Saturday, July 28, 2012


It was hopeless. Fatigue had forced my eyes shut. But my body would not shut down. I could not fall asleep. My legs felt possessed, crawling with invisible insects, itchy, irritated and impossible to ignore. It was like a low-voltage current was being channeled through my thighs and calves. I changed positions, once, twice, a dozen times but it didn't seem to help. Sitting up and swinging my restless legs over the edge of the bed, I obeyed the irresistible urge to move. Somewhere, anywhere, I had to escape the creeping discomfort. 
A cruel torturer had conspired to defeat my nightly wind down regime that permitted me to surrender to a sweet, if short, slumber. I always started by lying on my back, arms by my side, focusing exclusively on just relaxing my limbs, willing them to cease their constant shaking. Within minutes they would submit, as if recognizing my need for respite, and the sleep that followed. Typically, the enemy of sleep would be in insomnia waking me up hours before dawn. Now a new insurgent had interceded. Having conquered my day-long tremors shortly after crawling into bed I was enjoying what proved to be a false sense of control when Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) slipped under the covers at the foot of the bed to add a new dimension to my already sleep-challenged nights.

RLS is a strange problem of uncertain origin. For me, it is probably linked to Parkinson's disease (or whatever PD is linked to). But why had it chosen to join my unhappy collage of symptoms at this point in time? I felt particularly vulnerable to this new enemy. I felt overwhelmed, tired, stressed, and anxious about the days ahead.  I slipped quietly out of bed and stumbled from room to room in my dark house, trying to avoid waking my family as I walked off the strange sensations depriving me of sleep. As I did, half-formed thoughts and metaphors merged in a single conclusion: I had been restless my whole life; a nebulous, inquisitive spirit that has possessed me and prodded me to search for more. 
I recognized my recent 10 week circumnavigation of the globe was really just an extension of this restlessness. I remembered as a young boy running to explore any new place my family visited, investigating what made something tick (even if after disassembly it never "ticked" again) and hiking "just a little farther" check out what was around the next bend or over the next hill. Curiously, as a teenager I had no interest in experimenting with drugs. I found reality more interesting than psychedelics. However, I thought nothing of starting a summer weekend adventure by standing alone, with my thumb extended, on the shoulder of the road at the edge of my hometown, Vernon, without any destination in mind. The initial question from the person who picked me up was always the same. "Where are you headed?"  The response to my answer, "No place in particular" was always… interesting.  Of course, that was before the evils of hitchhiking (and hitchhikers) were fully understood.  For the most part I was given rides by friendly folk; lonely men anxious to have someone to talk to on a long drive when radio signals were few and far between, or young couples just sympathetic to a young person needing a ride. There were no particularly frightening incidents despite a drunk driver or two, being propositioned once, and sometimes traveling a bit further than anticipated, making it a challenge to get back home by Sunday evening. 
Even today I find myself attracted to the items on the menu that I've never eaten before, the potential of a back road that I have never driven, and the intriguing stories of a stranger. Of course, there is danger in being curious. Risk must be evaluated where possible. The imagination, left unchecked, can loose the mind from its moorings and leave morality marooned on some distant island. But for me, cautious curiosity leads to fullness of life. 
Despite the discomfort of the RLS, I realized that there was a logic to its intrusiveness at this point in time. While returning from a trip around the world gave me a sense of accomplishment, it also left me feeling let down; reengaged in what might be characterized as an unremarkable life with the recent feeling of exhilaration quickly disappearing. My craving for adventure must be fed, but it must also be constrained lest it become an addiction to irresponsibility. It is the reality spoken of in the Pete Seeger hit, "To Everything There Is a Season" (a.k.a. "Turn, Turn, Turn") where he quotes from the wisdom of Solomon.
1.    To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2.    A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
3.    A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4.    A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5.    A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6.    A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7.    A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8.    A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

There is a time for rest as well as restlessness.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It Is The End… Or is it?

"Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end."
This line is from "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", an excellent movie that I went to see with my wife/best friend within 24 hours of returning to North America. Of course, life just doesn't simply work out "all right" all the time for everyone. The good guys don't always win. Accidents in fact do happen and they don't always end up better than was planned. Life is not a fairy tale, particularly for those who have degenerative, chronic and incurable diseases. The movie theme line seems absurd. Or is it? 
The movie is about a number of senior citizens in their "golden years". Euphemistically, this refers to those of us who have arrived at the seats closest to the exit sign. Each of the characters in the movie question his/her, own values, deepest fears and uncertain futures. They each ask in their own way, "How then shall I spend my most precious nonrenewable resource, time?" Having recently reached the seniors discount age of 60 (got me into the movie for $7.50), and having completed the biggest item on my bucket list (my round the world trip), I'm left with the same basic question, "Where to from here?"

Most people who grapple with this question realize that it is really not one question. It leads to a multitude of inquiries. In my case, it starts with, "How do I prepare for reentry after being away for such a long time?" "What are the risks of 'burning up on reentry', having a rough landing, or gliding easily into the reality that I let go of temporarily?" Realistically, it is bound to be a mixture of reunions, storytelling, and bumpy patches on the runway. Okay, but how can I best prepare? 

First, I won't waste time worrying about things I can't yet deal with. Second, I will not engage in the actual reentry until it is time (unless my involvement is necessary). I've managed for over two months not to get drawn away from the experiences I had planned for. Why change that yet? Third, when tempted to live tomorrow today, remember that I only have today, make the most of that. Finally, start thinking about the next adventure. It's like coming to the end of a vacation and, at the same time, beginning to plan for a new one.
Another area leading from the question, "where to from here?" requires an evaluation of my experiences over the last 2 1/2 months. What did I learn about myself, others, my fears and dreams? What lessons will I take with me? In what ways do I build upon the experiences and relationships? Clearly, these will take some time to process, but the answers will inevitably inform the future.

Yet another area resulting from the same question must build the answers to the first inquiries. In other words, if life is a journey, an adventure, what choices do I need to make about the next destination, the next big challenge.

This all brings me back to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". For those of you who have not seen the movie, you might want to stop reading now. For those of you who have, you will recognize the specific characters. How did each of the characters respond to the question, "Where to from here"?  Graham, the retired judge, pursued an unfulfilled obligation before he died. Jean, a high society woman, retreated to what had been "normal". Muriel, a gruff difficult personality, found a way to use past skills and abilities to find a renewed sense of purpose and value in living. Two characters, Madge and Norman, both incurable philanderers, pursued self-indulgences in an attempt to cling to prior glories. Yet two others, Douglas and Evelyn, romantics at heart, redefined life's potential for new adventures. The characters' choices became alternatives to the movie audience. Which answer to the question, "Where to from here?" would you choose, and why?

While the quote referenced at the top of this post may be absurd at one level, it represents a way to answer the question, "where to from here". It is a perspective that allows each of us to decide, despite our circumstances, that today is not the end. We can choose the way forward and do what we can so that "Everything will be all right in the end".

Monday, July 16, 2012

Around the World in 80 Days!

Actually, 79 days. But then, maybe the day gained by going east across the international date line counts as the extra one. In any event, on July 18, 2012, I will be completing the final leg of my around the world journey.

Total mileage/kilometers: 38,462 miles or 61,905 km. Equivalent to 1 1/2 times around the world.

Total flights taken: 27

Total airlines flown: 17, most of which were better than we expected and none of which were disastrous.

Number of luggage pieces lost: 0

Total countries visited: 16

Longest flight: Fiji to Los Angeles: 10 hours 20 min.

