Strataca

The Kansas Underground Salt Museum is a family friendly salt mine and museum to explore near Hutchinson, Kansas.

When Emerson Carey founded the Carey Salt Company to mine rock salt in Hutchinson KS in 1923, he could never have imagined that his mines would also turn into a popular tourist attraction and a storage vault for irreplaceable documents and films. Nonetheless, they did. The 650-foot-deep mines are now owned by the Hutchinson Salt Company, and produce up to 500,000 tons of rock salt for deicing roads, livestock feeding, and other uses per year.

Strataca leases space in the Hutchinson mines to provide an interactive place for adults and children to explore the mine, and to teach them about salt mining past and present. Visitors begin by descending 650 feet in a mining elevator. A mine guide greets guests as they exit and gives them an overview of the mine and mining.

The first room is the Permian Room. This describes the local geology and how the salt was formed from prehistoric seas. A salt wall is lined with a compressed mixture of salt and mud. The second room is the Mining Gallery. Guests learn how salt has been mined in the past 100 years, from railroad lines to conveyor belts and from manual to automated tools. People also discover how miners lived in the past, and live today. Salt mining techniques are very similar to coal mining techniques, but salt mines do not have as many hazards, such as methane gas pockets or explosive coal dust. Salt mining tunnels are much larger than coal mining tunnels. The third section is known as Harry’s Habitat. Visitors discover “salt loving” bacteria, which may be the oldest living organisms on earth.

The Salt Mine Express is a 15-minute narrated train ride through areas that were mined and then abandoned in the 1940s and 1950s. Explorers young and old feel like archaeologists as they view a mining equipment, a trash pile, and even a mine toilet used 70 years ago. The Dark Ride is a 30-minute tram ride which covers mine hazards, air flow, and even nuclear waste storage. Near the end, visitors get to take a free souvenir salt rock to take home.

The mine hosts special events including an annual Mine Run 5k, and an annual 5k bike ride known as the Tour de Salt. December boasts Murder in the Mine, a special mystery dinner theater event. Scouts have hikes and camp outs in the mines and can earn merit badges. Adventurous couples sometimes have their weddings here.

The mines are deep, dry, have good security, and have a constant cool temperature – perfect for storage. The Underground Vaults and Storage Gallery is another company that leases space in the Hutchinson mine. They store original reels of movies such as Gone with the Wind and Ben Hur. The mines also include medical records, oil and gas company charts, and other documents from the USA and abroad.

To Keep in Mind

Children under the age of four are not permitted in the mine. The Train Ride is not handicapped accessible, but the Underground Mine and the Dark Ride are. Weapons, tobacco, laser pointers, and pets are not allowed. Be sure to clear your ears as the air pressure below the surface climbs. When the lights are off, the elevator and the mine are completely dark, so don’t be surprised. The temperature is a constant 68 degrees, so some people may want a light jacket.

Bottom Line

Families looking for a child-friendly and climate-controlled mine for exploration should see Strataca. It belongs on every central Kansas must-see list.

My Favorite Runs

Enjoyable walking, running, and cycling areas in the USA

After retiring from the US Army on 1 September 2016, I took a new job in Tennessee. My schedule prevented me from doing one of my favorite things, running, since 12 September. Today, however, I took a glorious 5-miler in the Wolf River Nature Area outside Germantown, TN. Running there reminded me of some of my favorite places to run, bike, or walk, throughout the United States. These trails are relatively easy, and located close to urban areas. Unlike some of the trails considered “Best in the US” for running, these are short and accessible to casual walkers, runners, bikers, and hikers.

California

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve – Mostly a walk but can be a run, you will find terrific shorebirds in this coastal estuary near the city of Huntington Beach. The nearby Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve is also worth a walk.

Pennsylvania

Hickory Run State Park – This park boasts the Shades of Death trail and the Boulder Fields. Neither are suitable for running but both are great to hike and explore.

Lehigh Gorge State Park – Nestled in the Pocanos Mountains, the Lehigh Gorge State Park has many trails to bike, walk, and run. A 36-mile long gravel trail tracks the Lehigh River from Glen Summit through Whitehaven and Rockport and ends at Jim Thorpe. The northern part of the path can be a little tough to follow at places

Tennessee

Wolf River Nature Area – Wolf River made it on to my favorites list after only one run. The trail slopes gently without large hills and passes through hardwood forests and wetlands along the river.

Texas

Franklin Mountains State Park – if you like desert trails and lots of ups and downs, the Franklin Mountains are for you. They separate east from west El Paso and boast all manner of high desert flora and fauna. For the fit, the Franklin Mountains trail run is up to 50 kilometers every September.

Virginia

Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge – A mostly flat area of wetlands near the Potomac River at Fort Belvoir, the refuge is good for running, walking, and (occasionally in the winter) cross country skiing. Great blue heron, osprey, egrets and bald eagles abound. The 1.8-mile-long Beaver Pond Trail is the best known, but there are miles of other trails.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park – This park follows the pathway of the old C&O Canal, which transported goods from the Ohio valley to markets throughout the East Coast. It is 184.5 miles long and is terrific for walking, running, and especially cycling. The southern part, near the Great Falls, is gravel and mostly flat.

Mount Vernon Trail – Just outside of Washington DC, the Mount Vernon Trail snakes along the Potomac River for 18 miles from Theodore Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. It is paved, mostly flat, and busy, with thousands of people using it every week. The trail passes by the Reagan International Airport, through the City of Alexandria, and past several residential areas. Why do I like it? Because the Potomac is beautiful, parks abound along the trail, the eastern birds and wetlands are worth seeing, and it is easy to get to.

