To Tibet and So On and So Forth


Though the names were changed to protect the very real people in this tale, this tale is not make believe, and sadly, I had to suffer through some pretty horrible things to make some pretty amazing strides in my own life’s journey.  I am still not sure how I put myself in the situation I did with the man I named Tom, but to this day, I still have no respect for any man who would abuse their family, women, another culture, and their self the way he did that night.  I am in no means proud that this portion of the tale is a permanent part of my life’s story, but it is, and the only thing I can think to do with it all these years later is to share it.  Share it with you, with whomever, because, as horrible as it is at times, this is life.  It is full of good people, bad people, people who make horrible, stupid, terrible, very awful and unacceptable decisions, but through stories, through sharing, we learn, and hopefully, someone somewhere will read this story and when they are presented with a decision, they will remember this tale and make the right decision.  This is my hope.  This is my prayer.

To Tibet and So On and So Forth

           Our story has its beginnings buried in the West Virginia hills at a very small school called Bethany College (about 800 students), and this story’s roots are planted firmly in a time when winter is losing its cold grip on the world and spring is just being birthed into the lives of the hibernated universe that is my sophomore year in college.  A random day, a Tuesday of no significant importance, lights the spark that starts the forest fire that is the craziness of preparing for a trip overseas.  On this day, a fraternity brother, John, proposes a trip to Tibet to several of us in the fraternity house, a conversation with my family ensues, money is raised, bags packed, and seemingly suddenly, I find myself soaring above the clouds for the first time in my life en route to a world I have only briefly examined through travel brochures, a biographical novel or two, news stories, and a couple of rudimentary websites.  The plane lands, days were spent getting from one end of China to the other end, Tibet.  Culture shock was suffered, sickness was overcome (an ear infection that made it impossible to hear out of my left ear for a majority of my trip), and I, for the first time in my young life, understand what it was to truly be away from home.             

         All this being said, I had tried my best to enjoy my small band of misfits (fraternity brothers of mine and John’s father, who had made this trip several times before), I tried to enjoy my foreign travels, and I tried to realize the importance of our work while in Tibet (to help build housing for a school and families there).  Still, as anyone can tell you, the first time being away from home is a difficult but rewarding and often times awe-inspiring/life-changing process, and my experience seemingly was going to be no different than really anyone else’s.  That is, until our second to last night in Tibet.

         Zhongdian, Tibet, was a very small, very remote city in the midst of a very small, very remote section of a very big country.  At this point, very few Americans were allowed into Tibet, and when they were permitted in, their every move was monitored, inspected, questioned, and, like an old shampoo idiom, repeated.  We were no exception to that process.  Everywhere we went, we stood out like a person wearing a Halloween costume to Christmas dinner.  There was one American family living in Zhongdian, the Russell’s, Tom, the father, Jennifer, the mother, Anna, the oldest child, and then the three rapscallions, Jacob, Ezekiel, and Solomon.  We were tasked with working closely with this family who had moved there so Tom could teach English to the Tibetan children who boarded at the local school. 

            The family was kind, well travelled, and well mannered.  We immediately had our home country as our common ground, but we quickly developed a close friendship that was based on more than the colors of the flag we were born under. 

            Tom was a jovial man with a big personality and a seemingly bigger heart.  He oozed of martyrdom for sacrificing his life for the good of those less fortunate than him in a country he really had had no ties to before he accepted his current teaching position.

            Jennifer was and still is one of the loveliest women I have ever met.  Her hair and her smile always stick out in my mind.  Her hair like a lush field of wheat that moved rhythmically to the tune of the wind, and her smile, her smile was that warm, inviting, infectious smile that could light up a night where the stars are sleeping and the moon has went on a long vacation.  She was an oak, and she welcomed the roots of the saplings, which grew around her.  She was seemingly on this earth to foster who were planted around her, and we all loved her for that care.   

