Climbing Mountains: My Passion
Pursuing a “Can Do” Mindset
Seven years earlier I learned I had a rare genetic condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. I was told I would go blind. I already suffered from night blindness, which didn’t sound like a big deal. But it was. The darkness hid so much that I didn’t know where to take my next step. During the day, I didn’t know what I couldn’t see. It seemed like I could see everything. I chose to to travel overseas anyway. After some intense prayer, I realized God could care for me anywhere.
I took on a short-term teaching assignment in Cairo, Egypt. Toward the end of my term, I traveled with my fellow teachers to the Sinai. We broke up our trip and stayed in a different city each night or two. On our last night, we stayed in St. Catherine’s, a city with a monastery leading up to Mt. Horeb (the mountain Moses climbed when he received the ten commandments). As I sized up the rocky, somewhat daunting-looking mountain, I realized that I wanted to climb the mountain.
“You guys, hey, want to climb this mountain with me?” I asked, my voice squeaking in excitement.
All three of my companions gave me a look that said: Are you kidding?!
“You’re on your own,” the lead teacher said.
The second teacher blotted her face with a tissue. “I’m too old to climb mountains. Count me out.” She picked up a magazine.
I looked at the last one in my group. “What about you?” I held my breath. “Are you game?”
“These boots,” she said pointing to her sandals, “are gonna walk all over…the sand!”
Even though I smiled at her humor, my heart sank.
“Well, I’m going to find out how I can do it,” I declared.
I asked around and found out that there was a scheduled climb – that night. “Is that the only one?” I asked the woman at the hotel. “Yes, my dear. But it’s a full tour so I’m afraid it won’t be possible for you to join.”
I sighed. There had to be a way.
“Where can I find the guide?” I asked her.
She shook her head. “The tour is full. Many Germans. They pay in advance. You can’t climb, sorry dear. It’s impossible to see this mountain no guide. You woman traveling alone not possible.”
The woman turned to the next person in line, effectively dismissing me.
I looked at my challenges: women can’t climb alone; no one can climb without a guide; I can’t see in the dark; the climb takes place at night.
Okay, there must be a way.
I overheard some of the German tourists speaking about the tour a little while later–or what I supposed was the tour as they were speaking in German. I was mostly paying attention to their gestures–and I followed them into a nearby restaurant intending to ask them about the tour. But luck was with me. I spotted their guide, or who I guessed to be the one guiding them. I checked my watch. 7:15 pm.They were obviously eating a late dinner.
Okay, now was my time to make my move.
I planted myself at the table next to the group and ordered a cup of coffee and began to eavesdrop on their conversation. I wasn’t getting anywhere because it was all in German. So, when a lull presented itself, I plunged in.
“Excuse me, sir,” I said, addressing the Egyptian, “I’m an American tourist and I want to climb Mt Sinai. Sorry for being so bold but could I please join your group? You’re the only one I can find who’s going tonight. And…I’m night blind. But I long to see the sun rise over this holy mountain! Can you help me?”
Everyone in the group stopped talking to stare at me.
“I’m leaving tomorrow and I really can’t miss such an exciting opportunity. It will never come again.” I explained.
A few members of the group spoke to each other in German and made motions to me. The Egyptian guide I later learned was called Tariq, rubbed his beard, as if contemplating.
Although I knew I was breaking a cultural tradition not only by approaching a group of mostly men but also in inviting myself on an excursion with them, I felt it would be accepted in this part of Egypt since so many foreigner came and went.
“Okay, you can come,” Tariq said. “You no to see well?”
“Not too well,” I admitted. “But I can climb pretty fast.” I hoped.
He sighed. “Okay, okay, okay.” He wanted to resume his talk with the German group. “Stay near to me.”
“We go fifteen minute midnight. You meet here, no late.”
“Yes! Aiwa!” I affirmed in Arabic, clasping my hands. After a few more words, I ran to my room to set my alarm and sleep, so I would have enough energy for the climb.
As I lay in bed, I kicked a loose cover off and thought about my venture. I hadn’t told anyone on the team about my RP because I didn’t want the leader pulling rank and saying that something I wanted to do was too dangerous. Since I was working for the US government, I always felt a little secretive and defensive.
I could do it. I might just have to go more slowly. I hugged the flashlight in my hands, and hugged my secret, too.
I hoped I could keep up with the other climbers. Tariq had told me I could ride a camel a portion of the way–for a fee, of course. I was only too glad to pay it. Butterflies churned in my stomach as I thought about what I was about to do. I lay with my eyes wide open, wondering what it would be like to see the sun rise over Mt. Sinai–Mt. Moses, some called it. Others called it Mt. Horeb. All these names only made it more exotic in my mind.
I waved the flashlight and saw the light sweep across the wall. I looked at the floor to be sure my sneakers were in place. Jacket over the chair. I got this. I can do it! I’m going to do it!
In an hour and fifteen minutes I’d be on my way.
I was so glad I’d pushed for the opportunity! I couldn’t wait to move.
You have just read, “Pursuing a Can-Do Mindset.” Copyright Amy L. Bovaird, September 2014. Tomorrow. you can read my exciting trek up and back down Mount Sinai in, “Tread Softly Along the Camel Trail.” Don’t miss it!
What is something people have discouraged you from pursuing? Did you end up following through and doing it or did you give up? How did you feel about your decision?