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Stage 1
Ushuaia to Santiago
Jan 2012 - May 2012

Stage 2
Santiago to La Paz
May 2012 - Aug 2012

Stage 3
La Paz to Panama C
Aug 2012 to Nov 2012

Stage 4
Panama C to Phoenix
Nov 2012 to Feb 2013

Stage 5
Phoenix to P Rupert
Mar 2013 to May 2013

Stage 6
P Rupert to Deadhorse
May 2013 to Jul 2013

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Jun 1, 2012:

Meeting The Blind Community of Mendoza

Distance to Date: 3737 km , 2317 miles

We continue our project to visit schools and organizations for the blind in the Mendoza area. While in Lujan, where we're staying with the Piola family (thanks, Federico!), we meet with the mayor of Lujan and all of Lujan's government VIP. Our moment of VIP was filled with smiles and whole-hearted encouragement to do what we're doing -- raising awareness!

We have received tremendous support and encouragement from everyone we've met. People understand, and people are enthusiastic about what we're trying to do. They think we're crazy, ...and they're partially right! Sean of Welcome to Mendoza heard our plight about not being able to ride through city streets upon our arrival in Mendoza, so he arranged a police escort for us! How awesome!! We wanted to ask, "Can you guys escort us to Alaska?"

It's Friday, June 1st

. We will be visiting an organization that provides outdoor activities for the blind tonight, and then we hope to head out tomorrow. We'll head north en route to the Bolivian plateau, ...with a stop in Salta just before it. Our next update may be in two or three weeks depending on our access to internet.

Help us spread the word by sharing our project. Thanks!

A police officer blocks the road as we follow another one.

Having an escort is definitely a HUGE relief! We wouldn't be able to ride in the city otherwise.

No need to wait for the green light when you've got VIP service! :-)

Good morning, Lujan! On our way to visit the mayor, we become mesmorized by the scenic mountain view. But we have to be careful where we step!

Whew! Christi arrives safely in downtown Lujan, a suburb south of Mendoza.

Tauru enjoys the fresh morning air and warm sunshine as we wait.

Journalists from Radio Lujan come to interview us about our project and our journey. Christi concentrates hard to respond in Spanish.

We organize in front of the Municipal building to take a photo.

We are greeted by the mayor and the various ministers and dignitaries of the municipal of Lujan (Lujan VIPs).

In the afternoon, we leave our bike behind and take a bus to the suburb of Godoy Cruz to visit the Colegio Hellen Keller.

The students and faculty greet us with enthusiasm and are anxious to hear about our adventure.

Christi relates our adventure in Spanish, but is saved by Laura, who is standing next to Tauru. Laura is a teacher who is fluent in English and is a fantastic translator.

We gather with students of various ages for a photo. Christi has a chuckle because it is difficult to get a group of visually impaired people to "look" at the camera.

Next, we meet the students. This boy is completely blind and is demonstrating how to fold money so he can keep track of which bills are what. These two boys and the girl on the right are great musicians, as we will hear later.

These two gentlemen have RP, the same condition that Tauru has. Notice the green cane - in Argentina, they use the color green to signify someone who has low vision as opposed to someone who is completely blind. What a great concept!

The classroom is filled with bright smiles. For example, the young man behind the Brailler is a track star. He runs 400m with a sighted guide, since he is completely blind.

Next we visit the primary-school-aged classroom, but they are away on break. Christi takes the opportunity to learn how the children learn concepts like counting without the same visual cues sighted children use. The squares, bags and dots are raised so that students can feel the images.

She practices, but her tactile senses are slow and need practice. (square = 100, circle = 10, dot = 1)

Finally, we visit a classroom where the mothers of the very young students wait (some as young a two). The mothers have a lot of questions for Christi.

Back in the hall, we discover that the Rotary Club has donated a large gift of toys for the children at the school.

The students gather to inspect the gifts, thank the Rotary Club, and say farewell to us.

They express their thanks through music. The guitarist is the same young man who taught us how to fold a 5-peso note, and the singer is the girl who sat beside him. They sing with great confidence.

We say good-bye to our friends, including these two very lovely young ladies .

Just outside the school, we are back in the "dangerous" streets of Mendoza. These ditches exist all over the city and suburbs to collect rainwater.

At about 4 feet deep, that would be one nasty fall. We watch our steps.

Safely away from the ditches, Tauru discovers a new danger.

"Peligro" means "danger" in Spanish, but at knee-height, it's out of his peripheral range.

The following day Christi takes a moment to Skype with her mom. So much to talk about! (eg. her improving back pain, the wonderful family who is hosting us, the students we've met, and their mothers, oh the dear mothers...)

Our next visit is at a rehabilitation center called Casa del Discapacitado. At this facility, people with visual impairments receive various training: orientation and mobility, household and kitchen skills, braille, handycraft skills, etc...

Christi talks to a room full of visually impaired people and their teachers. Laura continues to support us by translating. She stands to Christi's left and makes fluid transitions between Spanish and English to help us and the group understand each other. THANK YOU, Laura! We really appreciate it!

The group is surprised, intrigued and very curious about our journey. They are proud of us for advocating the abilities we have.

After sharing many stories and answering many questions, the group presents us with a gift of hand-crafted baskets they had made in the workshop next door.

We visit the workshop and are shown the various tools that help people without sight become craftsmen. For example, here you see a measuring tape with holes at each centimeter, divets on the edge every five centimeters, and deep divets every ten centimeters.

! Finally, we test out the green cane, which is much lighter than the white canes used in the States. We wonder if the States would consider implementing the green cane to indicate partial vision. This system would clarify situations where a person with partial vision needs assistance boarding an airplane yet still can read a book after being seated.

Spread the word and help us Raise Awareness!

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