Cambodia – Siem Reap

19 Dec

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Traveling by Air Asia has continued to bring a smile to many a frugal traveler like myself who now travel in relative luxury through South East Asia without tearing too many holes into the credit cards. So when my wife dug out another cheap flight from Saigon to Siem Reap via Bangkok we hopped onto it. Cambodian customs officials are known to be notoriously corrupt and a Cambodian friend of mine who lives in the US now told me he had to regularly fork out about 10 dollars as “tea money” whenever he visited his own country. Anyway I doubt a brown faced tourist such as myself would be asked for tea money I thought as I reached the official passport stamping area. “So any tip for me?” asked the rotten egg sitting in front of me. “Of course kind Sir, maybe if you could massage my aching feet I could think about parting with some of my hard earned money that I saved by not eating even peanuts on the flight”.  To be honest I did not say this aloud to the egg head who could screw my passport in about a million ways. I just feigned a “What you say. I no understand? I poor man from land of Mr Gandhi” . “Money Money Dollar money” he replied. Damn it I thought. I’m too freaking tired and hungry to make a scene with this nut. I gave him 50 baht (around $1.5) for all of his hard work and thanked him politely for polishing my shoes and went towards the exit to locate my tuk tuk driver.

Our tuk tuk driver, Mr Tukatuk was waiting there bearing a big placard with our names on it and an even bigger smile. The smile was something very common and beautiful about the Khmer people and we encountered it wherever we went which endeared the Cambodians to us so much. In fact the only rotten egg in all of Cambodia was Mr Egg Head from the Customs and Immigration Office, SIem Reap airport. I asked the tuk tuk driver his name a couple of times but never heard it over the roar of the tuk tuk so we began to refer to him as Mr Tukatuk. Mr Tukatuk who looked like he was in his early thirties told us later that he was an orphan but was raised well and sent to school by his aunt. He had just married and life was nice as he had his own tuktuk now. I didn’t have the heart to ask him if he had lost his parents during the Khmer Rouge genocide. It is sad how much the Khmer rouge killing fields had decimated Cambodia and its people not more than 35 years ago. Pol Pot and his Khmer rouge killed roughly 2 million fellow Cambodians and children during that period, roughly one third its population. Most of those killed were city folks sent to labor camps in the countryside, ordinary teachers and professors, engineers and doctors. The reason as told to me was stupid – Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge wanted to get back to its rich agricultural, architectural and military glory of the times gone by when Cambodia dominated Vietnam and Thailand and built all the beautiful temples that we see even today. In fact Siem Ream itself translates to “Thai defeated” referring to a famous battle near Siem Reap city. Educated city folks and monks seemed like troublemakers to Khmer Rouge and thus dispensable in the extermination camps. Subsequently the Vietnam communist army invaded Cambodia and were hailed as liberators by most ordinary Cambodians. I find it difficult to understand that the perpetrators and the remaining victims of the genocide have put aside their past and live and work together now. Maybe that’s the only way for this small country to survive.

SIem Reap is a dusty little city with one very happening street called the pub street. The beer is cheap here (50cents for a mug of draft), the music is loud and the faces are white. If you fancy some fried tarantula spiders you can have a handful from some nearby stalls. I thought I’d be brave and try one. I looked at one appetizing arachnid. Those eight hairy curled legs attached to a big spidery body were as appetizing as well ” A BIG FREAKING BLACK FRIED SPIDER”. The kinds nightmares and B Grade movies are made up of. I ran away. I ordered for fries and a large beer and listened to loud music.

Susan and I occasionally went for walks along the Siem Reap river. The first time we were there I saw a crocodile creep up in the shadows along its banks not more than a few feet away from us. Of course the next morning the crocodile was still there in very much the same position. Life like statues of reptiles don’t move about like their real life cousins do. But we shouldn’t have been afraid. The bigger reptiles and animals won’t harm you in Siem Reap. They have delegated that job to the smallest one among them. Enter the humble mosquito- stage left, stage right, stage every possible direction. They hum and haw and literally drink you alive. You are one big Pub street to the little buggers. Carry your insect repellant here folks.