Noland Trail – This is my favorite run. Located near the Mariner’s Museum and Christopher Newport University in Newport News, the Noland Trail follows the shoreline around Lake Maury. The five-mile loop has steep climbs and drops so it is suitable for running or walking; bicycles are not allowed.  The forest and the lake are gorgeous.

Washington State

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge – The main trail, the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Trail, is 4.4 miles long but only walking, not running or cycling, are permitted. Canoeing on the Nisqually River near the refuge is easy; suitable for beginners and families.

There are thousands of other great nature trails and other places to run (or walk or bike), but these are some of the best that I have run.

Moving with Little Trace

How to move in a natural environment while staying quiet and hard to track.

My family loves the movie trilogy Lord of the Rings (LOTR), even though it has many unlikely moments. One of my favorite unlikely moments is in The Two Towers, when Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are tracking the orc pack carrying the Hobbits Merry and Pippin to a gruesome fate in Isengard.  Gimli complained, “Three day’s and night’s pursuit… no food, no rest, and no sign of our quarry but what bare rock can tell.”  Aragorn’s tracking is masterful to the point of unbelievable, as he pieces together the orcs’ movement, their midnight battle with the Rohirim, and the escape of Merry and Pippin. Experts can track people with remarkable accuracy, but Aragorn’s feat fits Hollywood better than it does the real world.

As a combat veteran, outdoorsman, and martial artist, I have moved more than once while trying to avoid being seen, heard or tracked. While hiking in the Poconos of Pennsylvania this month, I thought of what I had learned over the years from scout to soldier, and decided to write some of it down. People have been tracked by predatory animals and by other people. Before beginning, let me be clear that it is impossible to be completely silent, invisible, and untrackable. Readers also need to remember that not being seen, not being heard, and not being tracked are three different objectives; doing one can make it harder to do the others. The goal of this article is to help readers make themselves harder to see, to hear, and to track. We will focus on the natural world but say a little about indoors as well.

Be physically fit

Cardiovascular (heart, lung, and blood vessel) fitness is the cornerstone of every task in life, and moving with little trace is no exception. Gimli “breathed so loud” that Haldir’s elves “could have shot him in the dark”, and so will you if you try to move through the wilderness in poor condition. Cardiovascular fitness comes from walking, running, bicycling, swimming, or some other aerobic physical activity, at least 60 minutes of moderate or 30 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Athletes doing cardiovascular exercises often have tight lower extremities, so stretch your quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and Achilles tendons (heel cords) at least three times per week.

Musculoskeletal fitness, flexibility, and balance are equally important. Moving without notice requires a strong and supple body with good balance. Everyone has missteps when walking on narrow paths, crossing streams, and going up or down steep slopes, but a fit body helps prevent those stumbles from becoming falls and injuries. Missteps are noisy enough, but falls can sound like an avalanche to a man trying to avoid notice. Core exercises work your abdominal, back, and upper thigh muscles which are the foundation of body movement. Resistance exercises strengthen your neck, arms, and legs. People should do both types of exercises at least twice per week.

Foot and ankle fitness is frequently overlooked. Modern shoes cover the foot with thick soles and uppers, making them weak and flabby. The ankle is the most injured joint in the body, and people with ankle injuries usually don’t rehabilitate them enough. Walking while barefoot strengthens and toughens feet, but beware injury from doing too much too fast. Begin on safe surfaces in moderate weather and progress.

Wear the Right Clothing

Soft and light footwear is quieter than street shoes or hiking boots, which is why natives the world over have gone barefoot or worn moccasins. Some clothing like nylon is noisy when it rubs together while natural fibers such as cotton, wool, and flax are quieter. Avoid wet or ill-fitting clothing and footwear.

Make sure that you don’t have equipment bumping together. Carry nothing reflective that could cause a glint in the sun. Use clothing to blend with your environment and break up the lines of the human form as much as is practical. Long pants usually make less noise than shorts, and long sleeved shirts than short sleeved ones. Baggy pants and shirts break up human lines but can get caught on underbrush. Minimize your gear.

Move deliberately

Look at the ground in front of you before taking each step. Decide where you want to step before moving your foot and place it gently forward while keeping your weight on you back foot. When you are sure of your foot placement, roll your weight on to your front foot. Repeat. Flex at the knees to absorb the force of each step.

Walking on hard surfaces (such as concrete), earth, or grass is less noise than walking on other surfaces. Avoid gravel because the small stones shift under your weight and make noise. Never step on a twig, small branch, pile of dry leaves, or anything else that will break under your weight. The snapping will sound like a pistol shot when the branch breaks. Larger branches are also a problem; because they are round it is easy to slip off. Soft, thick moss absorbs sound well, as does soft soil, but both leave obvious tracks. Avoid wet surfaces or streams – it is easy to slip and splashing makes noise.  Move obstacles if necessary but try not to break branches.

Move slowly. Fast and jerky movement attracts the eye and fast steps are usually noisier than slow ones. Moving fast also makes it harder to plan each step and move deliberately. Speed makes tripping and falling more likely. Patience is a virtue when moving with a minimum chance of being seen or heard. Unfortunately, going slowly can make it easier to be tracked. By and large, the natural world moves slower than we do, and we need to adopt the natural pace.

Pick your feet up. Dragging or slapping your feet on the ground is a sure way to be heard, and dragging your feet disrupts the ground and organic matter on the trail.

