To the ends of the earth…and back!

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Back to Tanzania I shall go!

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As those who know me know, it is rare to find me speechless or anywhere near it! And yet as I prepare to return to Tanzania for a 12 day whirlwind trip, words are indeed few. An early Christmas miracle, my friends!

My (brief) return shall mark the first time since 2008 that I have a strictly tourist visa. The children have continued to grow of course, beginning primary school and moving on to secondary school, and of course growing taller than I even with the red clay caked to the bottom of my shoes in the rainy season. Another miracle, I experienced being 5’8″ for a few weeks!

Simply, what a fantastic adventure has been mine. I am grateful you have journeyed with me, as friends, as supporters of Journeys of Solutions and its endeavors, and most importantly as advocates for the beautiful children. Today I celebrate my 31st birthday; just the second birthday state-side since 2009. Truly do I look forward to the continued adventures which are ahead, those likely upon the road less traveled. Let us continue on, dear friends!

Lastly, and for fun, a few haikus:

Thirty one-der ful

I was told just yesterday

Ah, youthful beauty!

In two weeks only

I’ll sip chai and look upon

My favorite sights;

A few hues more red

Dust in my every pore, oh

The purest beauty


Stay tuned for real-time updates during the 12 day whirlwind that shall be mine!

A HUGE “ASANTE SANA” TO EACH OF YOU AS WE CONTINUE JOURNEYING TOGETHER.

September, already?!

Dear friends,

The days have passed quickly; I hope you haven’t felt neglected by the absence of my updates!

Alas, another school term has come to a close at Tumaini Junior School! My how the time flies! And, I have officially been in the US for a longer period of time than I have been outside of the US since 2008! But more on this first point for now!

The JOS-sponsored children, four more of whom began secondary (high) school in January 2015, continue to thrive at Tumaini and their respective secondary schools. Tumaini, too, has remained busy in providing stellar educational opportunities for its students and graduates. The half-year mark has been surpassed and we are just one school term away from 2016!

ALSO, in case you missed it and/or are not yet subscribed, here is JOURNEYS OF SOLUTIONS SUMMER 2015 NEWSLETTER//Subscribe to JOS newsletter HERE!!


Primary School – One more term of 2015!

As of last week school is back in session, and just days away from celebrating another Standard VII Class graduation! These soon-to-be graduates have been poring over their lessons in preparation for the Standard VII National Examination which they must pass to enter secondary school. Worry not, these hard-working students also enjoyed some breaks which usually consist of an afternoon or two at a nearby lodge complete with cold sodas and beautiful pool!

The Standard VII Graduation Ceremony will shortly follow the National Exam (set for 9 & 10 September), so do stay tuned for additional photos from this special day! Staff and students have been practicing special presentations to bid farewell and good wishes to the Standard VII graduates. Needless to say, it is a very exciting time at Tumaini!

Standard VII students learning about new science equipment

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Earlier this year, Tumaini had its 2nd Annual Alumni celebration, inviting back three classes of Tumaini Alum. The day was attended by many grads who regaled fellow students and staff alike with stories of secondary school life! On several occasions as JOS grads were back at Shalom (in addition to the Alumni day), Tumaini teacher Mr. Jimmy snapped some photos of these (quickly maturing) young men and women!

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Here is Charles E., at secondary school with one of his teachers. (photo credit Rick French)

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Tumaini Alum and Teachers at the June Alumni Celebration!

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A Secondary School – Continuing to Strive for Excellence

Through the unwavering vision of Tumaini co-founder and director, Mr Bayo, and committed, generous donors, ground has been broken for a Tumaini Secondary School!! The school is slated to open in January 2016 with a Form I (US 9th grade) class of about 100 students. It will be private and is located in Makuyuni about 60KM (~37 miles) rom Karatu. JOS has 4 students graduating in September so we are thrilled for these students to join the inaugural class come January. Also, I am ecstatic to be returning to Tanzania for a brief visit in November so will have the privilege to see the site first hand.

