Wednesday, April 23, 2008

10K!

The 10k Vancouver Sun Run has been taking place each year, on the third (sometimes fourth) Sunday of April, since 1985. For the first time, I joined this year, not as a runner but as a walker. I was among the 59,179 people, the biggest number ever, who registered for the run. I joined our corporate team. Bud joined too as my companion and unofficial photographer. It's more fun to have a walking or running buddy to say Bilisan mo!!.

To prepare for the Sun Run, I went on the treadmill for two weeks. This was a short preparation but I had been swimming for several weeks. I felt I was good to go. I love walking.


Our corporate team before the run. That's me on the left corner.
Eleven of us were either runners or walkers. The rest went there to support the team.


The weather in Vancouver was near freezing that Sunday morning. It was chilly at 3 degrees. I had only a shirt, a sweater and a cap. And warm gym pants. During the Sun Run, people wear layers of clothing and many shed some along the way--sweaters, gloves, sweatpants, toques, even runners--as they begin to warm up. Thousands of articles of clothing are left on the fences and roadside which are later donated to the Salvation Army.


Waiting for the run to start.

The race started in waves. I was with the white group, the walkers, as you can see on my the colour of my bib. We were the fourth, out of 6, waves to leave the start line. By the time our group crossed the starting line, the first wave--the fastest runners--were nearing the finish line.

Registered participants had a time chip tied to our shoelaces. It recorded the time we crossed the starting line and then the time we stepped over the finish line.


Go! Go! Go!

The atmosphere was very festive. There were cheerers and live bands along the way. Lots of water stands and pit stops too. When I saw a Striders' Pit stop with tons of mini-bagels, bananas and oranges, I stopped to eat. I wasn't even hungry, nor was I a strider. I must have lost at least 5 minutes because of that.


Yay! Free food! Striders' pit stop near the English Bay.



Thousands before me...



...and thousands behind me.

I brisk-walked most of the way and ran some. My favourite stretch of road was coming down Burrard Bridge.


On Burrard Bridge

About 3 kms to the finish line, I sensed my left arm was very cold and numb. I quickly donned back my sweater. By this time, I was beginning to get exhausted so I took it easy till I got a second wind. My fourth second wind, actually.

Less than a kilometre to the finish line, people on the sidewalks were cheering and encouraging every one. Just 1 more kilometre to go! I saw Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan on his wheelchair with a woman standing by his side. I waved at the mayor as I passed by him. I was quite pleased to see him and very surprised he had no bodyguards! I have never seen that in the Philippines.



Almost there. You can make it, lerryblossoms!


I picked up speed again in the last 50 metres. Several cameras were taking official photos that will be sold for at least least $16.

We proceeded to the BC Place where my team had decided to regroup. There were more food and drinks inside. Winners were announced.



I clocked 1:40:50 and placed 35,517th. Deduct from that the time I ate and posed for photographs. In any case, I did not really set a time goal. I was just happy to be able to finish without having leg cramps or collapsing midway. Next year, I will train longer, run more, and finish earlier. No more stopping to eat!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Telemarketers

One telephone company frequently calls our house to offer long distance service and mobile phones. It has become really irritating because its agents call us over and over, sometimes two days in a row or two times a week even after we have asked that our number be deleted from their call list. How annoying is that?

If the company offering the goods and services were in Canada, we could make a complaint to an appropriate agency and the company could be fined $100 if they called again, according to a friend of ours. I'm not sure about that.

But this telephone company I'm writing about is not Canada-based. Its agents call us from different parts of the US--at least that's what they say--and they are all Filipinos.

By now, I am already quite familiar with their oft repeated lines--

"Hello, is this Mrs. Blossoms?" an agent opens with a strange Americanized accent. That is the first giveaway. I respond with some hesitation.

"Are you Filipino, Ma'am?" he or she is sure to ask. The second giveaway. When I say yes, the person on the other line starts speaking in Tagalog and asking questions like where I came from in the Philippines, etc. etc.

If I'm not busy, I entertain the call and answer the questions as patiently as I can until I have the chance to decline the offer. Very often, the agent will keep on talking. Won't let me off that easily.

"Mom, why do you keep on talking?" my son asks. My sons have become exasperated by these calls and sometimes they get exasperated with me when I talk too long with telemarketers on the phone. I will just say no to their offers anyway.

"They are just doing their job," I respond. I don't blame them for trying to make some sales. I even feel sorry for them sometimes. Good luck na lang sa yo ha?

