They had kept him warm, they had kept him safe...

They found him sitting under a tree, snow up to his waist.

Wolf tracks formed a circle around him, imprints of the beasts scattered, showing where they had laid.

They had stood guard throughout the night, patiently waiting for the child to find what he was looking for.

The child showed no fear, no signs of harm, no sense of discomfort.

They had kept him warm, they had kept him safe.

They would keep him until the day he passed, an entire life later.

Ankle on top of the world...

The rolled ankle.

Every baller experiences it at some point.  Its inevitability does little to lessen the frustration when it ends up happening to you.

Last night's ankle injury reminds me that I haven't shared the story of my ankle and the Himalayas...

It's late September, and there are only a handful of days left in the Big Bang Ballers Nepal Tour 2012.  We're all excited today; we're heading out to a school we have previously sponsored, and it's going to be an adventure into the heart of Nepal's mountains.  We're told it's a few hours by truck, and another few hours hike... we should have started worrying right about here, since the time kept changing from 4 and 2 to 6 and 3... nevertheless, we grab our bags, our basketball supplies, the gifts for the kids, and head to meet the truck.

There are 8 of us; we find our transportation is an old Defender with 6 seats... After about an hour of packing the truck and squeezing ourselves into the vehicle in a manner which would make for a great submission to Cirque de Soleil, we set off on our adventure, the anticipation and excitement and happiness rising.  After all, this is what we love to do most, and any setback or strange occurrence is always the basis for great memories later.

As usual, I chose the window seat... watching the world fall away alongside a cliff so high you can barely make out the bottom is both one of the most incredible and terrifying experiences I have ever had.

Through villages, towns and police checkpoints, along roads narrow, muddy, dusty and miserable, through potholes and overgrown tracks we rode, walked alongside and pushed the vehicle until many, many hours later, we were caught in mud high on a peak of a mountain.  We tried valiantly to unwedge the vehicle, at times flagging down monstrous cargo trucks seemingly built in Soviet Russia to transport goods across Hell and back, tying up our truck and attempting to at times both pull and push it out of its place, with no success.

Having travelled for so long, we asked our guide and fellow Big Bangs how much further to the village, as the sun was now setting and we were too far from anywhere else to stay.  Hearing that the trek was only a few hours until our destination, we dutifully gathered our gear, handed some bags to porters who incredibly appeared from nowhere, and began our trek.

There is spiritual quality about trekking in the wilderness.  No matter what the terrain or where I am, I always find myself at peace, able to enjoy the world around me without the pressures of everyday life.  In the midst of this incredible terrain, overlooking peaks glowing mystically in the remaining few rays of light of the day, watching the tiny lights of miniscule villages so far away and yet so clear for lack of other obstruction in the way, I managed to roll my ankle.

Idiot.

Not watching where I'm going.  What a rookie mistake.

I've played full games on rolled ankles, and thinking to myself that we had already been hiking for an hour, with only another hour to go, I would be fine, though in a little pain.

Almost 6 hours later, surrounded by darkness, with only a couple of lights, no water, leeches on our bodies, torn-nerved and stressed, having lost our way a couple times due to the landfalls of the week, we all collapsed on the front porch of our host.

My ankle was enlarged, sore, black, blue, red and purple... a few leeches had fed so much from it that they had fallen off by themselves, too gorged to continue to hang on...

I went into the most deep meditative state I could to deal with the pain.  Then I lay down on my mattress and blacked out.

The next day we ran a full day camp for the kids of the village.  I gave no thought to the ankle; what we do is like a drug; you're so involved and so focused on the task at hand that nothing else gets in the way.

That night, sore and battered, I passed out again, wary of the further pain I had inflicted.

The next morning, terror.  I couldn't move.

The slightest turn of my body sent lightening rods of pain shooting up and down my leg.

We were to leave in an hour, and my motivation to suck it up and take the pain was simple; I was to board a flight from Kathmandhu the next day and meet my Sun, my Queen, at the airport in Sydney and fly again to celebrate our 1st wedding anniversary.

I swung my legs below me, stood up, vomited a little, waited until the blackout and spots went away, packed my bags and joined my team.

Off we went.

6 hours.  6 long hours.

Ju carried my bag, bless that man, and we managed to finally arrive at a village where a truck was waiting for us to take us home... not just any truck, the same one which was bogged down days before.

My ankle, now ready to seek a separation order from my body, was now the worst it had been so far.  Every jolt of the 5 or so hour drive back to Kathmandhu brought me closer to passing out.  Somehow, mercifully, I remained conscious until we arrived.

