Back in May of 2016, I received a Facebook message from Sia Figiel – inquiring about a reading opportunity in my local area. Nothing prepared me for a better answer at the time – been that she was an acclaimed name shifted in all of my searches for Pasifika readers – but I said, “Oh sure, yes!”
She arrived a week a later after spending three days on an Amtrak train. This whole encounter somewhat felt like Sia was joking in the beginning, hence that there are so many hacked pages on social media and anyone could voluntarily fabricate a page to send messages around. Later, when she called me to say that her train was almost here, I wondered again, “Who am I for someone to sit three days on a train to visit in Wisconsin?” It felt surreal, yet I couldn’t contain my excitement.
On the day she arrived, Sia stood at the train stop with her walking sticks when my daughter and I zoomed past the train tracks looking for her. I didn’t cook anything, but a Plan B came in handy as the arrival time, quite usual for transportation of all sorts, brought skepticism with which I thought would be delayed due to some unforeseen circumstances. But she was on time. She stood there calling, “LIGI!!”
We sat in a restaurant munching on sweet-sesame flavored Bulgogi beef, string beans, and chow mein noodles later. It was like there was a bright beam among us as we chuckled and conversed on where we were originally from – following an introduction of the nine-thousand population city we resided. She was amazed by the small town and its history of the indigenous people – the Ho Chunk Native Tribe Nation – who long resided in Wisconsin before other ethnic people were brought via homestead in uninhabited cornfields of the state. Her shocking reaction caught me for a person who has traveled the world. Her trip to Wisconsin is her first ever visit and she was loving everything about this small town of Tomah.
So…after reasoning and connecting lineages and puzzles about our families, I asked her, “So…the sticks. Can you tell me something about that?”
Sia briefly shared that her new founding inspirational walk was in June and the walking sticks are to be used for her walk across America – to raise awareness in the fight against Diabetes and Obesity for Pacific Islanders as well as the world. By walking 3,000 miles across America, she’ll be exhibiting a sense of awareness to the Pacific Islanders in a standard approach to address and speak about the effects of the illnesses with Samoan groups and churches scattered across the southern American states.
On June 2016, Sia Figiel began her trek with another co-founder of Walking ODDE Warriors, Mario Lemafa from Washington DC. Every struggle, obstacle, adventures and encounters they’ve experienced – while walking on the lonely roads that never ends – gave them something they’ll notably cherish. They’ve met a diverse group of individuals and endured challenges along the asphalts they’ve made their temporary abode during the walk. They’ve explored different realms of behaviors; even welcomed by newfound friends in small towns and cities they’ve settled in for a bottle of water or space in Good Samaritan homes to shelter them by sunset before continuing.
Since their journey began, they were able to update fans and supporters on their Live Facebook Page, WOW-Walking ODDE Warriors. I was able to compile all of it for your reading pleasure with a kind request to support #WowWalkingODDEWarriors wherever you are in this world.
Sia and Mario’s next stop will be Texas. If you want to follow their trek across America, you can on Facebook via WOW-Walking ODDE Warriors. They were able to speak at Samoan community groups and several churches since their adventure began. You’ll find updates and galleries of everyone they’ve met while trekking south.
Below are all the updates Sia and Mario wrote on their Social Media Facebook Page since they left Washington DC for the Obesity and Diabetes Awareness Walk Across America:
May 31, 2016 Washington DC
“Please join the W.O.W Team as they leave the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Tomorrow Morning at 10am. Please join us and be a part of this powerful moment as we begin our journey, we would be honored if you would walk with us along this journey at your capacity. SO much love and thank you to each and everyone of you for your endless love and support.”
June 2nd, 2016 Washington D.C.
“Day 1 diet. Nothing but Humble pie. Blisters at bay. Over packed. Major unloading. Asher I want to be like you when I grow up..You feel me? Hydration 24-7. H2O is King. The kindness of strangers moves me. Thanks”
“Day 2. Protection vs. Future blisters. Need to get in more miles today.”
