By: Seraphina Mallon-Breiman
While our days began feeling routine with the same schedule, expected meals and snacks and early evenings filled with huddled banter over a warm wood stove- I began questioning my sense of time, reality and other people’s daily life routines. “When your day can be so easily determined, it seems as the lives that exist up here make more sense. It is straightforward. Certain things need to be done each day. There is a time for everything. Often, it feels as though most Americans seek endless meaning in their daily activities, but since everything is harder up here, things take longer and it seems there is inherent meaning in almost all action.”
This began my process of feeling unwell and becoming sick: “I forgot how dependent I am on each muscle in my body- from a kink in my neck to an aching uterus, everything seems to feel like a more exaggerated part of my being when there is the added requirement to haul up a Himalaya.” I think that perhaps half of this trekking experience is mental in origin.
The further we trekked, the less hungry I felt during meals and the colder I could feel my bones becoming with every stride and every increase in elevation . I began to feel more like reading my book than socializing with friends. The altitude had begun to encroach on my mind and my body. It was at this point that I began developing a bacterial infection, causing me to feel perpetually as if I had to throw up and sending me to the bathroom with diarrhea every five or ten minutes. My spine developed a chill running up and down and throughout my whole being, eliciting a forty-eight-hour fever and body shakes that would keep me up for almost two straight days. “Today has been the epitome of embarrassing. Since I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the group, I walked slowly, way in the back between Padam and one of the shirpas, a very sweet man named Akal who carried my backpack and was very concerned for me. Akal tells me the same thing over and over again, ‘Jum jum, bistare’ – meaning, ‘Let’s go, slowly!’. I’ve never had an experience where I’ve felt so mortified, especially in front of such a large group. I’m honestly shocked I made it up here to Gurepani, a teahouse so high up that we’ve been sitting in a cloud for half our time here. There’s no electricity, I can barely see what I’m writing.”
I missed attending a sunrise hike the next day to Poon Hill because I couldn’t get out of bed. This is when Padam began to seem nervous, deciding that it was time I take medicine. He offered me a pill and told me to take it three times a day, once with each meal. Later, I found that the pill was actually an antibiotic that my body was allergic to, and was not actually suited for the illness inhabiting my system.