October 13, 2009

The Challenge

Last Sunday I attended a presentation on a hike that an Egyptian woman did up Mount Kilimanjaro last August.  The presentation was organized by Sahara Safaris and was meant to share the experiences of two hikers, Hesham and Nadia, two regular people, with no previous experience and with no exceptional fitness either.  Nadia, a mother of four, had done very little practical exercise before let alone any safaris.  Hesham, likewise, had only gone on a few safaris and only worked out for 10 weeks before going.  Of course they took precautions and medication and worked on endurance fitness rather than high-impact workouts, did the research, planned carefully and embarked on their journey.

The presentation that included maps, pictures, examples of gear and loads of stories shared, also benefitted from the presence of Omar Samra, the first Egyptian ever to have summited Mount Everest.

My purpose here is not to report the presentation.  It is to talk about the amount of positive energy that was available in the room that day.  The stories inspired us and filled us with energy, determination and a conviction that anything we put our minds to, we can achieve and accomplish with a little bit of effort and perseverance and simply by putting one foot in front of the other and taking it one step at a time.

Nadia, Hesham, Mabrouk and Omar talked about challenging ourselves, and Omar especially mentioned that challenges push human concepts.. in the sense that there are things that we never thought were possible, and then along comes someone who achieves that or accomplishes it, and so we discover that it is possible and this leads us to challenge ourselves in different and more diverse ways.  Things that we deemed impossible push us to do more.

One thing I liked was how Omar measures his success or determination: by the number of people who try to discourage him or tell him that he’s doing something crazy or dangerous.

From what Mabrouk and everyone discussed that day, I truly believe that each one of us has their own challenge, no matter how big or small, in their eyes or in the eyes of others.  Even if it is walking from Abbasia to Tahrir or from Cairo to Alex, or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or summiting Everest as was mentioned.  And no matter how long it takes to prepare for it, one thing we should all take out of all this is Polé Polé, (slowly, slowly).

I’ve been thinking about this and about our need to challenge ourselves.. and maybe my personal challenge won’t be to climb the highest or smallest mountain in the world, or to do skydiving, nor even deep sea diving (though that’s not a bad challenge).  I believe that each one of us has areas of interest and desires that one would like to accomplish if given the chance.  We should set a goal and go forth trying to achieve it no matter how much time it takes.  I think one of the goals I can set for myself would be to speak Spanish fluently and I could challenge myself to do it in a certain period of time.. no matter how much work I have, and no matter what other things come in the way of this.  I don’t have to follow the regular classes that I take.  I could go further.  I could challenge myself to read at least 15 books this year.  Substantial books that is, or books I have been postponing for ages; really set a time frame and schedule and not give in to outings and TV series (and that’s not an easy task I have to say).

I could challenge myself to exercise and lose weight.. now that’s a big challenge!  We all have great intentions of exercising and of becoming fit, but if we truly challenge ourselves.. and not for the sake of weight loss, but in my case for the sake of health and for a professional position I am aspiring for, then I believe that would be a worthwhile challenge.  I don’t have to climb high mountains or throw myself into dangerous waters to feel that I have accomplished something worthwhile.  But there has to be a thrill and determination to achieve the goal we set for ourselves, no matter what diversions and how many people tell us it’s not worth it.

Nadia, Hesham and Omar, I truly salute you. And with all my heart, I hope you continue to inspire people around you and encourage them to go beyond the limits they thought they had.  I have now rethought my idea of vacations and the way I spend my time.  Lazing on a beach or staying at home, isn’t the way I would want to switch off and recharge my battery.  I need to engage in something that takes away my whole being (heart, soul and body) and immerses it into a totally new and exhilarating experience.  And I need to start working on that now!


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