Tag Archives: backpacking

Attack of the Flesh Eating Ants

This blog is about mpashi, the African flesh eating army ants, which attacked our (my, Molly, Hannah, and Emilie’s) camp last weekend while we were camping near a waterfall. If you would like some background information about these little terrors (which I definitely recommend), check out the wikipedia article here. It gives some idea of what we were dealing with.

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At the top of the waterfall, Easter Day, before the attack.

It’s midnight when I feel the first bites. I slap one off and another bites down. Another and another before I start looking for my light, start wondering what could be going on.

In my tent there are a few ants, which isn’t too odd, but still I decide to go outside to check and make sure that they’re not the bad kind. Maybe I can just kill the few and get back to sleep. As soon as I step out of my tent, though, they’re everywhere. I’ve stepped into a mass of angry ants attacking any skin they can get to. They are climbing my legs, biting onto my toe, holding on. I can hear Hannah yelling to me from the dirt road, though, instructing: “Jenna! Come to the road and take your pants off!”, so I run, screaming, through the mass of army ants who have taken over our campsite to the road, the one place where there are no ants, and proceed to slap everywhere, shaking any remaining ants off of me, shaking them out of my clothes. I have one shoe in my hand, the other I have to assume is by my tent, being attacked by ants.

I ask Hannah, and she had woken to find them flooding into her tent, which was set up under the insaka (cooking shelter) to protect her from the rain.

Some fun facts about mpashi: If they come across a chicken, according to Emilie’s host father “the chicken will be just a skeleton”. If they come across a drunk person who can’t manage to get up? They will eat the person. They will get inside ears, nose, mouth, and work you from all angles until they are full. Also they are very tough to kill. Most methods of getting rid of them include fire, burning them with water full of wash soap, and running away and hiding out until they are done attacking an area. The last method seems to be the one that works the best.

Soon Emilie is awake and we are shouting at her to get over to the road. “Don’t zip your tent! There is no time!” we shout at her, and guide her to the safe area. We’re shaking.

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The four of us, Molly, Emilie, me, and Hannah.

The first step it going down to the river. If you’ve ever read the Poisonwood Bible, you might remember that they have to escape to the river when the village gets attacked by these things, because that is the one place the ants won’t go. So, standing ankle deep in the edge of the river in our underwear, we start systematically killing ants.

I soak my shoe in the river to drown them, and ten minutes later they are finally dead.

We check Emilie’s pajama pants for ants, declare her clear and she puts them on. And immediately gets bitten again, multiple times. So she takes them off again, and we do the first of what will become a surgically precise method of checking items. We check the front, back, inside, outside of the pants. We find an ant, we start all over again. And we don’t allow her to put the pants back on until every part of the pants has been examined multiple times over and declared clear. This is for all our safety, because, as we are coming to realize, one person’s ants are everyone’s ants.

At this point it is past one in the morning, and we don’t know what to do. We try to think of ideas: sleeping on some rocks across the river is one idea, waiting until the amaamas are awake and can help us. At this point, too, Molly is still up at the camp. She was sleeping in a hammock tent, so was safe. So Hannah decides to go up to the camp and check on the situation. Maybe they’ve moved? We hold this thought desperately in our minds as she sneaks up towards the camp. Shes going, getting closer, closer, when we see her light swinging frantically around and see her legs sprinting back to the river.

“They’re there!” she pants. The ants have been traveling, and made it down towards Molly’s tent, apparently, which is where Hannah got to before she started running back to the river. Moments later we see Molly’s light come on, start looking around, and then we see it running towards us on the road.

“Take your pants off!” we yell, but she reassures us that she has shaken them off of her as she ran. The ants had started coming up the lines of her hammock, which is when she made a run for it.

So now it’s two in the morning and we are sitting on some rocks by the river. We have to make a plan, and Molly points out that we really should just work on breaking down the camp so we can just get out of there. These things attack for hours at a time, and if we try to wait them out we have no idea when we are actually going to get out of camp.

So we begin.

The method goes: dive into camp, throw as many things as possible to the road. Systematically check every item over for ants, and when it has been officially cleared it can then be moved into the next pile further up the road, the clean area.

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Inspecting a blanket for mpashi before declaring it “clear”.

We start with the things in our tents, throwing them to the road and checking them one by one: shorts and sleeping bags and tubes of toothpaste, each as carefully as the last, and once all the small things have been checked we go into camp, rip the tent stakes out of the ground and run, tents held one at a time up in the air, out to the road with them to be checked. These are checked over multiple times before they are cleared and moved to the top of the road with everything else.

