Posted in An Trek Fada

Day 14 – Ground Hog Day

Like a mirage in the dessert - that was what that Pint of Guinness became in the end...
Like a mirage in the dessert – that was what that Pint of Guinness became in the end…

So Day 13 turned out to be pretty lucky for me after all. Simple really – I made it.

Now for some stats. In 13 days I…..

– Walked approx 420 000 steps

-Burnt approx 45 500 calories

-Put on 0.5kg (or one pound for the non metrics)

-Saw 40 shades of Green – and yes –  50 Shades of Grey

-fell in love with Ireland all over again

-Got a fabulous Tan (albeit  in bits 😉

Many people ask me still how do I come up with these things, and the answer is simple. I simply don’t know. I warned everybody that I needed to do something mad, so as to get a bit of my own madness out of my system, and most importantly remind myself to stretch my boundaries. You see – I am not your typical sporty physical type, but would much rather sit on my now slightly smaller derriere and ponder current affairs, or research some bit of trivia that would never require any further thought, but at the time is ever so important.

The past 13 days has been my Ground Hog Day – I did not awake every morning with “I got you babe”, but in the beginning it was amusing. By day three, the weather and elements battered at me with a fierce determination to make sure I considered quitting. The first couple of days you get up and you think optimistically that today will be different, but then another shower dampens your spirits.

When spirits are dampened, the temptation is always there to give up, but alas, when like groundhog day you know what is in store, you can also use that knowledge to change a mindset. So I chose to walk on.

Yesterday was my coupe de grace though, as I ended up walking 37km to get myself home to Wexford Quays. I had that pint of Guinness at Simon’s Place, a hamburger and then I went home to reflect. Along the way I was joined by friends from diverse backgrounds and organisations, and I could not help but think how unlikely a smorgasbord of beautiful people I have in my life. How truly blessed am I.

I had spent 13 days pondering the perfect ending to this journey, and what I would write, but it is just such an overwhelming gambit of contradictory emotions, that combined with my ADHD I can’t seem to get the words out right now.

I’m delighted that The Journal had an article about the journey and highlighted the plight of so many, I am equally flattered that everyone did not want to let me know the negative commentary that was there. Nice for them to be protective, but again, in the words of Jacinta from BodyWhys, we started a conversation about body image and what causes eating disorders, and we managed to highlight  a charity (BodyWhys) that serves a very determined purpose if needed, and which I suspect as the pressure heats up on self esteem issues in the new world, will have a tougher job than ever. To those who said I was fat and the list goes on – before I set off on this journey, I got a full medical, and in the words of my doctor, I have never been healthier. Along the way some commented that they assumed I’m in my 30’s (must be doing something right), and all in all I have been overwhelmed by how I gave a voice to many, rather than the negativity of a few.

So as I now bring this chapter to and end, I wish to thank so many, and will do it in person, but most importantly I want to thank my bosses – Tricia and Pat Quinn, and in his memory – Paddy Quinn – and colleagues You see – many moons ago these people took a chance on me, knowing that it was a risk. And when a couple of months ago I put in my holidays and told them what I was going to do – they simply got behind me , sponsored my outfits even, and wished me well.

Candles were lit, prayers were said, and my fellow workmates just rallied behind me and dare I say some are even proud of me. For all of that I am truly humbled.

For all the kindness, well wishes and support I am grateful.

Sometimes you need to face your Groundhog Day, and do it differently.

All it takes is a first step.

Posted in An Trek Fada

Day 12 – An Immigrant’s Tale

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The significance of me walking to New Ross today and ending it at the Emigrant Flame in front of the Dunbrody Famine Ship was planned. Some might not know why, but last June sitting on the Quay listening to the tale of the Irish Emigrant Kennedy story leaving these shores and finding life on the other side resonated with me to my core.

You see – Emigration is a tale as long as time is there. Whether you are talking about nomadic existences, settlers, discoverers, voyagers, or people fleeing from wrongs – people have been on the move for all eternity.

Why then do we rue the day when our children have to leave or choose to emigrate. No matter what the reasons, any form of emigration is a spirit of change, adventure and a road less travelled – it’s not an easy way out.

The question to me is not whether we emigrate, it is what we do with this gift when we do. Do we sit around in a new country and look up our fellow countrymen and bitch and moan about how good it is back home? Do we sit in our new country and live in misery and squalor because we are saving every penny to send back home? Do we spend every day, and in some cases a lifetime in bitterness and regret that we left in the first place?

