Friday, February 5, 2010

8. Take a Penguin Plunge

So, this New Thing was suggested by Erin, the leader of the Saint Michael's College service learning trip that I will be taking to the Dominican Republic in May, and immediately seconded by the students in the group (though I should note that none of them jumped forward to actually join Erin and I in this endeavor). But it fit the same criteria as most of the other things on the list (meaning I've never done it, a friend is willing to do it with me, and most importantly, I find it terrifying to even contemplate), so of course I had to add it. And then, having put it on the list, I had to do it.

I was lucky, though, because I wound up having a built-in backup for the day of the event. As many of you know, I went to Tanzania for the first time in 2002, and have gone back at least annually ever since. Since 2005, I've worked with a wonderful NGO called the Ilula Orphan Program (IOP), and they have hosted SMC students, alumni and colleagues who have come with me to Tanzania on five different occasions for service learning and community-based research projects. In 2007, our largest group, 13 of us in all, completed a number of projects, including building a web site for the IOP ( All of this is a long way of saying that on the weekend of the Penguin Plunge, a group of the students who have come with me to Tanzania over the past 3 years -- Colleen (2008), Shaleen (2007 and 2008), Kate (2007 and 2008), Allison (2008), Siham (2008) and Kelly (2007) (shown here after the plunge wearing the pashmina scarves that I gave them as souvenirs from my New Year's trip to Nepal)-- converged at my tiny condo for a weekend reunion and to make sure that I really made the jump.

The most important thing I learned about the Plunge is that it's definitely a case where anticipation is worse than reality. That morning I went outside to feed a meter, and almost backed out of the whole thing when I realized how cold I felt with a coat and several layers on. But I had already made a promise, and a bunch of friends had donated to the cause, the IOP alum had come down to support me, and my colleagues Erin and Kristin, as well as a whole crew of SMC students had agreed to do it as well, so there was no backing out.

At the Plunge there were around 1000 people who had also registered to do it, and we were organized into teams. Saint Mike's was team 28, and most of the Plungers had come prepared with purple and gold clothes (and Knight accessories), and purple and yellow face paint. Kristin and I failed on the purple and gold, and were wearing black swimsuits instead, but got in on the face paint, as you can see from one of the pictures. When 11 am hit, they started assembling teams in first the heated dressing tent and then the "staging tent". From the staging tent, each group would emerge and run through a roped-off gauntlet down to the water, make the plunge and then run back to the dressing tent.

In case you're contemplating making a plunge, turns out that the worst part is the walk in the cold air between the two heated tents. That's the point when it feels like it's far too cold to contemplate going any further (the collective recollection of the group is that it was probably in the low teens outside at the time of the plunge, and even colder factoring in wind chill). But once it's time for the group to actually go, particularly if you're in a big, enthusiastic, semi-choreographed group like Saint Mike's, it's kind of fun, and goes really fast. Kate took the photo here from a bit of a distance, but you can sort of see me going in (I'm the one wearing the black swim suit top and shorts, as well as my oh-so-glamorous Penguin Plunge hat on the side right behind the rails).

In the last picture I'm posing after the Plunge with some of my SMC friends -- Kristin, my colleague from the French Department; Erin, from the MOVE office and leader of the DR service trip, who suggested we do this together; Josh, who's taught me about half of the new sports I've learned from the Wilderness Program lately; and Ethan, from Res Life, who's also engaged to Erin. After it was all over, we were comparing notes, and to our surprise, all of us thought it was s distinct possibility that we might do it again next year! Definitely a good New Thing. Time to go get dinner with my IOP alum guests, so I'll just close by saying that everyone should consider jumping through the ice into a large body of water at least once. It's not as tough as I expected, and definitely fun to have done. Something to think about for the future!

52 Ways to Say I Love You

In Portuguese, with thanks to Jesse and Emily, who had just finished their Peace Corps service as teachers in Mozambique when I met them in Nepal.

Hello Bom dia
Good by Tchau
I love you. Gosto de ti.
May I have two beers, please. Estou a pedir duas cervezas, por favor.

Coming Attractions

Saturday, February 13- Monday, February 15 Well, I finally made a decision, and I'm headed to New York City with Michelle, Alex and Dan, and staying with my friend T. Richard, in order to be able to cross off something I've always wanted to do -- go ice skating at Rockefeller Center.

Saturday, February 20. Try skate skiing. After all the fun I had with my cross country ski lesson with Dan S. two weeks ago, of course, I wanted to try a skate skiing lesson as well. He'll be teaching a bunch of us through the SMC Wilderness Program at Bolton Valley that day.

Sunday, February 21. Hike Camel's Hump in all four seasons (Part I). This was a new idea that I had the other day and definitely wanted to add to the list. I loved my snow shoe hike up Nebraska Notch, and so I signed up for a longer, tougher one with the Wilderness Program up the quintessential Vermont mountain (only 4083 feet, which is laughable to a reader living in say, Nepal, or even Idaho, but here it counts as our state's second highest peak). And then I had a thought. What could be a more Vermont experience than Camel's Hump in all four seasons? So, that's the new plan, and a new entry for the list: to hike up Camel's Hump in winter (on snow shoes), spring (it'll have to be late, when the mud is gone), summer (which is what I've always done before), and fall (when it is in all it's foliage-filled glory). Not only is it a very Vermont thing to do, but it's an opportunity to get lots of my friends who have never hiked Camel's Hump or some who have never visited Vermont, to come do it with me. So, if you want to do any of these four hikes, let me know.


  1. Congratulations, Trish. I can't believe that anything else on your list will be a challenge after this one. Plus, it shows that nothing in the world stands a chance when Trish and the Siplonites turn their attention to it.

  2. Trish, once again, all I can say is:
    YOU TOTALLY ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I am so proud of us -- of YOU -- and so glad you inspired me to do this!!! What can I sign up for next? :)

  4. jealous of the trip to New York, I've never been! But I think I'll be busy at bolton this weekend, unfortunately...

  5. "It shows that nothing in the world stands a chance when Trish and the Siplonites turn their attention to it."

    Should that be the title of our book?

  6. Hi Trish! So happy you helped support Special Olympics Vermont (and an SMC alum's job!) by taking the Penguin Plunge. Glad to hear you had a good time. I took my sixth plunge in two years on Feb. 13th and must say, as much fun as I've had planning and doing this event, I'm looking forward to not taking another swim in Lake Champlain until at least June!

    I've looked at your list and there are quite a few things I'd LOVE to try. I think I told you about my bucket list I started about four months ago. I'll share some of the ideas...perhaps they're something you're interested in also and we could do them together!


    Kim Bookless