Sunday, June 15, 2014

Winter/Spring 2014

Hi Dear friends and family,

It has been some time since I last wrote and in that time I spent 6 weeks in a rural village in Senegal, ran a trail 1/2 marathon with my mom, ventured down to the southwest USA, made it back to Wisconsin to attend medical school graduation, and most recently moved to Boise to where Stephanie and I will be starting our next adventure.  What follows are stories and pictures I thought worth sharing, I hope you enjoy!


Due to fortuitous circumstances I was able to visit my brother Patrick in Senegal for 6 weeks this past winter where he is an agro-forestry PeaceCorps volunteer in his second year.  We lived in his small hut in a rural village 28 km from the nearest road with no electricity and worked on building a mud brick house and farming when not adventuring out on foot or bike.  Our other brother Matthew was also able to join us from 2 weeks from Australia where he is living and working and it was the first time we had all been reunited in over a year and a half.  The time with both of them was amazing and I feel most grateful for it.  Pics and a story follow:

Sunrise in rural Senegal seen on a morning run.

Green mango sauce made from, you guessed it, green mangos:)  Extra special as with no knife I bit off each little chunk then spit it in the jar before we cooked it.  A lot of sugar and little salt and voila!  It was in fact, despite appearance, quite good.

Patrick's cob oven he built about to be filled with banana bread.  His village LOVES the banana bread and Patrick doles out small amounts to all his "family" (a wide network of people only loosely tied by blood).


In order to get water for cooking and bathing we had to carry buckets to either the well or, much easier, Patrick's family had recently been installed with a water tap.  One fiery hot afternoon (average afternoon temps were 100-110) we went to get water and two young girls (maybe 7-9 years old) helped us carry some of the heavy buckets back (another story, the women are so strong with such incredible balance!).  As we entered Patrick's yard a gaggle of 5 or 6 more kids joined in the parade (privacy is different, people walk into anyone's house pretty much whenever).  We had planned to give our two helpers a jolly rancher like candy in thanks but did not have enough for all the kids.  we handed one each to the two girls who promptly opened the candies, cracked them with their teeth in roughly equal pieces, and handed out the shards to all the children present.  I was astonished.  However, as I spent more time in Senegal I came to see that very different principles operate and one of these is that whatever you have, you share.  If you are about to sit down to a delicious meal you spent hours preparing and a person walks by, well, you invite them over and give them half.  And if a third person comes by, yup, they get some too.  While this seems to make it tough for any one person to rise above and get rich I also didn't see a single person I thought was homeless during my time in Senegal (in further discussion with Patrick this principle is most pronounced in the rural areas and less functional in the bigger cities).

Delicious pizza from the same oven.

Patrick and loaded bike ready to go.  We went most everywhere by bike and the 28 km from his village to the nearest sizable town took us about 2 hours at a decent pace.

Cashew fruit!  I had never seen these before despite eating many cashews.  The cashew is located in the gray/green structure on one end and needs to roasted then cracked open.  The fruit itself is delicious and we feasted on them almost daily.

With Patrick (left) and Matthew (right) heading into the local forest for a day exploring.  We found several huge african mahogany trees, saw a wild boar, and got chased by swarms of blood sucking flies.  A great day!

An interesting spike tree we found on our ride!

This is a sunset from Patrick's hut.  Apparently I failed to include any photos of myself in this section but I swear I really was there and didn't just have Patrick send me a bunch of photos. Really.

1/2 Marathon:

My mom used to walk a fair bit but had never run over 6 miles when she decided to run a half marathon with me!  We chose an event that, in retrospect, was not a great starter course (over 3000 ft of climbing on rough trails and roads) but she power hiked the ups and ran the downs like a champ.  Our whole family was and is very proud of what she is accomplishing.  Way to go mom!  The run was a blast on my end and I hope to do it again in the future.

Left - at the finish together (the mustache was an Africa-inspired edition after my beard growing adventure failed) and right - cruising down the path.


