Friday, April 29, 2016

Seoul - Part 2

Pictures taken by my tour guide in Seoul are boring and repetitive but at least show some of the sights that I was taken to.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hoi An & Seoul - A Pictorial Tour - Part 1

No time to write, but I wanted to publish some pictures from my recent travels to Vietnam and Korea. They speak mostly for themselves.  The ruins that I visited represent 4-14 century treasures of "My Son" that you can easily Wikipedia.  Yes, those are symbols of female and male organs.  These pics were taken by my iphone; part 2 comes from tour guide camera to follow.

Japanese Bridge in Hoi An (16th century)

Entrance to "My Son"

Dancing with my favorite Filipino singer from the Palm Beach Hotel

The famous "Y" from Bebe Tailor who has fitted all of my
clothes and for other friends

Now in Seoul Gwangiang open market

Nami Island

Need some of these signs for the Honolulu Club

All dressed up Filipino tourists at palace

Another famous outdoor market where I ate noodles for the 3rd day in a row

Friday, March 25, 2016

Big White 2016 - Dancing on the Snow!

on the first night with clear skies

It was indeed a great week of skiing.  We had every conceivable weather and ski condition imaginable; cold, warm, sunny, cloudy, foggy, windy, and lots of fresh snow. 120 inches at the base is about twice as much as I found on Deer Valley two months earlier. The first few days were the best with nicely groomed runs and clear skies and an almost surreal venue to fly effortlessly on the powder with confidence. There was just enough snow to push down the mountain with no icy patches to catch you off guard or bumpy collections of hardened snow. You could accelerate without worry and enjoy every moment. Without doubt, these were the best ski days of the last decade!

It made me think of the joy of ballroom dancing. To be sure, skiing is a lot like dancing.  When the conditions are perfect, when you are moving fluidly, when your partner mirrors your movements, when you’re dancing and not just reciting your steps from memory, when you are moving to the music and you flow effortlessly on the dance floor, you are in heaven.  

But this also depends on the conditions on the dance floor, if it is smooth and consistent, without seams or catches, or gluey patches, and without much traffic from other dancers holding you back or circling unpredictably in your way to block your movement and/or disturb your rhythm. 

Skiing is even closer to heaven than dancing when the proper conditions exist! But in dancing or skiing, when conditions are not optimal, everything can break down.  In these circumstances, my frame and balance melt like the snow, and I revert to my old ugly careful, self-protective ways.  Instead of flying down the mountain, I compete with gravity and fight any accelerating movement. With dancing, my movements are forced, my partner is dragged or pushed, I am not dancing, I am bulldozing!  Herein we note the differences between unsuccessful skiing or dancing. With one, you fight movement (skiing) and with the other, you force movement (dancing).

Too little snow is as bad as too much snow.  One promotes skidding and sliding on glistening ice patches or from glaciers of rock-solid frozen pathways.  Too much snow produces haphazard collections of misshaped bulging protrusions fashioned by the onslaught of skier traffic coursing the ski run over time. This causes bumpy paths that are joint jolting and neck thrashing. It maybe fun for a 15 y/o to skip and jump over these bulging projections, but pure hell for this nearly 70 y/o partially broken man.  But I suppose it burns calories in the process. It certainly weakens every joint of the body and most of the muscles of the legs from the constant thumping of the skies transferring kinetic energy through the body, which it absorbs.  I can’t imagine anyone really enjoying skiing on moguls, either programmed or serendipitously delivered!

But this year, unlike most, my body did not break down and I did not feel the burning sensation of my quads from lactic acid accumulation fighting to be alert and ready to contract and relax when called upon.  Perhaps my physical conditioning from dancing, my strength and flexibility exercises, or my increasing skill level has finally kicked in. For whatever reason, I was able to ski 7 full days in a row, without a break and without the desire to take a break. To be sure, I skied more hours than I ever have, even as a younger and stronger man when I had the capacity to withstand the physical punishment of the ski slopes. This week, the snow was my friend, not my enemy and we both treated each other very well.

