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Individuals of all economic strata are shedding their jobs, hometowns, and lifestyle to embrace a wider experience and a more meaningful existence.

Norma Bastidas

Norma BastidasNorma Bastidas was born on November 1st, 1967 in Mazatlan, Mexico, where she spent years of her life struggling to keep her family together after her father's death when she was 11.

She was raped by her grandfather amid those years of struggling to survive, but was determined to move on to a much better life.

Being a beautiful young girl she began modeling and was recruited to model in Japan, but on arrival found that it was not really modelling, but instead a scam which used young recruits from abroad who were vulnerable as escorts and even prostitutes.

Her dream of making good money as a model turned into a nightmare of human trafficking in a foreign country where she did not even speak the language.

Eventually she learned some Japanese and after an unsuccessful and violent attempt to confront the police, members of a convent helped her escape to Canada where she later met her husband.

Bastidas found herself turning to alcohol to numb the pain and shame of her past, which lead to the end of her marriage.

The discovery that her oldest son, Karl, had Cone Rod Dystrophy, an incurable condition that causes vision impairment followed.

Norma Bastidas"I knew I was putting my kids at risk not being present. And I needed to be present to find a solution," says Bastidas.

"So I started running at night. Because I didn't want my children to hear me crying."

Bastidas also has climbed the seven highest peaks on each continent, to raise money to find a cure for childhood genetic blindness.

Today, Bastidas is the second person in history, and the fastest female in history, to run seven of the planet's most hardcore environments on seven different continents.

She is the first to do it all in just seven months through the thick jungles of Brazil and over the driest deserts in the world.

She did this all in support of the blind and visually impaired. She also shattered numerous triathlon records along the way in accomplishing this remarkable feat.

At the time, CNN chronicled Bastidas harrowing 3,762 mile journey, which was beset by malfunctioning technology, wildlife attacks, and roadside accidents.

Norma BastidasiEmpathize, a non profit run by a friend, Brad Riley, who runs the anti-trafficking group, filmed the entire trip, which is the subject of a feature-length documentary called "Be Relentless."

An Indiegogo campaign hoped to raise a total $50,000 to complete the project.

Although this journey took her to many locations around the world, the cause behind it is something that hits home for her.

Three years ago, Normas oldest son Karl had been diagnosed with Cone Rod Dystrophy, a progressive condition with no cure.

As a single parent supporting herself and her two sons, Bastidas found Karl's diagnosis to be an emotionally draining experience. To relieve the stress, Norma had began to run – and she has never stopped.

She had overcame poverty, rape, abuse and addiction, so this was just another opportunity to teach her kids the incredible strength of the human spirit.

Just over a three month period, Bastidas ran seven of the hardest ultra marathons on earth as an ambassador for her son and the millions of other people around the world living with visual impairments.

Norma BastidasBastidas sees the experience as a metaphor for the incredible trials faced every day by the visually impaired.

"Ultras are tough physically and emotionally," admits Bastidas, "but the challenge is only temporary. After I finish an ultra race, my life goes back to normal. But people with visual impairments have to keep overcoming huge challenges every day of their lives."

Bastidas had finished her seventh race in Switzerland on July 11th, 2009 and had run 1272 kilometers in 7 months.

Bastidas has chosen to support CNIB, Foundation Fighting Blindness and Operation Eyesight Universal an international initiative to show her son Karl that he is not alone – that there are people around the world who are as strong and amazing as he is.

She also believes her work will show both her children that we can all have a positive impact on the lives of other people and change the world around them.

Some people may call her crazy, but Norma Bastidas is simply a mother who would go to the end of the world and back for her children.

Her son is now 22 years old and she started advocating for him when he was only 11 years old. As he grew he started to advocate for himself, so she had to step to the side and let him do it.

Norma BastidasBastidas had built a platform as an activist by then so she decided to utilize it to raise awareness about sexual violence and human trafficking because of her own personal history.

