Who Dat?

Back in the 80s, long before the X-Games existed, Tom Haig traveled the world as an extreme athlete. He visited more than 50 countries as an international high diver, doing multiple somersault tricks from over 90 feet.

That life came crashing down one Sunday morning in 1996. While training on his mountain bike, he smashed into the grill of a truck and became paralyzed from the waist down. But less than a year later he completed a 100-mile ride on a hand-cycle and traveled by himself to Europe and the Middle East.

Since then he has continued to travel the world as a consultant, writer and video producer. He spent six months launching a Tibetan radio station in the Himalayas and shot documentary shorts on disability in Bangladesh, France, Albania, Ghana and most recently Nepal.

Monday, January 4, 2010

And then there's that India Thing...

The first few weeks of my stay in Earlysville were spent waiting to see if the Tibetans really wanted to have me come over. The last three weeks were all about putting together a travel plan.

Last time I traveled to India I spent the better part of two months figuring out what I needed, acquiring it, and packing it. Along with a guitar, computer and duffle bag full of clothes, I also brought along a big box full of medical supplies and toiletries that Dan told me I couldn’t get up in the mountains. Once I got to McLeod Ganj I realized I needed just about everything I’d packed.

Ten years down the line, I was told that McLeod Ganj had modernized considerably and several of the goods I had to bring from the states are available in the mountains. So no big box this time, but instead the radio station asked me if I could bring some electrical equipment. This is where being in a band comes in quite handy.

Our rhythm player, Goother sent me a small, but very effective 6-channel mixer along with a couple of mics. Bagus chipped in with a USB converter so I could take the signal coming out of the mixer and transduce it to a digital signal for my laptop. I also loaded up my guitar case with a jungle of ¼” cable and my guitar FX box. I also tucked a flip video camera and digital camera somewhere in the bag too.

On top of that I went on to the internet and ordered two desktop mic stands, some cable converters, a step down converter (turns 240v to a 110v; Indian standard power to US standard power), a universal power strip (can handle any power and any plug-in adaptor), a Skype camera and a handful of extra fuses.

And that was just for the electronic gear. I also had to order 50 new catheters (no way I could find those in the Himalayas!), get new tires for my wheelchair and order a bunch of natural medicines that tend to keep my insides from turning out. Seeing as I left Oregon for a three-week fall trip, I hadn’t brought any winter gear. Sister Sue in Corvallis went into my room and put together a box of sweat shirts. Between my packages and the early wave of Christmas presents, the porch at Earlysville began to look like a loading dock.

As the packages kept rolling in, I took advantage of living in a room with three guitars, a bass, a mixer, two mics, an FX pedal and a computer with Adobe Audition. I’d used Audition in school, but only to put together some radio commercials. This time I tried to learn how to record music tracks. I’d used an analog four-track recorder in the past and found it to be terribly frustrating and time consuming. Digital recording is a dream in comparison. You can record as many tracks as you want, correct and enhance tracks at the click of a mouse, and splice in patches just by sliding a time line.

While Dan, Zoe, Tristan and Tashi were at work or dealing with school, I hung out Earlysville with the two cats, Luna and Loki and kicked out ten new tracks. They aren’t masterpieces, but they ended up much cleaner than the effort I’d made with the four-track. (Tune List)More importantly, I was freshly familiar with the software which was going to be a big part of my job at the radio station.

Finally as the first snow hit Virginia, the calendar moved to Dec. 9 and it was time to go. I did my last load of laundry and Dan helped me pack the four bags I would take (computer bag, guitar case, duffle bag, and chair bag) for my six month stay in India. The one thing I took very little of was clothes. I left Oregon packed for marathon racing, not moving to the Himalayas. Most of my clothes were workout shirts and sweat pants and ended up tucked away in a cubby hole in Earlysville.

We loaded up my van and shoved off with a couple hours to spare. You never know what kind of traffic one can stumble in around D.C., but luckily we avoided any delays. I was sure I was going to be tagged pretty heavily for extra baggage weight, but something about being in a chair throws people off. They’re so concerned with getting me on the plane that they usually just toss the bags on the conveyor and send me to the gate to let them deal with me.

They also assumed that Dan was my ‘assistant’ so they let him pass through security and hang with me at the gate. That gave us time for a quick beer and some last minute advice on trying to get things accomplished in Dharamsala.

And then the month-long planning was over and my flight was called. I hit the loo, gave dan a hug, then boarded the flight for Brussels. Just like that – I was gone for six months to the Himalayas.

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