A dream of both mine and Stephanie's for some time had been to journey to the southwest USA to hike, camp, and explore.  This spring we were able to do so.  I ventured down first in my little truck.  My dependable little truck that never ever has problems and always... wait, what is going on, why am I losing power?!  Long story after never getting towed in my life I was towed twice in 3 days before a rough and tumble man named, I kid you not, "Biggie" in rural Utah fixed me up for good.  Car troubles aside I proceeded to hike up mountains and down slot canyons before picking up Stephanie for the second leg of the journey and checking out Zion and Grand Canyon national parks.  Epic is all I can say.  I definitely plan to return.  One fav hike was hiking up the "narrows" in Zion, the main valley narrows into a canyon where you then walk up the river in 1-2 feet of water, the walls close in to just 30-40 feet across and then shoot up 1500 plus feet.  Pics are nice but you really have to be there to fully appreciate it.  Would love to share more pics and stories on this one but time is short.  If you're planning on going I would love to share what I learned and any tips.


After initially not thinking I would be able to make it back for the official medical school graduation ceremony our plans changed, and boy was I glad they did!  Stephanie and I first stopped in Milwaukee where we had spent 6 months together and were able to visit with my grandfather George as well as Stephanie's former work colleagues from Core El Centro and many wonderful medical school fellow students and instructors.  From there we headed to Madison where we spent time with Don and Joanne Schalch, met up with more classmates, friends, and mentors and attended graduation.  I was very grateful for a chance to provide a proper closure and thank the many amazing individuals who made my time at the UWSMPH such a remarkable experience.  Thank you!

Stephanie and I at graduation!


For those I may not have told I matched at the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho located in Boise, ID.  And, in fact, I start tomorrow!  Stephanie and I are thrilled to be in Boise and were fortunate to find a great little apartment in the north close the the clinical sites I will be at as well as job opportunities for Stephanie, near the downtown, just 1.5 blocks from a co-op food store, and within a mile of a huge trail network (140 plus miles and over 4000 feet vertical right out the door!).  We are excited to have people come visit so if you are in the area or would like to come let us know!  

Our apartment is the front and center door.  We are part of a 6 unit building from the 1930's or 40's which has been renovated into apartments (and one studio).  While I would like to take credit for the functional + beautiful set up inside our home it really came from Stephanie.  Behind the building there is a communal space where we have already been able to plant a small garden with flowers, kale, tomatoes, peppers, and cabbage.

Getting up in the foothills in the early morning, Boise in the distance.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A test

When I agreed to come house/dog/cat sit for my parents while they visited my brother in Senegal I imagined cooking big feasts, long trail runs, and plenty of time to reflect on life (something in short supply for me these past 5 years).  I did not imagine that within 48 hours of beginning my duties I would find myself outside in the 37 degree weather, buck-naked, and smeared with manure.

But, before I describe how I arrived in such a pitiful state let me provide a little key background information.

(Note: Mom and dad, as of this writing everything is back to normal, the house is clean, and no serious harm has befallen any pets.)

You should know that my parents currently have two dogs, one, Lucy, is a slightly neurotic but lovable pitbull who has the nasty habit of eating cat poop.  The other, Arnold, is a massive orange mutt who smells like a dead animal and loves to rub against you whenever possible.  If you even so much as pat his head once, just once!, you will need to wash your hands.  Immediately.  Arnold is also an escape artist.  Despite an electric fence turned on full he will at times bolt through it and disappear for hours until we find him trotting along a road far from home or a neighbor calls, "umm, we have your dog."  Thus, we have had to keep him chained up during the day except for morning and evening walks.  Prior to leaving, my dad had informed me that if I kept Lucy and Arnold in a certain area of the property during their daily walk Arnold shouldn't run away.  Ample use of dog biscuits was also key to maintaining proper behaviour.