"You'll never know if you'll work in a call centre someday," I tell my children. What comes around goes around. Don't be rude. Who knows if you will be on the other end of the call?

One day I got a call from someone raising funds for some expensive equipment for our city hospital. At that time, Gino was working as a fundraiser at UBC and getting very little results. I decided to donate a small amount to the hospital as an investment for Gino. You know, the principle of sowing and reaping. I did not have much to donate, but I sowed that Gino might reap the result. I remember him coming home from work a few days later very happy about raising more than a hundred dollars, more than the little I invested. I can't say for sure that my gift had anything to do with it, but I'd like to believe so.

It's for this reason that I try to be nice to telemarketers. It's for my family or myself who might do this kind of job some day. Remember the Golden Rule?

It must be difficult to work at a call centre. I had same experience at work when we had a yearend call campaign. That stretched me even if we were not selling anything and those we were calling were already friends of our non-profit organization. How much harder it must be to make cold calls and sell goods and services!

"Sorry, I'm already satisfied with my long distance provider," I always tell agents of this telephone company I was referring to earlier. "Besides, we hardly make long distance calls to the Philppines."

I have been sucked by a phone sales agent into getting two cellphones that were about to be phased out. I have changed long distance providers a few times in this way too. I almost got a vacation offer to Cancun. But now I am very cautious and suspicious of anything offered by phone. I have pat answers to telemarketers and they always start with "Sorry..." If I don't give them any sales, at least I could give them some courtesy. Telemarketers are people too, not automated answering machines.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Waste not, waist not

When I was a young child, I thought rice I left on my plate at mealtime cried to God while I was asleep. Iiyak ang kanin. Maybe this was one of those things people said to discourage children from wasting their food. This one was easy to outgrow.

Other statements about not wasting food, however, were ingrained in my consciousness, such as the simple statement, Huwag mag-aksaya, meaning, waste not. You've heard them said:

Waste not, want not.
Think of all the poor children in (some poor country or area).
That is hard-earned money.
etc., etc....


So from a young age I knew it was wrong to waste food. The problem was, I often misjudged my appetite or how much my small tummy could hold. In order to assuage my guilt if I had leftovers, especially at parties where I'd load up my plate with special dishes, I would give them to my father or mother--eapecially my father--to finish. More often than not, he'd take them.

When we had children, Mr. Blossoms and I began instilling in them this waste-not mentality as soon as they learned to feed themselves. "Finish your food." At that time, I still hadn't read that forcing children to clean their plates can lead to obesity. Fortunately, none of our boys have any problem with being overweight. Now I try to say, "Get only what you can finish." But occasionally I default back to saying Finish your food.

Like me when I was growing up, they would offer their leftovers to me or their dad. I would usually take them. I would even eat, without them asking, what was left their on their plates after I have had my fill. Sayang.

One day, we met a missionary couple who came back from serving in South America. They related how people at their head office noticed that they were gaining weight. By the wife's narration, it seemed that being missionaries, and especially coming from the Philippines, they had the habit of eating their children's leftovers. They could not let food go to waste.

"Let it go to waste than to your waist," their supervisor, or whoever it was they reported to, advised. As missionaries, they needed to be healthy and not dealing with all sorts of ailments that come with being overweight.

I wonder how much of my waist or my hips right now was a result of "guilt". I'll call this guilt fat, accummulated through years of chowing down my children's leftovers while they were growing up. Ang daming walang makain. Many people are starving. As if I could help their plight by eating on their behalf.

I have become a bit wiser now. I refuse to eat what my children can't, unless I was really planning to have the same serving anyway. I am learning to say no. No to leftover food on someone else's plate!

"But I want to get dessert," Markus told me at a church potluck party last week as he tried to get me to get his half-full plate.

"No, Markus, I don't want to get fat. Just throw it in the trash," I replied.

That sounds shameless, doesn't it? I really prefer that food be not wasted. I feel bad when it is. But if the choice is between wasting and waist-ing, I think I know the lesser evil to choose.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

1k today!

I did it!! I swam a total distance of 1 km today, and there's a story behind it.

You see, early this year, I injured my left shoulder playing boxing with my boys. Not the contact sport, but the one on the Wii. I ignored it believing I just pulled a muscle and the pain would simply go away. It didn't. Days passed, weeks passed, the pain lingered. Then I kept re-injuring the same arm. Several times, in fact, just from doing normal activities.

