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Greetings from Kyrgyzstan (Part III)


A common sight in Bishkek.

Sometimes it’s still strange to find myself in Kyrgyzstan. After all, like any good Sporcler I earned my ‘Bishkek or Bust’ badge back in the day and while I knew where Kyrgyzstan was, I never thought I would live here.

As far as my study abroad time goes, I can only describe it as ‘adventurous’. Bishkek is not for the faint of heart; it’s a city that is still developing, so things don’t always run smoothly. For example, due to a plumbing mishap, I had cold water in my shower and hot water in my toilet for a couple of weeks. Uncomfortable? A bit. Livable? Quite. A good sense of humor helps too.

Ride the Marshrutkas, They Said

Traffic is crazy. Most people get around on the local vans called Marshrutkas, which are relatively cheap. Though they only have 8-10 seats, these vans usually hold around 20-25 people, so you get nice and chummy with the locals. I’ve been amazed at some of the encounters I’ve had in Marshrutkas; I’ve gotten to experience up close and personal more than a few armpits, ridden down the street with my butt pressed up against the windshield and on more than one occasion I’ve have had people fall right into my lap. Picture the Knight Bus from Harry Potter, and you’ll get a good idea of the of the driving style of Marshrutka drivers.

How Did the American Cross the Road?

Nothing builds courage faster than learning how to cross the street in Bishkek. If you wait for the traffic to stop, you’ll spend the entire day standing on side of the road. It was a moment of growth for me when I finally walked into oncoming traffic for the first time. However, I actually have a stronger faith in Kyrgyz drivers than I do of those in Seattle. Here drivers are always prepared for traffic laws to be disobeyed and plan accordingly. Two lanes? Psh! We can fit six cars side by side! Red light? Nah, bro – I got places to be! You cut me off? I hope you like the sound of my horn for the next two minutes. Another interesting fact: Cars come with steering wheels on both sides. This is a never-ending source of amusement to me. Almost as much as the scented and colored toilet paper sold in the supermarkets here (to make up for the fact that I can’t flush it). Green apple is my current ‘favorite’.

Kyrgyz Hospitality

Kyrgyz aren’t really very big into people whipping out camera’s all the time, so it would have been really rude of me to take a photo of my dining experience. But this photo is from Wikipedia:

Kyrgyz aren’t really very big into people whipping out camera’s all the time, so it would have been really rude of me to take a photo of my dining experience. But this photo is from Wikipedia:

Recently I was invited to dinner at a local Kyrgyz/Kazakh family. After my time here, I believe ardently that Central Asians (in my experience) are the most hospitable people I’ve ever met. Your every need will be met as the guest. Just, don’t be picky or stingy with tea. There is no such thing as one cup of tea. This particular evening I got to enjoy the traditional Central Asian meal called Beshbarmak, which translates into “Five Fingers”. Just like its name implies, no utensils necessary cause you eat it with your hands! Our host asked who the oldest of us students were (hint: it was me) – but being a woman I could not sit at the head of the table (the place of honor). Just as well, cause I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to being served a fully cooked sheep’s head. However, this is a delicacy here and is only served to people of high importance, so we were quite honored.

As is customary, my friend was asked to cut off a piece of the head and eat it. He then cut up the rest and we all put some on our plates and ate it with noodles. I can now check off “Eaten sheep’s ear” off of my bucket list (Note: This was not originally on the list). Also, to follow a particular Kazakh tradition, we washed it all down with Camel’s milk, which is the BOMB. I liked it so much I had three cups! And of course, being good hosts – they served us vodka and cognac shots along with an amazing apple custard pie.

Greetings from Kyrgyzstan (Part II)


Month two in Kyrgyzstan is drawing to a close, just in time for winter to really begin. I am all prepared for the snow (which has already begun to fall) thanks to a large, puffy “Russian” coat that I successfully haggled for and purchased recently from ‘Dordoi’ – the largest market in Central Asia.

