The Family Sabbatical Abroad

Wagners at 18,013 feet on Nevado Campa Peak in Peru

Here is an article I wrote as a guest blogger for Melibee Global.

And here is a feature article in Western North Carolina Magazine.

We have just completed nearly 3 months in Peru and we head to Ecuador on July 4th. We are Experiencing, Discovering and Engaging… will have to catch up on sharing the experiences once we have settled in Ecuador. Thanks for your interest.

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Machu Picchu Expert

We met an extraordinary man tonight. You don’t meet many folks like this. Paolo Greer, who has spent much of the last two decades studying Inca ruins, and has made 17 trips from his home in Alaska to Peru (for several-month stints), spoke tonight at a meeting of the South American Explorers Club in Cusco, Peru. In 2008 Greer made the controversial claim that Machu Picchu was “discovered” 43 years before Bingham’s arrival by an obscure German entrepreneur named Augusto Berns. He showed maps and notes written by Berns in his slideshow, which highlighted historical artifacts and photographs, supported many of his claims about Inca history – not just that of the Machu Picchu site. My family and I sat in an audience of fascinated listeners. Greer’s passion for history and archeology is rare. His aerial photography techniques were pre-google earth satellite images and his analysis of data is mind boggling for me.

We will visit Machu Picchu in June. Having Greer’s unique perspective and informed insights will make our visit more meaningful. His intent? I think mostly to bring historical awareness to one of the world’s wonders which has been (in his words,) “sadly, turned into a Disney-like attraction.”

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Starting Over

Square one, once again. Entering a country for the first time means starting all over. What’s the currency? What’s the exchange rate? Where do I shop? What areas are safe? What is unique about this culture? What do I wear? How do I cook? How do I get around town? Where in the heck is anything?

I am in Peru with my husband and children. A sabbatical year. A dream come true. But it’s not going to be easy; growth and fulfillment follow challenge. The 3 weeks of Spanish lessons I had in Guatemala only nine short months ago is totally forgotten. I sat in my second day of language school today, with “deer in headlight” expressions as my tutor asked me the most basic conversation starters. I was embarrassed and frustrated. I felt the same in the grocery store as I shopped for food that I have any clue how to cook.

My eyes and emotions are already filled as we walk around this amazing 16th century city which was the capitol and spiritual center of the Inca Empire. I can’t wait to learn the history and significance of the land and the people. And I’m already afraid that our 3 months in Peru and 6 months in Ecuador will pass in the blink of an eye.

Square one is not such a bad position to be in. There is no such thing as boring. Every day holds a new adventure. Being ignorant is humbling (we could all use a good dose of humility.) And most of all, being a global student with my kids – experiencing and learning together – is a precious way to spend this year. It is ever clear to me, at this point in my life,  that the most significant contribution I can make as a global citizen, is to teach, love and support my wonderful sons as they explore the facets of meaningful living.

Follow our family sabbatical at

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What about Kony?…What about Job?

Several folks are asking my opinion about the Kony film. I am not one to critique Jason Russell’s approach to being a change agent. His passion for social justice and his care for the invisible children of Uganda resonate deeply with me, as my entire life has been re-defined by the experiences I too had in Uganda. I commend his persistence and commitment to such a worthy cause. And I applaud his ability to get the attention of 100 million viewers. That is incredible! I also understand the criticism from individuals and nonprofits who disagree with the mass marketing approach. The oversimplification of a very complex issue does belittle the daily suffering of ordinary people – all over the world -who will continue to struggle meeting basic needs, even after Kony is gone. But at least the publicity got people out of their seats and on to topics other than the US election and March Madness sports.  I have no critique, other than that of folks who deprecate Russell out of their own ignorance and paralysis to latch on to a cause and do “more than care.” We can care all day long, but unless we take an action step towards something that makes the world a better place for someone other than ourselves, we are guilty of only contributing to the world’s problems.

What about Job? Yeah, who’s Job??? (It’s a long “o,” like the Biblical character). Honestly, my intent in writing Village Wisdom and creating the Portraits of Uganda exhibit was also to inspire change; a change from simply caring to engaging personally in a world of needs. Living in Job’s village in Uganda for 3 years changed my life so profoundly that 15 years later I had to write a book about it. I wanted to bring awareness about Job and people like Job (all over the world) who are financially poor, yet culturally and communally rich. I wanted to share hard-learned lessons that have re-defined my role as an individual, a  wife, a mother, and a global citizen. I wanted to remind people of unsung heros and to inspire folks to get out in the world and experience life in a totally different way.

My story has not gone viral. I have sold only 800 books (1500 still sitting in my storeroom) and a huge personal financial loss to boot. Some days this fact makes me feel sick and other times it makes me cry. Just in time,  one of my children or my husband will remind me of messages I have received from readers or people in the audiences I have spoken to; people who were moved to “more than care.”  I will continue telling my story, telling Job’s story and helping others to tell their story.  I am grateful that 800 people now know about an incredible man named Job.  And that they care about the beautiful land in western Uganda where Job and his community members work hard to sustain a future for their children. And that some folks have gone beyond caring and have taken an action step to make the world a better place for someone else. I am thankful to have the opportunity to share Village Wisdom.

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So Long, Farewell, See Ya Next Year

The past week has been a series of goodbyes. As we have dotted i’s and crossed t’s on bank accounts, travel insurance, and bus/flight schedules, we have also enjoyed time with friends. Laughter, tears, and hugs have been in abundance. We leave Asheville, not wanting to let go of all we have,  but with assurance of what we have to come back to next year. Inhale, … slowly exhale … we can do this.

Here’s a link to MelibeeU’s next workshop on volunteering abroad.

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