“Today we’re walking from Alexandria to Dale City, south of here. If you have networks along that way, please give us a holler! Danke schon! Grazie! Malo ‘aupito! Vinaka vaka levu! Mauruuru! Merci! Thank you thank you!”
“mario here: just arrived in Woodbrige, Virginia having walked 18 miles from Alexandria. we left our generous hosts the Slater’s, Bethany and Peter with their blessings in good spirits, encountering people who wished us well along the way. North Virginia for a walker is like climbing a stairmaster at the base of a verdant mountain covered in suburban properties. hill after hill, i felt as the navigator, that my “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” Capricorn attitude …combined with my general sloth calm headed demeanor, would see us both through. unfortunately, my walking partner Sia was injured halfway toward our destination due to illfitting shoes,”
June 8th Alexandria, Virginia
“There are moments during this walk when I feel like I’m treading on sacred grounds. I would come across a dead deer and my heart sinks. Or step on green or yellow garden snakes that look so stunning when touched by the sun. Traffic of course is a constant. There are times when we are literally walking on the road alongside the big industrial trucks. Now and then one would honk their horn to show solidarity. Other times it’s an inpatient driver who calls out to get the fuck …off of the road. But those are rare and the first of this kind happened yesterday and I reckon he was drunk. The energy you take into a space is the energy that becomes synergized and sustains everything around you. I’ve come to believe this to be true. So many of our interactions have happened because we initiate it ourselves. I mean that’s what this walk is all about, isn’t it?”
July 2, 2016 Fayetteville, North Carolina
“we made it in to North Carolina yesterday, exactly a month since we started on June 1st! now in Weldon, we have walked 321 miles. we have met wonderful people on our journey so far and intend to keep it that way. here are some pics from the past two weeks.”
July 14, 2016 Sumter, South Carolina
“Sia and i walked through South Carolina the other night. we’ve been waking up earlier and earlier lately due to our destinations increasing in distance. when we left our friend Gene a couple moons ago,”
July 27th, 2016 Augusta, Georgia
“Sia and i have crossed into Georgia! had to turn over this fallen sign to find the peach- never really cared for borders anyway. the Carolina’s were good to us, serendipity was our constant even from Columbia into Augusta, the occasional cloud our gift in a sun drenched land, a bounty of colorful and kindly strangers as ripe as the corn fields we passed. from here on out we walk West. 155 miles to Atlanta!”
September 4th, 2016- Alabama
“We made it to Sweet Home Alabama!”
September 18th, 2016-Florida
“DAY 110: 967.5 miles.
Crossed into our 6th State last Sunday and we’re now in Panama City!, Florida! The Gulf of Mexico is fresh & gorgeous! Swam with joyful noise & salted happy feet! From here on out, we’re heading West! Thanks for your support. U, InvictUS! Always”
October 30, 2016-Mississipi
“We made it to Biloxi, Mississippi! W the help of these kind and gentle folks who shared their hearts w us. Much needed mercies after a week of consecutive high mileage on the road. Next destination: New Orleans, Louisiana!”
November 12, 2016
“Welcome to Louisiana!”
November 17, 2016
“K..to the very sneaky birthday party committee..I did not expect this and yes. I waz surprised like any diabetic who finds out there’s a birthday cake and it’s sugar free, gluten free and you can actually eat it and not go into a coma or take extra insulin for that matter..”
After Sia left Wisconsin, I realized how much I’ve learned during her one-week trip here. Moreover, there were several dialogues where she theoretically entertained topics that are precisely worthy to be reminded in anyone’s adventures as an advocate and voice for her people. Clearly from a heroine, Sia enabled my soul to continue growing for our people. And I thank her everyday for that. Because it is also Diabetes Awareness Month (November), I share this with humbleness across the world with hopes that we are taking precautions and maintaining a healthy goal as examples our Pasifika children can sustain now and in the future.
Happy belated birthday literary queen and God bless your journey with Mario! I am vying in prayers to be at your finish line in California welcoming you in with a cooler of water, real food and hugs.