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This year, I accomplished one of my most fulfilling experiences: trekking the Annapurna Circuit alone. Though I have always been a bit envious of foreigners with apparently greenbacks jingling in their pockets coming to Nepal for its majestic mountains; traveling for us Nepalese remains a thing of the daydreams. So upon giving my final high school exams, when it was almost customary for the students to prepare for the innumerable entrance exams, my desire to pursue one of the most remarkable treks in the world was considered an act of rebellion.
Yet I would not let that be a party-pooper to my sojourn in the Yeti-bewitched Himalayas. While I had researched much, packing my bag gave me the chills. There they were: all leather boots, misty socks, creamy long johns, cobalt-blue rain trousers and a paperback "Narcissus and Goldmund", a novel which I have read over half a dozen times. Suddenly I was all-alone in my pursuits far-away from the rock n roll of dusty Kathmandu streets. On the very first day, I contemplated for a pico-second abandoning my trip as my intestines filled with cold froth while crossing a sketchiest bridge with rotten wood and holes that looked like it belonged in what would be the opposite of a state-of-the-art museum.
As I was told to wait by an army man, chunks of rocks blew up and surreally it was I lighting up firecrackers against the backdrop of Deepawali, a Hindu festival. Roads were in constructions that have already disavowed the classic reputation of this trek. On one hand, it's butchering trekking in this area. On another, it will make the lives of people living in these remote places much more accessible. Yet the economy is linked to tourism. How do you take side on this avenue? I realized our world is not black and white and there isn't always a right answer. Sometimes instincts can be as important as rationality. Next day, after escaping a boulder within six inches of my skull off another dynamite blast, I ended in Chame with two glacial-eyed Russian men in adjacent beds. I barely slept that night with their tigerish snoring adding terror to my wandering mind.
I wouldn't blame myself for all the pictures I captured, as the landscape was seeped with Buddhist prayer flags by gompas with yaks and donkeys grazing the pastures. All these against a panorama of turquoise glaciers on mountains almost close enough to touch. "Sometimes you have to get really high to see how small you really are" echoed in my ears. I was a speck of stardust in the lap of the mighty Himalayas. My life came into perspective as I thought in that very moment I wouldn't be shamelessly lying when I say I was going to return to my country to the visa officer at the US Embassy in Kathmandu. I was going to be a speck of stardust working towards the advancement of my country after acquiring the invaluable tools in an American college. I slept like a rock that night and woke up dreaming that I was sitting comfortably on the chestnut tree by the cloister of Narcissus. Psychoanalysis, anyone?
After crossing false peaks that seemed to exist in greater number than Hindu gods, I finally breathed hard to Thorung-La Pass, highest on the trail at 17,700 feet. I met a loquacious German girl who had traveled overland from Europe to Nepal. We conversed all the way to Jomsom about diverse motivations of people and devoured a YacBurger with yak cheese at YacDonalds. After catching a bus early next morning, I finally ended the journey in Pokhara with its pensive roses reminding that I should head back home.
Now after months of this trek, when I think of spending the next four years in a place so alien to my culture, I look forward to the opportunities of new learning and experiences. Even though I have never been in an airplane, when I take that double-digit hour long flight across the continents to the U.S., I know I will be in the right and engaging environment to nurture my love of learning and adventure. I hereby invite you to my country as I look upon traversing novel avenues of future with American optimism. Namaste.