If you loved corn mazes as a child, or have always wanted to be in ‘The Labyrinth’, I strongly recommend you make your way here. I’m fairly certain some people never find their way out of the sea of stalls and vendors. Want dishwashers? Check. Want fresh fruit and veggies? Check. Want a cart of cow’s feet? Oh buddy, you better believe they got it (I know this for a fact as I was almost ran over by said cart).

Outside of the cart incident things are going well, and this post is going to focus on what I’m doing, and where I’ve been since I’ve arrived.

A Tour of the East

DSC02302Throughout the week I continue to study Russian language (each grammatical construct mastered is an accomplishment), and learn about Central Asian history and politics. On the weekends I explore. Thus far my wanderings have taken me east to the base of the mountains that border China, just along side the region known as Issyk Kul. After the Caspian Sea, Issyk Kul is the 2nd largest saline lake in the world and it never freezes, essentially making it Kyrgyzstan’s version of Hawaii. While there we learned how to build the nomadic structures called yurts (hello future resume skill), rode horses and hiked up the mountains in search of elusive waterfalls. I also really enjoyed hearing all the folk tales on how Lake Issyk Kul originated.

My favorite is the story that says two young men fell passionately in love with a Kyrgyz woman, and asked her who she loved more. Unable to decide, she cried so hard she formed the lake from her tears and disappeared into it. The men, not having received an answer, turned into the north and south winds and battle to this day for her love.

It’s All About Manas

IMG_0527In the complete opposite direction, I also visited the region of Talas in the west. This trip entailed one of the most breathtaking, winding and treacherous mountain passes I have ever had the pleasure to drive through. Talas is most famous for being the reputed birthplace of Manas, the Kyrgyz hero.

The Epic of Manas has been sung and told for over a thousand years. If there is one word I can use to describe the culture of Kyrgyzstan is would be “Manas”. While there, we were taken in by a very friendly and hospitible Kyrgyz family and then spent the next day wondering the Manas burial complex, listening to the epic story told in pieces (it takes days to hear it all, but here is a cool excerpt from a famous Kyrgyz film), and getting stuck behind seemingly endless herds of cattle, sheep, goats, and horses.

Kymis to Meet You!

kymisIn Talas I decided to kick it Kyrgyz style and live it up with a large bowl of Kymis. What is Kymis? I’m glad you asked. Kymis the national drink of Kyrgyzstan and at this point the most interesting thing I have ever drank. Kymiz is mare’s milk that has been put into the stomach of a sheep (much like Haggis) and then left to ferment for a few days.

Traditionally, it was left to hang in a pouch outside of the yurt. It was considered polite for all passer-bys to take the stick called a “Bishkek” and hit the bag, stirring up the contents of the milk to keep it rich and smooth. After fermenting for a few days, it is served at room temperature. Words cannot accurately describe Kymis, all I can say that is tastes like very salty and sour yogurt. It reputedly has great health benefits and is slightly alcoholic.

Greetings from Kyrgyzstan


Привет из Бишкеке! (Greetings from Bishkek!)

My name is Rachel, and I am a content moderator at Sporcle. For the next three and half months I’ll be finishing my degree in Russian Studies by studying advanced Russian (and basic Kyrgyz) in the wonderful city of Bishkek. Since I know how much Sporcle loves Kyrgyzstan, I’ll be sharing my experiences in a series of blog posts.

First Impressions of Kyrgyzstan

Within hours of arriving, I was struck by how the people here are kind and caring. While smiling on the street and small talk is still not common (a holdover from Soviet times), Kyrygz are incredibly helpful when you have a question or need directions (a common experience– since many streets have multiple names.)

Kyrgyzstan is a relationship-centered culture, and the door to my host family’s house is constantly open to an endless stream of family members, neighbors and friends. I have given up trying to mentally keep tabs on who is who, and just assume everyone is family somehow – since even I’m introduced as the ‘American daughter’ of my Kyrgyz host ‘mother’.

Cookies, Intellectual Discourse and the World Nomad Games

Hospitality is an art here, and the Kyrgyz are experts. There is a never-ending supply of tea, cookies and other yummy food that make me feel at home (or, if not at home exactly, at least very well fed). Conversation is very important, and Kyrgyz are generally very interested in the world at large and love to discuss and debate current events.

