Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Went to the Mountains

I am back from Tajikistan, with so much to say! Not the least of which is how amusing it was to watch the slightly bored U.S. Customs and Border people at O'Hare go through the motions of blah-blah, young woman, flight from Europe, countries visited...oh, Tajikistan? They didn't really subject me to much other than an extra question or two about how many days I spent there. I guess a little Habitat trip wasn't enough to raise any flags, polio outbreaks notwithstanding (more on that later).

Well, I can honestly say that hands down the most amazing part of my trip was catching a glimpse of the many-thousand-meters peaks you can see in this picture, way off in the distance, at the same height as the clouds. In an instant, I had a better understanding of what my boy Jon Krakauer and Three Cups of Tea's Greg Mortenson had described so well. What you see above is the view from a little hillside a few minutes walk from "downtown" Garm (Garm itself being approximately the size of a postage stamp). One morning before going to work on our house building/restoring, three other team members and I rose at 5:45 a.m. to stroll up the hill. We had a beautiful view of the town after only a few minutes of walking up, but after half an hour or so I was high enough to see the mountains behind the mountains behind the mountains.

Garm is surrounded by the green foothills, behind which we could see mountains with snow on them, mixed with brown mountainside peeking through the patches of snow. We had called these green foothills and brown-with-snow mountains very beautiful, but were still told we were seeing only the little mountains. It was hard to imagine that, until I found myself standing alone on a boulder on a grassy, muddy hillside; I turned around and caught my first glimpse of craggy, entirely snow covered peaks. Peaks that are best friends with mountains like Everest. Peaks that disappeared into the clouds as I stood there staring at them. Peaks that changed me.

You can just make them out in this cell phone photo, so I understand if you don't have quite the revelatory experience I had on the mountainside. All I can say is that it is worth any cost to get yourself to the Himalaya, Pamir, or these suburbs of the Pamir. One glimpse made all my effort to travel to Tajikistan entirely worth it.

Stay tuned for more stories. Next up: we have nothing to fear but polio itself!

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