There was only one moderately harsh day. The wind was blowing and whistling cold streaming lightening rods through my body, and the constantly migrating fog and overcast created an unsettling eerie aura. My face was frozen and I feared my congealed beard would break from my face. Even the trees shivered in pain from the cold.  The blowing rush of gale whisked the fresh snow off of some runs onto others producing an unequal distribution that made it difficult to navigate the slopes with confidence.  Still it was fine to experience this day as a reminder of the pugnacious strength and dominance of nature and how puny and defenseless man is in the face of its capricious temperament. Contrast this to the first few days when the ski slopes were pristine, the sun was shinning, the runs were manicured with corduroy and God acquiesced fully to please the skiers on the mountain on that joyous day.

The week was not all about skiing.  There was cooking and eating and drinking wine and enjoying the company of friends and acquaintances.  There were two outings, one hosted by the Schewe Travel Agency that brought us in bulk from Honolulu to Big White.  The other was an over the top generous display of kindness from Louise and Mike Ing who hosted an unbelievable dinner get together at their magnificent Big White condo with fabulous food and drink and even entertained us with a Hawaiian musician. This event is a yearly one hosted by the Ing family for anyone who came from Hawaii to ski Big White. Clearly most of the folks were strangers at one time or another but with the repeating nature of event, more and more were repeat offenders and looked forward to this yearly gathering.  Sadly, this year, it was scheduled on the night that the UH basketball team was defeated by the University of Maryland, ending an uncommon season of success.  

The Schewe event was decent and turned out nearly 150 guests from Honolulu.  Door prizes were awarded as customary.  Not one to commonly win prizes at these events, I was not prepared to be embarrassed by being called to collect the dubious award for the best ballroom dancer in the audience. First of all, what the hell does ballroom dancing have to do with skiing….ha ha.  But second, the designation assigned to me that evening was most certainly not true, at least by my estimation.

I won another prize at the annual senior ski morning event, where seniors (over the age of 50) would group themselves for a ski lesson and after, to collect into the Happy Valley Lodge for lunch and door prizes. I rapidly won a t-shirt that didn’t fit me.  Feeling feisty after a glass of wine and wishing my friend Al to win a prize as well, I obnoxiously raised my hand and boldly but jokingly demanded that the MC pick Al’s number next from his hat.  Well this jostling went on for the next 10 picks until it was clear that the prizes were running out.  Still I became more vocal in my demand, to the embarrassment of Al and the other poor soles that are familiar with my boorish nature.  To shut me up, the MC called me to the floor and asked me to pick the next number.  Complying with his command, I stuck my hand into the jar, fingered one ticket, and was about to pull it out when I decided to reject it and wiggle around lower to find another ticket buried off to the side, which I finally lighted on.  Returning to my seat, satisfied that I had caused enough commotion while conceding the improbable, the MC read off the number slowly not to give it away until the final moment when he confirmed that the number was indeed Al’s number.  It was so freaky that even the MC worried that he would be accused of staging this latest show. So he circulated the ticket to the front row of the gathering just to prove its veracity.  Basically I was shocked into silence by this turn of events but I later regained my presence enough to pilfer the prize away from Al as a trophy for my performance, a ladies Big White sweatshirt that I would will to my friend Gerri in Honolulu.   

I think of my life as chapters…now in chapter 5.  But sometimes the chapters converge in unpredictable ways.  My professional life as a practicing doctor of sick infants, as a pediatric researcher, and as a mentor to other physicians seldom converge with my semi retired life as a world traveller, a cruiser, a dancer, or a skier.  But this year was special. I came to Big White as a skier and met some physicians from my past that had more vivid memories of me than I of them. As mentioned before I was recognized publically as a ballroom dancer but the most gratifying experience occurred when I again had a chance to chat with another physician from Honolulu.

She was formally a college graduate who spent one year working at Tripler in the animal laboratory completing a research project that I was leading. She was clearly an exceptional student and the year’s effort was rewarded with a publication in the best pediatric research journal, not surprising called Pediatric Research.  The article was published in 1993 and was co-authored by this student. Fast-forward 23 years later, she was in Big White skiing with her two cuter-than-pie daughters and her obviously adoring husband. The year that this student spent researching at Tripler was a life changing year, the year before medical school, the year that she me her future husband, and the year of success in completing a research project worthy of publication.  This young woman and her family were a delight to talk to. It made me feel warm inside to know that I contributed incrementally to her success and happiness.  What a wonderful story, and as I skied down the comfortable terrain at Big White, I felt the past happily converging with the present reminding me of who I was then and who I am now and that, taken together, that this will invariably shape what I will be in the future.