Just recently, Kyrygz hosted the World Nomad Games, which featured such sports as falconry and Kok Boru (a sport similar to polo, but involving a goat). Football is also popular (note: soccer) and many bars are dedicated to clubs here. The faces of Pele, Ronaldo and Messi adorn many, many posters along the streets. The cinema is also big, and the largest budgeted Kyrgyz movie of all-time is currently playing in theaters.

A Bit o’ Kyrgyzstan History

As you probably know, Kyrgyzstan is located in Central Asia. Once part of the Silk Road, Kyrgyzstan has a history that is both unique and complex. Living in the former lands of the Huns, Turks and Mongols, Kyrgyz were traditionally nomadic peoples. They came under Soviet rule during the 20th century, and became fully independent in 1991. Since then, Kyrgyzstan has become the most democratic of all Central Asian countries, running four successful elections. Today it has strong political ties to Turkey and Russia, as well as a strong economic relationship with China.

People of Kyrgyzstan

The population of Kyrgyzstan is composed of primarily ethnic Kyrgyz, with a sizable community of Russians, Uzbeks, Dungans, Germans and other minority groups. Kyrgyz and Russian are the national languages, and it is not uncommon for a Kyrygz to be trilingual (to include either English, Turkish, Chinese or another ethnic language). Not only do they speak multiple languages, often these languages are from completely different language families. They make it look so easy.

The vast majority of the country is Muslim, which many communities adopted sometime between the 11th and 16th centuries. While Islam is dominant here, remnants of older pagan traditions still remain, such as ancestor worship. There is also a small community of Orthodox Christians here.

Up Next

Stay tuned to the next update, which features my encounter with Kymiz, a local delicacy that consists of horse milk that’s been fermented in a sheep’s stomach. Truly unique.

WrestleMania XXX

For the wrestling fan, this is an exciting time of the year. And so, to explain wrestling a bit to the non-fan, I’m writing this blog. This Sunday (April 6), WrestleMania XXX will be held in New Orleans.

Hold it.

Okay, full disclosure: I can’t think of or discuss New Orleans without singing part of the classic Simpsons episode “A Streetcar Named Marge. So lets get this out of the way:

streetcar named desire“You can always depend on the kindness of strangers,

To pluck up your spirits, and shield you from dangers.

Now here’s a tip from Blanche you won’t regret.

A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met.”

Well that was fun. On with the blog!

Wrestling and Me

wwe_For those of you who don’t know me, I am nscox and I am a wrestling fan and curator of the WWE subcategory. My favourite wrestler is Chris Jericho, my favourite match is Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin from WrestleMania 13 and my favourite Wrestlemania is X-Seven (2001).

Wrestling is in an odd place right now. It’s been a long time since the last boom period (roughly 1998-2001, known to fans as “The Attitude Era”) and ever since wrestling has had its ups and downs but has been nowhere near as popular as it was in the late ’90s (Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind, etc.) or late ’80s (Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, etc.).

The Truth About Wrestling

The average sports fan views wrestling fanatics as the lowest of the low. In short, wrestling simply doesn’t get the respect it is due. This can be seen almost any time a WWE quiz is published as someone will say “this doesn’t belong in the sports category”.

Yes, WWE matches are fake. Or to be more accurate, they are fixed. The reason is simple: It enhances the entertainment value. If you watch a boxing or MMA match, you never know when it will end. It could be a first round knockout or it could be a long snooze fest. In wrestling, matches are scripted to be entertaining and to draw fans in. Yes, the wrestlers are selling their injuries (selling is an insider term that means “to act as if hit by a real move.” For more fun wrestling terms, check out this quiz) but that doesn’t mean there aren’t real risks. It takes a lot of athleticism and talent to be a great wrestler. For example, wrestlers must master the ability to take a fall – that is, to be able to minimize the impact of being thrown to the mat. It takes a long time to do this. And despite these precautions and the “fake” nature of the sport, a great many wrestlers have been seriously injured.

