TITLE>Disappearing Windmills
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Chapter 7 excerpt

Table of Contents

Author biography

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Disappearing Windmills
by, Kate Christie Zee, MD,Ph.D.

Vantage Press; ISBN: 0533127491


Disappearing Windmills: A Waist-High View of the World's Hot Spots is Zee's account of her journeys around the world and her coming of age. The book is more than a traveler's detailed journal, it's a tribute to the human ability to overcome obstacles in life that seem impassable at first, but, in reality, only require the right attitude to overcome.

"A person's disappearance can come in many different forms. You can become a face in the crowd, the stranger nobody knows, or an adventurer away from home," writes Kate Christie Zee, MD, Ph.D. Diagnosed in the prime of her life with multiple sclerosis, Kate's life as an emergency physician abruptly vanished. Able to walk only minimally, she soon realized that to pursue a quality life, she would have to use a wheelchair, but refused to see disability as a barrier to having a good, healthy, and adventurous life.

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Intertwined with Kate's international adventure stories are discussions of social issues that face all of us who go through a major change in life. For Kate this was adaptation to disability and to the use of a wheelchair, but the issues also arise among those who are approaching old age, who have lost a spouse, and even to those who just move to a strange city. Such issues include perceptions of the disappearance of one's old identity, worries about fitting in, fear of new things, feelings of vulnerability, and struggles for self-empowerment. Dr. Zee reveals that these social concerns are like Don Quixote's Windmills which can be seen as monsters to be fiercely fought but, as she reveals her own solutions, are shown to be the ordinary windmills they really are and soon disappear as a matter of concern.

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Excerpt from Chapter 7:
     While living in the Amazon village, the only real respite from the jungle heat was offered by traveling on the water. By day, sightseeing journeys through swamps and sunken forests alternated with three- hour fishing trips for piranha. At night we hunted cayman, South American alligators, in the swamps.
      On the first night, only the slim beam of light from our guide's powerful flashlight fashioned a trail into the darkness for our small, motor-powered boat. Mottled green and black areas at the water's edge seemed to move in the light, as tiny, invisible predators hustled about in search of a meal. Like a living thing, the shore seemed patiently waiting to entrap our small boat if we carelessly came too near. Suddenly the boat made a shallow sweep directly into the swamp.
      Two small red eyes, transfixed in our flashlight's powerful beam, glared at us out of the jungle. Using them as a beacon, the boatman motored slowly towards the land, then suddenly cut the motor and quietly lifted the propeller out of the water. The guide pressed his finger to his lips. As we drifted closer to where the water ended and land began, the boatman cautiously used a long pole to direct the boat.
      As we came closer and closer to the unblinking, red eyes, the guide began to whisper instructions. Handing me a long bamboo pole with a small hangman's noose affixed to the end, he instructed me in how to use it as a snare. His voice was barely a puff of breath on my cheek as he explained that he would grab the Cayman the instant it was caught.
      As we drew silently towards the shore, I flattened myself from head to mid-thigh across the aluminum shell of the prow, taking care to keep the noose out of the water. Closer and closer we came to the eyes. Suddenly they disappeared. We were almost directly on top of our prey which remained immobile in the shallows. I didn't dare breathe.
      "Do you see it? Do you see it?" whispered the guide very softly, his lips almost touching my ear.
      I moved only my eyes to search the darkness next to the boat. A very slight creak betrayed the guide's change of position as I peered intently at the mottled swampland. Then, a move so slight as to be only a suggestion gave away the Cayman Almost perfectly camouflaged, he lay very still. I nodded my discovery to the guide.
      Very slowly, I moved the noose just above and ahead of the quiet creature and lowered it nearer and nearer. I paused to take a deep, silent breath. Not a sound came from anyone on the boat. Tensed for action, I suddenly dropped the noose millimeters ahead of the light-dappled nose.
      In a split second the Cayman become aware of something near and sprang into action. Terrified, it ran frantically forward-straight into the noose. I jerked sharply up, pulling the hangman's knot tight. With no time for thought, I threw myself upright and back to land on my knees. Fighting to keep the noose closed, I tried to haul the thrashing creature up toward the boat. The line started to cut into my hand as its struggles almost pulled it out of my grasp.
      With a movement so fast that his hand was a blur, the guide quickly grasped the thick neck behind the snapping jaws. As he lifted the struggling Cayman into the boat, it could be seen that this was no placid pet in a little boy's canoe. It was instead an angry, five-foot long adolescent. As it whipped its tail about, I threw myself out of the way and onto a seat. Then, holding the suddenly quiescent creature, the guide slowly sat down next to me.
      Tightly grasping the cayman's neck with one hand, he used the other to lift its bloated belly. The long tail fell straight across my lap. I sat rigid, then relaxed enough to smile for a picture. Looking away from its blunted nose-more pointed than an alligator's, less pointed than a crocodile's-I tried not to think of the sharp rows of teeth hidden in the grimly clenched jaw. The vertical slits on the creature's unblinking eyes made it appear to be making evil plans as it glared, unseeing, straight ahead.
      Suddenly the great tail slashed across my waist, breaking free of my loose grip. Alarmed, the guide leapt to his feet as the creature began to thrash violently back and forth.
      "You have enough pictures?" he asked with a weak grin, holding the creature as far away from himself as he could.
      Unable to take my eyes off of the Cayman's snapping jaws, I nodded.
      After he hurled it off the boat, it stayed perfectly still for an instant, then with a great slash of its tail it was gone.

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Table of Contents:
Chapter 1- The End that Turned Out to Be a Beginning
Chapter 2- Disappearing in China
Chapter 3- Excluded, Included and In Between in India
Chapter 4- Krishna's Boots: Nepal's Magic
Chapter 5- Gaining a Sense of Proportion in Russia
Chapter 6 - And Now for Something Completely Different:
                   The One Journey I Would Rather Not Have Taken
Chapter 7 - Facing Up to Fear on the Amazon
Chapter 8- A Beggars's Eyes: Cambodia's Lesson
Chapter 9- Dancing to a Different Drummer in Vietnam
Chapter 10- To Control One's Destiny: India Revisited
Chapter 11- Vulnerability and Power in Tanzania: Balancing an Important Equation Chapter 12- The Return of the Light in India: A Journey of Acceptance

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Author biography:
Kate Christie Zee, MD, Ph.D. received her A.B. in comparative religion from U.S.C. in 1965, her doctorate in biochemistry from Tufts University in 1971, and her medical degree from Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1975. A multiple sclerosis patient and breast cancer survivor, Kate Zee led a happy life filled with friends, house pets, mystery reading and exotic travels. A veteran of travel to 47 countries, she visited 21 in a wheelchair, including China, India, Nepal, Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brazil and Tanzania.
Kate's final journey was on December 2, 1999, when she died quietly at her home following her two year battle with bladder cancer. She told friends that she never wanted to be thought of as an inspiration...she only wanted to be the best person in a wheelchair that she could be.

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