Families and friends light candles for overdose victims

By Marie Denecke

It was an event that, as a reporter, you would wish there was not one story to tell. Because it would mean there would be no life lost and no battle still to be fought.

But on Thursday night, hundreds came to a candlelight vigil on the Schaumburg campus of Roosevelt University to raise awareness about the danger of drug overdose. And everyone — parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends — had a story to tell.

They’d tell you how heroin and other drugs are not only a problem in the big cities and among people living in the streets, but they also are a scourge afflicting teenagers and young adults in the suburbs.

Phillip Radcliffe of Wheeling was 23 when he died of an overdose.

“He was a good boy. And I’d tell his story every day, because every day, somebody dies of an overdose,” said his father, Bob.

Roosevelt University’s Illinois Consortium for Drug Policy reached out to 17 suburban substance abuse awareness organizations to help organize the event. The vigil marked the first big gathering in Illinois for International Overdose Awareness Day, which is Friday.

People gathered to share memories, to say prayers, and to tell stories of struggle and recovery while candles were lit. Families and friends also brought photos of those who died.

“It is nice and tragic at the same time to see so many people here,” said Jim Adair of Arlington Heights, who lost his oldest son, Brian, to an overdose in 2009. His wife, Grace, joined the Grief Recovery After A Substance Passing (GRASP) group a year later to support other parents and raise awareness.

“People just don’t realize how easy it is to get drugs,” said Jim Adair, who, as a high school teacher, tries to raise awareness in his classes. “It’s an aggressively growing problem.”

John Roberts of Homer Glen calls it an “epidemic — but nobody is talking about it!” He lost his son Billy in 2009. Together with Brian Kirk, whose son also died of an overdose, he founded the Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization, also known as HERO.

The death of a child through drug overdose is often seen as “stigma” by society, said Jim Adair.

Bob Radcliffe agreed, saying “it’s important for parents not to hide it.”

The 17 suburban groups set up booths to raise awareness and donations for their cause. Kathie Kane-Willis, director of the Illinois Consortium for Drug Policy, handed out Saving Lives Courage Award to 18 individuals and the groups GRASP, Open Hearts, Open Eyes, and Take A Stand for their commitment and work.

The rally also featured training sessions on the overdose prevention drug Naloxone and other memorial and advocacy presentations.

“I hope we don’t ever have to do this again,” said Kane-Willis.

And there certainly everyone there would have agreed.

Veröffentlicht im Daily Herald am 31.8.2012. Den Artikel gibt es hier.


Hundreds of deer die due to virus in Cook County

By Marie Denecke

A disease that was unknown to local experts until only a few weeks ago is killing hundreds of deer in the Chicago area — and until the first frost comes, those numbers could still go up.

Humans can’t be infected, but so far, it has caused the deaths of roughly 200 deer in Cook County. Six suspect cases have also been reported in Kane County. None have been reported so far in DuPage and Lake counties.

“I have been working here for 30 years, but I have never come across EHD,” said Chris Anchor, wildlife biologist for the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

EHD is short for epizootic hemorrhagic disease, a virus that usually kills deer within a week after infection. It spreads from deer to deer through midges — small, biting flies. And until only a few weeks ago, it had been unknown in this part of Illinois.

EHD has been around in the United States for roughly 60 years, the first outbreak occurring in Michigan and New Jersey in 1955. The disease, which usually appears in the Midwest and Northeast, apparently found its way to this area with a combination of “a mild winter and a hot summer,” Anchor said.

It is a disease that seems to spread rapidly. Anchor heard of the first cases of EHD in Cook County only two weeks ago. And the number of deer deaths attributed to it has doubled in the last week. Cases have been concentrated in Hanover, Schaumburg and Palatine townships.

In Kane County, two cases have been reported to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. People paddling canoes on the Fox River have reported finding four dead deer, said Bill Graser, wildlife biologist of the Kane County Forest Preserve District. Although he does not know yet if they died of EHD, he considers them to be “suspect cases.”

“And probably there will be more dead deer,” he said.

Graser said he is planning to do research to become more familiar with the symptoms of the disease.

The midge, a small fly that most humans don’t even notice, cannot survive frost, which means that the disease disappears with the onset of frost, usually in mid- or late October.

The disease cannot be transmitted to humans or pets.

Deer usually show signs of the illness a week after getting infected: They lose their appetite and their fear of humans, develop a high fever and respiration problems, and start to drool. Some also bleed internally. They look for bodies of water to cool themselves down. A few hours after these symptoms show, the deer enters a shocklike state, lies down and dies.

Could EHD become a regular phenomenon in this area?

