Friday, June 09, 2006

Concern Charity Trek in Peru

I have been back from Peru for over two months now, but it might as well be two feels so distant, so unreal - like it wasn't really me at all! But I loved it there, and the experience of taking part was one of the most rewarding and influential of my life. I can't imagine feeling the same way about life ever again - and believe me, that is a good thing! I know this is a bit late in the day, but I felt I might as well put it on the internet, where it will remain for all eternity!

To take part in the trek, each participant had to raise €5000...thanks to people's generosity and help, I managed to raise close to €5400, which I am very proud of. I am also very proud of all my friends and family, who donated time, effort, money and sanity to my project. So, thanks to everyone - I couldn't possibly let you know how much I appreciate it all!

I had a fantastic time in Peru! It was immensely challenging, both physically and emotionally, but it was also the most rewarding thing I've ever done. We even arrived in Cusco for the Easter Festival, which was quite a spectacle - and lulled us into a false sense of security about how 'easy' this was all going to be!

Secondly, we managed to squeeze in a little extra charity once we had raised all our money to go. Most people taking part brought donations of children's clothes and school supplies, and we brought enough for three separate presentations, which were made to local children from schools along our route. Though I know that the €5400 that I raised will be sent to Concern's Primary Education Fund, and therefore on to parts of Africa devastated by AIDS and HIV, actually seeing children receive clothes that I had brought over, and seeing their joy and thanks for such small gifts, made more of an impression on me than all the money I had sent to Concern. Meeting these children, talking with them, and playing with them brought our own wealth home to me, and the situation so many others in the world - and even in our own country - find themselves caught in.

More children than were expected turned up at the third presentation, and we had run out of gifts. Instead, we measured their feet with the promise that we would buy sandals for the extra children. The sandals are made from old tyres, and cost the equivalent of €0.70 a pair. We made a collection amongst ourselves, and came up with $660 - the largest a group has donated. This fantastic amount of money not only bought sandals for the children, but it also painted their school, and went on to buy supplies for two other schools deep in the Peruvian jungle, which are in far greater need than even these children, high in the Andes.

Physically, the trek was most certainly a challenge. Day four, which you will see from the website, contains very few photo's. The reason for that is, quite simply, this day was my Waterloo!! I could barely stand upright, never mind hold a camera....

Starting from an already high-point of 3,700 meters, we rose at 4.30 a.m. that morning. Setting off early, we hiked towards our highest point of 4,440 meters. Unfortunately, for the first time on the trip, the altitude began affecting me badly, and I had an asthma attack. Luckily, the trek doctor was on hand, as was a horse - which the 'Across the Divide' team, (who led our group), brought with us at all times for just such occasions. I spent 40 minutes on the horse, before attempting to climb the final ascent by myself. My breathing was very bad at this stage, and we were all suffering from some form of headaches and nausea from the altitude. Eventually, though, we made it to the top. We could only stay ten minutes up there, as it is dangerous to spend too much time at that height. We hiked ten hours that day, almost an hour of which (altogether) I had to spend on my friend, the horse, as I had another attack on the descent. We camped at 3,900 meters that night, which didn't alleviate the sickness and pounding headaches brought on by the altitude. It was only the next day, when we descended to a much more liveable 2,500 meters for the next camp, that I recovered enough to enjoy the campfire night in celebration of our feat.

We hiked each day...some were easy, but a lot of them were very hard. I wouldn't change a second of it - apart from the asthma attack...and maybe I'd make it RAIN a little less! It was a challenge, but, if I might get philosophical for a moment, there is no experience in life more rewarding than facing something you thought you could never do, and doing it all the same!
Although, as my fellow office-people who have met me on the stairs can testify, I am rapidly losing what fitness I gained from the trek!! All the other benefits, though, will definitely last a lifetime.

A big THANK YOU to everyone who donated their money, time and effort to this fantastic cause throughout the year - it was a long haul, but we got there in the end!

