March 21, 2010

My apologies for veering away from Brazil for a hot second, but I just read this New York Times travel piece about trekking the Anapurna circuit in Nepal.  I did this when I was sixteen.  Actually I turned sixteen in Manang.  It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school and having spent the last three or four summers on outdoor adventure trips–hiking, biking, rock climbing, kayaking– my dad told me that I had to step it up that year, I had to add another element to keep things challenging (welcome to being a Lewy.)  So out of nowhere, kind of, I signed up for this community service trip to Nepal.  We spent a few days in Kathmandu learning basic Nepali, and then did this exact trek, stopping for two weeks in Manang to help clear a space in the valley below of rocks to turn it into a soccer field (the community’s chosen project, not ours). We were there during monsoon season, in July and August, and it rained for most of time until we got over the rain shadow.  We lived with families, and my bed was a wooden slab with my sleeping bag, two ladders up on the top floor.  Our family didn’t speak any English, but they served us rice and dal each night, and sometimes mustard greens, and butter tea, made with rancid yak’s milk butter.  I spent my birthday there, taking over the kitchen of one of the guesthouses with my friends to make chocolate chip cookies with scavenged super coarse sugar and chopped up Hersheys bars.  In my memory they tasted amazing.  When we left Manang, they gave us white scarves for good luck, and I had tied mine to my backpack.  It waved behind me as we hiked up and over Thorong La.  I remember feeling giddy and drunk from the altitude, but fine, and really in the best shape of my young life.

I don’t know why reading someone else’s account of this similar experience made me so defensive of my own.  Maybe because I was so young I just internalized it.  Like so many other things, I just didn’t wrap my head around writing it for anything other than my college essay.  It was a beautiful place though, something I know I am lucky to have seen, and even luckier now that they’re building a road over the trekking path that’s been there for thousands of years.


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