After more than 5 weeks on the road Susan said I was badly in need of a hair cut. I don’t generally debate such directives on body care from my wife and so I went looking for a hair cutting salon in Siem Reap. All of my instructions to the barber were well received with a broad smile  and he began his Edward Scissor-hands like magic on my hedge like hair. He began to hum a melodious song too and I got gently lulled into a drowsy sleep. I don’t think the barber understood much English though because by the end of the session a very different looking guy with extremely weird hair but suspiciously similar eyes was looking back at me from the extra large mirrors. Damn! I paid the 2 dollars to the full time hummer\part time barber and pulled my baseball cap tightly over my head. As an end note when I got back to India my dad mentions that I have a very Cambodian like hair style. Now I reckon the only famous Cambodian my dad has seen in the media is Pol Pot so I wasn’t too happy to hear that my hair style resembled that of a notorious despot. What next? A Kim Jong IL haircut? yikes!!

We hired Mr Tukatuk to take us around the Angkor Wat temples for three days at 15$ per day. And we are so looking forward to it. Unfortunately we need to leave at 5 am though to watch the sun rise over the Angkor Wat.

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Books Roundup – From March 2014 to Aug 2014

7 Sep

Books

There are few things I like more than curling up on a sofa with a book in hand and a cup of hot tea beside while the rain comes down outside the window. It has been pouring hard in the last couple of months and I have read a some amazing books during this period. I am glad that I kept up the velocity of reading at least 2 books every month. In fact it has been at least 18 books in the last 6 months. So Yeaaaayy. Here’s the list.

1. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – 5 stars

Absolutely loved the book. Walter has a gripping style of writing that keeps you wanting to read further into the book at the cost of your sleep even. And Steve’s character was brought forth by him for the genius Steve was in creating art through the handheld and personal computing devices as well as music and animated movies Apple and Pixar created. Of course with some ugly personality flaws thrown in for good measure. I can totally see why so many wannabe CEO types try to imitate Steve Job’s style of management but only one Genius could pull it off.    

2. What color is your Parachute? by Richard N Bolles – 4 stars

Classic Self help book for people wanting to change their careers or Jobs

3. Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – 4 stars

A 40 year old guy picks himself from his couch strategically placed in front of a TV set and goes on to become one of the fittest men competing and winning Iron man events. Now that was an inspirational read.

4. The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger – 5 stars

Saw the movie starring George Clooney much before reading the book but loved the book even better. The author, Sebastian gives the reader the feel of actually being aboard the Andrea Gail while the gallant crew brave the stormy seas. Wow.

5. The Four Pillars of Investing by William J Bernstein – 5 stars

Best book I have read so far on investing and building a winning portfolio. Reading this 10 years back would have helped me even more but then its never to late to learn, isn’t it?  

6. Your money: The missing Manual by JD Roth – 4 stars

JD Roth is a finance blogger who started the famous blog getrichslowly.org. This is a well written and easy to read book. Especially liked the chapter titled Blueprint for Financial Prosperity in which he cuts down to some basic lessons while dealing with money.

7. 98.6 degrees -The art of keeping your Ass Alive by Cody Lundin – 3 stars

Comprehensive book Surviving in different conditions like Extreme cold or in the desert. Its a book you hope you never need to ever use in practice.

8. The Mediterranean Diet by Marissa Cloutier and Eve Adamson – 3 stars

Nice book on the food and health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. What did I incorporate from this book? I make a yummy avocado salad and help grow some herbs and vegetables in the garden  🙂

9. The richest man in Babylon by George S Clason – 4 stars

Written way back in the 1920s it still contains relevant gems on what it takes to create wealth. The author makes use of excellent parables set in Ancient Babylon.

10 Unbroken – by Laura Hillenbrand – 5 stars

Very well written true story of the American Olympic runner and fighter bomber Louie Zamperini who was taken a Prisoner of War by the Japanese forces in WW-2. Before that he was a castaway in a lifeboat on the Pacific ocean for a month when his plane crashed. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction for sure and Louie’s life reas like one big adenture. Looking forward to the movie when it releases.

11. Finding Flow – By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – 5 stars

Excellent Psychological study into achieving Happiness by learning the joy of complete engagement. Mihaly is the pioneer of Finding Flow  that helps one to lead a richer engaged life.