Her intention was to speak about it at a couple of events only, but soon realized we desperately needed to have this conversation.

Her children are her inspiration and most ardent supporters. Speaking out about sexual violence is extremely hard, both because of her personal history and because there is still a tendency to victim blame, but her children have always stood by her and reminded her that she has nothing to be ashamed of.

Karl, in particular, has inspired her deeply because she sees him deal with his disability with so much grace.

He has difficult days, especially because he chose a profession that is difficult for a person with a visual impairment, but Bastidas has never heard him complain and he gives nothing but his best at all times.

Bastidas never thought her own life was going to be as large as it is now. When she was a kid they hardly had anything.

Her only dream growing up was that she might attend university. It was something that was not available to her then because they did not have money and families in Mexico did not make education for women a priority.

Norma BastidasThe 49-year-old mother-of-two is a celebrated ultra-marathoner, known to have trekked 150 miles across the scorched deserts of Namibia or run double-marathons over an icy tundra in Antarctica.

"I have competed in international ultramarathon races of up to 150 miles in the most unforgiving environments but my most difficult journey was the internal one."

"Running literally from my current home in Canada to my birthplace in Mexico was symbolic of the inner journey I had embarked upon. Running, no matter how long was never difficult, but standing still was."

Over the course of 65 days in 2014, Bastidas ran, biked, and swam from Cancun, Mexico, to Washington DC.

"When we looked at the distances of what it was going to take to swim, bike, and run from Cancun to DC, the numbers were immediately there. I was going to almost triple the men's record."

She would do six to 10 miles in the water, day after day. Then when it switched to the bike she would do anywhere from 100 to 120 miles, day after day.

And then she would run anywhere from 30 to 40 miles, up to even 100 miles straight.

Norma BastidasAs much as setting the record was about gaining recognition for the problem of human trafficking, Bastidas says it was also about proving to other survivors that circumstances, and self-perceptions, can change.

"It's been an incredibly long journey. I wish I could tell them it takes only one or two steps, but it is a commitment. I cannot undo what has been done."

On February 2nd, 2019 Bastidas will be running the self-supported non-stop 450-Mile Yukon Arctic Race to raise awareness about the murder and disappearance of indigenous women and girls all over the world.

Especially those who disappeared along the Highway of Tears; a 450 mile stretch of road between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

Ninety-four percent of indigenous women are victims of sexual violence in their lifetime. In Canada alone, there is an estimate of 4,000 indigenous women and girls missing.

The Highway of Tears has been a particular dangerous area. The Highway of Tears, along Highway 16 is known as the "Highway of Tears" because of the high number of indigenous women who have disappeared or been murdered along this road.

Norma BastidasAccording to Outside Magazine, the Yukon Arctic Race is considered one of the toughest in the world. The race takes place on part of a trail built each year by the Canadian Rangers for the Yukon Quest, a 1,000-mile dogsled race, and it is as much a feat of logistics as it is an athletic contest.

It is continuous, not a stage; competitors are self-sufficient, carrying all their camping and survival gear, spare layers, food, and water in sleds they pull behind them.

Temperatures are cold enough to kill and it is dark for roughly 14 hours everyday. The race will be a difficult and dangerous journey for Bastidas, however, it will not be as dangerous as the journey that awaits thousands of indigenous women and girls around the world on route to school, work, or visiting friends.

This is an epidemic that exists because we do not care enough to demand an end to violence against indigenous women. It is time the victim's families have an answer to their questions about their missing loved ones.

I am also training to compete as part of a team in the Great Pacific Race in 2020. It is a race that happens every two years going from Monterrey California to Hawaii, with over 2600 miles of nonstop rowing.

Bastidas has also started training and generally learning how to row for the last 4 months. She was not sure she was going to like it, but it was just something that caught her attention and after her first row she absolutely fell in love with it.

Norma BastidasBastidas spends most of her days now training and thinking as a rower, still enjoying running, but now most looks forward to being in the water rowing. The bad part is the isolation.

