Mount Kilimanjaro is an iconic mountain. It towers above the Tanzanian plain as the tallest mountain in Africa and highest freestanding mountain in the world. Five years ago, I went on a missions trip to Rwanda and Uganda for 3 months with Engineering Ministries International (eMi), a nonprofit Christian organization which partners with Christian ministries who serve the poor by providing engineering, architectural, and construction management services for schools, hospitals, orphanages, and other buildings. Three years ago, I committed to another missions trip with eMi to Burundi, but one month before the trip, I tore my knee and had to cancel the trip. Two months ago, I committed to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as a fundraiser with eMi to raise $350,000 (personal goal $3000) to build a joint facility with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) to better serve the difficult-to-reach groups in East Africa. I began training and purchasing the gear that I needed. One month ago, I had to cancel my trip to climb Mt Kilimanjaro due to an unfortunate personal challenge. I will be going ahead with the journey of the long walk and I will continue to fundraise the full amount and will walk alongside (in spirit) with my team of climbers from February 15 - 21, 2015.
As they walk up, I will walk forward.
(Select Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb 1528 -> enter 'Grace Poon' in the Volunteer’s Name )
or mail a cheque payable to EMI to:
Engineering Ministries International
130 E. Kiowa St. Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Please follow along my journey as I update this website each day. This is my walking schedule:
The rule is, walking only, either outside or on a treadmill with at a 15% incline. No re-allotment of kilometres.
Day 1 - Sunday, February 15, 2015
Of course, Day 1 just happens to be -41 degrees C with the windchill. I bundled up with underlayer top, sweatshirt, long down coat, underlayer pants, fleece leggings, jeans, toque and my trusty Buff. Love my Buff. Cooper wore two layers of boots and two layers of coat. We walked outside for 7.66km with only minimal doggie whining, we did walk for a little bit inside Exhibition Place to warm up. Poor Cooper took a stumble on some icy steps and scrapped his bottom lip. I walked the last 3.4km at the gym in my building on the treadmill at a 15% incline. The indoor treadmill walk was actually more difficult, probably because it was so boring.
Weather at the base of Kilimanjaro today: 23 C with showers.
Day 2 - Monday, February 16, 2015
It was a short 5km walk today but for some reason, it was way colder. I thought since it was 26 degrees warmer than yesterday, I wouldn't need to wear an underlayer under my sweatshirt and would only need one pair of underlayer pants. I was wrong and I was very cold for the entire walk. During my walk, I tried to imagine myself on Mt Kili. It would be warmer, but I probably would be more tired after sleeping in a tent with a stranger. I would feel gross since I have had the chance to shower off the sweat and grime from the the tropical Tanzanian weather. The team would climbed 960ft up, putting them at an altitude of 3,810 ft above sea level. The air is probably starting to get thin, making each step a little more strenuous. Toronto sits at 249 ft, I spent some time in Edmonton sits at 2,116 ft a few years ago and going for runs was more challenging because the air was thinner than what I was used to in Toronto. Coincidentally, about half the Kili team is from Edmonton, so their lungs are probably more accustomed to the thinner air.
My phone died from the cold about 15 mins into the walk, but I mapped out the distance when I got home.
Day 3 - Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Today was tough. I didn't get much sleep last night for no apparent reason. I finally fell asleep at 5:30am, woke up at 7am to write work to tell them I was not coming in. Got up at 9:30am to do some work, fumbled around my laptop and tried to muster up any energy to walk the 10km. I finally put myself back to sleep at 1pm and woke up at 3pm to walk. The weather was nice at around -15C but I wore layers just in case. I walked around Exhibition Place, there were some quiet areas that I'd never been to before, I walked through empty parking lots and some icy/snowy areas. I was grumpy and tired. I listened to a Meeting House podcast on Romans 12:2 "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." In the podcast, there was a part that focused on 'be transformed', noticing that it does not say God will transform you, but it is up to us to transform the way we think about being angry, annoyed, and in my case - grumpy. So as I continued to walk and to try to transform the way I felt, I started thinking about the terrain under my feet, it was uneven and at times, hilly. I thought about how some people need to walk daily to get water or to a telephone and how difficult it would be if they were sick or if they had a physical ailment. I am healthy, clean, and not carrying a jug of water, and I found it physically challenging. I also continued to think about the team at Kili. I miss that I'm not developing relationships with the team, and kind of resent that I am walking alone in the cold.
