Tough times in India |

Tough times in India

Veronica Whitney
Vail Daily/Coreen Sapp Polly Letofsky, right, and BOB, her stroller, faced the toughest stretch of their journey in India. "Two and a half years into the walk, I was losing my mind in India," Letofsky said. Pictured with Letofsky is Debbi Linker, a cancer survivor.

“Hi, BOB!” Polly Letofsky greeted her walking partner of five years after returning from a walk to downtown Estes Park.On Tuesday, BOB was parked by an RV where Letofsky was staying while in Estes Park, one of the last legs of her five-year-walk around the world. BOB, which stands for Beast of Burden, is a custom-made, high-tech stroller that can carry 70 pounds of gear and has accompanied Letofsky on her 14,000-mile walk to raise breast cancer awareness.Parts of their history together are tattooed on BOB’s nylon body: dozens of patches and pins from cities and organizations around the world and hundreds of signatures from some of the people Letofsky has met during her Globalwalk. BOB even has its own license plate from Minnesota, where Polly originally is from.”I lost (BOB) in Calcutta for seven months and I had to go through Turkey carrying my stuff. It was a mess,” she said.’Losing my mind’ After walking across the western United States, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, Letofsky faced what she calls the toughest stretch of her trip: India.”The toughest time was the center of India, the very center of the Globalwalk,” she said. “Two and a half years into the walk, I was losing my mind in India. I was so confused and frustrated because I never knew what was going on around me.”Unlike people she met in other countries, Letofsky felt in India she couldn’t rely on anybody.”Everybody wears watches in India, but time doesn’t mean anything to people in India,” she said. “That’s why nothing gets done. They are still in the 12th century there.”If they don’t know something, they’ll make it up. So you never know when they’re giving you the right information,” she added. “I was supposed to be there five months and I bolted through the country in three.”Letofsky rolled her eyes and smiled when she described Indian people.”They are very invasive people,” she said. “They would knock on your door in the middle of the night and say, ‘Madam, madam, I have friend that wants to meet you’,” Letofsky said with an accent that reminds you of Peter Sellers in “The Party,” Blake Edwards’ movie about an Indian movie extra who ends up at the wrong party.Sometimes, tensions were so high and she was so stressed out, she had to constantly calm herself down, she said. “I wasn’t afraid for my life. I was scared I would hurt somebody in India,” she said. “I never felt like quitting, not even when I was in India.”Even then my thought process was, ‘Well, this is awful, make a plan,'” she said. To deal with her feelings of despair, Letofsky wrote her journal.”When I go back to those days, I can feel my anger,” she said. “I had to stop writing journals in India for my Web page because they were so angry.”

Still, Letofsky said she managed to make the best out of it.”One time, as riots were breaking out between Muslims and Hindus outside my hotel, I ordered room service and watched ‘Friends’ and ‘Seinfeld,’ my favorite sitcoms,” she said.Sept. 11Letofsky’s bubbly personality only deflates when she talks about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks.”It was awful,” she said her eyes filling with tears. “I was in Malaysia, where people aren’t emotional about anything. In the Asian society there is no emotion. I was surrounded by government-controlled press. I couldn’t talk about it with anyone.”Even though she met thousands of people during her trip, Letofsky, who is single, said she never fell in love.”A former boyfriend came to visit me and we had a lovely time cruising Europe,” she said. “I met very interesting people but I was so focused on other things. Maybe it helped that I was older when I left. I wasn’t 21.”Her focus also kept her from looking back during her trip, she said.”I love America. But I didn’t have a craving when I was overseas,” she said. “Maybe a craving for the simplicity of it, good products and good services.”Though Letofsky accepted rides at the end of the day from some of her hosts, she still managed to walk every step. “We always mark the exact spot where I stop – usually with a ribbon or a pile of rocks on the road – then they drop me at that exact spot the next morning,” she said.Following her frustrations in India, Letofsky was looking forward to being in Europe. But when she got there, she was disappointed, she said.”It was shocking after the world I’ve experienced,” she said.Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at ==========================================

Global walk for Breast Cancer Statistics • Breast cancer survivors that have walked with Polly -1,800• Number of sick days -0• How many times Polly has had food poisoning -3 (Luxembourg, Missouri and Australia) • Pairs of shoes Polly has walked through -27• Number of times Polly’s been asked how many pairs of shoes she has walked through – 8,400. • Number of countries Polly has walked through -22• Miles Polly had when she reached the Colorado/Kansas border -14,100 • Amount of money Polly has found along side of the road -$49.93 • Newspaper interviews and feature articles -886 • Newspapers that have gotten all the facts straight – 6 • Times that Polly had to call police -3 • Times police have been called due to horny men -3 • Number of maps used -761 • Number of Bibles Polly has been given -15 • Hottest temperature Polly had to walk in (in India, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Greece and Turkey) – 110 • Coldest temperature Polly had to walk (in Iowa) – -10 • Most miles walked in one day -28

• Richter scale in California earthquake -7.2 • Number of forest fires Polly had to run through -5 • Number of men Polly met with breast cancer -5 • Number of boxes full of gifts that have been sent to Mom’s house for storage -36Read Polly’s journals on Welcome home celebration Polly Letofsky is expected to start her way down Vail Pass at 8 a.m., July 30. Friends, family and people she has met throughout the world will meet Letofsky at Gore Creek campground for the final segment of her five-year journey. The group will stop for a picnic lunch at Ford Park around 12:30 p.m. Letofsky is expected to complete her walk at about 3:30 p.m. in the Lionshead area of Vail Village. Billy’s Island Grill, in Lionshead, will host Letofsky’s welcome home celebration with food and drink specials.========================================================================================To contributeMake donations to the Breast Cancer Fund/GlobalWalk, 2107 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, California, 94115-3419. Or call 1-866-760-8223.================================================

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