Tuesday, November 21, 2006

National Outdoor Luggage Service

Namaste!

I am officially back in civilization after a month in the Himalayan back country. An absolutely amazing experience, I learned a lot about myself and picked up quite a few outdoorsy skills. Great group of 15 students and 4 instructors. The trip as a whole is hard to explain and sum up in a blog entry as I'm sure anyone whose done a NOLS trip can attest to, but I'll certainly do my best to give you some idea of what life was like. We cooked (on a gas stove) and slept (in tents) in what are called tent groups of 3 or 4 people. We hiked in hike groups of about 5-7 people. Each hike group had to be self-sufficient on its own each day. And, except for two re-rations of food during the month, we were completely self-sufficient the entire time, carrying everything we needed on our backs. One thing that I didn't expect was how structured it was. I think I kinda thought it would be camp but in the wilderness. Alas, it was not but to be fair it was still pretty damn good. We had lots of classes on everthing from digging catholes with an ice axe for our poo, to first aid, to Indian history and culture.

On a regular day we would wake up about 2 hours before we needed to be ready to hike, usually around 6. One person would cook breakfast while the rest of us took down the tent, waited impatiently for our food, and likely went for a walk with the ice axe. Then we would pack up our packs, splitting up group gear of tent parts and food among us. We met each morning packed and ready to go usually around 8 and either had a class or just started hiking. After the first couple days we started having "Leaders of the Day" where one of us would, you guessed it, leader of the day for a hike group. In charge of picking hiking groups, breaks, map, and finding camp.

As a finish to the trip we went on student expeditions, where the students hike and camp without the instructors. We were split into two groups and left with 4 hiking days to go in the trip. I, and obviously I would, slipped and sprained my ankle on the 2nd to last day and had to walk out without a pack. Luckily my group was absolutely fantastic, all stepping up and taking my weight without a question. (My ankle is much better now and I can't wait to play soccer with the kids in Ethiopia.)

I would like to share a highlight, and that is just the group in general. Whether just chatting in the tent, watching a sunrise/sunset, having a class. There were times I was laughing so hard I almost peed in my pants and times I was crying hysterically and could barely catch my breath. And it was all great. The support, the laughs, the hugs, the new experiences...everything!

As for the days since we've been back, I've just pretty much been hanging out in Delhi with people from the group. Had a half day tour provided by NOLS which was skippable but since then I've gotten in some excellent shopping, thanks almost in full to the delightful Fabindia, some good hanging out, a day trip to agra, and a night in a 5-star hotel. In my pre-Africa freak-out I have found myself hoarding pretty much anything "western" I can get my hands on which is definitely a new position for me. At times I've found India quite overwhelming and was almost excited to be leaving; so many people everywhere, most of them trying to sell you something. A great night in the Paharganj area of Delhi cured most of that and at the moment I'm eager to get back to India at some point and give it the full time it deserves.

I'm currently entering my 4th hour sitting at the same computer, having just uploaded a bunch of pictures and written some emails, and am flying to Ethiopia TONIGHT!! Absolutely crazy to think that tomorrow I will find myself in Africa, finally. Often when I get nervous I forget why I want to be in Africa and it takes something like seeing an interview with Leonardo Dicaprio speaking of his experience shooting Blood Diamond (which btw looks fabulous)) in South Africa and an Oprah repeat to remind me that I'm so excited for what's ahead of me and signed up for it largely due to the challenge I know it will be.

As I have been writing this entry for way too long I refuse to read it over so I hope it makes sense and gives you a good enough picture of what I've been up to the past 6 weeks or so. And for everyone back in the states, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving. Please eat a tooooon of good food, and an extra bite for me, and if you have a few moments, check out my pics from India which are up and just waiting to be viewed numerous times.
picture site again: http://flickr.com/photos/mlistergapyear/

Can't wait to update you all from Ethiopia!

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