Walking sequence

  1. Walk lightly, pulling the weight of your body just before your foot strikes the ground and landing softly.
  2. Experts differ on whether a person trying to move silently should strike the ground with the heel or ball of their foot. In my experience, the ball strike is a better option if you are strong enough to maintain it.
  3. Put your stepping foot down on the outer part of the ball of your foot and roll to the inside part of the ball. Put your heel down last and do not strike with it.

Move intermittently. Small animals move a short distance, stop to examine their surroundings, and then move again. Soldiers advance by rushing from one area of cover or concealment (such as a wall or tree) to another.

Watch your upper body

No matter how well you move below the belt, if a branch scrapes across your shirt and snaps back against another tree, you will get noticed. The sound of the branch and the speed of its backlash will be visible to everyone without 50 feet.

Use your environment

Things that make noise, whether natural such as waterfalls or man-made such as cars, can help cover any noise that you make. You can speed up a little with covering noise. Mimic your environment – be still when it is still and move when it moves. Match the movement of the vegetation and stay in the shadows. Stay downwind from wildlife you are stalking, or from wildlife that is stalking you. Beware of making a human-shaped shadow; break it up with natural shadows. Do not disrupt wildlife; the sudden flight of a flock of birds will broadcast your presence for miles.

When you make a noise, freeze. A person or animal that hears a noise will look for movement to accompany it.  If you deny them that movement, and if they haven’t already seen you, they will move their attention away from you.

Eluding trackers

The best way to evade trackers like Aragorn is to learn how to track like Aragorn. Failing that, the following few tips will help.

  1. Change shoes to change your tread and therefore change your tracks.
  2. Make sharp turns to confuse people (and dogs) about which direction you are headed.
  3. Cross obstacles that are hard for dogs (and people) to follow.
  4. When approaching a road, make tracks along the road in both directions to confuse trackers about which direction you are headed. Once you get on the road, go the direction that you want to go.

Indoors

Moving on carpet is quieter than on tile or other hard surfaces. Step near the wall to avoid causing creaking of wood floors. When opening doors, pull up on the handle to avoid the door scrapping against the floor.

Practice

Practice makes permanent, and perfect practice makes perfect. Whenever you are in the wilds, practice moving with little trace. Stalk wildlife, seeing how close you can get before it notices you and runs or flies away. Evaluate your performance, especially your mistakes, every time you practice.

Conclusion

None of us will track prey like Aragorn, but we can be better at avoiding being tracked than Gimli. Moving without any trace can only be done in Hollywood, but moving with little trace is available to everyone. Learning to move with little trace will improve your hunting skills and increase your enjoyment of the wilderness. It is fun to track friends in the forest. Depending upon where you are and what environment you are in, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, moving with little trace could save your life.

Soccer Tips from Coach Mark

I have coached soccer for school aged boys and girls for about three years and served as a sports medicine physician for a wide variety of sports for six years. Whether I am the team coach, the team doctor, or just a fan, I always have five goals for the game, in order of importance:

  1. No one gets hurt.
  2. Kids have fun.
  3. Kids learn leadership, teamwork, and character.
  4. Each child gets to play every position.
  5. Our team wins.

To accomplish those three goals in soccer, I have included some information for players and parents to learn. Practices are twice per week and games once per week. Players should practice at home five or six days per week.

Home practice includes:

  1. Conditioning – 10 sprints of 30 yards each per day, stretching and resistance training
  2. Dribbling – kicking the soccer with both feet, inside and outside, and with the top of the foot. Do not kick with the toe.
  3. Passing and Receiving – pass the ball to a friend. Receive it again with two touches, one to stop the ball and the other to kick the ball back.
  4. Shooting – kick the ball with the top of your foot, hard and straight.
  5. Learning – Review the rules and watch high school, college and professional games.

Team practice

  1. Pay attention. Those who do not cooperate will lose playing time during the game.
  2. Try hard. Now is your best time to get better.
  3. Have fun.

Soccer Rules and Tips

The Offside Rule and Offside Trap in Football – Soccer

Soccer Special Positions U9-10

The Year in Music, Art, Literature and Drama History

16 Jan – The first edition of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (Book One of Don Quixote) by Miguel de Cervantes was published in Madrid, Spain (1605).

17 Jan – Popeye the Sailor, a comic character created by Elzie Segar, first appeared in the Thimble Theater comic strip (1929).

12 Feb – George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue premiered in Aeolian Hall, New York (1924).

18 Feb – Samuel Clemens, AKA Mark Twain, published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the United States (1885).

21 Feb – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto (1848).

23 Feb – The estimated date that Johannes Gutenberg printed the first book from movable type, and his first book, the Bible (1455).

6 Mar – Norman Rockwell published Freedom from Want in the Saturday Evening Post, continuing the Four Freedoms series after President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous 1941 address (1943).

17 Mar – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened the National Gallery of Art (1937).

2 Apr – Composer Ludwig van Beethoven led the premiere of his Symphony 1 in C major in Vienna (1800).

26 Apr – William Shakespeare, writer of the plays Romeo and Juliet, MacBeth, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, and many others, was baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon in England (1564).

1 May – Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro was performed for the first time, in Vienna, Austria (1786).

2 May – The drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof earned author Tennessee Williams a Pulitzer Prize (1955).

3 May – Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (1937).

4 May – The Pulitzer Prize for fiction was awarded to Ernest Hemingway for Old Man and the Sea (1953).

5 May – The Music Hall in New York City, now known as Carnegie Hall, opened for its first public performance with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky as its guest conductor (1891).