12. The Bogleheads Guide to Investing – 4.5 stars

This book captures the wisdom of many successful investors following the Bogle style of investing and provides an easy to follow plan. Its about keeping it simple in finance like investing in a few Index funds, proper asset allocation and re balancing the portfolio every couple of years. It also tells the many pitfalls while indexing. Ouch!

13. Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown – 4.5 stars

      In the authors words essentialism forces us to apply a more selective criteria for what is essential. The pursuit of less allows us to regain control of our choices so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter. Very well written book that made me appreciate the beauty of essentialism and try to incorporate some learnings into my life.

14 Harry Browne/ How I found Freedom in an unfree world – 2 stars

    This book talks about ways to live your life the way you want it.  Honestly I could not connect to this book and found it a bit difficult to read. This book comes highly recommended on Good reads and Amazon but I just did not like it and could take nothing out of it. I might need to read it again at a different point in my life and see if I understand it better then.

15 The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – 4 stars

You might have seen the video on youtube of Randy Pausch’s last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University before he passed away. It is a beautiful oratory directed to his little children who he knew would grow up without him. This book is his story.

16. Slow down to the Speed of Life by Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey – 4 stars

A book about slowing down the frenetic pace in life and living in the moment. The Slow movement resonates well with me and there were a lot of things for me to take home from this book.  Well written book this.

17. Encore by Marc Freedman – 3 stars

A book about how the baby boomer generation can find work that matters in the second half of the life.

18. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – 5 stars

There is a tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara who run extraordinary distances(upwards of 50 miles) in the Copper Canyons regularly. This includes children in their teens as well as old grandfathers in simple sandals running in the searing heat without their bodies breaking down. The author goes into what makes the Tarahumara the ultimate ultra-runners of the world and it is truly a fantastic and captivating read. 
Link to Last years Books Roundup https://lifepickles.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/roundup-list-of-books-read-from-march-2013-to-feb-2014/

 

 

 

 

 

My Life Bucket List – 1 to 50

16 Apr

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There are a few things in life that I have always wanted to do and experience. Here are a few of the items on my wish list, some of which I have been fortunate enough to cross out.

  1. Go Skydiving       Done in Los Angeles in 2002
  2. Learn to swim  
  3. Attend La Tomatina  (Spain)
  4. Backpack through South East Asia (Completed in 2014. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand)
  5. Visit the Eiffel Tower
  6. Learn to Scuba dive    Completed in the Andaman islands, India
  7. Spot the big jungle cats(Lion, Tiger, Cheetah, Leopard) in any reserve
  8. Watch Whales and Dolphins out in the ocean       Watched 4 Blue whales and many dolphins in the Indian Ocean off the Mirissa coast,Sri Lanka
  9. Walk across one of the Spanish Pilgrimage trails
  10. Complete the Everest Base Camp trek, Himalayas, Nepal  Done in May, 2012
  11. Get Married
  12. Have a pet dog
  13. Summit Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa
  14. Take a ship to Antarctica
  15. Act in a play  Done a few times
  16. Sing in front of a crowd of at least 100
  17. Learn to play some cool songs on the guitar
  18. Meditate everyday for a year
  19. Win a 100 meter running race
  20. Take part in a marathon At least 10 kilometres
  21. Visit Every Continent
  22. Go white water rafting  Done in the Beas, Manali, India
  23. Ride a chopper  Done over the Hoover dam, Colorado, USA
  24. Watch a meteor shower in the desert 
  25. Get an article that I have written published in a Magazine\Newspaper
  26. Be my own boss and earn a living working for myself
  27. Participate as a Best man at a wedding       Trevor and Vinita’s wedding, Mumbai
  28. Become a God father  God father to 3 amazing kids
  29. Dance the Salsa with a Latina girl
  30. Read at least 24 books in a year
  31. Travel to 50 countries
  32. Visit and trek the grand canyon
  33. Visit the Taj Mahal
  34. Achieve Zero debt
  35. Win a football tournament with at least 12 entries  Pune inter IT football champs 2006
  36. Win a Ping Pong tournament with at least 32 entries  Three times doubles teaming up with Akshat Nimbalkar
  37. Win a Badminton tournament with at least 32 entries
  38. Write a book
  39. Get an MBA degree (SIBM, Pune, 2006)
  40. Win a cricket tournament with at least 12 entries
  41. Travel any one inter continental railway from end to end( Europe\China\Russia)
  42. Take a Sabbatical from work to reflect current journey
  43. Backpack through Europe
  44. Go fishing in a boat in any one Ocean(Pacific\Atlantic\Indian)  – Pacific Ocean
  45. Catch and cook my own fish dinner
  46. Learn any one of the Asian martial arts
  47. Get boxing coaching lessons
  48. Undertake a road journey along the coast of India
  49. Cycle from Pune\Mumbai to Goa ( approx 500 kilometers)
  50. Stay a few nights at Santorini, Greece
    Attend La Tomatina (Spain)

