More Outdoor Adventures and an Amazing Sunrise

This past weekend we went to Acadia National Park, a large forested area on an island in Maine. It took about 6 hours to get there, and the night we arrived, we weren’t even sure where we were going to stay. Thankfully we were able to find a spot in the park, so at about 9pm at night, in the dark Maine night, my brother, his friend, Tri, and I pitched our tent.

Maine Coast

Our weekend included lots staring at the vast, beautiful expanses of coast, introducing Tri to his first s’mores (not sure if this is a tradition outside of the US, but a s’more is basically roasted marshmallows stuck between two graham crackers with a piece of chocolate thrown in–a camping tradition), and hiking up a nerve-wracking but really fun trail called the Precipice.

But by far the best part of the weekend was the gorgeous sunrise we experienced on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, it was preceded by the worst part of the trip: the rain.

On Saturday night, we had to move to a different campsite that was a bit further from the park. After having a big Maine lobster dinner on Saturday, as we were heading back to the campsite, we heard the pitter patter of rain on the roof of the car. uh-oh. When we got back to our campsite, the rain was still only an infrequent drizzle, so we set up the tent quickly, making sure to secure the rain tarp over the top.

Unfortunately, my brother and I put the rain cover on upside down…which you think wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but the cover had a couple of vent holes in it that were facing the wrong way, so the drips and drops of rain made their way into the tent all night. And since the tarp was already soaked on its exposed side, turning it right-side-up would have just made us more wet. It was a bit of a downer, but I have to admit that falling asleep to the pounding rain above me was a lot fun, and the reward was a clear sky the next morning, perfect weather to watch the sunrise.

I was skeptical about waking up early, especially after I knew our night in the tent would be a damp one. The next morning, however, I woke up on my own at about 5am and went out to use the bathroom. While outside, I looked up and saw the bright, clear stars. Although all I wanted to do was roll back into my sleeping bag and dream of my warm, dry bed at home, I knew I had to go see the sunrise.

Luckily we didn’t have to do any hiking at 5am in the morning…the mountain we were going to (Cadillac Mountain) is accessible by car. Once we got to the top, after we stepped out of the car, Tri and I took walked about 10 feet and started to shake from the cold. Fall weather definitely is settling in around here, especially in the Northern state of Maine. We hurriedly turned around and went back to the car which had our clothing in it. We each wore every shirt, hat, and piece of long underwear that we had brought and then waddled out, in our thick layers, to brave the cold and witness one of the most graceful sunrises I’ve ever seen…

This shot was taken about 45 minutes before the sun rose

This one was taken shortly before the sunrise

And here you can see the first piece of the glowing sun

Blueberry Pie

We’ve been talking about going blueberry picking all summer but got caught up with other things and just couldn’t make it happen. Finally, after the move, we found a day to go. Although Boston is a beautiful city, and right on the water, which I love, it’s quite flat. You have to drive a ways before you can find any mountains, so we decided to go to Mount Major, a small mountain in New Hampshire.

We first heard about Mount Major when we were visiting NH last spring. What I loved most were the dogs! Both times we’ve been to this mountain, there have been a ton of people on the trail, and a lot of them bring their dogs along. Tri and I are still hoping to get a dog, maybe after a year or so, and we love being around them.

So with dogs as our companions, we started to climb the mountain. Here we stopped at one of the first clear views of Lake Winnipesaukee. We were hoping that we would start to see clusters of blueberries on bald patches of the mountain like this one, but there were none to be found.

However, there were gorgeous views of the lake. This is my favorite photo. The half ring of clouds around the outer limits of the sky looks so beautiful…

As we climbed up higher and higher, I had a chance to really enjoy the feel of fall. It was so hot last year at this time in Nepal, and Nepal doesn’t really have an autumn, at least not like the East Coast of the US does. I remember we went out of the valley for Dashain (I think in early October) and when we got back, the weather was suddenly much cooler. It’s different from the North East, where things change gradually from summer to winter. I’ve always felt the changes in the air first. It gets breezier, and starts to smell slightly different, the temperature changes slowly, and then come the beautiful colors of fall. On the day we went hiking, although the leaves were still dark green from summer, the air and temperature were different, and I could feel it on the mountain.

As we neared the top, even as the blueberry plants started to appear, there just weren’t any blueberries around. But finally, when we had nearly reached the peak, we found a few…

Alas, not the freshest looking blueberries. Apparently it was really too late in the season for blueberry picking.

We all left Mount Major a little heavy-hearted, our hopes of fresh blueberries dashed, but, in the end, we did get the blueberry pie that we had been hankering after.

My brother bought blueberries from the grocery store and made us a piping hot, gooey blueberry pie…

Yummy!

The Voyage of the Tomato

When I was studying abroad, I lived with a Sherpa family in the hilly region of Nepal for about a month. It was an amazing experience that introduced me to a side of Nepal very different from Kathmandu, the side I was used to. One of the best parts about living in the village was getting to know my host sister who was both patient and continually willing to teach me about her culture and life. Although her village felt very remote at the time, I eventually learned that it had surprising connections to my own home.

My second day in the village, I went to help my Sherpa sister in her fields. She gave me a scythe, and we started cutting millet. Her cutting was quick and seamless, mine clumsy and labored. But as the sun spread through the valley in the early morning, I gained a bit of confidence and settled into the meditative field work. Maybe I was too confident because within a few minutes, the scythe had slipped and it’s sharp blade dug deep into my finger.