11 May – The world’s oldest known printed book, the Diamond Sutra, was printed in China (868).

21 Aug – Italian Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre (1911). He was finally apprehended and the painting returned two years later.

31 Aug – Lawrence Olivier and Vivian Leigh, Hollywood screen stars, were married (1940).

8 Sep – Margaret Gorman of Washington DC, aged 16, became the first Miss America (1921).

30 Oct – Orson Wells performed the radio broadcast of author H.G. Wells’ famous story, the War of the Worlds. Its realism caused many to think that it was really happening (1938).

31 Oct – Sculptor Gutzon Borglum completed his presidential sculptures on Mount Rushmore (1941).

27 Nov – Macy’s first Thanksgiving Day parade is held (1924).

28 Nov – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, premiered at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig (1811).

3 Dec – The musical Camelot, later associated with the Kennedy administration, debuted at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway (1960).

7 Dec – The Royal Opera House, the third theater on the site, opened in Covent Garden, London (1732).

9 Dec – A Charlie Brown Christmas by Peanuts creator Charles Schultz premiered on CBS (1965).

15 Dec – “Gone with the Wind” premiered at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta, Georgia (1939).

21 Dec – The world’s first full-length animated feature, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, opened at the Carthay Circle Theatre (1937).

27 Dec – The national anthem of India, “Jana Gana Mana”, was first sung in the Calcutta Session of the Indian National Congress (1911).

Archery – Foundational Skills

Archery is a fine, fun and relaxing sport. During our courtship, Nancy and I would spend hours at the outdoor range just shooting, talking, and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature around. She would pack a lunch and the days were delightful. I highly recommend picnics at the range rather than expensive restaurant lunches and movies during which no one talks to really get to know a person.

For those interested in learning the basics of archery, here they are.

Stance – Shoulder towards target, posture good (back straight, shoulders back and stomach in), feet parallel and shoulder width apart. Keep your attention focused on the target. Your bow arm shoulder should be low, not hunched up against your neck.

Nock – Place the shaft of the arrow on the arrow rest and turn the odd fletching the proper direction for your bow. Then snap the nock of the arrow on the bowstring. Once the arrow is nocked, keep the bow and arrow pointed downrange at all times.

Set – Grip the handgrip on the bow with your thumb facing towards the target when the bow is hanging down at your side. Wrap your fingers around the bow grip but keep them relaxed.

Pre-draw – Raise the bow and place your fingers (or mechanical release) around the bow string. If using a release, place your trigger finger behind the trigger and press gently forward to prevent the trigger from accidentally releasing when you draw the bow. Do not tightly grip the bow with thumb or fingers. A relaxed hand will provide better bow control. At this point your chest should be rotated parallel to the arrow shaft.

You should not have had to reposition any part of your body, whether stance, gripping hand, or anything after it was done the first time. If you must reposition something, do it now before you draw.

Draw – Pull the bowstring with the arrow loaded in a straight line back towards your face. Your drawing arm should be directly behind and parallel to the arrow shaft. Do not let your drawing arm hang down.

Anchor – Make a firm connection between your drawing hand and your face, often the angle of your jaw. This will place the bowstring close to your nose. The anchor must be firm. Now transfer the weight of the draw from your arms and shoulder to your back muscles.

Aim – Pause and check your overall form, including stance, overall body position, anchor, and concentration on the target. Make sure that your grip on the bow is loose and comfortable. Aim by sighting up the bowstring or using the sights. Ensure that the bow is vertical, neither tilted left nor right.

Release – Double check everything up until now. If something is not right, slowly let down the bowstring and start over again. Never dry fire a bow, and never fire a bow uncontrolled.

  1. If using fingers, let the bowstring leave your fingers holding the bow string, almost pushing them out of the way of the bowstring.
  2. If using a mechanical release, slowly move your trigger finger from behind the trigger to the front of the trigger. Then squeeze the trigger slowly.

Follow Through – Hold the bow up, not letting it fall until the arrow hits the target. Meanwhile relax the muscles in the drawing hand and arm. Once the arrow hits the target, let the bow slowly fall and begin the sequence for the next shot.

Medical Preparation for Humanitarian Missions

“Doctor, this will be a very long war if for every division I have facing the enemy, I must count on a second division in hospital with malaria and a third division convalescing from this debilitating disease.” General Douglas MacArthur to Colonel Paul F. Russell, US Army malaria consultant, May 1943.

Just like soldiers going to war, people on humanitarian missions anywhere in the world can fail to accomplish their mission due to illness or injury. Whether missionaries seeking to advance the gospel of Christ, secular humanitarians trying to dig a well and build a school in a rural African village, or a combination of both, medical problems can inactivate the best intentioned and most capable teams. This article is intended to help people medically prepare themselves to go overseas on humanitarian missions. You can also watch the video.

Your baseline health

While in college I attended a lecture about living overseas doing humanitarian and missions work. The talk was fascinating but what changed my attitude was when the speaker said “to be most effective you must be in good physical condition. It does little good being an expert in your field or having the highest hopes when you physically are unable to perform.” That very day I took up running and in the 30 years since have never stopped. The basic three components of good physical health are adequate sleep (7-9 hours per night), good nutrition, and plenty of exercise. Meals should be high in fruits and vegetables, moderate in dairy, grains, and nuts, and low in meats and sweets. Exercise has three components: flexibility training six days per week, aerobic exercise at least three days per week, and resistance exercise at least two days per week, totaling at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. 10,000 steps per day is a common benchmark for walkers. Someone who is unfit at home will not become magically fit overseas; they are more likely to become even more unfit.

