During one of our first lectures, a brief Nepali history and culture, we had the pleasure of reawakening our newly shocked selves with the most inspirational man. Our instructor was an enthusiastic man who made us consider the millennia of history and evolution of Nepal. He broke it down like this: Pre 1792, Nepal was a prosperous, land-linked country. After 1816 (several treaties and border closings later) it became a poor, land-locked country. Nepal is no longer land locked, but rather globally connected. It is not poor, but a poorly managed country.
He had us write our signature with our writing hand, representing our preference. Then, after looking at ours and others comparatively, we had to write with the other hand. This was “what we decided to do whether we liked it our not, outside our comfort zone”. He spoke about the two zones, the comfort zone, which we know and are complacent with, but also “the magic zone”. He went on to make American pop culture references to the magic zone as things like Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, but it was really much more than that. I feel like this has represented many events in the past couple years of my life: writing with my left hand and living in the magic zone. Maybe it’s because the comfort zone really isn’t comfortable anymore. And magic is much too irresistible.
Everything that came out of his mouth was gold. Everything he said left a dumbstruck grin on your face that makes you sigh of relief to the simplicity of such words in life, and crave to remove yourself from having one of the three Buddhist minds that are feared 1) a full mind where new information has no room to fill 2) an upside-down glass where again, water cannot be added, and 3) a glass half full, with a crack in the glass. Here are a few inspirational gems:
-In regard to the mind: Know many things, but we willing to be surprised.
-Everything we seek in life is on the other side of fear.
-Everyone in the world gets 24 hours in a day, it’s just how you choose to spend it.
With these words in mind, we were all itching to get on the trekking trail, and in the depths of the Kali Gandaki Gorge; we were all in the magic zone ready for anything. We underestimated how magic this zone really would be.
Our day began at 6:30 to breakfast, and pumping at least 2L of water for yourself. We worked hard to simultaneously participate in academics while trekking 10+km a day. Trail talk, aside from the rock formations of the Lower Lesser Himalaya, Higher Himalaya, and Tibetan-Tethys Sequence, consisted mainly of food talk. Yogurt and granola, In N’ Out burgers, SALADS, fresh fruit, were just some of the poison that crossed our mind. It made our dal bhat far less interesting. Desperate for other options for dinner (lunch was always dal bhat), we experimented with our other options: fried rice and fried noodle. When that left our stomachs both empty and at the dispense of the Tibetan-style toilet, we succumbed to the second helping of dal bhat.
Especially on the trekking trail, when a Snickers bar seemed to be the greatest thing since a romaine lettuce chopped salad, we were often confronted with the brutalities that the magic zone entails. At the end of the day, when you are academically, physically, and emotionally exhausted, all you want is a warm shower, a real toilet, or a break from bug bites. Those are rare things to get. We trekked on, completing more of our academic courses. At some point, we even began to become hungry for dal bhat on cue.
Maybe it was coming back to Kathmandu and having the ability to reflect on our magic zone struggle, seeing this city now for a second time. The magic zone was rough, and on several occasion, filled with leeches. However, there comes a point where you stop counting how long you’ve been here, or how long there is left to go. At this point, you are here. You are living in your country, recognizing the turns back to your guest house, finding yourself a “coffee shop”. Your showers may not feel so cold anymore, and you’re thankful they make you feel clean. You have assimilated. You are becoming part of the culture, and the culture a part of you.