“There is no way to predict that,” Anchor said.

If you find a dead deer, call your local forest preserve district. To report a dead deer on Forest Preserve of Cook County property, call (708) 771-1180. Cook County Forest Preserve District has posting information about EHD on its website, http://fpdcc.com/ehd.

Veröffentlicht am 4.9.2012 im Daily Herald. Den Artikel gibt es hier.

Residents rake in thousands renting homes for Ryder Cup

By Marie Denecke

Golf fans by the score will be flocking to Medinah Country Club during Ryder Cup week. And many won’t be staying in hotels, but in the homes of area residents. This cottage industry, if you will, gives the locals a chance to accommodate guests from all over the world — while making good money in the process.

Monique and Russ Felker are renting out their 2,200-square-foot home for the four days of the international tournament pitting the best golfers from the U.S. against a European team.

The Felkers‘ home is within walking distance of the entrance to Medinah and has a direct view of the golf course. It also has a spacious living room, big screen TVs, pool table and a furnished patio. Although she wouldn’t say exactly how much rental income the family will receive, Monique Felker said that it will be enough to almost fully pay her three children’s private school tuition for next year.

The Felkers listed their property on a website devoted to the renting of homes for fans looking to attend big sporting events. People pitching their homes for a Ryder Cup stay are offering top-of-the-line amenities: fireplaces, Jacuzzis, pool tables, private bars, theater rooms — and in some cases, a maid, if requested. Those creature comforts come with a cost: $1,500 per night for a 2,000-square-foot home and $2,500 per night for a 4,000-square-foot home are typical offerings.

But one night in a high-end home can also cost up to $6,000 — although mostly, homeowners prefer not to communicate prices publicly.

“Home rentals have become a big business,” said Robert E. Hayes, chief executive officer of Phoenix-based Sports Event Rentals, which lists and finds properties for rent for more than 300 sporting events worldwide, including the Ryder Cup, the Super Bowl and the Olympic Games. Residents who want to offer their homes on the website, http://www.sportseventrentals.com, pay a one-time fee of $49.95.

Sports Events Rentals solicits business through search engine optimization, which improves the rank of a website when certain keywords are entered into search engines. And before specific events, Hayes said, the website is advertised in magazines tied to the event and in neighborhoods close to the event.

The Felkers put their house on the market in March, where it sat until a few weeks ago when a contract was signed allowing four golf fans to move in. So what happens to the Felker family during that week? They’re going camping in their mobile home trailer. While four strangers are living in their house, the Felker family, including three of their own kids and two Korean exchange students they are hosting, will be on the road.

“The kids are pretty excited,” said Monique Felker, and it’s about more than just the camping. The children’s rooms are being repainted and equipped with new furniture at the wish of the company renting the dwelling, which wanted the house to be more “adult friendly,” she said. Toys and personal items are being temporarily stored, something the children don’t like so much, Monique Felker said, noting the family picked up the tab of the remodeling.

The upcoming Ryder Cup isn’t the first opportunity for Medinah-area residents to rent out their homes. In fact, one of the online ads for this year’s tournament boasts that the home was rented to Tiger Woods during the 2006 PGA Championship held at Medinah. The couple running the ad were not available for comment. It’s unclear how many homes are being rented through such websites or in privately brokered deals. Local convention and tourism bureaus, which track hotel business, said they don’t monitor home rentals.

“It’s happening, but we don’t hear much about it,” said Dave Parulo, president of the Woodfield Chicago Northwest Convention Bureau in Schaumburg.

But just being ready to become a Ryder Cup landlord isn’t a guarantee it will happen. Addison resident James Duda said he noticed the home rental company’s advertisements on fliers and postcards. He decided to try to rent out his house “to make a little extra cash.” Friends of his had done it before, said Duda, and the family of four thought, “Why don’t we try it?”

So far, however, the family hasn’t been able to close on a contract, although they have had numerous inquiries. For their three-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot home, Duda is asking for $1,000 per night. That’s discounted from the higher price when the home was first put online, he said. “We had high expectations,” he said.

Maybe that’s proof one can never start to early in the sports home-rental business. Homeowners already are marketing their residences for the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland.

Veröffentlicht im Daily Herald am 4.9.2012. Den Artikel gibt es hier.

Suburban teams prepared for today’s „Flugtag“

By Marie Denecke

Among the 28 teams competing today in the Red Bull Flugtag at North Avenue Beach, it will be easy to make out Jimmy O’Brien of Palatine. Most likely, he’ll be the only one who will attempt to fly a huge mustache.