Living conditions will not be as comfortable on mission as they are at home. Water in developing countries is often contaminated, and ice is contaminated and scarce. Air conditioning is unheard of in much of the world, and the neediest countries are frequently the hottest. Showers, laundry, and good toilet facilities are usually harder to find in the developing world, Transportation may be lacking or dangerous, and garbage is often ubiquitous. Expect to walk farther and work harder on humanitarian trips than you do at home. Conditions that would be a minor annoyance back home can be harder to overcome. Overall, be in the best possible health before you go on mission.

Your pre-trip medical evaluation

Having practiced medicine for over two decades, I have evaluated many people preparing to travel overseas for business or pleasure. Such a visit is vital for medical preparation because it accomplishes a lot:

  1. Getting travelers up to date on their standard (US) required vaccinations.
  2. Giving travelers the vaccinations that are required for their destination, considering the conditions they are likely to face. For example, a person shopping in Tokyo for a week is not likely to need the vaccine against Japanese Encephalitis virus (JEV), but someone on a humanitarian mission for six weeks in rural Vietnam definitely needs it.
  3. Giving travelers the prophylactic medications, such as antimalarials and antidiarrheals, that are required.
  4. Refilling key prescriptions that travelers need to manage their baseline health problems, such as blood pressure or diabetes medications.
  5. Counseling the traveler on risks common to their destination, including identifying what they plan to do and figuring out how to minimize the health risks they face if they do it. This can range from teaching people about mosquito protection (bed nets, DEET and permethrin) to giving them information on local medical facilities in case they have trouble.
  6. Discussing what to bring on the trip.
  7. Discussing what to do on return from the trip, and when to come in again.

Visit your doctor at least four weeks before you leave for this evaluation. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides useful information at their Traveler’s Health website. It is a good idea to visit the dentist before going since dental problems can be big and care may not be available. Patients with glasses may wish to get an updated prescription if they haven’t had one in the past year.

Insurance and Other Concerns

Most people going on humanitarian journeys will have medical insurance of some type, but you need to check the terms carefully. What benefits are available overseas? Is medical evacuation included? Do they require preapproval for visits, and is that possible at your destination? Will you need supplementary medical insurance? Trip interruption and cancelation insurance are also important. Such insurance can cost less than $10 per day.

The US State Department offers the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free program allows US citizens and nationals to register their trip with the local embassy or consulate. The embassy will provide enrollees information about safety conditions in their destination countries, contact them in case of emergency, and provide a conduit for family and friends to get in touch if trouble strikes. Travelers who don’t mind the US government knowing about their trip may benefit.

The US Customs and Border Protection offers the Global Entry Program, in which pre-approved, low risk travelers get expedited clearance into the United States. The application process includes an online application, an interview, and a fee.

Your health packing list

Travelers on humanitarian trips must take the things that they need to stay healthy at home. These include:

  1. Enough prescription medications to last for the entire trip and two weeks afterward. These must be in their original containers and with original markings or they may be confiscated.
  2. One pair of glasses and one spare, or one pair of contact lenses and one spare pair of glasses.
  3. Other personal stuff such as extra batteries for a hearing aid, knee or ankle braces.
  4. Hand sanitizer, sunscreen and insect repellent.
  5. Ear plugs, since developing nations can be noisy, especially in vehicles.
  6. A pillow or neck pillow to improve sleep on planes and other vehicles and if you will be in primitive lodging.
  7. Eye covers (sleep masks) to improve sleep.
  8. Hygienic wipes to clean up when showers, or even water, are not available.
  9. Over the counter medicines – motion sickness, pain medications such as Tylenol and Motrin, decongestants, antacids, etc.
  10. If going on a medical missions trip, be sure to take personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes gloves and goggles in case you will be exposed to body fluids. For more serious risks of infection, such as responding to the current ebola outbreak, gowns and masks, or even face shields, are required. Gloves must be disposable, and everything else should at least be laundered daily after contact with patients. Adequate PPE may not be available at your destination.
  11. A basic first aid kit, including Bandaids for small wounds.
  12. Health documents such as copies of prescriptions, health insurance documents, and a contact card in case you are debilitated and colleagues need to reach the US Embassy or Consulate and someone back home.

Individual travelers will have other needs. Some may need a cane for walking, while others may need a back support to minimize their pain. Diabetics may need needles and syringes to self-treat their diabetes, and asthmatics may need inhalers. Again, people should take whatever they need to function at home, and a few other things tailored to the risks at their destination.

Healthy traveling

People going to places with poor toilet facilities often don’t drink enough clean water because they can’t find it, it is unappetizing (often warm), or they don’t want to use the toilet. This fact makes it even more important to be well hydrated (clear urine) before the trip. During the flight (or long drive), take off your shoes and stretch your feet and ankles. Stand and walk whenever you can, and sleep whenever you can, keeping a jacket or blanket nearby because planes can get cold. Keep medications, a change of clothes and raingear handy in case your luggage is lost.

Staying healthy on site

Drinking bottled water is important in all but the most developed countries, as is frequent hand washing, and using sunscreen and insect repellent. Missionary teams will likely be working with long term field workers and native staff and should take their cues from them. Non-faith based humanitarian teams should also have local support. I have seen troops in Iraq develop diarrheal disease from ice or even water on plates or soda cans so travelers must be careful. Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death among travelers in the developing world and it is OK to ask local drivers to slow down.

