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comments iconDay 106 (20 July): Rio de Janeiro State & Amen for AMAN

 

Today’s Distance : 40.40 km / 25.10 miles
Total Distance:2812.58 km / 1747.29 miles
Today’s Donations:£ 0.00 + ¥ 5978.38
Total Donations:£ 41,006.38+ ¥ 172,944.53

Today was a big day. It was the day we crossed into Rio de Janeiro State. It is the fifth state I have walked through during our two months in Brazil–Rio Grande dol Sul, Santa Caterina, Parana and Sao Paul being the others. What of course makes this extra special is that it is the last state I shall walk through in Brazil. The only slight disappointment was that I didn’t see any road sgn to pose by to mark the occasion. The km markers simply reached zero on the BR116 and then went up to 335km when we were in Rio.

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Xuelin has been having an extra busy day in designing a background wall for the final day in Rio. It is an exercise in faith that we will actually have somewhere to erect the background but if we can’t find a physical venue then we shall simply go for a natural one–on the beach. The emails flowing back and forth about the finish are reaching a high volume as our final schedule begins to take shape. We now aim to arrive into the north of the city of Rio on Wednesday evening and then on Thursday try to visit the Rio 2016 HQ and Mayor’s Office. The final day would start with a meeting with Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee and a great supporter of the truce and our walk. Then there will be a final presentation of the cheque to UNICEF against the background wall somewhere and then the final walk up to the Statue of Christ the Redeemer. Well that’s the plan but its changing by the minute so ‘watch this space’.

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The original plan was to finish in Itatiaia today but I felt strong enough to push on another 12km to Resende. Because of the longer distance I arrived after dark (6PM) which I normally try to avoid because of the dangers of walking along busy highways in twilight or darkness. There was a bit of a challenge with this route because I was looking for a place where I could cross the railway line into the city centre where our hotel was located. Xuelin as usual had provided detailed maps on my iPhone.

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The problem was that I went a little too far and so needed to stop and bring out my iPhone to study the maps and directions. It was then that two young men passed and said something to me, I responded with a smile and began moving again before really figuring out where I was going. They kept looking back as they went off the highway and down some steps into a tunnel under the railway line. I realised this was the crossing I needed to follow. I moved slowly given them time to go further but one stopped near the foot of the stairs and lit a cigarette. I was on my guard. They knew I wasn’t local. They knew I was lost and they knew I had an iPhone.

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Then just as I reached the top of the stairs into the underpass a minibus of military pulled up and they all got out and went down the stairs. I was so relieved to see them. I could see on the map that they came from the AMAN military academy on the other side of the road. I mingled with them and walked briskly past my two ‘friends’ through the tunnel and out the other side.

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I began to think that all this talk of peace and truce is fine but there is nothing like a dozen strapping young men in uniform to easy the nerves when you need them. It reminded me of the poem by Rudyard Kipling, ‘Tommy’ which is about how the attitudes of the public change to the military outside wartime–a couple of lines to give you a flavour:

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;

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This is the challenge in having a balanced approach to peace. We need to honour and respect those who protect our freedoms and guarantee our security and risk to their own lives in the process. There can be no lasting peace without security. If a young lady is lost in Resende and having to cross through a dark underpass where young men are loitering with intent she doesn’t need an old peacewalker hobbling down the steps towards her telling people to ‘be nice to each other’  she wants a minibus of militia, preferably armed to the teeth. Quite right. Me too! That was the lesson I learnt today myself in Resende and I was grateful to be reminded of it.

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