WWE-Triple-Threat-Tag-Title-MatchAs for the entertainment side of wrestling – it’s true that there have been some really bad storylines. And the “soap opera” aspect is a turn-off to some. But storylines are everywhere in sports. When you watch the NFL, the best games usually have some kind of storyline behind them. Whether it’s a team/player chasing a record, an upset, a rivalry or the potential for revenge. It can turn a good game into a great game because fans put all their emotion behind their team. It’s the same in wrestling.

Make no mistake about it, every professional sport is as much about entertaining the fans and making money as it is about athletic competition (which is why rules are often changed to speed things up or keep things interesting). And when sports fans accept this fact, wrestling will not seem so strange.

The Bout to Knock the Other Guy Out

So now that that is out of the way, let’s look at WrestleMania.  First, some context for the non-wrestling fan. The WWE has several weekly TV shows, with Raw being the flagship show. These programs help build up matches, which are then settled at events which can be watched on pay-per-view (ppv). There are 12 ppvs per year and the biggest is WrestleMania. To underscore the prestige of the event, many Manias have been in stadiums and some of the most legendary matches have been at WrestleMania. Celebrities are often brought in, big names of the past are brought back and wrestlers often do everything possible to make their match special.

An Exhaustive History of WrestleMania

Okay, that’s a lie. I’m not going to do a full rundown of the shows. It would take forever and is it really necessary? Instead, here’s a quiz that has Every WrestleMania Match Ever. If you want some more WrestleMania quizzes, here’s a listing of every one with an appropriate tag.

WrestleMania XXX: Not a Porn Parody (I Hope)

wrestlemania-xxx-posterThis year’s show should be a good one. The top 4 matches should all be good, but the bottom 4 really aren’t much to be excited about. A problem they always have is that they try to cram too many people into the show (this is pretty nice of them, since it entitles the wrestlers to ppv bonuses) which means we get multi-man matches where the main goal is to make sure every wrestler has a chance to get in the ring and perform a move.

The WWE Tag Team Championship should be okay, if it doesn’t get bumped to the pre-show. The New Age Outlaws return to join up with Kane to face The Shield. The Divas Championship match will probably be forgettable. The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal could be entertaining if given enough time.

undertaker-vs-lesnarIn the top four matches, The Undertaker faces Brock Lesnar. Undertaker is, of course, undefeated at WrestleMania. Will Lesnar end the streak? Probably not. John Cena faces Bray Wyatt. This will be Cena’s first non-main event or title match since WrestleMania 20. Wyatt should win, but who knows? There will be a lot of upset 10-year-olds if Cena loses. Daniel Bryan faces Triple H with a spot in the Main Event on the line. Triple H gets a lot of flack. There’s no denying his talent, but many fans feel he used his position in the company to keep himself on top for too long. He could buy a lot of good will by putting Bryan over strong.

Finally, the Main Event Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Winner of Bryan/Triple H for WWE Championship. There can be only one ending that benefits the WWE: Daniel Bryan winning and leading a huge “Yes” chant. So there’s a good chance we won’t get that. But the optimist in me is hoping for the right thing.

Sporcle World Order

Now we get to the Main Event, some quizzes!

Three Unique/Interesting Quizzes

Pro Wrestlers by Mug Shot

Wrestler or Supervillain

WWE Wrestlers by ’80s Action Figure & WWE Wrestlers by ’90s Action Figure

Three Royal Rumble Quizzes

Royal Rumble Runners-Up

Royal Rumble Winners

WWE Royal Rumble Final Four

Three WCW Quizzes

WCW Most Nitro Matches

WCW Most PPV Matches

WCW World Heavyweight Champions

Three WWE Championship Quizzes

90 Second Blitz: WWE Champions

WWE Champions (Redux)

WWE Heavyweight Champs

Three WWE Title Quizzes

NWA/WCW/WWE United States Champions

WWE Intercontinental

WWE/WCW Cruiserweight Champions

Post-Match Promo

So in closing, thanks for reading.

I hope non-wrestling fans learned something. And for wrestling fans – enjoy the show! And if you didn’t like this, I’ve got two words for ya: I’m sorry.

