15 December 2012

It's Time To Act On Guns

Columbine.  Virginia Tech.  Gabby Giffords.  Aurora.  Wisconsin.  Newtown.  And those are just the beginning.  Mass shootings in the United States are beginning to feel like a national pandemic and it's long past time that we not only have a real conversation about it, but take real action.  How many more times do we need to tune in to the chaos, horror, and devastating aftermath before we say to every gun interest group, the lives of real people far outweigh your "I get to have a gun because it says so" argument?

Let's start with gun control.  Is it just me or does it seem a bit odd that regular people across the USA feel the need to own a semi-automatic military grade rifle?  What on earth are you using that for?  If you say "hunting deer" then I say you may as well pull a Dick Cheney and just ride around drunk in the back of a van because there is no "sport" in shooting ten rounds a second at an indefensible animal.  I'd also like to note that I would far prefer the "best armed" people remain police officers and military personnel.  There is no way to feel more "safe" than to keep heavy artillery in the hands of just those who are charged with protecting our well-being.

Okay, so now we've got the crazy guns restricted.  What about the rest of them?  Unfortunately, the second amendment exists and while it's hundreds of years old and really refers to militias (which, from what I can tell, aren't all that necessary anymore) and has NO MODERN APPLICATION WHATSOEVER, it exists.  Fine then, you can have your normal-sized non horrific disaster inducing guns but it's going to take a lot longer to get them and it's going to cost you.  Mandatory three-month waiting periods (because who URGENTLY needs a gun?), mental health checks, a unified national background and registry system, and NO EXCEPTIONS, all paid for by the individual who feels they "need" a gun.  Then, when you own it, you are required by law to keep it in a locked gun box.  And no wandering around anywhere with a concealed weapon.  Take that NRA.  We're not taking "reasonable" (their words, NOT MINE) gun rights away, we're just protecting, streamlining, and ensuring the integrity of gun ownership.  Hey, that sounds pretty good.  Somebody write that down.

Now for the last challenge.  This one isn't about laws or restrictions.  It's about the societal shift that must take place where people stop believing that they can only feel safe if they have a gun and that "gunning up" - giving more people guns to offset the crazies who have guns - leads to the exact opposite of what you want.  Every other developed country ON EARTH has stricter gun laws that take control of the gun ownership process but they also have a deep-seeded cultural belief that guns make things more deadly and less safe, with all evidence supporting this "off the wall" theory.

So where do we begin?  By starting to talk about how guns don't make you safer.  By deciding that we'd rather the people best "armed" are those who protect and preserve and even if every Tom, Dick, and Harry has - thanks to the second amendment - the "right" to own a gun they can only get one once we as a society have decided that they have waited long enough, are mentally sound, and committed financially to the process.

Come on Mr. President.  Lets take the lead on this one.  We're with you.


Kyle Taylor

10 November 2012

Day 8: Our Final Cycle is HOT HOT HOT (and so are we)

Today we had only one objective: pound through the 50 kilometres and finish the challenge before literally melting into the road. We had a brilliant early morning boat ride to visit the floating markets where an 8-year-old kid taught us all a thing or two about sales, nearly managing to up-sell Lizzie from 20 bananas to 40 using the cunning tactic of grinning big while withholding change. He almost had us!

After a 30-minute transfer on the bus we saddled up to conquer our final ride of the trip: 50 kilometres, taking us to 420 kilometres total!!! It was hot and getting hotter so we powered through the first 25 kilometres in one go, stopping for a quick drink and cool down before hitting the road again to bang out another 15.

It comes easy to us at this point, zipping down country roads as motorbikes zoom past us. The rice paddies extend as far as the eye can see in every direction, criss-crossed by irrigation channels bringing water and, in turn, life to the vibrant Mekong Delta. Every few kilometres we would head up a little bridge where the waterways converge, pumping hard on the steep incline then enjoying the burst of speed on the way down the other end. Today was certainly "undulating!"

We stopped again 1 kilometre from the finish to regroup and finish how we started: together. It's amazing to think you can take three competing media agencies and one brilliant television station, unite them behind a common cause and raise over $50,000 for Australia for UNHCR then cycle across Cambodia and Vietnam as a team getting along every step of the way. Talk about an Inspired Adventure!

After snapping nine million photos in the 37-degree heat we hopped on the vans then hopped on a boat and cruised to an island in the Mekong Delta for a seafood FEAST of a lunch. Now it's onward to Saigon to party "media style!" Watch out big city. We're a comin'!

For the final time, GO TEAM!


09 November 2012

Day 7: Tire Poppin' Fun!

It was all blood, sweat, and tears (minus the blood and tears) today as we hunkered down and did what we came here to do: cycle! It was up at 6am, eating by 7am, and on the bikes by 8am today as we ere seventeen people on a mission: complete the cycle BEFORE it gets dehabilitatingly hot.

While we weren't entirely successful, we certainly powered through the majority of the day before the sun sept through and reached melting levels. Have I mentioned that it is unseasonably hot here at the minute?

There's actually not a whole lot to report here. We did 55km in under three hours, we had three flat tires, said farewell to Anj who heads back to Austalia for a wedding, we sat in hammocks when we finished, and we ate an incredible amount of lucky cow cheese. By my count, Claire and Laura were leading at six triangles each today. That's almost an entire wheel and its only 3pm!