Number of flights canceled during trip: 1 (our original direct flight from Chiang Mai to Singapore. Replaced by two flights through Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur)

Least expensive hotel accommodation: Near Abote, Ethiopia ($12 a night)

Most expensive hotel accommodation: Singapore (if it were not for Carson's points at the Holiday Inn it would've cost us $250 per night)

Most surprising occurrence: The late night, unscheduled stop on our flight from Addis Ababa to Kuwait City to permit approximately 100 "domestic help" to disembark in Ad Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Highest location: top of Machu Picchu Mountain (3600 m/12,000 feet above sea level). Not that high when you consider Mount Everest is 29,000 feet/8348 m.

Lowest location: 20 m/60 feet, scuba diving below the surface of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Fiji

Technological glitches: Computer power cord failure in Kuwait (replaced there but with an English plug-in! An iPhone charger cord explosion from a power surge in Fiji but I had a backup with me!)

Illnesses: None, except a bad cold in Auckland New Zealand for three days.

Number of Positively Parkinson's blog/posts during the trip: 40 so far

Favorite place: Impossible to choose (it would be like picking your favorite child - assuming you had more than one)

Most welcome surprise: The fact that we had Internet connections almost everywhere, allowing us to stay in contact with home.

Was it worth it? Without a doubt at twice the price! Jules Verne had the right idea, he just didn't have the right conveyances to cover as much ground as we did.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Underwater and Breathless

I was on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, near the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji, running out of air. Nothing to be alarmed about…yet. But you never want to drain the tank of its life-giving air supply. Once you hit the red zone on your pressure gauge, at 500 psi, as I had, it's time to move towards the surface. The deeper you go (I was moderately deep at 60 feet/20 meters), the faster the air is used up. Other influences on the consumption of the vital contents of my tank included the speed that I was moving, the effort that I was using, fatigue factors and anxiety, all of which dictated against staying longer underwater. But by breathing slowly, never panicking, a dive can last 30 minutes or more. No matter how long you are underwater, it never seems to be long enough. It is a fascinating world to explore. 
While this would be my first diving experience on this trip, and my first in the southern hemisphere, I have been diving for 15 years, albeit recreationally and sporadically. It is an incredibly satisfying experience, being under the water and sharing that world with innumerable strange, brightly colored fish, coral, and a freedom of movement largely unhindered by Parkinson's. But that is when I am in the water.

To prepare for entry into this aquatic wonderland, a lot of preparation is required. To start with, your body gets cold once you're below the waves, even though the water temperature is around 78°F (28°C). Without a wetsuit the water drains the heat from my body and I can begin shivering in temperatures that would feel warm on land. Of course, I started shaking before I even approached the water, which solicited comments from my dive mates who guessed right away that I had PD. I assured them that it would not influence my ability to dive, which they accepted at face value. I was thankful for that, as I'm never sure about how long that will be true. Actually, the most difficult part of the whole process was filling out and signing the necessary disclaimers and forms.

Next came the gear. Most important of which is called an "octopus". This is the connected system of hoses distributing my air supply in the tanks to four different places. Firstly, my breathing hose and apparatus. Secondly, my secondary breathing apparatus, tucked away for emergencies. Thirdly, my BCD (buoyancy control device), a vest-like garment upon which hang the air supply tank, the octopus, and any other paraphernalia I may wish. Fourthly, before putting on my fins and mask, there is a question of weight. Without a weight belt I would not likely be able to make it down to the depth required. One last special requirement: is to remove my hearing aids. Hearing underwater is not a prerequisite, and salt water does seems to damage delicate electronic instruments! 
When ready, over the edge of the dive boat I went, signaling that I had made the water entry safely and intact, then head down to the predetermined depth where I began my underwater odyssey (always with a buddy or a group). The second dive was in a place called "The Fish Market". The scenery was stunning. There was a massive amount of brightly colored fish, large groupers, and spindly, quasi-transparent trumpeter fish. There was the occasional shark (not the dangerous type), as well as sea turtles with their entourage of turtle-shell-cleaning fish. Perhaps the highlight in observations was the discovery of a 6 foot long moray eel, protecting its cave-like hiding place with bared teeth and a seeming readiness to attack as it darted forward a every time I got too close. The undersea world leaves one figuratively, but not literally, with one's mouth open. It is like submerging into a different land where language becomes meaningless and you are definitely a foreigner. It is aquatic adventure all on its own. 
The most dangerous part of the whole trip under the sea was getting back on the boat. While the undersea conditions were relatively calm, although subject to strong currents, the surface tossed the dive boat about on 8 to 10 foot swells, making the ladder hanging off the stern a potential weapon if you got too close at the wrong time. Grabbing hold and hanging on was akin to riding a bucking bronco, as it seemed to want to be free of your grasp rather than provide access to safety. The most challenging part followed: getting your equipment-laden, water-logged, tired body up the ladder.