This morning dawned foggy but not raining.  Nice!  I decided to take the dogs out for their morning walk/bowel evacuation.  After a couple successful dog walks with Arnold on a leash and last night's walk without a leash I decided I had this thing figured out amd chose not to use the leash.  The dogs bounded out into the grass, frolicking, sniffing, peeing, you know, dog stuff.  Lucy went for a stick and I grabbed the other end, "snap" so much for that game.

When I turned around from playing with Lucy I realized I could not see Arnold.  No worries I told myself, I know the path he takes, down past the pond, poop in the field, up around by the garden, and back to the house.  I headed out after him with Lucy in tow.  He wasn't in his favorite poop spot, he wasn't by the pond, and he wasn't by the spot my dad had warned me that he likes to run through the fence...  Excrement!  I had been fooled by a shaggy smelly dog!  He let me think he would play by the rules the night prior while he was really just plotting his morning escape the following day!  Blast!

I changed into warmer clothes, locked Lucy in the house so she wouldn't run off too, grabbed my bike, and headed out in pursuit.  In the distance I could heard screeching chickens... I circumnavigated our property on the roads and also went down side streets in the zone I thought him most likely to have left.  Nothing.  Over by the chickens, also no sign, it appears the chickens were just screeching because, well, I actually have no idea, maybe they like doing it.

Heading home, dejected, I could imagine Arnold run over by a car somewhere, gasping his last breaths on the side of the road.  And my father's disapointed look, "son, you shouldn't have let him out of your sight."  These thoughts bouncing around my head I entered the side door of the house and immediately noticed something amiss.  Lucy was coming down the stairs from my room.  She was not sitting in her little bed by the door where she is supposed to be at all times when inside.  Uh oh.  Lucy gave me a guilty look and padded down the hall back to her bed.  That's when I noticed it.  I had left the laundry room door open more than 6 inches.  Normally just open a slit for the cats to get in/out in order to eat/drink/use the cat litter box I had left it open after getting dog biscuits prior to the walk and forgot to close it before heading out after Arnold.  I entered with trepidation...  To find disaster: cat litter covered the floor, along with bits of missed cat poop that Lucy had failed to eat.  She had also torn open the bag of poop I had collected the day prior, eaten most of the contents before leaving it flayed open on the floor.  To cap it off, the cat's food bowls were empty.  I was devastated.  As I cleaned up poop and cat litter dark thoughts of harming dogs floated through my head.  However, after plenty of time cleaning to calm down some, I came to the conclusion that dogs are like young children and any punishment at this point would not be linked back to the original misdeed.

Then it came time to wait.  Arnold could be anywhere on the island by now but from past exploits he was probably within a few miles.  The question though was which direction.  Usually, in the past, he would tire of his freedom eventually and show up on someone's doorstep acting all cute (but still smelly) and they would see his tags and call our house.  Thus, though I wanted to hunt him down, I knew I had to play it cool and let him decide to call it quits.  Sure enough, 5 hours later the phone rang, "hi, this is Linda, I think I have your dog...  and he kind of smells."

When I pulled into Linda's yard off Taylor avenue there was Arnold, with a huge grin on his face.  "I bet you're loving this," I muttered under my breath as I popped out of the truck, leash in hand.  "He's really smelly" Linda commented, "I think he might have rolled in something..."
"Yup, he's a smelly one all right, that smell is actually normal for him."
And then it hit me, a tidal wave of foul odor above and beyond even Arnold's normal pungent concoction.  "Dear Lord, that is foul, Arnold what did you do?!"
"I think it might be horse manure," Linda added.  Now that she mentioned it, that might be it, horse manure combined with natural Arnold scent for a toxic ultimate knock-out scent.  I apologized profusely for the entire incident, got Arnold in the back of the truck, and headed for home.

