WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

December 31, 2013

Nourishing WordFood: Remembering Who Serves Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 12:10 pm

In the month since climbing Kilimanjaro it’s been busy. The holidays, trips to see friends, emails to answer. Among the work and preparation for yet another adventure trip, a couple of emails stood out: Ignas and August, the guides from my trip up that great mountain in Africa.

These two wonderful men from E-Trip Africa became friends and confidantes during the six day journey which took me to 19k’ and more to the rooftop of Africa. They also carried me most of the way down when, while sliding down the wicked scree that you have to navigate for nearly four thousand vertical feet, I badly twisted my left knee and needed help. Without them, I’d have taken painful hours to make my way down solo. We laughed, ate, talked together, solved the world’s problems. When I took a bathroom break at 3 am 17k feet, got up and began to hobble back to the group and couldn’t figure out what in the world inhibited my ability to walk, Ignas kindly pointed his headlamp at my knees and suggested that pulling up my underwear might help. I nearly fell down the mountain in laughter.

Ignas’ wide ranging knowledge of geology, astronomy, math and so many other subjects, and his deep sense of the important things in life in his early twenties made him lovely company. August, who chased us down in the early hours to check our oxygen and pulse rate, was a quiet, competent presence full of funny stories about previous climbers, mishaps and mayhem from his 308 ascents.

Their constant encouragement, checkins, reminders to eat and drink kept me and my climbing partner going. Never did they push, always did they gently encourage. At the summit, when my water line froze, Ignas spent fifteen minutes whacking the black line like a dead snake with ice flying in all directions until I could get the much needed liquids from my backpack.

Once we came down, and landed at our rest hotel, the goodbyes in the parking lot were emotional and joyful. When I got back to America, I found photographs and videos, some hilarious, that August had sent the day after we had returned. I sent both men recommendation letters and copied their boss. Then I sent them both personal emails about what the trip, and they, had meant to me.

So often people come down the mountain and later, it’s hard to remember the guide’s name or the cook’s name, and it’s easy to say that I climbed Kilimanjaro. Nobody does such a thing alone. It takes a community to get us up and it most assuredly took a community to get me down. It was an exquisite experience to learn to accept little gestures of help from being buckled up when I couldn’t find my belt buckle to being chairlifted down the mountainside to drink cartons of delicious mango juice at base camp. So my personal emails expressed my gratitude for being taught how to accept such help, for that to me was more important that the summit itself. That was their gift, my lesson from Kilimanjaro.

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day all of us have a terrific opportunity to thank those who serve us- those often forgotten workers and servers and support help who add untold value to our lives, but all too often go unnoticed in our world. People whose names we don’t know or don’t bother to memorize. Without them, our lives would stumble and come to a stop. Ignas and August reminded me to thank those to take care of us- and while you might not take on a mountain, the mountains of our daily lives involve everything from grocery baggers to baggage handlers to handy men to handicapped people who work at Goodwill. They are all doing things that serve us. Let’s notice, remember a name, leave a bigger tip, take the time to make someone feel visible. Important.

Now that’s a way to celebrate a New Year.

December 12, 2013

The Impact of Junk Food

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 1:32 pm

A few weeks ago in the bush of Tanzania I was on a six day horseback safari, not a couple of days removed from having summitted Mount Kilimanjaro. We were riding six to nine hours a day, and at the very least I was bone tired at night when we rode into camp. All through my trip to this point I had been warned by tour operators, fellow travelers and companions that I needed to keep an eye on my valuables, and had been diligent so far. I was traveling with a group of Swedes, and in this case, the patriarch happened to be the father of the young woman who ran the horseback riding outfit. We were all having a grand time of it.

At dinner on the fourth night I took a break and walked to my tent. I was quite startled to find a camp staffer inside, and he quickly made his way out and disappeared. The first thought I had was that I had left my money belt- with close to $800 US in cash- sitting on the table next to my cot. I grabbed it, hurriedly counted the money, and seemed to find about $300 missing. Angry as a mishandled beehive I marched back to the dining tent and demanded to talk Jo and Chris, the outfitters, and told them- and the table- that I had money missing. I was furious. They told me that this was unheard of, but I was convinced. They took me aside and ran additional questions. Chris went to talk to the staffers and Jo forced me to recount. The money was all there- but by now the damage had been done. I had embarrassed these two good people in front of their friends- and Jo’s father, and the staffers, who knew there was no theft, were offended.

The next morning when I realized the extent of the damage I’d done, I waited until all my friends were at the table and apologized to Jo’s father, Jo, and Chris. Then as soon as possible I tracked down the man I had accused and made my sincere apologies to him to which he said, quite kindly, “Be free,” which was a complete acknowledgement of my mistake.

I later found the camp manager, the man’s boss, and made further apologies, by which time word had gotten around, and all was good again.

What I learned from this was several fold. It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re tired. Sure. But what’s worse are some of the cultural impacts. Despite having been repeatedly told by so many that I had to worry about my things, being calm enough to take the time to count my funds several times over would have prevented the whole incident. Instead, my mind had already been poisoned to expect money to be missing and that is precisely what it found. This is our insanity. We find what the mind says is there, right or wrong. I not only offended the kind group of Swedes who had allowed me to join their private party, but I also offended a tightly knit group of African camp staff who were duly proud of their honesty.

All were kind enough to allow me to clean up my mess, and to personally confront the people I’d hurt and to do so publicly. It simply points to how easy it is to be swept away by a part that expects to be taken advantage of simply because of toxic comments made by others. Junk food does that. This is what prejudice is, and how it poisons us to others. Anyone. A group, a class, a person. And unfortunately, everyone is subject to it, and it serves to be a student of when we fall down.

International travel, among its other great gifts, allows us to experience our humanity, and in doing so, allows us to touch deep emotions in ways that we may not otherwise be able to reach. This memory was a high point in my trip, because good people allowed me the space to process a wrong. That’s grace.

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