Bastidas mostly trains alone and since she is not competing in running races I does not have the usual group of people she used to talk to in her life anymore, there are times that she would like to go back to her old life, the running life, not because it is what she wants but because she liked belonging.

Bastidas knows that transitioning to Ocean Rowing is what she should be doing because she wants more than running ultra races was giving her in terms of experience and growth, except for a couple of races that she still would like to do such as the Yukon Ultra and the Barkleys Marathon.

Her documentary is still making its rounds around the world so once in a while she gets to travel and speak but it seems to be slowing down.

So I keep training, keep growing and don't worry if it is taking a long time or if it is hard, you have to make a decision, do you want it or not?

If you do then you just have to keep going until you archieve your goal, it's that simple.

Norma Bastidas

Don't focus on what your talents are, just follow your passion. As a kid I was never encouraged to run because I never excelled at it. I grew up believing that and it was not until I was 41 that I went on to break a world record in running. Never underestimate the power of perseverance.


Keynote Speaker at Visionary Women: Norma Bastidas

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Bonesetters Waiting Room

In the Bonesetter's Waiting Room:
Travels Through Indian Medicine

BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week India defies definition, and the story of medicine in India is similarly rich and complex: shaped by unique challenges and opportunities, uniting cutting-edge technological developments with ancient cultural traditions, fuelled by political changes which transformed the lives of millions and moulded by the energy of forceful individuals. Here, Aarathi Prasad investigates how Indian medicine came to be the way it is. Her travels will take her to bonesetter clinics in Jaipur and Hyderabad and the waiting-rooms of Bollywood's best plastic surgeons, and introduce her to traditional healers as well as the world-beating heart surgeon who is revolutionising treatment of the poor around the globe.

Like a Virgin

Exploring the Frontiers of Conception

Sexual evolution is a slippery business. Like all mammals, we humans seem to have been left no choice in the matter: even though it is costly, inefficient and dangerous, if we want to reproduce we simply have to have sex. Yet most human cultures tell the tale of a maiden who gives birth untouched by a man; and in the wild there are plenty of creatures – such as turkeys, komodo dragons, sharks and the ‘Jesus Christ’ lizard (which walks on water, too) – that take various approaches to reproducing without sex.

In LIKE A VIRGIN, the biology writer Aarathi Prasad discusses how reproduction without sex is achieved in animals and explores why evolution hasn’t made it an option for humans – yet. In doing so, she provides a quirky, entertaining and perceptive overview of the mysteries of evolutionary biology, sex and reproduction – past, present and future.

It’s a remarkable story that ranges across Greek mythology, natural history, agriculture, conservation and medicine; takes in some of the most exciting areas of developmental genetics and molecular biology that other popular science books largely ignore; and is packed full of a cast of amazing characters, be they obscure animals or eccentric scientists such as the respected geneticist Dr Helen Spurway who in the UK in the 1950s unwittingly sparked a nationwide search for a virgin mother.

There is now a plethora of strategies being developed in reproductive medicine that could ultimately keep our species going in a world of embellished sex: the creation of artificial eggs and sperm from bone marrow, labs-on-chips on which eggs are fertilized, silicone wombs and artificial wombs (where fetuses can spend their full nine months), and even research to prepare us for reproduction in space. What’s more, we are finally beginning to understand what genetic modifications are needed to allow for the creation of women who could have babies without having sex. Now that we have the competent hand of science in our lives, will girls still need men?

Publisher: Oneworld (UK/US)
Pub Date: 16 August 2012
Status: Draft manuscript
Length: 288 pages

All rights available excluding:
UK & Commonwealth, US, Arabic (Arab Scientific), Japan (East Press)

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Yabanci is a book by a Dutch woman who moved from Holland to Turkey to start a new life in a Turkish village overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. A great read for those who are considering a move abroad or have lived in a different culture. Available in English as an ebook or in Dutch in both print and popular ebook formats... take a look

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