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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The List From Hell

The idea of pulling up stakes and moving to France was fairly simple and one I’ve done on a number of occasions.  But affecting that idea was not going to be a lay-up. I plotted out my to-do list and had it not been on a computer it would have consumed reams of paper.

 Before I unpacked my bags in Aix Les Bains, I had to move out of my house, travel to Charlottesville, Virginia for a gig followed by two weeks in Ann Arbor to speak to a couple groups of medical students. Upon returning to Oregon I promised my sister, Sue I would consolidate my twenty boxes of possessions, which took up most of the south side of her garage, into a more manageable pile. I also had to organize a medical conference in Bangladesh and prepare a talk on “Social Media for Medicine” – a subject I was ill-equipped to speak on, but would soon have to be an expert.

The List from Hell came in various stages, but started with moving. Phase I went like this:

  • ·         Get someone to store my furniture (Bed, dresser, trunk, file cabinet)
  • ·         Get someone to take my musical equipment (2 guitars, amp, keyboard, PA, two speakers, bag of chords)
  • ·         Pack all my clothes and sundry possessions in boxes.
  • ·         Get someone to help me pack everything in my van.
  • ·         Drive to Corvallis to dump off as much stuff as I could cram into my van and my sister’s car.
  • ·         Buy a plane ticket Portland->Charlottesville->Detroit->Portland.
  • ·         Buy a plane ticket Portland->Geneva->Portland.
  • ·         Buy a plane ticket Geneva->Dhaka->Geneva.

I was also training for the Portland Marathon and since 1998 I’ve been the race director for the wheelchair/hand cycle division.  My bike exploded on me three weeks earlier and a new replacement frame was on its way. That meant I had to find a bike shop to put it together and hopefully take in a practice run before the marathon. Just to round out my complete lack of free time I had gotten myself involved with an editing project for Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Oregon Field Guide. I was logging video which required I write down every word spoken for more than 10 hours of video on a story about the Oregon Outdoor School.

The plan was to get all of this done, do the Portland Marathon (hoping nothing happened with any of the chairs that would take more of my time), drink an ocean of beer while watching the Packers play at the Seraveza Packer’s Bar in North Portland, then sober up enough to get on my plane to Charlottesville for the gig. I probably should have worked in some rehearsal time for the gig, but that wasn’t going to happen until I got off the plane.

Then there was the part about the French visa. I’ve been to France more than a dozen times in my life and never really thought about getting a visa (aside from 1987 when they were pissed at Reagan and made U.S. Citizens get tourist visas). I have always just gotten on the plane and left the country when it was time to go home. Five times I’ve stayed more than 90 days in the country and never once gave it a thought.
But that was pre-Bin Laden, pre Schengen Area. 

The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 in Schengen, Luxembourg setting up a common area for European travelers to have common travel visa regulations. It wasn’t ratified for ten years, but ever since, you are only allowed to be in the Schengen Area for 90 days without leaving for 90 days. These rules were widely ignored for another six years upon which time Osama Bin Laden jammed planes into the New York skyline. Ever since, the rules have been strictly enforced.

But you can apply for 12-month ‘Long Stay’ visas which require their own special List From Hell as well as a personal appointment to visit a French Consulate. So Phase II of the List From Hell looked like this:

  • Application form (English version) filled out completely and signed by the applicant.
  •            One ID picture glued/stapled onto the application form
  •  Original passport or travel document (+ ONE COPY of the identity pages). Your passport must have been issued less than 10 years ago, be lvalid for at least three months after your return to the US and have at least 2 blank visas pages left.
  •  Status in the US - If you are not a US citizen, copy of your green card or visa.
  •   Letter promising not to engage in any employment in France (signature certified by a notary public)
  •   Letter of employment in the US stating occupation and earnings
  •   Proof of means of income - letter from the bank, investment certificates, pension slips, …
  • Proof of medical insurance
  • Marriage certificate or family book + Birth certificates for children
  •   Proof of accommodation in France (title deeds, lease or rental agreement)
  •   Processing fees
  • One residence form duly filled out (upper part only)
  • A self-addressed prepaid EXPRESS MAIL envelope from the US POST OFFICE ONLY

Unbelievably enough I succeeded in getting everything in both Phase I and Phase II from the List From Hell completed before driving over to the Portland Hilton to work two eight-hour shifts at the Portland Marathon Help Desk prior to the race.
On Saturday October 6, I picked up my Portland Marathon number, downed my first carbs in three weeks (I was Atkins dieting for the race) then rolled home and waited for my friend Jeff to pick up my furniture. As soon as it was safely secured in his North Portland garage, I boogied home, packed up all my music gear and took it to my playing partner, Bill's house. Finally, I came home and slid into the recliner in my living room. It was my last night in Portland and that’s where I was going to sleep – my bed was already packed.   
Whatever wasn’t done at this point wasn’t going to get done. As soon as I woke up, it would be race day.
The latest long, strange trip would start like the last one – with the Portland Marathon.
It was on.

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