It’s hot. There’s no running water. My stomach is uneasy. The ground is shaking.
I’ve gathered a group of strangers together who share the same bright yellow Qatar Airlines boarding pass. We’re sitting in a circle among lines of hundreds of people, sharing our stories of the past 48 hours. American, German, Italian. Same disaster, different people, different stories.
The terminal becomes blanketed with silence when the building moves, with people deciphering whether it’s another aftershock or a plane landing on the nearby runway. Security lines are divided by gender, a cultural nuance that does not ease the panic between couples. I’m learning more about my flight delays from my mother back home than from the Nepali airport personnel, who are bombarded by people frantically demanding answers.
I am alone. I elbow my way on board, through the masses of sweaty people trying to get out. My seat on the plane is located next to an elderly Nepali woman. I collapse in my seat and start to cry – the weight of the situation finally crashing down. The stewardess and her cart approach. The elderly woman orders whiskey on the rocks. Make that two.
I am in Montclair, New Jersey. The sun is shining, the grass is green, and the ground is stable. I look down at my feet and see what is left of the henna tattoo drawn on my foot. It is the only thing on my body that confirms that I did in fact experience all of that.
A few weeks later, I have my degree. I am on the road, traveling across the country to my new home in the southwest. The trip is filled with classic wind in your hair, freedom in your heart moments.
I met a woman in a Kathmandu market two months earlier, who has lived in Santa Fe for the past 25 years. I stay with her for the first week of my New Mexico arrival. I’m sitting in her cozy adobe casita, drinking tea, and talking about our Nepali experiences. Towards the end of the conversation, she peers at me through her round rimmed glasses, and says, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it is that you must become comfortable with pulling the rug out from underneath you, rather than try to tug the rug back into place once it gets pulled by someone or something else.”
What a beautiful concept.
And what a beautiful year. Never have I been more out of my comfort zone, more unfamiliar with my surroundings. Never have I had more communities of people to call friends across the world.
I don’t recall who I was before 2015. Here’s to hoping that every year is as poignant, powerful, and adventurous as this one.
Have a happy and healthy New Year, folks.