I’ll end this with a few inspiring words…

“Dean Malenko, you claim to be the man of 1,000 holds, but I counted, and you know about 60. Well, I know 1,004, and I wrote ‘em all down, here we go. Hold 1: Arm Drag, Hold 2: Armbar, Hold 3: The Moss Covered three-Handled Family Credenza…”

And that sums it all up.

Check out the Sporcle WWE Facebook page for more great quizzes, and you can always email me (nscox22@hotmail.com) for feedback or suggestions for curator picks!



Winter Olympics: The Beginning of the End

Disclaimer: The Olympics curator is Canadian. He just finished watching an amazing women’s hockey game in which Canada scored twice with two minutes remaining to tie the United States, then scored again in overtime to win their fourth consecutive gold medal. We apologize for any unnecessary smugness.

women's hockeyTwo Minutes to Midnight

When I set Thursday as the deadline for Sporcle Olympics Blog IV, I knew I would be writing one of two ways. Most likely, it would either be in a depressed fashion in which I said “well, you can’t win them all” and congratulated the American team. Or it could be in utter jubilation as Canada once again vanquished our southern enemies. With two minutes to go, I was preparing my whiny rhetoric. Then, it happened. My satellite died (curse you freezing rain!). Yep, I missed the final two minutes of the game. I wasn’t depressed because I figured the Americans had it. After learning of the tie, I rushed to a neighbours house and watched the amazing overtime.

So Canada is again Olympic Champions in hockey. That is great. Tomorrow will come another epic battle as the Canadian men try to beat the Americans in the semi-finals. Can Canada repeat as champions, or will the Americans get some revenge (Note: By the time this blog is published, the game will be over).

What I liked the most about the game was… Wait, what’s that? This is a Sporcle blog? I can’t just write about the great Canadian comeback? Oh, you’re no fun any more.

Read more

Winter Olympics: Germany, Unconventional Countries and More

Editor’s Note: This post is brought to you by the Sporcle Olympics’ curator nscox. 

Hello Olympic fans! And Sporcle fans! Week 1 is officially in the books. And what a week it was. Triumphs, tragedies and, of course, figure skating judging controversies.

This week in the official Sporcle Olympics blog (insert musical fanfare) we’re going to take a look at two things:

Germany: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Guess Both East and West

map East West GermanyUp first is an issue that always comes up in quizzes that deal with countries at the Olympics. Someone always points out that Germany and West Germany are essentially the same entity. Or that “Germany” should be acceptable for both East and West.

In short: The issue is that East Germany, West Germany, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia no longer exist. They either merged (Germany) or broke up. And many Sporcle users forget this when they play quizzes and think that Germany should work for the Germanies, Russia should work for the Soviet Union, etc., etc. Others suggest a merging of the totals.

There are all sorts of political arguments that figure into the debate, but to me the clincher is this: The IOC considers them separate and so should Sporcle. They all have different National Olympic Committees than their present day counterparts and don’t forget that three of them were made up of several nations. Besides, all five countries are pretty well known, so it’s not unreasonable to expect Sporcle users to know of them. There should be a note in quizzes which states that these nations are included, but I believe they should be separate.

There is also another Germany adding to the fun – the Unified Team of Germany, which was a combined East/West team that was around in the 50s and 60s. And the 1992 Summer and Winter Games saw the participation of the “Unified Team”. This was basically the Soviet Union, but since the USSR had broken up, a bunch of former Soviet countries participated together under this name. It is unrealistic to expect Sporcle users to know either of these facts, so I always accept Germany for the former and Soviet Union for the latter.

Read more

Winter Olympics: Game On!


Editor’s Note: This post is brought to you by the Sporcle Olympics’ curator nscox. 

The games have begun, and I am in full “Canada rocks, everyone else sucks” mode (I am from Canada for those unaware). Typically this involves using harmless slang terms that have been rarely used in the last 50 years. I’m not going to elaborate on this because the last thing I want is angry e-mails.

As I write this, Day 3 coverage has just ended and Canada is in the unusual position of being tied for overall medals. There hasn’t been too much in the way of huge surprises yet. Russia is slipping in a few medals they weren’t supposed to get, but that’s to be expected from the host.