Exhausted from the effort, I stumbled along the pitching deck to the bench where I found my towel. Between the exertion, feeling cold in the brisk wind and my Parkinson's tremor, I was shaking to the point of vibrating off the boat. 
Other than a toe that I had damaged trying to make it up the ladder, and my incessant shaking, the return from the seafloor left me unharmed and with a suitcase full of memories.  While writing this post, I realized how metaphorical my scuba diving seemed as I reenter a reality that may present challenges over the next several weeks and months. Regardless, like my temporary undersea venture, nothing can diminish the extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime, shake up my world journey of these past months.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When You Close Your Eyes How Young Are You?

Let no one mourn for me the loss of fitter, keener days.
For I have gained a great deal more from those investments made.
Grayed hair and shaky, hard of hearing, wrinkles and bad teeth;
The price of life’s marred choices?
Yet no hatred in me seethes.
And I'll wager my tomorrow to salvage what I can,
Gain wisdom from mistakes I made
Like any mortal man.

Yes, I am blessed,
For reasons undeserved,
With love and faith 
And hope beyond all measure.

Though contemplate my life I will
It leads me not to frown
Nor beat my chest and cry out "woe is me".
For I have lived threescore
And still am left to live some more.

What years ahead will bring
I know not yet, nor care
For there will be adventures still
And grand enough to dare
To learn and grow and live
It is enough to share.
The days ahead, the days behind
Need never be compared.

Though I may fail in body or in mind,
Or cease to see
Let no one urge me, "curse…and die"
A bitter, little me.
Remind me, those who call me friend, to live life purposely,
Until I close my eyes and care not what my age would be.

Fiji in Circles

It's called a "Bula Bus", "Bula" meaning "welcome" in Fijian. And a number of them provide transportation on a circular route picking up and dropping off at each of the eight or so resort hotels and the Port of Denarau (actually, more of a marina with a small shopping center adjacent). Denarau is one of the 332 islands comprising Fiji. The Bus normally took about a half an hour to do a complete circuit. It was dark, though not yet 9 PM, when I finished my steak dinner, with fries, at Cardo’s Steak House at the port/marina, strolled past shops that were closing, and stopped to listen to musicians playing in various restaurants along the wharf. It struck me repeatedly that, after having a fairly regimented schedule for the past nine weeks, I was now rather aimless. Other than boarding the plane for Los Angeles on Saturday, I had very little on my mind. Boarding the Bus, I asked to be dropped off at the golf club restaurant (which I had been told was good food at a reasonable price - Fiji being quite expensive). 
After being dropped off it took about five minutes to verify that there were no bargains, and I stood waiting for the next Bus to take me back to my temporary home (1200 ft.², two-bedroom second-floor apartment, with a large deck, all more than adequate for my needs). Although warm during the days, it was cool on the Bus as it hurried along making its various mandatory stops on the way. After 20 minutes it became apparent, even to me as a novice Bus rider, that we were doing a circular route that did not include my hotel. Jumping off at the next stop, I asked one of the friendly Fijians I met how to get the right bus. Pointing to a certain location adjacent to the road I assumed it was there that I should catch the next Bus (although I must admit I didn't understand most of what he said). The next Bus I got on seemed to be the correct one, however, it also seemed to be heading in exactly the wrong direction. After a short discussion with another passenger, I disembarked at the next stop and again sought directions, which were less intelligible than before. Instead of trying to understand I simply took matters into my own hands, stood in the road and waived the next Bus down, surely breaching the rules governing the pickup of passengers, and got on. Unfortunately, that particular Bus was none other than the first one I had caught, and was now heading to coffee break. After receiving directions again (repeated to the point of embarrassment), using similar tactics as I did on Bus three, I caught Bus number four, which deposited me on the doorstep of the lobby of my hotel, a shaky, frustrated and embarrassed person obviously caught in the clutches of Parkinson's.
 Having traveled around the world without major mishap, it was a mystery to me how it could take four buses to find my way just a few miles around an island. (Carson will attempt to take credit for his highly tuned geographic perceptions - don't believe a word of it. Ask him about driving in South Africa!). As I walked to my condo unit the metaphor created by the bussing misadventure struck me. Living is not so much comprised of long, well-planned journeys, but rather, life is full of short trips, taken without much thought, and without adequate directions, that have us going in circles. It is not being lost so much as being trapped by successively making the wrong decisions and not taking the time to figure out the efficient way to my destination