In the meantime, some photos for you:

JOS board member, Rick French, visited the site earlier this year with Mr. Bayo and was put to work! 

Rick French visited the Sec School ground on Feb 2015 copy

Construction!

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Tumaini alum visit the secondary school site!

Tumaini Secondary School

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NOTE: you can read more about the Tumaini Secondary School project in Tanzania Education Corp’s latest newsletter [at bottom of this post]*.

Water is Life!

Another fun nugget about the secondary school site: water has been found!! JOS is currently in discussions about fundraising for this fantastic and very-much needed addition at the secondary school site; more details in the coming weeks! If you’re intrigued and would like additional details, leave a message here or email me (orphanageprojects@journeysofsolutions.org)!

As you may recall, JOS completed a water well at Tumaini Junior School back in 2012. At the February 2013 well dedication in my late father’s honor, my mom, brother and I each planted a tree at Tumaini Junior School. We celebrated alongside Tumaini staff and students as the water gushed forth and watered each of these plants. Here are some photos of the trees as we planted them…and here they are just a few months ago!!! In speaking with Mr Bayo, he remarked, “It is unusual for trees to grow quickly. I believe there are blessings you’ve left behind.”

Planting and watering the trees!

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Just two years later!

Trees May 2015


Unpacked bags

It never fails. There’s at least a double take, that is, if I don’t catch myself before my gaze lingers for a few more seconds than is comfortable for some. I’ve been seeing the familiar faces of friends from Tanzania as I walk the streets of NYC. Bridgette walking along Broadway. Mama Pendo leaving a bodega.  Pascalina waiting on the subway platform. Dr. Frank walking just ahead of me in the East Village. Countless students whose laughs I heard as they walked two by two with Vacation Bible School buddies. It never fails.

So many adventures were mine as I found myself alongside dear friends, precious children, and a journey of giraffe or two! Physically I remain thousands of miles away from Karatu (though interestingly, at times it feels as though I’m much farther from my present reality.) Whilst it has been eighteen months since I was in Tanzania – the longest period of time I have spent out of Tanzania since 2009 when my regular visits began – within an instant I’m back there, save a healthy coating of red dust upon me!

Of course, somehow life has continued. I have been (trying to) settle back into life in the Big Apple. After six months of temping through a fantastic agency, I secured a one year assignment and even signed a one year lease! I guess I’m a big girl now?! For the first time in a long while, I am living not out of a suitcase or two (or storage unit!), but have settled a bit, unpacked if you will. 2015 is the first full year in nearly 7 that I’ve seen myself in the US sans plans of an extended stay abroad. Polepole baby steps. 

…2016, well we’ll see.

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Thanks for reading and do stay tuned for additional updates coming soon!!!

*

www.tanzania-schools.org                                                                      September 2015

Tumaini Senior Secondary School

To Open January 2016

Why build Tumaini Senior Secondary School? 

Tumaini Junior School graduates are top performers. Each year several students earn assignments to the most competitive government secondary schools, and the remaining students, still top ranking, are assigned to a variety of other government schools. However, due to the poor overall quality of government schools, Mr. Bayo has been very concerned about their fate in secondary school. He did not want to see their investment in a Tumaini education wasted at underperforming secondary schools. Mr. Bayo began to think deeply about starting a secondary school himself.

Location

Due to land constraints, locating the school in Karatu would be impractical. In Tanzania, towns and villages have the option of designating part of their lands for certain public uses such as schools or hospitals. Knowing this, Mr. Bayo approached the neighboring village of Makuyuni in 2012 about obtaining land to open a secondary school. Makuyuni is a small village located an hour and a half east of Karatu, and an hour from Arusha, the major city of the region.  Mr. Bayo was notified in Fall 2014 that his proposal was approved, and he received title to 20 acres of land at no cost. Securing this land was a major milestone to establishing a secondary school.
Initial Funding and Construction Plan

TEC received grants from Navis Capital, Segal Family Foundation and individual donors to begin construction in late December 2014. Initially, six buildings will be needed: administration, classrooms, boys’ dormitory, girls’ dormitory, faculty housing, and science labs.  In addition, a water well was dug in July 2015 and clean water was located at 130 meters.

