We began our 800 kilometer trek toward Santiago de Campostela in a small French town called St. Jean Pied de Port and followed the French route across Spain. It took us 33 days. We began on Halloween 2011 and finished December 2, 2011. We will never forget this truly incredible month! If anybody wants to do this trip and has any questions, don't hesitate to ask. A book that was so helpful to us was John Brierly's A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago . A scripture that I kept thinking of during this journey comes from Hebrews 11. Verse 13 says, after describing the faithfulness of Abraham and Sara and Isaac and Jacob, that "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
|Our Dutch friend Brend enjoying some sunshine in the haystacks. A group of us enjoyed our lunch of bread, cheese, and chocolate here.|
|Dear Mark is always capturing beautiful photos so he's rarely in one. Here is Eamonn, Becky, and Brend.|
|This is a very important part of the Camino for people as it is a place where people literally lay something down at the foot of the cross. Some people have left stones while others left shreds of clothing, ribbons, books, pieces of paper, etc... |
We flew to Cochabamba, Bolivia in the middle of December, 2011 and met our wonderful host family. This was the family with whom we would spend 2 great months. Becky was able to visit them again in November, 2012 to say goodbye. So meet our Bolivian family!
|We're only missing Laurita, the youngest member of this family. |
We got to spend two months (mid Dec. 2011 to mid Feb. 2012) with 33 fantastic, fun, energetic, huggable, adorable kids. There are two kids homes run by Niños Con Valor in Cochabamba. One is for girls and one is for boys. Some of these kids are orphans but others have been removed from their living situations for various reasons. Some of the kids have HIV while others have learning and physical disabilities. These two homes are an incredible place to visit and volunteer and we definitely recommend going there if you have the time. If you're looking for an organization through which you can sponsor a child, please consider this one.
|Christmas 2011. Some of the girls got Justin Bieber posters as gifts. They are obviously big fans.|
|This little boy went to the movies for the first time with Mark and me. We went to see Alvin and the Chipmunks 3. How fun to see things for the first time through the eyes of a child.|
|Every year, the homes put on a fashion show. They call it "Moda Loca" which means Crazy Fashion.|
|Sisters! They're on their way to their school's dance festival. The two eldest participated in the dances.|
|Dance festival continued...|
We spent 3 days in a 4x4 to cross over some of the most beautiful terrain we've ever seen to get from Bolivia to Chile. We first took a train from Cochabamba to Uyuni and then got in a truck with 4 other people and the driver and hit the road. Once we made it to the Atacama Desert, we were in Chile.
|The Uyuni Salt Flats are the largest in the world covering 4,000 square miles.|
5) STUDENT PROTESTS IN SANTIAGO, CHILE
We arrived in Santiago on February 20, 2012 and Becky got a job with EClass teaching English. Mark began working for I Love Chile which is an on-line news source for english speakers living in Chile. Through this work, Mark covered some of the student protests. For more information on the student movement, I've posted a few links....
Below are some of the pictures that Mark took. In case you ever get caught in a protest where there is tear gas, grab a lemon. Apparently that does something to your membranes so that the tear gas doesn't affect you as badly.
|This isn't Mark or me in case anyone was wondering.|
|Thank God Mark never got arrested. The Chilean riot police have been known to arrest photographers and journalists but they are always released so we were never too worried.|
6) CHILEAN SCENERY PART 1: VOLCANOES AND MOUNTAINS
7) VISITORS: MEGAN, JESS, LEAH, HEIDI, SUE, AND LORNA
Throughout our 9 months in Santiago, we were so blessed to have friends and family come visit us. We met Megan in Cochabamba and I didn't get any pictures of the three of us together so I'm going to include her blog here. It's incredible and touching and you will probably cry if you click on this link below.....
|Heidi, one of my best Massachusetts friends of all time! Here we are at a great spot called La Piojera. She also continued on to travel down in the Chilean Lakes Region.|
|Mark's mom's first trip outside of North America. If you want to meet an adventurous, spunky, kind, sincere, generous person, then you gotta meet Sue. Not only did she obviously do a good job raising Mark, she is a great mother-in-law as well!|
Right across the Chile/Argentina border after a harrowing bus ride through the Andes (just kidding, it's not that bad but you do have to survive the 27 hairpin turns to get up the mountain without getting motion sickness) is a town called Mendoza. Yes, you've seen that name somewhere before if you've ever bought any Malbec. It's famous for it's vineyards and breathtaking scenery. Becky has some friends who are missionaries there and we stopped by to see them a few times.
|Here is Becky with Joanna. She took us on a lovely tour around some of Mendoza's family vineyards.|
Becky became an aunt on October 16th, 2011 Jenny and David welcomed little Lovella into the world.
|We call her Ella for short. Little Ella! Come see me sometime soon!|
10) CHILEAN SCENERY PART 2: PATAGONIA
After Mark left Chile, I was able to take a trip down to southern Chile. We had initially planned to do a longer version of this trip but with him gone, we decided a shorter version would make more sense so with my bags packed, I headed to a 5 day trek in Torres del Paine, sort of a mini-Camino to end our year in South America. Without Mark's cameras, I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked but here are a few.
This could really take up about 17,000 pages to describe all the people who made our trip so memorable. I'm afraid to start listing for fear that I will leave some very important people out but suffice to say that you know who you are. We love you and talk of you often and will NEVER forget you. You always have a place in our home and hearts. I like this quote from C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves "...In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets....Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, "Here comes one who will augment our loves." For in this love "to divide is not to take away."
This past year was definitely about being divided but never feeling like something was being taken away. Quite the opposite. Our lives are much fuller thanks to the friends and students we met. I cried when I said goodbye to my high-school students in Santiago and cried when we said goodbye to Eamonn in Spain and I'm sure I'll cry again when I think of how much I miss Brittaney, Allison, Rena, Tory, Rodrigo, Diego, Alicia, Kate, Lauren, Jorge, Leanne, Andres, Eugenio, Enzo, Camilo, Cass, Lorna, Eamonn, Javiera, Daniel, Francisca, Lorna, Brend!, Brandy, Ignacio, Sonia, Harold, Christine, Francis, Joanna, Celine, Isabel and many many others. Hopefully our paths cross again one day soon!
12) CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEARS IN ILLINOIS WITH THE MOMS!
|Sue and her beautiful parents. I believe their 70th wedding anniversary is this year!|
|Mom and Aunt Pam in Peoria, Illinois. What a great way to ring in the New Year and end 2012!|
So for a quick update on where we are now...... Well it's January 4th, 2013 and Mark is working as a photographer/videographer for Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Becky is currently on the job hunt but with mad skills like hers, she won't be looking for very long. :) (Can you tell who is writing this?) We're living just west of Boston so we're basically right back where we started before we began our trip to Spain and South America and how great is that? We can reconnect with old friends and see all the babies, art work, first homes, etc... that have appeared during our absence. Life moves on and it sure is an adventure wherever you are! So we set our sights for the adventures ahead and look forward to what 2013 will bring!