            Anna was no different than her mother, just younger.  Most teenage girls feel like they are an outsider in the world that surrounds them; Anna was an outsider, but she was one of those people who, even at this early point in her life, knew her place in the world and thrived in it.  She was the oldest child in the family, she was the leader of the Russell children, and she never flinched once at her many responsibilities to the flock of brothers she had nestled beneath her protective wing.  Like her mother, she cared for others without a second’s thought to her own state of being.  She knew the world was bigger than her own childish dilemmas, and therefore, she had no time for such nonsense.        

            As for the rapscallions, Jacob, Ezekiel, and Solomon, believe me, rapscallions was probably not the best word to describe these boys, but, like most people, it is tough to sum up the entirety of one human soul in a word, let alone three.  They were the definition of orneriness, and I truly believe Tibet was not ready for one of these boys, let alone three of them.  Heck, as I am writing this, I am not even sure that America itself would have been ready for these three.  They were smart, resourceful, and they had all of Zhongdian as their playground, and play they did. 

            I still remember going spelunking with the boys in a random cave on the outskirts of the city.  There were no questions of should we or shouldn’t we with them, it was let’s go for it and why not.  The cave ended up being some sort of a Buddhist monk burial site, which, when we discovered this, after a couple of hours of journeying, we childishly screamed in terror, and like a person standing at the bottom of an empty basement when the lights get shut off, we jettisoned back toward the protective light of the afternoon sun.

            The Russell family quickly became our family.  Our Tibetan/American family.  We made laughed with them, danced with them, helped them, and most of all, we loved them.  At least, we loved the them that we thought they were.     

            Tom spent more time with us than almost everyone else in the family.  I think he felt two obligations, 1) to show us a good time, and 2) to fit in with the “frat” boys and to show that side of us a good time.  Many times throughout our time with him, Tom had mentioned the need for us to all go out and have our hair washed.  He discussed the process with such ease and candor, that we all believed it was a cultural thing for people in Tibet to do, and, of course, after Tom gushed about how his school’s principal had taken Tom, himself, out as a welcome to Tibet gift when he had first arrived, we all decided it was a must to have this experience. 

            Well, it so happened that it fell on the night before our last full day in Tibet that Tom wanted to treat us by taking us out on the town as a reward for our hard work during our stay.  After an elongated stay at the first discothèque I had ever visited, John’s father decided to call it a night and hitched a ride back to our hotel.  As John’s father left, the first thing an increasingly drunk Tom Russell insisted was that it was time for us to experience a Tibetan hair washing.        

            The next thing I knew, we were all piled into his Land Rover and sent bouncing up and down the pothole laden primitive roads of Zhongdian.  As we journeyed to our destination, my stomach began to sink.  I imagine now that my topsy-turvy stomach would have paralleled the tires of the Land Rover quite accurately, sinking into a trap of a three-foot road divot here, level out, and then fall into a two-and-a-half foot suicide dive hole in the road.   

            As we pulled down the obviously dead end street, which we were venturing to, I quickly began to realize that no reputable establishment would come in the form of a long, dark back alley.  The street’s complexity was only confused when the first rays of light came from the source of one neon pink lamp, which hung above what I would soon discover to be our destination.  It was very quickly hereafter that I realized that this was no mere sickness I felt growing in my gut, but t’was the unfortunate realization of the fact that I, little Christian, goody-two-shoes who has never drank alcohol, smoked, or done anything remotely scandalous in his lifetime, was standing outside of a Tibetan brothel. 

            Anger quelled up inside of me, more anger than I thought I had.  Not only was I someplace I had no desire to be, but much, much worse, I had been deceived.  I had trusted Tom.  I trusted my fraternity “brothers”, which I was quickly discovering is nothing like real brotherhood at all.  I didn’t believe this kind of stuff happened outside of the characters in Law and Order: SVU.  Here I stood, a young man, a confused man, a very disenchanted man who was getting a hard lesson on the sad reality of the human condition. 