As you may have guessed, the Flugtag is not a normal flying contest. These pilots don’t have a license. What they have is guts: Each of them will pilot his self-made flying machine off a 30-foot high platform built into Lake Michigan — hoping the aircraft will carry as far as possible before crashing into the water.

“We would like to win, but it’s mainly about the fun,” said O’Brien, captain of the “Shuffling Staches.”

And it is about celebrating weeks of hard work with family, friends, and the hundreds of thousands that watch the event live or on TV.

Nonetheless, O’Brien and his team have prepared carefully for this day, O’Brien even losing 10 pounds. One of the hardest parts was deciding how their aircraft should look.

“We started off with some pretty bad ideas,” said O’Brien. And then their thoughts turned to Chicago, the upcoming football season and the Chicago Bears, a team that O’Brien has been “obsessed with” all his life.

That is why he is going to pilot a 15-foot mustache — made of cardboard, plastic, PVC, rope, nails and even bamboo — a tribute to football legend Mike Ditka.

The Flugtag — “flying day” in German — is a worldwide event last held in Chicago in 2003 and 2008. Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz organized the first Flugtag in Vienna in 1991. Since then it has been held more than 100 times worldwide.

A jury will decide a winner based on the distance each craft flies before crashing into the water, plus the teams’ showmanship, and their creativity.

Aircraft have to be human-powered and are restricted in size. Otherwise, the design is completely up to the teams.

Jim Gollwitzer of Roselle didn’t have to go far for inspiration: A drawing of a caged gorilla made by his 7-year-old daughter was all his team, the “Zoo Keepers,” needed.

Their aircraft is going to look like a gorilla cage with wings. Mostly, the aircraft is wood and PVC, but they picked up some golf course turf to make the inside of the cage look like real grass.

“A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this,” said Gollwitzer. “We worked nonstop.”

The “Shuffling Staches” is not the only team with a sports idea: Andy Ottenweller of the “Harry Caray Express” team is going to “fly” a huge baseball bat with an attached home plate. And in honor of Harry Caray, a bubblehead figure of the longtime baseball broadcaster will sit on top of it.

“I always wanted to get in (the Flugtag),” said Ottenweller. The team, consisting of his wife and three co-workers, is based in Batavia.

Ottenweller is confident the Express will fly.

“Our best aspect is the creativity and design part,” he said, adding the Chicago motif might inspire the judges.

Getting into the Flugtag is strenuous, as well. Every team has to describe themselves, their idea and their design and include detailed drawings. Jimmy O’Brien said Red Bull representatives invited them to a party, where they had to show up in their costumes and bring more drawings.

For Naresh Nair of Palatine, it will be his third Chicago Flugtag. He did a “Smurfs” design in 2008; now he captains the “Chicago Muppets.”

Meaning, that on Saturday morning he will fly a plane that resembles the multicolored “Electric Mayhem Bus” from “The Muppet Movie.”

“We have spent lots of hours on it, easily 100,” designing and redesigning the bus, assembling, reassembling and painting it, said Nair.

And to give the audience the whole “Muppet” experience, Nair will don a blonde wig and a pink feather boa and will go flying as Miss Piggy.

Nair said his team has a good chance to win. Not only because of creativity, but because their bus will actually fly over a hundred feet.

The “Red Bull Flugtag” takes place Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at North Avenue Beach, Chicago. More info is at http://www.redbullusa.com or redbullflugtagusa.com.

Veröffentlicht im Daily Herald am 8.9.2012. Den Artikel gibt es hier.

Barrington firm helps people find jobs

By Marie Denecke

When Beth McAndrews of Barrington decided to look for a job, she had been out of work for 13 years, raising four girls at home. That was in spring 2011, when the nation’s unemployment rate was still about 9 percent.

McAndrews, 47, hadn’t written a resume in that time and didn’t even have a copy of her old one. “I had to start all over again,” she said. “It was overwhelming.”

She is one of many women who have a college degree but have been out of work for a long time to raise their families. When they decide to go back to work, they face the challenge of re-entering a much-altered work world.

Today, however, McAndrews has a success story to tell. Not only did she get a job far sooner than she expected, but she also was able to find one for Janet VanZant, a Deer Park resident who was in a very similar position, having been out of work for 12 years to raise four daughters.

According to Chris Campbell, executive director of CareerPlace, a career counseling center in Barrington that McAndrews worked with, her approach was sound and holds lessons for others who are out of work or re-entering the workforce after a long lapse.

McAndrews said her oldest daughter, 18, recently got into college, and with three girls in high school, the youngest being 14, “we have to pay a lot of tuition. I knew I could help with that.”

When she started her job search, however, the task seemed daunting: Not only had it been a long time since she held a job, the whole process of finding one had changed.