As you would expect, as the time approaches to return to home and its familiarity, I am motivated to make some changes. It would be easy for me to get caught up in all the global challenges that have been presented by this round the world tour: the big ideas, the grand schemes, the mega-projects. At the same time, I have realized that there is real danger in failing to focus on the daily in order to avoid mindlessly going in circles, getting "lost" in the uninspiring details. As humdrum as it may sound, life is full of "necessaries", which must be dealt with. Failure to do so can easily result in getting caught riding the Bula Bus in circles.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Television, Radio and Parkinson's Disease

Makeup? But it was not even 7 AM.  Right, it was television after all. I had to look my best even though I was representing a community of people who struggle every day and every night with a degenerative, chronic and incurable disease.  It somehow seemed terribly ironic.  Add to that the fact that I was trying to cope with the worst cold I had had in years, requiring a steady supply of tissues ready at hand. I had this pronounced fear that on live television I was either going to start sneezing (which I had managed to do 15 times in a row - a personal best - before I left my hotel room) or fail to recognize that I was dripping excretion from my numb red nose.  How was I supposed to look relaxed and communicate effectively in the four-minute "interview" jammed in before the news? 
Fortunately, while we waited in the green room with Sue (my Parkinson's New Zealand support person) I remembered some of my media training. "Don't let the interviewer control the agenda. Make sure you get across your message regardless of where the interviewer is going." Of course, that's easy to say when you know what questions are going to be asked, but in this case I walked onto the set, shook hands with the two hosts, sat down, dabbed at my nose and sniffed a little to make sure, then heard somebody say, "3, 2, 1. Rolling". A little more than three minutes later (they were short of time in order to hit the news at the top of the hour) and it was all over. No retakes, edits, outtakes or "can we try that again?" I waited patiently until a pause for commercials, got up, shook hands with my hosts (I did not even remember their names) and was escorted back to the lobby and outside.

It was not until after it was all over and I was reviewing the video online that I actually thought about what I had just done. Apart from a little tremor, I looked relaxed and "normal", not at all like a person with Parkinson's. How can you communicate that sometimes you shake so badly you can't get food to your mouth or drink a glass of water? How do you tell people that you never sleep through the night and wake up exhausted most mornings? How do you explain the embarrassment and confidence-crushing aspects of the disease? For some people with Parkinson's there is freezing of gait resulting in one being unable to move, looking more like a statue than a real person. For others it is flailing about, twisting and writhing uncontrollably with dyskinesia (a result of the medication), resembling a person possessed. So the uninformed public remains ignorant about Parkinson's because makeup and self-control for a three-minute spot may leave the impression that the disease is "not all that bad". I suppose that's the nature of the myopic beast called television. 
Radio New Zealand presented a different problem. No makeup was involved, and I was given about 15-20 minutes. But since most of the symptoms of Parkinson's can only be seen, not heard, how do you effectively communicate what it's all about? For some reason I was disappointed in the radio interview. Perhaps it was the fact that the interviewer, like me, was suffering from a bad cold, except that he was working from home and was not actually present in the room. More likely it was my discovery that the interview had been taped rather than being live, thereby giving room for editing without my involvement. However, I took some solace from the realization that both radio and TV have a disadvantage when dealing with Parkinson's. Who is going to question the legitimacy of such a devastating disease? (Okay, besides Rush Limbaugh)