            “I’m not going in there,” I finally chirped up, having a difficult time standing up for myself in fear of being ostracized from not only my travel group but my source of collegiate friendship.

            To which a chorus of “Why not?”, “What’s wrong with you?”, and “Who cares?” rose from the crowd of people I had considered my close friends mere seconds ago. 

            “I’m not going in there,” I stammered a little more confidentially. 

            Disgusted looks shone on me like prison spotlights who have just locked on to the escaped convict.  Finally, the seemingly years of disapproving silence burst apart. 

            “You can stay out here if you want,” Tom’s commanding drunken voice cracked as if he were a man who seemingly had just been forced to watch his own lofty image shatter before his own eyes.

            Tom glared at me for another moment longer, the last time his eyes ever met mine, and he turned to the door.  As if it were a scene from the Pied Piper, the rest of our band of travelers drunkenly staggered after their leader.  

            “Stay?” my mind raced.  “What does it mean to stay when one’s mind is so jumbled.  It feels as if I am living a million different scenarios all at once when in reality I am only living one.  One very disgusting, very real one.”

            I wanted to run to the moral confines of home.  I wanted to burn the brothel to the ground.  I wanted to stop five drunken men from their dance with the devil.  I wanted, but I didn’t.  I collapsed to the ground in helplessness.  I wanted to cry, but that too didn’t happen.  I was in shock.  I fumed in hate.   

            The front of the whore house was all windows, which made it even easier for my mind to realize the horror of what I was facing.  I tried not to look at the reality that was having a staring contest with my forlorn demeanor.

            In they went.  To my surprise hair washing was actually a task these women performed.  Laughingly, they all sat side-by-side in chairs.  Back they went, hair into a bucket of water.  Soap was lathered atop their scalp.  Hope began to whelm up inside me.   

            “Maybe that is really all that will happen,” my mind soothed itself.  “Maybe all this was me overreacting to something?  Maybe, I am the dumb one here.  Really, Tom has a wonderful, beautiful wife, and he said so himself, his own principal brought him here.  A principal would never…”

            Then it happened.  The thing I had feared the most.  Tom rose from his chair, and, by himself, departed almost symbolically into the darkness of the back of the brothel.

            “Maybe, he just has to use the restroom,” my mind begged the world to comply.  It didn’t.     

            The darkness of the backroom that had devoured Tom moments ago claimed another victim, one of the hair-washing girls, who willingly sacrificed herself to follow. 

            The Tibetan dirt suddenly seemed rougher.  The alley became the darkest alley in the blackest part of the universe, a world away from everything that I knew as normal.  The pink lights cascaded mockingly across my face.  This is the moment my childhood officially died.  I held the services in my head.  My body moved like my soul had put up the Be Back in Five Minutes sign for the rest of the evening. 

            Later that night, I collapsed on my bed at the hotel.  The Tibetan air carried through my open window the whiskey induced words of two of those who had been masquerading as my brothers.  The mask was off.  These people were barely acquaintances, which made their hate filled words easier to stomach.

            “I’m sick of his holier than thou attitude.”

            “Who does he think he is treating Tom that way?”

            “Does he think he is perfect?” 

            “No one is perfect, especially him.”

            “I can’t believe he embarrassed Tom like that.”

            “Us like that.”

            I fell asleep that night with the stars waving hello from the sky.  They were familiar.  I breathed a deep breath.  Their insults faded into white noise. 

            The next morning began with doors opening, lights suddenly coming on, hung over voices groggily exchanges small bits of sentences, talks of going camping with Tom and the Russell family, me declining all invitations that had anything to do with Tom, somewhere the disdain laced words, “Fine!” and “Be that way!”, doors slamming, more mummers, and then a jeep pulling away.

            Alone.  Truthfully, I had felt alone since last night, but for the first time in weeks, I was actually alone.  Alone to my thoughts.  Alone to the world.  Alone to make this day, this trip my own. 

            “What had you wanted when you had signed-up for this trip?” I kept asking myself in my head.  “Not this I imagine.” 