In years 2016-2018, additional classrooms, dormitories and faculty housing will be constructed to accommodate each new entering class.  By 2019, campus facilities will accommodate approximately 480 students, 25 teachers and 12 administrative and support staff.   

To see more pictures of construction site click here

Long Term Goals and Measures of Success

Like Tumaini Junior School, the mission for the Tumaini Senior Secondary School is, “Educate the future leaders of Tanzania.” The lessons from Tumaini show that the essential elements are strong school leadership, motivated and caring teachers and ultimately, a culture of learning that values the individual student.  

Both Tumaini Junior School and Tumaini Senior Secondary School will share their approaches broadly with the goal of providing a model for education in Tanzania. We see no reason why these approaches, if continually improved, will not permit Tanzanian students to ultimately compete with their international peers.

Would you like to help us build Tumaini Senior Secondary School?

TEC is committed to help Bayo raise the funds to open the new School in January 2016. We have made significant progress, but we have not reached our goal!  Donate online at www.tanzania-schools.org or send a check to Tanzania Education Corp, 6 Norfolk Rd, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467.  Naming opportunities are available. Please send inquiries to Chall@tanzania-schools.org.   

 

Another Graduation!

Journeys of Solutions has celebrated four more graduates from Tumaini Junior School!

On Saturday, September 20, Karatu was abuzz with the news—and still is in fact! Every year Tumaini has celebrated a Standard VII class graduation (which started in 2011), so too has the school had a 100% passing rate. Tumaini has remained number 1 out of more than 90 primary schools in the district and last year placed 40th out of 15,650 primary schools in the nation! 2014 results should be known within the next few weeks; we anticipate similar statistics!

Check out the four sponsored grads: Albert, Charles, Maureen and Rose below! These four students will begin secondary school in January (results will be known in the next few weeks so stay tuned!), joining JOS’ 6 other secondary school students. For now, Albert, Charles, Maureen and Rose are relaxing at home with their families before beginning some pre-secondary school studies in December.

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Additionally, several JOS-sponsored students have collected a handful of medals over the years for academic and athletic achievements. Here are Frank and Anna with their medals and certificates! Not to worry, they were all smiles and laughs both before and after the photo. Somehow the moment the camera was noticed, they opted for a serious pose!

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The final school term is nearly complete with just under five weeks left. The excitement on campus is palpable; the Standard VI students are loving their status as eldest on campus and eagerly await their Standard VII year to begin in January. Likewise are all students anticipating a wonderful holiday season at home with their families!

A BIG THANK YOU to all JOS Sponsors–truly education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world!

A loss

I have not so dreaded a post since November 2011, in writing about dear, sweet Viona.

I am saddened to share that there has been another loss in the Shalom and Tumaini families. Ezekiel, an avid football player and hard-working sponsored student at Tumaini, suddenly passed away earlier this week whilst on school holiday. Ezekiel had been in good health so upon complaining about breathing trouble earlier this week, the severity of the situation could not have been predicted.
 
As I think about this very sudden and tragic loss, words escape me and I turn to prayer. Furthermore, while I feel incensed at this young boy’s life cut short, I am ever more thankful for the great efforts of Mama Warra and her staff, in providing such a loving home for Ezekiel and the 60+ other children at Shalom Orphanage and for Mr. & Mrs. Bayo and the Tumaini community for their devotion to empowering young lives through laying a strong foundation of stellar education. A big thank you too to all supporters of Shalom and Tumaini for joining in the efforts of providing for these children. 
 
 
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Ezekiel in 2009, getting ready for school. Always with a smile on his face.