During the ride home I debated my next course of action.  I didn't want anything more to do with Arnold but with a stench that strong even chained up he would infect the entire garage.  Slowly, the realization dawned on me...  he needed a bath.  And I was the person who had to give said bath.  The temperature being in the mid-30s I debated how best to go about this.  In the end I decided my best course of action, though risky, was to quickly get him into the shower above the garage and wash him naked.  If I did it outside any clothes I had on would be destroyed.  I stripped naked inside, then headed back out to do battle.  "Alright Arnold, no more funny business, it's bath time - bring it!"  I let him out of the truck, smear, a combination of manure and dirt was rubbed onto arm and leg.  Somehow, naked and barefoot, I managed to hold onto his collar and get him out of the truck, through the garage, and into the shower with the glass door shut without him shaking liquid around or smearing anything except me.  As I directed the shower's spray into his thick fur, streams of dark green/brown water poured off his body and a holy stench rose up.  I fought back with gobs of Bali Mango shampoo until I was able to once again breath through my nose without gagging.

Bath finished I realized my rookie error.  I had left the towel outside and not hung on the top.  I tried to slip out of the shower door quickly to get it but Arnold fought past me and got in one huge shake - water flew everywhere - before I lunged and tackled him with the towel.  The big hurdle accomplished  and flush with success I then washed Lucy for good measure.  She was not pleased.

Lessons learned:
1) Arnold is not to be trusted.  No matter how much he gives me the big old deer eyes of innocence.
2) Horse manure + mud + Arnold scent + unknown compounds = possible terrorism weapon.  Avoid if at all possible.
3) If you cannot avoid #2 apply liberal hot water and Bali mango shampoo and hope for the best.
4) Never, never, never! leave the laundry door open, no matter what.  Even if you think you'll be right back in, well, you just might not.
5) Despite all the challenges of the day, well, I still do love these two dogs.  I even gave them dinner after promising myself they would not eat for 3 days.  I wonder if the whole experience was a lesson to prepare me for kids one day?  These dogs made me want to tear my hair out today but after it was all over, when they made their happy dog faces at me, well, the anger just melted away.  Any thoughts parents?

Ok, until next time!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 - Thoughts

At Crater Lake November 2013 

Since returning from Timor life has been busy.  Both Stephanie and I think often of Timor and miss the people we grew to care for there.  One exciting recent piece of news came from Lourenco (Lorenzo), the young Timorese man who took over the community health project upon our departure.  Lourenco informed me via email that the team recently held a community health worker training.  This is something that we had hoped to achieve but had run out of time and in all honesty I had my doubts as to whether it would come to fruition, but it has!

Our final days in Timor were a whirlwind.  Spending time with friends, training Lourenco to take over the project, and then the day before we were to leave Stephanie and I each ran a ½ marathon and marathon respectively.  The Timorese government had taken over the organization of the event in the final month and unfortunately they did not have much time to prepare.  Thus, there was little water to be had on the course and no food.  I ran in my thin Luna sandals which had been fine on the trails I regularly ran on but over 26.2 miles of flat pavement my legs and feet got very beat up.  Oh, and it also poured the majority of the race!  This led to increased friction with my clothing and for the first time in my life I experienced severe nipple and inner thigh chaffage – ouch!

Home stretch!  Most of the second lap they had let traffic back on the streets - nice!

Despite these challenges both Stephanie and I finished – nice!  Our post-race high was briefly deflated after we sat with sore legs for 3 hours in the Dili airport only to learn our flight to Bali had been canceled due to the rain. Doh!  Fortunately our amazing landlady Rosalia allowed us to return for one more night and made us some amazing food to bootJ  Our second go the next day was successful but meant we had only 1.5 hours to make our connecting flight in Bali.  This required us to literally run through the airport to make it, as in Bali they make you check out and then check back in with each arrival.  Being a day after our race this was quite painful on the legs but the fear of missing our trans-pacific connection spurred us onwards.  We made it:)

