You ever heard of Tough Mudder? It’s a hardcore 10-12 mile run with obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. You get electrocuted, leap through ice pits, trudge through fire blazed hay fields, crawl through mud underneath barbed wire and so much more!
Doesn’t that look like a lot of fun?
It’s like American Gladiators to the extreme! I have been planning on doing this for a while now and assembled a team of some of the toughest people I know to attempt this insane mud marathon. There was one other person who popped up in my mind who would be perfect for this challenge…
I met Andy during my first outing in South Africa. He, along with a few others, were the second wave of volunteers to join us at the Rec House in Muizenberg. This guy is a beast! Rumor has it, he did 1000 push-ups everyday, ran along Muizenberg beach back and forth 6 miles every afternoon, and I even heard he sprinted to the top of Table Mountain one time after I had already left. What impressed me the most though was his ambition on education, not just at home, but around the world. Even while in South Africa, he was always busy with different paths to that light with his University and e-mails with scholars. Andy is from Ohio and if you’re from Michigan (like me), then you’re supposed to make fun of anyone from Ohio, and that’s what I did during our stay in Muizenberg. 🙂
I contacted Andy and asked if he was interested in joining my team of mudders come late April. He was down and it didn’t take too much convincing, especially since the event took place relatively close to him. Andy met up with me at a Holiday Inn, close to the venue the night before challenge day. This is one of the first time friends from home met another volunteer I met during my time abroad and just like I expected, they took a liking to Andy immediately. We caught up on a lot of things. Back in Muizenberg, Andy would spend a lot of time applying for the Fullbright Scholarship and low and behold, ten months later he finally got accepted! I had no doubt he would be chosen, it was only a matter of ‘when’. He’s going to be teaching in Thailand for a year this upcoming fall. What an opportunity!
So back to the Tough Mudder. Officials declared that we participated in the wettest, muddiest tough mudder EVER! And I believe it, because it was 11 miles of nonstop mud stomping and rain. But I enjoyed every second of it!
Funny story. There were 24 obstacles in this event and one of them was the “Wounded Warrior Carry”. It’s an obstacle where we would have to partner up and carry a teammate on our backs about 100 yards through mud, and then switch partners. I always assumed I would be carrying Andy. He’d be easy to pick up; he’s relatively skinny and looks light…well at least since I seen him last June. Fast forward almost 10 months and this guy has gained close to 30 pounds of pure muscle! Even his neck was the size of his head. If I had known that I would have to carry this mountain through 100 yards of mud, I would have carried one of the girls instead! We both made it through though. I may or may not have had to put him down for a second or two…
We all went to celebrate by stuffing our faces at a nearby restaurant later on. Soon after, Andy had to go back to Dayton, Ohio to return to work bright and early the next day. Before I know it, next time I see him, his calves will be bigger than my head. Live it up in Thailand Andy!
Two weeks before all that fun, I booked a Mega Bus to Chicago to visit some friends. During my stay, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to see…
This is Chris M. I have to put the “M” to differentiate from all the other Chris’ on this blog! I met him during my first outing in South Africa and we were roommates my entire time there. What’s funny is that Chris lived right under my nose back home in Michigan, maybe about ten minutes within each other, but we’ve never known each other to exist until we met thousands of miles away in Muizenberg, South Africa. Chris was always down for anything fun and he was always full of interesting stories and tales. He graduated from Notre Dame and moved to Chicago back in September to start a new job. Even though he lives the closest to me out of all the volunteers I met, it took me a while to visit him because our schedules just never meshed. Eventually, I planned on visiting some other friends in Chicago and texted him saying I was gonna be around. Fortunately, he finally had some free time from work and we were able to meet up!
Chris joined my friends and I at a tapas restaurant called “Cafe Babareeba”. I don’t remember him being so tall!? On a side note, I’m not the best person to tend with at a tapas restaurant because instead of wanting to share everything, I’d rather devour it all to myself! Anyways, Chris is the first person from my original group at Rec 13 that I met up with and I was the first for him as well. Ever since he’s moved to the area, he’s been super busy with work. It was great that we both had the weekend off to hangout. We caught up on everything and he brought me to speed on everything that happened at the Rec house right after I left. He even went to Kruger National Park on his last week in SA, something no other volunteer has done during my time there. Not only that, he went for free! Unheard of!
After the tapas restaurant, we all decided we were going to do an Irish pub crawl around Lincoln Park, so the five of us squished into a taxi and went to our first destination!
I can’t remember the name of the first pub we went to (or any of them for that matter) but when we got to the second pub is when another volunteer who lived in the area joined us…
I met Ari in Tanzania in July 2012. She entered the old volunteer house one day after I did. She was the only other volunteer at the time to teach at Shining Star with me. She had the “baby” class and I had the kids who were a tiny bit older. I feel a bit guilty because I constantly left Ari on her own as I missed two weeks of teaching from climbing Kilimanjaro and going to Zanzibar right after. She didn’t mind though thankfully! Ari is a kindergarten teacher back home and you could tell because she was absolutely great with the Shining Star kids. A couple of those kids were completely nuts but she was able to handle them like an early-learner teacher should, while I would always hide from them :). What a trooper! She was also part of my safari squad as we roughed it around the Serengeti, Lake Manyara, and Ngorongoro Crater.
Ari joined us at the second pub for a few drinks where I introduced her to my friends and to Chris M. I’ve volunteered in a lot of countries over the years and this is the first time that two different volunteers that I have met in different countries have met! I thought this was pretty neat.
So what has Ari been up to since then? She’s still doing what she loves and that’s educating the leaders of the future! She’s been so busy that she doesn’t have any plans to explore the world as of yet but things could change. I also let her know of my venture in London last Christmas where I saw Pip and Danni.
At this same pub, Chris M contacted another volunteer from our Rec 13 group who I had no idea was in the area otherwise I would have contacted her myself! I’m referring to…
What the heck was Lisa doing in Chicago?! She lives in St. Louis and thankfully Chris put a shout out on Facebook otherwise we would have missed her! She just so happened to be in Chicago too. So yeah, this is Lisa. She’s another from my original group in South Africa. Lisa, along with Andy, arrived to the Rec House two weeks after Chris and I did. We immediately embraced her and we went on a trip to the Garden Route over an extended weekend. I remember Lisa and I having a conversation about how our family and friends back home thought we were crazy for coming to Africa by ourselves, not knowing anyone. We understood each others accord and both knew the rewards were worth the risks (and they certainly were!).
It was so great seeing these guys again, and just like with everyone that I seen in London, it was as if I just saw them yesterday. Chris had plans to host other volunteers he met in South Africa soon which might include Andy. Chris has been keeping up with my blogs and following me along these adventures which is great! Ari has been doing very well and had to leave us early to attend a birthday. And Lisa has been hard at work with her studies and clinicals and had to leave early to attend other things she had planned. If only I could get the whole Rec 13 crew together again, even if just for a short time, that would make for one heck of a reunion!
Andy, Chris M, Ari, and Lisa are the last of the 12 volunteers that I visited since I came back from Africa last year. All of you guys are truly awesome people who I have had the pleasure to meet up with again.
It’s getting close to my departure date, so for the next post I will introduce you to friends who will be traveling along side me and where I plan on going. There’s a project that I’ve been working on called “Reaching Out 2 The World” that I must tell you all about and I also just received a letter from my coordinators in Vietnam, so I’ll go into detail about that too.