Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Write in the ADVENTURE genre (05/24/07)
- TITLE: There and Back
By Emily Blakely
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“Fasten your seatbelts, please, we will be landing momentarily,” the pilot announced for what seemed like the umpteenth time. Many refuels, plane changes and 28 hours later, seeing each airport much smaller than ones before, my destination arrived; Kathmandu, Nepal. It was early 1969 and I had joined the Peace Corps.
The plane circled and lowered to land, my heart pounding with anticipation of the unknown as I beheld this city and country new to me. I knew home was very far away. In a moment, I would plunge into a new culture, meet face to face with people vastly different from any I knew in America. I suddenly grew shy as I stepped off the plane, down the steps onto the tarmac, into a sea of children pressing against me. Children with no shoes, friendly faces, uttering words I understood little of. “Namaste! Namaste!” the greeting was called. These children met every arriving plane with hopes of being rewarded by carrying suitcases or just being given money. “Namaste,” I replied, swallowing other words of Nepalese I had planned to speak. Knowing some language was not enough to embolden me to attempt more than the greeting as my shaky legs carried me on.
Strange sights, sounds, smells, tastes of Nepal, all became familiar over time, after an initial period of fear and shock. That first morning, a strange sound just outside is what wakened me. It was a steady drum beat. I timidly peered from the window and saw standing near the door, a man with long, wild hair and dressed in burlap–he was covered from head to toe in ashes! I called to my two friends, “Come and see, and HURRY!” The two, still groggy from sleep, joined me at the window. “Aah!” we shouted in chorus, clinging together and forming a tight ball. “What do you think he is doing?” one asked. “What does he want?” the other yelled. We basically HID, and he went away. Later we learned that the man was a Sahdu or holy man that simply wanders the countryside seeking rice or whatever any household can spare; he meant us no harm.
What never became comfortable for me was sharing the streets with Brahma bulls, water buffalo, monkeys of all sizes roaming at large–at times I trembled with fear, uncertain if I might have to run for my life. More than once, foolish choices left me facing certain disaster and I recognized that IT WAS THE LORD’S HAND that saved my skin. In this land of many temples and many gods, I felt a new closeness to my God and an appreciation of being able to reach out to Him whenever, wherever.
The time came to leave friends in this far away land, to return home. The PanAm jet looked really good. “Can I get you anything to drink?” the stewardess asked, to which I replied, “May I have a milk, please?” That one was followed by another and another; no matter the quizzical look from the stewardess. She probably had no concept of how this fresh milk could taste so cool, so smooth, so sweet! One night in London, nestled in a fluff of mattress, billowy pillow and comforters; oh, sweet rest.
On next morning’s flight, there were stomach butterflies; not because of the unknown but rather excitement of returning to the familiar. I felt I could kiss the ground when I was back in the US of A, and yet it was a very unsettling time in this country; a time when our BEST and BRAVE, after serving their nation and suffering greatly even unto death, returned to no warm welcome. Hard to believe it was this way in America, as it is their sacrifice and those before them, and those now serving that make it possible for the rest of us to have adventures. Vietnam Veterans, and especially mine, are very dear to me. Blessings to all! It’s Memorial Day.
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