Or do we go into our new life with the same spirit of adventure and discovery that our ancestors did, and all those millions before them, and give it all we’ve got.

I chose the latter. The intent was never to live in Ireland, it was one of the former moans – to live here for a year, save lots of money (a joke really in itself, as those who know me knows I am incapable of saving!) and then move on to provide my son with a “better life”. The irony is not lost – because our better life is here, and has been for the past 14 years.

Now I hear you say – I told you South Africa is a terrible place. Au contraire – it is one of the most beautiful, diverse, stunning and layered places in God’s creation. I will always and foremost be a proud South African. Yes, there are problems, but where on this earth do we not have problems, and in some parts of the world far more than what most experience in SA, because at least they have the freedoms of choice.

No, without realising it at the time I needed a big change. A challenge. My core belief system is to embrace the present with all my heart, and in this case it was Ireland. And it was not all a journey of sunshine and roses – along the way there were many more downs than up, but alas, for every minute I put into my new home country selflessly, I somehow got 3 minutes in return. Minutes of camaraderie, friendships, colleagues, foreigners and the list goes on.

And before I knew it, I was proudly Irish. Not a birth right – an earned right.

So today when I walked into New Ross, and walked up to the Immigrant Flame, I kissed the plinth gently that it rests on, and thanked my lucky stars for all those that have gone before me, that showed me the way, and all those that will come after me, that will hopefully learn from us who gave it everything we got.

I can walk with my head held high, and know that albeit how small, I did something over the past 13 days for my fellow countrymen through one small charity like BodyWhys, to help them raise awareness and funds for the generations after us that have such difficulties in daily life, far less important, yet far more hurtful than a simple act of moving countries.

P.S. Please note this picture was taken before I had my awesome Irish Tan!

Posted in An Trek Fada

Day 11 – Mind over Matter

Time to say goodnight...
Time to say goodnight…

Tonight I simply cannot write too much, as I have to rest my most important muscle… my brain.

To say that at this stage I am physically in bits would be a slight euphemism, but a few more tapes, needles and prods from the very selfless Siobhan Guiry should keep me strapped in for the final two days.

What I have not spoken about is the toll this walk has taken on my mind. It truly is the most extraordinary gift we have, and the ability it provides us to do…. or in some cases not do,

is overwhelming.

I have chosen to set my mind to what I can do in life, rather than what I can’t do, and in order to fulfil that over the next two days, I simply need to turn off the switch, and lull myself into 8 hours of dreamless and restful sleep. If I manage that, like so many other things, I know I can do anything I want to.

So for your continued belief and support, I thank you each and everyone – but tonight I need to rest.

ZZZZZ……

Posted in An Trek Fada

Day 10 – R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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When I was walking through Stamullen which now feels like months ago, I walked past a school, and the kids were on their lunch break. It was a beautiful sunny day and they were all playing outside.

I had taken my earphones out as you do when entering a populated area (An Trek Fada etiquette 101), so could hear what was being said by the kids. There were about 6 girls huddled near the football nets. First they pointed, then one put her hand over her mouth, and then they started commenting on me, my attire, my size and the list goes on…. Just loud enough for me to hear. And yes, their intent was very much for me to hear them.

I remember feeling very sad, not for what they were alluding to, but purely because of the lack of respect, no matter how silly my attire, or the size of my frame, they had for me as an adult. I was even sadder as they clearly could not differentiate from the fact that I expected them to laugh with me, not at me, and that how much more blessed I was than them for being so comfortable in my skin.

Fast forward to today which was a day of true blessings. I had people really respond today, and wishing me well, and honking horns, and a day that was like Ravel’s Bolero… A slow exercise in crescendo which ended in a bang.

I had this lady stop along the way who had just heard me on SE Radio, and wanted to thank me when she saw me walking, as she and her daughter suspect that her granddaughter might have an eating disorder, and that through my interview they now had the name of BodyWhys, and would follow it up from there. And I thought to myself – wow, if just this one person gets help, then every step has been completely worth it.

But then, alas, my euphoria got dampened right at the end, when just as I was about to finish on the Clough Roundabout, two young women in a SUV came to the roundabout. The one actually held her hand over her eyes, as she “embarrassedly looked away” and the other who was driving and her were giggling and laughing at me.

This time I could not resist, and gave them the one finger in equal juvenile manner.

Why, do you ask, did I resort to such a childish reaction? Instinct!

How sad that even at an older age, these women could not see that they were more embarrassing themselves with their insecurity at not being able to have a bit of a laugh with me, than at me…. and again, that word respect. They did not even have the common decency like so many to at least ignore my absurdity, rather than try and ridicule it.

