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Hairston’s many travels have taken her across the globe
Katherine Hairston flips through an album of pictures from one of her many travels. Hairston has visited all 50 states and several countries, including Switzerland, Greece and Colombia. A retired teacher, she urges others to explore new places. “I like to encourage children to be all they can be. When they see things concerning other parts of the world, they become interested in other parts of the world,” she said. (Bulletin photo)
Friday, September 27, 2013
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
— St. Augustine
Traveler Katherine Hairston, of the Carver community, said she agrees.
For Hairston, a retired Henry County teacher and a substitute teacher, travel is education. She also said travel is fun, relaxing and an opportunity to spend time with loved ones or to make new friends.
Travel is a chance to get away from one’s problems, see the beauties of nature and the manmade world, to appreciate and understand other cultures and peoples. It’s a chance to broaden one’s horizons.
The 80-year-old has been to all 50 states and a number of other countries, including Austria, Germany, Switzerland, England, France, the Bahamas, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Aruba, four provinces of Canada, Barbados, Jamaica, Colombia and Panama.
Hairston has walked the streets of Corinth, Greece, where the Apostle Paul walked, and visited the last home of Mary, the mother of Jesus, on a hill in Ephesus, Turkey. Both of those experiences made the Bible more real and meaningful to her, she said.
She described being awestruck at the sight of the Acropolis, an ancient citadel on a high rocky outcrop above the city of Athens, Greece, and the site of the Parthenon, an ancient temple.
In Vatican City, she thought the allotted 20 minutes was too short a time to admire the Sistine Chapel, which has frescoes by Michelangelo and others. “I would like to lie on the floor and look up for 30 minutes,” she said.
Among the other stops in Italy were Rome and Florence. In Rome, “the hotel room was beautiful. If the chandelier wasn’t gold, it looked like it,” Hairston said.
Glacier National Park in Montana also was beautiful, she said, and she enjoyed seeing the red rocks of Sedona, Ariz., and the church built into the red rock formations.
She went water rafting in Canada with a group of teachers. “I couldn’t believe I would do that,” she said.
Hairston visited Point Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point of Alaska situated on the Arctic Ocean, on summer solstice (the longest day of the year). The sun, low in the sky, never set, and sunlight was dimmest from about midnight to about 2 a.m., she said. She and a fellow traveler declined an opportunity to become members of the Polar Bear Club by taking a swim in the frigid Arctic Ocean.
In Hawaii, she climbed to the top of Diamond Head, which, according to state parks and tourism/travel web sites, is an extinct volcanic crater and lookout point at its about 760-foot-high peak.
Hairston also recalled heated sidewalks in cold Minnesota.
In Maine, she heard about a school with seven students on an island off the coast. Later, when she was teaching in Henry County, she asked students to write the students at that Maine school and one of the Maine students wrote back.
She reminisced about the bonds that formed between members of a group that traveled to Mount Rushmore and their hating to leave each other at the end of the trip, and that happened on other trips as well.
Hairston recalled trips with her grandchildren to such places as Orlando, Atlanta, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Broadway shows, the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’ home, government sites, cathedrals, museums and other places were among the stops. She and her husband, Curtis, have one son, Curtis Jr. of Richmond, and three grandchildren, Cara Hairston, 16, Jordan Hairston, 20, and Justina Treadgill, 27.
Friend and former co-worker Judy Hodge stated in an email: “Katherine S. Hairston and I just came back from a 10-day Amtrak guided tour west from Chicago to Flagstaff, Ariz. We toured Chicago, Santa Fe, the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Jerome, Ariz., and Montezuma Castle (cliff dwellings). Katherine and I toured Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles on our own. The most interesting thing about this trip is Katherine. She will be 81 in October. She ... still subs (substitute teaches) and is active in her church, sorority and numerous organizations.
“... She is extremely knowledgeable about travel and Amtrak trains. Katherine also shares her travels with the students on her sub jobs if it works with the sub plans.”
“I am 63 and she outwalked and taught me so much during our 13-day adventure. She was able to give tips to the other members of our group of 10 who came from several states and Canada,” Hodge wrote.
Hairston taught at Leatherwood, Mary Hunter and Campbell Court elementary schools; Collinsville Primary; Figsboro Elementary; and Rich Acres Elementary, from which she retired.
She is a member of the Virginia Education Association (delegate to many conventions), National Education Association (delegate to many conventions), Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Red Hatters Society and First Baptist Church East Martinsville (former Sunday school teacher and other activities), she stated. She was president of the Henry County Education Association for three years in the late 1980s.
“I like to encourage children to be all they can be. When they see things concerning other parts of the world, they become interested in other parts of the world,” she said.
Adults too can learn from travel, Hairston said. “It really helps you to understand other people and have a greater appreciation of other places,” she said.
For instance, she didn’t appreciate the difficulty of not being able speak the native language until she was on a trip to Europe and people on the streets didn’t understand her, and vice versa. She got her tour guide to teach her to say, “Excuse me,” and “Thank you,” in the country’s language, which made the natives smile, she said.
She has a pencil from each of the 50 states and several countries, and magnets from most of the states and several countries.
The No. 1 place she still wants to visit is Australia. “I’ve been to the top of the world. Now I want to go to the bottom of the world,” she said.