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The safe spot, where everything that has already been cleared for ants is being kept.

The entire process of removing and clearing items takes around four hours, and by the time we are at the top of the road, eating apples for breakfast and packing our things into our bags it is six in the morning and the sun is nearly coming up. We have officially spent the entire night doing this.

The last items left in camp are Molly’s chacos and my pots and pans. The pans I decide aren’t worth it. They’ll be sacrificed to the ants, because they’re too covered in the ants to get out alive. The chacos, however, are another story. So while me and Emilie work on packing, Hannah and Molly grab some pieces of sugar cane and fling the sandals out of the camp, releasing some ants in the air. They then grab them and run them down to the river where they washed the ants off, and brought them up to declare clear.

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The vast majority of my cooking and kitchen utensils are in this photo, and are now lost to the mpashi.

We are almost done.

It’s light now, our bags are packed, and we have Hannah’s music playing as we hike out. Constantly looking at the ground ahead of us we hike as fast as possible, putting as much space between us and the mpashi ants as possible. We pass one of their lines around half a kilometer up, and start hiking faster, the memory of the ants still haunting us as one or another quickly twitches or slaps an arm or a leg, imaginary ants still crawling all over us and biting down. We escaped the hive, but they still live in our minds.

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Waves of mpashi. So many mpashi.
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Finally made it out to the roadside by 8am, after hiking the first five miles out of camp, then bargaining for a ride for the last five. Happy to be alive and ant-free.
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Chicken and Sunsets

My youngest host sister, Joyce (10/11 years old), came and knocked on my hut this morning around 10:30.
“Come on, Jenna, it’s time for the chicken!”
I looked outside and there she was, plaid skirt, pink top, live chicken and kitchen knife in her hand.
“Come on!!” She implored, and lead me around to the back of the compound.
She the proceeded to walk me through killing the chicken (I’ll spare those details), plucking the feathers, chopping it up and washing it, and then putting it in a pot over the fire to cook for lunch.
I have officially cooked a chicken from scratch.
Anyways, the reason for all of this was that today was PACA day, a day where they have us stay home to learn some of the household chores in the morning, and practice PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) tools on our host families in the afternoon. It involved a good deal of Peace Corps Goal #3.

Goal #3:
Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

So, instead of going to language all morning we stayed at home, doing whatever our host mothers had prepared for us. Which, in my case, was making chicken, nshima, and green for lunch. Yum!
I also did some laundry and swept out my hut.

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I get bored in class and draw on myself.

This past week has flown by, though, with lessons every day and a language simulation (oral exam) on Saturday. And between learning to dress for both the freezing cold mornings and the scorching hot afternoons, making hundreds of flash cards, and learning to prepare chicken, time has been flying by.
But sometimes it does get so slow. I have been getting more and more antsy as the days wear on. We have been inching towards the long awaited one month mark of being here, and I am finally starting to feel a bit settled into the routine! I know the bush path I take to school by heart: I know where the bad sand traps are, where the potholes are, where the rocks are that could trip me up on my bike. I know my routine and am getting used to waking up at six in the morning, when the sun is just starting to rise. I am still not used to how incredible the sunsets are, but they’re too beautiful to really settle in to.

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The sunset.

I have started to go for runs in the evenings after class, something I never liked to do before. I generally find running to be boring and tedious and boring. But it is becoming more and more appealing, and I am staring to really enjoy it! Possibly because it is the only time that I have truly to myself. Where I’m not feeling self concious for sitting in my hut, where I’m not out with other people.
Sometimes I run with Hannah, which is nice, too, because we get a chance to talk and also just to run in silence.

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Me and Hannah, after practicing ukulele on Sunday.

I think I’m slowly getting ready to go out to my site. To have autonomy, to have my own space.
It also means being able to survive in a foreign language, one that I am more and more comfortable with as the days go by, and to be able to go out and do the job I am supposed to do in a new place. A job which I won’t really figure out until I am in my final village. But the tools that they are working to give us are slowly coming together to start to make sense.
In short, I’m starting to be a bit more ready to do all of this.
And excited. Nervous and terrified, yes, but excited too.
I have no idea what each day really brings here, besides a beautiful sunset, but I think it will still be okay.

