600km Walking Pilgrimage through Spain

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on September 2 2008

From the moment I discovered an ancient pilgrimage path in Spain in June last year, the attraction of walking hundreds of kilometres towards an assured destination grew on me daily. My eagerness to go on a month-long journey on foot across the steep slopes, lush valleys and forests of the Pyrenees, and through countless small towns and villages, was part of a subconscious quest to find depth and meaning in my life. At the age of 33, I was approaching – prematurely, perhaps – what seemed to be a mid-life crisis.

Straits Times Life! Article,Denise Chng Lisan,Camino de Santiago,Camino Frances

Letter from Quebec: Preserving Heritage

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on November 8 2008

'TRAVEL is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,' wrote Miriam Beard. Life in Quebec is now my teacher, pointing out my knowledge gaps and honing my ideas of living - be it language, culture, life-skills, or the environment.

Denise Chng Lisan

Day 1: L'Arche

Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Sunday, September 09, 2007
My break started for me today. And today is a very special day.

A dear friend told me that since I'm going to be in London, I should give Alice a call. Alice is from Malaysia and she quit her job to move to London and volunteer/work in L'Arche community full-time. Without knowing her, I was already looking forward to meet this girl of character. She must be, to have made the choice she made.

L'Arche is an international community for people with learning disabilities and assistants. L'Arche was started and found by Jean Vanier who is known to be modern day's male version of Mother Theresa. He bought a dilapidated house in France and welcomed the first two men who came from an institute for the mentally handicapped. Today L'Arche has grown to be a global network of communities with people volunteering as assistants from around the world.

Alice invited me to Gothic Lodge to have lunch with her housemates. This is one of the houses where they live. They were all so open that I felt immediately at ease. Carol kissed me the moment I went into the house. I followed Terry who was so independent getting to the video store to borrow a video. Betty made me caress her head. And Maggie kept asking me to come - where, I do not know. I asked Alice how she refers to them, and she replied "special people". Indeed.

I really hadn't planned for this encounter. It found me. And the experience, though brief, set me thinking quite intensely - about the meaning of life and giving.

In the morning I wasn't planning on going to mass to meet Alice. But I ended up in church thinking that I could find her there. It turned out that the message was something I needed to hear.

I had an afternoon of deep sharing with Alice, and was inspired by her strength, her authenticity and her experience. She makes me want to cry - cry about how life could be so bittersweetly beautiful. Words are so inadequate to express.




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