            “Adventure,” I answered to the ceiling of my room.  “I wanted to have an adventure.”

            “What is keeping you from this adventure?” my mind retorted back.

            Daily, I had seen the Himalaya Mountains looming of Zhongdian.  I had remarked several times how I wanted to hike to the top of them.  I thought it would be a cool experience, being this close to them and all.

            “That’s too far away.  No one wants to do that,” John had quickly shot down.

            “John is keeping me from my adventure,” I finally responded to my questioning mind.  “John’s dad is keeping me from my adventure. Tom is keeping me from my adventure.”

            I paused.  Who were these people to keep me from this.  They were no great deity.  They had no physical control of me.  I was not their indentured servant.  I was not their errand boy.  I had legs.  I had an able mine.  I had my youth, and for the first time in seemingly forever, I had the will.  

            “No.  It’s not them.  It’s not them that is keeping me from my adventure.  I, I am keeping myself from my adventure.”  

            I shot out of bed, threw on a pair of shorts, researched the inventory left behind by our John’s dad (being the group leader, he had demanded that he be in control of all our money and supplies).  A granola bar from home that I hadn’t told anyone about, a half a bottle of water, no qián (money), and no means to get in contact with anyone.  Honestly, I didn’t even leave a note telling those I was leaving behind where I was setting off to.  Looking back, these were all very bad ideas, and not ones that I recommend anyone follow, but I was determined to not let self-doubt deter my adventure any longer.  So, I gathered what I had, threw them in my backpack with my old high school football wind breaker jacket, and I set off out my door and into one of the most important adventures of my life.    

            As I stood in front of my hotel gazing at my prize, the Himalayas, I determined that they were seemingly a couple hours walk away from me.  How many times does a guy from West Virginia get to utter such words? Then I began that journey as each and every journey of every adventurer (Ferdinand MagellanVasco da GamaMeriwether Lewis and William Clark, you?) before me had begun his or hers.  I put one foot in front of the other, and I started to explore.    

            One of the first things I was quick to discover on my own, is that there are probably as many strange things about a white American passing through a Tibetan’s soy field to a Tibetan as there are to a white American.  Still, like a parade slowly moving through town, the locals did not stop me or ask me what I was doing.  They merely looked up confusedly, as if they were wondering why this parade had not tossed candy in their direction yet.

            As I marched forward, I realized how surreal everything had suddenly become.  Moments ago, I had been physically in Tibet, but for all intents and purposes, I had been stuck in a cocooned extension of my life back in America.  Now, I was journeying through soy fields with the stereotypical Tibetan worker in their conical straw hat tending to the fields all around me. 

            Each step I took seemed to bring a bigger smile to my face.  Yes, technically I was still alone, but in reality, I was not.  I was surrounded by so many people and places, and even though all of these were foreign to me, I was living.  I was enjoying.  I was on my adventure. 

            One of the more interesting facts about this particular region of Tibet, that I happened to be fortunate enough to explore, was that no one there has a home like you and I have a home.  Most homes are loose boards stacked on top of each other in some shoddy manner, or in the case of the outside of the main town, rounded huts (kind of like a half tennis ball) made solely out of dirt.  Along with these dirt homes, comes a dirt walled fence surrounding the small communities of huts.   

            As I approached one such cluster of homes, I thought in my head about pictures I had seen in National Geographic magazine where some American traveler goes to a much less financially affluent part of our world and there they run into pot-bellied indigenous children to which they give pieces of candy to and are revered as a god.  With these dreams bouncing around my head, I reached my hand into the side pocket of my book bag and pulled out half a dozen or so candies which I had forgotten to remove from one of my days around campus.  Strangely, I pined sympathetically for these cadies as I shuffled the candies between my fingers. 

            “These candies sure travelled along way to end up in someone’s stomach,” I thought half-expecting that this National Geographic dream o’ mine was a dream that seconds away from becoming a reality.