Now it's such much needed R&R before dinner, bed, and one final day on the bikes. Is it really coming to an end?!?!



08 November 2012

Day 6: A Comedy of Errors

We have had such a clean run thus far, a morning where everything doesn't go perfectly well was not only expected but almost appreciated. Almost. Today we made the move from Cambodia to Vietnam which meant, devastatingly, having to say goodbye to Vutthu, our absolutely incredible local guide in Cambodia.

The border was as you'd expect: a paved road becomes a dirt road becomes no man's land as you drift between the two nations in a brilliant dance of changing states. Getting out of Cambodia was easy enough: passport, big stamp, big stamp, thump thump thump, grumpy look, grunt, intense eye contact with immigration official, done.

Entering Vietnam, however, was a bit more tricky. The Embassy in Australia misdated Dan's visa, which meant a last-minute wham bam emergency version so he could enter. Vi had an e-visa which, while valid, could not be used at this land border crossing for no reason in particular. Just a "special" one. W begged and pleaded and sat and waited as our new local guide "made a call." Somehow, miraculously, after a little official money for a new visa and quite a bit of unofficial money for the privilege, Vi too made it in! It's was great news, as we had been planning her return to Pnomh Penh (5 hours away) to get a new visa using the public bus then returning to the border and re-entering Vietnam only to join us at our hotel another 3 hours beyond the border. Thankfully, she and I didn't have to do that!

Because of the delay we had to modify our cycling distance a bit (though we will still pass 400 km in total). I gave a rousing speech about how ur luck would change only to have it start pouring with rain before Kate and a moped got a little too close for comfort.

Thankfully, there were hammocks and laughing cow cheese waiting for us at lunch and we devoured every last bite! It's onward to the hotel now for some MUCH NEEDED rest and relaxation. Tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start in our new host country. Can't wait!



07 November 2012

Day 5: Bikes, Kids, & Elections, Oh My!

Before we went off to bed last night the four teams competed in one of many challenges that have faced them the past five days. This one involved drawing another team's name from a hat then heading to the markets and buying a present for them that was iconic enough to get all teams to guess who bought it and who they bought it for. No easy task, save for SBS, who wiped the floor with MediaCom, Mindshare, and OMD, securing a PERFECT SCORE and a miniature Buddha for the effort. I've never seen such carnage.

We hit the road early today and were on our bikes cycling by 8:30am. The pounding sun wasn't yet in full force, which made the first part of our ride incredibly enjoyable! At the end of that leg - 25 kilometres - we pulled off for a rest in front of a school right as recess was starting! It was absolutely epic. Running, screaming, chanting, cheering, hugging, loving, and lots and lots of laughing. There is universal joy in making kids laugh and we had a blast riling them up before setting off on the second leg of the day.

I hopped safely into the back of the mechanic's truck and made a valiant effort to snap flattering photos (not successful, but who could be with this group?) of every person here who has worked so incredibly hard for themselves, their organisations, Inspired Adventures, and Australia for UNHCR! The team are just $500 shy of raising $50,000. A phenomenal accomplishment!

Another short break later and we were back in the saddle, wrapping up a mega day with a slightly shorter third leg of 15 kilometres. From there it was off to lunch, where we managed to catch both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama's post-election speeches before re-boarding the bus for Kep, a sleepy beach town on Cambodia's south coast.

It will be a quick dip in the ocean tonight followed by dinner and a mega slumber as we rest up for three more days of cycling in brilliant Vietnam. We can't wait!



06 November 2012

Day 4: Resting up for the next four!

Today was all about recharging our batteries and learning as much as possible about the history, people and culture of our incredibly gracious host country. It started with a somber visit to both the genocide museum and the killing fields, where we were confronted by the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge that so badly affected this nation.


After a another full-on lunch we tried to get more involved with the Cambodia of now, heading to the markets in true Inspired fashion: in an extremely exciting (and phenomenally safe) tuk tuk race across the city! Thanks to our brilliant drivers who joined in the fun and all the shopkeepers who gave us all "very good deals."


It's back on the bikes tomorrow so time to sleep!





Day 3: 72 Kilometers in 3 hours. What the what!?!?

Today we came to play. Go big or go home was the name of the game and we went big! It was early to rise as we were at breakfast by 6am and driving away by 6:30am. After a three-hour bus transfer out of the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap we hopped back on our bikes for a 3-hour no-holds-barred cycle of our lives, averaging 24 kilometres an hour on what would definitely be considered "undulating" terrain.

The whole group gave it their all and it was definitely a team effort. Such a team effort, in fact, that Amy acquired a gang of kids using pens and notepads as bait. It started with just three or four but as news spread the kids came literally running down the road from every direction! One girl wearing bright pink pants took a particular liking to Amy and was desperate for a photo of the two of them, which we snapped!

We had yet another brilliant lunch at a Buddhist-run non-profit restaurant aptly named "Smile" (which we did, as the food was AMAZING) before hopping on the bus to cruise into Phnom Penh just as the sun was setting. We made a pitstop en route to discover we had some competition on the bikes. An army of teenage girls cruising along like it was nothing!

Special shout out today to Kate, who used "nature's toilet" for the first time in her life!

More soon. Go team!