The dilemma remains. If people with Parkinson's actually confront the public with a full display of their symptoms, sharing the painful and functionally debilitating symptoms, as well as the soul-crushing non-motor aspects of the disease, they will doubtless be accused of acting (as was Michael J Fox) and/or looking for sympathy. So, in large part, the public knows little about PD. For most, it remains a relatively unimportant affliction of the elderly; shaking and little more. All the more important to take every opportunity to correct the fallacies and misunderstandings.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

To Grow Old Disgracefully

New Zealanders are often rugged and irreverent individualists. Although they number only 4 million people, they are prone to be themselves and be heard, albeit their accent makes them less likely to be understood, at least by me. Nonetheless, Kiwis are welcoming, or at least that is what I found when I attended the Ulysses Club (Auckland chapter) as a guest of my local contact, Lloyd Jenkins. For those of you who do not know (and I did not know before arriving in New Zealand), this club is comprised of motorcyclists over the age of 40 who refuse to accept that riding motorbikes is only for the young. Their motto is the title to this post. There were people of every description, some fully decked out in leathers who, despite the cold weather, road their motorbikes to the meeting. Some of the retirement age attendees were bald, others were clean-shaven and had business haircuts, while others had beards of various types and had their long gray hair in a ponytail. The meeting began with food and drinks, and a lot of loud, but friendly, laughter and chatter, which was followed by a minimal amount of business and a maximum amount of fun. When introduced I played the part by announcing that I hadn't seen any mountains in New Zealand, only a few hills, and that if they were really wanted the best motorcycle rides they would have to come to British Columbia to find roads suitable. Goodhearted jeering followed. 
Upon returning to my hotel I felt an ancient memory probing my consciousness. As an English major in university, James Joyce's "Ulysses" was mandatory reading. I found the Irish author less than stimulating. Of course, there was also the Ulysses of the Greek mythological classic, "The Odyssey". It was not until I researched the origin of the Ulysses Club that I found and re-read the epic poem by Tennyson. 
To my discredit, I have spent very little time studying or even reading poetry since my undergraduate days as an English major. The practice of law naturally affords little opportunity to do so. But "Ulysses" spoke to me like no poem has for many years. I might not have related to it as a young man, as it is spoken by an old King. One who, despite his age and infirmities, yearns to see more of the world, experience adventure again and sense a purpose for his final years that is bigger than himself. It gave words to my longing to make more of life than would those who sit by some "still hearth", "As tho' to breathe were life!" It was reflective of my engagement with people and experiences around the world when it said, "I am part of all that I have met". The elderly narrator of the poem acknowledges the losses and limitations he has experienced. But he recognizes the desire, even the need, to fight against the seductive comfort.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
I was stirred by the poet's language, as he quotes the old man's commitment to unreservedly live life to the fullest, no matter the obstacles: "I will drink Life to the lees."
This classic poem speaks of purpose for the elderly, not relegation to "retirement". It preaches living life with a sense of importance not irrelevance, and contribution to our communities. The confluence of more than two months traveling around the world, facing the fears and limitations that come with Parkinson's, and approaching my 60th birthday next week all dictate a need to make decisions, commitments, and resolutions that will take me through the final phases of life. What will I do with this invaluable global experience? How will I reach out and serve the communities of which I am a part, making them part of a better world? How will I meet the challenges that lie ahead and reach beyond the limiting horizons? Maybe I'm part of a Ulysses generation. Maybe his battle cry will be echoed by those of us who struggle with the reality of aging. It's not too late to sail beyond the sunset.

Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
…Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Upside Down Down Under

The sails snapped crisply, catching the wind as we crossed the start line of the Wednesday afternoon yacht race, the 38 foot craft cutting through the protected waters of Sydney Harbour. Thankfully, my role was  simple; I was the "grinder". For the most part this necessitated taking hold of the winch handle and, upon command, cranking it quickly to trim the jib sail, allowing it to maximize its power and pull the sail boat forward through the waves. The primary effort was expended upon "coming about" (tacking into the wind to change direction). I welcomed the intermittent "grinding" as it was enough to keep me warm. Despite the mostly sunny afternoon, rain clouds sent threatening droplets from time to time and the air was cool as the boat sliced through the water. Regardless, we could not have asked for a better view of Sydney, its innumerable inlets, famous opera house and bridge skyline. It reminded me very much of a combination of the Vancouver and Victoria harbours back home, and my days as a novice crew member sailing on "Choiseul” and various similar races. Sailing again had me imagining that I was on a round the world voyage, covering great distances and leaping from country to country in a single bound. The scenery of the city waterfront, the memories of yacht racing when I was a young man and the recognition that we were on an epic journey simultaneously flooded my senses. The silly grin that occupied my face signalled I was undoubtedly enjoying every minute of it.

We had arrived in Australia on Sunday at about 12:30 PM., and immediately following touchdown at Sydney International Airport we experienced a series of shocks to our systems. While only a two hour time difference between Singapore and Sydney, the two cities seemed to me to be worlds apart. Of course, this was amplified by the fact that we were disoriented, having been up most of the night due to the flight schedule (departing Singapore at 10:30 PM on Saturday, arriving at the small airport in Darwin on Sunday early morning at 4:30 AM, where we waited for flight leaving to Sydney at 7:30 AM). Despite jumping from country to country every few days for the past seven weeks, switching countries and cultures was something we were never entirely prepared for. A blast of cold air came down the pedway between the plane and the terminal announcing that Australia's winter had replaced the sultry, tropical weather we had experienced in Singapore, Thailand, India and the prior stops in Africa. While the skies were mostly clear, it sporadically rained lightly; therefore jackets were required during the day, with a fleece added at night whenever we were out. These were parts of our wardrobe that had rarely been used since the Andes Mountains. 
The second thing that knocked us off balance was returning to the familiarity of a completely westernized nation, which reminded us of home and the realization that our adventure would soon be over. Perhaps for the first time in several months, rather than looking forward to the events to come, we found ourselves more often looking back at the memories and recalling people we had met. We had so many stories to tell it was hard not to dominate conversations with them. 
Australia was a very comfortable place to visit. The Aussies were very welcoming for Carson, Parky and me. Chris and Pam suspended their own priorities and privacy for us, despite never having met us before. Their home became our home, and we soon felt like part of the family, joking and teasing over the most delicious porridge for breakfast or laughing over an evening meal as we shared stories of our travels.  They were our sacrificial hosts and provided transportation, or directions and instructions in order to travel the trains, to and from our various meetings and appointments. Getting to know many members of the Sydney Parkinson's community was a highlight.  This included having dinner with John and Becky Silk, discussing matters with researchers and neurologists, meeting and sharing with members and staff of the New South Wales Parkinson's Society, participating in Clyde Campbell's latest Parkinson's disease awareness video filming, and enjoying that unforgettable afternoon sailing with Andrew Whitton and his friends. There are so many people to thank for the extraordinary experience in Australia. 
The skipper and his five crew members (including Carson and me) cheered as we crossed the finishing line third in our class. But at the same time we were celebrating our sailing success I found myself pondering the past two months.  How would I ever hang on to the memories of the unrepeatable experiences, maintain the irreplaceable relationships with the wonderful people I met, and retain the profound sense of gratitude I had for it all? Truly it has been a once-in-a-lifetime, legendary journey that has changed me. My world has been turned upside down forever.