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The unusual hobbies

Autor /Kajetan Dodano /11.11.2011

According to the dictionary, hobby is pastime, thing done as a relaxation, favourite interest taken unprofessionally. Besides those, who collect stamps, phone cards or teddy bears, there's another group of hobbyists, people who do some strange or even crazy things, like this:

Let's imagine a young woman standing barefoot at the edge of a carpet made of red-hot coals. The coals burn fiercely and she can barely stand the oppresive heat of the fire. The tension within the circle of participants and supporters is palpable. With an intensity born of fear and determination, she focuses her attention on the other side of the fire and quickly steps across the red-hot coals unscathed. Previously, she hadn't believed it possible; now she feels transformed.

That's firewalking - the practice of walking over red-hot coals. It's generally accepted that these coals have an average temperature of 1200 degrees Fahrenheit.

A typical firewalk might have anywhere from ten to fifty participants. Most firewalks takes place in the evening and are divided into two sections - the workshop and the walk.

The workshop begins with introductions and some kind of process for the participants to get to know each other and the instructor. Then the participants are led outside to build the bonfire. Half a cord wood is stacked into a pile five feet wide and five feet high. The pile is then doused with kerosene and lit. Within a few moments the fire is leaping 15 feet into the sky. After about two and a half hours, the fire is burned down to pile of glowing, red-hot coals. As the participans gather around, the coals are raked out into a pathway 12 feet long and 6 feet wide. Often the heat from the coals is enough to sign the hair from the fingers of the person wielding the rake even though the handle is 6 feet long.

When the bed is fully prepared, the tension and fear within the group is tangible. The workshop leader moves to the head of the bed and strides quickly across the coals. Just seeing someone walk the coals is a powerful transformative experience. Even more powerful is when a person opens to his own fears, listens to his own inner guidance and moves beyond the limitations of fear and crosses the fire himself. Usually 85% to 95% of the participants walk the fire and usually, there will only be a blister or two in the whole group. Sometimes we need a blister just to prove to ourselves that the fire was really hot!

Advanced firewalkers remember an individual from Seattle named Michael, who walked into the center of a bed of glowing hot coals and stopped. He reached down and picked up some coals and held them in his hand for ten or fifteen seconds. After droping the coals, he proceeded to walk up and down a still flaming log on the edge of the coals. He then stepped back into the center of the coal bed. After a short time, he finally and relucantanly left the carpet in order to make room for others who were growing impatient to walk themselves. Michaels feet and hands were unscathed. It seemed like Michael was on the coal bed for a minute and a half to two minutes.

There's also a man, whose hobby is maybe not as spectacular but as well interesting. David Wimp is a counter. For 14 years he has been adding numbers on a calculating mashine. In 1984, he punched number one. Then he added one to that, then one to that, and he has never stopped. He's closing in on six million. The bookcase in his modest home is stacked high with homemade rolls of calculator tapes-strips of colored construction paper taped to strips of white computer paper. Wimp doesn't believe in buying ready-made tape - too white and boring. So, he makes his own. Laid end to end, his current tally would stretch more than 20 miles. Wimp, 48, started counting in high school. A teacher promised him an "A" if he could write from number one to one million in nine days. He wrote down the numbers with a pencil, but only got to 25,000. He didn't calculated much for the next 20 years. Then, after retiring from the Army, he sprang into action. On February 1993, he punched in an incredible 7,070 numbers. He did it, as he still does, at his desk in front of the television. After reaching two million, he got bored with the addition key, so he switched to the minus key and calculated backward to zero. Then, once again, he began punching forward.

What does the future hold for David Wimp? He plans to count to a billion, although anyone with a good slide rule can figure it would take a few lifetimes. Why does he do it? "It's my hobby. I enjoy it," he says.

Finally I'd like to tell you about Staszek, an unemployed auto mechanic who drives around the streets of Toruń in a Batman costume. He built his Batman vehicle out of an old two-stroke Polish car and a Soviet motorcycle.

Although everyone in the city knows him, Batman jealously guards his privacy. All that is known is that he is single and lives outside of Toruń in Czerniewice where he spends whole days tinkering with his maschines. Before building his current mode of transport four years ago, he built other unusual vehicles. Even now he is building a 3.5-meter-long motorcycle, his frainds claim. They say he wants to ride it to Gniezno for the Unique Vehicle Convention.

All of the Toruń Batman's contraptions have undergone through technical testing. Mechanics and the police have found them to be street-worthy. Thus, Staszek Batman legally cruises the streets. In the summer he often travels to different events such as hot-air balloon races or car rallies. At these times his black vehicle can be seen on the Baltic coast.

Staszek became interested in Batman when he read the comic book. Four years after watching the movie he decided to become Batman. His first appearance on the streets of Toruń caused a sensation but now the city dwellers have become more used to his presence. Tourists, however, who see him when he is resting at the roadside food-stop in Czerniewice, often stop their cars and take pictures with him. A German visitor even offered Batman his new Mercedes in exchange for the Batmobile. Staszek's answer was curt: "It's not for sale."

Batman pays attention to the details. His vehicle opens after a button on the remote control is pressed, and before donning his costume the man of the night paints his face black. He sewed the impressive costume himself and even during the worst heatwave he does not take it off. As befitting Batman, Staszek behaves like a true gentleman; he buys cofee for women who visit the food-stop.

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