The five nations with the best chance of finishing on top in golds or total medals – Russia, the US, Germany, Norway and a certain country that is home to a certain sporcle curator – are all pretty even.

Read more

Winter Olympics Are Here!

Editor’s Note: This post is brought to you by the Sporcle Olympics’ curator nscox. 

sochi-2014-logo-4It’s that time of the year. The Olympics are upon us, and it’s time to get excited.

Not everyone enjoys the Games, but I do. My name (well, my username) is nscox and I’m an Olympics fan. And the Sporcle Olympics curator. And a Canadian. I’ve been an avid Games follower since 1996 and have been pulled along ever since by the epic roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. From the thrill of the favourite being crowned, to the excitement of the upset winner, to the devastation of a legend failing to do well, the Olympics have it all.

The great thing about the Olympics is the focus on lesser appreciated sports. Downhill skiing, speed skating, snowboarding, etc. are all fun to watch. And over the next two weeks, fans will be getting a steady diet of winter action. Adding to the fun is the battle of nations. As we all know, the greatness of a country is measured by Olympic success, and so many questions will be answered in the coming weeks. Can Canada finally top the charts in total medals? Can the U.K. win more than 2 medals for the first time since 1936? Will the Norwegian curling team’s pants drive them to gold? Can Russia win Olympic hockey gold? Can Slovenia? Can Kyrgyzstan finally take a winter medal?

But this isn’t a sports blog. This is a Sporcle blog (insert musical fanfare here). And what better way to get ready for 2 weeks of winter sports bliss than some quizzes?

For quiz creators: Basketball and hockey (the ice variety) have been done to death. Keep that in mind when creating quizzes. If you want advice, help or a curator pick, send suggestions to nscox22@hotmail.com.

hockey_2010WinterOlympicsFor quiz players:

First, test your knowledge of the sports you’ll be watching with Winter Olympic Sports.

Next, see if you can remember the Olympic host cities. Special bonus points if you can remember how to spell the 1936 Winter host without looking it up: Olympic Cities.

Then, get ready for the Winter Olympics premiere event (yes, I said it) with Olympic Hockey Countries.

Take some time off, and remember the figure skating greats in Olympic Figure Skaters.

Finally, take a moment to remember the less fortunate countries with No Winter Olympics Medals.

So with all that being said, best of luck to all the athletes, and lets all hope for a clean and (most importantly) safe Olympics. Let the Games Begin!


The Great Sporcle Puzzle Hunt: Follow-Up

Sherlock would be proud.

The puzzle hunt is complete! All of the quizzes are out, and many of you have successfully reached the end. If you haven’t yet tasted sweet success, don’t fret. There’s no time limit on this adventure.

The Recap

So far the quizzes in the hunt have over 85,000 plays. Before the hint quiz came out, the Puzzle Hunter Badge had been earned by 140 people.  And on the final quiz of the hunt, 198 players had a perfect score. That’s a lot of perfect scores! All of the Hunt Puzzle Quizzes and components can be found here: The Entire Sporcle Puzzle Hunt

The Results

While no official prizes were given, we wanted to acknowledge the top finishers.
Read more

The Story of Duncan Mitcheltree

Editor’s Note: David Hejmanowski is the editor of Sporcle’s miscellaneous section. A father of two, he is a Magistrate and Court Administrator of the Delaware County, Ohio Juvenile Court.

Who doesn’t love kissing a baby?  They’re cute, they’re cuddly, they make fun noises and, as long as they’re not spitting up on you, they remind you of the amazing wonder of life.

It’s a presidential election year in the U.S. and so it’s hard to turn on the television or look on the internet without seeing images of presidential candidates on the campaign trail, shaking hands and making speeches.  So it was, a few weeks ago, that I set out to make an image quiz of presidential candidates kissing babies.

The search produced the expected results- lots of shots of candidates laughing, smiling and making funny faces and lots of images of sometimes smiling, sometimes crying, sometimes confused babies and toddlers.  The quiz was published on February 3rd and I was delighted when a brand new user named Seed2tree made the following comment on the quiz;

Indeed, the photo of McCain showed him at a 2008 rally at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.  In the photo the Arizona Senator is smooching an adorable little boy in a red shirt.

