and went down to get warm.