Monday, October 12, 2009

My bags are packed and I'm ready to go

I borrowed this entries title from John Denver's song Leaving on a Jet Plane.

I’m sitting at one of JFK Airports many food courts waiting to check two pieces of luggage. Both of my bags contain hundreds of letters. One of the letters may have been written by one of you. When I extended the invitation to try to make pen pal connections I didn’t realize the response would be as strong as it has been. I’m delighted to have over 1000 letters with me but the added bulk and weight presents some interesting challenges in terms of luggage. Since I’ll be away from home for over three weeks I had to pack several changes of clothes and extra shoes. I’m also bringing about 100 Cd’s with Bridges of Peace and Hope songs on them, a computer, guitar, camera, books and assorted other items that at the time of packing seemed important enough to make it into my bags.

At the end of the trip I will be visiting our daughter Katie who is living in Cameroon and serving in the Peace Corps. Katie is working on her Masters Degree in International Public Health. We haven’t seen her in over a year now so I am really excited about getting to visit her and see where she lives and works. When I asked Katie what I could bring for her, her requests were amazingly modest for a 24 year young lady. She asked for a few batteries, some deodorant, a roll of Velcro and the MCAT study guide. The Velcro was for the hospital where she works. I wasn’t sure what MCAT’s were but I’ve since learned they are the entrance exams to get into medical school. I was happy to get the study kit for Katie. The weight of the kit gives me great confidence that the young people entering medical school are determined and hard workers. In short those books are heavy but I’m thrilled to be delivering them to Katie.

My stops in Zambia and Dakar will lighten my load some as I distribute letters and CD’s to teachers interested in helping us build new bridges of peace and hope. If you would like to read about Katie’s Peace Corps experiences you can go to

I love to travel which is fortunate because I get to do it quite often. On my last international trip in May I had two of my bags stolen in a train station in Europe. This was a shock and disappointment but also a learning experience. It’s hard when traveling by myself to always be diligent about my bags. I have a heavy backpack with my computer and books in it, my guitar on my back and two other bags, a rolling duffel and large duffel. Wherever I go in airports, on trains or busses, my hands are always full. Since I don’t have anyone else to watch the bags I have to bring them with me through crowds, in lines, into the rest rooms etc. I enjoy the challenge of working with other travelers and it gives me many opportunities to practice both patience and impatience. I can be good (and bad) at both at times.

Organizing the penpal letters wouldn’t have been possible without the help of two dear friends, Mary Jain and Darlene. These kind ladies are retired school teachers so you know they have a wealth of patience, a love of kids, and a commitment to learning. The photo above shows MJ and Darlene at our house cataloging all the letters and making an index of all the teachers and schools who submitted them. Send Mary Jain a thank you if you have time. Bridges of Peace and Hope is a strictly volunteer, non-profit endeavor and no one gives as much as these ladies do. They have my eternal gratitude and respect.

I have a six hour layover in Paris tomorrow morning but I expect my next blog entry will be from Lusaka Zambia on Tuesday or Wednesday. Thanks Ann Marie for the lift to the airport and all you do.

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