By the time I boarded my flight home the next day, the pain had subsided to a constant throbbing, rather than a screaming mess of nerve and muscle.  Seated in my chair, relieved I would be home in time to whisk my wife away, I was feeling comfortable in spite of the pain.

The air pressure of the flight wouldn't allow that to last.

From Kathmandhu to Dubai, from Dubai to Sydney, my ankle went through Hulk-esque changes in size, eventually deciding that it would just stay angry and remain the giant beast that it was.  I took the opportunity in Dubai to pick up my wife's anniversary gift, which I had special ordered some 10 days before, and then promptly throw up every momo I had ingested to that date.

Lovely.

I finally reach Sydney.  Broken and beaten, I make it through customs, pick up my bags, head out the door and see my Reason for Being, her smile lighting up the arrival lounge.

Now bear in mind my wife has no idea at this point what I've been through.

She runs to me, jumps in may arms, and attaches herself tightly.  I stand there, my wife in my arms, trying desperately not to fall or cause her to fall.

My ankle endures one more flight, and I reward it by soaking it in a bathtub for the next few hours...

To this day I still feel a slight twinge in it, and have become much more wary of how prepared and aware I am in the wild.

It's wonderful what you can endure when you have to.

Madiba...

Happy birthday, Tata.  For 30 years you have been a guiding light, an inspiration in perseverance and patience and faith.

The world, my world, has been better for your existence.

Thank you for your unconquerable soul.

William Ernest Henley. 1849–1903
 
Invictus
OUT of the night that covers me, 
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
  For my unconquerable soul. 
  
In the fell clutch of circumstance         5
  I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
  My head is bloody, but unbowed. 
  
Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
  Looms but the Horror of the shade,  10
And yet the menace of the years 
  Finds, and shall find, me unafraid. 
  
It matters not how strait the gate, 
  How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate:  15
  I am the captain of my soul.

5 Thousand Words...






Amar Desh...

There’s a saying in Bangladesh which is used at national, sporting and celebratory events; Amar Desh, Bangladesh – My Country, Bangladesh.

It means much more to those who say it than simply its literal meaning; there is an overwhelming sense of pride, of hope and of celebration.  By the time I had left Bangladesh in 2008, that saying had embedded itself into my head, and to this day I feel a kinship and pride whenever I see or hear of Bangladesh, no matter where I am in the world.

Throwing a Ball at Problems...

“It’s a tool we can use to teach kids about their surroundings. In basketball, if you don’t look after the people around you, you’re not going to be successful. It’s that simple. It’s not a man-on-man game, it’s not a one-person game; you can be the best player on the planet, but without a good team, you’re not going to win.”

http://citynews.com.au/2013/throwing-a-basketball-at-big-problems/#comments

My Love For You Endures...


Members from opposing parties debated an issue, spoke with passion and clarity, then voted.  Were that all there was to this Bill, it would still be a triumph of Democracy, one many parliaments, including our own, can learn from.  Yet this Bill was regarding Marriage Equality; not all members voted to accept the amendment, however there were no ridiculous contrarian, pseudo-religious, pretentiously ignorant swipes taken by either side.  Rather, the Bill was voted on, and once passed, members burst into a traditional love song.

Take a bow, New Zealand.

"...my love for you endures, and remains forever more..."


Heart...

Yours, so small, belied their true strength.

Ours, so battered and bruised, wounded again by a loss so great.

Mine, will never forget yours.

Sleep well, dear hearts.  Your strength endures.

RIP Agnes

Rodrigue and I had finished our first day together training the Kammengo kids, and we were exhausted.  The Sun had turned the tilted concrete court into a baking pan, and our feet and our heads had melted just a little throughout the course of the day.  I'm sure the black Big Bangs shirts added somewhat to the heat.  We hadn't thought far enough to even consider what we would be eating that night, which is not altogether surprising for us, as we seem to get caught up in the rush of every camp, no matter where we are.

As we sat on the plastic chairs in the courtyard, a tall, black, short-haired woman walks in through a side door, strides over to where we're sitting, and announces that dinner is ready... some women seem so perfect for motherhood, and dear Agnes was a mother to all she encountered.

Fresh avocado, pineapple, even sweet bananas, all were laid out for us.  Like the doting mother she was, Agnes made sure we both had our full share, and continued to do so for the entire week we were there.

In our brief time among the kids of Kammengo, we heard, saw and felt the love Agnes had for all of us, kids, volunteers, helpers, even random strangers who would stop by the center.  Rod and I became quite attached to Agnes; the way to a man's heart is through is stomach, after all.

Our family today mourns a loss so great, so painful.

Rest In Peace, dear Agnes.