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Ezekiel in 2014, pictured with the Tumaini football team.

He is the second from the right on the back row.

 

Want to help?Please email me (orphanageprojects@journeysofsolutions.org) and I would love to tell you more about getting involved. Here are some great groups working to empower lives in Tanzania:

Journeys of Solutions

Tanzania Education Corporation

FAME Medical

 

TUMAINI UPDATE!

August, already?!

Days have continued to be busy and very productive at Tumaini Junior School as the school remains a leader in academics and athletics!

Teachers and students have been poring over examinations with neighboring schools in preparation for upcoming national exams—Standard VII in September and Standard IV in November. Both classes must sit for and pass the examinations in order to advance to the next grade level. In fact, Karatu-wide Standard VII students sat for a mock exam in May. Tumaini students earned the highest marks in the district earning Tumaini the top spot out of 96 Karatu primary schools! Further, 30 Tumaini students earned A’s and 24 earned B’s; nothing lower!

Additionally, a handful of Tumaini athletes traveled to Arusha and some onto Dar es Salaam to represent Tumaini in sports competitions. Some of these skilled athletes are our very own Journeys of Solutions-supported students!

Here are some additional recent highlights from the school year so far:

Library books arrived, thanks to the efforts of a Tauck visitor and PepsiCo! Anne Wells and UNITE were also instrumental in filling the library shelves!

Books arrive!

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Tauck travels to Tanzania to cut the ribbon of Tumaini’s new library! Tauck generously donated to TEC to name Tumaini’s library!

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The new beautiful library! Special thanks to Sara Shifrin (Gould Academy) for design assistance!

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Tumaini Celebrated its 10 year anniversary and welcomed back its three alumni classes (2011, 2012 & 2013) to join the fun, marking the first few steps in creating a fabulous alumni network for Tumaini grads!

Celebration time!

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Teachers!

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Standard VII Class

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Scouts

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Class of 2012

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Class of 2013

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Class of 2014

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Standard VII students visited the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the shifting sands

Road trip! Standard VII Students en route to seeing the rim on Ngorongoro Crater, Oldupai Gorge, and the shifting sands

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Reading about the Crater

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Looking over the rim!

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Shifting sands

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OTHER NEWS

Did you receive JOS’ recent newsletter?! If not, please email info@journeysofsolutions.org and we’ll add you to our list!

Support JOS through Amazon shopping!

I am thrilled to announce Journeys of Solutions is officially a registered organization with AmazonSmile!! That’s right, shop away and support JOS!!!

It is very easy: Every time you shop at Amazon, the company will donate a portion of your purchase to Journeys Of Solutions Inc. All you need to do is follow the link here and Amazon will automatically get you started with AmazonSmile. You can participate whether you are an Amazon Prime member or just an occasional shopper.

Article from the blog of Bill Gates on hunger in Africa
Check out this article

The Camino-continued

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always look for the scallop shell or yellow arrow to follow the way

We have just finished day 16 of our Camino journey. (As a reminder, if you would like to read about the journey day by day, visit Karen’s blog here.)

During the 175+ miles (we are nearly 100 miles from Santiago!) we have logged since beginning our journey on May 20, we have walked, limped and trudged through and over various terrains. I did not know it was possible to have more blistered toes than blister-less ones–ah, defying odds wherever we go! As you may imagine, we have been wonderful patrons of farmacias throughout northern Spain!

We began walking from Burgos and have since traversed through small towns and big cities alike, mostly averaging 18-30km per day. Admittedly, the distance we have covered did not quite settle in until looking at a map of Spain several nights ago!

Though I love big cities, my favorite moments have been those spent walking across the scenic Spanish countryside.

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Sunrising upon León’s city streets

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Country road. This is actually part of the Roman Road, built more than 2,000 years ago!

