“Look at the map. This dirt road may be a shortcut. We’ll avoid the main road and traffic, and maybe we’ll save a couple of kilometers.”
The sun is climbing over the horizon, the birds are up, and farmers on horses wave to us. The soft green rice paddies create the illusion of a morning hike out in nature, away from people and noise. We haven’t walked a trail like this for many months.
Ali waves to us from the top of the hill. We wave back, reluctantly.
It’s the end of our walking day, and we are scanning the desert landscape for a suitable campsite. We have our eye on an abandoned house on the flattened section of the hill not far from where Ali is standing. Continue reading One Moment: Those People→
“I want to be an actor,” an older teen says. He has some beautiful dance moves down pat, and almost made us cry with his monologue interpretation of a being a kid on the street.
“I will study technology,” chimes another teen.
“I want to be a cricketer,” asserts a 10-year-old, nodding his head as if it’s already a done deal.
The girls huddle nearby, playing timid, but when they perform a welcome dance for us, their shyness disappears and their light inside brightens up the room.
These are a few of the children at the Aparajeyo-Bangladesh’s Chittagong Center. If they weren’t here, many of them would be living on the streets. They come from who knows what kind of backgrounds–domestic violence, drug-addicted parents, sex industry abuse. The sad list goes on.
These Tajik and Russian words will long echo in our ears and our hearts. They are more than an invitation for tea. They are a way into people’s homes and lives. They are reflections of a kind of hospitality people in today’s busy world don’t seem to have time for any more. These words have come to mean “Tajikistan” to us.
We round a bend on the bumpy road, and I am immediately spellbound. I want to ask the driver to stop the car so I can fall to my knees and bow in honor the beauty before me. My jaw keeps slipping towards my chest with each rock we roll over. My eyes tear up.
“My god. It’s beautiful.” I whisper over the lump in my throat. I can’t make my mouth spit out the words, “Stop, please, stop. We must see this greatness at a standstill.”
I have never before truly understood what compels climbers to summit the world’s biggest mountains, but now I catch a glimmer into their psyche. Staring at the Hindu Kush from the road snaking through Tajikistan’s southern corner, all I want to do is touch these faraway jagged, snowy peaks. Touching them with my eyes is not enough. I want to touch them with my soul.
The man with the big smile and kind eyes passes us his phone. He wants us to speak to his son.
“Hello again,” we say. We spoke to the young man a few minutes ago on speaker phone. His father called him when he saw we were having problems reading the menu of the restaurant we found ourselves in at the end of a 26-kilometer stretch. Thai letters are beautifully curvy, but we have no clue what they say. Both father and son wanted to make sure the cook understood that we requested our favorite, easy-on-the-stomach walking dish: fried rice with chicken and a fried egg.
“Hi. My father will take you to a homestay where you can sleep tonight, and tomorrow he will take you back to the intersection where you are now so you can continue walking. Ok?” The young man on the phone is in Bangkok, a few hundred kilometers from our finish line today, Ban Lan Sang, a speck of a town near Road 12 which will take us into the Thai hills and eventually into Myanmar. His English is very good, and our Thai is pathetically bad.
We all want the same things in life, regardless of where we come from or where we’re going. We want comfort, security, good health and a better life than our parents had.
There are other universal things we collectively seek out. For example, we want to belong. We want to fit into a family or a community, or said more simply, we have a human sense of belonging to each other that we spend our lifetimes trying to satisfy. The flip side of that is more complex. In the same way we individually crave to fit in and belong, we also have this tendency to want to help others belong to whatever circles we move in. Despite what the headline news tells us about fearing “those people,” whoever “those outsiders” are in any given moment in history, there’s a part of us that cannot resist the urge to extend a kind hand and open heart to another person.
Thailand has given us a chance to reflect on this dynamic.
Instead of translating each other's posts, we're leaving these in our respective native languages, English (Jenn) and Catalan (Lluís), to capture the essence of what we each feel. There are, however, no words that could fully describe the illusion and hope we carry with us for this adventure.
Happy birthday to me! What a way to start my 44th year! Here we are, early morning on 1/16/16, across the way from Wat Arun, the temple of dawn, an appropriate place for starting a new day, a new trip and a new life.
Today, we begin our long walk home. Geographically, we call Barcelona home. But, home, as they say, is where the heart is, and that’s the home we’re looking for every day. We have maps to guide us through the physical distance, but we know we won’t be walking in a straight line. Life almost never takes us in a straight line, despite our best efforts to make it seem that way. Visa limitations, weather, safety and health issues will likely detour us, and we’ll have no choice but to take them all in stride.
We often talk about this walk as a way to find goodness in the world, which we believe is all around us just waiting to be discovered and appreciated. Perhaps, though, the goodness we’re out to find is already in us, and one of the gifts we’re meant to share with others. Maybe, this trip is about being brave enough to step forward and letting our hearts, smiles and goodness lead us home. We shall see.
On that note, let’s get this party started! Off we go, on our way to the big unknown.
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Aquí i avui comença la festa!
Ja ha arribat el dia. Després de tant de temps d’haver-ho decidit i d’estar esperant i preparant aquest projecte, avui 16/01/2016 comencem a caminar des del cor de Bangkok cap a la nostra estimada Barcelona. Avui comença ‘oficialment’ la nostra ruta, el viatge, l’aventura, la recerca de la bondat de la gent!
Confiem que serà un viatge molt enriquidor, un viatge molt especial en que pas a pas anirem explorant aquest fascinant món en que vivim, al mateix temps que coneixem la bondat de moltes persones de cultures totalment diferents amb les que ens encantarà relacionar-nos, mirant de comunicar-nos de la manera més bàsica.
Tenim una barreja de nervis, emoció, ganes, motivació… i seguim amb tants interrogants com quilòmetres tenim pel davant. Ja veiem a venir que degut a les durades i restriccions dels visats, monsons, hiverns, estius, salut, situacions geopolítiques i de seguretat, … sembla que no podrem fer un recorregut recte i continuat com ens agradaria. Tenim clar el ‘què’. No tenim ni idea del ‘com’. Però això entenem que forma part de la definició d’aventura.
Una cosa que sí tenim clara és el fet de viure la nostra vida de manera intensa i apassionant.
Esperem que la salut ens acompanyi i amb una justa dosi de bona sort podrem fer realitat aquest somni tan esbojarrat com apassionadament meravellós.