Monday, January 30, 2017

Marathon Sans Frontières: Knee update

Got the results from the MRI today. They're not good. Cartilage damage and inner meniscus tear. There's a lack of "Kniegelenkerguss," whatever that is, and something else between the tractus iliotibialis and the diaphyseal femur is irritated. Probably due to Trump.
I was given all this info on a fax sent by the MRI people to Dr. Gunter Frenzel and tried deciphering it while I waited to see him. A friend I texted asked a physiotherapist who said, "you'll eventually need surgery, and running might be a bit of a problem."
But Dr. Frenzel was more upbeat. He went through the images on a screen, pointed out the damage. He said he didn't want to operate – I told him I didn't want him to either – and he suggested I just needed to take it easy, not do anything strenuous. He told me how to get up after sitting down, not to kneel on the floor, not to put any pressure on the knee at all.
I told him I'm running the marathon in Madrid in April, less than 12 weeks away, and asked if that was now out the window. He said no! He asked me about the pain now and if I was training already. I said I was, I never really stopped. I told him I'd back problems the last couple of weeks and the hip was still troubling me since the crash but he didn't think they were related.
He told me to take a tablet the night before the marathon and another after it, painkiller/anti-inflammatory, that it'll hurt for two or three weeks afterward, but one marathon in a year might be OK.
He was going to prescribe the tablets for me to try out in training but I told him they gave me heart palpitations the last time he prescribed them, before the ill-fated Berlin marathon. So he scrapped that.
He told me to go for it, keep going, keep training, and to go back to him in four weeks for another check-up. So that's what I'll do. Meanwhile I'm booking flights for Madrid.
I didn't run in Cuba – the young fella didn't want to run with me – but I've been swimming (once) and running since I got back, through frozen forests, across frozen meadows, around frozen lakes. I'm not going to win this marathon, I just have to run it.
If you didn't know by now, it’s for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in Syria. I know all the media attention is now on the U.S. thanks to that fuckhead in the White House, but I can assure you, the people he's shunning in Syria still need help. They're humans! Mothers, fathers, children who deserve lives free from bombs like anyone else.
So far, thanks to your generous support, we've raised €1,861. Once I get paid for January I'm topping it up to €2,000. I transferred €1,500 to MSF already but I'll transfer another €500 then. They need it.
Donations are more welcome than ever!
IBAN DE09500105175554452542 (BIC: INGDDEFFXXX) or the donate button below.



Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cuba: Postscript

Cuba was brilliant – better even than I imagined. It was great traveling with the young fella for two weeks, a real privilege. He enhanced the trip. I know he enjoyed it too, had some experiences he will probably never forget. I certainly did.
He said on the last day that it was better than he expected, though I’m not really sure what he was expecting. I mean, Jaysus, he’s still only a young fella even if he’s six now. He said a lot of funny things and garnered a lot of admirers, though broke a few hearts when he wouldn’t return their kisses. “¡Que lindo!” they’d say. But they wouldn’t get any kisses, not one beso.
There was no plan. We just followed our noses and they led us to many wonderful places. It was a trip full of highlights, lots of little personal highlights, like an old woman’s huge smile when I simply waved hello.
There was little to no internet available though, so I wasn’t able to post pictures or words as we went along, like I did from Mexico and Guatemala, or Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
I took 2,954 photos this time but have barely even looked at them. I need to go through them and delete the crap ones. Maybe they’re all crap.
I took notes at the end of every day, sometimes during the day on buses or whenever there was a spare moment. So instead of writing one long post about Cuba I’ll just post my notes and a selection of photos from that particular day. It means I won’t have to go through all the photos at once – there were 331 on the first day alone – and maybe they’ll help keep the magic alive a little longer.


UPDATE: Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – All the posts are now dated correctly so you can peruse them without unnecessary confusion. All confusion is unnecessary of course, so I’m only too happy to reduce it where possible.
Here they are:
Cuba 1: La Habana
Cuba 2: Plaza de la Revolución
Cuba 3: Hasta Viñales
Cuba 4: Valle de Viñales
Cuba 5: Cayo Jutías
Cuba 6: Cienfuegos
Cuba 7: Jagua
Cuba 8: El Nicho
Cuba 9: Laguna Guanaroca
Cuba 10: Cocodrilos / Bay of Pigs
Cuba 11: Regreso
Cuba 12: Playa / Fortaleza / Malecón
Cuba 13a: Último día en La Habana
Cuba 13b: El Leon de Oro
Cuba 14: KLM flight 724

I’m not going to go back and tidy up the notes so they’re more readable – I just don’t have the time. There are other things to write, other things to do. It’s been ages since I took care of Abandoned Berlin – I don’t want people to think it’s been abandoned.