In the early mornings

Every morning when you wake up it is still dark. The dawn is only just starting to creep in and kick the millions of stars from the pitch black sky, and the roosters have been singing their chorus outside your hut for what feels like hours now.
You unstick the thick mosquito net from the side of your bed and roll out from the sunken middle of your mattress.
It’s time for another day.
You walk outside to the edges of the cornfield to brush your teeth, and the low hills lining the horizon are still blue with dawn. The sky fluctuates between purples and blues and even peaches and greens closer to where the pulsing sun is slowly dragging itself into the sky.
The sun here is bigger than any you have ever seen, but that also comes as a result of living so close to the equator. It is thick and red in this early morning as it gets ready for another day of the dry heat and deep colds that come along with the winter months
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The fields are all dry right now. It has been months since the rainy season and it is nearing the end of the harvest season. Nearly all the maize has been collected, and the corn cobs dry in a giant cache nearby. The maize has been pounded, and the resulting powder is cooked into nshima to make up the staple food for lunches and dinners day in and day out.

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The road to school

But a day can turn from so good, so pleasant and nice, to bad so fast. You put your hand out on the door of your hut and a bee stings you. And you get asked to come into Lusaka, into the medical office, because you are allergic to bee stings and they want to make sure you are really okay. Even though you know you are okay already.
And it’s good they are taking care of you, but by 17:00 when you have spent the entire day sitting around the office, being proded and lectured on how to deal with this in the future, and you have been sitting around for hours, waiting for someone, anyone,  to take you back you your village, you are simply fed up and frustrated.
You have been here for days and it already feels like months. Every day, all day, is scheduled. Government issued pamphlets and assignments and even friends. And all you want is to be settled. Without someone telling you where to be and what to be doing twenty four hours, every day. Without  people watching what you do all the time. Without all the pressures to learn a new language, culture, group of friends. And it all becomes unbearably annoying at times.

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On the way home from school!

But then you get out of the car at your host family’s compound. And the sun is setting behind the swiftly blue-ing hills. And it is deep orange like the morning, and it is still even bigger and grander than any you have ever seen.
And soon the stars will come out: more than you had ever imagined existed.
And your host sisters run up to greet you, “muli bwangi” with their big smiles and questions about your day. And suddenly things feel so much more right again. Things feel more settled.
And, you think to yourself, this is it. This is real life.

One Week in America

I spent the last week on planes on trains on buses, bouncing from city to city. This is nothing new, seeing as I did that for the last few months as I made my way around Asia. But this time the roads are paved and straight, the trains are short and without bunks, and the cities are ones that are familiar. I’ve been seeing friends and family all over the east coast before going back to California for a week before I leave, again, this time for Zambia, this time for the Peace Corps.

Food!
Food!

I keep getting the question. The all important question: are you excited? And I say yes. And they ask, and are you scared? And I say yes. And I do mean these answers, but it is hard for me to completely feel them. I am excited, and I am scared, but at the same time I forget at times that I have these feelings. I am so focused on seeing my friends again, on seeing these cities again, on eating pizza and taking hot showers and sleeping in real beds again that I forget to check in with what I am feeling about leaving again, this time for two years.For twenty seven months.

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And right now? Right now I feel happy, right now I also feel sad. It’s been so exciting to see my friends, some of whom I saw a month ago when I was back in the states, most of whom I won’t see again for a long time. And it has been so exciting to get to go from friend to friend all week, getting lunches, getting dinners with people. Eating foods that I hadn’t had as much access to over the last year, foods that I wont get to eat for a while, again. And getting home so that I can unpack my stuff, I can wash it all, and then pack it up again for my next big adventure!

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Trekking in the Solukhumbu: Part II

Continued from Part I: we made it to Lobuche!

The next two days were shorter: I had been getting sick for the past week or so (I had a bad cold and cough which went to my lungs on the day we crossed Cho-la pass, and was having trouble breathing while hiking in the cold air), so I decided to take a rest day. This worked perfectly, because the plan from here was to hike to Gorakshep, and from there go to Everest Base Camp one day and to the peak of Kala Patthar the next day before coming back to Lobuche. So I stayed in the lodge and Danny and Melissa went up to Gorakshep. They decided not to go to Everest Base Camp (Because there’s really nothing there, especially now since all the Everest expeditions this year were canceled), but went up Kala Patthar the next morning before coming back to Lobuche to meet up with me again! After 1.5 days of resting and taking tons of cold and cough medicine I was much better than before, and ready to keep hiking!

Prayer flags during the one clear part of the day on the way to Chhukhung.
Prayer flags during the one clear part of the day on the way to Chhukhung.