Dietary suggestions are harder to give. The official recommendation is to eat only cooked foods and avoid salads or fresh vegetables. These recommendations are sound and can be followed by casual travelers but are harder in a missions context. Teams will often be invited into the homes of those they are working with and as such will be offered local food. As unappetizing as the food may look, it is probably the best that the host family has, and as such it would be a grave offense to reject it. There are no easy answers here, but eating small portions (never a bad plan) and staying with the food most thoroughly cooked is helpful. If you develop symptoms and make a return visit to your doctor after your trip, be sure to tell him about things like this.

Jet lag

The body operates on circadian rhythms which impact everything from hours of sleep to hormone levels. These rhythms are inherent and are influenced by light, drugs and other factors. Symptoms of jet lag include fatigue, slow mental processes, and poor sleep. Since most people don’t get enough sleep and have a baseline sleep deficit, they can minimize symptoms by getting as much sleep as possible before and during the trip. Once you are in the new time zone, stick as closely as possible to the new schedule, limiting yourself to no more than one nap of up to two hours duration per day.

Culture shock

When travelers first arrive in a new place they are often enamored by its newness. This “honeymoon” stage lasts up to a few weeks, by which time most casual travelers have returned home. Soon however, travelers who stay longer, as missionaries and humanitarian workers often do, start to dislike much of what they recently found so quaint, and they want to go home. Effectiveness plunges. Eventually they become acclimatized to the new culture just as they do to the new climate. Their function will improve and they will return to a new baseline. Culture shock happens when returning home as well.

Safety

Part of providing successful humanitarian aid is keeping team members safe. We have discussed medical issues and important threats such as motor vehicle accidents, but there are other things to keep in mind.

  1. Make copies of all travel documents, including passport, visa, plane tickets, and insurance. Keep a copy on the trip and leave a copy at home.
  2. Get good medical insurance, including evacuation insurance.
  3. Keep your passport and identification with you at all times.
  4. Avoid drawing attention to yourself, either with obnoxious behavior, ostentatious displays of wealth or immodest clothing. Avoid alcohol and drugs. You are there to serve others, not to display yourself.
  5. Do not walk or travel alone. Go in teams of at least two.
  6. Be sensitive to others and to the local culture.
  7. Do not identify yourself with issues likely to be controversial. Don’t wear obviously American or military clothing, or anything that may cause offense locally.
  8. Do not violate the trust or the security of the long term staff you are working with.

Team Leaders

It is your job to make sure that every member of your team is as ready as they can be. Consider an example from World War II:

“Good doctors are useless without good discipline. More than half the battle against disease is fought not by doctors, but by regimental officers. It is they who see that the daily dose of mepacrine is taken, that shorts are never worn, that shirts are put on and sleeves turned down before sunset… I therefore had surprise checks of whole units, every man being examined. If the overall result was less than 95% positive, I sacked the commanding officer. I only had to sack three; by then the rest had got my meaning.” General Slim, Burma Campaign, WW II (under General Slim, the malaria rate in troops decreased from 12/1000 per day to 1/1000 per day.

While team leaders in missionary and humanitarian endeavors do not have the same control over their teams as generals during war, the principles still apply. Leaders must do everything possible to help those working with them to succeed in whatever mission they face. The ultimate responsibility remains with the individual, but the leader has a vital role to play. Make sure that everyone knows what your team’s mission is, and that your team members have the right equipment and supplies to accomplish that mission.

Leaders should ensure that a first aid kit is available for the team. This should include larger quantities of medication and supplies than individuals are likely to bring.

  1. Over the counter (OTC) pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen – at least 100 tablets of each
  2. OTC diarrhea medications such as Imodium.
  3. OTC motion sickness medications such as meclizine.
  4. Three and four inch elastic (ACE) wraps to wrap injured knees, ankles, wrists, and elbows. Be sure that someone knows how to use them.
  5. A large box of Band-Aids.
  6. Extra water bottles with water filter and purification tablets (if in a remote location).
  7. Large bottles of sunscreen and insect repellant.

Conclusion

It may seem that there is too much to do. It may seem like much of this preparation is not necessary. Both statements are false. First, humanitarian and missions work is vital, there are so many people with so much need that people who can should go. Second, every part of the preparation noted above must be done. To do otherwise is to compromise the effectiveness of each individual, and each team, in doing this important work.

For more information, please look at the section “Personal and Team Preparation for Humanitarian Response” under the Virtual Emergency Operations Center at MDHarrisMD.com.

The Year in Adventure, Leisure, Sports and Travel History

14 Jan – Swiss guide Matthias Zurbriggen on a British expedition under Edward Fitzgerald made the first recorded ascent of Aconcagua, at 22,837 ft the highest mountain in South America, the Western Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere (1897).

18 Jan – American pilot Eugene B. Ely landed his Curtiss Pusher on the deck of the armored cruiser USS Pennsylania in San Francisco Bay, the first time that an aircraft landed on a ship (1911).

24 Jan – In England, Robert Baden-Powell organized the first Boy Scout troop (1908).

29 Jan – Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and Honus Wagner are announced as the first inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame (1936).

29 Jan – The first inductees into the Pro Football (American) Hall of Fame were announced, including Sammy Baugh, Bert Bell, Joseph Carr, Dutch Clark, Red Grange, George Halas, Mel Hein, Pete Henry, Cal Hubbard, Dot Hutson, Curly Lambeau, Tim Mara, George Preston Marshall, John “Blood” McNally, Bronko Nagurski, Ernie Nevers, and Jim Thorpe (1963).