How very difficult must it be for young people with issues in this world of little respect and trust to speak up when in pain, distress or trouble -when at the core they believe what they see – being bullied and ridiculed?

I did not let this insignificant happening get me down, but I do feel a genuine and heart wrenching concern tonight for those who are not able to shrug things like this off…. and who resort to self harm of so many kinds to make the hurt go away, rather than embrace their uniqueness and speak up.

Respect.

Posted in An Trek Fada

Day 9 – What shin?

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Part of the wonders of this journey is that I am a most unlikely poster child for anything physical! Built like a brick shithouse, I’m more the type of person you want in a drunken arm wrestling contest than a marathon walk, but in that lies the humour in itself – so let me continue.

I had NO idea I had shins. I have heard of them – but in my anatomy class there are two legs, two arms, a body, a head and various bits that fit together and work in oblivious harmony to keep me alive.

When I was till a smoker I sure did know where my lungs were, and due to my genetics, I, nor anybody else for that matter had any problem finding my arse, but as for the finer details that makes up this “temple” that is me – shins? Never!

In the spirit of body consciousness, I was rather disappointed at the age of around 13 when I looked in the mirror and realised that I was not deemed to be the next Ms South Africa. I was soon told “You are a handsome young woman who turns a neat ankle” (Transcribed means you are not exactly an oil painting, but some one will have you, and put a bit of a heel on those long flat feet of yours, and you have slim ankles for a big girl)

This is all still grand – but no-one ever said to you – “God, what a fine shin you have!”

Well let me tell you – I have a left shin alright, and as someone who has experienced childbirth, I can now quite vociferously describe what a shin splint is . (I apologise for those not having gone through childbirth without pain killers – but hopefully my description will give you much to look forward to).

Imagine will you a small 5 cent size hole about 2 inches above your foot, along that bone at the bottom of your leg, in the front that is barely covered with skin. This hole is unknown to you, as it is bone – but you do not realise that hundreds of little nerves, vessels, muscles and ligaments make that leg go forward and backwards, and can even cause you to walk long distances. Now imagine a tennis ball has mysteriously found it’s way behind that hole, and has decided during said long walk that it does NOT want to be part of your body at certain times, and no matter how much tape you put on it, it WILL try to get out.

No warning, no explanation…. false sense of quiet and rest before it makes it’s next assault. Sound familiar? And then the longer the walking, the more frequent it becomes.

The beauty of all this? Just like childbirth, by the end of the day you’re sense of achievement outweighs the pain, and by the next day it is a long and distant memory, and you do it all again thanks to a bit of TLC and a good doctor.

Four more days to keep putting my best shin forward!

Posted in An Trek Fada

Day 8 – Motorways

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Speeding along life’s continuously speedy route, we are excused if we miss a beat, or a trick, because really…. really, I was just SO busy.

And we have it all planned out. Being a grown-up is SO much easier than being a child or god forbid, a misunderstood teenager. But then as we walk along our well thought out life route, we realise as time goes along that the direction originally planned was maybe not the better option.

Why then are we so determined and stubborn to keep on bashing a path ahead on that same beaten road, when a slight detour or new path can be so much more beneficial and kind?

When this journey started I had 364km carefully mapped on Google Maps and had everything planned to the last millimetre. As fate and weather would have it, not to mention a couple of shins, it was not a route easily taken.

The stubborn side of me said you HAVE to follow the path, it is what everyone expects you to do and the route intended. But some wise people said, why walk that route when in my experience there is an easier way – and you said you would walk from Belfast to Wexford – no one expects you to do anything more than take the best route.

And in those simple words (I paraphrased) I veered off the chosen route before Dublin already, gave Skerries a miss, and again today did not realise there was a motorway in the way.

So instead of bashing a stubborn path along my planned route, we nonchalantly swayed in another direction – off the motorway, and rediscovered the beauty of Wicklow. Not WAY off the beaten path – just enough to keep the day exciting, and the route interesting.

Like life – if there is one thing that I would like to tell my younger self, is don’t stare at the path chosen for too long, because you might miss the exciting turnoff along the way…. and who knows where they might lead?

Like Ashford, which once was a very busy, congested and worn out little town on the old N11 due to the traffic on the ONLY route to Dublin. On revisiting today I found a quiet hamlet, a retreat for a weary body with people relaxed and at peace.

Sometimes bypassing a beaten path can be a good thing, and with time allow for time to heal.