            As I crossed between an opening in one of the dirt fences, my wondering thoughts were abruptly interrupted, not by a sound, but by red eyes glowing from the darkness of the only entrance into one of the dirt huts.  Like the minute before high noon in Tombstone, Arizona, the summer of the world around me immediately froze.  Panic swept over me.  I didn’t, couldn’t be the first to draw.  I waited, hoped that time would pass and my trespass would be forgotten.  The world waited.  A tumbleweed blew across the stillness of my being.  Then, seemingly all at once, high noon struck, the Tombstone clock tower rang out its death knell, jaws glistened through the darkness, and the hungriest, man-eatingest bark you have ever heard was released into the universe.

            My life instantaneously became a slow motion rewind of the present.  Sharpened teeth that had been cut on bones chomped together as four legs churned like a locomotive whose coal furnace had been stoked to full bore.  The death dealer lumbered towards my nonexpectant frame.  The dirt piled fence, that separated farmland from what was the village, screamed salvation.  I bounded to the top of the dividers and stood atop them like a beginning gymnast atop a balancing beam.  Quickly, I composed my shaky balance, the Tibetan Mastiff, the sadistic beast which been chasing me, was still ripping at the wall hungry for my throat. 

            Obviously, at that point, I realized that this side of the wall was off limits.  Thinking it was safe to jump off to the other side, my eyes were met by the bloated corpse of a wild boar, which had a hole in its side that was either created by a submarine’s missile or that of another wild predator, one I had no desire to mess with.  Being that we were not close to the ocean, and no submarines were in sight, I guessed the second of the two and decided that it was better if I just moseyed a little of my journey striding atop the wall. 

            By the time I decided it was safe to leave the friendly confines of the top of my dirt wall guardian angel, I was well beyond the seemingly all-seeing eye of a murderous pooch I had affectionately deemed Annoying.  It was at this point that I was beside the base of the descent into the Himalayas.  Here, yaks roamed freely, and I had started to become comfortable in my present setting.  So comfortable, in fact, that I had begun to wave to the farmers I passed.  None responded, but it made me feel like I was back on the farms of my youth where everyone waves to everyone, stranger or no stranger, when they see them.  I felt as if I was acting as an ambassador of goodwill from the farms of West Virginia to the yak fields of Tibet.

            As I started to ascend the mountain, I grabbed for my water bottle, which I had drained hours ago, hoping that there might be even a morsel of a drop of water that I could squeeze from the dry plastic container.  There wasn’t, and as much as I willed it, there wasn’t going to be.  I started my Himalaya Mountain ascent feeling semi-victorious for having at least made it to this range of the Himalayas, but, also, semi-defeated because not only was I thirsty, hungry, and exhausted, I was now competing with the sun who seemed like it was teasingly humming, “Now I’m free.  Free falling,” as it sank from the sky.  Still, I was determined to accomplish this goal of mine.  I must make it to the top of these mountains.

            One-third of the way up the mountain, I had a relapse of thirst, hunger, and exhaustion.  I collapsed on a rock and the self-doubt rose up in me like a flood seeking to destroy a town after the dam, which had mediated peace between the two opposing forces for so many years, was broken. 

            “I can’t go on,” words which echoed from one side of my physique to the next.

            “Go back, “ one-side of my conscience contested.  “You have made it further than anyone else you know.  It’s getting dark anyhow.  You will never make it back to the hotel in time.”

            “There are camper’s in the valley there.  I can see their fire.  They must be Americans,” the other part of my conscience foolishly associated the homelike image with my current geographical location.  If I hadn’t been so mentally frail, I might have realized that, at that time, I was one of a handful of Americans in Tibet, and the odds that these campers were American was astronomical. 

            “Give up.  They were right,” the battling consciences continued to taunt me.  “You have no clue what you are doing out here.  You are a…”

            “Hruuuug!” a great guttural grunt let loose from the distance, ripping my quarrelling psyche apart like feuding school children.   

