Sherry Moentmann, walking to Mount Doom
Sherry Moentmann teaches English, has published one YA (Young Adult) novel, and — no surprise here — loves to read. Walking, not so much. But when the Seward County Community College Wellness Center issued a walking challenge to employees across campus, Moentmann found motivation to move.
“It was the Department vs. Department Step challenge in April that got me started,” she recalled. “I knew I needed to start exercising for the purpose of my health, but I also knew I needed a motivator.” When Moentmann discovered the online mobile tool from The Conqueror virtual events company, she initially focused on geography-connected challenges — walking the Appalachian Trail, or taking a cross-country trek.
Participants could log their steps to tally mileage, which the app then applied to the real-life routes — maybe a trip along the ancient ruins of Hadrian’s Wall in England, or the legendary Camino de Santiago. When they reached a certain landmark, the app displayed a postcard; some of the challenges offered a street view.
“I did a challenge that routed me through Ireland — virtually — and it made the time go faster and gave me a feeling of accomplishment,” she said. “The campus focus on walking for wellness was what got me started, but I knew I needed to continue.”
When Moentmann saw the tab labelled LOTR (Lord of the Rings) on The Conqueror website, she knew immediately that she’d found her next challenge.
“I’ve been walking in the Hobble Building, appreciating the air conditioning, and I’m following the route that Tolkien describes in the classic Lord of the Rings trilogy,” she said. “So I might be walking past the math and science division office, and I think, ‘I’ve nearly gotten to the Prancing Pony pub,’ and it makes it much more fun.”
In the novels, Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, embarks on an arduous journey that culminates with his ascension up the volcanic, aptly named Mount Doom. Moentmann relished her own journey, and showed off the resulting medal she was awarded for her Irish trek. She plans to keep going in the world of Tolkien, and hopes to ascent Mount Doom herself. Then, who knows? Maybe she will schedule a virtual trek across Europe or through South America.
coming next …
Maria Fe Laguitan, back home on the farm
My life back home is simple and satisfying. It keeps me grounded from any fanciness I experience here in the States.
— Maria Fe Laguitan
“We went to stay at my farm, which I bought when I was 32 and still living in Philippines,” Laguitan said. “I had been working as a university instructor since age 18, and I have always been a nerd, very studious, very frugal.”
Laguitan says the majority of the farm is devoted to sustenance crops. That means rice, along with food that is seasonal.
“Eggplant, okra, string beans. You pick it up in the morning and eat it that night,” she said.
Every Sunday, because shops and buildings are closed, Laguitan embarks on what she calls “a praise day.” It’s a time to tend to the property, express gratitude and show care. That’s what prompted her to clear a patch of ground and till the soil in earnest.
In order to prepare the ground for foundation work, Laguitan employed the resident heavy equipment — a domestic buffalo and a basic plow. She said the process involved the addition of gravel and other materials to offset the saturated soil required to grow rice, the farm’s primary crop.
The plot is destined to support an extension to the main house for Laguitan’s mother to inhabit if she returns to her home country.
Her mother came to the United States “halfway through her life,” explained Fe Laguitan. “My sisters are also here, Liberty and Lorena … we call ourselves ‘The Three Marias’ and try to be like our mother — strong, full of life.”
For Laguitan, the journey was a combination of many things. Honoring her mother, reconnecting with family and her own roots. It also provided a reminder of why she does the work at SCCC.
“Many of our adult basic education students are from places like this. They experience what I have experienced, working the ground, depending on your labor to eat every night. Education is a pirivilege, and something many of them only dream of achieving.” she says. “That is why my philosophy, my love for my instructors and students is unmeasured.”
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