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

March 10, 2015

WordFood of Laughter

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 12:27 pm

Babu gripped me with incredibly strong arms, his brown tinged eyes staring into mine, twinkling with mirth. His misshapen teeth, the only four he had left, showed in a big grin as we laughed at each other. He had just dumped an entire water bottle down the back of my neck, and he was waiting for me to make one last move. I didn’t have one. Ultimately I just hugged him, hard, and he hugged me back. This Maasai ancient and I, along with his three compatriots, had just taken me seven days and six nights across the Tanzanian countryside in 110 degree heat. I was the one who had started the water fight on Day One, and Babu had ended it by emptying the bottle down my back, and there was nothing left but to say goodbye, safe travels and good luck. All done in silence, with a look of love, a huge hug, and a wave. I don’t speak Maasai, Babu doesn’t speak English.Words were completely unnecessary.

The four man crew and the three camels picked up their slow pace and headed back out over the heat-shimmered lands, and my driver headed east towards Arusha. I watched, tears in my eyes, until they were mere specks. I would wake up for at least five more days convinced I was still in my tent, with Raymond  making his famous pancakes to begin the day at 4 am.

Mkuru Camel Safari was my final adventure in five weeks across three countries. Only Philip, the young Maasai man whose first son Christophe was born on day two of our adventure spoke even a bit of English. We traveled through all kinds of terrain, past Maasai bomas and lands, open territories and hills, and across vast lands where wild animals ran free. And always we laughed.

With little language shared, we shared the work. As soon as I sorted out the camp chores I began to help with breakdown and setup. I skipped the nightly showers, so that reduced the workload and gave us more water to drink (and throw at each other in the stifling heat). I used bath wipes at night, and slept with a wet bandanna draped over my body to reduce the temperature.

Early in the morning I woke up with Raymond, snuck up on the sleeping men in their tents, and shook the tents while yelling “ELEPHANT” until they woke up and groggily poked out their heads. The pranks earned me pranks back, and they nailed me with water mercilessly while I was trying to write, eat, rest, sleep or dodge the onslaught. And always we laughed.

One white woman, four African men, minimal language shared. We ate, walked, rode, slept and traveled together, marveled at the stars, chased each other around the campfire, dug acacia thorns out of each other’s skin and enjoyed Raymond’s cooking, teased each other without mercy, and laughed all day.

At the end of it, it was intensely hard to say goodbye so I doused them all with water. Through Philip, the only Maasai with a little English, they thanked me for the laughter, the pranks, and the shared work. I just cried through my smile. Then they threw water at me, and thus doused, we waved goodbye, laughing.

May 5, 2014

WordFood without Words

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 8:06 pm

The horse, Presente, stood tied to a post near the stables, partially hidden by a lush willow. Roberto the challan (Peruvian trainer) stepped aside as I walked quietly up to him and gently touched his neck. His muscles were quivering, energy was coming off him in waves. His long black mane hung down his neck and his liquid eyes took me in while I very lightly touched his face.¬† I’d never seen animal so fierce, so beautiful. Roberto led him into the riding ring, a long oval of bright green grass, the animal’s owner and his wife seated across from us.

Roberto mounted and rode Presente around the ring a few times for the owner, then stopped in front of me and dismounted. He offered me the reins. Having just watched this show animal stride around the ring in perfect form, floating like some ethereal being in the paso llano (a gait unique to the Peruvian Paso horse) I wasn’t sure I had the skills to ride him. Roberto gestured again and I got up. As soon as I took the reins I felt the electricity. For the next fifteen minutes I rode this exquisite animal around the oval, quite outside myself, but very aware of every movement of this remarkable horse.

Javier, the owner, whose horses I was riding every day, asked me a few days later which day had been my favorite. I struggled to answer this, having ridden multiple horses and for six hours each day. I couldn’t answer him. Later that day I told his wife, Blanca, that Presente was the crowning moment of my entire time at their stable. That night, when I came in from my long day’s ride, Blanca and Javier had Presente waiting for me, in full competition regalia, as soon as I came in the gate.

As a child of about 12 I had read The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, and had forever held the dream of someday owning, having, riding an animal like Farley had described. It wasn’t my journey. Yet here stood an animal just as slightly wild, just as furiously beautiful, waiting for me to get on and ride again. I was speechless with emotion.

The party walked with me, Roberto leading Presente to the oval, and they all watched as I took this animal from my wildest dreams around the ring once again. I had tears coursing down my face. Blanca was taking photographs. Roberto stood in the center to take over if something went wrong. The slightest butterfly’s touch moved him left or right, no need for a heel, and I spoke to him in a whisper.

Finally it was time to give him back to Roberto, who looked in my face and asked, “Bueno?” at which point I started crying. In my limited Spanish I told him that Presente was a magnificent horse, got off gently, and gave Roberto a hug.

The whole family, seeing my emotion, ran to wrap me in a group hug, and I had to explain that sometimes when God wants to punish you He grants you your dreams. I had no words to express my gratitude to these generous people for allowing me to ride on their finest animal. There are times that your heart is so wide open with joy that words don’t suffice. Such times are so humbling, be it at a baby’s birth, a wedding, falling in love, when someone survives an accident, we can only be deeply humbled and give thanks, and thanks, and thanks. Such times we truly understand what it is to be human, to know such emotion.

What Presente taught me was that at 20,30, 40 or 50, I would not have known how to receive such a gift. Perhaps would have wanted more. But 15 minutes of pure ecstasy was enough. That this family would give me such a gift was beyond words. And they knew. They most assuredly knew.

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