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The Two-year Mountain

Written By: jipp - Aug• 13•18

After months of lazy reading, I finally managed to make it to the final page of The Two-Year Mountain, a book that I bought at Kinokuniya of KLCC for RM53.95. To tell the truth, I find it quite difficult for me to stay reading – not only this book but other books too – and my mind will start going to somewhere else if I’ve been on a book for more than, say, 15 minutes. In fact the only time that I find myself really doing it is when I am in the toilet when I have stay put or I’ll never get my business done in there. Lol.

So The Two-Year Mountain was written by an American author named Phil Deutschle (I wonder how it is pronounced) who left everything in his home city Philadelphia to join a voluntary program called U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer to Nepal back in 1977. It was a program intended to send volunteers to remote schools in Nepal, mostly for educational purposes back in those days when Nepal was still so struggling to run its own educational programs.

I really like how he chronicles his experiences to details. He made me feel like I was with there with him and the fact that I’ve been to Nepal makes it even easier for me to imagine all the things that he was trying to channel to his readers. He was sent to a remote village called Aiselukharka, which, according to the simple map provided in the book, is located to the East and a little bit to the North of Kathmandu. He stayed with a family and the way he described his first hello with this family was so heart-warming.

Of course the book is dominated by his experiences teaching at the school – on how he had to face the school children who were so curious about the outside world, and how he had make do with the very limited facilities and how he had to be very very creative in carrying out some of his tasks especially when he needed to make the school kids understand what he was trying to get across to them.

It’s quite obvious that in the first few chapters of his book centered around his struggles to cope up with the cultural shock, the feel of loneliness and of course the frustration and anger that he had to deal with almost on a daily basis. I mean, you are from a first world country (luckily it was back in the late 70s when even America was not as advanced as it is today) and suddenly you were thrown into a very remote area in a third-world country and we are talking about Nepal back in those days.

I can imagine how – two years is such a very long time. There was one time when he was asked by the Corps to fly all the way to Bangkok just to get a dental treatment because they couldn’t get him the suitable treatment in Kathmandu, or even anywhere else in Nepal. The way he describes it, Nepal was still very much way behind in term of infrastructural development. Imagine how even today Nepal still has a long way to go that even to reach the villages in the remote mountains is still very much challenging, and he went there about 40 years ago.

Somehow I really wish I was there in Nepal during the time he was there because it sounded different, so unspoiled. Even traveling to Kathmandu back in those days were not easy, at least from where he came from. From his home city Philadelphia, he had to fly to New York before crossing over to London, then on to Frankfurt, then to Tehran where he was arrested for slipping out of the airport terminal to escape the constraints of the airport building, then to New Delhi before he finally made it to Kathmandu. That alone was already one hell of a journey but of course it did not stop there. Traveling to Aiselukharka the village he was to be based in even by land had also proved to be just as challenging and physically demanding.

One of the best things about this book is way the writer intermittently chronicled his life at the village and his ventures to the mountains. He’d go climbing a mountain during his days off and most of the climbs he did on his own. I don’t exactly remember how many mountains he climbed all throughout his stay in Nepal, or at least those that he had written about in the book, but it was quite a number. I can really imagine how he was deep in the mountains all by himself, and how he had to figure out how to face and tackle a challenge that came his way every time. Towards the end of the book he actually wrote about how he almost got killed while descending from one of the climbs.

The last chapters of the book were about how he returned to Nepal and the village after more than 30 years. He felt like he was coming home and he was overwhelmed by the transformation that took place while he was ‘away’. Since he really wrote a lot about his life at the village and I followed them from chapter to chapter, I couldn’t help but feeling a little bit emotional, probably just as emotional as he was when he returned to the village and met the family that he was living with 30 years back. One of the things that I’ve always wanted to do was to go living in the mountains of Nepal – probably for a few weeks – and this book really really inspires me to do just that.

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2 Comments

  1. Kati says:

    Buku tu based on true story ka bro?mcm best saja

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