The Gift of Education

Volunteers who visit Hope and Resurrection Secondary School, in Atiaba, South Sudan, are sometimes pressed into duties outside their typical routine. Tom Valiquett is a pharmaceutical scientist who joined a team from Virginia on a mission trip in 2012. He found himself at the head of a classroom, but had the credentials to make it work.

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Thrilling Adventure

Ditched my companions in Firenze today and got on a train back to Northern Italy to see the birthplace of my bike. Yes, going to see the Wilier factory in Rossano Veneto, which will be a thrill. Exchanged emails with a contact there who said he’d show me around the factory for 30 minutes or so. I brought some riding gear (shoes, jersey, shorts, pedals) in backpack in hopes I can ride one of their top-of-the-line bikes. Meanwhile, the others are off to Serena, in the heart of Tuscany…so everyone’s happy!

I’ve been gone for more than a month and have enjoyed being away from the US. Life is certainly simpler over here. Cars are smaller, toilets more efficient: two buttons, for no. 1 (less water) and no. 2 (hearty flow). We’ve used the trains to perfection, without missing a start or connection, including today. Men and women dress well when they’re out and about and, other than the French youth, are typically quiet.

As I’m writing this, a two-year-old is screaming nonstop with her parents powerless to stop her. I remind myself that my kid would never show me up like that. Leaving Sacramento for Atlanta I was seated a row behind TWO screeching kids and their oblivious parents. Guess my run of good travel luck was about to run out.

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Looking at the train’s marketing magazine beside me with Matt Damon on the cover. It’s in Italian so I can’t comprehend everything that’s discussed, but I do imagine I’m Jason Bourne on the streets of South Sudan, Paris, London and Firenze. Throughout our European jaunt, I’ve frequently found myself, or made myself, separated from the others. I prefer to walk and tour at my own pace. As I wander alone at Versailles or on the streets, I pretend that I’m Bourne or Leon Panetta, tasked with finding an individual in a city, teeming with smoking teens.

I prefer not to be a tourist. It’s too hard. I’d rather not compete with the crowds and be herded through museums and other exhibits. I would prefer to reside in a place or community with a job to do, ilike we did in South Sudan. Not that there’s much to see there.

I’ve been blessed throughout this trip, with safe travels, remarkable experiences and happenings. God has been very faithful to me, answering every prayer, and being present at all times. I could not have asked for anything more.