Stephanie and I with the race director.  They seemed very keen on taking a photo with us after the race.  I think they just wanted a photo with some sweaty malae (foreigners) for future publicity but who knows:)
Eventually we made it back to the good ‘ol USA and had several days to spend with each of our families before heading out to Wisconsin.  From July 4th – November 15th we lived and worked in Milwaukee, me finishing up medical school and Stephanie working at Core/El Centro, a not for profit, bilingual (Spanish and English) wellness center in Southside Milwaukee.  Stephanie was the children’s wellness coordinator and was in charge of educating and caring for children of parents who came to participate in the center’s various classes (yoga, zumba, etc.) all offered on a sliding scale and taught bilingually thus allowing lower income families to enhance their wellbeing with modalities normally not available to them due to financial, linguistic, and child care barriers.  A highlight for me was attending the Wisconsin Bicycle Summit in Madison with my bike project promotion teammates Tatiana, Alejandro and Dr. Waters and seeing their excitement about the future possibilities for how bicycles can impact the health and wellness of the people of Southside Milwaukee!

Stephanie with some of the kids she worked with at Core/El Centro.  I volunteered a couple of times and was very impressed with Stephanie's control of the group!  Key activity?  Freeze tag until the kids dropped from exhaustion:)

Southside Bicycle Team in Madison at the Summit.  L-R: Tatiana, Dr. Waters, myself, and Alejandro

On November 15th Stephanie and I finished packing our possessions into my 87 Mazda truck and began our journey driving across the country.  

On the road in the Mazda!  Fully loaded we did ok on the flats but on a few mountain passes we got down to 35 MPH or so - worse than the semi-trucks!

Wide open lands in Dakota.

I had started my medical school journey by driving out to the midwest and the return journey back west was a beautiful and grounding way to draw my experience to a close.  We do not know the paths we do not take but I could not be more pleased with the education I received over the past 4.5 years at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.  The gut feeling I had before starting in Wisconsin, that the UWSMPH would be a place filled with people who would help me to become a compassionate and well-rounded physician, proved true.  I am extremely grateful to many individuals associated with the UWSMPH.  Thank you.  I am also grateful to my parents Dick and Julia Wauters and the numerous other family, friends, and mentors who have supported me along the way - thank you!!!

Arriving back on the west coast I did have one final month’s rotation in Klamath Falls Oregon in order to check out their program as a possibility for residency.  The month was a blast and I would be happy to end up in Kfalls!

Atop Moore Mountain in Kfalls during a trail run.  27 miles of uninterrupted single-track just minutes from town!

On December 20th 2013 I officially completed my medical school education – woohoo!

Currently Stephanie and I are in Portland for the holidays with Stephanie’s family.  We have several residency interviews to complete over the next couple of weeks and then must decide how to rank our choices.  The programs also rank the applicants they have interviewed and then both parties submit their rank lists to a central computer that uses an algorithm to match applicants with programs.  We will find out where we are going on March 21st  (Match Day) when results are released across the nation.  I got myself quite worked up about where to go for medical school and I am thus endeavoring to take a more relaxed approach in this next stepJ

I read several books in 2013 that impacted me in a big way and would like to share:

1) Born to Run (Christopher McDougal) – Convinced me to switch to a different foot strike and to use more minimal shoes (and sometimes run barefoot!).  In the past I would have knee pain running anything over an hour but now can run for close to 4 hours and I am training to do a 50-mile trail ultramarathon!  The feeling I sometimes get out on the trails, completely in the moment and alive, body moving fluidly and swiftly through beautiful terrain, gives me chills and has me going back time after time.  Today was one of those days.

On an 11 mile trail run today with the sun beaming down between massive trees.   Amazing!

2) The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle) – A very interesting book focusing more on the spiritual aspects of life that has me attempting my utmost to live in, and enjoy, the present moment.  Huge impact and my go-to reading now when I am struggling.

3) Eat to Live (Joel Fuhrman) and In Defense of Food (Michael Pollan) – Both rocked my world.  I am not sure how this information is not emphasized in medical school but I am glad to be finding it now.  I think if the ideas found within these books were followed we would see perhaps only 5% of the current hospital admissions.  I have personally been endeavoring to incorporate more vegetables, fruit, beans and whole grains in my diet and have never felt better!

Well, that’s all that comes to mind for now, thanks for reading and please do write!

Happy New Year,

Michael and Stephanie