I looked down in horror at the white gash turning to red, but my didi reassured me. “Don’t worry. Come over here, quick,” she said to me in Nepali as she motioned for me to follow her through the waist-high stalks of millet. Once we reached the hillside, she dug through the brush until she had found a thin, red vine with leaves flanking both sides. She stripped the leaves off in one sweep, rolled them between her hands, and squeezed the green juice into the gash on my finger.

I had never used leaves to heal a cut before, so that night I looked at the wound skeptically. The next morning, however, the broken skin had almost completely closed.

As I continued to live with my host sister for that rest of that month, I learned about her use of all sorts of plants for religious purposes, as medicine, and, of course, for food.

She taught me about what they grow during the different seasons and showed me the plants they burn as incense. While I was helping out in the fields, she and the other women would point out things that grew wild but were edible, like nettle (sisnu) and a tiny, almost neon-orange, round fruit…

Fast forward about eight months: I was in North Carolina at the beach, and we went kayaking to one of the small islands off the coast. As we were trudging along the island, scanning the trees for wild horses, I looked down at the dry, sandy ground. There, nestled in it’s green, leafy shell was that little orange fruit, the same type that I had seen in my didi‘s village the year before. I picked up the nearly trampled specimen and inspected it carefully in disbelief. Both the US and Nepal grow some of the same well-known fruit (bananas, apples, oranges, etc.), but it seemed unbelievable to me to find this obscure berry on both the islands of North Carolina and in a remote village in the Himalayas.

After a quick search on the Internet, I found out that the plant is called a ground cherry, a relative of the tomato. I also learned that the tomato and related plants, which are native to the Western Hemisphere, didn’t reach Europe and Asia until explorers brought them over. The ground cherry couldn’t have been part of Nepal’s landscape for more than a few hundred years.

As I learned about the voyage of the tomato and its relatives from the new world to the old, I wondered in amazement at how intricately connected our world is. I always thought of globalization as a modern thing, something of the 20th century. Plane travel and increased migration opportunities may have sped up the process, but its been happening for much longer than the last hundred years.

Nepal used to seem like such a far away place. The village seemed especially far with no internet access and my allotted one-call-per-week back to the US. But there’s been trade and connection between the East and the West for a long time. The migration of the ground cherry and tomato from its origins in the Americas to the rest of the world may seem like a small blip in the history of things, but it’s a reminder that people have been traveling, sharing ideas, crops, and food probably for as long as we’ve been around.

It also raises a whole bunch of questions. Tomatoes are a part of the Nepali cuisine, but they’re not necessarily a main feature. Consider the chili pepper, though, which is another imported plant and an integral part of the Nepali and South Asian diet. What did South Asians eat for spice before chili peppers? Was spicy food as big a part of Nepali cuisine before they used the chili pepper in their cooking? And where did all of the Nepali names for these foods come from? golbedha (tomato), aloo (potato), khorsani (hot pepper). Are they loan words? Did they arise within the Nepali community?

Landlocked No More

For as long as I can remember, my family has been going to North Carolina in the summers to visit cousins and stay by the sea. The blazing light, hot, burning sand beneath your heels, and grassy, rolling dunes are all things that I love. When you get in the rough water, it’s a rush of salt up your nose, and an exhilerating struggle to stay atop the waves.

A view from Dhampush; one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been

The mountains have their own mystique. You feel tiny in their vastness, and they make you appreciate forces beyond human control. They can also be shockingly beautiful. I loved the view from our home in Kathmandu. Sometimes when I was hanging around the house, I couldn’t help but step out onto our roof every few minutes to look at the hills and search for the snow-spotted Himalayas hiding in the clouds.

Me and Tri at the beach in Miami

But the sea connects you to the rest of the world. You look across and wonder how many people are looking across the same ocean, right back at you. It makes you feel like you’re part of a global community.

I love the mountains; I love looking at them and hiking them, but it’s not the mountains I miss; it’s the ocean. Living in a landlocked country made me miss it even more.

The sun is really strong in Nepal. You can set out vegetables on your roof and turn them into achaar. People also dry meat in the sun to make sukuti. In the Northeastern US, it’s much harder to get enough sun to do that. Anyway, the sun would get so bright sometimes and occasionally the wind would really pick, so I’d sit on the roof with closed eyes and imagine I was at the beach.

Finally, after almost a year, I got to see the coast again. Last night my older brother, his friend, Tri and I went to have dessert in Salem, Massachusetts. It’s a bit of a creepy place, filled with witch shops and haunted houses in honor of the witch trials held there in the 17th century.

As we were walking down towards the harbor, I got a whiff of the Atlantic and finally, a view of the water.

The harbor in Salem

It’s good to be back.

Back From New Hampshire

I was off the internet most of last week because I was in New Hampsire with my mom, brother, and his friend. Tri came up to meet us on Saturday. Here are a few pictures from the trip…

Near Mount Washington

On top of Mount Major, looking over Winnipesauke Lake

A basin carved out by water

From the top of another hill in NH.

Tri and I got back on Saturday night and are settling into Boston. We’re about to move into our sublet for the summer and finally found a more permanent apartment for September 1st. Moving to a new city is so difficult! I can’t imagine doing it without the support network that we have. My mom has been a huge help, especially with hauling all of our stuff up here, as has my brother, who lives in Boston. Our Nepali friends have also been amazingly helpful. We’re staying at one of Tri’s family friend’s house right now, and one of our Nepali friends helped us find our apartment for September.

It’s always exciting to move somewhere new, and I imagine I’ll do it again for grad school and again after that for work. But after moving around so much, I do see the benefits of finding one place to call home. Who knows. Maybe it’ll end up being Boston.