Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Climbing Mt. Kili

Ever since my cousin Newton first told me that Mount Kilimanjaro was the tallest mountain in Africa, I have wanted to climb it.  I don’t really know why this tiny piece of information captured my imagination so fully, but it did.  At the clueless age of 10, I resolved that, one day, I would get on that mountain and climb it.  Fast forward 20 years - Out of the blue, a missionary group at my brother’s church asked me to accompany them to Tanzania to do some research for an orphanage that they planned to build there.  I said yes because I love to travel and the challenge of working with small non-profits. After the 4 day trip was over, I arranged to stay in Tanzania by myself for an extra 3 days to fulfill my lifelong dream.  Now, I should pause here and tell you that for some reason I didn’t think to do ANY research on what it would take to actually get to the top of Mt. Kili until I arrived in Arusha, so when I got there and found out that a typical trip to the top takes 5 days, I was a little shocked and disappointed.

But it didn’t ruin a thing for me.  Driving up to the starting point of the climb was surreal.  I will never forget seeing Mt. Kili from a distance. My whole body was a mixture of awe, fear and excitement.  There is no other feeling like living a dream come true.  Every step I took felt like a gift.  My guide, Emmanuel John and his crew were the BEST.  Emmanuel was studying horticulture and knew EVERY tree, flower and plant by heart.  His explanation of the different ecosystems that we walked through was fascinating.  As we walked up the hill, I could literally see the change in the environment around me, from tropical forest to mystical desert to snow covered barren dirt and rock.  

People kept asking me if I was planning to make it to the top.  When I told them of my time constraints, they all looked a little sorry for me, but I didn’t care one bit.  To me, I felt sorry for them, because while I was sitting down with my guide and the couriers that lugged all my food and supplies up the hill on my behalf, enjoying some of the best vegetarian meals I have ever had, everyone else was huddled around tables looking haggard and distressed with the one question that seemed to permeate every conversation. “Did you/will you make it to the top?” In the end, those who did looked dazed and those who didn’t looked devastated. Maybe it was because I knew that I didn’t have enough time to reach the top that I just decided to slow down and enjoy the journey.  I felt like the happiest person on that mountain and can’t wait to go back and share the experience with my family.  Maybe I’ll make it to the top next time, maybe I won’t, but either way, I will be so grateful for the experience.  

It occurred to me today, that trying to get my book published is a lot like climbing Mt. Kili.  I feel that same mix of awe, excitement (and yes, fear) every time I take a step closer to putting myself out there, pushing this book.  To have created a story is, in itself, a dream come true and while the publishing process is disappointing sometimes, I see myself learn and grow every day on my journey to becoming a better and more confident writer.  Will I make it to the top of this mountain?  Only time will tell, but every step towards publishing this book feels like a blessing and I’ll tell you what I told all those people on Mt. Kili – I will go as far as I can. 

If you’re out there, thanks for reading!
~ Cerece

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