When one travels, and I do, sometimes something will occur that makes you gasp, or makes you laugh, or makes you glad you live where you do. Then there is one thing that grabs you emotionally with amazement and joy and a feeling that the world is not that large after all.
In 2010, I and a friend were traveling from the tropical wilds of the animal park to Pokhara, a trip of astonishing beauty as you begin a climb across the foothills of the Himalayas. Vast canyons of rock and exposed stones replace a river’s course to your left as you leave the flat lands of the Terai. The river now falls away to a small rivulet if you look and the landscape now boasts waterfalls tumbling down to the river many hundreds of feet below.
Because we had left early from our Chitwan adventure, elephant rides and the like, we became a bit thirsty and our driver, a veteran of many trips like this, had a stop in mind as we moved higher into the mountains. As the river still coursed large on our left we pulled off the road onto a leveled area with a series of small buildings lined up along the expanse of dirt. All I can remember thinking is the Nepalese equivalent of a small mall.
A relief to exit the car and fascinated by what I saw, my camera came out immediately for pictures. Our driver laughed as my friend and I started taking pictures and we continued for the entire time we were there.
I guess if observers from overseas arrived on our shores there would be pictures to take that we would smile at when taken. My first picture was a clay oven stoked by a young boy about 11 or 12. His mother was about to bake something in the oven and he was her helper. He also sold us coffee, cokes and whatever was needed. He was so friendly and his English, we soon learned, was very good. Of course we got the questions of where are you from (Sacramento, California), and then one of those remarkable moments came into being.
My friend, a former teacher like myself, disappeared through a curtained off door. I did not follow immediately, but soon she was motioning me to follow her. There was a step down and as I came through the door I stepped down, looking at the view of the river beyond. I hadn’t a clue as to what my friend wanted me to see.But she motioned to a young girl, sister of the young man outside, with a book open on the table and reading with avid attention to the book.Well, I raised an eyebrow in question and my friend said to me. “Look at what she is reading.” In a way it was like finding a jewel in a mass of rocks. The girl, about 5th grade, had a book open and was reading the works of Mark Twain! Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, both alive and well 10,000 miles from the United States. And the young lady proudly read some sentences and my friend and I stood there, perhaps a tear that we would not show, but stunned and amazed that here, so many miles from home, one Nepalese girl was studying Mark Twain to improve her English and be a better citizen of the world.
I have often thought about the stop. Why there? Early in the morning before school. But, a gift of God is always welcome when one travels. This young girl, her friendly and outgoing brother, touched our hearts and gave us an experience that travel can do for you sometimes. But you have to look and realize that those moments are rare, but so wonderful. If you seek, sometimes you can’t find. If you are open to new places and new stops along the way..you will be the winner!