As our incredible, month-long journey through the mountains of northern India draws to a bittersweet close, we wish to introduce you to one of the seemingly-minute and vaguely-upsetting yet ultimately integral and fun aspects of our program. A topic over which we have shared many hearty laughs, sorrows, and stories, the ‘Poop Scale’ will, without a doubt, remain a legendary concept in our minds for years to come. To shed a ray of light upon this idea: ‘Check Ins’ take place once per day, during which each student discusses their physical and emotional states, any needs, and answers a surprise ‘X-Factor Question’(anything from one’s favorite beverage to the differences between India and home). And, one must also rate their, pardon, poop/excrement/feces/or any other non-vulgar word one wishes to use, against the ‘Poop Scale’, a one to ten spectrum that becomes one of our many methods of describing our current state of being. With a ten being the hardest stone of the hill and a two being a river of the rump, a five is the ever sought after perfect-consistently bum party. A one will remain a mystery ; )
We have, in the hopes of sharing with you both our multitude of unforgettable experiences as well as our newfound connection with this scale, compiled a series of tales and memoirs relating to each level of the scale.
We hope you enjoy.
~ Trying Ten ~
Our introduction to India took place in Delhi, where we were met with a blistering wall of humid, dusty, 108 degree weather. After spending the day taking the train around the city, Hemant led us to refreshingly air conditioned South Indian restaurant. After nearly two days of constant travel, we were excited to dig into our lunch, but one table was overly enthusiastic. Hemant, Cheney, Dillon, and Julia ordered four times as much food as everyone else and could barely walk out of the restaurant. They should have thought about their following journeys to the bathroom before indulging so heavily, as their poop scales were ten (and above during the following days).
~ Noisy Nine to Enduring Eight ~
We celebrated the end of our final trek in India by feasting on a collection of varied plates and piles of chocolate mok-moks for our last meal in Leh. However, after filling our stomachs to the brim, Liana, Dmitri, Ronan, and Dillon still wanted to say goodbye to their favorite city in the best way they knew how. So, they went on a hunt for some late night (8:15) snacks, raiding an assortment of stores found between our restaurant and The Fox guesthouse. While sating their need for sweets, they discovered a new favorite snack: white chocolate popcorn dipped into melted chocolate Oreos. In the clarity of the next day, they realized what a mistake they had made. A hot minute was spent in the bathroom, with little results.
~ So-So Seven to Satisfactory Six ~
Taar is a remote village nestled between the high Ladakhi peaks and surrounded by desert. Tucked away in a lush green valley, accessible only by a three-hour hike, it is populated mainly by adults and the elderly, affectionately called “Ama-le” (for mother) or “Aba-le” (for father). We were lucky enough to spend four days there, divided into pairs and distributed amongst the welcoming families to help out as best we could and learn about their way of life. A staple food for most Ladakhis is barley, and the residents of Taar are no exception. A common snack, resting on most of the sitting room tables is a mix of roasted barley and apricot kernels, which we consumed in abundance during our visit. Lots of fiber and little dairy or fruit led to an expected outcome in the squat toilets later.
~ Fabulous Five ~
After leaving Taar, we returned to Leh for a couple days of rest, visiting local craftspeople, and preparing for our longer trek. For dinner each night, we went out to a different restaurant. Our meals ranged from local Indian dishes, eclectic mixes of different cuisines, and one night of delicious food at a brand new vegan establishment. This restaurant, Bodhi Greens, offers an appealing range of dishes, which caused many of us to return there the next day for lunch. We were not alone in that decision, and we saw many of the same patrons there as had been eating dinner the night before. The healthy, well balanced, and interesting meals that we ordered rewarded most of us with fabulous fives.
~ Intermission ~
Fjords are coastal landscape features unique to Scandinavia, especially Norway and Iceland. On a map they resemble deep crinkles often reaching far inland. Not to be confused with rivers, fjords are made of salt water from the ocean, and do not flow in a singular direction. Fjords may be the result of the volcanic activity which created the north most islands, but they may also have been created by glaciers. I do not know as I am not an expert in fjords.
~ Flimsy Four to Thundering Three ~
It was the last day of our Markha valley trek and many people were up earlier than normal due to the high altitude. The sun had recently risen over a nearby mountain range and for many, duty called. To set the scene, the bathroom situation at the camp was less than ideal. Two wooden stalls sat connected to each other complete with a window to the stall next door (for all of our frequent conversations with our bathroom neighbors) and a large rock to keep the door from opening. The hoards of fellow trekkers swarmed the small huts like ants as the morning progressed and in our own visits to the unpleasant but necessary stalls, one thing was made clear… we were all connected by our evident GI issues. We will spare you the details, we’re sure your imagination can get you most of the way there. One trip to the dreaded stalls stood out more than others. As Lydia (one of the few in the group who was somehow immune to this common issue) was using the bathroom, a stranger walked into the stall to the left. With only a thin wall of wood separating the two stalls, you were left completely vulnerable with nowhere to hide. The sounds started slowly, building into a large startling crescendo. Sitting there stunned, unknowing of the face beside her, she heard faint embarrassing laughter and somehow felt connected with her nearby stranger in a special way.
~ Terrible Two ~
During our Markha valley trek we stayed in tents of two to four, which shielded us from the cold and bitter night. Our sleeping bags and layers were the only things keeping us from freezing in our sleep. Unfortunately for Kierthan, his sweet slumber was interrupted by an urgent call to the the compost toilet. A walk from the tent to the toilet which in daytime seems like thirty seconds was half an hour in the night. Back at home, stars are a rare sight, but in Ladakh the Milky Way is ever visible and prominent in the night sky. After stumbling and struggling to the toilet, those who were sick were finally able to relieve their pain in hopes of going back to comfortable sleep. But twos on the poop scale are never very relaxing. While not quite as unpleasant as a one, twos are no picnic. Pure liquid gushes out of you as you pray that your sickness will end. When Kierthan was done, he stumbled back to the tent in an effort to get just a few more hours of sleep.
~ Watery One ~
It was 9:00 AM, and it was morning check-in time like any other day during our stay in Taar. Ronan was going to start us off with his life map, an activity in which we share interesting information about ourselves and our lives, but that morning he looked like a completely different person. He walked tiredly and fell with a groan to his seat. He had dark bags under his eyes. His energetic voice had fallen into a weak, shaking tone. “Sorry guys, I can’t do my life map today. My Poop Scale was a one” he announced. Everyone’s jaws dropped, speechless after what they had heard. Our instructors had told us in the beginning of the course that a one meant clear, transparent, water, something which we believed to be a myth, an impossible phenomenon.
These are the records of how the Watery One had happened:
“Last night I drank freshly squeezed cow milk without boiling it. The milk had a slimy texture and was unlike any milk I had tried. I was fine when I went to sleep, until around 2:00 AM when the nightmare started. It began with a four, then a three, then a two, then finally what was believed to be impossible. The One. When I had the one, it was exactly like the instructors had described. I could feel water as clear as the melted Himalayan glaciers being released from me. It was an endless nightmare of losing more and more water. I was sweating and breathing heavily, trying to fight this monster that was inside me. It felt awful, but the thing is, that milk was amazing and was totally worth it.”