Monday, July 30, 2007

I have noticed recently that when in conversation with people i rarely hear the phrase "for a person in a wheelchair" anymore. This simple omittance of this perpetual phrase I feel symbolizes a boundry crossed, I am no longer respected for the 'stuff' i do within the confines of the wheelchair, but now it seems i have crossed this boundry into being respected within the able-bodied world. I am no longer smart "for a person in a wheelchair," no longer brave for "for a person in a wheelchair," no longer active "for a person in a wheelchair," but have been simply lifted from the confines of this phrase and am free to roam the two worlds of the able and disabled.
I only mention this because i feel this is one of the biggest hinderances for people with disabilities. They may reach great heights and achieve amazing things but it is always within this percieved world of "for a person with a disability." I could go to nepal and sit in a hotel room for 6 weeks drooling in a corner and i would probably come back and recieve comments like "God, what amazing things you do for a girl in a wheelchair." Which is such a double edged sword, because yes it is far more difficult for people with disabilities to travel however it seems we are not held responsible. Responsible for our own ability to achieve our greatest potential, the expectation level is absurdly low. I am continually asked with hopeful smiles by strangers if im able to attend community colllege, like this is the holy grail for any person in a wheelchair. If community college for example is portrayed by society as the greatest educational achievement by a person with a disability of course not many will look beyond.
Maybe it is due to this societal view that i need to push boundries, (Para gliding in Nepal, Mountain Trekking in Nepal, Para sailing in Peru, Sand surfing in Peru, Climbing Macchu Picchu, Ziplining Costa Rica.)
But it makes me think if my mind is still in the mode of "for a person in a wheelchair" or is my view of the world beyond those psychological limitations.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ahh back home! For the first time in my life i am happy to come home! This is not saying that i disliked nepal, but rather I highly treasure Nepal. I left a country for the first time content with my efforts, experiences and struggles. This is not saying i experienced the entirety of Nepal, for that is quite impossible, but for the period of time in my life and the duration of time i stayed, i honestly feel i gained what i was meant to gain. It's funny, thousands of travelers come to Nepal seeking spiritual enlightenment or redemption, both commonly helped along by the national weed, and supposedly find this great enlightenment atop the Himalayas and in the beautifully ancient temples and monasteries. However, i have realized for myself i have found the hidden sanctuary/monastery on the streets of Kathmandu. Sounds utterly insipid after all my bitching, but i believe that the only place i was confronted with having to deal solely and absolutely with myself was in the busy, shit filled streets of Kathmandu. True Buddhism... It is ever so easy to give up 'material' objects to venture into the lush forests and mountains of nepal where you are isolated in the sanctuary of life, protected from the literal shit of life. This is of course only My opinion, that of a relatively naive 18 year old.

reflecting, i realized i truly was thrown into the 'real Nepal' having to fend for myself and living the very hard life of Nepal. No matter how much i travel and try and relate i will always be a 'white girl from America.' And it is both arrogant an naive for me to believe that i can be melded into such a complex culture on pure will.

It may seam i have become airy fairy but in actuality i feel i have become more realistic and hopefully, more effective. I probably will not volunteer with children again. I love children but this is not where my passion nor my strength is and although i would not give up my volunteer experience for anything i have discovered my skills are stronger elsewhere. I feel that i had to prove to myself that i could live without electricity, running water, that i could hand wash clothes in the florescent colored water of the river, cook dal bhat on an open fire, teach children, live in one of the poorest nations, deal with political violence, climb the Himalayas etc etc. Now that i have done it and however foolishly labeled myself 'capable enough' i am now focusing on my strengths hopefully.

People look at me and automatically assume the hardest part of volunteering in third world countries with a disability is purely physical. Quite the opposite. Maintaining my self confidence and my belief in my value ability has by far been the most difficult. When i say that i volunteer most assume i just drool in the corner and that it is quite enough that i was 'brave' enough to fly in a airplane all alone (note sarcasm) to sit in the corner. I have whenever volunteering, had to fight to work. Literally overstepping boundaries to prove i could do it and do it well. It has made me question however if this is the best or the most helpful. Yeah, i have proven i can get on my knees slam wet clothes against rocks in green toxic rivers till clean, make dal bhat for 30 kids over a fire with utensils from the stone age, and teach English with a speech impediment, but really is this the full use of my skills and strengths? Do i serve humanity to my fullest capacity doing this? A question to further ponder...

Well, no worries my adventures have just begun, they are merely evolving, or devolving however you see it!

more soon

Friday, July 06, 2007

Completely and utterly satisfied!! If you've wondered where ive been for the last 5 days i have been trekking in the Himilayas. In the AnnaPurna Range to be exact. I know Emma, I mnust get over the habit of riding men up mountains :)! Really, it was quite unimaginable, no wheelchair, snoiwcapped mountains towering above utterly utterly astounding. I was a little anxious about going on a 5 day trek without my wheelchair, thus leaving me quite dependent, somthing everyone knows is my worst nightmare, but it was surprisingly freeing. No worries about rain, steps, the very creative and natural toilet situations. Plus i was with three men for the 5 days, no women which was an experience in itself. I hired two porters, Ganesh and Milo, then a guide Kharda, all of thewm have really brightened my outlook on nepali men i must say. They were so good and worked so hard, imagine 8 hours a day carrying me up incredibly unstable paths,through waterfalls and paths along mountainsides that i was saying goodbye to you all on. I know you all are thinking how about the toilet and such? Well, long skirts are a saviour and all they had to do was hold me up, but still they were so good about it. We stayed in these 'guest houses' which were nice, they had bed but they were in these makeshift barnyard style rooms with planks as walls. It was so so great to be up in the most remote villages because alot of times we stayed with families and it was so nice to be introduced into the 'real' nepali life. Ate amazing dal bhat, though it was really expensive since it was carried all the way up the mountain, also had thew most amazxing pickled marajuana seeds on potatoes. Marajuana is everywhere up there so i suppose it was found to be useful for more than one thing!
Anyway, my body is very sore fromthe bedsheet they tied around my bum then over their head, but the poor guys today left limping slightly they were so sore!! Poor things, i will mioss them they were good guys, they all had kids even though they were very young and they were very funny. Everyone would take the piss out of milo in the morning because he looked like the infamous yeti of the himilayas when he got up in the morning.
At the very top of the trek i was able to see full view of the Anna purna range, it was freezing but so aweinspiring, got many photos biut doubt it will do justice. Anyway will share more once returning home, i will work for the next few days then if all goes well will be home within a week or two.
Love you all and thank you for the notes, i can't wait to see each and every one of you!