Whew! We are back again, and I have a tale or two to tell!
I have a great new exercise program, called “Chase Bill up and down (mostly up!) mountains all summer” and my new book will be entitled, “Trekking in the Himalayas during monsoon season with three small children and diarrhea”. How does that sound?
Well, we have had immensely challenging days, but incredibly rewarding as well. Our trek was wonderful in the sense that it accomplished all that we had hoped that it would. Before we went on our trek, we had already spent a week and a half in our mud house. During that time, we think we might have earned our global worker badges for reals.
Bill killed a poisonous snake with a rock (a pit viper), and we killed at least three rats in our house. We may have killed four, and one died before we came back, making a total of maybe five. I don’t want to focus on these things with all the other good stuff there is to tell, but these are very real in my mind, so I have to tell them first. I hate rats. Did I say I hate rats?
One night as I was washing dishes by our kerosene lamp, Bill had gone down to talk with our hosts for a few minutes, I heard a sharp snap, and saw a figure plunging from the ceiling onto one of the string beds we use for sitting on. The girls were all awake, so they yelled, “Mommy, a rat!” Trying to maintain my composure so my little ones wouldn’t panic, I screamed! I went outside, dancing a jig, and tried to call Bill, who of course couldn’t hear me. As the rat flopped around in its trap on the bed, I continued my jig. I finally decided to leave the girls for a minute to get Bill to be my Knight-In-Shining-Armor. I ran down the path and yelled, “Bill (I never use his name in public here, as it isn’t good for women to use their husband’s names, but I knew I had to get his attention), come NOW!” He bounded out like every good knight should, and came, killed, and disposed of the rat. Our host family had a good laugh about it.
Every night we had action with our traps, sometimes with success, and often with a cleaned-off trap and no rat. We can hear them scuttling in the ceiling and squawking all night long. It’s a bit hard to sleep. One morning, Bill had to walk up to the town so he could check in with our leadership and tell them that we were fine. I was getting breakfast ready for the girls who were still playing in their mosquito net (used to keep bugs as well as the debris that the rats knock down onto.) I heard the dreaded SNAP again and looked to see yet another rat writhing on the floor, and my knight was too far away to hear the cry of his damsel in distress. This time, the rat was knocked out, but the trap hadn’t held him, and he was still breathing. I had little time before he would come to and go bounding across the floor.
The girls thought it was great sport, but I was mortified. Between my half-hearted screams, I brought in a log stick and a rock, hoping I could think of what to do. Shirley finally said, “Mama, there’s a shovel over there.” Knowing that accuracy was everything, I closed my eyes and bonked him on the head. Somehow, I hit my mark, but blood went splattering everywhere as my rat tried one last time to fight his fate. I took his lifeless body into my shovel and flung him into a cornfield. I then scattered powder all over the bloody floor to kill the fleas that may have come off of him.
It was a great relief when Bill came home and the damsel in distress could tell him of her bravery. That was the same day that I discovered lice in Shirley’s hair. I guess I should have expected it, with them playing all day with kids who have never had a bath in their lives, but I was still surprised. We are still in the process of getting rid of them, but I think we’ve about succeeded.
Other than our “adventures with various critters”, our time up in our mud house was very good. We are working hard on the language, enjoying the little kids up there, and making friends. The girls love playing with the other kids, and thrive in the mountains. The baby I saw delivered seems to be doing better and is finally putting on a little weight. It is hard to hold her because she is always wet, and has the distinct smell of a baby who lives with constant smoke and animals with never a bath. But I am getting past all that, and it gets easier every time to show her the love that I feel toward her.
One night she was crying uncontrollably, and the mom came up to ask me to try to hold her for a while. I went down, took the baby and walked around the women’s side of the room with her. I hummed in her ear, and eventually she was fast asleep. I know I did nothing special, but felt that the Lord put his tender hand on her so she would settle down for me. People are wary of others looking at or holding their babies because of the “evil eye”, so I have been slow to show too much interest. By her calming down when I held her, I felt that a little trust was built between us. By their amazed response, I deduced that they were a bit relieved that no evil happened.
I went up the path to our home with my heart full of joy that they had called me, and that the Lord had worked to quiet the baby. It may seem like a little thing, but in my mind it was huge, because these beliefs can easily close their hearts to us. I am enjoying the time with the women who are around there, and I am learning a lot from them. My only regret is that most of the people are up in the summer grazing areas now, so there aren’t too many people for us to learn the language from. For now, though, this seems like the best arrangement. Now, on to our trek…
To tell you the truth, I had been dreading this part of the summer for weeks. I was excited about the mountains and the people, but was concerned about hiking so much with small kids. It proved to be every bit as challenging as I thought, but well worth it. I can say that now, but there were times I was ready to throw in the towel. I am a bit ashamed of my attitude at times, because I wasn’t relying on our Lord to provide all that we needed to protect us all.
Our trek was divided into two parts. We first made the bumpy jeep trip to a small town and then went to two separate areas to camp. The first part was really delightful. We camped above tree line at a beautiful lake with some shepherds that we have met several times before. They warmly took us in, and introduced us to the other friends in the area.
We spent one day hiking to another camp, and enjoyed drinking chai with some delightful friends there. Bill and I were taken to separate tents as is the usual custom. I was immediately surrounded by many colorfully dressed women. They wear intricately beaded jewelry and some wear red and pink caps under thir veils. Many braid their hair in tiny braids all over their heads. They are truly beautiful people. The tent people are especially colorful, it seems. They were thrilled and bewildered that we are learning their language, and enjoyed listening to me stumble around in it.