Networking is now mostly online through resources such as LinkedIn; Twitter is just one example of the new ways of communication.

“When I left my last job, I didn’t even have a cellphone,” said McAndrews.

To avoid facing the process alone, McAndrews signed up at CareerPlace, where she especially connected with counselor Ana Trbojevich, who helped her put together a resume and prep for interviews.

“Making 13 years (of not having a job) look like something was hard,” said McAndrews. However, while raising four children, McAndrews had kept busy, volunteering for different organizations and taking computer classes.

It took her only half a year, two applications and one interview to get the job she is happy with: treasurer for Deer Park.

Once there, she learned about another open position, for a part-time administrative assistant.

“I instantly thought: That position needs to be posted,” said McAndrews. She contacted CareerPlace.

It didn’t take long for that offer to get to Janet VanZant, 46, who has an MBA in finance but went without a paying job for 12 years to raise her daughters.

She came to CareerPlace in January 2012 and saw the Deer Park job position, posted by McAndrews, on LinkedIn. After she applied, it took only two days for her to get invited for an interview, and after only a few days, she was offered the job.

“Everything just came together,” said VanZant. She now works from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., hours that her youngest, a 3-year-old daughter, spends in day care.

Campbell said both women were wise not to try to find another job all alone, but to get professional training and advice.

“People need to be ‚findable,’” said Campbell, meaning they should use professional career platforms like LinkedIn to present themselves and their resumes online. But personal contact, networking and recommendations from others also are still important — a factor that young people sometimes underestimate, he said.

CareerPlace, formed in 1994, is a career center with an average of 300 clients from 80 communities. Clients pay $100 a year, said Campbell; the rest of the cost — $500 per client — comes via donors and fundraising.

Clients sign up for “modules,” packages of 15 courses that build on one another, including personal sessions and interview training. Most of the more than 50 coaches are volunteers.

Campbell, 62, became executive director about a month ago, replacing Monica Keene, who left after seven years. He was a client himself at CareerPlace six years ago, when the publishing company he worked for downsized and he lost his job as the senior vice president of marketing.

“It was unlikely I would find another job” in that field, said Campbell.

A coach told him that he should follow his passion. He engaged in what he calls a “portfolio career,” doing several things at the same time. He started a consulting firm, became a key figure in a networking group, and started commission furniture and real estate businesses.

He called the transition period “painful,” but worth it: “I am fortunate to be able to do the things that I love to do.”

More information about CareerPlace is on their website, mycareerplace.org.

Veröffentlicht im Daily Herald am 10.09.2012. Den Artikel gibt es hier.

Arlington Hts. bookmobile more than a mobile library

By Marie Denecke

When Harold Goldstein of the University of Illinois wrote in 1961 that bookmobiles could be “no more than an ancillary arm of the main institutions, serving as long as better agencies are not available,” he was proved right in most cases.

Bookmobiles in the Northwest suburbs mostly have been put to rest, three in the last two years alone, done in by the opening of branch libraries and the mechanical issues that can plague the vehicles.

However, after 39 years the bookmobile of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library is still going strong: It makes about 50 stops per month, carries 4,000 items and counts roughly 1,800 customers every month. Arlington Heights is one of six libraries that still operate bookmobiles in the area, next to Palatine, Cook Memorial in Libertyville, Warren-Newport in Gurnee, Skokie and Aurora.

What the bookmobile offers is proximity in more than one sense. Not only is it a library on wheels, it is also the place for personal contact — to meet and chat with neighbors, other customers and the bookmobile staff.

“A lot of people are asking for recommendations,” said Amy Henkels, who started working on the bookmobile three years ago and loves talking with customers, many of whom use it every time it makes a stop close to where they live.

Henkels herself has a history with the bookmobile, having been a regular visitor since she was a child.

Each month, the bookmobile stops at 29 places in Arlington Heights — twice at most of them, and three or four times at a few. Stops are usually close to schools, parks, elderly homes or apartment complexes.

“At our busiest stops, we get 60 or 70 people within one hour,” said bookmobile supervisor Teri Scallon.

She is one of three members of the library staff who acquired a special drivers license to be able to drive the bookmobile. They are supported by two other members, one of them Henkels, who sit in the back of the bus and help with checkouts.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, the bookmobile stopped in front of Greens Park close to Olive-Mary Stitt School and it didn’t take long for people to gather and step inside.

For Michele Bozikis, it was her first visit to the bookmobile. Her son Jake, 4, wanted to show it to her after friends took him along on a visit.

“Usually we go to the library once a week, but this time, we wanted to see the bookmobile,” says Bozikis. And Jake does not leave empty-handed, choosing several books and Nintendo games to take home with him.

