And the (fundraising) Race is on!

As many of you already know, I am running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco one month from today!  The training is going pretty well, and I even ran a practice race a couple of weeks ago at the Seattle Iron Girl 10K (along with my co-worker Lindsay).  Linds & Lillie

Since I’m training with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, it’s more than preparing for the run.  I’m also raising money to support the organization with their efforts to cure blood cancers and provide support to the families affected by these diseases.  With one month to go, I’m halfway toward my goal of $4,000.

This is where I need you.  Please visit my personal fundraising page and contribute to my race today!  If you’d rather mail in a check, that works, too.  Just shoot me an email for the details (lilliek at gmail).

Bonus: When you donate over $100, you can earn 1 Alaska Airlines Mile/$ on top of your usual credit card bonus.  How can you afford not to contribute!?  (Ask me if you’d like to go this route as there is one extra hoop to jump through.)

No matter the amount, your donation will benefit a cause that is doing amazing work right before our eyes.  I’ve heard some incredible "success" stories since I started training with TnT, and it’s all because of the work that they’re doing.   

Thanks for your support!!

Hair loss consult = 20K Delta miles

Considering my shaggy dome you can understand how I would be a bit nervous about this…

But the doctor was pretty good humored about it all: "Tell me what the heck you’re doing here with that beautiful head of hair?"  I replied with "There’s a Delta airlines promotion…"  He laughed and I was outta there a few minutes later.  Super nice and he even double checked he had my frequent flyer number to ensure I’m properly credited the miles.

This brings me to 68,294 Delta miles without ever flying Delta—in fact, 16,294 of those miles are from the $300 business class trip to Cyprus, 30K from recent rental car sprees (~$120), 2K from some random online contest, and now this 20K for $0.00.  Sweet.

Now I’m starting to eye the Singapore Airlines 120K mile business award—easily the best value in the otherwise horrible Delta SkyMiles program.

Antsirabe, Madagascar

Driving after sunset can be pretty terrifying.  So it was a joy to arrive at our hotel for the night–Residence Camelia.  Well-appointed and clean…complete with a tv that I watched England v France in the Rugby World Cup on (albeit sans sound).

Antsirabe is called the pousse-pousse capital of the country.  There’s nothing like hopping in a cart and having a 16 year old kid pull you around town.  Walking out of the hotel and there were a dozen guys begging to win the job, and we settled on the soft-spoken George.  He toted us off to to Chez Jenny–one of our best restaurant experiences of the trip.  Great fire-grilled pizza and bananas flambe complete with nice ambience.  A real treat.

George waiting for us outside as we ate and then hauled us to Cyber Cafe to get on the internets.  Again, this was the best internet cafe we encountered on the trip–both in terms of style and connection speed.  Finally, George tugged us back to the hotel.  I handed him 10,000 ariay (way too much) and he got all fake-mopey.  I liked this kid quite a bit (and he spoke some decent enough English along the way) so I tossed him another 5,000 ariay (way too much) and he was all smiles.

George even waved goodbye to us as we drove away at 7am the next morning.

Arriving in Madagascar – Andasibe National Park

I arranged for a driver through some recommendations from folks on the Lonely Planet website.  I asked for an English speaking driver (was told no problem) and of course we got a driver who spoke not a lick of English.  Awesome.  We had some other issues that left a bad taste in our mouths, so our attempt to support a local business directly backfired a bit.

Anyway, after a bit of nonsense paperwork and such with the driver at the airport we were on our way to Andasibe National Park.  Traffic was brutal leaving the bustling (seriously) Antananarivo so it was a nearly 4-hour drive until we reached our hotel–Buffet de la Gare.  I tried for 7-months to get a room at Vakona Forest Lodge or Feony Ala but they were consistently booked.  So we paid 45,000 ariary for a bungalow here–it was decent enough though we elected to avoid the rather dire shower.  Dinner consisted of an omelette and pommes frites–which would become a go to meal for us on the trip.

The plan was to do a night walk with Operation Mitsinjo (hyped in the Bradt guide) but they were all closed up.  Our driver scrounged up a “guide” for us instead and she was pretty worthless.  She let us know that the chirps we were hearing were “insects”, for example.  The one thing we found was without her assistance…our first animal sighting in Madagascar:

I then gave this guide way too many ariary just hoping to never see her again……

But of course when we arrived at the park at 7am the following morning she was waiting for us there to be our guide again.  Our driver had already arranged for another guide for us, however.  And there was all sorts of awkwardness as this woman was all sad and I had to tell her to bugger off.  Thank goodness we’ve been listening to the Crucial Conversations CDs.  This proved to be one of our best decisions of the trip as our guide Richard was amazing.

So everyone comes to Andasibe to see the Indri.  And before we saw them we were listening to them calling one another while laying in our beds at Buffet de la Gare.  These guys were pretty cool and it was thrilling to see our first lemur:


Some of the guides were real obnoxious shaking on the trees to get the lemurs moving around and we saw one guide with a boombox playing recorded indri calls.  Our boy Richard kept it real, though.

We were poking around in some pretty thick forest and Richard found one of our most exciting sights of the trip–a wild Parson’s chameleon:

And it was at this point that my camera battery died.  But we went on to see a few brown lemurs and most exciting of all the giraffe necked weevil.  Go ahead and just punch that into google images and prepare to be amazed.  I’m bummed we didn’t get a photo of these guys because they are just unreal.  Our 3+ hours at this park was pure joy and I happily hit Richard off with 30,000 ariary for his services.

We then hopped in the car for a 5+ hour drive to Antsirabe.  We stopped at a reptile zoo (between Andasibe and Tana) where Lillie fondled some chamaleons, but the primary purpose of the stop was to have some repairs done on our car.  Unless you really want to get your hands on some chameleons just keep on driving.  The condition of some of the animals here is pretty dubious.  They also have some lemurs here but we elected to stay away from those.