I've been off the grid the last couple days on a sort of secret mission with Anjali back in her village in Kalikot. We were trying to trace some documents from her family and get in touch with some of her extended relatives to get her a passport. It was a crazy adventure with lots of twists and turns and in just a few days we were able piece together so much of Anjali's life story; one that I will leave for her to share one day when she's ready.
If all goes well, and we can actually pull off a visa and passport, Anjali's been invited to give a Do Lecture in the U.S. as a follow-up to the talk I gave about Kopila Valley a couple years back. Since Anjali doesn't have any close living relatives, it has been really challenging with us to work within the system and get everything together. I forgot how hard it was when we were going through this process with Juntara, who was fortunate to have living family to speak of. Luckily, we were able to get in touch with an older cousin who helped us tremendously. He was able to find father's old citizenship card which made things much easier for us. There was lots of walking, and long bumpy bus rides, and making of police reports, gathering witnesses and being questioned by district officers. The entire time Anjali carried herself with so much grace and confidence, I've really never felt so proud.
The road to Kalikot is long and bumpy and windy and at every turn in the road you feel like you're going to fall down the side of a cliff hundreds, maybe thousands of feet down into river at the bottom. All you can really do is pray, try to keep your body from flying up into the air on every bump and not vomit all over the person sitting next to you. It's also, to me, one of the most beautiful places on earth. You're constantly surrounded by huge mountains and terraces and although, it's a strange feeling, being cut off from the rest of the world, there's also something kind of freeing about it; life without phone lines or electricity, drinking from the river, and eating from the earth.
Since I had already made it so far, a group of us decided last minute to make the mountainous trek back to Oda. I haven't been there since we took that helicopter ride, two years back and I desperately wanted to see my friends and the kids' families there. I got to spend a couple days with Juntara's family and Pampa's sisters. I sat with all the women while they breast fed their babies. We talked and laughed and ate wild plums and berries and sang and danced and told stories and cried. I climbed up to the spring to fetch water and tried to help with the wheat harvest as much as I could but it's a humbling experience trying to do just about anything up there. I was really good at making them all laugh at my attempts. I swear these women, with their stamina and strength and resilience and endurance could compete with world class athletes. They're like another breed of human and I can only hope that a tiny bit of their strength and spirit rubbed off on me while I was there. It was such a good trip and although I feel completely exhausted and sore, I'm covered in dirt and bug bites and sun burn, I know that these last few days was somehow just what my heart needed.