A Pilgrim's Prayer on Thanksgiving (in Ecuador?)

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www.thetravelcreatives.com blog by Irene Jaan. Chris Howe is walking from Los Angeles to Brazil carrying the prayers of people he meets along his journey. He was more than just another couchsurfer. He really touched the lives of every member of our family. Includes link to a video interview we created. Enjoy!
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   A Pilgrim's Prayer on Thanksgiving (in Ecuador??) posted by Irene Jaan from www.thetravelcreatives.comon December 8, 2010  A Thanksgiving Pilgrim...In Ecuador Check out our video on Chris Howe's walk from L.A. to Brazil at this link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzQcT7DjDc8----- We are spending Thanksgiving with a pilgrim! It's a funny thing to say aloud (especially when you're not even in the U.S.A.on this American holiday). But that truth dawned on me as John and I sat under the stars with Chris Howe on the balcony of our home in  Vilcabamba, Ecuador . I clapped with childish glee as I uttered the phrase. The guys laughed in agreement. Chris Howe is walking from Los Angeles to Brazil Chris seemed like  just another couchsurfer at first glance . He contacted us onCouchsurfing.orgthe day before Thanksgiving looking to make a connection in Vilcabamba. You can say that his profile generally blew me away! It linked to his website www.iamwalking.org which told an inspiring story of pilgrimage and prayer through a  beautiful film . I knew we had tomeet this guy. Even before we met Chris in person, I told John that I thought he was heaven sent . Thank God we are the only people listed in Vilcabamba on Couchsurfing.org (which is odd since we are technically only here on 3 month tourist visas )! My  intuition was spot on as we ended up serendipitously having Chris, his kindness, and his stories all to ourselves for five wholedays .  Chris Howe and our family walking a few steps to Brazil...  A Walk from L.A. to Brazil Chris Howe is walking from Los Angeles to Brazil carrying the prayers of people he meets along his journey  . He has takensome breaks, but has been making his  walking pilgrimage for two years now  . Now in southern Ecuador he is approaching Peru.He will walk through Peru in the next couple of weeks until he reaches Pucallpa near the eastern border. His odyssey will then takehim into the jungle of the Amazonian basin as he follows a river to reach his destination, the village of Céu do Mapiá, deep inthe rainforest of western Brazi l. (This is how I believe his trek will continue...) From Vilcabamba, Ecuador, Chris will walk through Peru and into Brazil (my estimation!)  An American Thanksgiving in Vilcabamba He missed our family's Thanksgiving meal. I was a bit disappointed, but the fabulous American turkey and carb fest kept uspretty content. In our tryptophanic stupor, we managed to wobble into town towards the late afternoon to attend the Thanksgivingpotluck dinner at Charlito's Restaurant. The party was upbeat as the crowd of  festive consuming Americans and friendsspilled out onto the cobblestone Ecuadorian road. It didn't take too long for us to spot Chris and invite this pilgrim to our home .  Thanksgiving Potluck at Charlito's in Vilcabamba, Ecuador Elements of a Pilgrimage Chris's pilgrimage has the distinctions of including a few important elements:  walking, minimalism, and prayer exchange . Heis walking every step of the way. A short film about his project screened at the Elevate Film Festival (a forum for spiritual andinspiring filmmakers) in Los Angeles in 2008 . After the screening he walked off the stage in a bit of fanfare with a pile of prayers and a long trek to Brazil ahead of him. If he should hitchhike, fly, or take any other mode of transportation for any reason, hemakes sure to backtrack for the walk. He's flown home for family events but always returns to place he left off. When we met him he was at his southernmost point to date. Here is the video from the Elevate Film Festival: You can see Chris Howe's movie that screened at the Elevate Film Festival at this link:http://vimeo.com/2030232----Chris is a model of minimalism with his hardcore version of traveling light --the clothes on his back and a tiny bag. All Iobserved was an extra t-shirt, journal, pen, book, toothbrush, toothpaste, and the bundle of slips of papers with handwritten prayersand wishes from the people along the trail. When we met him he had a penny--one cent, for good luck, I suppose. Aside fromsome shocking stories of  sleeping in some questionable beds (like concrete under bridges and in trash-filled abandoned buildings ) his luck has been surprisingly positive. Yes, he's been robbed a few times. His stack of prayers might have been stolen, but maybe the prayers from the good people of the world did the robbers some good. Chris seemed unfazed.  A walk through the streets of Vilcabamba, Ecuador I have no doubt the multitude of prayers and pray-ers surrounding his story have protected him . He relies on churchesand the kindness of strangers for food, drink, shelter, and company. The Latin American culture is accustomed to pilgrimagesthat carry out promesas or promises. When God is petitioned and the prayer is answered, it is not uncommon that the person might  walk to a special church or location of a famous miracle to give thanks . Sometimes a network of churches exist to housethe pilgrims along their path. Chris even received a letter from some Benedictine Monks in Northern Mexico, in essence, certifying his pilgrimage.  Chris carries his prayers through Latin America In Latin America the pilgrim is honored and taken care of. This lends Chris to be blessed with good stories of serendipitousmeetings and generous offerings of food and cash. In my home, I guess, the same rules apply. In our current situation I amnot inclined to accept a strange man to sleep in my house. I have children, equipment, and share the property with a network of friends and landlords who value their privacy. Despite my reluctance to host couchsurfers (right now, in my current situation) I hadno doubts that this situation would be good.  We treat Chris to a burger, fries, and a Coke, like a good American family :) I wrote my own prayer for Chris to take with him . In exchange, I shuffled through the stack of little papers to find a stranger'sprayer to keep for myself. I chose a prayer that I identified with. He told me it belonged to a woman in Panama. I vowed to take goodcare of it. Chris photographs every slip of paper of hopes and wishes and posts them on his website. He carries them alonghis journey, reads them, and prays for them. He says he approaches them as if they were his own prayers and sees them asalready answered. The exchanging of oraciones allows energy to be shared.
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