Day 11! It was extremely cloudy and overcast, and we decided to, instead of going over the Kongma la pass and not getting any views, we would just go around and take it a bit easier on ourselves. We already got one amazing pass experience, so we were content with that. This brought us to Chhukhung, at 4,730m/15,500ft. Here we rented equipment for ice climbing and got ready to go to Island Peak!

Day 12 we had a short hike to the Island Peak Base Camp, at 4,970m/16,300ft. Here we were going to be camping, so we set up tents and settled in. We were supposed to take day 13 as an acclimatization day at Base Camp, but we decided that, since we had been at high altitude for a week already, we didn’t need it. That meant that we would be waking up at midnight that night to do the climb to Island Peak!

At Base Camp we also met our climbing Sherpa who taught us how to clip into fixed ropes and use the ascending and descending clips to go up and down the slope on the rope line. At the top of Island Peak there is a period of time where there are fixed ropes on the ice, and you use those plus heavy-duty plastic boots with crampons to ascend to the peak. So we spent some time that afternoon getting used to climbing up a steep slope on lines, harnessed in and everything!

That night we went to sleep early and woke up at midnight. We had some oatmeal, as much as we could eat at that hour and then set off: day 13 was officially under way.

Sunrise at Island Peak.
Sunrise at Island Peak.

The first few hours were brutal. They were switchbacks covered in a thin layer of snow, and above all we could see were the headlamps of hikers who had started earlier than us constantly rising higher and higher. If you have never done this (gone up to a peak in the middle of the night), it basically sucks. Every time you look up you think that the end of the lights must be the top, and that that is where you are going! But in reality that is just the end of the line of hikers, and it keeps rising higher and higher. You cant tell how high you are, how high you have gone, and all you have is the monotony of switchbacks up a steep hill on little to no sleep, in the dark, in the cold.

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The view from Island Peak

Finally, after a few hours of the switchbacks we got to something new: icy rocks! Again, not ideal in the dark, in the freezing cold. Because it had snowed the previous afternoon (like it does pretty much every afternoon up there) there was an inch layer of snow and ice on all the rocks, and so for the next hour we climbed up boulders and across rocks, balancing on the snow.

Finally, at around 4:30 or 5 in the morning it started to get light out.

Rocks, the glacier, and the top of Island Peak.
Rocks, the glacier, and the top of Island Peak.

We spent another two hours climbing up the rocks over the snow, finally with a bit of light, and by 7am we had finally reached the top of this part! We could see the top from here, and we could also see all of the amazing views that the top had to offer. It was really a perfect spot. We could have kept going, another four hours across the glacier, to the top, but at that point we had been climbing for around six hours, were completely exhausted, and overwhelmed by the climbing that we had been doing. So we decided to end the climb on a high note, sat around eating some snickers bars that we had brought with us, before starting the long climb down.

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Myself and Danny at Island Peak

By the time we finally got down from the mountain it was nearly 10:30 in the morning. We sat around, ate some instant noodles as a sort of breakfast, and basked in the brief period of warm sun before packing up our things and hiking back down to Chukkung. By the time we got to Chukkung it was almost 3pm: we had been hiking nearly 12 hours that day on very little sleep, and all we wanted was to go to bed. We made ourselves stay up till 5pm, and then ate a light dinner before going directly to sleep.

Day 14! By this time it was mostly downhill, but we had a long day in store. The plan was to hike all the way to Namche Bazaar in one day, a hike that is close to 8 hours long, and includes both a good amount of downhill and a few intense uphills. So, we set off early, stopping only once or twice the whole time (including a lunch break in Tengboche consisting of slices of cake at a great bakery there), and made it to Namche Bazaar by around 3pm. We put down our bags and immediately went to a pub for beers and buff momos to celebrate the (near) end of our hike! It really was pretty great going down so far in altitude: we had much more energy, and the hiking felt easier because of all of the extra oxygen in the air! After being at high altitude for so long we were sure we could do anything with all of the air going to our lungs.

One last view on the way down!
One last view on the way down!

The next and last day we hiked from Namche Bazaar to Lukla: our hike was done, all that was left was to get off of the mountains!

Unfortunately, this was easier said than done.

For the past few days no flights had been getting in or out of Lukla. There were too many clouds between Lukla and Kathmandu and so it wasn’t safe to fly in. The way it works is that there are a fixed number of flights going in and out, and if your flight gets cancelled then you get placed at the bottom of a waiting list for flights the next day. But there were already nearly four days worth of people on the waiting list trying to get flights because theirs had been cancelled, so the chances of getting a flight out soon was getting pretty grim.

