Q&A With Paul Salopek

As some of you know, Carrie James, Shari Tishman, and I just returned from a trip to Tbilisi, Georgia to visit Paul on behalf of the whole Out of Eden Learn community. It was an incredibly rich and generative trip – details of which we will write about in due course. We wanted to start the reporting-back process by sharing some responses that Paul provided to a selection of the questions that you sent in for him via email and social media. Paul was deeply impressed by the range and breadth of students’ questions and enjoyed answering them. Please note that while I took detailed written notes, the responses below are not Paul’s exact words.

From Pam Sengos’ class, Oregon, USA:

Even though some cultures are richer or poorer than others, are they all happy? I would like Paul to look at the reasons people are happy and what country they live in.

Studies have been done which show that contrary to what we might think, most people are happy. Even displaced people I have met exhibit joy in everyday things – a power that keeps me going. The media tends to focus on unhappiness because it is dramatic. While the stories that the media report on are true, their overall representation of life is not true. Most people, even if they are not happy are at least satisfied with their lives.

From Rob Martin’s class, Chennai, India:

Are you scared of ISIS or other possible terrorist groups?

Yes – fear is good and it keeps you alive. But you should know that now I am nowhere near ISIS.

Have you ever felt like giving up on this journey?

Not yet. So far it has been completely energizing. However, there may come a time when I do want to give up, and I hold the right to stop walking before I reach my planned final destination.

From Natalie Belli’s class, Massachusetts, USA:

How are your guides chosen?

Sometimes I tap into my network of other journalists or writers. I call friends who are reporters and ask them if they can recommend someone. I like using reporters as guides because they have the kinds of skills I need: they know plenty of people and are used to moving among and talking to radically different people. When that strategy doesn’t work then I make friends with someone who will put the word out for me – usually someone steps forward. My friend Dennis says: “Crazy people always find other crazy people.” My most recent guide, Vito, who was only 18 years old when he walked with me, was recommended to me by his English teacher. She said that he was a hardworking and responsible young man who enjoyed being outdoors. She was right.

From Marianella Nunez’s class, Florida, USA:

What is your favorite food that you have tasted during your journey?

I have tasted many delicious foods but I particularly enjoy khachapuri, a type of cheese bread that is very popular here in Tbilisi, Georgia.

khachapuri

From Megan Hunt’s class, Virginia, USA:

Do you like this type of journalism better than the kind you used to do?

Yes. The Out of Eden Walk is actually a continuation of the kind of journalism I used to do, which was long form journalism that involved spending a lot of time with people. But now I spend even longer getting to know people and places.

From Chris Sloan’s class, Utah, USA:

How do people around Tbilisi react to your presence? Are they cautious or welcoming?

Most people don’t know me here thank goodness. I’m still anonymous, which is how I work best. But the ones I have met are very warm and welcoming.

From Michael Reeb’s class, Maryland, USA:

Can you talk about how you made the decision to walk the seven-year journey?

I’ve been traveling my whole life. This is one seven-year journey on a road that’s so far lasted 53 years.

From Bob Carroll’s class, Virginia, USA:

What has been the biggest treat you’ve rewarded yourself with in the last year?

Stopping long enough on the trail to read books, such as novels.

From Deb McLean’s preschool class, Massachusetts, USA:

Will you have a new animal to walk with you?  If it’s a duck, maybe Mrs. McLean will buy us a stuffed animal duck like she bought us Seema and Fares [your camels].*

A duck is an excellent idea, thank you for suggesting it. Maybe the duck could carry my backpack for me.

*With Deb’s permission, here’s a picture of Fares and Seema in action in her classroom:

Fares and Seema

7 comments

  1. Enjoyed reading students’ questions and Paul’s responses. Thanks for posting!

  2. Enjoyed reading students’ questions and Paul’s responses. I am wondering if the two camels would be available as toy models for purchase. Would leave a lasting memory!

    1. Thanks for your comment. I’ve updated the blog post to include an adorable picture of Fares and Seema the two stuffed camels, courtesy of teacher Deb McLean.

      1. Deb McLean · ·

        Wish it was that easy! Locating two camels to purchase proved to be quite a challenging task! However, their presence has certainly deepened my young students’ connection with Paul and his journey. I am not so sure Fares and Seema could ever truly be replaced with a duck …but we would like to thank Paul for his consideration and good humor.

  3. Bob Carroll · · Reply

    I really like that the Out of Eden Learn team is giving the project so much time and attention. I’ve been involved with a whole lot of educational projects where the people behind the scenes just keep going further and further behind the scenes which makes the project just kind of dissapear. You have been great at emailing me answers to questions and keeping this things working great AND getting better. I hope to participate with all of my classes in the coming years.

    1. I appreciate your comment Bob. Obviously a lot of the success of Out of Eden Learn depends on dedicated and enthusiastic teachers like yourself. Another main reason why we’re able to keep things up is because of the generous and ongoing support we receive from the Abundance Foundation. And while things are not always seamless at our end – and we are learning a lot as we go – it is a genuine pleasure to work on this project.

  4. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for sharing questions and answers from our class. We are truly enjoying the Out of Eden Learn experience.

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