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March 7, 2008



Sorry, I can't understand you

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There are people who undertake ambitious projects only to end up somewhere short of completion. And then there is Mark Boyle. The 20-something peace activist and two friends set out in late January to walk from Bristol, England, to the birthplace of Mohandas Gandhi, one of history's greatest activists. Now, Gandhi was from Porbandar, India, roughly 9,000 miles from Bristol. But Boyle figured the trek was doable in 2-1/2 years. And, just to make it more memorable, he and his pals would rely on the kindness of strangers almost every step of the way ... because they weren't carrying any money for food, shelter, or other needs. For these, they expected to exchange their friendship and labor. Or, as Boyle's website put it, their lives would be their message. So, how's it going? Well, it's almost as though they never left home. That's because they ran into a problem as soon as they crossed the English Channel into France: They don't speak French and few of the people they met spoke English. "They also see us," Boyle wrote in his blog, "as free-loading backpackers, which is the complete opposite of what this pilgrimage is about. That really scared us." Cold, weary, and down to a candy bar, a bag of trail mix, and three cans of soup, they gave up and returned to hoof it around England instead. But Boyle expects to try again next year ... after he learns fran├žais.

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