In Pursuit of Flow

16 Mar

Flow

When does time stop for you? When do you find yourself doing exactly what you want to be doing, and never wanting it to end? This could be reading a book, cooking, dancing, writing a computer program or playing a sport. A few weeks back while I was playing Table Tennis I was so caught up in the moment playing each point that time itself ceased to exist. I was in the zone and ended up playing as well as I had done in a long time. When the game was over I was in a state of happiness that lasted the rest of the day. I hadn’t felt this way in a long time and I realized I needed to read about and explore this feeling more. If you have played sports you would know the feeling of being in the zone. That is the precisely the elusive thing called flow.

Mike’s Csikszentmihaly is the author of the book “Flow”. He is known for his signal contribution to psychology – the concept of flow. And flow could aid filling your days with a bit of happiness.
Here are the components that are required for flow in any task according to author Martin Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness : Using the new Positive Psychology

  • The task is challenging and requires matching skill
  • We concentrate intensely
  • There are clear goals
  • We get immediate feedback
  • We have deep, effortless involvement
  • There is a sense of control
  • Our sense of self vanishes
  • Time stops

Notice a salient absence: there is no positive emotion on the list of essential components. While positive emotions like pleasure,
exhilaration, and ecstasy are occasionally mentioned, typically in retrospect, they are not usually felt. In fact, it is the absence of
emotion, of any kind of consciousness, that is at the heart of flow. Consciousness and emotion are there to correct your trajectory;
when what you are doing is seamlessly perfect, you don’t need them.

Most of the top sportsmen and outdoor adrenaline enthusiasts certainly have learned to harness flow. I can picture a Sachin Tendulkar or Roger Federer exhibiting their skills in cricket and Tennis at their prime. And then too flow must have been elusive to them all the time. Since you get immediate feedback and require skills in a sport it might come a bit more easily but flow can be achieved in a range of other day to day activities. A housewife could obtain it while cooking a tricky dish that requires her total concentration or an IT engineer could have it while developing an android app that does something cool.

A good recipe for happiness is incorporating activities in your day to day life that gives you flow. I realized that I can achieve flow in some of the following activities

  1. Playing sports like table tennis, badminton and football
  2. Reading a book
  3. Adventure sports like Scuba diving, rafting or Hiking
  4. Working in the Networking domain in IT

So when does time stop for you?

Roundup – List of books read from March 2013 to Feb 2014

16 Mar

 

 

Books

I am quite pleased with the amount of time I am spending reading books of late. Since March 2013 when my DW gifted me an iPad getting books I want to read quickly has become so much simpler. This alone has helped me read probably the maximum number of books I have read in a year. It works out to a book almost every 2 weeks. Here is the full list. I have not included technical books that I have referenced quite a bit but not read cover to cover.