The bookmobile’s offerings include DVDs, CDs and Nintendo games. The biggest section is the “latest and greatest” section that holds the newest books. The mobile library houses from almost any genre including kids, teen or cookbooks.

“He just walked in and his eyes widened,” Liz Wojtkowski, 58, said of the first bookmobile visit by her 3-year-old grandson Tyler. While Tyler pulled out one children’s book after the other to take home, his grandmother checked out a few DVDs for herself.

On the bookmobile, DVDs can be checked out for two weeks as opposed to the one-week-deadline at the main library. Checked-out items can be returned either when the bookmobile comes around again or at the main library. Customers can also place a hold on an item from the main library and staff will bring it out to them with the bookmobile.

“I just love it,” Wojtkowski said.

Tanja Hamilton, 69, comes out every time the bookmobile stops at Greens Park. “I usually take one book home with me, sometimes two or three.”

The stop is not far from her home, Hamilton said, and the selection is appealing.

The Arlington Heights Memorial Library bookmobile is one of the few still operating. Out of the 12 libraries that used to have them in the suburbs, only four still have them today, said Scallon, the bookmobile supervisor.

One of the latest libraries to bid its bookmobile farewell was Des Plaines in December 2011. The library faced the decision of paying $20,000 for a new engine, $5,000 more than the 16-year-old bus was actually worth, or paying $350,000 for a new bus. Neither option seemed financially responsible to the officials, so they decided to drop the program.

And 18 months earlier, in June 2010, Indian Trails Public Library District serving the Wheeling/Prospect Heights area shut down its bookmobile service because of continuing mechanical problems.

So far, no such fate is likely in Arlington Heights.

“Oh no, there is no end in sight,” said Deb Whisler, director of communications and marketing for the library.

The key reason the bookmobile is still going strong in Arlington Heights is that the library does not have branch libraries, unlike some of the other bigger suburbs, Whisler said. Especially for those who cannot make it to the main library at 500 N. Dunton Ave., the bookmobile holds true value.

“Through the bookmobile, we serve all the parts of the community,” Whisler said. The bookmobile also travels to community events like Picnic in the Park and Autumn Harvest.

Its popularity is reflected in its use. During the past 10 years, nine have seen an increase in circulation, said Jeremy Andrykowski, senior manager of customer services. This August, for example, circulation was up 14 percent from the same month last year. During the last fiscal year, 83,781 items were checked out, Andrykowski said.

The current bookmobile is three years old, was designed according to the library’s wishes, has wheelchair access and runs on “green” resources, using biodiesel fuel, battery packs and sunroofs. How much money the library spends to provide bookmobile service, however, is not clear, as a cost/benefit analysis for it hasn’t been done in recent years, Andrykowski said.

The American Library Association estimates there are 900 bookmobiles still operating in the country. The special service is marked by National Bookmobile Day, celebrated during National Library Week in April.

Veröffentlicht im Daily Herald am 14.09.2012. Den Artikel gibt es hier.

Arlington Heights Library hopes to be community „hub“

By Marie Denecke

Arlington Heights Memorial Library is about to undergo its biggest makeover in decades, getting a renovation that will change its looks dramatically. The board is expected to approve the plans at a meeting Tuesday.

“As soon as we’ll have the authorization, we will start,” library Executive Director Jason Kuhl said.

The $2.8 million renovation will turn the library into a more organic, open and welcoming “community hub” — much like today’s bookstores — with a cafe, comfortable seating and a section devoted to new, popular books. None of the current collections will disappear, but the remodeling recognizes that people who come to the library today spend more time there than in years past, Kuhl said.

“The way people use the library now is different,” he said. People are still checking out books — with 2.6 million checkouts yearly, the Arlington Heights library is one of the busiest in the country.

However, other core uses of the library have dropped immensely — for example, questions asked in person at the reference desk — while other services are growing, especially computer classes that had a 170 percent enrollment increase last year.

According to Kuhl, the $2.8 million will come out of the library’s current funds, and property taxes will not be increased. “We have known about this for years, and we have planned carefully,” Kuhl said.

The remodeling will be finished around mid-April 2013. The library will not close during the work, although some areas will be closed off and their collections moved temporarily. For about one week, the drive-up window and book drop-off will not be available as the underground parking lot is repaved.

News and announcements about relocations and the renovations in general will be published on the library’s website and on signs in the building.

The area where DVDs and CDs are currently situated will be turned into a “marketplace,” where new and popular books will be displayed.

