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

hillside thoughts / site description

On the crest of a winding clay road, I sit facing a deep, misty swell of mountain and clouds, settled on top of a small, white boulder. I am alone. The sun sets over the closest hill to the west, sinking behind a forested swath of hilltop, all wide, broadleaf trees and tall, swaying grasses. I count seven mountain crests spilling out to the north-west; as they fade onto the lilac and honey of the fog beyond, their shapes melt into those of the sweeping layers of cloud and mist that seem to envelop this place.

Directly surrounding me are trees and plants that I have no name for, greens with curling and pleated leaves, twisted and thick roots, square stems and the small dots of flowers, scattered and pale. A breeze trickles hazily from the east. Birds and insects whir, chirp, and sing to each other or themselves.

I take a sweet breath as I sit, trying to fill my lungs with the awe and vastness of these mountains. It is a stark contrast to the haze and clatter of motor-vehicles and the plastic packaging of corner stores that litter Kathmandu. I almost feel guilty with the relief I feel in being outside of the city – I found myself feeling a lot of claustrophobia, both physically and emotionally, towards the end of our homestay, and by the last week, was counting down the days to our departure from the city. Though I feel like I’ve done well at seeking the open spaces that exists within discomfort – making peace with the heat and stares and noise and pollution of Kathmandu’s urban sprawl – I think that there is, of course, space for growth and thought. In a trip so short, it’s frustrating to be frustrated for even a few days, and I’d like to figure out ways to make peace within the chaos and claustrophobia that I found in that place.

This, here, is the Nepal I came to find. I feel selfish saying it – who am I to search for something, to want from this place? – but it is true. This craggy hilltop, the rich clay road, my hands calloused and my hair windtossed: this is where I want to be. And this, too, is who I want to be: completely enamored by this earth, teeming with gratitude for this place and these people, certain of my body and its capacity to carry and hold. I feel more connected to myself, this community (open, thoughtful, shifting) and this journey than I have all month. Maybe it’s just that mountain air… Regardless, I feel thankful to be here and to feel so full: of wonder, joy, light.

I am alone up here, but I know that my friends are close. They, too, watch the clouds as they roll over the mountaintops, and I hear a few of them laugh with each other along the pathway.

The moon is rising; I walk home.

i’ve been writing site descriptions since my junior year of high school, when i first learned a bit about ecology and natural history at a semester school in maine. a teacher there placed the concept into perspective in a way that continues to resonate – site descriptions are acts of knowing a place more intimately that we are accustomed to, of welcoming the land and noticing our place within it. i like to write site descriptions when i need to ground myself in a place, to understand more about myself and the ways that i interact with that land. this site description was writing on the top of a mountain in bandipur, a village far outside of kathmandu.