Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Break in Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Please forgive this gratuitously personal interruption in my regularly scheduled programming, but a journalist is nothing if not timely with the late-breaking news.

Just a few hours ago, a story went out on the newswire about the Channeling Peace Initiative. I've written about this endeavor before on this blog, and just this past Sunday I packed my husband, Mr. Coach aka Dick Hawes, off at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. to get to the airport for his journey to England. Two of his Ohio Wesleyan University swimmers, one an American and the other a Pakistani, have been preparing to swim the English Channel for a two-fold purpose: one, to demonstrate the power of international friendship to create peace in troubled times; and two, to raise money for the Doctors Without Borders program.

Last Friday, we learned that the British government had denied Pakistani student Usman's application for a visa entry on the grounds that they could not confirm he was a student at an American university and that his sole purpose for entering the U.K. was to swim the Channel. They made this decision despite the fact that his U.S. student visa was attached to the passport which they reviewed and that his contract with the Channel Swimming Association also was included.

At this point, my husband, American student David and David's mom Tami are in Dover, U.K. Usman is still at home in Pakistan. Each day we all try navigating some new tack in our attempts to get Usman his visa to join them. A small army of alumni and friends from American and Pakistani communities have all been helping work the channels, if you will, that they have to various government agencies. The CNN article was written by the stepdaughter of David's high-school swim coach.

The young men's assigned window of time to attempt the swim opened on July 28 and will run through Aug. 6. Plan A remains getting Usman there. Plan B emerged just the other day -- when the guys weren't keeping themselves from going stir crazy in their respective locations by taking Facebook quizzes like "Which Victoria's Secret Angel Am I? (David is Allesandra Ambrosia and Usman is Heidi Klum). Plan B involves David attempting a solo crossing (with my husband pacing him) while Usman swims in either a lake or a pool in Pakistan at the same time. The two teams supporting them would be in touch via cell phone.

My husband thinks that David can pull it off if he has to. They've been training each day in the Channel since they got there. Dick reports that it's not the water that's tough to deal with. It's the "beach" you have to walk across to get into the water -- it's all jagged rocks and pebbles. And he says the "ice cream headache" from the slightly nippy water (low 60-degrees Fahrenheit) goes away pretty quickly. Well, isn't that comforting to know?

So I tell you all this to solicit your prayers and positive thoughts for the guys' success. It's more than just a little ironic that one country not feeling very friendly toward residents of another country is what threatens to undermine David and Usman's original plan to celebrate the power of international friendship. But it's more than just a little fitting that friendship will find a way to make something good happen, no matter what the obstacles are.


  1. Won't it be hard to talk on a cell phone while they are swimming? I don't think I could pull that off. Or are we talking waterproof blue-tooth here?


  2. Oh now, silly TJ, that's why I said the *teams* supporting them would be in touch via cell phone. I thought you gearhead types paid more attention to the fine print! (hey, come East to the big family party on the 15th so we can abuse you some more!)

    No changes today on the Channeling Peace story. Dick and David were headed for a swim -- actually right about now -- after the regatta in their swimming area was done. Dick is also very happy to have found an excellent meat pie shop. (spare me the Sweeney Todd jokes)

  3. Let's listen in on a conversation:

    Usman: Hang on, I must do a flip turn...
    David: There's no walls in the English Channel!
    Usman: Are you making fun of my country's pools?
    David: What? No. Listen, did you get them to cool the pool down to 60 degrees so it will be just like we are swimming the Channel together?
    Usman: Uh, they are working on that.
    David: What is your water temp?
    Usman: Oh, it is VERY cold!
    David: Can you still visibly discern your gender?
    Usman: Oh yes, but it is getting MUCH colder...
    David: This stinks!

    There goes all the world peace...


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