About that time, I started seeing a massage therapist to have a back massage. I told her about my left shoulder and she worked on that too. On my third visit, she said I could be developing what was called a frozen shoulder whereby that part of your body loses significant movement, sometimes gradually.

"Some people don't even realize it until they can hardly reach their head to comb their hair," she said. I was alarmed because I was already struggling with reaching my back. My left hand went only as far as my left hip.

She gave me some exercises to do daily and suggested that I use hot and cold compress alternately on the part where it hurt.

"Another good thing is to go to the sauna for 5 minutes, then run cold shower on your shoulder, then back to the sauna... Always end with the cold. Swimming is also very good..." she advised.

And so I started swimming. I hadn't been to the pool in a long time, nor to the sauna. Since suffering from tendonopathy on my right arm last year, I lost my momentum in going to the gym. I was just beginning to go on the elliptical again. I thought I would swim for a change and to get my arms moving. Mr. Blossoms agreed to come with me because I was uncomfortable going to a public pool alone.

On our first visit to the pool at Fitness World, I realized how much movement I had lost on my left shoulder. I could not swim with it! I struggled to do the breast stroke using mainly my right arm and I had to kick harder too. I think I managed to do only a few laps. One lap was 18 meters or 72 feet.

Two days later, we went to the pool again. My arm was surprisingly better. I did 10 laps. After a week, I increased it to 12 laps. I kept going to the pool even as Mr. Blossoms had stopped going because the water was irritating his skin. Usually, there were only a few people in the pool between 6:30 to 7 in the morning, so I was okay by myself. I followed each swim with at least 5 minutes in the sauna, which is oh so relaxinggg...ahhh so goood... Then I do the hot and cold shower.

On the third week, I increased my laps to 20. And then I set a goal. I'd aim for 1K! At the rate I was going, I expected to achieve this in about 6 months.

Last week, I ate a cupcake and and a slice of chocolate cake left over from a conference at work. I told my officemate I would just increase my laps the next morning. So I did 24 laps.

Today, being Saturday, I had more time to swim. If I could do 24, I could aim for 30. When I got to 30 I thought I could do 40. I kept computing the distance I had covered. 40 times 18 equals, ummm, 10 times 18 equals 180 times 2 equals 360 times 2 equals 720...

When I reached 40, I thought I might as well do 45. But after the 40th lap, multiplying by 18 became harder and harder, I had to stop at the end of each lap and multiply on my hand. 47 laps times 18, ahh, ahh...I'll just do 50. It was much easier to multiply 18 by a multiple of 10. So that was how I ended up doing 50 laps. 5 times 18 equals 5 times 8 equals 40 carry over 4. 1 times 5 equals 5 plus 4, 9... 900 metres!

I just need to swim 100 metres more! How many laps is that? 100 divided my 18...I was too tired to think... I'll just do 60 to round it off.

I had been in the water for a little over an hour and my eyes hurt already. Although I felt I could swim some more, my eyes were hurting me. I stopped at 60.

60 times 18 equals 6 times 8 carry over 4. 6 times 1 equals 6 plus 4... 1,080. I did more than a thousand metres!!

So that's the story behind the 1km. But the best thing is I achieved it sooner than I thought!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Au revoir!

Here’s the last of this travelogue series – promise! I just want to complete this to give me a sense of having gone full circle. I want to finish what I started, and not leave things hanging.

So I’ve come to the point where Gino and I part our ways. He had to go back that Monday night to Avignon. I was flying to Vancouver Tuesday afternoon. I had another night in a Paris hostel by myself with some strangers in a bedroom. Just one of the things that come with traveling cheap.

Having somewhat familiarized myself with the Paris Metro, I knew which trains to take from Three Ducks hostel to the Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport, the second largest airport in Europe next to Heathrow in London. Unfortunately, train workers had declared a strike starting that Tuesday, and though not all lines would cease operation at the same time, nobody could tell us which ones would go first.

“I don’t like to take the risk,” I told Gino. “I will check out of the hostel tonight and sleep at the airport.” One French guy at the ticketing window told us the strike would not be till 6pm, which was after my 3:15pm flight, but it all seemed too uncertain and I didn't feel good about it. Listen to your instincts.

“Mom, is that allowed at the airport?... What about your breakfast at the hostel?...” Gino asked me a series of questions.

