I am writing this in my journal from my guesthouse in Syange, Nepal. Syange is a small village squished between the Marghayahdhi river and a waterfall – a waterfall my guesthouse is at the base of. Today was a mostly gentle trek through the villages of this valley – I’ve seen this river quite a lot, as we climb and dip alongside it. So much of the hills here are terraced for farming. Presently it is corn season, and in a few months when the rainy season begins they will grow rice in the same terraces.
There’s a lot of farm animals. Cows, goats, and chickens mostly. There were twin baby goats on the trail shortly after long, one of whom sneezed so forcefully its whole body lifted from the ground. When it regained its footing, it wobbled over to a dog and snuggled down next to it.
Unfortunately, baby goats do not travel well in my pack. Not to mention I think customs might have something to say about that. And, more importantly, my mother might object to driving around Scotland with a Nepalese goat bleating in the backseat of our rental car.
There are only two people on this trek currently. Michelle is the other woman, a twenty-eight year old from Ohio/Arizona who just came from a Buddhist meditation course and before that, a few weeks in a yoga ashram in South India.
My porter is Bishnu, the only male among us. I could probably pick him up and spin him around he’s so tiny, but somehow he carries my pack and his own without difficulty. Our guide is Sanu, a thirty year old Nepalese woman that has been a guide for eight years. There’s also Michelle’s porter, Kolpana and then there’s Tess, a Canadian recent college graduate who hired a porter from the same company and is shadowing our group for the trail.
We’re to be joined in the next few days by another girl and her father, so there will be maintain at higher altitudes. We’re not always paced together, which is nice because I get to do a fare amount of thinking.
My thoughts stumble through compassion vs. empathy vs. sympathy, through memories of previous hikes and all the people I’ve hiked with. There’s a few people I miss in particular and I’ve thought of hugging them when I see them – a thought that comes, strangely (or not so strangely, according to the science of memory) with the memory of how they smell.
I thought about my experience at 12 in t he two week hiking program at Girl Scout Camp where I was that fat kid that could barely do the trails. That experience taught me a lot about outdoor leadership, but that wasn’t what made me think about it. I was wondering what the girls would think of me now. Michelle pointed out that it was more important what that 12 year old me would think. Which I suppose is true. But that 12 year old me seems like a very different person.
We are many people, at once. I am that 12 year old struggling up Mt. Katahadin. I am the 15 year old me making the scars so many people here ask me about. I am the 18 year old me, a freshman at college, in love with a woman. I am the 21 year old who dragged her asthmatic overweight ass up a mountain in Cambodia to see carvings in a riverbed. I am the 24 year old who spent her first night in India miserable, freezing cold, abandoned in a strange apartment in Guragon with a roaring UTI (that 24 year old woke up at 4 am shaking violently from the cold and cried herself back to sleep). I am all of these women, and none of them.
Lots of thoughts to have with one eye on the trail (to keep my klutzy self on the trail) and one eye on the cascading rice paddies.