            I was now wide-awake from my stupor.  I looked around for its source.  Later, I found out that there are bears in the woods of Tibet, but in this moment, ignorance was bliss. 

         “Hruuuug!” the noise rang out again.

            This time I quickly spotted its origin.  An ever-growing mound of straw rose from path leading towards the base of the mountain.  At the bottom of this mound, a lady, which couldn’t have been younger than eighty-eight, who was wearing a ten-foot tall stack of hay like book bag on her L-shaped, wrinkled exterior. 

            In amazement, I took in the sight before me.  She stopped at the top of the hill to catch her breath.  I was taught, growing up, to always help the elderly, so naturally, in this moment, I was at a loss.  Should I say something?  What would I say?  I felt stupefied, cemented in indecision.  I never did ask if this ancient women if she needed help.  One, I figured, she wouldn’t have been able to understand me if I tried.  Two, to me, it was like asking the Incredible Hulk if he needed some help lifting that car.     

            Finally, her breaths slowed, and she realized she was not alone atop this hill.  It was at that moment, her eyes caught mine.  Stopping, staring nothing happened but our eyes sizing up their targets like the Terminator looking for his next mission. 

            She broke the confusion by saying something in Chinese to me, which sounded like… like… well, like Chinese to me…  After a long pause of confusion, she squinted her eyes tighter, and she flicked her long boney hand at me as if to say, “Get up.”  Then, she flickered her wrist again seemingly saying, “Go on!” 

            My too often defeated young mind suddenly filled with optimism.  If this elderly women can climb this mountain with a giant stack of straw atop her back then I can certainly climb this mountain without water.  Even to this day, it is funny to me that one simple encouraging gesture could send my defeated spirits from ashes to soaring like the phoenix let free in the Tibetan sky.  I thanked the old woman, “Shi-shi.” Then I set off to complete my original mission.

            It would be nice to say that this was the last of the hurdles I had to climb that day, but thirst can do crazy things to people, and I am no different.  As I soon, unfortunately, discovered, a parched mouth and an eager soul are not the best of friends, and it was a lot harder to be optimistic when you can’t hardly swallow.  Each step I took, my mouth seemed to get dryer and dryer, and steps got harder and harder to accomplish.  I was like a human version of the Tin Man, and I was rusting rapidly.  Water was my oil, and without it not only would my adventure be cut short, but I was extremely far from my hotel with the sun increasing its decent back into the earth.  What would become of me in the Tibetan wild at night?  Would I survive? 

            When you’re not expecting something in life, everything about that something, that surprise becomes highly memorable. On this occasion, when the first raindrop exploded upon my cheek, I truthfully believe that, at that moment, I could feel this one raindrop absorbing into my skin as it rolled down onto my cracked lips.  My body welcomed the water like the father welcomes the Prodigal Son.  I walked further, more raindrops drummed off my skin.  With each step, the orchestra of rain increased its symphony.  I had ascended so high into the Himalayas that I was actually passing through a cloud of rain!

            I dropped to my knees, removed my jacket, soaked it like a sponge, and drank bountifully from it.  The refreshment soothed my throat, my body, my mind.  The downpour had soaked my being more than a day at the water park, but I was happy to be able to move with ease again.  I felt years younger, and as I looked to the peak of the mountain, I had a bounce to my step and a goal directly in my sight.  I had come too far, experienced too much to not finish the rest of this adventure.  Sure, even as I am writing these things to you this day, they feel like a dream, but they aren’t, they weren’t.  This was a path I chose to journey down, and that has made all the difference.    

            The next thing I remember is a very small dirt way that led through the bushes.  I shimmied between them, and, at last, I was there.  I had made it to the top of the Himalayas!  I looked out across Zhongdian, across Tibet.  Prayer flags and prayer mosques dotted the hilltops.  Below, the birds soared, and with them, my heart.  My depressive, confused state was gone.  Here I stood, a man and a mountaintop.  I had finally began living in a manner to be proud of.  Exhilaration moved me.