1. Good to Great by Jim Collins – 4 stars
2. Authentic Happiness using the new Positive Psychology by Martin Seligman – 4.5 stars
3. The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris – 4 stars
4. Mojo: How to get it, how to keep it, How to get it back by Marshall Goldsmith – 3.5 stars
5. Work less Live more the way to semi retirement by Bob Clyatt – 4 stars
6. The know it alls guide to Life by John T Walbaum – 3 stars
7. Get A Life – You don’t need a million to retire well by Ralph Warner – 3.5 stars
8. Vagabonding by Rolf Potts – 4 stars
9. Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger – 4 stars
10. Mutiny on board the H. M. S. bounty by William Bligh – 3.5 stars
11. Do the work by Steven Pressfield – 3 stars
12. In the wilds of Africa by William Henry Giles Kingston – 3.5 stars
13. Escape from cubicle nation by Pamela Slim – 4 stars
14. Getting things done by David Allen – 3.5 stars
15. The Power of Now by David Allen – 3.5 stars
16. Into thin Air by Jon Krakeur – 5 stars
17. Mud sweat and Tears by bear Grylls – 4 stars
18. Running the Amazon by Joe Kane – 4.5 stars
19. Do more Great work by Michael Bungay Stanier – 3.5 stars
20. The long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz – 4 stars
21. The happiness project by Gretchen Rubin – 4 stars
22. The Art of Non conformity by Chris Guillebeau – 4.5 stars
23. In the Heart of Africa by Samuel White Baker – 3.5 stars
24. The millionaire in the Mirror by Gene Bedell – 3 stars
25. How to find fulfilling work – Roman Krznaric – 4.5 stars
26. Big Data – Viktor Mayer Schonberger – 4 stars

A Short History of Nearly Everything

18 Mar

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A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson is a wonderful book that has more than rekindled my interest in Science and interestingly philosophy. It made me stop completely and reflect just how insignificant I am when you consider the history of the world and the vastness of the universe. But it also helped open my eyes as to how lucky I am to to be here in the first place and more importantly that I am actually able to comprehend why I am lucky. The following two passages in particular were my favourite from this amazingly well written book. A must read.

“If you imagine the 4,500-bilion-odd years of Earth’s history compressed into a normal 24 hour earthly day, then life begins very early, about 4 A.M., with the rise of the first simple, single-celled organisms, but then advances no further for the next sixteen hours. Not until almost 8:30 in the evening, with the day five-sixths over, has Earth anything to show the universe but a restless skin of microbes. Then, finally, the first sea plants appear, followed twenty minutes later by the first jellyfish and the enigmatic Ediacaran fauna first seen by Reginald Sprigg in Australia. At 9:04 P.M. trilobites swim onto the scene, followed more or less immediately by the shapely creatures of the Burgess Shale. Just before 10 P.M. plants begin to pop up on the land. Soon after, with less than two hours left in the day, the first land creatures follow.   Thanks to ten minutes or so of balmy weather, by 10:24 the Earth is covered in the great carboniferous forests whose residues give us all our coal, and the first winged insects are evident. Dinosaurs plod onto the scene just before 11 P.M. and hold sway for about three-quarters of an hour. At twenty-one minutes to midnight they vanish and the age of mammals begins. Humans emerge one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight. The whole of our recorded history, on this scale, would be no more than a few seconds, a single human lifetime barely an instant.

So Humans walked for only 0.01% of the History of the Earth. Wow. And yet we might have caused more destruction than any other organism that existed before us. And we act as if we’ll always be here.

Who do my atoms belong to?

Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. We are each so atomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of our atoms – up to a billion for each of us, it has been suggested – probably belonged to Shakespeare(or Asoka) or some other figure from the past. So in a sense we are all reincarnations – though short-lived ones. When we die our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere – as part of a leaf or other human being or drop of dew. After all we are mostly made up of just Carbon, Hyrdrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen elements.

This made me think of how our identity is such an illusion in the history of time. Yet we have created so many divisions. We fight to prove our tribes and personal superiority over others. When in fact nothing is really mine or yours. Wouldn’t it be right to say whatever I am made up of belongs to the universe and it will always be the universe’s to take and create from. I am everything around me and everything around me is I. Jee Wheez. Thats mighty philosophical but it puts things in perspective for me.  

Life mein Ek baar

24 Jan

Do you remember the last time you did something for the first time?  Perhaps, something you’ve always wanted to do in life but didn’t have the chance or gumption to try out until this moment. You surely would have felt the sheer excitement of trying out something new, slowly but surely gaining control of the fear that is screaming wildly within you but that has ironically rendered you speechless. Then a moment of self-doubt. Maybe you should back out but then you decide You’ve come so far you got to do this.You focus every pore of your body on that moment. And then you do it. And then that strange floating feeling. Yeah, The moment when you felt more alive than ever before. And you want the moment to last forever!