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Day 7 – Tapes

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Now, you will be forgiven if you are of a certain age, and the first thought that leaps to mind with the heading this evening is audio tapes.

You know the ones. Those you could not leave in the car, because they might melt. The ones that you could delicately and surgically remove when entwined with the inner heads of your tape deck. The ones that when you did manage to break the tape inside, you would unscrew the cassette outer to delicately stick the two broken ends together, so that your favourite song that you had re-taped from your best friend’s copy that they copied from a guy’s that had the original master record……

You get the picture.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, then do some research, but many a happy hour or 20 were spent making sure you had the ultimate “tape” collection.

(Drumroll….) Ladies and gentleman, allow me to present…..

Cinesio Tape!

Pray what is that, I hear you ask? Well – today it was my life saver. I simply could not blog or even think about any walking last night as my left leg was in bits, and that same sense of imminent failure had me severely in the dumps, as well as the dreaded “What do I do now?”

In flies Siobhan this morning with a blue bag, some needles and super tape in hand. She first looked worried, but then smiled when she stuck several needles in me.

Then she looked pensive, but giggled as she pressed on my shins that sent birth pains through my body.

And then she frowned… a lot, as she meticulously cut and shaped strip after strip of Cinesio tape and expertly and scientifically administered them to my lower left leg…

And behold – A miracle and 25.2km’s later!

Audio tapes are SO 80’s…..Cinesio Tape is the new Rock & Roll!

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Posted in An Trek Fada

Day 5 – Sun vs Rain

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I always vowed that should I ever moan about the mild Irish weather and “soft” days, then I might go back to SA.

Simple really, just like most people here in Ireland get quite excited about 2 days of sunshine in a row, so too do the farmers and people from the Great Karoo when they are blessed with a bit of rain.

So having had the fortunes of living in both weather extremes, I can today categorically confirm that sun beats rain.

No brainer says you, but take into consideration that the Great Karoo is always sunny, and at the height of it could be 45 degrees in the shade with water not even there to evaporate.

I never acclimatised to that heat and weather, but did enjoy like so many playing, laughing, singing and splashing with my bare feet in the welcome reprieve that was a drop of rain.

So after 14 years of never complaining about Irish Weather, I am now finally ready to take my next step not only in this walk, but indeed in my journey of becoming proudly Irish.

“Ah Jaysus, what about that weather. Will the rain just ever go away!”

Posted in An Trek Fada

Day 4 – Made in China!

Found sneaking out with fresh new socks, and 2 pairs to spare!
Found sneaking out with fresh new socks, and 2 pairs to spare!
So not the greatest day, but along the way to keep my mind off my wet feet, the weather and all others things that are not nice, here are a couple of points I pondered:

1. The way that everywhere has gone completely pink for Giro d’Italia! What an astounding feat to get people this involved. There are actual buildings and pubs now “gay Barbie” pink, in anticipation and celebration of the teams cycling through their towns and villages. The pink refects the official colours of the Giro d’Italia branding

2. What were they thinking – as pleasant as “pedestrianising” everywhere is – why do all the town squares have to look the same. Sorry everyone, but arriving in Drogheda Main Street looked like arriving in Wexford, Cork, Waterford and the list goes on. Are there only ONE planner with ONE contract with the same Stone and paving supplier? Isn’t it bad enough that all the old buildings and uniquely Irish shop fronts were defaced during the Celtic Tiger? Could we not at least improvise with the public spaces, by making sure that they all looked a bit different?

3. What does your mouth do when you walking long distance? I have realised, after swallowing yet another flying protein supply of some insect or another (especially yesterday assisted by full frontal wind assault) that indeed I walk with my mouth open. Yip, not pretty I’m sure, but that would explain so much? I would say over the past couple of days I got my water intake involuntarily as well through simply walking, breathing and taking in the fresh supply!

4. Last but not least – the power of the “Pound Shop”! So with my feet and MBT’s absolutely drenched, I had also run out of “fresh” socks – so in the small village of Castlebellingham (look it up, it exists, and is very quaint with brillinat coffee shop), we found O’Brien’s Discount Shop, where lo and behold, the finest 3 pairs for €2 Chinese Cottom Poly blend socks waited for me ready and able! NEVER did I think that something so wrong could make me feel so right! Thank you Padraig (who was behind the counter) for stocking them (pun – get it? get it?) whahahaha!

OK, I am offically in body shock! Time for bed and hopefully all will be bright and breezy tomorrow!