The photo's are at, and once you click inside the main album, I have divided the trip into sub-albums of days - along with a couple of straggler photo's at the bottom! Photo's can be clicked to view larger, or click 'slideshow' to see them all quickly and easily. It gives something of the impression this gorgeous country made on me!!

Also, if you ever fancy doing something similar yourself, I'd highly recommend it - it was brilliantly organised, and excellently run....besides having a great time, we got to meet indigenous people, and really get a feel for the realities of living in the Andes (well, the mildest sense of it - obviously a life so different to ours is a bit beyond our comprehension!).

Check for a way of taking part, and for options on other fundraising ventures.

World Cup Kick-Off...Day of Days!!

OK, Rusha massive got a football draw going, and I got my top seed and bottom seed. For those who know me, the draw was a tad on the ironic side. Yes, 'top' seed is USA. The country I despise (besides New York) with the hatred of a thousand suns.

My bottom seed, Trinidad & Tobago, will most likely live up to their name of 'bottom' seed......though I wouldn't mind visiting their little area in the Carribean. Not adverse to sunshine, and they seem like a friendly bunch of fans (certainly compared to the Iranians - yikes!!).

So, OK, I'm meant to CHEER for USA? Not a chance! If your team comes last, you get your tenner back. So I will root for them to lose every game.

Every single game.

First up for me is Trinidad & Tobago VS Sweden. The tension is killing me! Who will win? Who could possibly triumph in this battle of the Titans?!?!?Lordy lordy, who knows! Looking forward to the opening game the World Cup! Should be some good skills on display, and a few weeks of excitement lie ahead!!

(Though I still curse that Ireland is not involved. Sickening turn of events. Sickening.)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Omen

If it were possible to write a two-word review for The Omen, the most apt would certainly be: 'Don't go'. Since it's not always possible to escape with such brevity, the most accurate description of this Irishman's attempt to improve on perfection could best be described as a fiasco on a par with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho and The Fog. It really does seem that the movie's sole raison d'ĂȘtre was a 'scary' release date.

With the exception of 2004's Dawn of the Dead attempt, horror remakes are uniformly awful. The director is torn between terror at ruining the original's winning formula, and laughable ego-tripping towards creating his 'own vision'. The Omen, sadly, falls between these two perilous stools. John Moore seems to be valiantly attempting to show his numerous abilities behind the megaphone, but merely serves to highlight the fact that, even with a blueprint of the movie's direction in front of him, he still cannot pull together the strings of horror.

Pivotal to the movie's terror-inducing plan is the portrayal of a child as a truly demented being. The acting in this regard sadly fails on every level – Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick failing to evoke even the mildest sense of unease from his innocent face. Mostly, he seems very much like any child, albeit a bit more given to pouting and 'evil' glares at the camera – though nothing on the malevolent level one would expect from the Antichrist. His father, Liev Schreiber, manages the closest thing to acting one sees throughout the entire movie, though he seems to have closely based his every look and emotion on Gregory Peck's winning performance.

With the appearance of Pete Postlethwaite as the most over the top, hammy priest ever seen, the movie presents its biggest challenge yet – to avoid losing complete credibility at the halfway mark. If his appearance, all swinging crucifixes and Bible slogans, does not drive most right-thinking viewing members to the foyer, then Mia Farrow's manic nanny surely will. As a Satan worshipper she protects the little boy, even to the point of murder and death. The new addition of a pseudo-sexual relationship between her and the boy is probably the most disturbing element of the movie, fleeting though that suggestion is.

The acting is uniformly wooden, and here is the crux of the movie's disappointment: However much you attempt to evoke terror with flashy camera angles and jumpy moments, if your cast cannot hold it together enough to present a believable story then the movie is destined to wallow in video hell. The abysmal Julia Stiles tops off a less-than-stellar cast as Satan's unwitting mother, constantly seeking the camera, tears pouring down her face, showing us that 'look, look – I can act – I can show EMOTION'!!

Sadly, her efforts fail, for much the same reason as the entire movie fails - we have seen all of this before, and we have seen it done far better.