I just watched an episode of the series called “Life mein ek baar” starring Purab Kohli where he and 3 other guys travel to different parts of India trying out activities like bungee jumping that they hadn’t done before. And that made me think back to the things I had enjoyed doing for the first time and which had made me feel as alive as ever. I remember as a child I had two big fears, a fear of heights and a fear of water. You’ll never find a picture of me as a kid splashing in the sea or venturing out onto a mountain ledge. And this I believe is why the top couple of moments that I felt most alive was when trying out something related to these two very elements, water and heights. Doing something for the first time, especially if it’s something you were afraid of to begin with does wonders to your self-confidence. It also opens up a passion for something you might not have known you had earlier.

So here’s my list of all time favourite things I did for the first time

5. Being a part of an underdog team that just about beats the odds 

In the 2004 Pune Inter-IT tournament my organization BMC Software which I represented as a right defender lost each and every match except the last one. We scored a solitary goal in that last game against another equally weak team, and this was our only goal of the tournament. We ranked 11th among the 12 teams that participated but we were quite pleased with ourselves that day. We had just formed the football team a few weeks back and we knew if we gave it some time and some practice we would definitely do better the next year. And we did practice hard ( 3 times a week over the next 6 months). A couple of extremely good players joined the organization as well and we had a well oiled team for the 2005 tournament. We made it through the leagues and in the knock-outs defeated heavyweights like Infosys and Amdocs. In the finals we were pitted against PSPL whom we defeated by a solitary goal. In fact all our knock out wins came in the form of hard-fought solitary goals. We had skinned our knees and unfortunately someone broke his shin bone as well but we were over the moon that day. Most of all the bonding we shared in the team and of course lifting the trophy.

4. The First crush   

It was so many moons ago during the Jurassic era of Chris De Burgh love songs but I still remember that feeling of the first crush. Of how the birds actually seemed to sing with you and the brooks babbled away their poetry in those early teen years of puppy love. And when I held her hand for the first time, the world really did stop for a 14-year-old. Ah poetry be damned,  maybe it was just my heart skipping a beat!

3. Scubadiving in the Andamans   

Gliding through the emerald blue waters with my sweetheart and the most exquisite marine life. The sheer romance of it. No wonder folks exchange wedding rings and pledge to be together with such regularity while scuba diving.  Diving is not too difficult to pick up and does not get your adrenaline levels into the stratosphere (unless you spot a shark I guess 🙂 Here’s a post of my first scuba dive.

2. Skydiving 

The farms looked tiny from the rather big gaping hole at the back of the plane. We were at 13000 feet and it was time to plunge. “No” I thought “so fast really?” The girl ahead of me somersaulted out from the hole. I must have been crazy to sign up to do this I thought. Luckily it was a tandem jump and I got pushed through that hole in the plane. Next was the most amazing part of all, the 45-50 seconds of free fall. That was a feeling I had never experienced before and it was wonderful. So much so that I had forgotten to look at the altimeter which read 5000 feet in just 45 seconds.It was time to pull the rip cord already and float safely to an inviting firm ground. My first and only sky dive ranked up there on things that made me feel alive.

And the top one by far for me

1. Swimming a lap across the pool for the very first time     

I learnt swimming really late in life, somewhere in my early 20s. But it was definitely not for want of trying. I remember many different folks trying to teach me to swim but it usually resulted in me swallowing a lot of water, splashing about for a few seconds before finally giving up full of chlorine.I just didn’t know why I couldn’t do it. One evening I tried especially hard for many hours to try to master this monumental activity called swimming but I failed yet again. My friends and I came back from the pool but once home I decided to go back to the pool alone. It wasn’t more than 5 feet deep so it was quite safe really. I just jumped in almost like a zombie and dog paddled my way across the pool. And before I knew it had swum the entire length back. I couldn’t believe it. I had finally done it. I followed up that first lap with a free style across the pool and I knew it was for real. More importantly I had discovered a small part of me that day. Without a doubt swimming that first lap is the top ranked activity of something I did for the first time.