Yeah, people sleep at airport terminals, and if not allowed, I’d worry about that later… Never mind the cheap breakfast of one bun and butter and a cup of coffee... Never mind the 17 euros I had paid for that night. It's still cheaper than the 60 euros taxi fare, that is, if I could even get a taxi to the airport... I had it all calculated in my head.

So Gino and I checked out of the hostel at the same time. He dropped me off at a subway station where I could get the RER train to the terminal. He kept reminding me about getting on the right train to the right direction. He had been "training" me on the intimidating train system of Paris, and now it was time for me to go it alone. He was probably as anxious about it as I was. We hugged, said goodbye. I'll miss Gino. Au revoir!

After about 45 minutes on the train, I was very relieved to get to CDG. I made it! I called Gino’s cellphone as soon as I saw a payphone inside the terminal. His train was about to leave while I still had 17 hours to spend waiting for my flight.

I changed seats a few times until I decided to sit near a more public area to avoid being targeted by a thief or a perv in the darker parts of the terminal. I stayed near a concession stand and not too far from the restrooms. As the night wore on, the number of people became fewer, the stores closed...

Normally I could sleep easily anytime anywhere anyhow so I tied my luggage to my wrists and used a bag as a pillow so nothing would be stolen from me during my sleep. But this time, I dozed in and out because the noisy machines that polished and cleaned the floor started rolling. I think they started doing some maintenance work at the hangar too. Banging, banging, banging... I wished I had brought a couple of ear plugs from Gino's apartment. I thought it would be get quieter. NOT!

A man, who I swear looked like Mr. Bean on downers, was walking around the terminal, approaching people for money or cigarette perhaps, and listening in on people's conversations. He approached me too as soon as I arrived and spoke to me in French.

"No... English," I replied. I was not about to converse with a non-English speaking stranger, a man at that. Catatonic Mr. Bean approached me again later and so did another weird-looking guy. I didn't bother to understand what they wanted. I simply said no.

Trying to pass the time, I continued to read my book The Rest of God, which I so needed at that moment. I was physically exhausted. My adrenalin glands had been overworked, my legs and feet felt very heavy. I just had enough energy for the time Gino and I were together. I thought if I had another day on my itinerary, it would have been useless. The spirit was willing. The body was not.

I considered this down time at the terminal as a productive one because I was reading a very refreshing book. I had time to meditate in the midst of all the airport noises and movements.

Finally, it was boarding time. I had a pleasant flight to Vancouver. My journey was almost over.

Landing at YVR, I immediately called Mr. Blossoms so he could pick me up. I figured that the time it would take him to get to the airport would be about the same time I would claim my luggage.

"Don't park anymore. I'll wait outside at the curb," I said, thinking of saving on the parking fee of about $10.

As I stood by the carousel waiting for my luggage, I realized it was taking toooo looong. I had been very calm and collected during my vacation, but this time I got really impatient. I was fidgeting and sighing a lot. I found it rather ironic to be feeling that way when I was practically home. I think the tension arose from the fact that I had to be at the waiting area when Bud arrived so we would not miss each other. I didn't even know where that waiting area was, and neither did he.

"Oh God, pleaaaase delay him...." I muttered over and over.

After a long wait, the luggage arrived and I started looking for the spot where cars stopped and loaded arriving passengers. It was not where I expected it to be. I stood there watching every car that passed, which was not that easy as it was already dark. I waited and waited a little more. Maybe he was here earlier? Did he park somewhere? Is he inside the terminal? I called the house and learned from Mickey that his dad had left about an hour ago. He should be here.

Finally I saw our car coming, but Mr. Blossoms drove by me and was a little late realizing it. He had to drive around and come back to where I was.

"Mom! Mom!" I heard a familiar voice calling. It was Markus. His dad had dropped him off to let me know he was going around.

When Mr. Blossoms finally arrived, I noticed he was even more tensed than I was. He explained why he was late in coming.

"I got confused on the bridge to the freeway because Markus and I were chatting and took a wrong turn. I only realized it when I saw the sign to White Rock," he explained. He drove to the opposite direction! That delayed him for an hour or so.

"I prayed that God would delay you," I said, smiling and much relieved.

"No wonder!" he said. God answers prayers!

I went home to a waiting brood, all eager to check what was in my luggage from Europe. I gave each one their presents even those I meant for a future birthday and for Christmas.

Thank You, Lord! I was home safe. My family was safe. The house was in order. And I had a great time! Good job, you guys!

So that was my vacation. Quite an adventure till the end.

Finis!