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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outgoing (05/05/11)

TITLE: In Nima's Shoes
By Lu-Yee Millar


Tap tap tap.

The pencil tapping woke Ellen from her sleep. Was it that time of the month again?

Ellen knew by the intense rhythmic beat that Mum was in a bad mood calculating their outgoings. Was it the water bill this month, she wondered? Or their mortgage? Have they overspent on groceries, perhaps?

“God?” She muttered a quiet prayer as tiredness overcame her, “I wish…I could trade places with someone who needn’t worry about bills.”

Ellen was still dreaming when she felt someone rocking her.

“Nima! Get up!”

A Tibetan woman crouched over her. She had long pleated hair, a dusty face, and was dressed in a long sleeved sheepskin cloak. The woman reeked of grease, milk and dung.

“Who are you?” Ellen shot up.

“Your Ma, of course! The journey is long and we must get going!”

“Journey? My name is…” she stopped abruptly, realising that she was conversing in a foreign language! And yet, it felt so natural.

“Oh dear, the fermented yak milk must have gotten to your head!” Ma cut her off, strapped Ellen snugly with a large cylinder barrel, and shoved her out of the tent. A group of similarly attired women stood waiting. Their mission: a seven hour journey to fetch water.

The vast endless plateau both mesmerised and terrified Ellen. It was like looking out towards the sea with no borders! Majestic, yet made one feel insignificant - like a grain of sand on a seashore. Would she remember the road home?

“What is our address in case I get lost?” She asked Ma when they paused for a rest. A fair question, she thought.

Silence fell. Followed by roaring laughter.

“Got kicked in the head by the camel, did she?” The women teased Ma, “Better wisen her up before she marries!”

Ma reached over to groom her pleats, all 108 knots according to tradition.

“Precious, we’re nomadic! We move with the seasons to graze our livestock on new land. We’ve no permanent address. But, we are blessed with each other to call home!”

Looking Ellen in the eye she whispered: “Count your gifts, do a sum. Name your blessings one by one.”

And Ellen was grateful. “Lord, thank you for the mortgage – we are so blessed with a roof over our heads.”

When the entourage took a break again, it was for their only meal hiatus. Ellen chewed hesitantly on her tsampa, a dough made with roasted barley flour and yak butter. Rather plain, but filled a need.

“We are fortunate to have yak butter added to ours!” Ma beamed, devouring hers.

Looking Ellen in the eye she whispered: “Count your gifts, do a sum. Name your blessings one by one.”

And she was truly glad. “Lord, thank you for the grocery bills – food abundantly provided beyond our basic needs.”

With their arduous mission completed, there was much rejoicing. The women reverently stored their prized possession away. God willing, it will last them seven sunsets. They are fortunate, Ma reminded her. Others travel further.

Looking Ellen in the eye she whispered: “Count your gifts, do a sum. Name your blessings one by one.”

So Ellen did, as she collapsed on her mat, exhausted. “Lord, thank you for the water bills – the gift of clean water I’ve taken for granted.”

Tap tap tap.

“Hey honey, “ Mum knocked and peeped through the door, “I just wanted to say thanks.”

Ellen sat puzzled, trying to makes sense of Mum’s remark. Thankfully, Mum volunteered the explanation.

“I’ve been so worried with our outgoings. But today you leaped out of your room a different girl! You were so excited to be in this house, and savoured your meals with such gratitude!”

She paused, wiping the tears away. “Then when you gave thanks so wholeheartedly with every cup of water…I felt ashamed.”

Ellen had this sudden hunch that somehow, as she was walking in Nima’s shoes, literally, the real Nima had been in hers. But how would she explain that to mum?

She shrugged, and hugged her Mum.

“Everything will be alright!”

“I know, honey,” smiled Mum, “We’ll learn to count every blessing.”

Indeed, across the globe a Tibetan girl’s prayer was answered when she was mysteriously transported to a world beyond her wildest imagination. But, well, that’s another story for another time.

Except to say that when Nima tried to describe a refrigerator to her neighbours, they were certain she’d really been kicked by a camel!

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This article has been read 343 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Irene Patterson 05/15/11
Good message. Gratefulness is a precious quality. You had an interesting way of getting the message across.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/16/11
This was a nice lesson with a heaping teaspoon of humor sprinkled on it. The message had just a hint of a sermon, but was playful enough that it had a leveled cup of great writing throughout.
Theresa Santy 05/17/11
Delightfully entertaining. I felt the dust, the milk, the grease, and the dung, lol.

I loved this:
“Count your gifts, do a sum. Name your blessings one by one.”

I've been feeling particularly crabby and unappreciative lately, so I think I'm going to write this on a card and keep it nearby for awhile. At least until everyone else around me starts to appear a little less irritating. Just kidding. Sort of.
Leola Ogle 05/18/11
A delightful story! Well written, kept my interest ND MADE ME SMILE. gOD BLESS!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/20/11
Congratulations on placing 7th in your level!
Suzanne R11/16/11
The meanderings in the imagination are delightful. Beautiful.