Several offered to give me one of their sons, or to trade one of their children for one of ours. This is very common. I have learned to laugh as if they were joking, and tell them that I know that their mother’s heart would hurt too much to do a thing like that.
Later, with the girls on horses, we left for the long hike back to our camp. We got cleaned up in the little town we were using as our launching pad, in the filthy hotel we had stayed in our first night. We weren’t sure if we were cleaner before we cleaned up!
We had brought our handicapped language helper with us, and he was so happy. He hadn’t been back since he had been injured five years ago. When we reached the area where our friends were, we had to cross a fairly big, deep river. I went across on horseback, with the horse tripping along the way. Then Bill and two other guys locked arms and brought the girls across. I was praying the whole time, but they made it. We set up our tent and spent a night with them. The next day we took our hike into the valley where many of our friends bring their animals for summer grazing. The girls rode on horses along the narrow, rocky path far above the river. I walked behind, worrying and praying.
I wondered if God really meant for us to be there. I argued with Him about how hard it was with small girls, and all the fears I had. I told Him we could meet friends in other places, so I couldn’t see why we had to come to the end of the earth. I asked Him whose idea it was that we come, anyway? Then it began to rain, hard. We quickened our pace and arrived at our camping spot drenched. Our sleeping bags and clothes were all damp, and I made sure that God knew about our fix. (It rained every day we were there.)
That night I told Bill about the struggle I was having. He reminded me that this was the way that we could really understand our friends and their lives. This trip was for us to meet people and grow in our understanding of them. In reality, all the rain did grow our appreciation of these people and the things they live with. We had come to the mountains by choice but these people come because they must to survive. I was ashamed that I had doubted so much; that I hadn’t trusted God to take care of the girls on their horses, or us in the rain, on the high road, or crossing rivers. I knew I couldn’t protect them, but had doubted God would. He did. He was faithful, even when I was faithless. He kept His word to us. He will not take us to the end of the earth and leave us there.
We spent the next few days hiking to different camps in the area. We drank more chai than we’d care to recount, but had wonderful times enjoying their rich hospitality. A young boy sang some local songs for us. His voice was beautiful. My favorite times were in these camps because I enjoy the women and children so much.
The trip was exhausting for Bill and me, but sheer fun for the girls. The mountainsides full of animals with their shepherds captivated us all, and drew our hearts nearer to the people we are to love. We began to realize the immensity of the task, since they are so very spread out and diverse. We feel very little, but realize that God isn’t, and it is His work.
I had another struggle during our week and a half trip. We had two male guides with us. We also had a seemingly endless stream of male guests come and sit around our camp and talk. As a woman, I am to be quiet and unseen around other men. I felt conspicuous outside our tent, and out of place whenever I talked to Bill. On the hikes I was compelled to stay in the back and not enter into the conversation that the guide may be having with Bill. I have struggled with this all summer, really, as men often come to our mud house and sit outside our door. I am expected to be discreet and quiet.
Since coming to this country, I have often felt the need to remember I am precious to God and to my husband, no matter what anyone else may think of me. On this trip, it really got to me. I felt so small and worthless just because I am a woman. Women don’t go to the bathroom unless it is dark, so I was constantly looking for a place to go without anyone knowing that I did. To top it off, I had diarrhea. I was mad that women have such a hard time with something so simple as that. I was mad that my chief job was to pretend like I wasn’t there.
One night I told Bill how frustrated I was. I was having a hard time remembering that my value is not in what men think of me. Telling Bill helped me. He could then understand why I was struggling so much, and he tried to spend more time talking to me, despite the cultural norms.
Have you read the article in Women of the Harvest written by the woman who lived in this area? If not, please do. It will help you understand a little of what I am talking about. I cried when I read it, because it was so true for me. Fortunately, Bill has been very aware of the dangers, and has gone out of his way to affirm me. So we do not have some of the struggles in our marriage that she referred to, but I know that many have. We do have to keep a check on it, though, as we know it is easy for our ideas about men and women and marriage to slowly and subtly change.
The walk back to our friends’ small rock houses was more treacherous than the way there. The guides felt that the girls weren’t safe on horseback on the way down the rocky slope, so they each took a girl on their shoulders. Once, Bill fell on the rocks, hurting his knees, but Samantha was in the backpack, so she was fine. But God protected them all. Bill had a significant load on his back with Samantha and a bunch of our stuff, but he made it fine the rest of the way back. One thing about me, I don’t fail to find something to worry about. The challenge for me is turning my worries into prayers, and letting God do the rest.
It was a good and growing trip for me, and I’m so glad we did it. With each step like this, I grow in my faith and overcome some of my fears. For some people, going on a trek like this would be as natural as breathing, but for me, it was stretching. We are getting anxious to settle into our new house and stop moving for a while, but we still have a few more trips up before the summer is over. Thanks for praying for us. We know that He is hearing and answering those prayers.
Thanks for bearing with me as I record some of the adventures and feelings we’ve had. I am so thankful God meets us where we are and is willing to forgive us when our faith is weak, and even show us in tangible ways that He is with us.
Much love, Mindy for all
View the original print magazine where this article was first published.