Left with nothing but one’s thoughts for most of the day, personal reflection is the norm. Mornings are especially serene as the songs of birds (and sometime frogs and crickets!) fill our ears along with the wind’s gentle breeze. For the most part, it is very quiet, save the occasional hum of car and truck engines if near a main road or in a city. Thankfully more mornings have begun along quiet, country roads with little but wheat fields, windmills and wildflowers.

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Endless fields

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Wildflowers

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Iron Cross above Foncebadon.

As a group, we have agreed there is something so comforting about catching the first glimpse of each town’s steeple–visual proof that we will soon be reaching sanctuary, whether it be a café con leche, a tortilla, a non-bush toilet, a farmacia, or actual church for some quiet moments.

Sadly most of the small churches have been closed, but from time to time, we can at least peer through the windows to be met by beautiful frescos and mosaics.

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Stealing glimpses through a window

Sometimes there is even a dim glow from the candles. At the very least, we stand in awe of the architecture and great care dedicated to building a strong foundation for those seeking sanctuary. Likewise, we try to imagine the many pilgrims who have walked before us.

Most of the churches date back to the 10th or 11th centuries, if not earlier, so the history alone halts us in our tracks for several minutes of silence. As we passed through Rabanal del Camino, we stopped in a church built in the 12th century. Rick brought out his flute and as he played AMAZING GRACE, it was as though the acoustics allowed the very notes to reach heaven.

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Beautiful sanctuary

Also, whilst in León, we had the privilege of attending a Mass in one of the larger cathedrals. The pipe organ’s notes resounded throughout the cathedral as our voices echoed. This same cathedral has over 1,800 metres of stained-glass windows and flying buttresses which apparently inspired the architect of Paris’ Notre Dame.
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As in León, there have been several other small towns where we have attended Mass. Earlier this week in Ponferrada, in fact, we were privileged to attend a service which ended with a blessing for the pilgrims. Our group of 5, and 2 Canadians, were invited to the front to receive a blessing from the priests. Such moments have reminded us of the amazing relationship between Pilgrims and the communities through which the Camino travels.

In addition to the services, we have learned more about the rich history, such as knights being enlisted to protect pilgrims. Likewise, we have stayed in and traveled through small towns undergoing slow revivals on account of the Camino–more business opportunities as more travelers pass through. On Sunday actually, we passed through a town with a population of 1. ONE! We stopped in to have a café con leche and greet the man of the town.

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Other encouraging and inspiring moments have popped up along our journey–like:

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This falcon and its owner have visited many sick children (cancer) and other ailing patients. The bird’s flights remind his owner of freedom. Donations were accepted here too and went to childhood cancer research

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Refreshments set out for passing pilgrims–donations accepted. This was just one of a handful of such places

Saturday and Sunday brought the most diversity in our terrain and surroundings: within minutes, we changed from walking along pavement to sand, then gravel, then cobblestones, before finally making or way up the mountainside upon steep rocks. Important note: what goes up, must come down!

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Sunday brought steep downhill fun–my calves had just recovered this AM, though now are singing, er screaming, compliments of our 7.4km uphill hike today from Villafranca and subsequent 4.3km downhill hike to Trabadelo.

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Looking back at Villafranca from the top

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A much enjoyed, though short-lived straightaway!

Certainly every moment was breathtaking (in more ways than one!). We have some more uphill joy for this week, so I’m sure the farmacias are getting excited already!

Needless to say, as we passed up and over mountains, and wound our way through valleys, I have not fought the urge to sing the opening song from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (“Little town, it’s a quiet village…”) or “The hills are alive with the sound of music…” It’s only appropriate after all!

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As a brief update from my last post, I am happy to report that thankfully we have had little rain since the downpour on day 2! The tarp has firmly remained in Rick’s pack, though my blue Quasimodo poncho has made several appearances. The sun has shone brightly, casting our shadows before us as we begin each morning then slowly moving to bear down upon our faces in the afternoons.

We are set to reach Santiago next week so stay tuned for additional updates!