“We want people to come and discover new authors,” Kuhl said. Here visitors will also find nonfiction books of popular categories such as gardening, cooking or fitness. A vending cafe and an open area for programs or displays will finish off the marketplace.

Back in the northwest corner, where big windows let in the light and frame the Arlington Heights Historical Museum across the street, the library will get its “living room,” Kuhl said, with a fireplace and lounge seating, funded by the Friends of the Library. This is also where the magazine section will move, which is currently on the second floor.

“A lot of people didn’t even know we had it,” Kuhl said. Library offices will move to the second floor.

“We want to stand side by side with our community,” Kuhl said, which is why the help desk will be reshaped to make it more accessible.

The checkout desk will be reduced in size, as more people are using self-checkout. Instead of standing behind counters, “our staff will be out, interacting with the people,” Kuhl said.

The computer assistance area will be remodeled and complemented by a conference room.

As more people don’t work in offices anymore or have started home businesses, they are using the library to work, research and meet clients, Kuhl said. Currently, visitors can use four small meeting rooms at the library, but 14 will be available at the end of the project.

Lastly, the library “is also a place for fun,” Kuhl said, mentioning the new teen area with an adjacent art studio and comfortable seats for the teenagers to sit together and chat.

To stay on top of the changes, signs will be put up in the library in advance and visitors should check the library website, ahml.info, for announcements.

Veröffentlicht im Daily Herald am 10.08.2012. Den Artikel gibt es hier.

63-year-old Brit cycles 2,500 miles to Mount Prospect

By Marie Denecke

It sounds like something someone would do in order to get into the Guinness Book of World Records: 63-year-old Jim Windass from Kingston-upon-Hull, England, is currently cycling Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago, battling some 2,500 miles, crossing the Rocky Mountains, enduring heat and exhaustion.

However, Windass is not after some sort of record. He is cycling Route 66 with a specific goal in mind: Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care in Mount Prospect. You can follow his journey day by day or make donations for his cause on his project’s website, http://www.cycle66.co.uk.

The Hospice did not know about this until a couple of months ago, said Public Relations Manager Jeff Okazaki. “It came completely out of the blue. We simply received an email from him, asking if we could be his end point!”

The reason why Windass chose a hospice to be the finish point of his undertaking is also the reason he started out on this journey: His late wife, Christine, passed away from cancer in July 2010.

She was cared for by Dove House Hospice in their hometown of Hull, which is the hospice that Windass is now raising money for.

Windass’s aim is to raise 10,000 pounds ($15,000), as British hospices depend largely on charitable donations. He chose this legendary road because he and his late wife always had an affinity for America.

But why finish in Mount Prospect? That, he admitted in an email, was a little bit of a coincidence: Windass was looking for a hospice close to Route 66 and its finish point.

However, he feels “lucky with the choice of hospices,” wrote Windass. Although the majority of miles is still ahead of him, he is already looking forward to arriving at Rainbow Hospice and meeting the staff “after talking to them in the buildup to this challenge and reading their messages of support.”

Windass, a regular cyclist, is riding by himself, but is followed by a backup team in an RV, consisting of his son, Andy, a professional physiotherapist, and a friend.

At home he is supported by his other son, Steve, and Steve’s partner, Catherine, who take care of Windass’s website and the donations.

Being from England, where, “at this time of year, it rains a lot,” wrote Windass, he did not expect the climate he is currently encountering crossing Arizona.

“But what I have to go through is nothing compared to what Christine went through; 18 years of cancer, never complaining once,” Windass wrote in his email.

His schedule is tight: The Rainbow Hospice is expecting Windass to arrive on Aug. 27, where he will get quite a reception.

“We will have a finish line for him and an exchange of cultures with things brought over from England,” said Okazaki. The staff will be preparing a party, the British Consulate General being one of the guests.

But that is not the only surprise for the Windass. “We will probably have deep-dish pizza waiting for him,” Okazaki added.

Veröffentlicht am 10.08.2012 im Daily Herald. Den Artikel gibt es hier.

Praktikum in den USA – bist du bereit?

Hier sitze ich also, in der Wartehalle des US-Konsulats in Frankfurt. Ich warte darauf, dass irgendwann mal meine Nummer aufgerufen wird. Denn ich plane, in den USA ein Praktikum zu machen – doch dass der ganze Prozess so nervenaufreibend, bürokratisch und langwierig sein würde, hatte ich nicht gedacht. Für ein sechswöchiges, unbezahltes Praktikum bei einer Tageszeitung in der Nähe von Chicago stecke ich seit sechs Monaten im Bewerbungsprozess. Und habe bislang fast 2000 Euro ausgegeben. Doch damit ist die Prozedur noch lange nicht zu Ende.

