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2010 was a busy year filled with lots of ups and a few downs. And it really seems to have gone by quickly. The imminent completion of the Silverback Dam on the Nile in Uganda has been creeping up on all of us and now 2010 will be known as the last year that the top section of the Nile was free flowing and paddlable! February 15th 2011 will be the last day that anyone is allowed to kayak down through mighty Silverback. Although we have known that this would be happening for a while, it seems unbelievable that that time has finally come especially after many false alarms about the damming of the river. For my part, I am just going to try to enjoy the river as much as I can while it lasts. Hopefully, this February deadline will inspire people who have always wanted to kayak to the Nile to come soon!
This year included some great kayak trips – I think my favorite was Corsica – really such an amazing place and definitely a kayaker’s paradise. Everything about Corsica was great – the rivers, the countryside, the people, the other paddlers we met, the food, the beer, the ferry ride, and everything! I can’t wait to go back and stay a longer. There were other magical moments throughout the year. We had a very funny, somewhat crazy paddle with Ruth, Toby, Emily and 10 other paddlers on the West walker in Nevada and that was followed up by blizzardy drive to Oregon and a snowy paddle on a beautiful creek there at the end of May! Between a number of drops on the creek, my friend, Hayden Glatte, would get out and mushroom hunt in the dead, snow-covered logs. We definitely had a really delicious dinner that night.
I felt like extreme weather was following me around the globe too. After the snowy conditions in the west, I headed to Europe for the world cup and there was so much rain in Plattling that the event there was cancelled! I have actually never been at an event that was cancelled before so that was a bit unfortunate but nothing you can do about the weather. It was incredible to see the river swell and just devour the land around it. All the campers had to flee and find higher ground, and the river itself became a huge wide brown torrent. If there had not been a wall of earth to protect the town of Plattling, it would have been under water too!
Then it was back to the US for Colorado events and team trials in Missoula. Brennan’s wave was really great and very similar to Plattling where the world cup was supposed to be and where the World’s in June this year will be held. Team trials were great and the level of paddling was very high and inspiring to see and be a part of! Since Brennan’s wave is right in downtown, there was almost always a big crowd there to watch showing all the great local support for the event. I think Missoula may be the most kayaker friendly town I have been to.
After team trials, non-kayaking responsibilities brought me back to New York and there I stayed for the rest of the summer and a good part of the fall. I did get to paddle at T’Ville on the Farmington River as much as I could which was a great escape.
We taught our 9th Inner City Kids kayaking camp this summer and had lots of really hot days to get everyone excited about playing in the river as much as possible. The summer’s extremely low water made us use some different sections of river, for fun and interesting paddling. We were even rewarded with some bald eagle sightings. Really cool for the city kids who never have the opportunity to see or do that. I hope those same kids and more return this summer for our 10th year Camp. As always for me, the camp was a real highlight of the summer and reminds me how its possible to have a big positive impact with not much effort, the river does most of the work for you! None of this would be possible without the help of all the instructors like Margie & Hayden Glatte, Emily and Nick and all the volunteers that come out.
After giving a talk to the Connecticut Appalachian Mountain Club in November, I finally made it back to Uganda – it was great to get back to the Nile and to work! Not that work for Soft Power Health ever stops but there is nothing that replaces the on the ground time. That is definitely fun, challenging, eye opening, and very satisfying. These days we see between 50-70 patients a day at the clinic and have become a referral center for the community where we are based. This year we sold more nets through our malaria education and prevention program than ever before in a year – 12,826 nets.
We are completing our family planning center, which we plan to open very soon and hope to have the center nicely complement the family planning work we are doing in the field where we have provided longer-term methods of family planning for women in over 30 villages. The center will also be the new home for our high-energy milk program for malnourished kids and our vaccination program. We plan to be able to treat many more patients this way. As usual, we have been treating lots malaria at the clinic and helping the government treat malaria at the government health centers by sharing our donation of Coartem, malaria treatment medicine, with them. Our garden is doing well and producing lots of veggies which are both sold by the locals who tend the garden and used by our clinic for food.
I feel very grateful for everything I was able to do in 2010 and I hope to be able to continue to do as much or more this year. With a paralyzing injury to one friend and the death of another, I always try to remind myself that I am so lucky to be healthy, to be able to pursue things I love to do, and to have the loving support of family and friends. Really what else do you need in life?? And as my dear old Dad used to say, “ Are you having fun? Because that’s what its all about! “