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The Camino–thus far

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Focusing on the journey

Well, dear friends, I have safely and successfully completed the second full day of our Camino pilgrimage. I will definitely write more once we have completed the journey, in three weeks, but for now thought I'd go ahead and share some details from the first few days of my journey. I should preface this: it seems adventures follow me wherever I go!

Oh and in case you want to keep up with our adventures on a near-daily basis, my lovely and fellow peregrina is keeping a blog here!!

A delayed start
When asked, “Where did you start the Camino?”, some may say their hometown, or the city from which they flew/took the train, or even the city in which they begin walking. So, I suppose I can claim mine began at the ever-exciting Newark airport (as I feel most partial to this–and it makes this next bit all the better!)

My generous mother dropped me off at lovely EWR (Thanks Mama K!) and within 10 minutes of my arrival, I was checked in and ready to go. I should’ve known this was not going to mean smooth sailing for the remainder of my time there, but I would like to say that I am an optimist, so at that moment, 310PM, I was feeling great! Just my 20Ib pack, a SPANISH IN 15 MINUTES book, my enthusiasm, and my delicate self, watch out Spain!

Fast forward to 645PM: on the runway we sat (Flight was supposed to take off at 555PM EST). While not quite a shocker that we were so delayed, I came to realize that my layover in Lisbon was merely an hour so hoped we would make up the time. Admittedly this probably would have dawned on me sooner than the in-flight announcement made 4 hours into the 6 hour 30 minute flight, had I not been concentrating so hard on not losing feeling in various parts of my body. Yes! You guessed right: not only was I in a middle seat, but it was doubly special being in a DOUBLE middle seat–the four seats across type deal. Normally when traveling with at least one person I know, it’s not so bad. When traveling by yourself though, it is not nearly as amusing because while your dear friend might find close proximity to you fun as you each struggle to get comfortable, or said friend has patience with your frequent trips to the toilet, strangers can be less flexible. Another confession: this seven hour experience has inspired me to write a series of THANK YOU LETTERS, so I shall be perfecting those in the coming weeks/months, as I feel the need to express my gratitude. Needless to say, the first few thank you notes will be for the man in 36E, the woman on 35F and the woman in 36G–those loving individuals who surrounded my 36F winning seat! My next notes will be for TAP PORTUGAL and the individuals working at the Lisbon airport. Upon arriving, a hearty mix of these two groups would ask where I was going. Upon saying “Madrid!”, they each responded, “Oh, Madrid? RUN!” After all, who doesn’t love an early morning run? I have had plenty, though only one other time did I feel so lethargic, which leaves me to wonder which is more fantastic? 1) A 2005 early AM training run for the NYC marathon during which I whacked my left arm against a van’s side mirror. (The car was parked.) Apparently one’s depth perception is a bit off when attempting a 4+ mile run following an all-nighter studying. OR
2) Monday morning’s 6AM sprint up 30+ stairs and across an airport terminal, through customs and security all the while passing hoards of people staring. Now that I think of it, it seems ironic the latter included more people shouting “RUN!”
I will leave the decision to you as I no longer wish to think of either!

Anyway…

In Spain!
I safely arrived in Madrid shortly before 10am to be met by the group! For those of you who have not been, Spain is gorgeous!
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Leaving city of Burgos for our first day of walking (Tuesday)

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This little guy was on his own pilgrimage!

Rolling hills and mountains, as well as expansive plains and quaint small towns have filled our days thus far as we have followed a famous CAMINO DE SANTIAGO route as mapped out in John Brierely’s book. Church bells have welcomed us as we enter and pass through towns and birds’ songs have accompanied us as we walk on. Today, fields of poppies and other wild flowers decorated the greenery and seemingly endless wheat fields as we passed by old monasteries and hospitals turns hostels. The vastness of the buildings is humbling and I have found myself speechless with wonder as I attempt to imagine what it may have been like to walk these same paths thousands of years ago. Many sick and ailing pilgrims began the trek and needed to stop at hospitals whilst en route. Yes, I too am on my own pilgrimage in need of healing, I suppose, in search of something greater than myself. Needless to say, each moment has reminded us all of what a gift this time is.

