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Trek View on Nepal: Himalayan Studies Gap Year Semester with Where There Be Dragons

… Maybe With a Ten Foot Pole?

A flash of sunlight struck my eyes as I turned my head. My right foot slid through a patch of loose dirt, nearly knocking me completely off-balance. I caught myself and looked up just in time to see the colorful disc float daintily to the ground.

I took off my wide-brimmed adventure hat and wiped the sweat from my forehead. “My bad,” John called from down below. John, a slender ball of energy, waved to me from the dirt volleyball court down the hill where he was stationed.

I picked up the Frisbee and continued the rotation. I passed the disc to Jack, a broad-shouldered athletic powerhouse standing in the dirt right behind John. To my right, just uphill, was Spenser, the hairy Hawaiian from Boston. He caught a pass from Michael, who shook his long hair after completing the elaborate toss. Spenser.  Jack. Casey. John. Michael. Spenser. John. Casey. Michael. Jack.

It was our fourth day at Sorig, the Tibetan medicinal retreat near Pharping, Nepal. Our little community was nestled at the base of several Nepali “hills” (hills that would put any mountain in Georgia to shame). We had caught an hour break in between lecture and chiyaa (tea), so we decided to take the Frisbee to a neighboring cow pasture and get some fresh air.

On the previous day, we had met some local children in the field and invited them to play with us. Although we did not share a common language, we did share an afternoon of cheers and laughter. On that day, the children were quick to rush into the bramble to rescue a failed pass. Today however, we were on our own. Spenser and Jack had already suffered itchy casualties from mysterious speckled bushes.

“No, no, NO!” John shouted. The Frisbee left his hand and took a nasty left turn, crashing into the bushes on the hill between us. Owning up to his mistake, John ran to the hill to assess the situation. Jack was quick to help. After several minutes of waiting with no reward, the rest of us ventured to the road on the top of the hill to determine the cause for delay.

The Frisbee was lost; caught deep within a bush and guarded by a thick layer of spider webs. “Oh, nope,” said John in full retreat, “I’m out.” Today was not the day that John would conquer his arachnophobia.

“What if we tossed a big rock into the bush?”

“No, no, a little to the left!”

“It’s gone. I can’t see it anymore.”

We tried and failed several exfiltration attempts. We had almost given up hope until another traveler came wandering down the path.

“What is going on?” he asked in a heavy Eastern European accent. “Do you need a hand?”  The man wore a red athletic shirt and a blue backpack. He had a shaved head and sunglasses. “Here, try this,” he said, offering us his walking stick. Michael and John thanked the man and took the stick back into the bushes.

“Olegg,” the man said, reaching a hand out to Jack.

“Good the meet you,” Jack replied.

“Where are you from?” asked Olegg.

“All over the U.S.” Spenser said. “What about you?”

“Same here, believe it or not,” Olegg laughed. “You know New York?”

“Oh, of course,” Spenser smirked, “I’m from Boston.”

As the conversation continued, we learned that our new friend came from Russia almost 20 years ago to teach English in America. He had come to Nepal for few weeks to go trekking and was currently staying at a nearby monastery.

John and Michael returned empty-handed. “We still couldn’t reach it, but thank you anyways!”

“Hmm,” Olegg wondered, “I am thinking how to help you.” He looked past us to a tall fence made of sheet metal. “Here,” he said, “Follow me.”

I walked over with our new friend to a nearby gate. He poked his head through and turned back to me. “This is a construction site. It’s empty.” He motioned for me to join him. Through the gate, he pointed to a shed full of long, rusty pipes. “I am thinking you use one of these and return when you are done.”

“That just might work,” I admitted.

Olegg smiled. “Good luck,” he said as he walked away.

“Namaste,” we all shouted back.

I told the boys about Olegg’s plan and, having run out of options, we to give it a try. We entered the construction site together and approached the shed. Jack, Spenser, and John grabbed a ten-foot pole from the side of the pile and hauled it back to the field.

We checked out watches and realized that our free hour was coming to an end. “Spenser and I are gonna head back and let the others know we’re alright,” said Jack. The two ran back to our compound to deliver the news.

“Come here,  big guy,” Michael called to me as they grabbed the pole. “We could use your vantage point.”

I climbed down the hill to help them out but, by the time I scrambled to the bottom, John and Michael had already hoisted the pole. In one well-coordinated attempt, the boys snagged the Frisbee with the end of the pole and the day was saved!

“John and I can take it from here, Mike. Go ahead and take the Frisbee back,” I said. Michael departed as John and I lifted the pole on our shoulders. We climbed the small slope and returned the pole its proper shed.

“Well done,” John said, reaching for a high-five. I returned the gesture and the two of us ran back home.