2 Feb – Making a Living, Charlie Chaplin’s first movie, premiered (1914).

8 Feb – The last crew of the American space station Skylab returned to earth (1974).

11 Feb – James “Buster” Douglas, a 42 to 1 underdog, knocked out Mike Tyson in the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in Tokyo (1990). It was considered the biggest upset in boxing history.

14 Feb – British explorer James Cook was killed by Hawaiian natives at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii (1779).

18 Feb – The first official flight with air mail occurred from Allahabad, United Provinces, British India, when Henri Pequet, a 23-year-old pilot, delivered 6,500 letters to Naini, about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) away (1911).

18 Feb – Gordon Haller won the first Ironman Triathlon competition, which took place on the island of Oahu (1978).

18 Feb – Seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt died in an accident during the Daytona 500 (2001).

21 Feb – NASCAR was incorporated (1948).

21 Feb – Pilot Steve Fossett landed in Leader, Saskatchewan, Canada becoming the first person to make a solo flight across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon (1995).

26 Feb – President Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act, transforming the Grand Canyon National Monument proclaimed by Theodore Roosevelt into the 15th US National Park (1919).

26 Feb – President Calvin Coolidge signed an Executive Order establishing the Grand Teton National Park, a 96,000 acre wilderness area in northwestern Wyoming (1929).

6 Mar – An SR-71 Blackbird piloted by Lt Col Joseph Vida and Lt Col Ed Yielding set an North American transcontinental speed record, flying from Los Angeles to Washington DC in 64 minutes at an average of 2144 miles per hour (1990).

19 Mar – Pool player Willie Mosconi pocketed 526 consecutive balls in a pool demonstration in Springfield, Ohio, setting a world record (1954).

31 Mar – Wrestlemania, the largest wrestling event in the World Wrestling Federation, began in Madison Square Garden (1985).

3 Apr – The first successful run of the Pony Express, from Saint Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California, began (1860).

19 Apr – Eighteen runners ran in the first Boston Marathon, the largest and oldest marathon in the world. John J. McDermott won it in 2:55:10 (1897).

24 Apr – Cosmonaut Vladimir Mikhaylovich Komarov became the first person to die in space exploration after his parachute failed to open during re-entry aboard Soyuz 1 (1967).

1 May – Moses Fleetwood Walker debuted as catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings, the first African American to play Major League Baseball (1884).

14 May – The Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the Louisiana Territory left St Louis, MO, under Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark (1804).

20 May – Charles Lindbergh in his monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, completed the first solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic from New York to Paris in 33.5 hours (1927).

29 May – New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepali Sherpa, made the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, at 29,029 ft the tallest mountain on earth (1953).

7 Jun – Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper and Robert Tatum completed the first verifiable summit of Mount McKinley, at 20,237 feet the tallest mountain in North America (1913).

12 Jun – In the first human powered flight across the English Channel, Bryan Allen flew the Gossamer Albatross 22 miles in 2 hours (1979).

19 Jun – The first official, recorded baseball game occurred near Hoboken, New Jersey, in which the New York Baseball Club beat the Knickerbockers 23-1 (1846).

27 Jun – Captain Joshua Slocum aboard the sloop Spray completed the first solo circumnavigation of the earth (24 April 1895 to 27 June 1898).

22 July – Wiley Post became the first person to fly solo around the world, accomplishing the feat in the Winnie Mae and flying 15,596 miles (25,099 km) in seven days, 18 hours and 45 minutes (1933).

29 Jul – Mawenzi, the highest summit on Mount Kilimanjaro (19340 ft and the highest mountain in Africa), was first reached by the German climbers Edward Oehler and Fritz Klute (1912).

8 Aug – Endurance, the ship of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition under Ernest Shackleton, left Plymouth, England headed for Buenos Aires (1914). After Endurance was trapped in ice, he and his crew endured one of the greatest sea-faring survival stories in history.

31 Aug – Walter Cronkite began his career as anchor of CBS news, becoming the face of American news for a generation (1963).

5 Sep – Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, won the gold medal for light heavyweight boxing in the 1960 Olympics in Rome (1960).

8 Sep – The first football (soccer) season of the British Football League, the oldest association of football clubs in the world, began with 12 member clubs (1888).

11 Sep – With the opening ceremonies in Kaula Lampur, Malaysia became the first Asian country to host the Commonwealth Games (1998).

12 Sep – During the Scottish Cup championship, and in the second greatest difference in score in football (soccer) history, Arbroath defeated Bon Accord 36-0 (1885).

13 Sep – British explorer Henry Hudson arrived at the river that would later bear his name, the Hudson River (1609).

1-9 Oct – The heavily favored Chicago White Sox were defeated in the 1919 World Series by the upstart Cincinnati Reds in what became infamous as the “Black Sox scandal”; an attempt by some White Sox players to throw (lose) the series in return for cash (1919).

13 Oct – In the first game of the American Basketball Association, the Oakland Oaks beat the Anaheim Amigos 134-129 (1967).

20 Oct – Rutgers, Columbia, Yale and Princeton jointly wrote the rules for American football (1873).

21 Oct – Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Straits that would later bear his name, connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific (1520).

24 Oct – Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to go over Niagara Falls (Horseshoe Falls) in a barrel and survive (1901).

24 Oct – The Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series, the first time it was done by a team from outside the United States (1992).