Helicopters landing in Lukla airport
Helicopters landing in Lukla airport

In addition to this, instead of having a flight time the flights just have an order for takeoff. They fly four flights an hour (one from each of the four airlines), and so the flights in hour one are flights 1-4, the second hour they are flights 5-8, etc. So if you have an early flight number (like 1 or 2), the theory is that you only need one or two flights to actually land in Lukla from Kathmandu, and you’ll be able to fly out.

We were flight number 15.

Of course, none of this matters if no flights at all land in Lukla that day. Which is what was happening the morning that we were supposed to be flying out. Danny and Melissa had a flight back to the states in a few days, and on top of that we really didn’t want to be stuck in Lukla, since it was a pretty miserable town. So when the flights weren’t going out we had to look at our other option: a helicopter! This meant having our trekking guide follow some leads, find a helicopter with spaces on us for a reasonable price, going to the western union to take cash out to pay for it all, and then wait on the tarmac until the helicopter landed, sprint to it, board, and we were on our way. All in the course of approximately an hour. It was a hectic way to leave, but at least we got out! And with that we ended our trip: fifteen days of hiking later!

Last day of hiking!
Last day of hiking!

Trekking in the Solukhumbu: Part I

Two weeks ago I got back from a hike to the Solukhumbu region of Nepal, which is the area of the Himalayas where Mt. Everest is located. A lot of people who go there just go straight up the Everest Base Camp trail (we call these people EBCers), and then they go straight down. While cool, there is so much that you don’t get to see while doing this. So, my brother, Danny, and his girlfriend, Melissa, and I went on a 16 day trek up to Gokyo-Ri, across the Cho-la pass, and then to Island peak, and then back down. (A lollipop route, as Melissa pointed out: we overlapped just the very beginning and the very end.) This way we were able to see incredible views of Everest and Lhotse, as well as incredible, diverse landscapes and peaks.

For reference, a map of our route through the region.
For reference, a map of our route through the region.

To get to the area you have to fly into Lukla airport at 2840m/9,300ft. It is one of the highest airports in the world, but, more importantly, holds the record for being the most dangerous airport in the world. Good things to know before flying in there! Why is it so dangerous? Well, the airstrip is on the side of the mountain, and when landing the plane flies onto a short, uphill runway that points directly into the mountain. And when taking off, well, you are flying off of a cliff. The flights are extremely weather dependent, too, and so if there is too much wind or too many clouds anywhere between Lukla and Kathmandu the flights cant fly. Because of this we were extremely lucky that our flight there not only took off on the day that it was supposed to, but it took off pretty much on time, too! It was a good start to the trip!

Me, Danny, and Melissa on the first day of hiking.
Me, Danny, and Melissa on the first day of hiking.

After landing at Lukla we had a quick lunch before setting off on the first leg of the hike: a four hour hike to Phakding, at 2,610m/8,500ft.

There are long bridges that run between the mountains, high above the river.
There are long bridges that run between the mountains, high above the river.

Day 2, a bit longer, took us up to Namche Bazaar, at a more respectable 3,440m/11,200ft. This was the last town where we were able to eat meat (above Namche Bazaar the area is a national park and you are not allowed to kill animals. Because of this, any meat on the menu is carried in by porters from below and therefore is not very fresh), so we ate plenty of buff momos and yak steak, and also took the last hot showers we would take for another week or so! It was quite luxurious.

Namche Bazaar, nestled into the mountainside.
Namche Bazaar, nestled into the mountainside.

Day 3 was an acclimatization day, so we did a day hike from Namche up to the small towns of Khumjung and Khunde.

Our first view of Everest, behind the Lhotse Wall, from a view point near Namche Bazaar.
Our first view of Everest (L), behind the Lhotse Wall (R), from a view point near Namche Bazaar.

Day 4 was another short day, a few (beautiful) hours to Dhole (4,200m/13,800ft), and day 5 was short, too, from Dhole to Machhermo (4,470m/14,600ft). Both of these days were beautiful, taking us around the sides of gorgeous mountains while also following the Dudh Koshi river north up towards the higher mountains and towards Tibet!

Following the river towards the whitecaps.
Following the river towards the whitecaps.

One more short day on Day 6, from Machhermo to Gokyo (4,790m/15,700ft). Gokyo is surrounded by five high altitude lakes, three of which we got to see on our way! They were beautiful, settled into the mountains surrounding them, some frozen over some not.

