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Make the Memory

I wish this was a picture of one of us paragliding in Switzerland in 1999. It is not. We were right there, ready for a great adventure and we decided not to.


Brian and I had planned three weeks backpacking through Europe on our way from Nairobi to the states. With Euro rail passes plus $90 a day for food, lodging, tourist attractions and everything else, we hoped our budget would get us through France, Switzerland, Vatican City and Italy. And it did. Ninety dollars can go a long way when you stay in hostels, walk for miles a day, and eat a whole lot of bread.

In Italy, we decided our goal was to eat gelato every single day. We accomplished this delicious goal, plus have the wonderful memory of the ice cream vendor who spoke no English, but communicated to us what every flavor was before we decided. There was one flavor that we could not get. The kind ice cream vendor pantomimed and hopped around to help us guess, like a street act on display. Was he trying to be a chipmunk? Hazelnut! The ice cream vendor, Brian and I all gave high fives and celebrated together like old friends after we figured out the flavor. I still chose chocolate.

Italy was also home of the Cinque Terre, five tiny cities built into the ocean cliff side and connect by boat or walking. We met our host in the town square and without a word she motioned us to follow her through the twisty, cobblestone pathways until we came to her home and the room we were staying in. We held out money and she picked out the right amount...we were home in the Cinque Terre with baby octopus on our dinner plates and blueberry wine in our glasses.

Our main memory of France was watching people play Frogger at the Arc de Triomphe roundabout in Paris. The plan was to connect with someone who would take our seventy pound bag and hold it for the weeks we were backpacking. (Remember the days when luggage was seventy pounds!) We were to meet at this massive roundabout with the arc in the middle, but because of miscommunication we ended up watching people try to run across this massive eight lane round about for seven hours. The old video game, Frogger, explains it all. There was an underground tunnel to get across to the middle, but many people just waited for an opening and began to run across, and run and run and run. Eight lanes is a lot of running when you have kids and grandma and cars bearing down on you. We would have told them if we could, but I literally had to look away a couple times, but there was always a narrow escape. We did finally connect our bag with our friend and were ready to head out of Paris. Of course, we did the obligatory run up to the top of the Eiffel tower first. As we were working on just ninety dollars a day, there was no elevator for us, just all 674 stairs.

Other memory moments were Vatican City, the old lady at the boat ferry stop singing "Romantica", a travel buddy named Huda and shocking a family by taking out my Kenyan braids on the train. More stories to tell, but for now I will get back to not paragliding in Switzerland. The basis of our decision was ninety dollars a day. We stood watching this amazing experience before us, trying to be careful as we were still early in the trip. As soon as the chance had passed, we regretted it. The funny thing is, we were so good at living on ninety dollars a day that later in Italy we had enough left over to buy leather jackets. Not that I didn't like that jacket, but I realized to soar over the Swiss Alps would have been something I would have much rather had. Adventure and unforgettable experiences are two of my favorite possessions.

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