It wasn’t clear from the comment who the commenter was or whether he or she was being honest about being the parent of that incredibly cute kid.  Derek Pharr, Sporcle’s VP of Products, wondered about it too and so he contacted the user who left the comment.  What followed is a story that will make you marvel at the connectivity of the modern world, but more importantly, a story that will touch your heart.

The user turned out to Phillipsburg, New Jersey’s Andrea Mitcheltree the mother of three children, including little Duncan Mitcheltree, who was 15 months old when this photo was taken at Lehigh in 2008.  The story of how the picture came to be is somewhat pedestrian, but the story of what happened after it, is remarkable.

Duncan and his folks went to the McCain/Palin rally with little Duncan dressed in an elephant costume (a ‘wee-publican’, as his mother says).  The rally was crowded and hot and Duncan overheated, so he was de-pachydermed prior to meeting the Senator and having this picture taken.  The photo appeared in some local newspapers and some other media outlets and then sat dormant for four years until it happened to show up on my Sporcle quiz.

In fact, it happened to show up on a Sporcle quiz that was played by a college friend of Mrs. Mitcheltree.  That friend recognized the boy as Duncan and emailed a link to the quiz to Mrs. Mitcheltree who created a Sporcle account and left the comment.  She also was kind enough to respond to Derek when he emailed her, and that takes us to Duncan’s magnificent story.

You see, not long after Duncan Mitcheltree met Senator John McCain, Duncan faced a battle much greater than McCain had faced against Barack Obama.  Too young to vote, too young to read, too young to know what the men and women in the white lab coats were saying or why his parents, Andrea and Eric were so upset, Duncan Mitcheltree- that adorable, cherubic, blond boy in the Sporcle quiz- faced a fight for his life.

Shortly before Christmas in 2009 he just couldn’t shake a fever and sore throat.  His mom took him to the doctor hoping that he wouldn’t be sick over Christmas.  She later told a local newspaper reporter, “I thought we’d go to the pediatrician and worst case scenario he’d diagnose him with strep throat and start an antibiotic.”  Instead, the doctor sent them for an ultrasound and the ultrasound found a mass in Duncan’s abdomen.  Two year-old Duncan Mitcheltree had cancer.  “They told us to pack a bag and go directly to the hospital,” his mother said.  “What do you pack when you think your child is going to die?”

The tumor was the size of a sports bottle and resulted from a form of kidney cancer that frequently strikes children.  Surgery successfully removed the tumor and one of Duncan’s kidneys, but his battle wasn’t over yet.  Following the surgery Duncan faced months of radiation and chemotherapy.  Even then, though, Duncan was on the mend.  “Every day after that has been a positive step forward,” his father said.

Since his diagnosis, Duncan has had many heroes in his life, including his parents and his big sister.  Indeed, they have worked tirelessly to raise pediatric cancer awareness and to help raise money for other families that find themselves facing an unexpected battle.  In particular, the Mitcheltrees cite The Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley and its ‘Chemo Circus.’  Twice a month the Foundation gathers clowns, artists, massage therapists (for the parents!) and other volunteers who go into the chemotherapy clinics to make the experience more livable for pediatric cancer patients and their families.  The circus is just one of the ways that the Foundation provides support.

We urge you to visit the website of the Foundation at pcflv.org.  The Sporcle team has made a donation to the Foundation and you can donate to them through their website using Paypal.

Duncan is now four and a half years old.  He is finished with radiation and chemotherapy and the great news is that his form of cancer has a 90% cure rate if it is caught early, removed and appropriately treated.  He has a new baby sister and, when he hits five years without any recurrence of his cancer (a date that will come in 2015) his doctors will officially declare him cancer free.

The Republican primary in Pennsylvania isn’t until April 24th.  Perhaps this year we’ll get a new picture of Duncan’s baby sister getting a smooch from a candidate, a healthy, happy Duncan at her side.

“Everyone just needs to stop and appreciate everything they have because you never know when your life will be turned upside down.”
– Andrea Mitcheltree