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Day 7 we finally got some of the really amazing views! In the morning we hiked from Gokyo up to Gokyo Ri (5,360m/17,585ft). From there we were able to see amazing panoramic views of Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and surrounding mountains.

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A view from Gokyo Ri

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In the afternoon we hiked from Gokyo, across the Ngozumba Glacier to Dragnag (4,700m/15,400ft).

The glacier, as seen from Gokyo Ri
The glacier, as seen from Gokyo Ri

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Day 8 was another big day: we woke up early and set off to cross Cho-la pass! This involved a hike to the base of the mountains, across a large snow field, and then up a good deal of boulders and large rocks until we got to the pass. It was difficult, but fun, even though it took a really long time to get to the top. When we finally reached the top of the pass at 5,420m/17,782ft we got views out onto the ice glacier in front of us, and down the steep rocks and snow below us.

Us, at the top of the pass.
Us, at the top of the pass.

 

Looking back towards Dragnag
Looking back towards Dragnag

The glacier was fun to cross, though difficult at times. It consisted of a lot of testing the snow in front of us, stepping on it and hoping to not fall down into the snow! A lot of times we could take a good number of steps on top of the snow and everything would be fine, and then all of a sudden we would take one more step fall knee- or hip-deep into the snow! I missed out on getting snow this winter, so I personally loved getting to fight my way through the massively deep snow.

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Finally, after nearly nine and a half hours of hiking, we made it to our destination: Lobuche (4,910m/16,100ft).

More later on the second half of the trek, and Island Peak!

Moving on, from Lobuche to Chhukung.
Moving on, from Lobuche to Chhukung.

On the Road, Again

It’s 5am and the people are starting to come out. These people who disappear all night, from when I land at midnight until now, start to appear again, come out from their corners, again. Some of them are just arriving at the airport, and I realize that it is already time for some of the flights to start taking off again. 5am. A normal time to get to the airport. For some.

And as for me? I am just happy to be in an airport again. I am just happy to be traveling again. I am excited to be somewhere new, again. Layovers aren’t really so bad once you get used to them. Wander the airport some; find a nice corner to sit in. In Singapore, where I am now, there is even a koi pond and I can walk over and watch the fish swimming around while the rest of the world flies by. Literally.

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Early morning on the bridge to San Francisco

I spent a while back home rehabbing my ankle after my accident in Vietnam. Which was a good thing to do. I wasn’t really able to walk on my ankle after I sprained it, so coming home made sense, so that I didn’t have to travel on it. But now it has been over a month and, while I loved getting to take hot showers whenever I wanted and getting to eat any type of food that I wanted  (though I did mostly stay away from Asian food. I wasn’t ready for American-Asian food yet), I have gotten pretty antsy being home.

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My dog took good care of my while I was bed ridden

It is hard to get used to sitting still when you have been moving for so long.

It was really hard getting used to fitting in again at home. Reverse culture shock. It was one thing getting used to the giant grocery stores and paved roads and everyone speaking English.

It was another thing going back to my university for homecoming and trying to fit into situations where a year ago I would have felt so comfortable. Seeing people who I recognized. Seeing people who I hadn’t seen in a year. Seeing people who weren’t, also, traveling.

I didn’t know how to act in a room full of people. I felt like a stranger. Well, not with my closest friends, but it was odd trying to trade stories from the last year with acquaintances. How to sum up my past year when people asked? With a list of places? How to put it into one word? And so I kept feeling like I was falling short of what people wanted to hear. Which just made it feel that much more awkward.

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A perk of going back to Baltimore: seeing my old friends and roommates!

So maybe that is one reason why I am so excited to go back. I don’t feel like I have finished my time traveling. I don’t feel like I can sum it up yet. I can tell stories, stories about the times I took a bus across the border of one country into another. Stories of when I climbed up into the mountains in Nepal. Stories of the first time the smog cleared in Kathmandu and I could really see the Himalayas and how magical they looked standing above the ridge of the valley.

And stories of all the amazing people whom I met along the way. People and friends who I would never meet in any other place at any other time. And how they are the people who I have become so comfortable around. And how maybe it just takes time to get used to new things, and how maybe it takes time to also learn to get used to old things, too.

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At the homecoming game: JHU vs UMD

This time around I am heading back to Nepal so that I can go trekking, and then head over to Tibet with a friend of mine! Trips that I have been waiting for all year, but that I had to put off until my ankle was healed completely. I am so excited to get to see new places; I am so excited to be traveling again. I am so excited to be back, on the road, again.