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I’m definitely not a hiker. In fact, I’m so ‘not a hiker’ that I feel a guilty sense of pride even by walking up an unpaved hill and at that any slightly raised surface.  I’m also so ‘not a hiker’ that the hour I spent on the Great Wall of China I was clinging to someone else’s arm. In photos and the movies the Great Wall does not seem that high for someone who is afraid of heights I might as well have been in space. But anyways, you get the point. I’m not a hiker.

As humans I think we often prepare ourselves for the worst outcomes in situations. Sometimes it happens subconsciously and in very subtle ways. Everyone knows the sound of a phone dropping. It’s tragic. When someone drops their phone and they feel anxiety but everyone around them feels that same kind of anxiety for them too. All activity stops and eyes are on them for the moment of truth: when they brace themselves and pick up the phone. It’s like horror movies, people expect that something bad is going to happen but they still watch. But then sometimes everything’s fine. There’s not a scratch to be seen and everyone involved in the scene finds themselves feeling more grateful for their own phones than they were before. Even if it’s just for a moment.

When I saw what I was going to be hiking I thought: ‘this is my horror story’. But still, I kept it in my head and waited for my fatigue or my fear of heights to set in. But they didn’t. And when I realized that I wasn’t scared and I was having fun I realized how beautiful it was; The nature, the view, the experience. When we finally got to the top of the cliff, or rather when I thought we’d gotten to the top of the cliff, I felt so proud. Of myself, of my friends and of how lucky I am to be from a place as beautiful as this. But then we got to some rocks. Huge rocks that i was told I’d have to climb. At the time I was carrying the med bag which was light when I picked it up two hours prior but felt like a serious handicap when navigating those rocks. The bag was swinging around because I didn’t know how to properly strap it to myself, the straps were getting stuck in between the crevices of rocks, and it definitely didn’t help that some of the rocks moved. In that moment I felt it. I felt the ‘I’m not a hiker’ feeling that if anticipated and I felt the horror movie scene I anticipated when I looked down and saw hug, gaping, holes between the rocks I stood on and I finally figured out how scared I was of heights. So I sat down. No one was pressuring me to move more than I wanted to. So I sat down, accepted my position, I got comfortable, and I looked. I looked up and out and I saw something so beautiful that I found my peace. Senegal. From a distance I saw goats on fields, donkey carts on roads, people on motorcycles, and everything else that sitting on a cliff gives you the privilege of seeing.

I still don’t know how to explain it; what I felt when I just sat on a rock and it seemed to hold me like a friend you haven’t seen in a while, the birds and the clouds that seemed so close that you could reach out and touch them, and the whole experience that seemed like it was just for you. So, I’m not a hiker (notice the absence of the apostrophes) and I’m afraid of heights and hiking that cliff was my horror movie but plot twist and spoiler alert: there was a good ending.