30 Oct – Boxer Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) defeated George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire, in the famous match known as the Rumble in the Jungle (1974).

6 Nov – Rutgers defeated Princeton in the first intercollegiate American football game in New Brunswick, NJ (1869).

19 Nov – Football (soccer) legend Pele scored his 1000th goal (1969).

26 Nov – The US National Hockey League was formed (1917).

27 Nov – In an American Basketball Association game between the Kentucky Colonels and the Los Angeles Stars, Penny Ann Early became the first female professional basketball player (1968).

28 Nov – Frank Duryea won the first automobile race in America, traveling 54 miles from Jackson Park in Chicago to Evanston, Illinois in 10 hours (1895).

3 Dec – The Duquesne Country and Athletic Club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania defeated an all-star collection of early football players 16-0, in the first all-star game for professional American football (1898).

5 Dec – Christopher Columbus became the first European to set foot on Hispanola, thus “discovering” the New World (1492).

9 Dec – America’s oldest rifle club, the Massachusetts Rifle Association, was founded (1875).

14 Dec – Norwegian Roald Amundsen and his expedition reached the South Pole (1911).

18 Dec – Members of the American Antarctic Mountaineering Expedition summited Vinson Massif, the highest mountain in Antarctica (1966).

21 Dec – William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts and founded Plymouth Colony (1620).

21 Dec– The first crossword puzzle, Arthur Wynne’s “word-cross”, was published in the New York World (1913).

Useful Quotations on Aviation and Space

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

“There’s a historical milestone in the fact that our Apollo 11 landing on the moon took place a mere 66 years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight.” Buzz Aldrin

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

“A superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations which require the use of his superior skills.” Frank Borman – Apollo 8

“I’m going to fly this thing, then I’m going to set it afire and never have another thing to do with aeroplanes.” Clyde Cessna, after an unsuccessful 1911 attempt at flight

“The reason angels can fly is because they take themselves lightly.” G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” Leonardo da Vinci

“If you’re faced with a forced landing, fly the thing as far into the crash as possible” Bob Hoover, former test pilot and airshow performer

“Always keep an ‘out’ in your hip pocket.” Beverly “Bevo” Howard, aerobatic pilot and entrepreneur.

“Keep thy airspeed up, lest the earth come from below and smite thee.” William Kershner, test pilot, flight instructor and author.

“Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.” Simon Newcomb (March 12, 1835 – July 11, 1909), Canadian-American astronomer and mathematician.

“Aviation is proof that given, the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.” Eddie Rickenbacker

“A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the study of so vast a subject. A time will come when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them.” Seneca, Roman philosopher, 1st century AD

“Man must rise above the Earth—to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives”. Socrates

“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.” Henry David Thoreau

Reflections on the Martial Arts

My hands ached and my forearms were a little bloody as I gave the final bow to the master of our dojang in my test for the black belt. An odyssey that began as a second grader in karate class to deal with bullies was complete. My childhood karate ended when the money ran out, so I tried again with tang soo do and kenpo in college and tae kwon do in medical school. In both cases my training was cut short. During my first tour in Germany I started tae kwon do once more, but stopped after only a few months. I had tried four times to learn an Asian martial art, made it as far as blue belt, quit, and started over again.

During medical school I took up archery, practicing the skills that I had learned in Boy Scouts many years before. Shooting at targets for hours was relaxing, and my then-girlfriend (later wife) and I spent hours talking at the range. When I joined the Army I gained access to some terrific ranges and began learning to shoot; a modern “martial art.” While firearms are too loud for peaceful conversation with a loved one, shooting is a handy skill for a soldier, especially one headed for Serbia, Kenya, and Iraq. It was also handy for hunting when I returned to Europe. I even dabbled a bit in fencing.

In August 2012 my youngest child was old enough to begin martial arts and I signed up with four of my five children. We began at white belt, where I had been so many times before. By now the color of the belt had become less important and the other skills more so. Like Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid, the years had reminded me that the belt is insignificant; the years of training, discipline and character were what mattered. Most importantly, tae kwon do was something that I could do with my children.

We learned the forms, the one step sparring, the Korean terms, and the basic moves one by one. We got stronger, more flexible, and more able to control our bodies. My daughters, both dancers, already had good control and great flexibility, but the boys needed work. None of them were naturally aggressive and sparring came hard, but it came. Struggling with the roundhouse kick became struggling with the jump side kick, and breaking a single 3/8” board became breaking a stack of ¾” ones. My children and I progressed through the ranks, but more importantly progressed through the skills. Some moves like roundhouse kicks and single punches are useful in fighting, some like breaking flaming boards are spectacular to watch, and others are best at building skill and endurance. Nonetheless, every move has its place.

Martial arts, from Latin the “Art of Mars”, are traditions of combat training and practice, both armed and unarmed. Asia has produced such famous types as karate, kung fu, judo, and tae kwon do. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu puts a South American twist on judo. Europe has contributed the German school of swordsmanship and France provided Savate, a type of kickboxing. They were originally developed for self-defense, often by unarmed peasants facing armed attackers. The history of martial arts is as old as the history of warfare, and the first known depiction of scenes of battle was from 3400 BC. By the Greek era in 500 BC, pankratiasts (fighters using a combination of boxing and wrestling) were fighting in front of judges in the earliest Olympic Games.

Tae kwon do and the other martial arts have more to do with fitness and self-control than with defeating an opponent. While some may use the skills of martial arts to gain mastery over others, their real use is to gain mastery over oneself. As it says in Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”