            “Finally!” I screamed.  “Finally.”

            Emotions, memories began to overtake me.  I thought about my last two years in college, and how lost I had become.  I remembered a time when I cared not about what others thought of my life.

            “I can’t believe there is no one here to share this sight with,” I stammered to myself.  “In all the world, there isn’t one person here with me right now.”

            Then I remembered a relationship I had been neglecting.  One that I had lost under piles of popularity, fame, narcissism, desire, envy, pettiness, self-doubt, anger, loneliness, fear.  A relationship that I had once held as the most important in my life, but, like a used car salesman, I had traded it in for worthless relationships with people who could care less about where I was standing at this very moment or what it had taken for me to get here.     Finally, I remembered God here, atop this mountain.  For the first time in my life, I fully understood that he was watching me at that moment, that he was standing right beside me right at that moment, and that I was not alone at that moment or ever.  I was never alone and never had been alone.  If anyone had abandoned anyone else, it was I who had abandoned God.   

            Tears began to run the course of my face.  I dropped to my knees, bowed my head to the dirt, and prayed harder and more fervently than I had ever done, and for the first time in my life, I truly realized what it meant to be a Christian.  To give reverence to God.  I had reached a peak so high above this life, but I was still so far below my Lord. 

            Before I left that day, I envisioned God having the exact same view as I did but from Heaven, and he was looking down at me.  I wished to leave a bit of me behind on that mountaintop.  I thought about my backpack, a note written in the dirt, I even went as far as tying my jacket to a tree branch before I realized that I didn’t need to leave anything physical atop these mountains to let others know I was there.  I have been there, I was there, and I have left a part of me there.  A part of me that I didn’t want to return, then or ever again. 

            To this day, I am proud to say that the part of me filled with vanity, foolishness, pride, that part that creeps up on us all in our youth, I left it halfway around the world in the most remote of locations, on top of a mountain, and if fate should ever decide that I actually should go back to that exact location, I am happy to know that I won’t find it there.  No, I know that, that mountaintop was its grave, its burial, and I know that no one, especially not me, is mourning its death.

            As for how I got home?  Well, at this point the sun was as old in the day as that lady who had been carrying the straw but way less strong, and the sky was filling with darkness faster than ink spilled on parchment.  I made my way down the mountain, visited the campsite I had mentioned before still half expecting them to be Americans.  I was wrong.  They were Tibetan, of course, and thankfully they were fairly kind. 

            My broken Chinese got me a bowl of chicken soup (bones still included, which they encouraged me to eat, and I did from fear of making my ride mad), a warm fire, and a one-way ticket back to the main town of Zhongdian. 

            The crazy part about that trip back is that the only place they had for me to sit was in the back of one of their small trucks in a cage.  Yes, a real cage.  I didn’t even think twice about it.  Looking back, I definitely should have.  Still, there I was, tired, still wet from the rain cloud, shell of my former self riding in a cage in the back of a Tibetan’s truck zooming past the last remaining confused on-looking eyes of the locals. 

            When I returned that evening, my roommate, a fraternity brother of mine named Mel, excitedly retold the stories of the days events from their camping trip with Tom, the rest of the Russell’s, our other fraternity brothers, John’s dad, and the rest of our traveling crew.  Yes, Mel had participated in the events of the night before, and yes, he had stood silently there as our mutual acquaintances berated my character and my morals numerous times, and yes, Mel had even reached a point in twenty-four hours that any dislike or disagreeance he had had for Tom’s deeds the previous night were long forgotten.  Tom had fully won him to his side with a camping trip.

            “What did you do today?” he finally asked me as darkness now tucked us into our beds.

            For a brief moment, I thought about recounting all the day’s occurrences to him, as I did for you today, but that day, that adventure, it was my adventure, and that day, it needed to stay just that, my adventure.

            “Oh, nothing much,” I responded as I turned over to dream about the day I had just lived.