Here are some more notes I took while on the road. I may as well post them here as anywhere:
Everywhere you go in Cuba there are vultures circling silently overhead.
Public squares are full evenings with people's faces illuminated by smartphones as they check email or internet through public wifi. Nobody, or next to nobody, has internet at home.
Horse-drawn carriages ply the roads with pedestrians, bikes, buses, old Soviet trucks and the ubiquitous coches antiguos. Most of the bikes have baskets behind the saddles for hauling around bread or ice cream or whatever the hell it is they bring around.
Nobody is in a hurry anywhere. People just stand around talking, usually with smiles on their faces. All of a Cuba is a giant social club.
Cuban business owners will try shaft tourists if they can. Bills take on unexpected add-ons, people in toilets demand money no matter how filthy or unsavory they are – some of them would make you gag with the smell – but if you challenge them or wonder where the got the numbers, they back down straight away, sometimes to the point of their detriment, making bills even less than they would have been if they were just totted up correctly.
But Cuba is safe. There’s no sign of any trouble anywhere, we never had the feeling of danger. Crime is only petty, usually. There are heavy penalties if you're caught selling drugs or in possession of a gun. Apparently prisons are full and unpleasant.

And here are some more photos too – why the hell not? They’ll have to do ye for the time being until we go back and take more.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cuba 14: KLM flight 724

Rained last night, with vengeance, lashed down. Still stormy now. Maybe Cuba doesn’t want us to go. SMS arrived to stay flight delayed. Should get up to shower and pack but feeling little motivation for leaving. But the bed’s too uncomfortable in any case – back still sore – I’ll get up.

Guy beside me at breakfast puts sugar in his pineapple juice, loads of it! And chocolate in his coffee. Grumpy looking fucker too. You’d think he’d be happier.

Socialism or death.
Love this island.
(Slogans on way to airport.)

Airport is full of freaks, caricatures of themselves. A horrible old German couple demand coffee from the cocktail guy, in German. He points them to the coffee counter. “Nee, wir standen hier schon ewig.” He points again. “Ok denn, Wasser. Zwei.” I tell them he doesn’t speak German, have to translate. They get their water after commenting on how useless the bar man is. Meanwhile I get two mojitos and three free sandwiches. Cuba is what you make of it.

Another mojito for the road. Take off. Hasta la próxima Cuba, hasta pronto, hasta siempre!

Young fella struggling with the fancy earphones KLM handed out: “How the feck do you do them on your ears?” Dumbo is apparently the best film ever made. Second time watching it, he doesn’t even want water or anything. “Nothing!”

Watch Russian film, Moscow Never Sleeps (by an Irish guy and supported by the Irish Film Board?!), then Woody Allen’s Manhattan. “Nothing worth knowing can be understood by the mind.”

3 mojitos, 2 whiskeys.

Toilets in Amsterdam are the opposite of toilets in Cuba – they have seats and they flush, repeatedly, non-fucking-stop, like the voice on a loop saying “mind your step” over and over and over and over… Get me back to Berlin. It ain’t Cuba but it’s better than this.

Landed in gloom and doom, grey dull foggy Berlin. It’s fucking raining too. Any color we had has jumped off our skin in fright and thrown itself under the plane’s wheels. We’re back.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Cuba 13b: El Leon de Oro

The bakery, the “Golden Lion” bakery. Aurelio y Roberto. Aurelio saw me taking photos outside and asked if we’d like to take a look inside. I did, so I beckoned the young fella who was off climbing a pole, and we followed Aurelio in.
He brought us out the back, to where the ovens are, and introduced us to the other lads, busy kneading dough on a counter. Then to the cold room, which spewed a cloud of mist when he opened the door. Young fella went in, huge smile, amazed. Poked at the dough till I told him not to touch it.
Aurelio showed him everything, the mixers, the ovens, the trays. He pulled trays out of the ovens, put others in. Gave us hot bread to taste. Roberto showed the young lad how to knead the dough, another showed him how to roll it. The rolled dough was to make crackers.
Aurelio said they were only allowed make three types of bread. Bakery is run by the government. He’s been working there since 1994. Eighteen hour shifts. One day on, the next day off. He said I look like the singer from Abba, dunno which one he meant...
Bakery opens at 7am, closes at 6am. Has been running since 1936. Owner used to live in apartment upstairs. The only one in the street at the time. I think. It doesn’t make sense, could be translation issue. Unless he means it was the only bakery on the street at the time. Yes, that makes more sense…
The whole thing was amazing. I told Aurelio I loved Cuba, especially for the people, so warm and inviting. “You don’t feel like a tourist but a guest,” I told him. He said they like to make friends. Well, we were all amigos by the end. Handshakes and high-fives all round when leaving.
Bought a bag of bread out the front. Aurelio didn’t ask for any money but I gave him 3 cucs. He was grateful. The bread went mostly to kids – one on the street we met who kept looking at us and the rest to kids playing football, the next story