Doch von vorn: Durch einen Besuch in Chicago im letzten Jahr kannte ich die Daily Herald, die Tageszeitung, bei der ich ein Praktikum machen wollte. Hierfür, wird mir von einem Bekannten Mitte Januar geraten, sollte ich mich an den “Human Resources Manager” wenden. Manager menschlicher Ressourcen – nett, denke ich, klingt das nicht gerade. Über den Namen muss man jedoch hinwegsehen: Es handelt sich hierbei einfach um den Personaler einer Firma.

Schnell habe ich also Heather Ritter am Telefon, eben jenen Human Resources Manager. Sie ist baff, dass sich jemand aus Deutschland meldet, um nach einem Praktikumsplatz zu fragen. Doch, wie es die amerikanische Art ist, stellt sie sich nur mit Vornamen vor, gibt mir ihre Mailadresse und sagt, sure, natürlich könne ich ihr gern meine Bewerbung schicken.

Die erste Hürde: die amerikanische Bewerbung. Deutsche Bewerbungen habe ich schon zur Genüge geschrieben, aber amerikanische? Ein Besuch eines Info-Nachmittags des Referat Internationales an der TU Dortmund sowie ein paar Tipps von dessen Internetseite reichen aber aus, um mich schon mal auf den richtigen Weg zu bringen. Um nur ein paar Unterschiede zu nennen: Ein Foto sowie die Nennung von Geschwistern oder Hobbys ist tabu. Stattdessen muss ich richtig auf den Putz hauen, denn im Lebenslauf sowie im Anschreiben muss ich betonen, was meine “leadership skills” sind, was ich bei welchem noch so kleinen Praktikum vollbracht habe und was mich, Marie Denecke, zu genau der richtigen Person für genau diese Stelle macht. Ich formuliere mir also mein Gehirn wund und komme mir vor, als würde ich eine Bewerbung für die Position des Geschäftsführers verfassen. Aber egal: Bescheidenheit ist hier fehl am Platz.

Alles zu Ende, bevor es angefangen hat?

Und zum Glück ist da Laura Hope, Leiterin des Referat Internationales, deren Bürotür für jeden Dortmunder Studenten offen steht, der ins Ausland will. Okay, am Layout und an einigen Formulierungen müsse ich noch feilen und hier und da kürzen, aber ansonsten sei das schon viel versprechend. Und wie gut, denke ich mir, dass Frau Hope selbst gebürtige Amerikanerin ist.

Es ist der 23. Februar, als ich die “Internship Application” des Daily Herald ausfülle und dabei merke, dass die Bewerbungsfrist für ein Sommer-Praktikum eigentlich der 15. Februar war. Mir wird heiß und kalt: Sollte alles schon vorbei sein, bevor es überhaupt angefangen hat? Ich entscheide mich, in die Offensive zu gehen. Ich schreibe in meiner Mail an Heather, dass ich wohl die Bewerbungsfrist überschritten habe, aber dass ich hoffe, dass mir das nachgesehen wird. Meine Strategie scheint zu funktionieren: Nach einem schriftlichen Test, einem Interview und einem Telefonat teilt mir Heather Mitte April mit, dass ich das Praktikum für August und September in der Tasche habe.

Hier, jedoch, beginnt die Arbeit erst. Denn im Fall der USA ist es nicht so, dass es ausreicht, ein Praktikum zu bekommen: Ohne Visum läuft gar nichts. Und ein Visum bekommt man nicht ohne einen sogenannten Sponsor, eine Organisation, die vom US State Department anerkannt ist und sich um den ganzen Papierkram kümmert. Gegen gutes Geld natürlich – doch mit rund 1000 Dollar (knapp 800 Euro) Bearbeitungsgebühr gehörte mein Sponsor noch zu den billigeren Anbietern. Und zum Glück gibt es Stipendien, die zumindest für einen Teil der Kosten aufkommen.

Die Safari durch den Zahlendschungel beginnt

Auch wenn mir also der Sponsor so Einiges an Arbeit abnimmt, gibt es immer noch genug für mich zu tun: Für die Bewerbung beim Sponsor muss man seinen Lebenslauf einreichen, sich seinen Notenspiegel und Immatrikulationsbescheinigung übersetzen lassen, nachweisen, dass man genug Geld auf dem Konto hat (rund 2000 Dollar pro Monat werden empfohlen) und Fragen des Sponsors beantworten: Welche Erwartungen hat man an das Praktikum, was verbindet man mit den USA, wie will man die Firma durch sein Dasein als Praktikant bereichern? Diese Frage selbstbewusst zu beantworten, ist nicht mehr schwer – ich habe ja gerade die Bewerbung geschrieben.

