Friday, May 20, 2011

Being the Entertainment

On this past trip we went to some pretty remote places. It always amazes me, while traveling around the sub-continent, how people have chosen to live in some of the most remote and difficult places. The set up their villages in the middle of deserts, in nearly barren valleys, and some villages seem to barely cling to the sides of mountains. These places prove very difficult for national infrastructure to reach, and therefore, many villages go without electricity, roads, indoor plumbing, and most shocking of all – any kind of digital entertainment. That’s right, no T.V., no movies, and sometimes even no radio.

So, when two white people walk into one of these villages, village life stops, and all focus is on the living, breathing entertainment that has just entered their world. To the western eye we may seem to be the most normal looking and acting people, but let me try to envision for you what we look like to the 12-year-old villager living in a remote place. Top 10 most entertaining things about two white American men (as recounted to their friends the next day):

10) They were so huge! One of them must have been 9 feet tall!
9) Their skin was so white! One of them was so white it hurt my eyes looking at him (sorry K)! And then they pulled up the sleeves of their shirts… and that skin was even whiter!
8) They slept outside in a tent. Don’t they know that you can get eaten by bears if you sleep outside? (Most South Asians seem to think their countries are crawling with bears.)
7) Then they went down to the freezing cold river and swam in it? That’s a good way to catch a cold.
6) And they washed their bodies with soap. Right in the river! Totally unnecessary.
5) Do you know what they ate? They ate just potatoes and some kind of meat with gravy. They didn’t eat any rice! How can you go to sleep without eating any rice!?! They must have been poor white people.
4) They had a horse with them. It was the oldest, slowest, and most stubborn horse our village has ever seen!
3) One of them had orange hair. No, I promise you it was totally orange!
2) Both of them had hair growing on their chins! What do they think they are--goats?
1) They had hair on their arms! All over their arms hair was growing just like it grows on our heads. The funniest thing was that when you pulled the hair on their arms… they acted like it hurt!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Do You Do With a Slow, Old, Possibly Blind, Stubborn Horse?

If you are considering going on a long trek and buying a horse to save money on porter fees, I would recommend it. You have to be careful though, as not all horses are created equally. Here are a few things you want to avoid:

1. An old horse – Despite the obvious reasons for not buying an old horse (might be slow, can’t walk more than a few hours a day, horse arthritis*, etc) the main reason is you are also buying all the bad habits that have been going on for years! Our horse was allowed to set the pace for 9 years, and all of a sudden he has two Americans behind him trying to get him to go faster.

2. A Blind Horse – This one doesn’t really need to be explained. Horse that can’t see well + narrow cliffs a thousand feet up = not good.

3. A Stud – As a man, it is hard to say this, but unless the sole reason for the horse is to make babies, castration is the way to go. Our horse had always been a pack horse, but he secretly thought he was a stud and strove to make a change in profession.

Unfortunately, all of these things may have been true about our horse (we thought he was blind early on, but we aren’t so sure any more, maybe just farsighted). Despite all his inadequacies, he was with us for three weeks and walked carrying our load for well over a hundred hours. As the end of the trip drew near and we only had three days of walking back to the airport where we hoped the sell him, we thought our decision had really paid off. We thought we could sell the horse and save hundreds of dollars on paying people to carry our supplies. Well… 3 o’clock on day one of our three day descent he stopped and would not move. At all. We beat him (don’t worry P.E.T.A. not that hard), we yelled at him, we threw rocks (again P.E.T.A. not that hard), we pulled on his rope, we pled, begged, prayed, cried a little, tried to reason with him, but nothing worked. So we went to bed hoping he was just tired. Day two: Packed up ready to go at 6 a.m., and he won’t budge. So what do you do? Well, we wanted to take him out. Push him of a cliff? Knock a big boulder on his head? Anything (I have no excuse P.E.T.A. This horse was so bad you would have picked him off, too).
So what did we end up doing? Worse than killing him. We gave him away. The horse won. He was stubborn, and he got his way. We adversely affected another poor human’s life by giving him a horse named Lucky. I feel terrible.

* There may be nothing called horse arthritis.