At about 6km, the back of my left knee started hurting. It came suddenly and the pain intensified quickly. I was still about 2km from home so I turned back immediately. I literally stumbled home. I took a hot shower and rested my leg. I completed the last 2km in Bloor West Village around Runnymede Community Church right before my class started. It was a very slow walk.
Day 4 - Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Today was only a 5km walk, but since my knee is hurting so much, I had to split it in two. I went for a lunch time walk around work for 45 mins, I walked 2km along a snowy trail and suburban sidewalks. When I got home a few hours later I took Cooper for a slow 45 min 2.5km walk. I'm not looking forward to Friday's 17km walk.
Day 5 - Thursday, February 19, 2015
I got home from work and was preparing to walk 4km, I was going to do it without Cooper because he looked exhausted - how do you think I feel, buddy? I got a call from a friend, he had Once tickets and his friend bailed. I jumped at the opportunity and decided to walk home from the theatre, which was pretty much exactly 4km away. The show was awesome and my friend decided to walk me home. We had an amazing conversation about vulnerability and life in general. It got me thinking that we do not have may opportunities or friendships that allow us to open up and speak honestly about life and the challenges we are facing. Even with seemingly close friends, we don't always get to get invited in to people's lives past the surface... and the surface is always 'pretty good'. Luckily, I have a big handful of friends that I 'get real' with and really share life with them.
Tomorrow is 17km, I really don't know if I can, today's 4km walk was tough. What would I do if I was on the mountain?
Day 6 - Friday, February 20, 2015
Today is the 17km day. The team is walking downhill today.
I slept in until around 10am this morning in hopes that this would help my leg recovery. Nope - the back of my left knee is in quite a bit of pain. Also, I am fully aware that I have a volleyball tournament to play tonight, and I would like to help set up and tear down, as the fundraiser is for the organization I work for, Toronto City Mission. I made the decision to make a little cheat and bike 15km and walk, slowly, 2km on a treadmill on 0% incline.
The volleyball tourney, SpikeBack Against Poverty, was tons of fun. My team, Runnamok, came in dead last, but I would give us the top prize for hilarity. We had bring neon yellow shirts and we flailed our arms in hopes of distracting the other team. I got home just after midnight.
I. Am. Tired.
Day 7 - Saturday, February 21, 2015
Last day. 10km today. My knee is still sore, but today is the last day so I was determined to walk it. It is very snowy but "warm" and sunny. I suited up, suited Cooper up and set out for a snowy pre-breakfast 5km walk. I cut through the camh campus, that I have concluded is one of the most relaxing areas in Toronto. People that work and are patients at cahm are super friendly and will 90% of the time smile and say hi.
After breakfast and a rest on the couch, Cooper and I set out for Part 2 of the walk. This time, it was even snowier, it is very difficult to walk along the sidewalks. I decided to let Cooper have some fun, since he was such a trooper this week. We went to Trinity Bellwoods for a 30 min play. The snow was beautiful and Cooper loved to run, after that slow boring walking. I really enjoyed being outside today. If I wasn't committed to this walk schedule, I would have spent this snowy day inside with a hot drink, but after being outside for most of the day, I hope that I will remember that going outside on a "warm", sunny, snowy day is definitely better.
As if I wasn't tired enough, my friend got married today, and I danced the night away and finally made it to bed at 1:30am. I haven't felt this physically exhausted, ever. But it felt good.
THANK YOU everyone who followed my virtual walk and donated to help Engineering Ministries International East Africa and Mission Aviation Fellowship build a new site that will help them access the very remote parts of East Africa.
The grand total donation amount is: $1204 (my goal was $3000 when I set out to do the real climb). I am thrilled with the support I had from everyone. Thank you thank you thank you!!