Die Safari durch den Zahlendschungel beginnt. Es gibt gefühlt 1000 wichtige Formulare mit unzähligen Nummern, vom DS-2019 über das Einreiseformular I-94 zum Training Plan mit der Nummer DS-7002. Das einzige Formular mit ein bisschen Unterhaltungswert ist da das DS-160, das ich brauche, um beim US-Konsulat einen Termin zu machen, um mein Visum zu bekommen. “Kommen Sie in die USA, um sich zu prostituieren?”, werde ich da zum Beispiel gefragt. Oder: “Hatten Sie jemals vor, Terroristen finanziell oder anders zu unterstützen?” In dem Stil geht es auf insgesamt drei Seiten weiter.

Nachdem ich mich also durch alle Formulare gekämpft und so ziemlich jeden Aspekt meines Lebens vor der amerikanischen Regierung offen gelegt habe, schickt mir die Sponsor-Organisation diese Formulare mit Original-Handschriften und –Stempeln per Post zu, damit ich endlich bei der US-Vertretung meiner Wahl (Berlin, Frankfurt oder München) anrufen kann. Denn um ein Visum für die USA zu bekommen, muss man immer noch persönlich dort aufkreuzen.

Kommt das Visum noch vor meinem Abflug?

Hier sitze ich also, in dieser riesigen Wartehalle des US-Konsulats in Frankfurt. Mit nicht viel mehr in der Tasche als mein Pass und die unterschriebenen Dokumente, denn Handy oder MP3-Player müssen zu Hause bleiben. Sogar meine Haustürschlüssel wurden mir abgenommen. Das ist jetzt auch schon egal, denke ich mir: Wer ein Visum möchte, muss sich nun mal komplett in die Hände der US-Regierung begeben. Nach etwa einer Stunde wird meine Nummer ausgerufen und ich gehe zu einem Schalter, um dort einer freundlichen, doch recht unverbindlichen Mitarbeiterin des Konsulats Pass und Papiere anzuvertrauen. Und das war’s. Ich staune: Und deswegen habe ich mir Druck gemacht?

Spannend bleibt es aber doch noch: Mein Botschaftstermin ist an einem Mittwoch, am folgenden Dienstag geht mein Flug. Wie lang es denn dauere, bis mir mein Pass mit meinem Visum-Sticker darin zurückgeschickt würden? Sieben bis zehn Tage, teilt mir die Dame am Schalter mit. Ich schlucke. Mehrmals. Gibt es denn keinen Weg, den Prozess zu beschleunigen?

Das, so die Dame am Schalter, solle ich doch mit einem “consulate officer” besprechen. Also wieder zurück in die Wartehalle, wieder auf meine Nummer warten. Mein “officer” schließlich ist ein großer, älterer Herr mit Brille und Fliege, der es toll findet, dass ich ein Praktikum bei einer Tageszeitung machen möchte. Ob ich denn den Film “Teacher’s Pet” mit Doris Day aus den 50ern kenne? Toller Film, darin gehe es um Journalismus. Doch was meinen Pass angeht, könne er mir auch nicht helfen: Einige Tage werde die Bearbeitung meines Visum schon dauern.

Hat sich das alles also gelohnt?

Während der nächsten Tage kaue ich mir vor lauter Anspannung die Nägel blutig: Wie schnell würde die Botschaft sein, wie schnell DHL? Waren vier Werktage genug?

Waren sie: Am Samstagmorgen liegt der Express-Umschlag mit Pass und Visum darin in meinem Briefkasten. Ich könnte die Welt umarmen! Der Kommentar meines Bruders: “Punktlandung”. Vielleicht war ich dem “consulate officer” mit seiner Doris-Day-Geschichte auch einfach nur sympathisch.

Hat sich das Ganze also gelohnt? Ich glaube: Ja. Klar, über das Praktikum kann ich noch nicht viel sagen begonnen, in zwei Monaten bin ich schlauer. Aber ich habe mir in den Kopf gesetzt, ein Praktikum in den USA zu machen, und es hat funktioniert. Es war anstrengend, aber lehrreich. Ich wollte es, und es hat geklappt. Ich bin hier, in den USA. Jetzt heißt es nur noch, sich auf das freuen, was da kommt.

Ach ja, und eine amerikanische Sozialversicherungsnummer brauche ich auch noch. Dazu benötige ich ein neues Dokument und vier von denen, die ich schon habe. Ein Klacks also.

Veröffentlicht am 1.10.2012 auf http://www.pflichtlektuere.com. Den Artikel gibt es hier.