Saturday, May 23, 2009


Weisure (wē'zhər, wĕzh'ər)
Blurred line between work and leisure.

This is what I am doing now. Actually, it's rather workation.

I arrived in Madrid this morning, starting my trip to Spain, Morocco and Portual. I'm not going to spend a lot of time in Spain. The main focus of this trip is Morocco and Portugal. But (there's always a but!), I have to work too as I said I have been busy at work. I had to cut my vacation time and work remotely from these countries in between. Morocco is a little iffy, so I opt for Casablanca, which is a business hub in Morocco and hope I can work from Cisco office. Will see. I will not post anything on this trip here as they are not related to the South Pole. Just thought there may not any post on South Pole for the period of two weeks when I am in Europe/North Africa. Until next time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sponsor(s) Needed

I have been super busy, with work (two projects at the same time and year end performance review), planning for the Morocco and Portugal trip and on sponsor proposal.

Regarding sponsorship, I contacted one potential sponsor early last week and they came back asking if I could provide a small presentation. Of course I will have to come up with one and justify why they should sponsor me. The problem is with all the busy work going on, I have to write in Vietnamese. I'm fluent in Vietnamese, but never wrote anything that is formal like a PowerPoint. Well, I spent a lot of time last night (after skipping my gym day) and today to finish it. Don't know how well they will receive it and if they will even consider sponsoring, but I thought it doesn't hurt to try. Wish me luck.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Spot Is Secured

I spoke to Angie in ANI today. Good news. They received my deposit to secure my spot in the program. Phew. I had to wait one week to send them the cheque because of it took time to transfer money from one account to another. They gave two weeks to make a deposit. So now they got it and everyone is happy :)

Last day to pay the total amount is Sept 17.

I chatted with her a little bit too. I asked her if there is anyone near where I live joins the program. And the answer was no. It would be nice to know your partner(s) ahead of time so we can train together and that could cut down some cost. I have done everything by myself so far.

I was also curious to know if there are any (past and present) participants who are of Vietnamese origin. She promised to look into it but so far no one she could recall. But it'll be difficult to tell. Maybe when I have a chance to visit them, I'll check the list myself :). ANI is pretty much the only non-government outfitter that organizes trips to the South Pole, so what they have is pretty much everything.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Communication Plan

Besides physical training and gear acquiring, I am looking at different aspects of the trip such as technology and communication.

For the North Pole, I relied on satellite phone to keep in touch with family and update the blog. This time it'll be the same, and more.

First, nothing can replace a satellite phone for voice communication in polar regions. That's for sure. And I will continue to do that in my next trip.

Second, blogging. Last time I dispatched messages directly from the phone to the blog. It is cool and all but the problem is that all I can do. Now I will build a middle layer, that takes the messages and posts them for me, so the blog will be more consistent.

This middle layer will do more than just posting. It will be able to send me the messages people enter on this blog (in Contact Me section - which currently sends emails to me) to a satellite phone and also understands some commands I will ask it to perform. All via messages. Will see how this whole thing goes, but I know exact what piece of software I need to write and the technical tools to use.

I hope to have a live tracking system for the expedition as well, and currently looking into the available technology. I will update when I know more about it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

White Christmas

It's not even (officially) summer and yet I am talking about Christmas?

Well, Christmas is a magical time for many. And a white Christmas is always an ideal. Waking up in a nice toasty room on Christmas day, looking out of the window to see an empty street with a thick layer of snow covering everything from the roofs to the trees. It truly is a beautiful picture.

Everytime I go back to Toronto to visit my family for the holiday, I always love to see a white blanket of snow covering the whole town, hiding all the ugliness of the gray concrete. The downside to the snow is when it melts, the town is even uglier than without it. Black (sometimes yellow or colors you don't want to guess :)), sloppy dirty snow, salt and sand everywhere. None of this will happen in Antarctica.

It's about 7 months from now but it's not too early to plan for it. That's what I have been doing. Yes, I will be spending my Christmas holidays on the white desert. The official date for the program I am joining is from Dec 16 to Dec 29. Although it'll be a true white Christmas, everything is pure white and there is no ugly melting snow, it's going to be very different. I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

One Step Forward (to the Next Challenge)

I received Melanie's email yesterday informing me that the doctor finally approved my application and that no further information is needed. Good thing there is no more approval in the process, only money talks now.

She also sent a spreadsheet with cost breakdown. There is not much to it, just 3 lines, one for the cost, one for the wire fee (bank transfer) and the total. Very simple but the information it carries is excruciatingly heavy, equivalent to a 2009 Porsche Boxster.

I need to put down the deposit first to secure a spot, and this money is only refundable (less a hefty admin fee in case I cannot make it) 3 months prior to the expedition.

The total cost must be paid in full at least 90 days before the beginning of the trip.

Time to get the finance stuff going.

Monday, May 4, 2009

In Search of Cookie Recipes

I am not about to open a bakery or impress anyone with my baking (although so far my co-workers loved my baked goods :)). I am looking to create a good recipe for power cookies.

In the North Pole trip, I ate a lot of cookies besides dried fruit and nuts during the breaks when we skied. Some of them from a local bakery near my house, but most of them were provided by Vicaar. While they were pretty good, they did not give the most calorie possible I needed to recharge myself. So for South Pole, I plan to bring my own cookies, with all nutrition needed (fat, protein, carbohydrates and fiber), all packed in a small cookie that is not literally a stone to masticate in -40 degrees.

So far I have created two batches. First batch was terrible, I chucked them all after a few cookies. The seond from two weeks ago was pretty good. I still have them now and plan to consume them all. I used them for my hikings, before/after my workout. So far they work pretty ok but I think these cookies can provide better. I am going to keep trying until I find that perfect recipe that gives me the kick plus keeps me going like the bunny in energizer battery commercial :)

Ingredients for the current recipe:
  • flour
  • eggs
  • oil (olive and vegetable)
  • butter
  • mixed nuts
  • flax seeds
  • honey
  • sugar
  • dried milk
  • cocoa
  • whey protein

Friday, May 1, 2009

Gear Collecting

By now I should have known very well what I am getting myself into. Well, I do. But didn't think my pocket could deplete at an accelerating speed like now.

I have been looking to buy gears for mountain climbing, which is part of the preparation for the SP. Summer is the outdoor season, so it's difficult to find anything on sale for mountaineering gears. Luckily there are online stores that usually have sales/coupons and no tax and/or free shipping. The only problem with this is you don't get to see your merchandise. Often time you could guess but sometimes you get something not what you think it is. I bought this pair of booties from a few days ago. I checked carefully the size chart, and thought they would fit me. They turned out to be too tight and this store doesn't have other size because they were on clearance. I had to send them back, so there goes my free shipping saving.

Everything is so expensive, even after the sale and no tax. I am buying this pair of mountaineering boots from Raichle. Never heard of this brand (I dont much about the climbing business yet) but I read the review, they seem to be great. The local REI doesn't carry this brand so I don't know how they would fit me. Hopefully they work out for me, as I'll find out sometime next week when they arrive. So this pair was 50% off from $329. I got additional 25% off so my final price was $123. Not bad at all but this gotta be the most expensive pair of shoes I ever bought. Just hope they work for my purpose (Mt Shasta and Rainier). For other peaks if I want to climb, they require different types too! (Will deal with it when it comes). I have other alternative too, like renting the gears. But the rental is not too cheap either, so might as well own if I do climb often.

I also bought some other things like fleece, headlamp, mid and base layers. This is just the beginning of the shopping spree. I can't blame no one but myself :)