The Moral of the Mountain

I promise I won’t tell a story about Kilimanjaro every day for the rest of this small month, but since it was such a big experience I hope you’ll indulge me at least a few more.

I fear I may have sounded a little too brave and simplistic in my last post. Truth be told I’m actually not nearly as brave as you may think. From the very first day that I agreed to make the climb up Kili I was freaked out.

It wasn’t just touch of nerves, I was full on scared. I knew I was unprepared and didn’t have the time or resources in Cambodia do much about it. I was scared of being cold, not having the right gear and spending seven frozen and claustrophobic nights in a tent on a mountain without being able to breathe. At night I’d Google incredibly helpful things like “How many people die each year on Kilimanjaro” and wake up from nightmares about altitude sickness.

I was less mighty mountaineer set out for the summit, and much more a trembling soul hoping to survive.

I should be old enough to know by now that the best thing about doing something in my desperate weakness rather than in my already proven strength- is that there is much more room for learning and growth through the experience. 

Perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt said it better:

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

Each evening on the mountain when we’d drag into camp from the day’s climb, we’d be met by our smiling porter offering us “dishwash”. (This is what they called the water they brought us to wash our faces, I have no idea why.). After dishwash, we’d have popcorn and tea and talk about:

1.) Our ongoing concerns about being cold and freaked out about the summit and

2.) The lessons that the mountain seemed to be teaching us that day.

This was one of my favorite parts of the day- mostly because we weren’t walking and I love popcorn, but also because it was great to contemplate the things we were learning.

I learned a lot of practical things like how manage my greasy hair after 8 days with no shower, and how to pre-heat my socks with water bottles to prevent cold toes in the morning. But I also learned bigger things too that are important to remember now that I’m in a place where clean hair and warm extremities are’t an issue.

Three of my favorite Kilimanjaro lessons are these:

You don’t have to see the big picture to make progress.

There are valleys between the peaks

It doesn’t end at the summit.

Of course, each of these morals was learned though its own mountaintop story. And since I’ve got a few more days to tell them, you’ll have to come back tomorrow.

2 responses to “The Moral of the Mountain”

  1. Apryl Wimes says:

    Thanks for being real.

  2. Meredith Howard says:

    Thank you for your stories and your lessons. Your first lesson – “You don’t have to see the big picture to make progress” – actually made me burst into tears. I didn’t expect that. It hit on some truth in my life.

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