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An old hospital which would treat the ailing and leave bread out for passing pilgrims. Now in the place where bread once was, pilgrims may leave notes of well wishes or prayers, often held in place with rocks.

Karen, Monika, Mary, Rick and I were spoiled our first two nights: spent in a hotel and a spacious country home, respectively. In fact the latter had a magazine and poster with the signatures of Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, who reportedly had also been to the place, most likely around the time of filming THE WAY. Cannot blame them; what beauty! The squawking peacock, though an annoyance to most others, felt like a warm welcome, reminding me of my childhood. Our neighbors had one, so for the 10+ years we lived next door, the peacock’s squawking was like an alarm clock at all hours!

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Here we are on the home’s porch before beginning day 2!

Many laughs have been shared thus far as we converse in English, Spanish, French and German with those around us. I’ve attempted to teach these fine people some Kiswahili, as I have an affinity to switch to it the more tired I become! That said it should be known: I fall into the first and third language categories, though am slowly absorbing more Spanish. Thankfully Rick and Monika (who is German and therefore fluent in the language too!) both have a good handle on Spanish so it has mostly been drama-less. I should also admit that I honed my gesticulating skills whilst in Tanzania so can sometimes communicate via (near) interpretive dance! Ah, another reason to write a THANK YOU note to Tanzania.

We will be covering roughly 20km/day, sometimes more, and so far I’ve learned a few lessons. The most important though, is definitely the importance of rain gear. I was excited to get started this morning until about minute 3 of walking, when Rick looked at me and asked, “Is that your rain jacket?” Enthusiastically I replied, “YES!” Rick then took my left cuff in his hand, felt it, then replied, “This is not a rain jacket, it’s a wind breaker.” And there you have it friends–yet another thank you note! My first purchase once home will be a rain jacket!

The first 60 minutes of the trek were very wet, involved Rick tying a green tarp around me–which, it should be known, was NOT waterproof either–though admittedly it has provided for some fabulous writing material so not all was lost (except the mobility skills of my extremities!!) It too enabled many to have a chuckle whilst looking at me. Truth be told, I felt like a teenage mutant ninja turtle so it wasn’t quite that bad! (NOTE: check Karen’s blog for a frightening picture of me donning the tarp–had I had a chunky belt, perhaps I could have pulled it off better!). Two other fun facts: there’s a decent chance each of my shoes weighed 2 lbs after trudging through mud so 1) not only was I finally 5’9″ (mud is like that of Karatu which cakes onto one’s shoes) but 2) so too will I soon have Herculean quadriceps! Either way I am just thankful that now, 7 hours later, I am finally dry.

Funny enough, at dinner tonight, as we all shared our favorite moments from the day, I found myself sharing my freezing moments as a turtle as being my most memorable. Due to the wind which caused the rain to fall at an angle, blinding me, and the ensuing cold, all I could focus on was one step after another. Polepole like on Kilimanjaro Certainly all I could see was a few feet in front of me anyway. The struggle to press on and not give up (and call a taxi to the next town–if not I knew more Spanish!) reminded me of super uncomfortable moments and how they are the ones which sometimes teach us the most.

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Walking into town once the sun emerged!

It is only day 2 so I am very optimistic that the trip shall continue to be even more fabulous–though hopefully with less rain. Once Rick and I got settled in our hostel–top bunks, yay!–we ventured into town in search of rain gear and hot sauce. Success in both categories! Karen, Monika and Mary are in a neighboring hostel because apparently us 5 together is too overwhelming! Or, because some hostels have rules that groups of more than 3 cannot stay together! Either way, onward we continue!

For now, it’s music time so as to drown out the choir of snores. Ah, hostels!

Thanks for reading!!

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Rain gear! A poncho with backpack holder for moi and waterproof pants for Rick!

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