Traveling to the other side of the world to spend time in the remote villages of the Himalayas, I really had no idea what to expect. I was excited to see the mountains, to experience first hand the natural beauty I had only ever seen in photographs. I was excited to be a small part of the good work that MountainChild is doing and to travel and share the experience with close friends. Now that I am home, after spending a week trekking through the Langtang Valley, beside a rushing river, in the shadow of snow-capped peaks, it is not images of the mountains that keep returning to me, but the faces of the people we encountered.
The Tibetan-Buddhist people that call Langtang Valley home are truly amazing. It is easy to romanticize the mountains and their beauty when you are only a visitor. But after a few days in those mountains, I began to see just a glimpse of how difficult it is to make a life there. The villages we visited are only accessible by rough foot trails, some barely hanging on to the side of the mountains. This means that anything the people cannot grow or provide for themselves has to be carried up on the backs of men, women and children, or the occasional donkey train. We passed countless people carrying loads of construction materials on their backs, some loads weighing close to two hundred pounds. They slowly and steadily made their way up trails that we had struggled up with only our small packs. We saw families preparing their rocky fields for spring planting, in the middle of a snow storm, as we hurried on to the next village, seeking shelter. Accomplishing anything in these remote areas requires such difficult manual labor.
In the midst of these difficult conditions, it was amazing to witness the attitude of the people. I saw more smiles than complaints, more warmth than resentment, and in every home we visited, we were welcomed with such genuine hospitality. It is the faces of these people that will stay in my memory long after other images from the trip have faded. The pure laughter of the children, the warm smiles of our hosts as they shared their lives with us, the steadiness and perseverance written on the face of the porters bearing such heavy burdens. These are the images that will come to my mind as I remember this trip. These are the people that make the trip more than worth the cost.